I use my marketing skills and talent for writing to pay for the bad habits of drinking, smoking and failed attempts at healthy eating. And, the occasional live gig too.
I’m a firm believer that no employers will get the full-service value from employees who feel they’re undervalued. And vice versa, no employee will ever get the full monetary value they have to offer any business.
To get and give the most value, I go in as an outside contractor. Furthermore, I believe outside contractors offer better value to businesses because they do not have the safety net of a minimum pay at the month end regardless of performance.
Here’s my story…
I started with office admin. The job title was actually office junior and a very deceptive title at that. The position involved doing the managerial work of a recruitment consultant.
I learned early on in my career that job titles count for nada.
The gist of the role was to provide support to the recruitment consultant, who was also the manager of the industrial division. Single-handedly managing the department on his own, until I was drafted in as support.
This guy was working flat out 24/7. You know, the type of hours humans are not designed for…
He tried his darnest and learned the hard way that he flat out couldn’t.
His trying got him multiple heart attacks and me a position to stave off anymore.
I took it pretty seriously because I figured if I failed at my job, his heart would stop.
Talk about responsibility!
As advertised didn’t apply to the job specs. If it did, I’d be finished by Tuesday noon when payroll was run. The rest of the week was more than admin.
It started with reshuffling index cards of supply staff and creating a computerised database. It quickly moved to beyond that to involve me using my system for finding and supplying temp staff to companies, sending out drivers for hire here, there and everywhere, and working with hiring managers to determine the staff they needed, when and where they needed people to be as well as who to report to on site.
All through a work placement that paid below minimum wage in exchange for an assignment that provided qualifications at the end of it.
It was a gimmick for cheap labour and the certification… it’d be as well printed it on toilet paper. It was a farce that no reputable company recognised.
SVQ they were called, representing a Scottish Vocational Qualification, supposedly the equivalent of GCSE.
In essence, the certificate told employers you couldn’t be arsed with school exams and late to realise you needed good grades. What I came to realise is that you don’t need qualifications at all to get ahead.
My breaking point was covering the role of the department manager, which (remember) was 24/7. He left for a fortnight’s holiday in the sun, handed me the company phone on a Friday, along with a payslip for three-hundred quid.
I was ecstatic thinking I’d get the same the following week. A couple of weeks, £600 quid and then hand the phone back. I was thinking when he got back, I’d be hitting the travel agents up for a last-minute deal and flying off with my girlfriend.
My usual wage was £60, which for a 17-year-old living in digs, was sufficient. But the second week of cover saw a payslip of £60. On querying the chief, I was made aware that the first payment was for the entire fortnight’s term cover.
In the office that day, I picked up the boss’s calculator and run some on the spot math.
24 hours x 14 days = 336 hours.
A mere equivalent to £1.12 per hour. A normal week, 35 hours paying £60 equated to £1.71 hourly rate. Embarrassing pay, but nonetheless, I still got paid less to work more. I was not amused.
You can imagine how that conversation went.
Considering that my usual work involved payroll and invoice handling, I knew the amounts I invoiced for that fortnight and the wages that went through payroll to fulfil those services. Naturally, not all of the difference was net. They’d still have operating expenses to account for, but still, the difference was in the thousands.
I left the bosses office that day, headed to my desk, packed my stuff and made for the door… with some foul language muffled on my way out of there - for good. Of course, that was only for the boss. I was nice in parting ways with my former colleagues. Not their fault their boss was a ____.
I wasn’t worried about where my next job would come from because I had the key contact details of every major company in my locale. Some of the largest employers, I was on first name terms with the hiring managers.
I felt invincible with a super unfair advantage.
I had no hesitation giving my boss the finger that day. In fact, that same day, I had my first assignment lined up to start work the very next morning.
And yes, I did the unthinkable unethical stuff out of a vendetta. I supplied competitors of my former employer with enough data to poach clients from them and be paid commissions, which for the purposes of payroll was simply categorised as ‘bonus’. When I think back to those days, I suppose it was my first introduction to affiliate marketing, only on the very dark side of it.
Not one of my proudest accomplishments!
When I left the office that day, I knew that office work wasn’t for me. I wanted to learn the work the supply staff was doing so I could re-enter the profession later, and be able to do it better knowing first-hand what each job role involved doing. I wanted practical experience, which can only be gained on the job.
