From 24/7 lockdowns to having to remind yourself not to touch your face, 2020 has brought us toe-to-toe with a new kind of reality in every area of life—health, home and work.
In a seminal study on performance management on human psychology and workplace performance, NYT best-selling authors, Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor surveyed 20,000 workers across 50 global companies and found that working from home was less motivating than working from an office.
They also found that, when people had no choice over where they worked from, total motivation drops even further. And that study ran between the years of 2010 and 2015, long before the days of lockdowns and quarantines.
For full time work-from-home copywriters and digital marketers, this year’s shift to remote working may not have been much of a leap from their usual routine, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
We spoke with long-time friend and team member here at Pointed Copywriting, Maddy Bartlett, to get a behind-the-curtain look at how she has managed to consistently hit her deadlines, maintain a proactive approach towards work (and life!) and continue to G.S.D. despite the unpredictable and downright gloomy state of 2020.
Maddy Bartlett is a B2B and B2C copywriter with a background in events management and environmental awareness communication. She’s passionate about using writing to transform people’s perception of brands. Aside from her work at Pointed, Maddy also runs a sustainable travel blog called Compass & Stars. (More on that in a minute 😉.)
Here’s a quick glimpse at what Maddy shares in the interview:
- From Environmental Communicator to Freelance Copywriter: How Maddy Took the Leap
- B2B Mythbusting: It’s Not What You Write, It’s How You Write It
- Maddy’s Evergreen Framework for Staying Focused and Organized (When You’re On Your Own)
- Productivity for Freelance Copywriters: Why Meaningful Work Is a Dealbreaker
- Starting Your Career in Copywriting: Maddy’s Top Tips for Rookie Freelancers
Rather watch than read? Check out our full interview with Maddy here. 👇🏾
From Environmental Communicator to Freelance Copywriter: How Maddy Took the Leap
Maddy left college early to work as an intern for an events management agency in the environmental sector—and loved it. As a programme manager, her role covered everything from planning public engagement events across the West of England to managing volunteers and freelance staff and running core social media campaigns to help people form a lasting connection with the natural world.
It was a super rewarding experience. But five years in, Maddy knew it was time for a change.
Maddy’s transition to freelance copywriting wasn’t planned out. She took a six-month hiatus to travel around the world advocating for a better environment, before she decided it was time to get back to her first love—writing.
“Basically, I knew I just wanted to be a writer—I didn’t know what that meant and I didn’t know where that was gonna take me.”
“The first thing I did was to start a sustainable travel writing blog,” Maddy adds. Compass & Stars gave Maddy a chance to hone her skills, build a portfolio and ultimately become better at writing.
Because from switching to remote working to self-teaching new skills, the challenges as a newbie in the freelance copywriting world were all too real.
“The difficulty of coming from a team and then suddenly you’re by yourself. You’ve got no one there to really ask questions about it but also you’ve got to motivate yourself,” says Maddy about those few first months after making the leap.
“Coming from an office and always having worked in an office and then suddenly making the shift to homeworking was quite challenging” Maddy says.
In addition to writing her own blog, Maddy got down to business and invested in her craft. She spent time reading blogs on copywriting, content marketing and freelancing. She took online business courses and joined webinars to help hone her skills and figure out how the freelance market really works.
B2B Mythbusting: It’s Not What You Write, It’s How You Write It
Slowly but surely, the work started to come in. Maddy landed a unique range of copywriting projects from writing about the importance of carbon offsetting in consumer travel to the hottest lineup at the latest Bristol art fair.
But it wasn’t until she met the Pointed crew that she discovered her love for B2B.
“At Pointed, we work with B2B brands but weave all the stuff we care about into that copy—and that’s a skill I’ve definitely learned over the last couple of years that I didn’t necessarily know when I was first starting out,” explains Maddy.
“You don’t necessarily have to write for the exact niche you find interesting or care about, because you can weave those passions into whatever you’re writing about.”
Whether it’s raising an important social issue for a B2B reader, linking back to underrepresented experts, or finding a relevant place for a John Snow reference in an article on legal tech, Maddy knows there’s always room for your passion.
“It’s the process that matters. The process of taking something that’s not necessarily interesting to you but making it interesting to you. Whether that’s bringing in your passions or just making it a piece fun to read. That’s what counts.”
Maddy’s not a subscriber to the common advice to ‘nail your niche’.
Here’s how she sees it.
Maddy’s Evergreen Framework for Staying Focused and Organized (When You’re On Your Own)
Maddy’s laser focus under stressful times like 2020 is awe-inspiring. This year for Pointed alone she penned more than 92 high-quality B2B articles, ebooks and interviews, and more than 245 resources articles across topics ranging from candidate experience for remote workers to digital transformation in child care.
Luckily, Maddy’s experience handling multiple projects as a programmes manager gives her perspective on what it really takes to channel your focus for optimal creative output. 👌🏽
#1. Set boundaries for yourself: “I’m very strict at giving myself boundaries to overcome the challenges that come with any type of work,” Maddy shares, “So, for example, I always schedule regular time away from my desk. I’m pretty strict about that—because when you’re freelance there’s no one else to look after you but you.“
Still an unabashed nature junkie, Maddy also likes to take walks during the day. She says it helps her with focusing on her work.
(And according to a 2014 Stanford Study, a person’s creative output increases by an average of 60% when walking. We’re thinking she’s onto something.)
