2013 - It's been emotional.

Posted: 30th Dec 2013

Not a bad one at all.

2013 has been a corker. Not only did I work alongside great folk on pretty awesome projects but I learnt a shit load.

We all say that we are always learning, developing and honing our skills but I can honestly say that this year I truly did. Not to rub it in but this year I didn't have to cherry pick, the majority of the clients and projects I had were professionals, collaborators and entirely respectful.

I worked with start ups, corporations, charities and design agencies who all had a unique idea of copy and the role it plays. Many of these projects will feature in my new portfolio section in early 2014. I love my site so this will be less of a re-design and more of a bigger, more Distil-filled experience.

2014 will also see me host my own new series of copywriting podcasts, can't wait. I'm not a huge newsletter fan so I'll be opting for my pod pals and a few e-books instead, hopefully these will be a valuable resource to all writers out there and those looking to see what I'm up to.

Routines, Plots & Collaboration - Same shit, different medium.

Posted: 1st Dec 2013

No right or wrong - Guardian Screenwriting Masterclass.

Last weekend I spent my Sunday with some pretty amazing writers. The Guardian hosted a screenwriting masterclass and I was lucky enough to attend. I went expecting to find out about the industry, the craft and the realities of the business. I've been a screenwriter for many years now but am always more curious about finding out about how some of Britain's best writers work on a daily basis than how to 'break into the industry'.

Every writer has a unique way of working. Each of the 5 speakers had a totally different approach and relationship with the film industry.

Joanna Hogg

I found Joanna to be the most influential of the speakers. She came from a TV directing background but is now a renowned film writer/director. She mastered social realism, each of her films centred on family relationships and unique locations.

I loved the way she wrote. Often structure, especially the strict format of a script, can limit your scope and be a real burden. Joanna combated this by writing her scripts as a prose of sorts, she ditched the typical dialogue and action format and opted for a focus on feelings and visuals. Her scripts were full of photos and off-screen references, I loved it.

Hanif Kureishi

Famed for films such as 'My beautiful Laundrette' and 'My son, the Fanatic', Hanif was one of the writers I couldn't wait to meet. He was a character with a harsh, realistic opinion of his craft. He is fearless and unromantic in his writing process, he writes for directors and is a chronic over-writer.

He discussed his influences and relationship with the film-makers who adopt his scripts. He was happy to pass over his work and move onto the next project, he wasn't at all precious over his scripts. He also advocated criticism and believed one of the greatest things a writer needs is honest feedback from people who know what they are talking about.

Christopher Hampton

Chris was perhaps the most prestigious and credited writer at the event. As a director as well, he had a unique perspective on the role of the writer. He knew that no two scripts are the same and worked on each new project with a new perspective and routine. Freedom and narrative were heavily discussed, Chris believed that screenwriting was in fact a very limiting medium to work in.

He was highly concerned with structure and story. Discovering what makes a story a 'screen story' was integral when it came to creating the characters and narratives. As a writer who adapted novels and theatre plays, he referred to a script as simply a 'blueprint'.

I was impressed at how honest the speakers were. Each writer was open about their occasional lack of confidence in their work. How they wrote and collaborated with directors was truly insightful, their success was attributed to the fact that each writer simply wrote for themselves.

Beat the copywriting blues

Posted: 4th Nov 2013

Get yourself out your copy funk.

We have all been there. You can have a packed schedule of interesting, well paid jobs but when you get yourself into that copy lull it can be deadly. Self-discipline is an art form. It's something I have developed over years as a writer but no one is perfect. Keeping yourself motivated, on the ball and focused is tough.

So, you're having one of those flimsy, meh weeks but the clients are calling, what can you do to get back on track?

Sometimes it's just a case of boredom.

It's not a bad thing to be bored out your nut with the projects you have on. The moment your week becomes uniform and repetitive you naturally lose interest. There are some weeks where the bread and butter jobs will be anything but creative opportunities but this is the nature of being a freelancer. I find it comforting to look over my to-do lists of previous weeks, no two weeks tend to be the same. Take time to enjoy your research stages, approach topics with a new angle and use this time to perfect what you do best - write.

Get organised.

If you are living from hour to hour without a schedule or plan, you can't see the end and beginnings of each project. I'm the type of person who revels in a system of organisation. Give your projects time frames, maybe even challenge yourself to beat the clock. It may seem silly but self-imposed deadlines are the best way to get to grips with your ability.

