He writes. He’s a rock star. He’s an awards judge. He’s courted some big names. He home-schools. He chairs a copywriting support group. Ladies and gents, meet Staffordshire copywriter Daniel Nixon.
I’ve been messing around with creative writing since I was around 14. Song lyrics, poems, music fanzines—that kind of thing. But, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I realised you could make an actual living from it.
You started out in promotions, right?
Yes. I was a music promoter at a venue in Stoke. It was great fun working in the music industry. I spent my time watching bands, going to gigs and getting free festival passes. But it was also very long, very unsocial hours. And you can only keep up that lifestyle for so long before it takes its toll.
How did you gravitate towards content writing?
As part of my role at the music venue, I was doing a lot of content for social media and the website. An old uni friend got in touch one day, saying he was looking for someone to join his content team at Phones 4U. He explained that the job consisted of writing all day, and I had an application filled out within the hour.
Tell me more about Phones4U
We covered everything from blogs and video scripts to email copy and social posts. I was so lucky to join them when I did—we got to experiment with loads of different types of copy at a time when ‘content marketing’ was in its infancy.
Any highlights from your time at Cube3?
Oh, there were many. Coming up with cocktail names for Revolution Bars, creating a TV series for Cash Generator, writing ads for Blackpool Tower. The senior team were a brave bunch, and they pushed us creatives hard. It led to some great work and an inspiring atmosphere.
Then you ended up going freelance a couple of years ago? Did you jump or were you pushed?
I loved the agency, but the commute and long hours meant I wasn’t seeing enough of my family. I wanted to be at home more and get some flexibility. Freelancing ticked both of those boxes.
What have you enjoyed most about freelancing?
The variety of work, independence, getting to work with different people every day. It’s been a riot.
Any high notes?
Too many to mention. More than anything, finally having the chance to work with agencies and clients who I’ve admired for years has been the highlight.
How do you drum up business?
These days, my work comes from established relationships and recommendations. But, for the first year or so, I spent at least one day a week emailing or messaging potential clients. There’s not a creative director in the land that hasn’t been hassled by me at some point.
What does a typical client look like?
My work is predominantly with creative agencies, usually in London or Manchester.
Favourite ad campaign of all time?
Can I have three? Anything by The Economist, the Chivas Regal ‘Father’s Day’ ad, and Jerry Cronin’s work for Nike.
Any favourite copywriters?
David Abbott, Jerry Cronin, Jordan Dinwiddie, Dan Wieden, Tim Riley, Mary Wear, Julian Koenig, Vicki Maguire.
You’ve been a DMA awards judge. Tell us more.
I got involved with the DMA during my time at Cube3. My boss pushed me to apply for a spot on the judging panel, and I got accepted. I spent a couple of days in a beautiful building in Euston poring over incredible work. I highly recommend it.
What’s this about the Manchester Copywriting Club?
That came out of my relationship with the DMA. The legendary Mark Runacus had run a campaign called ‘Why your copywriter looks sad’ and it concluded that, well, copywriters were pretty sad. We set up the Copywriting Club as a support group of sorts. I ran it for a short time. We critiqued work, moaned a bit, and drank beer. It was great fun.
And you’re also a rock star?
I think the question mark at the end of that statement says it all.
Any copywriting books you’d recommend?
I love ‘Read Me’ by Roger Horberry and Gyles Lingwood. ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’ is essential. I try to read Steve Harrison’s ‘How To Write Better Copy’ every year. I spend hours at a time browsing D&AD’s ‘The Copy Book’. And, it’s not a book about copywriting, but Joe Moran’s ‘First You Write A Sentence‘ is the best book about writing I’ve ever read.
Finally, what do you do for breakfast?
Eat porridge and shout at my kids.