Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I discovered it by happy accident while I was working in a research-based role for a holiday home advertising company just after I graduated.
They realised I was good at writing and proofreading, so gave me more and more of it. The possibility that I could make a living from writing seemed almost too good to be true, but I steadily pursued it both at work and in my spare time until I had enough experience to go freelance.
What work are you most proud of?
A couple of big-name clothing brands recently – it’s a great feeling when your friends have not only heard of a client, but wear the client’s products. I’m also very proud to work for the United Nations World Food Programme.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
There’s so much to choose from. Because I find short copy the hardest to write, I always admire the clever “Freshly Clicked” tagline that accompanies the bunch of asparagus on the back of a local Tesco delivery van.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Like probably most people, I do something else and come back to it. If I’m really busy, I find that just working on another client for a while can do the trick.
If possible, I’ll go outside for some fresh air or switch to a manual job for a bit (e.g. the housework – don’t you just love working from home?).
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love writing travel copy, because it’s the sector I’m most experienced in and I get to learn and dream about all kinds of interesting places. I also enjoy proofreading, because it plays to my pedantic nature.
My least favourite writing-related task is probably starting the research for a really complex, technical subject – I know I’ll get my head round it eventually, but it makes me feel scared and out of my depth at first.
However, that feeling is offset by the sense of elation when I finally do get to grips with a subject enough to communicate it to a general audience.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I have a great objection to citing “combined experience”. It makes no sense to me. Five people each with a year’s experience isn’t the same as one person with five years’ experience.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Keep all your receipts.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
In my experience, it’s your portfolio that potential clients are most interested in – they want to see concrete evidence of your copywriting skills.
You can talk the talk, as they say, but can you walk the walk? It’s hard when you start out and you don’t have any experience, but you can bulk up your portfolio with your own blog posts, by contributing articles to sites that interest you, and maybe even by doing some work for local charities or friends’ businesses.
I also think it’s important to be true to yourself and play to your own strengths and enthusiasms.
Setting out on a copywriting career will be a steep learning curve, and the learning never stops.
The good news is that once you start earning some experience, you’ll find that the hard work pays off in the end.