We are thrilled to bring you an interview with Meredith Chamberlain, a writer whom we met through our Creative Lady Collective. Meredith creates brand voices for clients across a variety of categories, from shampoo to insurance. She is passionate about working with female entrepreneurs and collaborating with likeminded designers. We are always on the lookout for new inspiration and Meredith's suggestions definitely deliver!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance copywriter.
I started out in publishing - magazines, books, and eventually digital. I was writing a weekly email newsletter for an arts organization, interviewing emerging musicians, designers and visual artists - and eventually started getting assignments to write what is now known as “sponsored content”. One of my close friends (who is also a copywriter) pointed out that what I was doing was copywriting, and that I could be paid a lot more for it. So when my company folded mid-recession, I started seeking out clients and building a portfolio.
In the beginning, I took every opportunity that came my way. I have a vivid memory of schlepping to an interview at a HVAC factory in Long Island City. Thankfully that one didn’t pan out, but I did accept a freelance position at ConAir (oddly many of my early opportunities were air-based), which required me to reverse commute from downtown Brooklyn to Stamford, CT several days a week. That experience got me an interview at Bumble and bumble. - my first full-time copywriting position - where I made invaluable connections and friendships. The art department there was very special. Learning to collaborate and concept alongside such a talented group of designers was a real gift.
After Bb., I worked at a few small advertising agencies full time, which eventually led to a burnout. I was working crazy hours on accounts that didn’t align with my personal values, and saying yes to every freelance project that came my way. It wasn’t sustainable. It took a solid month off, several pep talks from friends and former coworkers and a move to California to get my confidence back and finally commit to freelancing.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I was very lucky to work at Bumble and bumble early on in my career. Their tone of voice was a natural fit for me - smart and playful with a bit of British quirk to it (I’m a major anglophile). To have the opportunity to write in a voice I was aligned with and have that work to show to future employers was huge. Many of my freelance clients came to me through people I worked with at that first job - or through other onsite jobs. I tend to connect with designers I work with, and they reach out when they’re taking on a project that needs some copy.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I swear by The Artist’s Way, and swimming. I do Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” every morning, which clears my mind of whatever neurosis has lodged its way in overnight. Swimming laps has a similar effect; the days I’m able to get both in are definitely my most productive. The next step will be turning my phone on airplane mode, like all the great writers do, but I’m not quite there yet.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
I respond very well to a structured brief. The more constraints I have the better. Once a brief is set, I’ll brainstorm rough ideas, which will lead to some fun lines, which i’ll then spin into concepts. If I’m working with a designer or art director, I’ll bounce my ideas off them, see what they respond to, and go from there. Collaborating with designers is one of the best parts of my job. Seeing my words laid out in design never ceases to delight.
There is a quote by French children’s book author Hervé Tullet that goes, “An idea is a surprise and it’s a celebration.” - that pretty much sums up why I love what I do. Many of my ideas still surprise me, and that is worth celebrating.
Full quote here for reference.
Name one company that you'd like to write for in the future.
More than any one brand or company, I’d like to continue to collaborate with designers I admire. And I wouldn’t mind taking on some restaurant and hotel branding projects in the future. I’m hoping to get back into editorial writing as well. I recently wrote a piece for the Madewell blog and really enjoyed the process.
How do you stay creatively inspired?
Walking, swimming, reading, and keeping up on work that I admire - especially work that combines words and images, like that of Leanne Shapton and Maira Kalman.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Nothing I write after 8pm is any good. I know this about myself, and I plan accordingly. I fight the urge to procrastinate during the day, because I know my brain will be useless at night. This helps create boundaries. Honor your patterns, your energy, your ebbs and flows.
Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?
I’ve been devouring the The High Low podcast recently.
@AnnStreetStudios Instagram stories are on another level.
Gather Journal’s Spotify playlists make me very happy.
I love Ruth Reichl’s twitter vignettes.
And States of Undress is my new favorite show.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Confidence, drive and imagination.