This is the presentation I gave to the assembled May 14 at North, hosted by 52ltd. It does not include the fabulous animations, which frankly were integral to the experience. But it gets the gist across.
From MFA to MBA:
Yes, you can write for a living
We’re gonna talk about how.
What we’re going to do here
• I’ll tell you a little about me.
• Then it’s on to sussing out paying work.
– There are lots of ways to make money writing but tonight is primarily
focused on opps in the business and non-profit sectors.
• I’ll give you a crash course in marketing. Good stuff.
• Next we’ll discuss your role and the one rule that—if you
follow it—will get you lots of work.
– Divinity is involved.
• And then it’s open forum time. Questions, answers, banter.
– We’ll also find out who won the 1:1 portfolio review.
opportunity for writers
can be found in many
parts of the corporate
body and the
nurture and enable it.
THEY ALL NEED WRITING
“The best advice I have been given is to listen beyond the
first thing someone says and be willing, through rephrasing
(difficult at best in a hurry up world) to get at the core issue
in a conversation.”
• Writing for money
– Consumer: Things go
better with Coke!
– B2B: Align with business
objectives and be the
• Messages vary but craft
Craft = Marketing
Marketing is lucrative for writers.
Learn its variety, processes and
goals, and you will thrive.
Branding + Identity
Marketing in 3 Bullets
• Goal: Create preference for a product or brand that translates
into a sale or a qualified lead.
– Yes, it is about sales and money.
• How: Forge an emotional connection between prospect and
– Nikes feel good because in them I’ll just do it; therefore I’ll
• Measure: I know it’s working ‘cause people are
– This is called ROI. It’s not French.
Write Strong Copy
•Focus on the ultimate
action you want the user
•Make the user feel the
goodness of that choice
•Limit distractions: KISS
•Never underestimate the
power of delight
“I wish I had known that good ideas never
need to be fought over, or argued. Listen more
than you talk, embrace all of the agendas
(including oppositional agendas), and use your
ability to organize information to articulate a
truly shared vision. If I had known that 18
years ago, I could have spared myself a lot of
Please send me a fantastic
copywriter who requires
little of my time but
delivers incredibly brilliant copy
right on deadline that has been
thoroughly proofread, who
totally groks the audience
and addresses their pain points
product perfectly so that
the client is happy and
pays on time.
You make life better
• For these people: Editors, creative directors,
marketing managers, project managers,
• They are overworked and stressed out.
• You can help them.
A portfolio shows some of
My best work?
Surely not my worst work.
Your relevant work.
How not to show your
•Send everything—it’s all
•Send nothing. With your
experience, who needs a
•Send your award-winning
history of taxation essay—
you’re very proud of it.
(Mention the award on
your resume; forward the
essay if they ask)
Pithy Portfolio Wisdom
• Curate your samples so that only what’s relevant
to the opportunity gets seen.
• If they want more, they’ll ask. Trust me.
• If you don’t have a relevant sample, show creative
initiative and create something that they’ll fall in
• If all your samples are on a website, direct them to
the 1-3 that matter for their needs.
The Money Slide Don’t make them do the work
Follow this simple rule and you will get
jobs and be successful in them, which
Connect the dots. Spell out why you are
will lead to more jobs, referrals, the best writer for the job. Don’t spam
them with samples. Make it easy to hire
you. Then be easy to work with. And do
great work. And get it in on time.
You are a blessing
(here’s how to keep it that way)
• Master both strategy + tactics
• Ask questions up front then consolidate
• Achieve deadline bliss
• The answer is yes
• Take criticism well (it’s not personal)
• Make the case for your position and then stop
• Want to get rehired? Be the solution to the
problem, whatever it is.
“Companies often need much more than a
wordsmith, they need a business analyst,
information architect, web designer, tester and
dogsbody. Pure writing roles can be hard to
find so doing these tasks will give you some
career resilience whilst you work your way into
a position to call the shots.”
• If I write marketing
shite have I sold out to
• How do I balance my
creative work with the
work I do for money?
• Accounting systems?
• I have a crazy client.
What do I do?
• What else?
Learning is good
• Marketing resources:
• Writing resources:
– Writing for marketing and for the web is different.
• SEO/SEM: VERY IMPORTANT to be versant in this.
– SEOMOZ.org | great resources
• Social Media makes you very hirable