I’ve been thinking a bit about how I took the decision to become a freelance copywriter (getting on for nine years ago now) and the things that gave me the confidence to go it alone. My permanent jobs had been in PR, digital communications and website management – so no pure copywriting roles, but plenty of experience of writing and editing different types of content.
I was lucky enough to work with some talented people who gave me opportunities to write, nurtured my writing skills and passed on invaluable knowledge and skills. It struck me that behind every copywriter there must be people who have shaped their careers, sometimes consciously and sometimes not. Here’s my thank you to three people who have helped me to make a success of freelance copywriting – even though they probably don’t realise it.
Rachel Bower, then an account director at Edelman London, now deputy MD: It was in Rachel’s team that I learnt to write professionally, through crafting endless press releases, case studies, opinion articles and news stories. I remember Rachel telling me about one of her former bosses who made her work long into the night, drafting and redrafting a press release until it was absolutely perfect. Rachel was a far nicer boss than that, but she instilled in me the importance of quality in all aspects of client work, as well as how to develop strong client relationships.
Mary Jean Pritchard, publications manager at The King’s Fund: I joined The King’s Fund as website manager on a maternity leave contract, as a stepping stone towards freelancing. I absorbed a great deal of editing knowledge simply through sitting next to Mary Jean. The house style guidelines she created for The King’s Fund are pretty much imprinted on my brain.
Michelle Anderson, then web editor at Nesta, now online content manager at Bank of New Zealand: Michelle was one of my first freelance clients, and what a client – I worked with her regularly for a couple of years and the projects were always interesting (one highlight was interviewing Martha Lane Fox so I could ghostwrite an article for her). A fantastic client relationship, which all started with a cold call – Michelle was one of many (many, many) web editors I phoned to ask if they needed any freelance copywriting support. She wasn’t the only client I got that way either – it’s time consuming and sweaty-palm inducing, but well-targeted cold calling can pay off.
Who helped to shape your copywriting career?
Perhaps it was your first boss or an inspiring writing trainer? A client who gave you your first big break or even another copywriter?
Leave a comment here to let us (and them) know. Or write a post on your own blog and leave a link to it below.