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#8 Back in Business

Did you go out yesterday? Super Saturday. It was raining here, so I didn’t bother. Not in the mood for shopping or being in a crowded pub, so I stayed home and made some calls. It’s been a busy week and I had to take my daughter to Heathrow on Tuesday. She’s spending the rest of the summer in Sardinia with her dad so I’m getting used to being on my own again.

A friend made a comment the other day about being an unpaid skivvy and how she’s glad to get back to work (she runs a vegan café and has been doing takeaways). I know how she feels. I’ve enjoyed spending more time with my daughter and having a co-working buddy but it’s been hard work. Lots of shopping, cooking and cleaning on top of my paid work, which women tend to do more of.

I need a break. 

A friend said her neighbours are having an existential crisis about having jobs with no meaning. The pandemic has polarised jobs into two camps: essential and nonessential. We’re celebrating key workers – teachers, doctors, nurses, supermarket staff and delivery drivers because they’re out there doing important (and visible) jobs. It’s easy to feel demoralised and fed up if you’ve been furloughed, are worried about redundancy, or doing less visible work like IT, marketing and social media.

If you’re feeling that way there are some good tips in this piece by The Enterprisers Project.

My work has stepped up lately – it’s all about communications rather than selling. And getting the tone of voice right. One of my clients is a trade organisation so has gone above and beyond to support its members – a new digital platform, blog, webinars, social events, sharing campaigns, advocacy, and doing lots of press.

If you’re not finding value in your paid job, then start a side hustle doing something you enjoy. This newsletter has given me a focus and a weekly deadline. I’ve made some great connections and it’s interesting to see how publishing and journalism are evolving with new online models. More here on how Substack has spawned a new generation of newsletter entrepreneurs. I’ve asked Lauren Razavi (Counterflows) to come and talk to the NUJ on July 13 about making money from email newsletters. She’s also running some great freelance masterclasses this month.

I’ve enjoyed: working remotely, daily jogs, Peleton, reading, podcasts, long chats, cooking, online conferences like Creative Women – stuff I wouldn’t have been able to go to IRL. I’ve been quite productive. Funny how having constraints can make you feel more creative and focused – we have fewer distractions.

I’ve missed: hugs, massages, seeing friends & family, working in cafes, watercooler chat. 

The DMA is running a campaign for Great British Creativity, focusing on the value creativity can bring to UK businesses, so I got in touch and offered to write some copy. Enjoyed this mini-documentary: Madmen v Mavens – on the future of copywriting.  

Interesting chat with Lemur Press in New York about reprinting one of my old books – the fine art of the blow job – yes, it’s still top of the Google search, apparently, 12 years on. I’ve written to my publisher to ask for my rights back and all seems well. Be interesting to see if I earn more from a reprinted version that pays royalties rather than a flat-fee deal. A bit of extra cash would be very welcome.

I’ve also signed up to The Copywriter Underground. My goal is to earn 10k a month. I did it with my last contract, so I can do it again. It’s all about mindset, hey. I’ve been listening to their excellent podcast which has me realise how diverse the industry is and how the title ‘copywriter’ really doesn’t do it justice.

I can’t think of a better word though. Content writer sounds a bit wanky. 

There are so many different kinds of copywriting and lots of opportunities with emerging industries – SaaS, AI, VR, fintech. As we’ve seen over the last few months, brands will always need good copy.

The Links 🔗

Sunak (future PM) considers £500 vouchers for all UK adults to spend in coronavirus-hit firms (and £250 for kids). Tories giving out free money…this is a big shift 😉 Tried and tested in Wuhan, Malta and Taiwan, so why not the UK? Bring it on. 

Why news organisations’ move to capitalise ‘Black’ is a win

Tik Tok launches Tik Tok for Business – a new platform for brands and advertisers.

What the Dutch can teach the world about remote working. “I’m judged on whether I deliver value, not the fact that I sit at a desk for nine hours a day.” Like the idea of having free places to work where you trade a service for a workspace. 

