Sophie Clifton-Tucker is Editor-in-Chief at The Gibraltar Magazine (Gibraltar's number one community magazine) and Gibraltar Business (a quarterly on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce). As content and copywriting specialist, Sophie creates art with words. Besides having a bachelor's degree in English with honors and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, Sophie already taught English all over the world, Oxford, Australia, New Zealand, and Tokyo. After teaching English at several different places Sophie founded her very own language school, called Little English.
In this interview Sophie will talk about her journey of becoming a content and copywriting specialist, how a typical day in her life looks like, how she structures her work, and how she stays productive and makes the most out of her creativity.
And now, let’s start with the interview.
Thank you so much Sophie for taking your time to become a part of Creativerly's interview series. Please gives us an introduction of yourself to kick this interview off.
Thank you for having me! I’m Sophie, sometimes Soph, editor of two local magazines (The Gibraltar Magazine & Gibraltar Business), founder of the Little English language school, business development manager at ISOLAS LLP, owner of SCT Copy marketing and copywriting agency, and creator of the By Design newsletter for Prototypr. That about sums it up!
What was your journey like of becoming a content and copywriting specialist? When did you realise you want to make it your profession?
It’s funny how you fall into things, isn’t it? I always thought I’d end up on the West End, belting out some musicals. Life had different plans for me, and the musician in me was relegated to 3am karaoke sessions in dive bars.
My undergraduate degree was nice and safe; English language and literature. Shortly after, I completed a PGCE (post-graduate teaching degree) and then a CELTA. After those years were up, I was in a right panic. Stuck in that limbo between becoming an adult, but still having to call your dad when any minor inconvenience presented itself.
Naturally, I fled the country. A tactic I highly recommend. I spent the next 5 years travelling the world, teaching English to fund my adventure. During my time living in Tokyo, I was asked by Gib Mag whether I wanted to become a regular contributor to their travel section, as a ‘local abroad’... Once you start going down some semblance of a career path, related opportunities often crop up.
At this point I was ready to move back home, taking all that I’d learned from the various schools around the globe and channeling into my very own school, co-run by my better half. Shortly after, the Editor of Gib Mag resigned and managed to rope me in as her successor. At this point, it seemed I was juggling a fair bit (little did I know what was to come!) but it was still all sort of related. Gibraltar Business followed shortly, a quarterly publication produced on behalf of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce tackling - unsurprisingly - business matters.
After managing these businesses for a good 2-3 years, I was welcomed into the business development team of local law firm ISOLAS as their Content and Copywriting Manager. It’s not something I’d have ever imagined doing, but again, these opportunities appear when you least expect them, and somehow just make sense.
Simultaneously I had also started my side company, SCT Copy. Initially I thought this would be for the odd job; an article here, blog post there. It’s sort of snowballed into an all-round marketing business since then, with a great team behind it
How does a typical workday look like? Are there any challenges you face regularly? And how do you overcome them?
The great thing about running your own ship is that no two days are the same. But that in itself is a challenge! It’s also great knowing you can take lunch whenever you want, but the reality is you’ll skip most of them as you put your business first.
On a regular day, I wake up at 7:30 to enjoy that very needed sweet spot before everyone wakes up and your inbox starts lighting up like a Christmas tree. Most of my inboxes (there are five!) are cleared by 9am, which is when the real graft starts. On the magazine side of things, I could be anywhere around (or up!) the Rock conducting interviews and attending to press calls. When I’m physically able to, I’ll head to ISOLAS to get out any content that needs to be released. All the while, my partner (mercifully) holds down the fort at Little English. Once I get home, the fun isn’t over! I switch hats and tend to whatever outstanding articles or other content that needs tackling. At some point around 10-11pm, the laptop closes, as do my peepers.
You are the Editor-in-Chief at The Gibraltar Magazine and Gibraltar Business, and on top of that, you are running a language school. How do you structure your work? Are there any tools you use to be more productive?
I watched an excellent little video on the ingredients for a ‘successful business’ cocktail. It posits that 25% is diligence (hard work), 25% prudence (the ability to make the right decision), 25% perfectionism, and 25% organisation. And that’s how I try to split it myself. On the organisation side of things, I find certain tools can really make the whole process less painful. Trello is a godsend for organising my myriad tasks by importance, and by company. Todoist is another firm fave. Buffer is an excellent tool for uploading social media posts en masse and staggering them for the week/month - something that is otherwise incredibly time consuming. And when you’re juggling multiple roles, losing 15 mins here and 30 mins there could effectively mean the difference between closing a deal or fumbling in the background playing catch-up. Canva is a nifty little website for knocking up quick designs. And Dropbox gets a special mention for keeping all my absolute chaos accessible from one location across all my devices.
