Categories
Newsletter

The Shift: #29

How to do your own performance review

In December, I do my annual review and create a roadmap for the year ahead. I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I find this process helpful for planning and setting goals. When you’re freelance, you don’t have a linear career, pay rises and performance reviews (they don’t work anyway) so this is a good habit to get into. It’s more fun and will make you feel excited, energised, and in charge of your career.

Given the year we’ve had it feels more relevant now than ever – and it’s an opportunity to build on all the good habits you’ve created during the pandemic and beyond…

You will need: A hot drink, notebook and pen, 3-4 hours’ peace. You can do it by yourself or with friends. Think about all areas of your life – work, money, health, relationships, spiritual… What do you want in ‘21? Aim high and think big. Then add specific, measurable goals to help you get there. What skills do you need to learn? Who can help you?

I’ve found some great resources. Squiggly Careers/AmazingIf – 20 questions to ask yourself. And this free booklet by YearCompass – am sending everyone a copy for Xmas. If you prefer to do it online check out Chris Guillebeau’s spreadsheet template here.

Two questions to get you started

• What went well this year and what didn’t?

• How was your time best spent or wasted?

Here are my answers. 

What went well 

• I finished my book project, The Science of Growing Up Happy. 8-months intense work and had its challenges, but I enjoyed the process, teamwork and have an end product. I want to work on more projects like this next year.

• I had my best financial year of self-employment.

• Joined Peloton – daily exercise helps with everything else.

• Started this newsletter and learning/tweaking as I go.

• Did some mentoring and enjoyed it – want to do something more formal.

• New meds have improved my RA. I’m less tired and have more energy.

• I found a good therapist.

What didn’t go well

• Precarity – Being at the whim of agencies who want you to be set up in a certain way, i.e. limited company and now PAYE/umbrella for clients. I wasn’t eligible for government support this year. So, I’ll simplify my set up, do more on the #FairDeal4Freelances campaign to protect freelancers, and develop other income streams for quieter periods.

• I’ve isolated myself working at home. I was shielding at the start, so not my fault, but I can make more of an effort to network online. I’d love to do some experiential/immersive events so will use Eventbrite to find things. I want to broaden my social circle and mix with people of all ages. As they say, you’re a by-product of the five people you spend your time with. Who inspires and energises you? Who do you want to spend more time with next year?

• I signed up for a language learning app and haven’t started it. Ditto for other courses. This is a pattern – I try to do too many things at once then feel overwhelmed.

• Scrolling and swiping. Bits and bobs. It can fill a day and you’re not sure what you’ve done at the end of it. Less time on social media. I also love the idea (thanks Squiggly!) of a Goal-den Hour – one hour of deep work a day with no distractions.

• I read tons of articles but haven’t read that many books lately – and when I do, they’re usually business books. So, to read more widely and for pleasure again – not just for work, like I used to do as a kid.

I’m not travelling to see the fam for Xmas this year – too far to go for a short period of time and I don’t fancy being on packed trains. It’s a bad idea! So, I’ll have plenty of time for this.

Once it’s done, keep it somewhere you can see and review it regularly. Your priorities will change, and things will drop off. Every quarter I treat myself to an away day – book a hotel/spa break and give myself time to think. You can also email it to your future self via Futureme.org to review this time next year… 

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol

Things to do

💪  What’s your curiosity profile? Harvard Business Review. I’m an unconventional thinker. I question authority and have an independent thinking style. Intellectually hungry, like to learn, seek new experiences and relationships.

🤨 Are you an extrovert, introvert or ambivert? Ted. I’m an ambivert – an excellent place to be. I know when to talk and when to listen.

🎧  20 career questions from AmazingIf – episodes #114 and #115.

✍️  YearCompass – The booklet that helps close your year and plan the next.

📹  Grit: The power of passion and perseverance Ted – Angela Lee Duckworth’s theory of ‘grit’ as a predictor of success.

🙇🏻‍♀️  24 Big Ideas that will change our world in 2021 – LinkedIn’s annual review. Lots of food for thought here to help you shape your work and ideas in ’21. Share your thoughts with #BigIdeas2021.


My Bookshop

📚 I’ve set up my shop on Bookshop.org, an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops and authors. Great to have an alternative to Amazon – please support it! Bookshops connect communities and help keep our high streets shining – we need them more than ever right now. I’ll be posting my recommended reads here


Thanks for reading!

