Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Meaning of Life

I spend a lot of my time wondering if I'm really making the most of my existence. None of us know how long we've got after all. It used to really annoy me that I would spend 40 hours a week moving things around on a screen - is that really living? Surely I should be trying to take in as much of the seemingly unlimited different experiences this mind blowingly varied planet has to offer. Why am I sitting in an ugly building above Victoria station trying to find pictures that will serve to pull people into a feature about pensions? (And that brings up yet another question: should we worry about how we're going to live when we're older or focus on what we are doing in the here and now?).

All the navel gazing on this blog...what is the point of it all? Bear with me, I'm getting there. To reiterate some fundamentals: 1) I'm not rich, so I have to work. 2) I like writing. Writing involves a lot of sitting in front of a screen. So how could I ensure that all that time in front of the screen is at least serving some useful purpose? I'm incredibly happy and relieved to document that I got there in the end. After six years of writing and two trying to figure out career change (90% of my income comes from being a Photo Editor), I've finally got myself a job that should mean that I get to do a lot more writing. The icing on the cake is that writing (and thinking and creating) will have a useful purpose.

On 7th April I start a new job as a Content Editor at Matter&Co. They are a communications company that work with value driven organisations - social enterprises and others that put a positive social impact before profit. Matter&Co also run the social enterprise magazine Pioneers Post and I will be contributing to that too.

Although I'm naturally an optimist, there have been many low points along the way. At one point I thought, 'Fuck writing, it's got me nowhere'. When I met the man that would give me the job, he told me he'd read something I'd forgotten that I'd written on Sabotage Times. More incredible than an article about nearly having sex with three women in 24 hours helping to get me a job were the words 'I really like the way you write' in the job offer he emailed a few days later.

It might seem like it but this post is not just so I can blow my own trumpet. It took me years to figure out how I could write for a living and I tried out many different paths trying to work it out. At times I felt like giving up and putting up with the mediocre job I had. I told myself to stop whining. So if you're at that point and you're reading this, don't give up. All those words that you put out there might come back and help you one day. I'm not sure how this next part of my life will pan out but it was writing that got me there.
PS. Respect where it's due. The valuable lessons I learnt at Careershifters got me there too. I need to write about that another time.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Can I Write Content For a Living?

I know - kind of a clunky headline. The alternative was 'Here's What I've Learned About Content in the Last Couple of Months at the Telegraph' which is even worse. I'm hungover so best I can do today.
The Telegraph news room.
In November I answered a request for male writers on a Facebook group and the commissioning editor gave me the gig. The first job was writing how beards are over. For the foreign readers, about 18 months ago Brits started thinking it was cool to wear a beard. Shoreditch in London was reckoned to be the birthplace, an old term 'hipster', (last heard in the sixties) was brought out of retirement to describe these new trendies and soon hairy faces were springing up everywhere, including mine. It was good through last winter, but felt a bit out of step come the spring. The Guardian published a feature claiming we had reached 'peak beard' and the fad faded fast. You can read what I wrote here and it lead to two further commissions.
I'd obviously heard of 'content' and I knew advertisers were desperate to keep people on websites that had their logo on it but in truth, I still don't really get it. Even if someone finds a feature about beards entertaining for two minutes, are they really likely to click through and buy a £100 shaver? The conversion rate must be tiny. Anyway, judging by the size of the creative teams involved, Braun must have handed over enough wedge for it to be a successful concern for all involved. The Telegraph has been really busy in ramping up it's online content. No brainer really; if people aren't buying newspapers because they can get their news free online, that's where the advertisers are going to concentrate their efforts. All the features options on the Telegraph Braun hub are certainly like to keep readers there for a while.
I always thought that writing for a brand was selling out. Maybe it is. The truth of it is that I always like a challenge. Give me a subject and I like figuring out how I can write it, keep it entertaining and most importantly, have the commissioning editor come back to me with more paid work. And if you want to make a living out of words, you have to go where the money is. It certainly helped pay for Christmas.