Everything You’ve Ever Wanted (and Needed) to Know About AWAI’s FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp

DENISE: My name is Denise Ford, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you today. We have many questions from the participants and a special group of experts to answer them. These ladies and gentlemen have taken time out of their very busy copywriting practices to talk with you about how Bootcamp affected their lives and careers. They are graciously giving their time because they know what a difference it made to them, and they want to help you take the next step in your own copywriting career. So, let me start by asking the panel … What did your first Bootcamp experience do for your career?

JIM: My first Bootcamp was in 2005. I was going through AWAI’s Accelerated Program, and I was still not sure about a few things …

So, my main purpose for coming to Bootcamp was for validation – to find out just how real it was – and to meet some of the real people involved. I was still skeptical to a certain degree, but within about 10 minutes of being there, all that was wiped away.

Bootcamp really gave me that extra boost that I needed.

DENISE: I’ve heard that from many successful copywriters. Actually, Joshua, I think you’ve talked to me about that before, how Bootcamp really changed your life. Can you talk a bit about the experience and also about the big question that people often ask … Can Bootcamp really make you any money?

JOSHUA: Yeah, it’s nice to show up to meetings, but I guess I’m always kind of a practical guy who asks, “Does it put dollars in my pocket?” That was a huge question for me.

I actually came to Bootcamp for the first time last year, at the invitation of Katie, and spoke on one of the panels. At that time, I already had a pretty successful copywriting career – I was already making over $100,000, and I was delighted by the way things were going. So I came to Bootcamp arrogantly thinking that I was going to give my little spiel and go home without learning that much.

I was completely wrong. I was amazed at the things that I learned.

I also picked up five new assignments from four separate clients – brand-new clients who I met by networking with people at Bootcamp. Since October, that has been worth well over $40,000 to me, and beyond that if you look at the royalties and the other assignments I’ve been able to pick up because of my increased skills.

DENISE: That’s great. And that’s something people are probably going to want to talk with you about more. But Pam, let me ask you, how easy was it for you to come to your first Bootcamp? What was that like for you?

PAM: When I walked into this room with tons of people who I’d never met before, it was a little daunting … for about 4 seconds. Everyone was so welcoming – especially the AWAI staff – and I realized that all the other attendees were in the same boat I was in. We were all testing it out and had never really tried anything quite like this before.

That’s when I met up with Jim Turner and a few other people, who together became a family of support for each other. We call ourselves the “Delray Motivators” and we’ve been tight ever since, helping each other along in our careers.

For me personally, it gave me the courage to finally leave 25 years of “cubicle living” and go out on my own about 5 months after Bootcamp. I’ve never looked back. It’s been fantastic.

DENISE: That’s wonderful. Monica, don’t you have a similar story about meeting an invaluable ally or business associate at your first Bootcamp?

MONICA: I do. I met Krista Jones, and I often refer to that moment as the “$100,000 conversation over dinner.” It was a huge connection for me, and I think that was a big part of my first Bootcamp – it introduced me to peers, to colleagues, to clients, and just made me feel a part of this whole industry very quickly.

DENISE: Yes, that’s so true. Now some of you guys have been to more than one Bootcamp. Can you tell us what the value of coming to repeat Bootcamps is?

MONICA: I can, Denise, because my first one was in 2002, and I’ve come every year since then. It’s just become an annual pilgrimage for me. For the first three years, I would say that my income doubled every year because of it.

It has had a dramatic impact on my income, but also this year on my personal life. I’ve had a very challenging year personally, and it became even clearer to me how important Bootcamp has been … because of the relationships fostered there over the past five years. Despite the personal setbacks this year, my business is still percolating along, and everything is going well. I really attribute that to the relationships that I’ve made at Bootcamp.

JIM: I would “ditto” a lot of what Monica just said. The relationships keep you coming back year after year. But you also learn new techniques for writing, what’s working in the marketplace now. You meet new potential clients. So there are many reasons to continue to come back.

