The accidental copywriter
I have always loved words. Growing up, I wrote poems and funny skits to entertain my friends but I didn’t know anything about copywriting as a profession until I fell into it by accident when I was working in London. After college, I’d done a variety of dead-end office jobs but then I landed a job at one of the city’s top design consultancies, Conran Design Group, in its PR department. As part of my role, I had to write case histories, internal newsletters and promotional literature. Bingo! I’d found a job that a. I liked, and b. was good at. And so, my writing career began.
After a couple of years lost in the side street of Freelance PR (lots of journo schmoozing), I decided to focus on copywriting. My slim CV plus a large dose of chutzpah then got me a freelance copywriting gig at The Body Shop. This was the springboard my fledgling career needed; with a high street heavyweight in my portfolio I was able to get my foot in the door with a whole host of other blue-chip companies – Boots and Sainsbury’s to name but two – as well as some major league design consultancies. Over the years, I’ve worked with the likes of Landor, Coley Porter Bell, Brand Union and Lambie Nairn, on all sorts of projects from naming to straplines, ads to video scripts, packaging to websites.
Right on Brighton!
These days I’m based in Brighton on the south coast of England. With its nickname, ‘London by Sea’, it’s a youthful and incredibly switched on city with two universities and a large creative community. I gravitated here from London largely because of its proximity to the capital (handy for meetings) but also because it’s home to many digital and design businesses. I work from home, as I have pretty much since I first started to freelance. This has its advantages and disadvantages. Who wouldn’t want a job that involves no commute and the chance to do as much or as little work as you want? My only real structure to my working day is that I always sit down at my desk around 9am regardless of whether I’ve got a job on or not. When I’ve got nothing pressing, I try to keep up with my social media, write my blog and do a bit of self-promotion. The downside of working from home is not having anyone to banter with or bounce ideas off. In fact, when I’m busy, days can go by without me seeing anyone.
Over the years, I have had various projects from local clients including a long stint with Brighton’s largest advertising agency, Designate. However, most of my work comes from far away. I still work predominantly for London agencies as well as design clients in Germany, France and the Middle East. The design businesses in Brighton are relatively small and what I’ve discovered over my many years of being freelance is that the smaller consultancies tend not to use writers, relying on their clients to provide the copy. It’s always been a bugbear for me because as long as designers don’t offer copywriting as a skill, we will continue to have poorly conceived and executed communications.
Beach and countryside – what’s not to like?
What I would say about working in Brighton is that the beach is only a mile away, as is the Downs (rolling hills just north of the city), so when I need inspiration or I just want a break, I can get away and recharge really easily. I can’t think of any other city that offers such a great escape plus it’s got a fantastic vibe with loads of funky bars and restaurants, an annual arts festival and lots of live music. If I did have to move, I’d love to be in Amsterdam; it’s such a pretty, easy to get-around city. And, of course, everyone speaks English which is useful since I don’t speak anything else!
My work is incredibly varied; one minute I can be helping a design client’s strategists create a distinctive story for a brand repositioning, the next, I’m writing customer emails selling TV packages. Clients come and go but I’ve worked for everyone from multinationals such as BP and American Express to one man and his dog grooming business. I like sharing my skills too; a few times a year, I run workshops at Brighton University and the University of Creative Arts on tone of voice, both for under and post-graduates.
What’s in a name?
When it comes to favourite projects, I really like naming and strapline creation. For example, I’ve recently come up with a name for a new seed and nut brand called Pep & Lekker. The brand is all about great tasting, energy boosting snacks, hence my choice of ‘pep’ and ‘lekker’ (the Dutch word for tasty). Like most naming jobs, once I’ve crossed off various linguistic and commercial considerations, it’s really a case of finding something that just sounds right. And I was really happy that the client chose this name.
Pep & Lekker
A great naming project for a new range of seedy snacks.
I guess my most famous work is the strapline I wrote for FIFA, ‘For the Game, for the World’. It’s been used in every football world cup since 2010 and I always get a bit of a kick when I see it on my TV screen during the teams’ national anthems.
I created this strapline in 2010 and it’s been used ever since, everywhere from press conferences to pitch-side branding.
In terms of the job I most enjoyed, it would have to be the branding work I did for the Mexican fast food chain, Chilango. I developed its tone of voice, wrote the brand story and history and all the website copy. The brand had a great sense of fun so I got to inject lots of humour into all its communications.
I developed the new fast food outlet’s tone of voice, website and in-store communications.
Right now, I’m doing a lot of work for a property marketing company called Saentys. They’re based in London with offices in Geneva and Paris, and work for big real estate groups like Pembroke and Savills. I do their property naming as well as letting/investment brochures and digital communications. I suppose I’ve become a bit of an expert in property but that’s the world of the freelance copywriter – for as long as the job lasts, I’m an expert in that sector. And then another job comes along and I forget everything that’s gone before. I guess my brain just isn’t big enough for all the knowledge I acquire along the way!
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