One Year of Providence

In a little under two hours, it's June 27th 2012 - my 29th birthday - and I can't help but look back over the past year as one of the most significant of my life.

Around this time in 2011, I handed in my notice to a job I'd been doing for the best part of five years - and one which, at the start, I'd have been happy to stick with for the most part of my career.

Sure, the workload was heavy, even from the outset, when I wrote about eight feature-length items in one unusually heavy week, on top of around 24 normal-length articles a day for clients in industries ranging from online bingo to secure data storage.

But I liked the work - the pace of it, the randomness of the subjects we had to tackle - and it was, after all, achievable.

Flash forwards from 2006 to 2011, and the expected output had climbed to around 30-32 articles - that's four news stories, sourced and researched to fit the client brief, written, edited for publication and uploaded directly to the client's website, in each working hour of the day.

I stuck it out for as long as I could, but in June 2011 I resigned from Adfero DirectNews (you may know them as ContentPlus, NewsReach, or simply under the name 'News Feeds', as they'd just rebranded when I left).

On my 28th birthday, as I recall, I'd booked the day off work. In fact, I had a few days of annual leave to use up, as the end of June was also the end of my holiday year.

I arrived back to find my entire workload had been transferred to other writers. When I asked what I was supposed to do, I was offered the choice of simply leaving the company that same day.

And that's why the beginning of July - and not the end - marks the anniversary of me becoming a freelance copywriter.

It's been an interesting year.

I've worked for friends, acquaintances, ex-teachers and people I've never met - and never will.

I've written online and print copy ranging from ghost-written eBooks that are ostensibly by online marketing experts, to brochures for international brands, to the chattiest of blog posts for online bingo sites - a topic I can't seem to escape but which, luckily, I genuinely love writing about.

I've had clients pay up front, others whose money shows up without fail on the last day of the invoice deadline, and thankfully few late payment issues to contend with.

Most importantly of all, I'm surviving, and thriving, both on the income I'm currently earning, and on my current working conditions.

To those of you who have contributed to my freelancing career so far, I thank you, sincerely. I could not have lasted this long without all of you.

Right now, today, to those of you currently on my books, a specially heartfelt thank you. Your ongoing support means more to me than you would know, and you have given me the ability to turn down work when my instincts say no - perhaps the most significant milestone I have yet reached in this first year.

And to those of you I have not yet met, but who will play a role in my second and future years of freelancing - I look forward to working with you, whoever you may be.

Long may the Phronesis banner fly high, and proudly shall I fly it, in the name of powerful writing, properly informed action, and partnerships that allow us, together, to change our own little corners of the world for the better.

What Does a Copywriter Do?

There's a sense of general discomfort among many copywriters because, frankly, people don't know what we do.

Some writers drop the 'copy' part from their job title because they don't want people to think that we just copy and paste content from one place to another - and if you've ever looked for an original music review, rather than a copied-and-pasted press release from the artist's PR representative, you might be forgiven for thinking that.

Others are unhappy because a lot of the commonly used job titles don't make writing sound like much of an artform; 'copywriter' is all about producing the required word count, 'blogger' is as much about photography, choosing the right subject and promoting it on social networks as it is about writing spot-on copy, and 'wordsmith' just makes us sound like typewriter-monkeys churning out page upon page of adequate text.

I'm currently toying with the title of 'lexician' - a tight and technical approach to constructing pages of text that don't lack the artistry of proper writing, but also combine the essential elements of structure that are needed in either hardcopy marketing materials, or search-visible online articles.

But it's not just the name that matters - it's what we actually do that can leave some would-be clients feeling a little confused. So, here's the breakdown of my usual approach.

Jennie Sawdon reaches North West Wedding Awards 2012 Finals

A huge note of congratulations goes to Jennie Sawdon, the Manchester-based wedding singer who launched her self-produced debut album Fighting the Fairytale in 2010.

Jennie's been a valued friend for some time now, and we've featured her music several times over on Popsiculture, the music blog that I co-author.

So it's great to see her getting the recognition she deserves - this time by reaching the finals of the North West Wedding Awards 2012.

Jennie is shortlisted in the category of Best Entertainment Act in this year's awards, which are run by County Brides magazine.

Voting closes tomorrow (June 7th) and the winners are due to be announced at a gala ceremony to be held on June 23rd at the Midland Hotel.

I really hope Jennie gets the recognition she deserves this year, and can add to her title of Wedding Singer of the Year 2010, as given to her by The Bridal Magazine.

Good luck, Jennie - you deserve it!

A Blog With No Theme

or, How Nickie Refused To Be Typecast

When you're devising a new blog - and that's an entire blog, not just a blog post - there are two extremes to choose from, and a whole spectrum in between.

For many companies, it works best to choose just a couple of very specific topics, and stick to those - giving your blog a clear topic structure, and allowing you to focus on a handful of SEO keywords that you'd like to rank highly for.

But for a personal blog, you're not necessarily so worried about highly competitive keywords and search engine rankings - at least, not at the outset.

Nickie O'Hara is a shining example of how a scatter-gun approach to choosing your blog topics can actually serve as a solid foundation for a highly successful blog.

Her blog, Typecast, has been shortlisted in the finals of the Most Innovative category in the MAD Blog Awards for 2012, as well as a second nomination for Nickie as Most Helpful Blogger.

Typecast is just three years old - and Nickie explains that it did not begin life as a particularly cohesive attempt to create an award-winning blog.

"I started writing my blog in 2009 to document some major life changes and it's grown from there," she says. "My blog doesn't have a theme, which gives me the freedom to write about every subject.

"It's wonderful to know that people enjoy reading what I write, and I'm really excited to have reached the finals of the awards."

Building on Humble Beginnings

In Nickie's case, Typecast is more than her modest description of it - in the space of just a few years, it has grown to offer not only the wide-ranging blog posts that attracted her initial audience, but also several features that are suited to readers who want more structure.

Among other things, she is part of the Blognonymous network, a collective of like-minded bloggers who allow their readers to publish anonymous requests for help - on everything from troubled marriages to suicidal tendencies.

It's a potentially life-saving regular feature that often provides some of the most compelling content, and the liveliest debate, alongside the everyday articles that help to lighten the mood.

Meanwhile, in terms of her 'Most Helpful' nomination, Blognonymous is just one aspect of Nickie's contribution to her readers, which extends across several social networks and an impressively active online and in-person approach to networking in every sense of the word.

You may have seen her asking the questions in the Friday Twiz on Twitter; you may have heard her on her local radio station, talking about her role as a mummy blogger; you may have bumped into her at a blogging conference.

Wherever you've seen or heard her, there's plenty to learn from this seasoned mummy blogger, whose fresh outlook on life pervades her blog posts and continues to attract interest not only from fellow parenting bloggers, but from readers across the internet.

For more about Nickie, visit her blog, I Am Typecast.