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Copywriters on the rack #11: Joe Jeffries

Welcome to another blood curdling episode of Copywriters on the Rack. I’ll soon wipe the smirk off this unsuspecting writer’s chops.

Who are you and what do you do to pay the bills?

I’m Joe Jeffries and I’m a freelance copywriter.

To the point. I like it, but don’t think you’re getting away without giving me some juicy details. Right, what was your career path to get to where you are now?

I worked for three years after uni as a freelance translator for sports brands. It was very creative work – finding big ideas in French and Spanish marketing texts and making them work for English speakers.

After a while, though, I wanted to be the one writing the original stuff. So I started self-studying marketing, advertising, direct-response copywriting and everything around it. And I did all I could to shunt my career off that way.

A couple of agency roles and a bit of trial and error later, I’m back freelancing again. This time purely as a copywriter, and loving every minute.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I have no niche, so I get to write about a big old mix of things. Industrial measurement instruments, serviced offices and biometric payment tech being just a few I’ve tackled this year.

Going from zero to passable expert in a day or two is always fun. I also love the challenge of saying a lot with a little. Taking reams of impenetrable strategic bumph and boiling it down into a few persuasive words – that’s the kind of weird thrill I’m here for.

What’s the worst?

I miss having teammates to gee me up or make me laugh when the pressure’s on, or when I hit the existential-crisis phase of a project. Twitter and the #copywritersunite crowd are a great substitute, though.

How do you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job?

Lego, puzzles, and clearing up Lego and puzzles. That’s pretty much life these days (and I’m not complaining).

That said, I do make sacred time every day for running. And I play cricket and tennis semi-regularly. Getting sweaty and whacking little balls around does wonders for the mind. Staying fit, for me, is a happy by-product.

Now I’ve softened you up a bit, let’s go rogue:

All Copywriters are weirdos – discuss.

Definitely. You have to be a little bit odd to willingly put yourself through the creative process every day.

You also need an ability to be a bit daft sometimes to find the interesting lines and angles. Non-weirdos tend to struggle with that.

What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve done, that’s just shy of illegal?

Any time I make tea by putting water, teabag and milk together in the mug, I feel I’m running the very real risk of having my citizenship revoked.

I’ll pretend I never heard that. What’s something you are brilliant at (besides copywriting of course)?

I make a pretty spectacular vegetarian chilli.

Write me a very short story featuring: A contortionist, Westminster Abbey and salad cream

You know this already, of course, but one of the things that brought William and Kate together was their shared passion for abnormally bendy people.

William wanted to surprise Kate on their wedding day with a nod to this part of their courtship. So he hired the contortionist Papi Flex (off of Britain’s Got Talent) to put on a seemingly unscripted and emotionally charged show of extreme body bendage.

The performance, however, never happened. Late for final rehearsal, Flex ran across Westminster Abbey’s highly buffed floor, hit a stray patch of salad cream from Huw Edwards’s lunchtime egg sub, and skated at high speed into a stone pillar – dislocating both shoulders.

The irony was surely not lost on poor old Papi. Edwards, meanwhile, has never spoken of the incident. But sources close to him say he still deeply regrets his role in preventing what could have been the most moving on-air moment in BBC history.

Who’d win in a fight, The Terminator or Ann Widdecombe?

You’d normally back Arnie, wouldn’t you? But listening to Widdecombe spout her trademark bilge, while watching her dance the salsa, is enough to short-circuit anyone. Cyborg assassin or otherwise.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I thought train drivers were the best when I was little. Part of me still wants their job.

What would you like to come back as, if there’s a next time?

A small pebble on a huge pebbly beach. Anonymous, indestructible and always near the sea.

Draw me a picture of two squirrels dancing the tango (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).

I smell a Pixar smash.

What are the top three things on your bucket list?

You’ve made me realise I don’t actually have a bucket list. I would make one here with you as witness, but now probably isn’t the year to be heaping any extra expectation on anything.

Maybe just treat yourself to three new buckets. I digress. What is love?

The greatest skill you can learn.

Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.

Just a domesticated male peacock named Cindy sharing a sofa with a geriatric ginger tomcat. Nothing to see here.

Is there anyone you’d like to say thank you to?

You, ya big dummy, for being a wise and sensible voice at the end of the phone when I was in a project-related fug a couple of months ago.

Fair do’s. Anyone you’d like to say sorry to?

My four-year-old son. I coloured in a dragon’s tail with a crayon instead of a felt tip earlier. The ultimate act of betrayal, if you’d heard his wailing. I apologised almost to the point of tears myself, but I fear it’ll never be enough.

You’re feeling down in the dumps. What do you need to perk yourself up again?

A run along the beach or a walk in the South Downs usually sorts me out.

Let’s play word association:

Ballroom blitz

Frumpy pumpy

Honk while u tonk

What does success look like to you?

I thought about this a lot before I went freelance again in January 2020. I’d been in a job that had made me unhappy and I was determined to reset things for the better.

Success, at that moment, meant going right back to basics: doing one thing I truly enjoy and excel at; working with people who value and respect me (and inviting those who don’t to kindly jog on); controlling my earning potential and not having someone else decide my professional worth; and putting my family and health above all else.

When the pandemic kicked off, I feared I’d have to tear it all up before I’d really started. That wouldn’t have been a failure, of course, but it would have been deflating. It crossed my mind again when my wife was laid off in November, leaving us with no guaranteed income and a perma-ravenous little lad to feed.

Mercifully, though, I’ve been booked solid pretty much the whole time. And despite everything – in terms of earnings, happiness, job satisfaction and family life – it’s been my best year yet. To have achieved that, while staying true to myself and the stuff that matters to me, feels good.

Make up your own question and tell us whatever you want to get off your chest.

People who hang dog poo bags in trees: why?

Give me three reasons why I should let you go.

1. I’ve got a deadline in 25 minutes

2. You’ve got a big queue of other copywriters itching for a go on the rack. Seems unfair for me to be hogging it

3. Oh look, an interrobang! *grabs dungeon keys and runs*

You sneaky bugger! Where can we find you online (I will hunt you down etc.)?