The Secret Psychology of Becoming a Great Copywriter

Even after 10 Bootcamps, I always come away with tons of great information, ideas, and new copywriting strategies. This year was no exception. Every one of the sessions I went to was illuminating and inspiring.

But one session by Mike Palmer in particular stands out. It’s so relevant to your career – and to mine – I have to share it with you.

Mike is an outstanding copywriter who helped Stansberry Research grow into the biggest financial newsletter publisher in the world today. So far, his promotions have brought in over 400,000 paid subscribers.

But Mike’s not only Stansberry’s head copywriter, he also trains all their writers. He used his Bootcamp session to share a lesson he gives those writers at the beginning of their training. He called his presentation …

The Secret Psychology of Becoming a Great Copywriter: Understanding this all-important cycle will give you an enormous edge over 99% of the copywriters out there.

The main point in Mike’s presentation is that all copywriters go through a predictable cycle of emotions, knowledge, and self-belief. All of them … including him.

Mid-way through the presentation, I recognized I’d gone through this cycle as well. And I’ve seen it at play with virtually every copywriter I’ve known in Circle of Success and AWAI.

So, let’s look at the four stages of this cycle and see how they fit your own experiences.

Stage 1: Uninformed Optimism …

When I started copywriting, I was excited, enthusiastic, and raring to make my mark in the copywriting world. Of course, I was nervous. But I had a supportive wife and a clear vision of where I was going to be.

Emotionally, I knew I could do this. I immersed myself in what little materials were available at that time. I even apprenticed myself to a well-known copywriter.

But I really had no real sense of what lay ahead. I was uninformed in my optimistic attitude. Mike showed this stage graphically with this diagram:

All beginning copywriters start at this stage. They don’t know much … but their enthusiasm pushes them forward.

Does this sound familiar? Could this be how you felt when you made the decision to be a copywriter?

I rode that swell of optimism for a while. Then I hit the top of the peak. Things weren’t going as quickly as I’d hoped. I’d hit …

Stage 2: Informed Pessimism …

I can’t tell you precisely how long it took before I started to get a more realistic sense of how my copywriting career was going. (Too long ago to remember, for sure.) But it was probably about a year in.

By that time, I’d had a couple of assignments, but nothing substantial and nothing hugely profitable lined up in the near future. I’d entered Mike’s second stage: Informed Pessimism.

I had a clearer view of what my career was really like at that moment. It’s one that didn’t thrill me at all. I fit on the downside of Mike’s diagram:

I wasn’t ready to give up … yet. By this time, I’d retired from teaching and moved to rural northern California. I had a somewhat schizophrenic view of copywriting and me. Half the time I’d be optimistic that things would pick up. Half the time, I was sure they wouldn’t.

But, as you see in Mike’s diagram, something was going on during this stage. Probably thanks to the residual but fading optimism, I kept studying. And luckily, AWAI’s Accelerated Program came on the scene at this time. It was the first of its kind … the only program devoted to teaching people how to be copywriters. That was enough to keep me going until reality and bills pushed me to …

Stage 3: Crisis of Meaning …

Becoming the Executive Director of my town’s chamber of commerce marked my “Crisis of Meaning” stage. Look at Mike’s diagram above. I was at the low point in my enthusiasm and, I dare say, commitment.

I was willing to give up my dream of being a full-time copywriter. After all, although the ED position didn’t pay a lot, it did pay as much as copywriting.

Well, I was almost willing to give up my dream. But, The Accelerated Program and my wife were career savers. I enjoyed the work as the ED, but I’m the type of person who, once I start something, I nag myself to complete it. So, I kept studying. And true to her loving nature, Linda kept encouraging my writing.

Because I stuck with The Accelerated Program and continued writing, that dotted learning line in the diagram kept climbing. My skills improved. My copywriting improved. My assignments increased. I’d reached …

Stage 4: Informed Optimism …

The crucial point of Mike’s presentation is this: Every copywriter he’s worked with at Stansberry goes through this cycle. I went through this cycle. And, there’s a good chance you have or at some point will.

The cycle reaches its lowest point at Stage 3. But here’s the thing: during this entire process, you’re learning and gaining skills. Persistence at this stage moves you into the upward swing of Stage 4, Informed Optimism.

At this stage, you know what you’re doing. You’re back to feeling confident and good about what you’re doing. Your increased copywriting and self-marketing skills feed your success, pushing you higher.

Mike said – and I totally agree with him – that the strategy for moving through Stage 3 and into Stage 4 is to find support. Find a group that will encourage you through this bottom point and into the upward swing.

If you’re in Circle of Success, that support can be your “Circle.” If you’re not in COS, go to the AWAI forum and reach out. Tell your fellow copywriters you need a boost. And in payment, you’ll give one back.

Where are you on Mike Palmer’s cycle of copywriting success? Are you at the very beginning, like I was almost 20 years ago? Or, have you made it through to Stage 4?

Regardless of where you are, never stop at the low point. And never try to push through alone. You have friends where you never knew they existed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Mike Palmer’s cycle of success. Tell the readers of The Golden Thread here in the comment section below.

