How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?
When I first started my business, I divided my time between working with one or two international development agencies on a few large projects each year, and then lots of smaller pieces of copywriting and editing for commercial clients, usually small and medium businesses, working on web copy and blogs.
Over time, my portfolio of development organisations has grown so that this is now a large proportion of my work: writing and editing technical reports and bids, and some consultancy.
I’ve also really developed the editing side of my work a lot more, in particular working as an editor for several authors in the legal sector; there’s quite a lot of crossover between international law and development, so these two disciplines have fed into one another.
As a result, at the moment I do very little commercial writing, as my technical specialisms have taken centre stage.
What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?
I think the most exciting thing for me in the last couple of years has been developing as an editor, and I’ve worked on a couple of manuscripts which have since been published.
Working with an author—from quite early on in development, right up to the book being out in print—has been very satisfying, and I’ve learned a lot about writing through the experience too.
Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?
The very beginnings of my writing career were in international development, and it’s a field that is so important: equity, climate and governance are critical elements of our society. And I get a great deal from knowing that what I’m writing about, or when I’m editing, how I shape and clarify text has a substantive impact on the world.
The people I’m working with are at the heart of policymaking and the implementation of much that matters for us as global citizens, and it’s very satisfying to feel that I can offer my work as part of that.
What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?
This last year in particular, you can’t get away from considering how the world has changed during the pandemic.
I’ve been working on several pieces of writing about the impact of COVID-19 in various sectors of development and the law, and have had the opportunity to speak with people across the world about their different experiences at regional and country level, getting a sense of the ways in which life has been impacted over 2020—and what we can do to mitigate some of the fallout.
What are you working on just now?
I am currently working with one of my authors on several papers about law and the European Union—this is an editing collaboration with a client with whom I’ve done a lot of work over the years; not just a talented legal mind, but someone who has also become a friend—one of the great perks of my job!
Describe your desk and what’s on it, or the view from your window
I have a lovely airy space to work in, even though it’s just a little nook in the house really. I use a Macbook Pro with a large additional Samsung screen—definitely one of the best bits of kit in my working toolbox.
Particularly when I’m editing, I tend to do quite a lot of MS Teams calls to discuss the work, so my wireless headphones are hanging at a jaunty angle from my desk lamp, and I have lots of pot plants on a shelf above me to keep the air in the room well oxygenated!
My window is a dormer, so the view is generally sky. It’s great when there’s a beautiful sunset, but can be distracting when it’s sunny and I’m itching to leave the desk and go for a run.
To get my thoughts in order, I like to write notes by hand as well as type, so there are a few A4 spiral bound notebooks scattered on the desk, and I always use Uniball Jetstream 0.7mm pens, in a rainbow of colours.
Tell us about your side projects
A big change for me over 2020 has been that my working life has evolved from being part-time, since 2016, to becoming full-time hours—so I’ve been learning more about setting boundaries and being disciplined about work/life balance.
A lot of ideas for things I’d really like to work on have been somewhat shelved this year, as I’ve got used to the new level of workload. So my side project for 2021 is making space for side projects! Developing is crucial for me, and I’ve learned a lot in the past year. I’m committed to continuing that process, and discovering what the next stage of the business looks like.
How has your writing process evolved?
Having been a self-employed writer and editor for four years now, I can look back and see that there’s been a real journey of increasing in skill and in self-belief, which have gone hand in hand.
Feedback is a slippery thing—in a sense, you can’t trust it, whether it’s good or bad! So coming to a place where I’m increasingly confident about my own ability, and developing both technically and in the soft skills of working with many different clients/styes/remits have been important areas over the last couple of years.
What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?
Hmm—not sure I have an answer to this!
I think we have probably been part of that group of people who have primarily worked from home long term, and in 2020 we were joined by many more who were experiencing it for the first time!
So I found myself counselling friends and colleagues getting used to the discipline of WFH, and reassuring them that lockdown-working is not the same as normal home-working practice.
Perhaps our online profile has unwittingly implied a rather more halcyon version of life than was experienced by many in the spring/summer of 2020?
What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?
I’ve read a lot about finding a niche, and being as specialised as you can be, and I think that’s probably very good advice in the long term, as it makes sense to get really, really good at a particular area and market yourself in that way.
Understanding terminology, and also getting used to the values and priorities of a certain group is a good way to add extra value to what and how you
But I’d counsel that, when you’re just starting out, you can benefit from working with a wide range of clients and topics, and discovering for yourself just what kind of writing fits you. Doing lots and lots and lots of writing is a good way to get better—and although feedback is useful and important, don’t trust it too much, one way or the other!
Any lessons you’re still learning?
If I’ve stopped learning lessons, I’ve stopped improving. I’ll be developing as a clear, concise and persuasive writer as long as I’m working.
What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?
Semi-colons; they make me happy.