What’s the Dirtiest Word in the Language for Freelance Copywriters?

When’s the last time you broke free from your comfort level and forced yourself to grow?

When I originally wrote this post (wow, way back in 2008,) I was thinking about how people tend to settle into their copywriting careers and get (too) comfortable. They stay in a job they don’t really like, but they enjoy the pay and the hours. They work with clients that aren’t quite right – yet they’re scared to death to branch off into a new, more profitable niche.

Last year, I had an experience that made me think, “Well, I got the blog post half right.”

I spent 16 days in May 2012 rafting the Grand Canyon. To say that the trip was “out of my comfort level” was putting it mildly. I hadn’t been camping in over 23 years – and even that was easy camping for just one night. I had never been on a raft. I had never been on a self-supporting trip with no easy access to medical care.

My biggest issue? I had never spent more than 48 hours away from my business. Taking a full month off tweaked every comfort level hot button I had. A colleague literally had to talk me into going – I was that worried.

Was it worth it? Yes. Did it transform me? Yes – in many amazing ways.

So as you read this post, don’t just think about breaking out of your career comfort level. Consider ways you can shake up your personal life as well. Ask yourself, “What would be incredibly scary for me to do?” Then make plans to do it. Don’t just say, “Yeah, this could be fun…but.” Actually do it.

You may be amazed at how an initially scary experience can be potentially life-changing…

Enjoy the post!

Probably the dirtiest word in the language to me is “comfortable.” It’s so bad that I call it the “C-word” (really!). Where some people take comfort in stability, status quo and knowing what’s around every corner, I like to shake it up a bit. It’s how I roll.

Freelance copywriters – even good, highly-paid, experienced copywriters – get into their own comfort zone. They stop growing. They stop learning. Instead, they burrow into a complacency bubble and insist that they know it all and there’s nothing more to learn.

Guess what? No matter how good you are – no matter how many years you’ve honed your craft – you can do better. Write better. Describe better. You are not all that and a bag of chips all the time. And you owe it to your clients (and to yourself) to keep learning.

We, as copywriters, are required to stretch ourselves if we want to be great – No more settling for just being good, competent, or – heaven help you – “comfortable.” The only way to true excellence is through initial incompetence. True greatness is fighting that feeling of being totally and completely stupid while we try new things. It’s getting over our fear of “not knowing something” and seeing what we can really do.

As we start gaining mastery, we stretch. We grow – and our writing bursts out of its hibernation and buds with newfound brilliance.

You want to know why “old style” print copywriters complain about what used to be called New Media? It’s because they were comfortable with print. They knew the nuances. They knew how to make it work without having to work hard.

Suddenly, online writers became a dominant force. Us new-fangled writers took old-school writing concepts and made them work for a new medium. We weren’t better writers. Heck, back in the day, we were typically green and inexperienced.

The difference is – we weren’t complacent. We weren’t comfortable. We took what we knew and broke out of our comfort zone. And we launched a new industry.

Challenge yourself this month. If you’ve worked primarily with B2B, write a fiction short story (just for yourself) that forces you to create characters and have fun with your writing. Time yourself and see how many words of good copy you can write in a speedy 15 minutes. Consider launching a new product or service.

Why not bust out of your copywriting comfort zone at least once this month? You’ll be amazed at how “breaking loose” can actually improve your writing…your opportunities…your life…

Try it.

10 replies
  1. Kenny Hyder says:

    Amen sister! Gotta stir it up! I’m always inspired when people that I look up to professionally or otherwise are out learning new things and being moldable. One of my mentors once told me that no matter how old you get you have to “remain teachable”. I think that is a concept that is foreign to a lot of people that have “made it” or at least think they have. There is way to much crap going on to have that kind of attitude!

  2. Heather says:

    LOL! I totally agree! I remember making fun of my college professors – the ones with the old-school ideas who were still wearing their 1970’s plaid jackets – and I’d think “have you tried ANYTHING new in years?”

    Usually, the answer was no.

    It could be argued that some folks are just lazy. They don’t want to try out new stuff because they don’t have to – they are already tops in their field, and/or comfortable with their knowledge levels. I wonder, though, if some of that doesn’t come from fear. After all, you won’t be the “best” if you’re trying something new. You may even fail. And for some people, failure (or perceived failure) is the scariest thing of all…

  3. craig wright says:

    If you don’t want to learn new things, you may as well curl up and die. If you are ‘tops in your field’, it is time to try a new field. When you know everything about everything, then you can have a rest (my wife seems to think she is at that stage!).

    If you think copywriters are bad for staying in their comfort zone, you should see what it is like with technical writers. You’d think that people that are involved directly with technology would be open to change, but man, I’ve had some long heated debates with people on LinkedIn who are almost completely resistant to change. ‘This is how we have always done it in the past’.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Ah yes, the “we’ve always done it like this before” mindset. Granted, it’s an easy one to get into – I’ll do it myself from time to time. But it’s pretty dangerous long term…

      Great insights, Craig! Thank you!

  4. Lara Fabans says:

    I think it goes back to our whole education system….and if you were different, you were ridiculed. If you made a mistake, you got a BAD GRADE. Once we’re grown up, we’re supposed to forget all of that? I’d love to overhaul the whole education system so that mistakes are just learning experiences.
    And I will catch myself starting to try something new & getting distracted. Need to stick with learning something new until I’m way outside of my comfort zone and then circle around to mastery.

  5. Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

    @Lara, learning how to live outside of your comfort zone is a process. I still find myself going back to what’s “safe” and “easy.” Once I realize what I’ve done, it takes awhile to challenge myself again – I can make up a whole bunch of excuses of why I don’t have time… :)

    You’re right about the educational system – conformity is definitely rewarded. I was fortunate to have some really great teachers who encouraged me to grow and stretch…

    Thanks for your comment!

  6. Sarah Clachar says:

    Heather, great story! I was just discussing this with my husband – the biggest obstacle to growth is that we prefer the familiar the status quo – even if it’s destructive. And we often surround ourselves with people who affirm this choice too in order to make ourselves more comfortable. I certainly did a lot of this when I was younger. Utmost admiration for you taking on this adventure and translating it into the larger picture!

  7. Heather Lloyd-Martin says:


    It’s great to see you!

    You bring up an excellent point. It’s so important to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. Otherwise, it’s too easy to stay “stuck” – especially when the people around you don’t want you to grow!

    Thanks for your perspective! :)


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  1. […] They roll themselves up into a teeny-tiny insecure ball and only take gigs that are the “C-word” (comfortable.) […]

  2. […] also isn’t lost on me is every marketer needs to break out of their comfort zone and stay current in today’s environment.  Sure, that’s easy enough to say – after all, […]

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