Becoming a copywriter was a total career change for me. I first became a part-time copywriter in 1992, writing mainly direct mail sales letters for promoting various business opportunities. I then wrote an advertising manual and used my copywriting skills to promote it to small businesses. It was very successful and so I went full-time as a professional copywriter in 1996. I had previously worked as a self-employed IT tutor and before that I was an IT college lecturer and before that… I was a landscape architect running my own landscape construction business.
What made you want to be a copywriter?
Initially I just wanted to work for myself from home and I’ve always liked to write. I had closed my landscape business in 1991 due to the recession, and I then took an interest in computers and technology in general. During my time as an IT tutor I wrote a manual about computers for beginners and it sold very well to my students. I could then see a clear opportunity for me in writing.
What types of copywriting do you do, and for what clients?
I mainly write direct response sales copy, ads, web content, press releases and articles. Most of my clients are individual marketers and entrepreneurs, and so I teamed up with a web and graphic designer to offer them a complete one-stop-shop range of services. I also consider myself to be an internet marketer so I fully understand my clients’ needs.
What do you enjoy most?
At work, I enjoy writing sales letters and articles. I also enjoy making videos, which has led to a new business opening in creating marketing videos for my clients. Outside of work I enjoy photography and the countryside… and the occasional pint of Guinness!
What sort of working setup do you have?
I work from my home office and I have a website that brings in quite a few enquiries. I’m also a member of the UKBF, which helps keep me up to speed with small business issues. I also have a large database of existing clients who keep me busy most of the time. Some clients have been with me for more than 10 years.
What one book should copywriters read, and why? (Not necessarily about copywriting.)
I would recommend Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins. This guy really got it about advertising. I’ve read it several times.
How have things changed in the time you’ve been a copywriter? What’s better, and what’s worse?
I would say that the long-form sales letter, that has been responsible for generating millions of dollars and pounds in sales, is on its way out now. People are too busy to read them, many don’t believe them and they are too costly to produce and send. A 3-minute video will do the job 10 times better and keep the prospect fully engaged. There’s much more scope with video.
What are you most proud of in your copywriting career?
I suppose I’m quite proud of the fact that I have built a successful career out of doing something that I love doing. It’s also opened up opportunities to travel and meet some very interesting people.
If you could change one thing about your working life as a copywriter, what would it be?
What advice would you give other copywriters?
Write about anything and everything in lots of different styles in order to gain solid all-round experience. Study the work of the best copywriters and keep a “swipe file”. Never be too busy to offer free help and advice.