We had a chat with Francesca Baker, Communications Specialist and copywriter.
“Growing up I always wanted to be a journalist. I loved words and writing, and I was incredibly curious. There was a brief dabble into wanting to be a teacher, but some work experience whilst I was at university put paid to that.
After three years at Durham University, where I studied English, History and Theology, I started a graduate scheme in market research and insight, and this is where I stayed (in three different companies) for around eight years.
However, I yearned to do more writing and creative work and started to write for the company blogs, seek opportunities such as contributing to branding pitches, and get involved more in communications. I was also doing journalism and copywriting on the side. An illness meant I had to leave my job and leave London and move back to my parents in Kent. I started picking up bits of work in copywriting, marketing, PR and journalism, and it just grew.
I am now very happy working in communications, running a successful business, and doing work that thrills me. Clients include The National Lottery, The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, EY, Mitsubishi, Takeda, Roche, Spread the Word, Margate Bookie…everything from charity to creative events to businesses.
My skill set and experience are varied – covering copywriting, journalism, marketing, research and PR – but always centred around communication and creating a connection. Ultimately, I work with messages – and creating the right messages to resonate with an audience. I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years now and set up my business early last year – which is called And So She Thinks.
My advice for women looking to break into a similar industry is, don’t worry about taking a linear path. I think people often end up freelancing through happy accidents. Gather together the skills you have and think about how you can apply them to help a business or cause achieve the results that they are looking for.
What I love most about my job is the variety. Not having a niche isn’t usually recommended, but for me, it makes me excited. I think that working on different topics and types of content are actually really good for my clients, as it gives me a fresh perspective and new ideas.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is feeling like I failed when I had to leave my corporate job. We’re sold the dream of a career ladder, and when you have to step off a rung, it feels like a failure. I like the idea of a career ‘lilypad’ – different tasks and jobs all interconnected that you can move between.”
Health, well-being and self-care.
“Freelancing means it’s easy to be constantly switched on, and the nature of my role in marketing and PR means I have to be on social media a lot. Scheduling downtime and taking proper breaks where I put my out of office on are key.
There’s lots of talk about mental health, which is great, although I do think more structural interventions need to happen so that real change can take place. Awareness only gets us so far. But broadly speaking, I think it’s brilliant that these conversations are now happening.
The digital landscape
“There are plenty of misconceptions about my job. That writing isn’t worth anything, and anyone can do it. Actually, the first impression anyone has of your business are the words they read, so they are worth the investment. They need to hook the customer in, make them believe in you, convert to a sale etc. It’s important to spend time and money on that message.
Most of the time we are taught that you have to enter a traditional career path, and I think my education at a grammar school and prestigious university definitely suggested that. We don’t learn skills such as bookkeeping, timekeeping, branding etc, which would all be very useful in setting up a business. I never had any role models who had set up their own business, so didn’t even realise it was an option for me.
The impact social media has had over the last few years has been incredible. Whether it’s taking part in Twitter conversations with other copywriters who are hundreds of miles away, or developing a social media campaign that focuses on Instagram, it’s been a real game-changer for both how I operate and the results I can deliver.
I’d like to see more collaborative approaches to delivering work, with copywriters working alongside designers working with brand experts etc, and I think digital tools enable that. Conferences and training are being increasingly done online, which opens it up for more people – accessibility is key. I think PR will continue to move from just being print media to working with influencers on social media.”
Female Role Models and Mentors
“I think lots of women work in communications, but often at lower levels. Getting our voices heard higher up is hard. Panels and events are a great way to see who is leading the way.
A lot of the organisations I work with are quite female heavy – arts and charities tend to be. But this is a concern in itself, as they are often lower paid. I think the men I know tend to be more confident demanding higher rates, and I envy that. It’s hard to know your worth and to stick to it.”