Copywriters on the rack #4: Tom Albrighton
Howdy and welcome to Copywriters on the Rack.
Thanks for allowing me to apply the thumbscrews. So, to get things started:
Who are you and what is it you do to pay the bills?
I’m Tom Albrighton and I do writing and editing for all sorts of people. I’ve also written three books: Copywriting Made Simple, The Freelance Introvert and Cash Money Freelancing.
What was your career path to get where you are now?
I was a milkman when I was in sixth form – so more of a milkboy, really. I also did some boring data entry and, incredibly, staffed a telephone helpline for a while.
In terms of my proper career, I started out as an editor for a non-fiction publishing house. Then I worked at a small agency serving the public sector. When I went freelance, that led me to working on longer form content for B2B clients, but I do other stuff too.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The variety and the interest. The chance to get deep into subjects I never even knew existed. The chance to talk to people who make a product I never gave a second thought.
As a copywriter you learn that nothing is inherently boring. If it is, you just haven’t looked closely enough, or in the right way, or spoken to the right person about it. Once you do that, you’ll find the fascination.
What’s the worst?
Well, like most freelancers, I sometimes wish someone would come and take care of the whole commercial side, and just pass me the work to do. But of course, as a freelancer you have to do it yourself. I wrote my latest book, Cash Money Freelancing, to try and make that easier for people.
How do you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job?
I walk the dog, I go running, I ride my bike, I look after the garden. I like to do physical things and I’m not so keen on pastimes – which shamefully, for me, includes reading. I wish I could read more, but when it comes to it, I’d rather just crank out a load of miles or pull out a load of weeds.
Now we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s go rogue:
Gravy, mushy peas or curry sauce?
Mushy peas please. And shove a pickled onion on the side too.
Ooh, cheeky. Favourite smell?
Freshly cut grass with petrol mixed in. I use an electric mower and always feel vaguely dissatisfied with the experience, sensorily speaking. They should make an electric one that just exudes a petrol odour.
Favourite childhood sweet?
Caramac. I was allowed to have one from the vending machine after I went swimming on Tuesday nights.
Favourite adult snack?
Snyder’s pretzel pieces. Ruthlessly moreish, insanely calorific. The crack cocaine of snacks. Maybe they could use that as a slogan.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I had some idea I’d be a teacher, but I never really knew. Although I wrote a lot of stories and comic strips for fun, I don’t remember ever thinking I’d become a writer.
What would you like to come back as, if there’s a next time?
A bird, I think. It must be so easy to escape awkward situations when you can just take off into the air – and potentially crap on your interlocutor, too.
What gives you the heebie jeebies?
Cardboard being rubbed together, the thought of being buried alive and inadvertently eating cucumber.
What’s the last thing that made you cry?
Watching home videos of my daughter when she was little. If any parents of young kids are reading, my advice is to video your normal life. Just being at home, dong nothing special. This time may seem endless and boring now, but it’ll be gone before you know it, and you’ll miss it terribly.
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Well, it feels like everyone’s list just got a lot more modest in 2020. I’ll say cycle 100 miles again, visit the Western Isles again and finally sort out my lawn. I’d be happy with those right now.
What is love?
Holding on to the good stuff, letting go of the bad.
Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.
Here’s something spooky, since we’re coming up to Halloween. It’s a toy model head used for hairstyling, with vampire teeth stuck on it, inside our woodburner. The window reflected in the glass gives a nice double-exposure effect, and the mood is completed with a plastic candle. Overall the vibe reminds me of The Unexplained.
Is there anyone you’d like to say thank you to?
Ben Locker for helping me set up ProCopywriters. I’d never have been able to do it alone – as I quickly discovered once he stepped down from it.
Anyone you’d like to say sorry to?
The client to whom I sent their own briefing note by mistake, presenting it as the finished copy. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t like it.
Let’s play word association:
Favourite comic character?
Well, I was always a Beano fan, but thinking about it now, most of the characters were basically variations on Dennis the Menace, weren’t they? I was always very intrigued by The Numskulls, which were basically a precursor to the excellent Inside Out.
Where would you rather be and why?
Riding my bike. That would mean I’d finished all my work, which I haven’t.
And before I remove the shackles, tell us where we can find you online.