A Mentor’s Advice for 3 Questions New Copywriters Struggle With
“The starting point of all achievement is desire.”
— Napoleon Hill
As a young man, Napoleon Hill did not seem destined for greatness. He was a product of multiple generations of people who lived, worked, and died in the hills of Virginia, most never leaving their birthplace.
At first, his life seemed to be on the same trajectory. Then his mother died and his father remarried. Napoleon’s new stepmother would be his first mentor.
She would give him a vision of what could be. And start him on his very unique life’s journey.
Then, when Andrew Carnegie agreed to Hill’s request for an interview, he set him on a path that benefits us all today.
Hill ended up interviewing over 500 of the most successful people of the time, distilling all their advice into a set of tactics for personal achievement and success.
Each of these people was a mentor in one way or another to the ambitious young man. Each had something of value that helped move him along his path to success.
They all had overcome obstacles or hurdles and they shared their insights and advice with him.
As a result, we now have one of the best-selling business books of all time, Think and Grow Rich.
And just as Napoleon Hill was mentored by so many successful people who’d trod the path before him, he advocates strongly for anyone looking to push past their current capabilities to use mentors to guide them.
I’ve always used mentors to help me achieve my goals, as well as mentored others to share what I’ve learned and help them move toward their goals.
One group of people I mentor is new writers, mostly through AWAI.
When I’m speaking to or mentoring new writers, there are three questions that come up repeatedly.
Question: I’m overwhelmed. Where do I even start?
Beginning a writing career is no different than doing anything else for the first time.
You don’t start learning guitar by performing in a concert.
You learn the instrument. You learn how to read music. You practice. And practice. And then practice some more. You may learn some things on your own. You may hire a teacher to teach you other skills.
Only when you’ve honed those skills do you form a band and start playing, maybe even for money.
Learning the principles of copywriting is where you need to start. Make sure you know what you’re doing. Then maybe add some specific valuable skills like content marketing, web copy, white papers, or Site Audits.
Focus on skill acquisition first. Make that the top priority on your copywriting plan until you’ve acquired the skills.
A friend of mine used to love reminding stressed co-workers on big projects “you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.” Don’t look at everything you have to do to get your business up and running ─ it’ll stress you out and may lock you in place. Take it one bite at a time … you’ll get there.
Question: I can’t decide what niche or services I want to offer … how do I pick the right one?
This is a question I hear from 75% or more of the new writers I mentor. The root cause is usually one of two reasons.
Either they have so many interests, they don’t want to limit themselves to just one or two. Or they’re under the impression there’s a perfect niche for them, and they add a lot of stress to their lives trying to figure out that perfect target market.
My advice: Your “for now” niche doesn’t have to be your “forever” niche. It’s far more important to start working for clients in a decent-fitting niche than it is to delay and worry and stress about the perfect niche, while letting weeks and months go by without trying to find clients.
It's also important to consider your income goals and lifestyle when you’re deciding your niche. If you want a seven-figure income, you probably should be looking at a niche that pays royalties and has large lists to mail to. If you only want to work 5-10 hours a week, you probably want to focus on smaller projects you can fit into your schedule.
As long as you don’t box yourself in by creating a website called “thecrochetingcopywriter(dot)com,” you can always tweak or even completely change your niche in the future if your goals or interests change.
A lot of the copywriters I know are now working in a different niche than the one they started in. Or they at least take projects in other niches when they find something interesting.
The beauty of choosing a career in copywriting is you have so much flexibility, so many options … there’s a niche or service out there for pretty much everyone on the planet.
However, that can lead to decision paralysis … and a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out).
AWAI encourages writers to pick a niche because it makes things easier … you don’t have to learn a whole new industry with every project … you can focus your marketing messaging to aide your inbound marketing efforts … and you can expend less energy by identifying a target market segment and focus on getting those clients.
Niching makes your marketing and your day-to-day work easier. But there’s no law saying you can only take work in that niche.
So no more FOMO … you can write for interesting clients outside your niche if you so choose. Just make sure you’re focusing enough to make your non-writing activities like marketing and researching manageable.
Question: I need to start earning money now. How do I get there in the fastest way possible?
If someone tells me they need to get a paying client or earn some money in 90 days, I can generally help them figure out how to get there.
But if someone wants to replace a six-figure salary in that time, I caution them. Could it happen? Yes. Is it likely to happen? Probably not.
There are some shortcuts you can take to start bringing income in sooner rather than later. But it depends how much you need, how soon, what niche you’re in, what services you’re offering, and how much (and who) you already know.
Leveraging your own personal network is hands-down the quickest way to that first paycheck.
Add to that telling everyone you know that you are now a copywriter, and the time gap to your first paycheck closes even more.
There are other ways to shortcut the process, depending on your specific circumstances.
That’s where having a mentor, someone who’s already built their own freelance business, can be so beneficial.
They can share their own experiences with you and they can share the experiences of their network of peers.
I was recently talking to someone who was retired. His goal for his copywriting was to have a part-time job just to earn some extra income. He initially said he wanted to write long-form sales letters in some highly competitive industries.
We talked some more about what his areas of interest were and what kind of writing he already did for enjoyment.
By the end of our chat, he had an entirely different plan, one that fit his lifestyle goals as well as his interests.
Would he have gotten there eventually? Probably.
But mentors can use their experience to help you successfully navigate some of those shortcuts that get you to your vision of the writer’s life, sooner and with fewer missteps.
Where do I find these mentors?
You can find mentors in a number of places. If you know an entrepreneur or even better a freelance copywriter who is ahead of you in their journey, they can be a great mentor.
Or you can hire a mentor: I did that back when I started copywriting. He helped me tremendously in several ways. Yes, he helped me fix my marketing and my samples to show myself in the best light possible. But he also gave me self-confidence. He told me I had talent. I had a couple of bad habits (like proper grammar and corporate-speak) I needed to shed, but he let me know I was capable of delivering high-quality work to clients. Which gave me the boost I needed to start reaching out to prospects.
Obviously, one place I’m fond of for providing mentoring to new copywriters is AWAI’s Circle of Success program. The mentors are all working copywriters, like myself, who’ve already been through what new writers are now experiencing. They have both the knowledge and the practical experience to help guide someone just starting out on their journey.
How you decide to add a mentor to your support team is less important than doing so. As Napoleon Hill learned from his lifelong research ─ successful people rarely go it alone. They use the knowledge and experience of mentors to navigate their paths to success.
Have you used a mentor in the past? Have you tried one yet for building your copywriting business? Let us know in the comments.
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