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.

The Distil series

Posted: 15th May 2013

My 5 day tutorial series

As you know, I've been guest blogging for the the ingenious folks at Gather Content. My recent post was on 'Content Strategy - Theory vs. Practice'.

My recent guest blogging endeavours have encouraged me to view my own expertise and knowledge differently. Constructing my experience into actionable, implementable chunks is a challenge in itself. It's no secret that I've had a pretty unique transition into copywriting, this often means I've developed my own way of doing things.

As projects go I get a pretty mixed bag. Along the way I've learnt, adapted and transformed my skills to reflect my own thinking and clients. This has finally spurred me to begin my series of copywriting tutorials. It has been on the back burner for a while now but as of next week I will post a 'How to' guide, spliced with my personal approach, every day.

I'll post a full 5 day timetable later on in the week so keep your eyes peeled. I hope to make my mini-series a monthly occurrence, showcasing a week long Distil Series centred around different topics or industry frameworks.

If you have any areas, skills or expertise you'd like to see featured, please do let me know. I want these mini-tutorials to be genuinely useful resources for freelancers, beginners and experts.


Posted: 6th May 2013

Launches, blogging and on the horizon...

So, I've been a little lazy on here but there's a heap of new announcements coming up soon so don't be too mad.

First off, I've been guest blogging for the pretty wonderful Gather Content, these guys are all about helping others create valuable content in any form. You can check out my first post here 'How to create web-ready content'. In other news, I have 2 pretty huge projects launching within the month. I can't say too much just yet but they've been a collaborative hoot to be part of and I can't wait to see them in their full glory. I've been lucky enough to have worked with a chunk of folk who value collaboration, and appreciate and action my concept ideas as much as my copywriting.

Plans for my ebook and newsletter are coming on nicely. There's some amazing resources out there that are invaluable to writers and creatives. The bar is set pretty high so I want to take my time at the planning and research stages. There's nothing worse than having your inbox clogged up with a heap of newsletters that you have no interest in reading. I want to develop my own newsletter structure and format that works for my content.

Lastly, I've had some wonderful feedback from my work with MYB Textiles. I recently condensed 100 years of history and technique into an 8 page brochure, ooft, but the final product is a belter. It was beautifully designed by Graphical House, and I'll be posting some photos of the final product in the next few days.


Research & Reflect

Posted: 19th Mar 2013

Be a mini-expert

I love researching. I'm sure it stems from my love of organising and planning, but going from knowing very little to writing about it with confidence is empowering.

A certain David Ogilvy often preached about the importance of thorough research, especially before putting pen to paper. Obviously he was bang on, but I still enjoy comparing my before and after research ideas.

For a recent project, I visited the pretty amazing MYB Textiles. This place was insane. Beautiful and full of character, I got more of a feel for the place and its history from walking up the corridor than I could ever have got from any book.

It got me thinking about how I research and how the results are reflected in my writing. Not all projects call for such a fun, interesting trip.

When I research there are a few things I need my studies to address. Tone, target audience, SEO and such, are all the obvious factors of consistent copy. I look for my research to spearhead ideas.

The idea of becoming a mini-expert establishes a more focused goal. As an experienced copywriter, I almost subconsciously take on the essential information I need to construct the copy as I read, but it's the aim of specialising in the subject that keeps my research driven.

It's often in the depths of the seemingly unimportant that a real idea forms. That slightly obscure angle, that gives you a new perspective and that brings everything together.

Not all projects enable you to spend hours and hours researching every facet of a product or company, and not all projects need that, but I find the more restricted I am in my research, the more one dimensional my ideas are.

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.

Writing SEO Copy.

Posted: 18th Dec 2012

More than Keywords...

Many would argue that SEO writing is one of the less creative areas of copywriting. I disagree.

SEO writing calls for research, technique and application of a certain set of must-dos, in order to achieve it's very specific aim - to be appealing to search engines. In the seemingly strict confides of it's purpose and aim I find myself actively trying to achieve the right results through alternative means.

