I like to think that if you really want something badly enough, you have to go after it and make it happen.
As such, I read a lot of profiles about senior female copywriting peers of mine who haven’t necessarily had children, but who have had a dream and have pursued it and lived to tell the brilliant tale. I’m not sure anyone is going to be writing about me any time soon, so I’ve written a piece about myself, for myself instead…!
Always a copywriter
When I was little, I just wrote and wrote. I had many penpals and I loved to send my classmates letters in the long summer holidays. Some of these lovely ladies have kept some of the letters and have since shown me them.
My favourite subject at school was English and I was so bored in those holidays, I would entirely lose myself in books. I’d read nearly all the Agatha Christie books by the time I was 12.
My first ‘official’ job post graduating was in financial PR. In the interview, I said I wanted to write press releases. I hadn’t heard about copywriting at that time. The role was off Liverpool Street, in Artillery Lane, often frequented by Jack the Ripper tours. One of his victims was found out the back of the office and in the winter months, you’d hear voices creep up to the window with talk of foul deeds and bloodcurdling chill.
It was there that I saw the events of 9/11 unfold, around the corner from the Stock Exchange, which was immediately shutdown. It was a truly terrible day, particularly for our clients in the Merrill Lynch office. It was also pivotal in my copywriting journey as it was also where I realised somebody had to write all those Abbey National Offshore brochures…
After knocking PR on the head, I moved to Dublin for a time. It brought me closer to my Irish roots and gave me an appreciation for what I really wanted to do. I worked in a marketing department in an Irish bank and when I returned to the UK, I had several more varied and interesting roles.
I also had a side-hustle during this time, training as a CELTA and ESOL teacher, as well as completing an adult literacy course in London. I’ve always been a grammar nerd, and it was wonderful to teach adults to learn to read and write.
The middle years
I am a firm believer that the more life experience you have, the better. It sparks creativity, and also means you learn skills to cope well with moving into new environments. As such, I made sure I gained experience at small independent agencies and also mid-to-large companies. It was a great time working in central London and I learned so much.
As a mid-weight copywriter at a WPP agency, I directed Zoe Wanamaker in a TFL London radio advert. It gave me so much pleasure to ask her to repeat a line. I felt like I’d arrived! What an upstart…
My peer, celebrated copywriter Vikki Ross has worked in two creative professional marketing agencies in London. I was the long-term freelance copywriter at one of them until I decided to move on. It was at the one that played Chaz and Dave on a Friday evening.
“Have some fun with it”
The best agencies have been the ones where we had fun on the job. Nobody is saving lives writing copy, but equally, as a professional copywriter, it’s nice to be appreciated.
You’ve spent your life writing copy, so you’d like to think you know a thing or two about it. While it’s good to get feedback, there’s nothing more soul destroying in a client rewriting the copy, just because they can – especially when your original lines were, in your opinion, epic.
It begins and ends with subjectivity
If you have an agency rule that some feedback is objective and some is subjective and stick to the rule that you will happily accept a certain amount of subjectivity, that’s fine. But if every other comment is subjective, someone needs to be pushing back to the client about that. Because, somebody somewhere down the line will articulate this. And you don’t want fingers being pointed at you, the original copywriter on the brief.
Jerry Della Fermina of Madman, Madison Avenue fame, once said that advertising is the best fun you can have with your clothes on. I can’t claim to know all about advertising, but copywriting comes pretty close for me.
Getting under the skin of new briefs is just a wonderful feeling; researching a business or an industry and coming up with creative treatments to answer a client’s dilemma or problem – it’s the best.
The people you meet
As a freelance copywriter, I get to work with and meet all sorts of wonderful people, every single week. Some of the best of these people have been Creative Directors and Art Directors I’ve met along the way.
Today, many of my peer interactions happen on the internet. I can’t praise Twitter highly enough for bringing rays of light to my door when working at home alone on projects.
Sometimes jobs have come from these interactions and I’ve met some of these online creatives in real life and that’s always fun. Like imagining a character in a book and seeing them come to life on screen, wearing a real pair of shoes and pulling faces at you.
Amazingly, many people still don’t ‘get’ Twitter. For the creative mind, it’s like having a living, breathing treasure chest of ideas at your fingertips. You just need to know how to work the filter. Block the noise you don’t want to hear.
Back to the copywriting
In one of the creative marketing agencies I worked in, voices crept in at the window once more. No, real voices again. Instead of Ripper tours, graffiti tours were being held down in the street. Marketing agencies have crept into Shoreditch now, leaving the expensive office space of Soho well and truly behind. It was here that I worked with an incredible strategy director and I learned a lot about market trends, start-ups and brand platforms.
At the WPP agency where I left to go on my first maternity leave, I applied to come back as a content writer – a floater who could work at home when needed and with every creative team when cover was required. This idea was rejected. But ten years later, most agencies have a content writer like this. It became a ‘thing’.
My freelance rebirth was a positive moment – I went on to work with Table19 for many years while my children were small and this was a good time for me. I don’t know if anyone has ever written about Creative Director Damian Kirby, but I will always remember the laughs we had during this time.
I am currently working directly with agencies and clients alike and continue to build on the experience I have. This works well as I balance my home commitments with my career.
Available for freelance
I’m excited about the next chapter in my copywriting career. Am seeking freelance copywriting briefs, large and small. You can throw in some proofreading or strategy as well if you like. Yes, I’m a senior copywriter with creative director tendencies, but that makes me easier to work with in many ways as I cut straight to the task at hand and am old enough and ugly enough to take criticism well and collaborate effectively for the good of the work.
Get in touch if you need a freelance copywriter for your next marketing project. And who knows, we may even have some fun with it. I look forward to hearing from you.