Blog Remote work

The Shift: Issue #17 – Job hunting, The Social Dilemma, a history of Silicon Valley, slow journalism, how do we live ‘a good life’ in 2020?

I had a chat with two recruitment agents this week. Things are picking up – briefs are coming in and companies are hiring–mostly remote work. Employers are investing in remote training for staff and reassessing office space, so remote working is here to stay. Both were furloughed and are just back at work.

It’s good news for multi-skilled freelancers – we’ll be more in demand as employers may want fewer people on the payroll. We’re also flexible, agile, and used to working remotely.

Skills check–MS Office, Photoshop, InDesign (you can download the free trial for 30 days and do a YouTube tutorial to learn the basics). Google Analytics, HTML, SEO, & social media.

I made a one-page CV on Canva–wasn’t sure if it’s long enough, but they liked it. “It’s good to have it condensed on one page and you can expand as required.”

I had to give my elevator pitch and some adjectives people would use to describe me. Also, share what I’ve been up to over lockdown and how I’ve adapted to remote working. No change for me there, but it’s a big shift for many—they both said this is the first time they’ve worked from home.

Technology has made job-hunting easier since I started working for agencies in London (endless typing and PowerPoint tests, registering in person with my clips, and being told to turn up at 8.30 am, ready to work). Now you can sign up for job alerts, do a video pitch, create an online portfolio, learn via YouTube tutorials, and find project work via freelancer job platforms or social media. You don’t have to live in an expensive city to work for a corporate—you can live somewhere cheaper and still be on the payroll.

1# LinkedIn for Journalists Program–I did a webinar this week to find out how to make the most of LinkedIn–finding story ideas, trends, advanced search, Premium benefits, newsletters, and how to get your content in their trending news. Interesting to see its transition from job platform to a content site and it’s worth joining if you make content. You get a free upgrade to Premium for 12 months, webinars, access to the community group and can apply to publish a newsletter (invite-only).

LinkedIn for Journalists Program

2# “REALWORK, the online co-working space for women who want the accountability of an action-based co-working space with an expert and dynamic founder in the centre.” This is Fleur Emery’s new start-up, aimed at founders of businesses, women who have left companies or mat leave and want to be their own boss and freelancers. It’s a three-month rolling programme: Slack channel, workshops, online courses and Zoom classes. Selling online courses is hard work–it’s all about marketing, so the online workspace/community for women seems to be a winner – the timing is ripe.

Fleur talking about RW on the Courier podcast.
Sign up here

3# The Social Dilemma: “An eye-opening look into the way social media creates addiction and manipulate our behaviour, told by some very people who supervised the systems at places like Facebook, Google, and Twitter”.

“It will [make you] immediately want to toss your smartphone into the garbage can […] and then toss the garbage can through the window of a Facebook executive.” It asks lots of questions about data mining, which you may be aware of, but “few of us realise how deep the probe goes.”

Quotes—“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.”
“We’ve gone from the information age to the disinformation age.”
“The product that these tech giants are selling is the gradual, imperceptible change in your behaviour.”

The hero is Tristan Harris, co-founder of Center for Humane Technology, who used to work at Google.

Some good tips on how to regain control of your phone. Say no to cookies, turn off notifications, remove apps you don’t need, and use alternative search engines like Qwant.

An excellent, thought-provoking documentary, but it’s a shame to dramatise it. I tried to sell it to the teen by saying everyone’s talking about it, new horror film, etc.

“No one’s talking about it, except middle-aged jobaholics on LinkedIn.”

Twitter thread by Michael Shermer
Watch on Netflix

4# Silicon Valley Historical Association–I’d love to write a book about Silicon Valley and interview some female entrepreneurs out there. This is a significant starting point for research: a non-profit whose mission is “to research and record the history of Silicon Valley and to provide information about this unique and important culture to educational institutions and the public.”

“We began filming high-tech entrepreneurs and inventors. We asked the interviewees about their beginnings, the struggles they faced, their mentors, their lucky breaks, and their visions for the future. With their stories, we hope to educate the public about the unique people and supportive environment in Silicon Valley that has made it possible for many of the technological changes to take place that we are seeing in the world today — the computer, the Internet, genetic engineering and breakthrough medical technologies — just to name a few.”

Silicon Valley Historical Association 
The Entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley (Audiobook)

5# The Correspondent–an online platform for unbreaking news, collaborative, constructive, ad-free journalism. Their goal is to change what news is about and how it’s made and funded. Lots of excellent articles to give you the context behind the headlines. Like how the biggest story in the UK is not Brexit (it’s life expectancy). I’m enjoying The Good Life podcast with Emily Dreyfuss, a San Francisco based tech writer. How do we live a good life in 2020? There’s much talk about tech & how it’s made our lives easier, yet we’re still not happy…

It’s the future of journalism, and I’m happy to support it. Happy 1st birthday!

Intro to The Correspondent

Blog Content marketing Content strategy Creativity Wellness Work

The Shift #16

Day three of the digital diet and I’ve fallen off the bandwagon.

I had to use LinkedIn to post on a client’s page and saw I had a reply from Sarah Townsend about her new book, Survival Skills for Freelancers (treat yourself, she’s put her heart & soul into it). Then I read Eddie Shleyner’s email newsletter and saw he’s giving away a micro-course in copywriting. A compilation of tips from him and his LinkedIn followers—great idea. I had to leave a hashtag on his post to get a copy.

So, I did that quickly and logged off. It’s work stuff, I told myself. I’m not scrolling mindlessly on Instagram.

The only way to avoid using my personal accounts for clients is to set up a work email address to access Facebook and LinkedIn, which I’ll do. I used Hootsuite for a while, but it’s easy for messages to go out on the wrong account… had a few mishaps.

Thoughts so far on the digital detox: I have more time, headspace, and feel calmer. I’m not missing social media, and I’ve made more calls, so actual conversations.

