Copywriting Painkiller 3

Try the Unlikely Painkiller for Copywriters Who Work Too Hard

Why do you work so hard?

Let me give you my answer for a second before we get into the painkiller I’ve been using in 2014 …

If I don’t have a knot in my spine at the end of the day, I can’t sink myself into a session on Call of Duty.

It’s backwards – but it’s just how my mind works.

And I realised this during the most depressing year of my life …

I graduated in 2009 and told myself I deserved a year out from The Grind (… as if university was ‘tough’. I had three lectures a week - at most. Typical student, eh?).

So, I stuck to my 16-hour a week part-time job in the local electrical store. And I barely broke a sweat in any of my shifts.

Post-graduation, I was taking it easy. Really easy.

Like I said, it was the most depressing year of my life.

I couldn’t enjoy the things I wanted to … because I felt like what my brother likes to call an ‘oxygen thief’.

Only when I started volunteering did I regain that sense of fulfilment, purpose and happiness.

Then I got my role as a junior copywriter and finally swallowed a lungful of deserved air.

The hard work had begun.

Are You Working Hard or Working Smart? Or Both?

But I now realise that long shifts — even in a job I love — are not the answer to happiness. And certainly not the answer to being my best.

A lot of us work overly hard no matter what we do – like my girlfriend’s aunt who has four jobs (cleaner, car park attendant, carer and bingo hall operator). Or Claude C. Hopkins, who is regarded today as the founding father of modern advertising.

– Note: You might consider David Ogilvy to be the founding father of modern advertising … but Ogilvy swore by the works of Hopkins. Perhaps Claude ought to be considered the grandfather. Your call. –

His book, Scientific Advertising, is the Big Bang … and all the ‘How to’ guides we’re reading from today’s copywriters are merely shrapnel from that first BOOM.

He wasn’t always an ad man.

Hopkins was a hustler. He worked 18-hour days for fun. And he shot up to become head bookkeeper at Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company in his earlier years.

The job was well paid at $75 a month.

Hopkins had grabbed that position by the nads through gruelling determination and hard work – two traits he’d owned for his entire life.

Those 18-hour shifts had paid off. Big time.

But not big enough …

He soon realised that the steak he’d been chewing was a rag of beef in comparison to what he could be tasting if he ditched that cushy bookkeeper’s job and became a salesmen.

From his seat at the top of his bookkeeping career, Hopkins could see that it was the salesmen who were bringing in the business, rolling in the cash and making it rain.

It wasn’t about working 18-hour days to get to the next prize meal.

It was about working smart – and learning what he had to learn in order to enjoy the juicier fillets in life.

Brian Clark talks about the same thing in the first episode of New Rainmaker.

Those who bring the profits into a business will always earn more kudos, respect and money.

They are the rainmakers. They make the rules. And they work smart.

I’m still trying to figure out the trade-off between hard work and smart work. 

Are You Learning Enough to Stay Pain Free?

See, working too hard can cause a nasty rash on your happiness.

New Rainmaker and the books of Claude Hopkins have been my calamine lotion. 

You’ll learn more about being an ad man, marketer (or whatever your role in advertising might be) from these two, than you will from any marketing-related degree. 

In fact, I’m willing to say that you’ll learn more about the principles of great advertising from these two than you will from a year in a marketing agency. 

I know Drayton Bird often underlines how nobody reads anything. And that probably includes your boss.

Are You Prepared to Sacrifice Zombie Enjoyment for True Happiness?

If you’re truly a copywriter, you’ll install more happiness from these than you will from your Xbox or HBO.

It’s soothing to learn from the best and to actively train yourself to be better than you were yesterday.

I don’t need a knot in my spine to enjoy being educated (plus it’s nice to get through one night without being disappointed in my deteriorating first person shooter reactions).

You’ll enjoy identifying the parallels between New Rainmaker and Hopkins’ literature – each delivered nearly 100 years apart. And if you’re making a living as a writer, you’ll get to implement what you learn today, in your job tomorrow.

Soon enough, your own confidence and knowledge makes that job a little easier.

This dilutes your stress levels. And your happiness is topped up, daily.

So, that’s your unlikely painkiller – studying.

Now it’s just a question of whether or not you’re willing to take the medicine.

– Note: I’ve got a feeling that if this is the painkiller for hard work, then Charlie Hoehn’s ‘Play it Away’ might just be the permanent cure. And that goes for everybody, not just ad men/women. –

Turns out Hopkins continued to work long hours, even as a rainmaker … not sure if that’s my kind of deal. And in all honesty, I’m late to this feast he’s been hosting since the 1920s.

But the food here never goes stale.

Pull up a seat.

If you’ve got your own remedy for relieving the symptoms of hard work, please share your best advice in the comments below (all suggestions are welcome. I know one copywriter who uses rum to unwind – that’s more than valid in my book).

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  • blloyd78

    I agree that we can all get better at what we do as copywriters – if we don’t continue to learn, the quality of our own work starts to deteriorate. That said, I love my job, 18 hour days and all ;)

  • Rob Philbin

    Ben, apologies for the delayed response … I’ve been a little tied up, settling my new daughter into the world. :-)

    Thanks for taking the time to drop a comment in here and share your thoughts. I really appreciate you.

    I’m with you 100% on constantly learning. Actually, I noticed you’re HubSpot certified a few weeks back (just checked again on your LinkedIn to make sure).

    I’ve honestly never studied the game via HubSpot – what’s the course content like?

    Thanks again mate.

    And it goes without saying that you love your job – you’re a pure-breed copywriter for sure.

  • blloyd78

    No problem, I hope you’re enjoying fatherhood ;)

    If you have worked with inbound marketing for any period of time, a quick skim of the free courseware should be enough to get Inbound Marketing certified. But in the context of this article, there’s plenty of good material there to sharpen your skills!

  • Richard Gregory

    Sorry I’m late to the game, but this is a great piece, Rob. I’m a big learning addict too, so I don’t agree with the “nobody reads anything” approach…it’s horses for courses and I’m a horse that likes to read. I’ve currently got two kindle books on the go, and and I’m listening to “Great by Choice” on audible during my commute.

    As far as the working smart balance, that’s a real toughie. Some of it is just discipline and most of it is saying “no, that’s not worth it” more often. Moving into parenthood is always a good motivator to find that balance since you’re going to want to spend more time with your bundle of joy.

  • Rob Philbin

    Rich, thank you for checking in here. It means a lot.

    I know you’re a big fan of always ‘staying in school’ too. John Lloyd often talks about you and the books you have on the go. :-)

    Drayton’s generalisation of ‘nobody reads anything’ is quite typical of him. He never holds a punch.

    But I take it as though the MAJORITY of people don’t read anything. I know I didn’t read much until about 18 months back!

    John Carlton talks about a similar thing too. And there’s a great story about how he got started as a freelance copywriter …

    Basically, he was 30 years old and skint.

    To catch up on all the grad men and ad men at the agencies, he sped-read every marketing book in the Dewey Decimal System at his local library. Then he reread the good ones (he conquered Scientific Advertising eight times).

    When he actually showed up at the agency, it turned out he was miles ahead of all the dudes in there.

    I’m late to the game and still playing catch up myself. The library you’ve set up for us at Latitude has been an awesome place for me to get started.

    Thanks again – see you soon.

  • Rob Philbin

    Cheers Ben.