Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
To be honest, I think copywriting chose me.
Once I’d finished my A-levels, I hit a bit of a career block. It was around the time of the economic recession, so – quite understandably – nobody was hiring.
Whilst holding down two retail jobs, I spent months frantically applying for various internships in London, but nothing seemed to work out.
Desperate for a change of scenery, I headed out to Australia for a working holiday. When I landed back in the UK in late 2010 after a year of travelling, I was very conscious that I was out of money, and I needed a job to tide me over.
I started an entry-level role at a local marketing agency as a means of getting some cash back in the bank. To start with, I was pretty much just making tea and emptying bins, but as the weeks progressed I started taking on more and more of the company’s content requirements.
I soon discovered that I had a knack for copywriting, and before long I was given the title of Head of Content.
As this company grew, I also found myself flitting between all the company’s departments, so soon became familiar with all aspects of the business, from sales and account management through to finance, HR and recruitment.
A year and a half later, I took the plunge into self-employment; a business partner and I set up our own search engine marketing firm.
Running an agency meant that I had to wear many hats during the average 9 to 5. I was director, SEO consultant, recruiter, admin assistant, fire-fighter, client confidant. But I was still the go-to person in the office for anything content-related. I never lost my passion for this part of the business.
After five years at the helm (and a colossal learning curve), I decided to sell my shares in the company and set up a new, entirely content-focused venture: Indy Consultancy.
What work are you most proud of?
Though I’ve been fortunate enough to work on tonnes of interesting client projects, I’m incredibly proud of all the content I produced for my previous agency.
My copy played a huge role in the growth and success of the company, and it’s fascinating to see how much my writing style has changed over the years.
I feel like the copy I created for my previous agency charts my own professional journey, in a way.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I think prevention is always better than cure, so I try to structure my day so that I am as productive as possible.
I find that going for a swim or to the gym just after lunch switches things up and helps me stay focused, especially if I’m working my way through a big or intensive project that requires a lot of brainpower.
If I find myself struggling, I’ll meditate for a few minutes to get back in sync with myself. And if things get really dire, I’ll head out to the pub with friends for a couple of hours. I don’t care what anyone says – there’s nothing like good conversation and a chilled glass of wine to get you back in the zone.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I LOVE writing website copy, for two reasons. Firstly, you can really get inside the business and work closely with your client to produce something that speaks volumes for their brand. And secondly, you know that what you’re creating is going to be really valuable for the business in the longer term.
I wouldn’t say I hate any of my regular writing tasks. I suppose I can start to feel a bit sluggish and uninspired if I’m doing the same kind of work for days on end, though.
Any copywriting pet hates?
It gets my goat when words are capitalised unnecessarily. Also, the ongoing debate as to whether or not a company is an ‘it’ or a ‘they’.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth.
Throughout my entire career in copywriting and SEO, I know that I’ve grossly undercharged for my expertise. I’m not afraid to admit it. I needed the experience when I first started out, plus I have always wanted to make sure that my services are accessible to all kinds of businesses, even those with smaller budgets.
However, now that I’ve got over 7 years’ experience under my belt, I am totally ready to review my prices so they’re more in line with the level of value I can bring to my clients.
You can get the same feedback from colleagues and peers for years, but sometimes you just have to be ready to take this kind of advice on board, and I feel like I’ve reached that point now.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Volunteer for as much as you can, but don’t let people take the mick!
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
The sheer variety of the work that comes through the door every month. One minute I’ll be working on a huge, complicated whitepaper for a mortgage broker, and the next I’ll be writing up product descriptions for adult toys (yes – really!). I end up learning a lot about some pretty wacky things.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Working for yourself can be a lonely business, especially if you spend most of your time sitting at a screen. I like the sense of community here, and although I’ve only just joined, I’m looking forward to making connections with people in the industry and feeling supported by my fellow writers. It would be great to stumble across some new resources and techniques from others in the industry, too.
Where can people find out more about you?
Here are the links to my website and social media channels for those of you who are interested in learning more about my background and the ongoing evolution of Indy!
LinkedIn (Personal Profile): https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniellelhaley/