Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
After finishing my undergrad in sociology at the University of Leeds, I’d decided I wanted to live abroad and keep studying – so I moved to France, then Spain, to get my MA. However, as my studies were coming to an end, I began to realise the next obvious step would be to do a PhD. The idea of spending another day in a university library made me shudder.
I’d always enjoyed writing, and so I began investigating what jobs I could do with my skills – and that’s how I learnt about copywriting. It amazed me to discover there was an actual job where I could be paid to write all day. And so I completed an evening course in writing at London’s (excellent) CityLit, while applying for jobs at marketing agencies.
Three and a half years on, I’ve just started out as a freelancer full time and am loving it so far!
What work are you most proud of?
A few months ago I became completely obsessed with working out how to get one of the ‘answer boxes’ in Google’s results pages. It took a lot of fiddling around with the structure and wording of a specific blog’s content, but once I finally figured it out, it was weirdly satisfying!
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
It’s not marketing copy, but the headline of The Sun newspaper on 11 April 1992: “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” – which claimed the paper’s editorial had won the Tories the previous day’s election. Regardless of what you think of the content, it’s a brilliant piece of copy which has gone on to become a bit of a political catchphrase – despite being completely grammatically incorrect.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Structure, structure, structure. I’ve always found that planning out what I’m trying to say – even down to a paragraph by paragraph level – makes it possible to keep on writing even if I’m lacking inspiration.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Favourite has to be the process of researching. I love digging into a new topic and learning everything I can about it. It’s satisfying when you reach that ‘saturation point’ that you feel you’ve read almost everything you can and aren’t finding out anything new about it. Then it’s a case of stitching it all together into a compelling piece of content.
It’s a slightly odd niggle, but I can’t stand the automatic spelling and grammar checker in Microsoft Word! It’s one thing for a word processor to highlight typos, it’s a whole other issue for it to tell you off about intentional stylistic choices!
Any copywriting pet hates?
I’m sure, like almost every other copywriter who’s on this site, I can’t stand pitching for work on certain freelance job aggregator sites! When clients expect 1,000-word articles for under £30 it can be pretty dispiriting.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
After I finished my studies I got a temp job in London. One of my colleagues, who’d been there for years, told me she had always done jobs that were comfortable. While she’d always had food on the table, she wished she’d done something a little more scary with her life. Starting out as a freelancer has definitely been a scary decision for me, but it’s preferable to regretting having never tried!
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Read Andrew Croft’s The Freelance Writer’s Handbook. It’s a fantastic book which will tell you everything you need to know about the realities of freelancing, and finding work with your writing skills.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Any piece of good copywriting is about telling a story – whether that’s a 50-character ad, or a 5,000-word whitepaper. Certainly, these are stories where the point is to get someone to buy something after reading, but being able to spend my life crafting stories which make people stop, think and reflect seems like an amazing opportunity.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I started out with the monthly membership, before more recently switching to the yearly subscription. Purely in terms of work, the membership has paid for itself many times over already. Besides that, I find the website a useful source of inspiration when I need tips and advice on anything from finding jobs to working out what to charge.
Where can people find out more about you?
Visit my website at http://lenwilliams.com/, or add me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/len-williams-57082499/