Why did you choose a career in copywriting, and how did you get into it?
At the end of 2021, I decided to shift my entire copywriting focus to UX Writing, and take extra training in UX research, testing, analytics, and design elements as supplements. I’ve been a writer and editor in tech since 2015, and just before the pandemic, I had expanded into the concise-message discipline of scriptwriting for TV and online marketing videos.
My life as a writer began when I started what would eventually turn out to be more than twenty years as an arts and music journalist/editor for various online and hard copy publications, including The Big Issue, Drowned in Sound, Visit Cardiff, and Opera Monthly.
Working on a variety of publications meant I learned to write in varying tones of voice while absorbing the mechanics and structure of communication. It also honed my research skills, the bread and butter of everyday journalism.
Looking back, it makes me smile to realise that this breadth of experience was the perfect apprenticeship for a UX Writer. Sometimes we have no idea where life is taking us, but it’s wonderful when we find that all the dots join up.
What work are you most proud of?
Since moving into succinct UX writing, this relatively new discipline often helps me feel proud of the difference a few well-chosen words can make to a customer’s day. Sometimes creating onboarding text for a tech product update can be the most active poetry in the world for its concise, friendly and exact communication.
I love the art of User Experience writing for how it can make the world a better, more kind, and inclusive place. For too long, the customer experience has been a bit “like it or lump it.” Now though, the tipping point for choosing our favourite apps, streaming services, and even banks can often rest on how easy and satisfying a website is to use.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I’m sure that all ProCopywriters are entranced by the genius of brilliant copy. But, as simple as it may seem, I was recently blown away by a before and after example in some training material.
The original said, “Are you confused about online investing?” Then a compare and contrast second version said, “Are you new to online investing?”
That subtle tweak changes how the message is likely to be received:
- the first brings on feelings of inadequacy, missing out, and self-doubt
- the second inspires feelings of being welcomed and mentored, reduces feelings of anxiety and potential embarrassment
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I don’t subscribe to writer’s block as such, but if ideas or approaches are a bit slow to take flight, I go for a walk or get a shower. My best ideas come when I’m enjoying either of those activities.
I think it’s down to how they help me detach and travel anywhere in my imagination. When I return to my desk after either, I feel fresh and more inspired.
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
I love receiving a new brief; it’s the most exciting thing! First, it fries my head and makes my heart beat faster, then it’s time to dissect all the elements to start figuring it out. I adore the thrill of a puzzling new adventure.
In contrast, Zoom meetings are my least favourite task. Without fail, the subtleties of connection and collaboration work better face to face.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Yes. Social media posts with no value. The kind of thing designed with the sole purpose of having the business’s name pass readers’ eyes. E.g. “Well, what did you have for breakfast today then?”
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Always check yourself for investment bias. It’s the situation where you tell yourself that because you have put a lot of time, effort, and/or money into a project, it will indeed work out in the end. Knowing when to tear it up and start again or pull the plug on an idea or project that’s just not working is a skill in itself.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Don’t waste your time on potential clients who don’t value your skills and individuality enough to pay what you are worth.
And for those of us who have been here a while, don’t be afraid to jump disciplines. If writing landing pages or wikis doesn’t fill you with joy or make great use of your unique skills and passions, research and experiment, talk to other writers and above all, choose a form of writing that will allow you to enjoy your writing career.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
The most useful part of my ProCopywriters membership has to be the Ask the Copywriter workshops.
Last June, I heard Francesca Catanuso, a Senior UX Writer, speak about her craft and how the demand for UX writers had recently exploded. For several years, I have been offering a service that I would call Website Auditing when I would reconstruct website text to make it more direct and appealing to potential clients.
Francesca Catanuso made lights spark up in my head as I realised that UX Writing was the correct term for what I had been doing for some time. She also made it known that there is a wealth of information and courses available for people wanting to migrate to UX from regular copywriting. It’s no exaggeration to say that her ProCopywriter workshop changed my life.
Where can people find out more about you?
DifferentialUX.com is my new website which will be added to in the coming weeks and months.
Janeoriel.co.uk is my scriptwriting portfolio website to be retired in April.
Jane Oriel on LinkedIn.com is another place to find me.