Why the Payoff in Copywriting is Bigger Than You Think
(Plus 4 Tips to Get Started)

Writer sitting on a couch typing on a laptop

Have you ever pictured yourself swimming through piles of money?

Like Scrooge McDuck, the Scottish curmudgeon with trillions, diving into his mountains of hard metal coins. In multiple episodes of the cartoon DuckTales, he swims through the coins as if they were liquid.

He makes it look fun — both having the money and swimming through it.

But if either you or I had mountains of money, we'd probably do no such thing.

Because the joy isn't really in having all that money, is it?

Really, it's all about what you do with it.

In the copywriting world, this is one of the secrets to lasting and fulfilling success.

Because yes, you can make a great living as a copywriter, earn a ton of money, and have loads of freedom to schedule and plan your day as you see fit …

But if there's no greater payoff beyond the money, what's the point of it all?

This is often where we talk about your "Why," or the motivation to pursue a writing career beyond the money.

So today, I want to show you what that looks like by giving you a glimpse into the lives of some of my friends:

Keith and the Blue Snail

AWAI Member Keith Trimels writing on his sailboat
AWAI Member Keith Trimels
writing on his sailboat

Keith Trimels had a dream to live and work on a sailboat. But the requirements of his day job as an engineer put it out of reach.

Enter copywriting and Keith's climb to earning six-figures annually.

He used his copywriting money to buy his dream boat, the Blue Snail. It's a custom model sailboat with distinct spaces for work and sleep that he lives on part-time from the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. (Picture calm waters, pristine beaches, and premier diving sites. It's got it all!)

Rachael Gray and the Peace of the Heart Spring

After spending a few years working as a copywriter with major newsletter publishers, Rachael transported herself and her income to a 50-acre permaculture farm with a gurgling heart spring in North Carolina. She switched to writing part-time and bought a flat on the farm.

Rachael then delved into a six-figure renovation, funded by her copywriting fees, to gut and build back from the studs a special writing studio complete with a bay window that looks out onto the garden. Now she says it's where she does her best work.

Henry Bingaman Hobnobbing with Celebrities

Henry Bingaman started out as a flight attendant — which may sound exciting, except for the low pay, grueling schedule, and sterile hotel rooms.

But a timely switch to copywriting, combined with Henry's commitment to writing high-performing controls (i.e., sales letters that perform higher than any others selling the same thing), meant Henry was making a million dollars in copywriting by age 33.

These days he gives a lot to charity, donating as much as $20,000 annually to the nonprofit Big Slick run by actor Paul Rudd and others, with proceeds going to Children's Mercy Medical Center in Kansas City and the goal of eradicating pediatric cancer.

There are lots of other stories of real-life joy through copywriting earnings …

Like Anne Hill, who took a dream trip to France with her husband thanks to copywriting.

Or Jim Abbey, who gets to hike in the middle of the week and volunteer in his spiritual community thanks to copywriting.

For David Pederson, it's regular trips to Disneyland thanks to copywriting.

Of course, while the perks and deeper benefits are an excellent payoff, the money you can make as a copywriter is still very important. Many AWAI success stories have their roots in a time of economic upheaval or surprising life twist …

  • When Steve Coombes got the news he'd been laid off — in the midst of 2009's Great Recession — he didn't have to worry about how to feed his family of nine, thanks to the copywriting skills he'd been building.
  • As the markets seized up, Mike Connolly's real estate business took an unexpected turn south, wiping him out completely. He was able to use persuasive writing as his personal "Recession Recovery Plan" and rebuild his net worth.
  • Laid off and worried about losing her home, Susanna Perkins turned to freelance writing. She was able to build a strong list of clients and even "retire" abroad with her husband as a result.
  • Freshly divorced and financially fragile, Nicole Piper was devastated to lose her job. She poured everything into launching a writing career … and within six months, she was fully booked up and on the path to financial security.
  • When Steve's Maurer's employer — a food processing plant — cut his hours by nearly 20%, he found that he was able to more than make up the difference with writing. He recently made the leap to full-time freelancing!

(Want to read even more inspirational stories from real writers? Dive into AWAI's full list of case studies.)

For me, copywriting took me away from a cubicle cage and a long commute … to the luxury of regular lunches out with friends … long walks during the day … and the flexibility to adjust my schedule for whenever my kids need me. A high income through part-time copywriting makes that possible.

I encourage you to take some time and think about what your own "Why" might be, and how the income from copywriting can fuel that.

Then when you're ready, here are my top recommendations for getting started as a high-earning copywriter:

  1. Adopt the attitude of a problem-solver. Copywriting is less about the transaction (writing for pay) and more about helping business owners reach their goals. So if you can present yourself as an ally in fixing their pain points, you immediately elevate the perceived value of what you bring to the table.
  2. Feel the fear and do it anyway. There's a lot of self-doubt that comes alongside pursuing a creative career, and many of us wallow in it by worrying we don't know enough, aren't ready, or aren't good enough. But no matter how long you've been writing or how many hundreds of hours you've worked professionally in this career, there will always be doubt because you're human (and this is true even for the biggest, most successful names in copywriting!). So, embrace that fear and move forward.
  3. Take advantage of live events whenever you can. As Keith Trimels puts it, "There's no substitute for face-to-face conversations. You get to see the other 85% of communication that occurs beyond words and tone."
  4. Pick a path. One of the greatest things about a copywriting career is that you can pursue any niche and any specialty … which gives you thousands of options! Which becomes overwhelming. Which leads to stagnation. Instead, pick a single path to get you started. There's no wrong path, and you can always jump to something else later. But you'll never get started if you never have a direction to move in.

Finally, remember this: Whatever you dream of, you can achieve, and it's possible through copywriting. Perseverance and time and study all play a role, but if you commit to that vision … nothing can stop you.

If you've been looking for a way out of your current career, into something more fulfilling …

Or you simply want to step up your income in a big way …

You can discover more about writing highly paid, highly sought-after sales letters right here.

Seven-Figure Copywriting Program

The Accelerated Program for Seven-Figure Copywriting

Turn the ability to write a simple sales letter into a successful freelance career. Find out how you can make a seven-figure income working from anywhere you want as a direct-response copywriter. Learn More »

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Published: April 25, 2024

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