Rollercoaster ride

You’re lucky. I nearly left it too late to submit this month’s column. I’ve never left it this late to write, but I didn’t know what to write, or honestly, I didn’t want to. I’ve had some highs, lows, self-doubt and frustrations. I’ve felt apathetic, conflicted, and distracted; and after starting the year in a positive frame of mind, I’ve not found it easy to rationalise the following. I’ve realised that:

  • I don’t want to work independently as a freelancer; I need to be surrounded by creative people, a team.
  • I’m not interested in writing Facebook ads, About Us pages or LinkedIn profiles.
  • Maybe I need to work for a company that is more me.

I know lockdown 3.0 influences how I feel and what I’m thinking, casting a cloud over my head and thoughts. I, like others, am also struggling with cabin fever.

Everything is dragging with no end date in sight, and I find myself getting frustrated with silly things, like our rented house. The freezing weather hasn’t helped: it’s exacerbated issues with the house due to its lack of decent insulation, and I want to move, NOW. We’d planned to move towards Bristol this year, renting via the Army but it’s unlikely to happen. We may buy this year instead, but we need to look for houses, although we can’t justify travelling a good two hours away with the current climate. It’s not essential travel. Is Pete going to be able to race abroad this year, can we get a dog yet?! Everything is in limbo, out of my control, and I like to be in control!

Work has started to get me down: budget restrictions, a new role with more reactive stuff thrown in, and solutions to client challenges are beginning to look the same due to a lack of digital tools. I’m stagnating professionally. My copywriting coursework has stopped, my own doing. The chatter in the Facebook community is of winning pitches to write Facebook ads, About Us pages or LinkedIn profiles – which I’m not interested in writing. Having banked on doing freelance copywriting as my new career, it didn’t sit well with me. It was a ‘throw my hands up in the air and swear’ moment.

I even avoided speaking to my best friend; I didn’t want to talk about how I felt. I just wanted to curl up in the corner, stew things over, adjust to my new thoughts and the potential impact on what they meant longer term. When I did speak to my friend, I knew I should’ve spoken to him earlier. He’s always the right person to talk to about things, and as a solo entrepreneur, he knows about the struggles of starting something up on your own.

I then remembered my career change advice; it’s all about trying things, and if it doesn’t work out, pivot, and try something else. It’s not a failure, see it as knowing what you don’t want to do and finder out sooner. I haven’t put all my eggs into one basket and jacked my full-time role in to be a fulltime copywriter: it’s ok.

On my first non-working day, now that I have my longed-for flexible working pattern approved, I spoke to a couple of headhunters to get a feel for the market and talk through my thoughts. It’s tough out there, and companies are doing more direct recruitment. Which you’d think would be a bonus, but you don’t know who or what is looking at your CV scanning for keywords or whether HR know a good communication professional when they see one. The likelihood of a CV getting through is lower than ever.

I do know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side however I’m keen to look at going back agency side, either as a Comms consultant or copywriter. It could even be a sideways step, starting as a Comms consultant and then moving into copywriting. I thrived in an agency I worked in a few years ago, and I know it’s the environment for me. There’s a real buzz to agency life. Whenever a brief came in, everyone from the design and operations team to the comms & engagement leads downed tools and met as a group to hear it. We’d throw ideas around for a couple of hours and then break off into our respective teams to further develop our pitch ideas. We’d come back together three to four hours later to share our thinking and start working on a pitch document.  The atmosphere is so different: there’s fun, creativity, a pace to things and a real sense of teamwork. It’s you and creatives brainstorming ideas and proposals, bouncing ideas off each other, and learning new techniques. Each client proposal demands a different response, so the mental and professional challenge is always there. There’s also a need to bring in business: an agency will only exist if there is client work and there’s an element of sales in agency life. It’s about making connections with companies and building relationships over time in the hope it pays off. It’s the long game; you can’t slack.

Spurred on by information shared on a call with a headhunter, I searched for a local creative agency recruiting for a comms associate. Although advertised in December, I took the plunge and emailed them with a copy of my CV. Learning to copywrite well has definitely made me better at writing emails, and I went with an imaginative, direct, and fun approach. And it worked!

I received a response a couple of hours later, saying they’d love an informal chat with me. It made my day, it really did. I had a spring in my step, and I felt more optimistic. It might never come to anything, but it’s always worth building connections. And I suppose I was essentially pitching in my email to the agency; I might be good at pitching for work after all!

How do you get a handle on things? Or do you, as in the film Frozen, ‘let it go’? Do you feel you’re on a more even mental keel if you manage to get a fraction of control back?

Claire 1 – Lack of control 0!

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