The Great Adventure

Exactly five years ago, I registered for the FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair 2006. I was slogging through the Accelerated Program, loving it, but not making much headway.

About a month before Bootcamp, I still hadn't finished the program. I didn't think I was ready, so I bailed out on coming to Delray Beach that October.

One of the biggest mistakes I've ever made.

The next year, 2007, I still wasn't ready.

But I went to Bootcamp 2007, and I'm glad I did. It was the best decision I've made in the past five years.

When I went back in 2008, I decided to start calling myself a copywriter even though I didn't have any clients yet (or a business card or a website).

Funny thing is, that simple act of calling myself a copywriter did something to me. I started acting a little more confident, and I started picturing myself as a copywriter.

Two weeks after Bootcamp, I had my very first client.

I bring this story up because I got a couple of emails and phone calls after my pieces in The Writer's Life two weeks ago.

The big question was, "I've finished the Accelerated Program, but how do I get my first client when I don't have any samples or testimonials or experience?"

Good question.

I did four things when I started that don't take any money, and I'll give you one bonus idea (that I didn't do):

  1. Start calling yourself a copywriter, get business cards made up with your name and title (you can get really inexpensive cards at vistaprint.com), and type up a one-page self-promotional letter letting businesses know what you can do for them.
  2. Start local. I didn't even have a card, but I started telling everyone in my small town what I was doing (I still had a full-time job, by the way). One of my first clients was another parent on the board with me at our kids' school.
  3. Start with whom you know. One of my early clients was an old friend from college. He had just started a business and needed a website (check out rocketbarstool.com – I did the entire website copy before I knew anything about SEO or web copy).
  4. Start with what you know. I had taken a memory training seminar a few years prior and knew the owner. I was interested in the area of personal development, and I asked them if they ever hired copywriters. He said they just fired their last one! Good timing. I ended up working with them on a monthly basis for about six months (then they fired me – just kidding).
  5. This is Roy Furr's idea. If I had heard about it, I would have done it when I first started (and I still might). Roy created an "irresistible offer" and mailed it to select businesses (if I understand correctly. He might have just sent it to one prospect whom he wanted to work for). The gist of the offer was, "I'll write you a letter you can test against your current control. If you don't like it, don't use it. If you like it and test it, and it doesn't beat the control, you still don't have to pay me. But if it beats the control, I want you to pay me $x,xxx." Kind of a gutsy move on Roy's part, but a great way to get clients in the beginning.

So those are five things you can do when you have no samples, no experience, and possibly no money!

I don't know where you are in your own writing journey. But if you're relatively new, I believe that when you simply start calling yourself a copywriter, something changes in you.

And as I quoted Dr. Seuss in my first piece on Monday, "And when things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening, too."

That's when doors will start to open that you didn't even know existed.

Less than three years ago, I never would have pictured my life today.

My main problem now is finding enough time to finish all the projects I'm pursuing:

  • Writing a Money-Making Website centered on giving parents the real inside scoop on prospective colleges for their kids
  • Getting my first travel writing byline this summer when I trek to Ecuador
  • Writing a series of children's books (that my wife will be illustrating) inspired by Walter Trier's famous children's book, The Animals' Conference

That's in addition to my main focus of copywriting and trying to follow in the footsteps of people like Mindy Tyson McHorse, who made over six figures in her third year (while juggling life with a small child and one more on the way).

Yes, the writer's life great adventure will take you to amazing places!

"And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed). You'll move mountains!"

Dr. Seuss

And I would add that it all starts the day you officially start calling yourself a copywriter.

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Published: May 6, 2011

6 Responses to “The Great Adventure”

  1. Dear Steve, thanks for the inspiration.naming oneself a copywriter is truly powerfull. By the way, sorry for my English, I live in El Savador C.A. Before I saw the AWAI course on copywriting I felt all alone, I was only accessing the info. On the classics, John Caples, Eugene Swartz, Ogilvy, etc. So I started naming myself a copywriter, the thing is I have two possible clients now. The only trouble im having is that almost nobody in my country knows what a copywriter is, so the pay is low.

    Carlos CotoMay 6, 2011 at 7:52 pm

  2. Thanks Steve for the great start-up tips. I am exactly at that place in my freelance career and scared stiff. The success stories like yours are very motivating and comforting.

    Guest (Micheline)May 7, 2011 at 9:26 am

  3. Steve:

    First off, I appreciate you for taking the time from your busy schedule to share your struggles.

    When you share your personal story, you compel your readers to develop empathy for your life situation.

    I feel inspired by your journey from Madison, Wisconsin to your current reality as a top-notch copywriter.

    It is heartening to know there are people out there in this world who are not afriad to pursue their dreams.

    You did not let your personal demons hold you back. Cheers to your life.

    Archan MehtaMay 14, 2011 at 4:54 am


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