Love, Luck and Focus: Revisiting Nick Usborne’s Talk at AWAI’s 2012 Bootcamp

It’s been a month now since I attended the American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) annual “Bootcamp” conference, in sunny Florida. When I arrived home, I hit the ground running, as I submitted copy for some of their competitive “spec challenges.” Now that the smoke has cleared a little, I’ve returned to the conference recordings that AWAI provides and am feeling motivated, especially by the talk of Web Copywriting Great Nick Usborne gave. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s a Anglo-Canadian genius, based in gorgeous Montreal.) He spoke live on Thursday October 25, 2012, in cheerful Delray Beach. . . . .

As it turns out, the psychology of marketing that so often interests me also interests Nick. And his presentation drew on that interest: “Love, Luck and Total Focus: Surprising Truths Behind Every Successful Freelance Business.”

Inspired by Nick who writes at least 1000 words per day, and as part of my new blogging practice (I’m planning to write shorter, more conversational blogs, more frequently), I’ve decided to blog today on some of the highlights of Nick’s talk. . . . Nick directed his presentation at beginning as well as intermediate writers (esp. copywriters), who are striving to find their pathway through the Marketing and Communications’ world.  At the conference, several newbies asked me about psychology in marketing, so I’ve decided to publish this posting all at once. (In the future, my postings will be briefer, a la Seth Godin and virtually everyone else, these days. . . . But I digress . . .)

Here are the three major insights Nick shared, that you may find useful, as you write and revise and write some more. .  . . He summed them up as “Love your message; Play the odds; and Stay focused.” Want to use or quote Nick’s arguments? Cite him and send him a quick email. He’s very generous.

(1) Love your Message:  we all at some point face the “Imposter Syndrome” (I.S.), as a newbie to a field, or to a niche within a field. As you’ll likely know, the I.S. is the anxiety-producing fear that you’ve gotten as far as you have through sheer (dumb) luck. And when you have some success, you fear that now you’re really about to be “found out.” You feel a fraud.  Nick connected that paralyzing insecurity to the false (but convincing) belief that your value is tied “to the sum of your knowledge.”  When you view yourself and your business that way, who wouldn’t be found wanting? So you nervously read yet another book on marketing, “take another five courses,” and put off facing the reality that you need clients.

Nick suggested that another belief will serve you better. He said to tie your value to your message—so that you share with prospects “a narrative that you believe in.” What do you base that narrative or message on? Find something about your niche that angers or excites you and that you can respond to, passionately. Make that your mission.

Then share that message with your prospects. When you have passion in your message, you’ll love to share it and no one will ask you, “So, how long have you been doing this?” (For me, I’m always annoyed to hear that people don’t know about a great non-profit association that delivers real value for their members. Or, in the area I’m branching into, the Post-Secondary Education Market, it really irritates me that there are still so many great colleges write their promotional copy so poorly. They don’t make themselves attractive to young people, who are by far the largest segment of society applying to them. So what aspect of your niche gets you fired up? )

As Nick says, “Selling yourself is scary. Selling your message can be a lifelong passion.” So “Don’t try to sell yourself. Sell your message.” It’s often your passion as much as or more than your talent that will get you the contract.

And remember, when the butterflies flutter: “Almost anything worthwhile is scary at the beginning.” Remember that Nick still took the leap when skydiving: when he realized that he was terrified, it was too late to back out!

(2) Play the Odds: earning a living in business is, like most things, largely dependent on luck.  In order to take advantage of the odds (think of flipping a coin), you must remain “in action.” Nothing will happen if you stop tossing that coin. One toss in 10 or 30 will be work that comes your way. “You must keep going. If you keep going, you’ll get clients.” You may have to be your own therapist to keep going, but keep going you must!

And when it comes to luck, “we fear loss more than we look for gain.” So don’t be scared to give up one “bad” client, if it gives you time to get a better one.

(3) Stay Focused: develop total focus and determination and persistence. Nick offers the following advice on how to stay focused (and therefore to succeed):

  • always remain in-action, in-motion, in order to take advantage of the odds – you have to pay attention when your lucky moment happens, or you’ll lose out.  Nick says that 25% of his time of his writing is spent marketing his own services. That’s realistically the kind of commitment that you have to make, in order to be “in front of the people” you want to write for.
  • focus on a single message and goal. For instance, specialize in something, but don’t dilute your message. One contact’s definition of “branding” is “making yourself the only logical choice for what you do.”
  • do something to market your message every day. Don’t be complacent about your luck, when you find it, or ignore signs that the market is changing. Similarly, don’t give up when your luck is off.
  • be ruthlessly organized in the way you spend your working day. Don’t take time to answer the phone, read social media or answer emails, unless absolutely necessary, as part of a contract. Plot out time in your week for those distractions. Focus on your writing and on making it the best that you can do.

So think about Nick’s insights on “love, luck and total focus.” These truths cut through a good deal of the mind-game nonsense that flattens many freelancers. Follow his arguments by channelling your ambition and motivation productively, and success will come to you.

As always, feel free to write me back. I’m delighted to hear from you.

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