Copywriters Need to be Weird

Are you weird enough to be a real copywriter? It’s a question born out of Sanam Petri’s piece in The Guardian last year and it needs an answer.

Petri is an associate creative director for a digital agency in London and just before Christmas, she put out a warning sign to the marketing industry:no-bullshit

“Because today’s advertising world is largely driven by accolades and awards, many communication schools are churning out kids who think like creative directors, not kids who just love to write.”

When I read this, the world’s tiniest bell started ringing inside my skull,,am I one of these churned out kids?

Am I shite.

That’s what I said out loud and luckily nobody heard (the majority of the office was out to lunch and the rest were wired into their headphones).

My dad’s a writer and since I can remember, we have always been sharing ideas for short stories, plays and movies. Now I get to create characters and storylines in my guest blogging. It’s a sound job for a creative writer who wants to earn some pennies.

What about you? Are you engineered to be a world-beating marketer or do you just like creating good shit?

Further along in the article, Sanam Petri says:

In my experience, the most successful creative agencies are the ones with the most diverse set of weird people. The web designer who moonlights as a furniture maker. The copywriter who started life as a children’s book author. Musicians, craftsman, game designers, the passionate and the obsessive.

Our office is made up of some of the best weirdos I’ve ever known. The conversations that crackle through the air above the SEO team are unrepeatable,,but perfect. So, I can relate to what Petri is saying but to be honest I’ve never known any different.

If you write for a suit & tie agency populated by personalities you would normally see on The Apprentice and still manage to enjoy your job – maybe you have a solid opposing argument for all of this.

Me? I’m writing this piece in my dressing gown and girlfriend’s pink slipper socks – I couldn’t be more on Petri’s side if I tried.

pink socks

 

Rob Philbin

Developing the Kevlar Skin of a Copywriter

Stab. You’ve just been told you didn’t get the job and the other candidate had more professional writing experience.

This is the first step to becoming a copywriter with thick enough skin to stick out a career, so swallow the wallow and start blogging.

You’re going to be sound.

I got rejected by a Cheshire-based agency and the stab left me wanting to blubber.

I did some other stuff instead and you can do the same:

Go on Holiday

A quiet holiday – one that doesn’t involve spewing on a beach. There’s plenty of time for those holidays. This is a time for sampling the life you’d like to permanently afford come the peak of your career.

We stayed at a small lakeside cabin which had a hot tub.

It was late September and so cold that every night a razor-thin layer of ice formed in parts of our temporary lake – though it was still fluid enough to set sail a couple of Chinese water lanterns. Before bed, I extinguished the lanterns by flicking stones into them and didn’t think of a single telephone interview while doing it.

Reset.

Write

I know that same thought keeps looming over your inspiration every time you click ‘New Post’ – what can I possibly have to share with the world?

Well here’s the bad news, even if you do have something interesting to say, the world isn’t going to read it,,your mum or dad might if they can be arsed.

The good news is that a readership of 0 doesn’t judge, so just write whatever you like.

I had a lecturer who went all floaty when it came to free writing – almost whispering to the class like a masseuse as she explained its ability to unlock creativity. Hippy bullshit aside, she had a point.

Copywriters produce thousands of words a day and so until you get used to doing that, you’re never going to be match-fit.

Eventually, you’re going to get a sarky comment or two on your posts. Save them and never delete them.

Read

I still don’t read enough. I read a lot of blogs and I find myself squinting at the copy on the back of cereal boxes,,but I struggle to chew on a novel these days.

The best advice on reading for writers I heard just last week on BBC Radio 2 (yes, I’m reaching that age):

“Remember you’re always reading the final draft of an author’s whole writing process, you can’t compare your rough draft to the final products you’ve been reading your whole life.” – Hugh Howey

It’s healthy to be self-critical but I took what Howey said as a reminder to stay inspired by the kings of copywriting, not intimidated.

By the way, here’s a quick trio of copywriting blogs I’m loving at the minute:

Drayton Bird Blog
My friend and colleague in SEO put me onto Drayton a while back – John Lloyd has an eye for ‘all sense, no bollocks’ writing.
CopyBot
The way Demian Farnworth positions certain, unexpected, words on a page makes whatever he’s writing about pop – it’s almost Beat Poetry in parts.
Kaboomis Copy
Matthew Loomis is right on top of today’s copywriting game – firing up some Farnworth/Bird type words on fresh topics like social media.

Volunteer

You need to be rejected from an interview, be apprehensive about starting a blog and be ridiculed by your early readers, in order to start developing a thick skin,,but it takes a little bit more to make it completely bulletproof.

Stop applying for jobs. Start offering to volunteer.

You’re probably not ready for a copywriting career yet, so why not make all your mistakes while you’re not getting paid?

It took nine months as a voluntary sports journalist before I had enough of that oh-so-sacred ‘professional writing experience’ and realised it’s not the actual writing talent the interviewer’s looking for – it’s the pro writing attitude.

We’ve just signed a new copywriter to the team who has that attitude, after proving it during her three-month internship.

If you reckon you (or someone you know) could be the next in line, just send me a Tweet or whatever and I’ll keep you updated on when we’re recruiting again.

 

Every day’s a school day:

The backplate for the Motorola RAZR smartphone is made from kevlar and can seemingly withstand the force of a hammer.

 

Rob Philbin

The Intern’s Encore

After an eight hour day of coffee running, filing and typing – the modern day intern should stay behind and work another eight hours! Do whatever it takes to grab that paid position.

If you’re lucky enough to have an internship at an SEO company or anywhere for that matter – then pro-actively use the position as a crowbar to prise open the door into a paid career.

Stay behind after hours and finish every job in every area.  Obviously don’t interfere with tasks from other departments but help out where you can.  Try and avoid the Friday afternoon pub lunch with the full-timers if you have outstanding duties to fulfil (still, a bit off socialising can also be healthy – attend one pub lunch per month maybe).

If the office cleaners kick you out the building then take your work home with you.  A lot of PR tasks can be done from a laptop with a hot drink.  If you have no jobs left over, then prepare for the next day by putting together a schedule.

Blog about your experiences in the office and do so in a positive way.  Fill in for anybody pulling a sickie and say ‘yes’ to anything your superior asks you to do (within reason of course).

All this effort does not go unnoticed and does not get taken for granted.  Soon enough you’ll be covering maternity leave or something and the situation will snowball into a prosperous career.

The most important thing to do is carry that attitude into your career when you are finally getting paid – eventually you will have an intern working for you and can pub-lunch as much as you like!