Welcome to the fold - Be copy-savvy.

Posted: 18th Feb 2014

'I've never worked with a copywriter...'

This sentence is no stranger to my inbox. This isn't a post about copywriting taking the world by storm, it's about effectively managing the reservations and preconceptions many have about working with a copywriter.

What do you need from me?

I get asked this a lot. Many potential clients aren't sure how this copy fandango works or what level of knowledge they need to possess.

A full brief is a rare thing these days, even the most experienced agencies or clients struggle to produce a proper brief. If a client is new to the copywriter thing, they should be encouraged to learn the importance of a full brief. I often work alongside clients in producing this. Through a series of brand, tone and company history questions we get to the heart of the project together. This aligns our aims and builds some trust.

Keep things simple as this point, ask them about the nature of the project, proposed timelines, a little about their content history and then, if it floats your boat, arrange a more detailed chat. Be sure to not overwhelm and try to keep them in-tune with the true goal of their project.

Are you the right copywriter for me?

If a new client is unsure of the copy process there is a good chance that they don't know their copywriter options. Yep, there's more than one type. The worst thing you can do is take on a job that doesn't fit your skill set, you waste everyone's time. If their only aim is to pop up on the first page of Google, I'd be inclined to send them elsewhere, not before imparting some valuable advice. It's a case of speciality and personality. For instance, I work with a lot of start-ups as I love the high levels of collaboration but this isn't for everyone.

How much will it cost me?

It's a meaty subject and not one I want to go into a heap of detail about. Your rates are your rates so charge as you please but with copywriter first timers, I find it beneficial and educational to break down my process and give my quote some context. If it's too much for them, that's ok but at least they now know a little more about the intricate process of creating copy. Offering a simple quote is not only bad practice, as far as I'm concerned, but it also leaves you open to a host of questions later on down the line. Get this clear from the off, for yourself as much as for the client.

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.

Collaboration & Copywriting

Posted: 3rd Oct 2013

The Value of a Copywriter.

Collaboration is one of the hottest buzzwords out there. Usually more of a selling point than actual ethos, it is one of those terms that evokes pure creativity. Aye, creativity is a huge part of collaboration but there is so much more to this than concepts and end results.

Generally speaking, collaboration and copywriting are not overly familiar bedfellows. I'm not really talking about the classic art director / copywriter pairing, but more the client / copywriter relationship. Obviously all projects and clients differ. Some are more savvy and understand the value that a copywriter can bring to a project, while other simply expect the brief to draft to invoice treatment.

You don't know it all.

Not all projects require collaboration or new ideas, personally I believe the second you bring on a professional you should be open to a re-education and discussion, but for many it's a 'me client, you worker' type of affair.

Whether a blog post, website copy or marketing materials, there are so many common factors that have the ability to redefine the initial brief. Elements such as tone, language and SEO are but the tip of the iceberg.

Copy needs to perform. It has to tick the emotional and functional boxes, all the while being as appealing, on-tone and effective as possible. The best thing a copywriter can do to enhance or introduce an aspect of collaboration is to make this clear to a client. Yes you can do wonderful things with the right words but there is a limit. Expectations are key for both parties so set them early on.

Love feedback & criticism.

Factoring multiple drafts and feedback sessions into your copy schedule is a must. Copy is only as good as the feedback that gets it there so there needs to be back and forth to get the job done. Positive and negative feedback is integral to the process, creating a dialogue of criticism and mutual understanding will work wonders.

Clients that work this way are gifted with a new perspective and wider scope for possibility. Copywriters are strategists, writers and curators as much as creatives. It isn't a case of being an idea factory, it is about knowing how to develop relevant, functional ones that please both client and audience.

Collaboration is as much about sharing expertise as generation and development. With every new project I learn more about a specific industry or sector while building a long term relationship. I'd like to hope that with my help my clients prioritise a Content First ethos, an approach that demands they understand the role of tone, structure and language.

The pre-writing process.

Posted: 10th Sep 2013

Before you put pen to paper....

With every new project comes a whole new attitude. Some projects make you want to jump right in and get busy, while others take a little longer to get flowing. Regardless of your enthusiasm, I would rarely recommend getting stuck in straight off the bat. We all know the importance of research and planning but there's always more you can do to make sure that your scheduled writing slot goes swimmingly.

Demand a brief.

Yep, it seems like an obvious thing to say but I've lost count of the amount of times I have had to tell clients that I need one, as well as the designer. A brief isn't just an outline of what is needed or expected, it can be a real indicator of the scope and planning your client has done. For copy to be as effective and engaging as possible it has to be relevant, don't start creating copy for an audience that you presume your client has established already.

Do your own research.

Don't take anyone else's word for it, always conduct your own research. A bit of background is a good starting point but research performs more than one function. Yes you will come across ideas as you go, but hints at tone, keywords and existing thoughts are far more useful to me at this stage. Everyone interacts with information differently so undertake your own research your own way.

Create a schedule.

Again, it may seem a tad obvious but scheduling is about more than deadlines and drafts. Figure out how you are going to create and work with your copy. There's no point spending days on research only to be left with a day to draft. Limiting yourself can be effective in focusing your energy towards ideas that aren't fleeting. Round up each section of your schedule with key points or milestones so you can easily get yourself on the right track if you wobble.

A proposal for your eyes only.

Some may see it as a waste of time but I always create a proposal of sorts, whether for me, the client or both. It's pretty much a summary of the money makers. It consists of a project overview, tone of voice run down, key themes / ethos as well as a proposed structure. Not only does it set my mind straight but it makes sure all parties are on the same page.

