my year in lists…
As 2019 draws to a close, I realise that I’ve been doing this freelance writing thing for a year.
A whole year!
Clearly, it’s the time of the season for a little introspection, so here’s a list of 20 achievements from my first year in business that I’m proud of.
In no particular order…
The one you’re on right now: edcallow.com.
Although it feels like decades ago, I built this place within the past year, and it’s been a pretty important part of my business ever since.
I was always particularly happy with coming up with the name Typo Negative for this blog section.
But the fiddliest bit was probably the submit a brief section. I spent a lot of hours fine tuning this little corner of the site, and I’m really happy with how it came out.
So many of the items on this list would not have been possible had it not been for getting involved with #ContentClubUK.
For the uninitiated, Content Club is a weekly Twitter chat, held at 11AM UK time every Tuesday. Each week, a different host steps in and asks three questions (and sometimes a bonus question) on any topic related to content marketing or running a business.
What follows is a little bit of internet magic: a diverse group of copywriters, designers, marketers and social media folks from all over the world set about answering the questions in a constructive, respectful environment. People support each other, share their expertise and experience, and generally just have a laugh.
It’s usually the fastest 30 minutes of my week, hurtling by in a whirlwind of sage advice and otter gifs.
While we’re on the topic of #ContentClubUK, one week this year I was lucky enough to have a go in the hosting hot seat.
I asked three questions about creating your own content and was delighted to see so many people engaging in the discussion – even if it did break my Twitter notifications for a bit.
If you want to catch up with all the wisdom offered up during that session, you can find my summary here (plus a collaborative #ContentClubUK playlist).
Twitter is a double-edged sword for freelancers. While it’s a fantastic tool for meeting like-minded colleagues, promoting your services, and generally making a name for yourself, it’s also undeniably a huge (and constantly updating) realm of the dark playground of procrastination.
Of course, follower numbers aren’t everything, either. Engagement is more important than a vanity metric like followers. What I’m trying to say is: take this one with a pinch of salt… but at a certain point in the year I surpassed the (un)holy grail of follower count: 666.
I wish I was cool enough to pretend I wasn’t a little proud of this one. But I was.
Online colleagues are all well and good, but sometimes it’s nice to actually speak to a human, too.
Towards the end of the year, I jumped at the chance to secure a permanent desk at a new coworking space in my hometown of Hitchin. Having a morning commute a little longer than the length of the upstairs landing and people to chat to and bounce ideas off has made a really positive impact on my routine.
You can find Shared Space Hitchin on Twitter and Instagram if the mood takes you. (And if you’re local, there may even be a desk here for you…)
As you may be able to see from the photo above, I’m a fan of a sticker or two.
But what you can’t see there is the back of my laptop, which tends to attract interested glances when I’m out and about working remotely. Whether I’m in the library or a coffee shop, my the back of my laptop screen is like a free advertising board for the work I can do.
Decals: Freelancer at Work.
Round stickers: Moo.
Shameless self-promotion: model’s own.
Speaking of everyone’s favourite social media genius, Pippa runs a group for freelancers in North Hertfordshire called Get Outside The Box.
It’s been really great getting to know other freelancers from all sorts of fields at a local level by attending co-working mornings and even a freelancer’s Christmas party (the dinner of which I’m still feeling full from.)
The analytic readers amongst you will be starting to notice a theme, by now. So many of these things revolve around being part of a community. I may be a company of one, but I’m backed up by the support of hundreds of colleagues from all over.
The Mastermind group I’m a part of is perhaps the most directly supportive of all. Once a month, I’m part of a call with four other copywriters – some of the coolest and smartest people I know, incidentally – and we each share a high and low from the past few weeks. Everyone gives their support and perspective, which is a great reality check for all of us.
We also set each other challenges, which is some of the best homework I’ve ever had.
I can’t recommend this highly enough: if you think you want to be part of a Mastermind group, then get some colleagues together and make one.
A DIY punk zine about creativity, compiled by fellow copywriter, friend and Juvenile delinquent Jake Keane: I was always going to be into this.
Totally free of a brief, I was able to create anything I wanted and submit it for publication. So far, I’ve submitted cryptic crossword puzzles, cartoons about Albert Camus and Caspar David Friedrich, and an article about skateboarding.
And that’s just to Creative Rehab Issue 1 and Issue 2. There’s plenty more madness in the pipeline.
