Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
“Career” is a good description of my life: I’ve careered from stage manager to bookseller to wine merchant to taxi driver to tour guide …
It was while I was working as a tour guide that I was asked to write the text for the panels of a new exhibition where I worked, and my writing career was born.
I didn’t know what to specialise in at first, so I took every job that offered, but I’ve now settled into the blog and web content niche.
What work are you most proud of?
I don’t turn work in unless I’m proud of it. What I most enjoy writing is blogs for the tourism industry, including my own blog (ScottishVisitor), and I really enjoy training people to write their own content.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Almost anything by David Ogilvy: he had such style.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Going for a walk usually sorts it out. If the weather’s foul, sudoku and a cup of coffee. Or DIY. Anything that breaks the cycle.
Failing that, I just start writing – whatever comes into my head – to stop the blinking cursor on the blank screen; that’s the advice I give to the people I train.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Starting a project is both the best and the worst thing: it’s all sparkly and possibility-filled but formless. It’s only when I start writing that it all takes shape. When/if I get in the zone and it becomes effortless, that’s a great and glorious feeling.
Absolutely least favourite task: marketing myself. It’s so much easier to promote other people’s products or services.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Jargon. I’m a great believer in plain, quality English.
And clients who change the brief every time you send a draft.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Never, never, never, never, never give up.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Never stop learning: reading, writing, observing, listening. Understand human reasoning, speech patterns, behaviour. Write every day, whether it’s a journal or paid work. Read every day: books, magazines, newspapers and online content on as wide a variety of subjects as you can manage.
Probably the most important advice, though, is not to under-charge. You may have to do some work for free (or very cheaply) to build up a portfolio, but once you’ve done a few jobs don’t be afraid to charge a living wage. You’re working for it and if you’re doing a good job you deserve it. If you’re not, either improve or find something else to do.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Variety. I’ll work for anybody as long as the brief’s not too technical. I love noseying around in other industries and discovering why people find them interesting.
I try not to write content for more than one business in the same line of work. I used to work with a web designer who targeted dentists, but there’s only so much you can say about dentistry without repeating yourself!
Why do you find PCN membership useful?
It’s another site where potential clients can find me, and I enjoy reading the articles – they’re a great pool of experience to draw on.
Where can people find out more about you?
http://greatcopy.info and www.scottishvisitor.co.uk