How to Know When You’re Ready
for Your First Client

It’s the biggest question I struggled with as an aspiring copywriter …

“How do I know when my skills are good enough to go after my first client?”

After all, I didn’t want to land a client and not deliver. The embarrassment would be too much for me too handle.

It wasn’t until I came up with an answer that I was able to move forward in my career.

If you’ve ever had (or still have!) this same dilemma, don’t fret. Today I’ll tell you exactly how you can get past this concern, and move toward landing your first paying client.

So how do you know when you’re ready?

Well, the truth is that …

You’re ready now!

Seriously.

I didn’t like this answer at first. But as soon as I came to terms with it I was able to launch my copywriting career.

See, the truth is that you’ll never truly feel 100% ready.

Case in point: I’ve been at this copywriting thing full-time for almost three years now. I still feel jitters in my stomach every time a client gives me an assignment. I wonder if my skills are up to par. And, I wonder if I’ll be able to do a good job.

Granted, I don’t feel these feelings as strongly as when I first started. But they’re still there.

Many working copywriters I’ve spoken to also feel this way. Even million-dollar copywriting superstar Carline Anglade-Cole has admitted to getting a small case of the jitters when she lands a big project.

There’s still that little voice that says, “Will I really be able to do a great job on this? Am I just a big fraud?”

The only difference for those already living the “Writer’s Life” is that they take action in spite of that fear.

That said, I don’t want to just leave you with “You’re ready now, so just do it.”

There ARE things you can do to build your confidence and your skills.

And while you still won’t feel “100% ready,” you’ll at least feel confident you’ve done everything you can to deliver on your promises to your clients.

Here are 5 things you can start doing today:

  1. Learn every opportunity you get.

    When I worked full-time at a ballroom dance studio, my boss would always tell me, “If you’re green, you grow. If you’re ripe, you rot.”

    In the field of copywriting, truer words could never be spoken.

    Writing copy is a fluid skill. It’s forever changing and improving.

    You’ll never reach a point where you can say, “Alas, I’ve mastered EVERYTHING there is to know about copywriting. Now I am ready.”

    It simply doesn’t work that way. In fact, the sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be. And, the sooner you’ll be able to land that first client.

    So the good news is, you’ll always be learning.

    And the reality is – you learn as you go. (And your clients pay you for it!)

    Once you’ve got a gist of the fundamentals of good copy, it’s a matter of learning “on the job.”

    You’ll see … with each project you take on, you’ll learn something, improve and take that knowledge with you and apply it to your next assignment.

  2. Create a copy checklist.

    Creating a copy checklist makes sure you’ve written the best possible letter you are capable of.

    It helps you remember all those golden response-boosting nuggets that may propel your promo to becoming a control.

    And – more importantly – it gives you confidence.

    You know that by making sure everything on your checklist is in your promo, you’ve written a pretty good letter, at the very least.

    In fact, scratch that. A checklist practically GUARANTEES you’ll write a better letter than 90 % of copywriters out there who don’t have the knowledge and training you’re getting from AWAI.

    My suggestion? Go through AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting and create your checklist from there.

    Here’s an example of what that might look like:

    “G’s Copy Checklist”

    • Headline (Does it pass the 4 “Us” test?)

    • Lead (use one of the 6 genres of leads Michael Masterson talked about at Bootcamp.)

      Is my lead compelling? … Does each sentence make you want to read the next?

    • Body (Sales Argument)

      Have I turned features in to benefits – and those into deeper benefits?

      Have I proved my claims?

      Have I included studies, testimonials, case studies, or evidence of track record?

    • Offer

      Have I sweetened the pot with premiums or bonuses?

      Is this deal a “no brainer” my prospect can’t pass up?

      Is there some form of risk-reversal, i.e. money-back guarantee?

    • Close (Is there urgency?)

    • P.S. (Have I added an extra benefit, bonus, or extra sense of urgency?)

  3. Write … A LOT.

    Brian Clark (of Copyblogger.com fame) sums it best in his post titled, “10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer” …

    1. Write.
    2. Write more.
    3. Write even more.
    4. Write even more than that.
    5. Write when you don’t want to.
    6. Write when you do.
    7. Write when you have something to say.
    8. Write when you don’t.
    9. Write every day.
    10. Keep writing.

    There’s no way around it. The more you write, the better you get.

    Also, the more you write, the more confidence you’ll have in your abilities, and the easier it will be to push past the fear of “Am I ready? What if I write a letter and my clients don’t like it?”

  4. Start Small.

    The idea here is baby steps.

    I know that being unsure of your abilities can be nerve wracking.

    If landing your first client terrifies you, start by writing a few samples.

