#9 How Newsletters Are Redefining Media

(and how they can help grow your business)

“For me, the newsletter is the most important tool that I have in building a global denim brand. Second only to the sewing machine” – David Hieatt. ‘Scrapbook Chronicles’ has become a cult offering from Hiut Denim Co and it’s grown his company by 25% each year for the last three years.

Pretty cool, huh. For a humble email newsletter (which costs next to nothing to produce, just your time).

I’m obsessed with newsletters. I subscribe to loads – business, marketing, remote work, fashion, travel… new ideas, inspo, fab design – they are a THING. As is newsletter curation – there’s so much great content out there, where do you start? Check out Really Good Emails. Email is such an old school platform, but it’s not going anywhere. I had my first Hotmail account 20 years ago when backpacking around Australia pre-mobile brick (I thought I had to go back to the same internet cafe to send emails til someone put me straight). I still use email every day, multiple times a day, for work and personal stuff. It’s is a bit like a comfy cardigan, no matter how holey, you keep wearing it.

And it has huge potential. Email is so much more than a sales tool – you’re building a relationship with your reader.

Substack has spawned a new class of newsletter entrepreneurs with successful writers like China expert Bill Bishop and the liberal political writer Judd Legum earning well into six figures annually, according to the New York Times. Judd says he’s turned down freelance work because it makes more sense to self-publish. Emily Atkin has been open about how much she’s earning from Heated, her controversial climate change newsletter. With redundancies on the rise and fewer opportunities on mainstream publications, it’s not surprising to see so many writers going for it on here.

It feels like a throwback to the early days of blogging, in the 2000s when people were having fun and trying stuff out.

Anna Codrea-Rado started The Professional Freelancer on Substack to document her journey into self-employment after redundancy and is helping other writers wanting to be happy and make a living from freelancing. She’s also running newsletter masterclasses with Sian Meades-Williams (Freelance Writing Jobs). Their last one was sold out, so there’s clearly an appetite for learning how to monetise them.

Substack has become a beacon of light and is seen as a saviour, helping writers to earn a living. They’ve given us a business model, tools to grow, a community, and seem happy to take a backseat as a ‘faceless’ publisher – unlike Facebook. The first phase was attracting top writers which they’ve done and now the focus is on finding new writers – they’ve just launched their second Substack fellowship for independent writers.

Its success lies in its simplicity – it’s easy to use and turn on paid subscriptions. But it doesn’t have the same features as MailChimp (you can’t do A/B testing, the design is limited, and you can’t have your own domain name.

Strategy for successful newsletters  

Maybe you’re not looking to earn six figures or self-publish full-time, but it’s still useful to know how to write a good newsletter. I recommend David’s book (tips above). The ones I subscribe to share useful info, inspire me and don’t try to sell me anything.

  1. Good content that’s easy to read. It’s a letter, not an article.
  2. Persistence and consistency – by publishing at a set time, you’re training your reader to anticipate and look forward to your email.
  3. Make it visual – have good graphics.
  4. Killer headlines – learn from the masters, BuzzFeed.
  5. Pick a niche – Brian Clarke at Copyblogger recommends the curation model – helping people find great content and adding your personality & perspective.
  6. Community – send it to your friends and ask them to share with theirs… it will grow organically. Ask your readers what they want in your welcome email.

Give it a try. As Luke O’Neil (Hell World) says, “maybe you only get 150 subscribers, and it doesn’t work out. OK, no big deal. We’re all working constantly for free all the time anyways. Let’s say all you can get is 100 people subscribing giving you $5 a month. For most freelance journalists, $500 a month is something.” That’s your anchor client. Recurring monthly income is a good business model, as startups know. It’s more stable than advertising and has long-term benefits.

It’s great to see platforms like Substack shaking up old media. They are putting writers in charge, and hopefully, it will provide a source of steady work for journalists doing good work. There’s lots of innovation too – writers teaming up and publishing ‘bundles’ like magazines, community events, discussion threads… Jung has some great ideas on how they can grow.

Lots of female voices on here too. As the French feminist writer, Hélène Cixous says, the only way women can make up for their absence from recorded history is to write themselves in now, super-fast, with lots of detail and energy.

I’ve invited Lauren Razavi to talk about newsletters and virtual writing communities at the NUJ London Freelance branch meeting tomorrow night. Hers is called Counterflows – an excellent read on the future of work, creativity and global living. I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

If you want to join us as a guest, email me –, and I’ll add you to the list.  

Here are some I subscribe to – what’s your favourite newsletter and why?

🔗 the links

theskimm – daily newsletter, info & tools you need to live your smartest life.

The Hustle – daily briefings – business and tech news in five minutes or less. 

Morning Brew – the most informative (and witty) daily newsletter around. 

Marketing Brew – marketing news you’ll actually want to read.

Next Draft – the day’s most fascinating (witty) news from Dave Pell.

Further – health, wealth and personal growth for Gen X – live your best life at midlife.

Podnews – a global view (daily) on podcasting and on-demand.

Sonder & Tell – a creative content agency. Expert tips from their community on what to read, watch and listen to… writing worth reading. 

The Browser – carefully-curated writings (& listenings) of lasting value.

The Professional Freelancer – A newsletter and community for people who happily work for themselves, written by Anna Codrea-Rado.

Counterflows – A big ideas newsletter designed to make you think about the world we live in, by Lauren Razavi. 

Freelance Writing Jobs – a weekly FSB Award-nominated newsletter which lists freelance writing opportunities in the UK, by Sian Meades-Williams.

Do Open – How a simple email newsletter can transform your business, by David Hieatt

🎧: Copyblogger – the power of curated newsletters for content marketers

Pssst. Can you help Moiyah Berge out, she’s studying for an MSc in International Management and International Relations at Oxford Brookes Uni. She wants to know your motivation for working in the gig economy as a freelancer – take the survey here.

Thanks for being part of The Shift this Sunday.

Comments, questions, tips? Send me a note.

Image credits: Nicci Talbot. Excerpt from Do Open by David Hieatt.


#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

Blog Business Communications Creativity

#7 A Conversation on Creativity With Dannie-Lu Carr

What tools do we need to be able to deal with life’s challenges and work creatively in the face of adversity, so we can come out stronger at the end of it?

