Not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer. It’s hard work, full of long hours, with unpredictable pay. And frequently, those who love you the most will say you’re chasing a pipe dream.
I was born with entrepreneur blood coursing through my veins. My mother’s grandfather came here from Italy with a few dollars in his pocket and a wine press. He eventually started a fruit and vegetable business after years of working his tail off as a migrant worker.
My father’s father came from a line of farmers and grew up raising tobacco as their chosen crop. When I was little, I’d listen to my relatives talk about business, business ideas, and how to make more money. There was never a shortage of creative ideas when our families would gather.
So as I grew up, I fantasized constantly about having my own business. Doing my own thing. Being the boss and calling all the shots.
I had no desire to tell anyone else what to do. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do.
It took me a very long time to discover 1) what I really loved to do 2) what I was really good at doing and 3) combining the two to find people willing to pay me to do it.
I’m a late-bloomer. I didn’t marry until I was 39 years old and didn’t find what I really loved to do until a few years after. I take comfort in knowing that Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn when he was 49.
My attempts to become a full-time freelancer took years of starting, failing, and then starting up again. It was like learning how to ride a bicycle. Once I found my balance, everything fell into place and I started to make progress toward my goal. The trick is to never give up.
Long ago, I realized that what I love to do more than anything else is communicate ideas.
I love discovering something that (in my mind), is worth knowing. Something that can bring value to one’s life. After I discover that, I get very excited about bringing that information to others.
To me, this the heart of marketing. You find something you believe in. You think it’s pretty nifty. You want others to benefit from knowing about it. Then you try to figure out the best way to let them in on it.
It is this desire to help others with the “something” that motivates me. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. The words are simply tools to get the job done.
However, words are still my most prized tools and I am forever trying to sharpen them.
The “sharpening” comes in the form of books, webinars, articles, magazines, live events, peer groups, etc. It takes time and also, experimentation. Sometimes things work. Sometimes they don’t. Some audiences respond better to a certain way of telling a story while others yawn and move on.
It’s never boring, which is another reason why I love doing what I do. Writing copy is exciting. I have a variety of clients—from technology to human resources to even collectible sales. All are very different and need a different approach with their copy.
Figuring out what gets the best results is also part of the fun. Every good copywriter has within them a secret mad scientist. Testing different headlines or call to action text is a part of discovering what works best.
But what really inspires me is helping a client position their product or service in such a way that it grabs the attention of a potential buyer. To be able to find that One Big Idea that will help push that client’s offering further into the marketplace.
I love having a variety of clients because it always keeps things interesting. But what I’m finding truly interesting, is that although different people have different needs for different products, their emotional drivers are the same.
People want to avoid losing things in life. Money, independence, friends, happiness. They also have desires to be richer, more successful, more secure, more independent. They want things to be easy and simple. They want to be seen as important. They want to feel good about their choices.
My deepest core is a desire to encourage people. To make them feel good about themselves and their choices. This dovetails nicely with what I do for a living. Whatever I write, I get inside the head of my perfect buyer. What makes him or her tick? What is it that bothers her? Causes her to want to make a change? What would she like to see in a product or service that would truly make a difference in her world?
Those are just some of the questions I ask. But what about you?
What inspires you about your work? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I remember when Steve Jobs passed away, feeling a very strong sense of something genuine and brilliant leaving our world. I came upon a commencement speech he gave to Stanford University in 2005. It’s a brilliant speech, profound and funny while serving as a great kick-in-the-pants for the attentive grads sitting in the sun. Here are a few quotes:
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.
And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
Steve lived for only five more years after that speech. But within those five years, he continued to push Apple to greater things with the introduction of the iPhone and the iPad. He set the world on fire by designing technological tools that helped makes people’s lives better.
I remember well what it felt like to wake up on a Monday morning and dread heading in to work. I contented myself with focusing on the great people who I interacted with throughout the day, but I hated the work I was doing.
Don’t be me.
Don’t waste your time anymore doing work you don’t love. Don’t invest energy in doing work that doesn’t thrill you. You have a unique set of skills and talents that are to be discovered, nurtured, and mastered so you can make your own mark upon the world.
It took me a long time to find what gets me revved up in the morning. But now that I’m doing it, It’s like heaven on earth.
Find out what inspires you. Then go do it. Heaven’s waiting.