Living the Writer's Life: Derek Coleman
From Flipping Signs to Finding Freedom (and Love!)

Writer Derek Coleman
Here’s Derek posing by the Rocky statue in Philadelphia. He’s always been a big fan.

Derek Coleman felt like his life was wasting away, working for meager pay at a dull job that required a prolonged commute. He made an escape plan and dove in, then found himself in a pickle when it didn’t work out the way he’d hoped. Writing came to the rescue, and brought with it unexpected joys. Enjoy Derek’s copywriting love story and take note of his unique long-term view to pursue joy to the very end.

What was life like before you found writing?

The last job I worked before becoming a writer was as cashier at MetroPCS. But I was so bad at selling that they had me outside with the store sign. I called myself a sign flipper because I got so bored of just standing there that I started learning how to flip the sign and do tricks and stuff. I don’t know if that helped us attract customers, because obviously you can’t track your sign flipping like I can my copywriting, but it made it more interesting.

My life at the time consisted of riding the bus for two hours to get to work every day and back. Some days the commute itself was actually longer than my work shift. It was really just kind of a waste of life.

So how did you make the leap from those dragging commutes to the freedom and income you now enjoy as a copywriter?

It started with a very stupid idea that I was going to create an online course, because that was all the rage at the time. I was like, “Well, I know a little bit about something, so let me try to make one.” It took me three months, and this was my escape plan from the 9-to-5. But I had no marketing knowledge.

So I quit my job, launched this thing, and it totally flopped. I’m like, “I’ve got a thousand dollars left in my bank account … I’ve got to get this thing working and not have to go back to a regular job.” And I just started Googling, Why can’t I sell my online course? I found an article that said, “It’s because your copy didn’t resonate with the audience.” And I’m like, “Copy? What’s copy?”

So I just went down the rabbit hole. I was like, “I need to learn this tomorrow. I need to pay somebody to teach me what they know, and I need to absorb it as quickly as possible.” That’s how I discovered AWAI. I took the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. And every day after that, I just dove in for maybe 12, 14 hours a day. All my friends thought I was crazy.

I relate to so much of your story, especially the part about just quitting the job and thinking, This will work, and then realizing, Wait, there might be more to the story …

In my situation, it had to work. I didn’t have any money coming in, and this was a promise that I made myself. I was like, “No more 9-to-5s.”

You had the gift of desperation.

Yeah, it’s a powerful motivator.

How did you start landing writing work?

Writer Derek Coleman in his new home
Here, Derek has just moved
into a duplex in Belvidere, Illinois,
with his girlfriend, whom he met
through copywriting. (He notes this
was a huge upgrade from his
humble studio apartment
in Compton, California.)

My very first client came from a Facebook group for marketers. I made a post just to introduce myself to the community, and my post went pretty crazy and ended up having 400-something comments. Actually, the post is where I met my girlfriend, who I am madly in love with.

It’s a copywriting love story! Love it. Tell me, what did life start to look like at that point?

I think the biggest change was confidence. There’s something about making money online or being your own boss that makes you feel a little untouchable.

What did your friends and family have to say when you made the switch to writing?

I didn’t really grow up with a large portion of my family members because I was in foster care. I love the way my girlfriend puts it, which is that I didn’t grow up with that built-in pressure to appease your family. And at the end of the day, it is my story that’s going in the wooden box. So I’m going to fill that box with the things that make me happy, the things that make me feel alive and joyous.

Let’s say you could go back and talk with Derek the sign flipper and give him a preview of what’s coming. What would you tell him to expect?

Probably wouldn’t tell him anything. I’d give him a hug, though. If I could, I’d give him a hug, and I’d tell him things will get better.

Derek'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.

What help do you need to move forward with your version of the writer’s life? Let us know in the comments below so we can help guide you in the right direction.

Click to Rate:
Average: 5.0
Published: February 24, 2024

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)