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Podcast Episode 52: The Freelance Writers’ Guide to LinkedIn Success

LinkedIn has 200 million members and 1 million groups, and is an ideal B2B networking tool.

"Show a glimpse of who you are; show a glimpse of the things that excite you in your industry rather than just reporting on them"This means that, as a professional network, it is invaluable for any freelance writer. In this episode of the podcast, Lorrie and I discuss the crucial dos and don’ts for winning at LinkedIn social networking, including looking at:

  • how much self-promotion is appropriate
  • how to take advantage of LinkedIn groups, and
  • which subjects, job descriptions and profile photos should never, ever see the light of day on the site.

LinkedIn generates more leads for B2B companies than Facebook, Twitter or blogs, so ignore it at your peril! Listen to this episode, and do be sure to let us know what you think!

Show Notes

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LH: Hello and welcome to Episode 52 of A Little Bird Told Me. My co-host Pippa and I are two freelance writers on a frankly heroic mission: we’re here to help you avoid the pitfalls that plague your profession and become the most wonderful wordsmith you can be. Freelancing can be really tough and it can be a really lonely old world out there. So our hope is that this podcast will just be a little ray of sunshine in a world where you can find yourself working from bed, eating cornflakes from the packet for lunch and not seeing another living soul for four years straight. To make sure you don’t miss this little sunbeam of writerly wisdom, we’ve made it super easy to subscribe; lucky you! You can tune in via iTunes, RSS feed, Stitcher Smart Radio or Podomatic.

But, no matter how you want to listen, make sure you stop by the Podomatic homepage and that’s at and you’ll find a whole range of links and resources on there to accompany the episodes. Blog posts, transcripts, funny videos, websites, they’re all there. You can also find links to both, mine and Pip’s social media profiles and websites, so you can come and have a chat. I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and I am Philippa Willitts.

PW: Today, we’re going to look at, in detail, one of the most useful social networks for freelancers. It’s not necessarily the most user-friendly or indeed the most fun but LinkedIn is a really valuable resource for professional networking unlike say, Facebook and Twitter, the focus of LinkedIn is pretty clear, this is a place to talk shop.

LH: Yeah, I mean LinkedIn is never going to win any prizes for being a hoot and a holler but, perhaps, unfortunately you know given the love-hate relationship we all have with it, it does deliver when it comes to networking and business development as long as you know all the tricks. The good news is they’re easy to learn and, LinkedIn being the little snail that it is, it doesn’t really change much. It’s a slow burner, it’s the old man of the Internet and any new features are introduced slowly and gently. It almost seems so that the website itself doesn’t get scared and run away. So once you know how to do everything, you’re unlikely to log in the next day and get a shock and have to relearn everything because they’ve sprung something new on you the next day, Facebook style.


PW: Yes it’s true, and the fact is that Lorrie and I have both had work directly as a result of networking on LinkedIn. This isn’t a kind of ‘pie in the sky’ idea. This is something that does happen for freelancers.

LH: Yeah, I mean no matter how you phrase it to yourself and you can say ‘oh it doesn’t really work’, it does, we’re sorry, it does. You have to get on LinkedIn. It’s horrible but it does work. Its true, it really does work. I’ve had work from other social networking sites but LinkedIn, everybody’s there for that reason. People are receptive; it’s a very, very, good website to get on, if not a very good website in itself.

PW: Yeah I think it’s improving but there are still a lot of areas where it’s a bit questionable.

LH: Yeah I think utilitarian is the word for it, isn’t it. It does what it needs to. So, the first thing we’re going to do is talk about LinkedIn do’s, we’re going to split this episode into dos and don’ts simply because it’s such a nice easy way to do things.

So, LinkedIn dos are the kind of activities that you want to make sure you’re getting sorted during those perhaps, painful minutes that you have to spend on LinkedIn. Joking aside, LinkedIn as I say, is a completely utilitarian site, it’s not there for you to just sit around on and contemplate the wonders of the universe on. Do make sure that you use your time on there properly and if you really hate it, get on there in the morning, do your stuff, get back off again.

PW: The fact that it’s not a necessarily enjoyable site does mean that you’re more likely to really want to focus what your doing and have some kind of overall plan rather than maybe say Facebook or Twitter, where you might go to relax a bit.

LH: True actually, I would always think about taking a break on Twitter. If I need to get some work done and I have social media on my to do list that’s the kind of thing that I tackle in my afternoon slump, is a little bit of tweeting whereas LinkedIn is a Monday morning task for me, it’s just different isn’t it? You’re right, it is good to focus, it means that you don’t get on there and browse really, you get on there and do what you need to and then it’s done.

PW: And so our first ‘do’ in the list is to overcome any embarrassment you might have about the kinds of updates that LinkedIn is designed for. This is the place where you can unapologetically talk about what a marvellous freelancer you are and though you, like me, might well cringe as you do it, it’s okay on that platform because it’s appropriate for the setting.

LH: Yeah this is true actually, I mean, not everybody is like me. Not everybody wants to sit and talk about how amazing they are all the time. While I enjoy doing it, I think we’ve said it before it’s a very British thing to be embarrassed about blowing your own trumpet. Now don’t be, frankly LinkedIn is a giant C.V, business card, networking event all rolled into one. So make sure you use it for its intended purposes, there’s no point going on there and being coy. Nobody will thank you for your modesty if you’re on there and you’re quite reticent, people just won’t see you. If you’ve had a recommendation from somebody, share it. If you’ve won new business, celebrate that. Obviously be discreet if you don’t need to name your client, for example. If you’ve written an essay or new blog post or something put a link to it, make sure you do shout about your achievements on there.

PW: Definitely. If you have a look through the updates that your contacts are making, you’ll see that that just is how it works. You can’t go on to Facebook or Twitter and have every update be about what a great job your doing, people get really turned off, whereas on LinkedIn its far more accepted that you will head over there and say ‘Yay, I’ve got a new client’ or ‘I’ve just finished such a brilliant piece of work, I’m really pleased with it’ or something like that, if that’s the majority of your updates that’s not unusual.

LH: Absolutely. Intersperse those kinds of updates with industry-relevant posts that you’ve perhaps found on the internet and you’re basically onto a winner. People don’t want to know on LinkedIn what you had for your dinner, they don’t want to see the Instagram of the food that you just ordered in a restaurant, they don’t want to know about your holidays or the new bargains that you bought when you went shopping. They are there, if they’re interested at all in your updates, a lot of people don’t really have a look at other people’s updates, but if people are looking at your updates, it will be to see your professional stuff.

PW: Another ‘do’, speaking of people seeing your professional stuff, is to also have a look at what other people are saying, don’t use LinkedIn as a purely broadcasting media. It’s nice if you post an update for someone to comment on it or interact with in some way and similarly it’s a great way of building up your networking, if you comment on and like other peoples updates on there. So this ‘do’ is to be interactive, be engaging. Don’t just land on the site, write about how great you are, and then leave.

LH: Absolutely and on a related note in terms of practices on LinkedIn, with LinkedIn you are just supposed to connect with people that you know in some way, shape or form. Now, people don’t stick to that rule at all. People build their networks they do a lot of business development. If they see somebody who looks like they might be useful to them in future they add them. There’s also a way to just click and sort of bulk add a load of people so a lot of people on there will have sort of five, six hundred, seven hundred, a thousand connections.

So you’ll often find yourself receiving invitations to connect from somebody that you’ve never heard of and who you don’t know. Now, rather than just accepting or indeed declining the invite, a good way to build some interaction is to actually use the option to reply but don’t accept the invite yet. So what I tend to do is, click reply on an invitation if the person is someone that I don’t know and say, ‘thank-you for the invitation to connect, is there anything in particular I can help you with today?’ I think there are two reasons for it, one, its nice to interact with people but two, I kind of feel like I’m sticking one to someone who’s tried to connect with me for no reason because you put somebody on the spot. I’d say most of the time I don’t get a response, the person doesn’t respond and we don’t connect. But, on the occasions that the person does respond I’ve won business from it.

PW: Yes. Absolutely. I mean its hard as a freelancer if somebody does request a connection and you don’t know them, part of you thinks well, is it because they’re looking for a copywriter? Is that why they’ve made contact? Or is it just that they’ve gone down this massive list of people and clicked connect, connect, connect… all the way down the list? So having some kind of ‘in’ with somebody in some kind of way where you make contact that forces a bit of personalisation into the interaction. We’ll weed out the people that just click ‘connect, connect, connect’ and help you to identify the people that could be useful contacts to have.

LH: Absolutely and if you don’t feel comfortable or secure in declining people’s invites, just in case, you can still send them an email rather than accepting. You can send them ‘Hi, is there anything I can help you with?’ email but then you can also accept the invite. You don’t have to decline them. I decline them because I think I’m a bit perverse in that sense and I sort of think ‘Ha! No, I’m not connecting with you I don’t know you. Let’s find out what you want from me first’. But I think that’s just me. It is a good way to interact with somebody. Rather than just clicking accept because in the majority of cases I’ve found that if you accept a connection invite from somebody that you don’t know they just get added to your list and you never speak to them again. That’s often what happens and you just help contribute to somebody’s 700, 800 person list.

PW: Our next do, is to make use of groups. There are thousands of LinkedIn groups and so what you first need to do is find some that are relevant to what you do, then join them and contribute to the good ones. I’m more into that at the moment. A good idea is to join a wide range of groups, such as a writers group or a UK specific one, but to also go to some more specific and detailed ones that are suited to your own specialities. So that be a health group, a social media group or whatever your particular area is.

Now once you join them you’ll find that some are pretty much abandoned apart from periodic spam messages, don’t even bother trying to contribute to those, everybody who is a member will of filtered out those updates because of just endless spam. So instead look through and find the ones that are active and not just with people promoting themselves. You want somewhere that’s got some great discussions because then you can not only start to get your face known you can also start to prove that you know what your talking about by joining in and contributing useful things.

LH: Definitely, it can be quite hard to compete with the voices of those who use the groups as self promotion platforms. You will find some people who post on there 20-30 times a day, and it’ always look at this blog post I wrote, look at this bog post I wrote, I am awesome, look at this blog post. So take Pip’s advice and send some proper time deciding which groups to join and which to stay in. A good group will have admin who controls the conversations a little bit and moderates to a certain extent which prevents people trumpeting so loudly that no one else can be heard on the group, and yes, there are a lot of defunct groups on LinkedIn, so make sure you’re not wasting your time.

PW: If you do groups well then it can be a really good way of making people see you potential, making people see that you’re an authority in the topic you say you’re an authority in and if you do it badly you will just look like every other spammer in every other group. Finding the groups that are active with useful discussions can sometimes take a bit of work because so many have been taking over by spammers now, but if you do, and invest a bit of time into it then you can have really positive results.

LH: I think that’s a really good point actually, that you find a good group and commit to posting in it. I think it’s better not to post at all than to post half-hearted old links in there. If you find something that was published two weeks ago and you think it was quite interesting I’d suggest not posting it at all because you’re going to look like you’re behind the times. For myself at the moment and, for, say the last six months, I’ve not found the time to post regularly on LinkedIn groups, so I just haven’t. I think I’d rather not post than post and look mediocre.

PW: Yeah, definitely.

LH: So if you can assign even just, five minutes a day. Five minutes at the start of the day when you’re having a cup of tea just sit there, go through your groups and having taking Pip’s advice on which groups to go for, post something, respond to people. If you don’t have anything of your own to say, respond to someone else’s post, it’s often nice to contribute and you can build networks that way. People will learn that you’re a fellow copywriter, fellow editor, fellow proof reader, whatever. You don’t actually have to find the time to post your own information on there you can just contribute to someone else’s discussion and still build value that way.

PW: Yeah, absolutely. And especially if you do find it far too embarrassing to post things that are directly self-promotional it can be quite an indirect way of doing it I suppose.

LH: Yeah, I think so. You can hint to your own credentials, which is a very British sort of thing to do. Hint your own credentials, show that you have knowledge without having to go on there and say I’ve got this knowledge.

PW: And so, another do, for LinkedIn networking is to be strategic. LinkedIn isn’t all about immediate results, things don’t necessarily happen straight away and if you want to build a great reputation as a freelancer or start networking with the real top bods in your industry this is going to take some time, so rather than just blundering in make some plans about what the best ways are to reach your goals including some kind of roadmap. One of my other LinkedIn contacts got in touch with me a few days ago, basically they are applying for a job at a particular company and they could see that I had a contact who worked at that company. So what they did was ask me if I could introduce them, which I happily did, and from my contact’s point of view, they now have an in with that company that they wouldn’t have had otherwise and hopefully that will help them in the job application process. That kind of approach takes planning and research, and time actually, but when you take the time to do it properly you’re far more likely to get good results on a site like LinkedIn. Instead of say, you launch yourself at the CEO of the company with a message asking for a job or a contact request they will just shut down the channels of communication straight away.

LH: That’s an interesting point actually. I’ve done business development on LinkedIn, I’ve never been shut down so to speak but when I’ve tried emailing people I’ve always had better results going from middle management than top dogs or the marketing team. The marketing team are open to people looking for inroads to that company, they’ve got the time, there used to dealing with enquiries about the company so look at who you’re contacting if you’re looking for a particular within a certain organisation.

PW: Yeah definitely, like everywhere you know the higher up somebody is the more gatekeepers there are, trying to prevent you from getting direct access to them. I have worked as a secretary and receptionist in my long dimmer distant past as I know Lorrie has and a big part of your job is preventing people from talking to your boss.

LH: True! It’s true: you learn to recognise who to let through (no one!) and who to prevent (everyone!).

PW: Exactly and while LinkedIn does remove some of those barriers to a degree, you do in theory have direct access to anyone who’s on there as long as certain weird criteria are met about mutual contacts. You know the reality is that a lot of those sane people will have their own gatekeepers preventing access directly from LinkedIn as much as if you emailed or phoned. So, think carefully about how to do it, look at the person you want to be in contact with and see whether you have anybody directly in contact with you both, that’s ideal. If your best friend knows someone really well, whom you’re desperate to speak to, then you know, that’s brilliant. Most likely it’s going to be less direct than that and like in this situation I knew somebody at the same company and they were happy to be introduced.

