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Dot & Squiggle cartoon by Jonathan Wilcock

Dot & Squiggle – life in the advertising agency

My background is in advertising.

I’ve been an Art Director, Creative Director – mostly a Copywriter. I’m also a frustrated illustrator, novelist, soothsayer and cartoonist.

Dot & Squiggle gave me a chance to stretch most of those muscles, frustrated or otherwise. I threw this series of cartoons out onto social media. It got likes and comments.

Best of all, it gave me a completely different creative outlet to the usual copywriting that I do.

Dot & Squiggle – by Jonathan Wilcock

After a year or so, Squiggle (the creative one) inevitably got fed up and went off to do something else. Bloody creatives!

I imagine Dot rose to board level at some massive, faceless global agency network and retired to Monaco.

Dot & Squiggle – by Jonathan Wilcock, Freelance Copywriter

RIP Dot & Squiggle.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter. You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Storytelling and copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

Storytelling and copywriting – sorry, you’ve got it all wrong

Saw this on Twitter recently:

‘Would someone please help me understand “storytelling”? Isn’t it just what most of us copywriters have been doing forever?’

Short answer. No!

What? Have I gone mad? What about the thousands of blog posts on storytelling and copywriting?

Call me contrary, but every post I’ve read is barking up the wrong tree.

Diving into writing techniques of famous authors is valuable of course, but they’re not storytellers, they’re storywriters.

If you want to know about storytelling and copywriting, let’s set the record straight.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Have you ever had to read a story to 25 six-year olds?

Sit down with a mob of sticky-fingered sprouts and it’s you versus the awesome power of the PS4 and the mighty Dairylea Dunker.

Get it right and you’re a hero; get it wrong and you’d better brace yourself for a thwack of the public humiliation stick.

Enter the storytelling arena

In 2003 I went through the ‘Education in Human Values’ training programme. Then for several years I volunteered at kids’ summer camps and a primary school in Battersea.

The EHV programme helps draw out good values through games, art, singing, silent sitting and storytelling.

I particularly fancied myself as a bit of a storyteller.

Forget JK Rowling or George Orwell, if there was ever a place to learn the art, this was it.

How difficult can storytelling be?

I’d watched Jackanory. I could read. Surely, that’s all I needed to be a master storyteller.

Wrong.

Having an audience staring at you as you deliver your pitch is terrifying.

If they don’t like it, you get a yawn in your face. Then they tell you how rubbish you are.

A ripple of giggles spreads through the herd, but they’re not laughing with you.

If you’re really bad… put it this way, have you read The Lord of the Flies?

Let the storytelling and copywriting analogies begin

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the parallels between reading a story to a bunch of sprogs and writing a powerful piece of copy are remarkable.

My first time in the storytelling seat, I struggled to get their attention. I needed something to get them focusing on me. The headline if you will.

Cue monster fingers and scrunched-up face…

“Who wants to hear a story about the world’s biggest, baddest, scariest dinosaur?” Surprise, surprise, everybody does.

Now you’ve got ’em how you gonna keep ’em?

You’ve banged a drum, clapped your hands… whatever it took to get them listening.

Now what?

All stories have a beginning, middle and end. How we move from one to the other is totally up for grabs.

It’s all about creating drama and flow:

– Pitching our voices from a whisper to a roar
– Pregnant pauses, holding the audience in suspense
– Unexpected twists and turns to keep everyone guessing
– Adopting different voices, ticks and traits
– Getting the audience involved by asking questions
– Making it personal, so everyone dives into the world we’re creating.

Even the most basic subject matter can be transformed into a journey of delight by employing these storytelling tricks.

Let’s give it a go

If we were to read ‘A little boy walked along the road to the shops’ aloud to a gaggle of fidgety nippers, how could we spice it up to keep them hanging off every syllable?

Let’s turn on the storytelling magic:

An itty-bitty little boy, teeny tiny… not tiny like a mouse, but tiny like… how tiny might he be? (in a group huddle we settle on ‘as tiny as a squirrel’).

The little boy, who was no bigger than a squirrel, was walking down a (expands arms and raises volume) GREAT BIG SCARY ROAD, WITH GREAT BIG SCARY CARS AND GREAT BIG SCARY LORRIES.

Why do you think he was walking down the road? To buy lots of super, sticky, sickly sweets – so, who likes sweets…?

We’ve used exaggeration, repetition and alliteration, and turned something everyday boring into a story worth listening to.

In our writing, we can replicate all these tricks and more, using capitalisation, short and long sentences, unexpected words and even made up words.

