Haris Halkic: Hi Meghan, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips on copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting? Please, tell me more about your story.
Meghan Thomson: Thank you for the opportunity!
I was an account manager at an employer branding agency in London, but used to go home every night and write – about things I observed in my day, random stuff that popped into my head; anything really. I couldn’t stop writing. And so, I started approaching people to write for free.
The first article I wrote was about Richard Branson’s exclusive 5-star resort in the Kruger National Park, in South Africa. I’d never been there, but I wrote like I did. I then wrote an article for an expat publication in the UK. And when I moved to my agency’s Sydney office at the end of 2006, there was a copywriting role going so I applied for it and got it.
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance writing from your previous job? What’s your best advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
Meghan Thomson: I left my previous agency and was looking for contract work, but got pregnant and no one would hire me. So, my hand was forced in a way. But it worked out because I’d already built up a large network of contacts in the industry. That would be my advice:
Make sure you have a good network to fall on when you decide to transition, because this is the easiest way to get writing gigs when you first start freelancing.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell me more about how you get clients?
Meghan Thomson: As I mentioned above, networks. This has been my saving grace. If you don’t have networks, get out there.
Go to events, conferences, join freelance social media groups, freelance job sites, collaborate with other creatives: designers, animators, web developers, because these worlds co-exist.
And don’t be afraid to approach agencies, as they often like to have a book of freelancers they can call up when they’re under pressure.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Meghan Thomson: I’ve had no formal training. I learnt on the job and if there’s ever been anything I don’t know how to do, I go out and research it. Copywriting, like any creative job, is a subjective thing and I honestly believe that, for some people, it’s not something you learn. It’s just something you do. Great writers use their experiences, observations, understanding of human behaviour and the world around them to connect the dots.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Meghan Thomson: It depends on the type of writing I’m doing. For B2B writing, a cup of tea and zero distraction tends to work. If it’s something more emotive, like a fundraising campaign for example, I listen to music that will get me in the mood I’m hoping to evoke in the reader.
If I’m stuck and can’t get the words out, there’s a café I go to the overlooks the beach. I don’t know what it is about that place, but it unsticks me – every time.
I also try to write in blocks, and take 5-15 minute breaks in-between where I do mini workouts to get moving.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Meghan Thomson: Oof, that’s a tough one. Right now, I’d have to say Ash Ambirge from The Middle Finger Project. She’s an incredible storyteller, with a unique perspective and voice that just resonates.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Meghan Thomson: Oh gosh, there are so many! I think the greatest is that you get to drive the bus, which means you decide where to get off. If something’s not working, change it. If you feel like taking the day off, because you’ve worked like a crazy person for the last couple of weeks, you can. If the afternoon slump hits, take a 20-minute nap and then get back to work – better for it.
I love that I have a different office every morning: a café, the library, a table at the beach, the comfort of my home, or a shared, co-working space. And if my kids are sick I can press pause to take care of them.
Haris Halkic: Is there a daily habit that has contributed to your success more than any other?
Meghan Thomson: Yes, to keep writing. Even when I don’t feel like it.
Creativity is a funny beast. Sometimes it flows out of you, and other times it gets buried beneath the stresses of life. But you have to conquer that blank page and the only way to do that is to write.
The first draft of anything is never going to be a masterpiece, but it’s better than presenting nothing.
Haris Halkic: I love the way how you presented your personality and what makes you special on the section on your website which is called “10 reasons you’ll love me. Or lump me.” In your experience, how important is it to promote yourself as a freelance copywriter and what has worked for you exceptionally well?
Meghan Thomson: Thank you! But if I’m completely honest, I wouldn’t say I’m very good at promoting myself. I’ve relied heavily on word of mouth and use my work to get more work. So, I’d say it’s important to make the experience pleasant for your clients (creatives have a reputation for being flaky/unreliable), do good work and you’ll get repeat customers.
It’s far easier to make money through repeat customers than it is to keep going out trying to find new ones.
The other thing I will say is you should identify who your ideal client is and then focus your promotional activity where your ideal client spends most of their time. For example, B2B writers should focus on LinkedIn, whereas small business writers can focus on Facebook and Instagram.
Haris Halkic: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?