6 Success Strategies I Learned at
AWAI’s 2011 Bootcamp was my first one. It was an amazing experience filled with training, motivation, and networking. It’s something I would recommend every copywriter take part in – especially if you’re just getting started and feel some doubt. In fact, many of the AWAI Wall of Fame copywriters say Bootcamp is where they really got their start.
Of all the things I learned from last year’s Bootcamp – enough to fill several books – there are some lessons that really stand out. These lessons changed my perspective, helped me get rid of the doubt I was feeling, and increased my income. I still review them often.
Here they are:
1. Find your niche.
Pam Foster gave a presentation called “Attract Great Copywriting Clients with the Niche Approach.”
She said, “The slow way to grow your business is to be a generalist.”
If someone goes to Google and searches for “copywriter,” there’s a sea of results, and many of them are not differentiating from each other at all.
The generalist is fighting for the same clients as the other generalists. It makes it really hard to grow your business.
The fast way to grow your business is to be a niche industry specialist.
In his presentation, Bob Bly agreed: “It used to be that you could be a general copywriter and you’d do fine. You could make a good living as a generalist. Today, that strategy doesn’t really work anymore.”
You need a niche. The niche is the intersection between a skill, a discipline, and an industry. For example, the skill could be copywriting, the industry could be health, and the discipline could be annual reports.
To specialize, you could choose one of all of those. So you could say that you're a copywriter specializing in annual reports for the health market. Or you could be a copywriter specializing in web copy for the personal development industry.
So how do you pick your niche?
Well, Bob says you should take a self-evaluation and ask yourself: “What do I like? What interests me? What am I passionate about? What have I done? What do I have an aptitude for? What am I really good at?”
Then, with these questions in front of you, start answering them. You’ll make a list that will look something like this: pottery, auto mechanic, antiquing, parenting. Those are possible niches for you.
Then you’re going to go through the list of niches and ask: “Which one of these would someone pay for?”
Bob says, “There are a lot of things that you’re interested in that no one would pay for. Like, if one of your choices is 18th-century Peruvian pottery, no one is going to pay you to write about that.”
Then you’ll narrow your list down from 10 to 20 things to just three or five. From that, pick just one. For help with choosing a niche, check out this article.
2. Become a guru or expert in your niche.
Bob Bly explained that the more you can become known as an expert or guru in your niche, the easier you’ll find selling your services.
Because the total supply of copywriters in the world currently outweighs the demand. That’s bad for us.
But if you become a guru or expert in a specialized area, there are far fewer copywriters doing that, so the demand outweighs the supply. That puts you in the driver’s seat. You can charge more and have more clients come to you.
You can become a guru or expert in your niche by publishing a newsletter, writing a book, guest blogging, writing article for magazines and newspapers, having your own website or blog. Truly, the list is endless. Here are some tips for creating content that makes you look like an expert.
3. Piggyback on past success.
Bob said someone he talked to at Bootcamp was interested in possibly doing financial copywriting. Bob said, “Well, what is your experience?” and the guy said, “I’ve really never done financial copywriting, though I was a mutual fund salesman.”
Bob said his headline would be “How a Former Mutual Fund Salesman Can Help You Write Better Financial Promotions.”
When Bob started, that’s what he did. His headline was “How a Former Engineer Can Help You Write Better Industrial Advertising.”
See how you can take something you’ve done in the past to give yourself credibility as a copywriter? It doesn’t have to be a job either. It could be a passion or a hobby.
If you’re a pet copywriter – and have six dogs – your headline might be “How the Mother of Six Canines Can Help You Write Better Web Copy.”
4. Write more articles.
Bob says he writes a lot of articles, and when he’s done publishing them, he posts them all on an article page on his website. This establishes his expertise and raises his search engine rankings because he’s constantly freshening the site with new content.
He also said, “I can’t think of a freelance copywriter in this room who would not benefit from writing articles.”
5. Nurture leads – and follow up until you get a restraining order.
Bob is a big fan of following up with your leads because he has found that if you don’t follow up with your leads, maybe 10 percent will close as copywriting assignments. If you do follow up, it could be 25-30 percent or more.
Nick Usborne said that when you get a lead, you should follow up until you receive a restraining order.
“Just because they don’t reply doesn’t mean to say that you’re not going to get work from them,” he said.
They could be busy with something else or out of the office. He says to keep at it until they deliberately say, “Dude, enough. I appreciate your thoroughness, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but no.”
Then you walk away.
6. Promote yourself consistently.
A lot of copywriters promote their services sporadically. They market themselves. Then they get very busy with assignments and stop marketing. Later, they finish up all their assignments, and when they finally clear the plate, they ask, “What do I have on deck?”
They have nothing. Now they start up their marketing, and it takes weeks or months to get results from that.
Bob says what you should do instead is consistently market yourself, even when you are busy. That’s the key. That way, you’ll have a steady stream of work all year long.
7. Never create.
Mark Everett Johnson spoke on “3 Secrets Every Successful Copywriter MUST Learn from Copywriting Legend Eugene Schwartz.”
He shared that Gene said, “Know the products to the core, and combine the details in new ways. Creation means make something out of nothing, so let’s throw creation out and talk about connectivity; what you’re trying to do is connect things together.”
Gene did that brilliantly. And connecting the stuff that is already there is a lot easier than creating new stuff.
So what about you? Did you attend Bootcamp last year? If so, what was your favorite lesson? If you didn’t attend, will you join us this year? Let me know in the comments below.
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 »