posted under Advice for Aspiring Copywriters
I received the following email from a new freelance copywriter. I thought I’d share her question and my response to help others embarking on their freelance writing career.
— Susan Greene
You have no idea who I am. So I’ll tell you. My name is Rhonda and through many moments of rejection, stupidity, and clarity I’ve taken the plunge to become a full-time freelance writer.
I’ve read a lot of blogs and posts about copywriting. Watched videos. Listened to podcasts. The usual. Frankly, they suck.
Then I came across your site. You’re the real deal. You write like a real human being. No cryptic, archaic language. Just simple, solid advice. From a professional. Which is good. Usually the cool kids grow up to be losers. So thank you for remaining authentic.
I’m a fan. I’ll be coming back to read your articles. Because you’re a real writer. You communicate. I understand you. You give me one of those “Maybe I can actually do this for a living!” feelings. I thank you for it.
Before I go, when you started out how did you deal with feelings of self-doubt? How did you motivate yourself? Come on, don’t be shy. You weren’t always the Wonder Woman of Copywriting Planet.
Again, thanks for the inspiration.
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It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to tell me you found my articles inspiring. I think you were overly generous with your compliments but I loved every word nonetheless.
You asked me about self-doubt when starting out as a copywriter, but the truth is I still experience self-doubt, and I’ve been at this for well over 20 years!
I used to think I was the only one but I had a conversation once with another writer, someone who has published books and regularly writes for world-class magazines like Time and The Economist.
She told me she goes into a tailspin with every new writing assignment, even now after 30+ years as a professional. She is certain she can’t do it. She doesn’t know where to begin. She’s sure everything she writes will be garbage. When she told me this, all I could think was, “Me too!”
So what’s the difference between someone like me or my writer friend with our thoughts of self-doubt and some other aspiring copywriter? We say “yes” to the assignment, despite the self-doubt. We ignore the little voice in our head that says we can’t and then get to work proving we can.
We don’t wait to be inspired or think of excuses to get out of doing the assignment. We sit down and start writing, just as we have 1,000 times before.
We keep working at it until the copy is complete. We soldier on. We don’t give ourselves a pass until we’re satisfied with what we’ve created. The assignment is non-negotiable. We get the job done as though there is no other other option. And with every accomplishment, every achievement no matter how small, we build our self-confidence.
The people who are best at their craft make it look effortless. Consider the figure skater who is so graceful and precise in her moves. Or the marathon runner who does the 26 miles as though it’s a walk in the park. Or even the great pianist who can play anything you ask.
They make it look so easy. But is it really easy? Of course not. It’s hours of painstaking work to get to that point. Yes, they may have some God-given talent or genetic predisposition, but that’s not enough. They still have to work at their craft.
I’ve had people tell me “Writing comes so easily to you.” How I wish that were true! Sure, I’m better and faster at it than most people but only because it’s a skill I’ve practiced daily for many years. I wasn’t born this way. I work at it. And I am still learning EVERY DAY!
You have to do the work. That’s how you improve. And that’s how you gain confidence. I tell my children this and am gratified when I see them apply the concept. My daughter is on her high school lacrosse team. She is the best on her team by far. People say she’s lucky to be so athletically gifted. But that’s not giving her the credit she’s due.
Even though the team only has 2 one-hour practices per week, Katie (#19 above) spends 2-3 hours practicing lacrosse every day. On the weekends, when there are no school practices, she gets her dad to play with her or she hits the ball against the side of our house over and over, trying different shots and techniques.
Katie puts in the hours every day and she therefore gets results. If she’s twice as good as the average girl on her team, it’s because she’s probably putting in twice or three times as many hours practicing.
So, if I had to give you advice about becoming a writer, it comes down to one word: WRITE! The only way to get better and get past that self-doubt is to do the work.
Start with writing for yourself or family and friends. Get some experience. Build a portfolio. Then start hustling for jobs. The copywriters who are successful are not just good writers; they’re also good salespeople. You have to be able to market your services or you’ll never get clients.
Rhonda, I hope I’ve been helpful. I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors. And I want you to know I will be saving your email to me. The next time I feel overcome by self-doubt, I am going to read your comments about my writing. And then I’ll get to work!
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Need help writing a website, brochure or other marketing piece? Contact Susan Greene, professional copywriter, today!