As we’re going to be in your ear quite regularly, you probably want to know who we are, right? In this inaugural episode of the Hot Copy podcast, Kate and Belinda interview each other so you can get to know your hosts a little better.
Tune in to discover how long they have been in the business of copywriting, Kate’s first copywriting project, Belinda’s surprising career before copywriting and the writer’s fetish they will admit on air.
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- Find out more about Kate on her website
- Kate’s Clever Copywriting School
- Find out more about Belinda on her website
- Belinda’s Copywriting Master Class
Read the transcript
Belinda: Welcome to the Hot Copy Podcast with your hosts Belinda Weaver and Kate Toon. In each 20 minute episode we’ll be sharing the secrets of successful copywriters including copywriting tips, shortcuts, writing resources, interviews and laughs, all focused on helping you to become a better copywriter. I’m Belinda Weaver and this is my co-host, Kate Toon.
Belinda: This episode is an introduction so you can get to know us, your hosts, and get a feel for what you can expect from the Hot Copy Podcast. So let’s dig in.
As you heard in the little intro there, this podcast is all about helping you become a better copywriter. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned and jaded professional, you’ll be able to listen in on the secrets of successful copywriters. So, that’s what we’re about, what about the hosts? Now, I’m going to start off by interviewing Ms Kate Toon.
So Kate, can you briefly give us a little bit of a background: what’s your business; how long have you been a copywriter; and is there an interesting beginning to your life as a copywriter?
Kate: I can answer all those questions. This is so exciting. I am a copywriter based in Sydney. I’ve been out on my own for about six years. I started out studying at uni, I did English and history, that’s not particularly interesting, but I really wanted to be a journalist. So I wrote for the university paper and interviewed lots of fans and did a few interns for big music magazines, but unfortunately I spent a lot of money at university and I had a big debt. So when I left I had to get a real job, which is a shame isn’t it?
Belinda: Yes, always a shame.
Kate: Well, it is a shame. So I started off in events publishing and then I moved on to be a personal assistant, which was a hideous job but it made me learn how to type, so that was good. And then I worked in events and the first big job I did was building a website way back in 1997 when websites were new to the universe, it was kind of exciting. And from doing that website I managed to score a job at a digital agency and I spent basically the next ten-or-so years working as a producer in big agencies like Ogilvy, AKQA and MercerBell.
Belinda: That’s pretty impressive. I have to jump in there.
Kate: I know, it’s just amazing. It sounds a lot better than it probably was. But when I was at Ogilvy I decided I couldn’t stand being a producer anymore so I had a brief stint as a copywriter and I got to work on a lot of big brands like IBM and Qantas, Telstra, Commonwealth Bank and that was really my training ground. I had a really good creative director called Matt Rochford and he taught he lots of tricks of the trade, but I went back to producing because the money was a lot better.
Belinda: Okay, hang on I’m going to jump in here. So what is this “producing” you speak of? Is this agency jargon?
Kate: It’s not, well, you’ll probably understand what a producer is in television terms and it’s just the same thing. Producers are in charge of budgets, timelines, planning the project and managing the resources, one of which is a copywriter but also maybe a designer, a developer. So a producer’s kind of like a project manager, does that make sense?
Belinda: Yes, that makes perfect sense.
Kate: [laughs] So while I was producing I kept going with my copywriting, I did some things on the side, but I didn’t really start my copywriting business until I got pregnant. I was contracting, so there was no chance of maternity leave, and I knew that I didn’t want to have a full-time job and have a baby, which was really the only option at the time because I was general manager, so there was no way I could do that one day a week. So I packed it all in and I started my own business when I was six months pregnant and the first year was interesting to say the least.
Belinda: That’s an intense time with just doing one of those things, so I have a lot of respect for you for doing both at the same time.
Kate: Thank you, darling.
Belinda: So I think there’s going to be a lot of parallels between our stories, which we’ll obviously talk about a bit later. But what was your very first copywriting project as Kate Toon Copywriter on your own?
Kate: On my own it was writing copy for a client called Isabella Oliver who were just starting out, and if you Google them now they’re kind of huge. They’re a maternity wear company and people like Gwyneth Paltrow and things wear their brands, but they were just starting out. So I wrote all their brand copy, their tagline, their website, their labels, and I was so new to it I think I charged them something like £10 an hour, which was like $20 or $30 back then, but I didn’t know. But it was great, it was such a great brand to work on and I’m very proud of that job.
Belinda: Awesome, that’s a nice start. So now what do you love most about being a copywriter?
Kate: It guess if I’m honest often these days I sometimes forget that I love it and I’m a bit of a whinger. You might have noticed if you follow me on my social media I do like a whinge, but I guess I love finding clever things to say. I like the cleverness of copywriting, coming up with a really cool way of expressing something and, from a business point of view running a copywriting business, it has to be the freedom, do you agree? I mean, I love setting my hours.
Belinda: Yes, absolutely.
Kate: And just being able to follow my own crazy ideas and start a project, put my energies into it, and then if it doesn’t work well fine, that’s my responsibility. So I like just being able to – l like being the captain of my own ship, as it were.
