Wednesday, September 17, 2008

AWAI: Should You or Shouldn't You?

If you've been freelancing for a while, you've probably heard of the American Writers and Artists Institute. It's a correspondence school for copywriters and graphic designers, and it includes courses on copywriting, travel writing, photography, desktop publishing, and even romance novel writing. The courses are expensive--around $500 each--and I've heard a lot of writers question whether they're worth it. I've taken the Accelerated Direct Mail copywriting course, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on the program here for those who are curious.

The website copy is a tad overblown, but the product is good. One of the reasons why some writers are skeptical of the program, I believe, is the really hype-y sales copy throughout the site that promises you'll earn a six-figure salary working two hours a week from your vacation home in Cape Cod. Overblown? Yes. And a lot of that is probably due to the fact that AWAI is backed by a lot of big names in the direct mail business: Bob Bly, Michael Masterson and Don Mahoney among others. Painting a picture of the big dream and trying to tug on the prospect's heart strings are all proven tactics in the direct mail business, but I know that for me personally, my defenses go up when I see people promising me the world. Give me facts, figures and proof instead of appealing to my emotional side, and I'll be more likely to buy--and I suspect a lot of other writers feel the same way.

Still, I did get a lot out of the copywriting course--it provided detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to write an effective sales letter, and I learned a lot not just about writing in this format, but about writing to sell. These are skills I've used a lot in my client work since, even if I didn't wind up concentrating on direct mail sales copy.

The fringe benefits are mixed. The school advertises a lot of extras when you buy into their program--including a newsletter, ongoing business tips and access to their job boards. I still get the newsletter and I find a lot of useful tips there. The job boards, however, aren't that exhaustive--and a lot of the employers seem to be looking for spec work. I've never gotten work from it, but I'd love to hear from someone who has.

The company just came out with a new class on web copy, and I'm considering ordering it as soon as I have time. I'd love to hear from others in the comments section who have had experience with AWAI.

1 comment:

Joanna said...

I've taken the AWAI course on direct mail marketing/writing also - at least I bought it and have read some of it. I have mixed feelings about them on the whole -- mostly because of the hype and promises of riches. Clearly, they know what they're doing, because they got me to buy the course. :)

I do find the Golden Thread newsletter sometimes useful. I've actually landed a good gig because of what I learned through the course, so it has paid for itself. But I don't like that the have so many courses for this, that and the other -- all fairly expensive and all promising the world.