Marcus Johnson admits he’s drawn to the mysteries of language. He’s spent a large part of life pursuing the right words, in fact.
The freelance Victorian creative director and copywriter recalls excelling at English as a kid, and hit an early peak as spelling champion in primary school.
The voracious reader has what is sometimes referred to as a ‘gimlet eye’ when it comes to typos. They’re the bane of his existence.
He’s chosen the right path in life. The copywriter has attracted a stable of varied clients who come to him for his passion and dedication to the job. He spent 13 years working with a big, successful agency smack bang in the middle of Melbourne’s agency heartland – St Kilda Road – where he worked on some of the world’s best brands over the years.
Marcus hasn’t looked back since going out on his own as a freelance creative director and copywriter. In fact, he’s in hot demand.
He’s easier to track down now he’s listed on The Freelance Collective. In fact, a few of his best projects in recent months have come from clients who have found his profile on the site.
We decided to ask Marcus a bit more about what he does, and how he does it. Both to inspire other freelancers, and so potential clients needing a freelance copywriter with a meticulous eye for detail can reach out to him about their next project:
Q: How did you get your start in freelancing?
A: When I was working in a Big Agency, I would often be asked to freelance for smaller clients. This eventually grew and became a solid stream of work. After I was retrenched, I freelanced for lots of agencies and continued to build my own clients until I was able to make the jump to open my own business. That’s still going and I continue to offer services as a freelancer. The best of both worlds, so to speak.
Q: What skills do you offer on a freelance basis?
A: Primarily concepts and copy. My core skill is as a copywriter but I’m also a visual person and a brand thinker. I’ve always been fascinated by the bigger picture and where everything sits and feeds back into developing a great brand. Using words (and pictures) to build clear and concise communication is a craft that I learned from some incredible mentors. Writing well can be a powerful and often underutilised commercial tool to create interest, trust and action. Particularly in the digital space.
Q: What are your tools of the trade?
A: At the most basic, a pen that I like (Uniball Eye medium, please) and some sheets of A4. Beyond that, it’s Microsoft Word for copy drafts. I have worked with some very gifted designers, editors and retouchers who have politely directed me to do what I do well and let them get on with the task of creating gorgeous layouts, images and videos.
Q: What sort of clients do you work with?
A: Every level from direct relationships with CEO’s to brand managers to microbusinesses looking for some help with the things they can’t do. Currently on the desktop is a job for BMW Corporate as well as ongoing website updates for my partner’s growing nurse-led clinic.
Q: What sets you apart from other freelancers working with the same creative skills as you?
A: Experience. Attitude. Quality. Ability to deliver over and above.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a freelancer?
A: The boss (me) is decent enough to cut me some slack from time to time so I can be with family, get out into the garden, experience life and maintain a single figure golf handicap.
Q: What’s your top tip for being a successful freelancer?
A: Understand that you will experience lean times and that you need to have a buffer to pull you through them.
Q: Where do you promote yourself and how do most of your clients find you?
A: TFC, of course. Which has been a brilliant initiative. Linked In gives me some added opportunities to connect with the broader business community. Much of my work has been through existing networks and peer recommendations but I can see I need to utilise social media to add some personal branding. That will be quite a challenge as I am way more comfortable on the other side of the camera. But I will run towards my fear and embrace it.
Q: What advice do you have for others considering taking the leap into freelancing?
A: Freelancing is becoming the norm. A job for life seems like a fanciful notion these days so it’s best to take responsibility for your future and join the self-employed. Consider the costs as there are many. Do your homework and be diligent around the money thing. Be realistic and question the ‘anyone can be an entrepreneur’ ethos. But equally, surprise yourself with how far you can stretch your talents.
Read more about Marcus on his profile page, or reach out to him via his contact details listed here.
She writes for a range of leading newspaper and magazine groups, including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, INTHEBLACK and AFR. She also writes content for a range of brands and publishers, and works with spirited entrepreneurs to bring their story to life for the media.
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