Are You Rocking the Copywriting World?

"Eventually you'll take the phrases and rhythm patterns you've copped and begin to put your own mark on them."

Steve Roller here, taking over the reins of The Writer's Life this week.

That's not a line from a famous writer. It's Eddie Van Halen talking about playing the guitar, something he's pretty good at, to say the least.

Copywriting is the same way.

You study the greats, learn the techniques, and practice, practice, practice.

Eventually, you develop your own voice and style.

But there's more to making your mark than just becoming a good writer.

You have to build a successful freelance business, and that's what this week is all about.

Today, I'm going to give you a picture of where I am now: a happy and successful freelance writer. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about where I was exactly three years ago when I was just starting out. And throughout the week, I'll show you how you can achieve the same results, or much more, in less time.

But first, let me take you back 48 years.

On three consecutive Sundays in February 1964, The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and rocked the pop music world.

From that point on, the four lads from Liverpool influenced every generation of musicians that came after. They wrote and produced more Top 40 songs than any other group in history. And they established a lasting musical legacy that is still going strong almost a half-century later.

So what does this have to do with you and your copywriting career?

Plenty.

A lot of people think Paul, John, George, and Ringo launched their careers on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

What they don't always realize is that the preparation had been taking place for four years prior in nightclubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany, where they were the house band for a night club.

According to Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, the Beatles performed more than 1,200 times in those years, racking up more than 10,000 hours of playing time.

10,000 hours of "practicing" also gave them lots of time to develop their own unique style.

The Beatles were masters at their craft before most people on this side of the pond had ever heard of them.

They were also masters at strategy.

They didn't come to the States without a track record and expect to hit the big time. First, they perfected their act in small clubs in Germany. Then they returned home where they had hit records on UK radio. It was only after this success that they decided to launch their American invasion.

So, back to you and me.

Perhaps you're a beginner still in your first 1,000 hours of practice. Or maybe you've moved past that on your way to the "mastery" category.

I'm in between the two myself. I'm nowhere near a master, but I've put in about 2,500 hours of actual writing time. I've replaced my previous corporate income, and this year started off quite well. If things continue at this pace, I'll just crack the coveted six-figure mark for the first time this year.

Wherever you are, there are three things you can do to make sure that when your "Ed Sullivan moment" comes, you'll be ready to rock the world.

  1. Lay the foundation. Put in your time. Practice every day like the Beatles did in Hamburg before they made it big. Invest the time to learn your craft.
  2. Develop your own style and voice. This will come naturally the more you write.
  3. Create a strategy for your freelance business. After almost three years in business, I'm finally taking this seriously now. This is what we'll be focusing on this week.

Along the way, you can start getting noticed, create a hit record or two, and make a pretty good living before you actually become a copywriting rock star.

Are you with me?

Hop on the tour bus, and we'll cover some strategic moves each day this week …

Do me a favor, too. I'd love to hear where you are in your business and what you're doing to lay a strong foundation. Has anything worked particularly well so far? Any pressing challenges I can possibly help with? You can leave a short question or comment below.

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Published: February 13, 2012

26 Responses to “Are You Rocking the Copywriting World?”

  1. Steve, I enjoy your articles as usual. I'm a newbie to copywriting, maybe a few hundred hours, although I've done a lot of writing over a 30+ year technical career. (I'd love to count those hours, but some of 'em are pretty stale!)

    Right now I've got a client feeding me small web & sales collateral writing assignments at the rate of about two a week. So I'm racking up actual writing hours at the rate of 20 or more each week.

    I'm looking forward to the rest of the week!

    Ed in Minnesota

  2. Hi Steve- As a huge fab four fan myself, I really enjoyed your post. I think it's important to point out all of the hard work (hours and hours) of practice people put in BEFORE they hit the big time. It's very reassuring to people who are just starting out.

    Looking forward to your posts this week!
    Marissa

    Guest (Marissa Bishop)

  3. Wonderful article Steve. Thanks for the reminder. I have to be patient with myself and keep putting in those hours. Mastery comes with practice, practice, practice.

    Tanya MarCia

  4. Hello Steve,

    I really enjoyed this post as well. I am currently just beginning to develop basic writing skills with the thought of looking into copywriting as a pre & post retirement freelance busines.

