Sink or swim: A Sure-fire Way to Learn… Fast​

Sink or swim method

It can be scary AF, but the sink or swim approach is the best way to fast-track your location-independent career. Spoiler alert; you will swim 

I distinctly remember a turning point in my life where I threw myself in the deep end, and it was indeed a matter of sink or swim. I had just finished two copywriting courses in Sydney, Australia, then took a three-month sabbatical in Cape Town, South Africa, undertaking a Digital Marketing and Social Media Internship at a volunteer travel company.

During the internship, I completed the Google Ads course and I received $100 worth of advertising credit. Figuring I got nothing to lose, I put my newfound Google Ads skills to use and created a campaign.

To this day, I hadn’t really considered myself a working copywriter, having only written one free article for a mate and completed a couple of small jobs for Uber passengers/clients. This was the first time I had advertised my services, and to my amazement, I received two leads from the Google Ads campaign:

  1. Dave from a Skateboard company in the Sunshine Coast, QLD
  2. Sharon from a rapid weight-loss company in Melbourne, VIC

However, I quickly realised I had thrown myself in the deep end!

Floating laptop

Sink or Swim

Both needed website copy written. What!? I don’t know how to do that!! Imposter syndrome overwhelmed me; I felt like a fraud. I had two choices – flight or fight. I spoke with both leads over the phone and told them:

“Of course, I can do this for you. SEO? Sure, no problem.”

I didn’t even have a clue on how to quote. What do I charge for these people? How do I send the quote? If they accept the quote, what do I do next!?? The imposter syndrome was real and terrifying, as I genuinely had no experience in this, and was winging it. Which brings me to our next lesson…

Fake it till you make it

No doubt you’ve heard this cliché before. But the truth is, sometimes you do have to fake it till you make it. I think everyone has faked it during some situation in their life. Whether it be during a job interview, trying to impress the opposite member of sex (or same), or trying to achieve a given task that someone else assumed you could do.

Time was not on my side as I was essentially working fulltime hours in the internship. I discovered a copywriting podcast, Hot Copy, that contained episodes covering everything I needed to know. I have much to thank the Hot Copy hosts, Belinda Weaver and Kate Toon, as they seriously saved my arse. I listened to the podcast episodes back-to-back while walking to and from work, absorbing the lessons that taught me to fake it till you make it. The podcast taught me to create quote and work proposal templates. I broke down my quotes, itemised the tasks, coming up with what I thought to be a fair hourly rate.

Much to my surprise (and horror), both leads accepted my quotes. Now, I had to deliver! And they both wanted SEO. Although we had touched on some SEO during the internship, I was no expert. The imposter reared his head again so I decided I needed a crash course in SEO. I downloaded an eBook and audiobook, which I again listened to on my walk to and from work.

Deliver the goods

I eventually delivered. Admittedly, not my finest work, but I got the job done. Not only did I keep my head above water, but I learned to swim. It was the first time I believed…

I was a copywriter!

By throwing yourself in the deep end something extraordinary happens to us as human beings. We find out what we are truly capable of. By completely immersing myself in copywriting and learning what I needed to deliver, I gained the confidence required to move forward as a professional copywriter, which brings me to my next point…

Never stop learning!

Even after five years as a freelance copywriter, I still read books, take online courses, listen to podcasts, and attend events on copywriting. And so should you too.

If you genuinely want to succeed as a freelancer and achieve the location independence and freedom we all crave, then you must immerse yourself in your craft. Devour anything and everything on your subject matter. If you’re a freelance designer, then live, eat, and breathe everything design. Your knowledge and passion will shine through in your work.

Published by Tim Roberts

Tim is a freelance writer, blogger, digital marketer, creator and author.

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