LH: This is it. I think as long as you approach people politely, particularly if they’re not too high up the tree you know, as in the case of your mutual contact there, if you introduce somebody politely and you say to somebody ‘look I would love to get in touch with this company, I have a great idea for such and such’ or ‘I’d really love to send you some information on this, that and the other’ there will be a certain empathy for you. Everyone can kind of relate to try and improve their careers as long as you do it in a respectable way and as Pip says you don’t just suddenly launch yourself at people with a view to just seeing what you can get. It’s about offering value and doing it in a respectful way.

So the next LinkedIn networking do is do apply the usual key word rules to your profile. Make sure that your profile isn’t a disaster zone, if you’re a copywriter it’s most likely that you will be familiar, or indeed should be familiar, with writing for the web. It’s a rare copywriter nowadays who just handles print material. So, apply the same rules to your LinkedIn profile. Make sure there are lots of key search terms in there. Don’t make the whole thing into a keyword jammed, unreadable mess.

Make sure your headlines are relevant and not as I saw recently, something like, “Joe is unemployed”. Honestly, who would put that on their LinkedIn profile? Would you put that on your CV? Who’s going to search for that? It’s ludicrous.

LinkedIn is basically a search engine, for a lot of people that’s what they use it for, it’s a recruitment search engine and if you post on your headline that you’re unemployed, why would you do that? Think about what you want to gain from being on the site even if you are unemployed, even if you have no clients and you’re down to bread, rice and water. Think about what you want to gain from the site, go with some terms that will win you the kind of work your looking for so when people search freelance copywriter, Manchester or they search for freelance book editor, UK, your there, you’re at the top of the list.

Now one tip that is worth noting is that your contact information on your LinkedIn profile can be tailored for keywords. People don’t seem to know this; this is my favourite kind of LinkedIn hack. Everybody’s calling everything a hack at the moment; I’ve got swept away with it a little bit.

Adriano Gasparri - My LinkedIn Profile

Adriano Gasparri – My LinkedIn Profile (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

So when you fill out your information, LinkedIn allows you to choose a few links to include on your profile, I think you have 3, 4 or 5. So you can have a link to your Twitter, your business website, a link to your personal website or your Facebook and you can choose these from a dropdown box. You can choose which type of link you’re entering. So if you think oh I’ve got this work Twitter account I want to link to that from my LinkedIn you choose from the dropdown box Twitter, type in your username so say, but the problem with this is that the anchor text, again if you write for the web learn what anchor text means, quite a lot of people don’t know it still, it’s the words that you click on, it’s the clickable link. So the word that you click on from your LinkedIn profile to get to those links will read something generic. So, Twitter or Facebook or professional website and that does nothing of any use.

If, on the other hand, you select other from the dropdown box another little field appears and you can type in the anchor text that you want there, so this is a fab opportunity to enter some relevant search terms. So if you’re a UK copywriter you can type in UK copywriting services or if you’re a book editor you can put professional book editing and people will be able to click that term to get to your website so that’s far more useful to you than professional website or twitter but that’s what 99% of LinkedIn users will have on their profile page.

PW: And as with everything keyword related an equally important pointer is to not overdo it. It’s important to get the keywords in for all the reason that Lorrie has explained. If someone looks at your profile you want them to instantly know what you do, you don’t want to be cryptic or mysterious on LinkedIn.

LH: That’s a good point. Choose a job title that people understand rather than trying to sound really exciting and people don’t know what you do.

PW: Exactly, so if somebody wants a proofreader in Bristol, make sure that you’ve got proofreader in Bristol on your profile, if that’s what you are. But equally don’t be tempted to make every third word proofreader and every fourth word Bristol, because that’s when it gets messy it looks awful, it reads badly, it’s horrible to see.

LH: Yeah, anybody who knows anything about anything will look and go no thanks.

PW: Yeah exactly, especially as a writer. You’re trying to persuade people that you can use words really, really well. It’s the whole point of being a writer is being good at words and so if someone glances at your profile and sees the same four words repeated in a way that doesn’t even make sense, then why on earth would they want to hire you.

LH: Yeah if you’re looking for a proof-reader in Bristol put I am a proof-reader in Bristol offering proof-reading services in Bristol ner, ner, ner…

PW: Exactly and if you expect somebody to read that and go ‘I need them to write my website’.

LH: They are the freelancer for me.

Philippa: Now, actually that is related to a do that we’ve only kind of briefly touched on but that does deserve its own real pointer. That is it seems obvious but it can’t really be overstated how important it is to fill your profile information out. Now as well as what Lorrie’s mentioned about getting the links in, there’s a ton more space. You don’t necessarily have to get to the big 100% mark but if a client is looking at your profile to find out more don’t leave them guessing. Make sure that your skills and your work history and places you’ve been published, any section that gives you the opportunity to show off, make sure they’re filled out.

LH: This is true although it taps into something that’s my gift bug bare in terms of LinkedIn and that’s that when you reach this 100% filled out profile state, it tells you that your profile is all-star and I have no idea where that comes from and it’s the worst piece of branding ever. All-star is hyphenated, it just says you have an all-star profile and there’s no build up to that, you’re not like half a star when you have half your profile filled out, you get that circle on the right hand side that looks half filled, when it gets to the top, all of a sudden LinkedIn tells you you’re an all-star. So yeah, horrible branding, “be an all-star”.

Make sure that you do what Pip tells you she’s a very sensible woman honestly, most of the time. 9 out of 10 times do what Pip tells you, in this case definitely do it. Fill out your LinkedIn profile because there’s no reason not to, it’s an extremely high traffic website, it’s got a very good search function, horrible though the site can be at times, there’s absolutely no reason, if somebody Googles your name, as people will often do, I do it all the time I Google people, your LinkedIn profile is likely to be one of the top results. Don’t waste the opportunity make sure you have everything of relevance on there and you don’t need to be wordy about it as Pip says, you don’t need an essay in every section in fact it’s better that you don’t have an essay in every section because people will lose interest. Have just enough on there to make it clear what you do, what your offering, what you’re looking for if that’s relevant, get your key words in and Bob’s your aunty.

PW: It’s interesting, I know some people, if you’ve got a bit of a chequered employment history you might wonder about how much you should include, you know is that job in a pub when you were 19 really relevant and I would say unless you’ve done something disreputable, its worth including things because you never know when a pub chain will be looking for a copywriter who has some experience in the trade. They find a copywriter who’s worked in a pub, perfect.

So I would say err on the side of actually including it. The stuff that’s from years ago won’t necessarily be that easy to spot so you’re not going to do yourself any damage unless you put on like, heroin dealer or whatever. But yeah, if in doubt include it and also I find that like Lorrie mentioned, LinkedIn is pretty much the equivalent of a CV or a résumé if your American, and I find it useful even as a prompt to myself, I go what year was it that I worked in the health service and so I can look down and spot that, it’s really handy just as a personal record if nothing else. But if you’ve done a wide variety of jobs don’t think that will work against you because actually it could work in your favour.

LH: Definitely and if Pip’s not convinced you and don’t want to add all your work experience in there, then don’t. Still fill out your profile though, and make sure you’ve got a lot of information on there because it’s worthwhile, you know, as Pip said it isn’t the easiest thing to spot somebody’s history, so don’t think that on the opposite side of the coin that if you don’t have a long work experience history that it’s not worth being on there, it most certainly is. Pop all your relative information on there and that’s it really. People will mostly just look at what you’re doing now, so, include what you have as long as it’s not dodgy but don’t panic if you haven’t got that much to include.

PW: Yeah, absolutely. Now before we get going on our stern list of LinkedIn don’ts, the final do that I’m going to recommend is, don’t just take – you’ve got to give as well and you will want on your profile plenty of endorsement and recommendations from your LinkedIn contacts and that’s fair enough, there a great way of offering social media proof to clients to prove how great you are, but they don’t just come from nowhere and a great way of getting them is to give them first. Now there are two main types of social proof you can get on you profile from other users, these are recommendations and endorsements. Now recommendations are reviews basically of several paragraphs that any of your contacts can write for you and that you can write for any of your contacts.

I’ve done it for a few people and a few people have done it for me, and a good way of approaching it, is just write somebody a recommendation if you want to recommend them first of all, that’s a good reason to do it, it’s good karma and you’re doing somebody a favour, but equally if you want somebody to write one for you a very good approach is to start by writing one for them first, because a lot of people will then reciprocate anyway. If they see that you’ve written one, they’ll really appreciate it plus they do look great on a profile if somebody is full of glowing praise for you. If you write one first they may well return the favour and if they don’t and you decide to ask them, you’re already a few points up.

The other newer option is endorsements where you can pick up to fifty skills and abilities that then other people can endorse you for, and that’s a far easier quicker process where you just click on a plus sign to endorse somebody, and so, quite often when you’re on LinkedIn a little box will pop up and it will say do you endorse Lorrie for copywriting and so you click the plus box and then she gets an extra one on her profile under that category. Now, when these first came out I think people were quite unsure about how they work, they take a few moments of your time, so, generally if I look at someone’s profile I take the extra 15 seconds to go to the bottom and click as many endorsements as I genuinely endorse them for. I don’t endorse people if I don’t know them or If I don’t know they can do a particular skill that’s mentioned, I’m always very honest, but if I know they can do something and that they do it well then I’m happy to endorse them. The more you do that kind of thing, the more somebody else is likely to head over to your profile and do the same in return.

LH: Absolutely, endorsements tend to be more so than recommendations they tend to be a mutual back patting exercise. You know, if somebody endorsed me I often will go to their profile specifically to endorse them as long as I know that what I’m endorsing them for is indeed one of their skills. Now, weirdly sometimes people will endorse you despite not knowing you.

PW: I’ve had a few of those in the last few days, it’s very odd.

LH: Yeah, so have I. Going back to the idea of people adding you without knowing you and sending you an email saying is there anything I can help you with. I did this recently, somebody tried to add me and I sent them a message saying is there any particular reason, anything I can particularly help you with but then because they looked like a fairly useful person I clicked accept as well. Now weirdly they didn’t respond to my email but they immediately endorsed me for five things.

PW: It’s so odd, isn’t it?

LH: It’s really weird, I mean I don’t mind, I know that I’m an alright copywriter, proofreader, editor and whatever else they clicked.

PW: It’s always nice to be endorsed, but yes it is odd when that happens. You know maybe it’s just that we have fans from afar.

LH: That’s sinister, yeah maybe. So that wraps up our LinkedIn dos for this episode. What we’re going to do now is move on to a range of LinkedIn don’ts. And this frankly is what I’m looking forward to, I love being the bad cop, I do, I can’t help it, I really love being the bad cop and these are LinkedIn absolutely do not’s.

PW: Prepare to be scolded, so our first don’t is something that’s come up before in podcasts as you know, we’ve mentioned it before but that’s because it’s so damn important that is, don’t automatically feed your social media updates from other sites into LinkedIn. It’s not the right platform to broadcast anything and everything to. It’s definitely, one to be a bit sparser, and to think about and approach differently.

LH: Absolutely, and sticking with being bad cop here. There are perhaps one or two things in the whole word that are more annoying than feeding all of your social media updates onto your LinkedIn profile, because the thing with LinkedIn is that most people will post on there three times a week, four times a week max really, maybe not even that. So if you’re posting your every update on LinkedIn, you are going to be monopolising almost everybody’s timeline and that’s never going to be good.

PW: And if those posts are clearly like, Twitter replies or something that’s not even relevant to the platform retweets, replies even just, “ohh nipping to town now”, no.

LH: It’s so inappropriate, isn’t it?

Pip, Yeah, Lorrie mentioned earlier to not feed your Instagram to LinkedIn it’s all that kind of thing. It’s a platform to think more carefully about really to consider updates before you post them. Perhaps a bit more than you would on Twitter or Facebook.

LH: Absolutely, I think unless you are either promoting your services of offering a link of real value, so you know, an up to date interesting actionable blog post, don’t post it on LinkedIn, it’s just not relevant.

PW: Yeah, Twitter used to offer an option to directly feed to LinkedIn but they cut that, thankfully.

LH: Thanks goodness.

PW: A few months ago and prior to that I had a few contacts that would do that, and the most prolific one of those clearly never uses LinkedIn ever because she’s still not noticed that whereas before she was sending several hundred LinkedIn updates a day she’s now sent nothing for nine months so she wasn’t even checking for responses are anything, so thank you Twitter.

LH: Yes, thank you because it’s just not appropriate is it. Aside from sort of spamming or overloading other peoples timelines your destroying the boundary between professional and personal.

PW: It really does your credibility no good at all, if on your professional networking site you’re having a rant about the gas company or you’re complaining about, oh, I don’t even know, you know; it’s just not how you want to present yourself professionally. If you think back to what Lorrie said about LinkedIn being your business card, think of it that way.

LH: If you wouldn’t announce the information on your CV at a networking event while handing over your business card, don’t do it on LinkedIn. Don’t moan about the soggy tuna sandwich that you got from ‘Pret à Manger’. Don’t rant about, as Pip says, don’t rant about your gas company. Don’t even be chirping to someone like ‘oh hi, how are you? Saw you out on the town on Saturday night you looked amazing!’

PW: I was totally pissed!

LH: ‘Oh my god, the hangover that I had’. It’s just not appropriate and the thing with automated feeds is that you will forget that your LinkedIn is linked to your Twitter, Facebook or whatever and you will have a little chirp about something, that you know even in context, even if you’ve linked your professional Twitter to your LinkedIn, I find you can be more informal on Twitter because it’s all in context. So I can have a bit of a giggle and a bit of a joke with my clients on Twitter even via my professional profile because it’s all in context. You know, one little tiny tweet about something frivolous is great on Twitter because Twitter moves so quickly, it’s a flash in the pan, it’s gone. If you’re immortalised on your LinkedIn like ‘oh my god, look at this amazingly funny picture of a cat trapped in a blind’ it’s not good, it’s just not good, don’t do it.

