Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I fell into it! A career change into freelance marketing and PR began when I answered a tweet for help. I found that I enjoyed the writing aspects of the job most. Initially, I offered a wide range of writing services – and I still do – but I prefer ghostwriting books, proofreading and copy-editing.
What work are you most proud of?
Ghostwriting a book; ‘Never Say Di’. Di’s vivid and hilarious tales leap off the page and it was a privilege to work with her. She was dyslexic but her friends insisted she should record her life of adventures in nursing around the world.
The problem was that she had terminal cancer, but we completed it in four months and she was able to hold the book in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other.
The book has received 5-star reviews and raises money for Dorothy House Hospice Care – a job well done.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Gosh, I’m rubbish at remembering great copy – does that get me drummed out of the club? I like writing that amuses me, in the wry grin sense, because it is witty and original.
I admire the innovative; the people who decided years ago that Virgin holiday brochures should be ‘honest’ or that Innocent Drinks should have unconventional packaging copy; a brave move at the time.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
It doesn’t often happen, though sometimes I step away from the project in order to think about ways to improve my first thoughts. I’ll take my office assistant – the Dogginator – to inspect the local fields and Womble up any wayward litter. After that she snoozes while I apply any improvements I’ve been struck by while admiring the Cotswold scenery.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Favourite would be meeting my clients and researching prior to writing. I am basically nosy, so I like to read around the subject before committing virtual pen to paper. I know enough to be dangerous about so many topics by now!
Least favourite would be the necessary self-promotion that goes with being freelance. Writing about yourself is the hardest thing. I propose that we should all write each other’s promotional material.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I am a stickler for the old-style grammar and spelling, so there’s quite a long list… Top of my hit list are tautologies, such as ‘free gift’ and ‘added bonus’. They used to grind my Dad’s gears too.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
There’s a lot of talk these days about Imposter Syndrome, and when you’ve been made redundant from a salaried job it can be hard to have self-belief. A lovely client – now a dear friend – just said, ‘You can do it.’ As it turned out, I could, and my freelance career got off to a great start.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
It might depend on their circumstances but as a career-changer, I would definitely look up former clients and colleagues, who might know of opportunities to start building your portfolio.
Keep a list of testimonials from happy clients and get them onto your website, alongside their smiling faces – very persuasive!
Also, join informal face-to- face networking and online groups, such as The Copywriter (disclaimer: I help run this group!) where you can ask questions and get constructive advice from virtual colleagues. Don’t see other copywriters as the competition; they are your best source of information and advice. #copywritersunite
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
I always thought that I had no creative talent since I scraped a violin for years without producing a pleasing note, and can’t paint for toffee. And yet – writing to influence and inform is equally creative and I enjoy it immensely.
I’m not a hard-sell writer but creating descriptive pieces about travel, hospitality and even drone photography is a great way to spend the day – especially when the client is thrilled and pays promptly!
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I find the resources really useful. I often refer new copywriters and even clients to the ProCopywriters’ recommended rates, and the annual survey makes for interesting reading.
I follow ProCopywriters on social media and there’s a constant supply of interesting reading flagged up in their posts.
Where can people find out more about you?
Read about my Queen’s Guide badge on http://www.suekelsoryan.co.uk/seven-surprising-facts/, find me all over social media as @SueKelsoRyan – and buy my book! (It’s for a great cause…)