Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I worked as a children’s entertainer for 9 years and found I absolutely loved the marketing aspect of the business. I became a serious student of copywriting theory and history, studying Caples, Ogilvy, Sugarman etc. and invested in numerous courses, both online and offline.
Our son was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2015 and, as you can imagine, working as a children’s entertainer while supporting him through treatment was incredibly challenging. I knew the time was right for a change of career (to keep my sanity!) and copywriting seemed a natural progression from what I’d been enjoying most in the entertainment business.
Most importantly, it ticked all the boxes for being able to be there for my son for his ongoing treatment. He finishes treatment in November 2018 so we still have a way to go on the chemotherapy rollercoaster.
What work are you most proud of?
The two-page sales letter I did for my very first client! From “launching” the new business to getting my first client took just two days, which I feel very grateful for. I charged £1200 for a two-page sales letter. (Writing sales letters is one of my favourite things and my first client was absolutely brilliant to work with so it was a great way to get started as a copywriter!)
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
The legendary American Express letter, starting “Quite frankly, the American Express Card is not for everyone”. It mailed for over 12 years, to over 280 million names and generated a fair amount of money for American Express!
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Exercise! I’ll either go for a long walk or lift some weights. It helps me switch off mentally and let my subconscious mind work through things. Often inspiration will hit mid-exercise.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
My favourite thing is gathering the information I need from the client and then researching the heck out of it!
By the time I’m finished with a project I’ll know almost as much about the business as the owner. That’s the kind of depth of knowledge you need in order to be able to write clearly about things.
Least favourite is that time before you come up with a concept or strategy that is an ideal fit for the client. You’re busy mulling things over, with a few different directions you could go in, but you’re just not sure. It’s SUCH a relief to get through that stage!
Any copywriting pet hates?
Copy that is so focused on being clever that it forgets to actually sell something (a product, an idea, a concept etc.). As a copywriter, I write words to help companies sell something and so it pains me when I see wasted opportunities!
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Can I be cheeky and include TWO “best advice” bits?
The first piece of advice was about something close to the heart of many a copywriter – FEES! It was advice from Andy Maslen and was along the lines of, “Don’t look at what everyone else is charging when you decide to charge. Charge what you’re worth.” (I’m sure Andy put it more fluently but hopefully, he’ll forgive me for butchering his great advice!)
The second piece of advice was from Dan Kennedy, who said to get really good at copywriting the absolute best thing you can do is to write out by hand famous sales letters and pieces of copy.
I have spent hours – and thousands of pieces of paper – laboriously copying out old sales letters and adverts and can honestly say his advice was absolutely spot on. (In fact, I still do it – and I have the pads of paper to prove it!)
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Look at what everyone else in the field is doing and then try to see what you can do to stand out from them. How are you different? What extra value can you bring? What can you offer that no-one else can? Always focus on solving problems for your clients – keep it all about them, not you.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
The flexibility with timings. When I was working as an entertainer, I had certain times I needed to go out and do shows regardless of how John’s chemotherapy was going. We had quite a few weekends when my wife was in hospital with him the whole time as I was out doing shows. It was really tough and emotionally draining for us all as a family, so I am delighted to now have more flexibility.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
It’s good to get an idea of how the industry as a whole is changing and adapting to new challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the Copywriting Conference this year due to a scheduling clash but I will be there next year!
Where can people find out more about you?
My website gives a good overview of who I am as a person and the type of work I do. People can find me online at https://clarkecreatives.com