Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’ve always loved writing, particularly writing to persuade. At some point in school, I’d decided I wanted to work in the media (although, I’m not sure I even knew what the media was back then). I trained as a journalist and learnt a lot about writing from some excellent lecturers, editors and colleagues. After a couple of years of writing for magazines, I left to work in marketing.
Two years into my marketing job, I got tired of living in my inbox and having little time to write, so I quit to become a freelance copywriter. At the time, I told a few colleagues and agencies I’d worked with about my plans and they were very supportive. In fact, most of them ended up becoming clients.
What work are you most proud of?
A few months into my new life as a freelancer, I got a call from Arts University Bournemouth, who asked if I could develop and edit their new alumni magazine. For someone with a publishing background, this was pretty much a dream come true.
It’s certainly not copywriting in the most traditional sense, but it forced me to think a lot about strategy, tone, and how to coordinate a whole team of people who were writing for the magazine. It was no mean feat! I also ended up interviewing legendary architect Sir Peter Cook as part of it. Seeing the whole thing come together in the form of a beautiful printed magazine felt great.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
It’s a real cliché among copywriters, I guess, but I wish I’d worked on those classic VW ads. The thinking behind them and the approach was perfect. I can’t confess to being brilliant at writing ads, but reading them always inspires me to produce great work.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I have two approaches (depending on the proximity of the deadline) — I either power through or take a walk. Both have been tried and tested since before I could even hold a pen, but both work a charm. Sometimes it’s a case of writing and writing and writing until all your worst ideas are out on paper. Other times, you need to step out from behind the screen and fill your lungs with some fresh air.
There’s a lot to be said for knowing when the best time is for you to write.
If I make writing my first task of the day, I rarely run into writer’s block. In the afternoon, however, I’ll struggle.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Working closely with art directors and designers who value what copywriting can bring to a project is my favourite task. Some of my favourite projects have been the ones where I’ve been involved from the very beginning and have effectively ended up writing my own brief.
My least favourite writing-related task is making sense of someone else’s mess.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Being the last consideration on a project with limited budget. It goes back to my favourite writing-related tasks.
I fully believe that having a copywriter along for the ride from the very beginning of a creative project can make all the difference. It’s incredibly disheartening when you get a call from someone who has “a little bit of budget left over for some copy” like it’s an afterthought or a way to mop up unspent cash.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
The best way to fail is to try and please everyone.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Trust your gut and never, ever be afraid of turning down work that doesn’t feel right. I turned down a job very early in my freelance career that could’ve paid pretty well, but there were too many parts of it that didn’t add up. I have no idea if I was right or wrong about my assumptions, but I do know that I’ve never regretted it.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Writing every day, without fail. And getting paid for it.
Where can people find out more about you?