Freelancer – Five Months In

Avoid Freelancer. It’s a race to the bottom.

That’s the first bit of advice I received when I assumed the role of ‘definitely a copywriter’.

Actually, that was the second piece of advice. You know, after, “What the fuck are you doing? You don’t even know how to use commas?!

It was a valuable lesson from a real life writer. That’s why I ignored it.

Now five months in, and still experiencing professional freefall, I’ll happily admit he was right.

Yes. Freelancer is a race to the bottom.

Not because the money’s dreadful. That’s a given.

No, it’s a race to the bottom because most employers don’t want words, they want tripe. Or they want writers who are happy to transform their tripe into andouillette.

I guess that’s great if you’re developing a haggis-shaped, entry-level portfolio. But maybe it’s not so great if you aren’t.

As I’m going for more of a century egg vibe, I’ve been forced to trash a lot of blue collar, gourmet work.

So I thought I’d post what I’ve learned about Freelancer here. It’s expert advice. Yes, all $291.48 and €17 of it.

How’s Freelancer Different From Other Platforms?

It’s not.

Freelancer isn’t really that different from other online freelance marketplaces. Whether you’re comparing to Upwork, Fiverr, or Worksome. Sure one’s got a blue logo, one has a light green logo, another’s more bile-tinged, but the principles are the same.

The setup’s simple. Employers post projects, then freelancers submit proposals to secure them. In the case of copy writing, employers review the proposals then select a worthy butcher.

When bidding for a project, success depends on a range of factors. How willing the writer is to work for below minimum wage, how many times they’ve already whored themselves out (ironically, the more the better), and whether the person still has enough savings to pay for their proposal to appear first. 

However, while the other sites are largely the same, my experiences on Freelancer have been strange.

Freelancer Employers Love Sex and Erotica

First, I noticed that a lot of employers on Freelancer are perverts.

The first project I won was to rewrite the SEO title, meta description and footer for a premier adult tube, let’s call it Sleaze Miners.

This job was legit and quite fun.

I thought my work was particularly creative too. Here’s a sample:

Sleaze Miners dig deep down the shaft of depravity to bring you the hottest, wettest, nastiest free porn videos online. Cum penetrate our latest hardcore quarry.

Henry’s First Freelance Writing Project

It’s good, isn’t it?! I bet you would have taken the easy option and misinterpreted the ‘Miners’ bit.

Anyway, great. That’s a realistic, manageable project. But it’s definitely about sex.

A lot of the listings just are.

Last week I stumbled on a job listing to write an op-ed for Ian Cox.

Haven’t heard of him?

He’s a sexual-explorer-cum-inventor who discovered how to extend the duration of the male orgasm 14-fold. How? By tying cords around his testacles.

He wanted someone to pitch an article about his life’s work to Men’s Health. I would have helped, but his blog made me realise my complete sexually inadequacy. Seven minutes? Surely not.

Seperately, back in August I wrote a wonderful listicle for rather ameuturish erotic sex shop, Heated Erotica

Unfortunately, my work wasn’t accepted. Apparently ‘Premature Ejaculation Needn’t Be The End’ didn’t satisfy.

Lesson 1: Freelancers full of deviants who need help peddling their perversions. More evidence that sex sells.

You Can Specialise In Writing Fake Reviews

You know Alibaba?

It’s the online marketplace where you can order industrial quantities of crap from China. Westerners buy goods by the container, then sell them to their gluttonous neighbours through Amazon’s Fulfillment service.

So yeah, Alibaba is the Amazon FBA Seller’s Mecca.

A lot of would be Amazon FBA Sellers commission work on the platform. So, it seems funny that a lot of Chinese manufacturers regularly post listings offering $40 for a fake review on the platform

I guess it’s hard to police.

Lesson 2: Freelancer is the reason your Amazon FBA Business failed.

Coders Prefer Upwork To Freelancer

Why is this relevant? Well, Freelancer taught me that coders prefer Upwork.

How?

Chinese coders regularly offer me $200 a month to use my Upwork Account and IP Address

Don’t worry, you won’t be caught in the middle of price fixing scandal if you just say no. 

Lesson 3: Freelancer and Upwork appear to be in cahoots.

Native English Speakers Can Charge A Premium

A lot of freelancers claim to be expert English writers, but don’t speak the language. 

That’s why it’s so easy to make a killing on Freelancer in the copywriting competitions.

However, it’s a double edged sword. A lot of employers can’t speak English either. 

This can make it quite the challenge when you’ve been commissioned to write a tagline or come up with a new brand name. 

As a tip, I’ve found that they often like fancy Latin words and portmanteau name suggestions.

For instance, if they have a fitness brand and their core values are love, you’d be onto a winner if you suggested a name like LoNess, or Squit (love squeeze fitremember, the ‘love’ is silent).

Practically, it means that a lot of the briefs are pretty shit. 

