Winning at the Inner Game of Copywriting
"The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear."
– William Jennings Bryan
"Maybe if I just take one more program, I'll be ready."
The next copywriter who says that to me is going to get strangled. You've been warned.
I can't tell you the number of times I've heard that from aspiring freelance writers.
The idea seems to be that if you just soak up a little more knowledge, you'll be ready to launch your freelance business.
Don't let me stop you.
Go ahead and buy another program. Listen to another webinar. Download a special report. Attend another conference.
I'm all for it, really I am.
I've invested thousands, if not tens of thousands, in all those things. And I don't regret a penny I've spent on professional development. Every program or conference I've invested in has paid off eventually in some way.
But all the education and skill development in the world won't make you successful.
AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting won't make you a good copywriter … AWAI’s 2011 FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair won't help launch your career … Copywriting 2.0 won't turn you into a web copywriting specialist.
Those things will help, for sure, but there's something else.
The missing factor
If you and I talk on the phone or in person, I can usually spot within a few minutes whether you have it yet or you don't.
Clues usually slip out in casual conversation. You may demonstrate lack of "it" by certain buzz words you use.
So what's "it"? What is the key factor?
I believe that 80% of your future success in copywriting depends on having a strong, mental "inner game."
Let me explain.
I've observed four main areas in the "mental game arena" that seem to play a significant role in your level of copywriting success. (Can I call it a "4-legged stool" or is that already taken?)
I have a ways to go on these myself – it's an ongoing challenge, but they're pretty simple objectives:
- Overcoming unspoken fears
- Dealing with rejection
- Building your confidence when you're just starting out
- Developing a successful copywriter's or salesperson's mindset
Do any of these four inner game objectives sound familiar?
If you're not sure what I mean, I'll describe each one in detail. Then I'll offer you some strategies and tips for improving in each area.
Here's the good news. Just like copywriting is a learned skill, a strong inner game is not something you are born with either. It's something you develop one day at a time.
And here's even better news: No investment required (except exercising your mind).
So let's put aside the technical side of things for now, the copywriting skills, and jump into the inner game of copywriting …
1. Overcoming unspoken fears
These observations are based on a lot of conversations I've had with aspiring copywriters. I call them "unspoken" fears because it's rare that someone actually says these things out loud. But reading between the lines and hearing variations, these seem to be some pretty common fears (and again, I've had them myself):
"I'm not good enough."
"I have no idea how to get clients."
"I'm afraid to take a step back in my career, especially in this economy."
"I've always had a steady paycheck. I'm not sure if I can make it on my own."
"I don't have any experience. Who's going to hire me?"
"I don't have the right connections."
"What if I fail?"
"I'm too old."
Bottom line, "I really don't know what I'm doing, and if I tell people I'm a copywriter, someone is going to find me out!"
Does that about sum it up?
I'll give you some specific steps below to slay this "fear of the unknown" beast.
2. Dealing with rejection
There's no getting around this one. On your path to the writer's life, you'll deal with a lot of it.
Rejection from people who don't want or need your services. Rejection from clients who make you rewrite your copy that missed the mark. Rejection from end-users who reject the copy you wrote by not responding (in which case you'll deal with major rejection from your client!).
Can you get rid of rejection? Of course not. Instead, I'll give you a mental technique for learning to embrace it and working it to your advantage.
3. Building your confidence
Considering the fears and rejection we just talked about, it's only natural that you might suffer from a lack of confidence in the beginning. I still suffer periodic bouts of serious self-doubt. Probably will until I at least double my six-figure income goal.
Okay, so you might be saying, "I'll be more confident once I get more projects under my belt. But it's hard to get projects when I don't appear confident. It's a Catch-22."
I've got a solution for you on this one, too. Exercise your mental muscles and you'll be oozing self-confidence in no time.
And finally, the fourth area, and in my opinion the most important, in becoming a successful copywriter …
4. Developing a successful copywriter's or salesperson's mindset
I can hear you now, "Why a salesperson's mindset? I'm a persuasive writer, not a salesperson."
They're one in the same.
I'm amazed when I hear copywriters disparage other forms of selling.
Last week, a copywriter was telling me about an e-newsletter he subscribes to and a program they were promoting for writers. He said, "They would say that, wouldn't they? They are trying to sell me after all," (as if their claims couldn't possibly be true).