DENISE: When you attended your first Bootcamp, I’m not sure how far along each of you were in the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting – the basic course – but several people have written us to ask if they should attend if they haven’t completed the program yet.

JOSHUA: My short answer is “absolutely.” Even though I was actually finished with the program when I came to Bootcamp, I attended a seminar AWAI put on with Bob Bly when I first got started. What it did for me is get me moving.

Now, having been to Bootcamp, I believe that Bootcamp would have put me even further down the road if I had attended earlier on. You can’t wait until you get everything read and everything lined up, a perfect scenario. What you have to do to succeed in life – and certainly in copywriting – is you need to get started. You need to get moving. And Bootcamp gives you a phenomenal amount of resources to do exactly that.

PAM: I had completed the course up to submitting the health assignment. But Bootcamp was looming, so I just went, and it was fantastic. Doing the course at home alone is great, and you learn a lot. But getting into those sessions and working through each of the areas boosts your understanding 10 times over. I think that no matter what stage you’re in, it’s worth going.

DENISE: We have a question from Don, and I’m sure there are many people in his situation. He’s working through the program. He has a full-time job and a family, and he’s juggling everything to make this happen. What should he do between now and October to best prepare himself to take advantage of everything Bootcamp offers?

JIM: One of the things I really wanted to get out of Bootcamp was clients. So I made sure I had some samples of what I had written. Having those samples helped entice people into giving me a chance to write copy.

You can show them to a potential client and say, “Here are some things I’ve written, and even though I’m not a full-fledged copywriter yet, here’s what I’m capable of doing.”

One client only saw a spec assignment that I did. But from that spec there was enough of a spark that said, “This guy is worth taking a chance on.” So we started off gradually, and now I’m still writing for that client today.

DENISE: Actually, that sort of ties in with a question Conrad sent. He was wondering if he should bring everything he’s working on. Now I know we have the Job Fair where there are specific spec assignments given by clients. But for you guys, when participating in the Job Fair or in networking in general at Bootcamp, what kinds of materials would you recommend people bring with them, if any?

MONICA: I can answer that, since I’ve been coming to Bootcamp since before there even was a Job Fair! I’m always of the mindset that it doesn’t hurt to be over-prepared for something. But that said, you also want to be mindful not to overwhelm somebody with a whole lot of your work.

I’ve also worked the Job Fair before as a marketing representative looking for copywriters for my client. Some people just came by my table and dropped off a big, full folder – and I can tell you it took me a while to get to those after Bootcamp was over.

But those who had something a little bit more targeted got my attention. They kind of gave me a 30-second “elevator speech” about why they would be a good fit for my client, and then backed it up by handing me something and making sure I knew who they were. It’s important to make that connection between the name and the face.

DENISE: Yes, that’s a very good suggestion. And this year you can actually research the Bootcamp attendees’ website to find out what companies will be attending Job Fair in advance. That way you can come with something targeting them.

MONICA: If I could just add one other thing … if you don’t have a sample, but you know there’s a client there that you really want to connect with – write an introduction letter specific to them. Only use their name on it and do your best in one page to make a case for why you should write for them.

DENISE: That’s great. Vicky from Calgary says she’s a bit of an introvert, and the thought of coming to the conference on her own is a little daunting. She’s also concerned about being surrounded by copywriters who are very confident or who have an established track record. So how does this event ensure that everyone has an opportunity to meet people and potential clients?

PAM: Well, what I found my first year was that most people I talked to were fairly new in the industry and trying to break in, so you’re not alone. Everybody’s hardworking and interested and eager.

DENISE: And one of our goals is to make sure that you have a personal experience here, and I think Monica, Joshua, and Jim could speak about this. Isn’t it true that one of the great opportunities for meeting the master copywriters and some of the potential clients is after all the sessions?

