Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I’ve always found it easier to express myself through the written word than through speech — there’s a much more direct link from my brain to the pen or keyboard (if you heard me stumbling over my words on a conference call, you’d agree!).
Growing up, I loved the creative side of writing; I found comfort in a new world you could create on paper. Yet somehow, I didn’t see writing as a career option — I studied information management and business at university. It was only when I moved to the Netherlands in my mid-twenties that I gravitated back to writing and editing, largely because my ‘USP’ over here was being native English!
With some editing experience under my belt within the corporate sector, I moved into the area I’d had my heart set on since leaving university — the non-profit world, and ultimately sustainable development. I set up my freelance business, The Write Impact, in 2020, and I now predominantly help organisations communicate their environmental and social impacts.
What work are you most proud of?
A large part of my work is focused on ESG and sustainability reporting, and truth be told, there can be a lot of corporate speak, investor-focused language, and following rigid disclosure guidelines, making the writing feel clinical at times.
It’s the real-life stories and impacts that bring the reports to life — typically the social responsibility topics that allow me to tease out the human element. Those are the pieces I’m most proud of. Oh and weirdly, I love writing the CEO letters that sit at the start of sustainability reports. Jumping into a CEO’s mind for a few hours is always fun!
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I love writers who eschew rigid language and grammar rules and tack their own path in the name of creative licence. Copy that pushes creative boundaries, when done well and in the right setting, is my guilty reading pleasure! Oh, and anything by the Persian poet, Rumi.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
The least effective remedy (for me) is to try to force creativity when it just isn’t flowing. In those situations, I’ll switch to a more admin-based task (taxes… ugh!) to still feel productive. Or switch focus altogether — take my dog for a walk, go for a run, or have a potter around in the garden for some moments. Coming back to a piece of work from a fresh(er) perspective often helps. Of course, you don’t always have that luxury if you’re on a tight deadline!
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
I love the point where you have the raw content down on paper and you start refining and reworking to get the flow right and make each sentence shine. That moment when you find precisely the right word or phrase to capture the sentiment or nuance you’re aiming for is hugely satisfying.
I’m less of a fan of the starting point, especially if I know absolutely nothing about the subject. I can feel a little daunted in those moments. To quote a Stephen King phrase from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Very true for me.
Any copywriting pet hates?
In my reporting work, companies (understandably) want to be seen in a positive light with their environmental and social impacts. I love helping them highlight their achievements, but I would also love it if there was a greater appetite to be transparent about the areas for improvement, as this is the underlying purpose of sustainability reporting: charting a path for sustainable and responsible development.
I would never help a company engage in greenwashing, but when I see marketing/advertising campaigns from other companies clearly jumping on the eco bandwagon to sell more products, it’s frustrating!
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
I think this is more “coping” advice rather than career advice, but still valid: Separate your writing from yourself as a person when it comes to feedback. This can be difficult when you feel emotionally attached to the words you put out into the world, when they come from the most creative part of you. But if you don’t make that separation, criticism can be hard to work with!
Along the same lines, don’t hold anything precious. As Stephen King writes, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” I still struggle with this when I think I’ve created particularly awesome darlings, but it must be done if they don’t serve the client!
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
If you can, try to place yourself in an environment where you can learn the craft from someone who has been in the field for a while. The nuggets of advice you gain at the start of your career will stay with you forever.
At the same time, try to find a place where you can experiment and have the freedom to develop your own style. If that’s not possible in paid work (since you’re often following a stylebook or pre-set narrative) then in your spare time, through a personal blog, enrolling in creative writing courses or by joining a writing group.
Having a strong sense of who you are as a writer gives you a reference point to return to, a centredness, if you like, for when you’ve been working on projects that spin you in different directions. For me, it’s a way of coming home.
Lastly, if you’re drawn to a specific subject area, don’t be afraid of diving deeper into that niche (as long as its broad enough to provide ongoing opportunities for the future). Don’t feel you have to be adept at writing on each and every subject — if there’s something you have a natural inclination towards, brilliant! You’ll gravitate towards that in your spare time, soaking up information in your daily life, which will only serve to make you a stronger writer.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
Being part of a community of fellow writers and freelancers takes away a lot of the isolation that can arise when working for yourself. You get access to insights, advice, and people who can relate to your situation, challenges, and experiences.
Plus, being listed on the ProCopywriters Directory has brought me some wonderful projects, for which I’m hugely grateful. It provides a new avenue for clients to find me, which is always welcome!