Tag: copywriting

A series of possibilities: creating a rewarding career

“What do you want to do when you’re older?” Being asked this question and not having an answer can be hard. Aged seven Emma Wilson wanted to be a dancer. Aged nine, an archaeologist. This changed again in her teens. Now at 24, Emma is still hopeful that she’ll find a career that fulfils her…but just how do you go about that?

Follow or fuel your passion?

I’ve always thought of my experience in the job world as stepping stones, leading me closer to where I want to be. But after university, I felt lost and suffered “the graduation blues”. The best, most exciting, part of my life was over, or so I believed at the time.

On graduating I gained  a 2:1 degree in Psychology, a mountain of debt, some great friends, a lot of life lessons, and an unfamiliar feeling of not knowing what was next. Months after graduating I was offered a job as a research assistant. I wanted to quit on the first day. Most of the work ended up being cold calling.

So I decided to take a step back and get some transferable experience – as a customer service advisor. While aware this wasn’t going to be my career, I learnt a lot from the role and about myself. I learnt that I enjoy communicating and helping people. One of my hobbies is fashion, and I became a merchandiser at Matalan where I learned that although something is a hobby, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the path for you.

I knew I was curious, creative and conscientious. But these didn’t translate easily to a particular career path. I agree with Julia Wuench writing in Forbes Magazine:“Most people need time, education and exposure to different jobs and companies before they’re able to hone in on a passion.”

The assumption that we only have one passion in life, and that this passion cannot change over time, can limit people to doing what they’d like to. As I’ve been able to take some time, and a step back, I’ve realised you have to be open-minded… and you can be good at a number of different things.

After I left my job as a merchandiser, I completely re-evaluated my career. Rather than thinking too deeply about it, I just thought ‘What makes me happy?’ This can be a very daunting conversation to have, no matter where you are in your career.

I started to gain experience, writing a piece for The Considerate Consumer, an online information platform, advising people how to be more sustainable. I also enrolled on City’s “Introduction to Copywriting” course run by Maggie Richards. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it awoke something in me that had been asleep for years.

Am I meant to be successful writer? I’m not sure. But I do know some people are destined for certain careers. Mozart, for example, wrote his first symphony at eight years old. Others have a long, winding road to their vocation. Vera Wang entered the fashion industry at 40, while Stan Lee created “The Fantastic Four” just before his 39th birthday.

While we may not all achieve such illustrious careers, I do believe what is meant for you won’t pass you by. We all have paths to choose from in life and work. What direction we take is up to us.

About the author

Emma Wilson is an aspiring writer. She has a passion for writing, communication, fashion and sustainability.

For more about the copywriting course Emma took, visit our web page here.

To find out about the other writing short courses we run, from fiction to non-fiction, visit our website here.

 

Three Life Lessons Learned Volunteering for a Homeless Charity

Three Life Lessons I’ve Learned Volunteering for a Homeless Charity

By Sepy Akbarian

Since 2008 the charity Rhythms of Life has served over 1.2 million free meals to London’s homeless. But what I didn’t know when I began volunteering alongside founder, Andrew Faris, is that he, too, was once a rough sleeper. I’ve learned a lot since supporting his work…

Volunteers at Rhythms of Life

I began volunteering for Rhythms of Life in 2021. I wanted to engage with my community and for what I did in my life to align more with my values, namely helping those in need. The charity receives regular food donations from renowned brands such as Marks and Spencer, and Coco di Mama. It aims to eliminate homelessness, as well as to enrich lives through educational courses. In essence, it was set up to provide the tools its founder, Andrew, lacked when he was on the streets: daily nutritious meals, lessons in life skills, help getting work, and finding somewhere to live.

 

As a volunteer, I help unload the batches of food we receive, including bread, yoghurt, sandwiches and chocolate bars. In groups of around seven, several of us cook up a hot meal, while others organise food into crates. We then drive together in a van to Trafalgar Square where almost a hundred homeless people are waiting in a queue. This ritual happens four days a week. The charity is open 365 days a year.

 

Here are the three life lessons I’ve learned through my volunteering.

