Book Marketing, Writing

My Journey from Cash Register to Copywriter

Guest Post from Kevin Hoover

I never imagined that I’d be a writer. When I think of what a writer is, or at least what I’ve always believed one to be, the notion evokes imagery of a great wordsmith, hot tea in tow, staring blissfully out over a meadow in search of nuggets of inspiration just begging to be crafted into great tomes of prose.

That ain’t me. There’s no meadow out my window, just a nosy neighbor with too much time on her hands. And I’m a coffee drinker, a real “by the pot” kinda guy.

I’m a copywriter, and I write the words that sell stuff. From baby furniture to watermelon slicers to Thai-inspired oil paintings, I’ve lent my voice to a diverse clientele of folks that have been willing to pay me for it.

But writing wasn’t my first career choice, or even second or third. My story began in the salt mines of the strip malls, working in retail for more than a decade. I didn’t dislike sales the way that a lot of people do, and while it wasn’t necessarily the life I always wanted to live, it would come to be the only one I’d know for a very long time.

Icecubes, Meet Eskimo

I’m a business guy and a helluva one at that. I can sell anything to anyone, a skill that I’m quite proud of. But in the world of business, you’re expendable. A nameless, faceless resource tasked with achieving goals all in the name of a healthy bottom line for those who sign your checks. If you can’t meet those goals, you’re out the door, and they’ll have another fanny in your seat while it’s still warm.

Over time, I’d worked my way up through the retail ranks from lowly cash register jockey to management roles, and in some cases, even area manager. But over time, no matter the company I worked for or the position I held, I’d grow tired of it.

So in the midst of working for a company that has since gone belly-up, I discovered I didn’t wanna play the game anymore. Overnight, I made the decision to walk away from my job, and seek out something better, or at the very least, different.

It Sure Takes a Lot of Manure to Grow Flowers

Never known to shy away from new experiences, I decided to do all the things one does when faced with a crisis of identity. I bounced around a few different jobs, went back to school and racked up a bunch of debt, and even packed my bags and moved 500 miles away from my hometown, all on a whim.

Whatever I was supposed to be doing with my life wasn’t happening. I really didn’t know what I needed to do or where I needed to be. I was, however, certain of a few things:

• Working 9-to-5 sucks.

• Working for someone else sucks.

• Chasing after what others (be that family, friends, government, schools, or anybody else you might potentially refer to as “the man”) think you should be pursuing often proves to be fruitless, and thereby sucks by association.

I did a little soul searching along the way. I found out that I really enjoyed working with others, and was inspired by those that had gone against the norm and carved out their own paths.

I also discovered that I liked to create new things. I’d always known that I more-or-less had a knack for writing, so I decided to try and see if I could  come up with something that would allow me to scratch that itch. Harnessing a lifelong interest in fitness, I cobbled together a workout tracking guide that played like an interactive pen-and-paper role playing game, and launched it over on Kickstarter.

And it worked.

We raised a couple hundred bucks, I wrote the book, my fiancé handled the design, and the good folks at Staples bound the thing. It was an awesome accomplishment, and it set the wheels in motion.

This writing thing might just be right up my alley.

Off to the Content Mills

I could write, I could sell, so that’s what I was going to do.

So where does any aspiring writer, graphic designer, or really just about any creative type that wants to make a little money on the side go?

To the content mills, of course!

(I’m praying that you’re sensing the amount of sarcasm I wrote that last line with.)

Without naming names, you already know the sites I’m talking about. The ones that force you to sell insane amounts of content at paltry rates that are so ridiculous that you’d earn more by collecting aluminum cans off the side of the highway.

Five bucks for 500 words of content? That didn’t seem right, but at the time I didn’t know enough about the industry to argue with it.

I’d write and toil and drain my creative reservoir dry to make less money than it’d cost to buy the cup of coffee I drank while writing it.

And I did this for much longer than I ever should have. But while the money was lacking, there was something else I gained that proved to be invaluable.

Experience.

Every time I’d deliver an order and someone loved it, I was elated. And when I’d deliver something that the client hated, I’d try to figure out exactly what went wrong.

I learned how to take criticism, I learned how to stick to a schedule, and I learned how to write for a diversified clientele. All for wages that turned out to be way less than what I’d make flipping burgers at the local drive-thru.

If I was going to continue down this path of trading words for wages, I was going to have to do something different.

Build It and They Will Come (But Only If You Ask Them Nicely)

So I built my own website and launched my copywriting business. Actually, my fiancé built it, since WordPress makes my head hurt. It’s my own little slice of cyberspace, a place that I can call my very own. I blog when I want about what I want, host samples of my work, and communicate directly with clients instead of through a medium like the content mills.

I spend a fair amount of time promoting my business and trying to build up my clientele, and while the amount of work I receive is far less than what I was getting on content mills, the rates are much better, as is the quality of client.

And this writing thing is working out pretty well. One of my clients just landed a deal with a major U.S. grocery store chain, and I’d like to think that I played some small part in that. I’ve also contributed to websites, e-zines, and other platforms, but the one area that I tend to get the most work in is creating product descriptions. It speaks directly to my old retail self, and it’s something that I love doing.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Today, I proudly call myself a writer and a small business owner. I cherish the clients that trust me with their brands and do my best to cultivate relationships that benefit both of us.

My site continues to grow, as does awareness of my services. In the next few months, I’ll be launching a podcast geared towards those who are interested in starting their own small businesses. It’s a new venture that I’m incredibly passionate about.

And if you’re still sitting there, after reading all of this and wondering if it’s really possible to finally start leading the life you’ve always wanted, be it as a writer or designer or something other than a clock-watcher on the payroll of some company that can’t even be bothered to learn your name, and why you should even really care about my story at all…

…then maybe it’s time to write your own.

Kevin first realized how powerful words can be when, back in the 2nd grade, he was able to skip a night’s worth of homework in exchange for writing an essay on the environment. In the 30 years since, he’s written a fitness guide that was successfully funded via Kickstarter, created content for businesses both big and small, and dabbled in the world of fiction. If you’d like to say hi or pick his brain, shoot him an email at thewritekevin@gmail.com or check out his copywriting business at kfhwritingservices.com

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