The man behind the monster
As featured on ProCopywriters Company Spotlight
When and why did you start Word Monster?
We hit the medical communications scene in 2016 as a lean, mean, solo copywriting machine. But I’d always planned to start a full-blown agency, as soon as I ruddy well could.
Working in-house, I started to notice things that didn’t make sense to me. Niggles here and there at first. Things that bothered me, like not being able to work from home occasionally, working ridiculous hours (“it’s just part of the job and industry”, they’d say) and wasting my life sitting in traffic, every morning and every evening.
So, I said, no, not like this. And once I consciously began to observe the inner workings of the agencies I’d come from, I started to picture a better and brighter way for everyone – a way for clients to get an excellent service from senior, experienced writers.
But, more importantly, a way that the writers themselves could get the flexibility they desired coupled with the rewards that they deserved.
What do you wish you’d known back then that you know now?
Professionally, there’s nothing I wish I’d known. I don’t much like spoilers; it ruins the fun. Say anything about Game of Thrones before I’ve sat down to watch it and beware of incoming projectiles.
I believe that it’s important to enjoy the journey and not try to rush to the end. Live in the moment, or blink and you’ll miss it.
Personally, I’d like to have known that our baby bump, Harry (who was just a few months away at the time I’d made the jump), was going to have difficulties.
It’s been a challenge to grow a budding business alongside bringing up a beautiful baby boy with Moebius Syndrome (and two other kids). But then again, we wouldn’t be where we are now without making that leap.
If you wait until you’re ready you’ll be waiting the rest of your life – it goes for having children and it goes for starting an agency.
“Choose a niche and make it yours”
How would you describe your team?
Trusted, free, authentic and inspired. When you’re breaking new ground, it can be difficult for everyone to see which way is forward. Every day gives us new opportunities to grow and develop. And that’s what makes it fun.
What does your average day look like?
Average days don’t really exist at Word Monster.
My best day would include writing a patient leave piece about iron deficiency to a tight brief, reviewing a detail aid on a new treatment for psoriasis, passing on positive client feedback to the team, putting some fresh irons in the fire and going for my quarterly massage – everyone gets those.
My worst day would be when we’ve run out of tea bags. It happened yesterday – terrible to let it come to that, really.
What kind of clients do you work with – and how do you help them?
Like-minded ones. We’re serious about healthcare, but down to earth in conversation. We’re personable and we like to get personal.
In terms of business types, we work with healthcare agencies, pharmaceutical companies, start-ups, charities, research organisations and universities.
We Write With Bite to make their messages stick. That could be detailing the benefits of one medicine over another to a doctor or a nurse. Or it could be helping a patient to remember to take their medication, in the right way and at the right time.
Because we all work remotely (and not in a big, inefficient, high-overhead office) it means that our clients have access to a superb service that’s value for money.
We pass our low-overhead savings onto them. And we’re also able to hire the right people, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. That’s why we’re all senior, experienced writers.
“We work with like-minded clients”
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Hearing people openly appreciate the culture we’ve built. Whether it’s a client saying how forward thinking or ahead of the curve we are (or occasionally how much they’d like to work for us), or whether it’s seeing a candidate’s eyes light up when we tell them that rule number one is to put their own life first.
What do you enjoy least?
There’s nothing worse than saying no to someone who’d love to work for you. But unfortunately for us, we can’t hire every great writer that walks through the door (not literally, we don’t have a door).
Maybe one day. Please come back to us, won’t you?
What project are you most proud of?
Completing a PhD on the role of adipocyte and liver Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase 1B in glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity (our staff would probably all put their PhDs first too).
Proud because it was tough – the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And writing it was long, excruciating and boring (it’s completely different from the creative and medical writing work that we do now).
But the good news is, nothing else ever comes close to the mental toughness required to get through a PhD. It sets your mind up to take on any challenge and know that it’s going to be okay.
The Word Monster brand itself is something I’m prouder of still. The logo, the monster (his name is Toothy), the Write With Bite slogan – it’s all come together quite nicely.
What advice would you give people moving from working alone to starting an agency?
Put a blindfold on, spin around until you’re dizzy and fall over in any direction. Don’t worry, you’re okay because one of your team caught you. Invest in trust and give your team the tools and inspiration to help each other out.
Know that you’re not the best at everything; hire the Yin to your Yang. Delegate. Share. And do sensible things like putting enough money in the bank to cover salaries for 3 months or so.
Luckily, we haven’t had a single day unbooked in the past 3 years, maybe because we’re in such a niche. So, hmm, yes, that too. Choose a niche and make it yours.
Do you hire freelancers? If so, describe your ideal freelance copywriter
Heck yea, we use freelancers. Our tried and trusted freelance writers are fantastic.
Some have been with us for a good while, others help to fill in the busy spikes. It helps to have consistent work in the business before the next permanent hire too.
We break the mould in the healthcare writing arena – all of our writers are capable of creative copywriting as well as technical medical writing.
Traditionally, a writer would fall into one or the other – a ‘medical copywriter’ (creative) or a ‘medical writer/science writer’ (technical). So, it helps if a freelancer has experience in both healthcare advertising and medical communications. Must have a sense of humour too.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
The webinars are a useful way for our remote team to access training. We’ll be coming along to the Copywriting Conference 2019 this year too, so the registration fee discount was a bonus.
The site is a great place to add blogs for additional exposure – another way for like-minded clients to find their way to our doorstep. Maybe the free job ads will help to add the next monster to the troop too. We’ll see.
“We hold client consultations in VR”
Where can people find out more about Word Monster?
In real life, I’m at Whoosh Play Centre or various other soft play arenas at the weekends with my three kids – our weekend Word Monster headquarters.
Alternatively, pop in for a cup of tea at our Bracknell, Uxbridge, Swindon or Dublin offices.
Virtually – we could chat on Skype, Zoom or virtual reality (if you have a VR headset) if you send me an email to email@example.com
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