It’s Jo Watson week! The best thing to come out of Bolton since sliced Warbie’s bread, she popped up yesterday on Katherine Wildman’s excellent The Writing Desk. And why the feck not? As Jo might say.
When people start doing well and getting nice things as a result of the words you put on paper for them, you realise that you should really start charging for that kind of joy and value you bring.
Well, maybe not always joy, but I did once write a letter of customer complaint that got me 80,000 Air Miles… I guess my career started there.
How the heck do you go from sports education to copywriting?
I was always writing, because I really enjoyed it and it seemed to be my only real talent.
When any role I held in my career (I was originally a teacher) started having a load of writing stuff added to it because I was the only one who actually wanted to do it (I’m a control freak when it comes to language), I started thinking that I needed a career where I could just write all the time.
I was actually working for a professional football club when I set up my business. Then, after a number of years, I decided I wanted to invest my time and energy into it full time. I’ve genuinely never looked back.
What’s a typical project?
No idea. I don’t approach any possible clients and so all potential new work is an inbound lead. So, I judge every project on how well I feel I’ll hit it off with the person who gets in touch.
I’ve worked on some random projects – and within various industries – I never thought would excite me, but it really does all come down to the partnership you form with the client. If they’re enthusiastic about what they do, and we hit it off, I’ll love their project as much as they do!
What’s been your finest hour?
I’m proud of the fact that I ghost-wrote the autobiography/business book for a former winner of The Apprentice – Joseph Valente.
I loved working with Joe and it was such a different project to anything I’d done before (or since). I was a massive Apprentice fan, which helped.
I think the reason I’d class it as my finest hour was because of how I ‘won’ the project.
Joe had put out a search on LinkedIn (cue HUNDREDS of recommendations and pitches), and I simply sent him a DM telling him to just pick whoever he thought he could be honest with and have a laugh with, given the hugely personal nature of the task.
On that basis, he chose me that same day! Oh, and I was heavily pregnant at the time and still throwing up every day! I like a challenge. Go me!
What would be your dream assignment?
I love working on branding, so a dream assignment would be to work on product naming/descriptions/taglines for a fun and creative product line, where I just get to sit there and use puns, song lyrics and little witticisms that fall somewhere between ‘alternative’ and ‘f**ked up’. I’d LOVE to name paint shades!
And your perfect client?
One who trusts me to get on with my work, has a laugh with me, and never quibbles payment. Anyone who doesn’t state that last one as their ideal client is a liar, sir!
What would you have done in another life?
I have no idea, but I just thank f**k I don’t have to teach in a school any more! Oh actually, I’d have loved to be a barrister! Getting paid to argue and prove people wrong? Where do I sign up?
What copywriting bugbears do you have?
I hate that it’s still massively undervalued in every sense. It’s an art and a science, and whist the claim may be true that everyone can write, not everyone can write copy.
And I really need people to stop putting posts on LinkedIn asking for copywriters to start work ‘immediately’. Plan your time and your needs better, jackass. I don’t know where that word came from…
What made you decide to offer training courses?
I used to be a teacher, and for a big chunk of that time I moved to alternative education, so I was used to delivering sessions of all kinds to lots of different types of ‘grown-ups’.
It made sense that, if I could teach, and I could write good copy, I should turn my hand to teaching other people how to write good copy!
Cool. What does your training look like?
I keep the group sizes small so that the session can flow in any direction that it needs to go to suit everyone’s needs and to make sure that everyone gets some focused time one-to-one.
Prior to the session, I gather information from my delegates so that I can design training that works perfectly for them. I only want to attract people who want to throw themselves into a challenge and have some fun along the way, so my sessions are interactive, full of laughter (at least from me) and there are regular snack breaks.
I choose the venue based on the quality and range of foods and beverages on offer. Yes, really.
How do your Contact Calls work?
On Zoom, they work horrifically! My god, I just need everyone to get off the internet! Seriously though, they’re very client-led.
Clients can use the session (one hour) to ask any questions they like and to put forward/try out any ideas they choose. It’s important that they get exactly what they need out of the session – not just what I could generically offer by throwing thoughts at them.
I’m sure you won’t mind me saying you’re quite sweary and up-front on LinkedIn. Do you think that attracts a certain sort of client?
I know I’m known for swearing, but the reality is that I only ever swear in context, or if I feel it helps me make a point and have a deliberate impact as part of a post as a whole.
If people are genuinely upset by my swearing and upfront nature then they probably wouldn’t like a lot about who I am, so it’s good to drive people like that away. Why waste each other’s time?
My swearing will of course attract other swearers, which is good fun, but it also attracts a lot of other people who don’t swear, but who appreciate the directness, impact and laid-backnesss (that’s a word) of who I am and what I’d be like to work with. I’m a joy.
Reckon you’ll ever write a book?
I already am doing! Watch this space! And space is all it is, at the moment. Lots and lots of white space… I published a downloadable collection of my best ever business blogs a few months ago and I’m in the process of adding to that and creating it into a real book for Christmas, but that’s not the ‘big one’ that I have in mind…
How do you think copywriting is changing? For better or worse?
I hope that people start to value it as an essential part of marketing, now.
It used to be ridiculous the lengths and costs people would go to for websites, logos and photoshoots to make themselves look good, but when it came to actually telling people what they do and why they’re brilliant at it, people would scoff at having to pay for the words.
May the power of words be one of the things business owners realise they have to harness if they’re going to make it through this pandemic.
Any tips for clients?
Have a look at any potential copywriter’s website. Do you like what you see? Do you like the sound of the person behind it all? Do they practise what they preach? If so, that’s a great way to see if the relationship is going to work and the results you’ll get if you hire them.
And any tips for newbie copywriters?
Find your own style. It can be tempting to try and copy someone else’s style if you see it’s working for them. This never ends well.
The best way to find your own style and voice is to make sure you remember to write things for yourself as well as working for your clients.
I blog, write articles for other publications, and opt for scribing long-form posts on social media… it really helps me to hone my craft and keep me at the top of my game.
Finally, what are your breakfast arrangements?
I always wake up feeling like I’m going to throw up for some reason (don’t go there), but then ten minutes after leaving the house I’m starving.
I need to start forcing myself to eat breakfast, but my priority in the mornings is always my little girl, Lily. As long as she’s fed, happy, and not covered in Weetabix, I’m winning at mornings!
Ooooh, I love a good buffet breakfast at a nice hotel, though.