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Rowan Gavin – ProCopywriters member spotlight

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

A way with words was the one among my few talents growing up that I really enjoyed exercising. (I have a good brain for maths as well, but find it deadly tedious to this day.) I’m lucky enough to have a few friends and relatives working in marketing and PR in various industries, and they set me up with my first few writing jobs around school-leaving age.

After building up some experience learning on my feet during those early forays, I set myself up as a freelancer proper in 2016 when I started Rowan Tree Copy.

I’ve chosen this career because it gives me an opportunity to do something I love and get paid for it! The freelance lifestyle suits me well as it gives me the flexibility to work on community and volunteer projects like online magazine The Norwich Radical, not to mention the time to engage with a raft of nerdy hobbies…

What work are you most proud of?

My work as an editor for The Norwich Radical. I’ve had the privilege of working with a wonderful team to resurrect the Student section and set it on a successful footing, editing and assisting articles about a vast range of topics, from tuition fees to workers’ rights to student art, which have attracted the attention of such prominent sector figures as Lord Adonis.

The collaborative working environment at the Radical, virtual though it may be, has also led me to produce some of my best writing myself.

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

The philosopher in me would like to object to this rather pointless hypothetical, but the nerd in me actually has a very particular answer: any/all of the articles that Fantasy Flight Games, my favourite games publisher, post on their website. I love their games, but their copy could be so much better.

Spoiler alert for upcoming questions – it really bugs me that it’s often quite poorly researched.

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

Turn off the radio, stare into space and tap my foot for a bit. That’ll usually get me past ‘on the tip of my tongue’ moments. If it doesn’t work I know I’m at a more serious block, so I go and do something else for a while to let my mind work on the problem at its own pace.

I’m a big believer in the microbreak. Usually 10 mins to half an hour of cooking, reading, tai chi, watching something or playing a game will refresh me well enough that I can reassess my assumptions and find that previously unseen path to making something work.

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

My least favourite would have to be working from insufficient research in situations where I’m not able to do further research myself. Constraints breed creativity, as they say, and knowing the scope of what your client wants to cover within a topic is key to producing good copy.

I have the most fun writing when the material allows for a little wordplay. I’m no poet nor comedian, but I love the challenge and the thrill of finding that punny or poetic twist that gives a piece of copy the kick it needs.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Poorly researched copy – bet you didn’t see that coming. I’m also not a fan of overusing the passive voice.

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

It wasn’t given specifically as career advice, but before I left home as a teenager I had an excellent chat with my grandad about how everything you do with your life is part of living. If you think of yourself as working in order to live, it’s much harder to enjoy your work.

His advice helps me to see my writing as just as much a part of my life as anything else, and to keep on enjoying it and giving it my best even when times are hard.

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

Confidence is key. Don’t rely on arrogance though – get yourself some proof that you’re a good writer. If you produce a bunch of diverse content and share it with a bunch of people, and most of their feedback is positive, then you’re right to believe in your ability.

The trick is to go on believing it and to use that belief to approach every job with the confidence that you can, and will, get it done.

The words will always come to the practiced mind, and if you believe in yourself you won’t burn out from staring too hard into the void looking for them.

What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?

I guess it’s a tie between the freedom of the freelance lifestyle and the unique way that a talent for wordcraft lets me help people. There are so many people out there with brilliant ideas that need the right words to help them come to fruition. Being able to offer that service is very fulfilling.

Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?

I’m new around here, but I’m already finding that it’s really reassuring to have the experience of so many others in the same position as me on tap when I need it.

The jobs section is also great – there are some really interesting opportunities in there that I would have had to spend ages trawling the net for otherwise.

Where can people find out more about you?

At my PCN profile, my website, my Fiverr page, my LinkedIn, or just by dropping me a line at gowanravin@gmail.com

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