The Problem with Many Successful
Copywriters I Know …

Two of my very best and favorite copywriting protégés were Don Mahoney and Paul Hollingshead, two of the three founders of AWAI.

I mentored Don first because he was my childhood friend and I wanted to help him make a lot of money. For a number of reasons, Don had taken an early retirement from a successful career, but he hadn't focused on the serious business of wealth building. So when our paths crossed, he was eager to learn the skill I had learned myself 15 years earlier.

Don was a quick study. Within a year, he left the little nest I had built for him and was flying on his own. In his second year he broke six figures, and soon after that his income was in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.

Don introduced me to Paul. I can't remember why, but we decided we would co-mentor Paul to see if we could make an A-level copywriter out of him. As it turned out, Paul had a natural gift for writing. He wrote exactly as he spoke, which was simply and modestly. This gave him a big advantage. He didn't have to de-clog his writing of "writerly" affects as most would-be writers must do. I don't remember how long it took Paul to break the $300,000-a-year barrier, but I know it wasn't very long.

Now you may think I'm telling you this to underline a belief I've held for more than 30 years: that writing advertising copy is one of the best and most rewarding professional careers. It is, but that's not my point. My story continues …

After Don and Paul were making the big bucks, I said to them one day, "You know, you can't get rich simply by having a high income. There's a lot more to getting rich than that."

Needless to say, this piqued their curiosity. After seeing their incomes increase ten-fold in several years, they were living high on the hog and loving it. They had new cars and new houses and new furniture. As far as they were concerned, they were already rich.

But they weren't — and neither are you if all you have right now is a very good income (or an income that is going to be very good in a few short years).

Becoming wealthy (financially independent) takes much more than a high income. It takes a full understanding of how to use that income to build a financial fortress of wealth that will protect you and your family for life.

I've known and worked with hundreds of copywriters in my lifetime, including a majority of the most famous and most highly paid. And I can tell you this quite frankly: except for a rare few, none of them know the first thing about how to acquire wealth.

Professional writers, like doctors, spend almost all of their working time writing for clients and perfecting their craft. Like doctors, they don't have the time to learn about finance, investing, asset allocation, and all the other aspects of wealth building that matter so much.

Sellers of financial products love doctors because it is well-known that they (a) have high incomes and (b) don't know anything about what to do with them.

I'm making the doctor connection to underline the fact that ignorance of money has nothing to do with one's ability to earn it.

Back to Don and Paul. After getting their attention, I had several cigar-propelled conversations with them explaining what they needed to do to become wealthy. I told them about extra income streams and safe investing and asset allocation and all of that. I told them what I had learned from my own experience. I even suggested specific ways they could multiply their wealth over and over again simply by following a few simple rules of building wealth.

As Paul reveals in the accompanying letter, he wasn't as good about following my advice as Don was. As a consequence, he spent about 10 years earning lots of money only to see it trickle away and disappear. Don put some of my ideas to work for him and immediately saw his net worth grow. Today, both Don and Paul are avid and serious wealth builders. They don't need my cigar-fueled lectures any more.

But maybe you do.

Have you acquired all the wealth you need? Can you retire tomorrow and be comfortable for the rest of your life? Do you even know how much money you need to retire?

If you have, I'd like to hear from you personally. You are one in a thousand and I'd like to publish your story. But if you are "not yet" wealthy, then I'd like to say to you what I said to Don and Paul then: You will not achieve your financial goals and you will never be able to retire comfortably unless you learn how real wealth is gained.

Take a moment now to be honest with yourself. As a professional copywriter, you know there is a service I'd like to sell you at the end of all this writing. But it is probably a service you really need. Try not to be too upset with my arrogance — in assuming you are not wealthy. I don't actually know you personally. I’m taking an educated guess.

And anyway, this is not about me or Don or Paul. It is about you. Don't let pride or your busy schedule get in the way of what you owe yourself — a day of your choosing when you can understand what financial independence feels like.

You have a simple choice right now: find a reason to delete this letter. Almost any reason will do. Or leave your mind open just long enough to consider this may be the beginning of something very important. Making a positive decision about this opportunity could change your life.

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: July 26, 2012

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