Do you want to become a copywriter, but you’re not ready to get a marketing job?
I think a lot of people find themselves in a situation like this. For family reasons, or whatever. You want to get started in direct response, but you’re not in a space where changing jobs is easy.
That’s the topic of today’s question…
It’s Mailbox Monday, my weekly article where I answer your questions. If you have a question about copywriting, marketing, internet business building, or other relevant topics, submit it here to be answered in an upcoming issue.
Here’s today’s question…
I was struck by something you mentioned in your Copywriter’s Guide to Getting Paid where you talked about the steps aspiring copywriters should take to become successful. One of those steps was to work full time in a marketing role.
Unfortunately, for family and personal reasons, I’m not in a position right now where I’m able to switch jobs. I have, however, spent the last 14 years working as a communication professional within college athletics, writing press releases managing web content and social media platforms. I’ve also just begun the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.
I have extensive writing experience through my current career and am learning about the Direct Response business (and its writing prose) through AWAI, as well as reading your daily emails. In your opinion, can someone without a marketing background step into this line of work and find success?
Thank you as always for your expertise.
You already have experience, embrace it and shape it…
This is the first thing I need to emphasize. When you talk about having communications experience, especially what you list in your question, you have experience.
It may not be perfect experience. It may not be great experience, even. But it is experience.
And frankly, your experience is not very far off from a lot of the experience I was getting at my full-time marketing job, mentioned in my book.
You also have an opportunity, if you are choosing to keep this job.
Your opportunity is to embrace that you are doing work that can be influenced by direct response principles, even if you are not explicitly selling things in what you write.
You can think about your audience, the stories you need to tell, and any potential action you would want them to take as a result of your communications. And make more conscious and results-oriented decisions in how you structure your communications. Creatively measuring response where possible.
Most of the work I did in my full-time job was not direct response. But it was still good experience, because I was always thinking about how I could build towards where I wanted to be.
All of this stated…
Getting a job is a path, not the path…
There is not one way to get ahead in direct response.
In fact, there are probably as many paths as there are people who have ever taken this on as a career.
I don’t know that I ever said the word should when it came to getting a job. And if I said should, it would’ve been better if I rephrased it. I recommend it as one path, and a pretty good path. But it is not your only option.
To understand your other options, it is very useful to think about the value you would get out of getting a job, and where else you might get that value.
So, as I mentioned, one value that you are already getting out of your current job is a lot of communications and writing experience.
Another value that you can get out of getting a marketing job, is being able to put offers in the marketplace and see how they do.
Another value that you can get is the experience of buying media or traffic, and having to make that work financially.
Another value that you can get is working with people who are experienced in direct response.
Another value that you can get is the experience of being in an entrepreneurial business, which most direct response companies are — and I’m certain your college athletics department is not.
The question is, how can you get that same experience through other channels?
Here’s one option…
Freelance your way toward where you want to go…
Within about 18 months of getting my full-time marketing job, I started doing freelance work on the side. If you are serious about getting started in direct response, I would recommend you do the same.
If you’re going to do this, let your clients know this is a side gig. You don’t want them assuming they have you full-time, or even during the workday, when you have responsibilities elsewhere.
But if you are pretty good at what you do, they won’t mind being flexible. Most copywriters don’t have to work typical 9-to-5 hours anyway.
So think about the kind of gigs you want to get, and approach clients with a clear offer to do projects that will lead you in that direction.
I actually did this from 2007 until 2010, when I launched my full-time freelance business.
And if I hadn’t done this, I likely wouldn’t have had nearly as many good clients the day I went out on my own.
If you are not able to switch jobs right now, you are probably not in a huge hurry to go full-time freelance either, so this is a great stepping stone for you.
But it’s not your only option…
Consider a sandbox side project…
I call this a sandbox side project, because it is a place for you to play.
Around the time I started doing freelance work, I also started selling a how-to video my dad had made on cutting foam wings for model airplanes.
He had been selling it on eBay, but the sales volume dropped, along with the prices. So I offered to set up a website and marketing to drive sales. I also priced it at about $30, when he had been selling them for $5 in recent auctions. With an agreement to split net revenue 50-50.
I built the website. I created email autoresponder campaigns. I set up the e-commerce. And I started buying Google ads.
And, it worked. We immediately multiplied sales, at the higher price.
Due to the market size, it would never be enough to turn into a full business. But it had other big benefits.
This was my first marketing project where I had 100% control. I could market it like I chose, living and dying by the results that I created. It was liberating. It let me test quite a few ideas that I couldn’t easily test anywhere else. And, get paid for my winning ideas.
It also had a strongly clarifying effect. Because I was spending my own money to drive sales, I had huge extra motivation to make things work.
And so I got good at testing. I got good at trying things, in limited ways, and rolling them out only once they proven themselves. I learned to manage it as an entrepreneurial venture.
We also made a decent amount of money. Not a fortune, by any measure. But pizza and hobby money, yes. For what was really a very small amount of time invested.
And I quickly developed marketing skills that still pay off today.
What can you sell on a limited basis that would allow you to develop your skills?
Do you have some hobby or skill that you could teach in a course form, and sell to practice your marketing skills? Do you know someone else who has something valuable to teach, that you could partner with? Or perhaps you have access to physical products that would be something you could sell and fulfill.
Your primary purpose in doing this is to learn marketing as a profit, so the big thing is finding something to sell that would allow you to do that. But beyond this, this could actually turn into a solid income source as well. Perhaps helping you want your copywriting business faster, or even turning into a business in itself.
Your biggest take away…
Really if you’re going to take away anything from this, it should be to consider just how many options you have.
You don’t have to choose my path, or anyone else’s path. Choose your own path. Look where you are, and where you want to be, and find a way to get from point A to point B.
The journey will be one of thousands of steps. Each one contributing in its own unique way to your ultimate goal of getting to your destination. You have to figure out what the next step is, and the next step is.
Use my book, and all sorts of other sources as inspiration.
Use the above as possible directions you can follow.
But ultimately will get where you are, and look at what next actions you can take to get one step closer toward your goal from where you are at today.
Try things, and don’t be afraid to fail. Because failure isn’t failure, unless it makes you give up. Failure becomes success, and in fact a path toward success, if it is a learning experience to help you do better next time.
So embrace experimenting, embrace trying things that may not work out, embrace learning through failed tests, and embrace creating your own path.
Do that, and breakthroughs come often and in large quantities.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
P.S. — Okay, after writing this, I do have to challenge one thing you said. You said you are not in a position to switch jobs. Is that something you tell yourself, or is that something that’s really true?
If someone were to come along tomorrow and offer you 50% more income plus benefits in a job that was more in line with where you want to go, and didn’t require you to move, would you take it? Probably.
You don’t have to switch jobs right away. But you could open up that possibility, and consider updating your resume, and starting to network for new opportunities. You never know what might show up. But it won’t show up if you operate under the assumption that you cannot switch jobs and shouldn’t even try.