Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’ve always had a love of words and have always found a way to earn a living from it, first as a reporter for my local newspaper and later as a journalist for national newspapers and magazines. I like to think it was the perfect practice for being a good copywriter.
After writing websites, blogs and various other bits and pieces for friends of friends, and getting great results, I realised I couldn’t think of a more perfect job for me than as a freelance copywriter.
I slowly built my own website and got a few small clients. Then, almost the same second as I got my first big commission, I quit my day job in PR to write full-time – and I haven’t looked back.
What work are you most proud of?
I’ve worked on some really cool projects for a few big clients like Virgin, which is definitely something I’m proud of – but I also feel proud of the work I do for SMEs as it often really helps transform their business. For instance, I recently wrote a newsletter for a small dog toy business and as a direct result, they sold an extra £5,000 of product in just a week. It was a really big deal for them and I felt proud of such a good result.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
The journalist in me can’t resist a brilliant headline. It’s a famous and old example, but you can’t help but admire the genius of the Sun’s headline: ‘SUPER CALEY GO BALLISTIC, CELTIC ARE ATROCIOUS’, which followed Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s 3-1 victory over Celtic in 2000. I wouldn’t have minded having my byline under that.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Luckily this doesn’t happen very often but if I am struggling with something then a cup of tea in the garden, or talking it over with my husband (who is also a writer), usually does the trick. One of the (many) joys of working from home is being able to step away from the keyboard when you need to, and to come back later when the right approach is clear in your mind.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
To be honest, I tend to just say no to writing jobs that I know I’m going to dread. What’s the point in working for yourself if you spend your day writing things you don’t enjoy and aren’t proud of?
I’m lucky that I have a steady flow of work – including blogs, website copy, sales letters, newsletters and articles – that I always get a buzz from writing.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I hate waffly, wordy, jargon-filled copy that clients (and some copywriters) often think sounds impressive, but is actually totally ineffective because nobody understands what it means. Or if they do understand it, it took them five read-throughs to get there.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
When I was learning to write news copy after starting out as a reporter, an editor advised me to ‘just tell it like you’d tell your mum’. It’s always stuck with me and that kind of approach – to write in an easy-to-understand, concise, friendly way – is still at the back of my mind, even now.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Write to be effective, not impressive. Don’t mess up on grammar. Don’t get comfortable. Don’t undercharge. Put that exclamation mark away. Get a cat. Get another cat. Drink lots of tea. Proof read. Proof read again.