But I now realise the major challenge is EMAIL. I’ve been checking my emails several times a day to see what’s happening (not much since I last looked, especially now, I’ve unsubscribed from mailing lists).

This displacement activity has to stop.

Just think of all the extra time I’ll have for Babbel and books.

It was Digital Detox Day on 5th September and Zoe Sugg’s campaign (#IAMWHOLE) was trending on YouTube. She’s encouraging people to quit social media (and their phones) for a day and support their mental health, to raise awareness and funds for charity.

I popped into WHSmith to buy Wallpaper* and you can’t move for mindfulness mags. Breathe, Teen Breathe, Flow, Psychologies, Unplug. You can flick through magazines, but you can’t test a pen anymore—where’s the logic in that? Testing pens is a meditative, mindful task and something I’ve done since childhood. Back to school, = new pens.

So, I bought a Parker pen (security tagged, a tenner, must write nicely, surely?)

Nope. It feels scratchy and thin despite having a medium nib… very disappointing.

No leaving autographs in pink glitter pen on scrappy bits of paper, no perfume testing, & no free nibbles.

Shopping feels so soulless these days, it’s no wonder we’re not bothering with the high street.

1/ Mara Abrams—Go with the flow—I realise my digital detox is about being in the flow and doing deeper work. How do you maintain a sense of flow that brings you joy and is it more powerful doing it as a group? Mara Abrams is a social innovator & entrepreneur, and founder of the Flow Collective, a platform for redefining entrepreneurship. She teaches innovation and incubation workshops across the world. I enjoyed her DO Lecture on flow & creativity—watch it here. (DO = Ted Talks meets Burning Man on a farm).

2/ The Noun Project—need an icon for a project? This site aggregates symbols created by graphic designers around the world. Use it to tell visual stories, create infographics, build interactive games, or whatever you like. It’s a fantastic resource for typographic symbols and design history of the genre. The aim was to build a global visual language that everyone can understand and use. A central repository for common icons, “things such as airplanes, bicycles, and people”.

They also host iconathons with designers, content experts, and volunteers working in small groups to focus on specific issues, e.g. democracy, transport or nutrition.

3/ Content Readability Guidelines—a collaboratively developed universal content style guide, based on usability evidence, created by Content Design London. “A couple of conversations on Twitter led me to wonder if a universal style guide would be a good idea,” says founder Sarah Richards. “I see many content designers spending time talking—arguing—about points of style when often accessibility and usability show what we should do.” The aim was to create one place where the community could share knowledge and a style guide that’s accessible and evidenced.

Invaluable if you work with content & they’ve just published a book on content design.

Readability Guidelines wiki
Join the Slack channel

4/ Yuno Juno Freelancer Rates Report 2019/20—insights into day rates & project lengths among the UK’s tech and freelance community. It’s based on over 25k bookings on Yuno Juno in 2019 and Q1+2 2020. Now available as a download for the first time.

Good to see multi-skilled freelancers are more in demand than ever. The average day rate for copywriting is £372 and content strategy, £542. The most common project—32 days. They also interviewed some of their freelancers about rates, project lengths, and the future of freelancing.

Download the report here (no sign up required). Share it far & wide—keeps things transparent and useful when quoting on projects.

5/ Venice Biennale/Nomadland—it’s a miracle this went ahead given that Cannes didn’t, and most festivals have gone online. No big Hollywood films this year—this was a more traditional, low-key affair and celebration of world cinema. One to watch: Nomadland with Frances McDormand as a woman who loses her home and joins a growing movement of US nomads on the road, searching for work, meaning and a new community. It’s based on the excellent book by reporter Jessica Bruder.

“To live mobally has a lot to do with the economic disparities in our country,” says Frances. There’s no political statement – it celebrates the resilience and creativity of older Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. “We’re leading you to a community that has made some very difficult decisions, and Chloe [Zhao] is telling their story.”

The Biennale website is sprawling, and it’s not just cinema—art, architecture, design, dance, music, theatre, education, & historical archives of contemporary arts.

They also hosted VR online this year. If you missed out, here’s a review of a virtual trip from a sofa in Seattle.

Venice Biennale channel
The Guardian roundup

Thanks for reading.

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Blog Business Communications Creativity Work

Q&A: Abigail Baldwin on managing burnout

Abigail Baldwin makes up one half of the creative studio, Buttercrumble, which she founded alongside her twin sister, Chloe. She shares her thoughts on running a business and managing burnout. 

What was your eureka moment?
We both started sharing our designs and illustrations online in 2008. We did this through separate user accounts. After two years, we started receiving more commissions. Naturally, as twins, our style is very similar, so we thought “two heads are better than one”. We joined forces to become Buttercrumble and have been working under the name ever since.

What was the turning point?
When establishing a new business, it is an obsession. To get the business running, we had to work other jobs to make some income. This meant we were working on Buttercrumble at weekends and evenings. All hours of the day involved work! Yet, we loved it and knew this was a sacrifice we’d have to make. Eventually, this paid off, and we had enough savings and landed a large commission to enable us to go full time on Buttercrumble.

However, we were still stuck in the mindset that we needed to work as many hours as possible. If we didn’t, the business would fail! We couldn’t let our clients (or ourselves) down. Two years into running the business, full-time, we were still burning the candle at both ends.

I had a string of sickness bugs and Chloe was feeling the strain too. We were stressed, and I dreaded opening my inbox. We couldn’t cope much longer.

After receiving business mentorship from our local council, we learnt it was time to set those clear boundaries. It helped to have an external viewpoint and supporter who forced us to step back and look at the bigger picture.

How did you overcome it?
To prevent burnout, I recommend seeking a peer support group or mentorship. This helped Chloe and I gain a clearer, unbiased perspective. We also meet regularly with our friend (who’s also a business owner). We can rant about any difficulties and let off steam together.