PW: Yeah, and in terms of presenting yourself. Our next don’t is, don’t think that just because you can self-promote more on LinkedIn than pretty much anywhere else don’t fall in to the trap of thinking it’s all you should do. You do still need to interact with other people and also show a bit of your personality as well to keep it interesting. People don’t want to perceive you as some kind of ‘bot’ you know, if all your updates are completely impersonal, they have no character to them, then you’re not interesting however professional you may be. So show a glimpse of who you are, show a glimpse of things that excite you in your industry rather than just reporting on them for instance.

LH: Absolutely and its worth, I think this feeds back into a point that you made earlier Pip; it feeds into the interactivity thing. If you are constantly posting closed statements about ‘I got a new client, this is good’ ‘I completed a new piece of work, this is good’ ‘everything’s going good for me, hoorah’ what can people say to that really? There is only so much that people can champion you and I wouldn’t interact with somebody who say would consistently post I did this and it was great and I did that.

It’s a bit like Harry Potter, I’m not a Harry Potter fan; “Harry did this, and Harry did that, and it was amazing and Harry did that, and it was cool”. Or indeed – and I’m going to get some stick for linking the two – Twilight: “Bella did this and it was cool and Bella did that and it was amazing…” after a while you stop investing, so vary it up.

As Pip says, introduce some information that you generally care about, that you feel passionate about like ‘oh my goodness, amazing development in this’ or ‘whacking great piece of new legislation in the recycling sector; what do we all think about this? How is this going to affect us? What are we going to do with it?’ You know, you can do it in an engaging way, invite interaction from people by being interesting.

PW: Yeah and Lorrie’s ideas there all came with a question which is another good way of inviting people to interact with you. If you post some kind of status update or a link to an interesting piece of work then ask a question say ‘what do people think? This looks really promising to me, do you agree?’ and invite other people to come and chat under your updates.

LH: Yeah and it’s not like being in a room and asking a question that no-one responds to, it doesn’t matter if people don’t respond to your question, don’t feel like a ‘Norman no-mates’. I asked this question and nobody’s got back to me. Sometimes you just won’t spark some people’s imagination, but if you put yourself out there and you invite the interaction you’re at least doing what you can.

PW: Yeah absolutely. So self-promote by all means, do it because you’re supposed to there, it’s what it’s for but don’t just be talking about how great you are, mix it up a bit.

LH: Absolutely and I’m going to come up with a ‘don’t’ that I think feeds into that a little bit. Don’t forget to utilise your existing contacts when it comes to self-promotion. One thing that I do periodically, I’d say maybe 6-12 months, so it’s not a big thing, don’t forget to ask people for recommendations if you’d like a recommendation. Don’t forget to go through your contact list and see if there’s anybody on there that you could do business with that you could link up with. Maybe there’s a graphic designer that works in a particular sector that you work in as a writer, maybe you could come up with some kind of collaborative project. You know, you give their clients discount, they give your clients discounts, so you can recommend a graphic designer with your writer, they can recommend words with their graphic design. Go through your LinkedIn contacts, make sure that you’re not neglecting the people that you’ve added because otherwise there’s no point adding people; you are literally just collecting people. I suppose that’s another half don’t, don’t just collect people on LinkedIn. Don’t add 700 people if you’re never going to interact with them or if you don’t care about them, if you’re not interested in reading from them, keep it quality.

Now, here it is, bad cop time, I’m going to go with quite a controversial don’t and I do wonder what people’s reactions are going to be this so if you find yourself bridling at this, be kind.

PW: This is Lorrie speaking.

LH: Thank you, Pip! Now this particular ‘don’t’ comes as a couple of things so I’ll kindly turn it, don’t choose the wrong headline. Now, this feeds back into what I said in the do category about making sure that you put relevant search terms in your headings in your profile on LinkedIn but it is a bit more specific and it’s based on my own experiences. Now, during my time on LinkedIn I’ve seen a number of women posting that they are a copywriter and mummy or proof reader and mummy of two or an editor and a mum of boys. I can’t caution strongly enough against this. I really, really, can’t.

Unless you are actually a mummy blogger by trade – and it is a thing, and I’ll post a link to it if you’ve not heard of it – your family status is and indeed should be completely irrelevant to your job. It should be of no importance whatsoever. As Pip and I have mentioned before to be a good copywriter, editor, proof reader or whatever you have to leave yourself to one side and concentrate on your audience, you client, your core marketing messages, things that aren’t necessarily relevant or even interesting to you in any way, it’s just not about you.

Headlines like “copywriter and mum of boys” or “proof reader and mummy” put me right off. They stop me in my tracks, and why? There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, I question the reasons behind the person writing that. I really do. I question why in that person’s head, when they were writing their LinkedIn profile they thought ‘oh, I need to say that I’m a mummy’ because it’s diminutive as well. That kind of sets my alarm bells ringing, you know, if they put mother or mum or mom rather than mommy but it’s the diminutive, it’s kind of like surely you should have your business hat on right now rather than your “I’m somebody’s mummy” hat.

PW: Yeah. It does seem an odd thing to prioritise on a professional network doesn’t it? Unless like Lorrie says, you are a mummy blogger and your job is to blog about parenting or about home life in which case it’s clearly very relevant, most times I fear that’s not the case.

LH: No and I question why the family situation is considered to be the most relevant thing that can go on somebody’s LinkedIn profile, I mean, it worries me. If you think right, what is most important that my clients and potential clients know about me, hmm that I’m a mummy? That worries me and I question skills, I question their writing skills, either fairly or unfairly but with headings being so important on LinkedIn and with it being really key to people’s search results what you put in your heading, I question why people think that mummy is a good thing to put in a heading rather than a key word. So, in general if I’m being brutally honest, it makes me question somebody’s professionalism in the same way that I would question their professionalism if they posted a picture of them out at a party instead of putting a nice clean headshot there as a profile picture. That’s all around bad news to me.

PW: Yeah if you’re trying to present yourself professionally then you want to stay away from cutesy things.

LH: Very much. I think if you had a salaried position and you worked in a big company, and you know when you walk into offices and there’s like a picture of everybody with their job title underneath, you wouldn’t put mummy there would you? You just wouldn’t. I feel like I’m being really horrible but you wouldn’t put mummy there. Brutally honest now, your clients do no care.

You think your children are the most marvellous people in the world and they probably are, they probably are brilliant, wonderful kids but your client does not and should not care. They are paying you for a service or they may be paying you for a service if they are not yet your client, they don’t care about your children, they don’t care about your star sign, they don’t care about your dietary needs, they don’t care about your last holiday you went on, they care about your professionalism, your skills, your work history, your specialisms, they do not care that you are a mummy and they shouldn’t.

I have absolutely nothing against children, they’re tiny people: what could be cuter? Like tea-cup dogs, small humans, I’m all for them. I have nothing against mummy’s or mothers or moms or mamas or you know, nothing against mummy bloggers for that matter, there not my cup of tea which isn’t surprising as I don’t have children, but they respond to a very real need and they fill a gap in the market. But unless you are a mummy blogger and that’s how you make your living; clients don’t need to know about your family situation, that’s personal life and on LinkedIn is for professional life. So, just as I wouldn’t write copywriter and wife or editor and Capricorn, I strongly suggest you do not write copywriter and mummy.

PW: You know, similar vein to do with choosing the right tone of content really. I would add a don’t of ‘don’t be overly confessional’; this seems like a weird thing to be saying, giving the conversation that we’re having. But, I witnessed the weirdest transformation of a woman who was a professional copywriter and I became LinkedIn contacts with her after we’d both participated in a freelance writer Twitter chat and so we’d had like this hour long Twitter chat in which we discovered we had a lot in common, we both did very similar work and we got on well, so we then connected on LinkedIn as well. This was all fine.

LH: I love your stories I really want to know what happens next, I want to get like a biscuit and a cup of tea, tell us aunty Pip what happened.

PW: Then all of a sudden it changed and I don’t know what specifically happened in her personal life but it became clearly very important to her to replace all her professional posts and updates with very detailed updates about becoming sober.

LH: Ooh.

PW: Yes.

LH: Ooh, did not see that one coming.

PW: Neither did I.

LH: Congratulations to her but bad choice of platform

PW: Yeah and so, literally overnight, she went from interesting copywriter contact to person that made me embarrassed when I saw her updates whereas three days earlier she’d of posted a link to a new study about effective landing pages. Suddenly she was posting about being 2 days sober and how and why and how she felt.

LH: Oh dear.

PW: The first few days I thought it was weird but it just went on and on and on to the point where now, about 6 months later, she still posts about being sober.

LH: Has she changed her job? Is she, I’m completely serious here, has she changed her role to like an AA advocate or something?

PW: No, no.

LH: No? She’s just really happy to be sober.

PW: I can understand if you have had an addiction then combatting it is a massive deal.

LH: It’s a huge deal obviously.

PW: Yeah, nobody would question that and its brilliant for her that she’s now 6 months sober. However, the thing is about the location of these posts and the context there in and just the appropriateness

LH: Yeah, it’s very much like the mummy copywriter.

PW: That’s what reminded me of it, yeah.

LH: Yeah, I mean nobody is saying that you shouldn’t be happy for somebody that’s got sober or got children for that matter or that they shouldn’t be happy or proud about it themselves but LinkedIn is for work. I think that’s what we’re trying to say, it is for work. It’s professional; there is no cross over between personal and professional on LinkedIn.

PW: And even if, like we’ve suggested, you want to show bits of your personality, even that is not the same as confessing every detail and I do mean every detail of becoming sober or of overcoming anything in your life, if you know, you have mental health problems for instance, that again can take over your life and it can be a very, very, big deal. But LinkedIn isn’t the place to talk about that and if we’re sounding perhaps, a bit hard line about this it’s because it’s so inappropriate.

LH: Yeah, I think hard line is better than fuzzy line in this case. It certainly is because you could trash your reputation and that means not getting work and that means not getting paid. You know, if you’re in any doubt as to how much personal information you should share on LinkedIn at all, don’t share any.

PW: Go with less rather than more.

LH: Absolutely, if you’re at all concerned, don’t share any. Get yourself a closed Twitter profile, get yourself a profile that is in no way linked to your real name or your business and talk it out, nobody’s saying don’t talk it out, nobody’s saying don’t sing your children’s praises or don’t celebrate your victory over substance misuse, whatever, do it, do it, do it. Be pleased, be proud just don’t be pleased or proud on LinkedIn.

PW: Yeah. If you’re going through a horrible relationship break up do that on Twitter or Facebook you know, there’s so many circumstances and with this particular person that I’m thinking of, whenever I see these updates all I feel is, I feel awful for her. It doesn’t annoy me that I see it in my feed. It makes me very concerned about her business and the degree to which she’s exposing herself.

LH: But I think there’s an interesting point to be made there, without wanting to sort of sound self-aggrandizing, we’re both kind of compassionate people I think, we’re both into activism, we’re both quite people centric but, if I were a large company, say the marketing manager of a large company and I spotted a copywriter that I hired on there talking about the kinds of things we’ve just discussed, I might well feel annoyed. I might feel annoyed because, especially if you have a visible link to that client or if you were late with some work or you might of handed in some work that was substandard, it might not of even been related to these personal issues that you’re discussing, but, if I were to log in and see you talking about all kinds of personal stuff, I would question your ability to do the job and I would probably get rid of you. Because, you’re not a charity, you’re a business and you’re hiring somebody to deliver a service, you’ve got to choose the right person for the job and if someone is demonstrating that they might not be the right person, a lot of people are going to be a lot less tolerant.

PW: And if somebody has talked a lot about alcohol misuse in that environment and then there late with some work, then for right or wrong, you may well find that your mind goes to ‘have you been drinking?’ You know, and that’s the last thing anybody wants. Similarly, keep away from, unless it’s relevant to what you do, keep away from topics like religion because all it will do is alienate some people. You’ll rarely on LinkedIn find yourself bonding over a religion, so I don’t think it would give you that advantage however, what it could well do is give you the opposite, a disadvantage.

LH: The same goes for controversial topics, immigration, politics, keep your views to yourself really because you’re going to get your fingers burnt. You know, I’ve had clients try talk to me about their politics that are quite, quite different to my own. Similarly, I’ve had people ask me to write news stories or press releases from an angle that I absolutely would not a spouse at all. Now, as long as something’s not against my ethics or my principles, I’ll do it because it’s not about me. So if a company wants to write about a certain piece of legislation from an angle that I don’t particularly agree with or relate to, that’s fine as long as it’s not against my ethics.

PW: Yes, I’m exactly the same.

LH: If however I was to write on my LinkedIn about my politics, my religion or lack thereof, about my views on immigration, about my views on I don’t know, racial issues?

PW: Organic food, you know anything can become controversial if the right person picks it up.

LH: Yeah you never know with these people, you can lose yourself business because they can think that person can’t put their own feelings to one side and you’ve no-one to blame but yourself because you’ve been the one writing about it on a professional website.

PW: Yeah. I have a slightly different experience to that just because an amount of what I do is opinion-based writing. So that puts me in an interesting position because the things that Lorrie’s just outlined are very real dangers. If I posted on LinkedIn something I’d wrote for a publication that was quite opinionated, that may well put off a copywriting client who didn’t share my opinion on it. However, if I didn’t put that kind of thing on then others wouldn’t know to approach me for that kind of work.

LH: True, I imagine that’s a balance when you do media writing.

PW: It is a balance and also quite a few of my contacts on LinkedIn are fellow political writers so it’s not as kind of sanitised on my feed as it might be otherwise.

LH: On the contrary, I think you would have to be controversial some of the time in order to generate interest.

PW: Of course, of course and so generally if I have something published somewhere, I post it, as long as it’s under my own name, obviously, not the ghost written stuff. I’m not saying that’s not problematic but I think because I do both types of writing under my own name and if you Google me then the first things that come up are often obviously the stuff for the bigger newspapers and stuff, they win on SEO over other things and so I can’t be entirely opinion free, nor would I want to be. That doesn’t mean that I still have no tact, there’s still ways and means of going about in a way that makes it not alienating to co-operate clients but also does show that you’ve got more in you that you can offer opinionated work.

LH: Absolutely, I think if, say you write an opinion piece, I’m going to pick something completely random, you write an opinion piece on people eating ham, for example. This is what you write, this is an example, this isn’t the kind of thing that Pip writes about she’s generally a little bit more versatile than just people eating ham, I’m choosing something deliberately ridiculous. So, if Philippa was to write a post about how it’s morally wrong for people to eat ham and it’s generally reprehensible and shouldn’t be allowed and won’t somebody think of the children. There would be a difference in her posting that on LinkedIn with ‘I’ve written a new piece that’s been posted in the independent about eating ham, what you think? Do you have any views? Do you have any thoughts?’ As opposed to, posting on LinkedIn ‘anyone who eats ham is a scumbag! I don’t care what you think if you don’t like it you can block me I just don’t care, ham-eating scummers!’

PW: That’s so true.

LH: So, of course, the example is ridiculous.

PW: Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. Plus, if I post a link to something opinionated that I’ve written, it will contain the logic behind my opinion. So even the piece itself won’t be ‘I can’t believe people eat ham’ it will hopefully have a bit more substance to it as well. There’s still a way of going about it.

LH: Even the piece itself is far from neutral, you can be neutral in your presentation of it. You can be purely informative as opposed to prerogative when you post and say new piece posted on The Independent, take a look, let us know what you think, comments can be found below the article.

PW: Yeah, yeah. Now, our next don’t is a biggy and its becoming more and more of a problem by the day. Don’t send mass impersonal messages to your existing connections.

LH: Yes, yes, yes, thank you, yes!

PW: Do you agree Lorrie?

LH: I suppose so yeah… No I completely do, obviously! It’s a nightmare!

PW: I recently got one from a connection who admittedly, I don’t know. We must have added each other for some reason but I don’t know who she is. I got one of these messages from her that came through to my email and it said ‘Hi all, sorry for the mass email would you mind going to this site and leaving me a recommendation, ta!’ Now, there are so many things wrong with that message. First of all, ‘hi all, sorry for the mass email’ that’s an automatic switch off anyway.

LH: Of course it is. That’s delete or if you’re me, report spam.

PW: Well yeah and would you mind going over and leaving me a recommendation when I don’t know her, I’ve never worked with her, I will not recommend somebody I’ve never worked with or never seen work you know, I just won’t.

LH: I don’t mean to interrupt you but I had someone get in touch the other day ‘Hi please click this link and recommend me for such and such a prize, thanks’ I’ve never heard from this person before.

PW: I know and the site that this woman wanted a recommendation on, it was on a third party site so it wasn’t even on LinkedIn. There was nothing about that message that was ok and yet she presumably, sent it to everybody.

LH: That’s so horrible and I suppose I am perverse in that sense, I would click report spam.

PW: Yeah I can’t remember whether I did or not, I remember I was very tempted to.

LH: Yeah I absolutely would, at the very least I would disconnect from somebody for it.

PW: I have reported other messages as spam, on LinkedIn, certainly. They are getting quite spammy.


LinkedIn (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

LH: They are getting really, really, spammy. Obviously, because we’re copywriters, I take extra offence, as though there needs to be more offence, I take extra offence as there poorly written because there marketing material at the end of the day. If you’re sending poorly written, spelling mistaken ridden tosh to all of your LinkedIn connections, potential clients, friends, whatever. Then bugger off. Bugger off out of my inbox. Go away!

It’s ridiculous. I completely think they deserve to be reported as spam. You wouldn’t do that, there seems to be this boundary thing again, it’s a LinkedIn boundary thing, I think all the problems on LinkedIn stem back to one word, boundary. You wouldn’t get somebody’s email address and just spam them with some rubbish, poorly spelt, junk mail. So don’t do it to somebody’s LinkedIn inbox. Although, we do enjoy, or at least I do enjoy being bad cop, we’ve been sort of sitting here wondering when, if at all, it would be appropriate to send a mass email via LinkedIn. Now, we’re both really struggling and as we’ve discussed, if we can’t think of it, it probably doesn’t exist because we are just authorities on everything. I generally can’t think of a time that a mass email, I can think of a time where a group email might be suitable like emails that you send to a few people.

PW: If you’re changing your job for instance, or something that requires a wider announcement.

LH: Yeah, I don’t know if I’d send that as a group email though, even then. I think I would copy and paste and send it individually or if I wanted everybody on my LinkedIn profile to know I would put a notification up and then people get a notification anyway, if you change your job, don’t they? I suppose if you’re changing your contact details then maybe? But then again do you need all six, seven hundred people on your LinkedIn to know about it.

PW: Yeah. I think kind of the conclusion we’ve come to, it may be that there is a visible time to send a mass message, we can’t think of one that’s justifiable at this stage. In the vast majority of cases, you know, don’t go big; go small.

LH: Yeah and in every case, and I will say every case, it’s better to personalise. It’s always, always, always better to personalise your messages even if you open a word processing document, you type something out and you put some fields in there to be personalised. So, dear first name, you know whatever. Make specific references to them and their company or whatever, just make sure we aren’t being spammed by you, even if you just have to send something completely informative not person-specific at all, copy and paste and send to one person because I don’t know, I’ve not sent a group message on LinkedIn but from what I recall it shows who’s been CCed in.

PW: Yeah. I’ve never sent a group message either which I think means that we are good people.

LH: I think so. But, I don’t like being CCed on messages where everybody’s visible. It’s just something that I really, really, don’t like, I object to it if it’s just my email.

PW: I’m looking now; I can see that my most recent message, I can see everyone that was CCed in.

LH: I really don’t like that, I mean the implications are different on LinkedIn because you can’t see everybody’s contact details, so it annoys me less on LinkedIn than it would by email, per say. But, I also just don’t appreciate it for whatever reason, I don’t know if I’m alone in that or not but it is interesting to hear other people’s views actually.

PW: Yeah and it also means that you can’t hide the fact that it’s not personal.

LH: Yes and I suppose that’s good really because it helps you weed out people. I would really be interested to know that if you can think of an instance where it would be appropriate and/or desirable to send a group message that everybody can see as a group message. Let us know because we’re stumped.

PW: Yeah, I’m willing to concede that a circumstance may exist but I’m going to take some persuasion. So let us know.

LH: Yeah. There’s no prize for letting us know, we have nothing exciting to give you except our unending admiration.

PW: And what could be more exciting than that.

LH: Very little!

PW: Our final don’t is, looking at how you present yourself again on your LinkedIn profile but specifically, in terms of the image you choose to accompany your profile. It is tricky to find the right photo to represent yourself but especially on LinkedIn, you have to think a bit carefully. Don’t use that photo your mate took on Saturday night where you’re dancing on a table or the one that your partner took when you were half asleep on Sunday morning. You know, think just think in terms of it promoting your business and sure personality, sure character, all that but in a reasonably neutral way, I would say.

LH: Yeah, I think you don’t have to be as formal as a freelancer as you would be if you’re working in an office. Exactly, and that’s not to say that you’re less reputable, less important, less professional in any way, it’s just that, I almost feel slightly mistrustful of freelancers who have super, super professional pictures of them really suited and booted. I don’t find them quite as approachable because I think most freelancers, at least the ones I’m comfortable working with, we don’t spend our days suited and booted you know, we wear jeans and t-shirts and we work from home and I think its ok therefore to have a picture of you in something that’s not a shirt and tie. But, I don’t think it’s appropriate, as Pip said, to have a picture of you in your speedos on a lilo.
PW: No, never.

LH: Or in a vest while you’re doing the ‘Mr Big Muscles’ competition or in a bikini when you’re competing for ‘Miss World’. You know, there are so many things that just wouldn’t go. A smile is nice, informal is nice, reasonably neutral background is good, stains on t-shirts, no.

PW: Yeah, someone else having taken it is good. You don’t want it to be at that angle.

LH: Yeah, no arm-length shots even if you need to stick your camera on a dresser.

PW: Yeah, set the timer going for 10 seconds and run.

LH: Don’t get an action shot though, we don’t want to see pictures of you running or hurdling along, Mo Farrah style.

PW: Unless you’re a professional runner.

LH: Indeed. In which case why are you listening to this podcast?

PW: Why not?

LH: True actually. So yeah, portray the person that you want people to hire. If you wouldn’t go along to a casual business meeting with a new prospect in what you’re wearing, then get changed for your picture.

PW: And so we hope those dos and don’ts will set you on the right path to LinkedIn stardom. In the show notes on ‘’ you can actually find links to Lorrie’s and my LinkedIn profiles. Do head over and request a connection we’d be happy to network with other freelance writers. That would be lovely.

LH: As long as you don’t fall foul of any of the things we’ve said.

PW: We will be watching.

LH: We will, I will have my eyes peeled, we will be watching. So by all means, request a connection, if you’re brave enough. We’re really not that scary, we finished off on bad cop but we’re not that scary.

PW: And so now it is time for our little bird recommendation of the week, this is the point where Lorrie and I recommend something that we’ve seen, that we think our listeners will enjoy or find useful or just want to see.

My recommendation this week is actually a bit of a warning and it’s an update from a website called ‘’ which is a global proof reader directory. It’s about a scam they almost fell fowl of that apparently is happening to quite a lot of proof readers at the moment and so I thought it was definitely worth raising awareness of because a lot of freelance writers do proof reading.

I know both of us do. I really enjoy it. The way I see it is we exist in a world where I normally see grammatical errors and have to just shut up, proof reading gives me an opportunity to correct them all so its like, putting the world back in order again. I love proof reading. Anyway, the way that it affected the author of this piece is that they got approached, a very normal approach about some very normal proof reading and the very normal negotiation happened. So they did the work but when they got paid, they got paid far more than they had agreed.

LH: Oh, ok. That’s not usual.

PW: No, and so they contacted the client who said ‘oh I’m sorry, we made a mistake we paid two bills instead of one, or something, could you just wire over the difference.’

LH: Ok. You’re worrying me now because I’m not hearing any alarm bells yet.

PW: Well, quite. And actually what had happened was that the original payment from the scammers was fraudulent and didn’t go through and in the meantime had this proof reader not spotted something dodgy was going on they would have been wired, it was about £1,000 difference to an offshore bank.

LH: So he would have completely refunded it? Is that what will of happened?

PW: Well, what would have happened would be the payment to the proof reader wouldn’t have gone through?

LH: But the proof reader would have refunded… right, so one giant payment would have gone through, that was say twice the amount they were supposed to pay. Oh!

PW: And then they said “sorry it was a mistake; just send over the difference, no problem”. And had they sent over the difference the process written by a proof reader called Nick Jones, then Nick would have been out of £1,000 or so and these people would have disappeared.

LH: Scammers! Very clever but really awful

PW: It is; it doesn’t fit a lot of the typical scam criteria’s to start with, so you can see how it happened really. It turns out that it wasn’t a one-off; other people had got in touch with this guy and said this has happened to me as well or this nearly happened to me but I spotted it. Just because this is a proof reading scam, this is the kind of thing that could happen to other freelancers as well and so I thought that, while someone had drawn attention to it, it was worth promoting that really. Some of the kinds of warning signs were things that wouldn’t necessarily stand out in a proof reading query because one thing that one of the commenters suggested should have been a warning sign, was that the original people’s English wasn’t great but, that’s quite often why people approach proof readers.

LH: Oh quite! I imagine that’s why they’ve chosen proof readers because it wouldn’t ring any alarm bells.

PW: That’s it because I mean I do an awful lot of proof reading of CV’s and job applications and things and that is quite often people where English isn’t their first language and that’s why they want to double check what they’ve written.

LH: So how are people being made aware that this payment had extensively been made but hadn’t, were they being told that, ok we’ve paid you X amount thanks very much for your services and waiting for the proof reader to realise that it was too much because you can’t trick somebody’s bank account can you? You can’t have £1,000 appear in somebody’s bank account if you’ve not paid it?

PW: It’s a combination of them using a bankers draft and the guy that wrote the post realised because someone who advertises on this ‘find a proof-reader’ site, rang him to say he’d been scammed and there was a connection with this website and as he related his experience, then Nick, the author of the post, realised he was subjected to exactly the same thing.

LH: Oh, how good that he’s written about it.

PW: Yeah and so apparently there’s a website about it, there also targeting interpreters.

LH: That’s my area as well.

PW: Exactly, so when I link this post in the show notes I will also link to this further information, it’s a wiki about it because if someone sends a bankers draft and you pay it into your bank, some banks will look like the money’s in the bank, you know your balance might increased before its cleared for instance. Different banks do that differently and so then you might think oh I’m safe, it’s cleared, I’ll send the money back but if you’re aware that this is happening then hopefully it can make you spot any warning signs really.

LH: Oh, that’s pretty scary.

PW: It is.

LH: Some people honestly you can’t rest on your laurels when you work online and when you work remotely for people. It’s not the same working for somebody in the next office. You’ve really got to watch out and protect yourself. Oh, how dreadful. Great recommendation though.

PW: Thank you

LH: Apart from it’s a slightly scary tale for freelancers.

PW: It is, it’s not very nice but I think we all need to know.

LH: No, definitely, yuck. So I suppose one way to protect yourself would be somebody requests a refund and there not a trusted client of yours to phone your bank maybe.

PW: If you haven’t cashed, what I would perhaps think is, that if the bankers draft arrived and it was for a lot more than you agreed just don’t put it in your bank, don’t pay it in and then contact the client and say could you send one for the right amount please.

LH: Yes, that’s a good idea.

PW: Rather than paying it in and then sending them some back, because you would notice when it arrived if it was £1000 more than £200 you know, so I think I would be tempted to not even go near the bank with it and maybe you have to admit at that stage that you’ve lost £200 worth of work, but that’s better than losing £200 of work and £1000 cash.

LH: Of your own cash.

