Derek Howie: from football disappointment to startup success

Starting up

10 July 2017

For many entrepreneurs, the path they find themselves on isn’t always the one they planned on taking. And sometimes the best success stories actually begin with a moment of failure.

Over the past 10 years, Derek Howie has built a name in the business world using his writing skills. He’s written for The Scottish Sun, STV and Scotland’s leading media, as well as big employers like the NHS.

We know Derek pretty well, in fact, since in 2014 he joined AXA as a copywriter!

Last year however, Derek left the corporate world behind to start up his own business – Howie Writes – from his home. And while we were sad to see him go, we’re proud to see the success he’s having as a small business owner.

But as Derek explains, the road into a successful startup career was far from straightforward.

Tell us about your journey so far 

Well if life had gone to plan, I’d probably be making my name on a football pitch right now. Between 2005 and 2008, I was a professional footballer for Dunfermline Athletic.

As a young player, I captained Rangers, as well as training and playing for teams like Livingston, Dundee United, Kilmarnock, Hearts, Blackburn Rovers and Everton.

But my attitude wasn’t good enough as a kid. I was spending more time hanging around the streets – and getting into trouble – than I was on a football pitch.

After I was released from Rangers at 16, I joined Dunfermline Athletic. It could – and should – have been my second chance in football. But it didn’t quite work out like that.

The majority of my three years at Dunfermline were plagued by injury. And in 2008, the manager put me out of my misery and released me.

I didn’t know it then. But it was the best thing anyone ever did for me.

So what led you to a career in writing? 

In my final year at Dunfermline, while suffering from yet more injury problems, I realised my career was coming to an end before it had even started.

So I went to college one day a week to get a qualification in communications and literature. While I was falling out of love with football, I was falling in love with writing all over again.

That qualification helped me get into college and allowed me to study journalism for the next four years.

I then joined a digital marketing agency for two years, followed by a year at the NHS and two years working for AXA, writing for one of the largest financial organisations in the world.

Then in 2016, I set up my own copywriting and content writing company, Howie Writes. I’m happier than ever and making more than I ever dreamed of.

Why did you decide to go it alone? 

When I was younger, I was guilty of letting others dictate my future. They decided if I made it as a footballer. If I got promoted. If I got made redundant.

And I just thought to myself: ‘Why should I let other people make those decisions for me?’.

I knew the only way I could achieve what I wanted to in life was by going out on my own. Being the master of my own destiny if you like.

So after a lot of discussions and deliberation, I decided to take the leap.

And do you ever wonder if you made the wrong decision? 

Like everyone, I have self-doubts at times. Of course I do. But now that I work for myself, I’m happier and more content than ever.

It’s obviously still early days but I’ve never had any regrets. Not once.

I get to dictate my own future now. And so does everyone else. The future is yours. You’ve got to own it.

Find Derek online:

Web: | LinkedIn: Derek Howie | Twitter: @howie_writes