Copywriter and brand consultant Eliza Adams is Eliza Do Lots. She does lots of bringing the personal touch into comms. You can upset her by sending her work for huge, faceless, impersonal corporations. She probably talks to animals.
This is quite a long one, but the answer is “I’ve always been doing it!”
I grew up in rural Cumbria (this was the mid/late 90s) and I spent a lot of time online, learning to build websites with HTML, pouring my heart out on LiveJournal, and designing the most spectacularly of-its-time, angsty MySpace page known to man. At uni, I continued writing and creating online.
People began asking me for advice, and then paying me for that advice, and then asking me to help them write better, then simply to write for them.
I was a little slow on the uptake, but realised I’d been writing professionally for a few years, so decided to commit to it properly, instead of doing it for little spots of cash here and there whilst I tried to work out what ‘proper job’ I ought to have!
I’ve been copywriting as a freelancer full time for a few years now, and still absolutely love it.
What did you do before? Has it helped?
Not really before, but alongside, there’s not much I haven’t done: shop work, retail management, comms for Dorset county council, cleaning, bar work, chambermaiding, office jobs, marketing, catering – and all have given me skills and experiences I can fall back on, and have given me insights into the work my clients do, which means I’m better able to tell their stories.
I was always writing and publishing my work online, and learning more skills about marketing, digital marketing, social media and building an engaged audience – but it took until I was 30 before I realised that hobby and passion was something I was actually very good at, and could do professionally.
You did a creative-writing degree. Would you recommend that to copywriters?
I think it’s one great way to learn the skill of weaving words into pictures. It was actually joint honours with contemporary culture – which was a study of what makes people tick, how we form subcultures and relationships – and I would say that side of it has actually contributed more of the knowledge and skill that I’ve used in my work.
As well as my copywriting/marketing content, I’ve also done a lot of ghostwriting: short stories, romance stories, sci-fi stories – most of that work was for agencies that publish under their own ‘feature writer’ personas, so I’ve not had much chance to promote them as mine, but I quite like having that outlet of creativity anonymously, like a secret persona. The degree helps a lot there!
You seem interested in the psychological side of writing. How do you apply that to your work?
I’m interested in psychology in all areas of life – people fascinate me. What makes people tick and what reactions you can create with words is endlessly magical – and it’s seeing my work connecting people and building relationships that makes me tick.
I spend a lot of time people-watching, reading other people’s blogs and stories, autobiographies, histories of how someone’s work and lifestyle has evolved – and chatting on social media, where I’ve made some of my best personal and professional relationships.
Writing copy for clients is a little like trying on their skin and telling their story all wrapped up inside them – so I need to understand them well.
What do you consider to be your USP?
The same as everyone else – it’s just me. Who we are is the only unique thing about what we offer – there are very few truly unique businesses or business models – and few original ideas.
It’s all down to who you are, and the relationship you can build with your target audience. What I do isn’t unique – but the way I do it is just me. Chatty, warm, engaging and interested very much in making someone’s life a little better and easier.
What do you think has been your finest hour?
I think running the magazine was quite special. I sourced lots of people who wanted to get into journalism or writing, but had little experience or portfolio work – and paired them with all kinds of resources, agencies, brands and publishing contacts – and the magazine became the portfolio of all our work.
A number of the writers are now well-known journalists, three have publishing deals for books, and others have moved into freelance copywriting like myself and are doing well – so I’m very proud of what I built and created, the learning I gained about web design and promotion during that phase, and knowing that I helped others to launch their own careers.
There’s a lot of debate about ‘niching’ right now. What’s your take?
I get conflicted on this. I’ve never deliberately niched – I’m always willing to take on any work I can, and find a way to enjoy it – but of course I’ve had preferences.
Once you start to do something well, people pass your name on to their network – so most of my work is word of mouth, and generally in the same industry (professional and personal development) which I have a huge interest in myself, so probably write better for those clients. I never niched on purpose – but have found my space.
You offer more than copywriting, don’t you? What does your brand consultation product look like?
This is a service for people who want to run their own businesses or brands, but who aren’t quite sure what that looks like beyond ‘the thing they sell’. So many people get so caught up in the way they ‘should be working’ that they forget what they wanted to be in the first place.
My brand consultation pulls it all back, strips away the ‘shoulds’ – it’s all about creating a consistent message, an ethos and key message that stays true to who they are and what their goal is, and maintaining that focus in everything they create and put out.
I help people identify their moral boundaries, the audience they need to connect with, the audiences they need to avoid, and simplify the messages to focus on their best offerings. Then I tidy up the brand guidelines and brand identity, so that everything they share, say and offer is recognisably them.
How are you keeping yourself entertained during lockdown?
We have four children, aged from nine to 16, so staying entertained isn’t an issue (though staying sane is!) I’m helping them all with schoolwork, working for my clients, making sure we all get outdoors once a day (safely – luckily we live right beside a nature park) and keeping fit with Joe Wicks, who I think is trying to kill me one HIIT workout at a time!
Which copywriting books would you recommend?
Oh I’ve read billions! Recently I finished ‘The art of the click’ by Glenn Fisher, who you’ve already interviewed, and ‘Copywriting made simple’ by Tom Albrighton, who I don’t believe you have yet? Both of these are excellent and well worth ordering to devour whilst you’re in lockdown!
And what’s the last ‘normal’ book you read?
I usually have four or five on the go at once. I’m a flitter – I also love an audio book. I’ve recently returned to Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series, and I’m reading ‘The Third Twin’ by Ken Follett.
I’m also reading ‘Company of one’ (Paul Jarvis) as a book-club read, ‘Queer: a graphic history’ by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele with my teens, and ‘The light jar’ by Lisa Thompson with my youngest son.
Any advice for newbie copywriters?
Write and write and write and write – then butcher it and rewrite it all better. Don’t take the no personally, don’t be hurt by edits, and don’t think of the words as your babies, but as whispers you send out waiting for an echo. Then follow the echoes.
And any advice for clients?
Give clear briefs!
Finally, what did you have for breakfast today?
Two coffees, a banana and a satsuma.