Shortly before Christmas I walked into a local Revelstoke business to do some holiday shopping. While there, the owners asked me what I was up to. It had been more than a year since I left the newspaper and I’d been asked that question a lot. Ever since I moved to Revelstoke, I was the newspaper guy, or “Scoops” as my friends nicknamed me. It was my identity, but I’d given it up in order to go on an six month bike tour in South America and chart out a new path in life, away from the stresses and demands of the world of community news.
I hoped I would have an epiphany of some sort while traveling, that I’d discover what I want to do with the rest of my life. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, other than the dream I could just ride my bike forever.
Fortunately, I did have a job in place when I returned home and I was able to spend the summer outdoors, working at Blanket Creek Provincial Park. Meanwhile, I started freelancing, mostly locally, but also doing a bit of editing for my cousin Arianne’s publication, Signal Toronto. The thought of freelancing appealed to me because of the potential freedom it represented, but also scared me because I sometimes feel I’m not suited to be an entrepreneur. Even though I’m confident in my skills, I’m uncomfortable selling myself, and fear the uncertainty of where my next paycheque will come from.
In the fall, back on the unemployment lines, I was out mountain biking with a doctor friend when she mentioned the local medical community had been asked to contribute some articles to the Revelstoke Mountaineer. I asked if they needed a writer and a few weeks later, I was hired to write a series about new medical initiatives taking place in Revelstoke. My pitch was to bring my journalistic sensibility to their stories, providing a story-telling approach to the articles.
That’s when I thought that maybe this freelance thing could work. With eight years of newspaper experience behind me in Revelstoke, including a couple of awards, I figured I was well-positioned to start offering up my writing skills to organizations around town. I started looking around the community and seeing opportunities where I could pitch people the value of having a professional write or edit for them. We’re in an age where content is king, and I can provide that content.
I applied to enter the government’s Self-Employment Program so I could extend my EI benefits while I developed my business. Gratefully, I was accepted and over the past month I have been working on launching my business.
So, back to the start.
When I was asked what I’m doing, my response was, “I’m selling words.” I said it somewhat jokingly, but essentially it’s what I’m hoping to do. My goal is to sell people on the value of words – that they aren’t just something you can churn out in five minutes and expect people to read. You can’t just pay a content mill $10 for an article and expect good work. Hiring a professional writer is worth the investment. Well written copy will engage a reader and make them keeping reading right to the end. It will flow seamlessly from one sentence to the next, and from start to finish. It will tell a story, and it won’t feature mistakes that can be jarring to the reader.
This doesn’t just apply to journalism. It applies to the copy on your website, or your personal blog, or your grant report. Like all products, quality words have value. It’s not an easy sell because most or the organizations I’m pitching to have tight margins, but it’s one I hope they heed.