Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
As a child, I loved to read and write, and at uni I really enjoyed studying English with Film Studies. Straight after uni, I produced a short film about young disabled people and online identity for the BBC and BFI. It was a great experience, but finishing the film coincided with a period of worse health for me and I quickly realised that the film industry was very fast-paced and physical – not especially accessible to me as someone with a chronic illness.
It was a daunting time because I was in my early twenties and all my friends were diving head-first into their careers, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find work or an employer that was accessible to me health-wise. But I looked at the skills I had, and since I loved to write and could do it freelance and from home, I thought I’d give copywriting a go.
I did a self-paced course, read a ton of books, and slowly started to take on commissions. I was still quite unwell at the time, but I was becoming increasingly involved with the disabled community, learning loads from new friends and from reading books about disability culture and politics. My short film about disabled identity had already plunged into that world, and I soon realised that there weren’t many copywriters working in the field of disability and access, and that because these topics were sensitive and often political, they needed the knowledge of someone close to them.
So slowly I realised that disability –rather than being a barrier– could actually be my USP! Today I feel very lucky that I have found a career that not only works for me health-wise, but feels full of purpose and passion.
What work are you most proud of?
Last year I worked with the charity ParaPride on their tone-of-voice. ParaPride advocates for LGBTQ+ disabled people and their work is very meaningful to me personally, but what I particularly enjoyed about this project was the challenge of finding a tone-of-voice which sat somewhere between the fun and political.
It made me think a lot about the power of language to reveal and refine a social mission, and how finding the right words can be so crucial when you’re trying to speak to people who are often marginalised and shut out of the conversation.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
The cheeky Channel 4 billboards for the London 2012 Paralympics which appeared across the city straight after the Olympics: “Thanks for the warm-up.”
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Usually, I run myself a bubble bath! The bath has always been my place to go when I’m feeling stuck creatively. Something about the heat of the water, the scents, the solitude, and of course having none of the noise of social media…
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I love getting to learn from all the many different disabled people I work with, especially in the process of research or interviews. And obviously I love the writing itself: picking the perfect words, juggling around paragraphs, maniacally speaking my sentences out loud to see how they sound, and the satisfying rhythm of fingers on a keyboard when the words are finally flowing.
There isn’t much I don’t like… Does anyone love to invoice?
Any copywriting pet hates?
Packaging that won’t shut up and corporate waffle…
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
My mum actually gave me great career advice when I was still a teenager. She always said that there are so many careers out there you’ve never heard of, and that if you can’t find the career you want, you can just “make one up.” She had done this herself: she had been a magazine editor but when she became a mother, she needed flexibility and to work from home so she set up her own company, which was first a telephone line and later an online business.
Her advice –and seeing her on this path herself– gave me the confidence that I might one day be able to invent a career for myself which was at once creative, compatible with my needs and lifestyle and financially sustainable. And now I’m a copywriter specialising in disability… which is definitely a career I made up!
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
I would say to have confidence that the value you provide to clients is about more than just your time and experience as a copywriter. Maybe you were once a journalist or you have a PhD, so you’re really good at research. Or maybe you have expert knowledge of a topic, because you’ve already worked in that industry. Or maybe you’re just really keen and conscientious! What you have to uniquely offer is about more than just the number of years you’ve spent writing.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
It’s been wonderful to feel part of a huge community of peers when in real life, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet many other copywriters. I’ve also learnt so much about the business side of freelancing (choosing a niche; setting my rates; what should be in the fine-print of my contracts, etc…) from ProCopywriters.