Just today, a topic came up in a closed copywriter’s group that has been on my mind for a long, long time.
The question: Where are all the female “Titan” copywriters?
An upcoming copywriting event was discussed, featuring a group of heavy-hitters, copywriting “Rock Stars,” if you will. And all twelve of them are men.
Not one woman is featured.
Now this isn’t a new development. I’ve tracked a variety of industries where the men dominate the stage. They’re the thought-leaders people follow. A few women are starting to enter the ring, but not many. Certainly not in proportion to all the hard-working, talented women out there who are probably wondering the same thing—why aren’t more of us giving presentations, writing books, acknowledged as thought-leaders?
A Fifty-Cent Lesson In Persistence
In the famous book by Napoleon Hill, Think And Grow Rich, he told the story about a young girl who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
One day, a man was helping his uncle grind wheat in an old-fashioned mill. Suddenly, the door slowly opened and a small child, the daughter of one of the black sharecrop farmers, slipped in. The man’s uncle looked at her and roughly said, “What do you want?”
She responded that she had come to collect her mother’s money, which was fifty cents. The uncle, a hard man, was not to be trifled with and denied the request. He told the young girl to leave.
But she didn’t move. Not one inch.
So the uncle went about his work, becoming so busy that he didn’t notice that she hadn’t left. When he saw she was still standing there, he got angry and yelled at her.
“I told you to go on home! Now go, or I’ll take a switch to you.”
But she did not budge.
Finally, he dropped a sack of grain and picked up a barrel stave. He started to walk toward her with an expression on his face that spelled trouble.
The nephew was certain he was about to witness an assault. He knew that his uncle had a nasty temper.
When the uncle reached the spot where the little girl was standing, she quickly stepped forward one step, looked straight into his eyes and screamed, “My mom’s gotta have that fifty cents!”
The uncle stopped, looked at her for a minute, slowly laid the barrel stave on the floor,and then reached into his pocket to take out a half dollar and gave it to her.
She took the money and slowly backed out of the room, never taking her eyes off the man whom she had just conquered.
After she left, the uncle pondered the incident, trying to figure out why he gave in.
My immediate thought was that although the uncle was intimidating, something else motivated this young girl to stand up to him. Perhaps her mother told her she’d get a whipping if she returned home without the money. Or maybe she had a bad day and was determined not to accept one more rejection.
Whatever the reason, the small girl showed incredible courage in the face of opposition. She was determined to get that fifty cents and showed she wasn’t going to take no for an answer, even if meant getting whipped with a barrel stave.
The Reluctance to Toot Your Own Horn
Years ago, I listened to a book on tape by Caroline Myss, a well-known author who describes herself as a mystic. But she’s unlike a typical perception of a mystic. Straightforward and bold, she speaks her mind with no apology.
While listening to the recording, Myss relayed the story about being on some committee and various jobs were being handed out. I may not have this story exactly right, but at some point, she volunteered to do the marketing and said, “I’m good at it.”
A woman sitting next to her drew back and said, “My. Aren’t we humble?”
Caroline looked at her plainly and said, “What? Am I supposed to hide my talent? I am good at marketing. I know I’m good at it. So why not say so?”
Caroline Myss did something that crushed the “status quo” of women everywhere. Not only did she know what she was good at—she declared it to a room full of people without batting an eyelash.
No false modesty.
No shuffling of the feet with eyes downcast while mumbling, “Hey, I’ll help with marketing.”
And none of this silliness of being silent, thinking someone else could step up to the plate while knowing all along that she could rock that marketing agenda like no one’s business.
This is what women need to do. And they need to do it today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. And not next year.
They need to do it now.
The Story of the Ballsy New Copywriting Guy
There once was a guy who had completely lost everything in his life. He lost his job, his girlfriend, and his home all within short order.
He was living in his car when he discovered copywriting. And he knew this was his chance to achieve something. To build a strong financial future. To make his mark in the world.
There was nothing else. To say he was desperate to succeed would be an understatement.
So he found the copywriting classic books and read them from cover to cover. Studied them in depth, and trained himself to write killer copy.
One day he came upon a job ad in the newspaper, advertising for a copywriter. He was thrilled because he knew he had the goods. He had started to market himself and realized that he knew more about copywriting than most of the copywriters in the ad agencies.
So he applied for this job, expecting to at least get an interview.
Except he didn’t get an interview. Instead, he got a form letter that told him his application was rejected.
Well, that letter corkscrewed him into the roof of his car. He was furious. It was obvious from the letter that whomever was on the receiving end of his application didn’t even look at his samples.
He found the office of the company who advertised the position, and it just happened to belong to Jay Abraham.
If you don’t know who Jay Abraham is, let’s just say he’s a huge copywriting and marketing rockstar. Very smart guy. Very successful. And very rich.
