Choosing a copywriting practice

Someone recently told me that Cheltenham has the highest concentration of creative businesses outside London. Put all those design agencies, web designers, copywriting agencies, graphic designers, photographers, app designers and other creative consultancies together and it's guaranteed to be a challenge to find the one that's perfect for your next creative project.

The correct choice of copywriting partner is vital

You could be a start up looking for writing support, a marketing agency seeking an experienced copywriter or a web designer keen to add SEO copywriting to your service offering. Whatever your expectations of professional copywriting services in the Cheltenham area, making the correct choice is vital for your immediate and future writing requirements.

More on choosing a copywriting practice

So what are you seeking from your copywriting practice? Will it be large and (probably) expensive? That's fine if you're a major global brand, but maybe not such a good fit if you're a micro business or startup SME in Cheltenham, Stroud or Cirencester.

Alternatively, maybe a small, professional, owner copywriter would best fit your organisation; if you're planning a major pan-European campaign, perhaps not. But if you need a website, a brochure, a few case studies and the occasional press release, the low overheads and corresponding pricing structure of a good one-man (or woman) band is likely to be perfect.

Let's look at both for a minute.

A large (expensive) writing practice...

Maybe you fancy a large, high-overhead, agency with a day-rate to match, a (too-) clever name and quirky website design that may seem imaginative today, but could easily look dated tomorrow. If you have a major project requiring hundreds or thousands of web pages and large suites of printed collateral, an agency like this may be the right choice. With plenty of writers, researchers, strategists and web designers in the nest, they will undoubtedly have the resources to tackle the largest jobs. When ADT contacted me a few years ago about a massive website project, my advice to them was that they should seek out a large copywriting practice. I like to give best possible advice; my clients like it too.

COPYWRITING AGENCY FACTOID: I was talking to a creative director who has recently come down from London to Gloucestershire; they told me that top conceptual-advertising copywriters in London can get £1400 per day...

Or a small, professional owner-copywriter (like me)

Alternatively, I'd urge you to consider a smaller Cheltenham-based copywriter like me. A professional writer with a solid background in sales, marketing, PR, technical writing and copywriting. Someone with plenty of real-world experience, a solid portfolio, the skills to craft the copy you need – but not the overhead that demands those 'are you sitting down?' fees associated with larger copywriting practices.

Just me – no employees or subcontractors

The other nice thing about a micro copywriting practice like mine is that you get me from first contact to completion of your writing project – for small to medium-sized copywriting projects that's a great way to ensure continuity of communication and a consistent writing and editorial style that will serve your organisation well.

When I established my business in 2006, I set the rule that I wouldn't employ other writers or sub-contract the writing work that clients entrust to me. Short of scribing this into the stonework of the Cheltenham Borough Council offices on the Promenade, this is as cast in stone as it can be. It's a bit different from big copywriting practices where you see an account handler, someone else, then a writer...and then you discover that your copy was actually handed off to another writer who wasn't in on the original briefing.

One of the things that informed my decision when I set up the business in 2006 were the words of seasoned copywriter Jason Deign in his book Making Money from Copywriting. Jason wrote:

Expansion of a pure copywriting business can be problematic, however, which is one reason why large copywriting agencies are pretty rare. For a start, copywriters tend to be chosen on the basis of individual skills and your clients might not appreciate you handing their work on to a colleague or subordinate [or subcontractor]. The margins involved in supplying copy, while ample for an individual or a small business, might not be sufficient to support additional staff.

As I write this, nearly 10 years after reading Jason's book, all I can say is that I wholeheartedly agree with him and have never regretted my decision to be, and do, all the copywriting and copywriting-related administration in my business. And long may it continue...

A small copywriting practice writing for some big names

Let's talk about clients. Big copywriting practices will show you lists of big name brands and household name companies. Well, surprise, surprise, so can I, with names such as Toyota, Airbus, The Metropolitan Police, Karndean International, Pertemps Ted Todd Hardwood Flooring and Metalock UK in my portfolio.