Belinda: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. I find it quite addictive as well. I don’t know if I could go back to follow someone else’s work schedule.
Kate: Yes, I always struggled taking orders from anybody, so not sure I could do that again.
Belinda: So the next question I have is about any writer’s fetish you might have. And what I mean by this is do you collect any kind of writery things or maybe do you follow the same weird process before you start writing, you know, tap your keyboard three times or anything like that?
Kate: No, I don’t really have any fetishes or if I do I’m not aware of them. I probably have heaps of them, but since I work on my own in a little hut in my back garden nobody knows, nobody sees. But the only thing I do think is essential for me is I have a big jar of aniseed balls on my desk, do you know what aniseed balls are? Do they have those?
Belinda: Yes, quite frankly I’m disgusted.
Kate: I’m glad because that means it’s a real fetish, you have to be slightly weirded out by other people’s fetishes. So I do suck on them when I’m stuck on an idea, that’s my fetish. I can’t wait to ask you about yours, I hope yours is better than mine.
Belinda: Well, you’ll find out, you’ll find out. [Kate laughs] Okay, so I have one more question and that’s a lot of people follow you on social media and one of the things I love about your social media profiles is you’re very transparent about yourself and your day. But I’d love you to share something that listeners might be surprised to learn about you.
Kate: Okay. I really struggle with this question because I don’t know if what I’m going to say is going to be too weird. So I’ll go with something fairly normal, which is to say that I did actually give all the world of advertising and copywriting up for a while and I trained to be a professional masseuse. And that was interesting, I did that for four or five months, but it was really hard work and I kind of hoped that all my clients would like look Aidan Turner from Poldark. [Belinda laughs] Instead they were like just old people with really bad skin conditions and it was kind of gross. And I realised I’m just not loving enough to be a masseuse, you have to give too much of yourself, so I went back to writing.
Belinda: That is really amazing, I could never imagine. [laughs]
Kate: Did you know that? I’ve never told you that story?
Belinda: No, no, you haven’t. And just quickly, I mean, I don’t know if you were going to ask me that same question, but I actually trained as a tap dancing teacher.
Kate: Oh my goodness.
Belinda: As a backup.
Kate: Recently or a long time ago?
Belinda: A long time ago. I figured if it all turned to pants [Kate laughs] any of my careers, I could go back to tap dancing.
Kate: Okay, next time we see each other you tap and I’ll give you a shoulder rub, okay?
Belinda: I think that’s a date. That’s going to be a weird date, but let’s do it.
Kate: It’s my turn now. So I’m not going to ask you the exact same questions…
Belinda: Oh good.
Kate: Because that would be boring and people would think I was copying you. So let me start with, and maybe you’ve already answered this a bit, but what did you do before you were a copywriter and why did you decide being a copywriter was the career for you?
Belinda: Well when I mentioned we have some parallels it’s that I have a bit of a windy, turny career path as well. Because I actually graduated from uni with an IT degree and I worked in information technology for nearly ten years, I was a programmer, a software tester, a systems analyst, super-geeky in a bank. And I don’t think I was terribly well-suited because I really didn’t like it very much.
So when I got the opportunity to kind of leap into marketing I grabbed it with both hands and the marketers always look like they’re having such a good time doing their job. And I think because I’d been through many years of not enjoying my job, I really, really tried my best to be a great marketer and I really, really, probably found something that I should have been doing all along. But I think I became a better marketer because of the history I had of lots of jobs that I didn’t particularly like.
Kate: Then you went into copywriting, yes.
Belinda: Yes and so I’m writing copy every day as part of my marketing jobs and I really, really enjoyed it. But I didn’t realise it was a thing you could actually do until I went to a sales day presentation and there was a lady there talking about copywriting. And at that time I was really open to this opportunity of starting my own business because I was starting to make some hard decisions about starting a family and, as you mentioned, you can’t really have a corporate career and have a small baby.
So I was starting to think about these kinds of thing and I found this idea of being a full-time freelance copywriting extremely appealing. So I just quietly registered my business, Copywrite Matters, on the side and I started promoting myself, I started working weekends, and after six months I was replacing my marketing salary. So I left the day job, Cubicle, and went full-time with Copywrite Matters and it’s been the best career move I’ve ever made.
Kate: Oh, that’s great. Do you think that you transferred any skills from your old job to your new job?
Belinda: I would say choosing a work soundtrack, making an awesome cup of tea, but no.
Kate: That’s plenty.
Belinda: But all the marketing stuff, like understanding target audiences, using different tones of voice, figuring out how to drive action, especially for industries that I had no personal interest in. I was a marketing manager for a software company for the timber industry, like super dry stuff. So to have to figure out how to create strategies and campaigns that would drive some action, they’re the kind of skills that I use every day as a copywriter.
Kate: Just randomly, this is something I actually don’t know about you, when did you actually start being a copywriter, how old were you?
Belinda: Are you trying to ask a woman her age Kate Toon?
Kate: Oh, don’t be silly.
Belinda: I went full-time as a copywriter with Copywrite Matters in 2009, so 30, early 30s.
