Today I had the opportunity to chat to a lovely young copywriter about her maybe joining my team. She had a fabulous phone manner and presented really well.
I explained to her what I’m after. I told her that on my team I expect people who write for me to be at the top of their game. That I expect them to be able to receive a brief, do the research, create high-quality work, and turn it around, and spend three hours doing it.
She faltered. It turned out that she was self-taught, from the internet, and had only been working for two years. It takes her a day to do a piece of work.
Then I explained to her that my existing team members have been working as writers for 15+ years, many of which were in a tough, fast-paced industry with an unforgiving editor (me); and that some of us have also had about five years of professional training.
Then it was like a weight lifted off her shoulders. Suddenly she bubbled over with an excited relief at the fact that she wouldn’t be expected to demonstrate the same chops as those guys. We could have an open conversation about how her view of ‘intermediate’ is my view of ‘junior’.
You need to be able to get into an honest conversation no matter who you work for.
When you’re new to an industry, you can talk yourself up all you like, and it can work! There really is something in the experience you only get over time. It’s the experience of honing your craft to the point where you know exactly how to do the research you require to nail a brief. It’s knowing exactly how to create the tone, style, voice, and cadence of a work instinctively. With the right person to work with, they’ll explain their perspective so you can see what’s expected.
Instinct in creative industries like commercial writing comes to the rare few blessed with angelic talent. It comes sooner to some of us by virtue of focused study and experience, and by being edited by the right
tough bastards people. For the rest, it’s years and years of work, and a whole lot of luck.
So if you are a young copywriter, take heart. See the time as the space in which to flex your wings and find out where you really shine.
Time in the industry really does count; and so does working with tough editors. With both experience and tough editing, you can become a strong writer in a much shorter period of time.