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Dan Sherrington – ProCopywriters Member Spotlight

Dan Sherrington

Words to the Wise - Freelance Copywriting, Editing and Proofreading

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

Well, it was really 2 different tracks in my working and personal life coming together at once.

The first was an interest in copywriting. It was something that had been in mind to get into for many years, and I had already tried my hand at it in various unpaid and low-paid capacities for personal projects I had been involved in. I had always
enjoyed writing, and thinking about how to explain complex ideas, ever since I studied Philosophy and English at university.

My main job was not officially connected to copywriting at all, but I started to get involved with certain aspects of marketing for the English language school I worked for. Before I knew it, I became the “go-to guy” for all kinds of copy, and colleagues
from all around the world were asking me to pitch in. I came to enjoy it far more than my regular job. It didn’t take me long to think there might be something in this!

The second reason was not so much about copywriting, but wanting to be my own boss. I’d had enough of the corporate world, and found I simply had no desire to keep working myself up the career ladder. My heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I really
wanted to be treated like a professional, rather than just another payroll number, so, really, self-employment was the only way to go. When you can’t find the job you want, build your own!

I decided to take a diploma course in copywriting to pull together all my skills, and started putting the word out that I was interested in freelance work. I also began attending local networking meetings and events. One of the most important of these
was a freelancing group in Brighton called The Farm, made up of a really friendly crew who gave me some fantastic advice about choosing a freelance career.

They made sure I was under no illusion it would be easy, but the more I went and spoke with them, the more I finally felt what it was like to be treated like I was part of a group of professionals.

I knew at that point freelance copywriting was the right way to go – not only did I start to feel like I had a direction, but things started happening very quickly once I committed myself to it.

My first few jobs came through contacts I already had in related industries, but things rapidly snowballed and I started getting referrals and recommendations. I was still doing my other job at the time, and suddenly wound up working evenings and
weekends. Eventually, the time was right to make the break – I handed in my notice and the rest is history.

What work are you most proud of?

I’ve become heavily involved in copywriting for the franchising sector, and I am really proud of the work I have done educating people just like me who want to be their own boss.

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

My favourite slogan copy I wish I had the skills to come up with is “Beans Means Heinz”.

It’s absolute rubbish in many ways – it doesn’t even rhyme properly! – and yet, there it is as one of the most recognisable bits of ad copy ever. It’s short, perfect and catchy – but why does it work?!? It’s a great reminder that they aren’t any rules when it comes to copywriting. Just what works and what doesn’t.

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

Move away from the screen, make a cup of tea, and perhaps even start looking at another project. Once you’ve pulled your brain out of that rut, the creative juices soon start flowing again. One bit of copy my client was over the moon about actually came to me when I was doing the washing up!

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

I don’t think there is any particular task I like more or less, though it is very satisfying to get stuck into longer projects that you can really work on and develop.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Any kind of overused buzzword, of course, as well as any made up “management speak” phrases. They’re not big or clever, and any halfway intelligent reader is going to think you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I also hate “lazy copy”, such as saying one of your company’s USPs is “putting customers first”. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’re going to have to work a lot harder than that – but then, I guess that’s what professional copywriters are for!

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

Perhaps not so much career advice, but certainly copywriting advice: “Remember, you’re not the hero of the story”. I often use this as a guide for writing copy when dealing with a mistake so many clients make – talking about themselves too much.

Of course, you should mention your awards and achievements, but those are secondary to what you can offer to your reader. It is vitally important to remember that they are not there to read your story, but to learn how you fit into theirs. Make your reader the hero of the story.

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

When you’re making the decision to change career, you spend a lot of time thinking “is this the right time?”, and that can really hold you back because there are always reasons why you shouldn’t do something.

I’ve now realised that once you commit to making something happen for yourself that feels right, suddenly the time becomes right! It’s hard to imagine now how I could have taken a different path.

Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?

I’ve enjoyed the community and the webinars etc on offer, but one of the biggest advantages to me is being listed on the copywriter directory.

Procopywriters have absolutely nailed their SEO, and have helped me get my name out there in a far more effective way than any advertising routes I have tried.

I landed one of my now biggest repeat customers simply because I updated my profile with a certain key phrase about a past project that someone from that company googled just a week later.

My Procopywriter profile was the first result on page 1! I’d have to spend a fortune to get that kind of visibility on my own.

Where can people find out more about you?

On Procopywriters, of course! But also my website at www.wordstothewise.me.uk

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