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Copywriters on the rack #3: Katherine Wildman

Aha another victim. Welcome to Copywriters on the Rack and thanks for allowing me to apply the thumbscrews. So, to get things started:

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

Katherine Wildman, Director of B2B copywriting agency, Haydn Grey. I get paid to write. Which makes me feel like the luckiest gal in the world.

What was your career path to get where you are now?

Oh, it was a glorious and random route. I studied English Literature at university in Newcastle. No surprises there. Then had an unsuccessful stint selling double glazing to people unlucky enough to be listed in an old school phonebook – I got the sack after a fortnight.

More joy was to be found at the Ad-Mag, persuading people that yes, they did in fact very much want to clear out their lofts onto my pages.

Then there was a fortnight at Thompson Publishing in Camden where my greatest achievement was arranging the lilies. (My son’s at university in London and he can see my old office from his window because the world is, in reality, very small and hyperconnected).

Things got more joyful still when I joined ING Barings in the City. I worked on the reception and switchboard for years – and still use what I learned today. Not just about financial terms and processes but about talking to people. We hung out with everyone from Lord Lichfield and an assortment of old school Tory MPs to salespeople and the brilliant lads in the post room.

Then there was marriage, babies, ex-pat wifedom in Singapore… and a return to the UK with a divorce and a freelance start up.  

What’s the best thing about your job?

I have never, ever woken up and thought, “Oh, crap. Here we go again.” Instead, I walk past my desk on the way to the kitchen to make coffee in the morning, and often get waylaid en route, starting the working day in pjs.

And I’m getting better at finding the clients I want to work with and the work I want to do. And saying no – at speed – to the things I know won’t be a good fit. The benefit of age and a bucketload of therapy.

All hail, therapy.

What’s the worst?

I work some very odd hours. And very long hours. Especially when I’m busy. It’s an awful lot easier, now that my small people are tall people. But this isn’t a part time gig.

The silence between 1am and 5am is perfect for big, strategic jobs where you need to have the whole ocean in your head before you can boil it down to the good bits.

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

This is harder to answer than it should be. I’m working on finding more gaps. Or should that be making more gaps? I repositioned the business this year and it’s growing at a rate of knots. I tend to sleep when there isn’t a deadline knocking on the door.

When I can, I like to eat out with friends (@katherinewildman on the ‘gram for proof) and check out the beach at the end of the road.

Now we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s go rogue:

Gravy, mushy peas or curry sauce?

Proper gravy. And potatoes that have enjoyed a dalliance with some form of hot fat, please.

Favourite smell?

Fish and chips wrapped in newspaper from the back seat of the car. It’s specific because it’s the truth. Try it.

Favourite childhood sweet?

Mars Bar. I worked out that if you freeze them, they last longer. The day they invented the King Size version was a good day. My dentist may not, however, agree.

Favourite adult snack?

French cheese that’s making a bid for freedom off the side of the plate.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A roller waitress. True story.

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

An oak tree. Lots of time to think – and people watch.

What gives you the heebie jeebies?

Falling from a great height. And narcissists.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

A very, very thoughtful gift from a dear friend. There were words attached. I blame the words. Always the words.

What are the top three things on your bucket list?

1) To read the many books on my many bookshelves. Nick Parker said recently that all the books we buy and don’t read straightaway are actually the library we’re building for our future. I love that idea.

2) Buy a house. Maybe. Pandemic permitting.

3) Ride in a helicopter. Deffo this one.

What is love?

*starts singing Howard Jones in my head*

My sister and my best friend when I was getting divorced. THAT was love. And the joy I feel when my kids just hang out together.

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

An exquisite brand story in one image. Hiut Denim in Cardigan, Wales. These Japanese selvedge beauties are my lockdown present to myself for working so hard. Never tell my mother how much they cost.

The inside pocket of each pair is signed by the person who made them. Because artists always sign their work. My friend, Sarah, has a pair signed by Jean. Jean the Jean. I love that.

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

Andy Maslen. I owe him an Aston Martin. The kindest heart and the biggest, now-retired, copywriting brain. His opus of thrillers is pretty extraordinary. Talk about seizing the day.

Anyone you’d like to say sorry to?

My kids. For the bits I got wrong. Work in progress.

Let’s play word association:

Cheese please, Louise
Donkey Quixote
Fluff and nonsense

Favourite comic character?

Linus. A man with a blanket. He’s my spirit animal.

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

Cummings? W the actual F? Still furious.

Where would you rather be and why?

Right here, right now. Honestly.

And before I remove the shackles, tell us where we can find you online.

@haydngrey Twitter
@katherinewildman Instagram
And here I am on LinkedIn