Julia Howe – ProCopywriters Member Spotlight

Julia Howe

Experienced copywriter | Tone of voice | Brand strategy | Multi-channel deliverables | Consumer | B2B

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

Initially, I chose copywriting as a way to get paid to be creative. Over time this matured into a desire to use my craft skills and experience to help a wide range of clients solve their communication challenges.

Before breaking into advertising, I was working for the Director of BBC Books as his PA. After typing up yet another memo about car parking spaces, I realised that I needed to use my writing skills properly to be a happy bunny.

I left my job and enrolled with the School of Communication Arts on an intensive postgrad training course with other would-be copywriters, art directors and designers. The Guardian newspaper paid my fees and I organised a bank loan for my living expenses. It took me another 3 years to land my first copywriting job with design agency, Imagination, in 1998.

What work are you most proud of?

This is a difficult question to answer as I don’t tend to dwell on my copywriting projects too long after the fact. I aim to create goodwill with my colleagues, contribute my absolute best to the project, and then once it’s over, move on.

However, if you were to prod me with a sharp stick, I’d say I like the cover wrap for the Evening Standard magazine to promote the Vitamin C range for the Body Shop, (uploaded on my portfolio). I have a fondness for when great design and copy marry well together.

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

The famous ‘Lemon’ print ad by DDB for Volkswagen. A startling concept for 1960: self-deprecating humour from a car brand, detailed product copy in the body which builds to the sucker punch of the strapline: ‘We pluck the lemons; you get the plums’. Copywriting rooted in an idea that works hard and sells effectively. Who’d have thought it?

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

I hit the rowing machine for 10 minutes. I find that it gives my brain space to prepare for the next item on my list, as well as remember things I need to address. Failing that, I make another cup of tea, stare at the garden, or commune with my cat.

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

I love that feeling when you’re clear what the brief is, you’ve done your research, you know what you want to say, and in what order. You dip a toe in, start writing the first sentence, the first paragraph … and you’re away.

My least favourite is trying to make sense of an unclear brief when it’s late in the day. I’m a firm believer in playing to my strengths. Early mornings are when I’m at my sharpest, whereas late afternoons are better for research, I find.

Any copywriting pet hates?

I’ve mentioned it several times already for good reason: unclear briefs. As writers, we’re only as good as the quality of the brief and information at our fingertips. It’s important to get the brief nailed down as a precursor to thinking, and then writing. Otherwise, you could come unstuck later on.

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

Working in London agencies, we were always encouraged to ‘do the overnight test’. You may think your piece of work is absolute genius, but if it’s the end of the day, step away from the laptop. Take another look the following morning with fresh eyes, and it’s highly likely you’ll need to make some alterations.

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

Do your research and choose a reputable college with famous alumni for your training. Study the greats in advertising, and yes, that may mean looking at print ads, before the internet was a thing.

Hone your people skills as so much of this industry is about building and maintaining effective working relationships with clients and colleagues. It also helps if you’re interested in psychology, too. Ask yourself: why do people do/say the things they do?

Become a culture sponge: music, art, literature, fashion, film, dance etc. Analyse what moves you, and why. A tip for when you need to write dialogue: when you’re out and about, listen to how people talk, the funny things that they say. Use an edited ‘essence’ of that in your scripts.

Finally, be clear what type of copywriter you want to be as the industry is fragmenting and changing. Are you an ideas and words person?

Target ad agencies. Do you prefer writing long copy? Consider becoming a content writer. Is SEO your bag? Become an SEO writer. If you’re interested in usability and how a website functions, look for content designer positions. The more you know about what switches you on as a copywriter and the sectors you want to work in, the less time you’ll waste chasing roles that weren’t right for you anyway.

Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?

I’ve only just joined. However, I’m here for freelance opportunities, part-time copywriting roles and fixed-term contracts.

Where can people find out more about you?

I’m on Linkedin ( and my website is here (

What do you think?

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