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Mary Whitehouse — ProCopywriters Member Spotlight Revisited

Mary Whitehouse

Word Service

PRO

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

In terms of running the business, I’d say I was more professional now. I’ve raised my rates and have contracts and terms of business in place which I probably didn’t have back then. I use apps like FreeAgent to automate and manage invoicing and accounts. I also network a LOT more with other copywriters – both online and offline.

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

That’s hard to quantify. I’ve won some clients and lost some and there isn’t one job or contract that stands out particularly. In fact my biggest ‘success’ recently would have been viewed as a failure by the 2016 me – I sacked my longest-standing client.

It was a lucrative account and they paid on time, but they didn’t value my input and working with them was becoming soul-destroying. It’s recent enough that I’m not quite sure what the impact will be on my business, but I wouldn’t have had the confidence or self-belief to do it then, when I was very reliant on them.

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

I don’t have a niche and I can more or less handle any type of writing across the board. But I’m beginning to think that I do, in fact, need more focus and am talking with a business coach to determine what that should be.

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

I love being able to make an impact on my clients’ business. Not just with my writing but the insight I can give them based on donkey’s years of experience.

What are you working on just now?

Lots of stuff – the big one is a website and offline stuff for a new music institute that’s opening near me next year. It’s a really exciting project and I’m hopeful it can become a more long-term association. Because I have local knowledge and have worked in the past with some of their business partners it’s an ideal fit.

I’m also a couple of months into some regular blogs for a new client who was originally part of the client I just ditched (that’s not the reason I ditched them). I also have an ongoing retainer with an agency and other bits & bobs.

Describe your desk and what’s on it

It’s an IKEA desk with an attached shelving unit. On top is a metal standing desk thingy (Varidesk) rises and falls so I can write standing up. Helps me stay awake in the afternoon! There’s my keyboard and screen, a lamp and, quite frequently, a black cat.

Tell us about your side projects.

I don’t have any – I’m too busy! I also have a family (teenagers at home) and a dog, so don’t get much spare time. But I volunteer at events for the local hospice and would love to get more involved with their fundraising comms as a volunteer.

I’m also looking for co-working space in my town – there isn’t any – so I have this mad idea to find some space, rent it and create my own. I started a local freelancers’ Facebook group to test out the idea but then got really busy so haven’t followed through properly yet.

How has your writing process evolved?

I’ve learned a lot from talking to other writers about how they work and reading books, although I’m ashamed to say most of the ones I’ve bought are still in the ‘to read’ pile.

I’m more stringent in my editing, especially if the copy’s for online, which most of it is. I’ve learned more about SEO and how people interact with websites and try and bring that knowledge to my writing.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

How tricky it is sometimes as a freelancer, and how you often have to just suck up the client’s amends and let it pass. Also how sometimes the most ‘unglamorous’ subjects can be the most interesting.

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

Probably the advice I’d give to any established copywriter which is ‘Don’t work for free’. When you’re starting out sometimes it’s hard to stick to this mantra.

I don’t know any young would-be copywriter who could get a job in an agency, for example – which is still probably the best way to get into copywriting, especially if you want to freelance eventually – without doing a few freebie jobs. Just don’t let it become a habit.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

I’m ALWAYS learning. I’ve been a copywriter for 30+ years and I’ve probably learned more in the past five years than the previous 25.

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

Getting a line of green dots on my Yoast SEO tool on my WordPress website.

What do you think?

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