Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
It was a bit of a slow burn because I worked in admin and then marketing before I decided to take the leap. I knew I could write but, I’m not sure why, I just didn’t think it could be a career.
I ran a successful jewellery label in my 20s and had built the website myself so knew how to do product descriptions, blogs, FAQs and microcopy.
I also wrote the press releases and was regularly featured in magazines like Grazia, Time Out and ELLE so I knew I was doing something right. It was only when I was marketing manager at a design agency that copywriting really presented itself as an option.
Copywriting was not something that was really offered as a service, but our clients would often ask for help on the odd job – usually pack copy but sometimes campaign copy and things like employee handbooks or proofing translations.
This is also where I cut my teeth producing different forms of content — in this case, video case studies which required storyboarding and scriptwriting. Later I worked with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on podcasts. I really enjoy writing for different media.
What work are you most proud of?
A project I did with Simba has just launched and I am ridiculously proud of it. Simba is king of digital marketing and they’ve created their own podcast called Sleep Life. As well as interviews and expert advice, Sleep Life includes sleep stories for download.
I didn’t really know what a sleep story was before the project but it’s basically a narrated story that sends you to sleep, so you have to write pretty boring stories. Not really! They just have to have rhythm and repetition and focus on the sensorial rather than action.
I wrote six sleep stories which involved looking at neurolinguistics with Simba’s resident sleep psychologist, Hope Bastine. It was such a joy to do something genuinely creative with a brand who 100% gets it.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written
We don’t live in the age of Mad Men anymore so slogans and straplines don’t really have the longevity they used to have.
I do love all the jingles from my 80s childhood though:
- “A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat”
- “Like you just stepped out of a salon”
- “I’d rather have a bowl of Coco Pops”
- “Kia Ora (I’ll be your dog)”
- “Take it easy with Cadbury’s Caramel”
- “Everyone’s a fruit and nut case”
(Basically mainly chocolate ads.)
The Um Bungo song is an all-time favourite.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Do something different. Step away from the computer screen and pick up a book or magazine.
If looking at words really is too much, I go for a walk, get on a bus that travels a route I don’t usually take, or lie on a bench and stare at clouds for a bit.
The answers tend to come when I’m not thinking about them too much. I’ve started learning tarot because the cards are so filled with symbolism, imagery and archetypes that are great for sparking stories, ideas and imagination.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love writing blogs and ensuring that they’re optimised; it’s a great balancing act of creating engaging and digestible content that’s searchable through keywords and phrases.
It’s so satisfying when you see the analytics spike – even more so when you produce the most read blog post (to date) as I did for ELEMIS, the skincare brand.
I want to say that microcopy is my least favourite writing-related task but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. You can literally spend hours racking your brain to produce something instructive but eye-catching and which sits well with the design of the page. When you nail it though, it’s very pleasing indeed.
Actually, email subject lines are probably my least favourite thing to do. Mainly because I feel like email is becoming increasingly redundant to capture the imagination of your reader.
It’s not completely redundant, it’s just that most brands don’t have the confidence to try something different so it’s quite a repetitive and fruitless task. Only a handful of companies get it right and don’t have to rely on cutesy humour or scare tactics to get recipients to open their emails.
Any copywriting pet hates?
All the usual suspects – misplaced apostrophes and the like. Instagram speak is pretty annoying, but it exists, so liberal sprinklings of “be like”, “…game is strong”, “feels”, “mood”, “goals” etc. are a thing. And if it connects with the audience, so be it.
Language changes and that’s something to embrace. I was talking to someone older recently about the rise of the short story because people have less time and less of a concentration span.
She frowned upon this medium (despite the fact that it’s a craft and some of the greatest writers have produced absolute jewels of short stories) and feared that vocabulary and syntactical forms may be diminished.
I think actually with the constraints of limited space, time and concentration, the writer has to work harder and be ever more economical, so it actually results in better writing. Anyway, however language changes, and whatever falls in and out of the vernacular, writing should reflect how people speak.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Know when something doesn’t work and press delete even if you really like it personally (basically, kill your darlings).
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Form good relationships early on with people you like and enjoy working with; creative chemistry is really important for producing good quality work – it shows in the finished product.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Immersing myself in different subjects and solving client problems with good writing. I love a good story – brands like to talk about “storytelling” but very few actually support real creativity and create stories to believe in. So getting the opportunity to do that is an absolute bonus.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I feel like many people don’t really understand what copywriting or content is and if they do, the power of both is often underestimated. Copy is often an afterthought after design which is a really poor way of doing things.
A creative team should always have a copywriter on board from as early on as the strategy phase and then throughout the whole process right through to execution. It’s great to see a membership body that promotes and hopefully demystifies writing for brands.