Want to Make More Money As a Copywriter? Do This.
By Steve Maurer
When I first started out as a writer, I worked in the low-paying content mills. I didn’t know where else to look for paid writing opportunities.
I'm doing much better now. But it hasn’t been an overnight success. It’s really been more of an exercise in patience … which is the more common way for writers to find success.
It's my hope that in hearing my story, you'll realize you can succeed as well.
My story really started with five bucks.
Five dollars was "proof of concept"
My first article took six hours to research, write, edit and rewrite. I can still remember the topic — how to use a carpet seam iron. I had some experience. But even so, I researched the subject intently. I read how-to articles, watched video after video, and took a ream of notes.
When I finally submitted the piece, I sat back and waited for payment.
Suddenly, my PayPal account swelled by the enormous sum of five dollars! Well, $4.95 to be exact.
Now, I'd told my brother about the writing adventure I'd started. He called to hear my progress. I told him I'd been paid for my very first article!
He asked how much I'd earned.
When I told him, the silence on the phone was deafening. I knew he was trying to stifle a laugh.
"Well … it's a start," he chuckled.
We had a good laugh and hung up.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Five dollars for six hours of work?!? That’s terrible!
And you’re absolutely right. That astronomical sum wasn't even enough to buy a meal at a burger joint. But it was still special.
For me, it was proof of concept.
I could write … and people would pay me.
That’s the first thing you have to believe. And it’s easy to believe, because it’s absolutely true. There are plenty of clients out there who will pay you to write — and a lot more than five dollars!
Millwork ain't easy, millwork ain't hard …
Millwork, it ain't nothin' but an awful-payin' job.
That's paraphrased from a James Taylor ballad, "Millworker." Every time I hear that song, my mind goes back to the content mill days. The work wasn't easy … but, it wasn't hard, either.
The pay was horrendous. For two years, I made around $2,000 … writing 400 articles each year.
Adding $2,000 to my annual income wasn't bad … it just wasn't nearly enough. Management had cut my hours at work to the tune of around $9,000 per year.
Two thousand dollars a year wasn't going to make a dent in what I needed, what we needed, to stay afloat. I was getting frustrated, working late into the night with little to show for my efforts.
I don't know how many times I was ready to quit. But somewhere, deep inside, I knew writing had to be the answer to our money woes.
So, halfway through 2012, I began to look for other options.
The second thing I hope you take away from my story is to look for better options — better clients — sooner!
Some videos, a website, and a training company
I researched other writing options. I came across a series of videos by a fellow named Bob Bly. (You may have heard of him.) He’s a copywriter and these were training videos.
I wasn't sure what a copywriter was … but, it sounded better than what I was doing at Textbroker. Bob mentioned his Copywriter's Handbook several times.
It looked interesting, so I got a copy. After wolfing down that book, I got several more of his works. While reading the first one, I found a website that looked interesting. Copyblogger.
Copyblogger teaches "content marketing." In a nutshell, it’s selling without advertising. It sounded intriguing — writing articles that help people build businesses.
I read every article on the site. But, I wanted to learn more. So, I bought a course Bob had written … and I realized in that moment content marketing had just worked to get me to make a purchase.
Oh. So, that's how it’s done!
With my new confidence in the value of what I offered, I started approaching websites to write articles. My first paid article outside of the "mills" was for Linda Formichelli's The Renegade Writer blog.
The pay was much better than millwork — fifty bucks an article. I wrote two of them, for a total of $100.
I was hooked.
2012 was also the year I found out about American Writers & Artists Institute and started learning to be a better copywriter.
And, more importantly, a profitable one.
Step number three in growing your income as a writer is to consistently develop your skills so you can put a higher value on the services you offer.
The end of the beginning became the start of our future
Yes, my early writing "career" was humble, to say the least. Two thousand dollars for 400 articles, working late into many nights, wears on you, both mentally and physically.
But, the first year after joining AWAI’s Circle of Success (a steep investment for me, but one that has paid off in spades), I made $4,000, double my content mill earnings. And, here's the kicker. Less than 40 invoices brought that in. I made twice as much doing one tenth the projects!
You see, not only did AWAI teach me to write …
But how to find better clients, as well.
That would be the pattern for the next few years. My income would double as the number of invoices decreased.
More money for less work. Amazing!
Since I first thought about becoming a paid writer, I’ve gone from earning a pittance to earning decent money for the work I do. It was simply a matter of developing my skills, realizing the value I deliver to clients, and then finding clients who understand that value, too.
And of course, I had to learn to ask for the fees I want. When those puzzle pieces fell into place, my income started doubling year over year.
Making the transition from taking on any client to taking on good clients had a huge impact on my writing business, and it will on yours, too.
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