Rugged Individualism or Group Support?
The Key to Maximum Success
I once drove in the wrong direction on Highway 119 in eastern Kentucky for about 75 miles because I refused to stop and ask for directions.
I know, that's nailing the stereotype of guys to the wall.
It's taking the idea of "rugged individualism" and self-sufficiency to the extreme.
But it's more common than you might think.
For some reason, we freelancers tend to "go it alone." At least, it's more typical of us male copywriters, I think.
I've always taken pride in being able to get things done myself without any help.
That's good and bad.
It's good if you like calling the shots. Nobody telling you when to start work, when to leave, when to take a break. As long as you're a self-starter and can stay motivated, it's great.
Now, if you take this idea of "going it alone" to an extreme, like I've often done, you can get into the danger zone.
Not just with directions or asking for help fixing the lawn mower.
The writer's life – a solitary pursuit?
I don't like asking for help with my copywriting business either.
When I decided to become a copywriter, I had an image of holing up in my office and not coming out for days. I pictured late-night deadline-beating sessions fueled by caffeine. Piles of books strewn everywhere as I searched for Big Ideas. Neighbors thinking I was some weird recluse who only came out once a day to check his mailbox.
Funny thing is, that fit me just fine.
See, I have two sides. I like meeting new people. I have no problem striking up conversations in social settings. And I enjoy public speaking. So while I'm not at all shy, I would consider myself an introvert.
I draw energy from the inner world. I love ideas and reflection, and when I need to recharge, I seek solitude, not other people. Aside from my family, I tend to spend a lot of time by myself, even taking leisure trips once or twice a year alone.
Off-base assumptions followed by harsh reality
So this was my picture of how my copywriting life would unfold. I figured all you had to do was go through the Accelerated Program at your own pace, somehow let the world know that you were now a copywriter, and marketers would start swarming you with offers, begging you to write copy for them.
Experienced copywriters, you can all stop laughing now.
I'm not exaggerating by much.
I really thought it would be pretty easy.
My first slap upside the head came when I realized that even though I was learning the craft of copywriting, I really didn't have a clue about a lot of things.
I didn't have any idea how to get my first client.
When I did get my first client, I wasn't sure what to say or how much to charge.
I didn't know what I should put on my website and what I could leave off.
I had a goal to work with successful marketers, but was intimidated by not knowing how to approach them.
And while I felt my copywriting skills were up to par, I held back in marketing myself because I didn't have any samples or testimonials.
Do any of these doubts and fears strike a chord?
The thing is, every one of these areas of concern could have been addressed by someone at AWAI. The problem is, I didn't ask.
Seeking help is only for the weak
That was my perception.
Everything I've accomplished in life has been a result of my own determination and self-reliance (or so I thought).
I've made it this far in life without any help, so why change now? Support groups are for people who like sitting around in a circle and commiserating over their problems.
Not my style.
Little did I know what was right in front of me …
An advisory board of over 30 industry experts
On AWAI's home page, right at the top under the navigation bar, it says, "How can we help you?"
Here's the thing. AWAI is there, ready and willing to help you in any way possible. They've assembled a copywriter's "dream team" of advisors in every possible area.
But you have to reach out. You have to ask for help. You have to tap into the wealth of resources that are out there.
AWAI isn't going to come to you (well, unless you count getting an email or direct mail piece every once in a while … they are in the direct-response business, after all).
What I mean is, they're not going to tap you on the shoulder and schedule a lunch meeting to sit down and discuss your copywriting and life goals.
You have to take action.
So here's the big question: how do you position yourself for the greatest chance of success in this great adventure called the writer's life?
Embrace your best self-reliant qualities while seeking expert guidance
Easier said than done, right? And what exactly does that mean?
Let me explain.
In order to succeed as a freelance writer, I think you need to develop serious self-discipline.
- You need to be a self-starter who doesn't wait to take direction from anyone but yourself.
- You need to be the one coming up with creative ideas to help businesses make more money.
- You need to be comfortable spending large amounts of time by yourself.
- And you need to become a master at managing your time.
But then do the one thing that I failed to do in the beginning:
Ask for help!
Here are my top seven suggestions for reaching out and getting the support you need to achieve maximum success:
- Contact copywriters who are slightly or way ahead of where you are. You can do this by email, phone, or in person, but don't be afraid to ask questions. Over the past two years, I've connected with many successful copywriters, and every one of them has been extremely gracious with their time and advice. Especially true of AWAI members (we're family!). I don't consider myself an expert, but I get a number of emails and phone calls, and I'm always glad to share my experiences and (limited) wisdom. I'd love to hear from you! Cost: nothing.
- Form your own peer group of other copywriters who are at a similar level as you are. Advice and support doesn't have to be of the "expert" variety. You can find people on group forums, like the AWAI one, or at conferences or networking events. A peer review group is probably one of the most valuable tools for improving your copy fast. Cost: nothing.
- Find a mentor. Rebecca wrote a great article on this a few weeks ago. Cost: zero to a lot. Depends on your situation and whom you get. Tony Robbins is out of my league, but if I had the money, it would probably pay off.
- If an official mentor isn't your style, consider a more casual business relationship with someone in the business who is where you'd like to be. Find someone local if possible. This could even just be a monthly half-hour meeting. Cost: two lunches once a month.
- Consider an official community like the Professional Writers' Alliance or Circle of Success. There is no better way to accelerate your copywriting career. A big advantage of Circle of Success is that you get access to every AWAI resource, plus free Bootcamps for life. Invaluable. Cost: I'm not even sure what the current structure is, but I can say this. As of last year, I had gotten back over ten times what I invested in COS in the form of copywriting revenue from clients. I'll take that kind of return on investment any day.
- If at all possible, find a way to get to Bootcamp. Mindy Tyson McHorse's article last week, "How to Be Your Own Self-Fulfilling Prophecy," told how Bootcamp was the reason she was able to make six figures last year. Cost: well, there's an early bird discount available right now, and again, Bootcamps are included with your Circle of Success membership!
- Comment on these articles that AWAI puts out. Ask the writer specific questions. While I try to address common issues copywriters have, your situation is unique. Get a specific answer, take action, and move forward. Cost: nothing.
Build a rock-solid foundation for a big-time, long-term career
As a self-reliant, rugged individualist, I never pictured myself joining groups. It was the antithesis of everything I believed in.
But I have some big goals and big dreams. I'll be a copywriter and marketer in some form for the rest of my life.
And I've come to the humble conclusion: I can't do it by myself.
So I'm building my copywriting house on firm ground, with a solid foundation, and with expert craftsmen to guide me in every little detail that I don't know about.
So far, it's working out pretty well.
If you have some big copywriting goals, join me in this great adventure, and build your solid foundation, too. I like having neighbors (though you may only see me once a day when I pick up my mail).
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 »