The Girl Who Loved Words
Thinking back, some of my most vivid childhood memories involve writing. Before I even went to school, I remember leaning over an old unused heater scrawling my name. My education is dotted with recollections of reading and writing. It was definitely “my thing”. When the class had to write a diary from the viewpoint of a convict, everyone wrote a few entries. But of course, 10 year old me needed extra pages in the booklet because I wrote about 12 entries.
I didn’t speak English before Kindy so I went straight into an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Whether it was the teachers or something innate, I took to it like a duck to water and never looked back.
English was always my favourite subject. By the time I got to Year 12, I chose the highest level to study (at the time 3 Unit). I scored a perfect 50/50 mark for my Higher School Certificate exam. And I received a special award for finishing equal first in the state with another student. Yep, total word nerd.
Before “Cathy Camera Writer”
Writing seemed part of my genetic makeup but I didn’t officially become a writer until a few years ago.
Straight out of high school and with excellent marks in both English and Legal Studies, I decided to enrol in a combined Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws degree. I studied at Macquarie University majoring in English Literature. This is where I honed my research skills and creative thinking. I was acutely aware that the university professors were not teaching me a bunch of facts. They were teaching me how to think – how to question things and how to seek out answers.
I never thought studying or obtaining a law degree made me better than anyone else. I still believe to this day that everyone has their own strengths. It would be boring if we were all experts in the same thing. But I soon found that not everyone thought like this. At least within the legal circles I moved in, that’s what a law degree was – not a licence to help people but a status symbol. So after a couple of years practising as a junior solicitor, I walked away from it.
And that’s when I fell into teaching. I had heard I could work as a casual because of my Arts degree, so I registered. And soon after I received a call to work at a catholic school in the Parramatta diocese. That was an interesting day. I taught about 6 different classes. And was even initiated into teaching life with a fire drill. I was definitely in the deep end and remember sitting in my car at the end of the day thinking, “What am I doing?”
But before long, I was getting regular work as a casual teacher and was even offered teaching ‘blocks’. It was at this point I decided, if I was going to continue with teaching, I needed to do it properly. So I headed back to uni (University of Western Sydney this time) and gained a Diploma in Primary Teaching. Thus began my teaching career. And I only stopped casual teaching this year (after COVID made me realise how much I love this writing gig).
Becoming an Official Writer
I never stopped writing. The little girl who dreamed of being published and who wrote letters to her local newspaper about community issues, never got tired of words. I collected them. I savoured them. I even started blogging back when most people didn’t even know what a blog was.
The Australian Writers’ Centre (AWC) was always on my radar. But I was too uncertain to enrol. What if the courses weren’t as good as claimed? What if they didn’t teach me anything? What if this was a dead-end?
Then one day I realised they offered online courses. I enrolled in the Freelance Newspaper and Magazine Writing course and I loved it. The course had barely finished when I rang the local newspaper and had my first story printed.
From there I published many online articles across different news outlets. And I was super excited to be published by Sunday Life. There was my byline in print in a story about Marilyn Monroe (one of my idols).
But the pressure of coming up with timely news stories was taxing – what could I write about next?
This is when I turned my attention to copywriting. I was already helping family and friends with business letters and other writing tasks. So it made sense to offer my services to others who needed professional writing help.
I knew I had a lot to offer but the learning curve was steep. So I immersed myself in anything and everything copywriting. I also did the AWC Copywriting course.
Becoming a Building and Construction Copywriter
The union of writing and building was a given in my life and I’m only surprised it took me so long to marry the two. As I explain on my home page, I come from a long line of tradespeople. My dad was an electrician and later started a successful electrical supplies shop. He still is the most knowledgeable and thorough electrician I know.
In my early 20’s I met my husband. He was a carpenter by trade and was supervising home builds at the time we met. He has since moved into the office as an estimator and oversees a range of building roles. Our shared passion for building saw us build 4 homes (and move 6 times after we were married). I love nothing better than an empty block and a sheet of grid paper. I revel in measuring and drawing floor plans that best suit. The sight of excavated land or even a house frame going up still excites me. It never gets old.
After writing for building and construction clients, it dawned on me that I could specialise in this industry. I understand what they’re saying and they don’t need to spoon-feed me information. Which saves them a lot of time. It’s a win-win situation.
So I rebranded as a building and construction copywriter. And I haven’t looked back. I still write for others (I quite enjoy the variety). But niching allows me to use my knowledge and years of experience to specifically help those in the building and construction industry.
I am inspired by women who have built their own businesses doing things their way. But none more so than Kate Toon – the copywriting queen of Australia. I would not be where I am with my business today without her guidance and generosity.
Last year I finally got off the fence and decided to do her Recipe for SEO Success course. For a small business like mine, it was expensive. It was a gamble. But a gamble that paid off tenfold. I started to rank for keywords and people started to find me on Google. And it showed me how to help others achieve this as well.
Following on from that amazing course, I joined Kate’s Clever Copywriting School community. Worth every cent. It’s like my own private copywriting encyclopedia and mentor pool. The people in the group are phenomenal and so generous. So kudos to Kate for creating and nurturing this community into what it is today. When you hire me, you kind of get their collective brainpower as well.
The Next Chapter
COVID “lockdown” helped me reassess my priorities. I decided to stop casual teaching. I want to concentrate on being “Cathy Camera Writer”. So the next chapter involves throwing everything I have into the ring and growing this baby even more.
But to me, business is more than an income. It’s more than flexibility and freedom. It’s an opportunity to give back to the community. I feel that every business should be giving back to the community in some way. The soul of a business is its people and who they are and what they do beyond their work role.
So with that in mind I’ve decided to help a local charity.
Blue Wren House
I’ve always supported a range of charities and many are close to my heart. But, I’m saddened and distressed by domestic violence in this country. It will take education and awareness – and many years – to change the attitudes surrounding this problem. I begin first and foremost by raising my 3 boys to be respectful of women. I’m lucky they have great role models.
But I wanted to do more. More than talk. More than share stories of victims and survivors. More than write to politicians or sign petitions. So I’ve become a proud supporter of Blue Wren House, a women’s shelter in Camden, New South Wales.
As such you may sometimes see me share stories about domestic violence and Blue Wren House. You can choose to ignore these if you wish. But my hope is that such posts will give you pause to think. And maybe together we can turn this tragic problem around. If you want to help in a practical way, you can do so by making a donation.
I’m using my voice and my words to help others – that’s what I do for all my clients. I help get you noticed. So that you can succeed and in turn help others. If you’re interested in working with me on anything copywriting related, please get in touch.