Inside AWAI

From Rebecca Matter, reporting from the lobby of The Delray Beach Marriott, aka “Bootcamp Central” …

  • And the winner of the 2010 $10K Challenge is …

    Yesterday I had the privilege of announcing this year’s winner of our annual $10K Challenge Award during the closing ceremony of the 2010 FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp. I was excited to do it, because the winner is a person who has all the qualities of what I believe to be a dream copywriter …

    He ALWAYS meets his deadlines. In fact, sometimes he submits his work early!

    He’s an idea machine … he’s always thinking about ways to make my life easier … or make AWAI even better.

    He takes the time to learn how the copy will be used, and thoroughly gets to know the product he’s promoting firsthand, before writing a single word.

    And he’s always pitching me on a new project. You may think that would be a negative, but as a busy marketer, it’s a blessing. He always has a new project that I should consider doing – oh and by the way, he’s the guy to do it.

    Please help me congratulate the winner of the 2010 $10K Challenge … .

     ROY FURR!

    This time last year, Roy was heading home from his very first AWAI Bootcamp, determined to make the leap to full-time freelance copywriter in just 3 months. And now a year later, he’s heading home from his second AWAI Bootcamp, a successful working freelance copywriter and this year’s $10K challenge winner.

    Roy is living proof that you can accomplish your dreams of living the writer’s life if you’re willing to work for it. And I’ve asked him to share his insights on what made him successful in his report today. But before I hand it over him, Mindy and Steve, I just want to give you one more reminder …

    Today is the last day you can reserve your spot for the 2011 FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp for only $149.

    Commit to start living The Writer’s Life to the fullest in 2011 by grabbing your spot now.

    And who knows … maybe YOU will be our next big $10K Challenge winner!

    Now, over to our Roving Reporters for their final reports on the biggest copywriting event of the year …

  • From Mindy …
    What Gives? Is Copywriting Dream-Easy Or Head-Scratching Hard?

    There’s a good chance you think about the same things that are wondered aloud here at Bootcamp. The most common one is, “If copywriting is so easy, why am I having such a hard time getting started?”

    We’ve all seen the testimonials from working copywriters that vouch for the “easy” argument. Many of us have even completed the programs that divulge the “simple skills” behind this art.

    But a lot of us — including many folks here at Bootcamp — get stuck somewhere in between studying core copywriting skills and actually getting paid for those skills.

    So, what gives?

    First off, know this: true copywriting is easy. The pay and perks are real. The lifestyle is real. Bootcamp is a real, educational, professional conference (it’s also a real, tax-deductible party by the ocean!).

    The hard part is getting yourself in order enough to truly embrace this lifestyle.

    When I first started copywriting, I plowed my way through the program. The techniques made sense to me. The logic of it all was simple enough to understand. Granted, some things made more sense more quickly, but comprehension dawned early.

    Despite that, it still took me over a year to get up and running. Honestly though, it wasn’t because of copy-related struggles. My primary challenges were learning to work independently and be confident in my work.

    A lesson all of us have to understand is this: Copywriting itself isn’t the hard part. Learning to align your goals with your level of dedication is.

    To make it, you first need to master the art of writing copy. But along with that, you’ve got to tackle your self-doubts and ramp up your motivation.

    There are people here at Bootcamp who do this naturally. They’re the ones who land thousand-dollar jobs right out of the gate. Their success stories are real.

    Kellie Craft, who’s here for her first Bootcamp, is one of them. She landed two paid assignments at Bootcamp yesterday. She’s only in her first year of copywriting, but she’s got the kind of sparkle and enthusiasm, (not to mention in-your-face, loud-Texas-charm) that will catapult her past the fears that hold most of us back.

    Then there are other folks, like me (and maybe you), who follow a slightly lengthier path. Doesn’t matter though, as long as you stay the course and don’t give up.

    In fact, a lot of people here at Bootcamp have returned for their third or fourth round. Every one of the returning people I know have become working copywriters. Some have a steady stream of clients while others still pick up jobs here and there, but they’re all making money and living the dream because they stayed the course.

