Recently, I came to a sobering conclusion.
I don’t want to succeed.
I’ll tell you what happened.
In order to make money while travelling and living in Latin America, I started to work a number of location-independent gigs that I can complete from my computer. Most of these jobs hardly amount to any money, at least not enough to live in a first-world country.
Currently, my main source of income comes from proofreading and editing, mostly university papers, but the occasional e-book as well. However, I also have a copywriting website that I’ve optimized pretty well for SEO (something I haven’t been able to duplicate for this site yet, unfortunately), but I just let it sit there. Instead of marketing it, I figured that people could just find me and shoot me an email if they wanted any work done. No one has for a while.
Well, not until last month.
It was about 12 am and I was watching the series The Boss on Netflix, when I got an email through my website. It was a company from Copenhagen saying they were interested in hiring me to do some work for their new location. This wasn’t some small time client. It was a goddamn franchise.
Good news, right?
Not so much.
The subject matter they wanted me to work on was something that I was completely unfamiliar with. Unfortunately on my website, I said that I had experience with it (lesson number one: be upfront about your abilities). Obviously, they asked to see specific examples.
I didn’t have any.
The next day I worked tirelessly coming up with fresh copywriting samples. I contacted a friend in the business to get permission to use their company name in one of them. I replied to the email and sent off my new work along with it late that same night.
Over the next several days, I waited for a response. I got nothing. I followed up. I got nothing. Three weeks later, I followed up one final time. Still nothing. Not even a “we’ve decided to go with someone else,” or “we don’t think you’re well-suited to this position.”
It’s possible that they were just fishing and don’t need help yet. Maybe they decided not to hire a copywriter at all. Maybe they found someone better. But still, a response would have been nice.
Can you imagine how I must have felt?
Well, I was relieved.
The stress of having to compile a mere sample for a serious client was enough to give me an ulcer. I can’t imagine what it would be like if they had hired me and I had to produce something that would quite possibly pay thousands.
I didn’t want the responsibility. I didn’t want to be outed as a fraud.
I didn’t want the fucking job.
The other day I looked over the samples I submitted. They were shit. I’m capable of much more. I sabotaged myself before I had even tried.
Usually the copywriting work I get is from small-time clients. People who wouldn’t know good writing for bad, but who have just enough money to spend (waste) on marketing. When I work for those people, I don’t care. I send in whatever rag with a few expensive words and it’s usually good enough. If they don’t like it, I revise it (usually for the worse) saying whatever they tell me to. I don’t get offended because my heart isn’t in it.
The Copenhagen job was one that could have solved some of my financial problems and could have provided me with a steady stream of work for the future. It would have been a great contract to land.
But I didn’t want it.
After a period of introspection, I realized that I embody some of the worst aspects of my generation: the Millennials (I'm 23 years-old). A generation that I am critical of and often ashamed to be a part of. I’m an undisciplined hedonist who wants what he wants. And what I want right now is an easy life free of responsibility.
But I’m not willing to work for it.
I have hustler’s mindset but no follow-through.
But I’m sorting it out. Since the ordeal, I’ve revamped my copywriting efforts as well as my site, and I’m actively pursuing clients instead of waiting for them to come to me. I’ve identified certain niches that are not being filled, and I’m adjusting my approach accordingly. I’m also hitting the gym and not watching porn anymore (thank you, Mike from Danger and Play, for the advice) – you’d be surprised how it increases general productivity.
For me, the first step of getting over my fear of success was understanding that it exists. It took a good job opportunity for me to realize that I’m not ready to put myself out there. Another facet of my problem is that I’m not passionate about copywriting. In Canada, I worked as a 'content creator' for two different marketing companies and what I was doing felt soulless and unfulfilling.
But I see how it can be a cookie jar full of money if you have even the most basic understanding of people and know how to push the right buttons.
I've since reframed how I think of copywriting. I used to see it as adding little value to the world. Although this may still be true, I now see copywriting as a way to sell myself. I see my work as self-promotion. When I complete projects for my (low-paying) clients, I no longer think about them. Instead, I see the work as a free opportunity to test how my copywriting converts in a marketplace. I've come to see copywriting in an entirely new light.
One day, I will use these skills to sell my own product. Until then, I'm happy to get paid to practice.
I have an idea of where I want to go, but now I’m not so disillusioned that I think it won’t take hard work to get there.
Until then, I'll keep my head up.
*I don't often recommend books, but I do like to give credit where credit is due. Mike Cernovich's Gorilla Mindset helped me realize many of the things I talk about in this post. His advice has put me on a healthier, happier, fulfilling and more productive path.
You can check out the book and his website here: Danger and Play. This is not an affiliate link (his content will do a better job of convincing you than I can).
Also Check Out: Read This Before You Think About Moving To Latin America
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