Becoming a Well-Paid Writer: How to Create Your Personal Roadmap
Copywriting is a fantastic career choice. It offers so much variety, and there are so many opportunities to become a well-paid writer.
But how do you know which path’s right for you?
After all, there’s an almost endless variety of writing projects to pick from, including emails, case studies, blogs, sales letters, video scripts, and more.
Then you have the many different industry sectors: B2B, B2C, finance, travel, dental, the trades, medical … When they’re combined, you have tens of thousands of choices.
So how do you narrow down all these opportunities to find the one that is right for you?
With a roadmap. It’s no different from when you decide to take a road trip.
Let’s say you want to drive from New York to Miami as quickly as possible. Do you just jump in the car and drive, hoping you’ll find Miami? Or do you plan ahead how you’ll get there?
Your path to becoming a well-paid writer is exactly the same.
A well-structured roadmap or plan is what puts you on the path to becoming a well-paid writer.
But you don’t have to create that plan all by yourself. AWAI’s already developed a proven five-step process for going from an aspiring writer to one who is in demand.
With 20+ years’ experience in helping new copywriters get their freelance writing careers and business established, we understand the benefits a writing success roadmap provides.
The Benefits of Having a Roadmap
Without a doubt, the number one reason for having a roadmap is the confidence it brings:
- Confidence from Creation — By going through the process of creating a roadmap, you’ll begin to think, Hey I can do this. I can see where I want to end up.
- Confidence when you see Results — When you start seeing results, you’ll build momentum. Wow, I really can make money as a well-paid writer!
- Confidence from Hitting Targets — As you start passing the mile markers, you know you’re making progress.
A roadmap helps you maintain forward progress. It keeps you on track.
And it also saves you from “shiny objection syndrome.”
You know that feeling. For example, say you decide to specialize as an email writer. But you read an AWAI invitation to join a new course on content marketing. That happens to be something you’re interested in as well.
The problem is, you haven’t even completed the one you just started. Do you take the new training anyway or stick with the one you have?
A roadmap helps you decide not only which programs are right for you but also the right time to take on new training programs. It’s all about …
Being able to make the right decisions and take the right action at the right time.
A roadmap lays the foundations for you to make decisions with confidence, then act on your decisions at every step in your journey.
A roadmap removes emotions and distractions from the equation. Every decision becomes a yes/no answer: Does this get me closer to my goal—yes or no?
And a roadmap keeps you focused on your goal … of becoming a well-paid writer in the quickest time possible.
Skill- and Business-Building Buckets Every Writer Needs
As you can see, these two particularly attractive lime green buckets are labeled “skill-building” and “business-building.”
These are yours to keep. And here’s what we want you to do with them …
Be sure to fill both these buckets in turn. You don’t want one overflowing and the other one empty.
Instead, keep taking small daily actions on each. This way, you’ll build your skills at the same time you develop your business.
To be a successful copywriter, you can’t have one without the other. For example, you could take a dozen copywriting courses (skill building). But if you don’t put yourself out there, then you won’t have a business … you’ll have a hobby.
And don’t take five training programs at once (skill building). Instead, do one at a time. Then start promoting your business (business building). This enables you to make money from what you learned in the first course while you take the next one.
Keep those buckets balanced. You don’t want one to be heavier.
So what can you fill your two green buckets with?
Here are some ideas for your skill-building bucket:
- Learn the fundamentals of persuasive writing. Take AWAI’s foundational program The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, or The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter. They both teach you the core principles of persuasive writing. The AWAI Method™ is designed to get you up and running as quickly as possible.
- Explore various writing projects. For example, discover what projects prospective clients might need … blogs, sales letters, direct-response copy, and so on.
- Read examples of good copy and content. AWAI members have access to the Hall of Fame, which contains samples of the most successful copy ever written by the biggest names in copywriting.
- Create swipe files. Say you want to be an email writer, for example. Collect great emails and save them in a folder (swipe file). This gives you material to study and learn from.
- Do hands-on writing assignments. Every AWAI course offers writing assignments. Redo one of them to refresh your skills.
- Get certified. Certifications prove you have the skills needed.
- Stay focused on completing one training course at a time. Don’t keep buying new courses, especially if they’re not on your roadmap.