Kate: Yes, so I was 34, so little bit later than you, yes, interesting. Anyway, back to my questions. I want to ask you which copywriting project that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?
Belinda: Now, I’ve been asked this before and it’s very easy to give those lame answers like, “I’m proud of all the work that I do”. But I’m actually really in awe of those kind of big name brands that you’ve got on your website, super-envious. So I’m proud of working with big brands like Kimberley Clarke and I Can Quit New South Wales but, to be honest, most of my copywriting clients have been a lot smaller and not with that kind of reputation behind them.
I’ve always been proud of copywriting projects where the owner of a business has wanted to do something bold. I find that really exciting and really enjoyable to write. So when a client has asked for a unique voice and that’s actually what they’ve wanted, you know, marketing that really stands out, and they’ve had that courage, they’ve been my favourite projects.
Kate: I could not agree more. Although I have those big brands on my website, and no disrespect to them, they’re not necessarily my favourites. My favourite is a client called Wovii who’s quite small and it’s for exactly the same reason, bold marketing, unique voice and I just loved working on that. But anyway, these are your questions not mine.
My next question for you is why did you decide to move away from actually writing copy and into copywriting training?
Belinda: Okay, so for anyone listening who doesn’t know, I am now in the education business, so I’m teaching people how to become great copywriters, from the foundation skills right through to running the business side of things. And I made that change basically because I had a kid. I mean, that’s really what it boils down to. I had to make some really tough decisions about how I spent my limited time because I was working during nap times. And the whole motivation or one of the motivations of being a freelancer was to make sure I was around for all these special moments of my daughter growing up.
So I had to make some tough decisions about who I was spending my time with and how I was spending that time. So I find the process of teaching and coaching incredibly rewarding, so that was a really clear indication for me that’s how I wanted to spend my time. So that’s really the big push.
Kate: Well, that’s really interesting because although I am still mainly being a copywriter, that’s my bread and butter, I do do some training on the side. Not to the degree that you do, but I’ve got a few modules up on my training site and I’m running this SEO course. And I just think it’s interesting to have that other dimension to your career, to be able to pass on what you’ve learned. Do you agree?
Belinda: Yes, absolutely, absolutely because so many new copywriters are joining the field. I think there’s plenty of work for everyone, that’s something you and I have talked about a lot, and I think we’ll have this cover this in a podcast coming up, this idea of cooperating and that there’s plenty of work. But passing on what we’ve learned over the five, six, seven years we’ve been in business can really, really help people.
Kate: Absolutely and I wish there’d been more of that when I’d started out.
Belinda: Oh, me too.
Kate: And more information because there was really not very much at all. So yes, it’s awesome that everyone now is more open to sharing and helping each other, that’s great. Anyway, my last question which I’m really excited to know the answer to now, what is your writer fetish? And I hope it’s something disgusting.
Belinda: It’s going to sound so average now. I wish I could say it was something classy like I collect vintage typewriters or something, but I am totally a stationery nerd. I get extremely excited to spend time and money in shops like Officeworks or Staples and things like that. I love coloured pens and nice pens and biros and pencils and fountain pens and note books and sticky notes and clips.
You would not believe, I have drawers of stationery that I don’t even use, but I like to open the drawer and make sure it’s there. And I’m about to buy a labeller and I’m actually really quite excited. So you can judge me now for that, but that’s mine.
Kate: I do not judge you, I share your pain. I’m a stationery nerd too, but you know what I like? I like getting stationery with my branding on it. That’s the best. Yes, that’s the next level.
Belinda: Listen to us. [laughs]
Kate: I have my brand on everything. Jeez, it’s just crazy. I love it, love it, love it.
Belinda: Yes, so that’s mine.
Kate: That’s your fetish, yes, it wasn’t quite as daring as I thought it would be, but that’s cool. I’m sure we’ll get more out of you as the podcast continue.
Belinda: Yes, yes, maybe.
Kate: So this is us, your Hot Copy hosts. I hope you feel you know us a little bit better now. If you want to find out more about me you can head to KateToonCopywriter.com.au.
Belinda: And you can find me at Copywritematters.com. Well, that’s it from us. Thanks for listening. If you like the show, don’t forget to leave us a rating and review on iTunes and Stitcher – your review will help other copywriters find us. You can also head to HotCopyPodcast.com and leave your comments on the blog post for this episode. Until next time, happy writing.
This was so much fun to listen to! Thank you both so much for taking the time to offer your insight! I’m currently about to enter my last year of college and I’ve been becoming more and more drawn to this field. One of the things that I love most about it, and I think you mentioned this, is that there are so many successful copywriters out there, ready and willing to help others succeed! The camaraderie is astounding! Thanks again! Looking forward to hearing more!
Thanks for your great feedback Shae!
I think too many industries have closed doors when it comes to sharing expertise and experience. But those closed doors also mean a lot of friendship, help and referrals too! We call it co-opertition (as opposed to competition) and it’s the only way to be in business.
If you can leave us a rating and review on iTunes we’ll be your smoochy best friends toooo! –Belinda
Oh hurrah, sorry @shaef22:disqus I only just spotted your comment. Thanks so much for lending us your ears! – Kate