Or how Henry started volunteering, again.
Three weeks ago, I decided to become the greatest copywriter EVER.
To realise my dreams of getting paid £700 a day to write nonsense, I needed to complete my seven point plan.
I’d already ticked off #7: become the coolest kid in Hackney.
How? By going to eight free gigs and writing awful reviews about them. It was irrefutably confirmed when L.A. Peach responded to me positively on Twitter, just after I’d demolished his band.
Clearly I was very, very cool. But that was only one-seventh of the plan.
Then I remembered that I’d done some research (went to the library and borrowed some books that I definitely didn’t read – reading isn’t cool).
So there were only five points left to complete!
Where next? #2 and #3 of course: develop a kickass portfolio and get some experience.
Surely that’d be achievable in a week.
But who could I trick into letting me work for them when I had absolutely no experience?
I settled on asking my sister’s fiancé if he’d pretend that he was the author of a pre-written reference in exchange for a hand in not failing his medical degree. It was genius, I’d get a reference to put in my portfolio that he could also send to prospective employers! (Like they were going to read a portfolio and a reference)
To minimise the prospect of him saying no, I cooked up an offer that no medical student could refuse.
It was easy. Everyone knows it but, the hardest thing about med school is remembering all the body parts. So to help him not fail his degree, I was prepared to revolutionise his studies with a new take on Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.
And it wasn’t even very much work! I was just going to replace some of the classic body parts with more complicated ones, like femur and collar bone!
Femur, collar bone, knees and toes, knees and toes.
Those body parts were SO complicated, the idiot would probably never realise that the song wasn’t that different.
Then I went over and saw that he was already watching this video of the exact same song. Damn, I couldn’t compete with something that good. (The link’s a really shoddy YouTube video. It’s got over 400 million views, but it looks like it was made by a predator. Maybe success in the future is going to be all about making creepy videos for neglectful parents).
Unable to think of anything else that I could help him with, I returned to the drawing board.
The Hackney Gazette Fiasco
Like all those who run out of ideas, I started thinking about how I could reuse my existing content.
It wasn’t long before a great rehashing project came to mind.
Last week I’d written a review about a local eatery, Homerton’s Kingfisher. Maybe to build up a portfolio I could get my review into one of the local papers. It’d be just like getting published (kind of)!
So I rewrote my review for the local press.
If you want to give it a go, the process is simple:
- Add a dash of amateurism (make it less professional)
- A touch of character (make it more effusive)
- A sprinkle of authenticity (added some typos), and
- Make sure it’s totally PG (remove the expletives)
However, despite sending my revised copy to Time Out, the Londonist, Hackney Citizen, Hackney Today and Hackney Gazette with one extremely persuasive email about how they would be totally unauthentic if they didn’t carry it, only Hackney Gazette got back to me:
Still, one out of five wasn’t bad.
I was pleased. In the email Hackney Gazette all but confirmed that they were going to publish my review. I couldn’t wait to find out how much money they were going to pay me.
But then they just went silent.
A couple of days later, the paper published an interview with the owner of the Kingfisher.
Upon reading it, I was shocked.
The Hackney Gazette were running a quote from me?! They hadn’t even got in touch to ask me for one. Instead, they had the nerve to make one up out of my revised article, as if I was some sort of dick.
The worst thing was that the quote was completely unrepresentative (I’d rewritten these lines for Hackney Gazette because it was in line with their style guide):
Delighted customer Henry told the Gazette: “While there are already a great range of vegan eateries in Hackney, from the Black Cat Cafe to the Temple of Seitan, what’s different about the Kingfisher is that it’s somewhere you wouldn’t expect to find a vegan menu.
“As an independent, family-owned business, it’s exciting to see them trying out new things.”Hackney Gazette, I didn’t realise there were so many vegans, says Homerton chip shop owner
Damn. When everyone saw the article they were going to think I was a lot less cool.
By trying to complete #2 and #3 of my plan, I’d jeopardised becoming the coolest kid in Hackney.
I’m never delighted. Fuck being delighted.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
The article didn’t carry my name as author, I received no cheque, and pretty much all of the story (except the interview with the owner) was word-for-word what I’d written in my write-up.
I’d learned the hard way that you can’t trust a journo, even if they only work for Archant.
I also learned that if someone sends you an email, you’re definitely okay to use bits of it as a quote that you can publish online.
But I wasn’t that bitter. At least I’d got the Fish & Chip shop in the paper – they’d probably now give me free fries.
I also had a second reason to live. In addition to becoming the greatest copywriter EVER, I was also now going to have to destroy the Hackney Gazette.
Realistically, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to burn the Hackney Gazette down until I had the resources of a world-class copywriter available to me.
Volunteering means working for free
Having exhausted all other options, I had to do something that I really didn’t want to.
I needed to start volunteering again.
So I made an account on do-it.org, the peer-to-peer volunteering website and started searching for the perfect opportunity.
While looking it appeared that a lot of old people are lonely. It made me wonder why they don’t make them make friends with each other, or are old people too good for that?
Finally, I found an opportunity for a lead copywriter at a local, Hackney based plc. The organisation will remain anonymous (in case they read my blog), but it was perfect, as it said no experience necessary.
Surprisingly, the offer of a native-English speaking copywriter really interested them. And I was definitely English.
I just hoped that this wasn’t going to turn out like the last time I volunteered:
- Branded as unemployed in the local press (despite the fact that I had an enviable post in Jobcentre Plus)
- Aligned with the Conservative Party (shock horror)
- Having to hang out with other unemployed people (gross), and
- Eventually securing a job that I, oh so adored in central Government.
I mean, that definitely couldn’t happen again, right?