  1. Our past doesn’t dictate our future

 

The charity’s founder, Andrew Faris, ran a lucrative estate management firm before a hit to the financial climate led to bankruptcy. For the next six years he was confined to the streets. His story is not rare. I soon discovered that a sizeable proportion of the local homeless community previously held sought-after jobs, including in aircraft engineering and teaching, but were now homeless due to no-fault evictions – a leading cause of homelessness.

 

Before this, in my ignorance, I believed most people on the streets came from broken families and poor backgrounds. Escaping abusive relationships and leaving prison and the army are also reasons people find themselves without a home.

 

Andrew, in the midst of his homelessness, landed a role selling The Big Issue. He managed to save money to buy a camera and became a photographer, which became his career. He pledged to not turn his back on the community that he once belonged to and has since dedicated his life to the charity.

 

  1. The less you have, the more you give

In the week leading up to Christmas Day 2021, a middle-aged lady who regularly uses Rhythm’s services entered our office and presented us with a red envelope. “Don’t open it yet,” she said mysteriously, then disappeared. 

When we opened the card, we were awed to find a £50 note inside. Overcome with joy, I was reminded of the beauty in humanity’s generosity and the words of Saint Mother Theresa: “The less we have, the more we give. Seems absurd, but it’s the logic of love.”

 

  1. Kind conversations give comfort

My journey at Rhythms of Life has opened my eyes to the extent to which the homeless community feel alienated. After queuing, at times for over an hour, they’re given – in conveyor-belt fashion – a hot sandwich and a drink, then dismissed. Many have expressed to me that they feel seen but not heard. Homeless people want to have intelligent conversations. They want to be humanised. We can do this by asking open questions and by talking like we’d talk to our friends and family.

 

The experiences of the homeless serve as a reminder that even if we have no monetary change to offer, we can create change by stopping for a brief conversation with our fellow humans. “If somebody spoke to me when I was homeless, I was then more open to suggestions about getting off the streets,” Andrew has said.

 

I would recommend to anybody thinking about volunteering to jump in! There’s a lot of flexibility around when you give your time. And not only do you get to help change lives, but you may also meet people who’ll become your friends for life.

 

Sepy Akbarian took City’s Introduction to Copywriting course taught by Maggie Richards. Sepy is an optometrist with a passion for words; she is currently writing a poetry book.

 For more information on our non-fiction writing short courses visit our subject page.

Five things I’ve learned about writing for business by teaching writing for business

By Jenny Stallard

Writing for Business is a, well, tricky business. The balance of the formal and informal, the words we choose being a key part of whether a client will perhaps want to meet us, work with us or indeed pay us.

 

In the 8-week course that I teach for City, University of London, we cover a lot of the practicalities of Writing for Business, from blogs and bios to emails and CVs. However, there is always a lot of discussion about the emotional side of things: how we might develop a tone of voice unique to us and our business, the formality vs informality of email styles and how to address different clients or potential clients.

 

These are also all things I come across in my daily life as a self-employed coach and writer! And it means that, during the course, I always have moments of clarity about my own Writing for Business. Tutoring on Writing for Business (WFB) has actually taught me a lot about the methods and choices we make when it comes to our language in business.

 

 

Here’s what I’ve learned:

 

1: Our style and tone of voice is always a work in progress. Particularly if we are writing for our own business. I have found that my style has evolved more since teaching the course, too, as I hear the lessons each time and apply them to my own Writing for Business! We must, of course, adhere to style guides where appropriate, but being ‘brave’ enough to build our own style is something we should and can work on constantly. And, it’s OK if it changes over the course of time, too.

 

2: The types of writing for business are always expanding. At the beginning of each 8-week course, we brainstorm what forms writing for business can come in. There is always something new from someone to add to the list. For example, we discuss whether podcasts are WFB (I would argue that the show notes are), or TikTok and Instagram (well, captions are writing, aren’t they?).

 

3:  If in doubt, probably leave it out! This is particularly true for the emoji, which comes up for discussion in the module I teach on emails and etiquette. An emoji in an email is a total no-no for some, while, in the media industry and particular newsletters, I often see emojis in the subject line and indeed the body of an email. As with everything, if you’re considering using an emoji, think whether it adds anything, and always go back to whether the client/reader would be on board with it.

