February! That’s when you’re supposed to write your review of the previous year and your goals for the current one, right? Yes. Let’s pretend that is why I am only just writing this. Although if you keep reading you’ll probably figure out the real reason. Here’s the short version: nothing went as planned in 2017.
I’m going to break this down by analysing my (75% failed, 25% flailed) goals for the year, then I’m gonna talk about some other notable shit that happened. And then I’ll throw my 2018 plans into the mix at the end, because it’s already February and I really can’t piss about separating all this into multiple posts. I’VE GOT SO MUCH ELSE TO WRITE ABOUT, GODDAMNIT.
Phew. Okay. Let’s do this.
How My 2017 Goals Went
I made four goals for the year, three of which were about doing something every day. I wrote a quarterly update back in March, by which point I had already failed the do-it-every-day goals. Here they are:
Write every single day
I was going so strong with this. I was writing at least 400 words a day, every single day. And then I wasn’t. One day, I just forgot to do it. And I woke up the next morning relieved, because it turned out this goal was not helping me accomplish anything worthwhile. In my quarterly review, I wrote that I was going to figure out a different way to approach this writing-every-day goal, but I… didn’t. I conveniently forgot about that, too. Whoops.
Read every single day
I gave myself a dumb caveat for this goal. I could read ‘just one page’ if I wanted to, because the point was to get into the habit of reading daily. Soooo, something major I learned about myself last year is that if I set goals like this for myself, I will literally do the bare minimum. (Actually I was supposed to already have learned this lesson, wasn’t I?) Do you know how many books you get through if you only read one page per day? NOT FUCKING MANY. When I did my quarterly review in March, I had only read six books. The previous year – a year I was aiming to read 75 books – I had read 35 books by March. Apparently I need specific targets to aim for, rather than ‘easy’ habits-based goals. Good to know, I guess.
Exercise every single day
The plan here was to improve my upper back’s health. My too-straight spine means I get upper back pain super easily if I sit at weird angles (commonly known as ‘bad posture’), and exercise obviously helps with that. Turns out, so does fixing your posture, which I was able to do with some new furniture later in the year.
I also realised that this niggling achilles-tendon injury I’d had since the previous summer was never going to heal unless I let it rest, so I ended up banning myself from running for several months. (The ban is still in place now, actually, although I’m planning to lift it in the spring. MORE ON THAT LATER.) As you may have guessed, I didn’t accomplish this goal either, although I did walk almost every day. I averaged just over three miles a day throughout the year.
Shift the focus of my work
Okay, now this is where things start to get, er, a little messy. Although I guess technically it’s safe to say I accomplished this goal, since I shifted the focus of my business approximately SEVENTEEN-THOUSAND TIMES. Someone get me a wall to bang my head against. (Do you like how I just implied that there are no walls anywhere in my vicinity? That’s right: I’m working from a higher plane of existence right now, and walls do not exist here.)
Okaaaay. DEEP BREATH. At the very start of the year I was talking about adding editing services to my business. I even bought a whole new domain, untamedediting.com, though I never did anything with it. I nixed the idea of editing fairly early on, because I remembered that I find it annoying to focus on such trifling things as whether that’s the right sort of dash. (I’m just kidding, editors! I respect and admire and am ridiculously grateful for what you do, because I would truly detest a world in which books were allowed to go unedited before publication. I’m staring pointedly at the swathes of self-published Kindle authors who do not take editing seriously right now.) Anyway, I don’t know why I thought I’d be a good editor, since following the rules has never been a forte of mine.
I also said I had ‘one very specific writing service I want to offer from now on in mind’, and I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. So maybe I accomplished that. Maybe I didn’t. It’s hard to say, since apparently past-Karen is cryptic as fuck.
Later in the year I proclaimed I was going to shift the focus of Untamed Writing back onto copywriting clients, rather than freelance writers. Specifically, I was going to target personal brands. For… reasons. The site had been a weird blend of site-for-clients-and-site-for-writers for waaaay too long and I didn’t like it. Why are there copywriting services on a website FOR other freelance writers? It didn’t make sense.
Man, if you read that post I just linked to, you’ll see that I seriously thought I had figured shit out this time. Although now that I’m reading back on it I’m seeing that I was planning to target potential copywriting clients but also still offer my freelance writing course? Like… what? WHAT? What was that supposed to solve, Marston? I also announced that I was going to return to twice-weekly blogging, which did not happen. At all. In fact, I ended up blogging WAY less than I ever had before. Which led me to the conclusion, verrrrrrrrry slowly (thanks brain) that in fact this was not the right way to shift my business. Only in the past few weeks have I fully realised this, if I’m perfectly honest. (Now the reason for this February New Year’s post is becoming clear, eh?)