#2. Figure out what working pattern suits you: Maddy is more of a morning person so she always writes in the morning and she sticks to that routine. But if you’re a night owl, don’t sweat it. For Maddy, the secret is knowing your boundaries. Before 9am and after 5pm, you’re not going to find her at her laptop. But between those hours, she’ll be totally switched on.
If you like to start your work in the evenings, go for it. Just know when you’re signing off for the day (or, er… dawn).
#3. Guard your breaks: Once you’ve got your parameters set, guard them. Maddy tells us it’s crucial to take your breaks from work seriously. Maybe you’ve decided to always take weekends off, so don’t go working on a weekend—set your perfect routine and stick to it.
Maddy actively plans her days and weeks off, at least one month ahead. If she wants to take a long weekend to explore an old castle in the English countryside, or dedicate an entire week to creative projects and catching up on “life admin”, she dedicates a clear time and place in her agenda, resets deadlines accordingly and lets her clients know she’ll be completely out-of-pocket during that time.
#4. Dedicate time to planning and organizing: “I do dedicate time to organizing. I actually put it in as a task in my to-do list and spend around half an hour each week just planning it out,” she explains.
In addition to planning her longer stretches of travel or “me time”, Maddy dedicates just 30 minutes a week to planning her time, organizing her files or catching up on any other miscellaneous to-dos that pile up near the bottom of her list.
She’s a big proponent of using a small chunk of time to plan ahead so you have things sorted out before they become urgent. 💯
#5. Invest in tools that help you work better: Maddy relies on a handful of tools for two core things:
- Make it easier to plan, organize and execute your work.
- Bring a sense of fun (not just control) to the workflow.
She uses Google Calendar and Airtable to plan her schedule and creative vs. personal vs. work project time.
But she’s not fanatic about any one tool. For Maddy, whatever tool makes your work more efficient—and more importantly, fun to do—is worth giving a shot.
But above all, Maddy’s guiding work philosophy is that you should always put in your best into whatever you do. “The more energy you put into something, the more you get out of it,” she says simply.
Productivity for Freelance Copywriters: Why Meaningful Work Is a Dealbreaker
For Maddy, working as a copywriter is not just about making a living. She’s determined to make a positive impact on the world.
Whenever she starts straying from her path, she takes a break and writes down her goals. This helps her keep track of what she should be doing. From there, all she has to do is refocus her energy and organize her time around the things that really matter.
“One of the things I started doing regularly when I started freelancing was to question every decision I make and ask myself—is this going to make me happy?”
Her top tip? Don’t get caught up in the little everyday things. Streamline and focus on doing work that holds meaning to you.
Maddy relies on her pen-and-paper prioritization practice and her furry feline friend Jago to keep her engaged and inspired.
Working as a Copywriter: Self-Care as a Secret Weapon for Staying Focused and Driven
When Maddy starts to feel overwhelmed with work, she takes some time off to do some creative brainstorming.
“Normally what I do is just get creative with different pens and paper, I spread it all out on my office floor and lie on my front and just write down my thoughts, what I want, and what I need to do to get there,” she explains. “I brainstorm until I feel I’m headed in the right direction again.”
Also, Maddy says it’s important to keep going back to the center, asking yourself what your aim is and figuring out why and what you want to achieve from doing what you do.
Another thing that helps Maddy maintain a positive attitude towards her work is the need to feed her creativity.
Her motivation comes from thinking of the good ways her work could change the world.
“If you can go to work and know that what you’re doing is making a difference to someone or could potentially make a difference to someone, then it’s worth getting up for.”
To recap, these are the steps you should take when you start feeling overwhelmed
- Take a break from your work and engage in an activity that relaxes your brain.
- Ask yourself what’s making you feel pressured. It might be that you’re forcing yourself to do work that doesn’t align with your values and goals.
- Remind yourself of the impact your work could have on the world. If it’s an assignment that can make a real difference, sink into that and let it inspire you to keep going.
Starting Your Career in Copywriting: Maddy’s Top Tips for Rookie Freelancers
We asked Maddy for some advice for new writers and here is what she told us:
Get your portfolio online.
“When I first started out without a portfolio, it was very difficult to get in with different employers and different brands,” shares Maddy.
Try to get your work online so you can have something to prove your experience to potential employers.
Find your personal cadence with how you work.
Find out how you work best and work towards implementing that routine. It will help you attain higher levels of focus on your work.
“You’re never going to enjoy your work if you don’t do it how you want to.”
Maddy also mentions getting support from a UK based group for writers, Writers HQ. In particular she highly recommends their 14 Days to a Solid Writing Habit course.
“I’d like to give a shoutout to UK-based group, Writers HQ. They support aspiring writers to ‘Stop f***ing about and start writing,’ which says it all really. 🤣”
Your Copywriting Career Is a Lifelong Journey, Not a One-off Project
You’re probably not going to get everything you want in a career from your first job but you’d never find out how awesome or sh*tty it is if you don’t give it a try.
The road to being a productive B2B copywriter who actually loves their work isn’t a straight line, there will be bumps along the way. (Cough, cough 2020.)
The good news is, stories like Maddy’s remind us that you can make it less challenging and more fun simply by focusing on the things that matter to you and directing your energy towards work that makes you genuinely glad to call yourself a freelance writer.
Looking for copywriting work you can feel good about? At Pointed, we’re always on the lookout for motivated writers with a jones for meaningful work. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!