Copywriting adds a new dimension
As I’ve mentioned in various blog posts, before I was a translator I used to be a journalist. I knew my journalistic career was coming to an end when, after early success, promotion, moving to a new paper, being sacked and returning to my original employer, I was sent, albeit in a different role, to the same district office where I had started work thirteen years before. It was as if I had come full circle, and I felt sure that my future professional life had to take another course.
I could not have dreamed, of course, of how it would happen. No-one seriously anticipates a chance meeting that results in falling in love and moving to a new country. But even had I stayed, it’s fairly clear, given what’s happened to the newspaper industry over the past decade, that sooner or later I would simply have been made redundant. The circle would have closed one way or another.
It was a strange feeling then, a few weeks ago, when a colleague asked me to help her out with some copywriting work for an existing and quite high-level client. It wasn’t the kind of journalism I’d been used to doing all those years ago – this time I was writing press releases, not news or business stories – but the principles were the same: compile the information, put the most important aspects at the top, think of the message, think of the reader, don’t leave out anything vital and check, check, check! I loved it; it was as if a part of me, long buried inside, was coming alive and, fortunately, it proved to be no exercise in self-indulgence, because my colleague was very pleased with my work.
One effect of this project that I noticed was its effect on my translation work. I’m convinced that the exhilarating stimulus of having some professional writing to do has made me sharper and more critical of the texts I produce. I’m not sure why this should be, but I’m convinced this slight change of focus is making me bolder and better in what is now my “ordinary” work.
It’s also a potentially useful new (or not so new) string to my bow. In fact, I’ve always offered copywriting services and I do advertise them on my website, but in a rather half-hearted way I have to admit. That has to end and I’m planning to look much more actively for clients who want this kind of service over the coming months. Because one response to the relentless advance of machine translation into the middle market which I described in a recent post, would be to develop this strand as a major part of my business. After all, I can take a brief in English, Catalan, Spanish or French and develop it into original English copy. A machine can’t do that and is unlikely to be able to in my lifetime. There has to be a market for the service, it’s simply a question of finding it.
Going back into writing as a professional would, of course, break the “closed circle” with which I put away my journalistic career. But for some time I’ve been coming to realise that life isn’t really about circles anyway. I see it more as a spiral, on which we move upwards, round and round. Sometimes that brings us close to places we have been before, and we can see them with greater perspective, occasionally even kidding ourselves that we have gone backwards or simply round in a circle. We never do, of course. Onwards and upwards is the only way.