Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Writer Wednesday — Therese Pope — “...walk outside in nature and take a few deep breaths.”

Each Wednesday I feature a fellow writer, and not just ad folks. I’m interested in anyone who makes a living stringing together words. Their answers are unfiltered, so I may not always agree with every last bit of advice. After all, what works for one writer may not work for another. But we all need fresh ideas and perspectives to keep growing. Interested? Please email

Therese Pope is a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant in Northern California, a perfect location given her focus on wellness and holistic practitioners. Her company, Zenful Communications, takes what she calls a “wholistic” approach to marketing that looks at the whole of a company to find the heart of it’s message and branding.

Twitter: @TheresePope

What’s your writing focus or specialty?

I've worked with a lot of different niches — some of them include: the hospitality industry, business, online marketing, and holistic/wellness and health

Writers often take winding career paths. What led you here?

I have a VERY different background than most copywriters who have traditional agency experience. I am a freelance copywriter and online marketing consultant with a BA degree in Journalism (option: Public Relations) from California State University, Chico. I've been a freelancer for three years. I worked as a special events director/fundraiser for public health non-profits (American Cancer Society and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation). I worked in publicity/PR for Barnes & Noble after college and also worked for a real estate trade association and small publishing company in the Sacramento, CA, area.

However, I've always been a one-woman marketing/PR "show" and wrote my own newsletters, marketing and event collateral. When I worked in non-profit, my co-workers joked that I was the in-house ghostwriter since I always edited co-workers and directors' writing. I have always loved to write (why I pursued a journalism degree) and was an English geek in high school. I did a bit of freelance writing on the side during my non-profit career but always pushed it to the side since I was so busy. I was drawn to starting my own business because I wanted to be a freelancer and have always had a strong entrepreneurial drive. It felt natural to move in the direction of copywriting and marketing consulting because of my strong writing skills and my flair for writing marketing-focused copy. 

Tell us a little about your creative process.

As for my creative process, I partner and work with a lot of amazing project managers and web and graphic designers. They are always involved in the creative process because we work together as a team (especially on web copywriting projects). We usually sit down and have a creative meeting and hammer out all the marketing goals and objectives related to the campaign/project - which also involves my role as the copywriter. 

They usually write a creative brief and I write a copywriting strategy that clearly outlines my copy goals and objectives of their project. Each project is different so it really depends on the scope of the project and what the client needs. Bottom line — I want the client to have a clear understanding of their copy goals and objectives so everyone is on the same page (and I also ask them to sign off on the directives so there aren't any surprise). 

What do you do when you’re stuck? Any tricks for getting unstuck?

I take a breather and do yoga (have been a student of yoga for 10 plus years). Yoga is a huge stress reliever for me and helps clear my mind and find my writing focus again. I think anyone who works in a creative field would highly benefit from yoga. Exercise is the best medicine for me and love to walk and hike. I highly encourage all copywriters to get away from their computers and walk outside in nature and take a few deep breaths. It does wonder to clear the tired brain — especially when you have writer's block! A glass of vino also does the trick (but after hours, of course!)

Any side projects? If so, how do you make time for them?

I'm always working on side projects since I'm a freelancer and always drumming up ways to earn income and promote my business. I'd love to teach more teleclasses about social media, and write more articles geared towards helping female entrepreneurs. I'd like to get my name out there and help more female small business owners - especially with their online marketing projects. I don't want to just be seen as a copywriter. Since my other specialty is online marketing, I want my clients to feel like they can trust me and come to me for advice about any online marketing problems or issues that arise. I sometimes feel like small female business owners are lost when it comes to marketing in general, and they really need help and support - so that's one of my biggest goals.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I could give is DO NOT listen to the negative naysayers out there who tell you'll never make it as a writer (whether you're a copywriter or journalist). Forge ahead and learn everything you can about writing (even if you have to go back to school and take more writing classes). Stay positive and focused, and don't give into the negative self-talk that creeps into your brain (especially if you are a freelancer). Always believe in your talents and skills and stick up for yourself - you are a valuable asset! 

What’s one thing you know now that you’d wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

I wish I had taken the plunge to be a freelance copywriter/consultant years ago, but I don't regret my non-profit career path in the least. I learned a lot about networking and how to build strong relationship with my clients as a result of my fundraising/event planning background and working with my incredible volunteers over the years.

There's more to just copywriting than the actual writing part. You need to understand people and how they think and act. You need to be able to dig into their brains and psyche and get to the heart of their message and branding. Anyone can write copy but if you don't understand people, you'll be floundering. You have to be part psychoanalyst, part researcher and part salesperson. You also have to be VERY flexible, open-minded and roll with the punches. A sense of humor doesn't hurt either. You deal with all kinds of client personalities and backgrounds and you never know what to expect — just take each day as it comes (my motto!) 


  1. Leigh, thanks so much for featuring me on your blog. I really appreciate it - best of luck with your classes and your copywriting journey! :)

  2. Great interview! Therese is one of the best! Has been a joy to be able to work with her.

  3. What’s one person I know now that you’d wish I’d known at the beginning of my career? I would have to say, Therese! She's awesome. I run a small agency and think sometimes that I know what I'm talking about - until I talk with Therese. She's smart, great at her craft and a joy to work with.