Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I came to copywriting through my other specialism: translation. When my first daughter was born, I knew I didn’t want to return to corporate office life so I decided to explore my original career Plan A, which was becoming a translator.
During my year of maternity leave, I devoured everything I could get my hands on about writing and language in between nappy changes and sleepless nights.
Along the way, I took a mini copywriting course with Ron Finlay and realised that, with my background in international advertising, training in copywriting would really add value for my Italian marketing clients.
I now write marketing copy from scratch and translate (transcreate) exclusively marketing content. There is a huge demand for natural, fresh English copy to target international audiences who speak English as a second, third or fourth language.
Most of my clients are SMEs based in Italy, Switzerland and, coincidentally, Hong Kong, and a lot of them follow environmentally sustainable business models.
What work are you most proud of?
Because there are relatively few English copywriters who can liaise with Italian clients in their own language, I feel like I’ve been lucky to have had exposure to quite a wide variety of projects, from SEO websites to TV ads and tone of voice.
I currently work on a regular newsletter for a leading sustainability news platform. Through the past year, we’ve helped hone the tone of voice and A/B tested different formats and topics. We increased the open rate by 67%.
Other than that, I’m particularly fired up by work that brings together the different strands of my offering and interests – copywriting, creative translation, SEO and sustainability. A recent SEO-friendly website for a sustainable Italian towel company ticked all those boxes.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I have an international outlook and fascination with tone of voice, so I love it when brands play on their non-English origins. Chambord and Stella Artois both had some fun French-inflected copy on their websites at one point, and Old Jamaica ran a cool Caribbean-accented campaign. Some of the copy has since changed, but I have some examples in a blog post I wrote ages ago here.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I often begin new projects feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead and the blank page. Knowing that I have to magic something seemingly out of thin air can be quite daunting.
It’s a deadly dull method, but the easiest way for me is to put the hours in. If I think a task will take 20 hours then that’s what I’ll do. It’ll start of pretty rubbish, but through those 20 hours I’ll see it slowly take shape until it becomes the final product.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I’m fascinated by tone of voice and love working with small businesses to identify words and phrasing that capture their vibe. Even though it’s quite subjective, I think it’s quite helpful to have a rough method. When working with solopreneurs and small businesses I often ‘stalk’ their ideal customers on social media for inspiration.
I’ve also been working on more editing projects recently. There’s something very satisfying about seeing the bare bones of something transform before your eyes and it’s amazing to be able to help people who have brilliant thoughts and ideas but struggle to express them on the page, either because writing isn’t their thing, or because it’s not their first language.
Conversely, even though I’m a thorough proofreader for client work, I hate proofreading work for my own business. Usually I edit and change it so much that by the time I’m done I just want to press publish and not look at it any more. Definitely something to work on.
Any copywriting pet hates?
One word: greenwashing. Some companies greenwash intentionally, but it’s actually really easy to do unintentionally and fire off phrases such as ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ without really thinking about what that means.
Having recycled packaging doesn’t make your brand ‘good for the environment’, it just means that it’s a little bit less bad than the alternative.
The fact that terms like ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are quite vague make it tricky for brands who are genuinely going in the right direction communicate their progress succinctly.
I believe that brands being as specific as possible and acknowledging where they can do better is more likely to win more trust and make them more likeable in the long run.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Someone once told me that when you want to make a change in your career, you should look to your childhood passion to help identify areas that will hold your interest long-term. This was true for me when I chose to pursue copywriting and translating, because I’ve loved writing and languages since childhood.
I’ve started to follow this advice on a more micro level, such as when deciding on new niches or skills to develop.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Go with your gut, even if it tells you the opposite of what the experts are saying. What worked for them might not necessarily work for you.
When I started my business, my immediate plan was to specialise in copy and translation for sustainable brands. Someone I respected but was a bit old-school advised me that there wouldn’t be enough work in this area and that I’d be cutting off my nose to spite my face.
Now I’ve got more years under my belt and am working with more and more environmentally conscious clients, I realise that this advice was quite out-of-date!
Another piece of advice I wish I’d ignored was ‘never turn down work’. Let me tell you, as someone who was only working evenings at the time, that got me very stressed, very quickly!
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Firstly, the webinars! The web abounds with copywriting advice and how-tos which can be quite overwhelming, so it’s amazing to have so many trusted resources in one place. Being able to catch up with webinars or CopyCon when it’s convenient for me is a godsend.
And secondly, being a member of a well-regarded platform is great for credibility. It shows potential clients that I’m invested in the industry and focused on developing and honing my skills.