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The Penfolders: Meet our freelancers, Ben Hayes, Copywriter

Ellie Lister
Wednesday 5th August, 2020

You’ve already heard that Penfold is built for the self employed and freelancer community. But have you heard that we’re actually built by our self employed community too? From web developers to coding whizzes to marketing, our freelancers help strengthen our business each and every day. So we wanted to introduce them to you in our blog series, The Penfolders. Next up is our freelance copywriter, Ben. 

Meet Ben Hayes, our amazing copywriter, a crafter of words and the genius behind our billboard quotes.

Tell us a bit about yourself, what you do and how long you’ve been doing it for.

I’m a freelance copywriter, and have been for about three years.

In its simplest terms, that means I tell brands what to say and how to say it. In boring industry terms, that means working across four areas: brand positioning, messaging frameworks, tone of voice, and creative campaigns.

Why did you become a freelancer?

It was never the plan to become one. I took some time off in 2018 but couldn’t find the right job to come back to, so picked up some freelance work instead. The idea of not receiving a monthly pay cheque used to really scare me, and it took a while to switch into freelance life.

It doesn’t become easy. It just stops being impossible.

How did you find writing Penfold’s Billboards, anything that inspired you?

It’s easy, and way more enjoyable, to write about what you know. Being self-employed, and not having a pension, I’m Penfold’s target market so I wrote based on my experiences.

The past few months in lockdown have been challenging. Clients went cold turkey and I didn’t get any government support. That said, the extra time meant I could get things off my to-do list which have been there for years. Like sorting a pension.

The ‘Self-Employed Struggles’ route we went down was a way of recognising all those little and complex moments of joy and pain you get as a freelancer. And saying: ‘Penfold can’t help with that. But they can help with your pension. Really quickly.’

We crowdsourced these struggles from the Penfold community and added a few of our own. Then it was a case of making them short and snappy for the billboards, and sprinkling them with a bit of humour.

What was your favourite Billboard quote?

“Having to mute yourself on a client call while your washing machine prepares for takeoff.”

It’s happened to me far too many times.

What’s your favourite & most difficult thing about working for yourself?

A lot of things I like are about what I don’t have to do anymore… Long internal meetings. Passive-aggressive office politics. Being at one desk from 9-5. More positively, having a bit more freedom during the day is great.

The difficult thing? Is saying ‘having to go through a global pandemic by yourself’ too obvious? That’s been tough. You have to invest a lot of energy every day to keep things moving. Both personally and work-wise.

What are your top tips for freelancers, and for aspiring writers?

For freelancers… Drink good coffee. It’s the most important of the least important things.

For writers… Consume as much stuff as possible (papers, programmes, podcasts etc.). Even stuff you find boring. Think critically about it. Why is it boring? Was it the writing or story? You can then avoid those ‘mistakes’ in your future work.

Then practice. Start with your emails. How can you make them pain-free and punchy? Write some letters to family. It’s old school. It’s therapeutic. And it’s a great way of reflecting on what you have to say about issues.

Oh and read anything from Malcolm Gladwell and Marina Hyde.

What do you love to do outside of crafting words?

Johnny Cash said, when asked about his version of paradise: “This morning. With her. Having coffee.”

His her was June Carter Cash. Mine is my fiancé. The simple stuff is always the best stuff. 

Go check out Ben's website and follow him on twitter and instagram, and Linkedin here.

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