PW: Yeah

LH: How awful, I feel really frivolous in my recommendation this week now.

PW: No, we need something more cheery to end on after that.

LH: It’s like, “and now in other news…!”, I’m the weather aren’t I?!

PW: No, you’re the quirky story in a local news station at the end.

LH: A cat stuck in a tree.

PW: Yep, that’s the one.

LH: Or the hat stuck in a tree, which you and I love so much. We will include a link to that listeners, it’s a very important news story.

Well, recently I have been working on fiction stuff a lot, and you would think as a copywriter and editor I would be able to come up with a better term than ‘fiction stuff’ but it’s been fiction stuff. I’ve been working on my creative writing blog I’ve been reading up on characterisation, emotion, viewpoint, settings, plot structure all in a bid to improve my skills for book editing and creative writing itself.

So, to help me improve my writing and other people’s writing and I spotted something that I thought would be quite niche enough to be quite interesting and it’s ‘Five common synopsis mistakes that fiction writers make’. Now when it comes to your synopsis, as a fiction writer, it is a little bit like your elevator pitch as a copywriter. You need to be able to write and indeed give a synopsis of a piece of work that you’re doing in order to grab people’s attention. Now there are certain range of trends and…. (What am I looking for, the word), regular conventions, (that’s what I’m talking about).

Now, there are certain conventions that need to be respected in synopsis writing, whereas your fiction can be as wacky and out there and unique and original as you can possibly make it. Your synopsis does need to adhere to these conventions but particularly if you’re looking to publish under a traditional route. It is hard distilling your novel or manuscript into a synopsis – it is really, really tough, but there is a website that I like called ‘Writers’ Relief’ and their blog has these five common synopsis mistakes that fiction writers make. And it’s just a good starting point if you want to build up a synopsis but you don’t really have the bare bones of it.

PW: Yeah.

LH: Now tip 1 – or tip 5 because they’ve gone backwards. Tip 5 is choosing the wrong verb tense, now no matter what tense you write your novel in, your synopsis should always be present tense, you know, for instance, ‘The feisty and independent Philippa Willitts finds herself shocked and dismayed when she discovers such and such and such’, you don’t want it in the past tense.


LH: I know I want to read more. It did make you a little bit Mills and Boone romance there, I apologise for that, but it was just an easy one to go for. You wouldn’t write it in the past tense though; you wouldn’t write Philippa did such and such and then Philippa did this and did that because it hasn’t already happened, you’re trying to hook somebody in.

PW: Yeah

LH: And by using the present tense there is a sense of immediacy and you can really grab somebody’s attention by doing that and if for no other reason synopses are always written in the present tense, there are no exceptions at all, none. And it says here in this blog post some writers choose past tense or worse they go between verb tenses

PW: Oh, that happens in all sorts of writing.

LH: Exactly, and with all sorts of things, so not necessarily in tense with people not being consistent in what they are doing. So proof reading will sort that out. Your synopsis is people’s first view into your book or manuscript so don’t muck it up. Second mistake is not showing a clear plot arc, you know it’s easy to get caught up in the small details but your readers need to know what they’re expecting when they open your book.

You don’t need to focus on one tiny bit of a sub plot, you need to focus on the over-arching action without giving things away. And there are three more points and in the final point you actually, kind of get more for your money there is a bullet pointed list of mistakes that people make you can go over there, if you’ve got an opinion on synopsis writing yourself you can go and have a nosey and below the line comments and leave your opinion there, but it’s well worth going and having a look.

And Writer Relief is a really nice website they’ve got quite a lot of fans on Facebook if you’re on there, they’ve got a Twitter account if you prefer to tweet people but its really good if you’re looking to improve your fiction writing, if you’re looking to self-publish; if you’re looking to publish traditionally I would really recommend going and having a look because if you’ve got a poorly written synopsis nobody is going to open your book, you’ve turned people off before they even get into the first page, so like ten thousand plus other people become a fan of Writers Relief and just improve your fiction writing really, I thought it was a really good post.

PW: Great and as always the link will be in our show notes so just click through and enjoy.

LH: So that brings us very neatly to the end of episode 52 which has been all about how to network like a boss on LinkedIn without making yourself awkward, horrible, obnoxious, irrelevant and generally unprofessional, which of course you don’t want to do. You can find all of the links and bits and bobs and pieces of information we have mentioned in the show notes and that’s all in you will also find links to, as Pip mentioned earlier our social media feeds and our websites and indeed out marvellous LinkedIn profiles, they are really stunning honestly, you will have to see them.

PW: I imagine we’ll have some quite self-conscious updates for the next few weeks.

LH: Just being marvellous

PW: Do what we say, not what we do, perhaps.

LH: Yes, if what we do it amazing then by all means do it, if it’s not just pretend it didn’t happen.

PW: We are sadly human at the end of the day.

LH: Sadly human

PW: Perfection hasn’t quite hit yet

LH: Ohh dear

PW: But we’re close

LH: In the meantime, though, why not subscribe to join us on our journey? You can subscribe at choose your method; there is Stitcher smart radio, Podomatic, iTunes, RSS feed and possibly some others, maybe.

PW: They also on our Facebook page too

LH: Ohh yeah, have a look at our Facebook page we don’t have a Twitter for the podcast but we do have Twitters for ourselves, so by all means come and have a chin wag, we’re very nice people.

PW: We genuinely get excited who listens to the podcast comes and says hello.

LH: We love it.

PW: We really do.

LH: So do it, in the meantime Pip and I will be working on the next episode, the next one coming up is my solo episode I believe so, yes, until that point get yourself subscribed, come and have a chin wag with us and we remain ever grateful, ever thankful that you listened to us and you enjoy the podcast, because we get some great feedback.

PW: We do and it makes us happy.

LH: It does, it makes her day. In the meantime, I have been Lorrie Hartshorn

PW: And I have been Philippa Willitts and we will see you next time.

Podcast Episode 51: Essential Android Apps for Freelance Writers

I don’t know about you, but I find myself doing more and more work on my mobile phone when I’m out and about. Thankfully, there are plenty of apps designed to improve productivity, aid organisation and help you to take notes and produce work on the go. In this solo episode, I discuss the top apps for Android-using freelance writers, and most of them are available on iOS too!

Show Notes

There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.

Subscribe via RSS

Subscribe via iTunes

Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio

And finally, please ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!


Hello and welcome to episode 51 of A Little Bird Told Me, the freelance writing podcast about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment. You can find us on the web at Do make sure you head over there because there are links to all our previous episodes and every link we mention on the podcast.

The other thing you can find at is the links to subscribe to the podcast. You know you never want to miss another episode, so whether your platform of choice is iTunes, RSS reader or Stitcher Smart Radio, you can find the links on our Podomatic page.

I’m Philippa Willitts and I’m doing a solo episode today. Some statistics caught my attention this week: in the States, 56% of adults have a smart phone and 34% have a tablet. A quarter of smart phone users say they can’t remember the last time their phone wasn’t next to them. And 29% of Americans say that their phone is the first and last thing they look at every day. I’m only laughing because I can relate to it so well – I’m one of those people who always has their phone on them, I’m always checking my email if there are 10 seconds to spare.

Now, as we use our phones more and more for checking social networks, doing a quick Google to find something out on the go, it gets to the point where you find yourself increasingly working via your smart phone or tablet as well, whether that’s something as simple as checking your email while you’re having a drink in a café or whether you’re doing more complicated work on your tablet or smart phone. The fact is that I think this will continue to increase and that we’ll find it more normal to work in this way. I know I’ve gone from checking my work email when I’m out to doing more and more involved things.

So what I want to look at today is apps that are really handy for freelance writers – apps you can download to your phone. Now, in these recent statistics, in the second quarter of this year, the Android operating system accounted for 75.5% of the smart phone market share. Apple operating system IOS dropped to 13.6%. Windows Phone is increasing but from a very low place to start with, and Blackberry is very low at the moment. So there are three quarters of the world’s smart phone users using the Android operating system, and almost a sixth using Apple. With tablets, so iPads or Android tablets, Android has 53% of the market share, while Apple has 43%. Apple’s number dropped and Android’s grew, so that’s a far more even split.


android (Photo credit: Saad Irfan)

Now, I’m an Android user. I use an HTC Android phone and I have an Android tablet. I like Android – I like how it is to use, I like how it integrates well with everything else, I like that you don’t have to have a particular brand of phone or tablet to use it – I like that kind of open nature of the coding. It’s a lot less control freaky than Apple can appear to be, so I’m a big Android fan. However, some of my best friends are iPhone users – I don’t object to it!

But, because I like it and because so many more phones are using Android including my own, the apps I’m talking about today are all Android apps. However, some of them do have IOS, iPhone, iPad versions of the same app. Even in the cases where there aren’t exactly the same apps, there will, I’m sure, be very similar apps. So even if you’re an iPhone user, don’t think this episode won’t be relevant – it’ll give you ideas about the kinds of apps to look for and a good number will have iPhone versions available.

So what I’m going to talk about today are the nine top apps that every freelance writer can benefit from. They can have numerous purposes from being handy if you’re out and about to actually serving a better purpose than something on your PC or laptop might.

And the first of these apps is called CamScanner, and it’s available for Android and IOS systems. It’s very simple and very effective. It enables you to take a photo of any document or object, say a receipt. It optimises it, makes it very clear and very contrasty, then turns it into a PDF for you. So when you buy something work-related, and especially if you’re worried you might lose the receipt, you just open up CamScanner, start a new document, take a picture of it and it turns into a PDF that you can then email to yourself or share with your Google Drive and you’ve got a record of that receipt that can then be filed.

Now, you can use the free version of CamScanner, which I use and is great. You can also upgrade to a paid version which has some benefits and that’s either $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. If you use the free version, at the bottom of each document it says something like “powered by CamScanner”. Now I don’t mind that, as I just use the documents for my records so it makes no difference. If you get the paid version, there are no ads and no watermarks. You can also password protect your documents, extract text to edit later and you get a higher quality scan although the scans you get with the free version are, for my purposes, absolutely fine.

Now with this app, you can actually annotate the PDF documents you scan. You can do this 30 times with the free version; if you need to do this more, you then need to buy the paid version. And whether you get the free or paid version, you can share the PDFs with yourself in whatever way suits you whether that’s via Google Drive, emailing it to yourself, uploading it to Drop Box, whatever. It’s a really handy little app – it was one of the first things I downloaded when I got an Android phone for the first time a few years ago.

The next app I’m going to recommend won’t come to a big surprise to regular listeners of this podcast, and that’s the Google Drive app. Again this is available for both Android and IOS devices. It’s incredibly handy if you want to edit a document, create a document, anything like that that you can then get hold of on your computer or on another device. If I have a great idea for a podcast episode while I’m out, for example, I can open a Google Drive app, create a new document, make notes and save it, knowing that when I get back to my computer, it’ll be there waiting for me when I get back. Similarly, if I want to transfer some of the photos from my phone to my computer, I can upload those from my phone to my Google Drive and then access them from my computer. All you need is an internet connection and it’s all there.

You can share documents with people you’re in contact with. It doesn’t even have to be a word processing document; you can open a spreadsheet, format the text on it. If you’ve set out for a meeting but you’ve forgotten to bring the agenda – if you know you’ve saved it to Google Drive, you can quickly access that on your iPad. It’s so, so useful – we certainly couldn’t manage the podcast in the way that we do without it – so the fact that I use it so much on the computer makes it really handy to have it available on my phone and Android tablet.

The next app I’m going to recommend is another Google one – the Google Calendar app, which is available for Android and iPhone users. And there are also lots of other calendar apps that will sync with your Google Calendar so if you’re not enamoured with the Google Calendar app itself, do have a look at some of the others.

Now what this does is sync with your phone, so if there’s something in your Google Calendar that you’ve forgotten, but you’re not at your computer, you’ll still get a notification on your phone. I use a mix of Google Calendar and a paper diary to keep track of what I’m doing. It’s really reassuring to know that, if there’s an event coming up in your Google Calendar, you’ll get a notification on your phone.

And the fact that Android is run by Google means that Android and Google apps tend to work really well together. Within the app you can also – as well as seeing the events in there – add events using your phone or tablet. This is invaluable if you’re out with someone and want to arrange your next meeting, you can access your full calendar and then add the meeting using the app, and even invite the person you’re with using your phone. This means that you’re not having to write it down on a piece of paper and remember to add it to your Google Calendar later. And also you can set up within the app itself the kind of reminders you want.

The other handy thing with the Google Calendar Android app is that you can set up a widget. So rather than having to go to an app itself, you can choose to have something on display. So it might be that on the homepage of your phone that you have a little Google Calendar widget so you can see at a glance what your next event is and the details about it. I have one of those set up – looking at it now, it tells me that tomorrow is a friend’s birthday, that I have a meeting on Wednesday. I don’t even need to go into the app; it just displays automatically. So yes, give Google Calendar a go.

The next app I’m going to recommend is, as far as I can tell, only available on Android. It’s called Eduport, and it’s great for something that Lorrie and I bang on about all the time, and that’s ongoing training, study and learning. And what Eduport does is give you easy and quick access to loads of free lectures and talks.

When you enter the app, you can access different channels. So, there is the University College of Berkley, Stanford University, TED talks, and you can quickly and easily find courses and lectures based on subjects you’re looking for. They’re organised as playlists, really, with different playlist for different topics. And while you can find most of the same talks on YouTube, the joy of Eduport is that they’re all in one place. You don’t have to filter out all sorts of irrelevant things if you’re looking for something specific because it’s specialised and only gives you really reputable sources to work with.

I use this more on my tablet than on my phone, if only because I prefer to watch videos on a bigger screen. But looking at reviews, people love it on their phone – it depends on your preferences. But with this app you have no excuse to not check out different free university courses and other types of courses so you can carry on learning on an ongoing basis. There isn’t, for instance, necessarily a creative writing course on there – I haven’t found one, but there are so many videos on there that there may be! – but it doesn’t all have to be specifically about writing. You might want to do some business, health or maths courses, depending on what you write about. It doesn’t always have to be work related, either – you might want to know more about, say, physics, just as a hobby, and Eduport is a great way to do that as well.

