How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?
I’m actually slap bang in the middle of a big rebrand right now.
My business has always felt like this untameable beast that grows and evolves of its own accord, mainly because I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. I’m extremely proud of what I’ve built. But for a while now I’ve been thinking I should explore what it really is that my business is about and run it more intentionally. So that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now.
I’m not going to reveal too much because, to be honest, I don’t know much myself. As I write this, the big pitch meeting with the branding agency I’m working with is still a week away. But I’ve had some immensely fruitful discussions with them (shoutout to Malin at future-form.co for making the process pleasant and enjoyable) and I’m very excited to see what they’re going to come up with.
On a more granular level, as the C-suite would say, I think I have far better processes in place than I had when I did my first spotlight interview, which has hopefully made working with me a smoother and more pleasurable experience for clients.
I also like to think I’ve improved at my craft, but I’ll let others be the judges of that.
What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?
The fact I’m still in business? 🙂
In all seriousness, it’s probably being able to work on some really fun, interesting projects and getting great results for clients.
Two that stand out are writing about Chicken McNuggets for a B2B business that makes foreign exchange trading software, and a quirky landing page for a fintech startup that helped them get from zero to 10,000 sign-ups in 6 months.
I’m also quite proud I’ve managed to make my business more sustainable.
When I did my first Member Spotlight, the majority of my income was from regular clients, but I think I had yet to secure my first retainer.
Most of the work I did was ad hoc and the volume would change from one month to the next. Now around 60% of my revenue is from retainers — with the biggest one making up about 21% of my income overall — and around 35% of the rest is from returning clients.
Obviously, things still can go wrong (and have done so), but it feels like a far more secure position to be in.
Ok, that’s 2. Think I cheated a bit there.
Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?
My core focus is still fintech, that hasn’t changed. My views on niching are well known (and I’ve hosted a ProCopywriters Twitter chat and written a blog post about that) so I’m not going to bore you all to tears by repeating myself.
What I will say is that I feel working closely with clients in the space on a long-term basis has helped me gain a deeper understanding of what they do and who they serve. I feel this has enabled me to do better work that gets better results (at least I hope).
What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?
It’s an exciting time to be in the fintech space right now because many technologies that were fringe just a few years ago — NFTs and crypto are a case in point — are becoming mainstream.
There’s lots of demand for content that explains how complex tech that’s perceived as being wonkish, boring, or irrelevant has useful everyday applications. And that means I get to come up with lots of wacky metaphors.
I’ve even managed to get away with some toilet humour. Got to love clients who let you run with that.
What are you working on just now?
I’m writing this from an Airbnb in Malta while fending off several flies who are insisting on using me as a perch. I haven’t been here to visit family in 3 years, for various reasons (the major one being the coco-coco-coco-coronavirus), and I’d forgotten how annoyingly persistent these little shits are.
But I digress. To answer your question, there’s a spot of R&R and way too many carbs in my immediate future.
I’ve got a pretty full pipeline to return to though. I’m wrapping up the last few entries for a glossary of foreign exchange trading terms, I have various blog posts and a white paper to write, and I’m in talks about a website copy project and another white paper.
It’s going to be manic in the run-up to Christmas, but that’s how I like it.
Describe your desk and what’s on it
We recently moved home, so after 2 years of working from the hall closet I finally have a proper office and a desk I can spread out on.
It’s a fairly clean desk — I’m a neat freak. Desk lamp, the infamous pen holder I bought the day before I went freelance full-time, laptop stand, freestanding keyboard and mouse, notepad, Filofax for my written daily to-do list, coaster. That’s about it.
I’ve placed the desk so it faces a big window with a view of our garden and the green area beyond. It’s nice to stare outside like a literary cliché when the word I want escapes me.
Tell us about your side projects
In between work and parenting a boisterous toddler I don’t have much time to myself anymore. I fully intend to write that novel at some point before I kick the bucket, but it might have to wait until the offspring’s all grown up and I’ve retired from copywriting a millionaire haha.
The last side project I worked on was in 2019 — I played bass on a stoner rock EP with my mates and we even got to do two videos for it. It’s on Spotify if you fancy having a listen. Turned out pretty great considering we never played the songs together before recording.
How has your writing process evolved?
Recently, somebody (I don’t remember who… possibly Nick Parker?) tweeted that if you’re having trouble writing, lower your standards.
I’ve been trying that out and it’s been life-changing.
What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?
How agonizing the process can be.
Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth or banging your head repeatedly against a brick wall. But we do it anyway for the dopamine hit we get when, 2 months after the copy’s been signed off, we read it back and realise it’s not half bad after all.
What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?
I don’t know about advice I often hear, but I do know about advice I don’t hear enough. At some point, if you want to do anything — whether that’s copywriting or something else — you need to take the plunge and start actually doing it.
So, by all means, study and hone your craft. That’s a lifelong endeavour. But don’t let perfectionism get in the way of hitting your goals.
Any lessons you’re still learning?
- Sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with people you respect.
- Setting a boundary ≠ burning the bridge.
What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?
I’m endlessly fascinated by the creative process.
This morning I had a blank page and no idea what the topic or brief was. Eight hours later I have 1200 words that are clear, flow reasonably well, and look like they make sense.
I’ll never not get a kick out of that.