An Excuse With a Street Value of $5,000

By Brad Dunse | September 9, 2019

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Writing Challenge Winners



PWA Challenge Winner Brad Dunsé in a black shirt smiling at the camera

Congratulations to our 2019 Silver Prize winner, Brad Dunsé!

Nestled among the bluffs of western Wisconsin’s St. Croix River valley, AWAI Circle of Success member Brad Dunsé focuses on writing for the music and disability industries. After decades of self-employment, Brad continues towards the goal of writing himself out of his current day-business, to an even higher level of freedom.

You can learn more about Brad by visiting him online at and reading his prize-winning essay below.


Sometimes, we know what needs to be done to advance our career. But then we list all the reasons we shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t take the necessary steps.

But they aren’t reasons… they’re excuses.

At least for me they were.

Oh, it doesn’t mean they aren’t reasonable. Mine seemed to be. Maybe yours do, too.

Here’s what I knew:

“To advance, I need to add a second niche, one which better fits my writing style – but I don’t have the money or the time.”

Hear the excuses?

I found many reasons to support my excuses:

  • I had invested a lot of money into my current niche and I’d be throwing it all away.
  • People already identified me with my current niche.
  • My current niche was an area I know about.
  • Changing niches now might look like I’m waffling.

All valid reasons. No one would fault me for using them either.

I thought couldn’t afford any more time or money pursuing a second niche. I was already tapped out building a writing career while running a day business…

But what is an excuse anyway?

Excuses are justifications that make me feel better about not taking an action I know I should.

That’s all.

A while back, I realized much of the style in my current niche was devoid of emotional writing. Not all of course, but I was noticing a trend.

For instance, e-mails mostly consisted of an image and a one-liner stating something like…

“25% off Martin Retro guitar strings.”

“All Martin Guitar T-shirts now 15% off!”

I wasn’t seeing many calls for sales pieces that began, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play…”

My writing style favors emotion-based writing, and I knew exactly what I needed to do.

Add a new niche.

One I live in every day. One which has pain points and emotion lurking just under the surface.

Put it this way…

A teenager probably doesn’t care about saving $1.49 on a set of Martin Retro guitar strings…

But someone living with a disability would gladly forfeit one-quarter of their monthly grocery money to purchase a piece of software or equipment. Especially one that makes their life more independent or easier to live.

Living with a disability myself, I’m perfectly equipped to write emotionally-driven copy in the disability market.

I knew what I had to do.

But I still had to overcome my excuses.

No money, no time.

And that wasn’t the half of it.

My day business was experiencing unexpected challenges. It didn’t look sustainable.

The need for a second niche became more obvious. But to pursue it, I was going to need a new website.

To expedite growth, I also needed to attend an upcoming conference where I could meet exhibitors face-to-face. Shake some hands, put my elevator speech to good use. Most of all, come out with a paid client (or two).

But if I didn’t come back with client work, precious resources of time and money would be as good as squandered…

What did I do?

I jumped in. No more excuses. I called my web person and told him to clone my current site’s design to a new web domain I just purchased.

I denied myself sleep at night to add to my LinkedIn profile, write web content for the new site, and research potential clients.

Before long, I was on a plane headed for a conference in Las Vegas.

Of course, my goal was to come away with potential work from one or two clients.

I’ll tell you what happened there in a minute, but first…

Why did I decide to challenge these excuses in the first place?

Put simply: they were getting in the way. The delay was costing me career growth.

I knew I needed to add my new niche. Waiting would only make it harder later.

The more I grow into my career, the more distinctions I make. Acting on those distinctions helps build my confidence, develop my intuition, and increase opportunities for advancement.

I knew it would be a major setback if I continued to let these excuses get in the way.

What finally happened?

I did attend the conference in Las Vegas. Worked my way around the exhibit hall. Met a lot of people. Made sure I didn’t oversell myself. I tactfully worked my services into the conversation.

And I walked out of the conference with…


That’s right. Zip. Nada. Nothing.

