Let’s talk about retirement.

Everyone will have his or her own idea of the perfect retirement, but there are some elements we can probably all agree on. An ideal retirement would have you waking up each morning feeling good about yourself . . . looking forward to every minute of your day . . . not having to worry about paying the bills . . . and not having to deal with boredom, and/or depression. Would you agree?

If so, I can deliver that to you. Much sooner than you might imagine. (How does 12 months from now sound?)

The first and most important “trick” to making this happen is to get rid of one possible myth you might have concerning retirement: the myth that the ideal retirement is devoid of work.

I’m not talking about the kind of work you may be doing now. Not punching a time clock and toiling away to make someone else rich. I’m talking about doing something well that you care about. Because that’s where pleasure in life comes from.

I’ve talked about this subject so often that I fear you may be screaming at me right now for bringing it up again. But a good, life-changing idea bears repeating. Think for a moment about your life so far. Take a mental inventory of the experiences that gave you the greatest pleasure. If you have children, you may remember a conversation, a trip you took together, a lesson you taught them. With your friends, it may be times when you worked on a project together, or on some common cause. Think about the pleasure you get from pets, from your favorite pastimes, from writing in your journal, tending your garden, practicing an instrument, or playing a sport.

Seeking pleasure for its own sake — watching television, being entertained by any one and any thing — can be pleasantly distracting. But not when compared with your best experiences.

The point is this: If you could identify one thing that you really enjoy — be it sports or finance, landscaping or pets, singing or reading romance novels — there is a way to turn that passion into profits.

The reason this is true is very simple: You are not alone in liking what you like. Even if your interest is in something highly specialized — like sailing three-masted, double-hulled yachts — there are thousands if not millions of people all over the world who share your passion.

These people constitute a market. And if you could find a way to reach them, you would have a very good chance of making your interest into a viable business. Agora Learning Institute is devoted to helping working people get out of the rat race and make money — usually very good money — doing something they love. Today, I want to convince you that one of Agora Learning Institute’s programs may be your very best option to do just that.

For seven years, the American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) has been teaching people how to make a living writing copy for advertising campaigns. (It’s called copywriting.) During that course of time, they have developed what I’m sure is the very best program for doing it.

The thing most people don’t understand about copywriting is that it has nothing to do with the negative “stuff” we usually think of when we think of advertising. Great copywriters — and I’m talking about the truly great ones now — never sell products they don’t like to people they don’t care about for companies they don’t admire.

So if you could master the skill of copywriting — the way it’s taught by AWAI — you’d have the power to accomplish the first and most important secret to an ideal retirement: finding work you can do, part-time or full-time, that you truly, really love to do!

SC already knows that. “I just read SC’s first effort at writing a full-blown marketing package,” a top health publisher wrote me yesterday. “It was the best first effort I’ve seen in ages.”

I contacted SC to congratulate her and ask her to do some work for me. But she was already booked up three months in advance. She told me she is very happy she found this way to make good money “without leaving home, working when and with whom I want.”

In less than 36 months, she has accomplished her goals.

When she wakes up in the morning, she can look forward to being in complete charge of her day. She can spend her morning sipping coffee and reading the books and magazines she enjoys, lunch with friends, and spend a few hours in the afternoon writing about what she read about that morning. Some new idea or bit of news that excites and motivates her. In SC’s case, it will be an idea that can make her readers happier and healthier.

“When I’m onto something new — a possible new cure that can eliminate pain or reverse some chronic illness — I positively love what I’m doing,” she says. “The time flies by. I sometimes have to force myself to stop writing.”

Imagine if you could have that experience. How good it would feel. Thinking of yourself as a professional writer. Knowing that what you are writing about will help your readers. Feeling the fun and excitement that comes with passing along a useful, new idea or bit of advice.

That’s exactly how I feel when I’m writing something good for Early to Rise. (A feeling I’m having right now!) You can have that feeling too.

And it can start happening very soon. Maybe even in the next 12 months.

AWAI students who master the skill of copywriting can easily earn six figures. Virtually every one I’ve taught personally has done just that. AWAI’s walls are plastered with unsolicited testimonials from students who know just what I’m talking about. People like MD, just one example of someone who got her first client within two months of starting the course.