Dannie-Lu Carr is the founder of three signature online programmes: Flaming Leadership, Warrior Women and 28 Days of Defiance and also a Published WriterAward-Winning Theatre DirectorSinger-Songwriter as well as the founder of Creative Wavelengths™ – a new language for creativity. Her work has been described as “brilliant, not for the faint of heart…for courageous souls…” We first met 10 years ago at a women’s networking event in London and I thought she was a real dynamo with a huge heart. So, I’m over the moon that she’s now living around the corner from me in St Leonards…

NT: You coach on leadership and personal impact with a focus on empowering women and LGBTQ. What stories do you want to bring to light, and what was the catalyst to start your consultancy?

DC: My work on fearless leadership and personal impact is really about giving people back their sense of self and the tools to speak articulately about their ideas and points of view. I work with people to develop and trust their judgement and dare to put themselves forward to galvanise innovation and change where it is needed. We still live in a very hierarchical world for the most part, which can unnecessarily intimidate, undermine, dominate and control. Nobody wins with this way of working. My goal is always to create a more level playing field where ideas can be shared, and points of view can be respected. The best people to lead these changes are those who haven’t automatically been given the metaphorical floor historically and understand how it is to have a different insight from how things have been done in the past, hence the predominant focus on women and LGBTQ.

The catalyst to start my consultancy was about giving people the tools to be able to deal with challenges without them having a devastating effect and also to be able to work creatively in the face of adversity so they can weather through and come out stronger.

What’s your coaching style? What techniques do you use to help people get past their blocks and seriously step up?

My style is informal, honest, to the point. It’s the best way to cut through the nonsense noise in our heads and environments – the noise that creates a lack of confidence and procrastination. I have a ‘just do it’ approach once people have unpacked what is really going on for them and have the clarity. I use a range of techniques, but probably the edgiest is bringing my theatre training (the honesty of communication and saying what is) to the business world.

Teaching is a two-way thing. Any advice you’ve taken on board that has changed your outlook or challenged your thinking?

I always say that I endlessly learn when I teach. When I am advising and coaching others, it isn’t unusual for a voice to kick off in my own head that says something like, “this advice you’re giving to Jane right now, you need to do this with X in your own life”. The biggest thing I have learned to do is be humble when someone points out my own shortcomings rather than get defensive. To take a ‘fair enough, I have to own that’ position is always gold. Usually, the things that fly at us as the most uncomfortable to swallow absolutely hold the most wisdom and insight for us. 

Your online programmes: 28 Days of Defiance, Warrior Women, and Flaming Leadership have been described as brilliant and “not for the faint of heart, for courageous souls.” What’s your creative process, and who or what has inspired you?  

Firstly, I listen to my clients. I’ve always got my ears pricked for their challenges, wants, etc. Then things churn around in my head for a bit and my subsequent process is that I then very raggedly sit on the floor amidst a heap of pen and papers and brainstorm in an intense burst. Or several of them. That’s how I nail and fine-tune. Then I take the ideas out to the world, and it goes from there. In terms of inspiration, people inspire me all the time. I think people can be magnificent with their insights, ideas, resilience and drive. There are a tonne of women out there, past and present, who are/were absolutely incredible – Jude Kelly, Anita Roddick, Malala Yousafzai, Jacinda Ardern… I have an endless list, to be honest. When women stand up strong and, in their boots, they can be so powerful. 

Someone said you have a form of ‘business magic’ in terms of how you approach problems and conflicts at work. Can you give us an example? 

In short, I listen to as much as I can before I address where the assumptions and unconscious biases might be for all parties involved. This flushes out the emotion that can give any of us humans blind spots. Then I drill into – what is the actual issue really at play here? Then lastly, how can this be articulated to feel like you are expressing yourself fully while at the same time respecting the other person’s point of view? That’s pretty much my framework. 

You’ve written a brilliant book on assertiveness. We can swing between unassertiveness and OTT behaviour. How do we find the middle ground – i.e. getting what we want without rubbing people up the wrong way? 

This is a huge passion of mine. It’s actually very easy to find a middle ground, but we don’t have that many role models in terms of people who practise this. It is one of the main reasons that I really rate Keir Starmer. He executes the middle ground with aplomb. It’s about taking the personal emotion out of it and being in an adult position. It isn’t about point-scoring. It is very simply about addressing the issue at hand as honestly as you can while remaining aware of your potential impact on the other person. Often, we feel like we are really assertive when we are falling short. And people get confused between assertive and aggressive when they are actually very different states of being.

You’re the founder of Creative Wavelengths™  – a new language for creativity. What is it, and how can it help us to raise our creative intelligence?

I have spent about five years developing Creative Wavelengths – it is simply nine keywords that pinpoint exactly what is happening around any creative process and/or collaboration. Creativity is often shrouded in mystery, and the language around it is very imprecise, which causes issues around people taking it seriously or holding the value of it and what it needs. Having a shared language that is time-efficient and gives permission for a deep and precise conversation allows us to elevate our understanding of creativity and therefore raises our overall creative intelligence and our ability to cut through the noise and access the critical insights for innovation and deep resonance. 

Any business problems you’d like help with right now or opportunities for collaboration?

I’m always open to discussions and potential collaborations. We are living in a very unpredictable world right now, way more than ever before, and we need smart and courageous people to come forward and begin to tackle these issues, rather than being stuck in a place of victim and fear. I’d like my clients to recognise that coaching and consulting is the most critical thing to invest in at times like these and come away from the old mindset that it is a luxury and therefore the first thing to be cut. How do they expect to weather storms like this without access to understanding and adopting new ways of doing things? Rhetoric of course. 


Oh wow. I could write a book on creative inspirations…here’s a handful of some of my favourites:


Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown


Reasons to be Cheerful 

Woman’s Hour

The Tim Ferriss Show

The Brutal Truth



The 99 Percent


Harvard Business Review

Get in touch at


#6 Shaking Things up in Advertising – The Gerety Awards

Changing the narrative for future leaders 

Joe Brooks and Lucia Ongay were at another advertising awards event full of white, middle-aged men in black suits (this time it was really obvious).

