Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
20-something years ago, I answered an ad in the local paper and got a job in a PR agency. It was fast-paced and pressurised, but it allowed me to learn about using writing outside of school or university.
Then I worked in various comms roles in the cultural sector (shout out to Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and its genuinely brilliant museums, galleries and Roman forts) before needing a change.
I realised I could earn more and commute less if I was self-employed, so I went part-time while I built up my client list, then went fully self-employed a year or so later. I still do a lot of work with galleries, museums and the like, but I also do a lot of public sector, economic development and non-profit sector work.
What work are you most proud of?
There are 2 categories of work here: the things that I think are really well-written and that make me feel happy when I read them back. And then there’s the copy that gets the best results in terms of click-throughs, ticket sales, enquiries etc. These e categories don’t always overlap.
Overall, I feel happiest with any work I do for a client like Blue Cabin, a charity which improves the lives of children and young people in care. Everything I write for them helps achieve that aim and they’re a team which really values each other and appreciates everyone’s contributions.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I wish I’d worked on the copy and user experience on GOV.UK. I saw a presentation by some of the team there, and their approach to testing copy and making tiny improvements every day is exactly what I like to do.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Stop trying, go outside and hope that the pressure of the deadline will force the right sentences out of my head when I go back to my desk.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Favourite: Buying stationery (RIP Paperchase). Least favourite: Having to accept amends that make a piece of writing worse.
Any copywriting pet hates?
The incredibly overused ‘inspirational’ and ‘passionate about’. Copy that’s full of unnecessary acronyms, initialisms or abbreviations that the audience just doesn’t need to know about (“Members of the Association for Abbreviations’ (AfA’s) Strategic Spelling Group (StratSpell) helped write the National Strategy (NS) for excessive Capital Letters and Impenetrable Programmes (e-CLIP)”).
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
This is difficult as I don’t remember receiving many bits of career advice. However, since I left university in 2001, my attitude and confidence in relation to work has completely shifted and I think I could give my 20-something self some good tips. Namely, make sure you’re being paid the same as male counterparts and have confidence in your abilities.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
If you’re freelance, try and take on a range of clients so you have a nice mix, including some clients that:
- are doing actual good
- allow you to learn about cool new things (I’ve recently learnt
- about sustainable farming methods, goats and St. Cuthbert)
- are consistent, reliable and mean you can pay the bills
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
The training is really useful, especially the online sessions which you can attend live or watch later. And I’ve made use of some of the resources like the copywriting contract templates which people have generously shared on the ProCopywriters website.