When and why did you start Writers?
Writers sprang into life in 2001. It was all a bit of a blur and happened very quickly. To cut a long story short, we got a bit fed up in the writing agency we were at.
The owner wanted to sell the business and we wanted to buy it, but at the last minute it all went south, so we had no choice but to strike out on our own.
What do you wish you’d known back then that you know now?
It’s hard to grow a business where you’re not entirely sure how much work you’ll have from one month to the next. A writing project can be anything from an hour up to 6 months! That’s tricky to plan for, let alone build a business on.
It’s really important you focus on two things. First, find recurring projects, like regular blog posts, articles, case studies, eDMs and newsletters.
Second, invest in developing long-term relationships with agencies and direct clients. To some extent, content marketing has created plenty of recurring work. But by far the best way to build any business is not to undersell yourself, do a brilliant job, and be nice to work with.
How would you describe your team?
A rainbow of talents. As well as the three UK directors (we’re all writers, too), we’ve built up a pool of tried and tested freelancers. We get involved in so many different types of projects that our team has to be both generalist and specialist at the same time.
Yes, it is possible. If you have enough experience under your belt, you can become a specialist in pretty much any subject, sector or discipline quickly.
What does your average day look like?
Usually, pretty different from the one before and the one tomorrow. We’re only three in the UK office – we have five in our sister company, Writers Australia, in Sydney – though we have space for our freelance pool if they’re local and need it.
Looking at projects going through the office at the moment, we have, among other things:
- four annual reports on the go
- a yearbook for a luxury car brand
- a tone of voice project and content audit for a major professional association
- an employee value proposition for a global logistics company
- a naming project for a public health organisation
- a flagship strategy document for a Government agency
There’s even a good old-fashioned brochure job, too!
As a small team, we also have other duties besides doing the project work. So running the office, marketing, new biz, and client relations.
What kind of clients do you work with – and how do you help them?
We’re mainly a B2B copywriting agency, though we do a fair amount of employee and investor communications. Plus a few consumer projects here and there.
That’s about as far as I’ll go in terms of pigeon-holing us. The breadth of work we do is huge and covers everything from traditional copywriting to content marketing to tone of voice development to coaching.
That could mean writing a CSR report for a supermarket or product collateral for a worldwide enterprise technology company – or developing rhymes for teachers to educate primary school kids about good oral hygiene. And everything in between.
We spend a lot of time talking with clients and thinking about the best way to help solve their comms challenges. This could involve:
- analysing what they’re already saying
- helping them shape their proposition
- defining their tone of voice
- articulating what’s special about them
- or explaining something complex, simply and clearly
If we’re lucky, we get to do all these things for the same client.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The process. Whatever we’re writing for, short or long form, it’s a real joy seeing ideas and words coming together – from the thinking to the structuring to the drafting to the crafting to the tweaking to sign-off.
Of course, that description makes it sound like a linear and straightforward process, but as we know, it’s often messy. Actually, the chaos is also part of the pleasure for me, though my co-directors may disagree.
What do you enjoy least?
Personally, admin is a major weak spot. All those little tasks that distract from, and get in the way of, the project work.
What project are you most proud of?
We’ve done more than 8,000 over the years, so it’s hard to find one that stands out. It’s nice to have award-winning work, (a DAD pencil and Transform Award, in particular).
But I think I speak for my colleagues too when I say, cheesy at it sounds, the most pride comes when a client says “good job” or “sales have gone up”, or “our clients know what we’re talking about now” or “please get your invoice in”. That kind of thing, especially the last one.
What advice would you give people moving from working alone to starting an
Get the best possible financial and legal advice you can afford! And get someone on board who knows how to run a business – cash-flow, opex, taxes and the like. Luckily, one of my co-directors loves that stuff. But he’s a pretty rare beast.
Do you hire freelancers?
We do use freelancers. Writing ability is a given, but we look for writers who understand how businesses tick, who can properly interrogate and analyse a brief, and know when to look beyond its constraints or push back.
As we’re a small team, we don’t have time to train up writers. Instead, we rely on versatile freelancers with plenty of experience.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Besides the conference, every year, which we’d thoroughly recommend to any copywriter, being a member provides a great source of camaraderie.
It’s full of useful resources and plenty of good advice, while the annual survey also provides a great window on the state of
copy and content writing. So make sure you complete it!
Where can people find out more about Writers?
All the usual places: