How is Becoming a Copywriter Like
Renovating a House?

There’s a home inspector downstairs, knocking around in my house. Even with my office door closed, I hear strange sounds: banging, knocking, rattling, and the occasional crash.

Even before I get the report, I know I’m getting value for money because NO ONE could make that much noise without doing something constructive.

Does he get paid for each noise? I better eyeball that contract again.

But no matter, the real point is that he’s downstairs as I write because we’re seriously thinking about selling our house. We’ve been seduced by three-car garages, lots big enough for playscapes, and showers larger than a postage stamp.

To do that, we’re in the middle of a LOT of work, painting, polishing, landscaping, fixing cracks, cleaning grout, yanking up carpet, moving stuff into a storage unit, et cetera, et cetera.

It’s disruptive. But it’s disruption to achieve a goal.

That’s what becoming a copywriter is like.

When you start committing to the writer’s life, it’s natural to think that you’ll be completely demolishing your old life, and starting something new.

It’s not like that. Becoming a copywriter is more like renovation. You’re taking yourself, a solid foundation if there ever was one, and adding bits and pieces to build new capabilities and value.

Renovation isn’t easy. But a general contractor gave me six points for any renovation. And oddly, they apply directly to becoming a copywriter.

  1. Identify your main goal and build your plan to it. Years ago, in my first entrepreneurial venture, I got hopelessly turned around because I failed to identify my goals and set priorities. I thought my goal was to be an authority, when instead, my goal should have been building positive cash flow. The same is true of home renovation. There are a hundred things I COULD do to this house, but not all of them are aligned with my goal of selling the house. What’s your main goal?
  2. Let your priorities change if needed. You may set out deciding to be a B2B copywriter, and suddenly you make a great connection with a direct-response company, and they want you to be a direct-response copywriter. Take the opportunity! If someone came by my house today, wanting to buy it, I’d change my renovation plan in a second.
  3. Use the right tools, don’t hammer with a screwdriver. As I see my inspector working his way through the house, he has a huge toolbag. The good news is that copywriters only need a computer, word processing software, an Internet connection, email, and a place to write to find success. But don’t try to do the job without those tools.
  4. Get help if you need it. If I had to do this renovation alone, I’d botch about a third of the jobs. The same is true for copywriting. AWAI has been a huge source of help. You can also find peer groups, online forums, specialists in all kinds of writing, and other sources of support and advice throughout the Internet.
  5. Setbacks happen. As we’re renovating our house, we find dust in strange places, weird smells come out of newly-painted rooms, and the occasional picture frame gets broken. That’s okay. As you begin to become a copywriter, you’ll make mistakes and the occasional mess. Don’t stress.
  6. Take a moment to appreciate your progress. This doesn’t come naturally for me. But I take stock every time we finish a room. It looks better, it feels brighter, and it will be more appealing to buyers. The same is true as you build skills and make progress on your copywriting — you’re doing hard work to fulfill your main goal.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head downstairs to find out whether my priorities have shifted, whether anything’s been broken, and how much all the bangs and knocks around my house will cost me. Hope you’re all doing well on your renovation toward the writer’s 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: December 10, 2012

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