I wrote a blog post back in November: My 29 Extremely Personal Tips for Surviving Your First Five Years in Business. In it, I wrote two points that I later realised I was not even doing myself. (I repeat: rule-following, not my thing, even when the rules are my own. Sigh.) These were the points:
Point 20: It really is a good idea to ‘niche down’
Point 27: Content marketing is good for selling products, networking is good for finding clients
I’ve always had a strong reluctance to move my copywriting services from Untamed Writing to another website – mostly because I didn’t want to start another blog, and I thought that’s probably what I’d need to do. But I was wrong. On all counts.
I’d already bought edinburghcopywriter.com when I wrote the above post. I was planning to use it for SEO purposes, and to redirect prospective clients back to Untamed Writing. But the more I thought about it (and oh my god, I thought about it a LOT, like can we please just stop this now brain and finally commit to something instead of rewriting our home page every five seconds) the more I realised that, well, the main thing that gives me a headfuck about Untamed Writing is that I’ve been trying to force it to be something it shouldn’t be – trying to appeal to too many types of people with it – all for the sake of simplicity (biggest lol I’ve ever lolled here).
And then there’s that other point – content marketing is good for selling products, networking is good for finding clients. Umm. Oh yeah. RIGHT! That’s a good point, Karen, thank you. Most of my copywriting clients come from meeting people in person and from referrals. Sometimes they come through the blog, but mostly not. So… I DON’T need a blog for my copywriting services??? Wow, that took a long time to figure out.
I feel this is a good time to point out that my blog HAS been helpful for securing copywriting clients, though. Not for the content itself, or because that’s how people necessarily find me, but for the fact that showing you know how to build a brand, write good shit for it and grow an audience is quite appealing to clients. Having a solid online presence is handy because it shows people you know what you’re doing.
So anyway. This was a revelation of the best kind. Edinburghcopywriter.com can be MY MAIN COPYWRITING SITE. MY ONLY COPYWRITING SITE. And it’s already proving its worth, since I have a meeting with a new client tomorrow, right here in the city. A 20-minute walk from my flat. Turns out you don’t need a blog if you can rank number one on Google without one, and my new website is already ranking number one for ‘freelance copywriter edinburgh’, ‘edinburgh freelance copywriter’, and all variations thereof. ZING. (I’ll write about how I managed that some time.)
Keeping Untamed Writing as a site for copywriting clients didn’t leave me much room to talk about my favourite subject, which is myself. I AM KIDDING. Sort of. Everyone loves talking about themselves, you know? The trick is to do it in a way that other people can relate to. And, if you can, to stick to some sort of theme. My theme? Well, guys, it’s in the name: writing. Life as a writer. Making money writing. Improving your craft. That kind of thing.
I’m clear and free to write about whatever I want, AND THIS IS WHAT I CHOOSE. I realise this makes it sound like I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve done for the majority of Untamed Writing’s lifetime: blogging about freelance writing. But no – freelance writing is not the only type of writing I’m interested in. And now I’m going to venture into other realms and share what I learn about that, too. (More on that soon!)
I’ve rewritten the site for (hopefully, please Christ I can’t take it any more) the last time. Check out the home and about pages if you want to get a better idea of what the site’s going to be about from now on.
And that’s where I’m at with the business right now! I’ll share more about it in the 2018 goals section below.
Other Notable Events of 2017
Oh god, writing that took longer than I thought and I’m not done yet. Do you have a cup of tea yet? Best go and make one if not. Here’s some other stuff that went down in 2017:
I quit the digital nomad life and moved back to Edinburgh
At the start of the year, I was living as a digital nomad, which is something I’d intended to do ever since I started my business. I’ve already written in detail about why the digital nomad life sucks, so I won’t go over it again now.
What I will talk about is moving back to Edinburgh. For my final digital-nomad month, spent in a shitty Airbnb apartment in Seville, I daydreamed about what I wanted my life to be like when I moved back to Edinburgh. I wanted to find an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment and use one room as an office, like a goddamn grown-up business owner-type person (that was confusing to hyphenate and I’m still not sure it’s right and I don’t really care and this is why I am not meant to be an editor). It would be a place nearish my old place so I could still walk to the beach every day. I would make it a nice place to live, with nice furniture and nice art and other nice things that adults who commit to living in one place have. I would also get more involved with the Edinburgh creative scene, coworking and going to events and things like that. I would become KNOWN as an awesome copywriter in the city, and have meetings in person and stuff.