I cannot express just how awesome it feels to make something and then hold it in your hands in (very high quality) print alongside amazing work from such a talented bunch.
Support Creative Rehab on Patreon and find out how to submit your own bit of chaotic splendour.
Creative Rehab is also a podcast, and I went on it to talk about my freelancing journey, creative inspirations, and a mystery that has haunted me for years. There was also an interrupting cat and a pretty decent off-the-cuff Star Wars joke.
You can listen here (or wherever else you listen to podcasts), and then check out the other incredible episodes with other Creative Rehab contributors and all around legends.
A poster I made for Creative Rehab’s One Minute Briefs competition.
Speaking of podcasts, if you’re at all interested in copywriting, ideas, or marketing, then you really should listen to Glenn Fisher’s All Good Copy podcast.
Might I suggest that episode 24 with the awesome Jane Evans would be a good place to start? Keep an ear out for the bingo caller skit at around 12 minutes for “Ed Callow: fluffy marshmallow.”
Career highlight. And perhaps time for a marshmallow-based rebrand?
In all seriousness, though, The live recording of The All Good Copy podcast in December was a late entry to this list, but it was a great chance to listen to a fascinating chat with Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland and meet up with loads of brilliant colleagues.
One of many in attendance that night was Steve Folland of Being Freelance fame, who some six months before I had watched hosting his own podcast live on stage. Catch up with his fascinating chat with Harvey Morton and Iona Bain here. (And then listen to the other 200 (!) episodes of the brilliant Being Freelance podcast, while you’re at it.)
That episode was recorded live as part of the IPSE National Freelancer’s Day Conference in London in June.
There was plenty of insightful content to be had right across the day (particularly in addresses by The Dots’ Pip Jamieson and author Adam Kay) but the real highlight for me was getting to meet so many online colleagues and friends face to face.
After a few awkward “are you @…?” conversations, we all started socialising and I got to know loads of great people that little bit better.
I also got a free headshot thrown into the bargain. So all in all, not a bad day out.
But let’s take it back to Being Freelance for a second: In the autumn, I was honestly pretty bowled over to receive the prestigious Being Freelance Non-Employee of the Week award.
As well as a sweet haul of BF paraphernalia and some fancy biscuits, I get to point to that list of incredible freelancers and say that it’s the sort of company I keep. Mind-blowing.
Steve said some lovely things when presenting the award, many of them relating to the next point, which I’ve managed to avoid mentioning until now…
I already did a self-indulgent #Write52 retrospective two weeks back, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but I’m immensely proud of what #Write52 has become.
What started out as a little recurring series on this heretofore neglected blog is now a vibrant community of writers creating their own content for their own sakes.
I’m allowing myself one plug here: please go and sign up to the #Write52 newsletter. I work really hard on it and it’s a lot of fun.
The one you’re on if you followed the last link and haven’t closed the tab yet: write52.com.
Two websites (in two different CMSs) in a year is not bad going for a pen-and-paper aficionado like me.
Keep an eye on #Write52’s digital home – it’ll keep growing and evolving alongside the project.
But enough self-promotion for a second.
Because everything I know, I probably read in one of these books.
Any excuse for a shelfie.
There’s a lot to be said for getting stuck in and learning on the go (and I’ve certainly done my fair share of that this year, too), but I’m proud to say that this year I invested time reading up on copywriting and honing the craft.
Because sometimes carving out a quiet hour or two to sit and read feels like an achievement.
I’ve mainly focused on personal achievements on this list.
But I did do some actual client work, too.
I’ve had a quick scan back through some of the feedback I got this year, and this message in particular brought a smile to my face:
Considering how many of these points have been related to others and how they’ve helped me, I’m really proud to say that I’ve tried to help others in the community as much as I can this year, too.
Although it doesn’t take much, sometimes a supportive tweet in recognition of something you’ve made can have a real impact.
In that spirit, I’d encourage you to have a read through of this thread and this thread, where I picked out a few of the awesome projects that colleagues have put out there. Mutual support between freelancers is a beautiful thing.
Putting all of this down in one place has been eye-opening.
It really has been a great year, and I think I can safely say that making the career change to freelance copywriting was the right move for me.
I’m going to have to do something pretty special to top all of this next year.
Better get planning…
New year’s resolution: to write something of value.