Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
If I’d heard of copywriting at school, it might have been my first choice! I loved creative writing from a young age and studied journalism at university because that seemed like the most practical option for a keen writer.
But graduating headfirst into the 2008 recession meant going off-piste for a few years. I dabbled in PR then took the extremely scenic route into copywriting via retail management. Buy me a coffee sometime and I’ll tell you the tale.
Once I made my way back to writing, I worked at an internal comms agency for a few years then moved to in-house copywriting, before finally going freelance in 2020. I’m a copywriter and a content writer, but I see the skills as two sides of the same coin.
What work are you most proud of?
As a veggie, I’m very pleased with writing convincing product descriptions for a range of deli meats and pâtes for a delicatessen brand in the USA. I’m also proud of shaping a start-up’s tone of voice and helping them lay the groundwork for their comms in future.
I’m working on something outrageously fun at the moment that I can’t talk about — but hopefully will be able to eventually. I also get a kick out of anything I write that anyone finds funny. My mum thinks I’m cool.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
It’s so simple, but Deliveroo’s “Food. We get it.” It charms the pants off me every time. Short, effective, punny: all good things.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
There’s a lot to be said for just getting up and walking away from your desk. I tend to go for a run, walk the dog, or play video games. Not all at the same time. If I’m desk-bound, then I open a new page and just mindlessly type until sentences start to form.
For me, writer’s block feels like a locked door. If I can find the key and get into a topic, then I’m fine. If I can’t find anything fun or interesting, I get bored and have to find ways to slip in the odd pun or in-joke. In that situation I let myself write the silly puns then walk away and come back with a fresher brain either later or the next day.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love writing long-form blogs and articles. Getting stuck into the research and discovering how a topic ties together is exciting to me — I think my love of research goes back to attempting to absorb the entire contents of Encarta 95.
My least favourite writing task has to be editing someone else’s work. Not a fan.
Any copywriting pet hates?
There isn’t a hill I’ll die on, but I do have one pet hate: the gatekeeping of ‘proper’ grammar. Funny punctuation, internet speak and meme culture is thankfully doing away with a lot of prescriptive grammar.
I know the rules, which is why I choose to break them. Language should be fun, not an arduous task or point-scoring exercise.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
My first Creative Director has the best analogy for getting rubbish ideas out of the way before you can find the good ones. She described it as a sculptor starting with a lump of clay.
As writers, we only have what’s in our heads as a starting point, so first of all you have to get all the clay out of your head — all the crap ideas, half-remembered taglines and silly doodles — then you can sculpt them into something amazing.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Read everything. Talk to real people and people who’ve been there and done that. Talk to bus drivers, baristas, your friends’ parents. Listen. Be a big old information sponge. And then get stuck in and write the shit first draft. Tell stories.
Also, choose a business name that you like. My name is Ruth, but I’ve gone by Ru my whole life. So my tip would be to pick the name you actually use, rather than the name you think you should use.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Being a member of the community is great because you have access to so many like-minded people and a wealth of knowledge through the blogs. Membership for me has been useful because it lends a little gravitas and it’s a great conversation starter. And the logo on my website is a big help.
Where can people find out more about you?
I’m a chronic oversharer, so Twitter is a good place to find me hanging out with the rest of the #ContentClubUK crew. If you want pictures of my dog, and things that probably only I find funny, you could do worse than to follow me.
For more grown-up stuff I have my website too: https://www.ruthsedarwrites.com