In The Spotlight: Amy Harrison, Sales Copywriter

Maureen Doris (1)

Amy Harrison is a freelance sales copywriter.

She is the fifth digital marketer to feature in our ‘Industry Insight’ series. Follow Amy on Twitter.

How did you end up working as a sales copywriter?

I originally trained for 3 years to be a screenwriter for film and TV, until I finally realised I no longer wanted to be a screenwriter! Shortly after I started working for a small group of private investors who were buying and selling online businesses. It was there that I saw the power and importance of copy. How it could influence behaviour, make sales and directly affect revenue.

After a few years I wanted something I could develop and grow so I started out as a freelance copywriter. Initially, it was just writing content for websites (for 4 pence a word!) Soon moved into sales copywriting, which I love. It’s the perfect combination of creativity and science – you need to be creative to come up with new ideas and angles, but you’re aiming for a specific outcome – motivating the reader to take your call to action!

What does a usual day involve? Is there such a thing?

If I’m not travelling with work there is a bit of routine. I love adventure and shaking things up but I also love having some quiet weeks in the office when I can get into a good rhythm. At the moment when I’m in the office, my time is split between client work, content marketing for my business and creating new content for my online copywriting course Write With Influence.

Client work can be anything from writing copy to strategy. Currently, I’m working on a funnel sequence of content to guide visitors into prospects and then customers. For my own content marketing, I might be writing for the blog, or scripting / filming an AmyTV.

My online course Write With Influence is about to move to a much bigger, better platform which I’m excited about but it’s taking a lot of work behind the scenes!

A lot of people think copywriting is to do with trademarks and patents, what’s your definition of copywriting?

Ha! I always get that when I tell people I’m a copywriter. Copywriting is writing that is designed to persuade someone to think a certain way or adopt a point-of-view. This might be to consider trying out a new product, or donating to a charity, it could even be a text message to a friend convincing them to come out next Friday! Ultimately copywriting has a desired outcome – getting the reader to sign-up, ask for more information, or take some kind of action. Done well, it’s pretty powerful stuff.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Good question! Not so much given to me, but there’s one I love from Benjamin Bradlee, who was the editor of the Washington Post. He apparently took it from his grade school which was: “Our best today; better tomorrow.” I love the idea of continual improvement. Having said that I also love advice someone told me of: “Don’t let a bad day or bad week throw you off.”

Together, they remind me to strive for improvement, but never to give up if you hit a bump in the road.

What would you say is the most difficult thing about being a copywriter, and how do you overcome it?

Appreciating and communicating your own value, and walking away from clients who don’t respect what you do. Writing is subjective, and I’ve been in situations in the past where clients don’t realise that what you are doing is driven by psychology and studies, not simply words you ‘like’. You want feedback from clients, but you also have to stand by your work and explain why you’ve written the copy a certain way.

Do you have any advice for managing your time as a copywriter?

Factor in more time than you think! My problem is trying to do too much in one week. I’m much more strict now and would rather aim to get fewer projects through to completion in a week, than to have a large number of jobs half-finished. This goes for client work too. It’s so tempting to tell them you’ll have it done asap (because everyone wants their copy asap), but being realistic, or even overly-cautious is much better. 1. It manages expectations and 2. They’ll love you more if they get the copy sooner than they expect.

You work with large businesses. What are the top ‘power’ words every company includes in their copy, and how do you make them to change it?

Funnily enough, powerful is one of them as are:

Effective, Efficient, High-quality and Fast.

They’re what I call “Umbrella Terms”. Businesses use them to try and convey all the specific details in their business that make them ‘effective’ or ‘efficient’. I ask them to qualify and explain why they feel they can make that claim. If they are ‘high-quality’ because they have 10 stages of inspection, that’s what I (and customers) want to see in the copy. It makes a much stronger connection, and provides proof rather than simply making the same claim as their competitors.

When working with businesses, how important is humour when trying to engage the reader? Does it pay to be funny? 

It depends on the audience and the brand of the business. I love to laugh. Humour is very important to me, but I don’t try and force it into my marketing or content. There are a lot of advantages with using humour – it can break down barriers, build rapport, get people on side and make them receptive to what you have to say. But bad humour, or humour that misses the mark can have the complete opposite effect.

How can you make a boring subject interesting and engaging? 

All subjects are interesting to someone so it’s a matter of perspective. Write from the view of someone who loves trains, or dust or playing marbles even if you think it’s the dullest subject around. Find out what brings these people to life about the subject and write the copy from that point of view.

And finally, you’ve highlighted the similarities between copywriting and screenwriting, what’s your all time favourite film?

Probably Jaws. Fantastic writing and acting and absolutely scary even today.

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