 

4: Sometimes the smallest words are the best. One of the parts of the course I love teaching is about calls to action – those small sets of one to three words where a site, article or post gets us to click to either sign up, buy, or find out more. Often, we can see writing for business being about the long form writing, from reports and brochures to presentations and articles. And of course, it is! But there is a real skill in shortening words down, and, in particular, self-editing. Writing a call to action, an 8-word headline or just 100-word bio is often the most satisfying as we work our magic to make the fewest words say the most.

 

5: The biggest challenge isn’t the words, it’s the confidence to write – and publish – them. From a blog post to an email asking for ‘that’ meeting about a promotion/pay rise, to a social media post or a profile and bio. Selling – whether it’s a product or ourselves – using words is hard. Often what holds us back is ‘but what if nobody reads it?!’. Having the courage to publish, press send, or upload our writing for business is perhaps the biggest challenge of all. I hope that my writing this piece, and putting it ‘out there’ inspires readers and course members to do the same.

 

 

Jenny Stallard teaches City’s 8-week Writing for Business course. For information on our other writing courses, visit our website.

 Register for our Virtual Open Evening next Thursday 31 March at 6pm

Five Mindful Practices for A Good Day at Work

By Holly James

Finding a work-life balance can be tough. Maybe you feel like you never get any time to yourself, that you’re too stressed, or you just aren’t doing your best at work. Try these simple daily practices to change things for the better.

    1.  Meditate in the morning

Start out simple and easy. It’s important to be gentle with yourself. Begin by finding a comfortable position for your body, where you won’t get disturbed. Sitting cross-legged or laying down on your bed are options, but if you’re worried about falling asleep, try sitting first!

Once you’re settled, close your eyes and focus on the quality of your breathing. In meditation, you want to lengthen both your inhales and exhales, to provide an oxygen-rich relaxation experience for your whole body. Insight Timer is a great free app offering guided meditations and soothing music to help.

    2.  Pen a positive intention

Make sure it’s specific and achievable. It could be something like “Today I will go for a walk outdoors”, or “Today I’ll drink water instead of coffee”. Write it on a bright post-it and stick it to your computer screen, or jot it in your journal to remind yourself later. Remember to always be kind. It’s an intention, not a measure of achievement.

    3.  Do a quick clean

Tidy house, tidy mind. It can be hard to feel productive and creative when your living space is messy. Set a 15-minute timer before work and get hoovering! If the noise doesn’t wake you up, the movement will.

   4.   Play with the Pomodoro technique

You might have heard of this technique for boosting productivity, but try using it to schedule regular breaks instead. It works by setting a timer that splits a time block. For example, 45 minutes of work, and a 15-minute break. You can move your body in your breaks, drink water, or go outside for fresh air. Our bodies need regular movement, and our brains ample rest for us to feel energised and happier.

  5.   Befriend your breath

Just pause for a moment and take a single deep breath. Notice where your breath goes when you inhale – does it fill your belly, or get stuck in your throat? Are your exhales short and forceful, or long and relaxing? When we‘re stressed our breath shortens, and less oxygen can get to the brain, which it needs to function fully. Try breathing deeply for a couple of minutes and see how you feel. 

When I was struggling to get up in the mornings to go to my 9-5 job these techniques were a lifeline. Breathwork and meditation especially helped me stay positive, even when I hated my job. I hope that by doing these practices, you find something positive shifts in your life, too.
 

By Holly James, who felt so inspired after doing our Introduction to Copywriting that she’s now a copywriter!

My Short Course Experience : Gillian Belchetz

Gillian Belchetz

Gillian Belchetz

We spoke to Gillian Belchetz who completed the Writing for Children 10-week course last year, to understand what she learnt from the course and has been up to since.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Lancaster but have lived in Leeds for 40 yrs. I was a nurse for 37 years but also love writing, so undertook and MA in Writing for Performance and Publication at Leeds Uni as a mature student. My first book, ‘A Game of Consequences’ was published in 2015 by Fisher King Publishing, and raised money for The Alzheimers. In lockdown, and inspired by my grandchildren, I started writing for children and my first kids book was published at the end of 2021. I volunteer one day a week at a homeless charity in Leeds, St George’s Crypt, and wanted to write something that was both engaging and would raise the issue of homelessness with children. I have sold almost 1000 copies and raised over £3,500 for St Georges. Supporters have bought 350 of these books to be donated to local schools, and this year I will be visiting schools, giving them copies of the book, doing a reading and talking to the children. I love walking our dog Winnie, and am learning to play bridge – badly!

