Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I stumbled into copywriting. I had a job doing logistics for a novelty toy company and I ended up helping their design team write copy for their products. I quickly realised that I was better at writing copy than doing logistics.
I’ve always been an enthusiastic writer, so the prospect of being paid to write – and getting away from a demoralising day-job – was truly thrilling.
So I threw myself into research, building a portfolio, networking and marketing. I even used my lunch breaks to do cold calling from a cafe.
What work are you most proud of?
I had a chance to write for WWF recently, which was very cool.
But generally I’m proud of my work when I help organisations communicate clearly. Clients have said things like: “It’s as though you’ve crawled into my head and made sense of all my thoughts.” Being a copywriter is very satisfying when you can help people be understood.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I can’t think of a particular example, but there’s loads of great stuff around. I often visit websites and admire the anonymous writer’s work.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Turn to my white board and just write down every thought I have about the client and their project. I also make lists of the key points I want to communicate. These are the building blocks of the copy and they make the actual writing much simpler.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Favourite tasks are probably research and writing.
Least favourite task is probably debating points of grammar with a client who is trying to enforce English rules they were taught by Mrs Hackett in the sixth form.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I hate puns that have no real relation to the product or service. I hate clever copy that has no meaning beyond a superficial gag. I’d much rather be bored by copy than misled. Inform first. Entertain second.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Ellen de Vries (a fellow copywriter) gave me some advice when I was thinking about going freelance. I was worried about failing at copywriting and my first child was only three months old – so quitting my job and going freelance felt like a risky gamble. Ellen said, “If you don’t leap you’ll never know if you can make it.” So I leapt, seven years ago, and I’m still falling. With style.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Steel yourself for a fight. It might not be easy, because…
- There are lots of people who want to be copywriters.
- There are lots of clients who want to pay peanuts for low-grade copy.
One way to succeed in this environment is to…
- Be better than the others.
- Find the clients who want to pay a fair price for a quality service (in my experience these clients don’t use Elance or other freelance job platforms).
But go for it, because if you love writing then copywriting is an awesome career move that can pay well and give you tonnes of freedom.