If you’re a talented writer who enjoys niche and nerdy subjects, B2B copywriting is one of the rare ways that you can make a good living while writing full time (and learning about lots of weird and wonderful subjects along the way).
This webinar has now taken place, but is available on-demand here.
But how do you get into the sector, what skills do you need, and (most importantly) what is the job really like?
In this short interview, Senior Copywriter Katy Eddy charts her journey in B2B content writing – from her first experiences as a Junior writer, to crafting content for some of the world’s biggest technology brands. Katy is also now helping us to recruit the next generation of B2B writers.
Watch the webinar on-demand here.
Transcript from the webinar
David McGuire – Creative Director, Radix Communications.
Katy Eddy – Senior Copywriter and Content Lead, Radix Communications.
David: Welcome, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us for this short webinar and Q&A interview with Katy. B2B copywriting, B2B technology copywriting in particular, is one of the few ways, I would say, that you can write full-time, make a pretty decent living, and find out about some weird and wonderful niche subjects in the process. But it’s not a thing necessarily, that people, you know, grow up wanting to do. I certainly didn’t. And, so it can be a thing people fall into, that’s a bit of a mystery. So we thought we’d try and demystify it a bit today for you.
We have an excellent interviewee, I’m building you up now. Katy Eddy joined us just a few years ago as a Junior Copywriter, has made her way right through the system and we will talk about our development process later, but has made her way right through in record time to be a Senior Copywriter, and is now involved in the recruitment process at Radix.
So, there really is no one better to tell you, you know, what it’s like to get into copywriting as a career. And we will talk about that in a moment. I will ask a few questions, but then we’ll head over for some questions of your own if you have those.
We have a chatbox, we have a Q&A box. You can try and raise your hands but I can’t see all of you on here at once. But if you want to click the raise your hand and then you can and I will try my best to stay across all of those things.
So Katy can answer all of your questions for you which doubtless will be more interesting than mine If you want to continue the conversation after this or outside this forum probably the easiest thing you can find us on Twitter or on LinkedIn. @radixcom is the main handle for us. I’m @McGuireDavid, Katy is @Starlingsky. I haven’t asked her permission to share that, I’m sorry. But first, we will get started just by finding out who’s here from among you as attendees, to get an idea of whether you are people that already know a bit about copywriting or people who are completely new to it. So we will give you a few seconds.
So, Katy, I think I might kick off just kind of by asking you, the audience. A lot of them are copywriters already. So they may well already know. But what does a B2B tech copywriter do?
Katy: Well in the land of Radix. Forgive me if I am sort of explaining terms you already know. Business to business is entirely between two organisations. So we don’t do any of the business to consumer stuff, the stuff you see, you know in ads and magazines and that kind of thing. We write exclusively about business technology.
So, we largely write about the new age of cloud, even though it’s been happening for about a decade now. We’re always waiting for the next big thing. And we were told it was blockchain, but I don’t believe anybody when they say that. We mostly focus on marketing materials, sales enablement, that kind of thing. So as I tend to explain to people in the pub when they look at me blankly, when I tell them, my job role…
David: Has nothing to do with copyright. Yes?
Katy: Yes, I do get asked a lot if it’s copyright law, which I think is probably quite familiar to a lot of you. It’s essentially that we write the kind of stuff that companies like Microsoft use to sell to other companies.
David: Cool. So when you say, the kind of stuff, what sort of formats and subjects do you find yourself writing?
Katy: There are sort of too many to list. I will focus on the ones that I do the most at the moment, which is case studies. So interviewing clients and writing their stories up. They’re always a massive pull for people because they like to see success and imagine themselves in that position.
And I write a lot of white papers and reports. So long-form stuff that is further down the funnel piece. But is good for convincing people once you’ve already got them on the hook. You can get more into detail about your product or your offering. More generally like lots of blogs, tweets, anything you’d use to share longer-form content as well. So email campaigns, that kind of thing.
David: Sure. And what kind of clients? Can you tell us about who you find yourself writing for now?