App number 5 is called Voice Recorder. It also appears to only be available for Android – however, there will be very similar apps for IOS. It just does exactly what it says on the tin – there’s a big red record button on it, you press that and speak into it and it records your voice. Now what this is great for is if you have a sudden idea and you’re not near your computer but you really don’t want to forget it. Whether it’s something to add to your to-do list, or a great idea for a story or a good source for an eBook you’re writing. Rather than trying to find a bit of paper to write on, just open the app, hit record and say, “Don’t forget to email Jane about that landing page.” Then stop recording. In a matter of three seconds, you’ve made a record of something that you can easily check when you get home.

Another lovely thing about Voice Recorder is that you can send what you record directly through Gmail. So, you might want to email yourself but equally you might record a note for someone else and send it through to them if you use the Gmail app on your phone. There’s also a widget so you can also set it up so that you just hit record on the widget. So it’s a handy app. I will of course be linking to all of these apps in the show notes at so don’t worry about trying to remember what they’re all called; just make yourself a Voice Recorder note to go to our site and you’ll find all the direct links there!

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

The next app I’m going to recommend is available for both Android and IOS. It’s called Mindjet Maps. Now this is a brilliant and simple way to create mind maps that you can store on your phone, share with Drop Box, whatever. And if you’re the kind of person who really likes a visual approach to planning and brainstorming, this is a really effective method. You can create a visual planning document or brainstorm with different boxes all linked together. They can contain photos, written notes or anything really that can help you organise your ideas. It can also be handy for taking notes at a meeting if you want to represent your ideas a bit differently – rather than just writing pages and pages of words. It may well make more sense to you afterwards – you can see immediately what you were getting at rather than having to re-read loads of quoted words.

Now, mind maps do seem to be the sort of thing you either love or hate, but if you’re the sort of person who finds them useful, then Mindjet Maps is a free app and I’d strongly recommend giving it a go.

The eighth app I’m going to recommend for freelance writers is the app. This is available on iTunes as well as the Google Play store. If you were a former user of Google Reader, you, like me, will probably have done a fair bit of research into a good alternative to switch to when Google Reader was closing. You may well have switched to Now I miss Google Reader still – I always will.

However, the benefit of is that they’d anticipated that Google Reader was going to close. Several months in advance, they started preparing for that possibility. So they vastly increased their capacity and they really optimised imports from Google Reader and while I did try a couple of other services around that time, was the only one I found to be consistently good. Lots of people were raving about one called The Old Reader but every time I went on there, it said it was over capacity and I couldn’t be bothered with that, frankly.

So, yes, I went with like a lot of people. I access this partly via a Chrome extension but also via my phone and tablet. Now, what does is…if you’re not familiar with how RSS readers work, any blog or website that you want to keep up with, you can subscribe to in Every time that site is updated, will update and you can scroll through your favourite sites and blogs in this one interface. So you don’t have to keep going and checking to see if your favourite blog has been updated – if it has, it’ll be in

Now within, you categorise each site you want to keep up with. You might have a section for writing blogs, humour blogs, health information – whatever you want. So each website you subscribe to, you then subscribe to one or more categories. Then, when you want to catch up with your favourite sites and blogs, you to go your app on your browser, or phone or tablet, and you can choose to scroll through all the updates in a particular category or just all of the updates together.

I’m going to put a screenshot from my phone of a couple of these apps into the show notes, include one from It’s really useful for keeping on top of the latest news. Looking at my own account, I have a category for writing advice, one about my local area, one about SEO and social media, another about PPC, another of photo blogs, one about people I know, one for marketing, one about environmental stuff, a humour one, a feminist one, Google Analytics, journalism etc.

So if I know I need to find a blog topic for an SEO client, I go straight to my SEO category. If I want to find something to recommend on this podcast, I might go to my writing category and see if anything great has been posted. Or, if I’m on the bus and want some down-time, I’ll open the humour blogs and have a giggle.

And it gathers everything you need. You input the RSS feed or URL of a website and it brings everything to you. I do also have some categories for some specific industries I write regular news stories for – they’re not the kinds of stories I’d normally read, but they’re there and waiting when I need them.

The app for the phone is nice, it’s intuitive, you can swipe to the left for the next story and quickly scroll past things you’re not interested in. You can also share directly from so you click the share button and share with Twitter or Facebook. So if you’re looking for a good RSS feed reader to manage your subscriptions, is one to look at. The phone and tablet apps really do make it easy to use.

So the ninth and final app I’m going to recommend is DropBox. DropBox is a really useful way of backing up and sharing your documents and information. If you’ve got DropBox on your phone and you have some pictures you want to share with your sister, you can create a shared folder for you both, upload the pictures and then, when she turns her phone on, those pictures are there, ready for her to download. If you’ve scanned a business receipt, using my first recommendation – CamScanner – then you can upload the file to a folder called “Receipts” and you know it’ll be there ready to file on your laptop when you get home.

Similarly, if you have a file already in your DropBox, you can open and amend it from your phone. It’s one of those services I didn’t realise was so useful until I started using it. At one point, I was working between two faulty machines. So when I was trying to work on a document I’d previously been working on on another computer, Drop Box made it so much easier – with Drop Box, it was just there. If you don’t have an account already, do check out our show notes and click through from there. It’s so handy and you get a certain amount of storage for free, although you may want to pay for more storage. And it might just make life that bit easier.

So those are my nine essential Android apps for freelance writers. They can all really help you with your productivity, organisation, planning and your work itself. They can help you learn, take notes, organise notes and access the information you need when you need it. Mobile technology is coming on so fast that we’re going to be using phones and tablets for more and more of our work over time. There’s no doubt – whereas freelancers might have used smart phones for social media, increasingly we’re using it for work and that’ll grow as the capabilities of the machines grow, and also as companies have bright ideas about how to make it easy to do and create apps that help.

So if you do have a smart phone and you’re not already using it for anything work related, then maybe give a few of those apps a go. If you’re already using your phone for some work stuff, then maybe some suggestions here can make things even easier. And if you’re just looking for something to keep your mind occupied, then Eduport or can provide you with endless information at the touch of a button. And so those are my top app recommendations for self-employed writers.

And now it’s time for the famous Little Bird Told Me Recommendation of the week – only one this week, of course, as there’s only me. My recommendation this week is something called Worldometers, which is a website of real time world statistics. It’s just quite fascinating if you want instant statistics, it’s the place to go – it has constantly updated stats.

So I’m watching at the moment about the world population; the numbers are rising several per second. I can see that there have been 223, 404 births today and 92,187 deaths today. If I go back to the main page, I can see there have been 221, 368,000 computers sold in the world this year. I can see that there have been 3,075,000 cell phones sold today. I can see that there has been $104,618,000 spent on video games today, 2,383,000 blog posts have been written today, 17,988 people who died of hunger today. How much water is being consumed, how much coal we have left, how many deaths by HIV and AIDs…it’s not just full of this really interesting and potentially very useful information, it’s also accountable because it gives its sources and they tend to be really reputable, like the World Health Organisation.

It’s fascinating to watch these numbers but if you’re writing about dieting, you can see that today alone, $110,340,000 has been spent on weight loss programmes in the USA. You can see how many emails have been sent today, how many newspapers have been sent today…so whether it’s something you find useful for work or just something to help you win a pub quiz, then my recommendation today is the Worldometers website, which I’ll link to from our show notes.

So that’s the end of episode 51 – thank you so much for listening. Let me know how you get on with your Android apps. All my contact details – and my co-host Lorrie’s – can be found at, and there you can subscribe to the podcast and find a link to our Facebook page. Do come and say hi on there or Twitter. Thank you again for listening and I’ll see you next week.


Podcast Episode 50: Part 2 of How to stop your freelance business from wasting money

In episode 48 a couple of weeks ago, Lorrie and I began a two-part episode all about how freelancers can save money within their business, and hunt out and eliminate expensive, wasteful habits and patterns. In episode 50 (woohoo!) we carry on on that theme, with plenty more tips and tricks up our sleeves to share.

Show Notes

There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.

Subscribe via RSS

Subscribe via iTunes

Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio

And finally, please ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!


LH: Hello and welcome to episode 50 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me’ it’s a bit of a milestone.

PW: It certainly is.

LH: My co-host Pippa and I are two freelance writers who are here on a frankly heroic mission to help you avoid the pitfalls that plague your profession and become the most wonderful wordsmith you can be.

Now, the reason behind this podcast is that freelancing can be really tough and lonely. Our hope is that this recording will just be a little ray of sunshine in a world where you can find yourself, on your own, miserable and wondering what to do next. Without the support of colleagues it can be really, really tough.

So, we’ll be your colleagues; your podcast colleagues. So to make sure that you don’t miss out on our lovely wisdom and wit and marvelousness, we’ve made it super easy to subscribe, you can tune into the podcast via ITunes, RSS Feed, Stitch a Smart Radio or just on Podomatic.

So no matter how you want to listen, do make sure you stop by the Podomatic homepage and that’s at because there’s a whole range of links and resources on there to accompany each episode. You’ll have all the show notes, the transcripts, any videos, any recommendations that we make, there all there.

You’ll also find links to both mine and Philippa’s social media profiles and websites, so you can come and have a chat to us on Twitter, you can check out our websites, our Facebook pages and anything else you care to put on there. I’m Lorrie Hartshorn…

Saving Money

Saving Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

PW:…and I am Philippa Willitts and today we are completing the second half of a podcast that we started in Episode 48, in which were looking at how to prevent your freelance business from wasting money. The benefit of being a freelance writer is that there aren’t tons of outgoings, you don’t have to pay for premises and you don’t need a company car. However, there are still plenty of things that you actually have to spend out on. Whether its heat and lighting for wherever you work, to broadband to research materials, and so we started this in episode 48, so if you haven’t heard that episode yet we would recommend that you go there first.

So, another way to save money for things that you need to pay for but you can get cheaper is by buying things in bulk – paper, printer ink, business cards. You know car insurance even, and what I mean by that is, for example my car insurance is due every January and sadly this falls at pretty much exactly the same day, I thought I was being super organised one year. I realised the mistake afterwards because on the same day in January, just after Christmas (thanks) and New Year, my tax, my MOT and my insurance were all due. And if I need any repairs on the car, that’s also due. And my birthday is in January as well so it’s like ‘Happy Birthday to me’ ha ha! I’ll by myself a new tyre; it’s pretty miserable.

Now a couple of years back, I wasn’t able to pay my annual insurance in one go, it’s a lot of money insurance costs have gone up in the UK, particularly for women due to ages and legislation. Paying monthly is usually an option but paying monthly adds up to much, much more in the long run.

PW: Yeah, and we would both say that it’s better to pay monthly than to get yourself into financial difficulty, trying to pay all in one go.

LH: Every time, every time, however its worth keeping an eye on these things, don’t set up a direct debit and then just go ‘ah okay, I guess I’ll have to pay £300 more over the course of a year.’ Keep your peepers on it, stick it in your Google calendar, and keep an eye on your bank account because many companies will actually let you pay off the rest of the annual sum even when you’ve paid your monthly fees for a while, say 3 months, 6 months. So, what I did with my car insurance, it was a few months in, I phoned the insurance company, they had a look at what I’d already paid and what that added up, they subtracted that from the annual fee, and I just paid the rest of it. So I got to benefit from the annual cost after all.

PW: Yeah, yeah.

LH: Which is brilliant, I didn’t have to fork out more than I could at the start of the year, didn’t have to go for a loan, all it takes is a bit of organisation and a bit of activity on your part, and it can save you hundreds.

PW: Yeah and in terms of buying in bulk – back to printer cartridges – often there might be a kind of 3 for 2 type offer on and given that buying one set of ink, when you’re buying black and magenta and yellow, it can really add up and you think ‘oh I can’t double that’ you know, that’s just a ridiculous amount of money but, if you’re in a position where you can, then you get an awful lot more ink for your money. Last time I bought printer ink, this is what I did. I went for this online store, which had a 3-for-2 offer on all of their printer ink. It was a big outlay, we’re talking £80 or something, in one go on printer ink. But for a third more than I would of got for the same amount of money if I hadn’t taken up the offer, I literally have piles of printer ink, but its going to last me a long time so if you’re in a position where you can pay more to start with in order to pay less in the long term, then it’s a good thing to do.

LH: It’s so worth it, one thing I would say is to make sure you keep track of what you’ve bought, because if you put something away in the cupboard and then you think ‘Damn, I’ve ran out of printer ink’ and you’ve got this whole little store – my husband does it all the time.

Another way you can save money is by buying things second hand, now some people don’t like doing this – I think I was a bit of a snob at first, when I was younger I wanted to be super cool, I didn’t like anything second hand. Things like books – books are brilliant second hand! I buy so many novels, I buy so many books, so many novels – non-fiction as well, I buy all second hand and I do shop at Amazon, I’m sorry, I do.

PW: It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of charity shopping. People get to recycle things, charities benefit and I get cheap stuff. So it’s brilliant. I’m looking now at my work bookshelf, which is by my desk, and I’d say 80% of these books came from charity shops.

LH: Gems and you madam are a charity shop expert

PW: I am. I’ve got all sorts of books about marketing, we’re not just talking about the classics; people imagine charity shops to be mainly full of Charles Dickens. I’ve got tons of books about marketing, tons of books about freelancing, books about language. I was able to give LH a copy of this brilliant book called ‘The Handbook of Nonsense’ – its writing.

I bought it in a charity shop then realised I already had it. To buy a book in a charity shop you’re probably paying between 50p and £2 and you still put those receipts through the books as you would anything else. But, you’re paying £1 for something rather than £10/£15, you can’t argue with that.

LH: No you really can’t. I get a bit sentimental I don’t like the idea of sad old books being abandoned.

PW: I know. I’m the same.

LH: Once you’ve read a book, once you’ve read a book once, the spine is creased, the pages are a little bit worn – it’s not the same. There’s nothing more exciting than a shiny new book, don’t get me wrong, they are really exciting but, they are only brand new till you open them.

