We had a chat with Cris Azorin, Freelance copywriter for a conversation about career progression, experience, and women in digital!
“No, I haven’t always known what I wanted to do as a career! Absolutely not. When I was younger I changed my mind constantly about what I wanted to be when I grew up. First I wanted to be a vet (until I realised I would have to operate on sick animals), then I spent a stint wanting to be a fashion designer and there was a small period when I harboured ambitions to make it big in a band (lack of musical talent scuppered that dream).
I was always naturally good at writing though and for a long time, I would tell people I was going to grow up to be an author (this later changed to a journalist). As a child, I read constantly and I was forever writing stories. English was always my favourite subject at school. It was something I just seemed to excel at without even trying and all through my academic years I gravitated towards creative subjects that allowed me to explore my passion for writing.
At 19 I moved to London to attend the University of the Arts. I did a degree in PR and Journalism, and while I studied I did work experience placements in industry, first off at Vogue magazine with the Fashion Features team and then at WGSN (a global trend forecasting agency). Both experiences were amazing and just fuelled my desire to work in a media-based vocation when I finished Uni.
The year I graduated (2006) I worked a three-month internship at Goodley PR. Alice McCall and Baum und Pferdgarten were clients of the agency at the time and as part of my internship, I got to work on Alice’s London Fashion Week show, which was amazing. I got offered a permanent job with the agency but turned it down for an in-house role in the BHS Press Office instead. I stayed there for three years, working on launches such as our bridal collaboration with Elizabeth Emmanuel (who designed Princess Diana’s wedding dress with her then-husband David). Spending time in Elizabeth’s studio was another standout moment from my early career.
Another role in PR followed, this time working for a pan-European company. I got to travel a lot with my role, which was fantastic but my enthusiasm for PR was waning. I was dating the Creative Director of a London design agency at the time and was moonlighting in the odd bit of copywriting for them around my PR job.
Clients were really happy with the work I was producing and I found that I was enjoying copywriting more than PR so I decided to leave the security of my full-time job and set myself up as a freelance copywriter. I launched a website and began cold calling around to drum up work. The first couple of years weren’t easy and I took an evening role event stewarding at a London gig venue for extra cash to get by. Eventually, things picked up enough that I could support myself fully through freelance copywriting and it’s just continued from there.
I left London four years ago and moved back to Southampton to be closer to my family and get on the property ladder. I was afraid the move would impact my business but I reached out to a bunch of local design agencies when I settled in the city and found the response really positive.
I now work with a rotation of about four agencies as well as a few local businesses and some London clients. I also now work 2.5 days a week for Cunard, which is a dream come true. I’ve always had a passion for travel, so I feel very lucky to be able to fill half my week writing about the incredible destinations you can sail to on a Cunard cruise.
I took a massive leap of faith and walked away from a great salary and a very comfortable life with no guarantee that I would be successful, but I have zero regrets. For me, going freelance and having the courage to finally pursue my passion for writing professionally has been a career-defining decision. It’s definitely not easy living and working as a freelancer and I know for some not having the comfort of a regular income is scary but it’s something I’ve adjusted to. This way of life wouldn’t be for everyone, but I’ve learned that being happy is what I value most in life, and for me, that’s working in a vocation I love and having freedom over how I spend my time.
I love that I get to be expressive and creative. I love making clients happy and the lovely feedback I get when I’ve exceeded someone’s expectations. I also love the work-life balance I’ve managed to achieve at such a young age, and the fact I have the freedom to choose when, where and with whom I work.”
Being a woman in my industry
“My advice to women looking to break into the industry is to believe in yourself and have the courage to follow your own path. When I told ex-colleagues and friends that I was giving up a full-time salary and great benefits to be a freelancer, most of them thought I was mad (and some didn’t hesitate to tell me so).
You have to have conviction and not let anyone’s fears or self-doubt affect your judgement. Your gut will tell you when something is right and when it isn’t.
