Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Well, if I’m honest, I really I wanted to be an architect, so I did a degree in product design and then became a copywriter! I guess the constant thread from my degree onwards has been words, within the context of design consultancy. My roles have included project management, new business and PR – but always working with words. I’ve been a freelance copywriter since 2003.
What work are you most proud of?
A brochure for Dualit (of toaster fame) which I produced with a graphic design colleague. It felt like we were given free rein to produce something really simple, creative and completely on-brand, and it changed little from the first sketched storyboard. The brochure was followed by product cards and a new website, and many years later it’s still changed very little.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I’ve always been intrigued by advertising, even though I haven’t really done any clever strapline copy. So I’d love to have written the “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” strapline which has almost limitless potential and has almost become part of our vocabulary, or Nat West’s “We are What we do” campaign (We are responsible….and responsible) which is a lovely play on words.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Probably the same as everyone else – go for a walk, or do something else and come back to it tomorrow (if the deadline allows).
Sometimes I get a BIG piece of paper (ideally a kid’s poster roll or lining wallpaper), stick it up on the wall and just start writing words/drawing things, especially if I’m at the beginning of a project. There’s something about being able to put ideas onto a wall; it reminds me of the brand ‘rooms’ we used to set up to build the character of a brand when I worked in design consultancy.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I probably wouldn’t choose to do copyediting, as I tend to end up rewriting everything! I also wouldn’t choose to do the really technical stuff – B2B financial services, for example – as you often need to get your head round very complex, in-depth concepts in order to write about them effectively, and they have the capacity to create day-long headaches. That said, I’ve done both.
Favourite projects would be ones that involve some strategy, perhaps where a client can’t see the wood for the trees – and there’s a good dose of research and strategy before you can even begin to write copy.
I love to work for not-for-profit organisations and feel as though I’m making a difference. And any brand/sector where I’m a potential customer obviously provides a rounded perspective which adds value to the copy.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Inflexible grammar rules, as I prefer informal, colloquial language (although tone of voice obviously has to reflect the brand and audience). Long sentences that lose the reader along the way are also a bugbear.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Don’t be afraid to change course, it’s better than being stuck doing something you hate. Also, only you can make things happen. If you really want it, you have to pull out all the stops and go for it.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Decide whether you want to be a specialist or a generalist. I love the variety of my work and believe that I can bring a more valuable perspective to projects specifically because I’m NOT a specialist, but in certain sectors (finance, for example) clients often want a specialist.
Build your experience in as many ways as you can – start your own blog, volunteer your services to a not-for-profit organisation, offer to be an extra resource to more experienced copywriters.
Be authentic and don’t agree to a flawed brief. Clients sometimes ask for the impossible: looking for copy to fill the gaps when brand values are too generic, failing to recognise customers’ negative perceptions, or denying you the information you need to gain a full understanding of the challenge.
Don’t take on something if you feel the brief is wrong; question it (diplomatically, of course!) and offer positive solutions to arrive at a brief which is more workable.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
I love the variety of the work that I do. I also love working with designers to find ways of marrying words and images so that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I think it gives copywriters like me credibility, and it feels good to be part of a network. There are some fab resources and I got a project within a couple of weeks of joining. Can’t be bad!
Where can people find out more about you?
My website – www.shoutaboutit.net. However, nothing beats a meeting, as chemistry is an undeniable element of a working partnership. I’m based in Hove but will happily travel.
If a meeting’s not possible, then a phone call’s the next best thing. If you’re a potential client, another copywriter like me, or you’re thinking of a career in copywriting then my mobile’s right next to me….