We can jump in and out of different tones of voice. We can ask questions, break up chunks of information with staccato lists…

So, employing some of these storytelling techniques, how could we re-write the same story to hook our reader?

Here goes a f’rinstance:

Remember the first time you were sent to the shops all on your own?

The world was a bigger, scarier place. Bushes were jungles full of tigers, cars were shiny metal monsters and every stranger was a scratchy-fingered child catcher.

Well, this was Sam’s very first trip down the High Street without a grown up.

He had his favourite lucky shoes on and a ten-pound note squeezed tightly in his tiny hand (so no one could steal it).

What was it mum said?

“One white sliced loaf, two pints of skimmed milk and eight rashers of streaky bacon.” This was Sam’s chance to prove how grown up he was, so he kept repeating to himself:

“One, two, eight; loaf, milk, bacon; white, skimmed, streaky…

“One, two, eight; loaf, milk, bacon; white, skimmed, streaky…

“One, two, eight; loaf, milk, bacon; white, skimmed, streaky… ooh, bus, dog, funny man with big nose.”

Sam’s thoughts had a habit of wandering off all on their own.

Now, what was it again? “Streaky bus milk, two white dogs, sliced nose loaf…”

All of a sudden we’re not passive observers, we’re right there with Sam.

If we can do that with our copywriting… just imagine.

And the moral of this particular story?

If you want to be a better writer, pick up a book and learn how to be a storyteller.

Pretend you’re reading your copy to your audience, better still, read it out loud.

You’ll soon weed out the awkward, dreary bits that act as unwanted full stops.

And guess what?

You’ll live happily ever after.

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

Freelancer Doldrums – Jonathan Wilcock, Freelance Copywriter

How I slapped myself out of the freelancer doldrums

As a little kid, I remember seeing a cartoon that left a deep impression on me. A character had been banished to a fantasy land called ‘The Doldrums’ and given the task of digging a tunnel through a mountain – with a pin.

If you’re a freelancer, you probably know what this feels like.

The phone hasn’t rung for days, the only emails you get are spam-flavoured and it seems like the world’s forgotten you.

Was that my last brief ever?

Will my next job be directing old ladies to aisle 23?

Well, this happened to me a couple of months ago.

After several juicy projects, the well dried up.

Any earmarked briefs had gone AWOL. Half promises were broken, clients went on holiday, Brexit had hit.

That was it, the end of a lovely career as a freelancer.

Or it could have been.

Luckily I had two secret weapons – Everything and Nothing.

I employed the two with equal gusto.

Everything

– Wrote three blog posts and pushed them out into the big wide world.

– Hit LinkedIn mercilessly like Tyson Fury v A Ripe Strawberry.

– Twittered so much it put the dawn chorus to shame.

– Gave myself ear burn chatting to old compadres on the mobile.

– Answered a stupid amount of freelancer job ads and posts.

– Met Art Directors and designers I’d been meaning to catch up with for ages.

– Set myself an imaginary brief.

– Did my year’s accounts.

– Went admin crazy – clean desktop, a squillion old emails deleted, files all ship-shaped…

Nothing

– Went for long walks by the sea.

– Had breakfast out and coffee with the missus.

– Read a couple of cracking books.

– Went to the flicks.

– Lay on the beach daydreaming.

– Raided charity shops and had an 80s/90s DVD blowout.

– Spent time with friends…

Not sure I was conscious of it at the time, but with hindsight I can see how this approach worked for me.

I banged on a load of doors – it’s a numbers game, so theoretically, the more doors, the more chances of someone being in. At the same time, I didn’t let it get me down. I trusted that something would eventually click and gave myself the space to actually enjoy the process.

And the result?

Of course there are no guarantees, but some of those doors opened.

I picked up four new clients, turned project work into a retainer and best of all, those doors have led to other doors seemingly opening themselves. I’ve had two projects come via recommendations from people I’ve never met, never mind worked with.

As Coleman Cox said, “I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.”

So, if you’re struggling to find freelance work, treat yourself to a healthy dollop of Everything and Nothing.

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 is making it up as he goes along

I’m making it all up as I go along

A few years ago I was asked to help develop brand language for a charity. I didn’t have a clue. I’d never done ‘brand language’ before, so I thought it best to have a chat with someone I knew who’d done lots.

When I asked him what his formula was for approaching a brand language project, he admitted that he made it up as he went along.

No formula, he just applied a combination of accumulated experience in all sorts of copywriting with a bit of common sense and whatever felt right for the particular project.

