How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?
In the three years since we last spoke, everything has changed. To the point where I find myself in meetings thinking, how the hell did I get here? Like Keanu in The Matrix. I took the red pill, and it’s been an absolute blast.
I’ve gone from lecturing in Fashion Communication on the BA at Northumbria University to donning hi-vis vests, hard hats and arranging conference calls with people in the far corners of Nigeria.
There have been a lot of vessels (marine, not blood), a gigantic crane or two, and a plethora of steep learning curves.
What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?
The fact that I can’t tell you because the NDA I signed is three pages long. In fact, I haven’t told a soul. Which if you knew me, you’d know is a miracle.
Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?
I don’t know if it was a decision, or if it was a happy accident. I know that one of the agencies I’m working with read an article I’d written on LinkedIn, checked out my website, liked what they saw (Thanks, Ricky ) and got in touch. They’re a delight to work with.
That seems to have attracted more work from companies in the same industries.
What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?
I like the fact that, although the industries I’m working in are typically and traditionally very male spaces, I’m working with brilliant people of both sexes. (Side note: I keep being invited to women-only networking events and can’t understand why you’d want to exclude half the opportunities on the planet. It makes no sense to me.)
What are you working on just now?
Another big secret squirrel piece – it’s tone of voice and brand-based work – and a series of six training sessions to get three teams across two sites working with and using a new corporate tone of voice.
Which reminds me, I need to order some snazzy folders.
Describe your desk and what’s on it
My desk is a dining table that seats six people with room to move their elbows – and 12 people if you give them enough wine to break down their need for personal space.
It’s made from three slabs of teak and was bought in Singapore when I lived there ten years ago. It’s a beautiful thing, although the removal guys who hauled it up a flight of narrow stairs on the hottest day of the year this year might tell you otherwise.
What’s on it? One bottle of water, a box of incense sticks, a stapler, three mugs (one full of black Redbush tea), a wallet, a pen with googly eyes, two candles, three – no, four – notebooks, a bag, car keys, a lanyard from a festival-themed 30th birthday party I went to, three table mats and a glasses case.
I’m not tidy when I work.
Tell us about your side projects
I’m the creative writing mentor for the CIC This is Creative Enterprise. We work with schools and colleges to introduce students to careers in the creative industries.
This year I introduced a group of year nine students (13-14-year-olds in real life) to a Professor of Creative Writing, a novelist and screenwriter, a playwright, an award-winning digital marketer and a travel blogger who lives that life we all want to live, complete with infinity pools and pretty coffee.
We also got to spend hours in The Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle, which if you’ve never been, needs to go onto your bucket list now. Come out of Central Station, turn right, walk for two minutes and disappear for hours.
How has your writing process evolved?
I was on a conference call this morning with a client as we waited for their web company to reveal the first version of their new homepage. It was like waiting for the bride to arrive.
As we talked, I realised something that’s become a foundation of my work. And it’s a lack of ego.Bear with me, because this gets a bit deep.
A friend told me about a book called Authentic – How to be yourself and why it matters by Professor Stephen Joseph. Now, for such an important subject, it’s surprisingly easy to read, and it created a shift in my thinking.
Which is, rather than being terrified before submitting a first draft, know that as long as you’ve done your best, that’s a perfect place to start. And it is a start.
Only twice in my career have I ever had no amends (once was when I was having a ham sandwich and a cuppa with Andy Maslen, so that was fortuitous).
We can present our work like it’s the inside of our souls – and sometimes it very much feels like that – but for the client, it can just be a blessed relief to start seeing something coming together on the page.
And if you’re open to that – and are there to listen and to take what they say on board without feeling like they’re the Devil Incarnate and you want to cry/run away/ get stabby with them for not adoring version one, it means that you can start crafting brilliant work.
It also – and this is the important bit – means they come back to you again and again because they feel heard, they know you’re on their side – and because they get results.
What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?
I find us to be a very open, collaborative and friendly lot.
I can ring people like Sally Ormond or Sarah Turner and ask for a second opinion on pricing or pitching and vice versa. I think we know how to keep each other sane when it gets a bit too whirlwind-like.
What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?
Hourly rates. You’ve got my main rant on the ProCopywriters site already. Price per word. Don’t even.
And do not give your work away. Guest post as much as you wish, but don’t give it away.
Any lessons you’re still learning?
You never stop learning. If you feel you know everything, you’re in the wrong job.
What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?
Tone. Of. Voice. It’s the work that gives me the biggest imposter syndrome because I’m still not sure how it comes together, but it does, and it’s transformative to bottom lines. Which sounds like plastic surgery.