Have I ever told you about my horrible NYC internship?

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March 2, 2023
Maddie Lemay
October 19, 2022
Copywriting advice

Here’s what I learned from it…

I was a midwestern girl with wide eyes, high heels and fancy new work pants when I walked into my first journalism internship in Midtown, Manhattan.

The office quarters were outfitted with ping pong tables, beer on tap that I wasn’t old enough to drink, and espresso machines I took advantage of far too often.

And my editor was mean (like, really mean).

At the end of my first day, I caught up with him as he headed towards the elevator, my heels clicking. I asked him if he had any advice for me.

He looked me up and down, then said four words I’ll never forget.

“Just don’t f*ck up.”

And that’s pretty much how it went for the next five months.

I had to fight tooth and nail to bring an article idea to the table he actually liked.

The other interns were too afraid to bring any ideas to the table after watching me make several failed attempts.

Finally, a few months later – probably because my editor got sick of me – I proposed an article idea he let me run with. It was the only article I had to show for my entire five-month internship.

I spent the rest of my time punching in numbers and entering SEO data into the world’s longest spreadsheet. On several occasions I was sent to pick up coffee and sandwiches for everyone.

I felt bitter for a long time about my experience. Although I loved living in the city, I was hungry to write, to be trusted, to be published.

And it just didn’t happen.

But lately I’ve been reflecting on that time, and I’m realizing how formative it was. Being a journalist gave me tough skin; it conditioned me to feedback and scrutiny.

There seem to be so many “consultants,” or “experts” out there today who receive negative feedback on a project from their client. And then the consultant writes the client off as “not an ideal client.”

But there has to be a better way to work together, even if we disagree.

What if finding a good copywriter was less about expertise and more about willingness to work together; to meet in the middle; to accept feedback?

I consider myself a good writer, and by Malcom Gladwell’s definition, I’m an expert.

But that’s not why you should hire me (or anyone, for that matter).  

When I work with clients, I oftentimes say things like,

“I expect you to mark this up with edits.”

Not because I think I’m turning in something that’s unpublishable or half-baked.

But because I know that no client-consultant relationship is one way. There’s give and take. My clients know that I’ll always do what they ask of me, even if I disagree at times. I’ll gently explain why I made certain decisions, but if they don’t like them, I’ll change course.

This week, my clients and I did a lot of course redirects.

And guess what? We still like working together.

I’m not sure how this might help you… but I felt like it needed to be shared.

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