PW: When I’m finished with a book and I know I’m not going to read it again, I can’t imagine throwing it away. I sell the odd book on Amazon if it’s a bit rare or something. But, they mainly go to charity shops, and I’m glad to have that resource to mean I don’t have to be wasteful. I’m glad to help them out in a way that helps me out as well. Once you get me talking on charity shopping, we may never end. I will include in the show notes a photo of my workbooks and you’ll see there are some awesome books here, most of which cost me less than £2.

LH: Yeah, I very, very, rarely buy new books, occasionally – usually around Christmas, if I have a bit of spending money I’ll go and buy the brand new books from Amazon that I want. But most of my books are pre-loved and they are just bloody lovely.

PW: I like them when they’ve got creases and there a bit yellow, it gives them character.

LH: I do, I like them. I’d never hear a word against my books. They’re all creased, and I adore them and I don’t care. I buy pre-loved books from Amazon because you can get them for 99p. There’s no shame in it at all. Do shop around and see if you can buy even good quality ones, because they have like excellent, new quality, as new, nearly new. Even acceptable is fine by me, you’ll pay a lot less, so if you need reference books or if you need novels or anything really, have a look!

PW: What I was just thinking about actually was back to Amazon, and selling your books, that is an option. I’ve got the Amazon app on my android phone and what it’s really good for is, if you scan the bar code of your book, the page for that book immediately comes up. If you have a look then, at what people are selling their copies for. If you have 200 people selling it for 1p then don’t bother. You know, it’s going to the charity shop, then that’s that. Even if you put it up for 1p, why would someone buy yours over someone else’s? But if the lowest price that someone is selling it for say £2.50, £6.50 or £15, it’s worth listing it and selling it yourself. I got rid of quite a few books recently and I did bar code scan a lot of them, it takes seconds and I could just instantly sell whether it was worth listing them on Amazon. I’ve sold a few, and what I tend to do is I just go about 5p lower than the lowest price. Someone else may then list one lower than yours but you’re there and it’s an option and if you can get £6 back after paying £6 for a book then that’s brilliant.

LH: Absolutely. If you have a number of books by the same author or a number of books on the same topic, package them up as a batch. That works. There are all sorts of ways to scrape a little bit of money back and it all does add up.

Now another way to reduce your costs, if you know fellow freelancers or indeed not fellow freelancers because there is sometimes a business personal overlap and you have big expenditures coming up, see if somebody you know wants to split the costs.

PW: I like that idea.

LH: Well items like printer paper can take up a lot of space in your home, now if you don’t have the space or indeed you don’t have the money to go and buy say five boxes of printer paper, why not see if there’s a fellow freelancer who can split the costs with you?

PW: Yeah, I think that’s a really good idea because you’re more able then to take advantage of offers like buy 2 get 1 free or whatever’s going on without ending up with 18 boxes of printer paper stacked in your living room.

LH: No its brilliant and this kind of freelance buddy system can really help you out when you want to travel to events. So if you find yourself going to the same places as another freelancer and one of you or both of you have a car then why not share the travel, because Petrol costs split between two, and you do have to pay petrol costs when someone gives you a lift, that’s a rule. It may well come to less than trains and taxis for example.

PW: And also there are other options like; I have a disabled person’s railcard and what that entitles me to is a third of train journeys but it also entitles somebody travelling with me to a third of train journeys.
So if I was travelling to an event on a train along with someone else, if we thought about it, we could get them a third of their fare as well as me. That can make a big difference.

LH: Things like student cards.

PW: Exactly. Always look to see whether there are things like that, before you book. For instance, before you book a train if you’re travelling with someone say, ‘do you have any discount, railcards or do you have anything relevant?’ because you might be surprised of the things you don’t think of.

LH: Absolutely, and people generally don’t mind sharing – don’t ask a complete stranger obviously – if you spot somebody using a wheelchair don’t you know. But no, I have a good friend whose little sister has a student card and when we go shopping together, we give her the money and she buys things.

PW: Yes, yes. The people serving are often just in their own little world and don’t really care.

LH: And they know you do it anyway.

PW: Well quite, you see people in queues pooling cash and you see people handing size eighteen clothes to a girl who’s size six, you know everybody knows it’s done. Another thing worth doing that I discovered recently is that a local coffee shop offers a 10% discount card to local businesses. I asked what qualified as a local business and they said, oh just anyone really in the area who has a small business or works. There’s a big building nearby that’s houses a lot of charity organisations, he was very laidback just like ‘oh well you know if you run a business you can have one, if you work for any of the independent businesses nearby you can have one’ so I said ‘oh I’m a freelancer and I work nearby’ and he said ‘oh right’ and gave me a 10% discount card. Just because I saw them and asked and if you don’t ask you don’t get frankly.

LH: Another thing that’s a very good idea to do is to keep an eye out in shops to see whether there are money off options available for signing over your contact details. You have to be very careful, and I would certainly not advocate store credit cards.

PW: Never. They tend to be a very bad deal.

LH: They really do, I’ve never had one and I would suggest seriously that people don’t have them. So if someone says would you like to save 10% today, always say to them, what does it involve?

PW: I have ended up getting them before and there messy and their percentage interest rate is pretty high.

LH: There really terrible think about it, why would you want to bank with a clothes shop. There not finance experts there not a good idea but, when you go into some shops you can sign over your email address and your name in return for discounts. Now what this does mean is they’ll probably send you a load of spam but, if you use a Gmail account, this is something I mentioned in previous solo episode, you can set up filters to make sure that any spam never even hits your inbox.

PW: Or you can just have an entirely separate email address that you just use for spam and never even open. Now when you’re looking at finances for your business, something that’s really important is thinking about tax. Now you might start yawning at this stage but if you don’t keep receipts, invoices and records then you can’t put business expenditures through the books. That means that you will pay tax on money that you’re entitled to not pay tax on. Now, neither LH nor I are advocates of any kind of tax avoidance. I’m a big supporter of tax and that fireman’s wages are paid however, if you’re entitled to not pay tax on business expenditure then you’re entitled to not pay tax on business expenditure.

So keep every receipt, I keep essentially doubles because I scan every receipt and also keep the paper copy in a file. Once you have the receipt and it’s logged in your spread sheets, your profit and loss sheets, then that money is then tax deductible which leaves you then with a small tax bill at the end of the year.

LH: Its fab, and I think you’re far more organised than me because I tend to not keep the paper copies but what I do is, as soon as I get a receipt for something that I know is tax deductible, and usually after a while you get to learn what is and what isn’t, but if you’re unsure keep it in your handbag and have a look later. What I do is, I just take a nice clear picture of the receipt on my phone as soon as I get it, if it’s a paper receipt, obviously if it’s online I just email it to myself, but if I get a paper receipt I put it on a white background or a black background, lay it out flat and take a picture of it on my mobile phone. Once a month when I’m getting ready to do my accounts and what have you and send things off to the accountant, I download them off my phone to my email and I just forward them to my accountant. Now what this means is that combined with an overview of your bank account, you can claim tax back on all of those items when you do your end of year account and with VAT at the moment at 20% in the UK, that’s really big savings, that’s a fifth of the cost. Even just train tickets, bus tickets, café receipts, keep them all because they add up.

PW: If you’re not sure about whether you can put something through the books or not, first of all, you don’t want to mess around with tax. You don’t want to put things through the books that you’re not entitled to because if you start being investigated it can get really messy, and you certainly don’t want to be charged with tax fraud. So if you do your own accounting but there’s something you’re unsure about, check out the Directgov website, I will put a link in the show notes, which has quite a lot of helpful information actually. Or a lot of accountants offer a free hour for instance, for a new client so if you use somebody’s free hour and ask them ‘can I use this, this and this?’ because it can be really worth it, you can save some cash in the long run and also you can be confident that you’re not going to get into trouble.

LH: Absolutely. Going back to one of the recommendations you made earlier, go on Quora for example, if you’ve got questions but you don’t feel comfortable actually going to an accountant, have a look online. Make sure you’re getting reputable advice, be really, really careful that whoever’s answering your question is reputable and they know what they’re talking about. But if it’s just something like looking for novels when I do literary editing, then you know something like that is easy to answer.

PW: And specify the country you’re in because it will vary.

LH: Oh yes, good point. Another way and we’re going to sound like your parents when we say this but another way to save money is to avoid wasting energy. Moving on from that, its sort of a joint thing, wasting food. Now, as we say we’re freelance writers so technically food isn’t a business expense but, when you work from home, when you work for yourself, its easier to save food and to not waste food, you can have your leftovers for lunch, you can use up food more easily, you can grab cheap deals at the supermarket if you nip there during the day or first thing on the morning.

PW: The fact that you work from home means that you can have what remains of yesterday’s tea for lunch. Now something we’ve touched on is not sticking your head in the sand – if you’re late with a library book I think is what we mentioned before – don’t get so embarrassed that it’s so late you can never show your face in a library again because you still have that book from 8 years ago

LH: They’ve got your face on a poster.

PW: Yes, wanted Jane Austen book back, last seen with this woman. I think everyone can relate to sometimes seeing an envelope coming through the door and thinking that’s a bill, and just ignoring it for a while. I think even if not everybody does it, most people can probably see the temptation of it. But, you do know on a rational level that it not only doesn’t help, it will make things worse if you stick your head in the sand over financial issues.

LH: You never forget them do you, there always there, it’s like having a maggot at the back of your brain, it’s always, always there, and you won’t sleep well worrying about things.

PW: Yeah sometimes what’s in the envelope is better than what you expect anyway

LH: True, I got a cheque for like £600 the other day; I was like oh, that was better than what I thought it was going to be.

PW: Yeah and also sometimes with freelancers if you’re not getting enough work over a period of time, I’ve known freelancers be a bit head in the sand then as well. Think it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine and before they know it their income is dropping to quite bad levels because they don’t want to address the fact their business is in a bit of trouble.

LH: Yeah and it’s not fine, you know you need to make sure you keep an eye on things regularly. So bills that come in, levels of work, mobile phone costs, bank accounts, unexpected letters. As we said, sometimes stress can win out and you can want to hide away from it all, and it’s a surprisingly common feeling just as we’ve said that starting out with some financial trouble as you’re starting out with freelancing, is surprisingly common. Being stressed and afraid of facing things is surprisingly common, we all, all do it.

PW: Something I learnt as a student, when I was a very typical student with no money is we get in a shared house say a gas bill, that we knew we couldn’t pay, if you ring them up straight away, basically they want to get their money and if that means getting it in weekly payments of £2, they would rather that than not get their money. And so for that reason, often, even if you know you can’t make a payment, ring them, because what they want is for you to eventually make the payment, and if you can agree a repayment plan of £5 a week, then they will go with that because they would rather have £5 a week than nothing at all. Go to the citizen’s advice bureau, you can sign a piece of paper authorizing them to speak on your behalf and they will make these calls for you if you’re too scared to, or too anxious.

LH: Yeah and there’s no shame, just get it sorted honestly, really, really, just do. When you know about something you can deal with it, it might not be something quite so scary, it might just be that you’re using say 700 minutes a month on your mobile phone but your contract only covers 500 minutes. Many, many, providers will charge you extortionate fees, really high fees for every minute that you go over, so its sensible to have a look at and if needs be change your monthly contract to a couple of pounds more each month for something that will save you huge savings overall. On a related note, if you do find that you’re going over on your mobile phone contract but you can’t afford a higher monthly fee or even if you can for that matter, consider free apps like ‘WhatsApp’ you can send free texts anywhere in the world, no roaming charges, no nothing to any phones. You’ve also got online things like ‘Skype’ – which is what we used for this podcast – for long distant calls or just long calls.

PW: Absolutely, its always worth looking at the options, especially online options like ‘Skype’ you know, if you have customers/clients all over the world, I couldn’t be making international phone calls to chat to them but on Skype its free.

LH: Of course it is and you can have conference calls and what have you, it’s well worth it because it’s exactly the same.

PW: Also Google hangouts are getting more and more used in these situations and they are very, very good.
So now we’re going to look at false economies that might arise in your freelance business. Now according to good old Wikipedia, a false economy is an action that saves money at the beginning but which over a longer period of time results in more money being spent or wasted, than being saved. It goes on to give an example of the city government that decides to purchase the least expensive cars for use by city workers. Now that might be seen as false economy because the cheap cars have a record of using more frequent repairs in the long term and the additional repair costs would eradicate any additional savings. Other examples in freelancing might be getting a really cheap laptop for instance and quickly finding out that when it’s switched on for 10 hours a day and it needs several programmes to be running at once it just can’t cope so you end up having to buy another laptop anyway.

LH: There are times when unfortunately false economies do seem like a bit of a necessity. If you don’t have the money in the bank for an expensive laptop or a more expensive laptop, then a cheap laptop will have to do. There’s no avoiding that and that’s fine, you know, we were chatting a few episodes back and the first half of it was about not beating yourself up if you can’t afford something at first, if you can’t afford to take advantage of multi buy deals or money off deals, say if you buy 2 for 3 or 3 for 2.

PW: You don’t want 2 for 3 that’s a really bad deal.

LH: That’s a bad deal, that’s a very false economy. It’s all about what you can afford but the false economies that were going to look at I think there most things that people can apply to their businesses to try and stop wasting money, basically. But the examples that we are going to look at can be applied to most people to stop their businesses wasting money

PW: Yeah definitely, you sometimes just have to apply a bit of creative thinking and don’t forget to look long term when you’re making purchases both large and small.

LH: Yeah I think that’s a sensible thing, look long term, have a look at what you’ve got in your account now, don’t spend loads and loads of money because its going to be cheaper in the long term if it’s going to bankrupt you in the short term. That’s one thing that does need to be said but, if you buy something and there are 6 monthly payments and they add up to much, much, more than one whole one-off payment then you’re going to end up spending that money anyway, so if you have that money available and you have the disposable income, its worth thinking about, its worth making that expense.

