The Birth and Longevity of the American Writers & Artists Institute: Plato had it Right

In 1996, a master copywriter needed to recruit a team of 100 copywriters for one of his clients. He couldn’t even find one.

In the Socratic dialogue, Republic, Plato writes (as translated), “Our need will be the real creator.”

So in 1996, when copywriting was still very much nascent, this copywriter and two of his protégés decided to create a guidebook in the hopes of building a pool of copywriters – for them as well as for others. 

It was then that Katie Yeakle entered the picture. Because of her background in publishing and project management, the three copywriters invited her to help map out the ultimate guide to writing great copy. 

“From day one,” Yeakle says, “the response to this little guidebook was incredible.” 

Still, they never intended for this single project to morph into a copywriter training school, but there were no other copywriting courses in the market, nor in higher education.

“Word got out as aspiring writers saw this was serious training that could change their lives in incredible ways.” 

That’s how the American Writers and Artists Institute, or AWAI, was born, and it has been helping people transition into successful copywriting careers since 1997. 

“We were the first to create a program that taught this lucrative form of writing – and introduced an entire generation to this ‘write from anywhere and get paid well’ lifestyle,” said Yeakle. 

As the copywriting industry grew, the arrival of the internet and digital marketing opened new opportunities for copywriters, including emails, websites, and search engine optimization. Social media brought another boom with companies needing copy, ads and video scripts. AWAI kept stride.

“We kept reaching out to more experts to bolster our flagship course and create new ones,” said Yeakle. “Over the years we became this ‘proxy’ for what you need to know and thrive as a professional copywriter at any point, with any market change.

“Companies need writers who can engage and connect with their customers in good economic times, as well as bad,” Yeakle said. 

Today AWAI offers over 100 training programs, from blogs to writing for vertical markets. It has approximately 40 employees, in addition to working with several freelance writers and project managers. Headquartered in Delray Beach, FL, Yeakle said they’ve always had a portion of their team working remotely, including executive leadership. 

“Since Covid, we’ve successfully gone fully remote,” she said. “We work hard at maintaining our culture of staying connected to each other and our managers are very good at the day-to-day management of their teams. It’s always been important that we help people create the lives and careers they want, living where they want while doing fulfilling work. That applies to our employees, as well.”

10 tips from 25 years

Yeakle offers the following tips to new entrepreneurs:

  1. Focus on what you’re good at and get help for what you’re not.
  2. Find a partner for trading ideas, tackling challenges and celebrating both those wins and losses. 
  3. Pay attention to the numbers; know your KPIs and include the profit you want to make as a line item in your budget.
  4. Fail quickly! If something’s not working, believe it. Learn the lessons and move on. 
  5. Recognize your star employees and give them plenty of encouragement and opportunity.
  6. You can’t do everything at once. Pick the top three goals each quarter that will move the chains and make a difference and keep your focus on them. The rest can wait.
  7. Care about your customers. Ask yourself every day, “how can I make their lives better?” and let that guide your decisions.
  8. Always be learning and reading.
  9. Create a culture that represents your values. 
  10. Learn the principles of copywriting! Even if you don’t write your company’s sales messaging, understanding the core fundamentals of persuasive writing will make you a stronger communicator in all aspects of your life. 

Add to that one of the evident takeaways from the AWAI story, founded in age-old Socratic wisdom: Create what you need.


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