Katy: So I’m going to describe them in vague terms. And you can name them if we’re allowed to name them. Obviously, there are NDAs involved in a lot of them. Primarily at the moment I write for a company that does a lot of speech recognition and voice biometrics work. I do write for Microsoft, loads of the big business names that companies like Salesforce, they’re a big one for us. Honestly, if you can name a business, we’ve probably written for them at some point. We’ve got well over a hundred that we’ve worked on.
David: Yeah, I think, I think that’s, I think that’s fair. It’s like, you know, most of the big software companies that sell technology to sell to other companies, either we work with them directly, and we also work through their marketing agency. So one way or the other, we will have worked with a lot of them. I think that’s fair.
So when you’re writing for something that might be for Microsoft, one day, you’re writing for something, you know, for a big cybersecurity company, or a speech recognition company, or a Salesforce or something like that another day. Do you find you have to use lots of different writing styles, or in effect, are there a limited number of styles that people actually use?
Katy: I think you have kind of a set of core styles, that each company has their own individual quirks on. So obviously, you have your UK and US that have their own quirks. But yeah, generally, the massive companies in particular, they’ll be very stringent about how you write about their stuff because they can’t have anything that goes out under their name that doesn’t fit with their brand image.
So you do work a lot with style guides and things like that to make sure it’s in line. And internally, so if we take Microsoft, for example, I have built quite an extensive guide, essentially, for all the writers that I work with. To make sure we’re hitting all the very, very specific things that you might not necessarily think about just as you’re writing, but will be picked up when it gets to sort of the review process on the other side.
And you will have to change very quickly in between clients. And that does take a bit of a knack. Occasionally, you do find yourself slipping in a word that you think, Oh, yeah, they would not want to use this or I mean, backspace and move on.
David: Wow, it sounds like it’s a lot of kind of hat switching there. Could you tell us a bit about, you know, what an average day looks like for you? Um, you know, obviously, things are a bit different now, but kind of pre-COVID times or now.
Katy: I think not too much has changed in the way my day operates. Just less obvious face-to-face contact. One of the great things about Radix is, when we are all allowed to be in the same room together, you do have between ten and fifteen writers, depending on where we’re at in terms of recruiting. You have that many people all in the room together, which means you have a lot of kind of informal chats. And you have a lot of very immediate support, which we’ve had to, you know, try and translate into the world of Slack and constant Zoom calling.
Generally speaking, so at Radix, we have our morning meeting, and we run through the diaries. So the diaries, we don’t have to worry about that. We have an account management team, and they’re the people that handle the client-facing stuff. And they’re responsible for squishing everything into our little Outlook calendars, which I don’t envy: it is a skill. And it really is a skill really.
So you’ll set out your day there. And you’ll work out when things need to be shared across the team. So generally speaking, I tend to do maybe three client calls a week at the moment. I do a lot of stuff where I’m left to my own devices because I’m working on big projects. But yeah, generally speaking, maybe four hours of writing. And then we have some review time which is our internal process for checking that everything’s good to send clients. And days tend to be split across that. And with the odd meeting, interspersed, depending on who you need to talk to, and what your projects are.
David: Sure. But it’s a lot of kind of writing time and kind of working with the account managers who you know, do all the stuff about, what we’re going to deliver when, and what we’re going to charge for it. And all of that stuff that you know, freelancers, writers and things would need to look after themselves. That’s kind of mostly done for you and you know, you can kind of focus on the creative bit.
Katy: Yeah, we do have input on how much time we want and how much we need, because I do spend proportionally most of my time writing these days. And I think that that’s something that can be lost. If you’re a freelancer, and you do have to do all the juggling yourself, you end up you know, writing in your evenings and weekends, because when else do you do it.
David: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, you’re a Senior Copywriter now, as we mentioned, you actually started at Radix? Actually in the scheme of things. I mean, you’ve done this in record time. So only a few years ago you were a Junior Copywriter. So what’s the difference between those two roles?
