Haris: Hi Sophie, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips on copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you achieved the 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?
Sophie: I made the transition gradually. From working full-time as an in-house copywriter, I moved to working part-time, and started freelancing on the other days. When I was confident of my portfolio and potential client base, I went freelance full-time.
In two years as Copywriter and Content Editor at JustGiving, I worked with some brilliant brand consultants, designers, UX specialists, developers, researchers and charity marketing/fundraising professionals. When I decided to go freelance, I sent personal emails to a lot of my contacts, including a link to my website, to let them know that I was available for freelance copywriting work. Because those people already trusted my writing and editing skills, and we’d had a good experience working together, they either hired me, or recommended me to their contacts.
Haris: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?
Sophie: Most of my clients have come through people I’ve worked with in the past. They’ve recommended me to colleagues, or moved to a new organisation and got in touch with me again. Exceptions to that general rule include two agencies that I met on Twitter, and a few clients who have found me through LinkedIn, or my website.
Haris: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Sophie: I make sure any urgent admin is dealt with, make a cup of tea or coffee, read any background materials, have a notebook and pen ready, and crack on.
Haris: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Sophie: I’ve been writing stories, poems and scripts for as long as I can remember. So my writing skills have come through the love of writing, and practice. I did English Language and Literature GCSEs, English A-level, and a degree in Theatre, Film and TV at Bristol University, so there was a lot of writing involved in that.
I learnt to write copy on the job. Before I became a copywriter, I volunteered for any writing tasks going, at every place I worked, including a TV company, an education authority, and the National Theatre.
That gave me experience in writing programme blurbs, educational publications, and online marketing copy.
A year teaching English in Barcelona honed my grammar skills, and when I returned, I was hired as a copywriter by an agency building an interactive learning resource for the BBC. After that I became Content Editor at JustGiving, and learned a lot about digital and web copywriting.
A book that helped me a lot in my first few years as a freelancer is Brilliant Freelancer by Leif Kendall. It walks you through the basics of being self-employed in a way that’s helpful and easy to follow.
Haris: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Sophie: One example of copy that I really admire appears on the delivery vans of a large supermarket chain.
“Freshly clicked.” and “You shop, we drop.”
So simple. Really short and sweet. It manages to make the tech-based experience of online grocery shopping sound like freshly picked produce. And it makes having groceries delivered to your door sound easy, convenient and inviting.
Haris: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
I love the variety of subject matter. It keeps me on my toes, and keeps my writing fit.
I also value being able to choose which projects I take on. It means I’m really invested in every writing project I accept. After travelling to offices throughout my twenties, I’ve liberated myself from the daily commute. Because life’s too short.
Haris: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Sophie: Being honest. By that, I mean knowing what I excel at, and where there are gaps in my knowledge. Establishing realistic timeframes with clients, so I know I’ll meet our deadlines. And delivering tough feedback when necessary, to get better results.
Haris: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?