Alice Hollis – ProCopywriters Member Spotlight Revisited

Alice Hollis

Alice Hollis Ltd. - More than words®

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

My first interview was pre-pandemic – so frankly what hasn’t changed?! At that time, I was in the fortunate position of specialising in the IT and tech sector, which went crazy with the rise in homeworking. Without the safety net of any Government support, I was thankful to be busy.

But I found myself jumping from project to project, on top of home-schooling my eldest, and taking care of my youngest (he was still at nursery at the time). It was a lot and it made me re-think my entire business.

I thought about the work that brings me most joy (as well as the work I can’t stand) and ended up re-directing my focus. Today, I‘m no longer a ‘B2B copywriter for agencies who work with SaaS/tech clients that support digital transformation’ – I’m a ‘ghostwriter specialising in the wonderful world of articles, blogs and case studies’.

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

The move from M4 corridor to Silicon Valley.

I’ve always worked with clients that are within a 30-min radius of my house, so that I could take freshly baked cakes whenever I visited. But when everyone was locked away at home, location ceased to be an issue, and I landed my first client in San Francisco.

I can’t name the client (the joy of NDAs!) but I get to write the most wonderful customer success stories on their behalf.

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

I lost my mojo and signed up to the Being Freelance Cookie Collective. Over three months I worked with some smart cookies and realised that I had over-niched my niche, and in the process lost my love for copywriting.

I did a lot of thinking in the shower (my favourite place to ponder) and realised the thing I loved doing most was ghostwriting and case studies – content that has personality because you get to tell a real story, rather than regurgitate what everyone else says and add to the noise.

I‘ve since tweaked my business to niche my services instead of my sector, and feel like I’ve found my ‘Alice-ness’ again.

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

The people – which is saying a lot because I suffer with major social anxiety. As a ghostwriter I sit in a privileged position where I get to interview the most interesting people every week.

These are the real ‘subject matter experts’. They are people who don’t just know their stuff, but live and breathe it every day. For them, work plays an important part in their life because it brings them such joy.

I love being afforded the opportunity to crack open their heads, delve inside and scoop out all the lovely nuggets of wisdom. And then I relish the challenge of transforming those insights into a beautifully formed piece of copy, captured in their individual tone of voice.

What are you working on just now?

This week started by mapping out a skeleton for an ebook I’ve been asked to write about digital workplaces. I spent a day researching the world’s current hottest topic – cyber security – for a mini blog series.

Today I’ve worked on an article about cultural change within the world of digital transformation, and interviewed a consultant about communication during change initiatives. And then tomorrow I get to start a new case study for my client in Silicon Valley.

Next week I have a couple of briefings booked in and 3x articles to research and write, as well as starting my boys’ summer holidays!

Describe your desk and what’s on it

I’ve just moved my office to Narnia (literally, it’s behind a door in the back of my wardrobe) and decide to celebrate with a new old desk. It’s absolutely beautiful and dates back to the 1920s.

My desk is full of practical things, like my laptop, monitor, mouse, microphone, Remarkable 2… But it also has my collection of gorgeous fountain pens, a pot of jam my Dad bought me from Greece many years ago because it had the same name as my car (Tico), and of course, my ‘non-employee of the week’ ceramic trophy.

Tell us about your side projects

I’m not sure you’d class it as a ‘side project’ but it definitely takes up a lot of time – mummy duties. I have 2x boys in primary school so most days you’ll find me juggling school runs, homework, driving to clubs or playdates. I’ve also (foolishly) just signed up to help the PTA and was put in charge of the bouncy castle at the summer fete.

But one thing that brings me a lot of joy is working as a volunteer baker at Free Cakes for Kids, a community initiative that provides birthday cakes for families who find it difficult to provide a cake for their child.

I love cake (who doesn’t) and the opportunity to bake is my escapism. Birthday cakes are so special and it’s so rewarding to know you made a child smile on their big day.

How has your writing process evolved?

Tough question!

Because I’m practising every day it’s hard to say I’ve got better at ‘X’ – any evolution will be gradual and hard to pin down. That said, I’ve made a conscious effort to document my processes for certain aspects of copywriting, like editing.

And recently I’ve been reading a lot about headlines and microcopy. But basically, I am a work in progress and one that will never be complete. I read, learn, write, question and evolve every day – and love every second of it.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

Spelling, punctuation and grammar. I HATE it when I see copywriters online mocking other people’s work because there’s a rogue typo or a comma in the wrong place. Just because you’re a professional copywriter, doesn’t mean you have perfect SPaG.

I will happily admit that my spelling isn’t great. I use far too many ‘_’, ‘…’ and ‘()’. And I still pause for thought before using an apostrophe.

I know I’m not the only one, so who’s brave enough to stand up and join me?!

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

The need to niche (and yes, I have given this advice myself and learned from my mistake). I would advocate that making a name for yourself is a really good idea, and having a niche is a great way to do this.

But as a newbie, you haven’t yet had a chance to figure out the type of copywriter you are, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy most. So niching is perhaps the worst thing you can do.

In the early days, I think it’s important to ‘play the field’ – give yourself exposure to as many different types of content as possible and then refine what you do over time.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

Everything! Where I know I have a weakness, I actively seek to learn more – either through reading books, signing up to courses, or following new people online. And I always make time to reflect (even if I feel I’ve done something well) to question what I could do new/different/better next time.

It’s a value I try to instill with my boys too – on the drive home from school I always ask:

  • “What was the best thing about today?”
  • “What was the worst thing about today?”
  • “What do you think you could try harder at tomorrow?

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

Process. It sounds boring I know, but my life doesn’t function without process. As Emma Cownley will attest (because I scared her when I showed her) I have literally documented every process within my business, including various cheat sheets and sources of inspiration.

It means I’m never starting with a scary blank sheet of paper, because I always have a skeleton there to work around and flesh out.

It might not be the ‘right’ or best way of doing something, but it’s what works for me and what I’ve refined over time.

What do you think?

Your email will not be published. ProCopywriters members: log in before commenting so your comment links to your profile.

Become a member

Join ProCopywriters

Connect with peers, develop your skills and extend your reach on our blog.

Become a member
Learn online

Online workshops

Every month we get an expert, an author or a professional trainer to deliver a one-hour presentation on copywriting, marketing or digital media.

Browse events