I did meet with many exhibitors. And, I’m still continuing to build relationships with them.

I walked away with some leads, but no contracts. No paying clients.

Did I make the wrong decision?

One day in my office, I was feeling a bit foolish. All that time and money spent launching this new niche. Time and money I couldn’t afford to lose in the first place, and at that moment, I had nothing to show for it.

Sitting at my desk, I intuitively decided to send belated marital congratulations to a client I’d worked with once before.

I expected a short note of thanks, and that would be that.

Instead, he replied telling me my timing was perfect. He had a project for which he needed all sort of content written.

I met with him, emboldened by my conference preparation and research. We mapped out some basic ideas. He said he felt I was the perfect wordsmith for the project.

I’m currently working on a sales letter. I’ll be writing a series of web pages, e-mails, and a LinkedIn article too.

A project with a street value of $5,000, and in my new second niche too.

Even though I haven’t gotten work from the conference… yet, it was the fuel I used to challenge my excuses, and pursue a second niche.

If I hadn’t, I’d have lost out on a well-paying project.

What did I learn from this experience?

After flexing muscles at the excuse, I found some strengths I’ll take with me from here on out.

Excuses can appear valid, but turn out to be smoke and mirrors.

I can look back at life and see tons of excuses for why I couldn’t do something.

They appeared valid. They seemed real.

But often they were nothing but smoke, only acting like barriers. I easily walked through to the other side.

Some were mirrors, reflecting the focus back on me, taking my eyes off the bigger plan.

I simply needed to get my focus turned outward again, and not inward.

Excuses need to go. Or I’ll never take that next necessary step.

Step out in faith, and persist.

If I’d not decided to go for a new niche, work up a new website, and even spend money on that conference, the idea would have stalled out.

Even though I haven’t gotten work from the conference… yet, without taking that step to attend, I may never have gotten to the point of sending congratulations to that former client.

Plus, I can continue to build relationships with the 44 conference exhibitors.

Sometimes you have to step out in faith. Muster up confidence in your ability to change your approach when what you’re doing isn’t working.

If what you try doesn’t work, try something else. If that doesn’t work, keep trying.

Success comes easier knowing if you just keep trying, you will succeed.

Giving up guarantees failure.

Don’t focus too far in the future.

It’s good to look ahead to the future. Sometimes though, focusing too far ahead prevents you from changing things now.

Overwhelm can come, fear enters, and it’s tempting to retract resources of time and money out of fear, like a frightened turtle’s head and feet.

I had been caught up in guarding what time and money resources I had. I should have focused on how to use them to make a change towards success.

Looking too far into the future can be overwhelming. It can make it look impossible to get where you want, and shut you down.

Methodically taking one step at a time can give a sense of accomplishment as well keep you from overwhelm.

How challenging this excuse changed my business for the future…

Probably the biggest shift I’ll make in my business comes down to one thing.

Trusting my intuition.

Let me clarify that.

Sometimes we can allow ourselves to take the path of least resistance. Allow ourselves to think a reasonable direction is the way to go.

Even though it feels good or makes sense, it’s missing something.

That feeling down in the marrow of our bones. The one that says it’s the right direction to take.

I have that in my day business. In fact, I recently passed up an opportunity to literally double annual sales if I took on more work.

I passed it up for two reasons.

First, because if I did, it would rob me of any time to pursue my writing career. I wasn’t willing to do that anymore.

Second, the industry is struggling on many fronts and it’s not a fight I want to enter at this point in my life.

More than the reasons, I declined the opportunity because of intuition.

I intuitively felt taking the opportunity would be a huge mistake, despite what it offered financially.

I made the right decision.

Since then, new writing opportunities, like the one I got after the conference, have opened up like never before. I expect them to continue.

I still have so much to learn, and always will, but this experience of trusting my intuition gives me a solid foundation to overcome my excuses…excuses that had nearly cost me $5000.

So, what excuses can you overcome that keep you from your appointed success?