Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Like many others, I fell into it by accident (I don’t suppose most kids say “I want to be a copywriter when I grow up”, do they?)
Growing up, I dreamed of being a reclusive best-selling author. I spent most of the Summer when I was 8 or 9 copying out Enid Blyton stories by hand. For fun. Then I graduated to writing my own. I remember showing this story — a bad The Pit and The Pendulum rip-off — to a friend at school. It made him cry, and I kind of felt good that my words did that.
Anyway. Long story short, my interest in fiction waned when I hit my teens. And, since I didn’t know copywriting was a legitimate career choice, I ended up in law, which I hated.
So, eventually, I did what any sane person would do — I quit my job, put everything in storage and moved to London. That’s where I came across an online copywriting course. And everything just clicked for me for the first time ever. I knew this was what I was supposed to do.
What work are you most proud of?
The product copy for Amazon’s Wickedly Prime line of vinegars.
I mainly do fintech, but I love working on projects in totally unrelated fields because it keeps me on my toes. I was really happy with how this turned out and both the agency and the client loved the first draft. They didn’t change a word, which is rare.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
That’s a tough one. Probably the “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!” ad, just because it holds up all these years later. Also, Ken Follet’s Kingsbridge trilogy — riveting stuff.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Back in college they made us read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I don’t remember much of what it was about, but there was a line that stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s something like: if you don’t know where to start, it’s probably because you have too much to say.
I believe this wholeheartedly. So usually, when I’m stuck I’ll start at the beginning. I’ll ask myself what it is that I want to say. Then I’ll jot down points and expand on them. Before I know it, the blank page is gone.
I don’t push too much though. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes, your brain just needs time to digest information. So I’ll think hard for a bit, and if I keep drawing blanks I’ll give it a rest. Most of the time, the lightbulb will go off when I’m drifting off that night. Which means I’ll have to wake up, grab my iPad and jot the bloody thing down so I won’t forget.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
My favourite task would be brainstorming, especially when I’m working in a team. I love feeding off other people’s energy and throwing stuff out there to see what sticks.
The least favourite is probably doing amends. But what can you do, right?
Any copywriting pet hates?
Bad puns. I feel like there’s an unhealthy obsession with puns in some quarters, and it’s leading to some really off-putting and plain WTF copy. If it feels forced, please, just leave it out.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Not to be afraid of being myself. Ultimately, people work with people, so showing your personality helps you stand out. That’s your unique selling point.
Of course, there’s a risk that some might not like you. But that’s OK. You probably wouldn’t like them either…
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Don’t let impostor syndrome bring you down. I’ve seen incredibly talented copywriters not reach their potential because of it, and it sucks.
You don’t suddenly become a master at this. It’s an ongoing process. You read, you write, you experiment, you keep doing what works for you and you learn from your mistakes. That’s how everyone does it. There are no shortcuts or magic bullets.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
I love that I get to be creative and also that I get to learn a lot of interesting or just plain wacky stuff. I’ve delved into the finer technical points of payments infrastructure, I’ve watched spy movies for “research” and I can tell you how to get pretty much most kinds of stains out of carpet.
You want me on your team on quiz night, trust me.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
First of all, for the community. I freelance full-time, so I’m usually home all day. It’s nice to be able to get to know other copywriters, talk shop or just hang out, even if it’s only online.
Secondly, for the resources. It’s a goldmine of information, especially if you’re just starting out.
Lastly, I think it’s important to be part of a professional organisation. It shows prospective clients that you’re serious about your craft.
Where can people find out more about you?
You can see my work and get in touch about working with me here: www.maverickwords.com