Surviving The Copywriting Grill

This time I’m sharing some copywriting questions and answers,  extracted from my linked group “Copywriters International”, where I answered some questions.

How Much Should I charge?

Most folks think that rates are “a closely guarded secret.” There’s many ways to obtain that data. The easiest way (at least in the U.S.) is to go to your local public reference librarian, and ask for Writer’s Digest. Look for the section “How Much Should I Charge,” where they break it down by “Per Project” and “Per Hour,” along with “Low”, “Average”, and “High”.

Yet it boils down to a simple equation.  How much do you make per hour * the number of hours it will take for completion = Total charge or cost.  Just make sure it’s reasonable, within statistical parameters.

Can I make the money AWAI courses promise?

Not everyone achieves AWAI monetary promises. The financial marketing copywriter I know – who has been in the business for 7 years – never cracked the six-figure mark (but he came within $5K of doing so).

I think it’s a combination of Carnegie Hall philosophy (I.E. – practice, practice, practice), aggressive marketing (I.E. – Direct Response application), and applying sound business practices (I.E. – Stuff you can get aid from SCORE and the Small Business Development Center, in the U.S.).

1. Small Business Development Center Network –

2. S.C.O.R.E. –

Do some make the big money?

You can get $1 million plus per year letter club – if you’re good – and join the “Good Ole Boys” direct response, royalties network. Clayton Makepeace has done it (after years of work as a six-figure copywriter). Some of Clayton’s in-house Ex-trainees have done it. Ben Hart has done it – so have others. You can see an interesting discussion how Jeff Walker, an Internet Marketing (Product Launch Formula) person did it, in a Clayton Makepeace interview at

Will AWAI Teach Me How To Run My Business?

AWAI is probably the best know freelance copywriting program.  This is mostly due to Michael Masterson – given his diverse talents as marketer, entrepreneur, and copywriter – spreading the word.  They do paint a rosy picture, but neglect to emphasize that it’s a home-based business.

There are a few excellent books emphasizing that aspect, available on the market:
1.  How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business by Lucy V. Parker.
2. Start and Run a Copywriting Business by Steve Slaunwhite.
3. Six-Figure Freelancing and Ready, Aim, Specialize by Kelly James-Enger.
4.  The Well-Fed Writer and Well-Fed Writer (Back for Seconds) by Peter Bowerman.

While there are common core elements among the authors mentioned, each has their own unique perspective, along with their own journeys (and those of other individuals) to success. If nothing else, the personal success stories are inspiring (same is true with Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie). You can dig up the book descriptions, along with reader reviews, at

Did You Take Any Copywriting Courses?

I did go though the Accelerated, Masters, and B2B course of AWAI.  I have no regrets.  While I do complain of Michael’s accelerated course – talking too much time building up a picture – I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed obtaining an old copy of “Advertising Magic” by Brian Keith Voiles, spending several months as a member of Ben Hart’s inner circle, and reading the daily E-zines of Clayton Makepeace Total Package.

The recommendation of Brian Keith Voiles, Michael Masterson, John Carlton, and Maria Veloso to copy great ads by hand, is ingenious.  I don’t know why it works – I have theories – but it works, nonetheless.  You can use the AWAI Hall of Fame book, and Ben Hart’s 100 Great Sales Letters, as starting points. I think that copywriting the great ads is akin to the Zen approach to enlightenment. At first we have the parrot function, where we just go through the motions. Next comes the insight function. Brian Keith Voiles mentions he understands why the copywriter is doing “what they are doing.” Finally we have “copywriting enlightenment,” where we watch the copy flow (akin to Satori).

I don’t regret anything I do, if I learn from it, as I believe we are all perpetual students, in the drama of life.  Yet education comes in many forms.  Brian Keith and Dan Kennedy are only high school graduates, Clayton Makepeace never graduated from High School, and Ben Hart feels that his college degree was a hindrance to learning direct marketing.

Is Psychology/Alternative Medicine a Good Copywriting Specialty?

There are some self-help (psych) books that stand the test of time. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, along with “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, come to mind.

Alternative health systems like Ayurveda, T.C.M., Unani, Tibetan, and homeopathic, have been around for centuries. They’re not going away anytime soon. And there are an equal number of healing systems, centered on a spiritual direction

The difference is that Western medicine takes a more mechanical (I.E – Newton) view of medicine, while other systems take a more “vitalism” viewpoint (…). Interesting stuff! Big market!

What qualifies you to speak on copywriting for alternative health and psychology?

I did major in Math, in conjunction with physics courses, as an undergraduate.

I have a masters degree in psychology, and spent 5 years in volunteer activities, under the oversight of the DuPage County Mental Health Department.

Both degrees are accredited by one of the six US regional accreditation bodies, which in turn is accredited by the United States Department of Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

While I can’t legally practice it, I have a solid foundation in homeopathic medicine, after 2 decades of study.

Does training help? Does certifications help? Yes! There was a case where a person worked at an ad agency, and they had a major welding company account. The person then trained himself as a welder and became certified. Having both a background in copywriting and welding was a major asset for that account.

In the US, you can take courses cheaply at the local, in-district junior colleges.

Yet someone on this forum entered health care copywriting, without any background.  Explain!

The proper answer in marketing is “it depends”.  This person’s  an example of someone who did it, without any health care background.  The example of the ad agency copywriter, who utilized welding training and certification, is another.  It’s kind of like asking the question, “is agency experience necessary to be a copywriter?”  One can find a person like Peter Bowerman, who enters the field without any agency or writing experience, and becomes self-sufficient in 3 months or so.

The book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill is excellent.  Someone in the book was determined to work for Thomas Edison. They were also determined to sell the phonograph, even though it was a new invention, with no market. They really lacked the qualifications for both goals, yet succeeded, and became wealthy in the process. I wish I could remember the guy’s name.

I remember a reporter once asked Thomas about the 10,000 or so failures, in making the light bulb. He retorted that, “he didn’t fail 10,000 times. He discovered 10,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb.” Perspective wins every time!

Randy Kemp


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