Big Tech may not be afraid of a boycott. But it may fear a regulator

Kanye West declares he will run for US president in 2020. Written in the stars, surely? 

New Marketing 🎧 with Ayo Abbas: Marketing in Times of Crisis – jam-packed with tips, hints and takeaways you can apply to your business right now. 

Emma Gannon’s Ctl Alt Delete 🎧 – #270 Julia Cameron: Creativity, Criticism & The Artist’s Way

The Tip

How to return to a younger version of yourself to create better content. “The easiest person to have empathy with is yourself. And if I’m having empathy with a younger version of myself, then I can create what I think is much better content, because I’m able to understand my customer or my theoretical customer.” Darrell & Stefanie in The Copyblogger 🎧.

Try writing a letter to your teenage self – you’ll be surprised what emotions come up.

The Brand 

Aromatherapy Associates
I’m addicted to Deep Relax, their first and bestselling oil. Add a few drops to the bath or massage in before you shower and breathe deeply… feel those shoulders drop. You’ll smell fabulous all day (or night) and get the best night’s sleep.

Geraldine Howard co-founded the brand in 1985 and started out giving treatments and making products from her small Fulham flat. It went on to become of the UK’s biggest beauty exports with a strong brand story around the healing power of aromatherapy. She died of a rare form of eye cancer in 2016. Here’s to a genuine beauty visionary who said her greatest achievement was “seeing the incredible results that essential oils had both on the quality of the skin and on the way people felt.” 🙏

If you’ve not tried it, you’re in for a treat. 

Email me if there’s anything you’d like me to share in next week’s newsletter – before and after haircut pics welcome!

PS. I have a new logo – what do you think? Bit Mondrian. I’ve gone for primary colours for a change, and it really cheers me up.

Credit to my good friend and colleague, Sheriden Booth, an experienced marketer, photographer and graphic designer. We’ve been working together for the past couple of years, and she has a great eye. If you need some marketing help or a fresh design, I recommend her services. She’s also been looking after three kids and working full time during the lockdown.

👏 👏 👏 to all the supermums (and dads) out there…

Photo: Unsplash

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Copywriting projects – June 2020

It’s June, my birthday month. A special anniversary this year – I’m 46 years young and also celebrating 20 years as a freelance writer!

What am I working on in June?

Here’s an overview.

  • E-shots and newsletter for a retail trade body
  • Annual Review 2020
  • Social media copywriting for a journalists’ trade union
  • Promoting #ForgottenFreelance and #NoFreeWork campaigns
  • Developing a new blog series – thought leadership pieces from the gift card industry
  • Social media reporting
  • Writing blogs on perimenopause and sex, and menopause and sex (yes, two different things!) for a sex tech startup. A slight challenge as I have Safe Search on while homeschooling
  • Boilerplate for a press release
  • Email newsletter, The Shift, my weekly (Sunday) update on work culture
  • Research – listening to podcasts on marketing and work trends: Hot Copy, Is This Working? Call Paul, Being Freelance, The Copywriter Club. I go by the 25% rule and spend the first hour of the day working on my business rather than in it
  • Pandemic check – updating my website SEO, links, blog, checking tone of voice etc

It’s a diverse range of content and comms across very different industries.

I use a variety of platforms – MailChimp, WordPress, Hootsuite, Microsoft Outlook, LinkedIn, Twitter, G-Suite, Substack, Zoom, SurveyMonkey, Disciple app.

It’s all about communication right now. Getting the right tone and shifting things online – meetings, webinars, podcasts, apps. Finding ways to keep people connected while they’re working from home and having systems and processes in place to manage remote teams.

Being direct is essential – so have one message or call to action per email, use bullets, and keep it short. No one wants long emails with too much information. There’s no point planning too far ahead either as we don’t know what’s coming and things are changing so fast. Focus on the next couple of months. 

