Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’ve left it quite late to enter the world of copywriting. And it certainly wasn’t planned.
Until 2018, I was working as a freelance landscape and location photographer, supplying pictures for clients such as the National Trust. But an injury to my back from doing triple-jump at school when I was 12, was now making life as a photographer increasingly hard.
It was time for a change of direction. But after 20 years of doing something I loved, it was an exceptionally difficult decision to make.
However, as well as taking pictures, I’d also been writing for several UK consumer and trade magazines and had around 30 features and illustrated articles to my name. So writing more seemed a logical step to take. Especially as I really enjoyed the whole process – both researching and writing.
But I quite fancied doing something more than just editorial writing. I wanted to add to my writing skills. Find a new challenge. And by chance, I came across a reference to copywriting.
Upon finding out what copywriting was all about, I knew I wanted to make it my main focus. The only potential snag was that I didn’t have a marketing background. My previous work had been in publishing, direct mail and print and design. But I wasn’t put off.
To get around my lack of experience (and to see if I really could do it), I took the Writers Bureau copywriting course. It was a great introduction but didn’t cover every aspect of copywriting. So I then studied for a diploma with the College of Media and Publishing and passed with distinction.
So here I am, a qualified copywriter and loving every minute of it. Something I’d never imagined and only wish I’d discovered copywriting much sooner.
What work are you most proud of?
It’s a little too early to be able to pick one piece of work that I’m proud of. Given where I started from, I’m quite proud of all that I’ve written so far – which has ranged from writing copy for £1m+ properties to a cyber-security consultancy. And clients keep coming back, so I must be doing something right.
But away from copywriting, the one piece of writing I am extremely proud of is the major series I was commissioned to write and illustrate for The Countryman magazine in 2015/16.
It was a travel/history series featuring Britishgardens and their designs through history spread over ten 1,000-word articles, each illustrated with my photography.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
That’s a difficult one. I keep seeing pieces of writing that make me quite envious, although whether I could have come up with them is a different matter.
For simplicity, I quite like the tagline for the Royal Navy recruitment ad on TV – “I was born in Carlisle. But made in the Royal Navy.”
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Going for a walk is my best way of trying to get around it. As I walk I go over what the stumbling block is. Whether I’m struggling to find the right start, or if a sentence or paragraph just isn’t working, going over the words in my head as I walk will often help.
If it doesn’t work completely, the process may at least nudge me in the right direction.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love the creative process of writing, even more so when all is going well. And I quite enjoy tweaking what I’ve written – a habit I’m trying to rein in a bit as I find it hard to stop sometimes.
Researching stuff is also something I particularly enjoy, as I like learning new things. Least favourite would have to be proofreading. It has to be done but doesn’t get any more enjoyable the more I do it.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Jargon and corporate phrases. A client recently supplied some web copy they had written but weren’t happy with it, so asked me if I could help. It was a real mess and would need to be written again from scratch.
There were some horrible phrases, including “… not only your vertical and size but ….” Fortunately, I managed to persuade them that it would read so much better without them.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
It has to be: know your worth, never undersell your talents. It’s something I remind myself of whenever self-doubt begins to creep in as I prepare a quote.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
If like me, they’re coming into copywriting with no practical experience then I would highly recommend enrolling on a copywriting course.
Taking the course I did with the College of Media and Publishing is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And I’ve just started another one with them on the mystical arts of SEO.
If not a course, then simply learn as much as you can about the craft of copywriting. Read plenty. Copywriting Made Simple is a brilliant book written by ProCopywriters founder, Tom Albrighton.
Contact other copywriters too. I’ve yet to find one who isn’t willing to answer a question and share their knowledge – especially those who are ProCopywriters members.
And the ProCopywriters website is full of useful information, including members’ blog posts offering copywriter insights and loads of advice. It’s where I first looked.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Being totally new to the world of copywriting, I quite liked the idea of being part of a professional community. And show that I was part of a serious profession.
I could see there were other benefits too. Such as the great opportunities to learn something new from the various blog posts and webinars. Another big plus for me is the enquires I receive from potential clients through my profile page.
Where can people find out more about you?
I’ve never bothered with Facebook. But I do, fleetingly, consider Twitter now and again. Although I’ve so far managed to find perfectly reasonable excuses for not adding my ramblings to it.
But I know I perhaps should to help raise my profile more, so may yet succumb. I do post the odd snippet on LinkedIn and am really trying to do more on it than I currently do. Otherwise, you can have a browse around my website: andrewbaskott.co.uk