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Don't Expose Yourself – Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriter

Is it good to expose yourself online?

I just saw a snippet of a TV programme where they were talking about people posting pictures of their boarding cards on Instagram.

The expert spoke about the hidden data that scammers can glean from these images and how in some cases, it leads to burglary.

What starts off as “Hey guys, look at me, I’m off on my hols” turns into having your house turned over while you’re sipping Daiquiris in Marbella.

This got me thinking.

We’re all at it. Through our social accounts and blogs, were exposing ourselves for the world to see. Dirty laundry and all. And if we think there are no possible negative outcomes, we’re fooling ourselves.

You need to get noticed

I’ve worked much of my career in advertising, so I’ve had it drummed into me that to get noticed, you need to get noticed.

Bold opinions and big ideas get talked about and help build brand presence.

I can’t argue with that.

The thing is, having a public profile only used to apply to products and brands, not individuals. The exception perhaps being politicians on the election trail or celebrities needing to be seen at the right events with the right people.

Joe public, like you and I, was just an observer.

In the late ’60s, Andy Warhol said that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.

At the time, there was obviously no such thing as the Internet. So even if someone did make the headlines of the local paper for nicking traffic cones (not a real story), that 15 minutes would quickly fade into the mists of time.

Now everyone’s at it, wittingly or unwittingly, promoting ‘Brand Me’ and clamouring for their 15 minutes of global celebrity.

Hello world

“Look at me. I’m eating tofu, I’m walking the dog, my baby just hiccuped, I’ve got a silly hat…”

All pretty innocent stuff, but there are potentially more dangerous undertones to be found if we dig deeper.

“Hey look at me. I’m pro foxhunting, I’m an atheist, I’m a Conservative, I’m depressed, I’m angry…”

We very quickly build up a picture of the online notoriety-seeker. His or her digital portrait may be totally out of kilter with their true persona, but unless we know them in the real world, this online version is all we have to go on.

There are people on LinkedIn and Twitter that feel I know intimately. If we passed each other in the street however, we’d have no idea that we were connected in data land.

One person on LinkedIn, let’s call him ‘Mad Bob’, constantly rants about politics and swears angrily about anything that’s the slightest bit PC.

He’s probably as nice as pie, takes his Mum to tea every Sunday and says his prayers. I don’t know; but the way he dumps his views online draws a very vivid picture, and not a pretty one.

Subconsciously, I’ve already decided I don’t like him.

Should you really expose your private bits in public?

There are certain things I feel maybe we should only share privately with our loved ones, or ought to be left swimming around in our own noddles.

Unless you’re an activist driven by an unrelenting passion to change the world, or at least have nothing to lose by publishing your innermost feelings and opinions, sometimes silence is the best option.

I’m on Twitter most days. Why? I learn stuff, I connect with other creatives and I gain exposure for my business.

To twit or not to twit?

Everyone knows that Twitter isn’t a great place to ram commercial messages down people’s throats, but it’s a perfect platform for selling your wares in much subtler ways.

On Twitter I don’t pedal anything other than my sense of humour and hopefully, in a roundabout way, my copywriting skills.

I keep it light; with silly jokes, gentle banter, links to stuff I like and signposts to my blog; that sort of thing.

I steer clear of politics, religion and negativity. I’ve gone into more detail about online negative criticism on my guest post on the Lucidity blog, but tweeting about politics and religion can also open up a can of very angry worms.

Going back to basics, sometimes we need to remember why we’re using social media.

Q. Why am I on Twitter?
A. To get exposure for myself as a Freelance Copywriter.
Q. Any other reasons?
A. To connect, amuse myself, learn stuff… but ultimately it’s a self promotion tool.

For me, social media isn’t a chance to furiously beat my chest, scare little children, troll the innocent, expose the guilty, promote bigotry or proselytise.

I want to make friends and influence people, not get my head kicked in behind the bins at the back of the sixth form block.

The point is, if you’re using social media, you are exposing yourself.

From an advertising point of view, this is really good, but if you’re also exposing your political, religious or sexual persuasions, it can be really, really bad.

At best, you might attract people who live in the shadow of the dark side. At worst, you could be hung out to dry with a potential audience of around 3 billion.

What about Mad Bob?

I’ve been seriously tempted to dis-connect, or whatever the term is, from Mad Bob on LinkedIn.

The only thing holding me back is that he might be notified by an uncaring algorythm, track me down and drink my blood.

So for now at least, I just ignore his posts and read stuff by people I’ve decided I like.

Sorry Bob.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Jonathan Wilcock – freelance copywriting services

Why would anyone in their right mind pay for freelance copywriting services?

Last year I tried to fix a broken lock.

Someone (name withheld) managed to get a key wedged into the lock of our basement door. Then someone (name also withheld) managed to snap said key in half, leaving the business end jammed in the key hole.

How difficult can it possibly be to get half a key out of a lock?

Hammer. Screwdriver. Pliers. Powerdrill. Swearing. 2 hours. Oh, we had fun.

Then someone said, “Google it”.

Ah yes, YouTube, they always have the answers to life’s little DIY challenges.

Another hour later, instead of a door that wouldn’t open, we had a door that wouldn’t lock.

I removed the handles so at least no one could break in easily, then called a locksmith.

He showed up next day and it took him 20 minutes to fix. The right tools and expert knowledge are a deadly combination.

Unfortunately, the damage I’d done with my botched attempt meant the job cost more than it should have, but lesson learned.

You can see where I’m going with this can’t you.

If you know how to write, do you still need to buy in freelance copywriting services?

Most of the stuff you read online is probably not written by a copywriter. Most of the stuff you read, remember and react to is.

Non-professional writing fills gaps. Professional copywriting gets results.

The majority of my clients are educated, bright individuals who can write well. Spelling and grammar really aren’t an issue to them. When it comes to writing business plans, strategy documents, client emails and internal memos, no one’s better qualified for the job.

Copywriting and writing however, are quite different animals.

Thankfully, most of my clients understand this. Some, like me as an amateur locksmith, had to learn the hard way.

What will freelance copywriting services do for you and your business?

1) Give a new perspective
A copywriter can see things that you can’t. When you live and breathe your job day in, day out, it can be difficult to see the obvious. A decent copywriter will hack through the undergrowth of brand confusion and get to the sun-dappled clearing of what makes you special.

2) Challenge your thinking
Most clients know what they want. A large percentage of them aren’t so sure what they need. Your copywriter will ask probing, sometimes difficult or awkward questions. It’s not that they are difficult or awkward themselves, it’s just that they need to get to the heart of what ought to be communicated.

3) Find a new angle
Your copywriter won’t be bogged down with pre-conceptions or stale thinking about your brand. Put it this way, just because you’ve always done something a particular way, doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way. Your copywriter will analyse what you already have, then work out how to improve on it and approach things from a completely new angle if necessary.

4) Get to the point
Good copywriters can say more in 50 words than English scholars can in 50,000. Writing headlines and straplines, and conjuring up brand names is an art. Short and snappy is easily mistaken for easy and peasy. If you’ve been pushing words around for days, stop. Hand it over to an expert.

5) Deliver new ideas
I’ve banged on about this before and I’m not stopping anytime soon. People, quite logically, assume that copywriters write words. True, but before words hit the page or the screen, the best copywriters start with ideas. Ideas are what makes your copy stand head and shoulders above the rest.

6) Give you visibility
The tangible result of original creative ideas is visibility. If your communications don’t get noticed, they don’t get read and if they don’t get read you’re not even in the game. A copywriter will help you get your audience’s attention and then keep them engaged.

7) Set you free
While I was attempting to fix that lock, I could have been sipping cocktails in the garden, learning to tap dance or earning a crust doing client work. Calling an expert in frees you up to do the other stuff. You know, the sort of stuff you’re brilliant at.

How much should you pay for freelance copywriting services?

As with all things in life, you get what you pay for. For a junior Copywriter, you should expect to pay in the region of £150-200 for a day’s work. For a senior Copywriter, you can pay anything between £350 and £2,000 a day.

Cheap doesn’t necessarily equal great value and expensive doesn’t always deliver brilliant results.

There are people charging £100 a day who will leave you exasperated and in all honesty, you’d be just as well carrying on writing everything yourself.

Equally, there are Copywriters out there with the front to charge double what they’re worth.

Understandably, it can be confusing for clients. So where do you go? Who do you trust?

If I were mercenary I’d say choose me, but I’m an honest and caring kind of fellow, so have a trawl of the 700+ copywriters on ProCopywriters.

Choose two or three that look like a good fit, then visit their websites and go through their online portfolios. Don’t try to find someone who’s already done exactly what you’re looking for (they don’t exist), but look for consistent quality.

And going back to my experience with the basement door lock, don’t cut corners, it’ll only end up costing you more in the long run.

Find out more about Choosing a freelance Copywriter here.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Freelance Creatives; spare a thought for your clients – Jonathan Wilcock

Freelance creatives; spare a thought for your clients

Once upon a quite a while ago, I ran a market stall with the Missus, selling pottery.

I’d been made redundant from my cosy Soho advertising job and I’d had enough.

The romantic idea of buying and selling actual stuff you can touch was massively appealing.

Early mornings joggling for the best pitch; punter banter; cash-in-hand, real world haggling with real people handing over real grubby fivers. It felt earthy and back to basics, new and exciting.

Hard work for soft hands

It was also hard work and not quite as romantic as I’d imagined.

The early mornings soon lost there lustre and the banter with punters, who weren’t reaching into their pockets, wore thin very quickly.

By week eight, if you ignored the lack of salary, we’d just about broken even. Then the storm of ’92 came along and kicked us in the danglys – don’t look it up, this was our own personal storm, it probably didn’t make the headlines.

We’d sold nothing all day, which was bad enough, but the wind was picking up, and coping with a trestle table of delicate pottery was becoming a bit of a challenge.

A gust hit the stall and seven pots crashed to the floor. I looked down and wanted to cry. Why hadn’t I invested in something a bit more resilient than biscuit ware? Maybe vulcanised rubber vases or something.

Breaking even was disappointing. Breaking pots and making an actual loss was a message.

Lesson learned, now back to the creative department

So, back to copywriting I headed and a good few happy years zipped by full-timing and freelancing. Foreign shoots, plenty of nice briefs and enough money to keep the family in bread and cheese shut me up for a while.

Then along came another redundancy and the bright idea of running a creative agency.

The agency lasted a bit longer than the 8-week market stall fiasco, but it was equally hard, if not harder.

This time, we (my business partner and I) had office overheads and employee salaries to fret about. Real, grown-up stuff that all of our clients have to deal with every day.

Both the market stall and the agency were huge learning opportunities. I found out about selling at the sharp end (it hurts), stock control (it sucks), HR (stands for Horrific Reality) and investing large sums of money with absolutely no guarantee of any return (it’s scary).

Spare a thought for your client

As I’ve said elsewhere, for freelance creatives, empathy is our best friend. Having an insight into a target audience’s lives and attitudes is gold dust, but understanding the problems and obstacles our clients have to face is priceless.

