A reader asked me:

I’m aspiring to be a copywriter (55-years-old) but I’ve reached a point of indecision. How did you get your first client? How did you set your prices? How did you know how long it would take? If you could offer this old goat some advice, it’d sure be nice!

I’ll share some things that worked for me and mention things I wish I had done sooner. Here goes:

1. Network with other copywriters. When I started out, Michel Fortin’s now defunct Copywriters Board was in full swing and I made invaluable connections there and also received a copywriting education from all the posts. I found my first clients this way.

Unfortunately this board no longer exists but you will find copywriters at The Copywriting Board as well as at the Warrior Forum.

Find other copywriters on Twitter and connect with them.

Read copywriting blogs and leave comments.

As you become friends with other copywriters they will send clients your way (always offer a 10% referral fee to them) and you’ll learn a lot about copywriting from them too. By studying their websites, and lurking in forums, you’ll also get a feel for how much to charge for your services.

Do be careful though as not everyone who toots their horn as a copywriter (especially those that brag about their income) is all they are cracked up to be.

2. Start a blog. Today. I don’t care if you only know three things about copywriting. That’s probably three more things than the local business down the street knows. So start a blog today.

I’ve been blogging now for a year and a half or so but wish I had started blogging from day one. I started blogging daily in February and wish I had started doing that from day one. Many of my clients have found my through my blog.

Set a weekly goal for posts that’s uncomfortable for you. Daily posts are good if you can manage that. The more you blog, the more you’ll be forced to learn about copywriting and the more ideas you’ll get for info products.

Which leads to….

3. Create info products. As you blog you’ll inevitably come up with ideas for info products to sell to clients and other copywriters.

The more info products you sell the less you’ll have to rely on client work. Working for clients is great but it’s draining sometimes. There’s nothing like writing for yourself.

4. Show up. Remember that the new frontier is local. As important as it is to be involved online, start making local connections as well.

Show up at a local meetup meeting for entrepreneurs, marketers or bloggers. Or start your own meetup group.

Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings .

Offer to teach a mini course on internet marketing at a local community college.

When you show up somewhere and have to talk out loud, face to face, about marketing, you’ll learn more and get more clients as well.

So don’t overlook the local frontier. One of my goals for 2010 is to have more of a local focus to my business and I’m excited at the opportunities.

5. Get a mentor. I was fortunate enough to find a mentor early on who let me learn from him for free in exchange for doing some grunt work for him. This eventually led to referrals from him as well.

Most mentors will charge a fee so it’s not an option for a lot of copywriters starting out. But don’t hesitate to try to find an arrangement like I had. Approach a copywriter you like and ask. It can’t hurt, especially if you make them see what’s in it for them.

6. Don’t seek approval. If there’s one downside to seeking a mentor it’s that you could fall into the approval trap.

Approval is a form of judgment just like criticism is (even though it doesn’t feel like it) and is just as harmful.

No one cares about your business like you do, so don’t trust anyone’s instincts about your business more than you trust your own.

Approval will also make you complacent and lure you into not trying something new and different.

You shouldn’t hesitate to ask for advice. But make sure you’re really asking for advice instead of approval.

6. Lay off the copywriting and marketing books. As much as I like copywriting books (some of my favorites are in the sidebar), don’t read too many of them at once.

Read novels, blogs, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line newsletters, popular magazines, any non-fiction that appeals to you, etc.

The more well read you are, the better your copywriting will be.

Oh, and be sure to read Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
book. This will help you develop the right mindset for being an entrepreneur and give you the incentive you need to fight indecision and resistance.

7. Start another blog. Yeah, I know… ANOTHER blog? It’s very therapeutic to have an online space where you write about what interests you without having to worry about promoting yourself or offending anyone. I do this at my Kitchen Table Wisdom blog.`

Or if that doesn’t appeal to you, start a garden or immerse yourself in some other hobby. I guarantee that many of your best copywriting ideas will pop into your head as you engaged in activities like this or blogging about something that has nothing to do with copywriting.

Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, once said: “Cartooning will destroy you:  it will break your heart.” Following #7 will help keep copywriting from destroying you and breaking your heart.

I hope these 7 suggestions are helpful. Let me know if you have anything to add or have any questions.

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