Won a Thing, Didn’t I?

June 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

All of last week, I lived in dread. Absolute dread. You see, I was up for an award.

I love to win but I hate to lose far more. I would mostly rather not set myself up as a vulnerable, hopeful being if there’s a chance I might be cast asunder, beaten and bloodied by defeat. It’s just too humiliating.

Luckily, that didn’t happen. I won Young Marketer of the Year at the Insurance Marketing & PR Awards and did my first genuine smile of 2017.

Everyone was so kind and it was a definite highlight of my long, weary years.

Winners2

ingenie also won Brand of the Year which is pretty frickin’ sweet.

Female Copywriters Talking Pay Gap

May 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

There’s a vast gender pay gap in copywriting. That’s what the Pro Copywriters’ Network survey showed last year; this year it was still there but BIGGER.
There are conflicting views on why this is but it was one male view in particular that prompted my dear copybuddy, Kady, to ask around her network for our views. This is what she asked:

What’s your overall take on the ‘salaries/rates’ bit of this year’s survey results?

I’m in-house (with a smattering of freelance) and the pay gap has grown even more in that area since last year, which is quite terrifying. I dislike asking for more money but I do make myself do it, and it’s always been successful. Should I have asked for more each time? Perhaps. Would a man? Perhaps.
 
I do know this: money is the point of what you’re doing. I love writing with a burning fire of adoration. But I need money and it’s why I write. If you’re in the 41% of people who told PCN they want to earn more, I hope this year is your year. Only you can make it happen.

More women took the survey than men, and the gender pay gap’s still increased. Why do you suspect that is?

It’s a small sample. There are going to be wild fluctuations. Of course, the trend is worrying and upsetting but the numbers could be skewed by all sorts of things.
 
BUT. I do believe in the pay gap and I don’t believe it’s down to women not being ballsy enough to ask for more money or mentioning cupcakes too much. Men and women are different, and women shouldn’t have to sterilise their online selves in order to be taken seriously. If it exists, that’s an employer issue and we shouldn’t all just allow that to continue. 
 
Society has an ingrained problem with women. I’m not going to guess that this pay gap is down to ladies having babies but women generally have a care burden that gets in the way of everything else. From their own point of view and from an employer’s. Maybe when we stop hating women for working or even put them in hiring positions, female copywriters will ask for more and be given it. Or offered it, for God’s bloody sake. 
 
I’m being hyperbolic and childish but soz, between pay gaps and thigh gaps, that’s how this crap makes me feel. 

Have your own rates changed since last year’s survey?

Yup. I have the luxury of not needing my freelance work to survive because it’s all done in my ‘spare’ time. I can weigh up price by how much or how little I want to do the project. A concept I’m sure would make Andy Maslen shudder, though I’ll qualify: the price only goes up, not down. 
 
I recently secured a 43% increase for a regular gig – basically because it was that or quit it. I couldn’t justify the time spent anymore, even though I really love the work. Luckily, the client went for it. If I didn’t have a long history with them and a secure day job taking up most of my time, I might have been slightly less bold. Or maybe more bold, more hungry. Can’t say for sure.
 
For freelancers, getting clients and charging money is your daily grind. You are running a business. You have no comfy salary cushion, you have no health care, gym discount or free coffee. You SHOULD be hustling, whether you’re male or female, and it takes many years of experimentation with pitching to get a feel for what to charge.
 
If you feel you’re not earning enough (hey, who doesn’t?), find out how to earn more. Pitch high a few times; it’s a risk but you NEED to take it to move forward. Don’t let your rates stagnate. The world is growing more expensive while you sit on your fees, getting poorer.

Is ‘put your rates up’ the catch-all answer?

Neeeeeeowwww. For a newish copywriter, pricing is as delicate as glass. When you have a small number of clients – probably small businesses, not Coca-Cola – and you’re trying to pay rent, saying straight out that you’re putting your rates up is not the answer to pulling in more money.
 
