Rachael Amesbury is a freelance copywriter with a B2B SaaS technology focus.
She has honed her skills in Sydney, London, and New York, managing content engines for several VC-funded startups.
Rachael established her freelance copywriting business in late 2019, just pre-pandemic! You Zig, I’ll Zag was born from a desire to help businesses outsource high-quality, SEO-friendly content.
Aside from writing articles, emails, ebooks, white papers, and websites, Rachael writes comic screenplays and can often be found hassling comedy bigwigs.
You can see her performing her character acts online with Funny Women, and when the world reopens, local pub stages in London.
How Did You Become a Writer?
I started my writing education with a degree in film and literature, focusing on scriptwriting as my final dissertation - the (terrible) final screenplay still lives on a floppy disk at my mum’s house!
I loved watching movies and writing at university but got derailed when I entered “the real world.”
I worked in recruitment for a few years, then moved to Australia from the UK and enjoyed a career in event marketing agencies.
Working in marketing reignited my spark for the written word through creating pitches and proposals for clients.
As blogs and social media boomed in my twenties, I had more opportunities to write and slowly became recognised as the “writer” wherever I was working.
I eventually pivoted from marketing agencies to client-side roles, and it was probably there I got more involved in writing, and my journey came full circle.
I’m an imperfect writer.
I’m lightning fast at researching and putting an article together but not terribly accurate with spelling - so over the years, I've had to give extra love to this.
Because I'm weaker in this area, it forces me to pay more attention, making me better at what I do.
My point is, don’t let spelling hold you back - if you’ve got a gift for storytelling, it needs to be shared!
How Did You Get Your First Writing Job?
I can’t remember my first writing job, but I would imagine it was when I was still working full-time in marketing and put my hand up to write the odd blog article.
Putting your hand up for tasks that fall outside your role is one of the best and quickest ways to get exposure to new areas you’re interested in.
My first ever client as a full-time freelance copywriter came through a recommendation from my aunty (Thanks Carolyn!), and my second client came through connections I had made in Australia.
Once I had the confidence to sell my writing services, I put myself out there, and the work came relatively easily.
My “secret” has been tapping into my business relationships, most of my work is through referral, and I’ve also used Facebook groups to find writing projects when I’ve needed to top up my client base.
I'm lucky that I’ve got a lot of connections in marketing who are now seniors in various companies - but I still have to hustle.
Being a freelance writer also means being a salesperson, account manager, and savvy business person!
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Good Writer?
You need to have a natural knack for writing, but you must also enjoy the art of writing. There is more to it than opening a blank document and typing.
First, you need to enjoy (or at least master) research and create a framework as much as the writing itself.
Writing is like building a house; you must develop sound foundations and a structural framework to support your writing.
Most new writers don’t realise there is quite a science behind writing - especially when you are writing B2B content like I am.
Writing is inherently creative, but it’s also a process that aims to impart information or convince the reader. The more you hone your technique, the more robust your work will become.
A beneficial skill is a positive mindset. You will experience setbacks. Your work will be criticised and torn to pieces during the editing process. You need to build a thick skin.
You need to be able to demystify complex subjects into easy-to-understand bite-size chunks, so an ability to read between the lines and translate concepts is advantageous.
Often writing is about finding the right angle, and without it, the piece might not work, so being able to sniff out the right way to frame a piece of writing is crucial - and this ability will set you apart from other writers.
The way you develop angles is part of your creative magic and will give your writing an edge.
What Influences Your Writing the Most?
Without sounding cheesy, the subject and research for me is the inspiration. Like an actor becoming a character in a movie, my role as a writer is to step into the shoes of a person or a business and tell their story.
I need to be inspired by the story, the product, or the vision to write a great piece of content.
That said, we all have to work to live, and work can often be dull. In these moments, I turn to music to help me!
As an ex-film student, I am obsessed with films and TV.
I get pretty excited when I find a show with a great script. The writers on Billions and Succession are out-of-this-world good; there are so many jaw-dropping one-liners.
I also enjoy watching old Friends episodes and analysing how they form the jokes. It’s more for comedy writing, but it’s good practice to seek out excellent writing.
What Tools and Software Do You Use for Work?
Google Docs! I'm obsessed with Google Docs.
I also live for Grammarly; this tool is my best friend when writing and editing a final piece. I use the premium version and cannot recommend it enough, especially if, like me, you worry about your spelling and grammar.
In my scriptwriting life, I use Final Draft - it’s the gold standard for scriptwriting, and it’s pretty expensive but worth every penny.
What Are Your Writing Habits?
When I have a task, I can be a huge procrastinator - this stems from handling tasks quickly and working better under pressure.