But that’s a new skill for your CV, right?

Lesson 4: If the future is Freelancer, the future is broken English.

Freelancer Forever

Perhaps I should stop staring into my screen, but scarily, I think Freelancer represents the future. 

How can you justify hiring, let’s say an illustrator full-time at £25k pa, when you can commission a logo that’s 80% there for £5?

Maybe the road towards meritocracy is acceptance that right now, employers might be overvaluing output and skills.

Lesson 5: Perhaps the future is writing about sex and letting other people use your IP address.

Inspired By Freelancer

On a less dour note, Freelancer has been a great inspiration for Secret Santa presents. 

If I get a job by December, I’m getting my secret santa these testicle tighteners.

Two Month’s Hospitality: What Henry Learned Waiting Tables

Last week, I finished waiting tables at a burger joint. Yes, I officially threw in the towel. Two jobs down in three months, it’s confirmed, I’m a quitter.

I’d taken the job because I realised without one, I couldn’t keep telling everyone I was a down-and-out writer. Like, there was no way anyone was going to believe me when I tried to rewrite Down and Out in Paris and London, after lucking out and convincing one of my rich friends to fund the novel.

No, I needed real world experiences. Experiences away from bright offices, dual monitor setups, misguided aspirations and meetings about the merits of shared calendars. (I’m lying, I actually needed the money)

And, after two months I can attest, the experience was revelatory. Definitely worth it.

First and foremost, it taught me that the people who work in restaurants are rad and lovely people. They’re not even mean when they realise you’re the worst goddamn waiter they’ve ever met.

So, to save you from going through the same harrowing struggles that will lay the foundations for my bestselling book, Waiter to Hater, I’ve spent this Friday afternoon writing down everything I’ve learned from working in the hospitality industry:

1. It helps if you know what you’re serving people

I’m proud to say that while I was a waiter, I got a lot of people’s orders wrong. Probably more orders than anyone has ever got wrong (no, I’m not that cool)!

Even when I wasn’t getting people’s orders wrong, I was at least pretending I had, by incorrectly announcing what I’d brought to the table.

Here’s a gem of story, to help you understand. By way of background, some guy at table 67 had ordered a milkshake. I picked up said milkshake from the bar, and proceeded to take it to his table.

Henry: “Sir, here’s your lager.”

Discerning patron: “But I ordered a milkshake.”

*Look down at the glass. Yes, it’s clearly a milkshake*

Henry: “Oh, yeah, it’s a milkshake. Look, it’s milkshake coloured, in a milkshake glass and has a straw. I said it was a lager because, um, I have a drinking problem.”

Discerning customer: “Hmm, I’m not sure that looks like a milkshake.”

Henry: “Why not taste it and see?”

Discerning patron: “Ok.”

Discerning patron tastes the milkshake.

Discerning patron: “Hmmm.” Takes another sip. “Hmm, yes, that’s definitely a lager.”

At which point, I proceeded to take the milkshake back to the bar, told the bartender I needed a milkshake, not a lager, to which the bartender replied, but that’s definitely a milkshake.

So I had to go back to the discerning customers table, and tell him it was definitely a milkshake.

It’s as if I was doing it on purpose, you know, to make him look stupid.

I think some people thought scenarios like this were a routine I’d invented. It wasn’t, I just couldn’t see very well without my glasses on.

Lesson 1: If you’re a waiter and you don’t know what something is, just leave it at the bar and get someone else to take it for you. It’s best that you never talk to customers, because they’ll always think you’re trying to patronise them.

2. If someone’s sick, you’ve made an honest tip

There was an eating challenge at the burger joint. 

Customers had 15 minutes to eat an ice-cream float covered in chilli, some peppers stuffed with couscous and chilli, and um, a five litre box of sweet potato fries covered in chilli. I mean, it’s at least 26 minutes worth of food.

If someone managed to eat this monstrous concoction in fifteen minutes or less (and I mean all of it), they wouldn’t have to pay for their meal. 

You guessed it, the prize was free stomach ache!

Anyway, occasionally, people would request to do the challenge, and just to make sure no one was cheating, waiting staff had to stand there and watch them gorge themselves.

On one occasion, I was trusted to time someone competing in the challenge. By the end of it, had a £10 tip.

How do you ask?

Was it because I was so great at timing? Cheering the boy on? Telling his friend not to call him a fat little piggy? 

Not at all! It was because after attempting the eating challenge, the poor lad went into the men’s room and was sick everywhere.

He was so sick that there was vomit on the bathroom walls.

Now, I’m not complaining about sick. I mean, I regularly drink too much, and have to clean up mysterious vomit, that I assume is deposited by housemates next to my bed, almost every morning.

But, when the customer ordered another double JD and coke, he must have seen me walk out of the bathroom wearing rubber gloves and a look of disdain. 

He promptly dropped £10 on the table and left.