Certainly, put your rates up for new clients – bit by bit, not a hundredfold. And if you begin a new project for an existing client, pump up your quote a bit. They don’t have to be told straight out “I’ve increased my daily rate by X%, k thnx bye.” You shouldn’t be telling them what your every minute costs them, anyway. That’s not how this works. You’re not a therapist.
 
I’ll say this: at the very least, you should be adjusting your fees every year. Inflation, but also personal growth. You get better every year and your clients are paying you not just as a tradesperson; you’re a consultant. Every project you’ve done (every problem you’ve solved, every course you’ve attended, every brief you’ve agonised over) is worth a lot to them. It’s not just your output that costs dollar, my friend. 

What’s the best pay-related advice you’ve been given, and what tips do you have for other writers?

It’s the same tired, old drum I always beat: Chris Miller. Always taking a beating, poor chap. Poor old drum. He told me no one really knows what they’re doing when it comes to money. After many years as a copywriter for agencies and freelance, he pitched for a job and was later told he’d put in the lowest quote “by MILES.” 
 
Unless you’re Andy Maslen, who has an incredible capacity for the business side of copywriting (which – sorry, hun – is all of it, really), you probably don’t fully understand what your copy is worth. I guess it’s something that comes with experience but he’s right when he says your work could be worth millions to that ‘small business’ when they sell to Microsoft, even if it took you an hour to do and you reckon that hour of your life is worth £50. 
 
Chris said the same, with a very similar example:
Here’s a strapline for a few hundred quid. That’s yours to slap on every bleedin’ TV ad/item of stationery/T-shirt/novelty hat/website/banner ad/dirigible/200ft-high holographic squirrel you produce over the next 2,000 years.”

Folks, if you’re good, you’re worth good money. 

In-house, not freelance, but I was stiffed on my starting salary at my current company. I had an offer below what I wanted (a salary I was actually already earning) and I negotiated, asking for more once I’d passed my probation. That was agreed and I was proud. I later found the job specification with my boss’s salary estimate. It had taken me nearly two years to start earning what he’d set as the maximum for my starting salary. 

I still work for the company and took enough of a leap in both role and salary to make that OK – and that particular boss is no longer here, though I don’t blame him for my own mistake. But I certainly learned a little something from that.

You can’t pitch too high if they want you; they’ll come back with another offer and you don’t have to take that either. Once you know you’re good enough for a company to really, really need you, you’ll feel less scared about shooting for that shiny ol‘ moon. 

I Journal These Days

March 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

Hullo.

Yes, I’ve been missing. But missing in action. I’ve written millions of words, I’ve filled pages with pictures, I’ve worked a LOT, and – after a very long wait – I’ve adopted two children.

They’re five weeks old so there’s still eight weeks to go before we can bring them home. They’re so tiny and delicate right now but when we next see them (in three weeks) they’ll already be bouncy creeps who want to play. By the time they’re ready to leave their mam, they’ll be gangly, leggy dog-cats.

After so many years of wanting and nearly a year of waiting on a litter, I couldn’t quite process that they were real. I’ve never seen a kitten that small except in pictures. I held our boy and he was warm and soft and confused. A few minutes later, all six were a sleeping puddle on their blanket, with Bramble the show-winning knock-out laying protectively next to them.

Their names are Dio and Dime, and they’re going to change our lives.

I Used to Hustle

January 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

I used to be constantly moving and shaking. Shaking quite literally: with fear.

Fear drove my pitiful carcass for many years, pushing and shoving me to greater things. I was BRUISED by ambition. And once I started feeling happier and more settled, I worried about losing my much-fetishised ‘edge’. The shining, electric zeal that kept my eyes aching-wide and my brain churning.

Now, as an old lady, I have little need of the hustle. I have a lovely job that challenges me and keeps me too busy to freelance – what would I be hustling for?

I always expounded the virtues of staying sharp, keeping all your profiles sparkly. Sleeping with your shoes on and bags packed, basically. Powder dry.

