Freelance life, The Sharper Point

The scariest blog post you will read this year

Silhouette illustration of a knight holding a lance

What are your goals as a freelancer?

Higher sales? More free time? More respect from clients? A reputation as the go-to-guy or go-to-girl in your town, industry or profession?

And how are you going about achieving them?

Well, here’s the bad news.

You won’t do it by blogging.

Blogging MAY get you a fanbase. It may even bring in the odd bit of copywriting work. What it won’t do is help you get any of the things at the top of this article.

Nor, for that matter, will posting to social media sites. Or tinkering about with the portfolio page of your website.

They are all too passive. Too commonplace. Too hopeful.

The reputation-engine your competitors are too frightened to start

Instead, why not stare danger in the face and do the one thing guaranteed to bring you fame and fortune? The thing you can be sure virtually all of your competitors are avoiding.

I am talking, of course, about public speaking.

Think about it for a moment. Who does public speaking?

Experts do it. Successful people do it. “Top” people do it. Leaders do it.

And do they do public speaking because they are expert, successful, top leaders? Or are they expert, successful, top leaders because they do public speaking?

I incline towards the latter explanation. Or at least partly.

Do you recognise these people?

To speak in public you have to be confident. You have to be willing to embrace risk. You have to have something you want to say. And you have to want to influence the thinking and behaviour of others.

All of which sounds like a blueprint for an expert, successful etc.

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

Winston Churchill

Which brings us to the crucial question: if it’s that good an avenue for acquiring fame and fortune, why isn’t everyone at it?

I think we know the answer.

Because it’s scary.

Since my intention in this article is to move you towards seeing public speaking as a worthwhile and necessary activity, let’s start by confronting the fear side of the equation.


Picture the scene.

You are sitting behind a table at the front of a conference room. The conference chairperson has just announced that you are going to speak next.

How is your heart-rate compared to normal? It’s faster, isn’t it? It may even be racing.

How about your breathing? Fast? Shallow? Probably.

Rub your palms together. They’re sweaty, aren’t they?

Had you a mirror to hand you might also observe that your pupils are dilated. You may even have a flush creeping up from your neck into your cheeks.

Inside your abdomen a swarm of butterflies has just taken wing, and they are trying to escape.

You feel anxious. Fearful. Terrified even. Every fibre of your being is crying out the same message.


Believe it or not, this is why you are scared by the thought of public speaking
Believe it or not, this is why you are scared by the thought of public speaking

That “flight or fight” reflex is conditioned by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.

It probably served our ancestors very well as a method of avoiding becoming lunch for a sabre-tooth tiger.

And there is nothing you can do about it. It’s part of being human.

“You have nothing to fear except fear itself”

Well, actually, there isn’t nothing you can do about it. Or not exactly.

Here’s what you can do.

You accept it.

Say to yourself, “This is natural. It’s my body preparing me to do something amazing”.

And, since it is true, also say to yourself, “Nobody can tell how I feel”.

Then you put your feelings to one side, stand up and deliver your speech.

Partly, I suspect, because we all admire somebody who is willing to put themselves in the public eye like this, you will get a round of applause at the end.

Unless you are a particularly cold fish, this will gratify you. And that’s the second part of the equation. That doing something scary feels good.

What happens instead

Here are some other good things that happen when you speak in public.

Potential clients see and hear you talking about your copywriting in the flesh. There’s no other “content” for their attention just a click away. It’s just you.

Because these potential clients are in the room with you they can come up to you afterwards and ask whether they could hire you.

Your authority is enhanced in a way no amount of writing could ever hope to achieve.

You will gain a reputation as a public speaker, which in itself bolsters your reputation as a copywriter.

You will be able to increase your fees – because if you speak in public you are worth more.

People who hear you speak will remember you and will be more likely to contact you the next time they need some copywriting.

Now, you don’t need to start by climbing Everest. There are plenty of less challenging climbs available.

What to do now

Here are a few suggestions you might find helpful.

Contact your local chamber of commerce. See if they organise any events where a presentation on the power of copywriting to boost business would go down well.

Link up with a couple of other local (complementary) freelancers and organise a free lunchtime seminar. Do a short speaking slot each.

Contact your local university and ask if they would like you to go in and talk to a group of media/marketing/advertising students about copywriting.

And remember…

A sabre-tooth tiger is NOT about to eat you.

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Other ways we help you

There are plenty more articles about freelancing on our blog.

And every September, I run my Freelancing Masterclass. It’s a chance to try out new skills in a safe, non-threatening environment with other freelancers.

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