Why did you choose to take this course at City?

The Writing for Children course was well structured and specifically aimed at learning the craft of writing for children, which is similar to writing for adults, but also different.

What did you learn on the course?

Each week introduced a different aspect of writing so that we discussed how to open a book, plot, character, endings, editing etc. It was thorough and a lot was crammed into ten weeks. The different requirements for picture books up to Teen literature. Brilliant.

How did you find the virtual classes?

Excellent. A great mix of information delivery and participation.

What are the key things you have taken away from the course?

Great examples of books for different age groups were used which I find a useful reference. Writing exercises to inspire and motivate. Information on structure and how to keep a child’s attention.

What have you achieved since completion? 

I wrote and had published ‘Clara’s Geni-Ous Plan – To help a lady who is homeless,’ and experienced working with an illustrator for the first time.

I liaised with Booths Supermarkets, (Waitrose of the North) who have been selling it and donating their profits to the homeless charity I am supporting. It has been a roller coaster and a real thrill to see it on a supermarket shelf.  You can order the book now through this online form.

To find out more about the course Gillian took visit our Writing for Children webpage and for more about our other writing courses browse our course finder tool.

 

London Culture Shocks from an Irish Perspective

by Megan O’ Reilly

I’d always had a feeling that I’d love London. From the bustling tourists to the stuffy Tube, every element contrasted with the small Irish town Id called home for 23 years. Despite feeling ready for my move across the Irish Sea, I didn’t anticipate the culture shocks Ive come to know so well.

 

Adjusting to life in a new environment can be difficult for the best of us, and perhaps I was a bit naive when I gathered my belongings and headed to a city of ten million, coming from an island with a population of half the amount. I’d lived abroad two years before – in Bologna for my Erasmus year – and thought myself well versed in new experiences. 

 

Stepping off the plane at Stansted was something I’d envisioned since I’d left school, and after settling into my new house in Twickenham and getting to grips with the trains (who knew tapping in and out could cause such grief!), I started to see the small differences between my Galway and London lives. This was in 2019.

 

London

Galway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started working at Fortnum and Mason as a Retail Host. The considerable gap between social classes soon made itself apparent in the 300-year-old luxury establishment, something that isn’t as obvious in Ireland. I found it difficult to understand how such wealthy people could live and shop only a few roads away from a growing homeless population finding shelter in Green Park Tube station.

 

I noticed how much more diverse London was – a very positive aspect which I admire a lot. My colleagues and customers came from a range of backgrounds and cultures. They made working there not only refreshing but extremely interesting. While Ireland is slowly becoming more culturally diverse, theres still a long way to go.

 

As Irish twangs go, the Galway accent is on the softer side, and when I first started working in the capital, I was asked what part of Canada I was from! I wouldn’t consider my accent particularly strong, but of course, I received affectionate comments from my London friends on how I pronounce certain words.

 

Two years on, I’ve adjusted some of my slang. I now say “trainers” rather than “runners”, and when asking hypothetical questions I’m conscious of using “Shall we?” not Will we?”. You’d be surprised how quickly people pick up on the smallest of differences.

 

As much as I miss Ireland, I’m glad I left. London has so much to offer, and Im ready for even more new friends and new excitement! I’ve started making a list of at least 20 new restaurants to try out, and have given Soho’s bustling bars great business since the end of lockdown. And yet there’s a reassurance in knowing that I’m never far from another Irish person.

 

I often think of a time when I was on holiday in Spain with an English friend, and we bumped into a lovely lady from Dublin. It was St. Patrick’s Day and any and every Irish person was celebrating. My friend couldn’t believe I’d stopped to talk for five minutes with a stranger. Apparently, she’d never do this if she met someone British abroad. This sense of community across the globe is in our Irish blood.

