Jo Watson – ProCopywriters Member Spotlight Revisited

Jo Watson


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

I wrote my original Member Spotlight piece almost 18 months ago – towards the end of 2018 – so I’m happy to say that a lot has changed for the better since that time.

Back then, I still kind of felt like a fraud. Although I’d been doing the whole writing in exchange for money thing for years, I’d not long quit my full-time career, gone fully freelance, and somehow brought a child into this world (and kept her alive)!

I’m more confident about the fact I run a business now, rather than just phrasing things in throw-away fashion about writing for money (which I know is still obviously a big part of it). I now charge upfront for all of my projects and have a set of Ts and Cs loudly and proudly anchored on the home page of my website.

I’d said in my original spotlight how I’d always advise fellow freelancers to know their worth and stick to it, and this is something that has just grown stronger and stronger within me.

I’m also learning to be less apologetic for explaining to people who approach me unknown and out of the blue that I can’t/ won’t/ don’t want to work for free! Look out for the blog about that! I’ll probably give it the title, ‘Oh Just F**K Off’, or something.

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

I’m not saying anything new or ground-breaking when I talk about freelancing as feast or famine, and there is no way on earth that story is ever going to change for any of us.

Reputations can be damaged, lost and completely destroyed in the time it takes for you to update your Facebook status, and just because you have “the best” clients right now (you know, the ones who will “never leave” you), all of that can change for any of a million and one reasons – or no reason at all.

But, having said that, I feel that in having got to a place where, more often than not, I’m oversubscribed, it’s going to make those lean days a lot more bearable to deal with. I think that’s come from me making a success of my personal branding. I’m having fun being me, and loving showcasing exactly what I can do with language when putting myself out there online.

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

I am so in love with blogging, so it just made sense that I’d always push to write blogs for others. Even if clients don’t ask for blogs when they approach me, I propose them in a package.

Yes, the money and upsell (is that what it’s called?) are great, but I genuinely just always want to write blogs for people. I love the opportunity to tell stories and share values.

In the past 18 months, I’ve even started offering blog writing courses as a standalone thing rather than just a part of my general copywriting courses, and I’ve also finally put together a guide/ PDF resource that aims to boost people’s blog writing for businesses.

I love the fact that producing a guide that I put so much of my heart and personality into is not only getting people on board with the benefits that blogging brings to any business, but that it earns me a nice little additional income as I sleep (or whatever it is I happen to be doing at the time).

For so long, people were asking if I had a resource they could download or access in the event of not being able to afford or attend any of the events I was running, and for so long I just said “No, sorry” in a completely dismissive response.

I’m so glad I finally started bloody listening and got my arse in gear to create something that, as well as being a great asset for me, is something that people actually want and need! Or so they tell me!

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

As I famously (in my own head) wrote in a blog last year, I have no niche. I loved the blog and the ideas I discussed within it, but I remember struggling to find a picture to go with it, and so I settled on a hastily googled picture of a quiche. I digress…

I like not knowing what my next project is going to be. Web copy or a business pitch… an awards entry or a company re-brand… a product launch or a series of articles.

I also like the fact that I don’t know who my next client is going to be, either – and from what sector or industry they’ll approach me from. It’s exciting, it’s fresh, and it keeps me working at the top of my game (I hope).

I say on the home page on my website that you don’t choose a copywriter based on portfolio or price… you choose one based on personality. I like the fact that the personal brand I’m trying to build is attracting different types of people who, for some reason, want to work with me.

If they feel like they know, like and trust me enough in order to approach me about working together, I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to form that new relationship.

What are you working on just now?

I’m going on a writing retreat in a few days, where all client work is off-limits (my own self-imposed rule) and I’m going to be working on writing my own book!

I know, I know, everyone’s writing a book these days, but I’m excited to make a proper go of this as I actually have an idea for once. I’ve decided that if a publisher doesn’t pick it up, I’m just going to have one copy made and give it to my daughter, Lily, when she’s older. Maybe long after I’m gone, I’ll be famous, and someone will make a movie about the book getting discovered…

Describe your desk and what’s on it


Tell us about your side projects

My child currently has chickenpox, so therefore, everything else is a side project right now. Clients, sleep, leaving the house… My god, I can’t help thinking people really don’t do enough to prepare you for the horrors of parenthood. This running a business thing is easy in comparison.

How has your writing process evolved?

I think I’m just perpetually critical of what I write. I draft, re-draft and edit a million times, and then when I’m happy and hit publish, I can’t look at my work again, because I know I’ll suddenly come up with a ‘better’ way of phrasing something. I’m awful with it, and the perfectionism is a sickness. I don’t know if I’ll ever evolve out of that pattern!

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

Genuinely tough question, this one. I don’t know.

I think we’re a pretty honest bunch by trade and reputation, but I guess I don’t enjoy it when great writers post for the sake of posting on social media – most likely because they feel they have to follow marketing advice from some loudmouth with an inexplicably large following.

As copywriters, words are our thing. We need to know that we can post one great thing and it’ll have an impact whether we see the metric or not. We don’t need to lower our standards and contrive our content in order to put something ‘out there’ just for the sake of it.

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

Probably the visibility thing, as referenced in the last question. Quality over quantity, every time.

If you post every minute of every day, there’s a risk that people may assume you’re not working (rightly or wrongly). What’s an absolutely massive risk, however, is you diluting the quality of your messages and stories, and people starting to get a bit bloody sick of seeing you.

I don’t buy into the whole ‘show up at all costs’ thing. If you don’t feel like it, or you’re busy, or you haven’t got anything of value to share, why do it? Make people look forward to when you next post.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

I compare running this business to parenthood. Just as you get a grip of one thing that you understand, anticipate, and perhaps even love, something else comes in and fucks you right up; making you doubt why the hell you ever thought you could do this in the first place.

Every day is indeed a school day. That’s cool, though. It keeps you focused. Or something.

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

I love writing, but whenever people see me reach for my laptop in my ‘free’ time, they assume I’m working and have a go at me for it. This isn’t often the case, though.

A lot of the time it’s because I’ve got an idea I want to explore, or I’ve got some thoughts I’d like to put down on paper (on-screen) because I find it enjoyable and cathartic – and a great way to manage my anxiety (another thing to blame on parenthood, that one).

I curse the invention of the laptop for the judgement it brings. If I sat down with a journal and quill or something, everyone would comment on what an accomplished (young) lady I was. Like in Jane Austen times. Maybe that’s what I need to switch to.

What do you think?

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