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
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.