Kate Duggan

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

One of my earliest memories is hanging upside down on a climbing frame, declaring that I was going to be a writer, a stunt woman, or a lion tamer. I quickly decided those last two weren’t for me (I really don’t like pain), but I never gave up wanting to write.

I started in journalism before moving into marketing comms. I got to a point in my career where I seemed to be spending less time writing and more time checking other people’s work. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted, so when I got offered the chance of voluntary redundancy, I took it.

I’ve been freelance for 2.5 years now.

What work are you most proud of?

I’m not sure I could pick one piece, but I particularly enjoy the work I do with charities and micro-businesses.

I was part of the team that worked on comms for The Co-operative’s most successful charity partnership to date, which raised more than £7m. That’s a good feeling.

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

The brand that first comes to mind is Innocent. They started writing conversational, engaging copy in ways it hadn’t really been used before. It’s made a real difference in the way brands talk to customers.

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

Generally plough on, though I might take the dog for a walk if I’m really stuck. One thing I find helps is to move on to another section of the piece I’m working on. It’s rare that I start at the start anyway. The opening lines are always the hardest, so I leave them to the end.

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

I really enjoy writing web copy and blog posts that have a more conversational tone.

Professional means you’re talking to professional people, not robots.

So I can struggle when a brand seems to want you to strip any personality out of a piece.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Writing by committee! If too many people get involved with amends, a piece can end up completely disjointed and just ‘meh’.

I also hate the fact businesses so often don’t value what we do.

I got an email today about a project that at first seemed pretty interesting. Then I got to the pay – £8 for 400 words.

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

It’s general life advice really – treat others as you want to be treated.

When it comes to clients, that means doing work you can be proud of, every time. Hit the deadlines, proof your work, respond to emails.

I’ve been on the other side of the client/writer relationship, so I know how frustrating it is when you get given sloppy or lazy work. Over-deliver if you can. Happy clients will keep coming back to you, and they’ll refer you to other potential clients.

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

Copywriting is different to other forms of writing, so swot up!

There are some great books and other resources out there. 100 Great Copywriting Ideas by Andy Maslen is definitely worth a read.

If you’re going freelance, sign up for any free business support you can get. And network!

When it comes to the work itself, make sure the client agrees with the direction you’re going, before you put too much work into the writing.

Yes that means nailing the brief, but there are other things you can do too. I tend to write sample paragraphs for the client to sign off. Word clouds can also help. Or even mood boards. And make sure the client knows exactly what they’re getting for the price you’ve quoted.

What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?

Writing about different things.

I do have specialisms, but I couldn’t just focus on the one sector – I’d find it too boring. I love the fact I can be researching and writing about skincare products one minute, and pregnancy sickness the next. A lot of the work I do needs a decent amount of research, so it keeps my brain ticking over.

When it comes to having my own copywriting business, I love the freedom. I work school hours to fit around my kids. I drop them off, pick them up and can always make sports days and so on. It does mean I sometimes have to work late into the night, but it’s worth it.

Why do you find PCN membership useful?

Hard to say as I’ve only just become a member. I’m hoping it’ll prove to be another way to attract clients.

Where can people find out more about you?

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