Success Story:
Kathy Widenhouse Tells How She Landed Her First Clients

Kathy Widenhouse is a musician, a mother, and a recent AWAI grad. She lives in South Carolina with her husband Brett and their two children, Britta (14) and Kurt (11). In her new career as a copywriter, she has become impressively successful in a very short period of time.

We recently interviewed her to find out how she did it.

TGT: Tell us a little about your background, Kathy.

KATHY: My husband and I served for over 20 years in "the President's Own," the United States Marine Band, which provides musical support for the White House and the State Department. It was a wonderful job, but after 20 years, it was time to retire.

Iknew I had to plan a second career, so about eight years ago I started writing magazine articles – mostly on church- and child-related issues. Then, two years ago, I got the now famous "Can You Write a Letter" letter. That got me involved with AWAI.

TGT: How did you get your first assignments?

KATHY: I began marketing my copywriting services in early July. I decided I would go after Christian and non-profit organizations, since I have a couple of years of experience writing articles and books for the Christian market. Plus, I have a passion to see these kinds of organizations succeed.

I followed the advice Bob Bly gave in his "Selling Yourself" teleconferences. I started by writing a one-page self-promotion letter.

In it, I offered a free booklet and my information kit. The booklet is titled "Easy and Cheap: 7 Proven Solutions to Promoting Your Business." I wrote it myself, laid it out using MS Publisher, and printed out copies using my own printer.

I sent out 10 letters a day. (I still do, when I'm not in the middle of an assignment.) When the response cards started coming in, I immediately put a packet in the mail for each inquiry.

The packet includes my information kit (materials outlining my copywriting services, samples, business cards, and the like), a copy of the booklet, and a handwritten note thanking the client for his interest.

About 10 days later, I follow up each mailing with a phone call, checking with the client to make sure he received the packet, asking if he has any needs at the moment.

Sometimes, the client checks in with me sooner than I do with him. Such was the case with a mission organization in Pennsylvania. The executive director emailed me as soon as he received my packet, mentioned that they have an ongoing need to outsource copywriting, and asked if I'd ever written CD video scripts.

I answered that I hadn't done that kind of work before – but I was confident that given their specifications, a description of the audience, and the purpose of the project, I could produce a powerful, quality script.

Their public relations manager sent me a sample CD video and asked me to bid on the project. At that point, I contacted Barbra Hume at AWAI Student Services for input.

The day after I sent my bid, the public relations manager emailed me, thanked me for the competitive price, and told me they'll be contacting me in early 2005 to proceed with the project.

In the meantime, I've gotten work from other organizations – a year-end appeal letter, a press release, a grant application, and some curriculum-editing work, to name a few projects. And I'm still sending out 10 letters just about every day to ensure a steady flow of work.

TGT: Sending out 10 letters a day seems like a lot of work. Is it?

KATHY: Not really. I use a generic letter that I can easily personalize. I use MS Word for the letter, and I developed a simple but professional looking envelope on MS Publisher. I use the merge function to personalize my queries.

TGT: You achieved success very quickly. How did this happen?

KATHY: My training at AWAI gave me the foundation I needed to move into copywriting from writing articles. My coaches (Marybeth Lareau and Chris Marlowe) helped me get those skills more quickly than if I had proceeded without them. And, just as important, they gave me the confidence I needed to go out and make some money.

I also have to credit Bob and his "Selling Yourself" course for showing me proven ways to market my skills.

TGT: Any last words for our readers?

KATHY: Several. First, I started out by getting the names of marketing and PR directors for a large number of organizations. I know that being able to address them personally in my letters made a difference. For one thing, everyone responds to his own name better than to "Dear Friend." But it also tells the marketing director you're willing to take the time to do the necessary research.

When letters are returned for an incorrect address, I make the effort to find the correct address. And it pays off. I got one job from one of those corrected addresses!

This brings up the most important point. Don't give up. Just as I don't give up on finding correct addresses, your readers should persevere in all aspects of their careers.

If you persist in following your dream – and doing the work you have to do – you cannot help but succeed.

The success might not come as quickly as mine did. But it will come. And who's to say it won't come even faster!

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: November 8, 2004

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