Boundaries are also important. Ideally, the weekend should be a sacred time for family and friends. Admittedly, sometimes I feel bored on weekends and evenings. However, we both try to resist the temptation to pick up my laptop! Boredom is a privilege. It means you’re getting some well-earned rest.

How will you manage work-life balance from now on? Have you made any long-term changes to how you run the business?
We now have set office hours during which we communicate with our clients. We also set up an office phone line, so we can avoid distributing our mobile phone numbers. This means we’re only taking calls during those office hours. At the beginning of every new relationship, we issue our ‘Welcome Document’ which helps to manage their expectations. Transparency about boundaries is key! 

Blog Branding Business Marketing Work

5 Benefits of Blogging for Business

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have – multinational, SME or creative solopreneur, you still need to be blogging regularly to help drive new (and returning) traffic to your website. These days, it’s crucial to have a strong web and social media presence to grow your brand – and having a blog is a smart, strategic way to do it. If you’re thinking about starting a blog and wondering what it will do for your company, read on.

Here’s how blogging can benefit your business.

1. Helps drive website traffic for free

Want more website visitors? Of course, you do! But if people don’t know the name of your business or product, how will they find you online? People don’t generally read blogs – they use keywords to research a product/service or solve a problem. If you’re providing unique and relevant content on your site, search engines will index it, so it’s easily found. Figure out what your customer is looking for, common problems, post useful articles and then share them on social media, so word gets around. Do this repeatedly, and your business will grow organically.

One of the advantages of blogging over paid advertising is that it’s free – you’re providing useful information for as long as your site is live. Tip: set yourself a publishing schedule and stick to it to show search engines that your website is active and needs frequently scanning for quality content.

2. Traffic becomes leads

Once you start publishing regular content on your blog, you’ll naturally attract new readers and return visitors. Always add a call to action to your posts to turn them into leads. Ask them to download a free e-book or white paper in return for their email address, so you can send follow up e-shots. Direct them to your products and services page or ask them to test a new product. You can set small targets and monitor analytics to see which of your posts are getting the most traction and engagement and then create more content around those themes. Tip: make sure people can subscribe to your blog, leave comments, and add share buttons so they can share content on their social channels.

3. Blogging brands you as an expert

Blogging positions you as an expert in your field, and someone others can come to for advice on a subject. If you share useful content that solves a problem or helps people improve their lives or business in some way, they will refer you to others as an authority and send more leads your way. It’s also an excellent platform for thought leadership – share your views on business (as well as your products) to engage your reader and grow your audience. Blogging can lead to new opportunities – more shares on social media, a speaking gig or even a column in a business publication. It also helps you to build authority and trust with customers. If your salespeople don’t know the answer to a question, they can refer a client to the blog as a helpful resource to help speed up the sales process. Tip: Share your opinions and take a position on things – don’t just sit on the fence – to help you stand out from the competition!

4. Scalable business blogging

One of the joys of blogging is that it’s scalable. It’s a good investment of your time as it keeps on working for you. If you write a blog and share it on social media, you’ll get a few click-throughs every time you share it. It will rank on search engines over the coming months and be a continual source of traffic and leads whenever someone searches for info on that topic. Unlike social media, a blog is on your website as long as you want it to be – a knowledge resource for visitors and your team. Tip: Create some evergreen posts about your products or services that aren’t time-sensitive and update them periodically to keep them fresh. HubSpot recommends that we focus on creating ‘compounding blog posts’ which solve problems, e.g. ‘how’ or ‘why’ in the title) as their traffic grows steadily over time.

5. Press & PR coverage

Having everything in one place on your blog (company news, personal stories, ideas & opinions) makes it easier for journalists to quickly find what they need to write about you and your business. Blogs should be open for comments to help you generate new business ideas and test out new products before you commit to spending money on them. Clients and journalists want to read about the people behind a brand, and a blog is an ideal platform for this as the tone is conversational and intimate. Take your reader on a journey and involve them in your business story and they will become loyal clients and share your content for you.

Are you interested in creating a blog for your business? We produce daily content for clients large and small to help them build brand awareness and drive sales. 

This article was originally published on Perspective Marketing & Design here.


#15 On Staycation; The Big Return; How Companies Can Win at Remote Work; Countryside Communities; Where to Find Remote Jobs.

I’m on staycation till September.

No need to go anywhere – the south coast is like the Med. Why rush around getting to France (& back!) to meet ever-changing quarantine rules so the kids can #getbacktoschoolsafely? Hardly a relaxing holiday. If you’re there, just chill and enjoy it. It won’t matter if the kids miss another week or two. Besides, who’s going to be tracking your movements when you get back? 😉

So, I’ll be attending to the book pile, soaking up the sun, sleeping, walking. Julieta will be back from Italy soon, so I’m making the most of my lack of domestic responsibilities.

Overheard on the beach this week – day-trippers down from London. “Isn’t it great to be out of the city? I feel different down here. The air’s so fresh.” Huge skies too – shifts your perspective.

And some advice from a guy I got chatting to down the pub. “Get your baked beans in. Anything you can eat cold and don’t have to cook. Mix them with curry powder. A year ago, who’d have thought we’d be walking round with nappies on our faces. Being told where to go and what to do…?”

There’s much talk about the big return in September.

According to the Mail on Sunday, “Thousands in the city will never return full-time.” Schroder’s staff have been given the option of working from home permanently. “Rethinking the rulebook on flexibility will prove a huge shot in the arm for productivity long-term”. KPMG says 50-60% of its 22,000 UK workforce will work flexibly permanently following the pandemic. Based on a survey that over 70% of its staff want increased flexibility in working arrangements.”

Cause we’ve had our taste of freedom and we like it, innit!

Bruce Daisley has been chatting to people about what they’re planning to do – have a listen to The Big Return. Making the call on what to do next, and what other companies are doing.

