Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I did languages at uni and worked as a freelance translator for three years after graduating.
My job was basically that of a copywriter – writing websites, ads and all sorts of other marketing bits. The only difference was that I was taking someone else’s creative ideas in a different language and making them work in English.
I enjoyed it for a while. But it reached a point where I wanted to be the one solving briefs and coming up with the original stuff. So here I am now, doing exactly that.
What work are you most proud of?
I worked on a fundraising campaign for a London-based university a couple of years ago. They were launching a range of grants and scholarships to support people typically excluded from higher education, or who face big obstacles once they get there.
The programme needs to raise £15m by 2025 to hit all its targets. Much of that will come from donations, and my words are at the sharp end of persuading people to open their wallets. It’s nice, and pretty rare, to feel like your work is making that kind of difference.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Oof, there are so many. One that came to mind recently was Once you pop, you can’t stop – the original Pringles strapline.
I had literally just tried and failed to stop after I’d popped, and ended up demolishing a whole tube.
It made me realise what an underrated bit of genius that line is. When people talk about good straplines being simple, memorable and rooted in a truth, this is what they mean.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Writer’s block is a physical thing for me. It usually hits when I’m tense or tired, or if I’ve been sitting still for too long.
As soon as I feel it coming, I get outside and go for a run. By the time I’m back and out the shower, my head’s clear, my body’s calm and the words are busting to break loose.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love the research phase at the start of a project. I don’t specialise in any particular sector, so each new job is a magical voyage of discovery for me.
I also really enjoy editing, which I accept makes me a bit weird.
My least favourite writing-related task is the actual writing part itself. I try to get everything down as quickly as possible, so I can crack straight on with the editing. That’s where the real magic happens, after all.
Any copywriting pet hates?
A couple of years ago I could’ve listed a thousand for you. But with parenthood, the pandemic and all the rest of it, I just don’t have the energy for copy-related beef anymore.
I now take the view that all copy has a place – even the stuff we copywriters love to hate. And behind every questionable line, there’s an honest writer just trying to do their best. Probably with a nightmare client, an impossible deadline and all kinds of other pressures we’ll never know about.
So unless it’s outright offensive, I think we’re far better off celebrating the good than tearing apart the bad. And cutting our fellow pros a bit of slack from time to time.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
“A job description is just a wish list.” It’s one of my dad’s mantras and I come back to it a lot.
I’m highly skilled at talking myself out of opportunities where I don’t feel 100% qualified to do a great job. But the truth is, nobody ever expects to find someone who ticks every single box – whether they’re hiring a permanent employee or a freelancer.
If you can tick some of the big ones – and show you have the drive and initiative to make up for the rest – you’ve got as much chance as anyone of getting the gig. So just flippin go for it.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Be kind, help people and give your time generously. You never know who might be in a position to hire you, refer you or send freelance work your way in the future. Or how much your own experience and perspective could mean to someone else who’s just starting out.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I get lots of leads from my profile page. And because people who use the ProCopywriters directory are in the market for a professional, the leads tend to be excellent. In that sense, my membership has paid for itself many times over.
It’s also great to be part of a community of pros who care about the craft. And to feel like you’re helping to raise the profile of the profession in your own small way.