Nigel Woollsey


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

I’d spent 20 years working for a global insurance company in a variety of roles, all based around communication and writing, in one way or another, so when I was made redundant in 2009 I decided to take the plunge into copywriting.

I got myself enrolled on a copywriting course and – while I was learning ‘the craft’ – I supplemented my income by writing articles for magazines, the pay for which, frankly, was absolutely dire but it did help me hone my writing skills.

When I launched my own business I was amazed how helpful and unselfish other, more experienced copywriters, were with their time, advice and encouragement.

The support of my copywriting friends has been amazing.

What work are you most proud of?

The most rewarding piece of work I ever wrote was for a charity helping to protect and educate street children in Thailand. Like so many charities they were reliant on donations and it felt incredibly important that I successfully got their message across so they could continue their work.

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

Anything by another copywriter! There are so many fantastically creative people out there writing such brilliant copy that I marvel at their inventiveness – many of whom I’m pleased to say I speak regularly with in our secret place on Facebook (you know who you are). However, I console myself with the thought that they probably haven’t completed all the Mass Effect Xbox games on the ‘Hardcore’ setting…

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

Make a coffee, stare out of the window and possibly engage in a bit of random internet surfing whilst telling myself it’s ‘research’. If that fails I think up amusing memes and send them to my copywriter friends to ensure that at least they aren’t working either.

What are your favourite and least favourite writing ­related tasks?

Favourite task has to be writing articles – I just love it. Businesses tend to give you a lot more latitude in how you can approach an article and I especially enjoy writing material that entertains as well as informs. I think people respond so much better to reading something they’ll enjoy and might make them chuckle occasionally.

Least favourite? Staring at that blank page on the screen and thinking to yourself “Where do I start?”

Any copywriting pet hates?

Just three really: People who offer “quality copywriting” for ridiculously cheap rates, such as £10 per 10,000 words. That’ not copywriting – that’s randomly filling the page with words.

Clients who hire a professional copywriter and then completely disregard your advice. If people did this with gas boiler servicing then the whole of the UK would just be a big smoking hole in the ground.

The word ‘passionate’. No. Just no.

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

Don’t give up. My dear Dad, who died last year, said to me that self-employment was “the feast and the famine”: You either have too much work or none at all. The trick is trying to achieve the nirvana of steady work without all the peaks and troughs.

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

Make friends with other copywriters. They are a never-ending spring of knowledge, guidance, advice & support when you need it. Writing can be a lonely profession so they’ll also help keep you sane (even if they only have a tenuous grasp on sanity themselves).

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – clients will naturally assume you know what they are talking about.

And never approach an octopus from behind – Trust me on this…

Thanks to Jack Barclay for producing this post for PCN.

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