Essentially, I was going to actually attempt to build a life here, after 4+ years of not doing that because I was planning to leave. Well, all of the above has happened or is happening. I found an apartment that fitted my EXACT requirements. I regularly hang out with my fellow copywriter friends now (and mock them about the fact that I’M THE NUMBER ONE EDINBURGH FREELANCE COPYWRITER ACCORDING TO GOOGLE HAHAHAHAHA). I spoke at Edinburgh College about copywriting, then stayed behind to help the students with their projects. I got hugged and called inspirational! I got called a rising star! I’m sat in my home-office as I write this! I will walk to the beach later! Things are happening, and it is nice. Moving back here was definitely the right decision.
I blitzed everything on the site
During my frenzied attempt to figure out what the hell to do with Untamed Writing last year, I went through the entire site and ‘organised’ everything. I deleted half of my blog posts. Then I put (almost) all of them back (my What I Read Last Month posts have remained lost because they were so fiddly and I could not be bothered) and heavily edited them in the process to make them better/still relevant/less embarrassing. I removed all comments from the site, which I can’t decide if I regret but what the hell, it’s done now.
I removed all pointless images from my posts, because I cannot be arsed to fuck around with the same generic stock photos I see on every other blog. Now there are none within my blog posts, and my featured images are one of three Untamed Writing photos. If my words alone are not enough to tempt someone, then fine, whatever, I don’t care. I also removed all my courses and ebooks. I added new services and workshops. I changed my opt-in gift, then I changed it again, then I removed it altogether. I rewrote the copy 6,653 times. It was exhausting. But I pray to Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare, that it is over now. This is it. I am done.
I started writing a book!
Quite unexpectedly, I started writing a novel last summer. I had never seriously considered writing fiction before. I’d had a couple of vague ideas in the past, written a couple of opening paragraphs and abruptly forgotten about them. I didn’t think I had any good ideas and that writing fiction was Not My Thing (even though I looooove reading it).
So yeah, I’m writing a novel now! It’s a space adventure about a reckless, irresponsible girl who just wants to bum around the universe with her best friend, doing odd jobs and committing petty crimes to make ends meet, but CANNOT because of reasons and plot. And I want to write about what I’m learning, which is part of the reason I’ve finally decided to refocus the site on writing. I have no idea whether I’ll try to get it published traditionally, or whether I’ll self-publish it, or anything really. I’m not in a hurry over this. I’m just enjoying the process. It takes a lot longer than writing non-fiction, and it is oddly soothing. I love it. My daydreams on my daily walks to the beach now feature a lot of revelations about the plot and snatches of conversations between characters. It’s fun!
I organised my finances
I have historically been pretty good with money. By which I mean: I don’t spend more than I have. I don’t go into debt. HOWEVER, whatever money I do have? I spend. Savings are not much of a thing in my world. This made sense when I was a barmaid. I was only making £250 a week max, so saving wasn’t an option, not really. Now I can make more than that in a DAY. And yet somehow I’m still able to spend all my money???
Admittedly a lot of this is my lifestyle-upgrade. If I was still sharing a shitty apartment with two weird flatmates, I probably could have saved a lot of money by now. But still, since returning to Edinburgh permanently I’ve started getting serious about my finances. One day soon I might even start a frickin’ PENSION. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say my default is no longer to buy whatever the hell I want on my credit card, then withdraw however much I spent from my business every month and pay it off in full.
My Goals for 2018
Create all-new courses and products for Untamed Writing
I think of the blitzing I did last year as a sort of clean slate. I don’t plan to put back any of the things I previously had for sale. But what I will do is create new, BETTER things. First up, I’m going to create a new freelance writing course. Hahaha. OBVIOUSLY. The last one I created is over two years old now, and I know a lot more now than I did then. This new course is going to have all-new content and be specifically about copywriting. In retrospect I find it weird that I referred to my previous courses as being about ‘freelance writing’ as if that were a single, specific thing, when actually there are so many different types.
I’m also planning on creating a course or two about how to write better. Maybe one about how to strengthen your voice. I haven’t worked out the details yet, but I know (because people have told me) that my voice and style are what people admire and want to emulate in their own writing. Obviously I can’t teach people how to copy MY voice, nor would I advise doing that, but I definitely think I can help people find and strengthen their own writing voices.
Do something with the Facebook page
Not gonna lie, the only thing I use my Facebook page for is sharing my latest blog posts. Which was fine when I was publishing regularly. I’ve toyed with the idea of deleting it altogether, but I’m not sure. I think I should make a concerted effort to do something with it before I bin it. Since I’ve removed comments from the actual blog, I might try directing all conversations over there. I’ve always thought blog comments were pretty outdated anyway, so I don’t THINK I regret my decision to remove them, and social media is usually where most conversation happens around my posts anyway. We’ll see, I guess.
