This is the second in a five-part series on adapting sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein’s business rules for writing to your copywriting business.
To refresh your memory, here are Heinlein’s five rules for being a successful writer:
- You must write.
- You must finish what you start.
- You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
- You must put it on the market.
- You must keep it on the market until sold.
In the first post of this series, we talked about Heinlein’s first rule for a successful writing career — You must write.
In this post, we’ll explore his second rule. You must finish what you start.
Rule #2: You Must Finish What You Start
When Robert Heinlein told science fiction writers, “You must finish what you start,” he was encouraging writers to finish their stories. The idea might sound simplistic, but many writers have a drawer or computer file full of half-finished manuscripts.
While Heinlein’s rule was directed toward fiction writers, the principle also holds true for copywriters.
Just as fiction writers benefit from completing their stories, copywriters benefit from completing projects, whether it’s their own website, a client project, or a copywriting course.
Why Finishing Is Hard
Why is it often hard to finish what you start?
Prolific author and writing teacher Dean Wesley Smith says most writers don’t finish stories because of fear.
- Fear that their finished work won’t be good enough.
- Fear of what they’ll work on next.
Those same fears apply to copywriters.
Another reason people don’t finish things is the messy middle. The messy middle is when you start on a project and make some headway but get bored. Or get stuck. Or get discouraged.
Suddenly, it’s easier to abandon your current project for the novelty of something new, shiny, and sexy than it is to finish what you were working on.
You convince yourself that the new thing is more important. Better for your business. Better for your clients. There’s always a justification you can make for not finishing.
Courses are a great example.
Imagine you’ve started a course on writing white papers because you think they would be an excellent service for your clients. But halfway through, you get tired of white papers. And you still have several weeks of work.
Then you see a new course that’s just been released. It’s about writing with AI.
Well, gosh, that’s definitely a skill you should have. You could write faster and create more assets for your clients. That sounds like a win for everyone.
You decide to switch your attention to the AI course. After all, you can always go back to white papers later.
If you don’t control this tendency, you may start many courses but not complete them. This can waste your time and not help you improve your skills. Ask me how I know.
Heinlein’s advice to finish what you start encourages us to push past the initial excitement of an idea and commit to the entire process.
Whether it’s finishing a client assignment, a course, or a project for your business, Heinlein’s rule emphasizes the need to honor the finish line.
Let’s explore some reasons why finishing can be helpful to your business.
1. You become a professional.
Finishing what you start is fundamental to being a professional copywriter.
Professionals don’t just start tasks; they see them through.
Finishing demonstrates you’re reliable and trustworthy. You honor your commitments and can be relied upon to deliver.
By finishing what you start, you improve your skills and show yourself to be a serious, committed professional. You stand apart and attract higher-level opportunities as clients and colleagues recognize your dedication to following through.
2. You avoid perfectionism.
Finishing a project is an exercise in releasing perfectionism. It forces you to accept that “perfect” is often the enemy of “done.”
Perfectionism can lead to endless revisions and refinements. There’s always one more thing you could fix or change.
By finishing what you start, you train yourself to prioritize completion over perfection, accepting that while the outcome may not be flawless, it’s still valuable.
This isn’t the same as settling for mediocrity or neglecting quality. Instead, it’s about understanding the importance of progress and growth. Finishing helps you learn, improve, and move on to the next project, so you make progress rather than stagnate.
3. You get valuable feedback.
If you don’t finish what you’re working on, you miss out on a crucial aspect of professional growth and learning — feedback.
An unfinished project remains in a vacuum. Only when your task is complete can it be evaluated, providing you with insights that fuel your development as a copywriter.
When you finish, you open your work up to critique from peers, mentors, and clients, who can highlight strengths and areas for improvement.
And while that may be a bit uncomfortable at times, constructive criticism is a powerful way to fine-tune your skills and improve the quality of your future work.
4. You get to promote yourself.
Finishing your work offers a tangible result you can showcase to promote your skills and the services you offer.
Each completed project shows your ability to deliver. You’re adding work to your portfolio and building your professional credibility. Potential clients and employers like to see someone with a track record of completed work.
Plus, finished projects often lead to referrals, testimonials, and case studies, invaluable promotional tools. They demonstrate your abilities and give you a chance to showcase your services.
By consistently finishing your work, you build a robust self-promotion platform.
5. You feel accomplished.
Lastly, finishing what you start leaves you feeling accomplished. You get a sense of achievement that boosts your confidence and motivates you to tackle future projects.
You build self-discipline, perseverance, and resilience as you navigate challenges and overcome obstacles to reach your goal.
Whether successful or not, every completed task carries valuable lessons and experiences that contribute to your skill set and understanding.
Your accomplishment vouches for your copywriting skills and boosts your self-confidence. And your confidence spills over into your future projects.
Final Thoughts on Heinlein’s Rule #2
Heinlein’s rule, You must finish what you start, holds immense value. If you embrace this principle, you’ll cultivate discipline, overcome perfectionism, and take decisive action.
Additionally, you’ll position yourself as a reliable professional, enhance your marketability, and foster a sense of trust with your clients and yourself.
Ultimately, finishing what you start empowers you to maximize your potential and achieve long-term success.
Next time, we’ll explore Rule #3 — You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.