Now isn’t the time for a hard sell but don’t disappear on your customers either – keep in touch, a weekly email is fine. People will appreciate you being there and doing stuff. It’s an opportunity to show people how you’ve responded to the crisis, your values and teamwork. Once this is over, we’ll remember the brands that took action and helped others, and we’ll be loyal to them.

Add a personal touch – a sign off from the CEO in an e-shot, or call your clients to see if you can help. Offer to keep in touch via their personal email if they’ve been furloughed. Ditch the Survey Monkey and ask for a quick email update instead. Make it easy for people to keep in touch with you.

Use Zoom for online meetings as people are familiar with it and using it personally. Don’t share a meeting link on social media and set a password to join. Make it fun – jokes, canned laughter, music, drinks. Don’t aim for perfection; keep it real. We’re all in this together.

I was inspired to see how the Jigsaw team have been using Zoom – they are a social bunch! Check out their blog post here.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked across many industries, and it’s been interesting to see how clients are adapting to the new normal. It’s great to share ideas and see how trends in one industry may help another. It’s one of the joys of being freelance – you see things from a different perspective and bring fresh ideas.

If you need help with your copy and content, feel free to get in touch. I’m here to help. nicci@niccitalbot.com.

Sign up for my weekly newsletter, The Shift – exploring new ways of living and working.

PS. If you’re struggling to concentrate, try the Pomodoro Technique, a time management tool. Set your 25-minute timer and work on one task at a time with no interruptions. Short break. Rinse and repeat. I also use Do Not Disturb when I need to concentrate – all calls and notifications off for a calmer working day.

I don’t want to go back to normal, do you?

See this as an opportunity. It’s a good time to think about how you live and work and make some changes.

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Corona Diaries: Day 1 of Lockdown (Artist in Residence)

Day 1 of my ‘Artist in Residency’ – a nicer way of looking at it. Thanks to Sky Dylan-Robbins, Executive Director, Video Consortium, who said, “Despite the anxiety that today’s torrents of bad news may induce, there’s something to be said for taking a moment to breathe, reassess, and do something we haven’t had time to pursue.” Yes! Like announcing on Twitter that I’m going to be learning Italian over the next three months to show solidarity.

27 million people in the UK watched Boris’ historic speech last night enforcing a lockdown and telling us we must stay at home. Sound speech, clear messaging and tagline – “Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” Note the wartime language: “In this fight, each and every one of us is directly enlisted. On the frontline. Beat the virus. An army of volunteers.” A bit belated, he’s clearly in anguish at having to take these measures, but they are necessary given that the UK saw its highest number of coronavirus deaths in one day, with 87 dying in 24 hours. I’m glad we’re finally joining the rest of Europe. 

Woke up at 6.30 am with the sun streaming through the window, dogs barking and birds singing. It’s not great timing, is it? We’ve been stuck indoors for months due to crap weather, and now, just as everything’s coming back to life, it looks like we’re going to be inside for another three months. Still, I’m not running a marathon on my balcony like that fabulous Frenchman – our restrictions aren’t that draconian.

1.18 pm: text from GOV.UK: “CORONAVIRUS ALERT. New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” 

Slight confusion about messaging. The fam all had the same text advising them to stay at home. ‘You may get additional advice on your health condition shortly’. My mum thought this was irresponsible “cos people will be led to believe they are on the 1.5 million list of at-risk people when the text appears to be a confirmation of government policy to the population as a whole. Loads of folk will be panicking for nowt!”

Friend texted in despair after spending 2.5 hours on hold trying to get through to the Universal Credit helpline for some advice. “There’s no other way to continue a claim than to call them. The system is going to stop loads from getting any help at all.” 

Working from home: everyone seems to be using Zoom for online meetings – positive feedback, it’s easy to use. £11.99 for small sessions of up to 100. There’s also a free option, which apparently ends calls after 40 minutes (sounds like an excellent productivity tool!). One of my clients (retail trade body) is digitising its platform for members so we’re exploring webinars, online conferencing, and a portal/forum as all physical events are on hold. Great to see lots of positive news/PR stories coming out about retail and how ‘self-isolation is changing our gifting style’, i.e. we’re buying more gift cards to help loved ones feel better. I’ve already bought three this month for birthdays and Mother’s Day. 

