Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’ve always loved to write, which came from a childhood diet of good fiction and a love for language. I guess I needed a creative outlet and so, it was the perfect path. I wrote for my school magazine and then at university I began to write for a few online magazines. I worked as a teacher and translator for a few years, but all the while I was working on building my writing profile.
Then I got a bit of a lucky break. A former teaching colleague showed a piece I wrote to a freelance writer friend of his. She’s very good.
We met up and she gave me insider tips to get into writing. This was in late 2013, just when content marketing was about to explode and Barcelona’s tech startup scene was advancing too. Both these factors were really serendipitous.
I applied to a few jobs and in the end had to choose between three offers and ended up working with some really talented marketing people for nearly two years before going freelance.
What work are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my latest projects as they are so personal and I’ve put so much into them – my company – Woods Copywriting – and my new blog, Misdyrected.
I would also have to say the rewrite of a large section of the Discover Network’s website, as it was my first work with a truly massive brand.
There is also one blog post I wrote for a company called Kantox that I was particularly pleased with, about the company’s sponsoring of the Caterham Formula 1 team. It went on to be published widely across a number of media outlets and really helped the company’s brand.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Oh there are so many. Regarding pure copy, “It does exactly what it says on the tin” was great. Then the copy that becomes so well known that people use it in general – “I’m confused.com” is an example (albeit an annoying one!).
The entire Barack Obama election email campaign was brilliant. It’s a great lesson in sales copy. I studied that campaign for quite a while.
I don’t take inspiration only from other copy, but from what are essentially forms of copy through different mediums. The famous Churchill victory speech comes to mind – and any writing that rouses emotion and stirs the reader or listener to action.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I think that all writers struggle from time to time to get something down on paper, but I don’t actually think that writer’s block exists. I find the whole notion of it a bit pretentious and convenient.
My routine helps me avoid sluggishness with writing and puts me in the best place to be productive.
My morning routine is: shower, go for a walk, have a coffee, put some headphones on and get to work. I have a playlist of mainly instrumental music, which really helps me to focus.
Oh and I tend to map out my next-day schedule at the end of the day so I know what I have in front of me. Trello and Evernote are lifesavers.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Favourite would have to be when you’ve been brainstorming and thinking about a slogan or tagline for so long and you finally nail it. That voilà moment is hard to beat.
I think most writers find this part tough but it is absolutely essential: purging your work.
I go by the rule of second draft: first draft minus 10%. That 10% can be tough to bin naturally, as you put time and often painstaking effort into its construction, but the work is always the better for it. It’s not easy “to kill your darlings” as William Faulkner put it, though.
Any copywriting pet hates?
When you come up with something and then realise that some other company, usually a competitor to your client, already uses it or something that is just too similar. That can knock the wind out of your sails a bit after you think you’ve got something.
Another thing that I find really annoying is that everyone seems to think that they are a writer these days. It takes a degree of value away from what is anything but an easy profession. Copywriting requires considerable ability and a consistent dedication to learning and honing your craft. I guess the silver lining is that this helps you to separate good clients who truly value copywriting from clients you’d best avoid.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
“Always do what you say you are going to do.” It was the mantra of an old boss.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
For anyone starting out, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of educating yourself well on the actual art of writing (OK you might be a good writer already, but learning from some of the best is rarely a bad idea) as well as on making a successful career as a copywriter.
I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing, and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style as a good start. And search for good books/ebooks on how to get good clients. Don’t be afraid to spend a few quid.
Avoid content mills like the plague that they are (Upwork, Fiverr etc). Clients who pay appropriately are out there. They just don’t fall into your lap (but what good job does?). And network, both online and offline preferably!
Like any new path or project, if you think of everything in front of you, it can be daunting. I’d advise breaking things up into small steps. Oh and lastly, try not to get disheartened by rejections or lack of progress. It’s par for the course. Keep going, patiently.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, since I was a child, and I get to do it for a living. I love projects that emphasise creativity – catchy social media posts, slogans and story-type articles where you really need to pull the reader in.
Where can people find out more about you?
Please feel free to visit my new blog at misdyrected.com – updated weekly (or fortnightly!), and you can also find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Lastly, my partial online portfolio is here. Thanks for reading!