Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Two things mainly – a love of the written word and a lack of O Levels.
I was the product of a conventionally dull, middle-class upbringing in 70s south London, and a grisly public school education. I knew that I wanted to write something from an early age – stories as a child, heartfelt poetry as a teen and angry commentary as a young man.
By the time I reached the end of college, it was obvious that I was destined for a career in words. I had spells as a national journalist, political speechwriter, media relations specialist and author, but hadn’t found anything that scratched every itch.
Eventually, it occurred to me that I didn’t need to write for someone, I could write for lots of people. That was in 1997 and I’ve never looked back.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Writer’s block is your mind’s way of telling you to take a break and free your mind. You have to accept that no amount of intently staring at the screen, banging your head on the desk or swearing loudly at no-one in particular, is going to work.
You could try and force it, but you’ll only produce drivel so you may as well go and do something else for a bit. I usually go out into the garden. I’ll walk around for 10 minutes, make a cup of tea and then return to the office, put on some music and start all over again.
If it’s a humdinger, then I’ll jump in the shower. It’s surprising just how many of my winning ideas have come to me in the shower.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
My favourite is part is the first hour when all I have is a blank sheet of paper. My least favourite is definitely proof-reading, particularly when it’s been a long day.
Any copywriting pet hates?
- Can you write a sample for me?
- I’ve already had a stab at the words, so it just needs editing. It won’t take long or cost much, will it?
- Can you come and work at our office?
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
“You could always become an estate agent.” Thanks, Mum.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a career in copywriting?
“You could always become an estate agent”. If that doesn’t kick you into action, nothing will.
Seriously though, I’d simply say that if you think that you can work on your own for long periods of time and have the willpower not to roll over and watch Homes Under The Hammer, then give it a go. It’s not an easy life, certainly not for the first few years. But it’s interesting and can be rewarding.
Start off with what you know. You could approach a friend and ask if you can show them how to improve their business communications. Or choose a subject that you’re familiar with and approach some local companies involved in that sector and critique their website, brochure or advert.
Rather than just pitching them to hire you, suggest ideas as to how you could improve their content so that it gets them more customers or increases their sales.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Despite all the sighing, it has to be working for myself. Don’t get me wrong I don’t drive around in a fast car or luxuriate in a hot tub all day, but I do sit in an office that’s warm, comfortable, quiet and comes with its own kettle and a ready supply of chocolate digestives.
Why on earth would I want to go and work in someone else’s office?
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Sometimes, being a copywriter can be a lonely existence and there are times when you need human interaction, whether virtual or face-to-face.
I can talk to the postman every morning – about the weather, the previous night’s football, the state of the local roads. But there are times when I need to ‘speak’ to someone who understands what I’m talking about.
It might be about whether companies should be referred to ‘it’ or ‘we’ or their advice on how to handle a particularly tricky client. But it’s a community of like-minded people who share ideas and opinions and offer a lifeline to the outside world in what is a fairly solitary life.
Where can people find out more about you?
I can usually be found at one of the following: