We speak to professional copywriter, Jamie of writeything.com. He shares how becoming a freelancer has helped him look after his son and his mental health, and how his career led him to meeting Prince Harry.
Hi Jamie, can you please tell us a little about who you are and give us a little background into what you do?
I’m a professional freelance copywriter, specialising mainly in the automotive and luxury brand sectors. I’ve always had an interest in writing, and in my ‘other life’ I was contracted to write a technical book for a major international publisher.
I’ve been freelancing now for around four years, I have a worldwide client base (America, Russia and Poland are the top three currently) but even whilst being established, it can be hard going; as the old saying goes – feast or famine is the general way that this business seems to work, fortunately, it seems that I’m on the ‘feast’ stage and have been for a while now.
How did you get into writing and why did you decide to become a freelance copywriter?
I have worked in the automotive industry all my life, from F1 through to IndyCar, WEC and a myriad of other categories. In 2008, I was running my own high performance and race engine business, but my life was to change significantly.
My wife (and mother to our two-year-old son) was diagnosed with cancer in the March of 2008, she lasted until July.
I had what can only be described as a breakdown, I lost our family home and my business, purely because I didn’t have the mental strength to fight for them. I suffered from severe mental health issues and to this day, I have to look after my mental health more than most.
It took me around four or five years to get back to wanting to work. The process started with creating a social enterprise that developed a software platform for carers or those living with a life-limiting condition. As part of that, I wrote a book about hospice care (and the myths surrounding it), it was this that kickstarted my love for writing again.
The name writeything came about from a pet name for my late wife – she was always called wifeything, so when it came to launching a new business, I wanted to try and incorporate something of her in to the business. I think she’d find it funny.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Being a freelance writer gives me the opportunity to ‘be there’ for my son – I have no set hours or days and can be very flexible when it comes to spending time with him.
Aside from that, I’m aware that many employers aren’t that great when it comes to mental health issues – so I’ve effectively lost that stress from my working life – if I need time off, I can take it without an issue, although of course I do still need to pay the bills!
Being a freelancer can be tough at times – you’ve got no guaranteed money coming in, but once established, I feel that the benefits far outweigh working for someone else – apart from anything else, I can work pretty much anywhere providing I have an internet connection. If I fancy a few days away, then I can do it completely guilt free providing I take my laptop with me.
What do you find most challenging about being a freelance copywriter?
Perhaps not so much now, but starting out as a freelance writer can be tough, even more so if you’re going completely blind in to it – many freelance writers have worked in the industry for a number of years before deciding to risk going it alone, I didn’t.
The biggest challenge is earning money regularly. Sometimes you think you’ve cracked the market, having to turn work down, and earning more than enough money to be comfortable, whilst other times you could be quietly panicking about the next bill due through your door.
Aside from the financial aspects, perhaps the biggest challenge is understanding exactly what the client wants or needs and then translating that onto paper. I try to be as flexible as possible, and I’m always happy to rewrite an article where it’s needed, but part of my job is understanding what a client wants and getting it right first time – if I’m rewriting articles every day, I’m effectively losing money. A good copywriter has the ability to understand the best way forward, know what the client wants and give them a gentle nudge in the right direction when needed.
Have you had any particularly memorable or interesting experiences in your line of work?
Last year, I wrote a small piece regarding my experiences of mental health struggles for the Heads Together campaign, run by the Royal Foundation. The idea behind it is to promote mental health wellbeing, get people talking and promoting the fact that talking about it is a good thing.
This led to being invited by the Royal Foundation to attend a ‘do’ in London right next to the London Eye (including a trip on the Eye). I was selected to meet Prince Harry and had quite a lengthy conversation with him about my experiences. I have to say, he was absolutely perfect, the most down-to-earth man you’ll ever meet and I came away from London with a proper mancrush!
What advice would you give yourself if you were launching your business today?
I’ve worked quite closely with a number of startups and have launched three different businesses myself, so I think I have an understanding of what I’m doing. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing, so there are plenty of changes that I’d make if I was able to turn the clock back, but all only small things, nothing significant (thankfully!).
How does the future look for writeything.com - any exciting news or things you are looking forward to?
After taking a couple of months off over summer, I’m now looking at knuckling down and getting right back into it. I’m dusting off the client list and just seeing what’s around – fortunately I’m looking for things that take my fancy rather than having to pick the next job that comes along.
I have a few events coming up where I’ll be talking about my experiences, I’m also working on a couple of different books which will hopefully be picked up, but they’re really only side projects – just something different for me to do.
Finally, you’ve been using Debitoor for a while now, how has it helped you as a freelance copywriter?
Debitoor has been great. It’s a low-cost solution and does exactly what I need it to. Throughout my professional life, I have seen a number of more expensive solutions for invoicing and, to be honest, I think Debitoor has the combination just right – functionality vs. pricing is the ideal combination for me, I recommend Debitoor to a number of clients looking for this type of invoicing software.