Success Story:
How AWAI Member Cathy Cairns Landed the Copywriting Job of Her Dreams.

AWAI member Cathy Cairns went after a copywriting job at a major publishing house – and got it! We knew you'd want to know exactly how she did it, so we asked her …

TGT: Why did you decide to contact that particular company?

CC: I was familiar with their products (my father was one of their customers). I also knew, through an article I had read in The Golden Thread, that they hire freelance copywriters. This gave me the confidence that I could do it.

TGT: How did you go about promoting yourself to them?

CC: First, I went to their website and found the name and e-mail address of their human resources director. I called to confirm their address from their print ads. I asked the phone operator if the human resources director worked in the same building, and I asked for their fax number.

Next, I wrote a direct-mail sales package promoting my copywriting services. (It was complete with envelope copy, a 13-page sales letter, a 5-page lift note, and an insert.)

Understand that since taking AWAI's copywriting course, I had only worked on fliers, resumes, cover letters, and so on. My results were good … but tiny compared to the kind of mailing (to over 80,000 people) that this company might do. So I used the "secret of transubstantiation." I focused on how "I am specializing in a direct-mail selling technique that sold over 13 million copies of one book through mail order." (And I explained how copywriter Gene Schwartz did just that in his sales letter: Burn Disease Out Of Your Body.) In my 5-page lift note, I focused on my education from the American Writers & Artists Institute and on the results of past work I had done – to "prove" that I can generate outstanding results.

Then, I sent this package to the human resources director. I also e-mailed, faxed, and left a phone message to let him know it was arriving. A few weeks passed, and I heard nothing. So I left another phone message. One month passed, so I sent a 2-page letter to the president of the company and the human resources director, focusing on how I could help increase their sales. I also e-mailed the human resources director, using the subject heading "Have you received my package?" I asked about the direct-mail package I had sent and restated the envelope copy so he knew which package it was. And I told him that a 2-page letter was on the way.

I got a phone message from the creative director – who was in need of copywriters who could write direct-mail sales packages. I called her back, and before I got off the phone, I had been given my first well-paid assignment.

I recently completed my second project for this company, and I think I have a third one lined up.

TGT: Is there anything else about your experience that you think would be helpful/interesting to our members?

CC: Persist. Never give up. When you have an assignment, always do your best. Work as a team with others. But also: Write down the kinds of products or services you'd enjoy selling as a copywriter. Find out what companies sell these kinds of products or services through direct mail. Then write a sales package promoting your copywriting services to that target market. The passion you have for products you'd love to sell will come through in your writing. Plus, when you're working on an assignment, it will be fun because you'll be selling something you love. (And don't forget to save direct-mail sales packages that come into your mailbox. They'll give you lots of ideas.)

TGT: Where do you expect to go from here with your career?

CC: I want to specialize in just one area as a copywriter – writing copy that successfully sells material on personal development. I also have plans to write my own books and sell them myself.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: June 10, 2002

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