👋 Hi, I’m Nicci – a journalist and writer based in the UK. I write The Shift, a newsletter on work culture, creativity + tech trends. If you like this and want to read more, please consider becoming a paid subscriber here. Or if you prefer, you can buy me a coffee here. Find me online @niccitalbot.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #25

Finding freelance work; The rise of the media artisan; Creative Coalition 2020; Interview with TikTok star Kirsteen Atom. ⚡️

November’s NUJ meeting was on surviving and thriving as a freelancer—tips on finding new work and diversifying with trainers Louise Bolotin and Steve Mathieson. Steve works as a freelancer mainly on tech and government—both growth areas and runs data journalism and freelance courses. He’s had steady work during lockdown and has taught himself how to teach online.

In some ways, the world has been catching up with how many freelancers work, and arguably that has given us a head start. We are often used to working remotely.

Louise has worked for BBC Radio Manchester and launched a local news site. She now works as a sub-editor mostly, doing commercial editing work. She was laid off from her local paper just before lockdown and lost her commercial work, so was left with nothing. She’s busy trying to bring work back and has invested in a new website, logo and training.

Most of it has involved spending my way out of the mire, because you sometimes need to spend a bit to earn a bit.

She pledged to do two things a day to find new work and her efforts have paid off—she was fully booked this month for the first time since March. See more.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

Interview: Lisa Sweeting, Green Sense Events

Lisa Sweeting quit her full-time job in March and went 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.  

TS: You went freelance during the lockdown. What was the catalyst for setting up your own company?
LS: 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 to go 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 a simple decision. 

However, I often felt like I compromised my creativity by 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 lost some of who I am, which 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 had no job, and no prospects, so why did I still feel amazing, like I could finally breathe again! First, I could focus on my children and homeschooling, while my husband worked full time in our home office. I was also ready to connect 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 wanted to do. 

I went 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 done it as an organisation but 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 overwhelm. 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 exhaust. It’s essential to work out what is actually helpful to you to upskill and raise 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 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 freelancing? 
I’d love 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 coming 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 think about planning events from now on, 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 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 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 keen to hear from anyone who is 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. 

lisa@greensenseevents.co.uk

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Rise of Email Newsletters (here are some you’ll love…)

The email newsletter is having a moment. Just reading about how they are part of the ‘Passion Economy’ in this month’s Courier. I see a new one launch every day, and women are on it. They’re a more intimate form of communication with people who actually want to read your stuff. Mine will focus on writing, creativity and work culture.

What else do I want this year? More fun. Deeper connections. To prioritise my own projects and happiness (getting up an hour earlier to work on my own stuff). To sort out my health. I have rheumatoid arthritis and want to find out what’s causing it and get it into remission. It’s no fun when your fingers keep getting stuck when you write for a living. Over the past year, I’ve been working with Gayle Merchant on my nutrition and have just done a comprehensive gut test to try and get to the bottom of it! (literally – stool samples in mum’s fridge over Christmas). I also want to feel stronger, so as well as running, which keeps me sane, I want to try some weightlifting this year. 

I also love a good tattoo so have decided to go for it and get a full sleeve 🙂

More travel. To read a book a month. Better paid work. I’ve signed up to the Hoxby CollectiveThe Dots, and I’m checking out The Allbright, a members’ club for women. Interesting event programme and some inspiring women on board – member spotlights. It would also be great to have a regular coworking space in London. 

So, if you want to take your working life up a notch and set some goals this year, check out The Professional Freelancer by Anna Codrea-Rado. How to set freelance goals you’ll actually stick to, and the importance of distinguishing between outcome goals – things you don’t have any control over like “getting a book deal” and process goals – actionable steps you can control like “emailing five agents this week”. Why it’s important to do both. Here’s some more freelance friendly content to check out, via @JessicaAnneLord.

What I’m reading

How to escape your phone and other life hacks

Family life suffers from always-on work culture

‘I quit life as a BBC journalist to live as a jade carver in China’

Resounding NUJ victory in landmark equal pay case. A wake-up call to all employers!

Little Black Book – A Toolkit for Working Women

DCW chief Swati Maliwal hospitalized after fainting on 12th day of hunger strike

Bittersweet legacy of a blazing talent – Motherwell: A Girlhood

Elizabeth Wurzel and the illusion of Gen-X success

CES 2020 – all the latest news and highlights – the joy of tech!

What I’m listening to

#237 Emma Forrest: Writing & Transcendental Meditation. Dreams and creativity. Keep a pen handy. You are most creative when you don’t realise you’re doing it.

Lana Del Ray – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Where I’m going

StartUp 2020 – the UK’s biggest start-up show of the new year.

The Allbright

Nicci Talbot is a freelance journalist and copywriter. She can be reached at nicci@niccitalbot.com or follow her on Twitter @niccitalbot.

Photo by Lee Soo hyun on Unsplash