Drafting is a whole other kettle of fish but if you put in the man hours at these stages, your copy will take shape quicker and be of a better quality. Actual copywriting can takes up but a fraction of your time so get the pre-writing practices down before embarking on the content climb.

Creative Coffee

Posted: 7th Jan 2013

Meet, Chat, Create.

New Year means maintaining good practice, old and new.

First thing on my 2013 list is a move to Toad's Caravan, an eclectic studio space home to Glasgow's creative professionals. I'm all moved in, with my own lamp and everything, and am enjoying the chat and company.

My year will be kicking off with some big launches with TrueNorth and Neri Karra Talks both going live over the next month or so.

An old/new practice that needs some love this year is 'networking'. As I've discussed before, I hate this word, too contrived and impersonal. I want to make an effort to get out there and talk to some genuinely interesting folk about what they do.

This is where 'Creative Coffee' has come from. As a wee side project, I'm going to invite creative types to meet me for nothing more than a drink and good, wholesome chat. Perhaps with the idea of creating a 'blog bank' of stories, experiences and inspirations, CC will hopefully get people actually talking.

If you are interested in CC'ing - let's talk.

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.

INCH - Pt 1

Posted: 20th Nov 2012

New Projects landing soon.

So finally I can begin to talk about one of the most exciting projects I've worked on yet. It's been hush hush but all will be revealed by the end of this month.

For now here's a sneak peek. Welcome to INCH - Scotland's first 'Socially Responsive' architectural practice.

The full site, plus details of my approach to the project, coming soon.


Posted: 31st Oct 2012

Great times...

So, it's been a crazy few weeks/month. Being featured on SiteInspire, DesignFridge and a few others, has been most lovely indeed and I've had some awesome feedback.

The designer of the Distil site is Liam Rutherford, LiamR, he's a Glasgow based designer/developer and is a very talented individual. He understood I wanted to create a great copywriting site that showcased my writing and style alongside some sweet aesthetics. So many are bogged down with copious amounts of sell, sell, sell copy that no real character comes through, plus the more words there are on the page, the less likely you are to read the important ones.

I wanted to post up a wee rundown of what's been happening. I'm at that floaty, pre-launch stage with a lot of the projects I have on the go at the moment.

So, remember remember the 15th November. A project I produced all original site copy for is launching mid-November and I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished product, it's all been quite hush hush but it's been a first for me and hopefully, Scotland.

In other news, I produced original copy for TrueNorth, an Icelandic film production company. Designed by Berg Studios, developed by LiamR, the site looks amazing and it was a real pleasure to write copy for such an exciting company. TrueNorth have worked on Batman and Bond movies so yeah, pretty cool. I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider telling them I needed to be in Iceland to complete the project. The images they produce are nothing short of spectacular.

Alongside this I'm starting to work with a wonderful Danish designer, Jord, on his design site. His logo work is pretty awesome and I always enjoy producing copy for the designers themselves. So, keep your eyes peeled.

I'm also starting to collect all my projects and create an extensive portfolio that I hope to put on the Distil site as a downloadable PDF. I've been meaning to get all my wordy adventures together sooner than this but they just keep comin'!

Well, that about the long and short of things at the moment. I'll keep you posted.


Easier said than written...

Posted: 22nd Oct 2012

Just Write?...

This week has been a corker. A flurry of lovely folk have featured the new Distil site on their web emporiums such as Site Inspire and CSS Brigit.

Perhaps even more wonderful than these mentions and recognitions are the emails and tweets I've received from budding copywriters looking for some pearls of wisdom.

Creative writer by previous trade, I knew how to craft a story, however as outlined in my previous blog post 'Creative Writing (Creative Optional)', my ability to reign in this creative impulse has developed into a craft all of it's own. Copywriting is just as much, if not even more so, about technique and formula as it is about creative prose.

This is something I've had to develop and maintain throughout my projects at Distil. Devouring blogs and forums galore on the subject. Progressing or starting as a freelance copywriter is a much blogged topic obviously however the usual steps of read, connect, write are all in order and correct, but for me have been a difficult process to swallow.

In light of these recent requests for tips/advice, I thought I'd give my very genuine, personal take and honest recommendations on progressing or starting out as a copywriter.

I have read very few copywriting books. An admission that may or may not be well received. In my spare time, as a real person, I read, I love to read and learnt my creative writing trade from such. Maybe I feel like I did my stint, but when it came to 'training' as a copywriter I built on what I had already - the ability to write.

What I focused my 'training' on was learning my industry. I began to research and contact people from advertising, marketing, branding etc, and dedicated myself to the study of these industries. I lived on blogs from all areas of that certain industry, whether it was design, finance news or recent campaigns and the agencies involved. Learning is utilised by application.

Harnessing techniques and tips from my fellow copywriters via forums and kind responses to question filled emails, I did what seems to be the final and frightening step - Writing. In most blogs or articles along this subject matter there seems to be this process of research, learn THEN write. I'm not dismissing this imperative stage, and vital part of the copywriting process, but I do believe in not being scared to get things wrong. It's called copywriter for a reason.

I would draft ideas, create spec ads, for selected eyes only as I'm not an advocate of featuring them in your portfolio, and forward them to professionals and creative comrades. An honest opinion is the only valid one. I wrote all the way through my 'training' period and use a lot of my pieces as reference points in similar projects.

To date, I've created high quality copy for retail, architects, film production houses, record companies and designers/creatives themselves. Whether original web copy, SEO smarts, sales letters or articles, the way I have learnt to write copy has influenced what I produce.

Ultimately my advice is parallel learning with the craft itself, learn on the job from those who know what's crap and what's quality and adapt, foster your own process that will set you in good stead for the future with people who truly appreciate your talent.

Older »