Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Practically my whole career has been spent around copy even though I didn’t really know it at the start. I’ve been in print, design and marketing for 20 years now, but I only got into copywriting because I was offered the chance to write the copy for a brochure by my old boss. Turns out he liked it and so did I, so that was my lightbulb moment!
What work are you most proud of?
I’m proud of all my work really, though I look back at some of my early copy and think ‘I wish I could do that again – it would be very different now!’.
I suppose I have a soft spot for a job I did a few months ago for an agency who required four 700-word articles in four days on digital self-service. Doesn’t sound too crazy, but I knew nothing about the topic and was still working full-time at my old job. The agency and the client were very happy and accepted them without changes which was a great confidence boost.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I’m hungry, so I wish I’d written every good bit of copy I see! I do love the ads for The Economist, and the Swiss Life ads from the Leo Burnett agency are brilliant – so simple, but genius. There was also an advert for National Book Tokens recently which was glorious.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Sometimes when you’re staring at copy and trying to make something work, the best thing you can do is just forget it.
Close the document down and shift your focus onto something else. Whether that’s updating your admin or checking emails, or something else completely unrelated to copy or work, whatever works for you for any length of time to get your head out of the problem. It can seem counterintuitive at times (especially with a looming deadline), but it works for me.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
As a copywriter, you’re asked to write about different subjects all the time, so I always look forward to researching any particular topic. But on the other hand, I hate having to do research on subjects I don’t know about or don’t like. It can be time-consuming and sometimes fruitless, but also an amazing journey of discovery. It’s a double-edged sword.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Trying to convince people of the benefits of using a professional writer to create their content. So many people see it as an unnecessary expense, especially when they’ve paid big money for a brand new website with all the bells & whistles. You feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.
I also hate when web or design agencies claim to be able to write content when they don’t know at all. They charge clients crazy amounts of money per page and end up providing bad quality, repetitive content with loads of typos and bad grammar. I’ve seen it happen.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Don’t undersell yourself. “You might not have a vast amount of experience (although don’t underplay the experience you do have…) but if you have the skills, you should be fairly paid for them”. Jo Tidball said that to me and she’s right.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Read, write and practice as much as you can.
It will take some time to figure out your own style and find your own voice, but just start writing.
Reading a wide range of books, magazines and papers is good too, plus there’s any amount of good books on copywriting that should be devoured.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
As a freelancer, the pure joy of keeping your own schedule and benefiting from working at home for large chunks of time. Plus, though I hated that commute to and from work, I love driving to networking events and meeting clients.
What I get most pleasure from is actually helping people get the most out of their website or brochure.
They’ve recognised they need good content and they’re happy with what I produce for them. Getting a genuine testimonial really gives me pleasure.
Where can people find out more about you?
My website, www.dropcapcopy.com, is where my latest blogs, projects and testimonials are, but I’m also to be found (probably too much) on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (@dropcapcopy) as well as LinkedIn (as Graeme Piper).