Success as a copywriter boils down to one thing

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Once you’ve honed your craft, sharpened your skills and hung out your shingle, you’re in business, right?  Not so fast… real success as a copywriter doesn’t hinge on being the ‘best’ writer in your field.  There are plenty of geniuses who are dirt poor.

If I’ve learned anything over the past twenty or more years as a ‘self-employed’ person, it’s this:  it’s not how good you are, it’s how many paying clients think you’re good.

Who cares if Aunt Milly and your significant other are a vocal fan club?  It’s gratifying, but it doesn’t pay the rent.  In fact, even if you’ve won awards and the aclaim of your peers, that also doesn’t pay the rent.  The only use that has is as bait to the right client.

As with any other business, success depends more on sales than anything else.

Selling yourself by selling your client’s products and services.  They make money, you make money.  It’s pretty simple.

So what does it take to sell yourself and to sell your client’s products and services?

Primarily, a lot of energy and an insatiable curiosity.   Being a copywriter who can sell requires a 25/7 dedication to finding the highest profit probabilities for your client.  Whether you’re on ‘your own time’ or the client’s, you have to have a virtual antenna trolling the environment around you, picking up on clues as to how to sell better, sell more, sell higher.

Only in looking for uncovered opportunities can you have the first elements of success: the vehicle and the road. The vehicle being the client’s product and the road being your strategy / market opportunity.

Being constantly on the alert, constantly processing, storing and filtering information is hard work.  Successful copywriting is not a ‘lazy’, sit on the beach and work half an hour a day occupation.  It’s not for the fainthearted either.

When you have a solid marketing strategy in mind and are convinced that this will make your client money, you then have the task of getting your client to see that same vision that’s inspired you.  That’s not always easy.  Many a great campaign has floundered because a client was afraid of a concept new to them.  The next task is to actually write the copy.

As any experienced copywriter knows, that’s not easy either and requires a thick skin and dogged persistance to plough through concept and draft adjustments.

Once the campaign is ready to go, it then requires that the client know what they’re doing in executing it.  A mailing that goes to a cold, mistargeted list won’t produce great returns even if it’s a potential winner.

When you have a client who is experienced and understands the process it makes life and good results a lot easier.

Most copywriters, however, don’t have such great clients.  Most copywriters are dickering around with ‘wannabe’ players who really want a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ performance and blame everyone else when it doesn’t happen.

So, how do you attract the right kind of clients?

Once again, it comes down to selling.  This time, it’s selling yourself.  In business you can’t afford to be modest or to wait for ‘word of mouth’ advertising to kick in.  You’ll find yourself homeless long before you find the perfect client that way.

Fortunately, with the internet, things are a lot easier than they were in the past.  If you’re prepared to put some effort into learning where and how to position yourself on the internet, you can build a good foundation to target your desired audience: people who understand the correlation between copywriting and profit.

Relentless promotion of your services requires a daily commitment to doing at least one or two self-marketing activities a day.  Whether it’s article marketing, participation in social sites, forums etc or video blogging.  The good news is that the internet allows active promotion at little or no cost.

Promoting yourself through speaking engagements, coaching and workshops is great when you’re cultivating the local market.  However I’ve found that with my global client base, the internet allows a far greater reach and better targeting using techniques adapted for this medium.

Once you’ve landed an enquiry, then the fun begins.  How do you convince them that you’re the one?  How do you make sure you get paid?  How do you estimate what to pay?

These are all very important issues if you want to be a successful (read profitable) copywriter, and will be dealt with in other articles here in the future.

Suffice it to say that success as a copywriter depends as much on your business savvy and consistency as it does on having a great client base.  In my experience, you can’t really have one without the other.

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