Lisa Derrick — ProCopywriters Member Spotlight

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

I worked at a university for over 13 years and spent the last 8 of them as a project coordinator during which, one of my add-on responsibilities became copywriting.

As the office English graduate, it seemed natural that I would cover any writing we needed, even though when I began I wasn’t aware of the term, or profession of, copywriting.

I studied part time for an MA in English and Creative Writing alongside while working on my final project. When it came to an end, I thought of the hundreds of freelancers I’d met through the scheme, all doing their own thing in diverse businesses from pattern design to founding a designer made homeware shop.

I’d learned that copywriting was a ‘thing’ by then, so I decided to follow in my new friends’ entrepreneurial footsteps and try to make a business from my writing, which I hoped would give me more time to work on my creative writing.

I took statutory redundancy from the university, went on a road trip around the US for 10 weeks, and officially became freelance when I got back to the UK.

What work are you most proud of?

This changes depending on what I’ve been working on recently.

I’ve just completed a job writing packaging and web copy for a new unisex cosmetics brand. I love that their founder is breaking ground by creating high quality, thoughtful products that address needs of transgender women, while also creating a supportive community and challenging stigma.

I can’t wait to see the words I’ve written, printed on their packaging.

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

I love the long copy bus advert for Dutch Railways and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I’d written George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language.’

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

I go for a run, swim, draw, go for a walk with my dachshund William, or watch an episode of something like Glow, Spiral or Stranger Things on Netflix. Anything that takes my mind elsewhere, and in doing so opens it up to new ideas when I get back to the page.

I also find that stream of consciousness writing works to get through writer’s block. Even from lines of dross, can beautiful gems appear! Well, sometimes.

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

I really enjoy starting from scratch with a client to determine their brand values and voice, and I particularly like writing product copy that will appear on packaging. That could be traced back to being hungry for more things to read as a child, so I’d read cereal packets and shampoo bottles over and over. Product stories are more interesting these days!

Least favourite? Putting that first word on the page. There are infinite options and sometimes it feels like torture to decide on one. Once that first word is committed, the rest come easier.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Queries that go something like, “I’d like this huge piece of copy written, it should take you about two hours” or “I need this really urgent piece of work completed,” then the person disappears for three months.

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

“Know your worth.” It can be easy to believe you should charge very little when you’re starting out, but that just leads to low self-esteem and motivation, and less respect from clients. If you work hard and care about the work you produce for clients, then you should be paid the equivalent fee, and this should rise as your expertise grows.

Linked to this piece of advice, I was told, “Do it for your sausage dog!” I’ve found it can help to take myself out of the equation when figuring out a fee. I need to be paid well for good work – yes, but I also need to be paid well to cover my bills and buy food and new collars for my sausage dog!

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

Practice over and over. Read books by copywriting greats over and over. Ask for feedback. Talk to other freelancers and small business owners. Ask questions. Keep the faith that you are good at what you do, and that you will continue to get better and grow in confidence if you care about the work you produce, and keep learning. Take breaks and don’t neglect the things that keep you feeling creative and inspired.

What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?

I like the variety of meeting diverse clients and learning about areas of work or business I previously knew nothing about. I love new writing challenges and making wordy decisions about how to best represent my clients’ work. I particularly love the jobs where I’m given free reign to be creative.

Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?

I like knowing that I have back up from lots of other copywriters anytime I want to ask a question or need support. I like the free resources such as contract templates, and I’ve consulted the help and advice section many times.

Where can people find out more about you?

On my website:

On Twitter, when I’m not taking a social media break: @lisajderrick

On LinkedIn:

What do you think?

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