Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I was a journalist before I was a copywriter. When I left my staff job and became a freelance journalist, I was approached by a number of former employers to produce commercial copy for them and their clients.
It turned out that I enjoyed the challenge of creating copy for clients more than I enjoyed journalism. As time progressed, I started to take copywriting jobs over journalistic assignments.
Then I started to pick up new clients – either through word of mouth, referrals, or their having seen my work elsewhere.
It took some time, though. I wouldn’t want anyone to think it was that easy. You really do have to work at it.
What work are you most proud of?
I’m not sure about “most proud”, but what I really enjoy is when the stuff I’ve written has helped a client achieve something substantial. Like when case studies I’ve written for a client help them win new business or generate good quality leads.
Recently, I created a Q&A piece for a client. It was brand marketing that asked senior figures from one of its customers to explain how using the technology it provided gave them a market advantage.
My client was really surprised and delighted by the responses his customers gave. It helped demonstrate the value of the service he provided. It’s nice when things like that happen.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I really like IRN BRU’s posters. Invariably, they make me laugh. My focus is on B2B content marketing, thought leadership, blogging, white papers, etc. I rarely get to do work like this, so when I see good examples of stuff that makes you stop and laugh, I love it.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I usually just put the work aside and come back to it the next morning. That works. I find I work more instinctively in the morning, and this is when I produce my best stuff.
But that’s not always practical.
Alternatively, I force myself to get something down. I break it into small chunks, section by section, par by par, even line by line.
Experience has taught me that getting something down – and not worrying about quality at that stage – can be a great way to get beyond a barrier. When I return to the work, it’s often better than I remember, or I get a rush of ideas about how to make it sing.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
A good quality brief is as nice as it is a rarity. It’s also fun to interview/talk to interesting people. Long transcriptions of badly recorded material are dull.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I’ve got a real aversion to overly long chunks of copy on a page. I just find it very off-putting. And it’s so easily fixed with crossheading and better paragraph writing/formatting.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Nothing big has been that useful, it’s more the small tips along the way that I find can start to make a difference. It’s really just general advice around understanding the value a copywriter offers a business and how to reflect that in fair and accurate pricing.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
I do like the freedom of working for myself, but I really like being able to create stuff that’s useful. Sounds a bit sad, I know. But I really do care that the stuff I create performs for the client.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I do. On two fronts. Being a freelance copywriter can be a bit isolating. So, it’s nice to be part of a community of people who understand exactly what you do and can be turned to for help. Equally, it’s nice to be able to help others if I can.
The other key thing is that it’s a good way to generate business leads. Within a week of joining I had two people contact me asking for quotes. Long may that continue!