As I stumble across the ABC copywriting website I am hit by one perfectly worded sentence – ‘good copywriting makes the difference between building bridges and burning them.’ With a noteworthy client list and an even more impressive founder and director, I was keen to find out more and was thrilled when Tom Albrighton happily obliged. With over 15 years experience working with words, Tom founded ABC Copywriting in 2005. Co-founder of the Professional Copywriters Network, it’s safe to say Tom is one man who knows his stuff. If you’ve ever questioned the difference between writing and copywriting or want to take your first steps into the industry, this is an expert interview worth annotating.
So Tom, have you always been interested in copywriting?
I’ve always liked writing and been OK at it, but it’s not a major passion of mine. I don’t do any creative writing as an interest outside work as some copywriters do. I actually started out in non-fiction publishing and then spent a few years at an agency serving the public sector, before going freelance in 2005.
What qualifications did you need to get your job?
You don’t need any qualifications to set up as a freelance copywriter – for better or worse. I have an English degree, but I’m not sure that helped much beyond giving me some writing practise and a basic idea of how poetry and language work. From what I’ve seen, copywriters come from a huge range of backgrounds.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
Speaking as a jobbing freelance copywriter, it’s the variety. Every job is interesting when you’re coming to it fresh. For example, over the last week I’ve worked on briefs for a sugar manufacturer, a boat-tour company, a medical services firm and a maker of thermal clothing. Each one has its own world of customers, products and ideas to inhabit and understand.
Good answer! What is the biggest challenge then?
For me, it’s been managing my own workload. For about ten years I said yes to pretty much everything, and had plenty of anxiety over whether I’d hit the deadline. These days I’m trying to be much more realistic over timescales and say ‘no’ to projects that just aren’t right for me. It sounds easy, but when you come to actually do it, it really isn’t.
Do you have a specific niche as a copywriter, or do you work on different things every day?
In the early years, my background naturally drew me towards long copy and B2B (business to business) work, but over the years I’ve ended up doing a bit of everything. I like doing B2C (business to customer) because it stretches my writing muscles a bit. Every writer has their own comfort zone, usually centred on their experience and personality.
You’ve had a number of successful clients, who has been the most exciting to work with?
I was very pleased to be commissioned by both Jeyes and Prudential, because they’re genuine household names in the UK. It took me about seven years to reach that point. But often, the most exciting clients are the start-ups and entrepreneurs, because they have so much passion for what they’re doing. When they talk about their business, their excitement is contagious and it’s up to me to translate that to the page.
How much input does the client have on the copy you write for them?
I’m happy to work however clients want, but every copywriter has to understand the product or service in detail before they start writing. When taking the brief, I like to use phone interviews to get as much detail as possible, as well as phrases that clients use in speech but maybe wouldn’t write down. Later on, their input helps me refine the draft and bring in new insights, which always emerge from the writing process. I don’t think many copywriters expect to get it right first time.
What are the benefits of working for a copywriting company over being freelance?
ABC is a one-man band, so I’m not really the best person to ask! As far as I can tell though, the benefits would be job and financial security, support with dealing with clients and like-minded writers around you can talk to. Handling negative feedback on your own can be tough.
Good advice – thanks! What words of wisdom would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Follow your own footsteps! There are as many copywriting careers as there are copywriters, so don’t be afraid to take your own path. If you are interested in practical guidance, I’ve written a post for ABC that might help.
Finally then, what are your secrets when it comes to beating writer’s block?
Change venue – a different room, a café, the park. Change medium – screen, notepaper, tape recorder, sketch pad. Read something irrelevant. Go and exercise. Take a break. Or if all else fails, sleep on it!
If Tom has inspired you to get writing, why not take a course and learn the tricks of the trade from an expert? With plenty of full time, part time and online options available, we’re sure you’ll find something to get your creative juices flowing!