Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Like many copywriters, I kind of fell into it. I had a love of languages from an early age. One of my childhood ambitions, in fact, was to present the Eurovision Song Contest, mainly so I could utter the famous words ‘nul points!’
But once I realised this was never going to happen, I went on to study French and German at university. After graduating, I spent six years with the British Council, managing various projects in the Former Soviet Union among other things.
During that time, I became really interested in marketing and helping people get their message across so did a postgrad in marketing management part-time. Once qualified, I got a job with a marketing agency, mainly on the account management side but with a bit of copywriting thrown in.
Looking back, every job I’ve done has involved some writing but I never set out to become a copywriter (not sure I even knew what one was when I first started applying for jobs). I’m a big believer, though, that each new skill you learn turns out to be useful in the next role. Nothing is ever wasted.
It was when I was at another agency about five years ago doing an account role that they said these magical words, “We were about to advertise for a copywriter but we like your writing. How would you feel about writing all day every day?” Funnily enough, they didn’t have to ask twice and the rest was history!
After gaining some great experience there, I finally decided to take the plunge and go freelance about 18 months ago, which I’m loving.
What work are you most proud of?
That’s hard! I suppose I‘m proud of any work that nails the brief, gets the intended results and makes the client happy.
It can be the really little things. I was asked to provide some quirky copy once for a CCTV sign for a client’s offices – something I’d never been asked to do before. But I suddenly got an idea which matched their brand.
Or it can be a much larger project. Sometimes I’ll look back at a guide for mortgage brokers or a financial services website and think did I really write that?
I’ve just finished a series of complex onboarding emails with lots of different stakeholders and although there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing, it was rewarding to know it hit the mark.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Again, difficult question. I love collecting great examples. I was told to start keeping a ‘swipe file’ early on and it’s been really good advice. Learn from the best. Be a bit of a copywriting magpie. Get inspired.
The Economist ads are wonderful – really clever and perfect for their target audience. Moo are brilliant at somehow making business stationery sound exciting with their attention-grabbing email subject lines. And I love the “Don’t be a tosser” County Council poster campaign – direct, powerful and witty.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Run! I always get my best creative ideas when out pounding the lanes. If my route goes past some water so much the better. Swimming at the local pool also clears the mind and restores my equilibrium.
Or I’ll pick up my copy of ‘Words Fail Me’ by Teresa Monachino and be simply dazzled all over again by its brilliant juxtaposition of words and design.
Once ideas start to come, I’ll jot them down on bits of paper wherever I happen to be. They usually just about make sense when I come to collect them all together.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Favourite task – creating straplines. I love playing around with lots of combinations until one feels right. I’m also fascinated by the whole subject of tone of voice and enjoy working with a client to pin theirs down.
Interviewing a client’s clients for case studies is intriguing too. It’s great asking questions which might reveal a completely new angle to a product or service and writing that up into a story.
Least favourite task – writing my own website!
Any copywriting pet hates?
Companies who are passionate about their synergistic, impactful and holistic solutions. You get my drift!
Also, the misuse of its and it’s. If I had a pound for every time I see them used wrongly, I’d be a very rich copywriter.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Live life on your terms, according to your values. Be the person you were meant to be. Don’t get stuck somewhere or think you can’t do anything else. Enjoy what you’re doing.
I think my favourite, though, has to be “There are a lot of productivity hacks out there, but sometimes it comes down to, “Just do the bl**dy work.”
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Don’t undersell yourself. Value your work. Don’t just think of it as writing a piece of copy. Think about the value it will deliver for the client.
Read as many copywriting books as you can. Listen to podcasts. Go on training courses. Attend meet-ups/ webinars/conferences. Mix with other copywriters – don’t see them as the competition.
I’ve made some great friends in the copywriting community. In fact, they were instrumental in helping me weigh up the pros and cons when I was deciding to go freelance. Whenever we meet up, I know I’ll always find something out, hear a new tip and have a good laugh into the bargain.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
All the resources are really helpful. I’ve attended some great lunchtime webinars on various topics from SEO and content strategy to creative thinking and finding new clients. As well as learning from the main speaker, you get some valuable insights in the Q&A from other copywriters on the call.
I also think being part of a wider, professional body lends your profile credibility. The Annual Survey is fascinating, particularly the section on rates which helps you to benchmark yourself.
And of course, I’m really looking forward to this year’s virtual CopyCon20 which sounds full of useful stuff. Fresh notebooks and popcorn at the ready. Can’t wait!
Where can people find out more about you?
Flit over to my website www.wordybirdwrites.co.uk