Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I began my working life in the late 1980s in marketing – for technology companies like Canon, Ricoh and Cable & Wireless. They were generalist marketing communications roles, so I was running campaigns and events and the like.
There was always a fair amount of promotional copywriting involved, but it was never more than about half the role.
I went freelance 17 years ago after having my son and gradually started doing more and more writing and content management. I feel I’ve evolved progressively into a copywriter, rather than setting out to be one.
But looking back, English was always my strongest subject and was what I should really have studied for my degree. Instead, I randomly chose politics and didn’t enjoy it at all.
What work are you most proud of?
It’s a body of work rather than one particular piece. I’ve worked with one of my clients for 7 years now, and in that time, I’ve written lots of their email campaigns, press releases, brochures and several websites.
Plus, I managed a comprehensive content audit and have written dozens of white papers and case studies for them – along with some 270 blog posts.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I’m no advertising copywriter, but I love the cleverly written billboard advert for The Economist that reads: “I never read The Economist” and is signed by “Management trainee. Aged 42”. It’s skilful and powerfully gets the point across in just a few words.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I’m lucky that I have never experienced writer’s block. I’m brilliant at procrastinating sometimes though. But once I make a start on writing or planning, it’s easy to continue.
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
I love the initial planning, research and scoping pieces out. And of course, I enjoy the actual writing. But once it’s done, I am impatient to hand it over, so my least favourite task is proofreading my own work.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I’m a typical grammar pedant, so I get easily infuriated when people incorrectly use ‘less’ when it should be ‘fewer’, or ‘amount’ where it should be ‘number’.
And I prefer to use the singular when talking about a company, but clients will often change that. In fact, clients changing my grammar is a bit of a pet hate too.
I’ll try to gently correct them, but they are paying the bill, so ultimately, what they say goes.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice isn’t something I have been told by anyone in particular but it was a gradual realisation. And that is to concentrate on a niche.
When you have a specific, defined market that you target, it’s easier to demonstrate your value. I write for B2B technology companies, so I can show prospective clients that I can write for a similar industry and it helps them to appreciate me as a writer in that niche.
The same goes for what you write as well. I have written all sorts over the years, but I’ve come to realise that I prefer – and am best at – blog posts, case studies and white papers, so that’s what I concentrate on.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
I would advise those starting out to read as much as they can. There are some fantastic copywriting books that will help you to improve. But also read extensively – general news and industry news, of course, but also fiction.
Reading widely exposes you to different styles and helps increase your vocabulary. Also, keep examples of your work so that you can build a portfolio. You can’t rely on your writing being around on clients’ websites for the long term, so make sure you take your own PDF copies.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I’ve had a few clients come to me directly having seen my ProCopywriters profile, so that has easily justified the membership costs.
But I also enjoy being part of a professional membership community and appreciate the learning opportunities on offer, like the webinars and workshops. I also really value the work ProCopywriters does to promote the copywriting profession in the UK.
Where can people find out more about you?
Oh, I’m terrible at my own marketing. So, while I’d usually say that my website www.clairekerr.com would be the best place.
I’m currently updating it and haven’t finished writing it yet! So, I guess LinkedIn would be best for the moment: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clairekerr/