Lesson 2: People being sick = tips! To subsidise your wage, you need to make people sick. Then make sure they know you’re the one who cleaned all the vomit up! It’s genius.

3. Stag dos promote nondiscrimination

A lot of people on stag dos booked tables at the restaurant, and then arrived drunk and on the lookout for hot dogs. 

Sometimes, I was allowed to take their orders. 

When doing so, I often discovered a lot of inebriated men, who liked to ask me to perform fellatio on them. I guess it’s great, they must think I look pretty, and they’re much more into experimentation than they probably are when they’re sober.

Lesson 3: Drunk men in groups really care about the service, and don’t make judgements based on gender.

4. It’s all about the booths man

Did you know restaurants that only have booths (you know, those American-type diner seats), get way more customers. 

The most common thing you’ll hear when interviewing people about what makes a restaurant is, “God! I’d never go to a restaurant if I couldn’t sit in a booth. I mean, come on. That’s the only reason I go out.

Seating at the restaurant I was working at was made up of a mixture of booths and not so booth-ey seats.

Sometimes I had to take people to their seats. 

Customers routinely became irate when they were led to the not-so-booth-ey seats.

Lesson 4: People really care about where they sit. Why? Because they’re stupid.

5. “When you gaze long into [a restaurant], the [restaurant] also gazes into you…

Before Nietzsche started working at DC Comics, he worked in a restaurant. How else can you explain that overused quote?

Having read a lot of comics, I can tell you what it means.

If you work somewhere too long, it has a habit of becoming part of you, and when you have a bun toaster embedded in your abdomen, it’s hard to remember how magical a trip out to dinner once was.

Instead, spectres will swirl around whispering, “Clean the menus. Stop those tables from wobbling. Did you take an Amex payment from the couple sitting at the bar. Why didn’t they pay service? How did you get so much sauce everywhere when all you had to do was squeeze the bag and try to get the sauce in the little pots for the customers.”

Working in a restaurant, even for a very short amount of time, made me feel like they’re kind of like DIsneyland. You know, like it’s all fake, and however much I want to take the adolescent man in a disney princess suit back to my shared accommodation, there’s a certain type of sweat that you can just never get out of your sheets.

Every time I now go into a restaurant, I just see cardboard boxes. And how part of my bill’s paying for the privilege of sitting on them.

Lesson 5: If you still get butterflies when you think about going to a restaurant, don’t start working in one.

6. Government intervention doesn’t always help individuals

London’s expensive and working in a burger restaurant doesn’t pay that well. I mean, it pays better than some other jobs, but it’s still not great. 

One of the biggest challenges my colleagues spoke about was zero hour contracts, and how your hours (despite the best efforts of management) were speculative. In practice, this meant you could be booked to work eight hours, but as the restaurant wasn’t very busy, you’re sent home early, and paid less. 

Zero hour contracts aren’t the problem I’m writing about though. I’m writing about zero hours contracts and mandated 20 minute breaks, for every six hours worked.

In practice, breaks could be given based on speculative hours, which didn’t materialise. So, while you would have previously expected to have earned 4 hours pay for four hours work, this quickly becomes three hours, 40 minutes pay, because it seemed like you were going to be staying later, and were asked to take a break. 

While there’s no doubt that everyone should receive breaks (I mean, we live in the west), when you’re already having trouble paying rent, forcing people to have their pay cut by 20 minutes, could easily be interpreted as a kick in the teeth.

Lesson 6: People working in restaurants really need to pull their fingers out. They should all be working much harder to reply to all public Government consultations on labour market reform.

7. The Sandman’s a vengeful bastard

Over the last two months, I frequently found myself volunteering or writing something for someone during the day, then going to work in the evening. 

If I’m honest, the flexibility was great, allowing me to focus on what I really wanted to do during the day. However, I found that working shifts really messes with your sleep pattern.

Although the latest I ever finished was 12:45, I routinely found myself getting home at 2:00am, proceeding to eat, then going to bed at 3:30am, to repeat the same cycle, often for eight or nine days running.

It’s something that’s easy to forget when working a nine to five. Even if you’re working less hours than someone on a forty hour week, if they’re sporadic, it can make you even less productive in your free time.

Lesson 7: If you’re working shifts, stop watching TV in bed. You’re never going to get that time back

8. A lot of people seem really bored with their lives

I served a lot of couples. 

They sat in booths, drank too much and stared at their phones. 

I’m not suggesting that I don’t do the same thing, but watching it made me feel pretty sad.

It was as if it was a weekend cycle: 

Get out of bed, take the train to London, go the restaurant, buy too much food, drink too many cocktails, get a little passive aggressive with each other, feel like you’ve done something for the day, get the train back to Kent, die.

Lesson 8: Weekends as a couple living outside of London can be bleak. Point me in the direction of the nearest bus stop, because my bones need a’ breakin’.

