News & Notes – October 2018
What’s Your Future Story?
From PWA Managing Editor Jen Adams
Ten years ago this month, I became a full-time writer.
Now, I’d be lying if I said it was an 100% intentional choice.
My corporate job at the time … working in executive HR at Bank of America… went up in smoke thanks to the 2008 financial crisis. One quarter I was winning awards for performing efficient layoffs, and the next quarter, it was my own turn to get a pink slip.
I’d achieved the proverbial “good job” at a “nice company” but I was MISERABLE. In hindsight, it’s ridiculous I ever tried to make myself into a corporate warrior. It’s just not me.
Many of you can relate. Writing isn’t your first career.
Instead, it’s a profession that called to you, promising creative fulfillment, independence, and income you can control. When you answered that call… or gave into a voice inside yourself begging you to put your writing talent to the test… you started a whole new life.
And I couldn’t be more thrilled to have you with me as a part of the professional writing community.
From my own experience, I know making the leap… and making the leap work for you… can take time and hard work. So this month… to help you settle into your “second life” as a writer faster and easier than I did… I’m going to be using our guest essay space to share my top 10 lessons from 10 years as a professional writer.
You can also expect some additional notes from me in our LinkedIn community. It’s AWAI’s Fast-Track to Success Bootcamp & Job Fair this month, an event I make a point of attending each year now. When I first went, as a pure freelancer, it was life-changing in terms of expanding my network and winning new clients. Now that I sit on the marketer’s side of the table, it’s even more fun, as I get to reconnect with old friends and even hire up-and-coming writers myself! In fact, I’m going to invite YOU to get hired in just a moment…
Before I do, mark your calendars for October 24th. At noon Eastern, Jen Phillips April will be joining me for a special discussion on identifying and pursuing your ideal client. It’s something many of us neglect as we work on finding our niche and mastering our specialty, but as you read in her guest essays last month, an ideal client can dramatically change your experience as a working writer.
Want to write for PWA? Here’s how…
This month, I’ll be at Bootcamp looking to hire writers with great ideas to share with our community over the next six months. But, I understand that not everyone can attend Bootcamp in person, or even take time away from work for the virtual sessions. So I’d like to open a special door for you as an existing PWA member…
If you would like to write for PWA… a stand alone essay or a series… please follow the instructions in this document (opens as a web page) to send me a pitch by October 15th.
If October 15th is too short of a time window, remember that you can pitch me ideas anytime by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bootcamp season is just a time when I do a lot of hiring, so I’m particularly receptive to hearing from you this month!
Your Motivational Minute
The calendar doesn’t lie. I’m officially a 10-year veteran of the copywriting world.
In some ways, it’s hard to believe. I still vividly remember my first clients and the pure joy I felt getting those first tiny little paychecks.
I was getting paid to write!!!!
Real people from all over the world were sending me their actual cash in exchange for my words. So crazy…
They kept doing it. And the dollar amounts got bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
I actually became one of the six-figure writers that had inspired me to get into the business in the first place.
And if I can get there… you can definitely get there.
How can I be so sure?
Well, let’s just be honest here…
When I started, I was at absolute zero. I didn’t have a single client. I didn’t even have a lead on a client.
I didn’t know any other writers personally. I didn’t have a coach, a mentor, or a well-connected insider to guide me along. In fact, the only other copywriters I knew were people I’d read about in sales campaigns.
I didn’t have a niche… a chosen specialty… a website… I didn’t even print my first business cards until I was about three years into my journey.
Not exactly the best way to go about it, and yet… it worked out.
That’s why I’m so confident that anyone getting started now can easily replicate my level of success.
There are so many more tools, templates, and how-to resources available now than there were a decade ago. Copywriting itself, and especially content marketing and social media marketing, is much better understood and in-demand from clients than it used to be… a trend that’s only accelerating.
Plus, there’s support now for copywriters and freelancers that didn’t exist when I started. PWA itself is a prime example. It’s a marvelous resource and place to connect with like-minded writers… but it didn’t exist when I was stumbling through my first few projects. In many ways I’m a jealous old codger… you “new kids” have so many advantages!!!
So, if you have the will to do it… and you take advantage of the tools, opportunities, and support communities around you… I have no doubt you can build the successful writer’s life you want.
PWA’s “Creatives in Business” Book Club
The goal of our “Creatives in Business” book club is to give you the insights and tools to improve your skills on the business side of the writer’s life, so you’ll have more time to focus on doing your best work and enjoying the benefits of a successful creative career. All you need to do to join in is read the book yourself along with us.
It’s our business… but a lot of us don’t like it.
Or at least that’s what we say – it doesn’t necessarily match up to what we do!