I decided the way to go was temping. I worked throughout the Central Belt, which in Scotland is Glasgow and the surrounding areas. That's excluding Edinburgh as that was too far for travel without claiming expenses, which none of the agencies I was with paid for travel unless they were up against the wall and had to.
Where I lived, it was a short train ride to almost anywhere and Glasgow’s where all the jobs were. I did this for two years solid. Everything from getting parcels ready for dispatch for Parcel Force, to delivering mail for Royal Mail on a temp basis, only to discover I’d stepped in during strike action, which is the only assignment I turned my back on. Royal Mail (the UK’s national postal service) thought they’d be smart and get temp workers in the door prior to strike action. Because I wasn’t part of the union, I’d be required to cross the picket line when the staff did strike.
Besides, I’d a relative who’d spent years in service to them who in no uncertain terms explained that if I’d dare cross that picket line, we’d never speak again.
Being young, temping was great. During the week, I’d put solid hours in and be earning apprentice like wages, and then some.
What I’d come to realise was that in the labouring sector by staying on temp contracts, I could monopolise it for max pay. I only worked with recruitment agencies specialising in the temp sector and with a reputation of rush hires to cover for employee sick days and holidays.
The reason I did that was that they paid a minimum of 4 or 6 hours, even if I only worked for two hours. Some employers don’t need you for the minimum hired hours. It could be class two LGV driver who needed a second-man on just the one run. You could start at 0700, be finished by 10 am, and still be paid for six hours. From there, a quick check-in to let - as I call them - the handlers know you’re available for another shift, often saw another quick gig.
In one day, I could (if the work was there) do three assignments, earning 18 hours’ work, using the minimum hire contract so I didn’t actually work the full hours. Of course, it meant being on good terms with the gaffers on site because they’d be signing off on timesheets for labour not fulfilled.
What I’d essentially done during my temping years was become the guy companies called for when they were understaffed. Hiring managers would call up the recruitment agency and ask for me by name to get in asap. Many a day, I’d be out on assignment, get a call to find out when I’d be finished up because another company wanted me on their shop or factory floor to get stuff packed for shipping or production sped along.
So long as the work was done and then some, most were happy to let me go early. I knew I needed to be offering superb value and doing more than required to get signed out early. The earlier the work was done, the faster I’d be able to snatch another gig.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to do an early start, pick up a back shift with another firm and go straight onto a nightshift with another. In saying nightshift, it rarely was. I tended to work according to delivery schedules. Whichever delivery van or truck was heading the direction of my home, I’d be on that like a shot, making sure I had that one fully-loaded for the driver arriving and then work on the others so I could get signed out and hitch a lift home.
Eventually, after a couple of years parading through numerous labour jobs, primarily warehousing, with some electronics work and other tedious roles, I did get an offer of permanent employment.
Given my background in recruitment, I knew the ins and outs of the offer. If they were to take me on permanent, they’d need to pay a salary percentage to the recruitment firm that placed me there. A finder’s fee, usually in the region of 10% and upwards of final salary.
My contract was temporary only. Not a temp to perm so there were no pre-negotiations on fees. I was able to explain to the firm the two ways they could go about hiring me.
The first and easiest is to pay the fee to take me from temp to perm through them directly. The second, and not my preferred choice – let me go.
Yes, fire me.
I advised a potential employer, offering a permanent contract of employment to fire me!
I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been the type of person focused on value adding. Providing solutions to reduce business costs.
I felt confident doing this because I could spend three to six months temping elsewhere. And make a good bit more wages in the process. They’d then advertise the job in the cheapest way possible, let me know when they did and I’d then apply so the finder’s fees wouldn’t apply. It needed to be a minimum of three months after I was let go.
They decided to go with the first option and just pay to retain me and move me into the production area, where I’d spend my years painting.
I did ask why they’d rather pay a premium rather than the workaround I’d offered. The manager simply explained what I didn’t know from being inside the recruitment firm for a couple of years. His explanation was this:
Whilst temp staff are on assignment, the company (and other manufacturing firms and logistic companies) used the temp marketplace as a “try before you buy” for staffing.
There ya go Robbie. You thought you knew the recruitment game.
They’d bring aboard temporary staff, assign team leaders to watch each temp, assess them and single out the most hard-working - worthy of hiring. Paying the fees worked out cheaper over the long-haul as finding one good hire through temps, eliminated multiple three-month contract hires until one panned out.
