Frustrations of a Writer

‘Am I fake?’

Dear Reader, have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question?

I’ve asked myself that question countless number of times.

Sometimes it feels like this whole enterprise of writing is a waste of time.

I have come a long way.

Back in 2011, I officially began my writing journey after dreaming about it for a while.

I began with a Comprehensive Writing Course with The Writers Bureau, Manchester, UK.

It happened like this..

I was browsing through the pages of one of the national dailies in my country, Ghana, when I saw an ad about

a freelance course offered at The Writers Bureau.

I gave them an email and got a reply.

It was then I realised  they offered a Comprehensive Writing Course for people who wanted

to have a taste of the different forms of writing that one could do to earn some money.

I wrote letters, articles, stories and others.

Their promise was that you qualify for first diploma once you’ve earned your fees back by selling your writing.

I had one huddle.

My biggest challenge was that I was living in a developing country. And market for freelance work was almost non-existent.

The few newspapers available didn’t accept freelance work. I couldn’t find magazines for my work either.

So I decided to try oversees.

And you know what?

I met some challenges there, too.

There’s one principle in freelance writing.

Here it is: Know your market before you pitch an idea to them.

Going by this rule, I had to study at least three consecutive issues of a magazine before pitching them an idea.

I scraped some money together and bought magazines from the UK.

Each time, I had to wait for about a month to receive my copies.

With time, I couldn’t sustain this practice. So decided to send ideas and finished articles to magazines

and newspapers on ‘spec’.

Some were gracious enough to give me a sorry-not-for-us-this-time reply slips.

My rejection pile grew huge – embarrassingly huge – despite countless praises from my writing tuitors.

Finally I got $26 from an article I wrote for a client on Elance.

Nothing again after that.

Then in 2012, one of my articles was accepted for publication in the US for a fee of $50.

I got six copies of the magazine without the $50. I was thrilled nonetheless.

And I crossed to the fiction side of my writing course.

My tuitor said my short stories improved after each assignment.

Again, I had to look beyond the shores of my country for market.

It was during this period I spent money in paying for short story competition fees.

I didn’t win any.

Then I stumbled into the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI).

This was in 2012. They offered a test-drive of their popular copywritng course.

And I paid for the first month, but I couldn’t continue the subscription.

But the one month was enough to arouse my interest in copywriting.

So subscribed to various copywriting blogs and newsletters…including another one month with  Dan’s GKIC.

Meanwhile, I started saving various sales letters I laid hands on.

I followed the first advice to any student of copywriting: write good sales letters down by hand.

A new route of possibility was opening before my eyes.

I thought if I became a good copywriter I could easily write for businesses within Ghana.

This time no more newspapers and magazines.

My first ‘spec’ sales letter went to the marketing manager of a chiropractic centre.

He said he liked it. That was the end of it.

Further follow-ups by letters and phone proved futile.

I didn’t know where else to turn. So I continued to learn from scraps of information on copywriter.

At the same time, I continued to write my short stories.

After a while, my writing course with The Writers Bureau got challenging and challenging.

When I got to writing stories for radio, I lost all enthusiasm for the course.

I was left with four assignments to complete the course.

These included writing stage drama and TV scripts.

I didn’t see how I was going to surmount this challenge.

After trying other jobs for a while, I came to back to copywriting full time.

I gathered some small money and registered my business, Persuasive Advertising.

I then sold my fridge. I added that money to a little from my dad to run two

ads in two newspapers.

Today for Paper A and tomorrow for paper B; that was how it run.

I received about 10 calls from business owners.

They thought I was going to work some sales miracles for them.

But my concept was confusing to them.

Some wanted a meeting with me, but I was far from them. About 690km, 11 hours by bus.

They were in the capital, Accra, but I was in the farthest nortthern part of Ghana.

In addition to this, I had poor mobile phone reception.

The result?

Nothing happened. No business.

But I continued to send letters to the CEOs of companies in the capital.

The first call came from the CEO of a life insurance company.

I hopped onto a bus for Accra.

The meeting lasted for about 15 minutes. He promised to talk with his marketing team about me.

Upon follow-up, he said they had an agency that handled all their advertising.

Bottom line, they wouldn’t need my services.

Second call came from the CEO of a shoe manufacturing company.

He was thrilled. He’d get back to me ‘after discussions with his team’.

He never did.

Third call came from the CEO of the insurance man again.

He suggested I handle his wife’s costume jewellry business.

I was to be paid 15% of the amount sales I bring in. I was to handle collating the of calls and replies from

interested buyers. And I was to design my ad in exactly one week.

We had meetings and phone conversations back and forth. And I lost interest in the whole thing.

Now, my third call has come from one of the major foreign banks in Ghana.

They want me to write a sales email for their specialised MasterCard for them ‘to see.’

After a deep thought, I decided to advise them to use a sales letter instead.

The advertising market is still green. I doubt if 20 people even know what copywriting is all about.

And what’s more, the Ghanaians are yet to fully trust and embrace internet transactions.

We still have people who read their emails monthly. How can you market to such people using emails?

So I sent them a four-paged sales letter and advised we use the email as lead to the sales letter.

I posted the drift letter today. You imagine that. Why not email it?

Because it might never be read.

The story continues…




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