“This is bullshit, we have to do something about it,” said Joe.

So, they decided to do something radical and start the first advertising awards show with an all-female jury.

They launched the Gerety Awards in 2019 with a question and a challenge for industry leaders:

“What does a woman have to do to get onto an advertising jury?”

The awards are named in honour of Frances Gerety – the copywriter who created the slogan ‘A diamond is forever’ for De Beers in 1948. She wrote all their ads over the next 25 years, creating new strategies for diamond sales following the Great Depression. At the time, women could only work on briefs aimed at women.

Ad Age called it the most famous tagline ever, the 20th-century slogan selling romance.

Everyone should know about Frances (especially if you’ve ever given or received a diamond ring). More about her here.  

The goal is to provide a global platform for talent and support initiatives that champion diversity in the creative industries. To celebrate excellence in all advertising and comms through a female lens. The industry norm is male-dominated juries. The target of 50/50 panels isn’t enough since 80% of purchasing decisions are made by women.

They have an all-female panel in 10 cities – a fantastic collective of cool creative women (check out their bios here). There are 10 ‘cuts’ – media, innovation, entertainment, communication, craft, experience, works for good, health, pharma, and portfolios, and two criteria: the originality of the idea and the execution.

See last year’s winners here. Great to see Viva La Vulva (Essity Bodyform/Libresse) win across three categories – a fantastic ad.

The response has been positive – it’s a much-needed shift, although some sceptics question the logic of an all-female jury. Wouldn’t women prefer to stay at home with the kids?

Entries have been extended to July 17 and the winners will be announced in October. They’ve banned COVID related entries – “it’s not a cultural moment, it’s a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Check out the ‘who we support’ page – local and international organisations like She Says offering free mentorship and events for women in creative industries. The aim is to get people together to share their experiences (they have a WhatsApp group with 150 members). “Everyone can help each other – something that should be done not only in advertising but in many other industries,” says Lucia.

Interesting to read how the diamond industry has been devastated by the pandemic.

Time for a new approach to customer comms, De Beers?

Thanks to Glenn Fisher – your podcast is getting me through lockdown (love the jingles). Listen to the interview with Lucia Ongay

Blog Branding Business Communications Marketing

#5 7 Steps Brands Can Take to Show Black Lives Matter

This week, I want to talk about Blackout Tuesday – collective action to protest against police brutality and racism, and what brands can do to support the global struggle against racism.

On Tuesday, June 2, businesses taking part were encouraged to stop operating and show their support in different ways. My social feed was full of black squares tagged #BLM, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackoutTuesday, and #TheShowMustBePaused – the hashtag created by two women as a day of reflection and conversation for the music industry.

It felt like more brands were on board and speaking frankly – using the words ‘black businesses’ rather than ‘diversity’ for one. But are they doing it out of genuine compassion and a desire for change or because of peer pressure and corporate crisis management? It’s easy to post a black square online and hashtag a movement, but there’s not much point unless you’re taking action behind the scenes.

Will the interest in black-owned businesses continue beyond the current news cycle, and create lasting change?

Courier magazine interviewed Ali and Jamila, the founders of Brooklyn Tea in New York, to get their take on it. They believe it’s a mixture of things – a rise in interest in black-owned businesses, some peer pressure and corporate crisis management, but also genuine compassion and a desire for change. Most people want to do something to help – and pledging economic support is the fastest and easiest way to take action.  

The shift in brands and celebrities becoming more politically active is in part driven by Millennials and Gen X. We expect them to take a stand on social issues and use their economic power to drive change. When a brand pledges support online it raises the bar for others in their sector. Social media is also helping to bridge the gap between rich and poor. We have a call-out culture which means we ask questions and hold people to account. We prefer to buy from companies that share our values and beliefs – especially during a global recession. And if political leadership is weak, we turn to brands for help, which is what’s happening across America.

Courier asked Charlotte Williams, founder of SevenSix, a diversity-focused social media & influencer marketing agency in London, how companies can demonstrate inclusivity. You may have posted a black square, diversified your feed, and tagged a few black businesses, but that doesn’t mean you’ve finished the work. If you don’t speak up, people will ask why. As Netflix said in a recent tweet, “To be silent is to be complicit” – we have a platform and we must use it to help others. Ditto, Ben & Jerry’s.

The work needs to be done behind the scenes, in the boardroom, and beyond. And it will take time – as Charlotte’s PR colleague said, “You can’t end 400 years of systemic racism with one week of strategizing internally.” 

So, what can we do now? 

Here are seven steps brands can take to communicate better values, show they care and want to see change.

  1. Do the work behind the scenes – Mark Ritson in Marketing Week: ‘If ‘Black Lives Matter’ to brands, where are your black board members?” He did some research and came up with 46 examples of companies who claim to care about black lives on social media yet have managed to construct a leadership team that’s all-white. “Companies need to become the change they are tweeting about. Walk the walk before you tweet the tweet.”“One black COO is worth a billion Black Lives Matter tweets”.
  2. Donate to causes – “Open your purse” has become a rallying cry on social media for celebrities, brands and organisations to put their money where their mouth is – criticism of Disney, Spotify, and Amazon, amongst others, for their working practices.

Beauty brand Glossier is one of the first to do so – pledging $1 million to Black Lives Matter and black-owned beauty businesses. Lego has called for the marketing of all police-related products to be removed and donated $4 million to support black children and help fight racial inequality. Pokémon, YouTube, and many others have stepped up.

If you use George Floyd’s name in your content, then make sure you donate to his official memorial fund.

If you can’t donate to a charity because of company rules, then set up your own fund against social oppression. Offer grants, internships and mentorships to support underrepresented BAME communities in your industry. 

3.     Use your social platforms. Rather than just posting black squares and hashtagging BLM, use your channels to share useful info and resources that can help the movement. Host black-owned businesses on your platforms and share their content with your audience to help them gain more exposure. 

4.     Take your time to build a solid strategy – don’t feel pressured to post immediately just because everyone else is. Not all brands have to speak out on political issues. And there’s not much point if you’re not taking action behind the scenes.