He was a blagger. A bloody good one, producing great work, but a blagger all the same.

Trust me I’m a… what was it you wanted again?

You can’t believe how reassuring that was for me. It sounded just like the way I’d fumbled through life – sort of making it up as I went along.

And the more people I spoke to about this, I realised we’re all at it; making it look like we know exactly what we’re doing. Just like life in general, there’s always the first time, then when we’ve done it a couple of times or more, we believe in ourselves – you should taste my veggie Bolognese sauce, it’ll blow your mind.

Then along comes another challenge that shoves us right back into the discomfort zone. We can either embrace it and do whatever’s necessary to swim, or we can flail around in a panic and sink.

Or to milk the analogy a bit more, we can get out of the pool and watch from the spectator’s area.

Go with the fear

Throughout our lives we come up against tasks where we have no specific prior experience to lean on. On the one hand, it’s incredibly scary, on the other, it’s totally liberating.

If we just keep moving forwards, admitting to ourselves we’re making up our own rules and working out our own answers, anything’s possible.

As copywriters (or anyone in the creative industries for that matter), we have a chance to keep ‘making it up’, to keep re-inventing and stretching ourselves.

For me, that’s a huge part of the attraction. Doing the exact same thing over and over for 40 or 50 years may work for some people, but I don’t think it would for me.

Over the years I’ve written:

– Radio commercials for ferries
– Brand guidelines for haulage
– Press ads for watches
– Annual reports for a housing association
– Facebook ads for online family trees
– An e-book for dentists
– SMS messages for property maintenance
– TV commercials for a telephone directory
– Branding workshops for accountants
– Emails for a tourist office
– Press releases for ad agencies
– Sales videos for car brands
– Brand language for estate agents
– Brochures for a building contractor
– On-pack copy for vodka
– Websites for corporate training

I’ve Art Directed TV commercials in Mauritius, illustrated posters for a Kids TV channel, been a guest speaker at a fundraising conference, lectured to University students and sat for days with a photographer in the Brecon Beacons waiting for the perfect storm.

We are a sum of all the parts

For all of this, at least the first time round, I was a novice. Then again, not a complete novice. You see, even though I’ve never written a recipe book for kittens, I have a ton of experience in my personal data bank that means, given half a chance, I definitely could.

And it’s the same for all of us. We build up a base of core skills and confidence that we can draw on, to keep doing the next new thing.

So next time a client asks “have you ever…” don’t panic, just think to yourself, “no, not yet”. Then get them to have a look at this post on why they don’t need a specialist copywriter.

Addendum:

I had a bit of a wobble before publishing this post. Did it make me sound like a chancer? Did I come across as a have-a-go-hero rather than a professional freelance copywriter? Would it scare potential clients off?

So, I asked a fellow copywriter, the very lovely Alice Hollis, for her opinion and she settled my jitters better than a bottle of Dr. Scrottinger’s Herbal Nerve Tonic. Thanks Alice.

Hope you like it too.

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

The Anagram Murders (a short story…)

Last month I wrote a short story called Job Satisfaction using words suggested by some of my Twitter chums. It was a fascinating creative exercise, unlike anything I’d done in ages.

People liked it, so I thought about doing another.

Then I stopped thinking and started doing. Here’s what happened:

The Anagram Murders

A pair of bright red, 12″ stilettoes punctured the earlobes. A day-glow ostrich feather boa was tied in a complex series of sailor’s knots around the pharynx.

DS Mike McLoud had seen some weird things during his 40 years in the Met. But none quite as twisted as this, the latest in a bizarre series of killings the papers were calling ‘The Anagram Murders’.

In an act of obfuscation, the bodies had been moved from the scenes of all seven murders to different high-class commercial premises and entertainment spots around the capital. A cwtch in the back room of a posh Fulham haberdashery, a nail bar ‘to the stars’ in Notting Hill, underneath the carousel at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland… now this one, a newsagents in Soho.

Like the other locations, this was best of breed; probably the newsagentiest newsagent you’d find anywhere in London. They sold everything from ‘Pettigrew’s Monthly Compendium of Oddities’ to ‘What Somersault’ – the magazine for international gymnasts.

The murder weapons had all been equally curious. A milliner’s hat block, spiralizer, cello spike, spatula, Philippe Starck lemon squeezer… whoever was responsible, they certainly enjoyed a bit of theatre.

There was nothing frenzied or scrappy about the murders. In fact, each body had been carefully primped and preened. If it wasn’t so grizzly, you might say they were surreally beautiful, as if the killer was finding unalloyed pleasure in creating a series of morbid masterpieces.