So, I’ll be working on a ‘sunny news blog’ for the retail/gifting world with positive stories. There’s also a free school meals initiative for coronavirus which involves gift cards, so lots of scope for retailers.

Funny how having a tight brief for a client or a ‘lockdown’ in this case helps with creativity – we have to work with what we have so there’s less room for procrastination. As Douglas R Hofstadter said, “I suspect that the welcoming of constraints is, at bottom, the deepest secret of creativity.”

Update on self-employment: 

Proposed amendment to the Coronavirus Bill: “Statutory Self-employment Pay”. If it’s accepted, it compels the government to introduce Regulations for freelancers: 80% of their monthly net earnings, averaged over the last three years OR £2,197 per month, whichever is lower. Write to your MP to support this: ow.ly/53iz50yUow7 – more news on self-employment tomorrow.

5 pm: Had a jog to Bexhill. Seafront was full of joggers, dog walkers, and bikes… cycling is going to be huge this year. Older people are great at social distancing, but millennials don’t seem to have the hang of it yet and carry on walking straight towards you, so I had to do a bit of dodging. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t want to catch this, thanks. Popped into the Co-op on the way home for loo roll and eggs (max 15 people at a time, self-employed bouncer on the door). Empty shelves, which is no surprise, but now the wine shelf and fridges have been stripped bare too. It’s official: the UK’s holing up for three weeks. 

Why aren’t retail staff wearing masks? I’ve been in all the supermarkets, and none of the checkout staff or security are wearing them. The chaps in the corner shops are. This is madness given the number of people they are coming into contact with and the delivery drivers bringing in new stock. We should be looking after these people as well as our NHS staff: they’re on the ‘retail frontline’ after all, and they have to put up with the public all day long…

8 pm: Channel 4 News. The teen on group chat with her mates all night, trying to host a Netflix party. Few tech glitches so it didn’t work, but we’ll try again tonight. Great idea, Netflix!

Some positive news:

After tweeting Dr Mark Ali (Private Harley Street Clinic) to suggest he should offer free COVID-19 testing for frontline workers, I see there’s been a massive backlash about him profiteering from a national crisis. He’s now lost his contract with the supplier so no private testing on his website. Still, he’s made a packet in a few weeks – perhaps he could donate some to the NHS.  

ExCel Centre in London to be turned into coronavirus hospital for up to 4,000 patients

Coronavirus: Joe Wicks keeps children fit with online PE classes

Your NHS Needs You – NHS call for a volunteer army. Join the GoSAM App. 405,000 recruits in one day! I’ll make calls and write letters of hope. 

Free Minecraft education pack to help kids stuck in quarantine. Armchair travel to the international space station and the inside of the human eye. 

Coronavirus: Can Couples Meet up? Couples should test their strength of feeling over whether to isolate together is the official advice from England’s deputy chief medical officer. “Couples need to make a choice and stick with it.”  

Company gives away 100,000 free sex toys and gifts to women stuck in self-isolation

Prada: the latest fashion brand to make medical face masks. Great to see the big brands making medical face masks, hand sanitiser, and funding studies into coronavirus and immunity and intensive care units. 

Enjoy reading this?

Clear messaging (& tone of voice) is crucial at all times – not just during coronavirus!

If you need a little help with your marketing activity in the coming weeks – get in touch today. Nicci@niccitalbot.com.

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Copywriting: Wealth from Words

NUJ training with Eugene Costello and Nick Saalfeld 

Copywriting and branded content creation pay two or three times more than conventional journalism and there is near-insatiable demand for skilled practitioners. Join Eugene Costello and Nick Saalfeld to learn how to delight clients and what it takes to command truly stellar day rates.

