How I Failed and What I Learned

I can’t stop thinking about how I botched an assignment.

I know it’s not popular or common to talk out loud about your own shortcomings or how you failed at your job. While internet memes and online articles tell us to embrace failure as a learning opportunity, is seems we are rarely encouraged to actually share these shortcomings.

So, at the risk of deterring you from reading further, I want to tell you how I recently failed, and what I learned from it.

I didn’t deliver the product the client wanted. I struggled to communicate what their business was about. I realized afterwards what I was missing: the story.

 

The Story of How I Failed

The Story of How I Failed

The client’s business had changed its direction since it first started, and they needed to update their website.

In a meeting, they described the business as it currently existed and what they were trying to achieve. They wanted the copy to walk a fine line between corporate and familiar – refined but still a little sexy.

Sexy B2B copy? Quick, witty, punny, smart – those are corporate tones I love to play with. But sexy? For whatever reason I was so hung up on this idea. In draft after draft, defining this tone became my primary objective.

And that was my big mistake. I was too focused on how to shape this voice. I felt so lost in this goal that I ended up creating copy that

  1. wasn’t sexy; and
  2. didn’t sound like me or the company at all.

It wasn’t until after I spoke with someone else in the company about how the business started that I realized this copy was all wrong. Had I just focused on telling the story from beginning to now, I would have naturally found its voice.

I was so involved with nearly re-branding the business that I lost sight of the goal: to communicate what the client wants customers to know about their business.

What I Learned From My Failure

What I Learned

Writing good copy is important, but the craft shouldn’t distract from the goal. I took it upon myself to design a brand new voice for the client when they didn’t need one.

I also need to allow space for the story to speak for itself: leave out the flowery language and clever wordplay. More often than not, simple and straight-forward is the best way to go.

And while I usually embrace this method of writing, I was trying too hard to write something new, to be something that isn’t myself, and that’s not why I was hired.

The other important thing I’ve taken away from this experience? Being myself is the best thing I can be. That’s why I was hired in the first place. Had I just written the way I normally write, the client and I would have worked together to revise it, and the right voice would have emerged.

There’s just no sense in trying to be something I’m not when I’m hired to be me.


 

If I haven’t already scared you away, you should know this: I pride myself on being a good listener. It’s what I enjoy about copy writing – listening to what people have to say, and then translating it into what they need.

That’s what I want to do for you. Sometimes it’s not enough to tell your audience about the problem you solved with your product – you also have to tell them about where you’re going next and what you can do for them. Here’s how I help you do it.

Author: Sterling Schuyler

Sterling writes to put broad statements into real context. She enjoys conducting in-depth research in order to bring factual integrity to any topic, especially anything about food. Whether it's the ethics of food science or the tale of a family-owned business, Sterling loves to breathe life and substance into these stories. In her downtime, she enjoys gardening, playing board games and video games, and writing for her personal blog The Asian Craving.

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