That was the main take-away from the first few chapters of our book club selection this month, Daniel Pink’s
To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.
Pink opens the book with a discussion of how every one of us… whether we intended to or not… has been turned into a kind of salesman by modern society. He points out that much of what we do, even when it’s not officially labeled as “selling something”, is trying to convince people to take specific actions.
Which made me laugh – because that’s the definition of successful copywriting, too!
Our whole business is convincing others to do things. Like a page, click a link, subscribe now, buy now. That’s our language, right there.
So what’s the whole hang up?
Pink turns to modern culture, referencing plays and movies most of us have seen… Glengarry Glen Ross, Tin Men, Death of Salesman… things that depict sales work as slimy and greed-driven, a you-lose-I-win kind of profession. He claims all of that input, absorbed consciously or not, gives us a bias against happily embracing a seller’s role.
As a result, we deny we’re in sales or persuasion. We shy away from that label and have mental conflict with it. But then we turn around and spend almost all our waking hours using our persuasive skills… for clients, to sway friends and family to our point of view, and even to manage our own internal monologues (I know you want that cookie, tummy, but we can wait until later, right?).
So how can we make peace… and profits… with what we think about selling and what we do to sell? Pink has a few key points to feed into your brain:
- Accept that persuasion (selling things and changing minds) is a natural part of the human experience that goes on ALL THE TIME
- Understand that selling has changed. Plaid-jacket wearing used car salesmen are stereotypes of the past, while modern sales approaches that work emphasize honesty, transparency, and mutual respect (all things you can feel good about).
- Embrace that since persuasion is a natural part of human life, every single one of us has the potential to get really, really good at it if we want.
Once you’ve wrapped your mind around these key stone ideas, the next task is to improve the effects of your persuasive efforts. How to do that… well, stay tuned! I’ll be back next month with a rundown of the advice Pink shares in the middle section of his book, an advisory segment that kicks off his “How to Be” advice.
Your Monthly Action Step
Do Your 3, 5, and 10
One of the strangest things about reaching the 10-year milestone of my writing career is how differently it has turned out from what I imagined it would be…
So different, in fact, that I truly wish I had written out a plan for my career at the start!
It’s well known and well documented that drafting your own “future story” makes it more likely to happen.
You can call it visioning, goal setting, future casting, or whatever you like. The main idea is to pull up out of your everyday, hyper-reactive state and reflect on where you’d like to steer your ship.
I didn’t do that when I was starting out. I took on almost any client, in any niche, hunting for experience and paydays. As a result, my efforts didn’t necessarily build on each other, and in hindsight, I unintentionally slowed down my own path to success.
After a few years, I did get a plan in place for what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it, and what kinds of clients I wanted along for the ride. It made a HUGE difference on multiple fronts… in my bank balance, my client mix, and my schedule.
So today, I’d like to invite you to take a few minutes and write out your own future.
First, write a few paragraphs about where you’d like your writing business to be three years from now. It’s a shorter time frame than you might imagine, but a time period that scientists say is about the limit of our “on the spot” long-range planning skills.
Next, find a bit more time to reflect. Then, write an addendum that represents your five-year plan or story of your business.
Finally, take that LONG look into the future. One decade from now… which will go by faster than you think… what kinds of things do you want to say about your business? What kind of income goals do you want to hit, and what sorts of projects do you want to define your day?
I know when I did this recently I was surprised at what my dreams really looked like on paper. It was also interesting to see how I prioritized the timing of my various ambitions, like launching my own products or building a money-making website. All in all, it helped me feel more in control of what’s going to happen next in my career, and has helped bring some of my goals closer faster than I hoped.
Try it yourself, and if you’re comfortable sharing, drop a note with your goals or your reactions to your goals into the discussion in our LinkedIn Community .
Guest Writer Series
10 Lessons from 10 Years as a Professional Writer
What does it take to launch, thrive, and survive as a professional writer? I don’t have all the answers, but over the last decade, I’ve learned a few things about what works.
In this month’s series I’ll share:
- How to find those first clients, both as a first time writer and as a first time writer in a “reboot” niche
- Why there’s no such thing as a “typical” day in the life of a working writer… and I think that’s one of the best parts about it!
- What to do to make your freelance career adapt to your life, so that your income, client load, and responsibilities leave you time for play, fun, caregiving, parenting, and all the other “real life” tasks your writing life needs to support
- How to bounce back when you screw it all up (because that happens sometimes!)
- What to consider as your time in the business continues, especially when it comes to the concepts of staying power, life-long work, and knowing when to say “when” on your career.
