Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Like many ProCopywriters members I took the scenic route. After finishing a PhD in English in Trinity College Dublin in 2014, I spent a soul-crushing 18 months job-seeking and coming second in interviews.
I emailed my most trusted friends asking what I should do to make money and got them to reply separately. There were a couple of caveats to the money-making idea: must be legal and must not require emigrating.
Several suggested writing and one friend is a well-established web designer with knowledge of the Irish market so her suggestion of copywriting had extra weight.
Writing a thesis and then 18 months of cover letters for job applications honed my persuasive writing skills. And suffering through the uncertainties of PhD life followed by unemployment made me resilient, and comfortable juggling projects and living with uncertainty.
What work are you most proud of?
A LinkedIn article I wrote about how to stop saying “I’m delighted to announce” and using other clichés on LinkedIn posts. When I was writing it I was worried that I’d offend a load of my connections. But it brought me lots of new work, including with a design agency that I’d admired for ages.
People still mention it to me even though it’s been around two years since I wrote it. Clients don’t always tell you the impact of your work so the almost instant gratification that I got was a good ego boost.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
The Economist ads, lots of great ones but I particularly like “Lose the ability to slip out of meetings unnoticed.”
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Go for a walk, movement is magic for getting ideas flowing again. I also have a timer on my desk for when I find myself stalling. I’ll set it and just write any old rubbish to get something on the page. Sometimes starting is the hardest bit. I love Anne Lamott’s idea of shitty first drafts.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love research, discovering new aspects of a topic, talking to experts or interviewing users. People say the most amazing and surprising things about topics that, on the surface, seem dull. I love capturing gems like that which bring copy to life.
My least favourite tasks are proof-reading and editing/rewriting other people’s copy. Give me a blank page over someone else’s final draft every time!
Any copywriting pet hates?
The myth of the six-figure freelancer and all the get-rich-quick BS that goes with it. A friend of mine sent me a screenshot of an Instagram ad from his encouraging him to start a career as copywriter: “in less time than it takes to have a cup of coffee”.
There was a photo of a woman lying on a hammock using a laptop. If you want to start a career in copywriting I’d recommend investing in a decent office chair rather than one of those courses. I don’t know any copywriters working from hammocks.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t go to for advice.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Other than getting a decent office chair? Connect with other copywriters, we’re a very supportive bunch. We all have different things that we love and loathe writing about so may be able to pass on referrals. If you’re working alone then find different people that you can turn to for advice when you need it.
Have a process for gathering testimonials and off-the-cuff feedback from clients, otherwise it will end up added to the long list of “shoulds”. I keep a “feel good file” where I have nice things that clients have said about my work. It’s great to dip into when my confidence is a bit shaky.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
When I was starting out the suggested rates were helpful. The online resources like copywriting contract and brief templates helped me to look professional when I was still making things up as I went.
When a training or webinar is from ProCopywriters I know that it will be worth my time and money. I’m huge CopyCon fan and can’t wait to see everyone in Brighton this year.
Where can people find out more about you?
On LinkedIn and my website which I hope to have updated for the first time in 4 years before this goes live! Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.