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Published: November 9, 2015

21 Responses to “The Secret Psychology of Becoming a Great Copywriter”

  1. Will, I'm in the upswing of Stage 3. I KNOW I understand more than I gave myself credit for previously and, thank God, continued attendance at Bootcamp refills the belief and excitement cup! The stark reality for me now is to get busy, not quit, follow through, and keep shouting at myself, "Why are you STILL sitting on your hands?! Get UP!"


  2. I am in week 2 of the accelerated program and also am using the companion series with it. I am definitely optimistic and feel excited. I realize I'm just starting the learning curve and I'm soaking up all these tidbits the best I can. Sincere thanks and appreciation !!


    Jed Vaughn

  3. Mile Palmer's circle is a little frightening and encouraging.
    Frightening in the sense that some people may not have the courage, patience and an understanding spouse like you did.
    Encouraging in the sense that we now have the accelerated program which you did not have at the beginning.
    Be that as it may, it was a great and very inspiring piece.

    Guest (Osaze Ehigiator)

  4. Like Mike's four stages, LOVE is when neither party knows who's luckier. This, after self-sustaining and uninformed optimism eventually becomes informed through sharing; between which effort both by chance (at first) and due diligence (in the process) are duly tried and passionately factored en masse; insofar as each is squared in the light of the other's energy. Our destined singularity. Reaching speeds timelessly one. Relatively speaking.

    Guest (Chris Morris)

  5. I am still at the very beginning of the Accelerated program. The program is very exciting and enjoy everything I learn
    . Like many things in the past. I worked alone in whatever my passion was at the time.
    I have mentored for about 10 years in our maximum security Prison and loved doing it.
    One thing I learned is that a Mentor always needs a Mentor, which I very seldom had.

    To be successful. I need to join the circle and as many mentors as possible.

    Many of you have mentored me already. How?

    Wayne E Beachy

  6. Wow, great stuff! I can see just where I am and what's ahead. Having the chart, scary as it may be, improves my odds of dealing with the accompanying emotions and getting to my desired destination.

    Guest (Michael Rhoda)

  7. Best info I've seen so far ... thank you!!

    I've just started the Acceralated program and am definitely at stage 1. Thanks for the reminder of asking for help! Not my strong suit but everything I've seen so far as stressed talking to other members.

    I feel a "post it note" moment coming on!!!


  8. I have just completed my 1st exercise.My life experience (I'm 82) tells me that I must be careful of what Mike so aptly calls "uninformed optimism". I try to curb my enthusiasm and rather hold on to initial determination: I wíll finish this, no matter what, no matter how long I plod along. If others could do it, I'll prove to myself that I can do it too! I went and worked myself through 7 years of university at 42-49. But thank you Will, when the down-curve hits, I'll hold on to your advice.


  9. It's nice to know that I'm not the only person who goes through this cycle of emotions. I believe I am in Stage 2: Informed Pessimism. This career is going to be harder to get going than I initially thought. However, I am building my portfolio and beginning to market myself in this industry. I have joined COS to get an encouragement boost, because I know there's money to be made out there. I'm still working on the Accelerated program...I'm not giving up!

    Amy Barnett

  10. This is helpful. I think I'm somewhere between 2 and 3, probably closer to 3. I've taken an in house position with an agency, but not as a copywriter.

    This is good and bad. I'm learning and doing other marketing related activities, however, copy is not a focus of the position or the agency.

    So I'm not polishing my copywriting as much as I would like and I don't have knowledgeable peers (copywriting-wise).

    In any case, I push myself to do as much copy as I can get away with ;-)

    Guest (Rob N)

  11. Hi Will, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    This week,my work load is light, so I get a chance to re-read your articles.
    Honestly, at this moment, I am at stage 3, all the way at the bottom.
    I did not have any support from anyone in AWAI.
    I was glad that you are the only one who cares.
    You are the only one who ask me to forward my email to you so you will see where I am at.
    At this time I am scared, disappointed. I need a boost. Thank you Will.


  12. I found your post on the Barefoot Writer Facebook page. I guess I've been feeling a little like stage 2. I was definitely coasting on stage 1 at the beginning of the Accelerated Program, but it's hard to stay cool when you're in a financial bind. I'm half way through the course and needing to make money and feeling like there is a mountain of stuff to learn. I'm not ready to give up yet. At least I can keep reading your newsletters and learn more.

    Tamara Kratzer

  13. Hello Mr.Newman,

    This article was great! Even though it was posted a few years ago, it still has a lot of value. I am in the upswing of stage 3. It's been a year since I purchased the Accelerated Program. Since then I've also went through a couple other programs. (Resume Pro and Build your Freelance Website.) I completed those successfully. Still going through the Accelerated program, about halfway at this point! Staying consistent and being able to continue the process of learning after some minor setbacks have kept me going. Planning on attending the Bootcamp this coming October also. Maybe I will see you there!

    Guest (Tony Stasko)

  14. Hello, I am new to AWAI Club and so far so great! I highly resonate to this type of career and I'm so excited that I am literally typing this while pacing back and forth in my living room. This program "seems" to have dropped in my lap at a time in my life when many, many, positive changes are manifesting before my eyes. Thank you for the chart, for it is helping me to stay grounded. I look forward to learning and forming new relationships with other like minded individuals like yourself.

    Peace be with you, Dago Perez


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