AWAI Member Fran McDuffee Tells Her Success Story

In many ways, Fran McDuffee is a typical AWAI member. She has embraced copywriting as the career of her future and is working hard to achieve her goal. I had the pleasure of meeting Fran at last week’s Oxford Club Copywriting bootcamp. I asked her if we could share how she landed her first clients with you.

TGT: Fran, please tell us a little about yourself.

FRAN: I’m an “empty nester” with four grown children – two boys and two girls – who live all over the place. My husband and I live in an older neighborhood in Indiana that I really love. It’s sort of wooded, and we have wildlife around. It’s perfect for writing.

My personal interests support my growing copywriting career. I’m an avid reader and love crossword puzzles, cryptograms, and anacrostics. My interest in jigsaw puzzles fits in well with the enjoyment I get out of doing research and putting the larger picture together from the smaller pieces my research comes up with.

TGT: Has your career always involved writing?

FRAN: Not at all. I spent 18-plus years in human resources and information technology. But I’ve had a passion for writing since high school, and have tried to do it on my own or incorporate it into my work.

TGT: Why did you decide to switch to copywriting?

FRAN: The decision was thrust upon me. It’s a familiar story. I was downsized from my job in IT. I think of it as a message to get on with what I really wanted to do – write. I’m still working full-time for a temp agency, writing policy and procedures manuals.

I do all my copywriting early in the morning or in the evenings. I’ve been an early riser for years, so that part isn’t too difficult. At times, the double work can be taxing, but I enjoy writing so much that I look forward to doing it.

My husband has been very supportive of my new career choice. Plus, I’ve recently had some experiences that show me it’s worth it.

TGT: Has it been hard to start your new copywriting career?

FRAN: It was definitely scary. It’d be silly to say otherwise. But it wasn’t difficult. I am amazed by how quickly I started developing a solid client base. I thought it would take a year, but it hasn’t.

TGT: Tell us about that.

FRAN: I found AWAI while looking on the Internet for writing programs. I did a little research, and was impressed with them and their testimonials.

I finished the Accelerated Program in 3 months. And I landed a job just 1 month later through the AWAI Direct Response Job Board (

A gentleman in New York hired me on spec to prove myself. He had me write a book about blogging, which I researched thoroughly. Then he had me do four other jobs related to this project … all in 30 days. (I did them all and was very happy with what I was paid.)

This first client then referred me to a second client … an associate of his. That job was a book about using interns in business relationships. And, I also did a sales letter for an obesity book, including an auto-responder and other components.

TGT: What are you doing now?

FRAN: My current client is a woman who had me ghost-write a book. I’m growing with this client. She’s asked me to work with her on a joint project that’s looking to be a lot of fun, as well as profitable.

So far, I haven’t done any real outside advertising or promotion, although I will be soon. All of my work has been through the Direct Response Job Board and word of mouth.

TGT: Why do you think you get referrals for other jobs … and so much repeat business?

FRAN: I’m open to criticism. Also, I’m quick to give my clients what they need. I think it’s important to work for the good of the client instead of working just to get paid.

TGT: Any words of advice for our readers?

FRAN: Two. First, once you decide to follow your dream, don’t let naysayers discourage you. Take everything you learn in the AWAI program and apply it. Embrace learning. If I learn one new thing every day, I’m happy.

Second, in George Bernard Shaw’s words: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

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: September 18, 2006

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