Haris Halkic: Hi Penny, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips on copywriting and your background.
Penny Hunt: My pleasure.
Haris Halkic: Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting. Please, tell us more about your story.
Penny Hunt: I have always enjoyed writing and aced my English and writing classes in school. After high school, I knew college was not my calling. The thought of it literally made me nauseous.
All I really wanted to be when I grew up was a wife and a good mom to our family. But, sadly, when I graduated, I didn’t have a husband candidate waiting in the wings. (I knew who I wanted to marry, and we dated for a year and a half in high school but broke up before my senior year. More to come.)
Since I was not interested in becoming a nurse, secretary, teacher or airline hostess, (the only choices at the time…) much to their displeasure, my parents half-heartedly supported me going to New York to pursue what I really wanted to do second. I wanted a modeling career. I loved commercials and aspired to one day be in one. (Did achieve this…twice.)
While in New York, I did reconnect with my high school sweetheart and after about a year in New York, I came home to plan the wedding and get married. We’ll celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary this December. And they thought it wouldn’t last!!
I was fortunate I didn’t have to work so my dream came true. I had a husband I adored and who adored me. We eventually had two children (first one born pre-mature at 7 months and Ken, my hero husband, delivered her on the front porch of our house…quite a story there too). Unfortunately, she was too tiny to survive and died 2 days later. We then had a son a year later, Kevin, who is now 43 and a daughter, Sara, who just turned 40 this year. Yikes!
Sara and her husband have two super girls, Charlotte, 8, and Savannah, 6. We could not love them any more than we do! Three years ago, we left Monroeville, PA and moved to the West Chester area of PA to be closer to them.
But back to the past…I eventually did begin working in sales but found myself settling into Administrative Assistant positions. First, to a Director of an Adult education school for computers, then a Head of School at a private K-8 school and finally for the Sr. Rector at an Episcopal Church.
In these positions, I was responsible for making sure all correspondence went out without flaws and kept communications open with calls, letters and then email. At the K-8 school, I was known as the “Email Queen.”
Then one day, out of nowhere, I received information about AWAI and getting paid to write. Sounded good to me. I bought the Accelerated Program and got started. This was early in 2007. We were right in the midst of planning Sara’s upcoming October wedding.
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance copywriting from your previous job?
Penny Hunt: For me, writing was just going to be a way to have some extra money.
I never really dreamed of becoming a six-figure income writer. Being a freelance writer means different things to different people.
My dream was to get paid to write and earn extra money after retirement.
I simply continued to work until I did retire in 2015 and now I write to supplement our Social Security.
Haris Halkic: What’s your best piece of advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
I would not recommend quitting before you are able to support yourself with your writing. If you’re like me and are doing it for additional income…you can pick and choose when and where you want to write.
But if you want to get out and transition to freelance writing, set your date for when you want that to happen. Map out a plan for how to get there. Get the training you need and then start looking for clients.
Once you have some clients, you’ll be on your way and can decide when you’ll be able to support your goals and leave your 9-5er behind. So, the steps are:
- Set the date you want to quit and map out a plan with where you want to be by each date
- Get the training you need to become a writer
- Begin marketing yourself to get some clients
- Once you feel you can support yourself (hopefully before the goal date…) then you can quit and become a full-time freelancer.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. What ways do you use to get clients?
Penny Hunt: My favorite way to get assignments is networking. I have come to know many in the industry, through AWAI, Facebook, LinkedIn and other groups I belong to.
This question has an extensive answer in the ebook, The Copywriter’s Problem Solver – the 62 Most Common Problems Freelance Copywriters Face—and One Good Answer to Each: copywritersproblemsolver
But, in addition to simply asking and networking, which is how I landed writing the ebook for Bob Bly, I also troll a few job boards and have reached out to places I wanted to write for.
I first met Bob Bly at the 2007 AWAI Bootcamp. We did not really connect as I was totally intimidated by him. After attending a few more, during some casual times, we had an opportunity to talk. In March of 2015, Bob was presenting his last live seminar on Getting Clients. I knew I had to attend.
I drove from Pittsburgh, stayed over at our daughter’s house outside of Philadelphia in West Chester. Then, the next morning, in blizzard-like conditions, I finished the trip to NJ and spent the weekend with Bob and about 30 other copywriters.