Good example of this from Yorkshire Tea who posted this tweet in response to a far-right activist who said she was ‘dead chuffed that Yorkshire Tea hasn’t supported BLM. 😁’.

Please don’t buy our tea again. 

We’re taking some time to educate ourselves and plan proper action before we post. We stand against racism. #BlackLivesMatter 

PG Tips and Teapigs also chipped in. Solidaritea.👏 👏

5.     Set some targets to hire diverse talent and support organisations that are campaigning for change. Tip from a reader in the Ann Friedman Weekly, “Set an alarm on your phone for 3, 6, 9, 12 months from now and when it goes off, look at your life and count how many Black businesses, orgs & artists you’re still supporting. How many antiracism resources are you using? How many of your own bias have you addressed?” I’m on it! 

6.     Look at your supply chain. Do the brands you’re working with have values that match your own? Involve black businesses in your supply chain. Look at every level of your business and commit to diversifying things.

7.     Educate yourself on black history, white supremacy, and racism issues. Talk to kids about race, justice and inequality. Speak to black-owned companies, find anti-racist charities, books to read, organisations to support. Good round-up here from Time Out.

As Tommy Rufal, senior account executive, Wimbart PR, says in PR Week: “There needs to be an understanding that diversity is a necessity rather than a trend and if we’re going to see meaningful change, it’s going to take a long-term commitment to self-reflection, education and some uncomfortable conversations.”

Which is what’s going on with call-out culture on social media – hopefully, it will lead to more uncomfortable – and constructive – conversations in the boardroom. It’s also what we’ve been doing this for the last 12 weeks of lockdown so let’s keep at it!

Huge respect and thanks to everyone working hard to find ways to create change.

If there’s anything you’d like me to share in next week’s newsletter email me at Sign up here. Find me on Twitter @niccitalbot.


#4 The Big Idea: Creative Women Conference

“Empower yourself to be incredible but doing it all on your own is lonely.”

I joined the Creative Women conference this week, an online two-day event.

Their mission:

“We believe diversity is key for empowerment. There’s no denying that there are tons of events and conferences happening in Europe for women in tech, women-owned start-ups, small businesses and wellness.

BUT why not fuse these conference niches?

Giving women from all industries the opportunity to join a two-day event whereby everyone can learn from each other.” 

Brilliant idea.

It’s good to see how different industries have responded to the pandemic, and make contacts outside of your niche.

Here are the top takeaways from day two, which focused on marketing & comms strategy, personal branding and networking.

  • Kiri Sinclair, Founder & CEO at Sinclair Hong Kong on why collaboration is the path to recovery. They created a collaborative digital platform (Art Hong Kong) with over 130 partners to make art accessible to all.
  • Kate Cook, Founder & Director at The Nutrition Coach on your immunity and resilience. You know how to eat well, but did you know stress can block your immunity? And that Qi Gong can help you to set boundaries?
  • Baroness Simone Finn, MP on women in public life and the challenges of leadership. We’ve made progress on diversity, but there’s still a sense of inertia. Companies resist change. “We can’t legislate away a sexist culture.” She’s still getting comments like “How do you put up with her?” The briefs in recruitment for city positions are aimed at men. Why does society still insist on labelling the male brain as better?
  • We’re now in the 4th industrial revolution, which is changing the way we live and work. The industrial titans have been superseded by tech companies. New business models must be governed in a gender-balanced way and delivered by men and women. “We need more women in tech NOW.” Older women need to support the women coming up behind them.
  • Farzana Baduel, Founder & CEO of Curzon PR on how to adapt your marketing & comms to the new normal. There are three phases: Survive, revive, & thrive:
  • Survive – look for opportunities but don’t be opportunistic. There was a backlash against Victoria Beckham when she furloughed 30 staff at her fashion label, and she had to retract. If you’re a solopreneur, it’s important to be seen as more caring and empathetic. Don’t chase profits when people are suffering. Give back to society.
  • Revive (now) – it’s time for reckoning and reinvention. What do you want your business to look like? Can you start a new service? She’s hosting digital events and putting the audio from webinars into podcasts. People now want a selection of channels for content. Businesses that prioritise their employees will do well in the future.
  • Set aside time for research and learning – Coursera, Harvard, Stanford etc. are offering free online courses. Learn about the psychology of storytelling that underpins marketing & PR. Ways to influence and change behaviour. Spend part of your week horizon scanning for trends.
  • Thrive – there will be ongoing crises so build your brand in a way that means you can respond quickly. Her team all work remotely. Keep your contracts with suppliers flexible/short. Be an early adopter of social media channels. She uses Trello boards to plan short-term – little cards you can move around as living and breathing ideas.
  • On information overload – productivity falls, and critical thinking is impaired. Use trusted news sites (am and eves only) and be aware of bias and agenda. Turn your notifications off and have your phone on do not disturb from 10 pm – 7 am. Meditate and get enough sleep. Make information serve you, not the other way around.
  • Focus on the present and things you can control. Do one task at a time to avoid overload.
  • Go for a run or walk first thing in the morning. “The sun needs to hit the retina, to bring you to life!”
  • Treat information like food – eat well. Produce thoughtful, complex and valuable information within your niche. Collaborate with other experts and solve a problem. Have social media timeouts and share positive news online.
  • Marie Diamond, author, speaker on energetic branding. Are your brand values still right for the new norm? She’s big on Feng Shui and suggests having a success space – all your cards, flyers, vision boards (your branding energy) in one place. Get rid of things that are no longer serving you.
  • Francis Segelman, Royal Sculptress. She works fast (two-hour sittings) and has “a mad, positive conversation in my head” to get it done. “I have to put any negative thoughts aside or it just won’t happen… Sculpture isn’t that difficult. The majority of people are much better at it than they think. It’s about determination…”
  • Fi Bendall, Founder of The Female Social Network on how to network. Ask for advice and help. It makes people feel good, and 99% will be delighted to help you. Showcasing other people’s successes helps you build a deepen meaning with that person. Introduce yourself to people at events – it’s what you’re there for, after all. We don’t do it enough!
  • Virtual networking can lead to new opportunities. It’s delivered more than face to face conferences in many ways, e.g. Dell women’s networking event.
  • Advertisers need to invest money in the female social networking space. The ‘recommendation economy’ is huge – 42% of women buy something because it was recommended by another woman. 76% of our decisions are made emotionally.
  • Mako Abashidze, Founder & Director of the British Georgian Chamber of Commerce onopportunities to do business in Georgia. They have a free trade agreement with the UK. Please introduce yourself, ask questions and make use of their database.
  • On the positives of the pandemic: People are opening up, sharing contacts, and want to create and collaborate. Get ready for lots of new products and services, and different ways of doing things…

Zoom is surprisingly intimate, and you can feel the warmth and passion. Creative Women is like a big family – women of all ages sharing ideas, stories, and collaborating to create change.