Government messaging has changed from “Stay home if you can” to “Go back to work if you can” (on an egg) perhaps? They want us back in the office asap because they’re worried about the wider impact on business districts. If we’re all holed up at home, no one’s buying sanies or pottering round the shops. It’s a big problem for central London. Many small businesses are struggling as they rely on workers coming into the city. If you want to support the high street and help safeguard jobs, here’s something you can do today –sign this petition. And buy someone you love a gift card!

Companies are right to be cautious, though. There’s still no vaccine in sight. Russia has one, of course, but they’re on their own mission. Would you have a vaccine that’s not been adequately tested? Social distancing is hard to manage in open-plan offices – not a pleasant experience at the best of times. You’ll be sat there flinching every time someone coughs or sneezes, getting OCD about your keyboard and door handles. Sat behind screens for team meetings. And wearing a nappy to buy your lunch. Who can be arsed with that? Far too much effort.

Companies have also realised they can save some cash by cutting back on expensive office space and in turn, expensive staff… So, it looks like remote working (& workers) will be the norm for some time.

Now the talk has moved on to how companies can win at remote work.

🔗 the links 

Here’s Hoxby on how remote working technology is helping us to think bigger.

The age of the office is over – the future lies in Britain’s commuter towns. Where to move to? Anywhere with a cathedral, apparently. 

Comment from Lauren Razavi “So many urban pals are talking about starting intentional communities in the countryside after months of lockdown in cities. Would you get together with a bunch of friends and move to a village? Where? What would you need?”

Coffee shops, fast wifi, work wives, a decent climate, affordable travel to the UK. So, Southern Europe, probably. I’m still thinking about the Italian casa dolce casa for $1 that I can convert into an Airbnb/creative hub.

Read Lauren’s predictions on what lies ahead for the future of work. The future’s what we make it, so let’s create it!

Useful thread from Daina_larkin on “Stresslaxing” being an obstacle when working from home. When you don’t leave “the office”, it’s hard to completely disconnect. How to beat “stresslaxing.”

Good tips though the joy of working on a laptop/phone is that you can take it anywhere… garden, sofa, bed, floor, standing desk, café, loo… who wants to sit at the same desk all day when you’re WFH? 

Welcome to Cube City. Would you work in your own self-contained 3m x 3m cube? Interesting idea, but I don’t know any freelancers who could afford £800-1600 a month on a workspace. Spend the night working on projects (nope), showers on each floor, a day bed… you’ve moved in, effectively. I think we need more affordable housing first. The line between work/rest/play is blurred enough.

Remotely Inclined – Stefan Palios’ excellent newsletter on remote work:
Welcome to the Creator Renaissance – creating, building, and making is (finally) cool again.

Where to Find Thousands of Remote Jobs – non-tech companies still hiring throughout the pandemic.

Visas, Incentives, & More: Here’s What Countries are Doing to Attract Remote Companies.

Happy holidays!

Bought me a mask I can actually breathe in – doubles up as a scarf. Nice.

Pssst. Have a read through the archives and let me know what you’d like to see more of. Have a question about running a remote business or escaping the city and moving to the Sussex coast? Ask me anything.



#14 Midlife crisis? You’re not the only one…

A shift in values during the pandemic; how to pull off a successful launch; building an open-source publishing platform; the downsides of WFH; the future of co-working?

As you reach midlife, your values shift. Maybe you’ve achieved what you set out to do, but now you can’t see the point of it all. Or you feel like you haven’t done enough compared to your peers. You’re halfway through your life and feeling a bit restless. What next?

Psychoanalyst Elliott Jacques coined the term ‘midlife crisis’ in 1965 in a paper on the working patterns of creative geniuses. It was a small part of his life’s work – he had loads of big ideas – but this has become a cultural phenomenon and what he’s best known for. For most of us, it’s not really a crisis, more like a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction in our 40s/50s. “Is this it?” has come up frequently in conversations with friends.

What’s interesting about the pandemic is that it’s left many of us feeling like this – not just the midlife generation. 

New research reveals a seismic shift in consumer values across all ages during the pandemic. There’s been a rapid fall in values like materialism, power, status, wealth, ambition, self-promotion, adventure, and excitement. 

New values taking their place include protecting the family, duty, thrift, helpfulness, simplicity, honesty, self-reliance, and stable personal relationships. It’s the same trend we saw during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And it’s happened fast – over the last four months of lockdown. 

The pandemic has also shaken up how we think about our finances. According to Charles Schwab’s annual Modern Wealth report, we’ve drastically lowered our markers for financial success.

This shift in values has big implications for consumer brands, says Afdhel Aziz, founder of Conspiracy of Love, a brand purpose consultancy. We need to listen to stakeholders and stay in tune with the public mood, to make the right market decisions. Companies need to show a sense of duty & responsibility and look after their employees’ wellbeing. Offer practical solutions to the new challenges we’re facing. And understand and empathise with what we’re going through, given that millions of us are out of work.

The good news is that at midlife, you’re well-equipped and resourceful enough to take on whatever challenges and economic uncertainty lie ahead. If the traditional markers of success like ambition, power, money and status are no longer as important, it creates space for new ways of living & working: change and transformation. More collaborative leadership that bring people together from all age groups to get stuff done. 

Now is the time to work out what you really want to do with the next half of your life. Get building! Test stuff out. You don’t need to have it all mapped out.

I’m working on it!!

Simple pleasures this month. Beach, swims, walks, books, friends, podcast therapy. We have two new restaurants in town – a seafood bar and a Japanese kitchen, and the new St Leonards Makers’ Market – everyone’s been making stuff during the lockdown and now they need to sell it. I’m also celebrating a small win – The Science of Growing up Happy book I worked on last year is finally here!

