How Monica Day Got Her First Assignment – and Billed $6,000 in One Month
In July of this past year, AWAI member Monica Day got her first copywriting client. By August, she had her first direct mail package assignment. And in September, she billed $6,000! We asked Monica for a little insight on how she found her first client and what she's doing now to keep her career going.
TGT: Monica, give us some background information. How did you get into copywriting?
MD: Even though I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing/English Literature from Mills College, writing was a dream on the back burner for me for a long time. But in 2002, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary of getting that degree and decided it was time to move writing up to the front burner.
This past June, the hard drive on my laptop crashed, I had no backup, and I had no money to replace or even repair the computer. I realized that I had to completely change my life. I knew I had the talent, skills, and ability to be wildly successful as a writer – but somehow it just wasn't happening.
So I decided to get off the agony train of being a WRITER (meaning that you eek out $25,000 a year, along with a collection of certificates and author copies of magazines and journals that have published your work for pennies per precious word). I needed to find a way to make real money doing what I love. That's when I finally read AWAI's letter and signed up for the course.
TGT: Tell us about your first direct mail assignment. How did it happen?
MD: My first direct mail copywriting assignment was with a mortgage company. I emailed them six headlines and opening paragraph ideas on spec. I told them they didn't have to pay me unless they mailed something I wrote for them. My contact at the company called me within an hour of receiving my email and said, "Stop working for free. Right now. This stuff is too good. I'll call you tomorrow to work out a fee and deadline."
I was in the public library using their computer (remember, mine had died!) when I got her call on my cell phone. I walked around the room in circles for about 10 minutes, clutching my phone and smiling. I'm glad now that I didn't get arrested for suspicious behavior!
But in a few hours, the magnitude of my predicament started settling in. I had the whole fish on the line and I was terrified! After several conversations with Denise at AWAI, and a lifeline to the gracious Don Mahoney, I managed to negotiate the deal, do the work, and make my client very happy.
TGT: How do you go about finding clients now?
MD: So far, I've found most of my clients on the web. There's a fabulous website, creativemoonlighter.com, where I've landed four of the five writing assignments I've done in the past six months. Not every listing is a good fit, and I'm landing about 20% of what I apply for, but I find a mix of interesting stuff there – much more than I've seen on other freelance websites that I've visited. If you do any kind of graphic design or website work, your chances are even better. In fact, my husband has just enrolled in the AWAI graphic design course, and our plan is for him to join my business full-time in the next 1-2 years. It's always been our dream to have a business together.
One problem with looking for work on the web is that you're responding to whatever's out there. It's a great way to get started, but I don't think it'll hold me for the long haul. So, I am also launching a more traditional marketing effort this month, using techniques suggested during the "Getting Clients" session at AWAI's bootcamp. I was really impressed by the way that Catherine Cairns targeted her dream client. She put together a whole direct mail package selling herself as a copywriter and mailed it to one of the largest direct mail companies in the country. Last I heard, she's working on her ninth assignment from that company and they keep giving her more work. I'm going to try that next.
TGT: What advice would you give other AWAI members?
MD: GO FOR IT! Start today. I've met and continue to talk to several other members and I'm amazed by how long people agonize before they feel ready for their first paid assignment. There comes a time when you have to just bite the bullet and put yourself out there. Sooner or later, you have to be willing to take on work, even if you're not sure you can do it (just be sure you've completed the course first). And remember, you have the support of AWAI, other copywriters, and your fellow members.
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