Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Like most copywriters, it was a winding road.
If you’d asked me when I was a child what my dream job would be I would have answered “writing”. I was obsessed with books, reading, and telling stories.
However, all I knew about writing was that you had to write a book, get published, and (even though that’s a marvellous achievement) you won’t make much money. As I had a fairly unstable early life, it was critical to me that my adult life was different. Writing was not, I believed, a stable career option. But teaching was. So, I got an English degree and a PGCE, and spent 10 years as an English secondary school teacher.
It was only after a serious bout of burnout that I realised just how unhappy teaching was making me. I decided to explore a writing career. I learned everything I could about copywriting, joined online groups, and did some courses. The more I learned about the creativity, the freedom, and the skill, the more in love with copywriting I fell.
In April 2021 I handed my notice in at school and started working with clients part-time. It was a huge risk to leave the stability of teaching, but I haven’t regretted it for a single second. I love being a freelance copywriter, I love being a business owner, and I wish I’d done it years ago.
What work are you most proud of?
I’m proud every time I write SEO blogs for national brands because it reminds me how far I’ve come. I’m proud when an agency comes back to me for repeat work because it means I’ve done a great job.
Getting my first press by-line was a huge moment of pride because I felt like a “proper” writer. I’m proud of working with sustainable clients who make a difference in the world.
Perhaps one of the proudest moments of my copywriting career so far was when I was working with a family therapist. The fee was small because it was a small business with little budget, and it was a couple of days’ work.
Her feedback to me was “you clarified what we do, who we do it for, and how we do it. Now we’re able to apply for more funding and help more people”. That was a good day.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I tend to write a lot of blogs and website copy where I can really get into a brand’s messaging and tone of voice in a longer form.
So, whenever I see short, clever copy I’m always super impressed and a bit jealous. It’s usually the tag line in an ad or a lovely bit of microcopy.
- Smol’s “save more than just money” is clever
- I love Deliveroo’s “Food. We get it”
- This semi- regularly goes viral with their funny packaging “This is plant-based food for meat loverssss yesss wee knowwwwww iiiit’s on EVERYYY PACCKKKK ummm haveihitthewordcountyet”
- Who Gives A Crap had a “forests aren’t for flushing” campaign which I loved too
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I’ve learned that, for me, writer’s block is one of 3 things:
- I might be stuck because I’m tired/ hungry/ cold, in which case I need to take a nap,
or get a snack, or drink some coffee. You can’t be creative if your basic needs aren’t
- It could be because the brief isn’t strong enough and I don’t have a robust plan. If this
happens, I go back to my notes, dive into research, look at the client’s overall aims,
their brand, their audience, their tone of voice, and get really clear on what I need to
- If it’s none of these, then I’m procrastinating. Usually, because I’m overwhelmed by the blank page.
There’s a great quote I come back to in these moments: “procrastination is not laziness. It is fear. Call it by its right name and forgive yourself”- Julia Cameron.
So, I give myself a mental shake, break the project down into chunks, and tackle it one tiny bit at a time.
What are your favorite and least- favorite writing-related tasks?
There isn’t a part of writing I don’t like. Getting started is full of promise and potential. The research stage helps me feel confident and clear. Getting the first draft written can be liberating and creative.
In the editing part, I get to be really nerdy about choosing vocabulary and punctuation and structure, which is its own kind of creative. The proofreading part is where I spot errors and that’s super satisfying. I love it all.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Good copywriting is super persuasive and I hate it when a company uses that power to be unscrupulous.
I hate the copywriting “formula” PAS (pain point, agitate, solution). Anything which agitates or artificially hypes a pain point is unethical. I’m reminded of the “beach body” advert from a few years ago. Exploiting people’s pain, in this case, their body image insecurities, to sell them something they don’t need is gross.
Greenwashing is also a worrying trend, as is pridewashing. When a brand uses even slightly exclusionary language relating to sexuality, gender, race, ability, age, or anything else I’m always so disappointed.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Connect with other freelancers. They’re not your competition, they’re your support system. They’re the only people in the world who get it. I’ve made some wonderful freelance friends who I’ve never met in real life and I’d be lost without them.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Do as much research as you can before you start. I’m incredibly grateful that a very kind copywriter answered some of my questions early on, but I only asked them things I couldn’t work out for myself with resources online. A freelancer’s time is so precious, so asking them generic questions is a drain. Especially when incredible resources exist.
If possible, have 3 months of expenses saved before you begin. This can help you get through quiet months and give you the confidence to say no to jobs that aren’t right for you. This is so tricky in a difficult financial climate, so it won’t be possible for everyone, but it’s a safety net I’ve relied on a couple of times.
Finally, weigh up the benefit of saving money by doing something yourself vs the time saved of paying an expert. After almost 2 years of battling with my website, I finally was able to invest in working with a website developer.
It’s a big financial investment for me, but it’s far better than the hours and hours I spent trying to do something I wasn’t good at and didn’t enjoy. It’s the same reason I pay an accountant!
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Having my profile on ProCopywriters means I can promote my business in a way that feels authentic. It always makes me smile to have my blogs shared by ProCopywriters on Twitter.
I also enjoy the webinars and having access to all of them means I can jump in and find the one I need when I need it. I’m very grateful for the yearly survey ProCopywriters does as this really helps me set my rates.
Where can people find out more about you?
I’m a big fan of Twitter for connecting with other copywriters, and I enjoy using Instagram to connect with other small business owners. I’m trying to be better at LinkedIn. I’ve got a lovely new website and I’m chronically attached to my emails (email@example.com).