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Sarah Mullaney – ProCopywriters Member Spotlight

Sarah Mullaney

She's a Writer | Freelance Copywriter & Content Marketer | Copywriter in West Midlands

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

It was always my dream to write for a living, in one way or another. I was that child who made her friends co-create stories after school, written on blank sheets of A4 that were folded up and poorly stapled together. I loved rewriting fairy tales to make them more ‘cool’, or at least what a ten-year-old perceived as cool.

Like most people, I thought writing careers were limited to two options – either become an author or a journalist. That was until I discovered copywriting when I did some work experience at a Worcestershire-based marketing agency when I was 17.

Their then copywriter took me under his wing and introduced me to the principles of copywriting. He even bought me a copy of The Copywriting Sourcebook by Andy Maslen!

A year later, I ended up joining the company as a marketing assistant after I’d finished my A-Levels. A year after that, I progressed to become the agency’s copywriter and trained in digital marketing with The IDM.

Over the next five years, I worked for two of the Midlands’ top creative communications agencies and in March 2021, I launched my own freelance copywriting business, She’s a Writer.

What work are you most proud of?

It wasn’t groundbreaking by any means, but I’m proud of a script I wrote in a former agency role to celebrate Birmingham Airport’s 80th birthday. I drew on rhythm, rhyme and storytelling to create a playful and informative script detailing the airport’s milestone moments since 1939.

The copy ended up guiding the art direction and graphic design of the final video. I also managed to get an old picture of my Grandad Bill getting off a plane at Birmingham Airport (then Elmdon Airport) into the video, which was exciting for my family!

On a personal note, last year I wrote a poem called Thursday at Eight that I dedicated to the UK’s incredible NHS heroes and key workers who have worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus pandemic (and continue to do so).

The poem has been featured a few times on BBC WM as part of its Lockdown Upload segment that showcases local creative work. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the thrill of hearing my writing live on the radio and I’m so glad it was a piece with such an important message behind it.

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

Oh wow – there’s so much! I wish I wrote absolutely everything for the squishy sofa company, Loaf. It’s a perfect example of a brand that’s nailed its tone of voice while keeping its messaging clear.

I love how they call their sofas ‘laid-back loafing machines’ and playfully communicate their lifestyle offering with lines like ‘kick off your shoes, ease off the throttle and enjoy the slower side of life’. I also love everything written by Paperchase, Lush and the ‘curiously moreish’ confectionery brand, Monty Bojangles.

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

I have to just walk away. Staring at a blank screen doesn’t get anyone very far. If time and the weather are on my side, I’ll go for a walk. If not, I’ll stick on my favourite upbeat music (anything by ABBA or S Club 7) and have a desk boogie. Oh, and I’ll make myself a big glass of water because I probably haven’t had enough throughout the day.

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

Is it boring to say that my favourite task is simply doing the writing itself? I do enjoy the research process and uncovering what makes the product or service special, but I see that as the build-up and writing as the main event.

My least favourite task is planning things like the structure of the piece or certain phraseology I’ll use. I just want to start writing! But I know my work will be much better (and probably more enjoyable for me to do too) with a plan in place.

Any copywriting pet hates?

I struggle reading clunky sentences that take ages to get to the point. Why say it in 50 words if you can say it in 15? We’ve all done this in the past and what helps me cut the waffle out of my copy is slowly reading it out loud to myself.

I’m also not a fan of marketing speak – especially words or phrases like ‘synergy’, ‘low hanging fruit’ and worst of all, when someone asks me to make the copy ‘sexy’. Cringe!

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

Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Big Magic’ changed the way I think about the relationship between creativity and fear of failure. I have so many of her quotes written in a notebook – she talks a lot about making space for your fear because it’s part of the creative process.

Whatever creative field you’re in, you have to accept that fear is coming along for the ride and the less you fight it, the less it’ll fight back.

Another quote in the book that stuck with me was ‘done is better than good’. Too often, we get caught up in trying to make our work perfect before we’ve even completed a first draft. I’ve come to realise that the weight of ‘perfect’ can be lifted by focusing on writing your messy first draft, refining later down the line and most importantly, having fun along the way.

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

In between reading widely and practicing the craft of copywriting, find your community. Copywriting is the only industry I know where peers quickly become friends and no-one tries to compete with one another to get to the top – whatever that is. The community is welcoming, immensely supportive and one I now couldn’t imagine not being a part of.

When I first went freelance, I took comfort in knowing that if I had any questions or concerns, I could message my fabulous copywriting Whatsapp group. We have a weekly Zoom call, text most days and last month, some of us reunited in real life (still a novelty) over lunch!

I’d also say don’t wait to feel ‘ready’ before you get started on your copywriting career. Everyone gets anxious, lost in a sea of ‘what ifs’ and worries whether or not they’re good enough. What helps is that you keep learning, talk with other copywriters and start actively making an effort to become your biggest cheerleader.

Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?

I find that being a member of ProCopywriters demonstrates my credibility as a copywriter. Clients who have come through the website do so because they believe in my ability.

Generally speaking, I don’t have to worry about a hard sell before I’m considered for their project and don’t have to justify my quote to the last penny.

Clients from the ProCopywriters site also tend to have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the craft of copywriting, which makes the briefing and amends processes a lot easier!

I also love how the network connects me to copywriters up and down the country who I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Where can people find out more about you?

You can check out examples of my work and find out more about me on my website. Or, come and say hi over on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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