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Member Spotlight Revisited – Jonathan Wilcock

Jonathan Wilcock

So What If Ltd – ideas and words for design and advertising

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

It’s stabilised a little and that’s a big thing when you’re a freelancer.

It’s not that I have 10 retained clients or anything like that, but there’s always something bubbling away in my copywriter’s cauldron.

Clients knock on my door more regularly than they used to. I guess that’s the snowball effect – more new clients who recommend me to more new clients.

The COVID thing gave me some unexpected hurdles to clamber over, but somehow or other I’m on target to turnover about the same as last year.

I’m getting much more brand positioning and brand language projects than before. This is something I’ve fallen in love with – getting in early at the birth of a new brand or re-imagining an old one.

In the last 18 months, I’ve helped shape the tone of voice and positioning for an estate agency, video production company, back pain specialist, investment house, media agency, healthcare charity, new office complex and a property developer.

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

Business-wise, raising my rates for the first time in forever and a half. Also asking for 50% deposits upfront, especially with new clients and for larger projects – sorts the wheat from the chaff. Any freelancers not doing this, believe me, it’s a life-changer.

From a writing point of view, I seem to be basking in the sunshine of my second creative childhood and I’m really enjoying myself. Lucky beggar!

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

Flying in the face of lots of advice out there, the work mostly decides to focus on me. I’ve always advocated non-niching, as it helps to keep me fresh and relatively sane.

I believe in my general ability to solve creative problems and write well. I also enjoy variety, so unless it sets off twitchy alarm bells or I’m stacked out, I generally say “yes” to most things.

This has led to brand naming, Facebook ads, Twitter posting, video scripting, blogging, brand guidelines, website writing and a whole heap of other fun stuff that I might never have got to do if I’d plumped for a niche.

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

There’s a great network of people to connect with online and I’ve found other Copywriters to be the most generous of souls. Sharing knowledge, recommending me for projects they can’t take on and being there to natter with when you need them.

If you’re on Twitter, I’d highly recommend #ContentClubUK chats every Tuesday at 11am and hooking up with #FreelanceHeroes.

What are you working on just now?

Brand positioning for a brand of garden decking, case studies for a Tech business consultancy, web copy for an audiovisual specialist, social posting for an anti-food waste organisation and a sales brochure for a massive construction project in Hamburg.

Describe your desk and what’s on it

My desk is all over the place. In the box room, bedroom, garden, local café, and during the recent heatwave, down in the basement. I don’t need much to keep me company, just my MacBook, Internet connection, notepad, pencil and phone.

Tell us about your side projects

I’m working on a children’s book with a designer and a photographer. Will it ever get published? Who knows, but it’s great fun putting it together.

I’ve also been creating a cartoon strip, called Backpocket Philosopher, that I push out on social channels. Again, I have no idea if anything will come of it, but it exercises bits of my bonce that don’t get used elsewhere.

How has your writing process evolved?

My writing is sharper and more expressive than it was a few years ago. I seem to be more prolific with ideas and work faster.

I don’t have hard and fast writing processes, as every project needs a different approach, but one thing definitely hasn’t changed – the need to understand and interrogate the brief. No brief, no work.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

Come on, we’re a bunch of angels. If anything, I wish some of us were a little more economical with the truth.

There’s a growing trend to rip into other writers’ work on social media. I think that does us all a disservice. It’s so much easier to criticise than it is to create great work – so let’s forget the former and crack on with the latter.

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

Sorry to bang on about this, but ‘find your niche’ is so bloody grown-up and sensible.

To newbies, I’d say write lots of different things about lots of different things; practice, practice, practice; learn about everything; create an exciting and varied portfolio; then later, if you’ve found your dream niche, wedge yourself as deep into as you feel is healthy.

You could be ploughing the copywriting field for 40 or 50 years, so don’t lock doors before you’ve even had a peek inside.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

All of it. Whatever I’ve learned so far, I’m re-learning it, re-fashioning it or learning how to do it better.

Every project is an opportunity to learn something new or polish existing skills. I’ve been a copywriter for ages and it feels like I’ve learned more about my craft in the last 3 years than I did in the first 30.

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

Turning 500 words of client draft copy into 100, without losing anything important, is very gratifying. What a nerd.

What do you think?

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