Brian Jenner — Member Spotlight Revisited

Brian Jenner

European Speechwriter Network

How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?

I’ve become a lot more fussy about the kind of work I take on. I ignore or say no to about 50% of enquiries. But turnover has still increased!

What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?

After nearly 20 years of writing, I’ve had some of my best gigs in the last 12 months.

I went to Hanoi for a week to write a speech for a chief executive. I also wrote a speech for the launch of a ship and a speech for someone getting married in the Sound-of-Music Schloss in Salzburg.

Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?

Because the older I get, the more of a rara avis (an unusual, uncommon or exceptional person or thing) I become. There aren’t many speechwriters out there with 20 years of experience.

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

It’s not a good time for public discourse at the moment. But it’s good to stand up for the principles of kindness, modesty and sincerity. They’re always going to have a place.

What are you working on just now?

I’m organising the 18th Speechwriters’ & Business Communicators’ Conference at Queen’s College, Oxford.

Describe your desk and what’s on it, or the view from your window

I have several boxes of Artefact Cards on my desk. I first found out about them at a ProCopywriters conference. I love them!

Tell us about your side projects

I had a lot of financial problems for the first ten years of working for myself. I’m now an evangelist for taking money seriously.

I run workshops where we talk about better pricing and money management. We read Denver together – a children’s book by David McKee. It’s controversial – look it up. But if you don’t like it, I don’t think you’ll make a success of self-employment.

How has your writing process evolved?

I’ve slowed everything down. I don’t rush to take on new projects. I don’t get stressed when there’s no work coming in. I trust my mind to come up with good ideas.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

We’re salespeople. I left university wanting to become a journalist and writer. At 50, I’m a salesman with a passion for numbers. My young self would have been appalled.

What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?

Most education is geared towards getting a job. Actually, the one thing you really don’t want to have in life is a job. It’s so limiting. You need an income – that’s a different story.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

I still occasionally want to straighten out the world and get people to deliver better speeches. I need to focus on waiting for appropriate invitations.

What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?

I’m a big fan of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. I have hymns on my iTunes. That old language is so profound and beautiful. I take my sons to a modern happy-clappy service, but I can’t help thinking they’ve got it all wrong.

What do you think?

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