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Right under my nose...

The jump from classroom teacher to freelance writer may not be as big as I first thought...

If you’ve read my other blogs on moving on from teaching to find something new, you’ll know that it was not as simple as the internet would suggest. Those transferable skills are a regular result, empowering you with the knowledge that you can use them somewhere to do something completely different and just as, if not more, rewarding. Somewhere. Something.

The ambiguity was so frustrating. And then I stumbled upon Copywriting. How I had never heard of this? I was 37 years old and had never heard of the term. I feel I’m not necessarily alone here though, as the most common response I got when I suggested it to them was ‘proofreading will be a bit boring, won’t it?’ But the more I researched, the more I loved the sound of it. I threw myself into as many Youtube videos and Blogs from those already operating in the industry as possible to find out more. And I loved what I discovered. Content writing was next. Again, I loved the thought of it. For the first time in many years I had come across a potential career path that I would enjoy…but also because the more I watched and read…the more I realised my world as an English teacher was not too distant a leap. In fact, some of the parallels were so close it was ridiculous.

Disclaimer: I am currently an ‘Entry Level’ writer. LinkedIn and other freelance websites don’t tell me how many months I have to collaborate with others before I level up. I just think it’s worth pointing out that I have made the following observations working with a handful of clients at a very early stage of my freelance journey.

1. Proof-reading/Editing v Marking

As part of the research journey I mentioned above, I watched a lot of Youtube videos. I remember one really clearly. It focused on Proof-reading and Editing and a well spoken Englishman shared his screen and he talked through his analysis of a clients’ work live. He spotted grammatical errors, highlighting them in red. He spotted spelling errors, circling them for the client to rectify. At the end, he provided a summary with 5 suggestions to improve the piece. Marking. I remember thinking to myself at 5:34 into the video. He is marking. Watching it, I was transported to a Covid hit Summer term, working from home and using my newfound Powerpoint powers to demo how to improve an Othello essay. This was one video. One professional. But it certainly gave me a huge boost of confidence.

2. Emails

If you work in education, you send emails and lots of them. As a Head of Year, I would regularly contact students, parents and colleagues for a whole host of reasons. Some would require a very formal, concise approach, others a more creative call to action. Don’t dismiss your creative experience here. Even the crafting of a subject header can be make or break when letting that parent know their precious boy has beaten somebody up…again. When working with my first client on their cold emails, it became quickly apparent that not everyone is comfortable in this area. Don’t underestimate your experience.

3. Creative Writing

This overlaps a little with the last point, but at the same time is certainly worthy of its own paragraph. Remember when I mentioned working with clients on their work sometimes felt like a lesson I had taught over the years? Exploring the world of copy and content conjured similar emotions too. Tentatively browsing the jobs available out there, I came across application tasks like ‘Sell a pen to us in 50 words’ or ‘Write 5 bullet points that describe the image above.’ Any English teacher reading this knows they have definitely thrown a task just like this out as a starter at some point in their careers. They also know they have primed their students for descriptive, persuasive and informative pieces and have very likely produced a draft or scaffolded a sensible structure to help their class. As I sat down with one of my first clients to draft a series of blogs for his team building business, I was acutely aware that this very much like planning a mini scheme of work. This awareness meant, despite being in the early stages of launching my own new direction, I felt comfortable and in control of the conversation.

4. Talking

Not a skill to be underestimated at all. Chances are, in an education setting you’ve had some great, inspirational conversations and some really tricky, dark conversations. Being able to reflect on both as I stepped into a new world of work was interesting for all the right reasons. Sitting in front of a prospective client, even while my portfolio was still only a handful of documents, I still felt confident in selling me, my work ethic and my trust. After all, I had done this hundreds of times before with anxious parents, irate parents, remote classes and Assemblies in front of hundreds of teenagers.

So there you have it. 4 things I have noticed very early on in my freelancing experience that have certainly made the transition from teaching that little bit more comfortable. It turns out those transferable skills articles I read were right all along.

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