Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Business and marketing have always fascinated me – a world where anything is possible if you’re just prepared to try. And while I tried (and I mean really tried), the one area I seemed to naturally excel at, and enjoy above all else, was writing.
Given my English teacher, Ms Kiani, had written me off as a no-hoper because I didn’t ‘get’ Shakespeare, poetry and refused to read the classics, I was pretty shocked at this revelation.
I recently read the Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa, which has a section in it that perfectly sums up why I love being a copywriter. It talks about how “words are your frontline…they are the way you woo your customers…and the way you communicate your personality”.
I started my career back in 2006 as a B2B marketer in the world of IT and tech, but the aspect of my job I always loved the most was writing. It didn’t matter whether it was brochures, white papers, web copy, articles, case studies – being able to indulge in the wonderful world of words made me happier than I ever thought possible.
After having my first son, I decided to step out as a freelancer in an attempt to balance mummy-duties with a work that I adore. But I decided that if I wasn’t going to be with my son (because he’d be in nursery) that I was only going to do the work I loved the most, with people I actually wanted to work with.
And I’ve never looked back!
What work are you most proud of?
Tough question! If I wasn’t proud of my work, I’d never submit it to my clients for review. But one thing I’ve recently created for my own business is an ebook.
About 6 months ago I got involved in a community initiative called #Write52 where you commit to writing original content every week. It inspired me enough to decide to streamline the services I offer, and want to specialise in blogging with accompanying thought-leadership content, such as white papers.
I decided to start writing my own content exclusively about blogging with the intention of pulling everything together and wrapping it into an ebook at the end. I’m then going to share this ebook freely with the world, and use it as a little gift to leave behind when I meet new prospects, so they
understand more about how to get the most out of this valuable content.
I’ve literally just finished it and have only shown it to Ed Callow (founder of #Write52) and Stuart Cameron (#Write52 fan no.1), but I’m really proud of how The Little Book of B2B Blogging has turned out.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Terrible answer, but there isn’t actually anything I wish I’d written. I have some incredible clients that grant me the freedom to try new things and be creative. And while I read a mountain of content every week by other exceptional writers – credit where it’s due, I wouldn’t want to take that interesting, inspirational or insightful work away from any one of them.
While there might not be copy I wish I’d written, there is copy I wish I could write. Despite being a non-techie, I have ended up in the world of B2B marketing for IT companies.
However, something I have on my ‘board of dreams’ is to write for Irregular Choice – a B2C fashion brand for eclectic shoes. I am so in love with its brand and wear their signature glittery heels to every client meeting.
Irregular Choice isn’t afraid to be different to the norm and show the world who it really is. They believe that anything is possible, and that’s a world I want to live in.
Writing for Irregular Choice would be so far out of my comfort zone and so different to anything I’ve done before. But I’m very excited about giving it a go and figuring out how to make that dream a reality.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Thankfully, I’ve never really encountered writer’s block before. When I’m writing for my clients, we always have a plan of what content needs creating and where it aligns to the sales funnel within the wider marketing campaign. And each piece always has a clear brief so I know what the story is that I
need to tell.
Within my own business, I take the same approach, planning out the content I’m going to write within the quarter so that it builds around a common theme. I have a Trello board set up to track everything
I’m working on, noting down random ideas so I can come back to them later and think about how they would fit into that plan. Plus, I make notes from all the books I’ve read, the training courses I’ve attended and webinars I watch – all of which give me lots to think about. And because inspiration can strike at any time, I always keep a notebook and pen within arm’s reach to capture those random moments of amazingness.
My biggest nemesis is procrastination, where my mind seems to actively fight doing any work – usually when it knows I’m on a tight deadline! If this happens, I head out for a quick walk around the woods at the end of my road, go onto Twitter and find an interesting article to read, or switch task to
something that doesn’t involve writing. It’s usually enough to snap me back into writing mode.
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
My favourite writing-related task is actually the research. I love that every day I get the learn about new things because of the work I’m doing for my clients.
