Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’m an interpreter and translator by trade. When I did my A-Levels, we were all set to become part of the EU in a big way: join the Euro and generally become more internationalised.
Sadly, I didn’t account for our inexplicable fondness for the pound and the fact that, as a nation, we’re proud of communicating with foreigners by speaking LOUDLY and SLO-O-O-O-OWLY in English. So, y’know, we dug in our heels and most of Europe learned English.
Which wasn’t ideal for me. Hello, low-paid multilingual customer service agent jobs!
After that, I got into copywriting by accident. I’d done some industrial translation for a family friend, and they asked me if I could write documents in English as well. A few weeks of material safety data sheets later (you wouldn’t believe the paperwork involved in micropolymers…) and I’d unwittingly begun my descent into the murky depths of B2B copywriting.
What work are you most proud of?
The website copy I wrote for Dawnvale – a B2B brand specialising in commercial bar, restaurant and kitchen fit-outs.
Their previous site was a disaster zone (like, GeoCities bad).
I worked with one of my agency clients to take the new site from concept to completion: new brand tone of voice, content marketing strategy, and a CRO and UX-focused content plan. It was a really challenging, really enjoyable job, and I think the results are fantastic.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I love Doug Kessler’s Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge for Velocity Partners. It’s hilarious without trying too hard, it’s brilliantly argued and informative, and it works so well with the visuals.
A man who includes the line “May the revenue of a thousand eager buyers wash over your naked, quivering body.” in a slide show is alright with me.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Get up and walk away.
Seriously: most often, the reason for writer’s block is that you’ve been staring at a screen for too long, whether that’s a blank Word doc or 25 browser tabs full of information that’s just not going in.
Getting up, walking away, taking in some fresh air and – sometimes – starting again with a pen and a notebook generally gets me going again. Copywriting’s a creative job; you can’t do it well if you’re all out of juice.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
The bit I love most about writing is pretty specific to my sector.
I write mostly for trade and industrial clients, many of whom have never seen good content. Shitting them up with risqué copy is my favourite thing. I’ve seen panicked emails from marketing managers to MD about What The Copywriter’s Done, and I love it. Getting pale, stale, male brands out of their comfort zone is my nicotine.
Least favourite writing-related task? Re-situating web content.
On a lot of big website copywriting projects, I’ll be involved in planning the page templates, so I can generally guess how my content’s going to look in situ. But then when one of the devs chops the column width or messes about with the spaces, and my beautiful copy goes all wonky, I’ve got to go in via the back end and reword stuff so it fits. It’s an annoying job.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I’m going through a really, really long phase of hating most of the content I read, actually. I’m nice like that.
But there’s so much shit out there, and it comes in waves. One writer will have a great idea, and then there’s a stampede of others trying to do exactly the same thing, always with diminishing returns, until someone else has a good idea, and it all starts over again.
It’s important to learn from others, sure, but authenticity (not the same as Authenticity™️) doesn’t come from copying someone else: it comes from being yourself and writing for the right people. That gets lost a lot of the time.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Get off your arse and do it.
So often, self-employed copywriters are their own worst enemy. We charge too little, we don’t market ourselves, we give into imposter syndrome – we miss out on so many amazing things through apathy, anxiety and this weird British sense of politeness that stops us owning the things we’re good at.
So if you want new clients in a particular industry, do some cold calling. If you want a guest blog somewhere, ask. Don’t complain about the things that aren’t falling into your lap: get out there and get them for yourself.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Don’t believe the Instagrammable impression of ‘freelance writing’ that you see online.
Copywriting isn’t about sitting in a cute café, blogging effortlessly about your favourite topics and getting shitloads of cash. I mean, maybe it is for everyone else and they’re keeping it secret from me? Who knows? Ask around, but I don’t think so.
Running your own copywriting business is hard. Not just the writing side of things (and the fact that sometimes, something you love will totally become a chore that you hate) but everything else: admin, finance, networking…there’s a lot of shit to do, and it’s all on you.
Also, don’t quit your day job until you absolutely have to. Make sure you’ve got savings to fall back on, and a realistic plan of where your money’s going to come from. And stay the hell away from the content mills: they’re a race to the bottom.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
After everything I just said, it’s got to be working for myself.
I love the creative parts of the job – writing and language – but suiting myself, deciding my own hours, working in my home office, choosing my own clients: I just love the independence being a freelance copywriter gives me.
What made you decide to become a member of ProCopywriters?
I love it, but working from home can become really isolating really suddenly – sometimes you cherish the peace, and sometimes you find yourself hoping that the postman needs something signed for because, HUMAN CONTACT.
I wanted to be part of a community, but one that knows its shit (apostrophe danger zone there, people).
ProCopywriters is a respected organisation, and I knew that the people on here would be in the same position as me: working hard and taking their jobs seriously.
Where can people find out more about you?
If you want to lurk, the best place to look is my website: Freelance Copywriter UK.
Alternatively, if you want to do the whole human thing (despite being a B2B copywriter, I can do a pretty good impression of a functioning human), come tweet at me: @lorriehartshorn.
Alternatively, I’m on the site we all love to hate: LinkedIn. Come suffer with me.