    Here’s their secret: Each of them found a way to connect on a personal level with other copywriters that helped them get over their non-copy-related hurdles. Some joined Circle of Success. Some became members of the Wealthy Web Writer. All of them committed to regular attendance at live events like Bootcamp.

    If you want this dream to be a reality, find some way to commit yourself emotionally to a support system of fellow-copywriters. I can tell you from having seen it in action, it’s the most guaranteed path to success.

  •  From Steve …
    "You'll be the same person in five years except for the books you read and the people you associate with."

    I don't know who first said that, but I was reminded of the quote almost hourly the past four days at Bootcamp. I soaked myself in the wisdom of one master or legend after another, and increased my possibility thinking ten-fold. It was like getting a PhD in copywriting and marketing packed into a four-day complete immersion.

    It's an amazing experience, but I think I hit brain overload at noon Saturday. I needed Peter Fogel's comedy and the plane ride home to unwind and digest it all.

    Like Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

    Well, we did some serious mind-stretching at Bootcamp, and I plan to leverage the whole experience like never before. I also want to help you leverage the experience, whether you were here or not, into your best year ever in 2011.

    Oh, and just so you don't think Bootcamp is all buttoned-down business, we had our share of fun, too … Ted Nicholas leading 400 copywriters in disco dancing to "Stayin' Alive" … Peter Fogel mercilessly ripping on Michael Masterson with his promotion, "The Copywriter's Workout Plan" … AWAI's own version of American Idol at karaoke night … and of course, great conversations over cocktails each night at the bar.

    The fun led to numerous moments of clarity for me during the day, like …

    "Be like Mike"

    Remember the Gatorade commercials from the 90s, where kids sang about wanting to be like Michael Jordan? Heck, everyone wanted to be like Mike.

    True confession time: I want to be like John Forde. Or Michael Masterson. Or Nick Usborne.

    For a long time I've put these guys on a pedestal, but after hearing personal revelations from each of them, I realized -

    These guys all started where I am.

    I still admire them and plan to follow their career paths. But after hearing about their beginnings and professional struggles, I can now picture myself achieving some of the same big copywriting goals, too.

    Re-invention and learning never end

    Nick Usborne talked about it. So did Gary Hennerberg and Peter Fogel. It's an ongoing process. The quicker you can adapt, change course and move forward, the better you'll be able to thrive in the future economy and serve your clients.

    It struck me after hearing their stories and many attendee's stories – re-invention is the norm, not the exception. Good thing, since I'm a 44-year old guy who's already re-invented himself a few times, and probably will many times before it's over (like Ted Nicholas, I don't plan to retire, and I plan on living to be 120.)

    Re-invention goes along with a common theme from Bootcamp: Taking action. Seizing opportunities. Making it happen. And that leads me to my third "aha" moment …

    The pie is getting bigger

    John Forde's pie chart slide gets the credit for triggering this one.

    I used to have this crazy idea that there was only so much business out there for copywriters, and we were all competing for the same business. Once the pie was sliced and divvied up, it was gone, right?

    Let me put that insane theory to rest. Copywriting opens up doors you never even thought of, and can put you in control of your own destiny. There is so much business out there, especially with the internet. The opportunities are limitless, and this is interesting – I only heard the word "recession" once in four days. Doesn't seem to be an issue with good copywriters.

    Yes, the copywriting pie is getting bigger.

