Continuing Success Story:
An Interview With AWAI Masters Member John White

John White has been a member of AWAI for less than two years. He’s currently in the Masters Program and subscribes to Monthly Copywriting Genius (which he feels has accelerated his success considerably).

We interviewed John shortly after he finished the Accelerated Program and quickly got a high-paying client. If you’re interested in learning how he turned a drawer full of business cards into quick success, look at his success story.

Recently, we checked back with John to see how his career’s been going. And he had good news to share.

TGT: Tell us a bit about yourself, John.

JOHN: I live in Texas. I’m interested in golf, cooking, winemaking, and I’m an amateur WWI historian.

TGT: What did you do before copywriting?

JOHN: I worked in chemical manufacturing as a sales rep. Before that, I worked for a construction company in marketing.

TGT: Why did you decide to change careers?

JOHN: I was sick of travel and wanted to spend weekends at home. I didn’t want my obituary to say that I died in a hotel room. I had to change careers.

TGT: How was the jump to copywriting?

JOHN: My writing skills were limited. My experience consisted mostly of technical sales proposals aimed mainly at engineers, attorneys, and accountants – hardly the stuff direct sales is made of. So I knew I needed help to write copy people would actually read. That brought me to AWAI.

TGT: The last time we talked to you, you told us about your quick success in landing your first client. What’s happened since then?

JOHN: Over time, work with my first client led to many more opportunities. Of particular note, he was putting out a monthly newsletter to distributors that, in his opinion, “needed help.” Since this was the Business-to-Business (B-to-B) niche, I subscribed to tons of B-to-B newsletters. Most were awful, but a few were good. I studied the very best that had strong, useful editorial copy and patterned my efforts on those good newsletters.

I now write two different newsletters for that client, and I ghostwrite two more for other company executives.

Unexpectedly, I’ve edged into the B-to-B market, where there’s a crying need for good copywriters. So far, I’ve written speeches, product brochures, CD scripts, and newsletters to distributors and technicians. My newest project is a newsletter for a veterinarian supply company in Houston.

TGT: How do you market yourself?

JOHN: I’ve marketed myself by doing something most people hate to do – making cold calls. I called corporations in the Houston area, found out who the Director/CEO was, and sent a package with my intro sheet and two copies of my newsletter. I followed these up with a phone call and have gotten a surprising number of appointments this way.

I talked to over 100 people before settling on two companies I liked. I chose these two because they had additional work for me besides doing the newsletters.

I also look for self-promo opportunities wherever I go. My veterinarian client is a good example of how this worked for me. I was driving through Houston and spotted a banner across the front of a building saying “Under New Ownership.” I figured new ownership meant a need for new marketing materials. I interviewed the new owner, and now I write his newsletter.

This amount of work keeps me busy for right now.

I feel that starting out the way I did – by doing several marketing tasks for an individual client – can build your career. Once a company knows your work, they look at you more as an advisor than simply as a vendor. That means more and steadier work.

TGT: Words of advice?

JOHN: First, I know many Golden Thread readers don’t like the idea of making cold calls or approaching prospective clients directly. But I’m an example that it works. By approaching potential clients directly, work never seems to run out for me. There’s always something on the burner.

Second, look everywhere for work. And – without being obnoxious – consider every business contact to be a potential client.

And, most important, don’t let disappointment stop you. Keep working. Keep writing and studying (things like the AWAI materials and Bob Bly’s “Secrets of a Freelance Writer”). Keep looking for clients. Success is in your hands.

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: February 6, 2006

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