Fran Morgan – ProCopywriters Member Spotlight Revisited

Fran Morgan

shoutaboutit limited

How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?

5 years might be a finite 60 months, but this last half-decade has felt more like 60 years. I’m not sure how the various world events – the #metoo movement, global conflicts and UK political chaos – would have affected my copywriting business, because in 2018 I decided to do something about my daughter’s appalling experience in the education system. She just didn’t fit the mould, like the other 1.6m+ children now classed as “persistent absentees.”

So I started Square Peg, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, to effect change in what is an archaic and broken education system. The work required every ounce of my strategic copywriting skills, so it felt more like a sideways diversion than a change of career, but after four challenging years I have now passed on the baton to my Co-Director and returned to my copywriting roots. I’m delighted to say that Square Peg continues to go from strength to strength.

What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?

My last project for Square Peg was a book, aptly named ‘Square Pegs’, which finally launched in February this year. It was a new, challenging and rewarding experience, pulling together content from 50+ contributors, adding my own words, and working with an editor, copyeditor, and publisher for the first time.

It has to be my biggest success, since it is already starting to change the way educators and other professionals relate to children like my daughter. When it first launched we hit the top 100 of all books on Amazon, and it currently has a review rating of 4.8/5.

Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?

Ironically, since being released from what was a full-time and largely voluntary role setting up and growing Square Peg, my 2022/23 financial year for shoutaboutit will be my busiest ever.

I’ve completed another 2 Design Effectiveness Awards, drafted regular property listings for an independent estate agent in East Anglia (47 at the last count, for a client that found me through Procopywriters) assisted with a tender for a B2B client and written articles, guidance, reports and web pages for Imperial College Business School (IB).

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

I’m open to most copywriting work, but it has been particularly rewarding to get under the skin of the IB brand, with different briefs covering a broad range of topics. I’ve always preferred not to specialise in a particular sector, or in a specific type of writing, believing that it is precisely this breadth and richness of experience that helps me create better copy for clients.

What are you working on just now?

I have 2 current projects for IB and ongoing property listings for the estate agent. One of the IB projects involves working with a graphic designer, something which I’m passionate about, and which allows us to demonstrate to a client how much more effective it can be to consider copy and design as a partnership – in synergy, each complementing the other, and together unpeeling the layers of the brief. Too often clients don’t appreciate the value we can add if brought in earlier, as part of a wider creative team.

Describe the view from your window

This question made me laugh. We have a home office which is empty most of the week, since I prefer to write at the table in our kitchen/diner, looking into the garden (it does mean that my work paraphernalia often invades our living space, which is less than ideal).

We have a good-sized but overgrown garden which has been on the to-do list since moving in last July and is therefore teeming with wildlife. I am slightly nervous of the fox that comes right up to the patio doors, and we have a magpie that likes knocking on the window, but it’s lovely (and inspiring) to write against this outlook.

Tell us about your side projects

Well, the current side project is definitely our 1970s split-level house renovation. We’re planning at the moment, which is just as well, as when the costs come in we’ll doubtless have to scale everything back. I’m in my element though, as strategy, desk research, project management and design are all passions, and this (major) renovation ticks all those boxes.

How has your writing process evolved?

I think in the last 5 years, with the book, Square Peg social media and my recent work for IB, the thing I have noticed most is more confidence in my writing ability. I still feel an adrenaline rush of anxiety at the start of a project (the need to get to a point where I can relax into it), but I now know that it will be fine.

I guess that comes largely from experience. I also find it easier and quicker to quote – I still work out how much time I think I need, but I have a gut feeling based on the job and the client which is usually pretty accurate.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

That’s an interesting question. I think perhaps we can be too ‘supplier’ and not enough ‘consultant’, which sometimes requires honest and very difficult conversations with clients.

I’d like us to collectively do better at educating them to (a) bring us in early enough, (b) write an authentic and comprehensive brief and (b) allow us to work as part of a creative team. Teamwork definitely makes the dream work, and fuels creativity.

What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?

I don’t think you need a degree in English to be a copywriter (I haven’t). I don’t think you need to specialise (I don’t). I think networking with competitors is a great idea (I need to do more of this).

Any lessons you’re still learning?

Loads, and I hope I never stop. I think work-life balance as a freelancer is a tricky one to get right as the window between just enough and too much can be very small. I still succumb to days on the laptop when I’m busy, instead of balancing time on screen with time outside and doing other things.

What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?

Gosh. My inner copywriting nerd likes all the stuff that makes for great copywriting but isn’t.

The strategy, desk research and questioning that’s not the act of writing itself, but which I think is essential groundwork to find the right words. That’s the bit that doesn’t get talked about enough, because clients (and even designers) too often think of copy as 100 words of lorem ipsum. Those 100 words can be unnecessary dressing, or they can be award-winningly clever, but the real reward comes when they nail the brand, the audience and the need in a way that is utterly compelling.

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