    Your action steps to setting up a blow-out 2011

    I'm giving myself one day to let all this mind-stretching stuff percolate, but starting tomorrow, here are four action steps you can take along with me:

    1. Create your roadmap to success. I've often heard Joshua talk about this. Nick Usborne said it's imperative. You have to know where you're going. Check out Rebecca's a great article on this at wealthywebwriter.com.
    2. Follow through on spec challenges. Katie said there were over 70 this year from Job Fair! And believe me – the marketers don't get flooded with spec assignments. All it takes is one project to launch your career. And the money isn't bad either – Roy just won the $10k Challenge and Mindy and six other AWAI Spec Challenge winners each got checks from Katie for $1,000 each at the Awards Luncheon.
    3. Expect serendipity. Okay, I had to throw in an abstract one here (and use one of Gary Hennerberg's two favorite words.) Serendipity is the aptitude for making fortunate discoveries by accident, so I don't know if you can really expect serendipity. But I truly believe that some people are more inclined to make fortunate discoveries (like getting a $7,000 project from a long-lost friend on Facebook) than others. It depends on who you hang out with and how you spend your time.
    4. Find a mentor. Mark Everett Johnson had the legendary Gene Schwartz. John Forde had Bill Bonner and Michael Masterson. Peter Fogel and Joshua Boswell both had heartfelt words on Saturday for Bob Bly, who was instrumental in their early careers. If you can find a mentor, fantastic. You'll probably accelerate your career big-time. If not, consider this: AWAI can essentially be your mentor. I've found that everyone is accessible, and truly cares about your success. And finally,
    5. Act. Do something every day to move your career forward, no matter how small. Put yourself in situations where opportunities arise. As Peter Fogel said, "Fear you can overcome, regrets you have to live with."

    Each day you have the opportunity to write the story that will one day be told to hundreds (or thousands) of people. Maybe even on stage at Bootcamp next year.

    So what story are you writing this year?

    Develop an action plan for the last 55 days of the year, and stick to it. Make plans to have a blow-out first quarter of 2011 to get the ball rolling. And make plans to be at Bootcamp with me next year. I already started writing my story, which you'll hear more about October 26-29, 2011. I hope you'll join me then for a toast to our success.

    Last thing – AWAI has made a huge impact on my life for the past three years. Thanks to all the Bootcamp presenters, as well as AWAI authors and copywriters I've studied from. But special thanks from the bottom of my heart to three amazing women who make AWAI what it is – Katie, Denise and Rebecca. You embody AWAI's tagline: "Helping people develop skills to acquire financial security, independence and freedom."

  • From Roy …
    Yesterday – to wrap Bootcamp up – Jennifer Stevens and Will Newman taught Bootcamp attendees the single-most powerful way to improve your copy. Many of my best clients are requiring their copywriters to do this – and churning out better copy and better results for the copywriters as a result. I first learned it through AWAI but have now done this with a number of companies – and while I hate to admit it it's improved my copy in every circumstance.

    So what is it? (You're going to cringe.) The single-most powerful way to improve your copy is through a peer review.

    But this ain't your momma's peer review. No. This is "Copy Logic! The New Science of Producing Breakthrough Copy (Without Criticism)" as shared originally in the book by that name by Michael Masterson and Mike Palmer. (I picked up my dog-eared copy at Bootcamp last year.)

    This new approach to the peer review is a systematic way of identifying which copy approaches work and which don't – and how to improve ALL of them to make them work even better. While it can be more pain than pulling a tooth to have someone give you feedback on your copy, this unique approach dictates how that feedback is given and received so it can actually be PRODUCTIVE!

    Here are the peer review basics:

    • Headlines and leads are scored by a peer group on a 4-point scale, and have to receive a certain score to move forward at all, and another score well above that to move forward untouched.
    • Copy suggestions are made by individuals and voted on by the peer group as to whether they make the copy stronger or weaker.
    • The copywriter makes edits based on suggestions from the peer review to come up with a final direction for the head and lead, after which the rest of the copy is written.
    • The copy then goes back to the group and they score it on "CUB" factors to identify areas to improve its readability and persuasive power.
    • The copywriter then takes the group feedback and makes edits as necessary to strengthen the copy as a whole.

    The best way to internalize this process is to do it. Many of the marketers at Job Fair use the Copy Logic! peer review process – you can do a spec assignment with them and if you're chosen to move forward you will likely participate in at least one of these peer reviews. Or, you can recommend interesting articles to Katie and Rebecca at AWAI and depending on where they see opportunities for improvement they may have you do peer reviews on your articles.

