Rebecca Matter is the President and Co-Managing Partner of American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI), the world’s leading trainer of direct-response copywriters. She’s a marketer with two decades of experience in publishing and direct marketing and has spearheaded successful million-dollar campaigns for countless products, both online and off, and has spoken and written on topics ranging from getting and working with clients to successful web marketing strategies.
Tell us about American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) and your functions as a Co-Managing Partner.
AWAI is a publisher of home study programs that teach people how to make money writing, working for themselves. The company has been around since 1997, and since then we’ve helped thousands of people develop skills that enable them to achieve financial freedom and take control of their lives.
Having worked as a marketer in the publishing industry my entire career, I started with the company as its Director of Marketing about 7 years ago and quickly demonstrated my ability to impact the company’s bottom line. A few years later I was named the VP of Marketing, and shortly thereafter offered the role of Co-Managing Partner.
Today my main function is running the business with my partner, Katie Yeakle, as well as overseeing much of the company’s marketing efforts and contributing to its numerous publications.
How were you able to bring your current position home?
Almost 4 years ago, I had the sudden urge to pack up, move to a new state, and completely try something new. The only issue was that I loved my job with AWAI so much, that I couldn’t bear leaving it. So I set out to work a plan that would allow me to do my job from my home, wherever that home ended up being.
I put together my proposal, and then presented it to the board, requesting a two-year trial. The deal I made was that if my working from home did not work out for any reason, I would return to the company’s home office, and resume my position in-house. They agreed to give it a shot, and then I worked very hard to ensure everything went well.
Of course wouldn’t you know, my working at home actually turned out to be even BETTER for the company. I’m actually more effective working from home than I ever was in the office. And now, ironically enough, most of my staff work out of their homes too.
Are there any tips you would recommend to people who want to do the same thing?
The best thing you can do to put yourself in a position of strength is to tie yourself to the company’s bottom line. If you make the company money, you’re in a much better position to negotiate.
In this economic client, that’s actually a good piece of advice for everyone working for someone else – regardless of whether or not you work at home. If you’re not helping the bottom line somehow, figure out a way to put yourself in a position to do so. It means better job security.
Now when I wanted to work from home, I went for the full enchilada right up front. But you can also propose the work-at-home idea on a much smaller scale at first. Try and negotiate for working at home one day a week. Then once you prove that you are capable of being effective, even when you’re at home, you can try requesting more time.
And then finally, when you are working from home, make sure you have strong communication with your office and fellow employees. Along with proving to your boss that you’re getting your job done, you’ll want to eliminate any animosity your fellow employees may be having towards you for getting what may be considered “special treatment.”
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your home office?
Yikes, that’s a scary question. Some weeks I work about 60 hours, although lately, I’ve been trying to take better control over my time. I recently hired an assistant – who also works out of her house by the way – and have started scheduling my days by the half hour. I’ll let you know how it goes!
For the most part, if I’m working, I’m in my office. I actually have an entire room of the house dedicated to it. That way at night, I can close the doors and “come home” from work.
I think it’s important if you work from home to have a dedicated space so that you can separate your work at home life from your home life. Even if you’re in a small apartment, you can separate your working space with a simple screen.
AWAI publishes numerous home-study courses; what are some of the best opportunities for women who want to pursue a work-at-home career?
It really depends on their financial goals, and how much time they want to spend learning, and how many hours they want to spend working.
For example, if a woman has a high-income goal like six figures, or even $60K, I’d definitely recommend copywriting hands down. It’s also the most versatile since the skill of copywriting – also known as persuasive writing – can help a woman become more successful in every writing career there is, as well as in her own life.
But if a woman is looking for a simple spare-time gig, maybe to make a few thousand dollars a month, I’d probably recommend resume writing, publicity, or desktop marketing. Those careers are easy to learn, and you can be up and making money quickly. In fact, our publicity program actually shows you how to make money your first week.
My advice would be to think about what you want and need to get from the career, and what you’re willing to put into it. That will help you narrow down the options. Then do your research – find others doing what you want to do and see what you can learn from them.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I’m a huge fan of spiral notebooks. I know that in this digital world that sounds way archaic, but I have at least 3 going at all times. One for my business items, one for my personal items, and the third one for ideas.
I write everything in blue ink and cross items off with a red pen when I complete them. Then every few days I flip the page in each of my to-do notebooks, and rewrite the things that have yet to be crossed off on a new page, and start all over again.
I’ve tried every digital organizer you can think of, and nothing has been more effective than my spirals. Plus there’s no better feeling then physically crossing something off of a list.
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Besides working for AWAI you have some side projects that you’re working on, tell us about them.
I’m an entrepreneur … it would be impossible to work for a company like AWAI and not be! Every day I’m talking to people who are working for themselves, and living what we call “the writer’s life.” It’s inspiring.
So along with my job at AWAI, I’m always working on something new. Right now I have a cooking blog called WhatToCookWhen.com that gives readers ideas on what to cook based on the situation at hand.
I also do some marketing and consulting for companies who can’t afford full-time marketers, as well as some writing on the side. Although right now I’m actually working on a website for solopreneurs in the health and fitness industry that I hope to launch later this year.
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What advice would you give to a new freelancer or entrepreneur?
I’ve helped numerous freelancers and entrepreneurs get started, and have seen firsthand what it takes to succeed. So I have a few pieces of advice …
First and foremost, be honest with yourself. Determine what you want out of your career, as well as how much you’re willing to invest (both time and money) to get it. I actually wrote an article on the topic recently that may help women with this step. The key is to make sure you’re being realistic.
Set goals and write them down. It’s hard to know if what you’re doing is working, or if the decisions you’re making are right if you have no idea where you’re going.
Keep at it. The first 6 months will be tough. But if you keep pushing … if you keep trying … you will succeed. Remember, there’s no try when working for yourself. There’s only do.
And finally, celebrate your successes! All of them! Don’t just wait for the big reward at the end. Make sure you celebrate all of your achievements along the way.
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