    Then have your peers review it. They’ll give you an honest assessment of what you’ve done well and what could use more work.

    Once you’re comfortable with that, pick one of AWAI’s (or any other client’s) spec challenges. Then do it.

    There’s no risk on your end or the client’s. If they don’t like your work, no biggie. Either way, you win because you’ll have gained valuable experience and a new sample for your portfolio.

    From there, you could approach a client and offer to write on spec for them.

    The point is this. Start from wherever you’re comfortable. Then take progressive baby steps to get where you want to go.

    Doing this will gradually build your confidence, much in the same way you work a muscle out with gradually heavier weights to make it stronger.

  5. Come to Bootcamp. Okay, so this isn’t exactly a technique, per se. But it is a way to boost your confidence in your abilities, BIG TIME. I remember leaving my first Bootcamp feeling on top of the world. What’s more, it’s what got my freelance career started.

    How does Bootcamp give you confidence? You’ll be amongst fellow copywriters who are in your shoes … you’ll meet and talk to returning alumni who were in your shoes not too long ago – and are now successful. You’ll also learn from and personally chat with experts who are currently in the trenches and KNOW what it takes to succeed (best time to get a hold of them is between sessions, or at the bar at the end of the day). Finally, you’ll even be able to talk to potential clients directly … you’ll know straight from the “horse’s mouth” what it will take for you to launch your career and land a paid assignment, this year. By the time you leave, you’ll be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. To learn more about why Bootcamp is such a huge confidence-booster, click here.

Bottom line: You don’t have to wait ‘til you feel 100% ready in your skills.

Because chances are you’ll never feel 100% ready (I know I don’t).

You’re ready now.

And if the thought of going for it scares you too much, follow the five tips I’ve outlined above.

This will not only continue to build your skills, but your confidence as well.

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 »


Click to Rate:
Average: 4.9
Published: August 2, 2010

9 Responses to “How to Know When You’re Ready for Your First Client”

  1. Outstanding article, Guillermo. You took the mysterious art and science of achieving copywriting success and "broke it down" perfectly (and thereby shortened my Procrastination Curve considerably!). Very, very practical tips and advice. Thanks!

    Paul RamirezAugust 2, 2010 at 3:35 pm

  2. Great article! I was just sitting here getting ready to make a checklist when I received the email about your article. They say timing is everything, and I guess it's time to make that checklist! Thank you!

    Kellie CraftAugust 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm

  3. This question popped in my mind today and then 3 hours later I found this article. Outstanding in what you have compiled for the guy that has these and more question in mind.

    I have noticed there is a real emotional cure to going through AWAI Accelerated Program for Six Figure Copywriting. As you go through the program you get really passionate about what you're doing and along the why you get all these questions popping up in your mind.

    Thanks for answering this question that was on my mind. I even started a sheet of questions, now I can mark this one off WOOHOO!!! Thanks Again!:o)

    Stephen HickeyMarch 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm

  4. This is a life saver! Esp for a newbie like me. It's elementary but highly practical! You took all the fluff out of the art of copywriting. Thanks and thanks!!! I am using it!

    Adrian tienJanuary 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

  5. Hi! Mr. Rubio, your excellent article answered a lot of questions on my mind and reaffirm: In life, perfection would and will never be, but perfecting should be.

    So, I definitely want to move along. Thanks-a-million!

    James Chin-Ti LinJanuary 13, 2014 at 6:48 am

  6. Wow, Guillermo! What a terrific article! It was not only informative, but you also gave things we could use. I felt as though you were addressing me directly! That's exactly how I'm feeling, now that I'm getting close to finishing The Accelerated Program now. How will I know when I'm ready? You've answered it! Thanks so much!

    Kathleen

    KPachecoJune 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

  7. Guillermo,I have been pondering that decision for sometime. I just joined COS and I hope to be involved in some project before the year is over.

    Darnell McCrayJune 23, 2014 at 7:53 pm

  8. Most refreshing and to the point Guillermo. Just read Michael Masterson;s 'Ready, Fire, Aim' and your approach is so similar. Of course we need to prepare - but so much has already been don. We are going to experience 'on the job learning' because that is part of being human.

    KiwiChrisMarch 23, 2015 at 2:21 am

  9. Thank you SO MUCH, Guillermo! Your explanation is crystal clear and makes implementation easier.

    I am 50 pages into re-reading one of my favorite books, The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz, Ph.D. The book was written over 60 years ago, but is timeless in it's application.

    With your post and this book, I am getting a very clear picture of myself as a great copywriter.

    Life is exciting!

    Stephen Bolin

    Stephen BolinAugust 17, 2015 at 10:02 pm


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