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

Boy standing on diving board about to jump in deep end to sink or swim

What is Sink or Swim Training? A Sure-fire Way to Learn Fast

digital nomad drowing

It can be scary, but the sink or swim approach is the best way to fast-track your location-independent goals. Or any goals, for that matter. Have you ever started a new job and been thrown in the deep end? My hand is up. Both arms raised, actually. It was overwhelming, I know, but did you notice how quickly you learned the skills and tasks necessary to keep the job?


The human spirit is capable of amazing things when under pressure. Chances are, you kept your head above water and kept the job, and eventually, you were swimming. For those who drowned, I’m sorry, but I’m sure you learned something from the experience and got back in the water.


When you go out on your own, you have to do the same thing as that asshole or unaware boss did and throw yourself in the deep end. After all, you’re your own boss now, so this is a moment where you show yourself who’s boss. You! But you can’t get the job unless you throw yourself in the deep end. You will swim; you always have. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.


Floating laptop


Jumping in Deep


I had just finished two copywriting courses in Sydney when I took a three-month sabbatical in Cape Town, South Africa, to undertake a digital marketing and social media internship at a volunteer travel company. This wasn’t throwing myself in the deep end, more like dipping my toes in.


During the internship, I completed the Google Ads Skillshop course, which is free, by the way. Master any free Google Ads, analytics, and coding courses, and you’ll get remote work, whether freelance or employed. Think what you like about Google, they provide a free pathway to this freedom lifestyle that’s accessible to anyone on the planet who has a smartphone or computer and a reliable internet connection.


Anyhow, back to my internship. Upon completing and passing the Google Ads course, I received $100 worth of advertising credit for opening a Google Ads account. If you have Gmail, you can get a Google Ads account. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I put my newfound Google Ads skills to use. I created a campaign targeted at consumers back home in Australia.


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


  • Dave from a skateboard company in Noosa, Queensland
  • Sharon from a rapid weight-loss company in Melbourne, Victoria


I was excited and terrified; I was suddenly in the deep end! A sure-fire way to learn… fast!


My own sink or swim training method


Both leads needed website copy written. What? I don’t know how to do that! Impostor syndrome overwhelmed me; I felt like a fraud. But I had two choices—flight or fight. So I spoke with both leads over the phone. I had to be honest and tell them I needed to talk over WhatsApp or Skype, as I couldn’t make international phone calls. 


I advertised on Google Ads that I was an SEO copywriter, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. Think of it as a next-level copywriter who knows how to write for Google’s search algorithms. 


“Of course I can do this for you. You need SEO? Sure, no problem,” I found myself saying, yet at the same time, was thinking, SEO? I don’t know friggin’ SEO! 


The impostor syndrome was real and terrifying, as I genuinely had no experience in this and was winging it. While I regret falsely advertising my capabilities and do not recommend it, it set me on the ultimate crash course of my life. 


Fake it till you make it


I think everyone has faked it during some situation in their life: during a job interview, a first date, in bed, or trying to deliver on a project you have no idea how.


I’d never even professionally quoted or typed up a business proposal before. I didn’t know how to deliver the first requirement—cost. Moreover, they wanted terms and conditions, the whole caboodle. To add to the stress, time wasn’t on my side, as I was essentially working full-time hours with the internship, so everything had to be done after hours! 


I searched for whatever information I could and discovered a copywriting podcast called 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 ass. 


I listened to the podcast episodes back-to-back while walking to and from work, absorbing the lessons that taught me to fake it until I made it. The podcast taught me to create templates for quotes and work proposals. Then I broke down my quotes, itemized the tasks, and came up with what I thought to be a fair hourly rate.


Both leads accepted my quotes, much to my surprise (and horror). Now, I had to deliver! And they both wanted SEO. Although we’d touched on some SEO during the internship, I was still a novice. The impostor syndrome reared its 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, it wasn’t my finest work, but I got it done. Not only did I keep my head above water, but I learned to swim. It was the first time I truly believed I could do this! 


Something extraordinary happens when you throw yourself into the deep end—you find out what you’re truly capable of. By completely immersing myself in copywriting and learning what I needed to deliver, I gained the knowledge and confidence required to grow as a professional copywriter.


The hustle


The hustle is undoubtedly one of the scariest parts of starting out on your own as a freelancer, entrepreneur or small business start-up owner. Whenever I speak to new freelancers and nomads about the challenges they are facing getting their new gig off the ground, they all have a similar story.


Procrastination.


They procrastinate on making that phone call to talk to a prospective client. They procrastinate sending that email. They procrastinate going to the networking event. They procrastinate putting pen to paper. They procrastinate sitting their ass at the desk to do the work required.


Procrastination is fear. I get it. I am also guilty of it. Still am. But if you want this type of freedom and lifestyle I am selling then at some stage you have to grow a great big set of balls.


AKA courage.


Never fear female readers. Women can balls too. And I’m not making a joke about gender identity. In fact, some of the most successful solopreneurs I know are women, and they got there because of the size of their nutsack. I truly believe women will one day rule the world. Sorry amigos, but it’s true.


Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, courage. I know, it’s hard. But you got to put yourself out there. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Yes, I stole that quote from Susan Jeffers (Note: female) classic book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Read it. Once you learn to hustle, success will follow. And guess what, the more you do, the easier it gets. Believe me, you have the courage. You just have to throw yourself in the deep end.



Never stop learning!


Even after five years as a working freelance copywriter, I still read books, take online courses, listen to podcasts, and attend events on marketing and writing. Suppose you genuinely want to succeed as a freelancer and achieve the location independence and freedom we all crave. In that case, you must immerse yourself in your craft. 


Devour anything and everything on your subject matter. If you’re a freelance designer, live, eat, and breathe everything design. Your knowledge and passion will shine through in your work, and you’ll be super busy and charging more before you know it.

Published by Tim Roberts

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

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