I also liked how it mixed art and business. We won’t remember all the content, but we do remember how someone makes us feel… art, music, movement are inspiring. The highlight was a video tour with royal sculptress Frances Segelman. We had a peek inside her home studio (busts of the Queen, Boris, Prince Phillip, Joan Collins, Dame Edna…), saw her tools, process, and heard stories about her sittings.

How nervous she was doing the Queen (her dream client). Her hands were shaking so badly she could barely hold the callipers. “I thought, I’m just going to enjoy this.” Asking tactical questions to find out if she liked it. “Are you happy with your hair this length?”

“Maybe a little shorter.”

How Boris has “an incredible aura. He’s such fun. Amazing energy.”

How Joan Collins wouldn’t sit still…

She has a fantastic home overlooking Tower Bridge. Two silver sculptures by the window – the angel of flight and the angel of fun… An Alice in Wonderland mirrored chair. She is self-taught and spends hours in museums drawing the human body, “an amazing thing”.

Someone needs to do a sculpture of her asap!! I can’t believe she doesn’t have one.

A fantastic event, and cheap as chips (£10 per ticket plus recording). Having it online means it’s accessible to all.

Contact CEO Olga Balakleets for more info.

💡My Big Idea: I want to send a virtual business card to a speaker so we can exchange details. Be great to be able to ping something across the screen. It feels a bit clumsy via chat. Any developers on it?! It would be a useful tool for online networking.

Given that we’ve got to wear face coverings on public transport from June 15, thought I may as well get a nice one and raise some money for charity. Fashion designer Natasha Zinko is selling upcycled reusable face masks from fabric leftovers from previous collections. 50% of each sale will be donated to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. More info here.

If you enjoyed reading this, please share it on social media 🙌 – let’s keep the conversation going. If you have a story, tip or advice to share, email Find me online @niccitalbot.

Sign up for my newsletter: The Shift here.


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.

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.


#3 Interview: Matt Dowling, Freelancer Club. “Try living a day without art, music, video, photography or design and see how you feel.”

Matt Dowling, Founder of the Freelancer Club, on his creative journey, growing a business that supports freelancers, and how companies can adapt to a new way of working.

What inspired you to set up the Freelancer Club in 2014? 
Way back, I was a freelance photographer prior to setting up the Freelancer Club. I had a bad experience with a client who kept me on the hook without pay for six months, asking me to shoot their collection week in, week out, whilst plying me with excuses as to why my invoices hadn’t been paid that month. I had dropped my other clients and had to borrow money from friends to pay the rent. After six months of chasing, I paid a visit to their head office and discovered they had gone bankrupt. They were using me to produce content to sell the last of their stock. That particular incident cost me £11,000. 

The story made the papers and a number of freelancers reached out to tell me they had experienced something similar. This sewed the seed for Freelancer Club. I became very interested in the way creative freelancers were perceived and treated by companies (startups and corporates) and felt there was a desperate need to provide freelancers with a support network. 

You’ve grown it from 30 to 40,000 members. What was the strategy and what services do your freelancers most value? 
The club started with a small group of friends I had worked with in the fashion industry. They loved the concept and through word-of-mouth, the club just took off. It’s been a very organic process. At the heart of the club is a sense of community and belonging. The idea that you are a part of a tribe brings a sense of comfort and that has played a big part in the success of the club. The members value access to paid opportunities and the ability to take ownership of each job. Being able to meet other freelancers for collaborations and an abundance of learning resources to develop their business skills are also really appreciated. 

How does Freelancer Club differ from other job platforms?
Our business model is very different from most other freelance platforms. Upwork, Fivver, and People Per Hour, for example, use a marketplace business model. They sell the promise of work and take a commission on any of the matches. We believe there is a healthier way to develop a freelance business and find work. Freelancer Club, as the name suggests, is a subscription-based membership community. Anyone can join for free to gain access to a range of benefits that help them grow their business in a much more robust manner. For example, all members can access articles, videos and events or post and apply for test shoots (collaborations) to help them build their portfolio and meet others in the freelance sector.

When a member feels ready to apply for work or would like to access an archive of learning content, they can upgrade to a Premium Membership to access paid opportunities, premium content on the Academy and a bunch of other valuable features. When they land a job on the platform, they take 100% of the rate. We don’t charge commission and both parties are free to engage in future projects without involving us. We don’t believe in quick fixes or freelancers having to under-cut each other. Our members develop their freelance businesses with us so they can pick up work via our site or any number of avenues. Proactive members grow to become well-rounded, independent freelancers who aren’t waiting for the ‘phone to ring’.  

How many jobs did you place last year?
It’s not as cut and dry as a figure from the database. When we connect the client with the freelancer, they often take their conversation ‘off-site’ (we don’t hold money on the platform). We’ve helped facilitate over 200,000 freelance jobs since launch, but I imagine that figure is a lot higher when one considers the offline connections and repeat business. 

Which work sectors are growing fast? 
The digital space is the obvious growth sector. Designers, UX/UI, Developers… Less obviously, we’ve seen a boom in Videography over the past few years. Lots of photographers have added this skill to their repertoire and, as demand for video continues to grow, the supply has followed. 

What have you been doing during this time to support forgotten freelance groups – PAYE, sole directors, new starters etc?
Fortunately, as a nimble startup, we were able to adapt very quickly as soon as we saw what was coming down the line. On a local level, we offered free one-to-one consultations to our members advising how they could adapt their business and offered moral support. We also opened up a lot of content to ensure our members were getting value while the market settled. To help financially, we gave our members the option to freeze their membership for a period of time. 