Get away from your machine.

Sometimes there is nothing worse than a screen. Get off your arse and do the dishes, hoover, anything that allows your brain to process your day and thoughts itself. You'll be amazed at how easy solutions and ideas come to you. I write most of my copy by hand first, and this really helps me chart my thought process.

At the end of the day, you can't be in awe of your job everyday. Some projects are amazing, others mundane. Any opportunity to hone your craft is a gift, and it may say cheesy but it's true.

My favourite writing & creative blogs

Posted: 28th Jul 2013

The resourceful and the inspirational

I should blog more. I know I should be more motivated but work piles up, tea awaits etc etc. Resourceful, insightful or fun, it goes without saying that the more you read, the more you write. Yep, I'm guilty of neglecting my blog from time to time but I check in with my favourites on a weekly basis. Maybe I should just make mine my favourite...

Anyway, here is a collection of my weekly blog haunts. From copywriting and content to the creative, these blogs and writers well and truly tick the boxes.


Probably the best copywriting blog out there, Copyblogger is the place to check in for content marketing, SEO copwriting and much more. Packed with experienced advice and sound insight, it's the first place I visit when I have a spare 5 mins.

Writer, Reader, Rascal

Written by copywriter Andrew Boulton, The Drum's 'Writer, Reader, Rascal' blog is up there for me. Humorous and genuine, Andrew handles each content subject with a highly unique perspective. His insight is as valuable as fun and personable.

Valuable Content

Sonja Jefferson knows content. Valuable Content handles the role of content in marketing and strategy. She offers advice and tips in the form of breakdowns and case studies, while observing the ever-changing role of content in the marketing industry.

Unashamedly Creative

Rebakah Lambert is one of my favourites. Every Unashamedly Creative post is packed with insight and character. This is a no nonsense observational blog that tackles the discrepancies of marketing content and copywriting. Resourceful and spot on.

Creative Bloc

Writing opportunities, advice and freelancing tools is what Creative Bloc is all about. An unparalleled resource, Creative Bloc keenly observes freelancing and the creative industries with personality and an acute awareness. Writers such as Rachael Oku and Mark James make the blog the great resource it is.

There's a heap of others out there, such as Gather Content and ABC copywriting, that offer inspiration and guidance for writers of any level.

The Masters of Advertising Copywriting

Posted: 20th Jun 2013

Each to their own.

If you haven't got Taschen's 'The Copy Book - How some of the best advertising writers in the world write their advertising', then get it. Now.

I don't own an extensive range of copywriting books. I think I've always looked to gain more from a piece of writing than the factual, the resourceful. I love insight, a real study of how people work, especially writers. 'The Copy Book' ticks that box. On top of thumbing through some of the most infamous long and short copy ads of all time, you gain a self-penned insight into the writer's routine and attitudes to their profession.

Every writer is different. One of the things I love about my job is the fact that I see a brief completely different to another copywriter. It's the personal idiosyncrasies and routines that make the writer.

'The Copy Book' delves into these, and I was surprised by the passionate obsessiveness of some and the robotic nature of others. When it comes to my own attitude and habits to my copywriting, there will always be areas that I ponder over and try to customise, so it's good to see the masters struggle with the same.

The 'Process'

When it comes to the kick off I need two things; to be in the mood and a pen. I write everything by hand. Time consuming and not exactly tree friendly, but I like the look of words and my own handwriting. The act of handwriting is a real pleasure, probably why I love the research stage of projects so much.

The likes of David Abbott adopt a similar love for pen and paper. Abbott rarely shapes a piece of copy prior to creating the copy itself, it is 'somehow in his brain', something I believe the noble pen and paper is responsible for.

Ideas & Words

Advertising copy is definitely less a case of knowing what to write, but when to. Thinking visually and forging the idea into communication is a delicate process. I love bad ideas, they are just as valuable as the good, so as delicate as this process is, it can be about bold decisions and taking risks. I stumble across my best ideas often by accident, but no idea is perfect. Test it's stealth and if it remains as pliable and punchy as it did at first thinking, then you're onto a winner. John Bevins believes you don't "have" good ideas, you find them.

