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What I learnt in 2017

Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriting in 2017 So, What If…

What a year, no seriously, WHAT A YEAR.

I’m not talking hurricanes, terror attacks or The Donald. I’m talking about my little world. For most, pretty unimportant, but for me; well it’s all I have really.

The year got off to an interesting start – selling the agency that I and my business partner had poured blood, sweat and tears into for the best part of 14 years. It had been an amazing journey through thick and thin together, but it was time for change.

Come January 1, the curtain closed on Remedy Creative, the scenery changed and the stage was set for a new drama to unfold.

So here’s what I learnt in 2017:

Health first – unlike chocolate, you really can’t live without it. The build up to the business sale was traumatic. For months, three huge questions loomed over my head like inky black clouds:
1) Who, if anyone, would buy the agency and how on earth would I find them?
2) What would happen to the team and what was I going to tell them?
3) If I did sell it, then what?

As you might imagine, this dominated my every waking moment (and my nightmares) until the questions were answered. This in turn led to a knot in my stomach the size and consistency of the world’s largest ball of string. My blood pressure went through the roof and there were times when I thought I might seriously be losing the plot.

Later in the year, my best friend dropped the bombshell that he had aggressive cancer. Maybe we weren’t invincible after all.

Health, I have learnt, comes pretty high on my list of priorities.

Once the dust had settled on the sale (the team all kept their jobs in the new agency, my business partner now juggles two regular freelancing gigs and I am freelance copywriting again), I took the family on a month-long holiday in the sun. My blood pressure came back down to something like normal, the knot slowly loosened and things started to make sense again.

I’d forgotten how to look after myself, but lesson learned. AND, my friend just got the all clear – double Brucey bonus!

Playing to my strengths – hey, I’m a creative copywriter, plus a few other things; but ideas, words and pictures are what I really understand.

We’re all good at something, and whilst stretching myself is definitely a worthwhile pursuit, making the best of my natural talents is where I’m currently at. This is what I hope to continue concentrating on to keep the wolf from the door – at least for the forseeable future.

It’s my natural vocation, it’s constantly challenging, the variety keeps it stimulating and I love cracking creative briefs – so why wouldn’t I?

Social media can be fun – like gambling (don’t get me started on that), I’ve made the conscious decision to ‘keep it fun’. There’s enough bile out there to float a battleship, so I don’t think there’s any need for little old me to add to it. As my Mum used to tell me – “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

It’s just too darned easy to slag other people off. Belittling others on twitboxface just isn’t my style, so I tend to use social to spread the love, be a bit daft and generally amuse myself (and a bit of sly self promotion too of course).

I’ve been tinkering with what I call #badphotoshop of the day, #madeupword of the day and #mildlyamusing name of the day on twitter. Here are my favourites so far:

#badphotoshop of the day – COUNT SPATULA
#badphotoshop of the day – COUNT SPATULA
#badphotoshop of the day – BLUE PETER
#badphotoshop of the day – BLUE PETER
#badphotoshop of the day – ALIEN V EDITOR
#badphotoshop of the day – ALIEN V EDITOR

#madeupword of the day: SMUNJE – borrow money off someone poorer than you
#madeupword of the day: FLUMPTYHOO – very happy
#madeupword of the day: BUMSQUAGGLE – non-specific detritus

#mildlyamusing name of the day: Annette Curtain
#mildlyamusing name of the day: Stu N Dumplings
#mildlyamusing name of the day: Wendy Boatcumzin

(if you can be bothered, you’ll track my nonsense down at @Jonathan50Wh4t1)

Besides being a little more grown up and businessy-fied on LinkedIn, I have (quite innocently) put the cat amongst the pigeons a couple of times.

In November, somewhat frustrated at freelance copywriting job posts insisting on ridiculously specific work experience (‘must have worked on South African women’s niche fashion brands and purple sandwich toasters’), I posted this:

[Have you worked in FMCG? Yes.
How about biscuits? Yes.
Chocolate biscuits? No.
Sorry you haven’t got the gig.
Why do clients/recruiters insist on such specific sector experience?]

I think I hit a nerve –

freelance copywriting LinkedIn conversation2
freelance copywriting LinkedIn conversation3
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If you’d like to connect on LinkedIn, click right here.

Music, Music, Music – It’s a never-ending journey. As a copywriter, music can be my best friend or my worst enemy. Now that I’m freelance copywriting from home a lot more, I get to be DJ all day long. No more arguments about volume, invasive lyrics disturbing my train of thought or bad taste ’80s nonsense. Sorry, but anyone born in 1995 will never understand the mental scars that the New Romantics left on my impressionable mind.

Five artists/producers provided the go-to soundscape for writing in 2017. Please stand up Aphex Twin (as much as I love the bonkers stuff, I can only work to the mellower tunes), FSOL (as beautiful now as it was in the ’90s), Solar Fields (G-G-GENIUS in my opinion – every album, sonic perfection), Carbon Based Lifeforms (it’s what going green would sound like) and Aes Dana (Oh My Gurnard, it’s everything I’d been looking for – THANK YOU).

For more on music and creativity, checkout my earlier blog post

Doing your own thing – ain’t no one gonna do it for ya! Freelance copywriting is a wonderful way to pay the bills. Different briefs, people, agencies, sectors, challenges… a great big wobbly pile of variety means no two days are quite the same. Hallelujah to that.

The down sides? Well, not every brief lends itself to being a portfolio-stuffer and often the really juicy bits are tied up in NDAs, so what’s a boy to do? Simple, work on your own briefs whenever the paid works slows down enough. No restrictions, no Queensberry rules – just a bit of harmless, extracurricular creative exploration. I’ve already got half a dozen ideas in incubation which, time permitting, should see the light of day at some point in 2018. With no one to tell me “the client won’t buy that”, no doubt I’ll go a bit off-piste, but that’s the fun of it.

Anything can happen – and it probably will. So here’s to a stonker of a 2018, full of lovely work, new contacts and surprises.

Thank you to everyone who has added taste and texture to the year – you know who you are. x

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