Our clients have bigger headaches than we do, so we need to do all we can to make their jobs easier and their businesses work better.

Buying in creative work isn’t straightforward. When your head’s filled with the other pressures of running a business or a marketing department, it can be tricky to spot a good idea or decide which creative option works best.

It’s our job as Copywriters, Art Directors and Graphic Designers to not only solve problems, but also to remove barriers so that our clients are confident they’re buying the work they need.

Even when working remotely (some of my clients have never met me), this is a partnership. It may be a cliché, but the best freelance creatives don’t work for their clients, they work with them.

Even when a client says, “I trust you, just do what you think works best”, it’s up to us to make sure they understand why we’re making recommendations.

Now, this may fly in the face of other advice you’ll read about client/creative relationships, but until I find something that works better, here are:

Three golden rules for freelance creatives

– Put yourself in your client’s shoes
– Give them creative choice (but help them to decide which choice is right for them)
– If the respect isn’t a two-way thing, it’s time to say goodbye.

And three golden rules for clients

– You may be commissioning the work, but invariably you aren’t the target audience
– Freelance creatives are experts, but without the right information, they know nothing
– If the respect isn’t a two-way thing, it’s time to say goodbye.

Working in the creative industries is a privilege.

Freelance creatives dip in and out of other worlds, solve problems, play with words and images and earn a decent living without having to wear pinstripes. We don’t have to worry about the stresses of running a business with all its overheads, risks and responsibilities.

Saying that, it’s not all roses and everybody needs a change of view now and again.

So if your job is losing its appeal, my suggestion would be to abscond for a while and find out how the other half lives.

Stack shelves, dig ditches, sell fruit and veg, become a Sorcerer’s Apprentice… my guess is, once the novelty’s worn off, you’ll soon be diving for creative cover again.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Anatomy of some rubbish copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

Headline unlovingly handcrafted in fluffy gray flannel, with a limp lining of blah blah blah etc.

Autopsy of a rubbish peace of copywriting

Hello there. I am a rubbish piece of copywriting.

First thing of note is my hedline. See how it is overwritten to make it as difficult to read as possibel. You may have also noticed that a American spelling has crept in. Nothing wrong with americans or american English, but the writer is English English, as is the audience what he is amining at. SO theres the first mistake. Naughty.

You may also notice the odd spelling mistake here and there. This is inexxcusibel.

It happens. Copywriters are human, but readers can be unforgiving.

In a recent poll, carried out by So What If Industries (aka me); of 366 respondents, 52% said that long rambling sentences were even more of a turn off than spelling mistakes or poor punctuation, you know the sort of sentences that go on and on and on and on and then go on a bit more.

Rubbish Copywriting Poll Results – Freelance Copywriter Jonathan Wilcock

Many wanted to vote for all three, but that’s not the way these things work is it, so…

Punctuation seemed to be the least of anyone’s concerns. Some thought this was because of the sloppy art of texting. Basically, we know it’s wrong, but we’ve given up the formality of using apostrophes and the like when faffing about with stupid little keys and touch screens. It’s easier to use a cheeky emoji and be done with it all.

Bad spelling got 31% of the vote. And I wud argeu that if you’re trying to convey authority or professionalism, spelling errors are a great way of doing just the opposite. Personally, typos (as spelling errors are often referred to in the trade) are one of my biggest bug bears.

Sew wat can yoo doo? The obvoice thin is too run yore copee thro spell chequer. Spelcheck knose bestest isn’t it? Where cud passibly gone rong. Weel lest find dout shallwe, Wen I put this para graph thro spellcheckers here am th suggest ons:

Sew watt can you doo? The invoice thin is too run yore cope thro spell cheer. Spellcheck knees besets isn’t it? Where cud passably gone rung. Weal lest find doubt shall we, Wen I put this Para graph thro spellcheckers here am the suggest ones:

I have a feeling this hasn’t solved all the errors, so like a good copywriting soldier, let’s run it through a well known online spelling and grammar checking tool instead. I’ll go with the first suggestion it makes for any highlighted words. And the result:

Sew what can you do? The obvious thin is too run yore cope thro spell chequer. Spellcheck know best, isn’t it? Where cud possibly went wrong. Weel lest find doubt shall we When I put this paragraph thro spellcheckers here am the suggest on:

Maybe if we put the spellchecked version through the online tool…

Sew watt can you doo? The invoice thin is too run yore cope thro spell cheer. Spellcheck knees, isn’t it? Where cud passably went rung. Well, lest find doubt, shall we When I put this Paragraph thro spellcheckers here am the suggest ones:

Rubbish Copywriting Final Poll Results – Freelance Copywriter Jonathan Wilcock

So, basic spelling and grammatical errors sorted, let’s move on to other improtant matters.

When doing my survey, some people were kind enough to share other copywriting no nos that get their backs up:

Words in ALL CAPS in headlines, Daily Express style. c/o André Spiteri @Andre_Spiteri

A Perfectly Normal Sentence Using Capitals For Every Single Damn First Letter Of Every Word, YouTube Video Title Style. c/o Nik Jones @HelloNikDesign

Ego-driven jargoneering. c/o Lauren McMenemy @TheContentType

Talking crap that they can’t articulate well, regardless of any of the above. c/o David Gyertson (Digital Director at Zest The Agency)

Then I would add to the list:

– Flowery, multisyllabic words plucked from a thesaurus.
– Too many. Very short sentences. That are placed. Back-to-back.
– Anything that makes the journey arduous, burdensome, laborious, hardwork, tedious, boring, stale, stodgy, uninteresting and repetitive, or tries too hard to make its point.
– Like a goat in a top hat, nothing’s as annoying as a random analogy.

