We had a natter with Katie Thompson, Freelance Copywriter at Katie Lingo: Content Marketing Services for Digital Agencies & SMEs.
I’ve been writing since I was a child. I used to steal paper from my grandad’s printer, staple it together and fashion a book! Things have become a little more technical since then. My parents influenced my love of languages – understanding the complexities of grammar and all the weird and wonderful phrases. Obviously, I had the aspirations of becoming Britney Spears but that never really took off…
I always focused on English, right through from A-Level onwards, although my degree was technically Spanish and Linguistics. It taught me a lot about the English language though! I started writing for the university newspapers and then after my degree, I took a distance learning NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) course.
I started out working at local magazines before transitioning into digital marketing agencies. These were great but I wasn’t doing as much writing as I would have liked, so I started a ‘side hustle’ – Katie Lingo (www.katielingo.co.uk). Today, it’s my full-time job, and I now have a diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I like to think I bring both old school traditional print media skills and modern digital skills to the table.
Some of the misconceptions of my job include the assumption that I sit around on Facebook all day. This is pretty dated – I hardly even use Facebook anymore! With digital being a less physical job, there’s the view that we don’t work as hard. I’m not chopping down trees but I am putting in the hours day in, day out, researching, writing, and refining content. Brainpower takes up 20% of our energy!
If you’d asked me 10 years ago, I might have turned my nose up at the thought of working in this industry! I probably had those same misconceptions. At the time I was very into print media and loved seeing my byline in print. I still am, but I’ve now come to understand the full potential of digital. It gives me the chance to make connections I wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise, especially in lockdown. It’s also totally mobile – I could be a nomad if I wanted to – and it’s relatively low-cost to run your own business!
My advice for women wanting to break into a similar industry is to build their network. Get on Twitter; get on LinkedIn. Join in the Twitter chats like #ContentClubUK and #FreelanceHeroes. The content writing community is the sweetest group of people you will ever meet. Beyond pandemic life, get out to events – not just standard breakfast meetings but industry-specific ones. Some of my favourites are the ProCopywriters’ Conference, Leeds Digital Festival, BrightonSEO, and the Digital City Festival. Keep writing your own content and putting it out there.
Not everybody is lucky enough to do what they love for a living. But running a business takes it to the next level. You have the challenge of business development, meeting new people, and nurturing those relationships. That’s probably what I love most. There’s nothing quite like it when you get your first positive feedback from a new client. Many of my longest-standing clients I would be happy to call friends.
The biggest challenge for me personally has been building up confidence. This manifests in so many ways, whether it’s having the courage to speak to someone at an event or charging what you’re worth. It’s so difficult for new starters – I remember saying: “I charge this but if that’s too much, we can negotiate.” That’s not ideal practice but sometimes you have to go through that process to build your courage up. Once you have a portfolio, testimonials, repeat clients – then the confidence comes naturally, and with it, the guts to charge what you’re worth and develop your business.
The Impact of COVID
Like many, it hit me hard at first. I lost a big travel client and many other clients started pulling their budgets. But soon the tide turned. People realised they could still function – albeit with some pivoting – and decided to invest more time in their content and promotional strategies.
This actually resulted in more work. Of course, this has been impossible for some and they will always have my support. I’ve tried to offset the ‘guilt’ I feel about this by signing up to lots of new charities! I’m also doing my bit to shop locally wherever possible and support smaller hospitality businesses. It’s great to see people setting up their own ‘side hustles’ during this crisis.
Like so many, I am one of the 3 million ‘excluded’, but I try not to let this bring me down. Personal circumstances – i.e., having a full-time job in the last three years – precluded me from claiming financial support. That was disheartening but it gave me the nudge to be more proactive and go after business. Again, I understand that that’s not possible for all industries, so I am hugely grateful.
Freelancing is feast or famine. You’ve got to maintain those relationships to make sure you’re always tucking into a feast.
Women in the Industry
I think we’ve come on in leaps and bounds. Organisations like Digital Women really showcase the breadth of our skills, while groups like WomeninTech are challenging the stereotypes that only men can code, for example. But there’s a long way to go. I’m not a huge fan of gendered language like ‘girl boss’ or ‘mumpreneur’. I feel this implies that successful men are the default.
Women should be recognised for their achievements regardless of their sex or gender.
Have I felt previously that I need to prove myself more than my male counterparts? Tricky. Certainly, in full-time roles, I have felt I’ve had to shout louder than others. I remember one agency that was largely male-led. The men got to write the ‘sports content’ and were paid more than me, despite their output being less. That was discouraging. On rare occasions, I’ve spoken in live webinars and felt I’m not being taken as seriously as men. However, I’ve worked hard to go beyond those stereotypes. You get to a point when you realise some people will always have outdated views, so you can choose not to work with them. Look at the Handforth Parish Council meeting!
There are tons of men and women in the content writing community who inspire me every day. They’ve overcome personal challenges from the effects of COVID-19 to family bereavements, and have emerged stronger. Beyond that, I could name a few runners: Paula Radcliffe, Mary Keitany, Eliud Kipchoge. I like to think of myself as a bit of a pavement-pounder so to see them running marathons in two hours is jaw-dropping. Then of course there is my fiancé, Craig. He is my rock.