It was during this weekend, I really got passed being intimidated and began to appreciate him for the talented and giving person he is.
At the next AWAI Bootcamp, he knew me, and I could talk much more comfortably with him.
Just before the holidays last year (2017), I contacted Bob via email to ask him if he ever needed content articles. (There is a story behind this…but will skip to the end result) I probably didn’t make my question clear because towards the end of our conversation, he asked me if I could write an ebook. Sure. Why not? And it was at that point, he gave me an assignment. The Copywriter’s Problem Solver: the 62 Most Common Problems Freelance Copywriters Face—and One Good Answer to Each came out in March with the following email being sent to his list:
Dear Direct Response Letter Subscriber:
So — do you ever have any of these freelance copywriting problems:
** You write great copy — but then your clients rewrite it or demand endless revisions.
** You live in the boonies … with virtually no good potential clients anywhere nearby.
** You’re in a cash flow crunch because your clients are not paying your invoices on time — and some not at all.
** You’re not making the money you’d hoped you would by now … and you are starting to dip into your savings.
** You are uninsured for health coverage, putting your health and finances at risk.
** You are just starting out — or have been working at it for a time — but you’re not getting enough prospects to call you about copywriting assignments.
** Whenever you give a cost estimate, the prospect responds — “Your fee is too high” — and doesn’t hire you.
** Everyone tells you to specialize — but you have no idea what copywriting niche in which to specialize.
Now, in our new ebook “The Copywriter’s Problem Solver,” you get proven answers to these and dozens of other common problems freelance copywriters face — based on my nearly 4 decades of working as copywriter.
So you can enjoy being a freelance copywriter more, with greater income and confidence — while worrying and struggling less.
For more details … or to preview “The Copywriter’s Problem
Solver” risk-free for 90 days … just click here now:
P.S. Order now and you save $20 off the list price. Plus, as always, I guarantee your total satisfaction or your money back. And even if you ask for a refund, you can still keep “The Copywriter’s Problem Solver” for free! That way you risk nothing! So what are you waiting for? Click below for your no-risk 90-day preview.
And do it now, because tough copywriting problems — to which you may not know the answer, but I do — can pop up without warning at any time:
Copywriter / Consultant
31 Cheyenne Dr.
Montville, NJ 07045
Penny Hunt: Yep…pretty exciting.
I also connected with a company at Bootcamp and since they were relatively close to where I live, I made an appointment and went for a meeting. Nothing happened at that time, but I reached out to him once again and just recently started to write copy for the company. I may also be doing copy critiques and edits.
So, for me…networking and cultivating relationships are what I enjoy most.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Penny Hunt: Originally, I only purchased one program from AWAI— the Accelerated Program for a Six-Figure Income. I followed what I was instructed to do and submitted my copy for review. This was prior to the program being online…so I had to wait an eternity for my review to come back via mail! Full disclosure, it was about 3 months!
In the meantime, I was preparing for my first Bootcamp and submitting spec assignments. And BOOM! I was chosen to write a promo for a re-fi company.
They offered $5K to finish out the sales letter. Then paid me to do another promotion. This excitement happened just before Sara’s wedding (and AWAI’s Bootcamp) making both the wedding and trip so much more fun. Unfortunately, it did not beat their control and also the company was sold and brought in in-house writers. So, the client was no longer. Was a great experience though!
AWAI offers a Circle of Success opportunity where COS members have access to ALL programs developed by AWAI. In addition to access to this huge library of any kind of writing you would ever need or want, there are many other perks. Opportunity to attend Bootcamps for free. Huge discounts on programs offered outside of what AWAI provides, memberships into help groups…etc.
The Accelerated Program is truly the foundation for any writing you would do. It teaches how to craft a good headline, lead, letter body, close and call to action. Almost anything you write contains those elements and without the foundation, it’s hard to build on other types of copy.
I also took Jay White’s “Email Made Easy” program and went on to his mentor program. He taught me a different slant on how he recommends writing emails. We kept in touch and I eventually did some phone follow up work for him when he launched his larger scale mentor program. While that is over now, we continue to remain in contact.
For me, joining COS was like enrolling into college for copywriters. I highly recommend people who really want a career in writing to look into this option.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Penny Hunt: Odd as this may sound, the first thing I do before I write is play the online game – Text Twist. I find it gets my word juices flowing and I love the challenge of seeing how many points I can get. Some may consider this a waste of time, but for me, it gets me, and my brain started.
