Mel Barfield – ProCopywriters Member Spotlight

Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?

My instinct is to say something cheesy like “I didn’t choose copywriting…it chose me”. But here’s my not-so-potted CV. The universe tried to tell me to become a copywriter in 1998, when I took the Kudos careers quiz. But I ignored the signs until my mid-30s.

I always loved writing but had zero ambition in my youth so ended up doing psychology at uni, then fell listlessly into admin. Not before gaining customer service experience at M&S menswear department (I was too cool for that job) and Topshop (I wasn’t cool enough for that job). I became a careers advisor and trained others until I became a Mum.

More recently I did the events, engagement, and comms for our Town Council. I wrote copy and funding applications and did a copywriting course in 2020. I was hooked and spent every spare scrap of time reading about and writing copy. Finally, at the end of 2021, I left to go freelance. It took a while, but I got around to copywriting eventually.

What work are you most proud of?

I had such a lovely reaction from other copywriters when I launched my website. Not sure any client feedback can match my peers saying lovely things. I wrote a deck for a cocktail company that I’m super proud of, but it’s the writer’s prerogative to hate our old work. Our best work’s ahead of us.

What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?

I write short copy so I’m especially keen on succinct lines. “Reassuringly expensive” positions Stella Artois in just 2 words. Lovely stuff.

What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?

Just start writing. Literally anything. I type out my stream of consciousness (the sum total of my social media strategy) because there’s something about depositing words from brain to page that kick-starts the engine. I always try and build in a time buffer when setting deadlines so I can deliver on time, even if I have an “off” day.

What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?

Copy editing is one of my favourite tasks. Turning flabby corporate ramblings into slick, concise copy. I love naming projects because they start as a sprawling word web which gets sharpened down. I enjoy the journey and the evolution of ideas.

Least favourite has to be the moment after hitting ‘send’ on the work, when you have to wait for the client’s feedback. GULP.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Stale, overused formulae. ‘Goodbye X, Hello Y’ and ‘everything from X to Y’, that sort of thing. No shade intended; I’ve done it myself. We can’t control what the client wants but like most copywriters I’m at my happiest when I get to be creative.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

I’m paraphrasing but, there are worse writers earning loads more than you because they believe in themselves. I generally don’t pit myself against others, but it’s a helpful reminder to quote with confidence. Also, no need to give out your phone number. Nothing’s ever that urgent.

What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?

Get involved with the copy crew, see other writers as colleagues not competition. Don’t feel pressured to niche too early. There are loads of benefits to narrowing your offer, and it can boost your earning power if you’re known as the go-to person for a certain kind of copy. But it’s well worth trying all sorts before pigeonholing yourself. I did a wide range before focusing on short copy for food and drink brands. Except SaaS. I knew I was no SaaS writer from day one.

Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?

I love being part of the community. CopyCon is an awesome opportunity to catch up with other writers and learn about new trends and ideas. And being a member of ProCopywriters shows clients you take the craft and your CPD seriously. I’m also so grateful for the advocacy and research the organisation does for other writers, especially the annual survey.

Where can people find out more about you?

My Website
My LinkedIn
My Substack
My Twitter

What do you think?

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