Free to be Me, 24/7: 10 Ways to Stay on Track with Your Goals so You Can Live – and Keep on Living – an Authentic, Creative Life

“To thine own self be true.”
– William Shakespeare

Freedom is feeling like “me.” I like to wear flowers in my hair. I sometimes feel “jazzy” and wear colorful prints. I like to wear my hair down. All the things I couldn’t do in any of my old job.

I cherish that I can express myself now as a freelancer. I’m free to be me, and that makes me a healthy, strong person and wife.

It wasn’t always this way.

“When are you getting a ‘real’ job?,” “How is ‘unemployment?’” were just a few of the harsh words said to me when I first ventured into copywriting at age 19.

Now, I’ve never gone on unemployment. But I did take time off from a normal “job” to learn copywriting. There was something about copywriting I liked and I trusted AWAI’s program to see me through.

Still, it took me a few years to really apply myself. I was 22 years old, and had returned to the job force as a housekeeper. In a matter of months, I became a housekeeping supervisor. No one saw or really knew “me.” All people saw was the blue outfit, work boots, hair tied back, and cleaning supplies. I was also a “boss” who really did not like telling people what to do.

I felt disconnected from who I really was.

Tired of not being true to myself, I decided to give copywriting my best shot. I’d prepared a self-promotion for the industry giant, Nightingale-Conant … I really wanted to work with them.

When my heart was in it, I moved mountains. Literally. Within six weeks of sending that first self-promotion letter, I had my first project with Nightingale-Conant, and my career took off. That was back in 2002.

I was what AWAI would call “in-demand.” I was getting so many projects from more than one client, that I could no longer keep up. Like dominos, one deadline was missed, then the next, and the next.

I ended up burning out. I was exhausted.

It was 2008, the year I was to get married. I needed time for me again, to re-find myself in this new phase of life.

I’m happy to report I’m back on track. And, I’m ironically accomplishing more now than I did before.

How did that happen? There are two key areas: 1) I know how to keep my spirit rejuvenated and 2) I understand the value of time and money more.

I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned to help you manage the busy-ness (much better than I did) so you maintain a healthy, profitable pace.

  1. What Rejuvenates You? Now Do it Guilt-Free

    I used to feel guilty if I took time out for me during a deadline period. Even now, I sometimes feel that. But it’s essential I take that time out for myself to keep my spirit’s flame burning. One thing I love to do is take photos. I recently was feeling bogged down by a deadline. So, I pulled out my camera, and took a few portraits of my dogs. I had a blast. And, it was just what I needed: I returned to my desk with renewed energy and the words started pouring out.

  2. Set Up Passive Income Streams

    When I got started in copywriting, I couldn’t ask for royalties. I felt I was “asking too much.” I know different now. Ask your client, “Are there royalties or a bonus available on this project? If yes, may I ask for that?” I let my client define how much of a royalty or a bonus I get. They usually have a system in place for paying out.

  3. Diversify!

    I got into photography last summer. I’ve helped my brother, a professional photographer, photograph four weddings so far, and I have two more lined up with him this summer. I do portraits, too. It’s reassuring having more than one income stream, rather than depending solely on one.

  4. Night Owls … it’s Time to See the Sunrise!

    I used to work late into the evening … 2 am … 3am … pull an all-nighter. Now, I prefer early rises. Sometimes, I can get up at 4:30am or 5am. When I do, I feel so much better about my day. (No, I’m still not perfect in this area). But, anytime I do get up that early, it’s like I gain momentum. I feel ahead of the game, and I keep on accomplishing lots. (Afternoon naps are allowed, though!)

  5. How Long Do You Think a Project Will Take? Now Double It

    When you can, always ask for more time than you think you’ll need on a project. If you’re 100% confident you can get it done in a week, ask for two weeks. It reduces stress of a deadline, and I often find, I usually need that extra time. This strategy is one of the main keys to helping me meet deadlines again.

  6. Is your Food Helping You Meet Deadlines?

    After you eat something, are you feeling energized or drained? I’ve pinpointed several foods that tire me and which ones give me energy. Yogurt is my secret weapon whenever I feel my energy dip. It gives me a natural boost of energy.

  7. Break Big Projects Up Into Weekly Goals

    If I’m working on a three-week deadline, I’ll do this: The first week, I’ll send the headline and lead. The second week, I’ll incorporate any feedback I received and send more copy. The third week, I’ll submit final copy. This process has really transformed my deadline work because it keeps me on my toes.

  8. Work In 33.33 Minute Segments

    This is copywriting legend Gene Schwartz’ technique. Gene recommended using a timer and setting it for 33.33 minutes. During that time, you are to sit at your desk, and focus on your project. Once the timer goes off, you take a short break. This break gives your mind time to refresh, and allows your subconscious to bubble up ideas for you. Then, you repeat the process. I find this process helps me get over writer’s block easier. (Sometimes I’ll use my “break time” to add in a sentence or two to a book I’m putting together. Yes, it’s tiny progress, but I’m moving forward!)

  9. A Strong Mind Keeps You Positive

    I start my day with prayer, and I read positive thinking literature. (I also listen to audio programs that keep me focused on being the best version of me.) Why? Because I need to keep my mind strong – or else, pesky doubts, fears and insecurities seem to creep in – and make me second-guess myself, even now.

    Lastly …

  10. Stay Grateful

    I remain grateful for every project and royalty check that arrives. Why? Because I know they are what is keeping me in my life of freedom. And, I always want to cherish that fact. This freedom is precious, and the freedom to be me – is worth the challenges I have faced as a copywriter.

    If you’re faced with challenges as you journey towards the writers life, please know the life you desire is worth striving for!

    Feeling this kind of freedom is the best feeling in the world. As Madonna says, go ahead and “Express yourself!”

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Published: August 10, 2010

2 Responses to “Free to be Me, 24/7: 10 Ways to Stay on Track with Your Goals so You Can Live – and Keep on Living – an Authentic, Creative Life”

  1. Wow... I don't even know what to say except I feel this article was written for ME! I have just started the copywriting course, and you have seriously helped boost my confidence. I hear the unemployment chastise often as well, and "Find a REAL job!", all the time. It's very disheartening when you feel different than most others. I too, am chasing a photography career as well as this, so THANK YOU!!! You just made a stranger smile!


  2. Catherine,

    I enjoyed your 'Free to be Me/10 Ways' and felt my energy rise as I read. I felt the need to put aside excuses, part the curtains,and step past imagining what might be.

    Thanks for the hand up. Encouraging, guiding words are no small thing and bolster the spirit to leap into the unknown.


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