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Ken Magill

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Advice for Writers: You're Never Above Your Work

4/21/15
 
By Ken Magill
 
An unexpected project last week got me reminiscing about how I stumbled into writing about Internet marketing 18 years ago.
 
Last week’s project was writing brochure copy for a motorcycle windshield product.
 
I do not turn down work as long as it pays well enough. And I especially like taking on jobs covering topics I know little or nothing about—even if they seem boring at first glance. I almost always learn something.
 
During research, I found there are two camps on whether or not to have a windshield on a motorcycle. And some members of those camps are pretty passionate about their opinions.
 
In a nutshell, the no-windshield camp hates what they do to the look of the bike. They tend to be younger and they like the wind in their faces. 
 
The windshield camp likes to be able to ride at high speeds and take long tours without the wind beating the crap out of them.
 
My job was to speak to the second camp.
 
In recounting the project to a colleague, I remarked how interesting I thought it was.
 
“Good for you for not being above your work,” he said.
 
“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said.
 
“I was thinking specifically of [former colleague]” he said.
 
“Oh, now I get it,” I said.
 
He was talking about a former colleague who clearly felt she was better than her subject matter.
 
“I never feel above my work,” I said and the conversation moved on.
 
Later, I realized that last statement wasn’t entirely true.
 
I move from Buffalo to New York City to take a job reporting for DM News in 1997. I had a journalism degree and had spent several years working for a business-to-business cataloger.
 
I was a decent reporter who could write and who understood direct marketing—perfect for that job.
 
I wanted the catalog beat because cataloging was a subject I knew.
 
But I was the new guy and the catalog beat was taken. DM News needed someone to cover the Internet beat. No one else in the newsroom wanted it because nothing was really happening with Internet marketing yet.
 
I would love to say I had vision. But anyone who has read my work for any length of time knows a man of vision I am most certainly not.
 
I wasn’t happy with the Internet beat, but at least I can say I had the maturity to take it seriously and do the best I could with it.
 
Soon my career took off like a rocket and I learned a lesson that stays with me to this day. I never look down on a paid writing gig. I take every one as seriously as the last. They often pay off in unexpected ways.
 
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