On a broader scale, we raised our concerns about the lack of financial support for the self-employed and very unintentionally found ourselves as one of the leading voices in what later became known as the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). It’s interesting how one reacts in a crisis. Our business was taking a hit and we were implementing strategies to combat the situation as best as we could, however, it felt more appropriate to focus on the freelancers who we knew were going through hell. The act of supporting others gave us a greater sense of purpose. 

We conducted hours of interviews and campaigned hard to get freelancers the financial support they desperately needed. When SEISS was announced, it was an incredible feeling, however, it didn’t last long. We realised around two million freelancers would be ineligible, so we started a new campaign, this time with a group of influential businesses to add more weight. We’re still banging the drum. 

And the #NoFreeWork campaign?
Our #NoFreeWork campaign has been going for years. It’s at the heart of our mission statement. Our aim is to eradicate exploitative unpaid work in the freelance sector. What started as a hashtag has seen the campaign mentioned in Parliament and new legislation pitched to MPs at a roundtable with some of the most powerful names in our sector. I regularly speak at universities to highlight the realities of freelancing to the next generation as well as the pitfalls of free work. We champion businesses who treat freelancers with the respect they deserve and have gathered thousands of signatures on our petition.

Our objective outside of the legislative piece is to change the culture around unpaid work and highlight the value that creatives contribute to the economy and people’s lives. Try living a day without art, music, video, photography or design and see how you feel. We simply must protect the creative industries and be aware of their true value.   

Are clients getting on board with remote working?
We’ve seen a jump in remote opportunities as was predicted. However, it’s not exclusively the type of remote work one might expect. From brands hiring photographers and models to do Facetime photoshoots to promotional video content made from stock footage, homemade video and a lot of imagination, companies and freelancers have adapted to lockdown. The soft skills that all of us have had to develop is online communication be it on Zoom, Slack or any number of platforms we’re using to chat. Freelancers are having to learn how to deliver and build trust entirely online and communication has never been as valuable as it is now.  

Tell us more about your Freelance Academy and Concierge Service…
We have a sister company called Freelance Academy. It’s an online learning platform that delivers bite-sized courses tailored to freelancers. We decided to bring an element of this into the Freelancer Club and give our members access to a range of workshops, interviews and discussions so they could continue to develop their skills during the lockdown. We’ve covered everything from marketing and sales workshops to discussions on working from home with Caroline Bayley of BBC Radio 4, and the value of creativity with Patreon.

We launched the Concierge Service as a new concept right before Covid-19 hit – good timing, huh! It’s a service that helps companies hire freelancers without the fees or faff. It combines cutting-edge technology and human insights to make it easy for companies to build their freelance workforce. Post a project for free, choose the Concierge Service and our team will do the rest. You’ll be contacted by a recommended freelancer and the company takes it from there. To reignite the freelance economy and help companies get projects done, we’re running a campaign called #UnitedInBusiness that offers all new businesses £200 worth of Concierge Credits to spend on freelance hires. 

What trends do you see in the future of work? Is this the end of the 9-5 office?
A few years ago, we transitioned from an office-based industrial-era business model to an exclusively agile fluid company. My team are all freelancers and work remotely so I’ve been on this journey first-hand for a while. The technology and tools that facilitate agile work are racing ahead whilst company culture and processes are sorely lagging behind. One of the lockdown’s many legacies will be how comfortable we are with online communication, collaboration and adaptation.

Companies have been forced to assess their processes to facilitate remote working. However, integrating Slack, Monday and Zoom into a pre-existing full-time team is the easy bit. Sourcing, managing and developing a new agile workforce is an entirely different proposition not to mention company culture in relation to freelance hires. We help companies source freelance teams, by connecting them to talent, however, we’ve found ourselves offering advice on integrating, managing and retaining those teams as businesses learn to adjust to a new way of working. 

Remote working is here to stay, however, Covid-19 has put into focus the importance of social interaction and ‘watercooler’ moments in a company context. Now all of us have tasted life as a remote worker, companies have data to determine if it’s a viable option whilst workers – even those who’ve been stretched to the limit – will have experienced the advantages of WFH. Combine these factors with the level of introspection and reflection on what really matters in life, as well as the pending boom in the number of newly self-employed individuals and we could be looking at a very different working landscape.    

I suspect we will land on a hybrid model that combines time in the office and working from home. Less travel, downsizing, and an actual work-life balance that is not just a buzzword. Those who can facilitate this new world will reap the rewards. Those who dig their heels in might get left behind. 

If you’re looking for freelance work and creative collaboration visit

Podcast 🎧:
ArtPaysMe podcast with Matt Dowling. Matt spoke to Duane Jones about creativity in business and what the education system can do to support creative industries.

Small Business Minister Paul Scully on Ltd company support. Good webinar this week with team IPSE who are still banging the drum for #forgottenfreelancers. I asked whether new sole directors can apply for the SEISS scheme as we are still technically ‘self-employed’ and have to do a personal tax return (computer says yes… it’s a grey area). Scully said he would look into it so keep an eye on IPSE’s Covid-19 page for an update.

#TheRecoverySummit – June 15th-19th – the latest thinking on the global economy, leadership, managing change, innovation, disruption and resilience. It’s free – sign up here.

National Freelancers Day on June 18. The focus is on wellbeing, winning work, finance and taking charge. Good speaker line up, it should be an inspiring event.

Company of One by Paul Jarvis – why staying small is the next big thing for business. Exploring how to make your business better instead of bigger, and how you can thrive with less. Halfway through this, it’s excellent.

If you enjoyed reading this please share it on social media 🙌 – let’s keep the conversation going! If you have a story, tip or advice to share about being freelance, email Find me online @niccitalbot.

Creativity. Coffee. Community


#2 Backstage Business – Retail and the New Reality

Work Life Shift

I worked with the GCVA on its first webinar this week – how retail is adapting to the new normal. Two hours, 90 attendees via Zoom – an excellent event. Full respect to the team who pulled it together and made it look effortless. People don’t realise how much work goes into an online event. The backstage business; it’s like a military operation. 

