Why I launched Holy Nickers, and what it's all about
I never intended to work in marketing. And I never could've imagined Holy Nickers a few years ago. This whole thing was never the dream. I mean, if we're being honest, I figured I’d end up unemployed and playing Angry Birds for the rest of my life.
If high school and college grades were any indication of my potential for success, I wouldn’t have had a prayer. But somehow I managed to find a job. Believe me, it was nothing short of a miracle. And it was in marketing and fundraising for nonprofit organizations.
Yeah, it changed my life ... F-O-R-E-V-E-R!
It all started ...
And to tell the truth, the small agency in the Chicago-area that hired me, took a bit of a gamble on me. To this day, I can't begin to wonder what they were thinking. I wore a suit to my interview. The only real suit I'd ever bought on my own dime. But a coat and tie couldn't hide the snot-nosed, ignorance I wore on my cuff links.
But it wasn’t a sexy job — just a lowly copy assistant. In fact, it pretty much plugged a leaking gap. The copywriters didn’t have the space to churn new work and manage all the edits coming back into the studio. There just wasn’t enough time in the day. When is there EVER enough time in the day?
But this somewhat mindless job ended up being one of the most important professional roles of my life. While I know that to be true, it’s funny to write. Because you have to understand, most of my days were spent just saving new versions of Word documents, accepting track changes, and passing projects off to designers and graphic artists.
One of my most important professional experiences
So why was it so important for me professionally? I was enamored by the copywriter title. It just sounded so fucking awesome. To be called a copywriter would make me sound so important. And with each passing day, I felt the spirit of Don Draper grow stronger and more influential within my gut.
In fact, I started drinking Old Fashions as a copy assistant. Well, I just started drinking a whole lot more of anything I could get my hands on. That's just life in the agency. High stress. High demand. More. More. And more.
But amidst the psychotic amount of pressure, and always teetering on the edge of total breakdown, I made a point of reading, really reading every single Word document that came across my desk. I dug in and analyzed every sentence. I looked at every word and wondered why it was chosen over a different one. I tried to understand the architecture of the communication — the flow from one paragraph to the next. I reflected on my own feelings and emotions as my eyes moved from one line to the next.
Because I wanted to figure out what these writers were doing, why they were doing it, what made their writing so good, and the strategy and tactics they used to effectively share their intended message.
Don’t get me wrong — these writers weren’t novelists. I mean, they could've been. But that's not what they were being paid for. They weren't creating the magic of J.K. Rowling. Or the intrigue of Dan Brown. They were writing direct marketing copy. The kind of writing that drives someone to do something. To take an action. And I knew there was an enormous difference. It’s a difference I embraced. Because a novel was nowhere in my wheelhouse. I had no desire to publish a ginormous piece of work. I didn’t have the energy, focus, or brains. But this type of writing … maybe I could do this.
I don’t mean to sound like I'm slamming copywriters in direct marketing. Hello! That’s what I do. And that’s what I love. So don’t hear me calling them, or myself, lesser beings on the writing scale.
I tasted the power of writing
But even though I saw a glimmer of hope … of possibility … I couldn’t help but feel intimidated. To think that simple, but strategically placed words, could inspire someone to give money, to buy a product, to like a page, to join a cause — was beyond me. It blew my mind. I didn’t get it, really. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the … well, the sense of power and authority. It still baffles me. Right now. Even as I write this with the hope that you'll be so unbelievably moved, you'll sign up to get emails from me or connect with me on Facebook.
But I soon realized, this type of writing was more about the science of communication than it was the creative writing I sucked so very bad at. The kind of work I wrote in my short story class in college that I just stopped going to about three weeks into the semester because I was so, so, so bad.
Everything changed for me when I realized, I didn’t have to be an artist to do this work, this writing well. I found immense freedom in this massive revelation. I found so much freedom, in fact, that I put myself out there to begin my own journey of development in the craft. And, yeah, I quickly caught the direct marketing writing bug.
Determined to do whatever it took (seriously)
I read a ton of books. I gave my email address to any business or organization that would take it. And I read every bit of copy that came in my mailbox or in my inbox. All of it.
I also started writing as much as possible. Even making up projects so I could write practice copy.
And then, simply because I was at the right place at the right time, I got my first real-life client load. Guess what ... I wrote nothing but crap. And made billions of mistakes. In fact, any time I sent a draft, it was obliterated by the red pen of death — and sent back to me with a trillion “I’m concerned about this …” comments.
Thankfully, I stuck with it. I’m a firm believer that if you keep doing something, if you keep showing up, if you’re intentional about growth and excellence — you’ll experience some level of success.
It’s not about talent. It’s about drive. And intensity. And a willingness to do what it takes.
What people are saying about Holy Nickers
"I'd read anything (and I really mean ANYTHING) that Holy Nickers writes! So generous." -Gen
"Holy Nickers is seriously 'mad as pants,' but brilliantly helpful for writers and creatives." -Seth
"Holy Nickers is utterly delightful – in the most obscene, irreverent way." -Cassandra
I've discovered ... it's all about community
Recently I was concepting some ideas and solutions with some coworkers on a creative problem we were experiencing. I had been just noodling on this problem for a few days. But then it soon consumed every corner of my brain. Because the solution eluded me. I suddenly felt lost in the details. And not having an "easy button" nearby, I started to panic. So I called a small team together and walked them through my thinking.
And something magical started to happen … one person had a better, kick ass idea for a solution. Then another person built on that kick ass idea and took it another step further. And then another person filled in a critical detail. Suddenly, before my eyes, I saw a big, fat, glorious light at the end of the tunnel.
Here’s why I share that story — writing, creativity, ideas are all types of work best done in community. That may sound like a no-brainer for some of you. But I’m … dense sometimes.
You see, I spent much of my early writing career isolated and alone. Trying to grow and make it on my own. It was painful. And today, I believe much of my experience was unnecessarily painful. Don’t get me wrong, writing will chomp you up and spit you out. There’s always an element of pain with writing. In fact, if you’re doing something that’s valuable and worthwhile — you’re going to experience some level of discomfort.
But that doesn’t mean you have to experience suffering without end. Or that you have to endure it alone. The more I think about it, the more I wish I’d been more intentional about getting involved with a community of copywriters when I started out. Books are great. Practice projects are important. But people with similar goals and interest — they’re the most important pieces to our growth and success.
That's why I launched Holy Nickers
And that’s really why I launched Holy Nickers. Because I was a lonely, new, and desperate writer not so long ago. I needed a guide, a mentor, and a friend who could encourage and inspire me.
That's the heartbeat behind Holy Nickers. It’s not that I want to just share content so good you’ll want to dance naked. Rather, I want to share content to encourage you, teach you, and help you knock the pants of your clients and audience through your own writing.
It's about learning and growing as writers together
Hear me here, this is important … I’m still growing. I’m not satisfied with where I am today. Not even close. I’m still hungry and eager to become the best writer I can be. But I also want to share everything I know. And everything I learn along the way in my journey. I’m certain you’ll have loads to teach me too. And that’s a thing of beauty.
So stick around. Hang out. Let’s have a conversation. I’ll publish a post every week. And I hope we can talk about it.
And if you'd like, be sure to sign up to receive email from me. You'll be one of the first to know about new posts, and also special, helpful content I'm creating. And you'll also make me feel really good about myself. We can also stay connected on Facebook. Because let's be honest, Facebook is fun.
Thanks for stopping by. Talk to you soon.