But it’s tiring. If you’re spending hours a day worrying about how you look and how to position such-and-such little no-pay project, you’re spending less time on the doing bit. The bit that’s actually soulful and rewarding.

I guess it’s about faking it ’til you’re making it; reaching the point where you’re just ticking along, doing the job you wanted, is actually a whole lot more relaxing. You’re doing 10 times the work your 23-year-old self found exhausting – but it feels like home. You’re settled in your own backside-cradling chair and no one’s going to suddenly push you off and make you go run around outside in the cold for a bit. I’d love to see them try; I can just picture my lazy, reptilian stare from under half-closed eyelids. Oh, hun. Oh, sweetie no.

By nature, I’m a burrower. (Not a Borrower, though nearly.) A burrower: one who burrows in and sets up camp, leaving only when its own spreading volume forces a change in scene. I like a home. I do not flit. So my hustling was largely extra-curricular, which is a very unrelaxing way to move through life. Trying to freelance around a full-time job feels like how movies portray working in fashion: running around, crying, dropping things in the street and getting 10 dogs tangled around your legs.

Nay – not for me. No more. Having a few more hats piled on top of my company cloche has been a blessing. It’s forced me to stop hustling. Don’t have the room for it, and life is cosier without. These hats are warm af.

All that said, I have today done an aspirational thing. I bought a domain name that came to me in a dream – yes, that’s right. A dream-sent domain; millennial manna. My dream told me that my secondary initials – Augusta Rose Clement-Hayes – would make a great name for a copywriting venture. Arch also happens to be one of my favourite words. It’s my favoured demeanour: eyebrow cocked, half smile ready to form a sarcastic bon mot.

So, Arch Copy. archcopy.co.uk. I won’t be needing it for a good while but it’s mine. For when that hustle gets kicking again.

Princess

December 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

Feeble sex
Afraid and crying
In the wrinkled shade of the canyon

Rhythm stolen
He slowly fucks the love back inside

A grimy wrist swings limp in the stale air of her forgotten castle
Once the author of tangled charity acts, polished immortality
Now, some belated chick

Camaro snarls penetrate from out on the blacktop
As the blanket creeps, pilled up, over goosebumped flesh


My mam emailed me to say she’s too thick to understand this. Which actually makes her really smart because it’s assemblage. I just find the most used words on Hello Poetry – a corpus of love and sorrow – and look for interesting patterns. This kind of writing is only asking you to find your own meaning in the meaningless nonsense. It’s your Rorschach.

I WILL ONLY BE ME

October 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

Compromising on the me-ness of me is too high a price to pay for fitting in.

 

Changing With the Leaves

October 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s a new season for me. I’ve decided that I’m reaching the point in my life where I am an adult. A human that is no longer just a morbid collection of childhood hurts, teen angst and treasured disappointments languishing in the dusty trophy cabinet where badness lives.

After so many years of being puppeteered by fear, guilt and a need to change myself, I’m now a collapsed pile of limbs and costume, relieved and resting.

That need to change. I was always trying to improve myself, based on my own bizarre list of personal standards. Not improve; CHANGE. Erase what was there and replace it with something better.

And now I’m not. The work I do now is acceptance. I like who I am. I can put time and effort into buffing up the good ’til it glows, and I can sandpaper the not-so-good to a smoother finish if I fancy a spot of DIY. But I’m not a problem to be overcome. I’m a maze, a puzzle; the whole point of my life – any life, I think – is the adventure of exploration as one figures out the next turn.

I guess this means therapy works. It’s been tricky and not always nice, and it’s taken a lot of mind-bending. A lot of shouldering open stuck doors in the cobwebbed old library I keep upstairs.

There’s books in there I could burn, but I won’t. I’ve sorted them, bundled them – then put them aside. I’ll keep them like old text books from school; they’re how I got here and they taught me everything I know, but I’m not going to build the next 40 years on them.

A big stack of obsolete books. Theories disproved, authors forgotten and covers faded to grey.

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