The downsides of working from home 

Do you claim expenses for WFH? Will you claim more this year if you’ve been doing it full time? Has your employer or client offered to help out with costs or provided equipment? Interesting thread on Twitter by Timandra Harkness, on the downsides of working from home and the pressure to turn your home into a rent-free workplace. Should trade unions be pushing back on the assumption that employers can use your home as a workspace for free? Ask your client/employer about what they can offer.

Creative Spotlight

Sapphire Bates is the founder of The Coven Girl Gang, an online membership platform for female-founders and freelancers. She’s also a business coach and offers monthly coaching as well as an eight-week in-depth training programme on how to start & scale your own membership. She hosts the Witching Hour pod and edits The Coven magazine – open to pitches! Q&A here on the key elements of pulling together a successful launch. Find her on Twitter @covengirlgang and @sapphirejbates on Instagram.

🔗 the links

🎧 Listen to John O’Nolan, founder of Ghost, on building an open-source publishing platform that makes $63,000/mo. Some good advice here – none of us knows what we’re doing, even the big brands. Don’t feel you have to know it all before you get started. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of reading countless books on startups and not take action. 

Be terrified. If you have the initial drive to jump – take a leap into the unknown and test stuff out – it’s Beta! Don’t be afraid to monetise things early on – a mistake we often make is waiting until we feel we have a ‘freemium’ offering. Pay attention to your feelings. You’ll know when you’re on to something as people will respond.

I’m enjoying Rediverge – his new online publication about remote work, world travel, and building a different kind of life. Also liking Ghost’s ethos – a non-profit, open-source publishing platform that’s crowd-funded rather than VC-funded. I’ve been testing it out and it’s fast – how WordPress used to be before death by Plugin! I’ll be migrating over shortly.

📝 Try the London Writers’ Salon. Daily writing sessions from 8 – 9 am. Set your intention, grab a coffee and off you go. It doesn’t matter what you’re working on – it’s about having a regular practice and doing it with a community, which feels different from writing on your own. After the session, I had a chat with a PhD student and a theatre director in the breakout room. I appreciate the effort Parul and Matt have put into organising this. It’s given many people a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.  

📆 Check out Birch – a new co-working space/hotel/events venue/membership community set in 55 acres of nature, 11 miles from London. You have SPACE to work, rest and play, an extensive events programme and it’s family-friendly – kids & dogs welcome. Go for foraging walks with ‘Farmer Tom’ (nice branding!), bake, make pottery, & enjoy talks, films & masterclasses.

I think we’ll see a lot more of this kind of thing. Holistic working. Much more appealing than a cramped, soulless workspace in the city. 

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#13 – How to survive the Covid storm when you’re a solopreneur; top tips for going freelance; online communities; Government comms jobs

How do you feel about the prospect of a second lockdown?

Would you do it differently?

If money were no object, I’d move to the south of France with my freelance family and collaborate on some projects – host events, workshops, cooking, Aperitivo, massage, sunshine, walks, and learn French again. I spent far too much time on my own during the lockdown.

I enjoyed this article by Rosie Murray-west – Progress: how to survive the Covid storm when you’re a sole trader.  

Rosie talks about dealing with the mental health fallout from running a business alone during a pandemic.

Common problems:

  • Loneliness and isolation – having no one to bounce ideas off
  • Homeschooling at the same time as working – feeling exhausted physically and mentally
  • Working longer hours to try and compensate for the economic slowdown and minimise the impact on your business; doing overtime with no breaks.

Day bleeds into the night when you’re working online at home. It’s hard to switch off when everything you read, see and do feeds into your work. We’ve also been over-compensating with online meetings & events during the lockdown – Zoom fatigue.

She shares some useful tips on how to avoid burnout and keep yourself motivated when working remotely.

  • Connection – phone calls, virtual lunches/co-working sessions, doing product chats live on Instagram
  • Setting boundaries around your work/leisure time. I like the Pomodoro Technique, 25 mins on one task then a 5-min break
  • Working at a sustainable pace to avoid burnout – a solid six-hour day
  • Outsourcing work if you can afford to
  • Working with a mentor or business coach
  • Joining online networking groups
  • Journaling – having a brain dump at night, writing down what you’re worried about, grateful for, and celebrating any wins
  • Better self-care – exercise, nature, meditation, good food, sleep

I saw this piece come together on Lightbulb, an entrepreneur and press hangout. Interesting to see the behind the scenes process and how organic it is. Writer callout, case study pitches, printed article, likes, comments & shares. Things happen quickly and there are no PRs in the group. You can see what editors are looking for (Christmas gift guides!), find new markets and contacts to pitch to and do skill swaps. There’s a small fee to join and I think it’s well worth it. The group has around 2,000 members.

Other online communities worth checking out: Freelance HeroesBeing FreelanceLeapersHoxbyWork NotesFreelance FeelsNo 1 Freelance Media Women.

Meet Susan – here’s what remote working could do to you in 25 years 

Meet Susan – your future self if you don’t change your slovenly ways.

She was created by jobs discovery platform, DirectlyApply to show how remote workers could look in the next 25 years if we don’t change our working habits.  

Susan has terrible eyesight, red eyes and dark circles from staring at the screen all day, bad posture, and an overhanging belly from lack of exercise. She’s stressed out from not spending enough time talking to people and has wrinkles, thinning hair and pasty skin from lack of sunlight and vitamin D.

Pin her to the fridge or by your trainers as a stark warning to take care of yourself, including that eyebrow wax…

Creative Spotlight – Lisa Sweeting, Green Sense Events 

I spoke to Lisa Sweeting about quitting her full-time job to become a freelance events manager. She set up her company, Green Sense Events, during the lockdown and offers creative, bespoke, and sustainable event solutions. Read the full interview here.

