Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Originally, I wanted to be an illustrator. I was studying Design Advertising at Newcastle College of Art and you could specialise in one of four areas. Naturally, I went with illustration. Until I realised I couldn’t actually draw. We had to draw a full-size portrait of ourselves and my tutor asked if I’d drawn my neighbour. Imagine.
Anyhow, I had a sketchbook and would jot stuff down. My tutor happened to read it and suggested I was a natural writer and should try my hand at copywriting. Later, an agency from Edinburgh came in to give us a brief, and my creative partner and I landed a placement. I then worked my way up the ranks working in ad agencies in Scotland and Newcastle.
What work are you most proud of?
I wrote a prospectus for Northumbria Uni ages ago. The copy had to be really ballsy and punchy. It was one of those ones where I read it back later and went, “Did I write that? Eeeh, I’m quite chuffed.”
And when I first started out as a freelancer, I wrote a narrative for a housing development on the banks of Loch Lomond. I spent way more time on it than I got paid for, but I put my heart and soul into it. I wanted it to be right. I wanted to impress them so badly. When the client read it, he cried…happy tears. It was the ultimate compliment.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
Have you seen SAS Rogue Heroes? Oh my God, the opening blurb gives me goosebumps and incites such pride. There’s something about those words with that music and the imagery. It just works. Well jel. “Those events depicted, which seem most unbelievable…are mostly true.” Utterly brilliant.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I’ll make a cuppa and read a magazine for ten minutes. I’m not talking Vogue by the way. Whenever I’m in any supermarket or shop, I’m a sucker for picking up one of the freebie magazines/newspapers at the till. They contain snippets about all sorts of stuff and quite often, something random will spark an idea.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
I’m not sure there’s anything I particularly dislike. I love working out a wireframe and writing websites – it’s like writing a brochure and working out where all the bits go.
Any copywriting pet hates?
Headlines or straplines that don’t make sense. The ones that make you scratch your head and go, “Eh? What does THAT actually mean?” I passed a hairdresser recently and the strapline was ‘Bespoke hair’. Isn’t everyone’s hair bespoke? Bewildering.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
It was fairly recently and it was from Sarah Townsend (I met her ever so briefly at CopyCon). She said if you’re struggling to think of a word, rather than waste time pondering what it could be, write the word ‘SOMETHING’ and continue writing. Then when you read the work back, inevitably that word will come to you. Gamechanger. It. Works. Try it.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Absorb yourself in words. Wherever you are. The bus. The supermarket. The pub. Pick stuff up and read it. Even better, nick it and stick it on your pinboard for inspo. Take note of the different tones – what made you smile? What made you want to give a million pounds to that charity?
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I have access to all of these amazingly talented writers and everyone’s willing to share. It’s not like we’re in competition with one another – there’s enough work for everyone and we’re all here for a nice time, and we’re all willing to help each other out. Who knew?
Where can people find out more about you?
On my website at: mamstheword.co.uk
On Insta @mtwcopy
You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org