Republished: how comedy writing can make you a more confident copywriter
If you follow copywriting-related news, you may know that the Professional Copywriters' Network (PCN) has announced it'll close at the end of 2016.
There are copywriters rallying round to save PCN, but as yet we have no idea how that's going to pan out. I hope it works, because to me the announcement was like hearing someone had died.
In the meantime, the plan is that when the website shuts down all of the blog posts will be taken offline. I've been lucky enough to have 6 posts published by PCN in the last year or so. The following is a slight edit and rewrite of the very first, from July 6th 2015.
When I meet people, I tell them that I’m a freelance copywriter and comedy writer. Mid-handshake, they stop and give me an odd look. A comedy writer? A what now? Nobody’s ever tacked that onto the end of their job description before. What’s that all about?
I’m the copywriter who doesn’t put the ‘comma’ in ‘comedy’, because it doesn’t need one. Cue the ‘da-dum-tshh’ of two elephants and a cymbal falling off of a cliff. Writing and performing comedy has given me a professional advantage in ways I wasn’t expecting.
Creative writing – “No, fork handles. Handles for forks.”
I believe that having a natural tendency towards humour in my writing makes me more creative by default. It’s definitely won me clients that are seeking to inject a little comedy into their comms.
Cultural fit with a client is just as important for the solo copywriter as it is for an agency. My personality comes across in my writing for clients to see – it’s all over my website. And people comment on it when they contact me, explaining that they’re interested in how my humour would translate into the copy they need.
The trend towards ‘funny ‘copy isn’t new. Brands are increasingly using social media as the place to try out a much less corporate tone of voice. Look at innocent. Everyone wants to sound like innocent.
I should also mention Arena Flowers and GCS Recruitment on Twitter. Those are two accounts you wouldn’t expect to be tweeting jokes – but that’s all they do. (And both of them follow me, so that’s really all that matters, right?) Twitter is a great platform for trying out gags, and the impact is immediately measured in favourites and RTs. It’s becoming more common to see job descriptions for social media writers listing ‘a good sense of humour’ as an essential requirement. Humour can make you more hireable.
Presentations – “Our main weapons are fear and surprise…”
I help out at ‘scratch that itch’ nights for Funny Women, where people are encouraged to try new comedy material. The one question that everyone asks is: ‘How do you have the confidence to get up there and tell jokes like that?’
The short answer, from a short woman, is that it isn’t exactly confidence. The long answer has a lot more ‘um’ and ‘erm’ breaks while I try to give constructive advice.
It’s not confidence in the truest sense of the word. The ‘fight or flight’ feeling you get before standing up to pitch or make a speech is the same feeling stand-up comedians have while shuffling awkwardly in the wings. At the point I step forward to take the microphone, that’s it. I’ve chosen to fight. And rather than confidently breezing my way through the set, I’m usually on autopilot. I’ll come back off stage with almost no memory of how the performance went.
However, something is changing. The more I go up and reel off 5 minutes of material, the less my palms sweat the next time I’m waiting to do it. So it isn’t exactly confidence, but it is helping. Getting more stage time under my belt as a comedian makes it easier to get up and talk in a professional capacity. And the crowd at a comedy night is much harder to please.
Networking – “Hey, you, with the broken nose! Play the piano!”
Back to that handshake moment. For freelancers in particular, word of mouth can be everything. I know many writers who make a very good living from personal recommendations alone. Having a point of difference – as a comedy writer – makes me memorable. And I can’t buy that as a networking advantage.
When others overhear the laughter rippling from a group I’m regaling with tales of my heroic adventures (psht, I wish), it makes them curious. To some people, it makes me more interesting. They’ve seen this small woman hold court at the other end of the room, and they want to get to know me. I can now occasionally go into a room and be recognised as ‘Kady, that writer who tells jokes’. I quite like having a reputation.
Having comedy up my sleeve (not like that, I’m not a magician) gives me something unusual to talk about. That helps when making new friends and connections. Comedy is perfect when you need an icebreaker. A quick quip can cut through awkward silences and get group discussions back on track. It also marks you out in a group as someone worth listening to.
I know it can be tough to put your face and your half-price Vistaprint business cards out there. I’ve strugged with that fear for a long time. Moving into comedy writing has changed things for me. It’s opened a lot of doors, particularly to TV channel Christmas parties with free margaritas. It might well make a difference to you.