This P & P person is a bit special, I am delighted to share a conversation with the writer Jess Collins.
Back in 2019 I had finished my diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation and had started creating seaweed skincare products. This had taken me a couple of years, juggling two small children and my husband’s business. I had a strong feeling of the kind of skincare brand I wanted to create but was unsure where to head next. I came across Jess Collins, a feral writer who helps create courageous content for authentic brands. We met face to face for an intensive day, delving deep into my values and goals. Jess not only named ‘Phoenix & Providence’ but helped me a find a clear, confident voice.
We’ve been working with each other on projects ever since. I was excited to delve a little deeper with Jess into her love of writing, as her passion is completely infectious.
Hi Jess, thank you so much for your time. Let’s get started!
1) How would you summarise your job role as a freelance copywriter?
My job is to tell the story of each of my clients. But often the story they present me with is not the actual story at all - it's perfect and polished and carefully considered, ready for a copywriter to sum it up in a pretty package. However, I believe that connection is the most important route to relationships with our customers so the main part of my job is actually uncovering the brand that lies beneath and scraping off the veneer that covers their authentic voice so that we relay the real story that their reader will relate to.
2) I know from personal experience, helping your clients find their true authentic voice is a real skill you have. How do you get you dig deep and get your inspiration?
It's a combination of things, it's about being very immersed in the story and then getting away from it all (usually for a sea swim). I always seek to understand the client holistically and wholeheartedly which means I send a questionnaire, I chat to them, and I essentially stalk them - listening and learning their language, often mystery shopping them. Finding out who they are in public and in private when they think nobody is watching. I have to learn a lot about them in order to be them on the page. Once I know everything possible, I go away and make notes of certain things they have said that spark something. Then the magic happens and I go off grid for a while. Walking, sea swimming, long showers in the dark or staring into the fire. I spend this time reading, researching, playing with phraseology and capturing the emotion that's needed. There's so much the customer never sees of the process. They just get the finished page (and probably wonder what I've been doing all week!)
3) Writing for work, do you still enjoy writing purely for yourself?
I LOVE writing for myself. I journal every single day without fail, I write poetry for fun, I've just finished (today actually) my latest ebook which is a passion project of mine, and I'm putting the finishing touches to a book proposal that I hope will turn into the most beautiful book that people can hold in their hands in the not too distant future. I always make sure I never lose the love for what I do. It has never been about the money, I will write every single day for the rest of my life just for the pure pleasure of putting pen to paper.
4) How do you think creating a writing habit can benefit people? Even if they think they can't write!
A writing habit is one of the most powerful things you can do. If you trust, your sub-conscious will create the most magical ideas and inspiration in those pages. If you can commit to writing every day for 30 days you will see profound results. It helps mental health, creativity, calm, perspective. It can help process emotion and understand yourself better and it becomes almost meditative. It doesn't matter if you don't consider yourself creative or have never written before. You can just show up for 15-30 minutes a day and write about anything to begin with. Just write without reading it back or second guessing yourself. And if you can, consider a guided journaling course that will prompt you to ask powerful questions and write with courage and candour. Writing is one of the most powerful ways to reconnect with ourselves in a world which is very digital and focused on the "feed". It's about finding yourself and feeding your soul instead.
5) Finally Jess, you are such a giving person, how do you conserve, or create boundaries, around keeping energy for your own needs?
What a brilliant question! It's been a learning curve and boundaries is still probably the thing I most need to instil in my coaching clients. The hardest thing is having boundaries around creativity (because it never switches off and even though it's incredible, it can consume you). For me, I have had to learn to channel my creativity by working to my circadian rhythms. I have set times I write (for myself and for clients) and set time for admin but I also schedule something I call soul time which is really important for filling up my cup. Reading, writing poetry, sea swimming, dog walking, fire gazing, meeting with friends, yoga and meditation are all a part of this. Something I love is attending my local Kirtan. We all drink herbal tea and sing together - it's the most amazing feeling of community and connecting with that soulful part of ourselves. I haven't been able to attend this for a couple of years due to the pandemic and we have our first Kirtan next week, I cannot wait for that. Some of the most important boundaries are around social media - being mindful with how often I use it and why I use it. It's very much like a dog and it's important I'm walking the dog and not the other way around. The final boundary is one I haven't quite mastered - taking on clients. I have a pretty good grip on my calendar now and what space I have available, but I am very lucky to have some incredible projects show up at my door. I always take on more than I can handle because I have a passion for once-in-a-lifetime projects and one-of-a-kind brands. It's a work in progress trying to turn away work or postpone projects but I'm always excited by the opportunity of what I can see before me. I love a story more than anyone I know, especially when it's one only I can see. Then I get the thrill of bringing it to life and giving it shape and soul. It's the best feeling.
The Scribe Sessions
If you are inspired to pick up a pen, Jess has created The Scribe Sessions, a 30-day email programme to create a personal journaling practice. Jess has kindly set up a discount code for the P & P community giving 25% off the course price of £15, making it £11.25. Just use the code SEASCRIBE. One friend who did the course described it to me as ‘life changing’. So please do let me know if you give it a go!
The link to The Scribe Sessions can be found here.
Thank you again Jess, and if you’d like to find out more about her work then head over here.
And if you are curious about the origins of the name Phoenix & Providence, you may want to read A Scilly Story.