9. Whatever you do, it’s hard not to let it dominate your life

Whatever you do, when you spend all day with the same people, doing the same things, it’s hard not to repeat the same conversations, and it’s difficult not to get hung up on little changes to things.

Whether it’s a dish that’s been removed from a menu, a lime in coke, or the appointment of a new Director of HR, the conversations follow the same structure and the revelations are the same. 

Lesson 9: A lot of things about work stay the same, whatever your occupation.

Maybe working’s just not for me.

Copywriting research starts at Homerton Library

or how Henry uncovered the Homerton Library conspiracy

I’d developed a foolproof seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER. Now I just had to execute it.

Where to start?

I rolled a one. Yes, I was going to Do Way More Research.

Where does research start? AT THE LIBRARY!

1. Getting to Homerton Library

I showered, squeezed into a button shirt and made my way to the library.

While walking I hummed everyone’s favourite song about libraries. Yeah, that one from Arthur.

Having fun isn’t hard,

When you’ve got a library card.

(That’s right!)

Having fun isn’t hard,

When you’ve got a library card.

Remembering the nation’s best-loved aardvark was a reassurance and useful for my future career (aardvark is a good copywriting word because it starts with two a’s). Surely the library wouldn’t be a bore at all!

Then I remembered that I didn’t have a library card.

Did that mean I couldn’t have any fun and more importantly couldn’t do any work?

Probably.

But I was almost halfway there. I couldn’t turn back. Valiantly, I strode on.

2. Enter the library

The foyer smelled like bleach and primary school lunches. It was only 10:00am but already uniformed children were stalking the corridors (probably hiding from bullies).

This all brought back painful childhood memories so I hastily passed through the metal detectors and entered the book room.

I was almost knocked out by the heat. It was tropical.

Now between the bookcases I pulled out my imaginary binoculars and took a moment to admire the wildlife:

  • A suit perched on a low padded chair. No book just a phone. He was definitely pretending to be there for a business meeting.
  • A hippy reading a vegan cookbook. He must be trying to figure out how to make his tinned spaghetti & sausages more palatable.
  • Three evenly spaced shadows hunched over keyboards all scrolling through Facebook. It must be that time of the week when people need to update their universal credit claimant commitments with job search activity.

I carefully placed my imaginary binoculars back. As the world spins it’s heartening to know that some things will never change.

I made my way to Librarian Island. 

I’ve lost my library card. I need a new one.

The only librarian sitting in front of a computer gave me a disgusted look, “I don’t know how to use the new system.” She turned to her coworker, “Darnell, can you help him?

And for once Darnell’s shaking head was a resounding yes! Of course he could!

Darnell sat me down and went through the secure library card recovery procedure, “What’s your first and last name?” – Yeah, that was it. He didn’t even ask for my address.

Library card fraud is an opportunity

Hell, if the whole copywriting thing didn’t work library card fraud might.

THE PLAN: Get someone’s first and last name, take out smutty books (Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight), scrawl dreams of kidnapping onto the blank pages at the back, date them and proceed to blackmail whichever irresponsible person didn’t shred their junk mail.

Darnell found my account and promptly demanded £12. Apparently I’d never returned a book on the Rolling Stones. That didn’t sound like me. I way prefer the Stooges.

It was a difficult decision. I didn’t want to give Homerton Library £12. I was unemployed. But eventually I complied. I needed access to free books.

He then handed me my magnificent new key to knowledge. It had pictures of cyclists in London Fields. GREAT!

But where to start? I knew the Dewey Decimal System by heart, but where do copywriting and technology fit into its ten categories? Was it general works, philosophy and psychology, religion, social sciences, language or history, biography, and geography?

Where would writing to trick people and make money fit into that list? Probably religion.

Luckily I didn’t have to ponder for too long, there were signs for those less gifted than I.

3. Who buys books for libraries?

I was directed to the technology section.

Pursuing the books was a disaster. They were dreadful.

Quick Steps Microsoft Word 2003, Step by Step Microsoft Word 2016, My Facebook for Seniors, DK’s Effective Marketing and Successful Marketing Plans in a Week. HG Wells’ War of the Worlds was there too.

Damn.

Once again Arthur had wasted my time. There definitely weren’t any decent books at the library and I wasn’t having any fun at all.

Maybe I was looking in the wrong section.

I accessed the online catalogue. I knew the title of one book that I wanted to borrow, Ogilvy on Advertising.

Apparently there were only two copies in London and they’d been missing in action since 2011 and March 2019 respectively.

PhotoEditor_20190522_140650658

4. Settle with what’s there

I knew then that going to the library was just like dating.

I was going to have to follow my parents example and settle with ripping trodden chewing gum from the pavement and making the best of it.

So here’s to making the best of it!

