Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’ve always been a writer, since I was a kid making up stories. As I grew up I became interested in journalism and decided to train for the NCTJ Diploma, which is essentially required for reporters in the UK.
I spent a year working for a regional newspaper before realising the job wasn’t for me. I loved the storytelling aspect of everything, however, so I leveraged that into a marketing role and eventually went freelance.
What work are you most proud of?
I worked with a dental corporate client here in the UK who were undergoing a nationwide practice rebrand. One of their main aims was to improve practice resources for children and make them more comfortable when visiting the dentist.
The client knew that I also wrote fiction, so asked me to put together a short children’s book that would present dental hygiene in a simple, colourful way. I created the story from scratch using some characters the client had created and some of my own.
The book went down a storm, and it was fantastic to hear that it made trips to the dentist a little bit more enjoyable. The only issue was that they kept getting stolen from the practices, so my client kept having to print more!
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I try not to look back too much or put too much stock in ‘famous copy’, but I’ve always been a fan of VW’s ‘Think Small’ campaign. It’s a perfect example of not going with the herd and selling customers something they don’t even know they want until they see it.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Keep writing. I know it sounds obvious, but it’s all you can do. Even if it’s crap, getting words on the page works wonders. If I’m really struggling, I find that using the Pomodoro method helps get me moving.
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
My favourite task is plotting out the story, getting everything down and creating the foundations.
My least favourite part is without a doubt editing and smoothing out the rough edges. It has to be done, of course, but it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it! That feeling when you knock off the last of the stone and see the finished product makes it all worthwhile, though.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Where do I start?! Copywriting ‘gurus’ who offer to teach you the ‘magic formula’ to great copy for a few thousand dollars really wind me up.
You can learn some fantastic skills and habits from those with experience, but ultimately the only way to become a great copywriter is to write. What’s more, you might find that those with things worth teaching will often tell you free of charge. If you ask nicely.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Never work for free. Your time is inherently worth something, experience is a modifier.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
It’s related to the above, I suppose. Working for free is never a good idea. Offer discounts to build your portfolio, sure, but never work for nothing.
Exposure is next to worthless most of the time. Not only will working for free set a bad precedent with clients, but it also negatively impacts your fellow copywriters, and legitimises the bad behaviour of predatory clients. Show your worth to clients and charge for it: the right ones will be happy to pay.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I find that clients put a lot of stock in accreditations and membership of organisations, as it shows oversight and legitimacy. Just having the ProCopywriters logo at the bottom of my emails adds a sheen of professionalism.