Richard Steele — ProCopywriters Member Spotlight

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

I’ve always loved writing and editing. I used to edit my friends’ uni assignments for fun.

I got into copywriting through a series of fortunate events. I was working in an admin role after graduating and my manager saw my potential and created a marketing role for me (thanks Julie!).

A few years later I moved out of London onto a narrowboat in the home counties, and a local agency was looking for a copywriter. I applied and got the job. Since then I’ve worked agency-side, freelance, in-house, and back to freelance again.

What work are you most proud of?

I wrote the script for a charity film to be shown on the big screens at Glastonbury. Seeing thousands of people reading my words on screen, and engaging with such a good cause, gave me a warm glow inside. Although it might have been the cider.

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

I loved the MullenLowe We Listen campaign for Samaritans. Quotes from people saying they were fine, with specific words in a different colour revealing their true thoughts. Such a simple concept and a lovely marriage of copy and design. It’s so pleasing when the two work together like that.

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

I’ve just moved to the coast, so a walk along the seafront normally does the trick. If I’m in the city, I wander around a gallery or museum. Ideas have a funny way of popping into my head as soon as I stop looking for them.

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

I love working with short copy and trying to make a persuasive argument with just a few words. Editing’s great fun too – taking a hatchet to something raw and gradually working away at it until it shines.

I always dread editing or proofreading really long content but once I get stuck in and find my flow I end up enjoying it.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Anything confusing or trying to be too clever and making no sense to anybody. Making sense is a pretty good place to start, and if you can be convincing and even witty then that’s a bonus.

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

I’m not sure I’ve ever been given any. I remember that Baz Luhrmann song from the 90s – Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen). It was based on advice from a teacher to her pupils I think. She says “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life / The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives / Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.” That had a pretty big impression on the 18-year-old me.

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

Remember it’s not about you. Write a blog if you want to express yourself. Copywriting is about communicating your client’s messaging in their audience’s language. You should be invisible.

And figure out your ethics. Who do you want to work with and who are you going to turn down? I’m much happier now I only work with charities and ethical businesses that reflect my own values.

What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?

Getting into someone else’s head. Learning who they are, what they value, and what makes them take action. It’s like acting without the stage fright.

And being able to work anywhere in the world (well, anywhere with WiFi) is a big plus.

What made you decide to become a member of ProCopywriters?

There are so many copywriters out there, potential clients need to know who they can trust. So joining a professional network is a good way to show you’re serious about what you do. And you get a nice badge for your website.

Where can people find out more about you?

My website is a good place to start. I’m on Twitter as @PenOfSteele. And LinkedIn. Or take the afternoon off, come to the seaside and say hi in person. The ice cream’s on me.

What do you think?

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