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How Hannah Prystay switched from insurance to her dream job in copywriting at 31

Hannah Prystay was just out of high school when she started working at an insurance firm. She had been hired as an office administrator—but her habit of catching the odd error in insurance forms didn’t go unnoticed. “My boss said to me ‘you should probably get your insurance certificate,’” she laughs. It was an obvious next step, and it began a thirteen-year career in insurance.

Before Hannah knew it, she was 31-years-old and had never put much intention into what she was doing with her life. “Insurance wasn’t a creative field at all, and I always wondered if writing was something I could do,” she muses.

And here’s the part that makes Hannah a person we secretly all want to be like: she took control of her story and gave it a shot. By daring to take the first scary steps, she unlocked a major confidence booster that became her secret weapon in getting the career she wanted.

Start with baby steps

For Hannah, changing her story began with a baby step. She mustered up the courage to test the waters of a new industry. “I reduced my hours with the insurance company to take on some freelance copywriting work,” she explains. “Just to test out how I liked it.”

Leaning into her social networks for referrals and participating in local networking and entrepreneur groups, Hannah started getting work. “At first I was working with blogs, social media management, then I quickly moved into email and website copy,” she remembers. “Then I was expanding into split testing and SEO.”

The dabbling in copywriting was enough to launch Hannah into a hot pursuit of her dream career. She was enjoying it so much, she wanted all in. “At a certain point I felt like I had enough experience to take it on full time,” Hannah says. So she took the leap and quit her thirteen-year career in insurance.

An investment in learning

As Hannah immersed into the full time freelance copywriting world, she started teaching herself about digital marketing. “I wanted to understand how my writing could have maximum value for my clients,” she says. “And I wanted to get a deeper knowledge of different platforms and audiences.”

But soon Hannah realized that freelancing wasn’t for her. She wanted a job, with a team. And she recognized that her lack of professional training was holding back her confidence. “I felt a little insecure that I didn’t have any formal education,” she says. “There are a lot of resources online I’d been using to teach myself about digital marketing, but you don’t really know when you’re missing something.” One benefit to self study was that Hannah knew for sure she was passionate about the subject. It led her to the next bold step: an investment in learning.

As for where she would learn, university was out of the question. “I felt like a two or three year university course would be out of date by the time I finished,” she says. “It takes so long to update their curriculum.”

Then she came across RED Academy’s Full Time Digital Marketing Professional program, which stood out to her. “The thing that enticed me about RED was that it had a balanced course syllabus,” Hannah explains. “Other places offer a la carte courses, and that’s not really useful to me. I wanted a professional to come in and tell me what the industry values most.” In fact, what appealed to Hannah the most was that RED collected input from local businesses to hear their take on what incoming tech professionals should know, and applied it into its courses.

The perfectly balanced tool kit

Hannah’s choice to attend RED Academy had a deliberate purpose: to get the tool set and confidence to chase her career with assertiveness. “And it definitely satisfied what I was looking for,” she asserts.

Her first point of satisfaction? The quality and breadth of the program. “It provided a broad scope of knowledge while honing in on key features of digital marketing,” she explains. “And it gave me a thorough knowledge base that I could then use to pursue any specific areas that interested me.”

Besides a deeper understanding of digital marketing, Hannah found another invaluable benefit to RED’s Digital Marketing program—an authentic network. “In fact, I would say that was the most important thing—but ‘network’ doesn’t really feel like the right word. They call it the ‘REDfam’,” Hannah tells. “The warmth and support you get is very enabling, and hard to get anywhere else.”

Compared to other networking opportunities out there, Hannah says RED is unmatched. “When you go to networking events, you might meet one person you ever speak to again let alone become professionally involved with,” she says. “But I feel like, no matter what, even five years down the road I could call up anyone from RED and be like ‘what are you up to, who have you been talking to? I’m looking for opportunities.’”

Prepping for the work world

The practical application of her new tool kit only boosted Hannah’s confidence. “The real client work gave me a hands-on example of building a creative campaign and working with a team,” she says. “Digital marketing doesn’t just involve writing headlines—you need to consider all parts of the campaign, and we got to build three of those in our time there.”

By the end of the program, Hannah was able to walk away with her shoulders squared and her head held high, ready for a full-time job in copywriting. The reason for her confidence? A sense of preparedness. “RED offered a really fast, intense hard look,” she says. “And it gave me an accurate idea of what’s available in the industry, where I sit in it, and where I can direct myself.”

Keep chasing the dream

Since graduating from RED Academy, Hannah has been applying her newly enhanced skill set as Digital Marketing Manager at Klear Communications for the past several months. Her understanding of copywriting continues to deepen, and it’s clear by the way she speaks that she’s in her natural habitat. “You have to be an immaculate storyteller, but the thing you’re creating also needs to have a purpose. And you need to understand how that investment will pay off for the people trusting you,” she says. “You can provide a better product if you have a better understanding of the business side of things.”

What’s more, her knowledge of digital marketing has given her a massive edge in the copywriting world. “Copywriting isn’t just sitting and writing words out, it’s understanding who you’re talking to and optimizing it for every platform,” Hannah asserts. “It’s being analytical about how to reach your audience, what your client is trying to achieve with this specific campaign, and making sure your product is ticking as many boxes as possible.”

Most importantly, the confidence she gained has prepared Hannah to continue chasing the career she wants. “My time at RED gave me what I needed to go kick in those doors and say ‘I’m here now, pay attention to me’,” she says.

Onto the bigger picture

In fact, Hannah is about to take another step towards her dream career—she’s pausing her job at Klear Communications to begin an internship at Rethink. “I’ll be less focused on the nitty gritty data and doing more creative work,” she says. “Which means more shepherding ideas, less RoI.”

In her day to day, Hannah will be working on campaigns with a creative team, and writing the content for all the different channels the campaigns will be pushed out on. She’s excited to push her boundaries in the world of big picture thinking. “You could slap on a headline like ‘try our new burger’, or you could do something a lot more interesting,” Hannah compares. “I am going to need to apply my bigger level thinking.”

As Hannah moves forward in her career, she feels like she’s finally on the perfect path. “It satisfies my personality so much, I get to be creative with measurable results,” she says, adding with a laugh—“that’s the dream!”

And she thanks RED for giving her the boost she needed to go forth with a sure step.

“RED gave me confidence to do something that I was wanting to do for so long,” she professes.

“For anyone who has a desire to be creative professionally, I think that kind of confidence is key.”

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