I love a good checklist.
There’s something appealing about following a set of rules when building a business.
It’s the reassurance of a steady hand guiding you forward, showing you steps that have been tested and proven by someone who’s been down this path before.
One such traveler was Robert A. Heinlein, an acclaimed science fiction author known for his vivid and imaginative narratives.
In a collection titled “Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science Fiction Writing,” Heinlein shared his five business rules for writing. These rules were his nuggets of wisdom for other writers who wanted to build successful writing careers.
Yes, Heinlein’s guidelines were intended for fiction writers, but their core principles apply to copywriters, too.
Let’s look at these rules and see how they can be adapted and applied to build a thriving copywriting business.
Heinlein’s Rules for Writing
Here are Heinlein’s five rules:
- You must write.
- Finish what you start.
- Refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
- Put your work on the market.
- Keep it on the market until it’s sold.
In a series of five posts, we’ll examine how these rules apply to copywriting and discuss how you can utilize them to build your copywriting business.
Now, let’s dive into the first rule and see why Heinlein insists you must dedicate time and effort to the practice of writing…
Rule #1: You Must Write
The first rule in Heinlein’s set is quite direct. “You must write.” Not “You should write,” or “It’d be nice if you wrote,” but “You must write.”
This rule has an element of urgency you can’t ignore. After all, you can’t be a writer if you don’t write.
You might have multiple reasons for not writing:
- You don’t have time.
- You’re afraid your writing isn’t good enough.
- Imposter syndrome has you thinking you don’t know enough about a topic.
- You don’t know what to write.
But Heinlein’s rule doesn’t say, You must write… but only if you have time. Or you must write… but only if you’re the best writer ever. Or you must write… but only if you’re a subject matter expert.
Instead, the bottom line always remains the same: You must write.
Writing is easy enough to do when you have a regular stream of clients. But what if you don’t have a client yet? Do you wait for the perfect client brief to land in your inbox before you start writing?
The short answer is no. Writing isn’t a task that begins with a client’s request. Besides, you can be your first client. So, write for yourself…
Update the homepage for your website.
Work on a new sales page for one of your services.
Write an article to post on LinkedIn.
Practice your skills by copying the sales letters of some of the masters.
Find a product in your home that you love and write a pretend sales email, telling readers why it will improve their lives… Or write an email to the business and describe why you’re a happy customer.
Start a blog or a Money-Making Website.
Write a letter to a loved one.
Try writing something unrelated to copywriting. Write a poem. Write a short story. Write a scene in a screenplay.
Just like an athlete trains daily, you should exercise your writing muscle consistently. As with any other craft, your writing becomes stronger through regular exercise. Every word you put down, every sentence you structure, sharpens your skills a little more.
Here are more reasons to write, even if it’s “only” for yourself.
1. You can write as a way to market yourself.
With every blog post, social media update, or thought leadership piece you create, you’re building a stage for your talent to shine. Each piece of content is a beacon that helps potential clients find you in the crowded marketplace.
Even if you’re not writing for a client, you can publish work that adds to your online presence, building credibility and visibility.
2. The more you write, the more you’ll develop your unique methodology, distinct ideas, and signature style — all the things that make you, well, you.
Writing allows you to experiment with different styles and perspectives. You’re free to let your imagination run wild when there’s no specific client or brief to adhere to.
You can practice writing with different techniques, developing versatility to handle a wide range of client requirements and preferences better.
3. Writing keeps your finger on the pulse of the industry.
As you research, brainstorm, and write on diverse topics, you stay updated on the latest trends, changes in buyer behavior, and emerging platforms. Your knowledge can be a powerful asset in crafting copy that resonates with your audience and meets your potential clients’ objectives.
4. Writing helps maintain your discipline and productivity.
By setting aside time to write regularly, you establish a routine that ensures you’re consistently engaged in your craft.
Through your commitment to writing, you learn to overcome challenges and push through creative obstacles, which enhances your ability to deliver high-quality work within tight deadlines.
Your Journey Forward
As we wrap up our exploration of Heinlein’s first rule, remember — writing is a must, not an option.
Each word you ink benefits your growth, skill development, and success. You’re building a body of work and a habit that will serve you well.
So, no matter what, you must write. Your future success as a copywriter depends on it.
Now, our journey doesn’t stop here. It’s just getting started.
Our next post will delve into Heinlein’s second rule: “Finish what you start.” Just as writing is essential to your business, seeing your work through to the end is also necessary.
So, stay tuned to discover how this rule can elevate your copywriting game and help you build a successful, thriving business.