Haris Halkic: Hi Jamie, 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 us more about your story.
Jamie Thomson: Hi Haris. Thanks for asking me to be a part of these great interviews. I got started in copywriting from working as a freelance journalist. In my last couple of years at university (studying English Literature and French), I worked freelance for a few newspapers in Scotland. However, my timing wasn’t great and it was tough trying to secure a full-time job in the industry. So, I started working in various non-writing related jobs and kept writing on the side.
I started an online business in the private tutoring space in my spare time and I wrote and published all the content and resources. My writing must have sparked the curiosity of other companies and I started getting requests to write for their websites.
It then dawned on me that other businesses might just pay me to write for them. And the rest is history…
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance copywriting from your previous job? What’s your best piece of advice to someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
Jamie Thomson: Before I went freelance full-time, I was working with the homeless service. I decided to give a name to my fledgling business and set up a website.
I continued taking on new copywriting projects, working in the evening and weekends until I reached the point that I had to turn down work because I couldn’t take it all on while working a 9-5.
I decided that I had two options. Scale back my copywriting work and use it to supplement my full-time income, or bite the bullet and quit my job to be a copywriter full-time. So, I bit the bullet.
And then a couple of years ago, I rebranded as a copywriting agency as I was working closely with a few other freelance copywriters on larger projects. And that’s how we operate today. If a big project comes in, I get the other writers involved.
My best piece of advice to someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter is to practice.
It’s a simple formula but the more you practice, the better you get. And the better you get, the more work you’ll be offered.
I’d also say, don’t quit your job straight away. It’s a romantic notion, quitting your job to become a writer, but the business-side of things (particularly finding work) isn’t easy at first. Financially, I had about 3-4 months salary saved up before I went freelance full-time. It acted as a buffer early on when I was still finding my feet.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?
Jamie Thomson: Most of my new clients come through inbound marketing. I’m not really one to ‘reach out’ and prefer clients to come to me so I have more freedom over what projects I take on. My experience of marketing the education business taught me a lot about SEO, not just the theory, but the practice.
So, I apply my SEO knowledge to my copywriting business as well. It was a slow-burner at first and it’s definitely a long-term strategy but it pays off well for me now.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Jamie Thomson: It really depends on the project to be honest. If it’s a creative project, I’ll usually get started shortly after receiving the brief or talking to the client – while I’m in the right mindset. Then I’ll walk away from the project for a day or two and revisit it with a fresh perspective.
If it’s more of a journalistic project like an article or a press release, I usually start slowly with research. Once I have all the material I need, I focus on the structure and then start filling out the page with words.
On a side note (and I’m sure this is something other copywriters struggle with too), sometimes, despite my best intentions, I’m just not in the right frame of mind to write. When this happens, I usually do one of two things. I either force myself to get started to see if it helps kickstart the process. Or, I go and do something else completely unrelated to work. As time goes on though (and with young kids to write around), I find that pushing through tends to set the wheels in motion.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Jamie Thomson: I learned through a combination of research and doing. I started learning by reading about copywriting in books and online and applying what I’d read to my work.
In terms of recommendations, for someone completely new to the craft, I’d recommend Tom Albrighton’s new book ‘Copywriting Made Simple’. It’s a great introduction to how to write copy. I’d also recommend listening to Kate Toon and Belinda Weaver’s Hot Copy Podcast. They give some great advice, particularly on the copywriting process.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Jamie Thomson: I don’t really have a favourite copywriter as such. But I do have lots of favourite pieces of copywriting. Here are two:
I like this example from Transport for London as it creates a fragile, innocent tone that puts the issue into real perspective.
And this one from chartered accountants, Cowan and Partners is the perfect balance of simple and clever:
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Jamie Thomson: For me, it’s about having flexibility and being in charge of my own destiny, so to speak. As a freelancer, you can essentially work from anywhere. You can pick and choose your projects and you can’t really be sacked either.
Whenever I find myself complaining about the freelance life, I try to remind myself of what it felt like to go through all those redundancy processes when I was employed and to have no control over the outcome.
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Jamie Thomson: I wish I could say ‘getting 8 hours sleep’ but I rarely manage it. For me, that would be the single best habit to adopt but I’m still working on it. So, I’d probably say that always doing my best work is the one habit that has really paid off.
Haris Halkic: Are there areas that you focus on as a copywriter and if someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?
Jamie Thomson: As a copywriting agency, we tend to focus on website copywriting and content marketing to specific industries. However, we also do product description writing, video script copywriting, and press release writing.
The best way to get in touch is to contact us through our website at www.brandnewcopy.com.