I enjoy flying by the seat of my pants too, but that’s another story.
I don’t advise this method, especially to new writers - I recommend creating a content plan first, then filling in the blanks, leaving a few days, and coming back to it.
I always edit better the day after.
It’s much better to edit with a fresh perspective after the words have rested and fermented in your brain while making dinner.
I learned while working in UX that “sleeping on it” is a real thing.
We do see things differently the morning after, so I practice this and allow enough time to do this before sending the first drafts to clients.
The best advice is that you can’t edit a blank page. Writing something is better than nothing; at least you have a starting point.
So I write, and when I’m not writing, I’m reading.
I dedicate at least 1 page of writing to my personal projects daily, even if it is total rubbish.
I'm better off to have put something down on paper than nothing at all. I’ll also just write ideas in my notes whenever something comes to me.
I use Brain.fm to concentrate. I'm listening to it right now!
What’s the Best Investment You Made in Your Career?
The best investment I made in my career was to start my own business.
I spent years working for other people, trying to be a master of all trades, when writing was the one trade I knew I wanted to do.
I invested in believing that I could make a living from writing on my terms, and now I'm doing it.
It took me so long, mostly because my husband and I moved around a lot.
Living in New York, we needed a visa, and my permanent job as a content manager afforded us that security and experience. We’d never have been able to live there without my job.
There are always trade-offs.
Sometimes, it’s hard to take yourself seriously. It’s easy for imposter syndrome to stop you from believing you can do what other people are already doing with mediocrity.
What Are the Most Influential Books in Your Life?
I set myself a goal to read 50 books this year.
I love reading and have recently discovered audiobooks, which I used to think were just for nannas. It turns out they’re an excellent way to zone out.
I love listening to them on walks, which I’ve been doing a lot during the pandemic.
I’m a massive non-fiction fan; I enjoy reading about other people’s lives and experiences as it’s fascinating to put myself in someone else’s shoes.
The real beauty of reading is imagining. Reading, more than film, helps you to use your imagination. Flexing that muscle is vital for someone who relies on the creative left brain for their work.
Some of the year’s highlights were:
- Educated by Tara Westover
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
- The Psychopath Test by John Ronson
- Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
- Idiot by Laura Clery
I read a lot of anti-racism books over the summer after the events in the USA and here in the UK.
I wanted to educate myself as a white, middle-class woman.
I’m aware of my privilege, and it’s essential (absolutely crucial) for me to understand how to fight racism actively.
Books I read were:
- How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram Xolani Kendi
- So, You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
My all-time favourite is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which was just remade by Netflix.
It’s such a captivating and dark story and talks about our most profound insecurities. I could read it a hundred times.
What Are Your Favorite Writing Quotes?
“Keep It Simple Stupid: KISS.”
This acronymous phrase reminds me not to overcomplicate anything I write.
A manager gave me this nugget of wisdom when I was walking her through a lengthy marketing budget, getting tongue-tied, and overcomplicating the math.
She just said to me, “keep it simple stupid.” I was shocked at first but grew to love this saying. You can often hear me muttering this phrase when unravelling a complicated SaaS product!
I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Liz talks a lot about how ideas flit into our minds to be made by us at that moment, and if we don’t take the idea, it will wing its way to someone else.
It’s not a quote, but this concept that we can seize an idea and be its creator or choose to pass it along to someone else resonates with me.
It also helps to not put massive pressure on yourself too. Sort of a magical “What will be, will be.”
If Someone Wants to Be Where You Are Now, How Can They Get There?
If you’re in a writing-adjacent role - try to get as many writing opportunities as possible.
- Go on a short course on Zoom.
- Practice writing at home and send your work to friends and family to give feedback.
- Install Grammarly.
- Read, and read, and read some more.
- Join FB groups for writers.
- Find writing friends.
- Join a writing group where you can write short stories or articles.
- Submit your work to competitions.
- Offer to write for family businesses.
- Start a blog.
If you’re wondering about going freelance and you’re already a writer, I would usually categorically say go for it, but as this year has been tricky for everyone, I would try to line up a few pieces of work first.
If you can stand the uncertainty, the biggest rocket up the backside is the fear of not being able to pay rent - it’s not ideal, but you’ll hustle a lot harder without a safety net.
If I could start freelancing earlier, I would have.
Get great at networking and get used to the idea that even though you are a writer tapping away on a keyboard, you will need to be fabulous at client service, admin, and all the other fun stuff that comes with running a business.
My business is built on referrals and repeat business, writing is one part, but regular communication and exceptional service are just as important.
And if you are just looking to write more, don’t let anything stop you. Start keeping a journal, and pledge to write a little every day, even if it's 10 minutes.
And finally, remember to just start.