I borrowed:

  1. Persuasive Copywriting, Andy Maslen
  2. Writing Great Copy, Sallyann Sheridan
  3. The Golden Rules of Blogging, Robin Houghton
  4. Creative Advertising: An Introduction, Miriam Sorrentino (this one looked good, it had pictures)
  5. How to Write a Marketing Plan, John Westwood
  6. SEO for Dummies, Peter Kent

All six looked shit but they were going to have to do.

Who knew? They’d probably be the backbone of a later extremely well received post on my blog entitled Top Six Books Copywriters should Totally NOT Bother Reading. I was at an advantage. Unlike the other lists of top books copywriters should read (here, here and here) at least I’d actually read the books in mine.

Homerton Library had given me until 11th June to make this list. I was going to need to move faster than that though. I set a timer and said to myself softly, “Henry, you’ve got until Sunday. Go.

5. What I learned about the library

I had the books, but while at the library I think I may have uncovered something much more sinister.

Face it. Here’s what sinister looks like spelled out in black and white:

  • £12 library fines.
  • Unemployed patrons.
  • A selection of books that actually reduce your chances of finding work.
  • An extortionate staffing and heating budget.

You’ve already figured it out, haven’t you?

Yes, Homerton Library was in cahoots with all the self help publishers. It was delivering an effective plan to make sure people stayed unemployed and kept getting fined (I wasn’t sure how, but they must have been). It was like the Department for Work and Pensions but more creative.

It was my civic duty to expose them and uncover this conspiracy.

But first, I had to read all these books.

Seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER

It was settled. I was going to become the greatest copywriter EVER.

How it started

Easy. I needed to lay some sturdy foundations and figure out exactly what copywriting was.

To the foundations!

And where do you learn about laying foundations? Wikipedia!

I looked up the definition of copywriting:

Copywriting is the act of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.

Copywriters help create billboards, brochures, catalogs, jingle lyrics, magazine and newspaper advertisements, sales letters and other direct mail, scripts for television or radio commercials, taglines, white papers, social media posts, and other marketing communications.

That was definitely manageable.

With an in depth understanding of copywriting I started looking for a new job.

Looking for that first copywriting job

I went straight onto LinkedIn (actually my girlfriend sent me some links. Impressed aren’t you? I’m getting pretty good at twisting the truth, aka advertising).

One position came out with a swift kick to the teeth: Junior Copywriter at Dr Martens.

Before I’d even read the ad I knew getting the job must be a piece of cake. Why?

  • People call those boots Doc Martens not Doctor Martens, hence it’s safe to assume that their head of advertising department can’t read and is highly incompetent.
  • They are probably desperate for a cool new, left-leaning junior with a lot of hair (yours truly) to help them shake off the image of skinheads and neo-nazis.

As my first potential position I knew I’d be more than happy to put in some extra work and help Dr Martens completely reinvent their brand for 2019.

Feeling confident, I looked at the job spec.

It was the first time I realised that copywriters are a pretentious as hell.

Getting my first ‘gig’ might prove difficult than I’d initially thought.

Take a look for yourself:

Doc Martens, Junior Copywriter

To be our Junior Copywriter, you will also possess the following:

  • Experience in a full-time copywriting role. Preferably in the retail, fashion or music industry
  • A love of music, DM’s, fashion and footwear
  • A track record of managing tight deadlines and multiple projects simultaneously
  • A passion for language and a flair for writing original, unexpected copy
  • Strong commercial awareness and knowledge of key copy KPIs
  • Enthusiasm and an inexhaustible supply of ideas
  • The confidence to tackle all forms of copywriting: from click-worthy captions to scroll-enticing articles
  • A degree-level qualification in a relevant subject such as English or Creative Writing

Damn the requirements were high and this was only for a junior role!

It presented a real problem.

I had no experience in a full-time copywriting role, I thought DMs (dungeon masters) were totally uncool, I was bemused by how words could have key performance indicators (‘boot’ needs to get at least 4,000 views today) and definitely did not have a degree in creative writing. Who does have a degree in creative writing anyway?

How the hell was I going to get a job like that?

I needed to tear down my soft, non-copywriting self and to begin rebuilding immediately. It was daunting but exciting – I was about to become the slickest creative machine in Hackney and I knew it would probably involve stickers.

So I decided to systematically strip myself down. The best way to do this: a foolproof seven point plan (to do list):

Henry’s seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER

1. Do way more research

I needed to become fluent in the language of copy. Yes, I had to develop an understanding of advertising, marketing and all of the associated acronyms (CPM, CTA, IAB, SOV, SEO and more). I also needed to know something about psychology. Why? How else was I going to trick someone into giving me a job?

2. Get good at writing

I wasn’t immediately convinced that this was necessary but I knew that I needed to sell myself as more qualified to write than anyone else. To do that, I had to at least trick myself into believing that I’d got super good at writing. The first step was probably to write and read more. Decent outcome.

