Mary Cameron from 4Words
Who are you Mary Cameron?
Kiwi with Scots roots, lifelong coast dweller now living ‘la vie bretonne’ in regional France. Distance runner, cold water swimmer, wife to a darling husband, mother to a lovely lad, bossed by a ginger cat, scared of heights, grumpy loser of board games, often curled up with a crime novel.
What did you do before you became a copywriter?
I championed ‘fewer words, more meaning’ as a TAFE comms lecturer, a freelance writer and editor, and manager of a handful of award-winning digital training projects. Just before swapping my best black frocks and big girl shoes for jeans and sneakers I managed comms for a primary health care organisation.
How long have you been copywriting?
Since ‘forever’ (around 30 years), and long before I knew copywriting was a thing. Officially as boss of 4Words since 2013.
What has been your biggest copywriting career win?
Turning one-off jobs into long-term relationships where I write everything for years. Having all my lovely loyal clients stick with me when I moved to the other side of the planet. Every win, big or small, feels like a gift from copy gods whom I try to please by writing succinct, smiley, dead good stuff.
What was your worst copywriting career fail?
I overestimated my capacity to keep working while my son was recovering from a near-fatal car accident. (He’s fine now.) I spent six horrendous weeks trying to complete a huge website job on a laptop during hospital vigils. I didn’t finish it.
What are your number one fave copywriting tools?
I’m keen on the brutality of the Hemingway app, and the reliability of Grammarly. I also love my human proofreader’s “What were you thinking?” function that’s triggered by an occasional bit of untidy copy. Eddie Shleyner’s micro articles at ‘VeryGoodCopy’ also restore my perspective.
How do you deal with self-doubt?
I’ve come to see it as a ‘force for good’ that keeps me on my creative toes. In more than 40 years of tolerably successful lecturing and presenting and copywriting I can count my impostor syndrome-free days on one hand. It never quits, so I’ve learned to smile at self-doubt and love the way it helps me stay honest, curious and brave about practicing my craft.
What work-life balance/mental health tips do you have?
I’m a confirmed creature of habit. My morning routine keeps my head in order and sets me up to deal with whatever happens next. It goes like this: coffee, a run/swim, meditation, breakfast, work. Sadly, after half a century of practice, I’m still crap at sticking to reasonable working hours. Recently I resolved to have Sundays off.
What tip would you pass onto any newbie copywriters?
Apart from my observations on managing self-doubt, I suggest doing a stint with a great agency. (They are out there.) There’s no better way to get to grips with working under pressure to create passable copy for a range of clients.
What’s next for you?
“On verra: (“We’ll see”). I’ve just shrunk my copywriting niche to focus on small businesses keen on making a big difference. I may write “The too-long journey”, a kids’ book that’s been wafting around in my head since my son gave me the title as a toddler. I might flood my favourite journals with ‘grumpy old dame’ opinion pieces.
Why do you love TCCS?
TCCS is a boot camp and a sanctuary. I wouldn’t be half as professionally skilled and confident as I am without Kate’s tough love, generous advice and brilliant courses. Furthermore, my freelance life is hugely enriched by sharing trials and triumphs with these gorgeous copy beasts. Finally, some of my favourite clients found me via the TCCS directory.