What I Learned from Writing about 900 Mattresses

This is a guest post by Joshua Danton Boyd.

Working as a copywriter is not always as glamorous as Mad Men makes out. This is especially true when you’re starting out.

Chatting over a whiskey with bigwigs from Coca Cola seems millions of miles away. For the moment you’re snatching after what you can so you can afford some milk and bread. This often means taking jobs which can only be described as awful. They are not necessarily useless though.

My Early Days as a Freelance Copywriter

In my early days as a freelance copywriter, I landed a job writing product descriptions for a furniture site. It involved writing a paragraph summing up a particular section and then three paragraphs on items within that section. Pretty straightforward and pretty simple.

The only problem was that near enough every product I had to write about was a mattress. I had over 300 sections to write. The simplicity of the whole thing was now a problem. I learnt a lot from this job though.

What You Can Learn from Writing Product Descriptions

First of all, it stretched me to the absolute limit of my ability to describe an item that lacks much of a description.

I’ve not had to use a thesaurus so much for a job since. Obviously I couldn’t just use the same adjectives over and over again.

While the descriptions didn’t have to be wildly different from each other, they still needed to be unique. I realised quite quickly that when you put your mind to it you can come up with some very creative ways to describe the mundane.

Since then I’ve always be sure to assess my writing as though I’ve been writing about the subject one hundred times before. I look to see if I could do things that little bit differently, in a way somehow more interesting.

I think to myself, “If I can describe 900 mattresses in different ways, I can think of at least one better way of writing this sentence.” Since doing that I’ve managed to give my writing a much more unique and original style.

The job was also a pretty stark wake up call. Previously most of my jobs had been writing articles for a marketing company and I thought it would be much more of the same.

There was some freedom in this and it could be interesting. It was when that work got sparse that I had to stretch out to other opportunities.

I Almost Gave Up on Being a Freelance Writer

Writing about mattresses made me acutely aware that I was going to have to do pretty terrible jobs if I wanted to make any money. I was still woefully inexperienced so I had to take the crumbs until I could knock someone off their seat and join the table. This has now happened.

I look back at those days I spent describing springs, comfort and anti-allergy materials and I’m surprised I didn’t give up. I very nearly did at the time. I wasn’t prepared to try and make my way in the world like that, but I carried on and, as my experience grew, my jobs got better and better.

The Worst Freelance Writing Job I Ever Had

I now work full-time for a company doing work I genuinely enjoy and it all came from preserving through a pile of mattresses. It was the worst job I ever had, but it was the one I got most out of it. My writing improved, it made me more grounded and it’s help me to really appreciate where I am now. So, if you’re tempted to take on a hellish job, I’d say do it . . . at least just once.

About the Author: Joshua Danton Boyd is an in-house copywriter for the online accountants Crunch. You can add him on Twitter here.

Share Your Thoughts

What’s the worst freelance writing job you ever had? What did you learn from it? Please share in the comments section below.

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    1. Joshua:

      When you submitted this it reminded me of a client I had who owned a site that sold timeshares in Florida. I had to write about over 40 different hotels — all beach front.

      I described the ocean, beach view and sand in so many ways that now I can’t even look at them without wondering, “Hmmm, what could I say about the way THIS looks today.”

      You’re so right, these type of assignments do improve your writing skill – tremendously.

      I never knew there were so many ways to say “sandy white beaches,” or “gorgeous sunset.”

      Thank goodness for thesauruses! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your copywriting adventures with Inkwell Editorial’s readers. I’m sure a lot of freelance writers can relate.
      Yuwanda, Site Editor recently posted…What I Learnt from Writing about 900 MattressesMy Profile

    2. Joshua,

      I love this story! I especially liked “If I can describe 900 mattresses in different ways, I can think of at least one better way of writing this sentence.”

      So true!Thanks for sharing.