How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?
Well, I’m an author, now! A properly published one, too! You can order the book from an actual store (shop local, people) and even see it on real shelves (or so I’m told). Everyone seems to be writing a book these days, so I felt that as a fairly decent writer, I should be giving it a go. It’s called TOT ANALYSIS: Why Running Your Business is Child’s Play, and it’s a hopefully humorous take on how running a small business and raising a small child are pretty much the same thing. It also explores the fact that a toddler could probably run our businesses better than we do. That was such a plug – I apologise (but not really).
What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?
The fact that I’m still in business and moving in the right direction is a pretty big success, I think. The world has not been kind to small businesses over the past few years, so to survive the hideousness of 2020-onwards is surely success in itself. I think for writers, things have been particularly tough, what with AI making its mark. It’s a total shit-stain of a mark, but it’s indelible nonetheless, and I guess we can’t blame businesses for wanting to try it out. It’ll cost them more in the long run – this we know – but I get it. I’m incredibly grateful to still be trading (but I’ve worked bloody hard to make sure that’s the case).
Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to keep paying the bills with my copywriting for clients, but I’ve also wanted to ply my trade more in writing as myself – so as a columnist (including Freelancer Magazine) and a guest features writer for various publications and outlets. And of course, I wanted to write my book (I promise I’ll shut up about it, now). What’s really been popular for clients coming to me though, is my Sorted in 60® one-to-one copy and content session. With those sessions, I don’t actually do any of the writing, but I get to work alongside my clients (and their teams, if they wish) in focused hours where we bounce ideas around, try things out, and look strategy as well as any individual pieces of copy they want to create or re-work. The sessions are creative, collaborative, and truly transformational, and I love knowing that I can really solve problems and boost some client confidence along the way in that hour.
What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?
I’m enjoying practising what I preach. My tagline has always been that I’m a copywriter hired by people who want personality in their project, and so every time I write something that’s out there for human consumption, I really want to show personality and real flair. It’s too generic out there at the moment, with AI making up a lot of the content we see, and humans churning out any old drivel for the sake of having something to say and take up space. Personally, I’d rather write nothing at all, than write something that sparks no real response from the people who have to read it.
What are you working on just now?
I’m actually submitting stuff to competitions – memoir, fiction, etc, it’s just a bit of fun, a way to boost my creativity, and good for keeping my writing exciting.
Describe the view from your window…
It’s New Year’s Day and it’s uncharacteristically sunny and clear here in Bolton, Lancashire. This is surprising not just because it’s Bolton, but because approximately 12 hours ago as we rang in the New Year, it looked and felt like our three-bed semi was going to be washed away brick by brick downhill into a neighbouring village. It’s a lovely day, but the view from my office is always nice and bright, anyway. The window is the biggest thing in the room!
Tell us about your side projects
I write children’s books! Well, I’m attempting it. I wrote to Julia Donaldson about it a while ago. She wrote back! That’s a story for another time though, really. I have a little girl (Lily) who’s a real book lover. When I see some of the books she reads (and how badly written they are) I feel a sense of duty to change them. It’s like people think, “It’s only for kids, we don’t need to worry too much about grammar or sharpening things up…”. You bloody DO! I’d love for Lily to grow up reading stuff that her mummy has written. It’s probably best I don’t add her on LinkedIn, or let her see my blog, so children’s stories are the next best thing.
How has your writing process evolved?
I don’t know if my process has evolved, but I always feel that my writing gets better each day. I practise, I refine, and I challenge myself. I always want to be the person in the room (so to speak) who worded things the most effectively and eloquently. I will only ever press publish on a piece of writing if I’m convinced it’s perfect, but if you gave that same piece back to me a month later, I’d find something I wanted (and needed) to edit within it to have more effect. It’s a stress and it’s a sickness, in a way, but I love the challenge, and I love to look at something and think, “I could do better than that”.
What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?
I wish we were all more honest when speaking to newer or younger copywriters and telling them what to expect in their career. It’s a hard job, it’s constantly evolving, and it’s still nowhere near as widely respected (as both an art and a science) as it should be. I think we need to be honest about that, and stop making our world sound so fluffy – like to be a writer you just need a laptop and a hat full of dreams. You don’t. You also need resilience, the desire to always be better, to constantly critique the world of words around you, to draw inspiration and to act on it, and to charge your worth but to also accept that you will get shafted at some point – directly or indirectly. And above all else – sometimes you just have to be lucky. Yes, I’m available for uplifting motivational speaking.
What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?
I’m not a fan when people give advice that runs along the lines of, “Don’t worry if you don’t make six figures in your first year – it took me at least two!” On the surface it looks like you’re being helpful and modest, but it’s a total humblebrag, and I’m not even convinced it’s true in most cases. Maybe if they have passive products, or they secure a couple of gigs a year that are way above the average copywriter payday, or they work solidly in every waking moment they can make six figures, but is it realistic for all writers? No. Is it sustainable? No. Is it even what we all ever want? I don’t think it is.
Any lessons you’re still learning?
I’m a lifelong learner, which is a nice way of saying I continue to f**k things up on the regular and have to take steps to put things right. I’ve overcharged and lost gigs as a result, yet I’ve also undercharged and lost time and wellbeing. I’ve written stuff off-the-cuff and been punished for it, yet I’ve also put hours into perfecting a piece only for it to go absolutely nowhere. At least I get to write about it all in interviews like this though, where hopefully it can help people by making them feel less alone – or maybe even give them a bit of a giggle.
What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?
I love a good training course – real life, or on video. I love to watch, learn, and apply. I’m spending a lot of cash on courses this year – psychology, marketing, fiction writing… all of it geared towards me getting stronger and having more fun as a writer. Having said all of that, I don’t believe in having a qualification in copywriting. I’m sorry, but I don’t think having a certificate makes you any better at writing, and I felt exactly the same about the English Degree I did when I walked out of Lancaster Uni 20 years ago. It was interesting, and there were some cool topics and top tutors, but no, it didn’t help my writing – or my experience as a copywriter – in the slightest.
Jo Watson www.agoodwriteup.com