MD had just had her second child, and hated the idea of putting her baby into daycare to go back to her low-paying job in non-profit fundraising. She decided her time had finally come to be a full-time writer and work from her home. But six months into it, all she had to show for her efforts was $40 in earnings and some free copies of magazines that ran her stories.

That’s when she found AWAI. She enrolled in the copywriting program in June of ’02, got her first assignment that August, and now, slightly more than two years later, is earning $100,000.

And she’s just one of many.

KJ walked away from an $81,000-a-year engineering job just two years after taking the program. This year, she surpassed her old salary and has the freedom she’s always dreamed of to work when and where she wants. PL told me, “Within a matter of weeks after completing the course, I found myself working on a copywriting assignment for $3,000. And, I’ve had as much work as I can handle since.”

SJ went from being a driver for an online grocery delivery company to a $100,000-per-year copywriter for one of the country’s top direct mailers in less than three years.

What all these people (and many more) have already done is astonishing. They have turned their backs on their former, dreary, nine-to-five lives and opted for working as freelance copywriters writing about things they love to write about. They have already accomplished the first and biggest challenge of retirement . . . having a way to make a lot of money without the hassle, stress, and humiliation of doing something they don’t like doing.

But that’s only the beginning.

When you decide to trade in your old working life for the life of a freelance writer, you enjoy all of the other benefits that come with the profession.

* You don’t have to work a lot of hours. Masterful freelance copywriters can easily make $200,000 to $300,000 a year. (You won’t make that kind of money in your first few years, but you’ll get there if you keep at it. And you’ll keep at it if you decide to write about what you love.) Break that down to an hourly rate and you are talking about making between $100 and $150 an hour. A professional copywriter who chooses to work only four hours a day — at that rate — can earn $100,000 to $150,000. Not bad for half-time work. Even if you work only two hours a day — which will fly by so fast you won’t be able to stop yourself — you can still make $50,000 to $75,000 in regular, reliable cash.

* You don’t have to answer to anyone. Copywriters like SC, MD, KJ, PL, and SJ can — literally — choose their clients. Once word gets around that you know what you are doing, offers for work will come to you faster than you can deal with them. Take it from GS, an AWAI graduate who is now an in-demand copywriter. There’s only been one week in the last three years when he hasn’t had a project to work on. Or CC, who happily wrote in to say that she’s working on her 28th project for direct-mail giant (and her “dream client”) Nightingale-Conant.

* Because you are in demand, you are entirely in charge of who you want to work for. If someone dares to quibble with you about your prices or criticize your work, you can “fire” them and take on another client. (AWAI hopes you won’t be so cavalier. But you can do it.)

* You can live anywhere you want — even in a retirement paradise. As soon as DM learned copywriting, he moved from the chilly Northeast to sunny South Florida. “For me, living in Miami has always been a dream. I’m close to my family and can enjoy outdoor activities 365 days a year.” PH had another dream destination in mind when he became a freelance copywriter. He moved to a small picturesque town in the hills of Vermont. “This is exactly how I always imagined I’d live when I retired. I can’t believe I’m doing it now, at my (still very young) age!” What’s your idea of the perfect place to retire? It’s possible that by this time next year you could be living there!

* You can work from home, a personal office, or poolside. With today’s technology — laptop computers and Ethernet — you can do your reading and writing from just about anywhere. I like to spend my mornings working in a little office I designed for myself (equipped with my own gym, pool table, and media room). In the afternoons, I like to write at the beach or by the pool. You might want to do your “work” on your porch, in your backyard, or in your bed. Your clients will never, ever ask you, “Where do you do your work?” And if they do, you can tell them, “It’s none of your business!”

* You will enjoy the company of great books and interesting acquaintances. One of the less-frequently mentioned benefits of freelance copywriting is how it expands your world. Because you’re writing about something you love, you’ll be spending some of your spare time reading the books and magazines you already want to read when you go on vacation. And since you are a professional writer, you can get introductions to all sorts of world-class experts — even celebrities — with whom you can establish enduring, personally enriching experiences. (For me, this a very motivating part of my writing experience.)

