Sharing Stories | Emma Whiley

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Hey friends, I'm starting a series called 'Sharing Stories'. I love that every individual has a story. I have been chatting to some real, authentic ladies lately and I thought it could not be more apt to share a bit about their incredible lives. I think it will be an inspiring read and it will help us to feel like we're not as crazy as we think we are (the type of crazy you're not sure should be there), we're not alone and we have so much to look forward to.

Emma, thanks for sharing a bit of your story with us and for making us giggle. 

Emma Whiley:

If you’d asked 17 year old, living-in-Zimbabwe, knows-everything-there-is-to-know-about-life me where I’d be living and working in 10 years time I probably would have said something like ‘working as a music producer in New York.’

Well, fast-forward 10 years and here I am in London (although New York is still my soul city) working as a copywriter. God works in mysterious (and mischievous ways ;))

Want to know how that happened? I’ll zoot through it as quick as I can – 

After I finished up school I hopped on a plane and headed straight for the bright lights of London. For a farm-girl, I sure did love the lure of the city. Having never been anywhere bigger than Joburg, it was a wild moment of ‘jump now, think later’, luckily it worked out! I spent 10 months working as an au pair – rent and food covered #livingthedream.

Once my ‘gap yah’ was done, I found myself on the edge of a three year stint in Cape Town that involved much trekking up and down the mountain (who builds a university on a mountain any way?) I studied English Lit and Interactive Media (a fancy name for a bit of a skim and skate over what is more commonly known as ‘web design’.) University was pretty spectacular, but during my time there I found myself in a long-distance relationship with a guy I’d known since I was 14 (queue the ‘oohs and aahs’).

A month after we started dating he packed up and headed for London. Talk about timing! Long-distance is no walk in the park and definitely not for everyone, but if it’s your only option you learn how to make it work. For two years we spent hours upon hours on skype, and luckily my long holidays meant I could spend two summers in London. I would have loved to have him around all the time, but that’s not the story God wrote for us. Given OUR dating story ended with a chaotic (but utterly wonderful) two-day wedding, punctuated by the biggest and loudest thunder storm (in which our reception tent nearly blew away, G tripped over the main power cable and plunged all 160 of us into darkness and everyone who was camping over night got a bit soaked) I’d say it turned out alright. And I couldn’t think of a better person I’d want to spend forever (and ever amen) doing life alongside. 
After that I found myself back in London where I started working at an advertising agency as a design intern. ‘How did you end up being a writer?’ I hear you asking. Well my friends, that is a question only Jesus really knows the answer to, but to summarize – I was a terrible designer. Yep. I said it. I must have been at the very bottom of the barrel. Luckily, my agency offered me the chance to try copywriting and it was love at first… word. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

After waxing lyrical for two years about everything from coffee (hello Nescafé fans), flights, cars (I know a whole lot more about Peugeot than your average 20-something female), skincare (isn’t it every advertiser’s dream to work on Dove?), seasonal veg, electricity and ice cream, I decided to take the leap and run head-long into a life of freelance copywriting and creative consulting.

Welcome to the world of flexible working, chasing payments and endless recruiter phone calls. No, I’m kidding, freelance is not bad. In fact it’s actually glorious. Except for the chasing payments bit (can everyone just pay us on time please?) I’ve spent the last two years (hip)hopping my way from one agency to the next, skittering in and out of small businesses, crafting words for photographers and fitness brands, being the business-partner-you-never-had to small businesses who need a sounding board and a fresh eye. It definitely has it’s cons. Not everything about freelance is easy-breezy, fancy-free, but if you’re sensible and hard-working it’s not just doable, it’s the best. And the pros, when they work (like choosing your clients and jobs and taking extra time off) are wonderful.

People often ask me how I find work as a freelancer, how do we get on in the industry. And my answer is pretty much the same as if someone asked me how to do life – just be really nice to everyone you meet. People will remember what you were like to work with before they remember the work you did. Make sure you do something you’re still going to love doing even on the bad days. And have good people around you, because they’re what makes life magic.

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If you're keen on sharing your story with me, pop me a mail on and we can chat.

XO, Jess