Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I wanted to write for a living before I even realised that it was a career option. I was 14 when I came across the word “journalist” for the first time in a careers book at school.
It was only then that the penny dropped that the women whose columns I loved reading in teen magazines were paid for the privilege of writing them! However, when I told the careers’ advisor that I’d discovered my ambition, she simply told me to think again.
So, after school, I went off to UCL, read French and Italian Literature, and then found desperately dull jobs with publishing connections. The upside was that they were all in Bloomsbury, so I could pretend I led a magical life when I wandered through the leafy squares at lunchtime.
The truth was, though, that I was bored out of my skull and, at 24, my boss on the Commonwealth Universities Yearbook realised I was not cut out for that kind of dismal work.
Our talk about how I should leave the organisation led me to apply for a postgraduate certificate in journalism, and, soon after my 25th birthday, I was working on one of the many new magazines that were suddenly proliferating around me.
A year later, I was working for a London newspaper as a feature writer, and, when that folded, I launched into a freelance career that enabled me to work from home while having a family. I’ve never been off work since and even worked right through having two babies without proper maternity leave.
I love my life writing features for women’s magazines, and a few years back there was no shortage of work. I was always busy, with a long list of features in my notebook.
That has changed in the last few years, with far fewer opportunities for freelance journalists due to the demise of print media. But I realised that, having specialised in health writing for the last couple of decades, I had transferable skills that were a perfect fit for copywriting. And the work is just as interesting, and just as much fun!
What work are you most proud of?
That’s a tricky one because every job is so different. My last few months’ jobs have included:
- press releases for various health products
- researching and writing a 3-page feature on the 16:8 “fast” for Waitrose Health
- a short snappy doctor profile piece for the same publication
- a “healthy new year” feature for My Weekly
- a medic’s feature (which I ghosted) about tinnitus for Candis magazine
- blog posts for a supplements company’s website
- articles for another health company’s website
At the risk of sounding like a goody two shoes, my aim is always to write something that I can be proud of!
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
As I’m scrabbling around for an answer to this, clearly nothing obvious has sprung to mind!
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Going for a walk or swim has an amazing effect. If I’ve got something complicated to write and need to unravel it in my mind, I will nearly always find the solutions when I’m taking this kind of gentle exercise.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love everything from interviewing experts and case studies to making their words fit a precise space. One client gives me strict word counts for blocks of copy on pre-designed layouts – and I get a strange buzz out of that.
Even after decades of working as a freelance writer, I still get excited every time a new job comes in. But the bit I hate is having to go out looking for new work.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I am really uneasy if I’m not given a clear brief because the client is either too busy or actually doesn’t know what they want until they see it.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Don’t give up on your dreams. When I was 24, a colleague bought me a ticket to an inspirational careers event for women and insisted that I went along. It motivated me to pursue my dream of being a writer, and without her nudge, I may not have applied for the journalism course that made this possible.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Always be professional. Never miss a deadline. Do the best job you can. This is probably not great advice but a bit of freelance paranoia is not necessarily a bad thing: it keeps you on your toes.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
The variety of work. The structure of my day may be much the same every day – but the content is always different. I learn something new most days. I also love working from home and having a great work-life balance.
I recently attended a positivity event (as a journalist). We were told to make room for activities that meet the five criteria of fulfilment: connecting with others, learning something new, being active, giving, and taking in the beauty of the world around us.
My work life balance gives me all these things in spades.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
It’s a great place to raise my profile and gain clients who would never otherwise have found me.
Where can people find out more about you?
My website: www.karenevennett.co.uk.