Another common mistake that may also be hampering your reader’s experience, especially here in the online world, is large chunks of text and a lack of, now what are they called again…

Sub-headings like this one

Aaaand another thing that’s even more mind-boggling than the most mind-boggling thing in the whole wide world (other than ridiculous hyperbole) is the fact that the readability tool I’m using reckons that this blog post’s readability is ‘OK’.

Here are the stats. Apparently stats don’t lie, but let’s just say they may be a little misguided.

• The copy scores 74.4 in the Flesch Reading Ease test, which is considered fairly easy to read.
• None of the paragraphs are too long, which is great.
• 13.7% of the sentences contain more than 20 words, which is less than or equal to the recommended maximum of 25%.
• 36.5% of the sentences contain a transition word or phrase, which is great.

What is also a little concerning, is that when uploading the entire contents of this blog post, the aforementioned online grammar tool tells me that: This text scores better than 55% of all text checked by (brand name removed) where comparable goals were set.

How bad can that other 55% actually be?

Still with me?

If so, thank you for your resilience.

There was once a magic rabbit called Keith who was always getting up to mischief. Back-filling entrance holes to the warren, putting his elbows on the dinner table, getting facial tattoos; the usual teenage rabbit tomfoolery. But the worst thing he ever did was lead the reader down a dark alley that strayed away from the point and didn’t really go anywhere. Oh Keith, what are you like.

Conclusion (for goodness sake, let’s get to the conclusion):

Bad things:
• Ridiculously long sentences
• Spelling mistakes
• Poor punctuation
• Lack of sub-headings
• Relying on algorythms.

Good things:
• Clarity
• Simplicity
• Brevity
• Consistent tone of voice
• All the obvious stuff that most people don’t do.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might fancy a wander through these:

The seven deadly skills of a great copywriter
Why you need to leave a g p in your copywriting

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Bratwurst_Lamazing – Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriter

From German sausages to made up words, a Freelance Copywriter never stops learning.

One of the best things about being a Freelance Copywriter is the variety.

New clients and new projects add more juice to the old creative brain sponge.

Not least of all, I’m constantly discovering new words and word combinations.

Here are a few, that before 2018, I’m sure I’d never had the occasion to use in copy, some I hadn’t heard of and one of them I think I may have invented.

KAMALARI
This word came up when working with the international development charity, Nepal Youth Foundation.

‘For generations, the Tharu community of Western Nepal has adopted a practice known as Kamalari, whereby girls as young as six years old are bonded into domestic slavery.’

But it’s not all gloom and doom, because…

KATHAA
‘Kathaa, ‘story’ in Nepalese, is a contemporary, ethical fashion brand owned and operated by NYF in the UK. Everything in the Kathaa range is made by freed Kamalaris and our very first collection is a range of stunning, waterproof down jackets.’

VIVE LA DIFFERENCE
‘Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. If you’re looking for just another firm of Estate Agents, you’re going to be disappointed.’

I knew my grade ‘D’ in GCSE French would come in handy one day. Never thought it would be for a posh West End estate agent though.

LAMAZING
Anyone who played Christmas copy bingo last year would have got extra points for spotting this in my copywriting for Church Urban Fund:

‘So, please join with thousands of others this Christmas and raise your voices with us to do something fa la la la la la la lamazing.’

If you really want to push the boat out with new words, healthcare copywriting takes some beating:

DYSPHAGIA
‘We all know that water is essential for life, unfortunately, not everyone finds it easy to drink enough. If you have been diagnosed as having dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), you could be at risk of dehydration.’

I got to write ‘dysphagia’ dozens of times – in leaflets, training aids, ads, posters video script… It’s a funny old world being a Freelance Copywriter.

PHILANTHROPIST, TRAILBLAZER, RULE BREAKER, HERO
No, I wasn’t writing about myself, this was part of a 100 years Remembrance Day social media campaign for genealogy website, findmypast.com

BRATWURST
How much German do I know? Not a sausage. That’s why working for the German Tourist Office was such fun. To put it into context:

‘IT’S NOT ALL BEER AND BRATWURST
How about a slice of Flammkuchen, some Königsberger Klopse or a Prinzregententorte? If you think that’s a bit of a mouthful, just wait ‘til you taste them.’

Being a Freelance Copywriter isn’t always about using obscure words, but with so many available, it’d be a shame not to squeeze the odd ‘Bratwurst’ in now and again.

Goodness knows what 2019 will have in store; I’ve already managed ‘Kippers and custard’ for a VW script.

For more wordy fun and frolics, have a dip here:

How to tell a copywriter their work sucks
The Seven Deadly Skills of Copywriting
Copywriting for the worst client in the world

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriter – Thick Skin, Self-belief

A copywriter needs thick skin and self-belief

Are you setting sail as a Copywriter / Graphic Designer / Art Director / Illustrator?

Or do you already have years under your belt, furrows on your forehead and awards on the shelf?

Whatever your creative bent and whatever stage you’re at in your career:

First rule: get your head down and work hard.
Second Rule: keep your head down and work harder.
Third rule: get tooled up.

Besides developing your craft, there are two weapons you’ll need, and without them you probably won’t survive life on the creative hard shoulder, never mind the fast lane.

You’re gonna need a thick skin
People are going to slag your work off.

There’s a battalion of grammar bullies out there looking for the one typo in the middle of your 1,500-word blog post. There are a million creative wannabes who only get out of bed to stick your lovingly crafted bits and bobs through the Twitter mill, telling the world they could have done better.