Katy: It will be five years on September 1 that I’ve been with Radix. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. And I would say the main difference is when you get to Senior, you’re very much trusted with anything that a client can throw at you.
Even you know, if it comes with and near non-existent brief, you do have that kind of basis of knowledge that you’ve built up working with so many different clients, on so many different projects. So yeah, anything. We expect you to be able to write a tweet, we expect you to be able to write, you know, in the very rare cases that you write a 10,000-word report, but it does happen. We trust you to be able to do anything in that mix.
And I think our founder, Fiona, she always said that she thought it took five years to get really, really good at this job. And I think probably about two and a half years in, I was like, “I feel like I’m pretty good at this job”.
And then I reached this point, I was like, now is really the point where that experience really does start stacking up, because you have worked for you know, six, say cybersecurity companies over the years. So you learn things from your first one that you then add on for each one. And you can play different bits of knowledge to a new client when they come in. So you’re not it’s very rare that you’re learning a technology from scratch these days because you have a good basis.
There’s a lot of learning that goes on in the first year of being in tech, right?
David: Yeah, I bet. Thinking back, if you kind of cast your memory back all of that way, what kind of skills and experience did you have? You know, people often wonder, I suppose how much you need to know before you get into B2B copywriting? How much skills and experience Did you have before you started as a Junior?
Katy: I was pretty much as fresh as they come. I actually, the week that I interviewed for Radix, I had graduated, the Monday of that week – a very rapid turnaround. So I didn’t really have a lot of time to go out and do internships or any of that kind of stuff. So I had some writing experience, obviously, I did an English degree. So I had, you know that basis and in being able to write, but you do actually have to unlearn quite a lot of stuff that you learn, because an academic essay and a white paper really do not share that many features, apart from telling a compelling argument from start to finish, I think is the main thing you learn from that.
But I had done a little bit of work with a lighting designer, so a lady called Eleanor Bell, who is an electrician, and lighting designer who needed a new website. So I had a very tiny amount of knowledge about lighting, because my dad is an electrician, and has been for aeons.
So I had, you know, the very, very basic amount of knowledge, and went into this entirely new world that I had to learn what an ingress protection rating was, and all this kind of stuff. And I wrote her entire website, which was project pages, case studies, that kind of thing. All of her ‘About Me’ copy, that kind of thing. And that was really cool. The main chunk of experience I had before I came into this job. And I think that set me up really nicely because I knew how to attack a completely new subject from scratch.
David: Yeah, I mean, did you know a lot about the tech that we write about? So you said it was a learning curve, was it just, kind of, you picked all of that stuff up really quickly?
Katy: You do have to learn really quickly, I think I know the basics, I think it’s hard to avoid the basics, really, because a lot of it eventually filters down into consumer tech. So things like The Cloud, which is, you know, 90% of people’s messaging. You sort of fundamentally understand that if you’ve ever used Dropbox or something like that in your everyday life. And, you know, I played enough online games to understand the ‘as a service’ model, just about.
So, the basics are definitely there. But then you talk about, you know, hyper-scale cloud computing, and that’s just that’s the level of stuff we don’t you don’t see in the consumer space. So yeah, a very basic understanding that was built on very rapidly. But that’s the benefit of having such a big team of specialists behind you because the knowledge is there.
David: Yeah, we could I guess we’ve kind of skipped ahead a step. So you’ve worked with Eleanor, you were just about to graduate. So what made you go look at Radix and go, Ah, B2B copywriting. That’s for me, I’ll have a go at that.
Katy: So I’d like to say like, I came out of the womb, knowing I wanted to be a B2B copywriter…
David: Didn’t we all!
Katy: But the truth is, you don’t really know it. I think no one talks to you about it during school or university, it’s like you’ve got an English degree…so you’re going to be an English teacher. That’s about what they’ll see. But I, I hit on kind of the jackpot, really, because Elena Bell’s office is in the same building, as Radix’s office.
