Wannabe diplomat turned copywriter (of sorts)
By Melissa Ruggles
Yep, that’s right. A long time ago I wanted to be a diplomat, for the American government no less. That all changed when I met a Dutchman and decided to stay here in The Netherlands. That was approximately 11 years ago and I can’t say that was necessarily a bad decision, given the turmoil that is American politics now! Fast forward to the present day; I’m still in Amsterdam, but I now find myself rather deep into the copywriting world. How did this come to be? I often ask myself this same question.
Like many copywriters, I seem to have a knack for writing and I also enjoy it—most of the time! I love the creative process, even despite the fact that the creative products are for a company or organization and cannot always bear my name. And I also really love the flexibility working freelance affords me, being a mother of two young kids and not a fan of the 9-5, which I did for many years prior. I never could stand feeling like I had to sit at a desk and stay in the office and pretend to keep busy even when I had finished all of my work, and then some!
Bad coffee? No thanks.
While I miss the social interaction and day-to-day regularity an office job brings, I have to say the plusses definitely outweigh the minuses. I regularly do in-house work for companies like Philips, or for non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam and Hivos, so I do get my taste of office banter, bureaucracy, and the other things that come with working in an office (including drinking the usually terrible coffee).
Next to the clients I mentioned already, I work for a range of other companies and organizations, creating diverse products for use in both internal and external (B2B, B2C, B2G) communications—for marketing, branding, storytelling, informational, advocacy or any other number of purposes. I also regularly ghostwrite blogs and articles, translate and localize short content pieces from Dutch to English, and co-design websites using various content managements systems, among other things.
A specialist generalist
In short,I am quite a generalist when it comes to what I can write and relish the diversity of assignments. Some of my past and current clients include various creative agencies, Allrig, ING Bank, Elsevier, Dorel Juvenile (primarily for their Maxi-Cosi brand), Travix (known for brands like Vayama and Cheaptickets.nl), SAP Concur, Oxfam, Hivos, IDH Sustainable Trade, VC4A, the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and more.
My writing work with NGOs also crosses into the consulting arena where I advise on and coordinate proposals to a number of donors, or brainstorm together with colleagues on a project or program design for an international development project. I also carry out research and write in-depth reports for NGOs, as I most recently did for Hivos.
In 2016, I had the great pleasure and humbling experience of visiting several refugee camps on an assignment for Oxfam Novib. They were starting up their humanitarian response and needed someone to support data collection, reporting, proposal writing, strategy formulation and to interview and listen to migrants and refugees tell their stories. While these stories are no longer visible on Oxfam’s site, it was definitely a work experience I will never forget.
Sitting on the floor of a family’s tent surrounded by their few belongings, listening to them share their stories of how their home had been destroyed and about their gruelling journey to Europe…it was simply humbling and I only wanted to do their stories justice in my own work. I had a similar feeling and experience when I travelled to Pakistan (also for Oxfam) and got to hear from women who are never allowed to really speak up for themselves, do just that! Needless to say, I love assignments that take me abroad and am always up for them (hint, hint).
Life is full of unexpected turns
As you can see, I have not strayed too far from that ‘diplomatic’ angle of my work and my academic background in international relations. However, I’ve definitely ventured into many new areas ever since, which I never could have foreseen! Every new client and assignment presents a new topic to delve into, or a new person to speak to and learn from, or an innovative product to tell people about because it can change their lives. With all of this excitement and variety on offer, why would I do anything else—especially when I can catch that yoga class tomorrow morning, or go for a walk or run in the afternoon between work assignments?!