3. Develop a kickass portfolio

For a profession that spends all day playing with words it’s surprising that it can’t just take me on mine, but life’s confusing. I needed to develop a killer portfolio with a shed load of original and creative copy. It had to have the best adverts selling bubble mixture, jingles explaining the dangers of not eating enough carrots, all potentially topped off with a radio advert for the mayor on today’s most biting issue: public urination.

4. Get some experience (and references)

Just a portfolio wouldn’t cut it. I had to get some real experience so I had references. References would mean that other people would suddenly become accountable for my eventual employment. The easiest way to do that would probably be to do some writing for free. I needed to do some copywriting volunteering.

5. Find a special subject and stick to it

All the advice that I’ve read online says that generalist copywriters fail and copywriters with a special subject succeed. The problem was I didn’t know or really care about anything. The options were limited too. What subject can you specialise in as a copywriter? Trains, video games, legal regulations and hatred of men? I didn’t want to write about any of that. Then it struck me. I could write about technology or digital or ‘the internet‘. It seemed like a safe bet, as it could cover anything from sex dolls to how to talk to your toaster! Perfect.

6. Build a professional network

To secure work employers need to think you’re the real deal. Humans are social creatures so association with other humans is important. I was going to have to meet other copywriters and make friends with them. Maybe I could meet them at Westfield Shopping Centre? There are lots of things that need copy there.

7. Rebrand myself as the coolest kid in Hackney

The Doc Marten advert said it all: creatives need to be cool. I was already super cool, but deep down I knew that not everyone knew this. I was going to sacrifice some of my current cool to make sure that everyone found out (unfortunately self-promotion is not cool). I’d begin by developing a social media presence (here’s my instagram), take pictures of myself doing cool things and buy more thrash metal t-shirts.

It was settled. I should probably start.

What better place than Homerton Library?

I had a shower and set off.

How I decided to become the greatest copywriter EVER

It’s Sunday and the clock’s ticking. Tomorrow and it’ll have been a week since I quit my job and no, I still don’t have anything to show for it.

So today, out of necessity, I decided to figure out exactly what I’m going to do with my life.

I’m glad to report that I figured it out (and it only took the afternoon).

Hello world, can you hear me? I am going to become the greatest copywriter EVER.

I don’t know how or why or what a copywriter even is, but I really need some direction so my mind’s made up. I mean, I can always figure out the details next week. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, I’ll figure it out on Monday.

Honestly, does anyone actually know what they want to do with their life? Probably not.

It hit me that I could help people figure it out!

That’s why I’ve taken the time to write down how I came to my own magnificent conclusion today.

If you’re as confused as I was this morning then I strongly recommend you read on.

1. How it started

Earlier today I didn’t know what I should do with my life, so I asked google.

Google, oh great oracle, what should I do with my life?

Google directed me to this page on the The Muse, 7 Ways to Answer “What Should I Do With My Life?”

The article recommends seven actions you can take to figure out what to do with your life.

I don’t recommend reading it because it’s crap.

But I do recommend that you read my responses to the seven recommended actions. It’s a much better way to gauge whether you’re doing everything you can to figure out what to do with your life.

2. Seven ways I’m already working towards finding the answer of what to do with my life

While reading The Muse’s article it struck me that I was definitely already doing everything that I possibly could to find direction in my life.

Take a look for yourself:

  1. Talk to people – yesterday I spoke to some weird Australian outside Dalston’s Loading Bar about how ridiculous it is that teachers are expected to be social workers. I agreed with him because it is. Then I spoke to someone else.
  2. Get started – I woke up this morning, didn’t I?
  3. Gather inspiration from others – I’ve read John McAfee’s wikipedia page twice and feel inspired to become a door-to-door seller of snake oil.
  4. Prepare for a long journey – I washed my clothes on Friday. They’re now strewn across my bedroom floor. Very easy to pack quickly ahead of setting out on a long journey.
  5. Leave your comfort zone – I quit my job last Monday (I’ve said this one already).
  6. Be ok with failing – I am. I’m the best at failing.
  7. Enjoy not knowing – I stopped using visual stimuli for arousal and now just use my imagination. Yep, no more Tate Modern for Henry.

Realising that I was already doing everything that the internet could suggest I had an epiphany.

Yes, I was going to have to figure this out myself.

3. Understanding why my life needs direction

To find some direction, I first had to understand exactly why my life needs direction.

I got out my very shiny bic biro and listed every reason I could think of:

  1. To pay for stuff (rent, organic wine, scratch cards, to give to charity to look like I have a heart, etc.)

I tried to think of other things that direction would enable me to achieve but came up with nothing. So it was settled, the only reason my life needed direction was so I could have money to pay for stuff.

But I knew there must be a better way of articulating it.

After some intense thinking (thank you Jeremy Bentham) I figured it out:

I need a long term means of securing more money than I can realistically spend in the manner that is least painful to me.

It was settled.

I had to find the least painful way to get the most money.

