John Carlton has a triumphant rags to riches story.
The story teaches us perseverance in the face of adversity, professional integrity, and how to be an entrepreneurial powerhouse. His no-frills approach to the business of writing is based on common sense.
When you find out his secrets for success are in fact public knowledge and completely bare bones, expect the obligatory smack to your forehead while you mutter “Doh! Why didn’t I think of that?!”
The 4 fundamentals of John Carlton’s approach:
1) Work hard. Take your career as a copywriter seriously and recall that you are in the business of helping other businesses thrive. Carlton calls this his White Knight approach to copywriting—you are safeguarding another person’s livelihood so handle with care!
2) Do your homework. Speed read, then reread. Carlton bought a speed reading course and then sped-read almost every sales and marketing book in his local library. He then reread all the books containing valid and crucial business info. Carlton achieved his goal to ‘catch up’ with those who had already held jobs in advertising for years while he drifted: by the time he emerged into the word of ad copy he realized he had wisely overshot and become far more educated in the field than the majority of his acquaintances. He read himself ahead of the game!
3) Write with a gun to your head. Avoid traps like wordiness or cuteness and make copy effective by imagining your life depends on your work successfully selling your client’s product or services. For a man like Carlton who began his career as a copywriter while living out of his car, his life completely and totally depended on the success of his writing.
4) Be efficient. Carlton prepares his desk. He stays zeroed in and focused and does not write until he has completed his homework. He calls writer’s block a total myth: he believes it’s unpreparedness. To prepare for coywriting, Carlton recommends an activity: take a nap, eat a meal, go for a walk. Just get focused and then get to work.
Carlton’s personal journey as a copywriter is an inspirational tale of believing in yourself, and above all, working very hard. Copywriters can learn from his experiences, mistakes, and achievements.