* You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping people. You begin with the fact that you’ll be working on subjects you love. You add to that the fact that you’ll one day be able to “hire” the clients you prefer. What that amounts to is a chance to bring quality products and services to people like you — people who share your passion or interest. And telling them the good news about ways they can improve their lives will make you feel good about yourself. (This is exactly what charges me up to write Early to Rise, in general . . . and this message, in particular.)

Can you really do it? Can you truly swap one life for another?

Whenever I tell people how wonderful the copywriting life is, I encounter some skepticism. The skepticism is reasonable. It does seem — at first — too good to be true. One objection I often hear is really a fear in disguise: “That may be good for someone else. But I couldn’t do it. I have no talent for writing.”

To this, I can say two things. First, and most important, copywriting is not some fancy skill that only college-educated people can master. Nor is it something you can do only if you have a natural talent for it. Although some professional copywriters like to promote this elitist idea (because it makes them feel so special), it’s entirely specious. (See “Word to the Wise,” below.) And my personal experience — and the testimonials that line AWAI’s walls — makes that fact very clear.

Successful copywriting is about speaking very plainly. Just the way you speak when you talk to a friend or family member. If you have ever persuaded someone to go to a certain movie or eat a slice of pie or meet you for a drink . . . you have all the skills you need to learn to be a copywriter.

I can’t tell you how many successful AWAI graduates I know who began writing with no writing skills whatsoever. And that’s just as true with the copywriters I’ve taught personally (many of whom were friends and relatives). When they first began, I thought to myself, “Boy, this is going to be really tough.” But before I knew it — by following the AWAI program — they were making progress. After a year or so of doing it full-time, they jumped up a level and began writing like true pros. I’ve seen so many cases like this that I’m now certain virtually anyone can learn to be a copywriter!

Another objection I sometimes hear has to do with the demand for copywriters. “If AWAI is promoting its program all over the place, won’t there be too many copywriters around by the time I finish the course?” I must say, at the beginning, I wondered the same thing myself. But it turns out that this has never been a problem. There are so many markets for competent copywriters — in so many media. Competent copywriters are needed for every type of advertising, from newspapers to magazines to catalogs to television to radio to direct mail . . . and now to the huge and fast-growing Internet. “Demand is increasing much faster than the supply,” says Katie Yeakle, Executive Director of AWAI. “When one of our students is ready to write, he or she has no problem finding work.”

Ask Bill Bonner, president of Agora Publishing, who says “I’m always looking for more copywriters — lots more. There just aren’t enough to write the hundreds of letters my company needs written every year. And I’m not alone. The whole industry needs copywriters.” Or alternative-health consultant Kevin Finn, who says, “I’ve been in this industry over five years and I’ve seen it grow and grow and grow. Of my 20 or so clients, each client mails about 200,000 pieces of direct mail per month and each spends at least $100,000 per year on freelance copywriters.”

Or talk to Bob Bly, a very busy copywriter for the last 25 years who has seen tremendous growth recently. “When the Internet craze first began, I feared the printed word was doomed — and that I, as a writer, would have to find another career . . . fast. Happily, I was dead wrong. Rather than killing copywriting as a profession, the Internet has literally doubled the market for my freelance copywriting services — and added another $100,000 a year to my income.”

The holidays are here. You’ve spent a year working hard and possibly dreaming about the day when you can enjoy a new life — a life of having more fun, making more money, and really loving your life. This can be your life and it can start immediately.

Enroll in the 2005 class of AWAI’s copywriting program and by this time next year you may be ready to make the big jump.

I can’t guarantee your success. I can only guarantee that the AWAI program will give you everything you need. And that if you commit yourself to finishing the program this year, you’ll be in a position to make the big jump into “retirement” much sooner than you can imagine.

AWAI’s program is 100% refundable if you are unsatisfied for any reason. You have nothing to risk by trying it out. Give yourself a present this year: Present yourself with the chance to change your life. There’s never been a better time than right now. Seize the day!

(Ed. Note: For information about AWAI’s copywriting program, click here http://www.thewriterslife.com/ph/etr1.)

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.