The copywriter was going to give him a piece of his mind. He marched right into the office, ignored the secretary who frantically tried to prevent him from entering Jay’s office, and made himself known.
Surprisingly, Jay didn’t call the police but instead started to talk to this copywriter. When he found out he had applied for the job, they started to talk about all the classic advertising and copywriting books and found they had read the same list. Long story short, Abraham gave this copywriter free rein to roam the office for one year, help out here and there without pay while the copywriter absorbed all the great marketing knowledge Abraham could offer.
The copywriter knew he struck gold and grabbed the opportunity. And that’s how John Carlton, “The Most Ripped-Off Copywriter” got his start.
What Women Do
I love John Carlton’s story. It reminds me so much of that little girl who refused to leave until she got her fifty cents. But it also made me ask this question:
What would a woman in John’s position do if she had received a form letter rejecting her, knowing that she had the goods?
I think I can safely say that just about every woman would have shrugged and said, “Oh, I really did want that job but… oh, well. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
Then sigh, call up her girlfriend and share her disappointment.
Here’s the deal.
Women wait to be asked.
Women wait to be invited.
We grew up with turn-taking games like hopscotch and jump rope. We learned that it’s important to share and if we went after something with gusto, were told not to be greedy.
Unless we were involved in sports, we didn’t learn about competition and how a little pain can go a long way toward toughening you up for the next round.
The more I’ve learned about how some of these A-list copywriters got their start, the more I see how courage, boldness, and no small amount of chutzpah contributed to their success.
The bottom line is that the most well-paid male copywriters I know, do not wait around to be noticed. They don’t accept clients who refuse to recognize their worth.
And they don’t ask to be paid their high fees. They demand it. There is simply no way to hire them unless one is willing to accept their conditions.
So What Can You Do?
You need to be bold.
You need to be courageous.
To swipe a line from “The Matrix,” you need to believe in yourself and know deep inside, from “balls to bone” that you are gifted. Talented. Skilled. And able to make your clients successful.
Notice I didn’t say it was easy. It’s simple but goodness knows… not easy. Especially if you grew up being a people-pleaser and exerted a great deal of energy trying not to stand out.
Because if you did stand out, there was a good chance something awful would happen that would rain shame upon your head and you’d be forced to live the rest of your life as a hermit.
Or so you told yourself.
To succeed in anything means taking a risk. If you’ve not taken many risks, start doing it now. Learn how to conquer fear.
Afraid of public speaking? Join a Toastmaster’s group. They’ll teach you.
Afraid of heights? Ask a friend to accompany you to the top of a building and walk to the window to drink in the view.
Afraid of the water? Take swimming lessons.
Don’t let anything conquer you or keep you down. The more (acceptable) risks you can take that won’t risk your life, the better.
Here’s a small one that I did years ago:
I’m usually a very polite person. If someone requests something that is reasonable, I will almost always comply.
One day, I was at a furniture store. For some reason, the salesman was chatting with me and then asked me to wait while he walked away. I can’t remember asking to be shown anything because I wasn’t ready to make a purchase.
But… there I stood. Waiting. Obediently waiting.
And then it dawned on me.
Why am I waiting for a salesman to return when really, I have no intention of buying?
I turned and walked out the door.
It was a very tiny thing, but I confess I felt a sense of accomplishment when I went outside. For someone who was a people-pleaser up to that point, it was a small risk that delivered big results. It was the beginning of me owning my own preferences instead of immediately trying to figure out what someone else wanted and placing that before my own desires.
The salesman did not come running out of the store and into the parking lot, yelling, “I told you to wait!”
Nothing happened except the valuable realization that I didn’t have to passively accept life’s developments. I had a choice. I always had the choice but finally, I understood it.
You have a choice too.
So the next time a prospect wants to pay you $20 to write a blog post, you say no. You tell him your fee for writing an 800+ word blog post starts at $200. You clearly say what you provide for that amount. And then you listen for the prospect’s response.
The next step is up to you. Imagine you’re John Carlton, if you’d like. Or Donald Trump.
Would they accept pennies for their talent? I don’t think so.
If you’re happy with $20 and have no intention of trying to get better paying gigs, then fair enough. That’s what you’ll continue to receive.
But if you do want to get better clients, you’ll need to be bold.
Willing to let go of those who only want to take advantage of you.
Because if you want to be an A-list copywriter or a “Rock Star” in your field, you’ll need to take the bull by the horns and persevere.
No matter where you are now, challenge yourself to go higher, further, deeper. The most successful copywriters are already doing it.
The spoils of the war go to those who fight—and win the battles.
For another excellent article tackling the same topic, I highly recommend Dianna Huff’s article, Why Low Self-Worth Drives Lower Wages for Women Freelancers — and What You Can Do About It, featured on the International Freelancers Academy site.
Dianna Huff is CEO of DH Communications, Inc., and a recognized B2B Web marketing expert.