He went on to admit, "Ironic, perhaps, that someone who aspires to being a copywriter is so dismissive of the copy he receives."
I could write a whole book addressing this one. But I'll give you the short and sweet version below. Do this, and you'll start developing the mindset of the most successful copywriters I know.
Want to win at the inner game of copywriting?
Time to start exercising your "mental chops"! Don't worry, this won't be some mental bootcamp session.
Just some simple ideas that will complement your technical skills … as long as you put them into action.
1. How to conquer the beast
Fear of the unknown is at the root of it all, isn't it?
There aren't any guarantees, are there? You don't know exactly how it's going to work out. You don't know if you'll make steady or sporadic income. You don't know, frankly, if you're good enough.
These are legitimate concerns. To other objections, I'd say, "hogwash." Now, I'm not by any means telling you to make a rash decision. Don't quit your job and hope for the best. On the other hand, don't let these fears paralyze you into inaction.
I'll give you the same advice John Wood gave in a recent article, "Three Words That Will Change Your Life": No more excuses.Then take action. Start small, and keep plugging away.
But let me take it a step further. Don't try to do it alone, like I did in the beginning. Surround yourself with people who are making it happen. People who will encourage you, give you answers, and guide you in the right direction.
If you're an AWAI member, jump on the forum and ask questions. Find answers in the article archives at awaionline.com. Connect with a copywriter who's achieving things you want to achieve. Find out exactly how they did it. Contact me by leaving a comment below – I love to help new copywriters avoid the mistakes I made.
2. Turn rejection into a numbers game
Rejection of your copy isn't a mental thing. The only way to minimize that is to become a better writer.
But how about just facing the rejection from prospects?
The easiest solution to winning the inner game here is to first of all realize that it happens to everyone. Even veteran copywriters. It's part of the deal. When you don't get a prospect you've gone after, let it roll off. Develop thick skin, and move on.
Second, make a game of it. You can track your numbers. In my previous sales career, I knew that it took three presentations to make a sale. Whatever your numbers are, put pressure on increasing your activity.
Also, in today's world, leverage the tools you have available to you. You no longer have to face rejection by going door to door or making cold calls. Rejection happens less and is a lot easier to face when you're promoting yourself through social media channels. I've been doing it the hard way all along, but just recently started implementing ideas from Nick Usborne's How to Make Money as a Social Media Expert.
3. No psychobabble advice here
Nope. I'm not going to tell you to look in the mirror every morning and say five times to yourself, "I'm an A-level copywriter, I'm an A-level copywriter … " You're not, and I don't want to feed any false premises.
So how do you increase your self-confidence when you don't have a whole lot of experience? Because you need to be confident to get good projects, right?
All I can say is this: everyone has to start somewhere. Your small victories will lead to bigger ones. And like William Jennings Bryan said, "The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear."
Do the thing you fear. Get started. Practice breeds confidence. Confidence breeds success. And success breeds more success.
It's that simple, and a big factor in developing your inner game. Finally …
4. How to develop your rock-solid copywriter's mindset
Whether you write B2B copy or B2C copy, your job is to sell somebody something!
You should love the art of selling with words!
If you watch infomercials for fun … if you scan the radio dial in the car looking for good radio ads (and try to figure out how you'd make them better) … if you take notes on the Super Bowl ads and write a blog post about them the next day … if you're the first one to the mailbox every day, hoping there's something good to add to your swipe file … you just might have the makings of a copywriting superstar!
Seriously. Every successful copywriter I know loves all forms of selling, especially the direct-response kind.
They seek it out. They study it. They buy direct-response products themselves. They love the craft of composing a clear, conversational, persuasive message.
My last piece of advice for winning the inner game: emulate the successful copywriters who do all these things. Immerse yourself in the world of selling, and writing A-level direct-response copy will be a natural progression for you.
Don't make the same mistake I did
The fact is, the inner game of copywriting really isn't that difficult. These are simple solutions I'm offering, and they've been put to the test (by me, and many others before you).
I just have one big regret: that I didn't get started earlier.
The first year I registered for AWAI’s FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair, I cancelled because I felt I wasn't ready.
After I went to my first Bootcamp, it took me a year to get my first client because I felt I wasn't ready.
At some point, you have to stop dipping your big toe in the water.
Dive in the deep end! Call yourself a copywriter. Start acting like one.
Conquer the inner game first, and the results will follow.
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