Why I Won’t Meet You For Coffee: How Self-Education and Mentorship Lead to Success

I was compelled to write this post because I’ve recently received quite a few requests for meetings from people who aren’t freelance copywriters and want to become freelance copywriters. Now, I’m happy to share what I know, but at this point in my career, I can’t/won’t do it on an individual basis. It’s just too time-consuming: my own business would suffer if I said yes to every request, and that’s not okay with me. It might come across as a little bitchy, but one thing I’ve learned from being a freelancer (write this down): you have to be stone-cold when it comes to protecting your time. I hope I can explain my reasons why in this post.

Why I Won’t Meet You For Coffee

It’s important to have mentors, elders in the industry who can help get you on track, keep you on track, and always help you grow. It’s equally important for each of us to be active participants in our own lives and work our asses off to achieve our goals.

In short, before you ask someone (me) to help you, do your damnedest to help yourself first–educate yourself before you ask someone to do it for you. Read books on your topic of interest, read blogs (like this one), follow Twitter hashtags, go to meet-ups. Learn as much as you can on your own, or with your peers, before you walk up to someone more experienced and say: teach me all that you know.

That’s not fair. We more experienced folk have busted our asses to learn what we’ve learned. We’ve done the hard work: we’ve read and researched, we’ve gone beyond our comfort zones to learn about our boundaries and interests, we’ve gained enormous amounts of insight, philosophy, and confidence by putting ourselves through this career-building fire. And guess what? That’s the only way we would have been able to achieve all that we’ve achieved, and it’s the only way you’ll be able to achieve as well. You can’t ask anyone to just give you all of that. It’s non-transferable. You have to earn it on your own. Build it from scratch for yourself. You might not want to hear this, but it’s the only way you’ll be successful.

You might think meeting with me is your ‘Easy’ button to success. Reality check: all I’m going to do is give you more work.

Why I Started This Blog

Whenever these requests come up, it puts me in mind of a college freshman asking their professor: “I want to become successful. How do I do that?” A fair number of interested-in-becoming-a-freelance-copywriter people have asked me that question. For awhile I was meeting with them at endless one-on-one coffee meetings that took up a lot of my time. Time that I would have otherwise spent on my business.

I believe mentorship is important and I didn’t want these people to flounder, or fall through the cracks, on their way to copywriting success, so I started this blog. In an effort to answer all freelance copywriting questions, basic or complex, I and several other Conclave members have contributed to this knowledgebase so others may benefit from our collective experience…and so I don’t have to have coffee with everyone in Portland who wants to become a freelance copywriter. I love you all and fully support your inquisitiveness and bright-eyed enthusiasm for this career path, but if I met you all for coffee I couldn’t remain in business and then I wouldn’t be the person from whom you would seek knowledge. Thus, this blog and the Conclave’s twice-monthly gatherings are where I’m willing to share all that I know with you.

The Answer to the Question

The answer to that college freshman question mentioned above is also the answer to “How do I become a freelance copywriter?” It’s the answer to how do you become/do anything. Write this down and put it somewhere prominent so you never forget:

Do the work.
Build the relationships.
Build your unique knowledgebase.
Success will follow.

That’s your anchor. Everything else you and your business/career become is borne out of that foundation–the foundation you build from doing the work, building relationships and your unique knowledgebase. Without that foundation, you will crash and burn. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes.

You have to KNOW WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. KNOW WHY you ask for half the project fee up-front instead of billing for the whole thing after you’ve sent it to the client. KNOW WHY you’re attending this particular networking event/conference and not those others. KNOW WHY you charge what you charge. KNOW WHY you only work with certain clients. The only way to learn these WHYs for yourself is through experience. You can’t cheat on this one. You just have to get out there and do it.

It’s supposed to be hard.
It’s supposed to be a little scary.
It’s supposed to be uncomfortable.
You’re supposed to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing
and then do it anyway.


If this has been your experience, then good job! You’re on the right track. Keep going and see it through if you’re truly invested in this path. Change your focus and do something else if not.

Make It Worth My Time

Before you ask someone (me, in this particular scenario) to take the time to answer your questions, make sure you’ve spent your own time trying to find the answers first; educating yourself as much as you can on your own.

Come to me educated, with complex, dynamic questions that help me as well as you, and I’ll be much more likely to sit down with you one-on-one. Say to me, “I’ve read The Well-Fed Writer, the Conclave blog, and I’ve implemented the strategies and advice from both. I have some additional questions and thoughts I’d like to run by you. Can we meet for coffee?” YES, WE CAN!!

For example, a peer called me up a few months ago and asked me a great question: what do you do when the client gets in the way of your doing great work for them? What a great question! This woman was a stranger to me, yet we spent 20-30 minutes discussing her challenge. It was great! The college freshman questions I’m referring to are: How do I find clients? and How do I make more money? To be clear, I believe these are valid questions. As you can see, we’ve already written blog posts answering them. I believe answers to such questions are important and widely available online. I would love it if you would first do a web search for this information that you seek (much of which I think you will find on this blog), before asking them of me via email.

That’s all I’m saying. Does that make sense?

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