4. Turns out direction is a job

How do you get money? I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I really didn’t want to get a new job.

To try and avoid getting a new one, I assessed some of the most realistic alternatives:

  1. Marry an old rich person – I didn’t want to admit it straight away but I’m too old to marry an old rich person.
  2. Inherit some money – I called my mother and then my grandfather. Both hung up as soon as I started asking for money (it’s a good thing that greed isn’t genetic).
  3. Win some money – I bought scratch cards. I always buy scratch cards. I didn’t win anything.

I knew then that I was going to have to get another job. Damn.

5. Which job do you do?

How do you figure out which job is right for you?

I was going to ask Google but I’d got this far on my own so I kept using my own initiative.

I made a list of all the jobs that a man of my vast talent could do and then noted down the positives and negatives of each one. (You can already tell that I’m a master of analysis can’t you?)

Here are the five jobs I could probably do (be bothered to do):

Cosmonaut

An astronaut employed by the Russian Federal Space Agency. The train driver of the universe.

Positives:

  • It’s probably an easy gig to get (apparently 25% of Russian men die before they’re 55 or is that just propaganda?)
  • There’s no rent to pay on the international space station.
  • You can legitimately change your ringtone to the original Star Trek theme (or whatever the theme tune to Kosmicheskaya Militsiya was)

Negatives:

  • Space probably sucks.
  • Potential to get embroiled in disputes between super powers.
  • It would make my mother very proud and she’d only just refused to give me money for absolutely no reason.

Your shirt

The sum of two sleeves, a popped collar and a long hem. A noble but often overlooked occupation.

Positives:

  • I could hug you while you work and hug you while you don’t work.
  • Risk of being donated to a charity shop (good start to a new career as a charity shop robber).
  • Good holiday perks and minimal washing required (imagine going from showering daily to a weekly or even fortnightly spin).

Negatives:

  • Limited earning potential (shirts don’t earn money).
  • Risk of being donated to a charity shop (may be purchased by an eco-warrior who doesn’t wear deodorant and has dreadlocks).
  • Long days.

Bank robber

One of the oldest alternatives to a weekly or monthly paycheck and attractive given that a lifetime serving one machine is [apparently] ten times worse than prison (or so I hear).

Positives:

  • Opportunity to become a foot soldier in the fight against capitalism.
  • Good excuse to avoid social commitments.
  • Great excuse to change your hair colour.

Negatives:

Indiana Jones II

A globetrotting professor with a doctorate in grave robbing and Nazi slaying.

Positives:

Negatives:

Copywriter

Home-working, word-spinning, confidence [man, woman, other] with a reputation for being a creative even though they don’t paint or play an instrument.

Positives:

  • Freelancing potential (possibility to work in boxers).
  • Could get paid to twist the truth or even lie (that’s totally in now, isn’t it?).
  • Peers more likely to think it’s cool compared to public service.

Negatives:

  • Work might include writing product descriptions on Amazon (yes, the top earning UK copywriter on upwork appears to focus on writing Amazon product descriptions – the glamour).
  • Networking requirements (bore).
  • Limited desire to be promoted to ‘Spin Doctor’.

I tallied up the scores and it was immediately clear:

I should become a copywriter!

And explaining my decision to myself and others would be easy.

6. Why I concluded that it’s a good idea for me to try and be a copywriter

If I was a copywriter I’d get paid (unlike Your shirt), I wouldn’t make my parents too proud, I probably wouldn’t have to go to jail (maybe I could be a Bank robber if this didn’t work out) and even though I’d probably end up metaphorically grave robbing someone, it wouldn’t amount to actual grave robbing.

Perfect!

So it was settled. From Monday, I, Henry, would start working towards becoming the greatest copywriter EVER.

But where should I start?

I don’t immediately know. But I do know that this has surely been enough work for today.

I unscrew a bottle of organic wine.

Yes, I’ll work out the details tomorrow.

Six realities of quitting your job without a plan

I quit my job on Monday with immediate effect.

Now it’s Friday and in hindsight I admit that it was a brash decision.

My exit could have been a lot smoother.

Instead of inspiring memories, like a lover fallen out of love, I slipped out silently leaving a handwritten letter sealed atop my manager’s desk. Hopefully the blow was softened by the return of my work things: a laptop, a phone with a cracked screen and an adaptor that I liberated from being cable-tied to a desk on the floor below.

There wasn’t any applause. I didn’t get to say those two fateful words [take your pick], or see their pupils dilate. They probably wouldn’t have anyway.

But now it’s Friday and while the whole episode felt like a reenactment of Jack’s smirking revenge (that scene in Fight Club when the unnamed protagonist beats himself up in front of his manager), it wasn’t. It definitely wasn’t.

Instead I’m sitting in what I am now keenly aware is an extremely expensive room, in an extremely expensive flat and I’m at a loss.

