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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.

Blog Business Remote work Tech Wellness Work

Remote working – an end to the office as we know it? 

Office workers have been catapulted into the biggest ever remote working experiment during the global pandemic. How are employees adapting to the new normal of working from home full time – and how can we fine-tune our workstyle to avoid a new phenomenon: Death by Conference Call?

New research reveals productivity, happiness and office culture are booming with the shape of the office set to change forever:

  • Almost 3/4 (71%) of office bosses are pleasantly surprised by team productivity during lockdown despite more than half (54%) being nervous about their teams remote working before the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Over half (52%) say their organisations are MORE productive remote working than in an office – a surprise to almost 3/4 of bosses
  • Nearly 2/3 (58%) of office workers say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them
  • 1/4 (25%) believe they’ll remote work at least half the time after the pandemic is over (compared to 10% before)
  • 70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree ‘remote working is the future of my organisation’. 34% of business owners are considering moving to an entirely remote office

Nice to have some good news, especially as the lockdown measures (and remote working) look set to continue indefinitely. The study, conducted by Hoxby, a virtual agency and consultancy on the future of work, also found:

Effective Working: 71% of office workers think their employer is well set up for remote working. Almost 2/3 (58%) say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them, rising to 63% of those in a managerial position. Only 19% say they prefer being in an office.

Happiness: 57% of managers think remote working is good for mental health, with only 14% recognising any adverse effects. Two-thirds of office workers agree that though the current situation is challenging in other ways, they are enjoying the fact that remote work means they can spend more time with their family, rising to 72% of those with young children. Only 8% say teams seem unhappy as a result of remote working.

Office culture: Over half (55%) of office managers say office culture is just as strong as ever, with office chat continuing just in a different form. Only 18% of office remote workers have seen any negative impact. 

The future is now
So, will this signal the end of 9-5 office culture? 1/4 of workers think they will remote work at least half the time after the outbreak, compared with just 10% before and 12% of the workforce say they’ll be working entirely remotely after the outbreak, compared to 4% previously.

Before the pandemic, 45% of office workers surveyed were required to be in the office ‘at all times.’ This is expected to fall to just 27%.

How might UK offices change shape?
70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree that “remote working is the future of my organisation.” The lockdown has led to many reviewing how their businesses are structured. 42% plan to reduce the amount of office space they need. 49% think they’ll encourage more remote working. 34% are considering moving to an entirely remote office.

We still need to fine-tune remote working
48% of office workers admit they’re relying on conference calls too much and would like to learn more about other working practices rising to 63% amongst business leaders. 44% of workers are on conference calls “most of the day”, 54% of those who are managers. Junior team members need more support with set up.

Stuck in the 9-5
It seems we’re stuck in the 9-5 mentality, a throwback from the industrial age. 77% of business leaders expect their teams to work similar hours. Only 12% are trying to buck this trend for their teams, i.e. trying to escape the shackles of presenteeism. 34% of senior managers said remote working was something they wanted to do more of but felt they should be ‘seen’ to be in the office.

Great to see such positive outcomes after just five weeks of lockdown – with no practice run! I hope companies take this on board and rethink how they operate. As the founders of Hoxby, Lizzie & Alex point out, “Changing working practices is about putting people, their lives, their work, their mental health, all of these things centre stage… To avoid the ‘death by conference call phenomenon’ and ‘coat on the back of the chair’ expectations of presenteeism… “Organisations need to keep a watch on remote working practices and evolve and better them by gaining a deeper understanding of technology and virtual leadership.”

It’s time to leave the industrial age behind and adopt digital age working methods to improve diversity, productivity, and wellbeing – happy workers tend to be loyal ones. This shows remote is the future of work and there’s no going back, so it’s just a matter of fine-tuning our methods. It’s is an opportunity for companies to trailblaze with workstyles that are more flexible, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Use this time to get your head around new technologies, build online communities, and do things differently. There are more effective ways of working that may cost less. If it’s working well why would we want to go back to the old way of doing things?