The other thing I’d say is just start doing it – whatever it is you want to do! Even if you’re stuck in a job doing something you hate, you can always use your evenings and weekends to explore your passion. I know a ton of people who have a side hustle doing something completely different from their 9-5. The sooner you start, the sooner you can begin building up clients and contacts, until eventually, you’ll get to the point where you can make your side hustle your full-time gig.
In my industry, there is a real opportunity that you can be your own boss, which is great but copywriting opens up lots of doors professionally. You can work in-house within a brand marketing team or in an advertising or design agency. You could even start your own agency and grow a team, expanding into other areas of digital copywriting such as social media management or digital PR.
I can’t say that I’ve experienced a lack of female mentors or role models in my line of work. My entire professional life I’ve worked with – and for – incredible, inspiring women. I’ve reported into female Heads of PR, female Marketing Directors and worked with female graphic designers. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate and this isn’t everyone’s experience of working in digital but even now at Cunard, I work for a female Head of Content. I count myself blessed to have met so many high-achieving, strong female mentors and colleagues who have taught me so much about life and helped to shape my writing through their incredible knowledge and experience.
I’ve never felt that I’ve had to prove myself more than male colleagues. If anything I feel that I can sometimes be underestimated because I’m quite petite and fairly young looking for my age. People are often surprised to learn I’m as old as I am, but my parents both look young for their age so I guess I just have good genes!”
Self-care and mental health
“I go swimming a few times a week, which I find really helps me to switch off. Normally I go after a day of work and as soon as I’m in the water all my focus switches to my body, my breathing and keeping track of the number of lengths I’m doing. I also love to read. I keep my kindle beside my bed and I read every night without fail. For me, reading is very calming and peaceful and the perfect tonic to a day of deadlines and staring at screens. I end up reading until I’m physically struggling to keep my eyes open most nights.
I think mental health has improved from where we were 10 years ago but I think there’s still a long way to go. Not just in digital but in general workplace attitudes towards mental health.
I wouldn’t say I suffer with my mental health personally but I’m only human and like everyone, that means I have good days and bad days in life. I try not to dwell so much on the bad days when they occur and just focus on the many positive things I have in my life, like a loving family and supportive partner, a lovely home, great friends, a roof over my head. I appreciate that I’m very lucky compared to a lot of people in this world.
But of course, there’s going to be days when something might hurt my feelings and I feel sad, or I might beat myself up a little about something because I do set high standards for myself professionally. That’s just life though. It’s a rollercoaster and there’s going to be times that really test you.
I lost my aunt to secondary breast cancer three years ago and that was a tough time. We were very close and her illness came as a huge shock. When we knew she couldn’t beat it that was very hard for me to come to terms with. I went through the usual waves of grief – anger, sadness, and denial. I still hate that her life was cut short and she was taken from us but I’ve learned that holding onto anger isn’t healthy. Now I just try to live as much as I can because I feel it’s the best way to honour her.”
The future of copywriting and digital
“It’s scary but also fascinating living in a digital world that is rapidly advancing. I increasingly wonder what the world will look like in 10,20,30 years from now. I can remember when we first got the Internet at home and how my mum and I would spend hours every night just asking Jeeves questions! It’s funny to think that I have friends and relatives who can’t even remember a time pre-internet or social media. I struggle to imagine just how much more technically advanced our world will become in my lifetime.
I think the Internet is incredible. I rely on it so much now I wonder how anyone ever lived without it. I love how apps like Uber break down barriers, making it possible to order a cab anywhere in the world and feel safe doing so. I also rely heavily on streaming services like Spotify and Netflix. I rarely watch anything that isn’t ‘on-demand’ these days and I haven’t purchased a CD in years because I only consume music online now.
For me, I find SEO fascinating. The rules are forever changing and I love that Google constantly re-evaluates its search algorithm. It keeps you on your toes and doesn’t allow you to become complacent. It’s one area of digital where you can always learn more and I’m a bit of a geek like that as I love finding out new things and perfecting ways of working to get the best results for my clients!”