Living the Writer's Life: Jon Stoltzfus
From Fed Up and Laid Off to Total Control and Wealth
Jon Stoltzfus was at the height of his career as an aerospace engineer, looking from the outside like he had it all: high-six-figure salary, prestige, and influence. But on the inside, he was miserable. He turned an eye toward writing but didn’t take the plunge till a major life catalyst nudged him forward. But once he committed to copywriting, he committed fully. Discover how his writing career took shape and how he’s made the most of it since.
Take me back to life before writing. What did you want to get away from?
My degrees are actually in aerospace engineering. So I was working in the defense industry, and over my career I kind of went from engineering to project manager to business development manager, increasing levels of responsibility. But it was always a stressful job, always a lot of hours, working 70 hours a week. And I reached a point about 2006 where I was just sick of it. I didn’t enjoy being an engineer, I didn’t enjoy my job, and I was looking online at things like how to make money online. I might’ve even used the “side hustle” term back then. I guess I was having an early midlife crisis in some respects.
And that’s how you found AWAI?
I stumbled across an ad from AWAI about copywriting, which I had not heard of, and saw an example of a financial promotion. I was already a financial newsletter subscriber at the time, and I’m like, Wow, I can write about something that I love and get paid really good money.
So I bought AWAI’s course for copywriting. By then I was working 78 hours a week and had three kids, one of them a baby, so like a lot of people do, I put the course on a shelf. And it just sat there until 2013 rolled around when the defense industry went through across-the-board 20% sequestration cuts and a lot of midlevel management people like me got laid off. That’s when I decided I needed to do something different, I needed to take back control of my life. I jumped back into copywriting and started the journey officially.
And what kind of writing do you do now?
Three years ago I transitioned to become the copy chief of a company called Lurn, which is in the online education space. What we have done is teach people how to start online businesses. I run a copy team of up to eight people located around the world producing all of our copy, everything from sales letters and webinars to emails and ads.
What was your biggest challenge in getting started?
At the beginning, I think the biggest challenge was just doubt, right? I mean, so many of us come into this world and we’re like, Really? Is this real? And this is true of any career transition, or any career that you’re getting into. But I think especially in my case, because I was leaving what was already a high-six-figure career, it was just that doubt of, Am I really going to get to replacement-level income?
What about the biggest reward so far?
The biggest difference is I love what I do now. I was so burned out as an engineer. And people were like, “Oh, you were making a lot of money. The things you did are incredible. How could you get sick of that?” I don’t know how to explain it — I was just burned out. I still work a lot of hours, but now I love what I do. And that impacts your whole life. The reality is when I look back now, 10, 15 years ago, I made my household miserable without even realizing it, because I was miserable.
I’ve since had my kids and my wife tell me, “You’re more patient than you’ve ever been, you’re happier than you’ve been.” And yes, I still work a lot of hours, but it’s just made a monumental change in my personality and my contentment with life.
We’ve gotten to travel all over, to Disney and Yosemite, and the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We’re going to Ireland for a week and a half next month. And my kids are in college so we don’t need to worry about those expenses. My oldest daughter is in law school right now at 80 grand a year, and it’s just nice knowing that we’ve got the financial comfort and the confidence to be able to do what we want.
Jon's Living The Writer's Life story was originally published in Barefoot Writer. To learn more about how you can start living your dream writer's life too, click here.
What help do you need to move forward with your version of the writer’s life? Let us know in the comments below so we can help guide you in the right direction.