 

For anyone thinking about taking the leap to pastures new, I cant recommend it enough. Diving into a new place in which to discover yourself and flourish is a fantastic experience, and something I believe everyone should strive for. As scary as it may seem, you might just find yourself in your new home. By being in a new environment you allow yourself to escape your comfort zone. Just expect a few surprises along the way!

 

Megan completed our Introduction to Copywriting masterclass with Maggie Richards. For more information on our writing short courses visit our home page here.

‘To Write is Human, to Edit Divine’: Why it’s Essential to Edit Your Copy

By Hannah Boursnell 

Stephen King’s tribute to his ‘divine’ editor – from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – is a creed all writers should live by. Yet when I recently turned my red pen on my own writing on a City short course, I was reminded that even professional editors need to keep their words in check.

Words are seductive.  You select one ‘perfect’ adjective, add it to your carefully constructed sentence and put down your pen, satisfied. But then another flutters its eyelashes at you from over by the thesaurus.

You know you shouldn’t, but the temptation is too strong. So you add another. And another… Before you know it, you’re drowning in description and your word count is out of control.

Over the course of my 15-year career as a book editor, I’ve seen this problem rear its loquacious head time and time again. And on City’s excellent Introduction to Copywriting course, I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that even I’m not immune to the come-hither allure of an extra adjective.

My name is Hannah and I’m addicted to words.

The novelist Ernest Hemingway – renowned for his spare, efficient prose – offered this typically pithy advice to writers: ‘Use short sentences.’ He understood that every word must earn its place. Dense, over-elaborate text risks becoming tedious and impenetrable, but when writing is precise and simple, each word shines with a clarity of meaning.

If you suspect your writing might be overcrowded, the answer – always – is to edit. In her memoir Stet: An Editor’s Life, Diana Athill described editing as ‘removing layers of crumpled brown paper from an awkwardly shaped parcel and revealing the attractive present it contained’.

When editing, I do so with Athill on my shoulder. My pen is used to gently clear away anything that might obscure the author’s intended meaning.

But when I’m writing? Sometimes the joy of being creative on my own terms is so intoxicating that I’m prone to forget the editorial truths I hold sacred. One such truth is that a writer should always thoroughly edit their own work. This requires bravery, but you’ll become a better writer if you persevere.

Five steps to self-editing success

  • Take a break before you begin. Even an hour will provide a fresh perspective.
  • Edit on paper – you’ll notice things you overlooked on screen.
  • Change the font to trick your eyes into thinking they’re reading something new.
  • Read the text aloud – especially dialogue. It encourages weaknesses to reveal themselves.
  • Cut as rigorously as you dare, but save previous versions. Just in case.

‘Kill your darlings’… with kindness

I’ve found that the practice of self-editing is both sharpening my writing and making me a more compassionate editor.

When a draft has been loved and laboured over, every cut can sting – whether the edits are made by a professional or with your own red pen. Deleting my own precious words, I’m constantly reminded of the courage and vulnerability that’s required any time a writer puts pen to paper. It is a privilege to be entrusted with another writer’s work.

I’m not sure if I’ll overcome my addiction to words, but they say that admitting you have a problem is the first step. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pack my first drafts full of delightful, dazzling, delicious words – and seek divine inspiration as I edit them.

 

Hannah Boursnell took City’s Introduction to Copywriting course which is taught by the brilliant Maggie Richards. For more information on all of our short writing courses, visit our website.

 

 

 

Facing the fear of career change: from data analyst to copywriter

After years of feeling directionless in my NHS job, I’ve finally found a calling that’s reignited my passion. Here’s how I’m pivoting in mid-life thanks to a City short course.

by Christopher Hunt

For five years I’ve considered changing careers. As a Data Analyst for the NHS, the prospect of changing not only to a new career but from an employee to freelance feels daunting. I have a mortgage and two children under 12 after all. And yet, while it’s easy to make excuses, I’ve realised the only way to confront my fear is to act.

