From The Golden Thread Mailbag …
Immerse Yourself in the Medium

HI Pat,

I keep reading comments from copywriters mentioning technical things they are incorporating into their writing assignments … like using auto-responders and some other things I’ve never heard of before. Is knowing about these things a part of being a freelance writer? How would I quickly learn about them? Is it worth it?

Thanks for clearing up something that’s been bothering me.


Hello Betty,

Yes, this is part of being a freelance copywriter.

In fact, there are quite a few new concepts you’ll learn as you continue to study copywriting – specifically, direct-mail copywriting. You’ll be able to incorporate these hi-tech sales enhancers into your repertoire as you become more skilled.

The one you mention in your question – the auto-responder – is an email message that is automatically sent to the customer after the sale is made. The message is usually short and sweet, just a confirmation or a thank you … but it can be used for a number of purposes, including making another sale.

The fastest way to get yourself up to speed on all this new stuff is to immerse yourself in the medium. Read everything about copywriting that you can get your hands on. Start with our Accelerated Program for Six-figure Copywriting, and go from there.

Hi Pat,

I need your help. I finished the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting a while back, and I am searching for clients now.

I bought my own copy of Target Marketing’s Who’s Mailing What directory. I’m using it as a source of potential new clients. I send my prospects one of two short self-promo letters I wrote – one for non-profits and one for the rest.

So far, I’ve generated a few leads and have sent some replies by either email or fax. I haven’t yet followed up with any phone calls. Needless to say, I have not received any assignments.

I am wondering if I’m doing something wrong … or if it’s a matter of a numbers game – continuing to send out my self-promo letters until some marketing director will try me. (I offer to work on spec.)

Can you help me jump-start?

Edward S.

Hello Edward,

No … you aren’t doing anything wrong. And, yes, it is a numbers game. The biggest hurdle most new freelancers face in getting assignments is that they don’t get themselves out there. You are certainly doing that.

You’ve got a great plan for this stage of your career. Buying and using the Target Marketing directory is very smart. And offering to work on spec is a good way to get your foot in the door. By hiring you this way, a company has nothing to lose.

However, you should start to wean yourself away from the “spec mentality.” You are a professional freelance copywriter and (as Bob Bly has pointed out many times) you should present yourself as such.

You’ve done the work and learned the skill – so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask to be paid like a professional. You don’t have to drop the spec offer completely, because it certainly can be effective. But try sending out half of your queries without it. See what happens.

Keep in mind that your marketing strategy will change over time. You will continue to refine it as you find out what works and what doesn’t for your particular situation.

That’s it for this week. Thanks to one and all – and keep those emails coming!


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: October 9, 2006

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