This week, it’s the turn of Devon freelance copywriter Graeme Piper, all-round good bloke and the Bard of Newton Abbot. Hear how he moved from litho printing to the dark room to the Dark Arts of copywriting.
What got you into this crazy game?
It sounds very clichéd to say I just ‘fell into it’, but that’s kind of what happened. When I worked in a marketing team, I used to write the odd bit of brochure and web copy, but never considered myself a copywriter.
Then I was asked to write a full brochure, followed by more web copy, blogs etc. I enjoyed writing it and my bosses seemed to like the results, so I figured I could make money for myself writing words. And here we are.
How has the past shaped the present?
I started my career as a litho printer, so I printed words. I then started my dalliance with the darkroom and studio, cutting and pasting with cow gum, then making film and plates for the presses, so I was putting the words together.
After a ten-year stint as a Mac artworker using Quark/InDesign/Photoshop to put together press-ready artwork for all sorts of brochures, POS, newsletters etc, I found myself back at the start of the process – writing the words.
You’re based down in Devon. Is that a help or a hindrance?
I can write copy for someone next door or someone on the other side of the world, so, being in the 21st century and all that goes with it, it’s not a hindrance at all. You can do good work wherever you’re based and I’m lucky to be in a very nice part of the world while I’m doing it.
How do you attract your clients? Do they tend to be local, national or international?
My clients are mainly all Devon and Cornwall-based, whether they’re direct clients or agency clients. The agency work can be for their own purposes or for their own clients, who can be based pretty much anywhere.
A lot of my own clients find me through Google – so at least I know my website is doing something for me – or through word of mouth and referrals.
Do you get out to see clients much?
If it’s a potential new client, I’ll always suggest I come and meet them at their office or any venue – you can’t beat a good face-to-face conversation in the early stages of the process.
But I have a lot of clients I’ve never even met – they may have come to me through any number of ways and everything’s been discussed either on the phone or email. But if a client ever wants me to visit them to discuss a new project, I’m there.
What was your finest hour?
I’m pretty proud of everything I’ve produced – except for stuff in my very early days when I think I’d like to start it all again from scratch.
I did have a lot of pride over a brochure I worked on with an agency a couple of years ago. I wrote about a dozen 400-word articles, all of which included either a shit ton of research or interviews with interior designers and architects and the like – or both.
The rest of the articles were supplied to me, so they all had to go through a couple of rounds of in-depth copyediting. It was a lot of work, but really enjoyable, and incredibly satisfying seeing the final printed brochure.
The agency that project-managed the whole thing did a stellar job in designing it and getting it printed to such a high standard. You can see it and read all about it on my website.
Any bum notes? You’re among friends here.
Fortunately, nothing’s gone drastically wrong on any projects. There have been times when I’ve struggled to hit the mark by my own standards, times when projects have been nightmarish thanks to a lack of brief and direction, and times when I should’ve said ’thanks, but no thanks’. But it’s all part of the freelance learning curve.
What’s your favourite type of client and work?
Variety is the spice of life – especially for a freelance copywriter who doesn’t ‘niche down’. Every project comes with its own challenges, but it’s great to be thrust into a world you know nothing about, gaining all that knowledge.
But probably a client who understands the value of good copywriting, is prepared to pay for quality, and doesn’t mind if it takes longer to write as long as it’s right – and good.
Any good copywriting bibles you can recommend?
So, SO many. However, everyone should own: The Art Of The Click by Glenn Fisher, Copywriting Made Simple by Tom Albrighton, Everybody Writes by Ann Handley, Read Me by Horberry and Lingwood, Ogilvy on Advertising. And literally anything ever written by Dave Trott. That lot should see you right.
Any tips for newbie copywriters?
Read everything – from trashy mags to highbrow novels and everything in between. Write daily – find your voice and style as early as you can. And don’t forget – you’ll need lots of money for your tax Payments on Account. And make sure you charge what you’re worth. You have a skill – don’t undervalue yourself.
And any tips for clients?
Even though saying “you know what we want” or “I’ll leave it you” might seem helpful, it’s probably not – except in rare circumstances.
A detailed brief with loads of clarity on what you need, with lots of background and reference material is always appreciated. And make yourself available to calls and emails. Hey, I can dream, right?
What did you have for breakfast today?
A bowl of muesli and granola with oat milk at about 9.30am. It’s usually that or a couple of rounds of toast and marmalade.