Writing has always been part of my life. I’ve self-published a supernatural novel, written guitar-related blogs and even scripts for a short-lived YouTube comedy series. I also have a fascination with psychology. Searching the internet for jobs related to these interests I discovered a career called copywriting. I could be paid to write!

Introduction To Copywriting’ by City University runs over a single weekend, fitting conveniently around my job. The course is taught by author and copywriter Maggie Richards. One of the first things she said is from novelist Ernest Hemingway: “The only writing is rewriting”.

I love this quote because it can be interpreted in different ways. While on the surface it’s telling us to rewrite our work until concise, it also encourages action – to start writing and overcome the ‘fear of the blank page.’ We can refine our work later.

This encouragement to move toward the unknown resonates with my aspirations: the initial steps toward a new career are similar to the first tentative words a writer must put on the page. Many of my doubts and insecurities are really just fears of the unknown.

As author Seth Godin says in ‘The Practice’: “The career of every successful creative is… a  pattern of small bridges, each just scary enough to dissuade most people.” Much like the act of writing allows a writer to clarify their thoughts, it’s by taking action that we can find our next step and the step after that, slowly lifting the fog that obscures the path ahead.

City’s online workshop offered many opportunities to take action with practical copywriting exercises, working individually and in small groups. One of my favourite was writing home page copy for an imaginary app.

My team came up with ‘Fitness Friends’, where users meet new people sharing similar fitness goals:

 

Headline:          Meet, Motivate, Get Fit.

 

Introduction:     Walk, Run, Gym. Meet your goals with new local friends.

 

Call to Action:   Find Fitness Friends Now.

 

Maggie pointed out that the headline and introduction used the same three-part staccato punctuation. I realised the importance of varying the rhythm of the words, blending punch with flow. Creativity should not cloud clarity.

I’m now taking steps to start my copywriting career alongside my NHS job, hoping to eventually become a full-time copywriter. I’ve signed up to a freelancing website and contacted small business owners in my network, offering my writing assistance.

Writers spend so much time living in their heads that it can feel uncomfortable taking physical action.  But the pages of my life so far don’t have to dictate where my story goes next. Realising that no first draft is perfect, I now know I can shape my path until I reach the outcome I desired all along.

 

Christopher Hunt took City’s ‘Introduction To Copywriting’ course. You can find him on LinkedIn.

City offers short writing courses in everything from short story writing to writing for the web and digital media. To find out more about all our writing courses, view our full range here.

Get ahead with your business writing

By Howard Walwyn

Almost everyone in their daily work needs to write clear, accurate business English, whether that is in the form of emails, letters, reports, minutes, digital copy, marketing materials, technical manuals or other formats. Even tweets are increasingly used as a marketing tool for both Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer communications.

Yet not everyone is confident that their business writing skills are up to the standard they would like. Many people working in communications departments, HR or marketing teams, regardless of their native language, strive to write refined and polished business copy.

Similarly people working in IT or quantitative fields are often less comfortable writing business English than they are dealing with code or numbers and see the need to obtain specific training in business writing skills, to help them reach an even better standard of written English.

City, University of London’s Writing for Business short course gives hands-on practical training in the principles of clear business English and how to write good business copy, whether it’s an article, a press release, a CV, a product review or a letter or email. It also covers some of the wider aspects of being a writer, such as research and planning, interviewing, promotion and marketing; and legal and editorial topics. The course explains how the key principles behind writing clear business English – such as brevity, clarity and consistency – are the same, whatever the length and format of the piece you are writing.

Due to high demand, we are delighted to be offering the course on two nights of the week.

On Tuesday evenings the Writing for Business course is taught by Howard Walwyn who has spent 30 years writing and editing copy in the financial sector, focusing mainly on risk and regulatory content. He now uses that experience, alongside his degrees in English Language & Literature and Economics, to help clients and students write clear business English – both in the financial sector and in other areas of business.

Every Thursday, the course is taught by Maggie Richards, a freelance journalist and copywriter with 20 years’ experience writing for the likes of The Guardian and The Times and working with all kinds of businesses from sole traders to global giants, such as Harrods and Marks & Spencer.

Writing for Business is a 10-week short course starting in October.

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