🔗 the links

👩‍💻 COMMS JOBS – Comms Connect is a new scheme to help you find work across the government’s communication service. It’s for people who aren’t working or who have lost contracts due to Covid-19. You can register here and be notified when roles come up. It’s worth signing up for the newsletter – lots of tips on learning during lockdown. They are also asking for insights and resources you’ve found helpful during this time – email 

🎧  PODCAST – Courier mag has launched its second podcast, Courier Workshop, to explain key business topics to help you work better. Each episode takes a deep-dive into one essential concept and unpacks it – defining terms, sharing expert views, and useful tools. Workshop two explores tone of voice and how to create it for your brand. Listen here

💻 SURVEY – The NUJ is seeking support from freelancers in a legal challenge to the UK government against the exclusion of large numbers of freelance workers from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and the government’s failure to produce a coherent policy to ensure PAYE workers at publicly-funded employers can access support via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). 

The NUJ is looking for freelance evidence for the judicial review and can use named and anonymised quotes in their case. Take the survey here (live this week). 

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#12 Lockdown Learning – Interview: Lisa Sweeting, Green Sense Events

Lisa Sweeting quit her full-time job in March and decided to go freelance during the lockdown. She has now set up her own company, Green Sense Events, focusing on sustainability. I asked her what’s she’s learned so far, and her top tips for going freelance.  

You went freelance during the lockdown. What was the catalyst for setting up your own company?
I’ve worked in Events for 15 years, managing a mix of corporate celebrations, weddings, private parties, and mass participation sports events. I’ve toyed with the idea of going freelance for about 10 of those years! The thought of having ultimate flexibility, financial independence, fitting work around a family etc, but the comfort blanket of a regular income, paid holidays and sick pay always kept me in my job. When it’s not just you anymore, and you have the responsibilities of a mortgage, and mouths to feed, it’s not an easy decision. 

However, I often felt like my creativity was compromised working for someone else. I was bored of following a system, of doing the same thing year in, year out, everyone who knows me knows that I love variety and learning new things. I’m a real get up and go person, and yet somehow, I felt stuck, and I started to lose some of who I am, which in turn affected my confidence. I love working with new people which is why I love events, collaborating and connecting with like-minded individuals and I felt so busy all the time just juggling work and home life that I had no time to network with others. One of the biggest drivers was that I felt like I couldn’t implement any ‘change’ in a big organisation. After looking at jobs with event & marketing companies mostly based in Bristol and Bath, both an hour’s commute away, and getting frustrated with the lack of home-working opportunities, I finally decided enough was enough. 

I handed my notice in at the beginning of March, and then lockdown happened. Two months later, having worked my notice period, I was left with no job, and no prospects, so why did I still feel amazing, like I could finally breathe again! Firstly, I was able to focus on my children and homeschooling, while my husband worked full time in our home office. I was also ready to start connecting with a few people I’d lost touch with – albeit virtually! I joined some Facebook groups, thanks to a friend in the know and started communicating with people, and I loved it. Given that we were spending so little, I felt I could relax a bit and use the time to work out what I really wanted to do. 

I decided to go freelance despite no prospect of any events on the horizon, and then I set up a sustainable events company: Green Sense Events. Focusing on sustainability was something I’d wanted to implement while employed, and we had started to do it as an organisation but certainly nowhere near enough. I soon realised that if it was important to me, then I’d need to incorporate it into my business from the beginning, so it was at the heart of my work and not just a nice to have. 

What have you’ve learnt so far?
Social media can be overwhelming. I joined lots of Facebook groups, networking events, and digital events which were all great, but at one point, I had to step back and work out a plan of action, write a business plan, edit and update my social media profiles, just to focus my mind. It’s easy to read everything on social media and sign up to every digital event, newsletter and training session going, which is fun and can be useful, but it can also be exhausting. It’s essential to work out what is actually helpful to you in terms of upskilling and raising your profile. 

I’ve learnt to treat my peers as a community rather than competition. I’ve found that pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to whether they have their own sustainable events company, are a supplier or in a different industry altogether, has been incredibly supportive and happy to suggest other contacts and useful top tips. The more you connect with like-minded individuals, the more it leads you to other valuable connections, and it’s a great way to learn. 

Any tops tips on going freelance? 
I’d love to be able to offer top tips that will allow others to gain work, but the current climate means there just isn’t much work around. Things are starting to come back, and it’s great to have some actual dates for when events can start happening again. I’m using the time to get myself set up properly on social media and finishing my website for the company. Educating myself on the areas that interest me – which is sustainability, learning from similar event companies, and looking at what Tokyo Olympics are doing, for example, to be more sustainable. Building my network of suppliers and networking with others as much as possible. 

Many of the traditional networking events have moved online. So, there are still opportunities to network, online instead of ‘in person’, everyone is a potential client even if they aren’t looking to organise an event right now. I hope that people will start to think about planning events going forward even if they can’t happen just yet. I also plan to start a blog once my website is up and running, there are lots of interesting articles out there on sustainability, and I’d love to be able to share it with my network. I think it’s also a good way of engaging with people. 

I am interested to see how digital events affect the industry moving forward, so exploring different platforms to see what’s possible in this field. Digital is a fantastic way of lessening our impact on the environment, so it’s an important area to look at and experience. I think even if you’re not hosting a virtual or hybrid event, look out for virtual events that you can attend as a participant, so you can at least talk from experience. 

Useful Facebook groups: #Eventprofsforchange, Delegate Wranglers, Get Ahead in Events, UK Live Event Freelancers Forum.

Anything you need help with?
I am really keen to hear from anyone who is either a sustainable supplier or venue, and I’d also to hear about what people think about sustainability. I worry that we could move backwards slightly with all the use of plastic PPE, and restrictions on the use of re-useable cups. But equally, I feel that businesses might do more online and perhaps not hold events for the sake of it as much as they used to. 