Plus more, of course… I wouldn’t be a professional writer if I didn’t add “ but wait, there’s more” to every list! I’m truly looking forward to sharing these insights with you and hope you walk away from the series with useful perspective and tips on building a lasting, profitable writing career.
Live Events Coming Soon…
Member Spotlight: Jen Phillips April on Your Ideal Client
On October 24th at 12 noon (Eastern), you’re invited to “join the Jens” as Jen Phillips April and I have a deep-dive discussion on identifying and seeking out your personal ideal client(s).
Jen’s already given you an overview of the topic in her guest writer series on ideal clients this past month. But she and I agree that choosing clients all-too-often gets less attention than other areas of business development, even though your clients are one of the biggest factors influencing your income, long-term success, and overall happiness as a writer.
It should be a very fun and insightful conversation, especially when you consider the breadth of clients and client types Jen and I have worked with over the years. We’ve had different niches, shifted specializations, been full-time, freelance, and in-betweeners, and even both spent portions of our writing life doing “the job” from overseas.
If you’d like to contribute to the conversation, either by asking a question or sending through comments, please post in our LinkedIn group. We’ll be happy to address your comments in our chat!
Deal of the Month
Save $400 on The Ultimate Accelerated Copywriting Companion Series
This month, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Accelerated Course for Six-Figure Copywriting.
It was my first AWAI course, and I’d love to give it full credit for “starting it all”… but the truth is, I got my first clients before I finished the course.
In fact, it actually took me multiple false starts over the years to get to the final chapter.
Not because I didn’t like the material… I just get a little overwhelmed sometimes.
But then, Katie Yeakle and Rebecca Matter, AWAI’s co-managing partners, introduced a program that made a HUGE difference for people like me, who sometimes need a little extra help crossing the finish line.
The Ultimate Accelerated Copywriter Companion Seriesmoves you through the whole of The Accelerated Course in just 10 weeks.
Oh, you know it’s intense. But it’s intense in all the good ways.
You get to immerse yourself in the writing craft, which is fun, but you also get a pair of guardians looking over your shoulder to keep you from diving off into tangents or getting distracted on your way to becoming a well-trained, well-paid working writer.
The difference in experience from the pure DIY model can’t be overstated… I felt supported, encouraged, and professionally moved along the whole time I was doing this program… and at the end, I got to celebrate my own “graduation” into the world of paid writing 5 times faster than the average AWAI member doing the course on their own.
So if you’ve been meaning to finish The Accelerated Course… or you’ve been scared to start because it seems like so much to do… the Companion Series is exactly what you need to get moving and GET IT DONE.
Plus, this month, as a PWA member you can take a full $400 off the price, making it just $397 for you. And, if you’re not a working writer yet, you can even apply your Alliance Dollars to the simple payment plan for the course, blasting through another barrier that might be holding you back.
Just click here or call 866-879-2924 to apply your PWA dollars to this deal.
Jobs! Clients! Oh My!
When you need work, start with a search at DirectResponseJobs.com! Here’s who’s hiring right now:
- Fundraising copywriters! I’ve seen you posting in our LinkedIn community, and want to be sure you’ve seen the opportunities available from Ruffalo Noel Levitz and New Beginnings Family Academy. They want you ASAP!
- Love B2B content writing? Check out the full-time listing from Indiez, seeking 100% remote writer.
- Social media + real estate = your specialty? Have a look at the full time job on offer from Real Grader right now.
Find out more about these and other writing job opportunities at DirectResponseJobs.com.
Remember, along with access to DirectResponseJobs.com, your PWA membership allows you to post a page that promotes your writing services.
Your Future Story Starts Now
When I took on my first client as a freelance writer, I didn’t realize the new chapter of my life that was beginning. It was less intentional than perhaps it ought to have been, though I remember being deeply grateful for the check in my bank account.
Would I do it differently if I had it to do over again? Yes and no. No, because I needed all of the experiences I had to arrive where I am now. But, yes, yes, yes so that I could have done it all with more confidence that I was going to be successful (a note from my “future self” would have saved my worried “past self” a lot of stress!)
So how about you? From where you are now, can you see the path forward? If not… can you write yourself a success story? I’m sure if you’ve been training and practicing that you’re more than skilled enough to create your own perfect happy ending.
Get that happy ending down on the page… and then get out there and start making it happen.
I can’t wait to see where we all our after another 10 years as writers – it’s going to be fun!
To your success,
Managing Editor, PWA
P.S. We’ve started Bootcamp meet-up discussions over in the LinkedIn community for the live event, and I’ll be sure to make an appearance in the virtual feeds as well. So excited to meet as many of you in person as I can this year… see you in just a few weeks!