JIM: Yes it is. Definitely with the master copywriters. And the AWAI staff also. That was one of the validation points that I was looking for when I came. I’d participated in a lot of the teleconferences and training before I came, so I wanted to meet those people, too.

JOSHUA: I can validate that whole concept. One of the greatest things I loved about Bootcamp was that, here you have all these “A” level or “A++” level copywriters running around – these guys who have generated millions and millions and millions of dollars with their marketing pieces and copy. And there they are just hanging out chatting with everybody. Most of them just seemed to relax and spend time with the crowd.

And I think the other thing I would mention about Bootcamp is the eagerness of all these guys from Katie to Denise to Bob Bly to whoever – to all the different people who are coming – their willingness to give of their heart and really, really, really believe in us and to really, really, really hope that we succeed and to do everything they can to help us succeed is just incredible. It’s one of the things that really touched me, and it’s actually the thing that solidified my position in the whole world of copywriting. I knew that there was a group of people who believed in me and wanted me to succeed.

DENISE: Well, you know I’m very appreciative of that comment, and it really is the intention of this company to do that. We make very effort to connect you to other working copywriters, master copywriters, the staff, and the speakers. That’s our goal.

We have a question from Jonathan in Michigan. How would you suggest an 18-year-old copywriting hopeful with no contacts make the most of his time at Bootcamp? He sees Bootcamp as a great opportunity to develop relationships, but would like to do so in the most effective way possible.

JOSHUA: I totally understand where he’s coming from. I entered the copywriting world without any contacts. I’d never even heard the term before – didn’t even know what it meant. So I recognize that question. It’s like, where do you begin? What do you do?

What I found is that when I went to Bootcamp, after I realized that everybody was approachable, I just started approaching everybody. I started making those connections and asking. I find that one of the biggest reasons that I’ve been able to succeed is that I just ask. Many of my clients say they’ve never even had a copywriter ask them. I liked that comment.

So if he’s just starting out and is wondering how to make the best connections – what I would do is just turn my ears on and turn my mouth on, and I would walk around and shake people’s hands and get to know them and make an effort to simply ask for the business, ask for the contacts, ask for the relationships.

MONICA: We talk in copywriting about a USP – your “Unique Selling Proposition.” And I will say that, being 18 and being excited about this, and showing up with that kind of eagerness – right there, that can be your USP.

My USP when I showed up at my first Bootcamp was that I was a relatively new mom, and I had my two kids with me at the time. So here was Michael Masterson giving his motivational talk, and I’m sitting in the back nursing a baby …

DENISE: I remember that, and it was wonderful and we just thought, “Great!”

MONICA: Yes. Everybody has something that’s unique about their story. That’s what I love about copywriting. I’ve heard another copywriter say, “We’re like the land of the misfit toys.”

So whatever your USP is – and it could be your age, your life situation, what you’ve done before, or anything – bring that with you and let that be something you become known for. It’ll help you stand out.

DENISE: Every year we do one of these conferences, and every year we strive to make them better. And we do that based on your feedback and the feedback of the participants, the vendors, and the staff. One of the things we’re adding this year is having a separate session at the beginning of the Job Fair for people who have never approached a client – people who do not have resumes to bring or any business cards.

This session will show you the best ways to approach a client. And then if you’re ready and willing, you’ll leave that session and go into the Job Fair and introduce yourself to clients. So even if you’re 18 without experience – or maybe you’re 50 without copywriting experience – this will be an opportunity to get ready to meet clients.

Which leads to another question … Do you guys specialize in particular niches, or do you have a broad base of clients?

JOSHUA: I’ve got a personality that likes to overanalyze stuff. When I began, everyone said you need to specialize because there’s more money in it, you can work faster in one area, and a handful of other benefits. So I spent weeks deliberating on this thing, because I couldn’t quite decide where my niche was going to be.

