My life as a removalist (sorry: copywriter), Jon Maxim, Freelance copywriter

My life as a removalist (sorry: copywriter)

Moving cardboard box with key

I moved house recently.

Those of you who know me will be slightly shocked. For seven years, I’ve lived on an island. A very small, scruffy, no-shops, no-water, no-sewerage type of island.

It’s called Scotland Island.

A magical place. Amazing community. Wonderful wildlife.

I’ve raved about it every workshop, every meeting and every phone call I’ve had for the past seven years.

Just not so good for getting toddlers to and from school.

The only access to the island is by boat. So, anything from getting milk to taking the kids to school involves lifejackets, tide apps, weather radar, mooring, then into the car. Just too much.

So: we moved. Into the heart of Sydney. A decision made in an evening, and actioned in days.

The week we moved was particularly busy, work-wise. At the same time as I was preparing to move, I’d reconnected with an old colleague. His team briefed me on a massive campaign.

Over 40 emails, a dozen texts and social media posts to be written. Quickly.

Quite a task. But most enjoyable, being able to really get your teeth into a customer journey like that.

I started crafting away, as I packed boxes.

The more we did, the more we had to do

Overwhelming mess of telephone wires

The day of the move loomed, as did the deadline for the copy.

Both overwhelming, frankly.

As the house was packed, it seemed to explode. Rather than the amount of stuff reducing, it actually increased, the more we packed.

Like Science Bob’s Crazy Foam Experiment (3 min. YouTube video), the more we worked on the place, the more there seemed to do. It expanded.

So too did the copywriting.

The more I got into the copy, the more I realised had to be done.

We couldn’t just say ‘Thanks for joining’. We had to think about ‘what next’? Then the ‘what next’ needed a place to go. That had to be built.

Then the client would remember something that had to be added (and wasn’t mentioned before).

There was feedback to incorporate.

Every step seemed to produce another three action items.

It was never-ending.

Hours and hours spent checking the Excel spreadsheet of customer touch-points (with three tabs worth of journeys).

Cross-referencing what we’d written to them before. What we’d promised. What we’d delivered.

Finding the holes.

My brain was aching from keeping so much information to hand.

But, bit by bit, I was getting there.

Hard slog

Ants working on a leaf as a team

Back to the house.

In the end, we hired a couple of backpackers to come and help.

These two Spanish, one French, lads were amazing – the boxes started piling up, ready to go.

Rubbish was being stacked at the back of the house. Sheds were dismantled, beds pulled apart, items lovingly wrapped in paper and bubblewrap.

Then we added two British backpackers. These ladies were dynamos. Cupboards were emptied. More boxes packed. Bathrooms cleaned within an inch of their life.

All this over a period of about two weeks. Bit by painful bit, it was coming together.

Then the fateful day arrived. A barge pulled up on the beach. The backpackers started carting everything down.

Let me tell you, carrying a washing machine down a dirt track through undergrowth is no fun at all. A hard slog.

But it happened. Much to my relief.

Tireless and thankless

Moving boxes outside house

As I walked with the umpteenth bag of rubbish to the wharf (there’s no rubbish collection on the island: you have to do it yourself) I realised: I’m just like a removalist.

I knew that while I was getting on with stuff only I could do (change addresses, redirect mail, earn money), the backpackers were doing the grunt work. I could relax, knowing it was being done.

The tireless, thankless (but well-paid) tasks were being completed.

I could turn my back, get on with something else, and return to the house to see it cleared.

In that moment, I knew how my client felt.

While they got on with what only they could do, I was the backpackers-and-removalists combined.

Messages were being written, emails designed, customer journeys thought through.

Not glamorous work. No award-winning TV out of this one. Just good, professional, crisp copy.

And that’s all some clients really want.

I’m proud of that. Just as the sweaty, tired (and slightly grumpy) backpackers and removalists should be.

They did it. And they’ll never realise just how much it meant to me.

The relief when we got into our new home. Unpacking to find they’d thought about how they put things in. The care and consideration.

I hoped my client would feel the same about the copy.

How to eat an elephant

Baby eating watermelon

After 30-odd years as a copywriter – 25+ of them freelance – it’s good to be reminded of what I offer.

Yes: exciting ideas, wonderfully crafted copy, a fresh perspective.

But, at the end of the day, 90% of my work is just producing stuff, being trusted to get on with it.

I take great pride in that. The challenge of one step at a time.

Like the old saying ‘How to eat an elephant‘ (answer: invite the whole village. One bite at a time). I got on with what seemed an insurmountable challenge. One chunk at a time.

There are still some boxes unopened. Just as there are always extra bits of copy that the process uncovers.

It’s tempting to leave the boxes. Those last bits are painful.

But they have to be done. Just like those last bits of content.

Right: time to roll up the shirt-sleeves, and get into those last bits of copy. Sorry: unpack those boxes.


Image sources: Pixabay


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.