First things first, can you introduce yourself? Please tell us more about your background, how you got interested in blockchain & DeFi and what you are currently working on.
I’ve worked as a copywriter for almost 20 years. I became involved in crypto in 2014 and found there was a role for someone who could communicate complicated ideas clearly. One thing led to another, as it often seems to in this space.
Right now I’m taking a few weeks off. I was working for the Maker Foundation, which was founded to help bootstrap MakerDAO. As the project moves towards full decentralisation, the Foundation is dissolving and all of the tasks it did are moving to groups elected and funded by the DAO. I hope to be joining one of those soon.
What have been your most important failures and what did you learn from them?
I could list a few mistakes, but there’s a more important point. It’s important to learn from your failures, but it’s equally important not to dwell on them. I’ve seen too many people do that. In a space so fast-moving, you’re bound to get some things wrong, and when that happens, you need to be able to move on to the next opportunity – of which there’s no shortage.
If you could change anything from the past, what would you do differently?
Bearing the above in mind, your failures are as much a part of you as your successes. Plus I’m pretty sure I remember some lessons from the movies about tinkering with the past.
Was there a moment in your life that changed everything for you?
In the context of crypto/DeFi, it was buying that first fraction of a bitcoin in January 2014, learning to store and transfer BTC, and jumping down the rabbit hole. Just the idea that you could move value around online with no middlemen was a revelation.
What soft and hard skills have been most helpful in helping you succeed in DeFi?
I trained and practised as a counsellor (therapist) for the better part of ten years, and some of those skills are definitely transferable in communicating with different people and exploring different ideas – even basic things like active listening, open questions, and so on.
In terms of hard skills, being able to process a lot of information quickly and synthesise it into a clear narrative (something drummed into me over the course of a degree and PhD) is very valuable.
How have DeFi and blockchain changed your life?
I could give a few answers, but I think this is a rare opportunity to shape what the world will look like in the future – one of those once-in-a-generation technological changes like the early days of the personal computer or the rise of the internet. Writing about something that has the potential to revolutionise how we understand money and finance is a whole different ball game to the kind of ‘everyday’ copywriting I was doing before.
How do you manage to find clients as a freelancer?
Word of mouth has almost always been the best source of leads. As the space matured, more organisations started recruiting using conventional platforms. I started freelancing for the Maker Foundation after seeing a vacancy on LinkedIn and thinking it looked like an amazing opportunity, later joining full-time. Like a lot of people in DeFi at the moment, I also get quite a few inquiries from recruiters on LinkedIn.
What is a typical day for you? What are your work habits?
Focus is critically important. Cal Newport talks about ‘Deep work’. Basically, if you ruthlessly eliminate distraction – social media, email, music, interruptions of all kinds – when dealing with cognitively demanding tasks, you can be massively more productive in your working day. The constant state of multitasking most of us operate in is unhealthy and unproductive. It just means you take much longer in total to do a far worse job.
It’s important to balance that focus with other activities so I try to exercise regularly, using a rowing machine, running, or just getting out for a walk, working on other projects away from the screen (currently building a canoe with my son), and spending time with my family.
What is different working as a freelancer for DeFi and blockchain projects?
It’s a lot more interesting and impactful than any other work I’ve done as a freelance writer, for a start. Working with people spread across many time zones also has its challenges, though equally it can be fun. Additionally, I think to make the most of working in DeFi you have to be a lot more than just one thing. Writer/communicator, researcher, community member, amateur economist, asset manager… the list goes on.
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Which tools do you use in your daily life as a content writer?
Actually, I hate so-called ‘productivity tools’. I get that they’re a necessary evil, but they have a habit of taking over and becoming another distraction. I try to keep things as simple as possible. Google docs and sheets, mostly.
What are the best resources you follow to stay up to date on the DeFi and blockchain scene?
One of the Discords I’m in has a news feed from CryptoPanic, which provides a lot of major headlines. Otherwise there are a few people I follow on Twitter and YouTube – but not too many.
What is your favorite DeFi Project?
MakerDAO, of course, hands down.
Among the people you have interacted with in DeFi, who do you admire the most and why?
There are a few guys I’ve met and worked with who don’t need to work at all – they’ve made enough money to retire in their 30s or 40s if they wanted – but instead they’ve chosen to fund and develop new platforms and applications that they believe can make a real difference in the world. You have to admire that.
What part should content writers play in DeFi and blockchain?
Content is often a bit of a treadmill – it’s something projects do for SEO and basic community and media engagement, like keeping a plate spinning. Often it feels like an end in itself, where of course in an ideal world it should be the means. To put it another way, content should always be adding value, not just ticking a box.
What's the most important or impactful piece of content about DeFi you have written, and why?
Good question. As a writer for other organisations, you often don’t find out what impact a piece of work has. There have been white papers I’ve contributed to that have helped projects raise millions, but I can’t claim more than a fraction of the credit for those. Otherwise, some of the pieces I’ve been most pleased with have articulated the ideological reasons behind a project, or given publicity to a great initiative that’s making a difference.
Do you have any tips for beginners who aspire to become a content writer in DeFi but feel completely overwhelmed? For readers who want to become a better DeFi writer, what would be your best advice?
When I started out copywriting, I found that if you can consistently turn in good, accurate content, on time, then you’re ahead of most of the competition already. Beyond that, I see a lot of content that’s unnecessarily overwritten, which actually detracts from its clarity. Beginner writers often make their content more complex than it needs to be, which stands out a mile and looks amateurish. If the aim is to communicate an idea well, keep it simple. You’ll catch a lot of those sorts of issues if you can put work down for a couple of days and edit it with fresh eyes.