June 27, 2022

    I’ve been in the doldrums since the Great Financial Crisis of 2007/2008. My clients all vanished. Or rather they pulled in their horns and let me go. I’ve been poking and prodding around ever since trying to find gigs. My previous methods of finding work have all petered out.

     I tried posting articles to Facebook and LinkedIn but that didn’t work for me. Zero response.

     I’ve looked at the websites of multitudes of other copywriters. They generally fall into a couple of categories. I am the greatest of all time, is one category. Another is: here’s how to be a copywriter. Portfolio sites: here’s what I wrote for these other guys. Okay, that’s three categories.   

    Now  an email from LinkedIn shows 9 copywriting jobs in Santa Barbara!

Except, the jobs are actually in Minneapolis, Nashville, San Diego, and Detroit. There’s a counter so you can see how many other people have already applied for the job. Most of them are in three figures already. All I have to do is beat out 214 other applicants!

     I don’t want a job, I want gigs. I’m not looking for work from a giant company that already has 30 web workers on staff. They’re going to hell on their own jet and they don’t want anybody like me.

     I’m aiming at smaller companies who are writing their own text in-house and giving it to the web shop. Or to their in-house web girl who also is the receptionist because they only make changes on their site once or twice a year, or when prices change.


Biked 13 miles.

     Part of my problem is that I am built to fulfill requests. You want something written? Great, I’ll launch into it with all guns blazing.

     Ad agencies and design shops asked me to write stuff and that’s how I earned my living. They wanted something written.

     Now that the previous print universe of advertising is dead, I’ve been unable to find a supply of customers. Web design shops do not use copywriters; the text is the client’s responsibility. The designers will make it look good no matter what you write.

     As a copywriter I’m all focused on the tradesman’s task of absorbing all relevant information about the thing that has to be written about and then assembling fresh text that presents a persuasive point of view about the product using interesting information that’s easy to read.

     Who cares whether it’s easy to read or not? Nobody reads this stuff.

     Well, if nobody reads your product literature, what use is it?

     My first writing job was at Sears. I wrote retail copy for newspaper ads for all the Sears stores in southeastern Michigan. A very junior copywriter, yes.     

     On my bike ride I was thinking about how writing for Sears influenced my later copywriting. Sears came into existence solely through copywriting. People on the frontier in the 19th century thumbed through the thick Sears catalog and sometimes were talked into buying something they had never laid eyes on, purely on the strength of the description in the catalog.

     I wrote retail copy for Walmart.com for five years in the 2000s. I used my same Sears theory: here is what you are buying.

I don’t recall ever getting any copywriting instruction when I was at Sears. I started in the production department and pestered them until they allowed me to start writing ads. The main criteria for the text was that it must be in the Bodoni typeface and it must fit exactly into the allotted space after being rendered into existence in molten lead.     

     After Sears it was six years before I began writing copy again in 1975, and I studied the best copywriting textbooks of the times. One McGraw-Hill textbook influenced me–two case histories in the book stuck with me: a beer ad and a tire ad. In both cases the copywriter went to the source to find out something to hang the ad on. The copywriter saw thousands of empty bottles going through a steam cleaning process prior to being refilled. What’s this? The beer company guy shrugged, everybody steams their bottles.

     This was in the days of beer bottles being returned to the factory to be refilled. The copywriter made an ad about how pure and clean the bottles were, steamed to make sure you get every golden drop untainted.

     The campaign was a big success. Another one was the tire ad writer seeing that the tires on a 747 airliner go flat during the landing. Well, yeah, the airlines guy said, it’s normal. But the tires are built to handle it. The same features are available in passenger car tires and the writer made a dramatic and successful ad out of it.

     Maybe artificial intelligence and machine learning has already overwhelmed my field. Computers have already eaten so many niches.

     And nobody knows where it’s going to end. A senior software engineer at Google, Blake Lemoine, is in trouble for saying that Google’s “Language Model for Dialogue Applications,” LaMDA, has reached sentience with the conversational level of a seven- or eight-year-old child. Now he’s been placed on leave for breaching employee confidentiality policy.

     Ray Kurzweil’s forecast in 2002 predicted computers with human-level intelligence for $1,000 by 2030. And then a computer with the intelligence of a billion humans by 2040.

     Apple’s new RISC chips have caused turmoil in the computer biz because they are so fabulously better than equivalent X86 CISC chips of standard PCs. Apple used those standard Intel x86 chips until 18 months ago. Now the competitors are belatedly getting into the ARM universe of RISC chips and unified memory.

     Consumer computers had been in the doldrums in the 2010s, plodding upward in CPU speed but running into more and more problems with heat the closer they got to 4gHz speeds. Unified memory is a galvanizing element of change.

     More new better different stuff is already on the way. Like Kevin Kelly says in WHAT TECHNOLOGY WANTS, it doesn’t matter what humans want, technology wants to keep advancing.

      The future of technology has long since raced ahead out of my sight. Laboratory results of new research are astonishing but there’s no way to tell which ones will ramp up into consumer products.

     Years ago I thought fuel cells would ramp up as a replacement for batteries. Nope. I thought ultracapacitors would ramp up as a replacement for batteries. Nope.

     Instead all we’ve gotten is constant modest improvements in standard batteries. Which have added up to astonishing progress, making electric cars a viable niche. But a replacement battery costs $20,000.

     My theory is that technology will continue to advance at an accelerating pace that humans will always underestimate when they think about the future. People can see the onrushing advancement in their own silo but remain unaware of what’s going on in other silos.

     The kind of copywriting I do best is for companies who want to explain their advancements to people in other silos.