And like the fridge magnet murders of ’73, he’d left a calling card. Sellotaped to the victims’ bodies were cutout type characters; deeply embossed in gold outline with a magenta in-fill, in what, McLoud had learned, was Cooper Black font.

In alphabetical order:

A B B C D D E I L M O O S T U .

The A adorned the abdomen, B1 and B2 the buttocks and so on, each letter representing an anatomical initial, like some kind of sick ‘My First ABC’ book.

But what did the letters mean?

Back at the station, McLoud opened the case file and leafed through the sheets of anagrams he’d been sweating over, to see if he’d missed anything.

Was it a reference to animal fetishism?
MULE BOOBS ADDICT.

Something to do with vampires and Harry Potter?
BAT ICES MUD BLOOD.

The smell of the bodies (some had lain undiscovered for days)?
SOILED DUMB CAT B.O

Or just a sick way of mocking whoever found them?
U C MOIST DEAD BLOB.

He’d been on the case for 18 months and worked through every letter combination he could think of. Then it hit him like a Phil Mitchell head-butt.

“DISCOMBOBULATED.”

Six syllables that perfectly summed up the state he’d been in ever since the first murder.

“Is that it, you stupid f…” McLoud wasn’t amused.

“Wassat chief?” DC Collier slid across the investigation room, cigarette in one hand, chai latte in the other.

“Codswallop! He’s taking the piss out of us.” McLoud threw a pile of angrily scribbled letters across his desk, “DISCOMBOBULATED! I’ve been playing the Countdown conundrum round for 18 bleedin’ months and this is the only real clue we’ve got.”

DC Collier drained his coffee and took a long draw on his Sobranie Black Russian, right down to the filter. He dropped the butt into the bottom of the paper cup and swilled it around to hear the satisfying ‘SSSSFFFT’ as the coffee dregs extinguished the last glow of his cigarette.

“S’whata we do now chief?”

McLoud straightened the collar of his filthy windcheater and pulled himself up to his full, plump 5 foot 9 inches.

“We’re gonna pootle ’round town and work out where ‘e done ’em.”

McLoud had made an impression since his first day in the force. He was an unsophisticated East Ender, prone to conniption fits and extreme violence. On occasions he’d been referred to as “a right obstreperous git”, “a rambunctious toe rag” and “a dog with a bone”.

But now he was old and tired. He’d been exposed to a cornucopia of nastiness. The contamination of 4o years’ worth of doom, gloom, blood and guts would knock the stuffing out of anyone. Even a hard nut like McCloud.

This was his last case and he only had 14 hours and 33 minutes until retirement. He was going to solve it, take the gold clock and the slap on the back, and spend his last days drinking home brew with his Jack Russell, Snippet, on Canvey Island.

But right now he had a fiduciary obligation to the good citizens of London town to catch a killer. “Collier, get your arse in gear.”

The two officers spent the next 12 hours rushing around the capital revisiting every scene where the bodies had been discovered.

Still, nothing really added up.

The clock was ticking, now McLoud had just a couple of hours until his leaving do. Like a conflagration ripping through a tinder-dry forest, panic fizzed through his nervous system.

Collier was his usual ice-cool self. “Calm down chief, you’ll burst a blood vessel. What was that word again?”

“DISCOMBOBULATED.” His boss spat the word across the inside of the windscreen.

Collier hit the breaks, casually took hold of McLoud’s jowls, swivelled his head 90 degrees to the right and pointed across the inky black side street.

“There you go chief, I reckon that’s what you’ve been looking for.”

Collier let go of McLoud’s jaw, which immediately dropped as he took in the neon sign over the nightclub door.

DISCO MBOBULATED.

This could be it, the missing link in the chain; the spot where all the murders had happened.

18 months of agony instantly disappeared. It was like someone had switched on the Regent Street Christmas lights in his head and poured warm custard in his pants at the same time.

McLoud could taste victory – stronger than a Fisherman’s Friend wrapped in anchovies.

But they had to get in without drawing attention to themselves. After all, the killer could well be in the nightclub right this second.

McCloud knew that anyone with an ounce of intelligence would spot his copper credentials a mile off, but Collier could blend in no problem. If anyone could inveigle their way in to London’s slinkiest nightspot without setting off alarm bells, it was Collier.