What do you think makes great copywriting? How would you define that?
Thats a good question. And probably one that has many right answers. But overall, I’d say authenticity. Don’t try to bamboozle them with your bullshit. People can smell phoniness and deception a mile off (I’m looking at you, Bootea). But get your reader to trust what’s behind your words (and mean it), and you’re onto a winner.
Also, humour and naughty words are almost always a good idea.
What would be your number one advice for anyone who wants to start a career in copywriting or in general wants to bring thoughts down to paper?
Always carry a pen and paper with you (or a phone app, for the more digitally inclined). You never know when creativity is going to strike! (Usually when you have neither of these things to hand...)
And market yourself shamelessly. Create a website portfolio where you can upload a copy of your CV, as well as a list of all the bits and bobs you’ve done. (Here’s mine as an example: www.sctcopy.com - It’s so easy to lose track of these things.) Write to you local magazines and newspapers with some topical ideas, maybe even some pre-written articles of interest which they can use in a pinch. As an Editor, I’m grateful for these sorts of things! Similarly, offer your services to popular Medium blogs and websites that accept submissions.
Be prepared to work for free, but not forever. Once you’ve gained enough experience, know your worth, and make sure others do too. People will often pay you as little as they think they can get away with. If you think you deserve more, bloody well ask for it! No harm in trying. I wrote a little piece on this last year: Freelancing shouldn't be free - here's how to get paid.
And learn to grow thick skin. (I’m still working on this one.) Some people are going to love what you write, and some will think it’s absolute crapspackle. They might both be right. Plough on.
Writing is one of the most creativity-challenging processes in my opinion. How do you handle creative blocks?
Ahh the old writer’s block. Or as I like to call it, Monday morning. We all have optimum times for creativity; some people work best in the quiet of the morning, and some at witching hour. Whatever works for you, if you’re lucky enough to choose!
Also for the love of god don’t force it. A wise man once told me: “It’s like forcing a fart. You’ll end up with shit.” Thanks dad.
Put some distance between yourself and the work at hand. Make a cup of tea. Go for a walk. Heck, have a nap should the moment take you! But truly turn your mind to other things for a while. Once you come back to a project with fresh eyes, it’s amazing how much easier it seems than when you’re sat at your desk with chicken scratch in front of you and a head full of TV static. Be kind to yourself. You’re not a robot. At least not a very convincing one.
Do you follow any productivity techniques? How do you normally stay productive during your day?
At the risk of a few eye rolls and sounding inCREDibly self righteous, probably the biggest influence on my productivity has been doing away with the ol’ giggle juice. I stopped drinking over 2 years ago just to see if I could, and then rather enjoyed the effects. It turns out you can get a heck of a lot more done when you don’t have your head in a box of noodles feeling incredibly sorry for yourself on a Saturday.
On a more general day-to-day basis, it’s much the same as with the creativity process; take regular breaks and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re just not ‘feeling it’. If we don’t make time for our wellness, we’ll be forced to make time for our illness.
Oh and coffee.
If you look back at your career, what has been the most exciting project you have worked on and what made it special for you?
Don’t make me choose! That’s a real toughie. I’d say any of my celebrity interviews have been a real highlight. It’s not a bad day in the office when you’re cracking jokes with the likes of Brian Blessed, talking rock ‘n’ roll with Suzi Quatro, or having your magazine reblogged to two million people by Stormzy!
I also really enjoyed my ByDesign newsletter series with Prototypr. They were brave enough to give me complete creative freedom, which I gladly took. It was really interesting delving into the world of UX/UI design and new tech; something that I previously knew little about. (That’s another good tip for budding writers - you don’t need to be a connoisseur of every topic you write on - you just need to distract people for long enough until you are.)
Do you have a dedicated writing process or do you just go with the flow when you start working on a new project/article/post?
Not as such, although it depends entirely on what sort of piece it is. With interviews, I prepare a list of questions before we meet (not too many, as inevitably I’ll follow them on a couple of tangents - that’s where the juiciest bits are), and record the whole interview. Later I’ll play it back, pause, write a bit, and repeat until something that looks like an article appears.
Since Creativerly is all about creativity and productivity-boosting tools, resources, tips, and tricks, let us know: What is your number one productivity advice?
My parting advice is: be yourself. How very beauty pageant of me. Nobody is going to want to hire you if you sound like everybody else; find your unique style, your own ‘voice’, and roll with it. Mine is often ‘very inebriated and slightly inappropriate grandad at Christmas lunch’, but whatever works for you!