How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?
A little – and a lot! Not much has changed in terms of how my working day pans out – or my writing process, but in the last couple of years, I’ve dipped my toe into the world of outsourcing work, which is something I didn’t intend to do from the off.
I was adamant I’d remain relatively ‘small’, with the attitude that if I didn’t have time for my clients’ work, I wouldn’t take it on.
I recognise now, that having a team of freelancers that I can rely on is a strength, not a weakness – and it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done for my business.
What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?
It sounds like I’m gloating when I say there have been quite a few, but I don’t always count success in terms of big-name brands or monetary gain.
To me, doing well at my job is getting a glowing reference from a client who might have previously struggled to find the right person for their project.
Or managing to create 1,000 words of copy on an obscure topic – ‘legionella in the workplace’ being the most recent ‘topic du jour’.
A year or so ago, I worked on-site at Bradford’s NHS Teaching Hospitals, helping the team to feel less daunted about the introduction of a new digital system.
I did this by writing some pieces – featuring stories of success from colleagues – for the Trust’s internal newsletters.
The system made everyone’s working lives easier. It was rewarding that some NHS staff felt better equipped to tackle the new and complex system head-on after reading how their colleagues had found it a breeze.
Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?
I don’t have a niche, but I’ve decided to focus on long-form copy. It wasn’t a conscious decision; I just realised that every time I’d get an enquiry about social media management, I didn’t exactly feel excited.
I find creating regular snippets for Instagram and Facebook can be fiddly and time-consuming. To me, it often felt less about the copy and more about ensuring you know all there is to know about hashtags, or the ever-changing Facebook and Instagram algorithm.
I’m sure I can speak for many copywriters when I say that kind of thing can suck the life out of you.
What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?
The camaraderie amongst the copywriting community.
The word ‘community’ often flies around in freelancing – but it really is one big happy family. I’m biased, but we copywriters are a friendly bunch. We look out for one another and recommend fellow creatives for projects when we have too much on our plate.
We also call out companies who take the ‘free’ in freelancing literally and expect us to work for ‘exposure’.
We lift each other up when we’re having a bad day and are generally there for a rant or a rave. Not that kind of rave, put the glowstick down.
What are you working on just now?
I expected the copywriting industry to take a knock during the pandemic, but that hasn’t been the case for me – and after speaking to some fellow creatives, that doesn’t seem to be the outlook in general.
I don’t know whether it’s because people who are furloughed have more time at home to cook up a business idea, but I’ve seen an influx of emails from start-ups who are keen to have someone write their marketing literature.
Recently, I’ve been working on a soon-to-be-launched women’s lifestyle site – a forum for women to discuss the unique challenges they face, in their work lives and at home.
I’ve also helped a not-for-profit firm entity gain crucial funding via a series of online proposals, and I’ve created copy for a London-based steampunk performer. My work is nothing if not varied.
Describe your desk and what’s on it
My desk is, let’s say, a bit battered. It’s a retro-style wooden number and it features a few too many tea stains and pen marks for my liking.
I’m not your typical writer, though, with reams of old notes and scrunched up paper mounting around my feet.
I keep a tidy desk (featuring a vase of flowers, a pot stuffed with pens and not much else) and workspace and I’ve recently decorated my little home office.
There’s a lot to be said for a space you enjoy working in, isn’t there? It must be tidy, too, or I just can’t start. Tidy house, tidy mind and all that.
Tell us about your side projects
I really want to write an eBook (or a physical book, for that matter) for would-be copywriters, as I get quite a lot of emails from those who are just starting out.
I began typing the first few chapters a few years ago, but it’s one of those things that still seems to constantly hang over my head.
Aside from copywriting, I also launched www.theoccasionalreporter.com a couple of years back. It started as a lovely little hobby that helpfully turned into a small stream of extra income too.
How has your writing process evolved?
It hasn’t, as such. I still map out my research and articles in much the same way as I always have – the only difference now is I take on a little less and delegate a lot more.
What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?
A lot of creatives give the impression that they’re ‘on it’ around the clock, putting in a 9 to 5 day, listening to industry podcasts on their lunch hour, and ‘catching up with admin’ in the evenings.
Don’t get me wrong, I have days where I barely look up from my laptop. But I also have periods where, try as I might, I just can’t get going and the words just ain’t coming!
If I’m having an off day, I give myself a break. Literally and figurately. I always compare copywriting to taking a driving lesson. I passed my test years ago, but I can still remember the sheer level of concentration needed on any given one-hour drive around town.
I often find it emotionally draining to put in an 8-hour day in one sitting; I’m sure other creatives are the same. So, let’s own up.
Sometimes we have an extended lunch break to catch up on Mr Selfridge on Netflix (no, just me then?). Sometimes we don’t get going until 11.30am – and I’d say there’s nowt wrong with that, deadlines permitting.
Great work doesn’t always come when you force it – and everyone needs to kick back on the couch with a slice of sponge cake every now and then.
What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?
That you should work for free to build a portfolio.
I can’t say I didn’t do a spot of this when I was just starting out, but now I know better.
No one should do owt for nowt…it’s as simple as that. If you value yourself – and your work – find someone who will pay you for it. Or start a blog and write just for you – and a small group of loyal subscribers.
Any lessons you’re still learning?
I’m not precious about my work – after all, it’s only words, isn’t it? I have no problem if someone doesn’t like my first draft. Or my second, for that matter. What I don’t like is when people articulate their feedback in a personal way.
I’m more than happy to work with my clients until they’re nothing short of blown over with the copy, but I don’t take kindly to put-downs, verbal or otherwise. I didn’t leave a full-time job to take personal criticism or orders from anyone but me.
‘Lauren, get a slice of cake down your neck. It’s good for productivity. Now there’s a good freelancer’.
What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?
When someone you know confidently – read: cockily – says “I could have been a writer; I got an A*
in English”. Or the like.
You start to wonder if you picked the right gig. After all, it’s easy, isn’t it?! Pah.
Then you spy a misused apostrophe.