Copywriter Frederick says these days writers need to be editors, coders, designers, journalists all in one. But that's what he loves about his job...
Name: Frederick O'Brien
Company: Website Builder Expert
What is your job? Copywriter
How long have you been doing this job? 9 months
BA American Studies, University of Hull
MA English: Issues in Modern Culture, UCL
A-levels: English, History, Philosophy & Ethics
1. What was your very first job?
My very first job was cleaning fish tanks in a zebrafish research facility, which was as exciting as it sounds.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
I knew wanted to go to university and I knew I wanted to care about what I studied. That’s as concrete as my thinking got. Too many people take degrees they (or the people around them) think they should take, rather than ones they’re genuinely passionate about.
3. How did you find out about the industry?
We do so much of our reading online now, from news to study materials to social media posts. To be able to communicate with people effectively, you need to be able to communicate online. I suppose that’s what drew me to online copywriting. It’s such an important skill to have.
4. How did you get there?
I’ve done a couple of degrees, a BA in American Studies and an MA in English Literature, which were obviously handy for improving my research skills and writing. During my undergraduate degree I worked as the editor of an international relations student journal, which gave me some experience of how publishing works.
I then did a four-month placement in Nepal with the International Citizen Service, co-leading a team of 12 on sustainable development project work. Project management, people management, handover documentation and the like. When I got home I did some youth development work through the summer. After all that I’d run out of ways to avoid getting a full-time job.
In short, the build-up to this job was a lot of writing, working in teams, and extracurricular projects I was passionate about. I also maintain a music review website with couple of friends as a hobby, so I have some first-hand experience with web development. No doubt that also helped when I was applying for the position.
5. What is a typical day like?
I’ll receive a brief from my editor outlining my next piece, research the topic, then write a draft. My editor then reviews the piece and suggests improvements to make before it’s uploaded to our site. Other tasks crop up - editing, social media, etc - but that’s the typical flow.
6. What’s the best thing about your job?
There is a lot of opportunity to learn. Copywriting isn’t just writing – it requires all sorts of skills you wouldn’t necessarily think about. Web development, HTML, data visualisation, and search engine optimisation (understanding how Google works) have all factored in, and that’s just off the top of my head.
The internet has revolutionised publishing. It’s not enough to have five different people good at one thing each. Writers need to be editors, coders, designers, journalists, and more all in one. I like that a lot about my job. It seldom feels like I’m standing still.
7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
When I’m interested in the topic I’m writing about it’s not a problem, but that’s not always the case. Even writing has grunt work. In those cases the best thing you can do is learn what you can from the topic.
8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
There’s no getting around reading and writing as much as possible. You need to spend time with words to really understand how to use them properly. I would encourage people to start writing in any way they can, and about something they are passionate about. Otherwise I’m hesitant to suggest much. I don't think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach for writers.
9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
Nothing really took me by surprise. Working in publishing has affirmed my suspicion that academic writing can afford to be a lot less pointed. It’s not a challenge to write complicated things in a complicated way; the real trick is doing it terms anyone can understand.
10. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
The Cook Islands. Weather looks lovely there.
Main image via Pexels