Interview with Copywriter and AWAI Member Heather Lakatos
Heather Lakatos' life is like a box of chocolates. It contains a little of this and a little of that. She loves the martial arts, yoga, and reading the classics, as well as more contemporary books on self-improvement. In addition to her full-time engineering job, Heather writes copy – of course – and is even working on a screenplay.
From her home in Houston, Texas, she recently talked to us about how she juggles her full-time job while building her freelance copywriting business.
TGT: Hi, Heather. Why not start off by telling our readers a little bit about yourself?
HL: Well, I can't claim to be a Texas native – but I got here as fast as I could! I've been living in the Houston area for over 20 years.
Like you, Krista, I'm an engineer by training. I actually started college as an English/biology major. All my friends were engineers, and I got talked into switching majors. Chemical engineering was a good fit for me – the petrochemical industry is big here in Houston. I've worked at three different companies in the past 10 years in different capacities.
TGT: Lately, I've run into several other copywriters who started out in the engineering field. What prompted you to want to make the switch?
HL: The company I work for has been good to me, but my career is limited since I don't want to move out of Texas. That, on top of the daily stress of being at a manufacturing facility, caused me to respond to the AWAI copywriting package that I received a few years ago.
TGT: I understand you're splitting your time between your engineering job and copywriting. How are you managing to do that?
HL: I have to be very strict about how many copywriting projects I have going at one time. Some may view this as limiting, but since I have so little time during the week (about 20 hours), I've accepted the fact that I won't go full-time overnight. I like to have no more than two projects going at once.
TGT: I think that's a very smart way to handle it. Otherwise, it can become overwhelming. What types of projects have you worked on so far?
HL: I've developed information products – actually written the product – for clients. One could argue that this isn't copywriting per se, but these assignments have given me an appreciation for the overall process of developing and taking a product to market. So these have been valuable experiences for me. I've also written copy for information products, as well as non-profits.
I'm working with my husband on setting up the marketing for his real-estate investment business. Late last year, he found a group of like-minded investors, and hasn't slowed down since! I developed lead-generating business cards for them, as well as flyers and a website.
TGT: Helping your husband get his business off the ground sounds like it was very rewarding. How did you go about researching his target audience?
HL: Well, that's funny. My husband took a continuing-education class to learn the basics of real-estate investing. He came home at midnight that night and informed me that we'd be attending a house-buying weekend in a few days.
Going through that weekend and talking to people who were selling their homes gave me a better understanding of the target audience for my husband's business. Additionally, I did some reading on my own and attended a few real-estate investment classes.
TGT: As you continue to build your career, is there a particular market you'd like to focus on?
HL: I'd like to work with clients who help people. I really like self-improvement products. I've got tapes by Dr. Wayne Dyer, Brian Tracy, and Zig Ziglar, to name a few.
TGT: How do you plan to market yourself?
HL: So far, I've been promoting myself mostly through networking. One of my goals this year is to take the plunge and send out direct-mail packages to prospective clients.
TGT: Any words of wisdom for other copywriting students, Heather?
HL: First, write, write, write. You won't succeed if you don't write.
Second, you need to really master features/benefits/deeper benefits. This was one of the hardest things for me to figure out. What will your product do for your reader? Why should he even care about your product? You must show your prospect how the product will benefit him or your copy will be weak. There have been several good TGT articles on this – read them all. Seven times each.
Third, develop a good picture of who you're writing to. My coach, Will Newman, told me to develop a detailed picture of my prospect, even give him/her a name. I've been lucky – I've based most of my copy on people I know, so I have a good picture (for better or for worse) of who I'm writing to.
I put on some relaxing music, maybe have a glass of wine, and write a letter to my prospect. In this letter, I imagine that I'm sitting across from her at the bar, talking about life, work, the kids, etc. And then I move the conversation toward the problem that my product will solve. This gives me raw material for my promotion.
TGT: Great advice, Heather. Thanks!
[Like Heather, AWAI Student David Chapman credits his copywriting coach for giving him the structure, support, and confidence he needed to get his career off the ground.
According to David, "My coach helped me 'put it all together.' He showed me how to integrate and apply all the course material and put it into action on 'real world' business assignments.
Having a coach helped me land my first big project – a $3,500 job plus a royalty on sales!
The best part was my coach helped me every step of the way. Looking at the prospect, analyzing core emotions, what to look for in my research, organizing facts, features and benefits … even polishing my headline and subheads until they SPARKLED!
In a nutshell, my coach helped me make the big leap from being a student … to being a working pro! Aside from the AWAI course itself, the coaching program is the best investment I ever made."]
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