We caught up with Clio Paterson, Freelance Content Writer and Copywriter from Manchester.
“I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I imagined that being a writer meant being a novelist. I studied English Literature at uni and I even received special guidance from a published novelist. But despite trying my hand at writing short stories and novels, I didn’t get anywhere with it. I almost gave up, until a friend asked if I’d ever considered copywriting. I immediately thought I couldn’t do it. I was over 30 and had a good career in media sales. But with a bit of persuasion, I gave it a go. Within 6 months I had enough clients to go freelance full time.
I initially enrolled in a copywriting course. It was good for the basics, and I got a qualification, but really, when I got going, it was more about learning on the job. I worked with some great agencies, like Stratton Craig, as a freelancer from the word go. The clever account managers and writers at places like that helped hone my skills.
For me, on the job experience is what’s made the most difference. I did it remotely, as a freelancer. But you could do exactly the same thing in-house, as an employee. I think it’s fair to say that you need raw talent too. But the other thing is knowing where those specific talents lie. For example, a good friend of mine is a radio ad copywriter. He’s amazing at it! But it’s not for me. I’m not a genius with straplines and suchlike. For me, I found over the years that my talents lay firmly in the content writing zone. And lifestyle themed content is what I excel at.
What do I love most about my job? Writing. Writing and writing. Even if something sounds “boring” to someone else, I love to get stuck in and find out more about it. For instance, I have a lot of tech clients. True, on the surface the subject of AI or voice activated tech might sound dry. But turn that round to focus on how it will change our lives, and it’s instantly a fascinating subject. I’m a person that likes my own company. So, for me, there’s nothing better than grabbing a coffee and sitting at my desk ready to research and write.
Since going freelance, I’ve had two children. They’re both still under 5, so they’re a handful! But amazing of course. For me, navigating the journey of becoming a mum and balancing that with a freelance career has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m proud of myself because I’ve kept my business going. And I have a lot more flexibility than a lot of working parents as a freelancer. But the pressure has been immense at times. Even things like maternity are different as a freelancer. You go back a lot earlier than employees. But my husband and I have a lovely little family to be proud of.
My daughters are my inspiration. They’re so positive and full of life. If I ever wake up feeling lethargic, I just look at them and see all the positivity and energy we all aspire to in life. It’s magical.
In terms of future trends, for me, it’s really exciting to see how user-generated content is shaping up. The clear shift towards more consumer-centric marketing already means that businesses are putting the reader at the heart of their content plans. But going a step further, actually using content generated by real people, on social platforms and so forth, that’s something that will grow and change. Really, at the moment UGC is in its infancy.”
Coping Mechanisms for Work Stress and Digital Burnout
“I’ve naturally shied away from a lot of the things that come hand-in-hand with digital burnout. Although I have social media profiles, I don’t feel a natural pull towards posting stuff. I have to sort of force myself to do it when it comes to my business too. But I can see how easily you can get sucked into the constant phone-checking scenario.
I used to answer client’s emails and WhatsApp messages 24/7. But in recent years I’ve learned that it’s better to take time away from your digital devices. I tend to “switch off” in the evenings and weekends. I’m the kind of person that can’t sleep if I start thinking about work during my downtime in the evenings. I took the grownup decision to leave it at the door, so I can be more productive the next day.
I also practice mindfulness, and yoga most nights. I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near being a yogi!! But I’ve practiced yoga for years and I picked up the pace with it during and after both pregnancies. It helps me to feel relaxed and maintain a level of self-care that feels meaningful to me. Ultimately, it’s about finding what works for you.
I think mental health is still a taboo subject. Things that spring to mind for me are postnatal depression, which is still barely spoken about and not well understood, and men’s mental health, which is all tied in with the toxic masculinity mindset. I have suffered from anxiety in the past, and I certainly wouldn’t readily admit to that in the workplace or to clients. But it’s really common!
I know some workplaces have a budget for counselling services now, and I think that’s a huge step forward. In an ideal world, every business would do this. I’m a perfectionist, so I can easily slide into negative self-talk. But trying to recognise that, take action before it spirals, and talk openly with people I trust about it helps me. That, and doing calming things that are just for me. Like yoga.
I’m very wary of social media. It’s not that I think it’s the root of all evil! But it can be misunderstood and for someone feeling vulnerable, it can have a negative impact. I think it’s so important to remember and keep repeating, “this is not real life!” And the constant phone-checking behaviours that can come with it are draining. I think everyone at some time has done that thing of posting something, then getting caught up in the number of likes coming through. That dopamine hit you get when you’re getting likes. Sometimes it’s good to just get off social media, even if it’s for a week, and seeing how life feels without that elephant in the room all the time.”
Women – Underrepresented in Business
“Yes, I think generally women are often underrepresented in business. I know there’s a shift and people are trying to change that. But I think it’s a case of shouting about inspiring women and their achievements. And rather than thinking of it as “women v men” starting conversations that put both on an equal footing. Gender should not matter. It’s about skill, passion, and making a difference.
It’s a really difficult subject to talk about. I think that sometimes, fear of rocking the boat means that women don’t speak up about feeling discriminated against due to gender. I think it’s important to recognise that gender discrimination can work both ways, and also, that women can discriminate against women! For example, I’ve been in situations with both men and women where I’ve felt the need to justify my choices as a freelance mum.
Similarly, I’ve heard men talk about the fact that it’s a commonly held view in the UK that men go back to work, and women shoulder the majority of the childcare responsibilities. I realise this is specifically talking about being a parent, but definite, longstanding views on gender roles play a big part in that.
I think as a mother, I feel as though I have to prove myself more than my male counterparts more keenly than because I’m a woman. When it was just me, there weren’t many business situations where I felt overly self-conscious about my gender. Now I’m a mum, I do feel like there’s more pressure to prove that I can do both. That is, be a hands-on mum and deliver in a business-sense. I even wrote an article about it, and the idea that working mums, in particular, may feel the need to strive to ‘have it all’.”
Skillshare profile: https://www.skillshare.com/user/cliopaterson