Work how you work

Some writers need noise to work, others a quiet office. For me, my writing space is often dictated by the project at hand. I love collaboration, I enjoy thrashing out ideas and test driving copy but I have to admit that the traditional notions of brainstorming and 'workshopping' make me cringe slightly. I re-write continuously. A trait I developed as a screenwriter I'm sure, as some copywriters limit their copy to a 3 draft routine. Neil French rarely re-writes as it kills the flow once he starts to tinker.

Develop your own style and use it well. If there's one thing this book taught me it's that industries and projects change but habits and routines rarely do. The best writers are the ones that know what works for them and can apply it accordingly.

Death of the 9-5

Posted: 6th Jun 2013

Freelance working hours.

When you decide to go freelance you accept that your working life will be in a state of flux. Some see this as a good thing, others struggle. I went from being in a structured 9-5 to working as and when I please. It wasn't the concept of freedom or motivation I struggled with, it was the pressure I put on myself. Over the years I learnt to embrace the madness and my own personal ways of working, whether they be good or bad.

Quality isn't dictated by Time spent.

I've always believed this but when you are freelance this becomes more prevalent. The hours you work, the total figure, becomes less important, it's what you actually achieve that matters. That may not be a finalised body of copy, it may be a successful or unsuccessful brainstorm.

Freelancers find it hard to turn off, this can be due to the unconventional hours obviously. The closer you work to your bedtime, the more your head will be swimming, but there is a happy medium. I work with clients in this country and overseas, time difference plays a big part in my working routine, but I also find I work better at night. I need to be available during the day for my UK clients, and I can work fine and dandy during the day, but maybe it's the fact there is less distractions at 1am that drives me on.

Define distraction & embrace procrastination.

You will get distracted and you will procrastinate. It's a fact. If you're getting bored and drifting away at the office, leave the office. Work at home, in a coffee shop or simply go for a walk. If you aren't getting work done then make the most productive decision and stop. When I get distracted my mind takes care of things itself. It mulls away, quietly considering while you scout Reddit or Facebook. These are often the moments I get the 'Eureka' moment. Give yourself time to procrastinate, do the dishes, read a magazine, I promise the answer will come when you least expect it.

Productivity isn't measure by results.

Like I said before, the hours totalled is no indication of quality. Being productive is as much about the process as the end result. If you have an afternoon of shit ideas you've still had ideas, and you've got all the crap out of your system. This isn't wasted time, it's ridiculously valuable to your problem solving process. Don't be harsh on yourself.


You have to sleep. There's nothing worse than going back to a project or page you feel you've stared at for 2 days straight. I'm not opposed to good nap, the best kind of procrastination. Some people see the joy in seeing the end of day in sight, I don't so much. I like what I do and I like being good at it, I can't be on the ball and hit deadlines if I'm never away from my machine. Perspective does wonders.

Being a good freelancer means embracing the working life you choose for yourself. Motivation is half the battle. If you know yourself and what works for you, you're laughing.

Own your tone.

Posted: 27th Feb 2013

Talking my language.

Last week my very own Distil site was featured in Vandelay Design's '25 Awesome Websites for Unique Businesses'

Complimentary indeed, and a huge nod to designer LiamR, the feature touched on embracing what makes your brand unique and doing all you can to showcase that. I'm totally behind "Being innovative with your brand elements", and telling a story is key to my job and my vision for my site.

What this feature flagged up for me was comments I'd received in the past about my site, and more specifically my own site copy. Being a copywriter it seemed fairly obvious to me that your website, or any online presence for that matter, was your opportunity to say what you want to say in your own way.

In a market of mass, and especially as a freelancer, making a memorable impact is what it's all about. I'd like to note here that I'm not talking about your approach to projects, not every copywriting job calls for punchy, wit-fuelled copy, I'm talking about presenting yourself as a language expert who has the vision and experience to use the tools of your trade the right way - 'The right words in the right order can do great things'.

Many copywriters neglect their own brand voice. This isn't something I'd typically say about a designer and their visual identity. In many cases less is more, and a great portfolio can often speak for itself, however if you have an opportunity to exhibit what makes you memorable then take it.

Clients past and present have commented on how much they loved my own site copy, and it has bagged me several projects. Yes, having a full, diverse portfolio is going to be the deal breaker in most cases, but one thing that makes me smile is when I receive an email with the phrase 'Tip my hat' in the subject title - the sender has adopted my style of writing and is talking to me on a personal level, and hey, that can't hurt.

Copywriting - Creative Writing (Creative optional)

Posted: 9th Oct 2012

Beware the 'flux'...

