Becky Matthews — ProCopywriters Member Spotlight Revisited

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

I was a Sole Trader before, now I have a Ltd company. But, more importantly, the first year or so, I was largely a jobbing freelance copywriter, going to different agencies, usually last minute.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I wanted more ownership over my work, and found more of a niche in charity and arts projects as well as educational content, as I have a background in that from before I went freelance this time around.

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

Working on the kind of projects that have a positive impact like working on fundraising campaigns for clients like Antony Nolan and Guy’s And St Thomas’ and seeing the difference donations and research makes to people’s lives.

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

I always knew I was interested in charities and campaigns that weren’t purely commercial, but I learned a lot about branding and marketing on those jobs which could be applied to different sectors.

The bottom line isn’t sales on my projects, but you still have to use your writing skills to persuade people to take action, and part with some cash too.

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

I do more interviews now than I used to. It made me realise that telling interesting, personal stories is what connects all the writing I do, whether it’s a profile piece, culture feature, charity case study or short film script.

What are you working on just now?

I’ve just finished a couple of short education and charity scripts, now I’m doing more editorial work alongside working with charities and writing a few lifestyle and culture features too.

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

I have a wooden sit-stand desk on top of a small table in my ‘writing nook’ (corner of my living room), that has my laptop and an additional monitor on it and a monitor.

But I’m also surrounded by a few small plants and flowers and some books on writing (screenwriting as well as copywriting).

Tell us about your side projects

Getting back to filmmaking, I wrote and directed a short a few years ago, which went to a few festivals including one in NYC which was cool, but it took a bit of a back seat while I focused on building up a writing business.

Now I’m hungry to do more of my own projects. I am also a volunteer writing mentor with Ministry of Stories, it’s really fun helping kids with their writing, and it certainly keeps the adult-sized creative ego in check too.

How has your writing process evolved?

The main thing I’ve realised is I work best in short, intense bursts. Working mainly from home means I can break up tasks more, and I write well in the earlier part of the day.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

In general, I think they’re pretty honest. I’ve turned to a lot of well-respected copywriters for tips on dealing with difficult clients and stuff like that.

All the copywriters I like and respect not only for their craft, but also on their honesty about what is difficult about the job.

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

Two things, the “don’t just take a job for the paycheck”, which I get is important in the long term, but when you’re totally new it can be hard to turn down work that isn’t the stuff you’re passionate about because you’ve got bills to pay.

You’ll get to a place where saying no comes easier and it will feel great, but it’s tough when you’re starting out.

The second is that opinion seems to be divided on having a niche. I don’t agree that you must have a niche, at least not to start with. I think having it in mind helps, but for example I have a couple that generally complement each other now, but it took a while to get there.

If you’re going to specialise in only one thing, like say medical copywriting or law, that’s great if you’re interested in only writing about that, but even if it sustains you financially, will you want to only write about that?

I think it’s worth learning trying a few things as a generalist, then you can figure out if you have a niche or two to offer.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

I feel like I am learning all the time, especially in finding the balance between the writing work and all the other work that is involved in running your own business.

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

That copy length doesn’t reflect effort made or the time it takes to write. Tag lines, headlines, calls to action, can take ages to get right.

What do you think?

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