This week we turn the spotlight towards freelance copywriter Joanna Brown…
Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I have always been good with words, although I trained as an economist and statistician. After having children, I wanted a job that was flexible – allowing me to do school runs and sports days etc. I also didn’t fancy going back to commuting and having a boss. I was already editing friends’ websites as a favour, so I just turned professional!
I expected to have to build up to ‘proper’ clients by doing voluntary work, etc., but I was lucky. My previous career left me with a lot of contacts, and my clients have built up from them, and then word of mouth and recommendations. I now specialise in web copy for financial and legal businesses (mainly).
What work are you most proud of?
I’ve written for several large financial organisations. My contracts mean I cannot name them, but I am proud that my words are seen by millions of people every day. More than that: that little old me, with just a keyboard and my brain, is swaying public opinion of these financial giants.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I love really good advertising slogans. It’s not what I do, but I really admire the cleverness behind them. I like ones such as: “No FT. No comment.” and “Let your fingers do the walking.” and so on. I silently applaud this sort of copy, and just envy the creativity behind it.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
No stunning insights into getting past this, sorry! I go for a walk, do something else, surf the internet. Eventually inspiration hits. And if it doesn’t, sometimes you just have to sit down and power through. I’ve written an article about this actually (inserts cheeky link to Finding Copywriting Inspiration)
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love the stage, about 75% through the work, when the rough drafts are coming together, words are flowing, and you are just polishing and tweaking to get it sounding fabulous.
I don’t like it when a client uses a really cheap service, and then asks me to clean it up, but is shocked at the price. For example: someone uses speech-to-text software to transcribe an interview, and charges the client £10, then the client asks me to edit and proof it for the website. It takes me a day, but the client sees the transcribing as the bigger job.
Any copywriting pet hates?
The term “Grammar Nazi”. Nazis were an abhorrent set of people, using this term for someone who moves a comma is offensive. Secondly, it annoys me when people presume I am going to comment on something such as the spelling in a Facebook post. I’m not judgemental and anyway, I only correct things if I am paid to!
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Specialise. Find a niche and become The Expert in that niche. This wasn’t copywriting advice actually, but it applies.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Be excellent. Read a lot, write every day, don’t be discouraged by the writing battery farms, keep developing your skills, and use social media.