Remember, the trick here is to focus on one task at a time. Slowly but surely, the bucket’s going to fill.
Good writers are curious and love to learn. If you need more ideas for your skill-building bucket, ask, “What’s the next thing I want to be learning about?”
And then ask, “Does this get me closer to my goal—yes or no?” This is always your stop/go question. You must check whether it fits your roadmap.
Part of becoming an in-demand and well-paid writer is understanding there is a business side to your career. So it’s important not only to “up” your writing skills but also to know which business-building activities will help you create a steady flow of clients and income.
It’s those business-building activities that grow your business. Here are some ideas for your business-building bucket:
- Pick your niche. Zero in on the business area or area of expertise you want to focus on. There are thousands of niches, so it’s easy to get swamped. Stay focused on the outcome.
- Update your LinkedIn profile. This is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do. Add “Copywriter,” “B2B Copywriter,” or “Copywriter specializing in XYZ” to your profile.
- Research potential clients. Decide who you want to work with … a specific industry, not-for-profit organizations, specific companies, and so on. Read trade journals, and join social media pages and networking groups within those areas.
- Make connections. Networking and industry connections are super-important. Connections can be with fellow writers through AWAI social media, within your niche, or with industry-leading writers through AWAI’s network.
- Put up your website. Having your own website is a big confidence builder. If the tech side scares you, Rebecca Matter has an excellent course, Build Your Freelance Website in Four Days. It takes you through the entire process, step-by-step.
- Collect writing samples. We’ve covered this extensively in another Inside AWAI: How to Create a Winning Portfolio of Samples if You’re Just Starting a Freelance Writing Career (Even if You’ve Never Had Any Clients!).
There are so many things you can do to build your business. And you don’t have to do them all. Just make sure you take an action every day.
Keep adding to both buckets every day … and keep them balanced. Do this consistently, and you’ll become a successful and well-paid writer.
Now that you understand why you need a roadmap, and the importance of filling up your green buckets, and laying the foundation of your writing business,
it’s time to start building your roadmap.
Developing Your Roadmap to Well-Paid Writer
If you’re going on a journey, then you need a destination … a goal, right? So, grab a pen and paper or open a new file on your computer, and let’s create your roadmap.
Step 1. Clarify Your Destination
Let’s talk money for a second.
It’s like we’ve been trained since birth to have certain limitations … This is where we fit in, this is our role. You’re a nurse, you’re a teacher, you’re a laborer. This is what you earn, and you can’t go past it.
Let that go, break through that barrier. It’s a roadblock you can remove if you decide you want to. Never be afraid to aim high.
Which leads to your first question …
How much money do I want to make from writing?
Don’t be afraid to set this figure high. It can be any number. You don’t have to tell anyone.
Write it down, feel it, soak it in, get comfortable with it.
Then ask yourself …
How much money do I need to make from writing?
Say you’re always behind on your bills and want copywriting to make up the shortfall. That amount is what you need to make.
It’s likely that the first figure (what you want to make) is not where you need to be right now. What you want to make is your long-term goal.
But what you need to make is your immediate goal. And this is the goal you shoot for first up. This is the goal that will prove, “Hey, I can make money from this gig.”
It’s the first mile marker on your roadmap.
Once you hit this target, you’ll begin to see what’s possible on “the other side.” And when that day comes, you’ll likely want to transition into full-time writing.
So, your next question is …
How much money do I need to earn to transition into a full-time writer?
Say you’re working 10 hours part-time as a writer and making X. If you worked 40 hours as a writer, you could make Y.
If Y is more than you’re earning now, then there’s your tipping point. It’s the point where you become a full-time writer and move on to your “want-to-make” goal.
So far, we’ve discussed only financial goals. Why? Because money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you freedom … freedom to make choices on your terms. Without money, your choices are limited.
Yes, money is important. But life isn’t all about making money.
Imagine money wasn’t an issue for you. All you had to do was settle on your version of the ideal lifestyle. What would that look like? Ask yourself …
What will my life look like once I’m living the writer’s life?
And how will this affect the people around you when you’re less stressed, have more freedom, and have more time to spend with them?
All those simple things in life … exercise, the ability to rise late and work late if you want, attending your children’s school events, volunteering at your favorite charity … These are the things that matter.
