First things first, and credit where credit’s due, I’d like a shout out to my fiancée, Pete, for getting me to sign up for a copywriting course. After two glasses of red wine, he decided bed was the better option at 20:30 on the first Friday in lockdown, because what else is there to do? I was left alone for two hours which, as we both work from home is a novelty so unimpressed with what the TV offered, and bored of scrolling through social media I spent the time researching courses, and signed up.
Because dear readers, would you trust a doctor with no medical degree or a tree surgeon without any qualifications? I only know how to write copy for websites, and even then, it was learning on the fly, and there’s a whole lot more to copywriting than that. I bet you’re all throwing your heads back in disbelief right now, saying “what did she think it was!” I hear you. I do. I knew it was more, but I think I’ve been in denial, rather like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Pete regularly talks about 2022 as our pivotal year; “I’m coming out of the Army after 24 years and moving into a new career, and you’ll be doing your copywriting.” Like it’s a done deal, simple. I always mumble something along the lines of “Yes, maybe. We’ll have to see what happens.”
So just as I’ve been badgering Pete to make sure he’s doing everything he can to prepare for his future, I need to heed my own advice. My career change won’t happen without me actively learning. I’m not sure why I thought it would. I don’t know how to write ads, brochures, nor understand the difference between print and online or the creative process involved. And if my part-time wish comes true, I’ll need to know as much as I can about copywriting.
Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, hitting the ‘sign up’ button for a course and seeing a chunk of money disappear from my bank account was a bit of a gulp moment. Have you ever felt the same? Heard your inner voice telling you loudly “it’s the right thing to do, why are you hesitating?” “What are you scared of?”
I’m scared of making the step-change in my career, of failing, of coming up with excuses (time, work) not to do a course that cost me quite a bit of money. I’m worried I won’t be able to build a portfolio that shows prospective clients I do know what I’m doing and anxious that I may not even want to be a copywriter after the course. I don’t have a plan B.
In the early days of my career change course when the topic of conversation turned to re-education, I always remember being a bit reluctant. One of the reasons is because of my financial situation; I’m not able to take a year out of work to study, and the other is due to the amount of time that has passed since I left university. I wasn’t the most diligent student, regularly swapping French lessons for a trip to Top Shop to pick a new clubbing outfit for the weekend’s rave (oh those were the days!). I’ve done a couple of day and week courses over the years, and of course, the career change course which I stuck to, but the copywriting course feels a significant commitment. It’s got a much higher price on its head if you know what I mean; the outcome could make a huge difference. If I don’t make time for it, my dream of becoming a copywriter might never materialise, and with that the kind of lifestyle I want. I could actively sabotage my future.
And what if Plan A doesn’t pan out and copywriting isn’t for me? I’m sure I’ll panic, cry and most likely exaggerate the situation thinking the worst. However, finding it out on a course must be better than with a client. Could you imagine turning out a shoddy piece of work and potentially ruining a reputation you’re just building?
I have realised that even though I thoroughly enjoy content writing, which is what this column is, I’m not that keen on pitching stories to magazines or publications. Although I did pitch this column, and the blog writing service I mentioned in my last column (client is interested by the way, but can’t quite afford it now) I don’t feel smart enough to come up with a unique pitch. I do know I’m creative enough to come up with intriguing headlines or catchy copy because it’s got me noticed in my current job.
I also don’t have to specialise only on copywriting; I’ll genuinely welcome a blend of copywriting and content writing as they require different approaches and achieve different outcomes. Good copywriting aims to elicit an immediate response from its audience, generate sales and establish the image or raise awareness of a product or company. Content writing informs a reader and builds a relationship with them, which I hope I’ve done with you through this column. And we’re on column six! Time seems as though it’s passing more quickly in this weird COVID life, like being in Tardis.
And I don’t want to end on a sad note, but the saying ‘life is short’ was brought home to me when a friend of mine died recently after her fight with cancer. Rebecca was only 42, but boy did she have a great life. She jumped at opportunities, made things happen, took everything that life threw at her and said F**K You. Whilst we knew her diagnosis was terminal, it doesn’t make it any less painful, and when I found out, I went for a walk to clear my head. I walk in the countryside regularly, it’s a tonic for me, but this time I actively took life in. Bright green reeds moved gently in the flow of the stream; crows cawed in the trees and red kites swirled above. I felt and smelt what Rebecca can’t, the wind against my face and the smell of rain. I stared back at deer and wondered at a tiny bat who flew in front of me — it was a walk full of life which can end all too suddenly.
Rebecca wrote a blog* throughout her two bouts of cancer, and she wrote her last update in the event of her death. It’s titled “Over the finishing line”, and the accompanying image is of her waving a chequered flag in front of a poster depicting a Formula 1 racetrack (she was a huge F1 fan). Rebecca knew she would cross her finish line earlier than the rest of us, but generally, we don’t get a heads up of when we’re going to die. What would you do with your life if you knew you only had a couple of years to live? Would you travel the world and take on big adventures or spend time with close friends and family? I don’t’ know what I would do, but in all my hesitations, I can hear Rebecca telling me to ‘Just do it’. That well-known slogan of Nike, a company she’d dreamed of working with and luckily did. I can safely say she lived their brand slogan day in and day out.
While her last update is upsetting to read, there’s a line in it that resonates with me, “please don’t be sad for me, just re-channel that emotion into doing something amazing”. I can’t promise I won’t be sad, lovely lady, but I’ll try my hardest to do something amazing.
*If you want to read Rebecca’s candid and brilliantly written blog (she was a fantastic comms professional) visit buyabiggerbucket.com #boxyout