Copywriter of the week : Susan Lahey

You Would Not Believe the Crazy Things I’ve Written About

Susan Profile

My client, a geologist, hiredme to help him write reports about storm drainage systems in a flat, lonely part of Texas known as the “Panhandle.” “It will be really boring,” he promised. But I thought it was fascinating. I had to learn to read topographic maps, to follow streams to their estuaries, and study the resilience of different kinds of culverts. I wouldn’t want to write about it every day, but it was a good gig.

So many writers have a specialty. My specialty is that I can write about anything; I can do it in almost any voice;and I can do it fast. I was trained as a journalist. I started my career as a business reporter, though I had no interest in business. But I soon learned that everything can be interesting when you understand why the reader cares.

Over the years I have written hundreds of articles, as well as blogs, books and websitesabout:

  • Business
  • Technology
  • Meaningful and fulfilling work
  • Human resources and recruiting
  • Sustainability
  • Banking and personal finance

And I have written about hundreds of motley things I didn’t know anything about at first; wave energy, coffee, art, acupuncture, robotic surgery, people who schedule private jets, molybdenum mining. I’ve written about fueling a town with pig manure, houses built out of spare tires, and advertising copy for gaming hardware and software.

I grew up at the Kansas City Star newspaper. My first “real” job was as a business reporter. Then I became an associate editor for a business magazine and began freelancing for all kinds of publications. About eight years ago, I also started covering technology and startups—though I knew little about them at first.

Next, I began to writefor companies instead of just about them: blogs, websites, video scripts, infographics, white papers, investor documents, case studies, reports.

I have also helped many clients write books; I have ghostwritten books; and I am book coach.

Book

In Austin, I write sometimes for Silicon Hills News. I also have several clients here, though I have others in Mexico, San Fransisco, Norway, and other places. The best thing about working in Austin is that as soon as you move here, people want to help you. If they find out you are looking for work, they try to introduce you to people who could hire you. They will invite you to events, introduce you to their friends, and suggest groups where you might find clients. It’s a very warm and helpful city. I find many of my jobs because other clients recommend me to people they meet.

But even though people will help you, as a freelancer in Austin you have to hustle. It is an expensive city, and there are many writers and editors looking for work. So even if you’re very busy, you have to always look for work, because clients drop off or get busy and then you don’t have enough work again.

Book 2

I also find work on the internet, on job boards and on Facebook groups. I have signed up for two weekly notifications of editors looking for stories on different topics. I work with one international creative agency that has connected me with a lot of work. You can’t sit back and wait for work to come. You have to be always looking and networking.

I am working on a bunch of cool projects. I recently finished a really interesting piece on data visualization for Zendesk Relate, a client I love. I report on technology in Austin. I write web content and blogs for a credit union and a human resources consulting firm.  I help my client write the third edition of his book on Repurposing Your Career; and I am a book coach for a woman doing a funny book about her marriage. Another of my favorite recent projects was writing web content, articles, and investment documents for a Norwegian/Swedish wave energy company. I care a lot about the environment, and love working for companies that are tackling climate change.

In the U.S. the government doesn’t help freelancers except to let them take many things off their taxes. For example, as a freelance writer in Austin I can take some money off my taxes for what I pay for my website, my health insurance, my phone bill, my internet.

I love Austin, but I am hoping to move to Porto, Portugal because as a curious person who loves to learn new things, I am ready for a new adventure. Porto is beautiful and has an ancient history. Many creatives live there.

I am looking for work especially with clients who are passionate about what they do and really want to connect with audiences.I’m fun and professional. I work hard, but I don’t take myself seriously. And I love what I do.