Last week, I had one of those moments when I realized how fortunate I am to have the life and career that I do. I am a freelance copywriter living Paris, which means that not only do I live in one the most beautiful cities in the world, I have the flexibility to actually enjoy it and my life here.
Sometimes I get too caught up in the day-to-day of living to remember my good fortune. But then something inevitably happens to remind me…
It was the perfect Parisian spring day. The sky was pure blue. The trees lining the streets were in full bloom, leaves rustling as a slight breeze stirred them. The Seine was a smooth pale-olive ribbon streaking through the city.
I was looking forward to enjoying this sunshiny day with my kids. Maybe we’d have an afternoon snack at the Tuileries, Marie-Antoinette’s former gardens. Or perhaps we’d visit the little zoo at the beautiful hilly grounds of the Jardin des Plantes.
But I had something to do first: my 5-year-old had an end-of-the-year “performance” at his weekly German class. As I sat on the hard plastic chair waiting for the show to begin, I glanced around at the other parents in the room. Many were wearing suits and ties or high heels. Some were hunched over their smartphones, no doubt using the spare time to check or answer their emails. Others weren’t parents at all, but were clearly nannies.
I felt a rush of gratitude for my situation. As a copywriter, there’s no one I have to check with before taking time off and rarely are matters so urgent that I need to remain glued to my smartphone or miss my kids’ plays and recitals.
The reality of those other parents could have been mine, though. Before becoming a writer, I was a corporate lawyer, first in New York City. In those days, I worked 14 hours a day, often more. Although I didn’t have children then, I can well imagine the havoc that a 45-minute school play could have wreaked upon my schedule…and the crashing guilt that would have ensued if I missed my child’s show.
Back then, it was no more than usual to have to cancel dinner or weekend plans at the last minute to deal with some work crisis. There were times that I slept under my desk at the office because there was no time to go home, and times where I went home only to shower and immediately return.
I thought life would be easier when I switched law firms and moved to Paris. But my new job required constant travel: Now Paris…now Frankfurt…now Milan..now New York. It sounds exciting but in reality it was just a blur of conference rooms and airports. I could have been living anywhere.
Finally, I’d had enough. What was the point of living in Paris if I couldn’t enjoy it?
I’d always loved writing so I started researching the idea of becoming a freelance writer. When I realized that it was entirely possible to make a living as a freelancer, I left the law firm and its 90-hour work weeks and never looked back.
For awhile, I wrote articles for websites and magazines. Then I decided to try my hand at copywriting. I’d long been intrigued by it: I’d heard that it usually pays much more than articles and often requires less work. The problem was, I didn’t know how to get started.
In the end, I just threw myself into it. I set up a website offering my services to write press releases, newsletters and web copy. I was soon writing press releases for local businesses. Later I began writing fund-raising letters, marketing copy and ghostwriting web copy and blogs for law firms.
Sure enough, I found that I made much more money with copywriting than penning articles. I pull in between $100-$200 per webpage and have scored as much as $2,000 for a marketing letter. Not bad.
What’s more because copywriting isn’t usually as research-intensive as article writing, I had much more free time…to do things like watch my son’s play in the middle of the day….then take him out to enjoy the Paris sunshine afterward. No guilt. No stress.
No way I could have done this as a corporate lawyer.
As my son walked onto the makeshift stage with his group, his eyes sought mine. I smiled and winked. He winked back. It was a simple moment but one I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to.
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