Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I started my career as a journalist, working as a writer on a few different magazines. Editorial writing was great fun.
But as I took on copywriting projects outside of my day job, I realised I was more excited by the challenge of producing persuasive copy designed to sells things. A product, a service, even just an idea or a message.
And that’s what I enjoy the most about copywriting still – the combination of commercial and creative nous it demands.
What work are you most proud of?
I’ve been lucky enough to get involved with a few really interesting projects in the last couple of years. Everything from rewriting a website for one of the world’s biggest technology brands, through to producing a coffee-table book for a nimbler, younger brand with a snappy tone of voice.
But right now, I’m most proud of my award-entry copywriting. It’s probably not the sexiest work, but I love the pressure of testing your persuasive mettle and seeing how your copy stacks up in a hotly contested awards category.
I’ve won a fair few awards for one client in particular recently, and it’s great to be able to earn valuable recognition for them using punchy, powerful copy.
What copy do you really wish you’d written?
I’m going to sound like quite the cliché, but I have a nostalgic fascination with classic ads – and a soft spot for the Avis “We Try Harder” campaign in particular.
More recently, I love what Swoon Editions does with its copy. Clever writing that’s not so nebulous and self-interested it forgets to actually sell something. Eve (the mattress company) does a similarly excellent job of using an emotionally charged narrative to sell its products too.
And I’m a big fan of Amnesty International’s copy – it’s really punchy and always grabs your attention.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I run. For two reasons – freelancing can be an agoraphobic pursuit, and it’s healthy to get away from your keyboard. And fresh air has a handy habit of releasing new ideas or perspectives on a particular challenge.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
My least favourite task is probably also the least original suggestion I can offer… proofing. It always takes me longer than it should.
My favourite task is (without doubt) dreaming up new copy concepts and searching for that light-bulb moment. I adore that eerie buzz you get just as inspiration is about to strike – I’ll never get tired of it. Even if it’s one that I end up ditching, coming up with new ideas is the most challenging, frustrating and brilliant part of copywriting.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Two main gripes.
First: copy that’s so “creative” it makes no sense. Literally, metaphorically, existentially. You get the picture.
Second: those who think ad copy is the only type of copywriting that exists. You’ve got to have respect for all copy formats, even if you never stray from your niche.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Turn yourself into more than just a copywriter for your clients. I don’t mean become a jack of all trades. I’m saying learn the basics of related disciplines – SEO, UX, print and digital design, video editing, a bit of website development… heck, even lithography.
This isn’t so you can diversify and start charging for new services. It’s so you have a broader perspective when it comes to solving your client’s sales or marketing challenges. And (in my experience) it encourages your client to use you as their content confidante – trusting your opinion and advice above others.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Probably the fear. Of where my next job is going to come from. Or whether I’m going to find the right idea to nail a brief. And, at crunch times, whether I’m going to have the capacity to get all of my projects completed in time.
Whatever the reason, a little bit of “healthy fear” is a good thing, I think. It keeps you sharp and keeps you motivated.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
So far, mainly because of this – the Member Spotlight section. I mentioned it above, but freelancing can be an isolating experience and being able to read perspectives on copywriting from your peers is really valuable.
I’ve also had a few enquiries from potential clients come through, which is always handy.