In May 2012, I locked up my Denver house for the last time, lugged two bags and a dog to the airport, and boarded a plane for what would become a long-term, full-time location independent journey.
When I first left the US, I was working as a freelance copywriter and content strategist, which is a fancy way of saying I wrote websites, billboards, video scripts, brochures, and marketing materials, developed branding campaigns, and crafted content strategies for brands.
I also, on the side, started writing about travel itself, publishing stories in magazines and online publications, something I’d been daydreaming about doing since I was a kid.
In that first year on the road, my side hustle as a travel writer went well. Publications said yes to my stories. Editors responded to my emails. Luck seemed on my side. Which is why, in late 2013, after a month-long hiking vacation in the Swiss Alps, I decided to try something new. For the next year or two, I would focus all my energy on travel writing work and see if maybe, just maybe, that could really be a sustainable full-time job.
Over the next couple years, I published over 10 travel guides, became a foreign correspondent for a magazine, took on new travel writing clients, and slowly, very slowly, started to make ends meet financially as a travel writer.
I also realized, now neck-deep in the career I’d glamorized as a child, that there were a few things I really didn’t like about the world of travel writing.
For one, in the copywriting and content world, I was used to clear, set payment schedules. Sure, clients sometimes paid late. Projects got delayed. But when the work was done, the payment came in.
With travel writing work, it was a different story. I’d do the work, send in the story, and wait, often for months and months, before the story was published and I was paid. Because magazines, for the most part, don’t pay when the work is completed. They pay when the story hits the shelves. Which meant wildly variable income and a whole lot of follow up emails to editors (and follow up is a thing I loathe doing) as I tried to suss out when each story was heading into print.
I also hated pitching—the art of crafting a short description of your story so compelling that an editor wants to buy it. Pitching was terrible for so many reasons, one of which was that it simply wasn’t and isn’t the way my brain works. To craft a short summary of a piece, I needed to write the whole thing first, in which case it felt ridiculous to craft and send the summary at all when I could send in the whole article.
Even worse, though, is the bad habit of most editors of simply not answering their email. Rejection is to be expected. Not every idea is right for every magazine. It doesn’t bother me if an editor says no. But it absolutely does bother me when they don’t say anything at all. How do I know they got my email? How do I know they aren’t actually interested? How much should I follow up? Should I send my idea to another publication? When? By refusing to take those 10 extra seconds to send writers a rejection, editors leave writers guessing at all these things, which is something I’ve come to resent greatly in the last few years.
And so the bloom was off the rose. Travel writing was fun and interesting, sure. I still loved the actual writing part, the research part, the exploring the world part. I loved helping people find the best a place has to offer, introducing them to something new. But, slowly over time, I started to wonder: Do I really want to work with magazines? Do I really want travel writing to be my full-time career?
And so in late 2015 and early 2016, I quietly started to pivot my career yet again.
I started my copywriting career as a content specialist for an ad agency that specialized in travel clients…and in the last year, I’ve been circling back to that beginning. Quietly taking on content marketing clients and building little websites, helping craft blog strategies and brainstorm topics for other bloggers, becoming, again, a content strategist and copywriter…and focusing my energy on clients in the travel and inspiration spaces, the things I know and love most.
So much of life is stepping sideways, doubling back, readjusting as you learn what you love, what you’re best at, where you can add value to people and businesses, and how that jigsaw puzzle fits together to make a living. And it’s funny how sometimes those sidesteps can lead you in a perfect circle.
And so as 2017 opens up, after a sunny seaside vacation, a quiet time to reevaluate, I’m taking the quiet shift of 2016 and making it louder and more official:
As of today, I am again a copywriter and content strategist with a special focus on travel and lifestyle clients.
If you need a copywriter or content strategist, I’ve still got some space in my schedule in the coming months, so now would be a good time to check out what I’m doing, who I’ve worked with, and how I can help—and to reach out.
In all, I’ve got over 15 years of professional writing experience encompassing everything from online marketing to award-winning video commercial scripts to full-length books. Now, I’ll be putting all that experience back to work for ad agencies and businesses.
If you asked me five years ago where I thought I’d be today, I couldn’t have told you. But if you asked me today, I’d say that I’m happy, relieved, and feel utterly right to be coming full circle like this.
Time for yet another new chapter, a shift, a pivot, a reminder that life isn’t a single pathway stretching out before us, but, rather, a thousand tiny forks in the road.
P.S. Working on a business or creative project? I made a Facebook group where we can connect and talk all things business, creativity, and entrepreneurship.