Freelance copywriting – everyone knows it’s about spending all day at your laptop, joyously dashing out breathtakingly creative and quick-witted content to dazzle your starry-eyed clients, dressed in your PJs, whilst supping endless cups of coffee and munching on a packet of bourbons to oil the creative cogs. Right? Wrong.
Well, not completely wide of the mark, I guess.
There are moments in the freelancing world when all the stars align – clients are practically beating down the door for your magical way with words, and you get to immerse yourself in killer one-liners and witticisms that seem to slip off the keyboard with minimal effort.
Plus, the cookie jar is full to brimming with Fox’s Extremely Chocolatey Chunkie Cookies.
But by and large, freelancing is about the knack of getting all those clients (or would-be clients) to come door-pounding in the first place.
Which basically, comes down to good old-fashioned self-promotion. Putting yourself out there, quashing all those internal ‘I’m not worthy’ gremlins and channelling your inner Ron Burgundy whilst declaring to the world ‘I don’t know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal. I’m good. I mean really good. Hey, everyone! Come and see how freakin’ good I am!’.
And this, my friend, takes gumption.
Someone with gumption has ‘courage, spunk and guts’. What a tremendous word eh? It really packs a punch, even in its throaty resonance. It means business, it’s no-nonsense and it makes you stand to attention.
And to stand a chance of surviving in this crazy ol’ world of freelancing, you need to have it, and In. Spades.
On the whole, before most of us freelance-sorts decided to go it alone, many of us were ’employees’, working under the banner and security of a company. We may have had to promote our company or a brand and we probably needed to demonstrate a certain level of competency to our boss.
Generally, though, we got to hone our craft pretty much undisturbed, whilst not having to worry about marketing our wares or displaying a vast amount of entrepreneurial nous doing it.
But now it’s just us and our wares and we need to flaunt them. And we need to do that with yes, you’ve guessed it, honest-to-goodness gumption.
In the beginning, was the word
I got into this crazy wordsmithery business in the first place because as clichéd and as overused as this might sound, I honestly do have a passion for words.
I love how words have the ability to evoke all kinds of emotions, to make you see life in a different way, to enable you to experience another person’s world. Heck, they can start a revolution! (Martin Luther King Jr. anyone?) Words are playful, powerful and persuasive and I can delight in tinkering with their subtle nuances for hours.
And not only do I enjoy playing with words to get the right message across to a reader, but I enjoy forming a relationship with that reader. Really getting behind what makes them tick. What’s gonna press their buttons? What ways can I find to resonate with them? To find their ‘inner ding’? That’s why working with brands gives me such a buzz.
So how has a humble ink-slinger such as myself dealt with venturing into the freelance world and raising her head above the parapet? To pronounce from the roof-tops that ‘Lo, I am here to write your words, world! And what’s more, I’m damn fine!’ (Thanks, inner Ron).
Time to ramp up the gumption quotient
I’ll be honest, it’s been a touch scary. And I’ve had to seriously ramp up my quotient of gumption. ‘Cos without it, there won’t be anyone paying me to write them words I love so darn much.
As a freelancer, I need to be audacious enough to look for work opportunities everywhere. In every conversation – at the school gates, every friend of a friend that I accidentally encounter, every brush with an old school mate – I need to network like a whirling dervish. And then, have the nerve to strike up a conversation about what it is I actually do.
Them: “Copywriter you say? So you ensure people’s legal rights for their creative work?”
Me: “What? Ahhhh, No. No, no, no, no…”
And wheel out the ol’ elevator pitch at the drop off a hat.
Every time I walk out of the house, I need to leave modesty firmly at the door.
And if I didn’t have a good dose of gumption, how would I take all the setbacks? The unanswered pitch emails, the leads that run cold, the re-writes and the endless edits? To bear my soul about my occupational frailties in a blog post like this…
So yeah. I may have been a bit of a wizard with words before I went rogue, but now as a freelancer, I’ve had to take on quite another skill. As Kate Winslet so marvellously put it in the film The Holiday: ‘I think what I’ve got is something slightly resembling… gumption’.