Finally, I had a conversation with Bob Bly, and he said, “Well, here’s what you ought to do … you ought to just take a shotgun approach, and after you’ve written for a few different clients, categorize your work by putting it in piles. For example, if you’ve done some technology, put it in one pile … and health, put it in another pile … and so on. Then, whatever stack is the biggest, that’s probably your niche … because you’re naturally picking up more clients in that area.”

I took Bob’s advice on that. I now have a niche, but I remain flexible. In other words, most of my time is spent in one specific area because I can write faster, I know the issues, I know the clients, I know the lingo, I know what sells in that industry. But if there are other clients who want me to write for them, I’m willing to take a shot at it. That would be my recommendation to you: choose a niche, but remain flexible.

PAM: I have decided that web-content writing is my niche. I’ve been a writer for a long time in corporate settings. That may be unique to a lot of people diving into this program, but I did get some web experience under my belt … and as I started looking at niches, I realized that I’m a person with a short attention span, and I really have a hard time focusing on one niche. So I decided my niche would be the platform I write for instead of the industry I write for.

JIM: My niche is financial. It was the first opportunity I was able to land, and coincidentally it seemed to sit well with my own personal make up. Previously I was an engineer, which involves a lot of numbers and analysis. But as Joshua was saying, the one that fits – the one that feels most comfortable for you – should be your niche.

MONICA: It’s hard to hang your hat up somewhere – people feel a lot of pressure to choose the right niche. I do think there’s a benefit to forcing yourself to focus a little bit. But I don’t think you have to have just one specialty. I specialize in financial, travel and self-help, which keeps life interesting for me so that I don’t get burnt out just doing one type of copy.

DENISE: I think that’s good advice, and Jaydah in Maryland is wondering, should she start with just anything or should she pick a niche to explore? Does anybody have an opinion on that?

JIM: You should start where the most opportunities are. I found that when I was trying to decide which one to pick, all I was doing was delaying getting started. The key is you’ve got to get started … start building some momentum and building the skills that are transferable from one niche to another.

DENISE: And Suzanne from Massachusetts wants to know … Do you think Bootcamp would be beneficial to someone focused or interested in catalog copywriting?

PAM: When I went two years ago Herschell Gordon Lewis did a presentation on catalog writing that was fantastic. I’m so glad I was in that audience to hear the points he was making about how to sell a product in a tiny block of copy.

DENISE: Herschell’s going to be back this year. He’s going to talk about catalog copywriting in the niche marketing panel, and then he’s also doing a solo presentation. We’re calling it the “Herschell Gordon Lewis Show” because he is remarkable and insightful.

Okay, here’s another general question … If Bootcamp is so short – three days – how much can you really learn? I understand the networking opportunities, but what about advancing my copywriting skills?

PAM: I’d like to address that one. After three days, you can’t take in one more micron of information or your head will explode. There is so much wall-to-wall, great information – it starts at 8:00 a.m. and goes until 5:00 p.m., and then you’re socializing and networking in the evening, or you’re working on some headlines to practice for the group peer review. There is so much information, and you come home and you look at it all and go, “Did I learn all this in just three days?” It’s wonderful!

DENISE: Okay, here’s another question … What are the social events like at Bootcamp?

MONICA: I think that one’s for me! I say that because that’s one of the highlights for me, and I think it goes back to what we were saying earlier … everybody has a different style and comfort-level as far as getting to know people. Paul Hollingshead coined the term “barstool speaking,” and I really go to Bootcamp to perfect my barstool speaking. I get a little bit better each year. What’s nice about it is, whether it’s one of the hosted events, a cocktail hour after everything’s done, or whether you go out … Delray is a small town, so you pretty much go anywhere and run into people who have come to Bootcamp.

What’s so nice about the socializing opportunities at Bootcamp is that they’re very well thought out. And those social opportunities shouldn’t be underestimated. They can be just as powerful as some of the more formal connections that you’ll make at Job Fair and the like.

