Earn Six-Figures Copywriting? Why I Respectfully Disagree With AWAI and Michael Masterson.

Aspiring copywriter, be warned.

Don't expect to "retire this year and still make more money than most doctors." Paul Hollingshead and The American Writers & Artists Institute say you can. According to their website, all that you need to do is take Michael Masterson's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, which teaches you to write "simple letters."

Are they realistic? I say no.

I have been a copywriter for over 15 years. And I made a six-figure income last year (2005). But I did not do it by working only "a few hours a day." I did not do it by writing "one, maybe two letters a month." If I worked that little I would starve. The bank would foreclose on my house.

Can you really "retire from the job you're in now and earn more money than most doctors, lawyers, or other well-schooled professionals," as The American Writers & Artists Institute claims you can?

I doubt it.

Direct mail copywriting is a skill. It's not easy. There are no "simple secrets." You cannot learn the craft in a few months by email. I did not learn the trade by correspondence course and I know of not a single copywriter writing and earning at my level who did. They learned the hard way that writing sales letters is hard.

The best in the industry earn good money but they also work very, very hard. Consider the proof.

Author: The Copywriter's Handbook
Copywriter for 25 years.
Earns $500,000 a year.
Works 12 hours a day, five days a week.

Author: Start and Run a Copywriting Business
Copywriter for 16 years.
Earns six-figure income annually.
Works 40 hours a week.

Copywriter for 27 years.
Earns six-figure income annually.
Works 40 hours a week.

The American Writers & Artists Institute claims that "over the course of a year, you can easily earn anywhere from $30,000 to $240,000 in writing fees alone."

I say earning a living as a copywriter is not easy. Why should anyone ever think it is? In what other career can you possibly make $240,000 a year "easily," unless you are robbing banks, dealing cocaine or running a prostitution ring?

The American Writers & Artists Institute claims that you can be just like the people that "have all the free time in the world to travel . . . to spend with their kids . . . to lower their golf scores . . . to really enjoy life."

As a full-time, professional copywriter, you will not have all the free time you want. Your clients' deadlines will determine how much free time you have. No one is going to pay you to play with your kids or improve your golf score.

The American Writers & Artists Institute claims "You Don't Need To Be A 'Writer' To Be Successful."

The only people who make a lot of money as direct response copywriters are the ones who are excellent writers. You cannot reach their status "just by learning the few powerful secrets that make them successful."

Here's the promise that Paul Hollingshead, co-founder of The American Writers & Artists Institute, makes: "I'll also show you how the very first letter you write can earn you $10,000 in cash — and launch you on your brand-new writing career faster than you ever thought possible!"

How many people actually start out as a "brand-new" direct response copywriter with no experience, no clients, no portfolio, zero visibility in the industry and no reputation and manage to persuade their first ever client to pay them $10,000 for their first letter? Not many. When you start, you are a novice. The clients who pay that kind of money for one letter won't even talk with a novice. And the clients who will talk with a novice won't pay that kind of money.

If you take Michael Masterson's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting course through AWAI, I wish you every success. I am sure that the course is excellent and that the people who run it are ethical. But the one big check you can plan on receiving when you graduate and start out on your own is a reality check.

That's because the folks who promote lucrative business opportunities like Michael Masterson's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting usually talk about gross income and never mention net income. They show you examples of individuals who earn $100,000 or $300,000 a year writing "simple letters." I am sure these people exist. But they are not the norm.

Starting a business costs money. Operating a successful business costs money. Every well-paid, self-employed copywriter has expenses. Here's the reality.

Accounting/legal fees: $2,000
Advertising: 2,912
Banking fees: 762
Membership fees: 1,000
Office supplies: 5,244
Reference materials: 500
Subcontractors: 20,000
Telephone, cell: 600
Telephone, office: 1,460
Travel: 800
Website: 4,160
TOTAL: $39,438

I earn six figures a year as a direct mail copywriter but I spend almost $40,000 a year to generate that kind of income. That's my reality. Knowing this, should you believe that you can take a correspondence course, retire to a quaint village in Vermont, and then earn more than a doctor makes working only a few hours a day writing simple letters? If you manage to pull it off, let me know.

© 2006 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the "About the Author" message).

Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation specialist who helps business owners and marketing managers attract new clients using direct mail marketing. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at http://www.sharpecopy.com/newsletter