Temps were shortlisted and assessed further and the best offered permanent positions. That was something I did not know was happening with the temp staff out on assignments unless it was on a temp-to-perm contract basis. Not on a daily and essentially freelance contract.
Then the promotion came – Baffled me!
“Dave’s leaving us – fancy taking the supervisor position?”
Now, I was only early twenties at this stage so it was kind of a big deal, given my team were twice my age. And were supportive of me taking the gig. I was already pretty much assuming the role of team leader anyways since the guy we had in that role was a bit of a Homer from The Simpsons.
Operational sense did not come naturally to him.
So the conversation went…
Well, I’ll be damned, that sounds fantastic. Tell me more…
It went along the lines of me doing the same 12+ hour shifts, much more responsibility and in return, I’d become salaried instead of hourly and in all likelihood - stand to lose a grand (£1,000) a month.
That’s when it dawned on me I really needed to be looking at working for myself. Every job, in every sector I’d been exposed to, required HR to find ways to cut the pay of employees. With the one exception to the firm who paid the thousands in finder’s fees to keep me working for them. Although, even that was a saving for them.
That's what led me to BT to get me some broadband
While still working in the factory, I got my broadband connected up and started researching contractor work. It had to be from home because my contract of employment did not allow me to moonlight with any agency. (They were onto my minimum hour contract stunts)
For some reason, I discovered affiliate marketing. Sounded pretty interesting. Sell stuff for a commission without the hassles of owning anything.
To me, it was eerily similar to the temp recruitment process. You find the right staff a company needs and work at getting that position filled. With this form of marketing, it was simply products in place of people.
I joined up with Wealthy Affiliate University, which was my first online training course that I’d took.
Back then, it was stupidly simple.
You didn’t even need your own website as you could use Squidoo, which is now defunct and migrated to Hubpages, and the publishing terms now are much stricter.
When Squidoo was around, I had multiple pages on there earning enough revenue to pay for additional services I’d use for two types of websites. One was advertising using Google Ads, the other was affiliate based using list-building for email marketing.
Both models relied heavily on SEO for traffic generation. I made the totally stupid mistake of building dozens of websites with only one source of traffic.
Organic search engine referral, aka SEO.
The day came in 2012 when Google pulled the plug on all the traffic being sent to the then 36 websites I had running. They shut me down in one go.
And by this stage, I was no longer in employment. I was fully self-sufficient and set up officially as a freelance contractor. Despite not actually having any clients. I was a third-party advertiser and online marketer.
With three dozen websites getting zero traffic, there was no chance of earning enough to live on. The email lists I had was nowhere near large enough to consider continuing with either advertising or affiliate marketing.
The thinking cap was on and the fastest way to get paid online is to actually freelance and be of service to companies who needed, in my case, content written.
That’s what I done. I grabbed a course on becoming a freelance writer, marketed as a get paid while you learn, and I thought, I’ve a lot to learn and I need to earn, so that’s what I done.
I knuckled down, put the lessons into action and hustled on the job boards for freelance writing gigs.
For the last five years, that’s what I’ve done and I’ve loved it.
Now though, I’m at the stage where my expertise isn’t best served on the job boards. Most of the time, these are the middle guys managing campaigns on behalf of the companies needing the service. They just charge a markup.
I understand that everyone in business is looking to turn a profit, but I’m more interested in working directly with managing directors, and sales managers, which is why I’m now using my own site.
I’m very capable of managing my time, my projects, and meeting deadlines. I don’t need managing, so companies shouldn’t have to pay a markup to get access to my services.
To me, when I think back to my very first job when I felt if I failed at my job, the guy I was supposed to be supporting could wind up with heart failure… the content I craft for client’s websites is treated with the same level of responsibility. If that fails, the website fails, including every part of a sales funnel.
Suffice to say – I take my work seriously.
UpscaleContent.com is where I’ve set up my online office, and it’s essentially the hub for clients to get access to my ghostwriting services, directly, without involving anyone in the middle to manage me.
I’ve been working independently for over seven years now, five of those ghostwriting, the other two doing digital marketing. I know a thing or two about writing engaging content, improving conversions and tweaking call-to-actions to drive people toward taking the action your business needs them to take.
My main Ghostwriting services are listed here, but there’s every chance there are additional services I can do, and maybe even have done that aren’t listed.
If there’s content writing you need, do get in contact with me, using any of the methods listed on the contact page here, and I’ll do what I can to get your project live and working for your business.