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Richard Steele – Member Spotlight Revisited

How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?

I have more than one client! When I first went freelance, I was relying heavily on my previous employer for work. But now I have a small but perfectly formed group of regular clients who, fortunately, keep me as busy as I want to be.

What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?

Making a go of this freelance thing, I suppose. A few years on and I’m still in business, and very grateful for it.

Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?

When I left full-time employment at a major charity to go freelance, I had lots of ex-colleagues who now worked for other NGOs. So staying in the third sector and starting with that community made sense.

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

I feel lucky to work for clients that have a positive impact. I get to learn about all sorts of good stuff happening in the world – to tackle the bad stuff we’re all too aware of. And charity types are genuinely the best people to work with.

What are you working on just now?

I’ve recently been working with clients on their communications around COP26. Climate change is having an impact on just about every charity. So it’s obviously a big focus for everyone right now.

Describe your desk and what’s on it, or the view from your window

I’m renovating a house and have just finished decorating the guest bedroom/study. So I’ve finally graduated from the dining table!

My desk is a lean-to shelving unit that a friend made for me years ago and I’ve given it a fresh lick of paint and stuck a plant on it. It’s very minimal, as I’m a neat freak.

I can’t concentrate unless my environment is clean and tidy. I’m sat next to a window, which is great for my mental health and terrible for my video call lighting (I look like I’m auditioning for an amdram performance of Phantom of the Opera).

Tell us about your side projects

I founded and run the local freelance network – Freelance Aberystwyth Llawrydd. There are more than 150 of us now, and I’m sure there are lots more freelancers lurking in the shadows. Self-employment is particularly high in this remote part of mid-Wales, at 28% of the workforce!

We meet once a month, either online or in real life, and we’re just about to have a Christmas party.

They’re a lovely bunch and I’m proud to have helped bring them together. If you don’t have a freelance network in your area – start one! I’m also (still) learning Welsh. Rhaid i fi ymarfer mwy.

How has your writing process evolved?

I’m not sure my process has changed that much. I try to get the bare bones down and then flesh them out. I’m always impatient to start writing. So holding off and taking time to read and reread the brief and do my research is something I’ve had to work at.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

I think we’re a relatively honest lot, generally? Am I being horribly naïve?

What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?

‘Don’t work in your jogging bottoms.’ Nonsense. It’s never done me any harm. You’ll write better if you can breathe.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

How to schedule work and balance the peaks and troughs. I still have quiet periods followed by manic periods, which I’d like to avoid.

It can be frustrating when I book in time for a client and the schedule is pushed back, leaving a gaping hole in my diary. I’m still learning not to panic and enjoy the downtime.

What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?

I’m a big fan of communicating clearly, so I’m a bit obsessed with the readability guidelines project led by Sarah Winters at Content Design London.

A collaboratively developed, universal content style guide, based on usability evidence. It’s such a brilliant resource for anyone in comms and I bang on about it any chance I get.

Richard Steele, copywriter and editor

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