DENISE: It’s my understanding that it’s not unusual to find Michael Masterson and Paul Hollingshead doing the Macarena at 1 a.m.!

MONICA: You weren’t supposed to tell!

DENISE: I think that relaxed social interaction with copywriters and your peers also helps build your confidence. I’ve heard each of you say that … that it just gave you that much more “oomph,” that much more resilience, that much more confidence.

Now I’d like to introduce a very special guest to this panel. This is Dr. Joe Vitale. You may know him as the president of Hypnotic Marketing. He developed a whole concept as the first hypnotic writer, and he’s created home-study courses around it. He’s also been called the “Buddha of the Internet,” and then they modified that to the “Charles Atlas of the Internet” after a very successful health program. You may have also seen him in The Secret, and he’s the best-selling author of The Attractive Factor – Five Easy Steps for Creating Wealth. Welcome, Joe.

JOE: Well, thank you, what a nice introduction. I’m going to hire you to do that for me all the time. You need to make a tape so I can play it at night … you know, like affirmations when I go to bed! I can listen to it and feel good about myself. What can I address or answer for folks?

DENISE: Well, one of the things that makes me feel good is that you’ve managed to clear your schedule to come to Bootcamp this year as our keynote speaker. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the conference, and what you might be thinking about?

JOE: Well, I went to AWAI’s Bootcamp for the first time last year, and I was invited to speak. Some of the people who were there have been friends and clients of mine, and some people I had heard about and corresponded with. I was anxious to go, I wanted to meet the people. And what amazed me was the amount of energy that was there – the kind that “lifts the roof off the building” because everybody’s so into learning.

They want to be inspired, they want to be informed, they want to learn, they want to do, they want to make money as a copywriter, they want to get out there and shake up things. And they’re all learning that. I love to be in that kind of atmosphere, because these are the future movers and shakers of the world.

I sat in on some of the sessions – like Brian Tracy, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and some of my heroes like Bob Bly – and it’s clear that everybody learns something at these events. And as much as I’ve been writing, as long as I’ve been a copywriter, and as many books as I have out there … I’m still learning. So even when I go and sneak in the back of the room and nobody sees me and I’m sitting there, I’m taking notes. I’m learning. I’m stretching. I’m enlarging my own potential by learning what other people are doing. I learned a long time ago, I don’t know it all – nobody knows it all – so the only thing to do is just keep learning, keep expanding, keep informing yourself.

So I loved going to the event. Of course, I was a speaker and it was well received, so I felt like Elvis at a concert. And when I was invited to come back this year, it was a no-brainer. It was like … yes, I will move heaven and earth, I will rearrange my schedule. I’ve been invited to go overseas, but forget it – I can go overseas anytime. I’d rather go to this.

So I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to have some surprises up my sleeve. I have some new information to share. New techniques I’ve been working on. And right about the time I’ll be speaking there, I’ll have a brand-new book out as well. So it’s going to be a very exhilarating time to be there.

But if you’ve been listening to this panel and you’ve heard all of these rave reviews, then you know you want to go. I would say just be honest with yourself and take the leap and sign up and do this. There are so many benefits and so many perks … so much information, so much inspiration … that if you’re serious about this (and I’m guessing you are because here you are still listening to me), I would say you should just go ahead and jump. You’re getting a wealth of information from Bootcamp … and you know and I know – we all know – you need to be there.

DENISE: Thank you, Joe. I so appreciate that, and I really look forward to seeing you in Delray Beach in October. I really look forward to all of you being there so you can talk with Joe and Monica, Jim, Joshua, Pam – and the other working copywriters who are doing what you want to do. And with that I want to thank you.

Here’s how to register …

Go to http://www.awaibootcamp.com/ or pick up the phone right now and call Member Services at 866-879-2924. Do it today.

[Editorial Note: To learn more about AWAI’s FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp, go to http://www.awaibootcamp.com/.]