Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’ve always loved writing. But I was never entirely sure how to turn that into a job that pays.
I became one of the editors on the student newspaper while studying English Literature at uni, meaning I spent a lot of time collating, editing and writing content. On the back of that, I got a job at a well-known Leeds marketing agency as a proofreader and copy-editor. My copywriting career grew from there.
I’ve been freelancing for almost five years, bar a six-month break dedicated to birthing and keeping alive a small human.
Anyone who says freelancing isn’t tough is a liar. But I have a job that I love, fits around my son, and doesn’t involve a public transport commute in rush hour. So I’m onto a winner I reckon.
What work are you most proud of?
Quite a few of my clients are non-profits. I work regularly with a Manchester-based charity who help people across all walks of life become more physically active and, in turn, improve their mental health.
I’ve helped them with tone of voice, web copy, guidance docs, and more. But the main thing I do for them is write case studies that promote the work they do.
As part of that, I’ve interviewed all sorts of people, from those running cancer rehabilitation centres to others raising awareness of male suicide, and I write about their work and achievements.
These are incredible people, and I’m really proud to help them share their stories.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I have huge admiration for my fellow copywriters. I’ll spot anything from a LinkedIn post to a bus stop ad and think ‘ooof, that’s clever stuff. Wish I’d thought of that.’
I’m always impressed by a witty radio campaigns (such as Virgin Trains) or a stand-out strapline, like ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ (yeah yeah, you’ve heard of it. But that’s the point, right? It’s fun. It’s memorable. And there’s a whole campaign around it. What’s not to like?).
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
It’s amazing how many ideas come to me when I’m in the shower.
Failing that, I scribble down some notes and walk away. I’ll take my son to the park, hang out the washing, go for a swim. Then I’ll come back to my notes, realise there are a few good ideas in there, and polish them up. With a coffee in hand.
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
I love tone of voice work. Creating a brand voice for a client is hugely rewarding (and means I can be super nosy too. You’ve got to pick their brains to get the style right).
I hate writing about myself. Maybe it’s Britishness. But I always find singing my own praises tough and, oddly, more stressful.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Big, bloody awful words and phrases. Utilising. Impactful. Anyone who is ‘passionate about customer-focused solutions’.
You know the ones. They’re the things people say ‘cos they think they sound a bit posh if they do
I also hate it when copy is considered as an afterthought or an add-on. ‘We’re graphic designers, but yeah sure we can have a go at your copy.’ ‘I’ve paid thousands for a swanky website, but I may as well just write the content for it myself. I’m not very good though!’
I’d love it if good copy was more highly valued.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Be bold and be brave.
I spent too long keeping quiet. Shouting about what I do, and why I’m good at it, is a bit out of my comfort zone. But hiding under a rock and running a business don’t exactly go hand in hand.
I’m trying to be more visible. I’ve also learnt to ask happy clients for testimonials and share them proudly when I get them.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Exposure doesn’t pay the bills.
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Yep, you’ll probably need to start with lower rates and smaller projects. And you might find yourself saying yes to work in order to pay your mortgage.
But unless there’s a good reason for a client having ‘no budget’ for you, walk away. You’re better than that.
Secondly, your fellow copywriters are not your enemies. Make friends with them. Share ideas, share problems and, hell, even share clients if it works well for you. You’ll learn a lot from them.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
It’s brought me clients, some who I’ve worked with for years. It’s also a great resource for improving my work by listening to webinars and reading articles. And, to echo my previous comment, fellow copywriters make good pals.
Where can people find out more about you?
I hang out on LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/laurabarrittveratcopywriting. You can also find me at https://verat.co.uk, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to say hello.
Face to face is good too. I like Zoom calls, and coffee shops if you’re Leeds/York-based like me.