Intrepid copywriter, Margaux, blogs about just how hard a copywriter's life can be!
If you read my first blog post last November, you may be asking yourself ‘if that was the first lesson, where’s the second? Have I missed something?’
The truth is, the second big lesson in writing copy was so depressing and defeating, I went into hiding. I’ve barely spoken to anyone about work in months, and when I was asked how things were going, I knew I wasn’t being very convincing when saying everything was fine.
And I couldn’t write to you about it. You should never be insecure on the Internet. Be happy, be excited, be angry, be passionate – but keep your negativity offline. Honestly, I was embarrassed.
Because the second lesson I learned…was that I was actually shit.
Last November, I’d thought I’d figured it out. I thought writing for fundraising was a puzzle I’d finally solved. (After only a month? Who did I think I was…) Making sense of the letter was an important first step. But it really was only the beginning.
After a few weeks living under the illusion that I was the second coming, our creative director actually assigned me some real work. Appeals, newsletters, legacies, concepts – they were a massive reality check. And thus began months of my downward spiral into purest misery. I felt like I was back at square one and I just couldn’t get it right.
The second lesson you have to learn if you want to be a great copywriter is that WRITING FOR FUNDRAISING IS HARD. I really don’t think people can understand how hard it is unless they’ve been through the process of learning to be great.
And there aren’t all that many truly great fundraising writers. There’s an awful lot of mediocrity in our industry, and I don’t think many of you will disagree with that. But even on my most difficult days (especially on my most difficult days) I feel privileged beyond reason to work for a woman who demands I be great. Our creative director doesn’t let me get away with anything. And this is what brings me to the third big lesson in writing for fundraising.
Anyone can be a great writer if they work hard enough, for long enough.
The hardest part of the second phase of my writing career has been not living up to the demands of greatness. Each day I try to be great and each day I struggle. I can’t overstate how difficult it is to write something original, emotional, surprising, relevant, and on top of all that – something that will make a person reach into their wallet and hand over their money after reading your words.
And so the transition into phase three has been a smooth one. I only noticed the change today, in fact. After a few reassuring conversations these past few weeks, I’ve come to the realisation that I may be shit now, but I won’t be shit forever. If I work hard, practice, put in the hours, listen, and practice some more, I can be great too. And so can you.
The third big lesson in fundraising copy is that greatness is possible. So cut yourself some slack, honey.