This was it, the culmination of 18 long months of detective work. McLoud’s fecund imagination was already painting a picture of retired bliss. Snuggled up on a La-Z-Boy, pint in hand, gold clock on the mantelpiece. The sun sinking majestically behind Morrisons, as it glinted off the Queen’s Police Medal pinned to his dressing gown lapel.

“Collier, you’re a genius, I could kiss y…”

A searing pain hit McLoud in the gut. He looked down to see a Montblanc special edition, white gold fountain pen protruding from his greasy mac.

He grabbed at it and blood spilled through his fingers. He looked up at Collier, who was taking an antique ink blotter from the inside pocket of his Burberry trench coat.

Their eyes met. Mcloud’s baggy and confused under a furrowed brow; Collier’s twinkling with mischief.

Collier dramatically flicked his fringe back as if he were a ’50s Hollywood starlet and purred like a cat that’d wandered into a creamery.

O… I STABBED MCLOUD. Sorry chief.”

The ink blotter slammed into McLoud’s head and he dropped to the pavement.  The old detective tried to raise his head up from the gutter. The world went dark as he slurred his last words, “Where’d the dot, dot, dot come from?”

Collier wiped the pen with a Liberty handkerchief. “It’s called an ellipsis you ignoramus.”

The end

A massive thanks to:
Dee @topcontentUK, Rowan @rmcopywriting, Elaine @Creative_Girly, Hollie @HollieWriter, Brett @iambrettcullen, Kev @reallyquitesome, Annie @Annie_Writes_, Ben @benjrmckinney, Somedisco @somedisco, No.16 PR @No16_PR, Gemma @gemmyred, Andrew @AGMonro, Gareth, @thatcontentshed, Mary @Word_Service, Kirsten @kirstofcomms, Craig @straygoat, Jake @Jakebrap, Underpin Marketing @WeAreUnderpin, Jason @huntaround, Lindsey @lindseyruss1, Jamaal @JamaalGriffith, Jo @jolilford, Emma @EJCownley, Leigh @words_person and Michelle @PRisUs

Without your words, this story would have never happened.

The words:
Discombobulated, Frenzied, Somersault, Codswallop, Newsagent, Newsagentiest, Plump, Spatula, Unalloyed, Haberdashery, Pootle, Obstreperous, Rambunctious, Obfuscation, Conniption, Contamination, Cornucopia, Fiduciary, Ellipsis, Inveigle, Conflagration, Fecund, Carousel, Cwtch and Snippet.

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 – Senior Freelance Copywriter

Recent guest blog posts (to April 2019)

There are blogs out there run by people who are brave/crazy enough to trust me to write a post or two for them. Apologies if I’ve brought those websites crashing to their knees.

If, dear reader, you are curious, here are a few links:

Why Designers and Copywriters Should Collaborate More
“I can’t believe it. They’ve asked me to come up with brand names again.”
You could have planted potatoes in the Graphic Designer’s forehead furrows…
Read more on TheLogoCreative.co.uk

Negativity, creativity and our online, collective Karma
The Internet is amazing. It’s also a bitter and twisted place.
Supposedly educated, creative people use the Internet (particularly social media) to spread great big, stinky bucket-loads of tittle-tattle and twit-twattery…
Read more on Lucidity.org.uk

Who put the free in freelance?
Free is good. There’s ‘free as a bird’, ‘free to do what you wanna’ and ‘I’m free next Thursday’.
Then there’s the other kinds of free. ‘Can you just bang out a sample paragraph or two’, ‘we’ve asked two other writers to pitch their ideas too’ and the classic, ‘if you rewrote the home page, that would give us a better idea if you’re right for the job’…
Read more on CopywriterCollective.com

The designer’s guide to Brand Tone of Voice
This post is for anyone who needs to work with words, but isn’t a fully paid-up member of the Royal Guild of Copywriters. It’s a practical guide that should not only convince you of the power of defining a brand’s ToV, but will help you to bring words into play when tackling your next branding brief…
Read more on TheLogoCreative.co.uk

How to write better headlines
I can’t emphasise too much just how important headlines are. If you were in catering, they’d be your TripAdvisor review, menu and Fred the Maître d’ – all in one.
Like the smell of fresh baking bread, a good headline draws people in. If it’s really, really good they don’t have to read anything else – they’ll just live off the aroma…
Read more on TuesdayMedia.com

If you’re a site owner and would like to add a dash of my take on copywriting, creativity or anything else within reason, get in touch.

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

A short story by Jonathan Wilcock

Job satisfaction (a short story…)

This is for anyone who’s into chaos theory.