So I had lunch with some of our account managers in the kind of communal space of the building and it’s just sheer luck that I knew you were there. And I looked at the company, I was like, that’s probably a bit more legit than I am at this point. At this point, I felt like I was very new to it. And then the junior copywriting position went up online. And I spoke to Eleanor a little bit about it. And she was really pushing me to apply because thankfully, she liked the work I’d done.
David: She was very complimentary about you as well, as it goes.
Katy: That’s, that’s good to know. And yeah, I started to look into it a little bit more and kind of educate myself a little bit about copywriting. And realise that it was, you know, a very viable career path because my other plan was to go back to working at HobbyCraft and writing in my spare time. But um, yeah, the idea of being paid to write full time was just, it was too hard to pass up. So I took a shot. And here we are.
David: So let’s talk briefly, and I’m kind of aware that I want to leave time for people to ask questions, if you have questions, do pop them in the Q&A, or in the chat or whatever.
I wanted to talk about kind of that career path. And obviously, you’ve been on a journey from Junior Copywriter, through Copywriter, Content Lead, and now Senior Copywriter. What does that process look like? How long did it kind of take each stage? And how did that kind of work?
Katy: So I think I probably speed ran.
David: Yeah, I think that’s fair.
Katy: Yeah, four and a half years, I think is genuinely the record. But there are other writers snapping my heels now because we have a lot of very good people. I spent about six months as a Junior. And that’s really all learning all the time.
You spend a lot of your early time shadowing other writers to get up to speed on things. Because we don’t expect people to know intuitively how to write a good marketing blog, because it isn’t anything like you know, LiveJournal, is Live Journal still a thing, or am I showing my age a little bit there. It’s not like you know, everyday blogging, you do have to have a very specific set of skills.
So you spend a lot of time doing that. And yeah, running email campaigns, tweets, that kind of stuff like that. The smaller form things that are easier to get to grips with. And then I started as a Copywriter. And that’s when you start moving into the longer stuff, so you have your eBooks and your white papers, that kind of thing.
I spent about a year and a half as a Copywriter. And then you become, you have a little add on, which is the Content Lead, which is essentially you get a client or a set of clients that you’re in charge of. So everything that gets written for that client will come through you for review, which it’s one of the ways that we can expand the team to write on a client while ensuring that everything’s the same level of quality.
And, like you said, in keeping with style guides, and their tone, and their voice, and all that kind of thing. So I have one of our Microsoft agency relationships is one of mine, for example. And I’ve had a few that have moved around, depending on capacity and things like that over the years.
So I’ve got probably three or four that I’m in charge of now. They’re quite chunky clients. And then, yes, I hit Senior Copywriter last year. And like I said, that’s the point where we expect you to be able to survive anything that gets thrown at you, and support everybody, below you as well.
David: And I think one of the things that’s probably quite unusual, I guess, is, you know, going through, you know, these various bands and these kind of grades and things, you know, is that we do have, you know, quite a clear banding about what people need to do across all of these skills at each stage. Was that introduced before, or was that introduced while you were in the process of developing.
Katy: So I think, um, a lot of it was kind of refined as we went through it. So when, when I was hired in 2016, we had me as a Junior, and we had two Copywriters that came in at the same time. And that was when we really started paying attention to giving a really specific structure to how we grow.
I think Radix had been around for about seven years at that point, and we were starting to grow the team. And we were starting to really understand what you need to be able to do to get really good at this job.
So yeah, we have a very set process, but it is quite flexible, depending on what you need support with. So one of the main things that we do in our, our catch-ups every quarter is we identify the bits that we’re hitting and the bits that we need support with. And that’s what we focus on for each person.
David: Cool. We actually have some questions coming in. So let’s take a break out to do those because we’re, you know, we’re zooming through the time. So James asked, What percentage of your time is spent understanding or dissecting briefs set by clients, versus actually writing the copy? In the event that the given brief is limited? Do you end up mapping out your own?