Finish my first novel
Yeaaahhh! I’ve found that with fiction I tend to go back and edit as I write, which is not at all my usual writing style, and it seriously slows progress. Mostly I’m just like UGH BUT IF I CAN FIGURE OUT THE PLOT PROPERLY NOW I WON’T HAVE TO UNTANGLE IT LATER, which is obviously not so much of an issue when you’re writing non-fiction. But I’ve basically figured out the plot now, so I’m just going to go for it. I’m going to continue writing until the end, and then I’m going to redraft it, and maybe redraft it again.
My version of ‘finishing’ the book is not getting it polished and pristine, but getting it to the point where I feel I can do no more alone. I want to get it as good as I can without help, and THEN I will start showing it to other people – find me some beta readers. I’m largely thinking of this as a learning experience, figuring out HOW to write fiction, since it’s all new to me. Fun times ahead!
What I am NOT going to do is rush to finish it so I can self-publish it ASAP and (maybe) make a few quid. Books are precious things and it is disrespectful to the reader to publish stuff that isn’t good enough to be published yet, as far as I’m concerned. I would rather not be published at all than publish something substandard. (And this is why I love and have so much respect for editors. Y’all are amazing.)
Read 100 books
It’s just shy of two books a week. I include audiobooks and graphic novels in my book-count, which makes this a lot easier. I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS. I got into an argument with a guy about this in the pub a couple of weeks ago. He tried to tell me graphic novels and audiobooks ‘didn’t count’ and I’m like, Oh I’m sorry did I make you feel inadequate for setting a goal you personally feel you could never achieve?
Experiment and learn more about my ulcerative colitis
I recently found out that my meds weren’t quiiiite as effective at controlling my ulcerative colitis as I thought. I got some results back from my doctor and learned that my gut was still heavily inflamed, despite not having the symptoms I commonly associate with this disease. The ‘normal’ amount of whatever it is in your gut that indicates good health and lack of inflammation is 0–50. Below 200 is considered ‘in remission’ for my disease. My results? OVER ONE-FUCKING-THOUSAND. 1563, to be precise. So, that’s not great.
I’m not brilliant at following doctors’ orders, so instead of increasing my medication as instructed, I quit it altogether and started eating strict SCD again. That’s the diet I followed a couple of years ago in an attempt to see if I could heal my guts without meds. AND I COULD. I quit the diet and started taking my meds again before I went travelling, because I couldn’t see how I was going to be able to eat this way on the road. But now I’m back in Edinburgh, so I can!
I met up with my doctor yesterday and told him my plan. He agreed, and we’re going to do more tests to see if the inflammation clears up this way. (It’s already going well, and my guts are healthier than they were when I was on my meds.) If it doesn’t work out and my guts still show as inflamed, I will go back on the meds AND eat the diet, I guess. It’s either that or stronger meds, and I really don’t want to go down that route. Whatever happens, I want to experiment a lot with my diet this year to see how it affects things.
Start running and working out again
My achilles tendon feels fine now, I think. This post is loooong so I can’t remember if I already mentioned that I injured my achilles tendon. Anyway, I did. Sprinting in barefoot trainers on a cold day without warming up first is A Bad Idea, Karen. I should have learned this lesson back when I pulled both of my quads in school RIGHT BEFORE A RACE. I was too terrified to tell my teachers my mistake, so I ran the race anyway and it was agonising. Still won though, natch. Uh, what was I talking about? Oh, right. I’m going to wait until the winter is over before I begin running again just to make extra specially certain I’m healed. And also because who da fuck starts running in winter?
Buy that beautiful chair I saw
I’m still using two polystyrene boxes stacked on top of each other as a TV stand (they’re the perfect height, okay?), but you can bet your ass I’m going to spend £800 on a chair before I replace them. Guys, it’s the most dreamiest chair that ever was, and it’s SO COMFORTABLE and SO BEAUTIFUL and it must be mine. But since I’m being more responsible with money these days, I am not going to drop the cash on it JUST LIKE THAT. But just you watch: it will be mine before the year is out.
Well, that’s quite a climactic ending, don’t you think? A chair. So let’s leave it there. And, oh yeah, let’s try out this Facebook-page conversation thing! Come on over and let me know what you think – about my goals, about your goals, about that weird thing you ate in a restaurant last week. Whatever! Let’s chat.