The story starts with an innocent, off the cuff tweet I posted six days ago:

‘What’s your word of the day? Mine’s ‘twaddle’.

A couple of replies popped up and without thinking it through, I posted:

‘Anyone else want to share their (keep it clean kids), let me know and I’ll see if I can write a short story that includes them all. x’

And the die was cast.

Several retweets and replies later, I had seventeen words to play with. Two of them I confess I had to look up, one was misspelled, one was made up and at least half a dozen of them I’m sure I’d never used in writing before.

Ooh what fun.

Now, before I reveal the story itself, there are three things that this exercise has shed light on for me.

1) Copywriters need a brief
If someone had said to me, “write a short story”, I’m pretty sure I would have frozen. Armed with seventeen random words, I had my brief (albeit a somewhat odd one).

2) Limitations are liberating
Seventeen words is easier than 117. Give an artist two colours + black and it will give them more freedom than a trolley dash in an art shop.

3) Creative collaboration is a good thing
Getting others involved in the creative process opens up all sorts of possibilities. This is perhaps the darkest thing I’ve written since I was a hormone-ravaged teenager.

Thank you to Dee , Jo , Leigh , Sarah , Michelle , B , Lindsey , Beth , Jamaal , Trudie , , Nik and Craig for donating the words.

So, are we sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Job satisfaction
(a short story using suggested words from Twitter chums, by Jonathan Wilcock)

Head, wall, bang, ouch, head, wall, bang, ouch…

It was one of those days.

Correction, it was yet another day in a long and painful list of days filled with disappointment, listlessness and procrastination. It was just that this day, the drip, drip, dripping scale of decrement in her quality of life had tipped.

Morag didn’t hate being a dentist. The pay was good, she got to wear latex gloves and drive a BMW. It was the patients.

They had become the cynosure of all her rage and bile. The cretins with crusty nostrils, the twits that talked twaddle through cotton wool-stuffed mouths, the dribblers that seldom bothered to floss before their appointments. Her patients added up to one apodeictic certainty; that mankind needed more than aligners to straighten it out.

“There was a kerfluffle on the A38, so sorry I’m late.”

It was Malcolm Twite. Muppet-featured, sweaty-palmed, always-bloody-happy, Malcolm-bloody-Twite.

“You idiot, it’s KERFUFFLE, not Kerfluffle.” Thankfully Morag had thought it, not said it; but the vein on her forehead probably gave the game away.

She had a list of all of Malcolm’s stupid malapropisms and spoonerisms etched on her brain. Poppyclock instead of poppycock, skedawddle instead of skedaddle, discombabulate instead of discombobulate. The man was a waste of (very bad) breath and he had it coming to him.

“Mr Twite, lovely to see you. Take a seat. Let’s have a look at your notes.” Playing the role of a jolly, benign healthcare servant lifted Morag’s mood.

“Eeek, three fillings. I think we’ll have to knock you out for this one.”

The timing was perfect. Her assistant had called in with another lame excuse for not coming into the surgery. The next patient had cancelled, the receptionist had left for the evening and the clinical waste bins had been emptied the night before. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad day after all.

“That’s it, just relax and breathe normally.”

The nitrous oxide was doing its job. Just a few more seconds and Malcolm-bloody-Twite would be sleeping like a baby. A plump, sweaty-handed, unsuspecting baby.

“Now it’s sleepy time Malcolm. Nighty night.”

A smile cracked her usual shoehorny, lemon-sucking, puckered face.

For too long, any joy she’d felt had been far too ephemeral. This was the closest to job satisfaction she’d experienced in years.

Forceps, probe, rasp, chisel, scalpel. Oh, the clinical perfection of sterilised steel. Morag felt like an artist, a sculptor with a damp ball of clay in her twitching, excited hands.

More nitrous oxide. More nitrous oxide. And a little bit more.

Six hours slipped by as she chuckled, and he snored.

“Torque wrench, root elevator, stitches, a slap round the chops – and we’re all done.”

“You can wake up now Mr Twite.”

Malcolm stirred, as Morag admired her artistry.

“Or should I say, Mrs Twite.”

The end.

Words donated: ‘procrastination’,  ‘poppycock’, ‘skedaddle’, ‘sleeping’, ‘muppet’, ‘kerfluffle’, ‘apodeictic’, ‘discombobulate’, ‘plump’, ‘cynosure’, ‘dentist’, ‘shoehorny’, ‘ephemeral’, ‘seldom’, ‘decrement’, ‘eeek’ and the one that started it all off – ‘twaddle’.

Tinkered-with image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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

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