Katy: That’s a really great question. It does vary. Sometimes you will get a very straightforward, very detailed brief. That maps out everything you need. And it’s just a case of looking at it, comparing it to our sort of, we have a bit of a menu of different content types. So sometimes it’s really as simple as just matching it to one of those and that’s about it. And then you can crack on.
Others take a bit more dissecting. So I would say you probably do spend 80% of your time writing. Sometimes clients do need a bit of support to get to where they need to be before you can actually start writing, and then it’s a bit more of a back and forth process. But a lot of our clients do look to us for support in that and they do understand that we probably know better than them about the copywriting requirements.
And there are some clients who will just send you a sentence and you run with it. And that’s sometimes that’s a blessing and sometimes trending towards a curse. It depends on how easy it is to research. But yeah, we don’t expect a Junior to look at a one sentence brief and be able to run with it. We will give it to one of the Seniors to kind of pick apart, and make sure they’ve got enough structure to work from. But I do really enjoy that there are some clients who say, “We want to write a blog about this… go!”. There’s one in particular that we do a lot of desk research for. And we’ve been able to research things like, what happens to ugly fruit around the world, and how that’s repurposed, and things like that. And that’s the real niche stuff that you can have a little bit of a jolly with, which I really enjoy.
David: I want to skip on to the fact that you’re now part of you’ve been through the whole process. And you’re now part of recruiting for the next Junior Copywriter. Interested know what you’re looking for? And as part of that, we have a question from David, who says, he’s a physics graduate, who became a journalist 30 years ago has worked a fair bit on business magazines. copywriting experiences is limited unless you count added to advertorial supplements is very good at writing interviews and case studies. He says I’m in my early 50s, were my age be a hindrance when it comes to getting a foothold in B2B copywriting?
Katy: I mean, I think absolutely not. I mean, I know I probably, a bit rich coming from someone who started at 21. But the thing we’re really interested in is, the stuff that you mentioned, the stuff that shows that you can adapt quickly, and you can learn the ropes quickly and that you have skills that are transferable.
Because the thing is, when we have people apply for the job, we just asked for a writing sample. And to be honest, we don’t really care too much what that sample is. Just as long as it’s good. That’s the main thing I submitted. I submitted three pieces. I submitted the introduction to my dissertation, I submitted a review of a video game. And another one of my essays, I think. And none of that was anything close. I submitted some of my stuff from Eleanor’s website as well. Yeah, nothing close to B2B tech copywriting. But obviously, there’s stuff that’s recognizable in it, even if it’s not exactly that.
David: Yeah, I think a lot of it is about kind of getting that complicated stuff and making that really, really simple and that kind of thing. Yes, we are getting towards the end of our time. I think we will be wrapping up very, very soon.
But we have a couple more questions. Anthony wants to know about whether to change to a limited company rather than being a sole trader? I’d say Anthony, that’s something probably I have more experience than Katy. So if you want to find me on LinkedIn, David McGuire and ask me that on LinkedIn, I’m happy to chat about that, because I have some experience of that.
And Sayed wants to ask about writing for a US audience versus writing for a UK audience. Do the voice and tone differ between the two things? Because it is the thing where, you know, we have to write for people around the world, right?
Katy: Yeah, I think in terms of voice and tone, I don’t think they necessarily differ between the UK and the US. I think that just tends to be a company to company thing. The funny thing about writing in US and UK is there are a lot of very tiny things like toward or towards, that you don’t think about. It’s not the obvious doesn’t have a ‘u’ in it or not. Which I do spend a lot of time thinking about and picking out of people’s copy, I think they hate me for it. But that’s one of the main things I think.
Where you do experience more difference is where you’re writing for primarily non-English speaking countries. So things that are going to be in English for people who have it as a second language or stuff that’s going to be translated because a lot of the turns of phrase that you use quite naturally in the UK in the US just do not translate well. And particularly when we write for German translation, you tend to have to write quite economical copy, because words are just so much longer. It’s stuff like that you don’t always think about to start with I think that’s the main thing like not dropping in super-specific Cornish idioms that no one’s going to understand.