Maybe living out your resignation fantasies will never be any good unless you have your own Project Mayhem or the warm reassurances of a barrel of space monkeys (yes, more Fight Club references).

So, for everyone’s benefit, I’ve listed six realities I’ve encountered since quitting my job.

1. Money comes before dreams

This one’s obvious. Money, or lack of it, is one of the most painful consequences of quitting your job.

It’s only day five, but I’m already considering throwing out everything in my fridge and replacing it with cheaper items from Lidl. Grim.

But, as a warning, while money was one of my biggest concerns ahead of quitting, concerns are not the same as realities. No, concerns are imaginary and that’s a great life lesson.

I’ll try and rationalise why I didn’t realise that this would be such an issue with an extremely clear analogy:

Having a job is like brushing your teeth, but the benefits are less immediate.

For example, if you don’t brush your teeth for a day or two, if they’re honest, your [girlfriend / boyfriend / other] will tell you that you stink. But I’ve not had a job for a whole five days and I don’t think my flatmates have even noticed.

So, in conclusion, the consequences of not having a job take longer to materialise than the consequences of not brushing your teeth. And who hasn’t forgotten to brush their teeth at least once this week?

(Yes, that analogy didn’t make any sense. That’s the point.)

2. Some people will have an opinion and it’s hard not to let it affect yours

Since leaving a lot of very kind people have checked to see if I’m ok.

Thanks everyone. YES, I’M OK. I know you all read my blog. YES, I’M OK. LEAVE ME ALONE.

Most people have given me space, good advice and occasionally unwarranted commendations for having the ‘balls’ to do it (thanks, you really shouldn’t commend me).

But some have let me know that they disagree with or are bemused by my decision and I wasn’t prepared for how that would make me question myself.

I guess that’s the point. Quitting a job in large organisation where you’re reasonably well paid, regularly praised for your work and have a good relationship with your colleagues could be interpreted as an assault on other’s fundamental beliefs about life. Maybe part of it is.

Facing even limited conflict can erode the certainty of your decision. I’m certain that I understood my reasons for quitting on Monday better than I do today.

3. You develop the ‘unemployed mentality’ and your confidence starts to disappear

Now that I’m liberated, I’ve taken to swimming at London Fields Lido in the morning.

I only mention this, because yesterday when I went to the pool, something strange happened.

When I exited the pool, changed and proceeded to walk barefoot from the changing rooms to foyer, which is the only area that the dictators of London Fields Pool allow you to put your shoes back on, I was accosted by the woman at the desk.

Why? I didn’t immediately know. She explained by pointing at some yellow signs reading ‘DANGER, WET FLOOR’. She then asked me why I’d ignored them and hadn’t taken another route. I hadn’t got this, but the floor had just been cleaned and my feet were messing it up.

I promptly apologised.

I knew straight away that I shouldn’t have apologised. Those yellow signs are always littered about pool and I wasn’t even wearing my shoes. I realised then that to maintain my extremely attractive and confrontational attitude to life, I was going to have to put in some effort.

Unemployment hits you hard and fast.

4. A lot of your social life is work

After I quit, I messaged all of my friends gleefully:

Hi [insert name], it’s me, Henry! I know I haven’t been in touch for about six months because I’ve been having so much fun at work, but I quit this morning and we should go out tonight to celebrate.

It turns out that spending excessive amount of time at work and using that as an excuse not to make time for your friends is a pretty shit thing to do. It’s a shock that any of them are still talking to me.

So with no-one else to go out with I had to settle with my girlfriend. She took it well and bought me chow mein at New Noodle Bar, Hackney.

But over the course of the meal, I realised that her way of dealing with the situation (more time with me) might be slightly sinister.

I mean, what sort of restaurant proudly displays a print out of their Hygiene Certificate Level 2 on the wall when they only got 60%? Yes, I think she knew that the dish she ordered was too spicy for her palate. She wanted me to be the only person eating there. And for it to be my last meal.

As I ate, I realised that the saddest part of no longer having a job was that I no longer had any work colleagues to tip off to the fact that my girlfriend’s a psychopath (and that I’m getting paranoid).

5. More time doesn’t equal time better spent

Ahead of resigning, my main work gripe was that I didn’t have enough time. Now that I have a lot of time it’s overwhelming.

So I’ve found that I need to develop a plan. Having spent the last year in project management, the most obvious solution is to make a spreadsheet.

Even outside of work I’m still trying to find new ways to use excel. That’s shit.

6. It’s still the best thing that I’ve done in a very long time

I spent six years working in jobs that I found to be absolute drudgery.

Quitting was the first conscious decision about my future that I’ve made in a very long time.

It’s only day five so I really can’t predict how this will turn out, but despite the five unexpected realities that I’ve listed above, this still feels like the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

It could have been prettier, but as Jeff Goldblum probably says to his dog, “Life always finds a way.

I mean, there must be opportunities to earn money some other way. And maybe eating rats won’t be so bad.