Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
Art and writing, my two great loves. At college I found myself having to choose between the two for university. At the time I didn’t know of any career paths that would allow me to indulge in both, so I chose English Literature thinking it would lead to more secure job prospects. At the end of my degree, as my peers were lining up their graduate jobs at newspapers, my dad pointed out that I was always interested in adverts — on TV, at the cinema, on billboards — and asked me one of the most pivotal questions of my life. What about a career in advertising?
I managed to get an internship at an advertising agency, where I spent a couple weeks shadowing the different departments. I was immediately drawn to the guys in the corner of the office who were wearing trainers and watching YouTube videos. “That’s the creative team” I was told. That’s for me, I thought.
The next step on my journey to become those cool kids in trainers was to do a Masters in Creative Advertising at Falmouth, where I met the funniest, most quick-thinking people who are still some of my closest friends to this day. It was the best decision, showing me that yes, here was a career path where I could do my favourite things, art and writing, creativity and ideas, proofreading and correcting other people’s work. Lord save me, can you believe we get to do that professionally? I left Falmouth with a portfolio under my arm which got me my first job as a Junior Copywriter at a little agency in Soho, working on alcohol brands.
What work are you most proud of?
After a short time agency-side I was offered a role in-house at graze.com (the snack company). At that point it was still just an online subscription, and they had never had an in-house copywriter before. They had a very cool team of “snack inventors” who were a wealth of food knowledge, trend predictions, recipes and nutritional wisdom, and I couldn’t understand why graze was not creating content with all this untapped gold on hand. I pitched my idea to set up a blog to my manager, who told me there was no time, no budget, and no guarantee of success. With the help of our in-house photographer, I did it anyway. A year later we were highly commended at the UK Blog Awards, and the year after that we won in the Food & Drinks category — a pretty great feeling!
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
There are so many online subscription brands that I admire with consistently incredible copy — Good Pair Days is one of my favourites, I love the playfulness they bring to even the most unassuming lines of copy in their online user journey.
As a lover of brand voice, a style guide I hold up as best in industry is Sainsbury’s. “Lovely and Lively” is so simple and joyful, and their guide (which is available to view online) lays out how to capture it in a way that is both easy to understand and a pleasure to read.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
The obvious one that everyone talks about it taking a break, getting away from your screen and doing something entirely different. Something else I think is really important especially for in-house copywriters is that audience insight. You need to get a really deep understanding of who will be reading your work and most importantly, why they should care about what you’re saying. That’s the key to cracking a brief for me.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
My favourite part of my job is ideas. I love being given a problem and a blue sky to solve it. On the other end of the spectrum, I also relish the task of communicating “bad” news to customers. Crazy I know, but it’s such a detailed craft to keep sculpting that message until the tone is just perfect, and afterwards I feel a real sense of satisfaction.
My least favourite writing task is naming something. In my job at Gousto, the copy team are frequently given the challenge of coming up with a name for a new range — and we release a lot of ranges! The name has a very limited character count, it has to be in the brand tone of voice while also making the food sound appealing and serve the functional purpose of signposting the benefits or USPs of the range on the Gousto menu. To give you some examples, this year we have released: The Hungry Traveller, Air Fryer Express, Taberna Mexicana, The Dinner Show, La Dolce Easter, and The Summer Edit, alongside pre-existing ranges like 10-Min Meals, Prepped In 5, Health Kitchen, Everyday Favourites and Fine Dine In. This gets more difficult as time goes on and we run out of words that we haven’t already used. It’s always a struggle but somehow we keep coming up with them — I am always so impressed by my team every time they crack it.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I hate how jargon gets embedded in work culture, convincing people that they sound more professional or plugged in by using words like “drive”, “offering” and “deliver”. It gives me the major ick.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Respect time — other people’s and your own. My manager at graze told me to think about every meeting as money, so an hour’s meeting with five people is five hours of company money. Is it worth it? Do all those people need to be there? Could it be half an hour? Or an email? I really took this to heart and to this day I am very strict about my calendar.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Identify your values and what motivates you. This will help you decide what type of work you want to do, and what type of brands you want to work for. And also don’t get distracted by comparing your career to the careers of other writers. A job title really doesn’t mean that much at the end of the day, the important thing is that you’re doing work that fulfils you.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I love all the workshops. They’re always so specifically relevant to the day-to-day challenges of copywriting, and there’s a whole archive of them as well as a schedule of live ones to come. I do a lot of training for writers around the business at Gousto, so even the back-to-basics workshops are useful to remind me how to upskill others.
Where can people find out more about you?