Five people, practice runs, production schedule, video, music, slides, speakers, app testing, promo, social media, virtual backgrounds, green screen, job sheet, live event, WhatApp commentary, comfort break: “I’m running for the fastest pee ever,” wrap up, debrief, follow up email…

The event producer had five screens. 

All the deadlines had to come together, so it’s like hosting a mini-conference. I wrote an Annual Review, which was scheduled to hit inboxes post-event. 

Interesting insights from KPMG and GlobalData on the impact of coronavirus on consumer behaviour, 10 weeks into the lockdown:

Businesses have moved from ‘reaction and resilience’ to ‘recovery and the new reality’. We need to embrace insights on the new customer and leverage this to adapt to the new reality. Companies who align with internal views rather than their customers will underperform as it’s outdated knowledge. There may be a second wave of corona in September/October and subsequent mini-lockdowns, so we need to be prepared and plan ahead. Companies are investing in digital technology and prioritising online platforms. 

4 trends to prioritise: 

  1. Business models and partnerships 
  2. Declining margins and productivity, the cost of doing business 
  3. Purpose and reputation – sustainability and a higher purpose 
  4. Customer power

For consumers, there’s been a shift in priorities. Our main concerns are the health of family and friends and the state of the economy. It’s all about conscious consumption and connecting via social media. 

We’re spending less on clothing and footwear, more on sports gear, DIY and gardening stuff (B&Q has had a run on hot tubs). Coronavirus has accelerated the trends that were already there, e.g. digital spending, online shopping, and a struggling high street. Discounting and private labelling is going mainstream – the rise of Lidl and Aldi. Sustainability and ethics are more important. Post-corona, we’ll be buying less.

Overall, people are positive about the future of retail and the digital shift is excellent news for the gift card industry. It’s good to see businesses making decisions faster. There’s talk of the rise of retail parks, which need rethinking – they’re a bit soulless at present. Let’s make them more of an experience with cafes and stalls as they do in Germany. People seem to be enjoying working from home. “As an introvert, I love this new way of working. I love having spotlight meetings with my clients online.”

Zooming tips: Don’t aim for perfection. Perfect is 80% of perfection. Make it fun with jokes and canned laughter, it keeps it real. Music, polls (seems we’ve mostly been working during lockdown). We had Ella Fitzgerald’s Slap that Bass playing in the waiting room, “Zoom, zoom, zoom”. Don’t pick your nose. Let someone finish before you speak. Roger, out. The DG raised a toast at the end, a nice touch. She did a great job. “I really enjoyed it. You can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s lovely to learn something new.” 

The rise of discount stores is interesting. I’ve been living in Primani sports gear as I’m out jogging, so I’ve not been bothered about clothes shopping. I’ve cut my own hair. I spent £375 on food last month – bit of a shock when I tallied that up, so I’m trying to be more disciplined and stick to supermarkets. I’m off to Aldi this afternoon. “You’ll be shocked at how much cheaper it is than Lidl,” says my friend Rebecca who runs a drinks business. “Their coffee is much better, I buy the Ethiopian Java… good olive oil for £2, cheeses, fresh stuffed pasta, pesto – cheap as chips, gluten-free pasta, cod freezes well.” No online shopping in the UK for Lidl or Aldi yet (aside from food parcels), but it won’t be long.

My main challenge this week has been time management, i.e. juggling multiple clients and having two deadlines. I have a portfolio career with several income streams in case one dries up, which is sensible as I’ve lost contracts, but it’s stressful juggling clients, especially when additional work comes up, i.e. pre-prep for an event. I’ve had no quiet time to write this week so found myself multitasking and feeling stressed. I posted a thread on Twitter and had some helpful suggestions – thanks to Catherine @CleanSlateCopy

“Either add in a time buffer when quoting or set up a shared calendar so clients can see your bookable hours and everything is transparent.” 

I’ve now set up a Google calendar for work which I’ll share with clients, let’s see how it goes. It’s a good starting point, sets boundaries, and means I can schedule breaks and exercise time too. It will be easier to say no when things are transparent and clients can see your calendar in advance.

I’m reading: 

The Reset, Mary Portas’ new newsletter: How Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been flipped on its head (temporarily) and basics have become the new prestige. We’re placing a higher value on nature, caring, and essential buys which she thinks will long outlast the pandemic. Some light relief and top tips on how businesses can survive and thrive at this time.

This piece in The Guardian by Jonathan Freedland on how low-skilled workers are the new heroes. “It turns out that we can function without celebrities or star athletes, but we really cannot function without nurses, doctors, care workers, delivery drivers, the stackers of supermarket shelves or, perhaps unexpectedly, good neighbours.”

How businesses are adapting to flexible working. Jacinda Ardern is pushing for a four-day week to help boost the economy and work-life integration.

I’m using: 

  • Google Drive: Calendar for bookable hours, docs for writing (sick of losing work when Word suddenly quits and odd formatting when you copy & paste). Also checking out Google Meet, just launched – see Zoom vs Teams vs Meet – how do they compare?
  • Evernote app: I love it. Save articles, screenshots, & create notebooks. Brilliant if you get distracted reading stuff online when you should be working.
  • Babbel: I’ve been using the Duolingo app to learn Italian but need something meatier. A friend recommended Babbel as it has a sharper focus on conversations. She’s encouraging her son doing a lesson a day to earn his pocket money, a fiver a week.) Good idea. I can pay myself pocket money in dividends.

An idea:

Crazy prices. I said to haggle, has to be worth a try. How about we use Twitter to advertise our skills and tag it #skillshare and offer low-cost lessons via Zoom? Could be a possible way for talented freelancers to earn additional income during the lockdown.

I know an excellent digital events producer, social media expert, graphic designer, branding expert… 

I’ve been to… 

Hastings Old Town. Here’s Catherine Cookson’s old house and Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to be placed on the British medical register.

Busy down here this weekend. I think we’ll see a shift to coastal living post-corona.

The Shift is your weekly newsletter exploring new ways of living and working. It’s written by me, Nicci Talbot, a freelance journalist. Got a tip or story to share? Email me at


#1 Freelancers, we need your help!

