Introducing Richard Marsden; Freelance advertising, marketing and brand copywriter.
For those of us alien to the world of copywriting, could you tell us a bit about your work and what/who it involves?
For me, copywriting at its most basic level is about giving a brand a voice. You want that voice to be consistent and authentic, and you hope it's a voice that the right people like hearing. Consistency means being consistent with the visual side of things too. You see some brands that seem to be wearing a suit jacket with tracksuit trousers - they look great but the way they talk doesn't match. I like creating the right voice. The thing I love doing most nowadays is working with smaller, younger businesses, helping them work out who they are as a company and how to express that in words.
It can be difficult to get your foot in the door in this line of work; what would you consider to be the job that solidified your career in copywriting?
I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I was lucky enough to graduate into an abundant job market but without any real idea of what I wanted to do. I remember the after day graduating, sitting with a friend and my now-wife, asking ourselves “What do we do now?” So we started looking through the Creative, Media & Graduate jobs section of the Guardian, which is what you did back then, and after a while a junior copywriting job popped up. I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing for the first three years. So I suppose the job that really made me feel like a copywriter was my first agency move. It was a big confidence boost being cherry-picked by the creative directors. I got my best piece of copywriting advice from one of them. He told me: “Write your first draft your way, go all out on it. If it needs editing, let someone else be the one to do that”. That's something I still try to do.
What is the job or project you have done that you are most proud of?
It was a brand identity and website for my brother in law, Andy Koval, pro-bono. He qualified as a massage therapist about 3 or 4 years ago. He’s incredible at it but didn't have a huge amount of confidence when he was starting out. I found myself mulling over what he does and how we could articulate that in an interesting way in his local area. I hit upon this idea of knots in trees, knots in ropes, which struck me as a good metaphor for what he helps with. So I found a load of stock shots to bring the idea to life, created a Squarespace for him and got a designer friend to cobble together some poster and flyer designs. It was nice to do a job for family, but also it was about helping someone to feel more professional, which is what I love. So many companies don't know how to express what they do, especially at the start. I love to give businesses a bit more confidence and a way of talking that they feel proud of. That doesn't mean I do a lot of pro-bono work though!
You’ve been at PLATF9RM for nearly a year now (woo!), what has kept you here?
First things first it gets me out of the house. I'm sure most freelancers can relate to that. I’m based in Lewes and enjoy having a bit of distance between work and home. I've worked in a few co-working spaces but this place is just taking it to another level with the decor, facilities, choice of spaces, the events and the community! I’ve also got a bit of work out of 23Digital which has been great, that happens a lot at PLATF9RM.
Have you taken advantage of any of our events?
I haven't for a while, I went to the summer party last year which was really cool, and to the 64 Degrees popup which I loved. I’d love to go to more but I have a young family which I like to get home to as soon as I can after work.
Speaking of which, balancing family life and freelancing can be a tricky business - do you have any tips?
I’m firmly in the work to live camp; I've consciously shaped my career to fit around my family. I'm a full-time Friday dad, I took two months off when my daughter Vivi was born and only went back a couple of days a week initially. It was a struggle financially but definitely worth it. If you can work out how much you need to make a year, then break that down month by month that can really help. One thing I used to do that I really liked was to set myself a target of how many days I wanted to work in the year ahead, then just count down from there and stop when I got to zero. It's called freelancing for a reason, you want to make the most of that freedom.
You can often be found changing between Floor 5 and Floor 6, do you have a favourite spot to sit in and why?
I like moving around because I don't want my brain to get stuck in one place. But at the moment I like being on floor 6. I do remember one day last summer, I was sitting in the booths by the printer on floor 6 and I looked out of the window and noticed a little family of seagulls on the roof feeding their fledgling. That was sweet and made me feel a bit better about being at work that day!
As a Man of Many Words, this may be a difficult question for you, but do you have a favourite word and why?
‘Checkmate’. That's specifically for George Buko (Acies Cleaning). I love chess, George and I have started to play on Tuesdays and I beat him handsomely in our first game last week, so that’s my favourite word right now.
What book can you read over and over again?
There’s a few that I have in my rereading pile; 'A Confederacy of Dunces', 'The Great Gatsby', anything by P.G. Wodehouse. But, the main book I go back to is the one that made me give up on any lingering thoughts of writing fiction, because it's the complete novel: 'What a Carve Up' by Jonathan Coe. I read it every 5 years or so, I’ve got a really dog-eared copy. It offers something different each time I read it. The central character is an author so it feels autobiographical, it's political, it’s polemic, it's funny. It's also quite relevant in the current political climate. Time to go back to it again!
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