Have a clear vision of what your writer’s life will look like. It’s a powerful motivator.
When do I want to get there?
It’s fine to dream of your ideal writer’s life. But if you don’t set a date by which to arrive at your destination, chances are you’ll never get there.
Sometimes the decision is easy. Maybe you’ve been laid off and need to earn X by a defined date.
Other times, setting a date can be difficult. If you’re in a full-time job, it can be easy to stay safely inside your comfort zone. You need to set a date … By this date, I will be earning X from copywriting.
Look at why you want to change careers and what your life will look like. Use these to keep you motivated.
These questions help to clarify your destination. Once you have a destination, you just need to figure out how to get there …
Step 2. Choose a Route
Here’s where you look back on past experiences and see how they can help get you where you want to go.
You might be surprised how much “life experience” you already have, no matter how young or old you are. Start by asking …
How much writing experience do I already have?
You may have already written blog posts, stories, scripts, journals, newsletters, and so on. How can those experiences help you?
For example, if you have a journal, blogging could be a good fit. You already have the discipline to write regularly, and you’re comfortable with commitment … You get up every day and write in your journal.
So it’s not a big leap to do the same as a paid blog writer.
Or maybe you write a regular newsletter for a charity or community group. Take this experience and start out as an e-newsletter writer.
Technical articles, short stories, videos of your recent vacation, email writing … List them all, and think about how they could help you in a copywriting opportunity.
And take a look at AWAI's Copywriting Pricing Guide. It lists 75 different types of copywriting. See if you can match your experience with one of them.
You’ll find that many of these fall away, and you’ll be left with a small selection that could be a good fit.
What life experiences do I have?
There’s a good reason why you want to leave your current job and become a writer. You could be bored, underpaid, overworked, burned out. The temptation is to walk away from your industry and start afresh as a copywriter in a new industry.
Don’t do that.
Writing about an industry is very different from working in an industry.
And you already have a lot of knowledge about your industry. This is what businesses are looking for when hiring copywriters.
They want someone who is familiar with their industry, someone who understands how the industry works, the terminology unique to the industry, and so on.
A business will hire someone who has no experience as a writer but knows their industry over an experienced copywriter with no knowledge of their industry.
Because they don’t need to spend time educating the copywriter about the industry. They only need to help the copywriter become familiar with their products and services.
We all know there’s more to life than work. So, consider what life experience you’ve had … as a parent, caregiver, volunteer, traveler, counselor, and so on.
Once you have a good feel for your past writing experience and past life experiences, look at ways to combine them …
How Do I Combine My Writing Experience with My Life Experiences?
- decided what business sector you'd like to work in,
- researched businesses or organizations in the sector,
- come up with a list of potential writing opportunities, and
- listed your past life experiences.
Now you can match your writing experience with your life experiences.
Say you’re a mechanical engineer. You’ve written technical reports, and you have experience in the manufacturing sector.
So you might decide to start as a case study writer for B2B engineering suppliers.
Or you’re a student who’s just completed a cinematography course, but you’ve decided cinematography isn’t for you. You’ve also spent the past five years volunteering part-time at a pet shelter.
You might combine your experience to specialize in video script writing for veterinary clinics and animal shelters.
Think of how your writing and life experiences can help you transition quickly into copywriting. Use them as a springboard.
And always keep in mind …
The niche you start with is simply a starting point toward your goal of being a well-paid writer. You can always change niches later.
By now, you should be starting to see a few possible paths you could follow. While you’re working through these, consider where your copywriting career will fit into your life …
How much do I want to work?
You can choose full-time, part-time, or even spare-time. And it can change along your journey.
It can be spare-time now, then part-time and finally full-time. You might decide to start a Money-Making Website in your spare time, to earn some extra income.
It could expand to part-time as your site grows. Then businesses in the same niche might approach you to write for them. At this point, make the transition to full-time writer … part-time for your Money-Making Website and part-time for clients.
Knowing how much time you have available lets you figure out how much copywriting work you need.
And it helps you choose from the 75 types of writing projects available to you (see AWAI's Copywriting Pricing Guide for the complete list). Do you choose one or several? Do you have time for them?
The best part is, you are in control of this. You decide how much you want to take on and how much work you need.
