An Interview With AWAI Member Phil Graham: The Power of Keeping Your Dream Alive

Phil Graham went through the Accelerated Program fairly quickly. Then life “got in the way,” and he had to put his career change on the back burner.

But Phil is an inspiration to all AWAI members who find themselves in a similar situation. Because he didn’t give up. And he recently contacted us with some good news.

The Golden Thread interviewed Phil in his home so he could tell you his story personally.

TGT: Tell us a little about yourself.

PHIL: Well, I live in Plano, Texas with my wife. I’ve lived in the Southwest for much of my life.

I’m a voracious reader … from science and technology to politics to all sorts of fiction. I also really enjoy travel, and hope to do more of it one day.

TGT: What brought you to copywriting?

PHIL: I was an aerospace engineer, then ran my family’s small manufacturing business, and finally moved into computer tech support and telecom.

Yet I always wanted to write. I even enjoyed writing engineering documents. I just wasn’t sure I could make money writing on my own.

Because I subscribed to Writers Digest, I received the first AWAI letter. And I was excited to discover I could make money at something I loved.

I took the Accelerated Program and got encouraging feedback on the vitamin assignment. I even went to the first AWAI Bootcamp, which was right after 9/11.

Then I got downsized with the dot-com bust. I was a dime-a-dozen engineer and had to compete with thousands of other people for the few jobs left in my field.

I had to support my family. So I got a job with the Transportation Safety Administration. This put my copywriting career on hold for a while. I stuck with TSA, but never gave up on my dream of being a copywriter.

About year and a half after joining TSA, health issues made me re-examine copywriting as a career. I contacted AWAI. They remembered who I was and encouraged me to go on. Their concern and encouragement was genuine. Since that time, I’ve felt AWAI is part of my extended family.

TGT: Tell us what happened after you decided to get back into copywriting.

PHIL: I went to the 2005 Bootcamp, and picked up information about quite a few spec assignments. My continuing health concerns interfered with being able to do them all, so I chose one I felt I had the greatest chance of succeeding at.

My copy mentor advised me not to submit it until I felt the copy was strong. I knew there’d be a lot of competition, so I worked really hard on it.

The company was very pleased with my headline and lead. They liked mine best of all the ones they received. They particularly liked my research and that I supported it with evidence and showed my sources.

They started me working on a renewal series that included 5 separate assignments … all paid.

They also had plans for me to expand the headline and lead I’d submitted into a full 8-pager. But I had to back off, once again because of health. Two hip replacements later … and I’m now ready to tackle that type of assignment.

TGT: What do you attribute your success to?

PHIL: I really don’t think I’d be anywhere at all if AWAI hadn’t come along. I didn’t know copywriting existed. It’s a fascinating field, and I know I can make a good income in it.

My success? I’m not afraid to put in the effort. But I like to see there’s a reward at the end of the line. Seeing other people from AWAI programs succeeding has encouraged me tremendously. And coaching has taken me much further, faster.

TGT: Any last words of advice for our readers?

PHIL: For starters, don’t give up. I’ve been through a lot that could have discouraged me, but I keep moving forward. Because I’ve persisted, I’ve had my first paydays and I know bigger ones are ahead.

Second, keep your focus on writing, particularly copywriting. I’m constantly learning new things. And getting paid for it now.

And I can’t stress how important spec assignments are. They are worth the effort. Why would someone pay me for something if they don’t know if I’m any good? My spec assignment allowed me to prove myself to a company that had no reason to believe in me … except that AWAI believed in me enough to give me the spec assignment.

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: May 29, 2006

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