I’ve always been impatient. Whether it was being in a hurry to get through college (still took me 4½ years), wanting to buy my first house, or rushing through the initial stages of my copywriting career, I’ve never liked spending too much time in “second gear.” Much more fun to shift through quickly and get to the faster speeds, right? When it comes to copywriting, that can be a problem. I sped through second gear, and I paid the price later. You may have done the same. Let me explain. I see five steps, or “gears” in my car analogy, when it comes to building a copywriting business:
- Figure out what you do that people will pay you for
- Get good at that one thing
- Craft a strong message to articulate what you do
- Develop a client acquisition system
- Write faster and better to maximize your time
Let’s just talk about the first two steps today:
Figure out one thing you do well that people will pay you for
This step can take a while, and most people don’t speed through it because you really can’t offer your services until you figure it out. You can’t go from a dead stop to second gear without killing the engine. Hard to do it in copywriting, too.
So, spend some time figuring out what you’re good at and what you enjoy, then …
Get good at that one thing
This second step is the foundation. You can, and should, go after as much client work in your core competency. But just because clients are paying you doesn’t mean you’ve mastered copywriting.
See, when people start hiring you, you think you’re in like Flynn. In my case, people hired me to write web pages, landing pages, and email autoresponder series.
Nothing wrong with that, and I got a lot of steady web copy work, in addition to writing newsletters and a lot of editorial-type content.
The problem? I skipped over mastering one key skill
I confess that I never truly mastered the art of writing long-form sales letters.
Sure, I’d get a gig once in a while doing one, and I’d do a pretty good job. But since I didn’t nail them and wasn’t super-confident, I didn’t go after the big dogs. You know, the ones that pay $10-20,000 per letter, plus royalties.
My suggestion? Whatever your “one thing” is, get really good at writing sales letters. It’s the core foundation skill, and once you can write a strong sales letter, you can easily transfer those skills to other areas.
The opposite, however, is not as easy.
Take your time in second gear. Learn how to write sales letters. Study the process, the masters, the classic controls. If you don’t have any clients, write practice letters or submit specs.
Somehow, some way, learn this one key copywriting skill. Even if you don’t end up specializing in long copy, you’ll make your mark sooner and you won’t have to circle back around like I did recently to re-learn it.
Now that I have, what’s the next step? Mastery.
And that’s a topic for a whole other blog post. For now, I’m curious. Which gear are you in right now? Which step have you found the most challenging so far? Leave me a quick note here.