I had no idea what a copywriter was when I became one. I don’t mean that facetiously — I literally had no idea what copywriters did, or that they even existed. I was just an oblivious youth, with a knack for making strangers hit the like button on Facebook…who had somehow stumbled into an agency.
During university, I realised that social media was starting to become serious. Social was making a jump at the time from personal to professional. Facebook pages didn’t exist yet, but big brands were starting to make waves, youthful brands were starting to go viral, and I noticed that small businesses were starting to look a bit, well, silly.
I’m part of the “guinea pig” generation of social. I grew up with the poison. I witnessed the birth (and death) of Myspace, the rise (and plateau) of Tumblr, the never-ending boom of Facebook, and the cult uprising of Instagram. I speak fluent meme (Me Gusta!), and even managed to write a 10,000-word dissertation about parody Twitter accounts @SoVeryBritish and @Queen_UK.
Yep. I found that much to say.
Anyway, dripping in youth and naivety, I saw opportunity in those small, vulnerable, typo-tweeting businesses. An opportunity to help them grow their business, yes, but moreover an opportunity to earn a shit-ton of money by doing what I perceived to be very little. Social came naturally to me…so this would be a walk in the park.
One by one, I located every company in a 50-mile radius with fewer than 500 followers on Twitter. (I’m somewhat obsessive.) I emailed, and emailed, and emailed, and to my delight, I learned that small business owners were way, way, way too busy to do their own social media. Not only that, they had no idea what the hell they were supposed to do with it. Social media was a complicated, alien world they frankly wanted no part of. Most were all too happy to chuck £70 per week (oh, my pitiful rate) at some kid with the balls to say:
“Hey, I don’t mean to be rude, but your company tweets like the town imbecile. Want some help?”
Before I knew it, I had clients in Asia and was staying up until 3 a.m. for Skype meetings — which mostly involved nodding and smiling, as they barely spoke a word of English. As it happened, tweeting “professionally” was not the “making £90 an hour from my smartphone, while getting my nails done” dream ride I had imagined.
Dripping in youth and naivety, I saw opportunity among those small, vulnerable, typo-tweeting businesses.
In fact, back then, people were used to brands posting several times a day. Once you take on several decent-sized brands at that rate (with three or more platforms each), social media quickly turns into a 24-hour job, a crash course in customer-complaint handling, a degree in translating broken English, and one hell of a learning curve in what will grab someone’s attention. Don’t get me started on the hard life lessons a 20-year-old girl must learn regarding “people who say they will pay” versus “people who actually pay.” Poor, stupid, young Copy Clare. God bless your naive heart.
Either way, one account eventually led to another…which led to another…which led to me asking the boss of my weekend bar job to hire me as an in-house social executive (yup), which led to a job at a magazine (climbing) — and then one day, I emailed an agency.
No idea why. I didn’t have a bloody clue what they actually did.
Long story short, their copywriter (who had 10 years of experience) decided to leave the agency. So they took a chance on the kid who had wandered in by accident.
I’ve always said there’s no better way to learn than a baptism by fire — and that’s exactly what I got. My first job was a corporate brochure, which hilariously took me five days to write. My second job? Three trade brochures for white goods, in all their glorious, technical detail. That took less time, but Christ, was I stressed. Flyers, websites, social schedules, adverts, taglines, pitches, and scripts all flew at me at speed — and God’s honest truth? I was shit. But when you start, you always are.
I knew I was shit, however, which was a godsend. I can’t stand being shit at anything, so I knew I had to get better — and at record speed. I read every book I could get my hands on, pored over what other agencies were doing, spent every moment eavesdropping on other staff members, listened to podcasts, watched talks on YouTube from the copywriting deities, and much more.
Eventually, I got better, mostly through making blunders at extreme speed. Now, I’m “Senior Conceptual Copywriter.” (For people who are paid to give things precise, concise names, we haven’t really mastered job titles.)