Get in touch:
Lisa Sweeting, Green Sense Events Ltd


#11 NUJ legal challenge to the lockdown support measures; #Giftcard500; the rise of micro-entrepreneurship; Remote work & AI

I’ve been in full campaign mode this week.

The National Union of Journalists has submitted a legal challenge to the government’s lockdown support measures.

They believe the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) introduction by the Treasury has excluded large numbers of freelance workers and is therefore discriminatory.

It’s a step up in their campaign to secure equal treatment for all freelance workers.

The government has excluded PAYE workers from the SEISS scheme and often from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). This means the chancellor has failed to protect a significant number of working people whose incomes were affected in precisely the same way as others who have qualified for assistance.

Another reason why you should #JoinAUnion.

After months of asking the BBC to help their PAYE freelances, the BBC has now agreed to provide some financial support to about 649 PAYE freelances and they will receive their average earnings for March, April, and May (capped at £2,500 a month). 

This is being funded by the BBC, not the government, but still, good news – can others follow suit?

A HUGE thank you to NUJ Extra, the union’s charity, for checking in and supporting me financially over the past few months. I’m very grateful for your help.

Feels good to be part of a collective working to improve pay & conditions for all media workers.

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#Giftcard500 – Raise the tax-free limit on gift cards to kickstart the economy

This week, the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) launched its campaign, #Giftcard500 – lobbying the government to raise the tax-free limit on gift cards to kickstart the economy.

Employers are increasingly using gift cards to reward their staff. Currently, anything over £50 is subject to tax (HMRC Trivial Benefits Allowance) and they are asking the government to raise this tax-free limit to £500 permanently to bring us into line with other countries such as Ireland and Sweden.

This is a quick & simple solution to get spending flowing again and encourage companies to say thank you to their teams for their work over the past few months.

The high street is in desperate need of support to encourage people to start spending again. Gift cards are great as they can be spent in outlets large & small – and online. People have been buying them as a ‘pay it forward’ to help support local businesses during the lockdown.

Please sign, share, support! Let’s make it happen.        

It’s a shame the £500 shopping voucher initiative suggested by the Resolution Foundation wasn’t taken up – a missed opportunity to show support for the industries hardest hit by Coronavirus. Big media appetite for this – comment piece in The Sun.

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💻 Webinar

Interactive Q&A/Freelancing Surgery with Sarah Townsend, freelance marketing copywriter and author of Survival Skills for Freelancers, Tuesday 28th July. Simple strategies to help you thrive without neglecting your mental health & wellbeing (via ProCopywriters). Register here.

🔆 Creative Spotlight

Mohana Prabhakar, content & media consulting, based in Muscat, Oman.

Content creation, editing, content management and communication strategy, corporate website content, media strategy.

When I started as a journalist in 1992, it allowed me to do what I loved: Learn about new businesses, meet new people from all types of industries and backgrounds and tell the story in a way that everyone wanted to know more. Connecting people and businesses through words, content, excites me even today and storytelling is my strength. That is why I decided to start my venture and move away from a media-only platform to the all-inclusive communication role. And I hope to get the opportunity to mentor young Omanis who want to get ahead in the field of communications and media and teach them the value of every word they put out there.

Twitter: mohana1, Insta: mohanaprabhakar,

Where can we go on holiday this summer? Overheard a woman moaning about how irresponsible it is to go on holiday. “Too many spikes, it’s just not worth the risk.”

I’m in rural Nottinghamshire with my fam ✨ Enjoying Southwell with its little boutiques, cosy cafes, Minster, Old Theatre deli, gorgeous walks, and country pubs. After months of being stuck inside my flat, it’s bliss. Simple pleasures.

🔗 the links

Robot usage is soaring during the pandemic (ZDNet)

Fujitsu to halve office space in 3 years citing ‘new normal’ (Reuters). Japan is rewriting the way its employees work – big news for a country that thrives on its office culture.

Our remote work future is going to suck (Sean Blanda)

Grounded takeover – the empowered economy (Jomayra Herrera. Investor @Cowboy Ventures)

Musings on: unbundling meetings for a remote world (Monica Desai)

Pandemic speeds largest test yet of universal basic income (Nature)

After ad revenue drop, Twitter tells investors it’s eyeing subscription options (TechCrunch)

What I wish I knew 5 years ago about building a career in ‘content’. (Sean Blanda)

I’m a model and I know that AI will eventually take my job (Vogue/Hacker News)

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#10 A Minimalist Approach to Business

An independent publication about remote work, creativity, & crafting a meaningful life.

Last July, I had to set up a limited company as clients and agencies won’t do business with sole traders for various reasons. This came up after I’d been offered the contract so it was a bit of a rush job. I registered with Companies House and sorted out business insurance (not easy when you have poor credit – finally got it sorted via a broker). I was a bit apprehensive as I like to keep things simple. Was it worth the hassle and expense of going limited for a short contract?

I went for it anyway as it was an interesting project with a big brand, well paid and could lead on to other things. I worked on it full time for six months and kept my other clients on reduced hours – pretty gruelling – a good practice run for the lockdown. I learnt how to handle an ever-shifting brief, multiple sign-offs and differing opinions on tone of voice. It felt good to be earning proper money. Going limited has made me think about my business as a separate entity. I’ve given my agency a name and it means I can apply for a wider range of projects.

Now it’s listed on CH, I’m being approached by lots of people keen to sell me stuff. Sales letters in the post, random calls, InMail – do I need staff, office space or software solutions? (nope, it’s just me). All trying to persuade me to buy, upgrade, do more, get bigger.

I don’t want to get bigger. Just better at what I do.

I want a minimalist business with scalable systems so I can work less, earn more, adapt quickly and be less stressed.

I want to do interesting, meaningful work, collaborate more, and have the freedom to choose when and where I work. More time to do things I enjoy and see the people I love. Not having to monetise everything I do. Minimal overheads and managing myself – not others.