Being in a creative industry leaves you vulnerable to the lazily tossed rotten cabbages of armchair critics. But that’s a good thing. It toughens you up.

It’s never too early to take a beating
Turn the clocks back 30 something years to my first year of college, studying Graphic Design. This was a period of huge change for me. The year before, I’d been a schoolboy flailing around trying to pass GCSEs. Now I was expected to set my own timetables, make choices and work things out for myself.

This was a fab course with great lecturers and a fun bunch of misfit classmates. We threw paint around, watched movies and learned about colour theory, typography and art. But besides all the arty-farty-designery good times, there were two particular not-so-pleasant incidents that stick in my mind.

The mermaid with 10 tits
We’d been set a project to do a self-portrait as we saw ourselves.

I was a long-haired hippy. Kaftans, flares, afghan waistcoats… the whole unwashed freaky kit and caboodle. So I drew myself as a flower. Yes, you read correctly, a flower. My head was the stigma, my body the stem and petals grew out from where my neck joined my shoulders. I thought it was cool.

We stuck our drawings up for the group crit and when it came to mine, the tutor vomited out the immortal words:

“It looks like a mermaid with 10 tits”.

Everyone laughed while I died a little inside. This hippy was going to have to grow something else other than tits.

The second episode, another group crit, was following a life drawing session.

We stuck our work all over the walls. Rolling hills of flesh in charcoal, pastels and paint. The lecturer slowly worked her way around the collected masterpieces pulling out all the positives. “Love the use of light and shade”, “Great composition”, “The head is out of proportion, but it just works”…

We were all bathing in the glory of our collective genius; then she ripped into us.

“Look at you all nodding your ****ing heads like ****ing nodding dogs. It’s all a load of ***t. Don’t just agree with everything I say like a bunch of brainless ****ers. Now take this ***p off my walls and ***k off home”.

That told us, but most importantly it got our attention. And all these years later I realise what a huge favour her beasting had done us. It didn’t really matter how good or bad the work was, what mattered was that we learned how to take negative feedback and developed our own opinions.

Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriter – Thick Skin, Self-belief Rocky-Ripped

Once you’re Rocky-ripped, all you need is self-belief
From personal experience, I’ve found that self-belief is a very fragile thing. Unlike a thick skin, which once developed is yours for life; self-belief can do a runner as soon as you turn your back on it.

While the negative opinions of others can hurt, there’s nothing more debilitating than you telling yourself how rubbish you are.

Having been a Copywriter since the mid ’80s, you’d think that self-belief would be a given by now.

Halfway through my career I spent a couple of years as a Creative Director in someone else’s agency, then several running my own (concentrating on everything other than being a Copywriter 75% of the time). But surely, going fulltime again as a freelance copywriter would be like stepping back into a familiar and comforting warm pool of rose-scented water.

Not one bit. I felt exposed, underqualified and smeared in rancid self-doubt jam from the sticky fingers of the imposter syndrome mind monster.

A couple of years freelancing later, dozens of very happy clients and a raft of new work, I’m well and truly back in the saddle of the self-belief pony.

Now that I’m out of the quagmire of non-worthiness, it’s weird to think that I was ever less than head-swellingly sure of myself. But when you’re up to your chinny-chin-chin in the muck of self-doubt you feel like everyone else is brilliantly creative and you’re a big fat dud.

It happens to the best of us
Yesterday I had a chat with an old friend of mine, a Graphic Designer (turned Creative Director, turned Managing Director, turned out-on-his-ear redundancy casualty).

This guy is very talented. Not only is he a very decent designer, he has the gift of the gab. He can hold the attention of a room. People like him; they hang on his every word, they believe in him; he has gravitas. Besides that, he’s just a bloody nice geezer. In short, anyone who snaps him up now would be getting a real gem on their team.

So with all this going for him, I was gobsmacked to hear him say that he reckoned he couldn’t cut it as a Creative Director anymore. To put this into perspective, he’s been CD at two agencies for a combined twenty odd years. Since hanging up his CD hat, he’s been MD of a high profile design agency for a mere six years, yet now he’s convinced he wouldn’t cut the mustard in his old Creative Director role.

Nonsense. The only thing stopping him is self-belief and I told him as much.

Knowing him, I’m sure the next time we meet up, he’ll be telling me the same thing as he breaks-in his £500 brogues, pacing the reclaimed oak floorboards of his Shoreditch Creative Director’s office. But that’s him, not everyone will find it so easy to find their lost confidence.

If your self-belief has taken a kicking, now what?
Let’s assume you already have skin that makes a rhino’s look like wet rice paper. If self-doubt has come knocking, what can you do to get on top again?

1) Work your socks off
You’ve seen your portfolio so much, even if it’s full of D&AD winners, it probably feels as stale as a budget airline donut. Do some new stuff to get excited about, even if it means making up your own creative briefs.

2) Collaborate
Without the wind of fresh input, self-doubt grows like mould . Get yourself out there and work with people you know and respect. If they’re not up for it, get in touch with new creative buddies via LinkedIn or platforms like singlecreatives.com The Dots or Freelance Heroes. Headhunters can also be a great source of potential creative partners to buddy up with.

3) Expose yourself
Old Creative Directors, creative colleagues from previous agencies, college mates… get in touch with anyone who knows your business. Get them to look at your portfolio, especially new stuff that you’re not sure about. They’ll sort the wheat from the chaff more easily than you can. However, ultimately, you have to be comfortable with your own work; you’ll be the one defending it when the time comes.

4) Start a blog
Get all your self-doubting stupid ideas down. Write about what you know and what you’re learning as you make up new stuff. Publish it and get feedback. If it’s rubbish you can always unpublish it, but it’s good to get whatever self-doubts are holding you back, out of your head. Committing them to the public domain tends to pull your thinking into focus.

5) Do something new
Only using one muscle makes you lopsided. If you’re a Digital Illustrator, do a series of large-scale abstract pieces with real paint and canvas. If you’re a Graphic Designer, sign up for a life drawing class. If you’re a Copywriter, write a short story or two.

6) Spend time with the masters
Who inspired you in the first place? Get your old Graphis Annuals, Creative Reviews and Lürzer’s Archives out. Surround yourself with work that gets you excited.

7) Spread the love
Once you’ve found the old you, do your little bit to help others on their way. Take the time to give honest, constructive criticism to newbies and oldies alike. Just one word of encouragement can make all the difference.

Thick-skinned and pumped up; now my friend, it’s time to don your creative cape and fly. Have fun.

If you’re a freelance copywriter (thick-skinned or otherwise), you’ll also find these 40 survival tips handy.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Copywriting – getting the balance right between simplicity and creativity – Leave a Gap – Jonathan Wilcock

Why you need to leave a g p in your copywriting

When it comes to copywriting, ‘Keep it simple’ is brilliant advice.

It’s bonkers how much information our poor little brains are expected to process. I’ve read that we’re exposed to anywhere between 4,000 and 10,00 marketing messages every day.

I counted at least 5 this morning, but then I got distracted. All I know is, when we’re told to keep our copywriting simple, it makes a lot of sense.

Edit those headlines down.
Only sell one thing at a time.
Make it easy to understand what you’re getting at.

All sage advice from the University of Write Not Wrong.

Simple is good, but…

Simple is a good start, but simplicity alone won’t always give you the cut-through you’re after.

You also need to be provocative, witty, different…

Simplicity is an elusive enough copywriting goal for most people, but the creative bit seems to be out of reach for the majority – thank goodness.

However, if you’re up for the challenge, there is one trick that’s great for transforming simple into something that people actually want to engage with.

I’m calling it ‘copywriting with a gap’ or to give it its official title, opywriting©.

Can you tell what it is yet?

People love to play. We love puzzles and a great example is the good old dot-to-dot.

Copywriting – getting the balance right between simplicity and creativity – Jonathan Wilcock

Giving your audience the space to get involved is a smart way to draw them in, but it’s a balancing act.

The two images above are a perfect demonstration of the ‘can’t be arsed because it’s too simple’ and the ‘can’t be arsed because it’s too complicated’.

The great thing about two extremes, is they’re all the proof you need that somewhere there’s a happy mid-point – the ‘ooh that looks like fun, I’m in’ sweet spot.

Yes, people are busy, so we need to get to the point, but there’s a lot to be said for leaving gaps so that they can join the dots.

We should never underestimate the intelligence of our audience

People love to be entertained, but they also love to be part of the entertainment. If they didn’t, there’d be no such thing as Karaoke.

Was it Confucius or Mr. Spock who said:

Tell me, I will forget
Show me, I will remember
Involve me, I will understand.

Whoever it was, I agree.

Having worked with kids in classrooms and summer camps, I’ve seen it a thousand times. Making stuff simple is great, but if they’re not part of the learning experience, nothing sinks in.

It’s the same with marketing and corporate comms. If we’re not careful, keeping everything simple leaves no room for people to have fun.

And that’s where the best copywriting gets it just right.

Genius copywriters keep it simple, but don’t lay everything out on a plate. There’s something in their writing that’s unexpected or curious. It gives the person reading it the reward of cracking the code.

A word of warning. If it’s worth a double take it’s good, but if it leaves them scratching their heads for too long, you’ve lost. Like I said, it’s a balancing act.

Two things to remember

1) Generally speaking, people don’t give a sticky fig about your ad / brochure / Instagram post… Your brand is just a means to an end.

2) Girls (and boys) just want to have fun.

If your copywriting can cater to these two basic principals, you’re more than halfway there.

You need to be able to answer ‘yes’ to these questions to be sure of any level of success:

– Is it simple?
– Is it entertaining, quirky, intriguing and/or impactful?
– Does it convey the message you’re after?
– Does it stop short of being self-indulgent?

And ‘no’ to these if you’re going to be belt, braces and safety pin certain-sure:

– Are you aiming too intellectually high or low for your audience?
– Could it be mistaken for a message from a competing brand?
– Could it be expressed even more simply with no loss of impact?
– Does it leave you thinking “so what”?

Posters are the ideal space for immediacy, with that all important splash of opywriting©. At least they ought to be.

Here’s a bunch of stonkers that cut to the chase, yet still give the viewer the chance to go on a little journey to the land of ‘Oh Yeah, I Get It’.

Nike Poster – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

John Lewis Poster – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

The Tube and Public Health Posters – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

The public health ‘fly’ poster was pinned up in Doctor’s waiting rooms, hence the extra linger time. But lengthy headline aside, in essence it’s still incredibly simple. And the gap? No picture of a fly, no mention of diseases. It gives you just enough mental white space to do a bit of colouring in yourself.

Sorry to be predictable, but no post on opywriting© could ignore this little beauty. A fab five-word headline and a four-word punchline with that magic little gap in between.

Economist Poster – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

The golden rule – simple is good, but boring is bad.

So next time you’ve stripped your copy back to the bare essentials, before you pat yourself on the back for its brevity, ask if there’s something else you could do to give the reader a bit of play time. Where’s the gap?

You can find more on the art of copywriting right here.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

30 Stupid Faces PagePic – Jonathan Wilcock

How do you doodle-do?

I got my rugged good looks from my Dad and my doodling skills from my Mum.

Being this handsome is a curse, but doodling… ah doodling.

There’s something about a bit of noodle-doodling that soothes my soul. And a stroll through my doodle-doings is just as rewarding.

I love flicking through old note books and looking at the contents of my subconscious mind scribbled in the margins. 9 times out of 10 it’s a face. They’re usually bizarre or grotesque (according to some psychologosts this means I am mistrustful and needy), but for some reason, the human face seems to be a recurring theme.

30 Stupid Faces
Last month, I set myself a little Twitter challenge: to draw and post a 30-second ‘stupid face’ every day for 30 days. The rules were simple, 30 seconds, just let the hand do the work with no thinking or planning, and no editing. Doodling with a direction, if you will.

Some came out pretty well in my humble-ish opinion.

I don’t think I’ll win many awards or commissions, but here’s November’s rogues gallery for your amusement.

30 Stupid Faces – Jonathan Wilcock

Doodling is fun, but there’s more to it than I’d imagined.

On the Epilepsy Action blog, handwriting analyst, Ruth Rostron says:
‘Doodling helps relieve boredom and frustration and the urge to doodle gets stronger as stress levels rise. Doodling is like a safety valve that allows pressure to be dispelled in a playful and creative way.’

On the Harvard Health Publishing blog, Dr. Srini Pillay says:
‘Doodling keeps you from falling asleep, or simply staring blankly when your brain has already turned off. The permission to “free-draw” keeps your brain online just a little while longer.’

And going even further, in her 2011 Ted talk, doodling evangelist, Sunni Brown says:
‘People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information than their non-doodling counterparts… it has a profound effect on creative problem-solving and deep information processing.’

So, if you want to boost your creativity and brain power, switch off your devices, pick up a pen and get a-doodling.

But, quickly before you hit the off button, here’s one last tour around my doodle-addled bonce with 6 more stupid faces (as ever, I over-delivered on the brief).

30StupidFaces Extra 2 – Jonathan Wilcock

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

We're drifting apart – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

We’re Drifting Apart (handling life in the creative department Part 2)

Are you a Copywriter or Art Director working in a two-person creative team?

You know the quote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…?”

If you’ve been beavering away as a team for more than the honeymoon period, you’ll know why it goes on to say:

“…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Makes you wonder if Charles Dickens was an adman.

Being in a creative team can be like waltzing on rose-scented marshmallow clouds. Ideas, banter and giggles. Riding the crest of a big fat sexy creative wave, winning awards, rising through the ranks; you and your mucker against the world.

Then again, it can be a bloody war of attrition.

We're drifting apart 2 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

How to survive in a creative team

I’ve worked with a dozen creative partners over the years.

Before I go any further, may I take this opportunity to thank you all for some magical moments and also to apologise for any episodes, tantrums or AWOLs that I may have subjected you to along the way.

Without you, I wouldn’t be half the creative Herbert that stands before you now, so here’s to you, Ladies and Gents.

A recipe for success

When the planets align, the synergy of Art Director and Copywriter working together in harmony is a joy to behold.

We're drifting apart 3 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Now, this beautiful relationship can go one of two ways:

1) The creative work flows and the boss loves you. Your production rate goes up, you’re given the best briefs and the portfolio just keeps getting better.

2) You’re the star team and everyone wants to hang out with you. You’re having a right laugh. It’s all 8-hour lunches and sleeping under the desk. What deadline? One more for the road? Ay-I-reallyreally-luv-you-yermybezfreninth’world-fanzee-a-kebab?

It’s great to be mates. But, if the work isn’t being done, the cracks will eventually show. When you get to the end of the year and you realise that you’ve done nothing portfolio-worthy, and half of your salary went on fine wine and pork scratchings, you know trouble will be poking its snotty nose around the next corner.

A recipe for disaster

Creative teams can be thrown together in all manner of ways. You meet at college, through a headhunter, online at singlecreatives.com or you get hired and the CD shoves you in a cell with a stranger that you’re going to have to learn to get along with.

We're drifting apart 4 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Here are the signs that it may not work out the way you’d both hoped.

1) One of you is in 2 hours before the other every day, trying to make up for lost time.

2) You won’t share ideas until they’re almost fully formed.

3) You enjoy the days that your partner is off more than the days they are in.

4) You never do anything socially together, not even popping out for a coffee.

5) They close their laptop and look guilty every time you walk into the office.

6) You have their picture on a dartboard at home.

How can you rekindle the magic?

If you work with someone 5 days a week, you spend more time with them than your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse…

Like diving buddies or Arctic explorers, you rely on each other for your survival.

And like an old married couple that stare into space at the dinner table, sometimes you need to spice things up.

1) Get out of the office to walk and talk to each other.

2) Get out of the office to chat ideas over a cuppa or a pint.

3) If you’re not getting the best briefs, nick them or make up your own and come up with something for the book that gets you excited.

4) Be honest with each other. If they’re driving you mad, get it out in the open (don’t forget to tell them why you love them too).

5) Do something together that takes you out of your comfy jumper zone: white water rafting, karaoke, pottery classes, whatever makes you feel slightly uneasy, but in a nice way.

What do you do if the magic’s completely fizzled out?

If you’ve stopped learning from each other, if it’s getting progressively more difficult to tease decent work out, or if you want to smashtheirflippinfaceineverytimetheyopentheirstupidmouth; it’s time for action.

