Guest blog by freelance copywriter, Stephen Marsh
We’ll come to copywriting in a minute. First, there’s something else on my mind. My friend Maria.
Maria and I go back years. We went to school together, and we’re close enough to tell each other everything. Four years ago, she met Dan.
I don’t know why she stays with him.
At first, all I heard was how great he was. She told me what a charming, interesting person he was, and how happy he was making her. Every time he bought her flowers, I heard about it. That’s the sort of thing a best friend wants to hear.
But then it all began to change. Suddenly, all I heard about was the fighting. How obsessed with his work he was. The lack of interest he had in her.
I wanted as little to do with the guy as possible. She’s my friend, and all I hear about is how he treats her badly. I don’t know why she stays.
Then, despite my best attempts to avoid him socially, I heard him call my name in the supermarket. I kept my head down, but he called again.
There he was. Buying flowers. The same little gesture he’s made once a week, since the day they met.
It threw me off, and we started chatting. He asked about the kids. He told me how busy he’d been with work, the new projects that were taking up all his time. It had caused a few arguments.
But all I cared about were those flowers. What a sweet thing to do, even after all this time.
And I realised. I don’t know why she stays with him. Because she doesn’t tell me that.
We’re all selective about what we tell.
Like Maria, we don’t call our friends and family to tell them that everything is ticking over nicely. She didn’t feel it necessary to get on the phone to me every time Dan gave her a token of his love. She picked what she wanted to share.
It’s the same with social media. We share what we choose to share.
That’s dangerous for new and aspiring copywriters. People who turn to social media to look at what established copywriters are like, how they fare, and what can be expected from this industry.
Every now and then, somebody finds me on Twitter and contacts me for advice. They want to know how to get up and running as a freelance copywriter, where the work comes from, and at what point they can depend on a regular, decent income.
I think that’s symptomatic of the way social media can mislead people. Because I sure as hell don’t know the answers.
On social media, we’re painting pictures for people to see. That’s not letting people peep through our windows and see every day.
I post about the projects I’m working on, and the achievements I’ve made. Like every other copywriter, I share good news that strengthens my position as a successful, desirable guy to work with.
But I’ve only told half the story.
I don’t use social media to tell you that I’m having a quiet month, I’ve overspent, and I’m worried about where the rent will come from. I don’t jump online to reveal that I’ve made a fundamental mistake, put too much trust in a client, and found myself out of pocket to the tune of £1000. I don’t tell you when I’m an inch away from jacking it in and doing something else.
After all, who’d want to read that?
I make a living as a full time copywriter. I’ve worked with some interesting small clients and big, recognisable ones. I’ve done work that I’ll be proud of forever, and been paid a healthy sum.
But there’s so much more to it than that. There’s a struggle to find new work, to be better, and, believe me, it doesn’t just disappear after a few months. It’s always there.
So if you’re working towards becoming a freelance copywriter, think less about what other people seem to be doing. Don’t fret about how successful people appear, or how easy they’re making it look.
Chances are you’re only hearing half of the story. You’re not hearing about the flowers and the fights alike.