Jessica Neill

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

I guess it kind of chose me.

I’ve always loved language and writing and studied English to degree level but I never actively pursued a career in it.

After uni I worked in hospitality and events, did a bit of temping here and there, considered myself a “work to live” person really. I valued other things in my life more highly than a career.

I moved to Bristol in 2008, did a bit more temping and then, in 2009, started working for the Forestry Commission (FC).

Initially hired as an Admin Officer, the FC quickly picked up on my capacity to write and I was consistently put forward for roles and projects that needed a competent writer.

After three or so years working as an Information Officer – writing and editing technical guidance and web and intranet copy – I was promoted to the national communications team where I worked as an Internal Communications Officer for another three years.

The comms team really invested in me, trained me up. I learned an awful lot about writing strategically to get measurable results and took the leap into freelancing from there.

What work are you most proud of?

The tone of voice for Saffron Records, Bristol’s first, female-only record label for young women aged 16 – 24. Brainchild of Creative Director, Laura Lewis-Paul, Saffron was set up to provide a safe, supportive space for talented young female performers.

Working closely with Laura from conception to real world delivery, I helped to develop a vision, set of values and personality which have now taken root and become a culture. It’s a joy to see the label go from strength strength, confident in the way it communicates.

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

“Birdseye Potato Waffles are waffly versatile.” Although I probably just wish I was eating one.

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

Go for a walk. It helps to switch off the conscious mind so that dormant solutions can rise to the surface.

It’s also good to get outside and feel the wind on your face – all too easy to forget there’s a big, wide world out there when you’re locked into something.

What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?

I love the final edit, weeding out those last few superfluous words in the knowledge that the work is almost there and it’s good.

I’m less of a fan of marketing myself. Even though my job is to sell the products and ideas of others, I find selling myself more than a bit of a drag.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Gratuitous use of ellipses.

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

Just because you have a wide range of interests doesn’t mean you have to segment yourself into several different parts. All of your life experiences and abilities feed into one whole you. Use that fact to your advantage.

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

Find and develop your niche. Copywriting is a vast, almost limitless, industry. It really helps to know and own your corner of it.

What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?

Getting to the crux of something and nailing the way in which it’s communicated.

I find the moment when the client says, “Yes, exactly that” infinitely satisfying.

Why do you find PCN membership useful?

As much as I would never go back to the time before self-employment, I do sometimes miss being able to turn to a colleague and say, “What do you reckon about x, y, z?”

PCN is a great substitute for that backup. It really helps to be connected to a network of peers and access all the online resources.

Where can people find out more about you?

What do you think?

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