Grab your disco knickers; we’re having a party
It’s my five-year freelancing anniversary (Fanniversary? Maybe not.) this month.
So to celebrate, here are five little, well-bless-my-cotton-socks-wujja-believe-it, things that’ve happened along the way.
1) Getting my first noggin of work
Veeeery long story short.
I’d sold my agency to another agency owner. They took me on, along with all the other staff. Huzzah! Three months later, I was redundantified. Huzzah!
Meanwhile, I had my old offices to fix up (bloody landlord contracts), ready for the next tenants to come in.
And the next tenants just happened to be a healthcare ad agency. And I’d met one of their Account Directors at a networking do. And, thank you fate.
So I asked, and I got.
Eighteen different projects over the next year. I learned about negative pressure wound treatment, rehydration for Dysphagia sufferers, IV therapy… all sorts of stuff to get my teeth into (did I mention invisible dental aligners?).
I wrote trade ads, awards entries, thought pieces, video scripts, patient aids, sales brochures, even a whole e-Book about building a successful dental practice.
Lessons: Copywriting projects can come from anywhere. If you don’t ask you don’t get. Every cloud, and all that.
2) New era, new media
I was no stranger to freelancing. Since the ’90s I’d racked up a good 11 years pen slinging for anyone who’d have me between ‘proper’ jobs. So I thought I knew the freelance game pretty well.
But whoa there Neddy, things had changed. I needed a website. I needed a (an active) LinkedIn profile and social media presence.
What a pain in the glutes.
But I was wrong. I found that having an online presence is not only good for business; it’s a lot of fun. Where else could I get away with writing the sort of monkey-fuddle I publish here? Where else could I possibly meet so many big-hearted, witty and inspiring Copywriters?
Twitter has been a revelation. I’ve ‘met’ some incredibly bright people* and even MET met some of them in the real world, off the back of our virtual conversations.
We share ideas, hopes and fears. Heck, we sometimes even share clients and job opportunities.
And thanks to Colin Covid, more than ever, we’ve all needed a way of keeping in touch, and social media (besides being a massive toolbag of bigoted weirdos) has really helped.
Lessons: In the old days it was all about ‘who you know’ – it still is. Don’t be afraid of the new. Copywriters on Twitter are lovely.
3) Playing the waiting game
When I first set up ‘So What If’, an old friend and fellow freelancer said, “It’ll take you about five years to get established”.
Five years? That’s like, 1,824 days. Crimminy-Doodle-Doo! Put peanuts in my pants – really? That long?
He was right you know. Well, not far off.
It’s only the last couple of years that I’ve felt some semblance of stability (jinx – anything to do with design or advertising is about as stable as a blancmange in a wind tunnel).
Anyway. Here’s a little tale that demonstrates how sometimes, things take time to bear fruit.
September 2017, I asked an old college chum, a Graphic Designer, to contribute something to the blog, by way of a Q&A thingy. Job done, I asked him if any of his designery mates might fancy doing the same.
December 2017, a lovely designer, (chum’s mate), said he’d be up for it. And during our to and fro over email, he said something along the lines of, “if we ever need a freelance Copywriter at the agency, I’ll put your name forward”.
I thought no more of it.
September 2019, a full 22 months later, I got an enquiry via my website:
Your details were passed on to me by my colleague… I’m looking for a copywriter who can do concepts/strategy as well help us to create a brand ecosystem… Please give me a call and we can discuss further.’
Thank you universe. Two years on, and dozens of projects later, I’m still working for what has become one of my favourite clients ever. I mean, come on, if that’s not proof that ‘all things come to those who wait’, well I don’t know what is.
Lessons: The tastiest peaches take time to ripen. Patience is most definitely a virtue.
4) A chance to give something back
Freelancing inevitably has peaks and troughs. Sometimes the gaps between jobs yawn wide enough to let you fall in and start asking questions about the bigger picture.
How’d I get here? Where to next? What’s that funny smell?
That first question though, how did I get here? It’s convoluted and messy, but one thing’s for sure, I couldn’t have got here alone. So big hugs and kisses to all the Copywriters, Art Directors, Designers, Group Heads, Creative Directors and miscellany of creative and marketing folk who’ve given me a leg up, or a word of advice along the way.
And the only real way to show appreciation, I reckon, is to pay it forward.
Since going freelance again, I’ve had the privilege to mentor (sounds a bit grand) a few up-and-coming Copywriters and lots of chances to proffer the odd nugget of encouragement.
The best bit of news I’ve had so far, came by way of an email in December last year:
‘I’m just getting back in touch to say thanks a lot for the advice you gave me earlier in the year… Out of all the snippets of advice I have picked up along the way, yours was the most influential – when you told me to “puff my chest out”… (I’m now) booked up til past March! I know you’re a busy guy and I’m sure you have a million and one things you could have been doing than helping some random fumble his way through his first few months in the business!’
Pressed all of my chuff buttons at the same time.
Lessons: We’re all in it together. Doing good feels good. No man’s an island, unless he’s called Lewis, Fraser, Cuba or Prince Edward.
5) I like my new boss
Granted, he can be a bit of a twonkpot sometimes, but generally speaking he’s alright.
Last Christmas I wanted 4 weeks off to visit family and give the upstairs department a rest.
Didn’t even have to fill out a holiday request form. He just said “yes”, and that was that.
Asked for a pay rise last year. “Sure thing kiddo, k-nock yourself out”.
He can be a stickler for detail. Makes me work stupid hours sometimes. But there’s curry nights, half-day Fridays and all the biscuits I can eat.
The Christmas party’s are rubbish, mind.
Lessons: As a freelancer, the buck stops with you; where the lines are drawn, how much energy you put in, and what kind of business you want to run. Being kind to yourself is always a good idea.
So, thank you to everyone who’s helped in the last five years. It hasn’t all been rosy, but I haven’t been so fired up about ‘the craft’ in donkey’s yonkys. And I’m a lot closer to a sensible work/life balance that does the trick for heart, body and soul.
Here’s to the next five.
Now where’s the crisps and Tizer? x
*If you’re on Twitter, I highly recommend @cleanslatecopy @EdCallowWrites @Dee_WkdCreative @blokewriter @VikkiRossWrites @EmilyPenny @wordmancopy @sallymfoxwrites @Turnerink @benjrmckinney @Fi_digitaldrum @flickwild @allgoodcopy @penthemighty @unlikelygenius @haydngrey @MrCCMiller @katielingoyork @nickparker @FullyThoughtOut @MC372 @EJCownley @ed_prichard @StoriesWithGill @Andre_Spiteri @beccamagnus @MegRFreelance @tomcopy @jolilford @thatcontentshed @gemmyred @_joejeffries @STEcopywriting @FiPhillipsCopy @bravenewmalden @amyboylanwrites @LorrieInCaps (I’ve missed out hundreds more, sorry, but this little bunch are great, and they’ll connect you to all sorts of other excellent copywriting folk).