When I first went into estate agency, I thought I had no eye for sales, as it wasn’t something I’d done all my career.
After estate agency, setting up Get Pro Copy, I still had the same doubts.
How could I convince people to pay for my services with writing or social media, when I’d been a public servant for 27 years?
But I’ve realised that I’ve been selling stuff since 1986 and have not been aware of it.
A love of English.
That age group of years 5 to year 13 are generally not interested, en masse, in linguistics or literature, but my job four or five times a day; 5 days a week, 39 weeks a year was to sell the subject to them by teaching it, and teaching it well.
If I hadn’t sold “Macbeth”, “Of Mice and Men”, “Blood Brothers”, “The Catcher in the Rye”, Philip Larkin et al well, I’d have had no success, no repeat employers (headteachers) and a customer base who didn’t respect me, like me, or buy into what I was teaching.
I only had one rule in teaching – make it fun and if that meant showing DVDs or wheeling in the TV cabinet in the late 80s – so be it. I got good results every year too.
Results I’m still getting now as I only realised this over the past week, when I counted up, not in a vainglorious manner, the conversion rate of prospects to paying clients.
I think this is, perhaps, where I’m unusual.
Fully aware that if I treat students unfairly, mismanage my English teams, they talk and like a bad company, a bad teacher loses respect.
It’s why when someone asks me to look over a document, to check something, to rewrite copy, I generally help without taking the piss, financially. If a Year 11 student asked for support with an essay, I never said to them, “Yes, it will be £10” obviously, but I did it.
I think this is what has made me a success in self-employment: I don’t take the proverbial. I deliver on time, every time, and unlike some rival writers, I don’t produce copy that is white hat; ie: all the same with figures and names changed.
You give me a brief; I don’t reach for templates; I don’t squeeze their brief into my parameters, I produce unique copy, crafted for Google, your website, your newsletters and your email campaigns. You own it too, when I’ve written it.
I’m quite proud of the reviews I get because in teaching, positive appraisal was scarce and was inevitably accompanied by some buts, some development points to deflate your efforts by some mealy-mouthed, classroom-dodging, paper-shuffling, meeting-colonising senior leaders.
I find writing enjoyable and easy too, when others don’t. That’s not me giving a humble brag, it’s simply pointing out that in any business, you need water-carriers, executives, plants, influencers (God forbid) and copywriters.
I can spend an hour shaping 500 words when you’d perhaps take 3 hours, finding it torture and demotivating.
If I want great photography, website logos, business cards, an email campaign template, I don’t waste my time on these things that I can only do poorly and that take me ages for mediocre to terrible results.
So my point is this.
The salesmanship that I possess is not measured in KPIs by bosses; it’s measured in the feedback and repeat customers I get from clients.
It’s measured in the immense satisfaction I get from being freelance, being my own boss.
I’m the English teacher who was liked and respected by students – that even now, 30 years after beginning, I still get asked for advice and input from 43 year old ex pupils and younger.
Works both ways too, as I ask them for their expert opinions.
I sold English and earned respect for years – and I’m doing no differently now.
Except I don’t have to leave the house to sell English now.
Or dread Mondays.