Lookout below! I think it’s time for a little unvarnished truth…
It’s Mailbox Monday… Which means it’s time for me to open up the ol’ mailbox and see what kind of questions YOU have for me…
And remember — if you want to get your question answered here, all you have to do is send it in to [email protected].
BUT… I don’t know how many people are going to want to write in after today’s issue.
Sometimes the truth hurts.
I normally make small edits to the emails I post. Mostly for readability, but sometimes spelling and grammar reasons.
I’m NOT going to make those edits to the following email.
The only edit I made was to remove the name — leaving just a first initial to make in anonymous.
Leaving “warts and all,” I think, will illuminate and give important context to this question, that editing would cut out…
Hi I have not read yours or anything to do with copyrighting, in a months. I had found a ad on Craigslist for copywriters. I answered and submitted my copy. They told me they were not interested and did not feel my writing would ever be something which anyone would want. I was so depressed I just put all down. Now do not get me wrong, I would love to be a writer and you have a file where I keep all of your artcles.
I can not forget my dream thiugh.
Do you have any advise for me?
Where do I start?
I WILL give productive feedback here. Takeaway lessons that I believe will help you out.
I’m not going to hide behind them.
S… If this email is reflective of you as a writer, you have a long way to go before you’re living your dream…
It may not. I’ll concede that. A lot of folks don’t take emails seriously. Or other informal communication.
I think that’s a mistake.
I take ALL my writing seriously. I send text messages in complete sentences, with punctuation.
It’s rare that you’ll find my writing to be “off.” Hurried, sometimes. Containing honest mistakes that were missed, probably more often than I want to admit.
But I take 99.9% of my writing seriously. (Leaving that .1% because I’m sure I could find an exception if I looked.)
I really “learned” typing in internet chat rooms and Instant Messaging. These were the first places where shorthand like LOL really took off. I still struggle — a couple decades later — to get into all these abbreviations and acronyms.
I type in full sentences. I use grammar befitting my voice — and usually fairly accurate grammar. I correct misspellings when I find them.
I suppose that’s what makes me a writer. I’m pretty obsessive about getting my writing right.
That email does NOT show someone who is obsessive about getting their writing right.
At least six obvious mistakes in eight sentences… Including three in the first sentence… Including misspelling the name of your profession…
That does not bode well!
If you want to make a serious living as a writer, you have to be obsessively serious about the quality of your writing…
Now let me highlight a major exception here.
Gary Halbert (among others) used to say that he’d rather take a half-illiterate, grizzled old salesman who couldn’t write and turn him into a copywriter than take an Honor Roll English major and turn him into a copywriter.
Why? Because SELLING is the most important part of copywriting. And knowing what to say to sell is more important than being able to craft immaculate sentences.
That said, that half-illiterate, grizzled old salesman (or saleswoman!) is going to need an editor — and maybe a transcriptionist.
Because in the end, they’re going to need to put out writing that’s good enough that it doesn’t distract from the selling message.
That’s the biggest key that I see here — if your writing distracts from your message, you’re doing it wrong…
And that applies whether your writing is too good, from a literary perspective… Or too bad!
Great copywriting is ultimately invisible behind the message.
Clarity trumps all.
And if your writing is peppered with errors… Or with flowery prose or poetics… It’s NOT doing its job.
A client isn’t right to tell you that you’ll NEVER succeed… Although they may be doing you a favor, S…
You’d be blown away by how many hyper-successful people got that way simply to prove someone wrong…
In my freshman year in high school, I was quickly gaining a reputation as an under-achiever. I had potential, sure. But I was disengaged, and would sometimes let that slip through to my school work.
In English class, we had an assignment to write a story. We were supposed to turn it in in parts. A story outline. The opening. And then eventually the full story.
We would only be graded on the full story though, so I slacked. I didn’t do the outline. I never turned in the opening by itself.
Then the weekend before the entire story was due, I sat down and cranked out the whole thing.
It was really dang good. I wish I still had a copy.
But when my English teacher — Mrs. Dappen — read it, she thought it was “too good” for a high school freshman.
She’d caught wind of my reputation, and accused me of shortcutting the assignment by plagiarizing. Her best evidence was that it was “too good” and no freshman could use the word “amongst” properly… Flimsy evidence, at best.
But the rest of the evidence wasn’t in my favor, either. I didn’t do the outline. I never turned in the intro. I only ever turned in the one copy of my story. When my parents checked the file on our computer, they could only see the last-saved time — meaning there was only evidence of ONE edit to the story.
Mrs. Dappen wasn’t convinced I’d written the story. So I had to sit next to her, after school, and re-do the assignment… However many after-school sessions it would take.
I did it — and the second story wasn’t as good as the first, but the assignment was done.
The injustice of her doubt stuck with me though…
The second story I turned in to Mrs. Dappen was peppered with “amongst.” As was every assignment I did for her after that. As was pretty much every writing assignment I did for the rest of my high school years.
While I was a good writer before that, her rejection changed me.
It lit a fire in my belly, and I probably wouldn’t be a professional writer today if I hadn’t turned that fire into a “prove her wrong” mentality.
Rejection will almost always change your behavior — but you get to choose how…
You can let rejection knock you down, or you can fight back.
You can use it as an excuse to tell yourself that you were never cut out for this, or you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and fight (and write!) harder next time.
YOU WILL NOT BE SUCCESSFUL IN THIS OR ANY OTHER FIELD IF YOU FAIL TO GET BACK UP WHEN YOU’RE KNOCKED DOWN!
Everybody gets rejected. Everybody gets knocked down. Everybody experiences setbacks.
The difference between people who are failures and people who are huge successes is that huge successes get back up, learn from any mistakes, and do better next time.
With that… My three big recommendations…
- Be honest with yourself about your writing. Where can you improve it? Good writing is good thinking — how can you make sure your thinking is at the level it needs to be to write what you want to write? Reading all the classics of advertising is a good start. Also, I don’t know how your “finished” writing differs from your email writing, but you may benefit from having someone who can review your grammar/spelling/punctuation before sending it to clients. These don’t need to be perfect, but they also shouldn’t be distracting. Having someone who is not you look at these things is the easiest way to catch things that are easily fixed.
- Don’t get clients. Find something to sell yourself. Then, you can go direct to the market, without worrying about client judgment. This is no guarantee of success, but it could be a way to get past annoying client hurdles. Your style may not work for clients who hire copywriters, but it may work for YOU talking directly to customers. (And you’ll quickly get feedback when it doesn’t work and be forced to improve it.)
- Accept that you’re not a fit for some clients, and you are for others. Every no you get from a client who you’re not a fit for could be putting you one step closer to finding clients you ARE a fit for. But you’ll never know if you quit or give up.
There’s a ton of opportunity for writers. And not everyone has to be a great writer. But you should make sure you’re a good writer and you’re putting your best foot forward if you want to get paid for it.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
PS — Want my honest answer to your question (about business, marketing, sales, copywriting, life, whatever)? Just email it to [email protected] and I’ll answer it in an upcoming Mailbox Monday…