Here’s what I’ve done over the last year to keep things simple:

  • Focused on my strengths – things I enjoy and am good at. I do the writing, client liaison and my own social media – the rest I can outsource. I’m thinking more about the end-to-end service, i.e. emails to my mailing list to find out what they want and following up on projects.
  • Streamlined my services – I’ve done journalism, PR, social media management, coaching, PA work, marketing, research, TV, radio, events. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should offer it as a service. So, I copywrite and will niche, even more, to focus on areas I’m interested in: the future of work, portfolio thinking, digital innovation, AR, slow travel, creativity, and human connection in business.
  • Thinking big but keeping it simple with digital products – newsletters, a book, online classes/courses. Automating as much as I can: online accountant, FreeAgent, social media scheduling, creating templates for jobs I do regularly.
  • Cancelled subscriptions I don’t need
  • Made my own website and banner
  • Working from home and cafes to keep my costs down
  • Owning my mailing list – this newsletter is my main channel of communication. Becoming more strategic on social media – using fewer platforms so I can be more engaged. LinkedIn is my main source of work – also checking out Reddit and Quora.
  • Being creative with my work/live space. I don’t want to pay more rent for a bigger flat so I’m looking at small space design and storage solutions.
  • Sold my car – unreliable, expensive and I don’t need it every day
  • Learning – reading anything I can get my hands on – business books, copywriting, creativity, leadership lessons from history, the Spanish flu. Listening to podcasts. Doing free online courses.
  • Signed up with Hoxby, a collective work agency with over 1k freelancers from 30+ countries, all working as teams on various projects. It’s a community of experts rather than an online inventory of talent, and they pay community shares.
  • Stopped calling myself a freelancer. I’m a business owner/founder. There are negative perceptions that freelancers are flaky and unreliable, which is frustrating.
  • Asked for a pay rise and a contract from a regular client
  • Experimenting more – as Liz Gilbert says, creativity and fear have to learn to live together. Putting stuff out there is scary. The good thing about having a small audience is you can test stuff out (it’s beta!) It doesn’t matter if a project fails – it was a worthwhile experience and will feed into the next thing.
  • Trying to let go of my anxiety around not knowing enough before putting work out there. It’s ok to learn and grow on the job. I did a masterclass this week with Lauren Razavi who has been researching influencer culture for her book. She shared some fascinating insights around mindset: influencers don’t ask for permission or chase traditional prestige/media. They learn in public and take their audience along with them. You validate yourself through the work you do.
  • I have one email account – adding ‘no response necessary’ to the end of emails
  • Writing in the mornings – generates a few ideas before I start on client work
  • Asking questions. ‘What are you passionate about?’ will lead to deeper conversations than ‘what do you do?’
  • Building deeper relationships with the clients I have and making myself indispensable. What other products can I help create? How else can I add value? What are the links between the different industries I work in and what connections can I make?

Having a minimalist business is about mindset, and it doesn’t mean thinking small. I want a profitable business I can pass on to my daughter if she wants it, or sell. The benefit of being a company of one is that you can experiment, do things quickly and change direction if you need to.

I’m hugely inspired by Paul Jarvis’ work – check out Company of One and his newsletter, Sunday Dispatches – he always makes time for a chat on Twitter. The Minimalists blog & podcast. Tom Fishburne aka the Marketoonist. Bringing humour to business with cartoons. He works from home as a freelance cartoonist and makes more money now than he ever did in the corporate world. Cal Newport’s books Digital Minimalism and Deep Work.

I’ve been having lots of conversations about new lifestyles post lockdown. People have been using this time creativity to start businesses and make plans. One family is moving to France for the winter rather than their usual long-haul travel. More new arrivals from London – couples taking advantage of being fully remote until 2021. A friend has moved to the countryside and is setting up her Country Girl Yoga.

Interesting to see that rents have fallen in London and are rising in smaller cities. I had plans to move to Xabia, Spain this time last year but things didn’t work out – too expensive for rentals (4 months upfront via agencies) and difficult with a teenager so it’s on hold for now. I want the best of both worlds – summer in the UK near family and winter sun in a creative environment, meeting people doing interesting things.

What changes have you made during the lockdown?

Hit reply and let me know.

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Creative Spotlight

Tamara Wilder is the owner of Blackwatch Entertainment – live and online entertainment for the corporate and private sector. She recently won a place on the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator Scheme competing with 800 applicants for one of 50 places. “I say we, essentially my company is really me and some stormingly brilliant women. We’re award-winning, five-star rated and have been incredibly busy with virtual entertainment during the lockdown. We’re now heading into a new area of entertainment – digital storytelling using Augmented Reality.

Offering: Collaboration and skills swap as an actor, writer and creative innovator. “I’m a trained writer, workshop leader and facilitator for the corporate and voluntary sectors. I’m also an experienced voiceover artist.” Connect on Twitter @blackwatchents @tamarawilder_actor and insta: @blackwatchentertainment.

Tried & Tested

I’ve been spending more time on LinkedIn lately as it’s where most of my leads come from. Following companies I’d like to work with, connecting with agency creatives, leaving comments, and replying to DMs (even if they are just selling stuff, I’m asking how they are). I did a call out for creative businesses to profile and tagged it #femalefounders, #contentcreators, and #newsletters, which got some traction and ended up trending – worth doing as the editors pick up this content for news updates.

There’s a lot of noise on Twitter and I struggle with Insta – refresh, refresh, random follows, pickups, curated content. I’m sat here at my desk all day like a farmer – no fairy dust. It makes you feel shit and boring so I’ve stopped using it. LinkedIn is good for deeper connections, positioning yourself, sharing ideas, articles, community groups. They keep offering me free trials for Premium but I’m not sure it’s worth it (a LinkedIn trainer said not to bother).


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🔗 the links

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