5 Tips for Greater Self-Confidence

At AWAI, you get to hear a lot of success stories. It’s inspiring to hear about the great things your fellow AWAI members are doing.

But, sometimes reading about other’s success while you’re floundering can make you feel like mud on a shoe.

Confidence is critical to your success as a writer. A higher level of confidence enables you to ask for more money on a project, go after more lucrative clients, and to continue improving as a writer no matter how good you get.

When you’re new to the business, however, there are a thousand things that can sap your confidence. You can easily go from “the greatest” to feeling like a total nimrod in a matter of seconds with one comment from a colleague or client. I know … It’s happened to me.

Below are some things I’ve learned about increasing your confidence. Some I learned the hard way, and others I was fortunate enough to figure out early in my career.

Tip #1: Do Not Try … Do.

Imagine a world-class swimmer who prepares for the Olympics by reading about other swimmers, studying swimming strokes, and creating a plan for winning the race.

Do you think he’ll win?

That’s what a lot of writers do in the early stages, and it was my “strategy” for success. Quite honestly, it’s a lousy strategy. Let me tell you what happened …

I wrote my first couple of pieces with very little knowledge about writing copy. I thought they were pretty good, and my clients loved them. I didn’t get paid a lot, but it sure felt good to get those checks.

Then, I started to study the Masters and read those million-dollar sales letters. My opinion of my writing dropped like a ton of bricks and my confidence took a serious hit.

My rational mind said, “You must study copywriting for a very long time before asking for money again.” My bank account said otherwise. Thank goodness for that, because I don’t think I would have made it if all I did was study and learn.

While studying the Masters of copy and completing AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting should be required of any aspiring writer, it was the actual process of writing that helped me to become more confident about asking for money.

It doesn’t matter whether you practice with spec pieces or practice on live clients (you’ll do both). Write and keep writing because your confidence as a writer will improve with every piece of copy you write.

Tip #2: Smack Fear Upside the Head

I love the self-help books that tell you to “make fear your friend and ally.” You’re supposed to welcome the fear with open arms and embrace it for the gifts it gives you.

Sounds good on paper, but in my experience, it works better if you smack fear upside the head and keep it from getting the better of you.

As a new writer, one of the greatest fears you’ll face is the fear of rejection. Rejection comes in many forms:

  • Spending hours on a proposal only to have it turned down …
  • Submitting your best writing for a spec piece and never hearing back …
  • Having a client rewrite your copy …
  • Have a great conversation with a prospect, only to have them close with “send me some samples” …
  • Not getting paid for the work you did …

It all hurts. This kind of pain will stop you cold in your business or push you toward low-end, low-paying clients who will ultimately blame you for not selling any of their questionable products.

Smack those fears upside the head and go after the big, bold, high-paying clients anyway.

You will get rejected. Some clients will rewrite your copy. And, yes, you will get asked for samples of your work. Every time you go after a new client after getting rejected, your confidence will increase. And, by going after the clients you’d really like to work with, instead of those you “think you can get,” you will feel more confident just for fighting back the fear.

Tip #3: Mark Your Accomplishments

This is something I wished I’d done.

I recently put together a portfolio of some of my writing. A few pieces went back as much as five years. It was interesting because I could see the progression in my work. My newer headlines were far more enticing and less formulaic. The leads were more interesting. Even simple web copy had improved by leaps and bounds.

In seeing the progression of my work, which included the type of clients with whom I worked, I could mark the times when I felt more confident and see how much my confidence had grown.

What I wish I’d done was to mark my accomplishments as they happened. What if I had created a binder to hold all my writing, including paid assignments and training pieces?

Not only would I have a complete portfolio ready to go, I’d have tangible proof that my writing improved with each new assignment.

Because I simply plowed along and never looked back to see how far I’d come, I constantly wondered if my writing had improved “enough” to go for the bigger deal or the bigger client. There was no way to see the improvement taking place.

What’s interesting is that I love tracking my bike rides with my iPhone. I’d keep a log of each ride so that I could record my improvement. Now, I’m starting to do the same with my writing. It’s a great confidence booster to go back and see how far you’ve come — much like hitting a clearing on the trail where you can see all the way down to the trailhead.

Tip #4: Stand Up For Yourself

One of the things I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur is that you’re always going to make mistakes. It’s what you do with the mistakes you make that mean the difference between increased or decreased confidence.

Here are a few of the many mistakes I’ve made:

  • Lowering my price without reducing the scope of work …
  • Agreeing to do less than what I thought it would take to make a campaign successful …
  • Allowing a client to get away without paying the final invoice …
  • Agreeing to a verbal contract because there wasn’t enough time to get it in writing …
  • Doing way more than I’d contracted for without making it clear what I was doing (or asking for more money) …

You ARE going to make some mistakes and errors in judgment. You might even make the same mistake twice (I have).

I’ve learned that by standing up for myself right from the start, my entire experience improves, along with my confidence. The last time a client tried to get away without paying, I had a lawyer friend send him a rather unfriendly letter. He paid within minutes.

The challenges won’t stop, either. Just continue to stand up for yourself. A recent client wanted me to cut my price in half. I cut the scope of work in half, keeping the most essential elements. I know that he’ll be back for the rest when we’re done.

Tip #5: Become a Contributor

As you dig through your training with AWAI, start looking for ways to share what you’re learning with others.

I’m a member of a small Rotary Club with limited resources. When I first started to learn about writing copy, I volunteered to help some of my fellow members with their marketing. We had a few brainstorming meetings where I was able to share some ideas and tweak their marketing copy a little.

What a confidence booster that was! It also makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

As members of the AWAI community, we are witness to some of the best writing in the world. If ALL you do is hang out within the community, you’ll never know the real value of what you’re learning.

Contribute, not only within the AWAI community with critiques and feedback, but also to your greater community, where the skills you’re learning will be appreciated more than you can imagine.

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Published: May 27, 2011

6 Responses to “5 Tips for Greater Self-Confidence”

  1. Great and helpful article, Sid. Thanks! I heartily agree with the section about smacking fear upside the head! Love it. I also appreciated the section about standing up for yourself...and the details you illustrated. Good stuff.

    Thanks again! Cyndee


  2. Great articles Sid! I am enjoying your writing style and relate to a lot of what you are sharing.
    RE: fear; it's in my face right now, even though many years of personal growth training offered the idea that fear is an illusion (False Expectations Appearing Real).
    The Luck Factor and Strenghts Finder 2.0 are on my list of books to read.
    I have done the Headlines COS class; making a binder to start my collection for future reference.
    Thanks again for sharing your process and offering great tips!


  3. Sid, wow, thanks for the timely advice. As I read this I could still feel the wrenching in my stomach as I ponder my steps forward in making this my breakout year. It most definitely isn't the writing that poses the greatest challenge, though the writing must sell. But tackling the fear of the business side of copywriting is a must, and you have been most helpful here!


    Jerry Bures

  4. I liked your article, Sid. As Eleanor Roosevelt noted, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."


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