Work Life Shift. NUJ News Recovery Plan. #forgottenfreelances campaign. Remote Work Wiki.

👋🏻Happy Sunday! Newsletter #1 (still not decided what to call this yet, been inspired by my neighbour’s new puppy, Zeus. The Muses? We’ll see…)

We had our first National Union of Journalists branch meeting on Zoom this week. London Freelance. 77 members – many of whom haven’t been to a meeting before as they don’t live in London etc. so this is definitely something to continue post-corona. People seem to prefer audio-only for evening meets as it’s less intrusive, radio background while they cook or do other stuff. It works well. 

Pamela Morton, Freelance National Organiser and Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary gave us a quick update on what’s been happening with the #forgottenfreelance campaign to help workers who fall through the cracks. 

There was no support for freelancers initially, so getting the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) up and running was a result. It went live on Wednesday – check if you’re eligible here. Then they realised there are horrendous gaps – two million workers fall through the cracks so they’re pushing for a meeting with Treasury to see what can be done. They’ve been hearing from sole traders, limited company directors, casuals paid by the PAYE system for shift work who haven’t been furloughed by the companies they work for, newly self-employed and those earning over 50k. 

I’m one of them as a sole director – see the #forgottenLTD threads on Twitter so I’ve been applying for grants and Universal Credit.

Many journalists are facing great hardship and say they’ll be feeling the impact for years to come and are considering leaving the industry. We need to turn this around asap.

If you’re a #forgottenfreelance or self-employed worker who isn’t eligible for the SEISS scheme, download this letter to make your case to your MP. 

You can help support the news industry by sending a letter to your MP which urges the UK government to revamp its scheme to provide more support for freelancers, PAYE individuals and the self-employed. 

The NUJ has also launched an ambitious News Recovery Plan for the UK and Ireland to sustain the press and media through the crisis and reinvigorate the industry into a reimagined future. The crisis has shown how important it is to have a news media providing accurate information, trustworthy content and one that holds the government and authorities to account.

We’ve got Trump helpfully suggesting disinfectant might be injected as a coronavirus cure, and the Trump of the Tropics, Bolsonaro, who can’t see the point of social distancing: “So what? *shrugs* “I mourn [the deaths], what do you want me to do?” Brazil now has the 4th largest outbreak of coronavirus in the world. 

“It’s not about handouts or compensation for the industry – we’re looking for investment in our future to transform the media industry, make it fit for our collective purpose and truly serve the public good.” You can support the NUJ petition here

This week, I helped launch GCVA Connect, a digital network for 90+ members of the Gift Card & Voucher Association. New app – a community forum via Disciple, and a blog to explore what the gift card industry has been doing collectively to help support frontline workers. Here’s Issue #1 – ‘From Conference to Corona’ by Gail Cohen, Director General – a personal view of how the crisis has impacted a non-profit organisation.

I also work with Hoxby, a consultancy whose mission is to create a happier and more fulfilled society through a world of work without bias. This has been the world’s biggest experiment into remote working, and many companies are surprised by how well it’s working – given the speed at which we’ve had to adapt. Hoxby has published some research into remote working trends – 78% of senior management agree “remote working is the future of my organisation.” 

It’s time to reflect and review systems and processes. I think we’ll see some significant changes to work culture post-corona. I’ve been reading about how large offices will become a thing of the past, with more staff working remotely. This week, Twitter announced its employees will have the option to work from home, and other companies are following suit. How work is an activity, not a place. Futurist James Wallman posted on LinkedIn about hotels being temporary workplaces in the future – ‘Wotels?’ for brainstorming sessions. I love working in hotels and airports. Neutral spaces. People watching and eavesdropping on conversations always sparks new ideas. 

I wrote a blog for Hoxby on the benefits of working with them as part of a shift in strategy to create more client-focused content. If you’re looking for a kickass freelance project team, check them out. They’re a collective of over 1k freelancers from 40 countries who work remotely on projects, both in-house and client-facing across all disciples – creative, futureproofing, HR, admin, marketing, & PR. So, lots of brains and all levels of experience to help you solve problems. Feels good to be part of a freelance community that ploughs its profits back into the business and gives a share to its workers 👏 – hope to see more freelance platforms following this model.

If you’re struggling with remote working and/or getting your teams motivated, check out their Remote Working Strategic Approach. Important distinction – remote working is not the same as working from home – it requires a shift in mindset and some process. 

Also, this thread on Femstreet with Camille Ricketts, Head of Marketing at productivity toolmaker Notion. Last week, they released their Remote Work Wiki, a central hub for the best resources on remote work – from tips to articles and company policies. Jump in! 

And this useful list of resources for freelancers from journalist Harriet Marsden, who challenges the idea that freelance journalism is cutthroat and no one helps each other. That’s not been her experience (or mine). DM her if you want a copy. 

Talking of new habits: I’m on the daily jogs. I’ve downloaded the Peleton app – three months’ free trial during lockdown – an excellent motivator 🎧. I live in St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex. We have hardly any cases down here (Sky News this week) so there are lots of day-trippers and the seafront’s busy. There are a few places doing takeaway coffee, fish & chips, fish markets in the old town, Judges Bakery etc. Overall, it’s pretty relaxed. That feeling of chill and freshness. Salty tang. Always perks me up.

From Harriet: “Pour yourself a big fucking drink and say cheers to a new life.” 

From Gail: “So, tonight, raise a glass of whatever your tipple is, to good health, to your family, your friends, your colleagues, and our industry. 

L’chaim – to life.” 

PS. My neighbours have given up their flat rental to live on their canal boat in Leicestershire for a bit. Lisa’s taking a career break for eight months, and Mike is shielding so they’ve decided to do something different for the summer. “Our outgoings have gone from £1,200 to around £300.” They’ve got a few problems with the boat so are back while they sort that out, but will be off again shortly. She says Zeus loves it, outdoor life, running after rabbits. How inspiring. I want an adventure! For now, it’s exploring different parts of town on my runs – and my newsletter babies.

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Here to brighten up your Sunday morning and get you ready for the week ahead! 

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