David: We haven’t mentioned that we’re based in Cornwall, but we are and it’s beautiful. Tamar –there’s a Cornish name – Tamar says, “Is there scope to enter the field at a higher level coming from a B2B tech marketing background? Writing all company copy rather than from scratch as a Junior?”
Katy: Yes, for sure. I think we’ve recruited copywriters that come in at a higher level and kind of have, maybe not necessarily the copywriting experience. But do you have the grounding in marketing or tech, that means you can get up to speed quickly? You can come in with one of those skills, then we can help fill in the other, I think that’s the main thing.
David: As long as you can write. If you can write well, and succinctly and stuff, that’s pretty non-negotiable, I think. We’ve had a good set of questions. And you’ve gone into lots of detail for us, Katy. So thank you very much.
I’m aware that there were other questions, we’re over time. But just to finish up, was there one more question that you wanted to address around, whether it’s good and bad things about the job, or what you’re looking for in the next writer, or what you wish you’d known at the start of your time at Radix that you know now.
Katy: I think it’s a bit of a cop out, say, I’d like to have known everything about B2B copywriting before I started being a B2B Copywriter. I think I’d like to talk a little bit about what we were looking for. We are actively recruiting for a Junior at the moment.
David: We are. Spoiler alert: yes…
Katy: That’s right. You can apply. Like you said, the main thing is, we just need to know that you can write. So honestly, your CV is kind of secondary, because we’re looking at your cover letter, and we’re looking at your writing sample. And it’s very easy to see from those if people have a knack.
And we know that people get nervous. And we know it’s not, you know, writing covering letters is not a natural skill for everybody. But we can, we can see in that if you’ve got, I guess, like the spark that we can, we can turn to B2B copy.
And I think enthusiasm is enormous. You do have to be a person that is really keen to learn about things. And to be a little sponge for highly technical information. We’re not technical writers, but we do write about technical subjects. So you do need to have, you know, a base understanding. I will say like, when I was a Junior, there were times where I was on the phone to a client and they’d mentioned a term and I would just have to sneaky Google it, while they were talking.
That does happen because you do talk to people who have PhDs in this stuff, and they will always be the best source of information. So don’t expect to have to learn absolutely everything you can trust the client to give you that information. But yeah, being really keen to learn is really important and just keen to work in a big group of very lovely, very talented people. I think that’s the main thing that we’re looking for.
David: Lovely, I was waiting for the “But…”
Katy: No “But…”. Just a big room full of nerds.
David: They’re all nerds. Lovely, talented, supportive nerds is definitely what our team looks like. Other agencies may vary. Other agencies in fairness, you’ll probably be able to earn more, but they will probably expect longer hours and you might not be quite as fluffy as employers as we, but who knows.
Katy: They rarely have waterside offices as well. Oh, yes. Yeah, we saw dolphins.
David: We had literal dolphins in the river outside our office it’s true. And they came at lunchtime, which I thought was really considerate of them. Anyway. We are, I’m afraid out of time, and there’s so much more that we could talk about, you know, development and review and the quality assurance process.
But, Katy, I’m so grateful to you for agreeing to do this and to talk to these fine people.
Katy: Thank you so much
David: And thanks all of you as well, who have come along and submitted your questions, got in contact with us, and spent your time with us. I really do appreciate it. As we say, if you are interested in B2B copywriting as a career, we are currently recruiting for a Junior Copywriter.
But to Tamar’s point, we are always looking, for good writers with potential who may well come in or also at a more senior level, we have a careers page on the Radix website that can tell you a bit more about that as well. So if you have any questions, do contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Twitter @Radixcom, or Radix Communications on LinkedIn.
Very happy to chat and answer any more questions in those forums. But as for now, we are thoroughly over time, I’m afraid. So we’ll have to call it to a halt there. Thank you very much, Katy. And thanks, everyone, for coming.