Success Isn't Always About Writing Great Copy

On a beautiful late-spring afternoon, three years ago, two copywriters finished the same AWAI program. They were very much alike, these two copywriters.

Both had been better-than-average students of copywriting. Both were highly skilled, and both – as AWAI members are – were filled with ambitious dreams of copywriting success.

Last October, these two copywriters met at Bootcamp.

They were still very much alike. But there was a difference. One of the copywriters worked on an assignment about every two months. He also spent a good amount of time sending out prospecting letters. He seldom had repeat clients.

The other copywriter had so many clients she no longer had to send out prospecting letters. She was steadily pulling in over $10,000 a month. She was living the writer’s life.

What made the difference …

My apologies for my blatant rip-off of the brilliant Wall Street Journal letter that has produced over $1 billion in revenues.

I did it for a purpose. This little story illustrates a crucial reality of the copywriting industry. In my story, the man was a very skilled copywriter. And so was the woman. They both knew how to write good copy.

What made the difference was that the female copywriter was easier to work with. She met deadlines. She went the extra distance for her clients.

The man did not.

Given a choice between these two copywriters, which would you choose for an important assignment? The woman, of course.

Mark Ford has frequently said …

“Success is at the margins.”

Every time you send out a self-promo letter, you’re in competition with other copywriters. Same for every time you submit an assignment to a client. And every time you submit a spec assignment.

So, all things being equal – that is, if your copy is as good as another copywriter’s – who’s the client going to pick?

They make their choice “at the margins,” looking at subtle, almost unnoticeable differences to make that choice. But, it almost entirely boils down to one key element for the client …

Who’s easiest to work with?

Your client’s a busy person. She has responsibilities far beyond choosing a good copywriter. She has her business to run. Purchasing decisions to make. Employees to manage.

This is true, even if she’s delegated someone else to take on these responsibilities. The person you’re dealing with – like the marketing manager – also faces tremendous pressures daily.

So, everything you can do to make those people’s professional lives easier increases your margin for success. Let’s look at some of the crucial things you can do to increase that margin:

1. The #1 secret of success at the margins: Timing …

If there’s any one factor that’ll endear you to a client, it is this: Always, always be on time.

If you said you’d have the copy ready in 25 days, have it ready in 24. If you said you’d call at 10:30, have the phone in hand and ready to call at 10:29.

You get the idea. Always be on time.

2. Clean copy is easy copy …

You’ve proofed your copy. You’ve ridded it of typos. You’ve made sure the formatting is consistent throughout. And you’ve had other people read it, so those inevitable missing or extra words are snagged and cleared up.

When you send your client clean copy, you’ve made his or her life easier. You’re increasing your chances for success at the margins.

3. Always communicate professionally …

In your career you’re going to run into clients who frustrate you. It’s inevitable.

They’ll start out in one direction and then change. They’ll give you one deadline only to tell you it has to be a week earlier. They won’t listen to your suggestions for approaches to the promotion, suggestions based on your AWAI training. Suggestions you know will make it more successful.

Regardless of your degree of frustration, always put on your professional front. Speak politely. Email politely. Make every communication ring loudly of professionalism.

Your professionalism will stand you in good stead with all clients – even those you may have already decided not to work for again. When clients are asked by another organization for a recommendation for a copywriter, whom will they recommend? Someone who’s been professional throughout? Or the copywriter whose emails and phone calls they want to duck?

4. Guidelines are there for a reason …

Many clients provide guidelines for submitting copy. For instance, they may want the email subject line to contain the promo name. Or that you put your complete contact information into a header. Or into a footer.

For example, if you’re submitting a promo for “XYZ Investment Newsletter,” do not use something generic like “promo submission” for your email subject line. Your client may have five or more separate promos they’re managing simultaneously.

Follow those guidelines. They make your client’s handling of your copy and their lives easier.

This last strategy for increasing success at the margins may seem insignificant. It isn’t. It gives your client more time to work toward higher profits and more success. It helps them succeed at the margins.

Bottom line: Follow these four strategies and you’ll become the go-to copywriter. You’ll become the copywriter who succeeds at the margins.

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: March 17, 2014

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