Then comes the obvious. Gathering the materials, having the needed research done and mapping out the pieces I need to do the project.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Penny Hunt: I honestly don’t have a favorite. Jay White probably would be the one who I followed the most. But I appreciate all of them for the talent they each bring to their specialty and are willing to share. Steve Slaunwhite, Pam Foster, Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, Ed Gandia, and Krista Jones to name a few.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Penny Hunt: The first thing that came to mind when I read this was it’s fun to see people’s reactions when they ask if I still work or what do I do now that I’m retired. When I say, “I’m a freelance copywriter.”, the looks on their faces are precious. Hahaha…
However, like most, it is true, you can take work when you want, and do it where you want.
I was once on vacation at Myrtle Beach, SC and got a request for some copy. I accepted the assignment since I was able to work on it when it didn’t interfere with my vacation time.
And then the trip became a business expense.
It also allows me to connect with people I would never in my wildest dreams have thought I’d know. I worked with one guy, Dave, in Australia and also have friends there and all over the US and the world through AWAI contacts.
Speaking of AWAI, I also aspired to work with them in some capacity and that dream is coming true. Through a series of events, I was asked about 2 years ago to be on the AWAI copy review team. The Review team critiques either a direct mail package or a web package submitted by members who have completed the Accelerated Program. The member then revises the copy and another review is given on the revised package.
I was also invited to be a COS mentor. When a call is scheduled, a mentor is assigned. During the approximate half hour call, we offer tips and pointers to keep the member moving along with their writing career.
AWAI is currently expanding their review process and it’s taking on the form of an actual department. They’ve asked me to manage this piece for them starting today actually. Another dream achieved. Yay!!
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Penny Hunt: Ummmm…can I have two, please?
First, be persistent. Write every day. Even if it’s personal emails to your own family or friends. Write something. Keep practicing. Make a point to keep marketing yourself. Continue to email, call or send notes and keep your conversations open. Offer things of value such as a free web critique. Don’t become a pest but keep your name in front of them. Then when they need someone…they’ll likely think of you.
Keep trying to connect with people you want to work with.
Secondly, be flexible. I often tell the story of my Problems of Democracy teacher in high school, Mr. Moody. He was as boring as a 2 by 4 and spoke in a most annoying (fingernails on a chalk board annoying) nasal monotone.
Needless to say, was hard to stay awake in his class.
However, to his credit, he must have realized this because one day he entered the room, dropped his larger teacher edition of the textbook on his desk (which did grab our attention) and said in his most nasal loud voice, “Students…if you don’t learn anything else from me in this class this year, learn this: Be Flexible!”
He wrote “Be Flexible” on the board and went on to explain, “You’re going to find as you go through life, things often don’t go the way you want. And, if you really want to succeed in life, you’re gonna want to adapt to those changes. So, learn this: BE FLEXIBLE! Now turn to page 36 in your book.” And that was all he ever said about it.
I can’t tell you how many times, things have come up…job changes, moves needed to be made, projects cancelled, circumstances upset, financial hardships, whatever…and I heard Mr. Moody saying, “Be flexible.”
Years after graduating high school, but before he passed away, I was two people in front of him in a grocery store line. I let the person between us go ahead of me, so I could speak with Mr. Moody.
I shared with him the impact of those two profound words that had helped me through the years. Even today, I’m in a situation now and I hear his nasal monotone voice ring in my ears, “Be flexible”!!
Haris Halkic: Are there areas you specialize on as a copywriter and if someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?
Penny Hunt: While I still write copy, I’ve found my greatest strength is and the thing I enjoy and love the most is copy editing and copy critique.
If a client has, what I refer to as, “ugly copy” (the client’s rough draft) I love to turn it into what they really want it to say and do for them. This applies to web copy and website critiques. I’m actually in the process of revamping my website to reflect this.
I also prefer the sales, training and personal development industries, but will consider most niches. I’ve worked with everything from writing emails about a guide for how to win World of Warlock, to a report for a lawyer, security firm B2B emails, HR hiring software articles, and a few sales pages and blog post for Proctor Gallagher and Terri Levine.
The best way to reach me is through email: email@example.com. I have access to that all the time. Generally speaking, I reply fairly quickly to email.