Choosing a Cheltenham copywriting practice

Despite what some of the big London copywriting practices will try to tell you, choosing a Cheltenham copywriter definitely makes sense if you're based in or near the Cotswolds. Only yesterday, I was in a meeting with the directors of a Tewkesbury based engineering business who confirmed exactly this point.

Try getting a London copywriter to visit your offices at 24-hours' notice to take a brief on a Friday afternoon – for a £750 assignment! If they can make it at all, I only hope your pockets are deep...

Personal contact and face-time matters

Please don't tell me that everything can be done by phone, email, Skype or video conferencing. Of course these are useful tools and I sometimes (very selectively) work remotely too.

But when you have all those source materials in front of you and a couple of colleagues who need to be in on the briefing, nothing beats face-to-face meetings for relationship building and effective communication. And of course, a Cheltenham copywriting practice should be able to offer this service, pre-contract and for fact-finding, at minimal, if any, cost to you. I do.

Al Hidden Copywriter – runs a small Cheltenham copywriting practice

What to look for in your Cheltenham copywriting practice

Here are a few things that I believe are important when choosing a Cheltenham copywriting practice. They all apply, whether the copywriter is a large agency or a sole-trader:

  • Relevant copywriting experience (but not necessarily in your industry; often a fresh perspective is the key to fresh copywriting. )
  • Obvious passion for what they do
  • Solid website and LinkedIn testimonials and recommendations
  • Commitment to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and Cotswold businesses
  • Good to work with
  • Reliable (they do what they promise when they promised it)
  • Low overheads for lower priced (but not 'cheap' copywriting)
  • Sensible fixed-fee project-based pricing to help you budget projects.

Since setting up as a Cheltenham (Charlton Kings actually – hence the GL53 postcode) copywriting practice I've stuck firmly to my founding principles:

  • No employees
  • Giving great value
  • Being generous with time and money
  • An honest approach to copywriting (and doing business)
  • Having the confidence to say a project isn't right for me (or even, that I'm not the right copywriter for you).

Clients seem to like my approach, which is why such a high percentage of my work comes from referrals and repeat business and why I typically book copywriting two to three weeks ahead (but if you do have a genuinely urgent job, please ask me because anything is possible).


Two really important things about my business

I've saved two of the most important things about my Cheltenham copywriting practice until the end: my breadth of experience and the fact that I see my business as writing, not running a writing business. Both are important for you.

Writing, not 'running a writing business'

One is the subtle difference between wanting to be a copywriter and wanting to run a copywriting business. This is important because it means I'm running a copywriting practice so I can write. Call it a professional lifestyle business if you wish (I do), but my copywriting practice, run from home in Cheltenham's suburbs, exists primarily so I can do what I love doing – writing and editing. The fact that I can make a decent living from writing is a bonus. What do they say? Work that you enjoy doing isn't really work. I'm very fortunate. The important thing is that I have no aspirations to build and manage a writing business where I would inevitably end up spending more and more time managing and less time writing. Yes, if I did that I could build a big copywriting practice, but I'd worry about losing touch with the copywriting and providing the personal owner-copywriter service that I deliver.

So Al Hidden Copywriter will never be a large Cheltenham copywriting practice or The Gloucestershire Copywriting Practice. That's a promise!


Breadth of experience

The other special thing is the breadth of experience that I bring to copywriting after well over 30 years in business since graduating. I've always recognised this, but it took a conversation with colleagues at a local networking group to make me realise just how significant this is and how versatile it makes me. Years in business, the great university of life and lots of interests means I can write quickly, and to a high quality, on all sorts of topics: I think that hot stone therapies, automotive components, business coaching and translation services is a pretty good indicator of my range and that's just the start. My clients seem to agree. What would you like me to write about for you?

We should talk

Naturally, you will want to take a look around the various Cheltenham copywriting practices you'll find online. Then look again at my skills, experience, portfolio and testimonials. When you are ready to arrange your no-obligation initial consultation please call me on 01242 520 573 or email me


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