Confessions of an exceptionally arty, but focused technical copywriter

Posted: December 8, 2019 in hire a professional copywriter
Tags: , , ,


How many have ever wondered who writes the copy on a web page? Or were curious who wrote the windingly short, terse sentences in a certification course they had to take to get that certification and keep their job? Few, I imagine.

I started out writing mainly for myself in my 20s while finding my muse in college. I wrote poetry and short stories mainly. I even edited an eccentric little literary arts magazine called Royal Vagrant. It was at once traditional and forward-looking, striving for a kind of belated avant-garde ethic combined with a more adventurous genre-breaking obscurantism. It also published work that many already ubiquitously-published were not getting published elsewhere.

I edited poetry books for many of the poets who frequented these circles, having been turned off on the kind of poetry writing they offered at my university with their over-dramatic stories written in vacuously self-important sentences that glossed all that was wrong with the world or with people. Many of these poets gave me a great deal of pleasure. I loved giving my input on what was powerful or lacking. I had already read more powerful and well-crafted poetry than most of the literature majors I brushed shoulders with every day on campus. Writing, I discovered, put life experiences into a proper perspective in a way that nothing else ever could.

In my later 20’s and 30s, now out of college with a highly sought-after Bachelor’s Degree in the Humanities (I declined to write the thesis for the accompanying Philosophy major due to a developed distaste for philosophy academics), I was writing for all kinds of companies, colleges, universities, and even foundations. As it turned out, being a bookworm and a budding literary writer makes for a pretty good commercial writer, with just a few minor accommodations and a sense of humor. I looked to Andy Warhol and other artists for justification that while every artist needs to make art, they also need to make a living. I created my own agency, It didn’t hit at first, but began to make a decent income within just a few years. Still, I was paranoid about running out of clients and projects.

With age, I realized that lack of confidence was the worst mistake to make as a copywriter. More and more, I wrote copy with abandon, with gusto, with bravado. I became one, to some extent, with Don Draper from Mad Men. I was Don, both as a writer of great commercial lines, but also as a marketing strategist of some technical finesse.

I now had many marketing and business certifications, from Google Analytics to HubSpot email marketing to inbound marketing to a Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPAM) credential. I was now over-qualified for most jobs and frightening to most marketing directors. I began to understand that I had, as an overcompensation for a non-technical degree, qualified myself out of any chance for working for most paranoid bosses with minimal technical or creative expertise in the process.

Over time, my technical writing took on IT and cybersecurity topics, in addition to the marketing expertise I already had. Financial got added to the list, and furniture, property taxes, roofing, you name it, I was writing on topics once boring to me with a new penetrating interest, accuracy, and discrimination. I had begun to struggle with some of the minor pragmatics of English grammar, like how the Oxford comma had eliminated a lot of the conundrums that the Americanized comma introduced, and how ridiculous many of those dilemmas could become.

The English are annoying and full of hot air. I don't deny it. Yes, almost all of them. That's right. 

Yet they really ha ddone a lot of work on the language before passing it off to us colonists. I began to appreciate, if not the English themselves, at least the love they put into that one seemingly ultimate side project. How they worked so hard to perfect what is in effect the merchant language, the language of Empire as best they could. And all this while writing up all of those pesky little Dutch East India Trading Company contracts, dotting the i's and crossing every t. Well...but back to me...

I wasn’t always making as much as I knew I wanted to be, for the simple reason that I was traveling a bit too much, often relocating to another state or another country for personal reasons. I began to tell my wife that she could go on vacations without me.  That I didn’t need to see China or San Francisco or New York again. What was I going to do? This was the recurring thought every Monday as I looked ahead at where I was and where I needed to be to expand my income.

And then one fine day in my 40s, it began to dawn on me:

I was already living my dream, at least part of the time. I was traveling and seeing places most people I grew up with had not and would never see. I always had money. I always had a roof over my head and a car to drive, clothes on my back. Even though owning a business was isolating, oh how I loved the seclusion.

And I still managed to have friends. I was able to drink nice wines and do whatever I wanted. I was able to read whatever and whenever I wanted, learn new languages. I maintained my creativity, my secret interests in the guitar, philosophy, art history,  political history, and film. There was usually an engrossing love interest in my life. What had I been so tense about every Monday all those years?

Nowadays, a second wife and a full beard later, I realize that every copywriter is a secret reader of Proust in search of lost time, of Bukowski looking for that lost beer bottle in the back of the fridge, of the Buddha looking for inner peace, and in the most whimsical moments, of rare hidden away gems like Huysmans, looking for that elusive form of aesthetic or religious decadence that wasn’t in itself an underappreciated art form, only to be gratefully disappointed to find there were none that could not be deeply rewarding and contribute to a fully lived life.

Now and then, I realize that my storehouse is pretty full. In fact, in terms of a dizzying array of cultural interests and my own personally-developed sense of aesthetics, as well as in terms of my more solid second marriage, my storehouse is ample and filled to overflowing. And I realize that this is exactly what makes me a better writer, and yes, a more daring and emboldened copywriter. So I need to make a living being an expert at something commercial, technical, and practical in the bargain. So what? This is precisely what made me an SEO expert along the way, and a marketing and content strategy expert, and got me so certified that I don’t have a choice but to work for myself. I always dove in deep and long and hard and never stopped until I understood the thing by probing the hell out of it, whatever it was.

These days, I have clients coming at me every which way. Ironically, I usually say no., because most clients aren’t very good. That’s the…um…polite version. It’s part of what they do as business owners or middle management types. I get it. But I shield myself, all the same.

FOr instance, I don’t take on a client unless I think there is room for my creativity, my exacting technical research and marketing standards, and my imperative on quality above cost and time constraints. People who want crappy writing probably shouldn’t contact me.

Are you a prospective client?

Be warned; I won’t take on under-funded projects that don’t allow something interesting to be produced in the span of the parameters assigned. If, however, you want blog post or article copywriting, technical copy, or learning materials that go beyond what you can fully imagine yet, and you have a decent-sized budget (say over $500), feel free to book some of my consulting time. My rate is $50 per hour for all first projects, and $75 per hour thereafter. Flat rates of $55 per 500 words can be obtained for most simple nontechnical, purely creative and branding-oriented copywriting.

Are you an agency?

Or if you’re an agency owner who would like to develop your business, I’ve not only made a profit on my own agency, but I’ve helped numerous others to do the same. Book some time if you’d like to do the same. But be warned: agency biz dev is not all that simple when major decisions have as yet to be decided. My rate for agency consulting is  $75 per hour.

Are you a copywriter?

If you just want to find out what a more experienced fellow writer thinks about the copywriting game, or about your own writing, we could talk about that, too. Chances are, I’ve made most of the mistakes you would like to avoid.

Book my time as a writing or web content coach. My rate is merciful for budding copywriters, but also on a sliding scale $50 for the first 5 hours, and $65 per hour thereafter. For established copywriters already making good money (read: you work for an agency or company on salary), it’ll still just cost you $75 per hour, so buck up!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.