However, I do tend to touch on the undeniable main steps needed to create this function heavy copy.

Readability - Keep it natural.

There is nothing more uncomfortable, arduous or frowned upon as keyword-ridden, concentrated copy. This is where a copywriter applies the theory to existing writing practice and creates flowing, natural copy with effective keyword usage. Use your thesaurus to source alternative words, avoid repetition. Incorporation of a list or a link into the body of the text avoids an unattractive, disjointed flow.

As I say, the right words in the right place can do great things and keyword usage is paramount to the success of your SEO copy.

Use your keywords in the Page title and scatter the phrases and variations throughout your copy organically. Headings break the sections up into easy to find sentences and by keeping them short and relevant your copy is in a greater position to be favourable by search engines.

Research - Frequency & Relevance

Obtaining the correct keywords is integral. Research what keywords have been, and continue, to be used in your subject or field. Study how they are actioned and structured. Resources such as SEO Chat and Keyword Cloud are great tools for searching for relevant keywords to optimize.

So there are some of the main building blocks of SEO writing. Keep on theme, use your keywords effectively and research.

Why hire a copywriter?

Posted: 5th Dec 2012

The 'Pitch Response'

Before I begin this post I need to make something clear. As a copywriter I'm here to tell you to most definitely hire a professional if you require quality content. This post is a tip of my hat to my copywriter comrades, as well as a research piece for potential clients.

I'm sure I'm not alone is my deliverance of what I like to call the 'Pitch Response' to the familiar question I get asked on pretty much a daily basis - why hire a copywriter?

It's not the question I have a problem with at all, it's a fantastic question, especially if you haven't worked with a professional writer before. More often than not I get asked this question in a context that requires an explanation as to why this is a profession in the first place. Here lies my issue.

I think I can offer both insight into my personal beef while providing soild answers to a very relevant question.

The DIY attitude

Sometimes needs must and hey, if you think you can have a bash at your own copy then go for it! I'm sure I don't have to point out what the differences in quality would be. It all depends what you want.

Would you think twice about hiring a designer and sacrifice the look of your product, site etc? I suspect not. It is all under the umbrella of content and I believe great copy goes hand in hand with great design.

A professional service, not a hobby

When you hire a good copywriter, you get more than the right words. I'm an expert that has spend years honing my craft and basing all my knowledge and craft in the wider context of the creative industry.

A copywriter doesn't just magic up words. We use the right language the right way, whether you want to sell, inform, entertain, all of these objectives require different skills and grammar which often require multiple levels of understanding.

You want to drive traffic your way? Let's talk SEO. This is an intergral part of most of the copy I produce and something a lot of clients have no understanding of.

Don't mess around with your business

Like I said at the start of this post, this is your call. It's your business and you have control of how it's perceived and received. What I remind people of is the importance of first impressions and getting it right. There is never a guarantee someone will read or visit your site, newsletter, whatever, more than once. It only takes one word to turn people off.

Know the context.

Posted: 27th Nov 2012

Be aware, be relevant.

The more you know, the better you are. I thought this was a fairly obvious fact.

It has surprised me on several occasions to learn how little some copywriters know of the industries in which we work. Good copywriters know other copywriters but the best copywriters know the designers.

I've spoke before about how I began my career in copywriting. One thing I discovered early on was the more I knew about the fields I was going to work in, the more I'd have to offer. I committed much of my time to being aware and getting to know the people who were involved in these industries. From designers and creatives, to marketers and businesses themselves, I became familiar with the design and marketing process and with the role each professional played in the creation of new brands, advertising materials, any process or project that required copy.

The industry knowledge on offer was invaluable, and even now if I get the opportunity to work in-house with agencies or the clients themselves, I grab the chance. Network, chat, learn.

As a freelancer, I feel this is a significant step in establishing myself as an accomplished creative professional.

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