So, I went along to find out more… a really enjoyable course, funny, entertaining and inspiring with lots of anecdotes, jokes and useful tips. Eugene focuses on B2C work and Nick, B2B and thought leadership so good insight into the pros and cons of both and different rates of pay.

Key takeaways: Do corporate work. There’s lots of it out there and it pays well. Know your worth and charge a decent day rate. Don’t do piecemeal or project work – sites like People Per Hour and Upwork are saturated. Look for niche areas like tech/blockchain, where there isn’t as much competition. Focus on building a relationship with a client. I also love the idea of having a ‘capability statement’ instead of a CV.

Types of copywriting:

·      Advertising

·      Business writing

·      Blogging for clients

·      In-house journalism

On finding work:

·      Contact small businesses and individuals with high net worth and ask if they need help

·      Contact advertising agencies via LinkedIn

·      Facebook groups – A Few Good HacksJourno ResourcesNo 1 Freelance Media Women, & copywriting groups… Eleanor GooldJackie Barrie

·      Have your own website with slides/logos on it featuring your best clients and an online portfolio. Blog about the companies you’re working with or want to be. Eugene got an in-house journalism gig with Octopus Energy by writing a blog post about their excellent customer service… which caught the eye of the CEO when he shared it on Twitter… a charity donation and eventually, some work!

·      Serendipity – be out there talking to people, go to meetups – Nick runs one for Pharma professionals in London, carry business cards

·      Find your niche – for Nick, it’s thought leadership. Think about where your work fits into the company – do your research and then produce 10 pieces. Move from piecemeal to transactional work to relationship building and make yourself valuable. He jumps at the chance to go in-house, meet people and work out how he can contribute. “Get out of the transactional crap into long-term value work.”

·      Create a ‘capability statement’ instead of a CV, a two-page document showing clients, sectors, logos, agencies worked for, reference examples, 6 referees, commercial boilerplate. Nick has one and updates it every three months. “It knocks the socks off a CV!”

·      Nick also hires writers and looks for: critical thinking, logic and structure in complexity, curiosity, conscientiousness, business sense, horizon scanning, adaptability, flexibility, creativity, emotional intelligence, self-motivation, prioritisation and time management, embracing and celebrating change

·      Learn about new areas where there’s less competition – e.g. cryptocurrency, tech, blockchain

·      Content management agencies – worth signing up for but be selective as the pay can be terrible. Check out www.stickycontent.com and www.thewriter.com

What can you earn?

·      You get what you expect – rates can vary between £150-500 a day

·      On knowing your worth – Eugene asked for £500 per day at Octopus Energy and thought he’d fluffed it as things went quiet… but he held out rather than going back with a lower offer and they offered him £400 per day to be their in-house journalist

·      If there’s something they like about your work don’t be afraid to ask for more. It’s a good thing to try and hold your rate

·      Avoid project rates or piecemeal work – develop a sense of your own value

On writing:

·      Forget the tone of voice corporate bullshit. Speak to people as humans. Be warm, personal, concise, & write as you speak. Innocent Drinks had a revolutionary way of communicating with consumers

On freelance journalism:

·      “Writers are going down the rabbit hole of chasing ever-diminishing work.”

·      “Print journalism has trodden journalists down until they have no respect left for themselves.”

On copywriting:

·      “It’s a nice life. I can cherry-pick between commercial work, which is well paid and other work – features, press trips.”

·      “Anyone can write and get Grammarly. Clients are paying you for your intelligence, ideas, and perspective – not to write!” They pay you to turn up on time, get on with the team, make coffee etc. Consider how you make people feel and know that ALL your interactions matter

·      Ethics – only work with clients you feel comfortable with.

Also, at £15, this course was a steal and far cheaper than equivalent commercial courses I’ve seen advertised. One of the many perks of being an NUJ member!

Contact:

www.eugenecostello.co.uk

www.wellspark.co.uk

www.nuj.org.uk

Photo by Hannah Grace on Unsplash