Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
The first piece of English homework I had to do at senior school was to write an essay about what we wanted to do with our lives. I wrote that I wanted to work in marketing – I was 11 years old and I’m fairly sure I had no idea what marketing was! It stayed with me though, and I did work experience in the marketing team at Boots when I was 15, then got a marketing job when I graduated from uni.
Copywriting was always my favourite part of marketing, but as I climbed the career ladder I found myself doing less and less writing… and going to more and more meetings. Eventually, the timing was right to leave my job to become a freelance copywriter. I haven’t looked back!
Incidentally, I also wrote in that English homework that I wanted to play for the England women’s hockey team, but I guess you have to go with where your talent lies.
What work are you most proud of?
My last full-time job was with LEGO Education, and a few years ago we launched a new product which I loved, because it was all about building and writing stories. I wrote the launch messaging and marketing material, and we generated more than double the number of leads in less than half the time we’d forecast.
The email open and click-through rates were consistently upwards of 20% – it was the most successful campaign we’d ever run. I think I’ll always be really proud of that.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
This is an old one (25 years old, if you can believe that), but the Peperami slogan “It’s a Bit of an Animal” has always been a winner for me. It’s simple, irreverent, memorable, fits perfectly with the animations – and has stood the test of time.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
The first time I got writer’s block, I’d just read an interview with an author who said that they would sit at their desk and force themselves to write anything, even something unrelated to their work, until they got over the block. I tried it, wrote what turned out to be utter nonsense for an hour, and then I decided to go for a walk instead. It helped instantly.
I don’t know if that’s because I took my focus off the work, had a change of scenery, breathed in fresh air or whether it’s a combination of all of those things, but it’s what I always do now when I’m out of inspiration.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
My favourite is definitely getting to know a new client’s customers – figuring out what makes them tick, what keeps them up at night, why they might buy my client’s product or service – and then thinking of a new way of selling it to them.
Least favourite: the admin for all the writing-related tasks I do, including all the essentials that keep my business going, like invoicing and expenses. I know it’s important, but I find it such a chore!
Any copywriting pet hates?
Corporate jargon. I think if you really have to use it, it’s best to keep it internal. Please don’t subject your customers to it.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
That you don’t need to work harder, you just need to work smarter. That probably means something different to everyone, but for me it means having processes and templates, making sure that everything I do in marketing my business brings value (and I’m not just wasting time on Twitter), and having a plan.
My plan only covers one side of A4, but it includes a few detailed targets and objectives for the coming year, and some high-level plans for the next 3 years. It keeps me on track!
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Given my previous answer, my advice would be to have a business plan. Nothing massive and scary (and of course no corporate jargon), but something that will keep you focused on your goals.
It’s useful to include things like who your ideal customer is, what services you offer, and a list of benefits of working with you, as well as financial goals and how you’ll market yourself.
Revisit your plan every month or so – it’s no use writing it if you don’t use it – and remember it’s flexible. Things will change, your ideas will change, and that’s ok.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one because there are so many great things about being a copywriter. But as a freelance copywriter, I really enjoy the challenge of working across lots of different industries and types of business. I’m always learning something new, and having to consider how to write copy that means something to the customers of these businesses.
What made you decide to become a member of ProCopywriters?
I did loads of research into the industry before I became a freelance copywriter, and ProCopywriters always seemed to come up. It’s a great community with lots of useful resources for copywriters. I’ve booked projects with businesses who’ve found me through ProCopywriters, so I know it works!
Where can people find out more about you?
You can find out more about me and see some examples of my work at jessicacliftoncopywriting.co.uk, and please feel free to connect with me on Linkedin. (I know it’s not cool, but I quite like Linkedin.)