4 Steps to a Winning Job Fair Spec

Ready to write that winning Job Fair spec?

I hope so, because one winning spec can be your entry into your six-figure career. Or if you’re already writing, it could easily be your boost to a new, higher level of copywriting success.

I’ve been presenting at Bootcamp for the past eight years. (WOW! It doesn’t seem that long.) During that time, I’ve noticed that copywriters who wrote successful specs all went through four strategic steps.

1. Put the ‘shotgun’ away …

Every year, I see the same thing. Eager copywriters think that the best way to get a winning spec is to write as many as possible. They go around at Job Fair and pick up every possible spec. Their bags are jammed with them. And they assure me they’re going to write them all.

I know how it works for those who actually do write the specs (and who aren’t overwhelmed by the sheer number). They arrange them by due date and start churning out copy. If they’ve picked up 12 specs, their goal is to write 12 specs.

This shotgun approach may work for bagging pheasants, but it doesn’t work for spec assignments. You probably know why already, but just in case …

Your job with each spec assignment is to deliver strong, clean (error- and typo-free) copy on time. If you’re writing 12 specs (or 8, or 6, or even 4), there’s no way you can write copy that’s good enough and error-free. Good copy comes by taking your time and following the other steps I’ve listed below.

More important, if you’ve swooped up 12 specs, your net has caught some that really don’t excite you. Good copy — winning copy — comes from passion. You must have passion for the niche … for the product or service … and most important, for solving problems in the prospect’s life. Without that passion, you’ll write mediocre copy. With that passion, you can write a winner.

So when you get home, pick no more than three specs to work on. Decide which one excites you the most. Concentrate your efforts on writing winning copy for that one. When you’re finished … if you have time … tackle the next most exciting spec, and then maybe number three.

So let’s say you’ve identified a spec that really excites you. But there’s another you feel so-so about with a close deadline. Shouldn’t you get that so-so one out of the way and then work on the other? Only if you want to waste your time! Stick with your passion and do the best darn job you can on that one.

2. Do your research …

Potential clients want to know that you can do the digging necessary to write a strong package. The specs at Bootcamp come with information to get you started. But just to get you started.

You’ve got to dig deeper. It’s a test of your understanding of the most important basis for strong copy: research. And more research. And even more.

But there’s one part of digging for information you must not ignore. Researching your spec is your responsibility. Do not bother the potential client for more information. There are two reasons for this.

First, the marketers are very busy. They offer spec assignments as a way to find new copywriters, certainly. But respect their busyness. Don’t contact them after the Job Fair and ask for any more information than they provide in their information packets.

That brings us to our second reason you shouldn’t bother them. As I said, an important part of being a successful copywriter is being able to do your research. As a spec writer, your potential client wants to know how good you are at doing that.

Bottom line: Do not bother the potential clients.

3. Write … and rewrite … and rewrite some more …

How often should you rewrite and revise? (They’re not the same thing.) Until you feel the copy is as strong and compelling as you can make it. Never send first-draft copy to a potential client. (This is a compelling reason the shotgun approach can never work.)

4. Submit clean copy to the client …

Proofread your finished, rewritten, and revised copy at least three times. Then have someone else proofread it. Check your copy one last time for typos and inadvertent problems.

Then write a short cover letter to the client briefly explaining what the spec is, what his requirements were, and the type of lead and/or approach you’re taking.

Then take a deep breath, attach your submission to the email (or slip it in the envelope), and send it.

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Published: October 19, 2012

3 Responses to “4 Steps to a Winning Job Fair Spec”

  1. Great article, Will! Thanks!

    Since this is my first Bootcamp, your words of wisdom should serve me very well. See you there!


  2. Great article! I appreciate the heads up. I'm a first Bootcamper this year also. I've been checking the AWAI Bootcamp site for the spec assignments and found 5 that pique my interest. I'm working on research now and hope to meet with the marketers at Bootcamp. The insights in your article help tremendously, Will! Thanks and I hope to see you there.

    Shawn Maus

  3. Hi guys. I need some help here. I reside In sunny South-Africa and are a screenplay writer, but are seriously ogling copy writing. It is difficult to attend your boot camps as you can imagine so I have to obtain all my info from here.
    I have a passion and extensive knowledge on religious subjects (creation vs evolution,flood,fallen angels,evil spirits,The Book of Revelations etc.)
    and History.
    I need to find my niche and how to commence from there.
    Warm regards.


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