The Drastically Changing Reality of Self-Promotion … and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

Thanks to the Internet, you’re in the middle of a revolution – a revolution in the world of copywriting. What worked a few years ago will never again work.

And what worked a few years ago to promote yourself will never work again either.

I’m constantly being asked to explain these changes. I can’t explain all of them here. (There are far too many.). But I can answer the top three questions I get.

How Do I Get My Foot in the Door?

QUESTION #1: How do I get my foot in the door of local, and then national, businesses? How do I persuade clients to hire me, given my lack of experience?

ANSWER: Some companies that you’ll approach are looking only for established pros. But others prefer to work with up-and-coming copywriters – sometimes because of the perception that you’ll be more flexible and charge a more reasonable fee.

Many bigger companies hire new copywriters to write specialty promotions like inserts. (These are usually 2-4 page ads, inserted into newsletter mailers.) They are generally good paying assignments, and a great way for new copywriters to showcase their skills. Many companies also give out insert assignments to build a list of writers they’d like to hire in the future.

Also, most “big name” copywriters are booked months in advance. So their clients will have to call on you and other new copywriters to handle the assignments their regulars cannot take on.

And here’s a key point to consider: Many smaller start-up companies – including those on the Internet – will pay good money to a writer who helps them get going. If you’re the one who does that, they’ll stick with you a long time … with ever-increasing paychecks.

Boardroom, Phillips, and Agora weren’t always the big guys. Many writers who got them started are still writing for them … and making six- and seven-figures.

How Do I Find Out Who’s in Charge?

QUESTION #2: I want to use both cold calls and a direct-mail approach to contact prospective clients. I know how important it is to get the name of the person who makes the decision on copywriting projects. What are the types of questions I should ask the screener?

ANSWER: You’re smart to take this two-pronged approach to self-promotion. Since you’re willing to do cold calls, try to reach the decision maker directly by calling before 9:00 a.m., after 5:00 p.m., or during the lunch hour.

But if you do reach the screener, simply ask for the name of the person in charge of marketing. If the name does not give a clue as to his or her gender (like Pat Jones), ask, “Is that Ms. Jones or Mr. Jones?”

If you don’t already have the address of the company, ask the screener for it. This is an obvious question if you’re planning on mailing a self-promotional letter – but ask it even if you’re planning to cold call the marketing director. Then, when you reach the marketing director and she expresses interest in seeing your work, ask, “Do I send it to 1234 Main Street, to another address, or to your email?” This tells her that you’ve done your homework.

Speaking of homework, make sure you research the company as thoroughly as possible before you talk to the marketing director.

And always treat screeners with respect. But do not involve them in discussions about copywriting, marketing, or the services you offer.

It’s a Matter of Self-Confidence

QUESTION #3: I’m just starting out, and I’m more than a little nervous about showing my work samples to potential clients. How do I gain confidence?

ANSWER: I’m probably the least self-confident person you’ll ever meet. So if I can do it, you can too. Here are my personal tips … and these work whether you’re writing for Internet clients or for standard direct mail:

  • Work very hard to get good at your craft. Be a total student of direct response. Study everything in the AWAI programs and in books written by the top copywriters.
  • Do your best on every job you get. Put twice as much effort into the work as you feel the client is paying for.
  • Be modest in your promises. Don’t tell the client that you will beat his control. Tell him you’ll write the strongest package you can – one that you feel has the best chance of beating the control. Under-promise. Then over-deliver.
  • Find another AWAI member or writer to be your “copy buddy.” Read each other’s work before sending it to clients. This will improve your copy … and boost your confidence in the work you submit.

Final Thoughts

Direct marketing is changing in ways no one could have imagined even three years ago. It’s going through the most exciting period in its history, one that offers tremendous opportunities for you … because so few Internet marketers have the skills you’re learning.

With these changes happening so fast, you have to act NOW.

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: December 11, 2006

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