We're drifting apart 5 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Stick two creative egos in a room together 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for two years and the oddest things can happen.

I worked with a creative partner who went completely off the rails. One minute they were their usual lovable selves, the next they were tearing up my layouts because they were convinced they could see the devil in them.

I tried to cope with it for a few weeks, but in the end I had to talk to the Creative Director.

Cut a long story short, we were split up and teamed with different Art Directors and Copywriters from the same department. My new partner was a genius and we had a fantastic time until mass redundancies hit (see my previous post ‘Problem Schmoblem‘).

Last thing I heard, my previous creative partner found his niche in fine art and the guy he ended up with went on to do great work at some of the best agencies in town.

If you’re in an unhappy, destructive or non-productive creative team; move on as soon as you possibly can. Life and your career are far too short to plod along miserably with a Copywriter or Art Director who’s the wrong fit.

And if you do find the Yin to your Yang, play nicely together. You’re career may depend on it.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Problem?Schmoblem! – Freelance Copywriter, Jonathan Wilcock

Problem? Schmoblem! (handling life in the creative department Part 1)

At the risk of getting a bit deep and philowotsical on you, I’ve come to realise that problems are our friends.

Without problems, we would grind to a halt.

Not that I’d wish great big problems on anyone, but the right problem has a habit of manifesting itself at exactly the right time for the right person.

Let’s take redundancy as a good example of a fairly juicy problem.

Being a member of the creative department in an advertising or design agency is a fairly precarious place to be. The curse of the big account win, followed by the big account loss, leaves us all vulnerable. In a money-saving exercise, even the senior creatives and creative hotshots are at risk.

If you’ve been in advertising or design for 15 years and not been made redundant yet, you’re either some sort of bullet-dodging superhero, so badly paid that it makes no sense in getting rid of you or you’ve always been self-employed.

Redundancy saga 1
Two years into my advertising career, I was called in to the Creative Director’s office and given the bad news. Something about recession, budget cuts, wiffle-waffle and the sound of mashed potato hitting a sponge in an echo chamber with the reverb button set at 11. The Head of Art bought me a bottle of Champagne and told me it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me (while I stared into space).

I spent the next 3 months in a daze, wondering what the hell I would do next. No one was hiring and more and more creatives were being shown the door. The competition was intense.

Then out of the blue, a senior Art Director who’d also been made redundant from the same agency (bless your cotton socks Keith) got me in for a chat with the boss at a big PR Agency in Bloomsbury. They’d been invited to pitch for a project, jointly funded by Harrods and the Spanish Government, to promote a month of Spanish fashion and culture at the world-famous Knightsbridge store.

This was my first foray into freelancing and culminated in three weeks in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada and Toledo), Art Directing press ads and a TV commercial. I was working with a great photographer and commercials director, was on a fab day rate, being paid to see the world, staying in stupidly expensive hotels and hanging out with beautiful models. Crumbs.

Problem?Schmoblem!2 – Freelance Copywriter, Jonathan Wilcock

Besides the fact that I’d managed to worry myself to the verge of a nervous breakdown after being made redundant, things were pretty good.

Redundancy saga 2
Fast-forward a couple of years, I was working in Soho’s Greek Street with the very lovely John Jessup. An old college friend had introduced us and it was a smashing little agency. I’d enjoyed freelancing, but it was good to be back splashing about in the full-time pool.

Then great news, the agency was going to merge with another bigger, better agency, headed up by some serious creative big-hitters. Exciting times, but they were going to be overstaffed, so it was back into the CD’s office for the “sorry, but…” pep talk.

Now this time I took the news very differently. No blind panic or “nobody loves me” dramas. With a nice little pay-off in my pocket, I picked myself up and waltzed out of the door with every confidence that things would work themselves out.

I disappeared to Kashmir for 6 weeks and forgot all about ad land, came back raring to go and pretty much walked straight into my dream job.

Redundancy Saga 3
A proper, big agency with proper, big accounts. A creative department of 32, two Creative Directors, smack-bang between Soho and Seven Dials… what could possibly go wrong?

Problem?Schmoblem!3 – Freelance Copywriter, Jonathan Wilcock

Ha! About 3 and a half years in, having survived one mini round of redundancies, a new CEO came in and decided to have a spring clean.

I was out on my ear again and fell back into freelancing. This was to be probably the most creatively consistent and stable patch of my career. 11 years, great work, wonderful people and no one could make me redundant. In your face – the man!

Then one thing led to another and I got back on the PAYE rollercoaster – Creative Director then Agency Partner then full time employee – and jumped back off in 2017.

The point is, on the surface and especially when you’re in the thick of it, redundancy is easily mistaken to be a bad thing. With the wrong mind-set, it brings pain, worry, confusion, fear, anger…

Seen from a different vantage point, every redundancy has added depth to my life experience and strength to my character. It’s opened new doors and shown me new possibilities.

It’s only life (or, it’s all good, especially the bad bits)
Nothing goes too smoothly for long. Life is meant to have ups and downs. We just need to work out how to deal with them.

So if you’re facing redundancy or any other life-changing ‘problem’, know that no matter how bad it may seem; it’s exactly what you need to help you move on to the next chapter.

It may be easier said than done and I’m sure that many will disagree, but for me, the best thing to do with a problem is welcome it in, tickle its tummy and make it your friend.

Oi, what’s your problem?
If you’re facing problems of a creative nature, give Uncle Jonathan a shout and he’ll help you you through it with a new blog post (maybe, no guarantees).

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk