Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I don’t think I did choose a career in copywriting. I just gravitated towards it.
I’ve always had a love of writing. I wanted to be a journalist when I left school, so I got a job with the Financial Times as a gofer. Great job, but it destroyed my ambitions to be a news reporter. However, it did springboard me into marketing where I stayed for the next 25 years.
I worked in advertising for a while, but I found I could earn more money as a strategic marketer (doing the research and the marketing planning), so that’s the road I took with bursts of freelance writing in between. Then the internet came along and everything changed.
It took a while but it slowly dawned on me around 2014 that I had exactly the skills a growing number of people were looking for as online marketing became an increasingly popular business tool.
I didn’t want to run focus groups and write marketing plans anymore. I wanted to specialise in content marketing and online copywriting, so I took myself back to school to hone those particular skills, and here I am.
What work are you most proud of?
Some of the blog posts I’ve written. My first love is writing print ads, but there’s not so much call for that anymore. Blog posts are the next best thing.
I specialise in long-form posts – anything up to around 4,000-5,000 words. I love writing blog posts for clients who really get it. Clients who have a basic grasp of SEO and understand that blogging should be a slow burn, not a shortcut to an instant sale.
They can take me days (sometimes weeks) to research, write, edit and polish. But when the post starts getting shares and comments and you see it slowly creep up the Google rankings, it makes it all worthwhile.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Funny you should ask. I wrote a blog post about copywriting examples. I spent days doing the research and came up with 10 pieces – each one I wished I’d written, but for different reasons.
For example, I covet just about anything Laura Belgray writes, because she’s so brash and brave, but she specialises in emails.
But if I was asked to write product descriptions, I would head straight to Method’s website for inspiration. It’s sheer brilliance. They manage to be funny, sweet, succinct and persuasive all at the same time.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Go for a walk. And take a notebook.
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
Favourite: Doing the actual writing.
Least favourite: Getting a well thought-out brief. Not many clients know how to brief a copywriter. And even less understand that the quality of work a copywriter delivers will be directly aligned to the quality of the brief they’re given.
It’s a bit like asking an architect to design your house without telling him how many bedrooms you want, who’s going to live there, how you live, what style you like, where you’re going to build it, what your budget is, and so on.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Clients that ask you to write for free as a test before they’re prepared to engage you. I bet they don’t ask their accountant or solicitor the same thing.
It sounds like I’m really down on clients, but I’m not. I have some fabulous clients. I’ve also come across some real jerks.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Never fall in love with your own words because you need to know when, where and how to cut them (advice from one of the best copy editors I’ve ever worked with)
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Don’t give up your day job until you earn enough from your freelance work to cover your rent at the very least.
Focus on building up a portfolio, even if it means working for free for a friend or family member.
Don’t be tempted by the content mills.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
2 reasons. Actually, 3.
Number 1: it’s generated work for me. Number 2: It’s a great resource tool, and Number 3: I don’t feel quite so alone – copywriting can be very lonely.
Where can people find out more about you?
It’s a self-indulgent bit of fun, but you’ll certainly find out more about me as a person than just a copywriter!