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Kevin Dowling — ProCopywriters Member Spotlight

Kevin Dowling

Kevin Dowling Consulting

PRO

Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?

I wanted to be a journalist as a kid (thanks, ITV’s Press Gang), and when I was 16, I bagged a week of work experience at The Mirror. I had a piece published in the money section and was thrilled to see my name in print.

After university, I got a job as communications officer for a trade association for financial advisers. Following that, I spent 15 years working as an
investment writer, and I’ve been writing about money (and what to do with it) ever since.

What work are you most proud of?

When I worked for JP Morgan, they asked me to write the copy for a souvenir brochure to commemorate the opening of their European HQ at Victoria Embankment.

They partnered with English Heritage to renovate the building, which was also home to the priceless JP Morgan Chase modern art collection.

So, not only did I have to research the City of London location and the history of JP Morgan, I also had to write about all the paintings and artists.

It was a real high-pressure, time-sensitive, visible project that really stretched me creatively – especially as I was spending the rest of my time writing fund performance commentaries.

But I was proud of how it turned out, and of the work I put in. Since then, being outside of my comfort zone has never really bothered me – now I’m confident I can write about anything.

What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?

The KFC advert, where they owned up to running out of chicken.

In a world where so many people in power seem to have forgotten how to apologise – and just crash forward regardless – it was great to see an advert that was clever, brave, witty, and not ‘too much’.

What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?

I give my brain something completely different to think about. In the ‘before times’, that meant going to the cinema in the daytime. It’s not enjoying yourself, it’s valuable research.

You’re absorbing creative ideas from screenwriters, directors, editors, actors, musicians, costume designers, graphic designers, to name just a few. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

But since a cinema trip can now be ruined by anyone with a cough, I’m more likely to go for a walk and listen to an audiobook or podcast. I could listen to the Alan Partridge podcast From the Oasthouse on an endless loop.

What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?

My favourite is ghost-writing. I love trying to think like someone else, adopting their expressions and tone. I get a real buzz when someone sends back a ghost-written piece with no changes, because I’ve nailed their voice.

Least favourite – can I have two? The first is the necessary evil of self-promotion. I really struggle putting myself out there, and will always do absolutely everything else before getting round to it.

Second-least favourite is chasing clients for unpaid invoices.

Any copywriting pet hates?

How long have you got? Clients that want to speed past the briefing stage, and expect you to write something before they figure out what it is they actually want.

Another one is potential clients that seem super-keen but ghost you, or ask you for a quote, but don’t seem to understand that negotiating is an option.

I’m going to start using the ‘magic email’ technique, mentioned in one of the recent Copywriting Conference sessions, to see how
that works!

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

Don’t sell yourself short. To write well is to think clearly. So, don’t allow people to trivialise your input or downplay your expertise. Don’t let them rush you, cut corners or ignore your boundaries and processes.

And, always try to work with people you like dealing with. Life is too short to put up with the other type.

What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?

Start off by reading as much as you can. There are some great books on copywriting out there, and get yourself involved in the ProCopywriters website and LinkedIn communities.

You’ll learn an incredible amount from people who are already out there doing it. Every problem you face when starting out as a freelancer, someone has already experienced before.

Also, this advice is from lyricist Stephen Sondheim, but I think it works really for copywriting too: 1) less is more; 2) god is in the details; and 3) content dictates form.

Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?

I was made redundant from a permanent role at the beginning of the year. After I dusted myself down and began to think about life as a freelancer again, signing up as a ProCopywriters member was the first thing I did.

But the best part is you belong to a network of copywriters who appreciate each other, are willing to share their thoughts and experiences, and remind you that you’re never on your own – even if you do work alone.

Right now, that’s worth far more than the annual membership fee.

Where can people find out more about you?

Connect with me on LinkedIn, or visit my website kevindowling.work.

I keep my twitter @craftykdd for personal use rather than business, but you’re welcome to follow me there as I despair at the injustices of the world.

What do you think?

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