15 Years Ago: My Success in a Cardboard Box

UPS delivered my freedom from the 9-to-5 grind a little less than 15 years ago.

It arrived in a corrugated cardboard box that I opened immediately. To an outsider, it wouldn’t have been very impressive. Four inches of printed material. Not even bound in a three-ring binder.

But to me — and I didn’t realize it at the time — this package would provide an amazing entry into the world of profitable and successful copywriting.

A roundabout path to copywriting success …

Let me back up a little bit. In the course of 25 years before that box arrived, I’d had two vastly different professional careers. I started out as a biochemist, working in an organic geochemistry lab that studied ancient rocks, fossils, and returned lunar samples.

Then I discovered I wanted to spend more time with “real people” and less time in the lab. I became a teacher and working with children with very serious disabilities. I loved it. But that work takes its toll physically, so I reluctantly looked at other career options.

Since the time of my early adolescence, I’d imagined myself being a writer. Now — with my looming departure from teaching — was my chance. But, I was wise enough to know I couldn’t make a living writing novels and short stories. So, I hunted the shelves of Borders Books for other options. I discovered Bob Bly’s Secrets of a Freelance Writer.

My fate was cast. I studied what little was available and thought I’d learned enough to set out on my new career. (But while still teaching.) After apprenticing myself to a well-known copywriter, I got a job here and a job there. I even wrote insert and renewal copy for Agora.

Then one day, one of the product managers at Agora told me something that would change my life.

“There’s a company starting up in Florida,” Jenny Thompson told me, “that’s writing a program to teach copywriting. You’re already a good writer, but I think you can learn from them.”

I went for it. I became one of the first recipients of the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.

But to be honest, I didn’t launch into AWAI’s very first version of the Accelerated Program for five months. (Sound familiar?) After all, I’d already apprenticed myself to an accomplished copywriter. I’d already learned what I needed to know. I’d already worked for one of the top direct-marketing groups in the country.

What did I need AWAI for?

Eventually, I did pick up the material and start reading. And I kept reading. For all the “training” I’d had before, copywriting finally made sense.

AWAI is 15 years old this June. Over those 15 years, I’ve seen my skills as a copywriter — and as a writer in general — improve with every AWAI program I’ve immersed myself in.

Over those 15 years, I’ve been privileged to get to know Katie, Denise, and all the other AWAI staff personally. I’ve also had the very good fortune to become one of their contributors — to The Golden Thread, Circle of Success programs, the Circle of Success Blog, and Bootcamp.

And thanks to their generosity in having me work with them, AWAI has continued to boost my skills and productivity with every article I write, with every class I teach, and with every Bootcamp I attend.

My “take-away” …

These past 15 years have been a wonderful, very profitable ride. (Well, almost 15 years for me). I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t finally picked up the Accelerated Program.

I always try to have a “take-away” for you from The Golden Thread. The take-away today might not be so obvious. But if there’s anything truly important in my words — other than my enthusiasm and gratitude for knowing AWAI and knowing you through them — it’s this:

If you’re waiting for the right time to get started on the AWAI programs you have, that time is now. I put my personal success off for five months by waiting.

In future letters to you, I’ll talk about how best to schedule your success. But for now: Don’t you wait.

My final words …

I’ve been fortunate in so many different ways in my life. The brilliant and beautiful wife I love so much. My son I’m so proud of (and, of course, love). The wonderful community where I live. The people I know and love. And AWAI.

Happy 15th Anniversary, AWAI!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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 »

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Published: June 25, 2012

1 Response to “15 Years Ago: My Success in a Cardboard Box”

  1. Thank you, Will, for narrating your personal story.

    Your story entered my life like a breath of fresh air.

    It is always inspiring when you read about things that change your life--and for the better.

    Nobody needs office politics, mean bosses, indifferent colleagues, long commutes and the uncertainties of the job market.

    It is better to strike out on your own as a creative person.

    In this economy, it is risky not to take the risk to trust your instincts.

    Millions have become disillusioned and want to change their outlook and AWAI brings a ray of sunshine into their lives.

    Archan Mehta

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