    Guest (Gail)

  5. Hi Steve, I am recently retired, and looking for a source of secondary income. I bought the copywriting program, but I haven't yet started on it. My career in mental health required a fair amount of clear, to the point writing, so I am hopeful that that will be helpful My other writing experience has been some fictional writing on a fan of Jane Austin web site, and lots of self expression through writing if I needed to think something through, or get something off my chest. I will be checking in to the program on a regular basis and I am looking forward to more of your comments.

    images in apple valley

  6. Steve,

    I never really got into the Beatles although I do enjoy some of their mid to later work. My question tho, is: Realistically how talented or over the top do you have to be to overcome the 4 year/bachelors degree requirements I keep seeing on the Direct Response Jobs board for copy writers/free lancers regardless of field (copy/travel/grant writing)? While browsing to see what was available it was disheartening to see that requirement when the course says you don't need it.

    Thanks,

    Chuck

    ChuckR

  7. Hi Steve,

    Still working thru the coarse and the final project.

    I do not write copy everyday..but with my business as a real estate appraiser write addendums to describe a property and how a final opinion of value is supported to the reader of the report.

    With regards to copywriting staying motivated and on task seems to be my biggest hurdle at this point and am not so sure as to what I should be writing eveyday to develop my own style and voice.

    Pls advise.
    Rgds

    Mike F Samson

  8. Hi Steve, great article. I was just speaking to a friend of mine about putting in the work and laying a solid foundation to for a stellar copywrting career. We we're talking about how not to worry so much about the end results. Instead, just practice doing all the right things daily and the results we desire will come. I just finished building my website, I'm mailing letters, making cold calls, be social online, and practicing writing everyday. No projects yet, but I feel one coming soon...

    MichaelC

  9. Hi Steve,

    I enjoyed reading ur article can't wait for the rest, I'm very new about 3 dayz to this whole copywriting freelancing opportuniy,Since I became a AWAI and PWA member I've been reading or trying to read alot of material posted, I'm still a bit confuse on where to start, I need advice on how and where to start. As a Niche I would love to help others that struggle just as I do, really learn how to become Financially Independent.
    Any advise????

    Guest (Tee)

  10. I'm on fire!

    But that's not mean I get burned...

    It's a fire inside that excite me

    I'm so excited to become a copywriter and I'm a newbie.

    But AWAI has provide lots of information and support for me to get started.

    Thanks you Steve for your valuable input :)

    P.S By the way, I just landed a job as a copywriter for a local company. I hope this is the starting point for my exciting journey as a copywriter

    Zafifi

  11. Hey i am trying to come up with a business magazine but i am short of business topics which i should include in the mag. I need your help with some of your ideas for a good business topics.

    Guest (Thinx)

  12. I'm looking forward to being on tour with you this week Steve. I'm new to the business and haven't clocked any hours copywriting. This is a new venture for me and I'm excited to read what you have to share. Thanks!

    Guest (LaKetria)

  13. Steve - looking forward to this week. Still have a folder with many of your previous articles. Since we last "talked" I've made some progress - found my niche, developed an action plan and am part of a great small support group - Little Writing Group That Could" (as in little engine..) It's taken me awhile, but it feels good to invest the time & begin putting the pieces/parts together to build a strong foundation. And that book - What to Say When You Talk to Yourself ... still a big help!

    JudyB-Raleigh

  14. I have created many videos, documentaries,and constant updating my writing ability. I studied the various lessons that were submitted during my last training with AWAI. I read all types of copy write information, letters and advertising in magazines. I have written some ads but unable to pay additional money for additional training and contacts.

    A lot of the information is repetitious; this is the foundation to writing good content.

    Guest (cheryl)

  15. Steve,

    I want you to know how much I appreciate you for contributing such articles.

    Like you, I am also a fan of the Beatles.
    John, Paul, Ringo and George worked really hard before they hit the big time.

    Same is the case with any other profession including copywriting.

    You have to be able to form good habits and practice on a daily basis.

    Even one or two hours of work daily is better than once in a blue moon.

    You are spot on here and thanks for the metaphors from a legendary rock band.

    Archan Mehta


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