Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Let’s be honest. It chose me.
At the age of five I wanted to be a lion, or failing that a pterodactyl, but I wasn’t biologically cut out for either.
At 12, I wanted to be a chef.
When I was 15, I wanted to be a drummer.
When I started college I thought I’d end up being a Graphic Designer.
But then I got sucked into ad land.
I’ve been a Copywriter, Art Director, Copywriter/Art Director, Creative Director/Agency Owner/Copywriter (via four redundancies and one jack-it-all-in and-see-the-world episode).
I’m happy being a freelance copywriter again (with a bit of CD/AD work thrown in for extra spice).
This feels like where I’ll stay for the foreseeable, but who knows what’s around the next corner. Not me, that’s for sure.
What work are you most proud of?
I really enjoy the whole idea creation and writing process. ‘Pride comes before a fall’, so the saying goes, but I have to admit, when I’ve done a good job, I often sit for hours patting myself on the back.
It’s usually the latest piece of work that I’m most proud of.
I’ve just done a whole load of social media posts for a European Tourist Board, which I’m really chuffed with.
A couple of weeks back, I did a campaign, ideas and positioning piece for a genealogy website that prompted an immediate call from the CD telling me how happy he was with the work. I felt like I’d just done my first cartwheel.
If I look back further, I’m proud of any work that stands the test of time from a creative viewpoint (strong ideas don’t go out of fashion) or that had a serious impact for the client.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I’ve narrowed it down to five. Hope that’s OK.
Fiat – ‘Hand Built by Robots’
The Economist – ‘Great minds like a think’
Knirps – ‘You can break a brolly but you can’t k-nacker a Knirps’
MailChimp’s voice and tone guide,
Använda’s web copy (on Kickstarter).
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Simple, I just distract my conscious mind for a while.
Go stare at a tree.
Have a fry-up.
Put the washing on.
Watch a movie.
“Ah, but I have a deadline”, I hear you say.
OK, don’t panic here’s my recipe to remove all blockages:
- Interrogate the brief like it knows the secret of everlasting life.
- Work in your favourite chair/sun lounger/hammock.
- Choose the right tool (laptop, pencil, quill…)
- Shut out distractions such as trees, caffs, washing machines and Netflix.
- Write quickly – ideas first, editing later.
- Listen to music without lyrics or work in silence.
- Stay hydrated and eat properly.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol unless you’re Hunter S. Thompson – you’re not.
- Get enough sleep.
- Save, Edit, Save As, Edit, Save As… but don’t delete any drafts.
- Read it out loud.
- Get someone else you trust to read it.
If you’re interested, I’ve written a blog post on the subject.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love the ideas stage. Anything’s possible – nothing stands between the blank page and creative excellence.
Creative round 2 – if work’s rejected, the whole process of digging deeper and coming up with something even better is tough, but exhilarating.
Learning new things and meeting new creative challenges is great. We’re lucky to have so much variety in this line of work.
That moment when you know you’ve cracked the brief is hard to beat.
The death of an idea by committee.
Any copywriting pet hates?
- Typos that go to print.
- Grammar that gets in the way of communication.
- Destructive criticism.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Don’t write to win awards.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
You are not as good a writer today as you could be tomorrow. Every job is an opportunity to learn and grow.
When it comes to your own writing, find and have confidence in your own voice. When writing for your clients, it’s their voice that matters, not yours.
You are competing against thousands of copywriters. Wherever possible, go the extra mile; give your clients every excuse to keep coming back for more.
If you’re freelancing, put money aside for the Tax Man.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Copywriting, in general, is a bit like acting. Putting yourself in a client’s, and their customer’s, shoes is a chance to explore different worlds and play different roles.
Freelance copywriting means I can do what I love without the straightjacket of a 9 to 5.
What made you decide to become a member of ProCopywriters?
Several copywriters I know and respect are members. If it’s good enough for them…
Where can people find out more about you?
My website: www.sowhatif.co.uk