Wednesday 18 January 2012

The power of blogging: the story of Gradulthood

The heart warming tale of how starting a blog changed one ‘gradult's’ life...

It's not going to write itself.
I finished university in 2009. When it comes to bad graduation years, that one’s got to be up there with 1939. Okay, perhaps that’s stretching the limits of hyperbole somewhat. Let’s just say it wasn’t ideal.

Upon graduation, I decided to shun the undignified scramble for the last remaining grad schemes. I just didn’t want it enough. 500 applicants battling it out for a place on the Rent-a-car management programme? Nope, not for me. Instead, I worked in a stockroom and a nightclub – before hotfooting it over to America.

Reality sure is cold and hard
Upon my return, I was faced with two unfortunate realities: I had no job and my parent’s house was beckoning. On the plus side, I had a killer tan. I soon found myself working as a call centre temp for one of the legal loan sharks thriving on the bloodied carcass of Britain’s economy.

It was at this stage I decided to start a blog. I’d always loved writing, and with nothing else on my plate, I thought: what have I got to lose? They say write what you know, so I began blogging about that awkward time in life between graduation and adulthood: no longer a student, not yet in a career. Gradulthood was born.

Infiltrating the bloggerati
Along with a fellow ‘gradult’ we started posting almost every day. I’d scribble notes at work and write them up in the evening. It was fantastic. We started to build up quite a following. After a monotonous day blighting vulnerable lives at the call centre, it was great to go home and continue the project. Our stats kept growing and soon we were up to 250 visitors a day.

We posted light-hearted articles about specific graduate issues such as online job applications, recruitment fairs and work experience. Then there were fun posts about alarm clockshaircuts and the Daily Mail online comments section. We even had a weekly money-saving series entitled: Now that’s what I call thrift. Finally being tight was paying off.

Going global
As the blog continued to expand, we started receiving tales of woe from gradults all over the country. It seemed frustrated graduates welcomed having a forum, other than their mum’s shoulder, to vent their spleen. We were happy to showcase their work – editing is such a power trip. Naturally, the next stop was world domination; soon we had ‘gradult correspondents’ in South America and South Korea. Different currencies, same issues.

Media darlings – in literally the most minor way possible
Always late to the party, the media finally picked up on us. We were featured on the Guardian website a couple of times and name-checked on numerous other blogs. We even got asked to contribute to an article on graduates by the New Scientist. However, the ungrateful geeks chose not to use our material in the end.

During these six months of intensive blogging, I was also reading numerous books, blogs and articles on copywriting. (It’s amazing what you can achieve when you forgo a social life – human contact: it’s so overrated). Penning brochures, websites and sales letters seemed like a varied and interesting way to make a living and I was also intrigued by the psychology behind sales.

Buoyed by finding something I was actually interested in, and eager to have a go myself, I began hassling each and every copywriter Google could throw at me. I sent countless emails to writers and advertising agencies all over the UK, pleading for a job, an internship, work experience or even just a response.

The power of the blog
Gradulthood had energised me. Now I actually had something to talk about in my emails. What’s more, I had an example of my writing other than the email itself. I’d somehow managed to wriggle free of the dreaded catch-22 which affects so many graduates: ‘can’t-get-experience-cos-I-have-no-experience’. I’d heard of initiative before, but I’d never actually used it. It felt good!

A couple of months into the campaign – and it was a campaign, I had a spreadsheet and everything – Barnaby Benson Copywriting got back to me. The offer: two weeks copywriting training in exchange for building a database of potential clients.

I jumped at the chance, not least because it would mean spending two weeks in London, a city I’d wanted to move to ever since I was a kid.

Isn’t that database finished yet?
Nearly a year has passed since the original two weeks and I’m still here. My first copywriting job was writing some web copy for a UCL backed start-up company selling flight-socks. It was enough to get me hooked.

Since then I’ve worked alongside Barnaby on a variety of projects. I’ve written for some of the biggest companies in the world, including: Coca-Cola, Anglo American, HSBC Private Bank and Jumeirah. I’ve also ghost-written articles, blog posts and pitches for a variety of clients.

All this was made possible by Gradulthood. The blog gave me the example of writing I needed to get my toe in the copywriting door. And the reaction to it was enough for me to start approaching writers and companies with conviction. Never underestimate the power of the blog. I certainly won’t.

We ended Gradulthood during the summer of 2011 after deciding we were no longer part of the demographic we were writing for. My co-gradult now works in television. He also credits the blog with helping his career.

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