We just touched on Money-Making Websites. This brings us to your final decision in choosing a route to well-paid writer …
Do I want to write for clients, myself, or both?
Some people are more than happy to work for clients. Others not so much.
If you fall into the latter category, then consider starting a Money-Making Website in the same industry you want to work in. This allows you to grow your Money-Making Website while supplementing your income from client work.
It also lets you discover whether you’re happiest writing for yourself or for clients while you earn an income.
Go back through the questions we posed here in Step 2, and flesh out the details.
Once you choose a route, your path to a well-paid writing career suddenly looks much easier. It’s no longer an overwhelming tangle of lines on a map.
Instead, you’ll begin to see a clear path toward your destination.
We’ve already spoken about the 75 writing opportunities available to you. And we’ve looked at a few ways to narrow them down. But let’s see how you can narrow your list down to just a few.
Step 3. Determine Which Project/Opportunity to Start With
Take the 80 projects listed in AWAI's Copywriting Pricing Guide and strike out the ones that won’t work for you … These won’t work for spare-/part-/full-time … these all have clients, and I don’t want clients … these are all sales copy, I enjoy writing sales copy, and so on.
This narrows down the choices. In fact, you’ll most likely eliminate a large percentage of them. That’s fine. You’ll naturally be attracted to certain types of projects.
The key is to make a decision.
Narrow down your choices and decide which project to start with. And remember, it’s not like you’re locked in for life.
If you want to change later or add to your skills, you can do so at any time.
And if a client asks you to take on a new project you’re not familiar with, say “Yes!” Then call AWAI and ask, “Do you have a program on XYZ?” We’ll be able to help you out.
The final step of your roadmap to a well-paid writing career is the one where most people stumble and fall.
Step 4. Decide How to Land Assignments
What’s the best way to market your services? The way you feel most comfortable with.
It could be
- searching job boards,
- making connections on LinkedIn,
- networking with industry leaders and peers,
- prospecting with warm emails to existing contacts or businesses already looking for copywriters, or
- using inbound marketing by starting a blog on your business website or commenting on companies’ social media posts.
Those are just a few ideas. AWAI has created Your No-Stress Method for Getting Clients: 26 Field-Tested Strategies for Introverts, Extroverts, and Everyone In-Between.
If the thought of trying to get clients paralyzes you with fear, then this program is for you.
It’s a roundup from the who’s who of copywriting about strategies they use to get clients. Many of these industry leaders started out feeling exactly as you do now … terrified at the thought of trying to get clients.
They’ll lead you through the process and help you find a way you’re comfortable with.
Once you break through the fear, it becomes fun.
Okay, we’ve done a lot of work to get to this point. Let’s put it all together into your very own success roadmap.
Step 5. Create a Personal Roadmap
Here is your guide to creating a personal roadmap, summarized in five steps:
- Clarify your destination. Figure out where you want to go.
- Choose a route. What’s the best route to get you to your destination?
- Determine which project or opportunity to start with. What writing projects fit best with your personality and experience?
- Decide how to land assignments. What marketing style suits you best?
- Create a personal roadmap. Take the first four steps listed above and design a pathway that suits your needs.
We’ll leave you with a series of tips to help you get started.
If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you’ll find links to several useful resources. Use them to help you build your roadmap.
And here are some bonus tips to help you get started:
- Assign specific deadlines to every task along the way.
- Schedule your activities so you can keep track of your progress.
- Keep a journal to document your successes and measure how much you’ve achieved.
- Use your roadmap to evaluate new writing opportunities.
- Create a tracking system to monitor your progress.
- Check your tasks daily and your objectives monthly.
- Celebrate all victories and achievements.
- Adjust deadlines as needed.
- Find a mentor if you need an accountability partner. AWAI’s Circle of Success is a great place to start.
We’ve given you plenty of ideas and options for how to flesh out your personal roadmap to a well-paid writing career.
The most important thing to remember is to keep filling your two green buckets … and keep them balanced.
Most new writers falter because they spend all their time filling their skill-building bucket and forget to pay attention to their business-building bucket.
And often they lack confidence.
But the easiest way to overcome these obstacles is always to take an action. Spend time every day working on your writing skills and your business skills. As time goes by, it gets easier as you gain confidence.
And before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling career as a well-paid writer.