3 Key Lessons I Learned Going From Zero To $103,000 In 11 Months As A Writer (Part 1)

Sometime during the first week in April 2005 (and I really wish I knew the exact day…), I received a letter in the mail. 

The headline read… 

“Retire This Year and Still Make More than Most Doctors”

It was like a thunderbolt from heaven… or maybe it was an angel of mercy in the form of paper and ink… whatever it was, it was an answer to pray. 

Standing there in my hallway with the letter in my hand, I knew that I was about $200,000 in debt, with no income, no education, and not a whole lot of prospects. 

And, to make thing even more exciting, I had a wonderful wife and 6 children under the age of 7 to feed, shelter, protect and provide for. 

“Retire this year? And still make more than most doctors?” I thought, “Ok, sign me up!”

One of the first things I did was look at average income for a doctor. AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) reported that it was $141,000. 

Yep… definitely sign me up! I ran around the house jumping up and down and hugging everyone. “We’re finally going to be rich!!!” 

I went to work. 

I was well below zero and no formal writing training or serious experience. 

But, for some reason I believed that I could make it happen. 

It actually took me a little while to get started. My first serious marketing effort began in August 2005. 

By the end of April 2006 I added up all the money I’d made as a writer… 

$103,000. 

I was thrilled. 

It wasn’t $141,000… but it was WAY, WAY, WAY better than the $0 I was making just a year before. 

What’s more, it was about twice as much as anyone in my family had ever hauled in during one year. (Serious bragging right!

Even better I was able to pay back my father-in-law the $5,000 I borrowed from him to get started. (Serious marital peace and harmony!) 

That first year was challenging on many levels. But, I did learn some amazing things. Things I wish I’d know when I got started. 

If I had known this at the beginning, I would have been able to go much faster, make money sooner, and deal with way, way, way less stress. 

Here is the first of the three most profitable things I learned that first year… 

Lesson Number One: Quantity is Better than Quality… At First

In November 2005, I landed a project with a financial newsletter firm. They had seen a business opportunity promotion I’d done (my second promotion ever) and loved it. 

I got a $5,000 per month retain with them to write one promotion a month. 

Bham! Yeah! Whahoo! 

That was $60,000… before commissions… and I was going to make at least that much in commissions ‘cause my stuff rocked! 

They gave me a few samples. “Here, this is the best sales letter we got. Just make yours look like that.” 

I read it over and with my massive experience of quickly reading through the AWAI program and writing 2 promotions in my life (one of which bombed terribly), I thought, “Shucks, this control is lame-o. I can write a way better promo than this.” 

So, I ignored their advice and did my own really cool, amazing, creative thing. I sent it off to them with a smug grin. “Best promo… ever!”. 

And… 

They hated it. 

Every word of it. 

But, they were nice and let me try again. 

And again. 

And then again. 

And one more time just for kicks. 

Then they politely cancelled my contract and suggested I find work in… well… anything else besides writing financial newsletter promotions. 

I was devastated. I really, really needed that money. 

The whole experience threw me into a depressive tailspin. I circled and swirled and cried and moped and whined for about 6 weeks. 

Finally, Margie said to me, “Hey, why don’t you do something for me. Do some research and let me know how many technology companies are out there.”  (Tech was my new niche… I was soooo done with finance… never needed them anyway, thank you very much!) 

I did the research and discovered that there were over 100,000 tech companies in the US alone. 

Margie said, “Now, don’t you think you can get 2 or 3 or them to hire you if you just talk to enough of them?” 

I realized she was right. 

So, I pulled out of my tailspin and 10x’d my marketing efforts. Instead of calling and emailing 2 or 3 a day, I set a goal to contact 20 each day.  

I discovered that quantity was better than quality. 

By drastically increasing the number of companies I approached, a few things happened. 

First of all, I got really good at it. I was practicing a ton each day and you can’t help but get good at stuff you repeat a lot. 

Second, I was learning what I now call “The Dance”. 

The Dance is the intricate chemistry between you and your clients. It’s the intuitive understanding you develop of what they want and why and how to give it to them. 

You figure out that certain segments just don’t use writers… while other segments of the market use tons and tons of writers. 

The Dance is intense, valuable insider knowledge that you only get by being in the trenches, face-to-face and toe to toe with your prospective clients. 

Every serious writer has to learn The Dance… or they get no money. 

Finally, I discovered that by focusing on quantity not quality I stopped stressing out about if my marketing and my words and my writing was just perfect. Good enough was good enough.

I also stopped stressing about when people told me no. I mean… who gives a flying rat’s whisker if you have a “no” when you have 30 other potential “yesses”? 

During the first few months, I was really careful about who I contacted. 

I would stress out about every word I wrote and said. 

I researched my niche for weeks, stalked my one little potential contact for weeks online, and laid up at nights wondering when… if… they would ever return my phone call or answer my email. 

It was pure, utter, painful torture. 

And, totally unnecessary. 

I wasted 5 months of my life fretting over all that stuff. 

So, you can imagine how liberating it was when the switch finally flipped over to “quantity”… just get it your message, your email, your calls, your info packet out there as fast as you can. 

Interested people will raise their hands. 

Disinterested ones won’t. 

Who cares. 

If I had to do it all over again, here is what I would do right from day one… 

  1. Get Ready!

Assemble my critical marketing elements in 2-4 weeks… no more. 

These elements are: Your offer, your Information Packet, and your online presence stuff… website, social media, etc..

  1. Get a List!

Get a list of qualified prospects… around 300-600. This should cost you around $0.50 to $1.00 per name and that will include full name, job title, phone number, email, and LinkedIn information. 

  1. Get Started! 

Set a goal to contact them as fast as possible. 

I suggest 10-20 per day. 

(Note: There’s a rhythm to making your contacting efforts crazy effective. I’ll share it with you in the next article. It’s part of the second key thing I learned.) 

  1. Get Tough! 

Resolve right up front that you will track your results, make adjustments to your script and messages and offer as you learn The Dance…. 

But also resolve that you won’t count the cost. 

If you sit around thinking “I talked to 5 people and they all told me ‘no’… I’m doomed!”, then you will be doomed. 

Instead, if you focus on your goals and your actions and let the results take care of themselves, you’re sure to win. 

This is the mindset secret used by the best writers and businessmen and athletes in the world. 

For example, I heard an interview with Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps’ swimming coach (the most winningest gold medalist in history… yeah, that guy). 

He said that he and Michael never focus on the gold medal or the awards. Instead they focus on the process… the daily ritual… the details of the stroke… the stuff that is right in front of them. 

That is what I mean by getting tough. Focus on the now. Stop keeping track of what you’ve done… don’t fret about what you have left to do… be focused on what you’re doing right now. 

Man! 

I really wish I had known that in the beginning. 

It would have saved me so much pain and frustration. 

And, I would have landed clients so much faster. 

There are two other key insights I gained in my first year. 

Quantity, not quality. 

That’s the first one. 

Tomorrow I’ll share with you the next one. 

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