YouTube Scriptwriting & Big Brain Tasks w/ George Blackman

Treyton DeVore
August 21, 2022

Ever wonder how some of the biggest creators in the world produce so much content? Part of their prolific output can be credited to the behind-the-scenes team - like editors, graphic designers, and writers.

George Blackman is one of those off-the-camera heroes. He's a freelance content & script writer who's worked with Ali Abdaal (3.7 million subscribers) and Justin Moore to help grow their brands and businesses.

This week's Money Matters:

How did you land your first freelance writing role in working with creators?

When I went freelance, I had the pretty sizable unfair advantage of having Ali Abdaal’s name on my CV. In the educational YouTube circles, that’s basically the masterkey lol. One retweet from him and I got more clients knocking at the door than I could possibly handle, for which I’m super fortunate.

But before that role, I’d never worked as a writer before, and certainly never in the YouTube sphere. He put out some pretty standard job applications and I applied.

At the time, my writing experience came entirely from writing comedy sketches for fun. I’d been doing this since I was about 17, initially just recording my own radio shows at home. Then I met my comedy partner at university in 2016. We started writing and performing together, and dozens of gigs later, we’re still a duo. All this seemed irrelevant in the context of Ali’s job application, but it was all I had. Thankfully, out of 100+ applicants for the writer role, I was one of four who got the job.

So I think my advice would be to identify your point of difference and lean into it. Try not to underestimate things you’ve done in your life which have meaningfully impacted the skills you have.

Reach out to smaller creators who may need help writing all their STUFF, whether that’s scripts, newsletters, tweets or articles, and demonstrate why you would be able to help them achieve their goals.

FYI, I also told Ali some of his thumbnails were crap, which may or may not have helped.

You tweeted that the maximum number of hours that you can do focused writing is 4 hours - how do you structure your day as a freelancer?

Honestly, I’m still figuring this one out. However, I’ve started recognising what I suppose I’d call ‘Big Brain Tasks’, i.e. the kind of work you literally cannot do when you’re fatigued. This includes anything super creative, like writing a first script draft or ideating a month’s worth of newsletter ideas.

If you haven’t slept well, or it’s 4pm and you’ve been working hard since 9, literally stop trying. Sincerely, genuinely, stop. You know the headspace I’m talking about. You can’t beat it, and unless you’re about to lose a massive client if you don’t finish something NOW, it can wait until tomorrow.

Figure out the tasks that take less brain power, like replying to email, or proofreading, or (for me) working on improving Notion workflow systems. The latter almost feels mathematical, so it doesn’t take the same type of creative PUSH that starting a script from scratch does.

The key is to become adaptable and to listen to your brain and body on a given day. Then funnel your energy into the right types of tasks.

For YouTubers, what’s one piece of advice you would give to make the scriptwriting process easier/quicker?

Assuming you have your approximate idea, you’ve figured out your title and thumbnail, and you generally know what this video is…give yourself three minutes to write the MOST BASIC draft of the script. It should almost be stream-of-consciousness. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or well-crafted sentences. It might look something like this:

“Hook: in this video we’re talking about how to get a job writing for a YouTuber. Part 1: groundwork: if you’ve got any sort of regular writing habit you’re ahead of the pack. Ask yourself what skills you’ve been developing over the years, maybe without even knowing it, and lean into that. Part 2: sincerity: demonstrate your sincere desire to improve their channel, i.e. be honest about their crappy thumbnails, present your ideas about how to make their hooks better, generally show them you’re bursting with ideas, part 3…”

That’s such an ugly paragraph. But it’s less ugly than a blank page. This tactic gives you a combination of both restraint and freedom. The time restraint forces you to write, but you simultaneously have the freedom not to worry about making your sentences perfect. From there, it’s so much easier to carry on because you can literally see the structure of the video in a single, horrible, block of text.

(Bonus) What’s your favorite thing to spend money on?

If you looked at my spending as a proportion of income, you might think I absolutely adored spending money on rent (thank you London).

But the answer is probably food. My girlfriend and I usually get dinner out twice at the weekend, and it’s the best time ever. While I still have the metabolism of a 25 year old, I plan to work it hard.

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