Art Fahy is a dedicated AWAI member who's taken the "slow and steady" approach to developing a career in the fundraising niche … building his writing skills while networking with potential clients. Recently it paid off.
We talked with Art in his Las Vegas home to find out more about his success.
TGT: Obvious first question: Tell us about yourself.
ART: I'm originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area. I've lived in Las Vegas since 1978, and have worked in the gaming industry here (except for a 2-year stint as a public speaker for Citizens Against Crime).
I met my wife here and we married in 1990. When she and I want to get away, we drive to Laguna Beach in California and veg out on the beach – which becomes important in my story later on.
TGT: Why did you decide to change careers?
ART: I enjoy the gaming business, but I decided to change for a couple of reasons. First was the desire to have more freedom and more control over my life.
My second reason for changing was that I wanted to take some personal responsibility for helping our environment. I saw the damage humans have done, and writing fundraising letters for environmental organizations was a way for me to do that.
So when I learned about copywriting from AWAI – especially fundraising – I knew this was where I needed to be.
TGT: Was the jump to a copywriting career difficult? Scary?
ART: I guess working for the casino industry as long as I have has made me very conservative when it comes to gambling, especially when it comes to my family. So I'm still working full-time there until I make the final jump to full-time copywriter.
That time's rapidly approaching.
TGT: Tell us about your success.
ART: Most of it has been in the last six months – and most of it has been due to contacts I made six months prior to that … and my willingness to do some pro bono work.
An example of what I'm talking about is with the Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach (and here's where those trips with my wife come in). On one of them, I had samples of my work with me. I showed my samples to the people at the Center and offered to do a brochure for them. At the time, they had two brochures: an 8-page education brochure and a 6-page rescue-and-release brochure. My job was to combine them.
I saw this pro bono project as a first step toward doing paid work for the Center. Plus, it gave me a real work sample in my portfolio to show to other potential clients. (By the way, just the other day I received the Center's latest mailing – with my finished brochure in it. Phenomenal feeling seeing my work like that!)
Another example is with the Community Food Bank of Clarke County. A while back, I made contact with the executive director. They called a couple of weeks ago, and now I have a paid assignment to write their fundraising letter.
I've also recently had assignments writing postcards and a phone script – again, because of contacts I made much earlier.
TGT: What do you attribute your success to?
ART: The AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, The Golden Thread, Monthly Copywriting Genius, Bootcamp … and my amigo Malcolm Smith. I met Malcolm at Bootcamp. He critiques my copy and is a constant source of encouragement.
TGT: How have you marketed yourself?
ART: Word of mouth, letters, and cold calling. I made maybe 80 to 100 calls before I got a contract with the food bank. And I currently have 3 to 4 opportunities for paying jobs as a result of cold calls.
Brrr! I don't like cold calling, but it's been a huge steppingstone for me. Fundraising for causes I believe in is such a passion with me that it's worth it, knowing I'm helping to make a positive change for the future.
TGT: Any words of advice for our readers?
ART: Decide what you want. Stay focused. Be persistent. Ask yourself, "What are the rewards of doing this. And what are the consequences of NOT doing it?"
And take advantage of all the knowledge that AWAI shares with us regularly.
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