Jackie Harris

Jackie HarrisWhy did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?

I started my career in technology PR working with clients such as IBM, BT and Hewlett-Packard. I had to write tons of case studies, white papers, feature articles and press releases, often working to insane deadlines. I learned to write quickly and to look for quirky angles.

It probably sounds ridiculous, but the main reason I decided to focus on writing was because I hated phoning journalists to pitch stories at them.

I also discovered had a very high success rate when writing client award entries. The ‘win rate’ of the ones I wrote was much higher than any of my colleagues. I was in my early twenties at the time, and it made me realise the persuasive power of the written word.

As a career, I love the flexibility writing gives me. Wild horses couldn’t make me give that up.

What work are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of work where I manage to persuade a client to try something new and allow the personality of their business to shine through. Most of my work tends to be B2B so getting clients to relax and move away from typical ‘corporate speak’ can be hard work.

What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?

The 1997 Apple ad “Here’s to the Crazy Ones…” I was working for IBM at the time, and when I saw that piece of copy, I almost wept with admiration. I still love it.

What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?

I find tea and cake very helpful. Also, I find reading helps unblock me.

What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?

My favourite writing-related task is planning the story or focus of the piece and playing around with ideas. I don’t like editing other people’s text. I’m a blank screen gal!

Any copywriting pet hates?

I spend a lot of my time railing against horrible corporate jargon. I’d like to outlaw the word ‘strategic’.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

Learn to trust your gut instincts. You’ll live to regret it if you don’t. After 25 years in the industry, I can tell you it’s true.

What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?

Never be afraid to ask a client ‘obvious’ or stupid questions. They might look at you like you’re an idiot, but you often get valuable insight into the nitty-gritty of what needs to be communicated. Make sure you get proper terms and conditions done – it will cost around £200, but it will be one of the best investments in your business you’ll ever make.

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