MY WRITING STORY
Straight out of college, I moved to Florida and started my career as a journalist working for city magazines. My dream was to right wrongs, shine lights, and help fight corruption. But after a few years, it was clear there wasn't an appetite for that where I was living. So I quit my day job and worked in sales for a bit. Soon, a friend who worked in the commercial printing business invited me to his enormous warehouse. He showed me practically endless stacks of brochures and other collateral.
"See all this stuff?" he asked with a smirk. "People write it. They're called copywriters."
I took the hint and sent a letter to all of the ad agencies in Orlando (there were 26 at the time) asking if they were interested in hiring a freelance copywriter with a journalism background. It turns out some were — and right away, to my total surprise. It was a medium-size market and they had recognized me from my bylines.
So I literally had to run to the bookstore to buy everything I could find on "how to be a good copywriter" before my first meeting. I studied hard, worked hard, drove myself hard, and by the time I moved to Atlanta the next year, I had a portfolio I was proud of.
Next stop: Atlanta
I didn't know anyone in this new city so I went to an Atlanta Ad Club networking event. I met a freelance designer there who introduced me to a couple of his direct marketing agency clients. In a matter of weeks, I was sitting at conference tables with those clients' clients, developing concepts and writing copy to help them grow their businesses. I worked like crazy. My portfolio grew. I was having a blast.
I worked as a team with that designer for many years (he's a teacher now) and with other great designers. I still work with one of my first clients from those early days. She was an account executive then and is now a principal at a successful marketing firm.
Greater meaning, please
As fun as it was to write pieces that reached so many people — millions, sometimes — after a while, I wanted my daily work to better reflect my values. So I began to write for nonprofits. I also wrote for various government offices and soon learned that when businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies work together for a common goal, the results are so much better. I then began writing for clients involved in cross-sector collaboration and sustainability, and along the way I became GRI Certified.
Being a "creative" and having started my first business when I was seven years old, I've always been drawn to making something from nothing. Whether it's a piece of writing, a big idea, a good mood, a new service, a bigger kitchen, a photograph, a campaign, a project rollout…whatever the "something" is, the creative energy that drives it captivates me.
Entrepreneurs have that energy for their ideas. And they think big. Almost all of the people I work with today are entrepreneurs and the rest have an entrepreneurial spirit.
No better way to spend the workday
All in all, I've completed more successful writing projects than I can count since I sent that first letter to the ad agencies.
It can be an intense experience sometimes, and sometimes my eyes burn from staring at the computer screen for so long. But I can't imagine a better way to spend my work hours than learning new things about my clients and their industries, helping them solve their communications problems, coming up with creative ways to tell their stories, and choosing the right words to get the job done. And, of course, watching our projects succeed.
Frankly, it's a lot of fun. And I look forward to the next big project.