Introducing Hayley Clark

Hayley Clark is a Kiwi freelance copywriter and content marketing extraordinaire currently living in Whistler, Canada. She contracts for Made of Words on a casual basis, in between chasing powder, missing New Zealand coffees, and writing clever things for her many lucky clients on the other side of the world.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Hayley for years (we used to work together at a content agency) and I’m beyond chuffed to welcome her to the Made of Words team.

With a degree in Media and Communications and a Creative Advertising Diploma to her name, she’s an absolute genius when it comes to creative concepts, short-form copy, and puns, and has broad experience across all forms of copywriting and content marketing. It helps me sleep at night knowing I can call on Hayley’s expertise as Made of Words grows.

Below, she gives us a glimpse into her career history, life as a freelancer, and experiences in Canada.

What inspired you to move to Canada?

I have two older brothers, and both of them have previously lived in Whistler. During my first trip to Canada, I took the opportunity to spend a couple of days checking out the small ski village that I’d heard so much about. 

A couple of days was all it took to fall in love with Whistler, its mountains, and its people. I went home, applied for a visa, gave up my apartment, packed up my books, and flew back to the land of maple syrup and terrible Tim Horton’s coffee! 

Can you describe a typical day in the life of Hayley?

I think the thing about freelancing is that there's never a typical day.

Some days I’m up at 5.30am to make it to a killer boot camp session  before heading straight home and napping for another couple of hours to make up for the early start. 

Some nights I’ll be up until the wee hours finishing a project (or a book, let’s be honest), so I’ll enjoy a sleep in before starting work at the leisurely time of noon. I tend to work most nights to make up for my slothful starts.

During winter, each day starts with measuring up the snow conditions. If it’s a powder day, I head straight up the mountain and work at night. If the conditions are no good, I’ll huddle up inside and work all day and night to get ahead just in case they improve the next day.

In summer, it’s generally the same story, but with hiking and adventures instead of snowboarding. I’m fully aware that this is essentially a way of life known as ‘living the dream’. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

What’s your favourite thing about freelancing?

Flexibility.

It takes a huge amount of dedication to make it all come together, but the flexibility of freelancing is incredible. I’ve managed several international trips this year simply because I can get ahead on work before a trip, and continue to work abroad if needed.

Sometimes, I’ll wake up on a Thursday and simply not be able to face sitting in front of a screen all day. The flexibility of being able to take the day off during the week and work on a Saturday instead is fantastic!

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve had this conversation with many writer friends and I’ve learned that I jumped on this bandwagon much, much later than others.

By the time I started university, I knew I wanted to end up somewhere in the media/marketing field for its massive creative scope. I eventually discovered creative advertising as a career and moved to Auckland to study a postgraduate diploma in this industry - where ‘creatives’ are either art directors (those who create images, work with typefaces, layouts etc), or copywriters (those who create any kind of written content in advertising).

I started the diploma thinking I wanted to be an art director, but finished it as a copywriter. I’m still not entirely sure when or how that switch happened, but I’m very glad it did.

What are your favourite types of content to write?

I will always love finicky projects like trying to come up with the perfect tag line. It’s easy to spend weeks picking out the perfect few words, but the second you have it, you just know. It’s a great feeling and I think so many companies could really improve on theirs.

Other than that, regardless of the topic itself, I love working on casual, creative content. Having a chat with the reader, including a bit of humour, and talking with them (not at them) always feels more natural than formal business-speak.

Plus, I’ll take any chance I get to split an infinitive, include an incomplete sentence, or start a sentence with a conjunction. Breaking a few traditional writing rules keeps content relatable and conversational, and makes for an engaging read.

Can you list a few of your favourite books?

This is a bit like asking me for my favourite child, but I’ll give it a shot (in no particular order).

Cloud Atlas - as the first book I read by David Mitchell, it will always be my favourite (I’ve since read everything he’s put a pen to, and a signed copy of ‘Bone Clocks’ is one of my most prized possessions, thanks mum!). His writing style is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and the mirroring structure was a game changer for me. Pro tip: The movie is terrible, don’t bother.

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak writes the way I wish I could. He somehow manages to make this gorgeous story incredibly funny and heart-wrenching at the same time (I laughed, I cried). With Death as the narrator, and descriptive sentences such as “The sky was the colour of breakfast”, it’s hard not to love this one.

The Princess Bride - I’ve never laughed so hard while reading. I lived in a central city apartment at the time and I was genuinely concerned my neighbours would hear me cracking up. The film was a favourite of mine when I was a kid, but I didn’t discover this was actually a book until I was in my 20s!

Do you have any advice for someone considering a career as a freelance copywriter?

I honestly have no idea how anyone could freelance as a copywriter - or any profession really - without first building up a network of connections and a strong background of skills and experience.

My Made of Words connection came about from a plain old office job, and it’s the exact same story for every single one of my current agencies, clients, and contacts. I doubt you could move straight into any kind of freelance role without a year or two in a conventional role first.

Once you have those connections, make it known that you are available to work. Continually search local ads for new projects, as your workload will swell and recede in a constant cycle of ‘feast or famine’, so it’s important to always be looking out for new opportunities.

Remember that as much as it can work for some people, freelancing won’t always be for everyone. You’ll have to be prepared to give up paid holidays and sick leave, to be on top of your own taxes and income, and to lose the social side of a job as you will no longer have colleagues around you or a boss to shout you drinks on a Friday night.

That said, if you can make it work for you, it will be one of the best life decisions you’ll ever make!