Interview with AWAI Member Stuart J.
AWAI: How did you become interested in copywriting as a profession?
Stuart: When I graduated from college, I had no idea of what to do with my Linguistics degree. I received AWAI’s “Can You Write a Letter Like This One?” promotion and was intrigued. I felt that I was a strong writer, and until that letter I had never thought of copywriting as a career. My job at the time was answering customer service e-mail, and I didn’t enjoy it.
AWAI: What was the most important, most profound, or most helpful technique that you learned through the Michael Masterson program?
Stuart: All of the secrets work together synergistically, so I can’t say one secret worked better for me than the rest.
AWAI: You did two assignments for Fourth Avenue Marketing Group. Can you tell us a little about what you learned while working on those packages?
Stuart: I learned a tremendous amount. My first draft of the second assignment didn’t pass Don Mahoney’s “bar-stool” test and I had to do five drafts before my copy was acceptable. I needed to improve the “dating the reader” aspect of the letter among other things. It just wasn’t personal enough. So I got personal stories from the client, and I injected them into the copy.
AWAI: Was there anything in particular that Don did to really help you?
Stuart: Yes. Don gave me concrete ways to make my copy better. If the piece needed more information or something needed to be presented in a different way, he didn’t mince words about it. He told me exactly what needed to be done.
AWAI: You’re now working for one of the top direct mail marketing firms in the U.S. as one of their full-time, inhouse copywriters. Tell us how you landed the job.
Stuart: After the first bootcamp I attended, I decided I wanted to try and get a job as a copywriter, even though I knew I still had a lot to learn. I was on the mailing list of the company I’m working for and they’re located near me, so I decided to apply there.
First, I asked them if they had any inhouse copywriters. They said they did, so I filled out an application and brought them the 2 assignments I did for Fourth Avenue Marketing Group and a cover letter.
I obtained a contact name and called him every week for about six weeks. Finally, I got a call from the VP of marketing, and he told me he would give me a project to do. He said he would have to test me with two or three projects before he could hire me.
My first project was a bookalog, and I had never done one before. In fact, I had never done an assignment using the “advanced” knowledge I learned at the Bootcamp. But it went fairly smoothly, and they liked my work. They also liked my second project, and I was hired soon after.
AWAI: What advice would you offer AWAI students?
Stuart: Enroll in the Masters Program. That’s what got me my job. And, if you get poor-quality direct mail from a company, approach them about writing for them, and keep going after it until they let you in or tell you to go away.