Guts of Steel

Jan 25, 2023

As part of my re-commitment to my physical fitness, I’ve been exercising more lately. In fact, I’ve done a full-body strength training, an intense aerobic dance class, and an hour-and-a-half yoga class over the past 3 days.

Then last night after yoga, I stopped to get gas. As I carefully stepped over the gas hose, it happened… I tripped! I was falling. And there was no way to stop it.

So I put my hands out to break my fall, and landed hard on my knees. Ouch!

That means I won’t be hitting the gym later this morning with my trainer as planned. It hurt just to walk down the stairs this morning to make coffee. But I’ll be back at it, hopefully later this week!

I’m sharing this story because it’s a metaphor for today’s mindset topic: mental toughness and resilience.

And just like you may develop “buns of steel” when you work out regularly, you need to develop “guts of steel” if you want to succeed as a copywriter… or really, at any challenging endeavor you take on.

No, I’m not talking about “six-pack abs”. I’m talking about being able to stomach failure, rejection, and all the other things that come with freelancing.

I talked yesterday about the negative self-talk that’s on an endless loop in your brain that keeps you from getting started writing copy. Well, what’s feeding into that endless loop?

Each and every “your copy didn’t work” email you get from a client… each time a client ghosts you… every time you get back a draft with more “track changes” edits than actual copy…

Every one of those cold outreach messages you sweated over that languish in inboxes ignored… and all the other imposter syndrome-confirming things that come with being a freelance copywriter.

But you know what? You’ve done something most people don’t do, because they don’t have the guts.

You’ve put yourself out there! That alone takes guts.

And if you’ve been in this copywriting game a while, like I have, you start to develop those “guts of steel”.

You HAVE to. It’s either that or crawl under a rock.

Nothing will teach you more about mental toughness and resilience than having to go through hard things and find yourself coming out on the other side…

It’s about failing over and over… and getting back up each time. Everyone does this when they learn to do new things.

Think about when you first learned to ride a bike. You fell at least a few times. And you got up and hopped back in the saddle again. That’s how you learned.

That’s why I’m going to share a few of my most valuable lessons on resilience and mental toughness that my many failures have taught me over the years (it’s how I learned how to succeed at writing copy). So let’s get started with…

Lesson #1: You sometimes need to fail to give yourself that push to do BETTER.

I remember working as a telemarketer for a waterproofing company one summer while I was in college. I was handed a list of numbers to call, a pre-written pitch offering a free basement inspection, and told I needed to get at least 3 leads a day.

Sounded easy enough. But the first 2 days, despite adhering to the pitch, I got zero leads (and more hang-ups, cussing, and rejections than I can count).

On the third day when I came to work, the manager pulled me into her office. She told me if I didn’t get at least 3 leads that day, I’d be fired.

Now, I needed this summer job in order to help cover my college expenses that my loans didn’t. So I gave it my all that day… and even tried tweaking the script, adapting it to each prospect I talked to (looking back, it was a great intro to copywriting).

I got 3 leads that day, and I continued to meet or exceed my lead quota every day after that. Would I have done as well if I didn’t “fail” initially? Probably not.

It’s the same thing when it comes to writing copy. It’s all about learning and getting pushed to do better.

You may have to be the one to give yourself the push. But when life forces you to do so, it’s amazing how effective a motivator it can be.

So find someone or something (a mentor, a fellow copywriter, or your own inner critic) to PUSH you to commit to constant improvement… no matter how good a copywriter you are now.

Because those who get too comfortable are often headed for a fall without realizing it. If you’re smart, you’ll prevent those “wake-up calls” before they happen… and learn everything you can from them when they do.

Lesson #2: Give yourself permission to fail… it’s never “fatal”.

I’ve shared before that I worked as a marketer at a major direct response publisher before I went freelance.

While I was there, I saw that even the best copywriters in the world (ones that are considered legendary today) wrote promos that the company paid them as much as $100,000 to write… and they would sometimes BOMB.

