Living the Writer's Life: Tim Geiger
Attorney Discovers Copywriting and Reduces Stress Level ‘by About 2,000%’
Burnout hit Tim Geiger hard once he got his law practice up and going, which caused him to pause and look around for alternatives. But when copywriting entered the picture, another appealing opportunity came his way. Discover how Tim came to weave his two major interests together, and how he’s crafted a lifestyle of less stress, comfortable pay, and work he enjoys.
What were you hoping to escape when you turned to writing?
I graduated law school in 2007, and eventually ended up with my own solo practice. The grind was getting to be a physical, mental, and emotional drain for me. And I was making a good living as a solo practitioner, but not enough to start hiring people to run the business part on a full-time basis. I had an accountant and a bookkeeper who did the stuff around tax time, but the day-to-day running my accounts was on me. I started looking to get back into the writing that I had always wanted to pursue.
How did copywriting enter the picture?
I first started getting into it in the fall of 2017, and it was right before the first-ever virtual Bootcamp event, and I’d already joined Circle of Success. But about the same time that AWAI came into my consciousness, an attorney I used to work for who’s now a judge reached out to me and said, “Hey, do you still have a desire to be a staff attorney for the court?” Because that had been something I’d wanted to do. So I interviewed and got the job and went from 90 hours running my own practice to 40 hours a week as a state employee. It opened up a lot more time, so I could pursue copywriting and still do law. That helped reduce my stress level by about 2,000%.
How does working a state job dovetail with what you do for copywriting?
For a while I helped some attorneys with their websites and with email campaigns as part of their sales funnels and stuff. But now that I’m working full time with the court, and especially because I’ve transitioned from the trial court to the State Supreme Court, it means I could end up reviewing things as a staff counsel for any attorney, regardless of what they’re practicing. So just because of the possible appearance of impropriety, I don’t do that anymore. If I’m writing and it’s under my byline, I make sure it’s completely separate from the law.
And I’m transitioning more toward copyediting, because as the editor my name wouldn’t be on anything. I’d just be somebody in the flow who’s doing one of the edits at some point. Half of my job is reviewing other staff attorneys’ documents and making suggestions and essentially doing copyediting already, and I enjoy it. Growing up, I hated getting papers back from people with all kinds of red ink all over it, but now I love doing it to other people’s work.
You’re a major presence in many of the AWAI forums and Facebook groups. What do you get out of that?
I enjoy teaching and helping others reach their goals. Part of me is a teacher, and I always wanted to be a coach. So it’s nice to encourage others to go after the writing jobs they want.
Did you have any formal writing training before law school?
I was a philosophy major in college, and a lot of that, you’re making logical, analytical arguments, but it’s written like a dialogue, so a lot of it ends up in the passive voice. That’s been a hard habit to break over my career, to write in a more active voice, but as a staff attorney, I have to do that. Learning to do sales copy helped force the passive voice out of me, and shorten my sentences, because philosophy’s rife with half-page-long sentences.
What’s a tip you can share for others who are experiencing professional burnout and need a way to approach work differently?
You need to look at yourself, know what your skills are that you’re willing to express. We can all be trained to be good at writing the English language. Don’t look back and think, I made the wrong decision in wherever you started. Just keep remembering how far along toward your goal you are. You have to maintain that I made the right decision. If you’re going to look back, look back to see how far you’ve come from where you started. From there, every decision should be in service of that goal.
Tim's Living The Writer's Life story was originally published in Barefoot Writer. To learn more about how you can start living your dream writer's life too, click here.
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