    And finally, I recommend you order a copy of Copy Logic! for your own bookshelf – sure, it'll teach you the peer review process, but it also gives you an inside view into how some of the most powerful, profitable copy in the world is written.

  • I'm this year's $10K Challenge winner!

    I guess that means I'm doing something right – with all the articles, sales letters, webinars, and other projects I've done with AWAI (and others!) since I launched my freelance career 9 months ago.

    I love to brag. (It's true – I'll admit it!) But I'm not going to turn my last Roving Reporter check-in for this year's Bootcamp into a brag-fest.

    Instead, I want to talk about YOU – and how the picture above can be of YOU next year.

    See, no matter how special I think I am … No matter how much of a genius I believe myself to be … I'm really just an average person, a lot like you. I have my own quirks, problems, eccentricities and more. I wasn't born writing great sales copy – it's been a process of constant refinement and I'm still going. I wasn't "born to win" the $10k Challenge. It's taken a bit of work!

    I think I do a few things right though. Which are maybe unique – I don't know why – but they're certainly things you can copy if you want to get noticed:

    1. I work … HARD … When I work. I often talk about how I NEVER work 8 hour days, I take my weekends off, I enjoy my afternoons at home with my son, and I don't work if I don't feel like working. That's all 100% TRUE. But when I work, I work hard to deliver the best possible sales copy and results for my clients. Turning AMBITION into ACTION is key to getting noticed, and being successful.
    2. I'm always learning. In addition to reading books, going through AWAI programs, and gathering knowledge from all sorts of resources … I'm always asking clients how I can be more successful WITH them. Then I LISTEN. And APPLY what I learn. Not only with that client, but with all my clients. Plus I do my own little marketing and self-publishing projects to learn even more (there's no better in-the-trenches learning than when your own moolah is on the line). Keep learning and you're setting yourself up to be a leader.
    3. I set deadlines with my clients … Then KEEP them. I often talk to Rebecca about this. It seems a lot of copywriters are so excited to get new work that they over book themselves and then can't keep their deadlines. That is not professional – and even if you write good copy, missing deadlines could exclude you from working with clients again – and certainly exclude you from being thought highly enough of to win awards like the $10k Challenge. Sometimes turning down a project because you're all booked up gains you big points.
    4. I stay in touch … With IDEAS. I talk about this in my articles a lot. Being an idea person wins you major points. Frankly, Katie and Rebecca turn down most of my big ideas (with good reason, in most cases – though I like to disagree!). So sometimes it's hard to keep coming back with more. Yet I do, one after the other. And invariably they bite on one, and we get to share in a winner. But even the process of always bringing another big idea keeps me on top of their mind for all sorts of opportunities.
    5. I try to be easy to work with. I had yet another client compliment me the other day about how good I am to work with. This won me major points, and if my copy that's being tested now works halfway decently … I'll have another project. Even mediocre copywriters can do this part well and make it quite a ways in this industry – and being good to work with will take you even further if you write good or great copy.

    I've heard it said often that if you want to be a winner, that the surest path there is to copy what other winners do. Well I guess you take the $10k Challenge as validation that I'm doing a few things right. This list above includes what I think are the most important things I'm doing right (and what clients tell me distinguish me from other copywriters). If you want to be next year's $10k Challenge winner, the list above should put you on the right path.

    One more thing …

    What was my biggest takeaway from Bootcamp this year?

    Get involved, make connections, do everything in your power to do amazing work, and make it happen. Bootcamp provides a unique and unparalleled opportunity to do this among copywriters, clients, and others in the direct response industry. Last year it made my copywriting career happen. This year I matched my previous years' pay from my full-time job in my first year freelance … In the next year I believe I'll at least double my income as a direct result of being at Bootcamp. I hope to see you next year.

  • REMINDER:  Today is the last day you can reserve your spot to attend the 2011 FastTrack to Success Copywriting and Bootcamp and save $500.  

    Reserve your spot here!