When the Answer is “No”

I'd love to be able to tell you that every time you submitted a spec or an assignment to a client, you get high praise and land the job. But, you and I both know that’s not the way it works in real life.

It’s inevitable that you’ll get your share of potential clients telling you “not this time.” I’ve had more than my share throughout my career. So has every successful copywriter — including the very best. We all face those notes and letters. And so will you.

But what you do once you get them determines if you’re going to be successful as a copywriter. But not just as a copywriter. How you deal with these inevitable “no’s” will determine how well you succeed in any part of your life.

You may notice that I’ve avoided using the “R-word” so far (rejection). I’ve done that on purpose. It’s all too easy to view these periodic and inevitable turndowns as rejections. But that word carries heavy baggage you do not need.

“Rejection” sounds all too much like you are being rejected, spurned, pushed away.

It’s never really about you …

But when you receive a “no” from a potential client, you are not being rejected, spurned, or pushed away at all. It’s not about you personally. The client is simply saying that what you submitted did not work for them … at this time.

Look at this “no” as an opportunity. When I get this type of response, I view at it as a challenge to improve my skills.

I start by divorcing myself from the piece I’ve written. This is easier than it sounds, believe it or not.

It will have been a bit of time since I’ve read my copy, so I look at what I submitted as if it were something I received from another writer. I view it as something I’ve been asked to edit.

I start by asking myself if the headline really grabs me or could it be stronger? Does it follow the secrets and strategy I’ve learned in the AWAI programs? Does it express a strong, compelling idea? Does it connect personally with my prospect as if he were an individual and not a member of a group? Would it make me want to continue reading further?

Then I look at every paragraph in the lead and ask these questions:

Does this lead really speak personally to my prospect with a natural voice (like I hope I’m speaking to you right now)? Do I make believable claims substantiated by glimmers of proof?

Do I get to my main point quickly … or do I wander aimlessly instead? Is everything I say truly necessary … or is some of it “ego copy” I left in because I thought it was too good to cut?

What does this paragraph really say? Does it flow well from what came before?

The bonus you get from “no”

When I’ve had something I’ve written turned down and analyze it later, I am amazed at how many different ways I find to strengthen that copy. And the bonus I receive — time after time — is that I become a stronger and more successful writer.

If being a copywriter is truly your dream, never, never, never give up. Use each and every time the client says “not this time” as a golden opportunity to learn about your writing … and about your stamina.

Remember the old adage that says: “Success is simply standing up one more time than you fall down.”

Until next week: Keep reading and keep writing.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 2, 2013

1 Response to “When the Answer is “No””

  1. Thank you sir! Excellent advice for someone like me who is just starting out.

    Mark CalvinDecember 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm


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