Jim won Copywriter of the Year at our 2018 Freelancer Awards, so we caught up with him to find out why he chose to start freelancing and what he wished he knew before he got started:
How long have you been freelancing?
Years. (editors note: don't worry, he gets more talkative!)
Why did you decide to go freelance?
It was at a time when perm work was hard to come by. So I just kind of fell into it. But I never looked back. These days it seems like everyone’s freelance so I guess it’s good I got in when I did and was able to build a strong reputation and a stable of clients before everyone else arrived on the scene.
How did you get into Copywriting?
I’ve always done it. I studied Advertising at Bournemouth University (I've got a lot of opinions about advertising education but that’s for another time. Except to say that the further I go in the industry, the more I believe I had a great one). I fell in love with copywriting quite early on. Probably not surprising as I always loved reading and writing.
To this day, my old uni tutor still tells it, as if it were the world’s lamest superhero origin story… in a lecture one day he showed us The Truth and watched as my eyes lit up. And that was it, I was a copywriter.
What's the best thing about being freelance? and what's the hardest?
It’s in the name; freedom. In a perm role, you have to work when they want, how they want, where they want, on what they want. Sure, with freelance you trade away a bit of stability but in return, you get to work your way. You get to choose where you work and move on when the work becomes stale or when you stop learning. You get to set your own terms, working at times when and places where you’re most productive. You get to go after the work that excites you and say no to anything that doesn’t. Not only does it make work life more interesting, it’s like rocket fuel for a creative career.
Jumping around does make it difficult to have work friends. That was the hardest thing at first. But it is our job to solve problems, so some friends and I created a freelancers WhatsApp group. Now we have a bunch of work buddies and we can talk a lot throughout the day, give advice, share networking events, post jobs, arrange social drinks and generally horse around.
How has YJ helped you as a freelancer?
The awards are always good. Winning Freelance Creative (Copy) of the Year in 2018 and being shortlisted for it in 2017 is really quite nice. As are the free drinks.
What's one thing no one ever told you about freelancing you wished you'd known at the beginning?
The more you accommodate requests for discounts, spec work, etc, the less people will value and respect you. When you’ve got nothing on, it can be tough to say no to a potential client who’ll hire you on the cheap. But these just aren’t the kind of clients you want. They’ll always chase discounts instead of quality and will throw you away as soon as someone cheaper comes along. It was about a year into freelancing that I started a strict no discounts, no spec work policy. And I immediately found it far easier to build a reputation for quality work and have valuable long-term relationships with my clients.
Can you tell me about a project you're proud to have worked on?
Oxygenetix has just gone live so let’s go with that one. A group of freelancers coming together to rebrand a major US cosmetics company. I was in charge of developing the tone of voice – from loads of research, talking to everyday makeup wearers and makeup artists, and auditing competitors. And I think we got to a really lovely place with it. Other makeup brands are so desperate to be fashion brands. Brash and bold with “LOOK! AT! ME!” style. But that’s not what people wear everyday makeup for. So I got to create a really unique and compelling tone of voice, spa-like in it’s flow and rhythm while caring and confident in its content. And because each member of the team was hand-selected and at the top of their game, I got to work with an insanely talented bunch and learn all sorts that I can take with me into other projects.
If a client was reading this, why should they hire you?
I’m very lucky to have existing clients who can answer this for me...
"Jim has worked on almost every account in the building and on every single occasion he knocks it out of the park. The quality of his work is great, but equally as important he is super reliable and consistent. Final point, he really is a top guy. Down to earth, can do attitude and always keen to help out and get involved." - Louis Balogun, Operations & Resource Director, Iris London.
How would you describe yourself and / or your work in a single sentence?
I craft beautiful language and tone but what sets me apart is that every word, every sentence, every idea is thoughtful, strategic and effective.