But they’d be booked to write that next promo… and the next… and the next… and at least one of those would end up being a huge winner.

Like the president of the publishing division I used to work for would say, “If you’re not failing enough, you’re not trying enough new things.”

It’s how you get that next breakthrough… that next big success. It’s the same with prospecting for clients.

I remember back when I couldn’t get my dream prospects to even respond to my cold outreach emails, or felt like I was getting brushed-off when I approached them at conferences when I was first starting out.

Then, a few years later after finally getting a few big winners under my belt (after bombing several times), they came looking for ME.

One of them resulted in me writing a promo that beat Parris Lampropoulus’ 7-year control and made me the first female copywriter to get a Boardroom control.

The other resulted in a long-term client relationship that’s paid me at least a few million over the years as a result of the 17 different royalty-paying controls I’ve written for them.

And each of my 3 biggest successes that happened early in my freelance career — and put me on the map as a copywriter — were all the “second try” after the first attempt failed.

I’ve talked about the hugely-valuable copywriting lessons I learned from these failures in my now-retired Virtual LA Boot Camp Intensive and in my presentation at the first “The Copywriter Club In Real Life” event in 2018.

But they also taught me hugely-valuable MINDSET lessons that I’ve used and benefited from throughout my copywriting career, as well as the teaching and mentoring I do now.

Hopefully the mindset lessons I’ve shared today on “failing your way to success” have helped ignite some new thinking and perspective. I’d love to hear from you what’s worked to keep yourself moving forward in the face of failure and rejection.

Simply reply back to this email with your “guts of steel” tips and I may share them with your fellow Copy Insiders.

Yesterday I heard back from several copywriters who shared their best tips for beating writer’s block. I’ll share a few of them here real quick since I know it’s a hot topic for many of us.

Copy Insider James Leach had this golden tip:

“One thing that helps me immensely when I have writer’s block is to come up with questions. There is something about answering a question that gets me unstuck. 

For instance, what does this ingredient do? Why should I care about this item? Does this come with a guarantee?  Who else do I know acts like this? Etc. My brain feels like it is wired to answer questions so I come up with a list of questions and write a paragraph or so.” 

(Sounds a lot like the research process I teach in Research Beast. Great tip!)

And Copywriter Remi Lazaro sent me this valuable tip and resource:

“Expect to write pretty bad first drafts (and forget calling them ‘first’ anything). Just write something without expectation for the fun of it. An app like the most dangerous writing app can help to force the creative engine to start like turning the key many times on a car 🙂 ” 

(I love this analogy. And that AI-enabled writing app can definitely get you revved up!)

There’s also been several valuable tips posted in the comments on my LinkedIn post from yesterday

Copywriter Yumna Anwar (who’s also a new-to-the-fold Copy Insider) shared this tactic that’s worked for her:

And Grace Sullivan provided this encouraging advice for “stuck” copywriters:

There’s a common theme here: just spit out the words without worrying about how perfect they are… and then edit to perfection later. It’s all about getting started!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Mindset Week issue. I’ll be talking about how to handle negative feedback and critiques on your copy… without feeling like you suck!

I’ll be getting what I’m sure will be searing feedback tonight on my first draft of Act I of my first-ever screenplay from the brilliant screenwriter I’m taking a workshop with.

I’m bracing myself for it and getting my “guts of steel” ready to accept it. After all, that’s what I’m paying for!

I’ll show you how to do the same tomorrow, assuming I’m not too busy licking my wounds (-; And I’ll make sure I watch out for gasoline hoses while I’m at it.

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. If you aren’t already following me on social media, I’d love for you to do so. LinkedIn is where I’m the most active, but you can also find me posting on Instagram and on my Facebook page.

There’s some great conversations going on based on these mindset lessons I’ve been sharing, and last week’s email about 3 big client lies. So join in and drop a “like” or comment… and share my posts if you’re so moved!

And don’t forget to send your fellow copywriters and marketers over to so they can become Copy Insiders, too!