Hoxby has a #RemoteAgainstCoronavirus campaign for a better remote working strategy. I recommend these articles:

Recognise that Remote Working is not the Same as Working from Home

Focus on wellbeing and mental health – The importance of, and practical tips for, looking after your mental health during the crisis.

Don’t be paranoid and start to view success based on output – five rules for leading remote teams.

The importance of building virtual communities and community engagement.

Hoxby’s remote working strategic approach.

Censuswide researched 1,003 office workers currently working through the pandemic between 22/4 – 27/4/20. 

Photo by Georgie Clarke.





Blog Culture New York Tech Work

Sticking it to Stigma: Hot Octopuss’ Sex Toy Campaign

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 20.16.04I’m proud to be working with Hot Octopuss, a London-based inclusive sex toy company.

This week they launched the Show Stigma The Finger campaign, starring six activists wearing nothing but the middle finger.

Show Stigma The Finger was designed to be displayed across the Big Apple but was banned by numerous media buyers, deemed “too inappropriate.” Despite falling foul of regulations, the company rallied support from local New York street artists to bring the campaign to life at one location in Manhattan and online. It hopes to highlight and break down prejudices and phobias standing in the way of women achieving healthy and happy sex lives – a mission the brand has been working on since 2011.

“‘No’ wasn’t an acceptable answer for this one. When we were told the ads were too inappropriate, we knew we had a duty to make sure the world saw it. The stars of the campaign are giving a fearless F-you to years of stereotypes that society has placed upon them. They’re standing up for anyone who’s ever been told they are too big, too old or not pretty enough to enjoy sex. It’s our responsibility to make sure these voices are not silenced, so we are going ahead with the campaign despite what the authorities say,” says Jules Margo, COO and co-founder.

You can see the campaign in Downtown Manhattan, NY until the end of the year or online. Its launch coincides with the release of their latest toy – the DiGiT – a gender-neutral finger sex toy that demonstrates how powerful a single finger can be. For every toy purchased the company will be donating 10% of profits to charities chosen by the campaign’s six activists.

The faces behind the fingers are rebelling against homophobia, ageism, ableism, colourism, body shaming and transphobia.

The company collaborated with multi-disciplinary artist, Aleksandra Karpowicz to execute the campaign.

Join the movement online via the hashtag #ShowStigmaTheFinger on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Photo by Cowan Whitfield


Blog Tech Work

Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra Broadband – review

I’ve recently signed up for unlimited fibre extra broadband with Plusnet. I’m working from home so need a fast, reliable internet connection. I live with a 12-year-old YouTuber/Netflix addict so we’re both online evenings and weekends, which can slow things down.

Yesterday I received a cheque in the post from them for £70 as a ‘thank you’ for signing up.


Great customer service too. A few days ago they called me to check in on the service to make sure I’m happy, asking if there’s anything else they can do for me.

There are tons of options for business broadband and I went with Plusnet on word-of-mouth recommendation. They aren’t the cheapest, but they provide a good service, fast speeds, and have won awards for their customer service. I can also speak to someone in Sheffield rather than dealing with chatbots and overseas call centres. A huge time suck.

After months of problems with my phone line, scam calls and a very slow service that kept dropping, I am happy and feeling productive! Amazing what a small change in your set up can do. When things are running smoothly you don’t even think about them. The surprise cheque was a nice bonus too.

Just checking out their community blog. Here’s a recent post on the best countries for remote workers.  I don’t think Spain is better than the UK for remote workers though, not based on my recent experience there 😉


Check out their products here:

Adventure travel Blog Work

Interview: Paul O’Brien, CEO, Virgin Experience Days

I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul O’Brien, CEO at Virgin Experience Days, to talk about current trends in travel and the growth of the ‘experience economy’.

Last year, searches for experiences rose by 58% according to a new report by Hitwise and memory has now become the product. So what’s driving the trend and how can brands win in the experience economy?

Here’s what Paul had to say… Read more.

Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash