Why Copywriting Is Not a Career

Normally, I try to keep the “personal me” out of these letters to you. I want to concentrate on ideas, strategies, and secrets related to copywriting. But I’m going to break from that standard today and give you a glimpse into my personal life.

The reason is this: I want you to know that once you get started in copywriting, it’s not a career. It becomes a way of life. And the way I’ll do that is to tell you about my friend Steve.

I met Steve soon after I moved into our town and became a member of our local Rotary Club. We became fast friends, eventually becoming brothers in spirit.

Steve passed away recently after a boating accident over Labor Day. The family asked me to represent Rotary at Steve’s “celebration of life” and speak about him. It was an honor to be asked, but a difficult one.

Where do I start? What do I say about a man who was loved and respected by so many people? (There were well over 200 people at his celebration out of a town of 1,500.)

After several mental false starts, I realized what I needed to do was fall back on the principles and strategies I use for copywriting. It might seem crass to do that. After all, we’re talking about revealing personal thoughts and ideas.

What does writing sales copy have to do with something so personal?

Plenty. I really was trying to sell the idea of Steve being a Rotarian who followed Rotary ideals.

It wasn’t a “hard” sale at all. People knew Steve well enough that I didn’t really have to prove anything. But copywriting got me writing my speech. It got me polishing it. And more important, it got me to see that there was a better approach than the one I’d originally written down. That all-important willingness to revise that I’ve learned over the years came through.

(In case you’re interested, what I ended up doing was talking to Steve in my talk rather than talking about him. It worked. People were touched. But more important, I was able to say what I wanted to and keep it personal — as all good copywriting should be.)

Copywriting is not really about making sales …

I hope you’re never in the position of having to use your copywriting skills the way I had to. But my experience just reinforced something I’ve been saying to COS members for years. Copywriting is not really about making sales. It’s about persuasion.

Learn the secrets well and you’ll be a successful copywriter. You’ll enjoy a fulfilling career and be able to live the life you want to live. More to the point of this letter, though, you’ll also be able to persuade people through your writing to see things from your viewpoint. How? Because if you write using your copywriting principles, they realize it’s their viewpoint as well.

Let’s say you want to speak in front of your local school board and convince them not to shut down the music program. Be a copywriter. You’ll start your speech with a compelling lead that incorporates the strategies for compelling leads you learn from AWAI. You’ll back up your ideas with solid proof. And you won’t waste a word.

Or let’s say you’re writing a letter to give to your child who’s about to go off to college. You’re brimming with emotion, with ideas, with (dare I say) advice. There’s so much to say you don’t know where to begin. Or how to say everything you want to and not get muddled.

So you start by realizing the letter is not about you — as no good copywriting is about the copywriter. You’ll realize what you have to say is about your child. Fortified with that basic knowledge, you’ll delve into your child’s hopes, dreams, needs, aspirations, and desires — just like you do for your prospects. Your letter will become one of the constants in your child’s life, following her through her four years of college … and beyond. Because you approached it as a copywriter.

Do I have any strategies for transferring your copywriting skills into the rest of your life? For becoming an effective persuasive writer? Just one.

Become the best copywriter you can by writing, writing, writing. Use all the strategies, secrets, and ideas you’re learning now to write strong sales copy. Make copywriting your career and your passion. Do this one thing, and copywriting becomes your way of life.

Thank you, Steve, for giving me the insight for writing this letter to my AWAI friends.

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Published: October 22, 2012

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