And through researching a particular topic, reading what the analysts, media and their competitors are saying, plus all the lovely surveys and
reports that exist, it helps me to find a new/interesting/different angle so I can craft a story that’s going to stand out and hook the audience in.
My least favourite writing-related task is writing headlines – it’s an art form that still alludes me after all these years. Trying to figure out a killer headline seems to take so much longer than anything else.
It’s something I really struggle with and I can’t remember writing one that I’m super proud of – and yet it’s arguably the most important thing a copywriter can craft. I’m continuing to work on it though.
Recently, I’ve been reading up on branding, and a lot of the principles involved in coming up with names, taglines and value statements can all be applied to headlines. I’m always noting down headlines that capture my attention to see if I can spot any common patterns or any tricks I can pick
Plus, I’ve gone back through past ProCopywriters webinars armed with my notebook and pen to take copious notes – I can highly recommend “How to Write Better Headlines” with Richard Spencer.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I HATE this word with a passion! Working in the world of IT, I must see this word used 100 times a day and it drives me insane. I’ve actually written an article about it before because it annoys me so much.
The reason it grinds my gears is that it’s never used correctly – people write ‘utilise’ when they actually mean ‘use’.
It’s probably my pet hate because in my world I see the word abused more than any other, but it’s actually a wider problem where words are used in the wrong context for so long that they start to lose their meaning.
‘Experts’ and ‘consultants’ are similar words that are becoming meaningless – to the point that if you do use them, the reader is instantly sceptical about what you have to say.
Words have meanings for a reason, and as copywriters it’s our duty to drop the marketing bluffery and use them in the right context to convince the audience about what we’re trying to communicate.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Always be adding value.
Last year I approached one of my contacts for some sales advice. He’s carved out an impressive career and currently holds a very senior sales position in one of the largest IT vendors. Over coffee and cake he shared some incredible nuggets, but the one that has stuck with me is the need to always add value with every communication.
In a sales scenario, he said that rather than chase a prospect to see if they had feedback on a quote, share something that they might find interesting – like a new case study of similar work you’ve performed with another client – and then end with, ‘by the way…’
The same principle applies to copy.
It doesn’t matter what you write, every piece of copy ends with a call-to-action (CTA). But you can’t just jump in and command someone to ‘Book a demo’. You need to build the relationship and earn their trust in order to tempt them with that CTA. To do this, you need to give them something valuable first and share a story that makes them want to buy-in to your world.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Never stop learning.
The best copywriters I know are the ones who immerse themselves in the world of words. They show up to the Twitter chats, they’re constantly reading, listening to podcasts, training and practising everything they learn through the copy they write for their own businesses. The writers I know who seem to be constantly struggling are the ones that claim to not do any ‘extracurricular’ work.
I find the more I learn, the deeper appreciation I have of the art of copywriting. And even if I read one book about something, like storytelling technique, that doesn’t mean I know it all. I must have read about 5 books dedicated to the topic and attended a specialist course with the IDM, but with every one of those I learned something new and built upon that skillset.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
ProCopywriters membership does provide the credibility that you’re dedicated to your craft and take your writing seriously.
But the element I find most useful are the webinars. There’s a wealth of content touching on a breadth of subjects that are all available on-demand to members.
I’ve brushed up my skills on everything from headlines to SEO, social media, email marketing, behavioural science and so much more, all thanks to ProCopywriters.
There’s also the element I find most exciting…
CopyCon! I attended for the first time last year and was simply blown away by the quality of the sessions on offer, but also the atmosphere in the room. I was starstruck meeting my copywriting heros, like Glenn Fisher, Emma Cownley and Lauren McMenemy.
Plus I got to meet people in real life who I’ve only ever spoken to online, and make new copy friends. I’ve already got my ticket for CopyCon2020!
Where can people find out more about you?
I’m usually lurking on Twitter everyday @AliceKHollis, sharing pictures of cake, participating in my favourite chats, sharing various hints, tips and tricks about copy and generally getting involved in the community.
And I have a website, filled with all sorts of exciting stuff at alicehollis.co.uk.