Don’t get me wrong – experience can be overrated.
But when my LinkedIn account kindly reminded me that I’ve actually been in business for nearly 35 years, I felt a blog coming on.
So in 35 years (plus a few) what have I learned that could be helpful to you, dear reader?
Well, perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is the inevitability of change. And the fact that in my chosen profession it’s an (almost) unmitigated blessing…
Just how fast can technology go?
Think about it.
Back in 1982 I was writing my copy on an electric golfball typewriter. (Well, at least it was easier on the fingers than the manual Olympia portable I’d used at university.)
I did my research at the library – writing my notes by hand.
And the only way I could get copy to my clients was to type it out and put it in the post. Then retype it – usually more than once – when they wanted changes.
So working to a tight deadline was something of a challenge.
These days I can still use the touch typing skills I learned when I was 15. (Who would have guessed?)
But I can write my copy online. With a dozen different tools to help me. And instant access to a vast library right here on my desktop.
I can send it to a client in minutes. And make the changes they want in minutes, too.
So what’s really changed?
Now that’s an interesting question.
Because in my (now considerable) experience, very little has changed. Except, of course, the technology.
Which has changed out of all recognition.
But that’s not a problem. Mainly because all it’s done is to make this job a lot easier and a lot more fun.
As well as providing copywriters everywhere with a whole new market.
Bigger. Better. More varied. And instantly accessible. What’s not to like?
And the opportunity?
It’s about moving with the times…
When I started as a freelance there was good money in copy-editing and proofreading – of printed books.
There was reasonable money in writing them, too.
But the best money was in visual scriptwriting – for corporate presentations.
At first these were slide shows. Yes, I’m talking about 35mm slides in state of the art plastic-and-glass frames. Some with (for the time) amazing technology running up to 36 projectors at once.
Then video arrived – and pretty soon it was all about video.
So I wrote video scripts. (And corporate presentations.) For about 15 years. And garnered a lot of experience working for some very large enterprises.
During that time the Spectrum computer I’d played around with in 1982 was replaced with an Atari ST. (With a word processing program called 1st Word.) And eventually with my first PC.
Then something called the internet came along.
Ironically, I and my friend, fellow-writer and co-conspirator in fiction Mike Scott Rohan had predicted something like the internet in 1984. In a supernatural thriller called The Ice King.
So I wasn’t surprised – but I was excited.
And I started playing around with it. Much as I’d played around with my Spectrum back in the day.
With the result that I learned to create simple web pages in something called HTML.
I even built websites. But I didn’t become a web designer. Though I did flirt for a while with the idea of producing short, animated Flash files (complete with music and voice-over). Something that potential clients could use as marketing aids.
I even had a buyer for them – a car dealership in my local area.
They were making their contacts aware of the files by sending them an email. Which I also drafted for them.
Light bulb moment
And then it occurred to me that emails needed to be written. Illustrated with the right images. Designed. Laid out. And coded.
All of which I could do myself…
And the idea of a managed email marketing service was born.
At the time – ten years ago – that was pretty innovative. People hadn’t really latched on to the potential of email.
These days marketing gurus tell us all that it should be the core of our digital marketing strategy.
So where next?
Ironically, I think the art of copywriting has almost come full circle.
Although it’s possible to get written content at knockdown prices, I wouldn’t recommend it. Good copywriting is still an art. And art is best commissioned from a practitioner with experience who knows (and charges for) the true value of their work.
And with multiple marketing channels all screaming for new content, quality copywriting is more in demand than ever before.
That said, how do we encourage new talent?
Well, how about an old-fashioned apprenticeship?
That’s effectively what we do here at Mill House Media. Finding new writers. Giving them regular work. Mentoring and encouraging them. Making sure they get paid a decent fee, on time.
Oh, and helping them deal with the hassle if there’s a problem. (Remember, I’ve been there. I was a lone freelancer, too. And I know exactly what it’s like.)
They’re the future. They’ll be the rising stars of tomorrow. And it’s the very least we can do for them.