My background in creative writing, screenwriting, has been both a benefit and a burden in fostering my career as a copywriter.

Custom building a story, paving a journey for your targert audience is what any writer strives to do. For me, it's the old artistic license that lingers in the background that needs a good tug on the lead and pulled to heel from time to time.

The robotic formula of brief, research, draft, edit, re-draft, gets on anyone's wick on day to day basis (not that I'm bashing my lucky position as a busy freelancer).

It's the 'click' that happens amongst the routine that makes me sit at that desk and power through, and it's this creative flurry when the penny drops and you land that concept, that makes things interesting and prompts the really hard work.

Wading through the creative craziness and mass of unfiltered ideas is the hard bit. Sieving, editing, fleshing out, while effectively echoing the brief, is where the real talent resides. I've built on my 'auto brief recognition', ABF, function over the years, letting my noggin kick in and scan that brief while things start to 'flux'.

I've always favoured the paper and pen over the keyboard, how words look and sound really is important to me. The delay between the ramblings of my mind to the twitch of my fingers acts as a light filter, maybe this is where the ABF does its job.

Whether you're creating sales, marketing, B2B or branding copy getting the words down and naturally communicating the key messages is paramount. Balancing the objective with the creative is where the real job of a copywriter, rather than the wordsmith, is housed.

The Meet Market - SMWGla

Posted: 3rd Oct 2012

It's good to talk...

Rounding off a nice Social Media Week was STV Creative's 'The Meet Market'.

Hosted at the grand Film City in Govan, this collection of designers, animators, photographers and digital masters, were brought together to chat and share their work with a room of fellow creatives.

Glasgow has always been home to a crazy amount of pretty sharp professionals, all on the ball and producing some superb work. Alongside the showcasing of their work was a proper opportunity to grab a beer and chat.

First up were Effektive Design and Berg Studios, designers of digital and print wonders, demonstrating their extensive knowledge and passion for creating considered, beautiful design for an impressive array of clients.

Rubber Rocket followed with a show reel that was packed with "ah, they did that" moments. A trio of passionate, excited folk who are creating brilliant work for global companies.

Sandwiched inbetween was Made by Crunch, Yomo, Glasgow Press and many,many others.

After several beer breaks, sampling the award-winning Arran Brewery's spoils, Chunk Digital's Donnie round off the afternoon with an honest, insightful look at his developing digital company.

Hopefully, 'The Meet Market' will become a regular event. Inspiring and invaluable for creatives all over the city.


In Bloom - SMW & Crowdfunding.

Posted: 3rd Oct 2012

A Blooming revolution

Everyone loves a good success story and there's plenty to be had where Bloom VC are concerned. Through Crowdfunding, Bloom utilise their knowledge, support and guidance to enable start ups, students, community projects, pretty much anything you can think of, to get their 'campaign' off the ground and secure 'promises', which are translated into cold, hard cash.

So, the perfect example is 'Bonnie Bling'. Like most people at the event as soon as I saw Mhairi's acrylic jewellery I recognised it. As like, Michelle Rodger, one half of the Bloom VC founders, her enthusiasm and praise for Crowdfunding and her experiences with Bloom are infectious. Mhairi outlined how she began her campaign. Paramount to this was her presence on social media platforms and how she engaged with potential funders.

After setting her funding target, which has to be reached within a pre-set amount of time or all funds, or 'promises', acquired cannot be claimed at the end of the campaign, Mhairi embarked on a crazy journery of 'will she, won't she' madness.

From 'promises' of £5 to £2,000, her 60 day campaign resulted in Bonnie Bling being able to purchase the laser cutting machine needed to begin production. I don't think Mhairi herself even expected the success that followed such as distribution deals and fashion awards.

The enthusiasm and genuine passion speaker Michelle Rodgers, of Bloom VC, expressed throughout the event left us all looking for a project to bring to Bloom! In the room was an architect looking for funding for an exhibition space, a pair of students looking to save a much loved Glasgow pub and an advocate of animation hoping to begin workshops in such. This mix emphasised that Bloom were equally involved with causes and social enterprises as start up businesses.

I didn't leave the event inspired only by the people and success stories I'd heard. I genuinely thought the trust and freedom that Bloom exhibit by handing complete control over to these 'campaigners' and what they aim to achieve was inspiring in itself.


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