How The Writer's Life Helped Me
Reclaim My Life
Two years ago, my then 5-year old daughter said, "Daddy, all you ever do is sleep and work."
The truth is, she was right.
For as long as all four of my kids could remember, I had been working 50-60 hours a week as a supervisor in a call center for a large regional bank. It enabled us to live in a decent home in a nice neighborhood, and have a comfortable lifestyle.
It also offered a good, steady paycheck. Benefits and a 401k. Paid vacation time. Everything you would expect.
Whose life is it anyway?
Problem was, my corporate employer dictated the part of my life that I valued most – my time. It wasn't mine, it was theirs.
They told me how much time I could take off each year (three weeks) and when I could take that time. They told me which days I had to work, what time I had to arrive, and what time I finished. They mandated overtime and holiday hours.
It wasn't so much the amount of time I was working, but the fact that I really had no control over it. And when a company is paying you well to do a job, you either put up with it or get out.
For too long, I put up with it.
Elementary school music concerts? I was tethered to a phone at work. After-school cross-country meets? I was buried under paperwork in my cubicle. Little league games in the summer? Same thing.
Not to mention missing my first grader's "Doughnuts with Dads" and chaperoning the annual field trip to the zoo in spring.
I felt like I was missing out on my children's lives.
The defining moment
Now, throughout this dark period in my life, there was a ray of hope. For a couple years, I had been slowly working my way through the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.
I knew I wanted to become a full-time copywriter, I just wasn't sure exactly how to get there. And working 55 hours a week didn't allow for a whole lot of writing time.
I decided to use up one of my three weeks of vacation to go to AWAI's Copywriting Bootcamp (even though I could barely afford it, and didn't think I was "ready" for it.)
I'm glad I did.
It was at Gary Hennerberg's Friday evening session that I had a life-changing moment I'll never forget. Gary described the freedom of The Writer's Life, and he seemed to love being a copywriter and the lifestyle it provided for him.
I decided right then and there, no matter what it took, I was going to have what Gary and so many other speakers at Bootcamp had – time freedom, interesting and challenging work, professional prestige, and opportunity for creative expression. Oh, and some real good money.
That Bootcamp was 18 months ago, and I've now been a full-time freelance copywriter for the last 13 months.
I'd like to tell you that I tripled my income in the first year, wrote four controls for major publishing companies, and am now semi-retired and write just two hours a day from my chateau in the south of France.
Well … not quite.
Here's the reality:
- My first-year income as a copywriter was almost identical to my previous year's corporate income (not quite six-figures, but getting there)
- I worked just as many hours as I did the year before
- I'm still trying to figure out how to market my services, and I'm still learning and growing every day as a copywriter
I wouldn't trade it for the world
I gave up a regular paycheck when I left the corporate world, but I gained so much more. In the last 13 months, I was able to:
- Volunteer every week in the classroom at my kids' charter school
- Attend every single concert, game, recital, and competition that came up
- Help with homework every day after school
- Teach a Wednesday night middle school class at our church
- Hang out with my kids whenever I chose – bike rides, basketball in the driveway, or Wii bowling
All because I was in total control of my time. My kids are happier, and they're getting to spend quality and quantity time with me. My wife enjoys our weekly Friday afternoon dates, and says I'm a lot more pleasant to be around now.
In addition, I was able to take more time off for vacations than I ever had, and I'm starting to approach that six-figure mark after only a year.
The Writer's Life indeed!
So, how do you get to this elusive Writer's Life when you're working a full-time job? And how do you get clients when you've never gotten paid to write anything?
It takes commitment and perseverance, but it's not as hard as it seems.
Five quick tips to help you grab your slice of
The Writer's Life:
- Build a portfolio even before you have clients. What do you write? I used spec assignments for practice and for samples. I also wrote a fundraising letter for our school, and helped a former colleague with a marketing piece. Those were the last times I wrote for free.
- Start with who you know. While I was still working a full-time job, I told everyone I was a freelance copywriter. I put it on my LinkedIn profile. I posted it on Facebook. I sent 95 letters to people I knew. The result? The first six projects I had were from people I knew.
- Start with what you know. I've always been into fitness, and I got some work with fitness studios because I knew the subject matter. I had previous dealings in fundraising and self-improvement, and ended up getting clients in both those areas. You can always branch out later, but stick to what you know in the beginning.
- Start with where you are. In other words, start locally. I'm involved in a local Toastmasters group, so I did a couple speeches about direct-response copywriting, and the word spread. I'm on the board at our charter school, and let everyone know I was a copywriter. One of the other members happens to be a marketing consultant, and has since sub-contracted work out to me.
- Finally, if you have a chance, do whatever you can to get to Bootcamp. I can't promise you'll have a life-defining moment like I did, but there's no other place with as many top copywriters and marketers assembled in one place. All with the goal of helping you reach The Writer's Life as quickly as possible.
I still average working 50 hours a week, but now I work when I want, how I want, and where I want. More important, I enjoy writing tremendously, which is more than I can say for my previous work. It's truly a labor of love.
Reclaiming my life by getting back my time freedom was the most important part of The Writer's Life for me. It may be something else for you. The flexibility, the opportunity to work at home, the ability to live wherever you want, the income potential.
Whatever your motivation is, follow these five steps, and pursue The Writer's Life with all your heart.
You won't regret it, and neither will your loved ones.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
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