This is how it began… and how I came to understand that I absolutely wanted to be a copywriter.
In 1979 I got a job as a trainee at an advertising agency in London, England.
I had no clue what I was doing, or what I was supposed to do. I hadn’t been to university and had zero background or qualifications when it came to advertising and marketing. Goodness knows why they took me on.
For the first few weeks I was shuffled around the various departments, learning the ropes. I spent time with the media buyers, the print production team and so on.
I think the idea was to figure out where I would best fit in.
The last department I was scheduled to try was the creative department, where the copywriters and art directors worked. But before that, I had to do a stint with the account planning groups.
The account executives and their bosses were the people who had direct contact with the agency’s clients.
I was told that one of the duties of an account executive was to brief the creative teams on new projects from the client. And then to reject any work that didn’t meet the brief.
And that was it. That was the moment…
I hadn’t even set foot in the creative department yet.
But I had this immediate, intense and visceral reaction.
I felt outraged. I felt like blurting out, “Who the *&#@ do you think you are, judging the work of the creative teams?”
I guess I had picked sides. There and then.
And that was it. I served the rest of my time with the account group. And then as soon as I walked through the door into the creative department, I knew I was home.
And I have stayed true to that choice for over 35 years now.
OK… now for the usual, full-of-lists resume…
During those 35 years, offline and then online, I have worked with dozens of major companies, including:
Citibank, Apple, Chrysler, Franklin Mint, TV Guide, Diners Club International, J. Paul Getty Trust, MSN.com, Technogym, Encyclopedia Britannica, New York Times, Country Financial, Adorama, Reuters, WebEx, the U.S. Navy and others.
As a direct response marketer I wrote direct mail by the ton, and earned 15 awards, both in Europe and North America. In 1997 I stopped writing direct mail and have been working exclusively on business online ever since.
Over the years I have also worked as an advisor and consultant to various startups, principally in the area of consumer product sales online.
I have spoken at numerous online marketing conferences and have conducted in-house seminars and training sessions for many companies, including:
Yahoo!, Intuit, Walt Disney Attractions, Association of American Publishers, Novartis Pharma, John Deere, National Cancer Institute, Merck & Co., Textron, and the Information Technology Media Advisory Council.
Online, I have written literally hundreds of articles for Clickz.com, MarketingProfs.com, iMediaConnection.com, Business 2.0 and other online publications. I am also the author of Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy. Published in 2001, it’s still hanging in there with some enduring relevance today.
“In a world of instant pundits and stuffed shirts, Nick Usborne stands out as an astute, insightful and original mind. He’s able to find substance when others see just fluff, and can cut right to the core of the issue.” Seth Godin, bestselling author
“The best writers are also clear thinkers who can distill complex issues and processes into something entirely more manageable. Nick does this well as a writer, certainly. But his talents apply more broadly to business as well. He has a real talent for seeing through the clutter, and recognizing what works and what doesn’t work when marketing online.” Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs.com
“I’ve known Nick for a long time. In the early days of digital marketing (prior to Google), he was there helping brands (and me) to think differently about how we create online. He was right back then. He’s still doing it now. Always a pleasure to connect, learn and share with him.” Mitch Joel – President, Mirum + Author, Six Pixels of Separation & CTRL ALT Delete
“Nick Usborne is one of our most popular speakers at Search Engine Strategies, and I consistently get positive feedback about his presentations.” Danny Sullivan, SearchEngineLand.com
Phase 2 in my career began about 10 years ago…
In 2007 I received an invitation from a someone who was, at the time, a complete stranger… Rebecca Matter of American Writers and Artists Inc.
They wanted to offer their members a comprehensive course on the topic of online copywriting.
I said no, because I was working full time with my clients and didn’t see myself as an educator or instructor.
Several months later Rebecca asked again, and I said no again.
Maybe a year after that she asked a third time, and I said yes. The result is my Web Copywriting 2.0 program, which has now been taken by thousands of students and has launched numerous successful online copywriting careers.
I have now created four different programs for AWAI.
And more recently I have begun to create some short-form courses for narrower but still valuable skill sets.
In other words, the last 10 years have seen a slow but steady transition from being a full time copywriter to being an almost full-time instructor and course creator.
That works out to about 25 years learning my craft, followed by a decade of sharing everything I have learned.
And I’m just warming up…
I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
When I’m not working, and if the weather is being kind, I can often be seen enjoying the outdoors in my kayak or on my bike. In the winter I’m out on my cross-country skis most days. Just so you know… I’m not always sitting in front of a keyboard.