“Err all my interests are creative!”
Ceri Olofson of Candour and Polish is a brand copywriter for, as she words it so beautifully, ‘creatively-minded people in business’. Finding out more about Ceri, through this blog feature, has been both interesting and a little spooky. We’ve joked together, in the past, about some odd coincidences in our journeys – the same name just different spelling (Ceri/Kerri), and both cake makers turned creative service providers – but I’ve only now discovered we have even more in common. See if you can guess the similarities I’m talking about, as you read the post! Here’s the next in my Creative Business blog series…
What does creativity mean to you?
I tend to look at creativity in terms of how we think or approach things – coming up with new ideas, different ways of doing things, looking at the world in your own unique way. To me, it’s not about artistic ability such as painting or drawing, and as such I believe anyone can cultivate creativity in their life. Finding the perfect balance of flavours in a dish you’re cooking is pure creativity!
Have you always been creative?
My mum is a creative with a capital C and from the moment I arrived in the world above a hairdresser’s in Manchester, my life has been defined by creativity in some way. Growing up, there was always music playing and mum’s craft projects on every surface – although at the time I used to roll my eyes when she rescued yet another ‘treasure’ from a skip. She also enthusiastically encouraged me to explore my own creative expression, whether it was singing lessons, creative writing, painting or photography. I ended choosing the fine arts over my love of English and writing, doing a degree in Fine Art Photography at University of the Arts London – it was not an entirely pleasant experience and it nearly robbed me of my creativity, but my cake design business was born out of the ashes so je ne regrette rien!
What first got you interested in your field?
I was a wedding cake designer with a great reputation but it just wasn’t working for me anymore. I SO wanted to feel like what I did made a difference to people, on a deeper level than just the pretty. There was also a whole part of my brain (the logical, academic nerd) that I felt I hadn’t tapped into yet in my career. A mega brainstorm session with my boyfriend ensued – we literally pulled a poster off the wall and flipped it over to use – so we could pull at the threads that felt really important to me at that stage of my life, as well as common themes that are ever present. He was actually the one that looked at it all, took a step back, and said “I think you should be a copywriter.” Truth be told, I didn’t even really know what that meant… and in that moment I thought it was pretty clear I should be a therapist! But a quiet lifelong love for writing and my experience in business sealed the deal – a week later I was enrolled on a copywriting course.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
My first business in cake design was the classic accidental entrepreneur story. I was just making cakes for time-poor mums as a creative outlet, and as my skill increased I realised I had the potential to make it into something far bigger. I’ve been self-employed for nearly 10 years now and the thought of getting a ‘normal’ job doesn’t even cross my mind because this is my version of normal.
I’m also conscientious in the extreme and a couple of former employers took huge advantage of this. Having my ideas and hard work used by them to great success, only to be met by a total lack of respect really made something snap in me. I think I made a sort of quiet promise to myself to make sure I was the beneficiary of my efforts from then on.
What is your favourite thing about your work?
Lightbulb moments of clarity! Or more specifically, being the catalyst of those moments for my clients. People come to me thinking they want words for their website or brochure, but they walk away with utter confidence in their business and what they’re saying – and for me that is so so gratifying.
As a business owner, I also know what a relief it is when you outsource and invest in help, and if I’m honest, it really gives me a kick to be the person providing that relief! Does that mean I have a hero complex?!
What is a ‘reality’ of your work that other people don’t realise?
I loooove the writing and capturing of voice, but it’s everything before that bit that really lights me up – and it’s why my clients are usually floored by how ‘them’ the first draft is. Actually, I’ve just remembered that my mum used to call me the singing detective because I love investigating and asking questions! I’d say that by the time I start typing the homepage header, maybe 70% of the work is done, and it’s a case of pulling all the ideas and content together into the copy – which can require lots of mulling and walks around the block.
Also, it will probably take a copywriter about 5 times longer to write a sentence than anyone else. If you put me on the spot I will not be able to come up with a pithy sentence, it takes much thinking to get there!
How do you handle creative ‘blocks’ in work?
A two-pronged attack! If time allows, I’ll pick up another creative project or task that lets my mind wander – painting woodwork or folding laundry, that sort of thing. That gives my mind space for ideas to percolate. Then it’s all about planning and breaking things down. I find a large project really intimidating to start with, so I have to make myself break it into sections and then I research the hell out of everything, making endless notes so I feel well prepared. Oh and my notes have to be in pencil on loose sheets of paper!
Do you have any other creative interests?
Err all my interests are creative! We’re slowly refurbishing our house, learning the trades as we go, so on any given weekend I’m project manager, choosing paint colours, mixing mortar for retaining walls, re-finishing a cabinet etc.
I love to cook and my boyfriend says my food is like George’s Marvellous Medicine because I’m constantly tweaking my recipes and can never exactly remember what I’ve put in.
When I want to relax I also love a spot of calligraphy, photography, painting, and reading.
What one thing would you say to someone dreaming of starting their own creative business?
Don’t neglect the practical, strategic aspects of business because it scares you or it’s not your forte. Turn your brilliant, creative mind to these things rather than just relying on your talent – and you’ll achieve everything you want. If you don’t know something, teach yourself, eliminating the unknown is the best way to make everything less scary!
Also, work on that confidence. Get better at what you do, develop your niche, and strive for absolute quality so that you can’t help but believe in yourself. That stuff’s infectious.
Isn’t Ceri inspiring? I love her journey to Candour and Polish. If you are a creative business needing website copywriting – be sure to go have a chat. Also – can you guess the random similarities? I’m not going to give anything away here – head over to my social media to play along and give a guess.
If you’ve been following my Creative Business blog series you’ll know that now is the point in the post when I reveal the featured Creative’s self portrait – and today is no exception. Ceri’s self portrait really made me smile when I first saw it. There are so many elements to look at, and the complete image really gives a great insight into her personality.