First steps on planning to become a professional copywriter

By Quentin Pain

July 9, 2022


If you’re stuck, it’s because you lack a plan (or you lack a way to get your plan done, maybe you procrastinate for example). If so, I hope the following will help.

What’s your agenda today? Or if you have a job you intend to ditch at some point to become a full time copywriter, what’s your agenda during your non-job hours?

If you have no agenda, you are being driven (consuming) rather than driving (creating). Most of us are like that. We have no idea where we’re going.

But there’s also a deeper problem. It’s not just the consumers who are being driven. Many of the drivers have no idea where they’re going either. They too are being driven even though they believe they’re doing the driving.

Whatever the case, it all comes down to the hardest question: What do you want?

For a lucky few, they have always known what they want, and they mostly tend to get it.

If you’ve read the Science of Copywriting Rule Book – First Steps, you’ll know that a life without a philosophy is no life at all. Learning is philosophy and philosophy is learning.

But it’s only when we think we know it all that we really start to learn. And that starts with a plan that has one thing driving it – the answer to the question: what is it we really want?

Start by writing down everything you want no matter how trivial it may seem (you know, “big house, big car, big yacht, millions in the bank, fit and healthy, loving family, pogo stick…).

Start writing your list before reading on (write at least 10 items – set a timer for 5 minutes and write as fast as you can, write down everything that comes to mind).

Do it now. Then read on.

How long was your list of wants? Anything less than 10 items and you need to think more deeply. Place them under the following headings:

1. Physical wants (house, car, tiddlywinks board)

2. Mental wants (calm, focussed, happy)

3. Spiritual wants (if you’re spiritual in nature)

4. Business wants (my first client, office, better computer)

Look at your business wants list. It should contain a list of things you need to do to grow your business (a want is one thing, a need is often another). Add more to your list now if you want (it’s worth it).

As you look through that list, decide what can be done by you, and what can be done by someone else (if you have no money, then think about how you might barter your skills with someone who can do it, otherwise, you’re on your own).

Beside each business want, write down the resources required to complete it. The most common are time and money, for example, if you need a portfolio, decide how many articles to write, where you’re going to host them, and the cost.

Now prioritise your business wants by writing down how important each one is on a scale from 1 to 10+ (give each one a unique number unless you can afford to hire someone to help you do more than one thing at the same time).

Do this for your other categories too, but the real idea behind this is prioritising your business needs in such a way that it gives you everything else you want (if being in business is your sole means of income, then it’s going to drive this stage of your life).

Get this done before reading on.

By now you know what you want, and you know what you want first. You are creating a plan and sticking its components into easy to understand buckets.

Whilst reading the above, it’s likely one question has been going through your subconscious: Why should I waste my time doing this without knowing if I will get any results at all?

Before any of us do anything, we need to know why. It’s our body’s way of evaluating our energy and deciding whether it’s worth the effort.

For many of us, the only reason we do something is because we’d get into more trouble if we didn’t do it (think parents, school, boss, police, or any other authority we’ve been brought up to believe has power over us).

The other reason we do things is for pleasure. And usually that’s the pleasure of feeling free to do what we want (or rather, the hope of gaining that freedom).

Figuring out a why is always hard. This is because we get stuck on believing we need a purpose.

So if that’s you, make your purpose freedom, and make it clear in your mind there’s a choice: Jail or Freedom. Now decide which you want.

That will help you with mindset (setting your mind to do something).

Next, you need to add deadlines to your plan. It’s no good adding loads of them though if you can’t make the first one stick, so pick your top business want (that you know is doable), and set a deadline for it.

Without a plan or deadline you can still do things (that’s how most of us operate), the problem is, you’ll have no idea if you’re done or if you could (or should) have done more.

Planning takes effort, but without figuring out the benefits, our survival mechanism will refuse to put in the necessary work. This results in self-sabotage.

Nature has a neat way of overcoming this though, and us humans exploit it more than any other animal. It’s called adapting the environment (the ability to make the environment fit us instead of the other way round).

We are able to trick ourselves into action. This “trick” is our ability to create an inner vision. If we can see something in our mind’s eye that we decide would be beneficial, we can figure out a way to get it (or at least try).

That’s the point at which most of us start. We get a vision and we go for it. No plan.

Think about this from your prospective clients’ point of view. They too will most likely have a vision. They may even have a plan.

But how much extra power will you have if a) they don’t have a plan, and b) you do? Does your plan include a plan for them? If so, you’ve just multiplied your value.

Doing this also starts another vital process in your world-beating arsenal. You’ll start to form new habits (new habits many of your prospects or competitors don’t have).

But for all that wonderful talk, you still NEED to do it, and as must be obvious right now, it’s not easy to DO it even when we know what to do (which we do: make and prioritise a list, then set a deadline for the first task).

So the ‘why’ for this first deadline matters more than any other. Remember your ‘jail or freedom’ choice from above.

That’s where your mindset has to be. Find the most important task, figure out how long you need. Set a deadline, and do it.

If you need some more guidance, read the International Copywriters Association 6 part getting started series.

Quentin Pain

About the author

It took me many decades before I realised the power of writing, but once I did, I understood the real value of words. My mission is to pass on all the skills I've learnt to those seeking advancement in the copywriting industry and beyond through the ICA.

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