PW: One example in my working life is that I have to buy magazines to research because if you’re going to pitch to a magazine you really need to have a good understanding of the kind of material they publish, what they’ve written about recently because you don’t want to pitch the story that was there front page last time because first of all they won’t want it and secondly that just tells them that you don’t even read the magazine you’re pitching to. So I have to say I buy magazines quite often, at the beginning of this year I identified a few particular magazines that I wanted to be published in by the end of the year as a goal setting exercise. So what I did with those magazines was then take out a subscription because to buy it in WHSmith might cost me £5 whereas if I buy a 12 months subscription often each issue would cost me £2.50 so if you need magazines and you know which ones you want then taking out a subscription can save you a considerable amount of money.

LH: Absolutely. I mean for a saving of £2.50 per magazine it’s well worthwhile.

PW: Yeah and like many of the costs we’ve referred to in this topic it’s not all a matter of saving £800 here and £350 there. Often it is these small savings that add up.

LH: It definitely is, you know its quite the same as we were saying in episode 48 about saving receipts for bus tickets, coffees and little books that you buy in charity shops, they might only be little savings, that’ll be for us 20% of say £3. So not huge savings at all but in the long term, well worth it, and it’s the same in many false economies.

Now one of the false economies, I think it would be good to look at it is doing things yourself when it would actually cost less to get someone else to do it. Now it can be a bit of an uncomfortable situation for many freelancers because when we start out I think it’s fair to say that many of us don’t have much money to play around with.

PW: Yeah I would imagine that’s very much the case.

LH: So we do everything ourselves, we take every job that we can get, we do every piece of work that we can

PW: We do our own marketing, we do our own accounting, we do our own networking, we do our own everything its all about bootstrapping when you start out and that’s good actually because it means you learn those skills because if you go onto passing something on to someone else its good if you already know how it works.

LH: Very much and I think it builds a certain sense of self-reliance and confidence as well when you have to master already mysterious tasks, that you didn’t know how to do or otherwise didn’t want to do. It’s a good exercise. You know, me having to do my tax return, I hated it. I hated having to do it but it was an achievement when I’d done it.

PW: Oh yeah.

LH: And having a sense of achievement when you’ve got your own business, that can really boast you and let you know that actually this is my business, I do own my business and it’s a confidence thing, that’s what I’m trying to say.

PW: Yeah definitely, I agree.

LH: But there comes a time in many freelancers lives I would say when its silly to keep on work that someone else could do for less. Now it’s probably not everybody’s view, it’s just my view, if you don’t agree that’s completely fine – you’re wrong, but you know, that’s fine.

At busy times in my working life there are certain tasks that I’ll pass over to a virtual assistant. Now a virtual assistant is very much like a P.A – a personal assistant but virtual, so you’ve got people working as virtual assistants, they’re online they’re not there in your office but they’ll take on the same kind of administrative, sometimes finance, sometimes transcription, research tasks that a personal assistant would be able to take on for you. Now the tasks that I tend to pass over, tend to be fiddly, time consuming tasks like data collation, excel files of data, transcription, admin, marketing, business development, cold course and things like that. So while outsourcing certain tasks can take some getting used to, you do need to ask what your time’s worth, genuinely, because it can be really hard, as we’ve just said to pass over tasks that you’ve been so used to doing for yourself. You do everything for yourself and then suddenly one job is out of your control.

PW: And if you’re anything like me and a bit of a control freak that can be weird to adapt to, it can be difficult, you can find that you’re one of those awful micro managers for a while.

LH: Not that you are, I don’t think you are.

PW: I try not to be, I do try and reign in my anxieties and just trust the other person to do what their doing.

LH: Yeah, if you’ve been used to doing everything yourself it can be a bit scary to hand some things over. But, and it’s a big but, if your hourly rate is £20 an hour and you’re absolutely rushed off your feet and you can pay a virtual assistant £12 an hour to do a job for you, it’s a reasonable rate. That to me is a reasonable wage. You might find that it’s worth your while. Now if you haven’t worked out what your hourly fee is yet, Philippa did a really good solo episode on how to work that out and how to work out what hourly fees you need, so we’ll link you to that in the show notes and make sure you have a listen to that. Once you know what your billable time is worth you can decide more easily whether its worth you handing work over to a V.A or somebody else depending on what you need doing and how much time it would take you to do the work yourself and how much it would actually cost you in your billable time.

PW: Yeah, I’ve only used a V.A once myself and I was doing a quite wide ranging marketing plan, I got to a stage of it that was really repetitive, really tedious where I was making a spread sheet of companies to approach. I had particular perimeters that were very important. I was also quite busy at the time and I realised it wasn’t a good use of my time. So I hired a V.A basically and just said this is the information I need, I need UK companies in this sector and the information I need is their name, address, their work address, do they have a blog, how many blog posts have they published in the last month, the name of the contact person and that persons contact details. I basically needed all that information for every website in that sector that this woman could find. So I then hired her for four hours and just left her to it and just said find as many as you can in 4 hours and fill out the spread sheet, and so she did. She came back to me the next day with a bursting spread sheet that served me for months, I had months worth of prospects there all with the information I needed on how to approach them or whether to approach them at all. In that case I was looking at blogging opportunities, so if they had a blog that was already updated 6 times a month then they weren’t worth approaching for me for that particular marketing campaign I was doing. It saved me doing it myself when it was quite boring but more importantly because you do have to do some tasks that are quite boring you can’t avoid them altogether, more importantly it freed me up to do the actual writing that I needed to be doing, while I paid someone else, I would totally do it again in that situation.

LH: This is it, you know, not speculating about what your hourly fee would be but, when it’s a V.A’s job, it’s a V.A’s job to do something like this, its what V.A’s do that’s why people are virtual assistants. This is the kind of administrative work they’ve chosen to do; now the rate for that tends to be lower than the rate for copyrighting or SEO marketing, that kind of stuff. So, if Philippa was going to spend 4 hours or 6 hours maybe, because it’s not her area of expertise and she’s not quite as fast as a V.A would be then that’s 6 times Philippa’s hourly rate. It’s not worth Philippa doing it herself if she’s got other things to be getting on with and it might take somebody 4 hours to do it.

PW: Yeah that’s it and the woman I hired was in America so I deliberately wanted to avoid those super low wages because I don’t want to be part of that really, I don’t want to encourage it by hiring someone myself for those wages. It was a woman in America who offered what was simultaneously a good amount for herself but also further enough down from my own hourly rate in general that I wasn’t losing money and that it would actually benefit me to have someone else do that task.

LH: Absolutely and you know, it is important the point you’ve just made that you need to make sure the time you free up by outsourcing you need to maximise that. There’s no point paying somebody to do a job for you and sitting around for hours on the internet doing a bit of tweeting, I mean if you have spare money and that’s what you want to spend it on, by all means… Genuinely, no sarcasm, if you need a break, if you need some time, if you’ve been up to your eyeballs in work and you need an afternoon off and your afternoon consists of admin tasks, finance tasks and some tax stuff. If you have a trusted V.A or if you know somebody who could do a really good job on that and you think okay, well I’m going to take the afternoon off, I’m not going to do any work but, it’s worthwhile for me to do this, then go ahead. As we said before you are your business.

PW: There are an increasing number of people, marketers mainly I think, and online businesses who actually take a V.A on long term; they may even be full time or 8 hours a week for instance. Now, that’s something that I certainly wouldn’t have a need for at this stage. I can imagine most of you wouldn’t have a need for but it’s also possible, as I did, to hire someone for 4 hours or for 8 hours as a one off. So, when you’re looking for a V.A, don’t be put off if everything you’re seeing is people bidding for long term contracts because you don’t have to. It’s up to each individual V.A some are happy to do one off work others avoid it, which is the same as writers and anything else. But, what I’m trying to say is there are a multitude of options in how you hire a V.A, where they live, how much you pay them, the work they do and that’s all just worked out by negotiating with them.

LH: Yeah, you have to find somebody who’s happy to work with you in the way that you want them to work. You know, because it’s about 2 people not just one person, just as you expect your clients when you arrive, you expect your clients to treat you with respect and to ensure that your needs are being met. You have to do the same when you become the client of a V.A.

PW: Oh, definitely. Like when I was dealing with this woman I wouldn’t of dreamt of just saying do this, this and this. You say this is what I’m looking for, is this the kind of thing you can do? Would you be happy doing this as well? She said yes to everything, I wasn’t making any unreasonable requests but it felt more of an equal power relationship. Just like I try to manage with my own clients as well.

LH: Absolutely. I hire freelancers very regularly. Now, I am one of those freelancers who hire other freelancers – virtual assistants and others, on a very regular basis.

PW: Yeah you’ve got writers, proof readers and all sorts haven’t you?

LH: Yeah I’ve got a whole little Noah’s ark of freelancers. I have people whom I hire weekly, for a good number of hours, per week. It can be seen as a part time job for those people, though it’s still freelancing. I have a number of people who I have had once. I have a number of people who I have maybe twice, three times. It all depends on what I need, if they’re happy to work and how well they do with the jobs. If someone doesn’t do particularly well I won’t hire them again, of course! Things like transcription, I’ll need it occasionally. Now transcription, normally I do it myself but, when the work piles up, it’s a long and something task, if you don’t have transcription software for example. So when it gets to a busy, busy, week I’ll get a transcriptionist on but it’s not something I need every day, every 2 days, whatever.

PW: And that is one of the joys of outsourcing – is that you don’t have to employ somebody with a contract for 12 hours a week work.

LH: Yeah, exactly. There’s no contract per say. Now with my regular freelancers I have put contracts in place. They’re more agreements though they don’t oblige anybody to work for anybody else, for a certain amount of time.

PW: That’s it and that’s what I’m talking about, kind of formal employment contracts. You’re not becoming an employer.

LH: No, I’m their client. I’m not their employer at all, in any way, shape or form.

PW: And that frees you up to be more flexible.

LH: Absolutely but at the same time, as you said earlier, I’m respectful to them and I understand that they need to know what’s going on. They need to have a clear idea so that their needs can be met and they can plan their work. I wouldn’t be very happy if I had a client who disappeared off the radar and then popped back up and suddenly said right I need X, Y, Z and I need it now.

When I get in touch with my freelancers its like ‘Hi, how are you?’ if I’ve not dealt with them for a while its ‘hope everything’s going well, wondered if you had any availability for this task, my deadline would be this and I would need this doing, is that okay with you? If not can you let me know, no problem!’ And that’s what you do; you check somebody’s availability and it saves me a lot of time. I wouldn’t be able to deliver all this work that I deliver without the help of other freelancers and that’s just the way I’ve built up my business model.

Now, tipping all this on its head, paying someone else to do stuff when it would cost you less to do it yourself can also be false economy. So we’ve just talked about doing things yourself when you could pay someone else to do it to save you some billable time. Sometimes paying someone else to do stuff when you could do it yourself is a false economy

PW: You can get a bit lazy. You can hire a virtual assistant for a particular task and it goes really well then you think, well actually, I also hate doing X, Y and Z. I’ll rehire her for that but, you’re not replacing that time with actual work on your part. So you could look at it as earning less per hour, say, like I think LH’s example was if a writer earns £20 an hour and pays their V.A £12 an hour, then you could look at that as working for £8 an hour which you might be able to live with, knowing that this extra work is being done. However, if you’re just hiring someone for £12 an hour but bringing nothing in as a result then it starts being a cost that isn’t justified.

LH: Absolutely and you know, if you’re consistently too busy to take on a task then that’s fine, that’s completely fine. It’s all fine but, as were talking about saving money that’s the type we’re focusing on. So if you’re consistently too busy to do a piece of work then it’s fine to have a regular freelancer to do that for you. But, if you’re not, I would suggest being really careful with just outsourcing stuff ‘willy-nilly’ as you feel like it. As Philippa and I have mentioned in many previous episodes, freelance writing isn’t just writing. If you think oh, I like writing I can be a freelance writer. Wrong. Honestly, wrong. I’ve seen so many people get into freelance writing then get out again and very, very, quickly. They realise that the writing is only quite a small part of it. Having a freelance writing business is marketing, its business development, its admin, its finance, its customer care, its project management, its research, its networking, its writing, its all of those things and the writing comes finally, at the end, when you’ve got your business set up and you’ve worked out where in your week the writing’s going to happen. All of those things need to happen and you’ll do them all. Now there are always going to be some tasks on that list or on your own particular list, they will vary, that you’re not super keen on, usually tax, everyone hates tax. You could hate these tasks until the cows come home but think very, very, carefully about outsourcing them if you’re looking to save money.

PW: Similarly, there might be, say a regular writing job that is good and consistent and pays your bills but that you really hate doing for some reason. It might just be a topic that you have no interest in or it could be any number of things. If you’re going to outsource some writing work of your own assignment, it might make sense, if you’re super busy, to outsource that one that you always hate. The trick is that when you’re less busy, tempting though it is to carry on outsourcing it because you hate doing it, you do have to take it back yourself – if your goal is saving money! Just get back into the saddle of whatever it is that bores you to tears and write it yourself again.

LH: This is the thing, because outsourcing should be, I’m not going to say your final option you shouldn’t wait till you’re run ragged and exhausted and at the end of your tether before you outsource, its not worth getting to that point. But, you should think very, very, carefully about outsourcing before you do it because often, with just a bit of time-management, a bit of a re-jig, a few late nights and early mornings – these aren’t going to kill you! If you just do a few late nights at work, say maybe work till 7 one night or start at 8am in the morning or even 7am in the morning you can win back time in any week, of course you can.

An extra hour as we all well know can be a complete lifesaver in the life of a freelancer. If you need to ban yourself from social media for a day, 2 days, 3 days to resist the urge to get tweeting or check someone’s Facebook, do it. If you need to use a website blocker, I mean we’ve discussed these before and I’ll post a link to an article in the show notes.

PW: Yeah I use this occasionally; I’ve got one that’s a Chrome add-on, which I’ll also link you to. I can just pick particular sites, which tend for me to be things like Gmail and Facebook. I then put a time in and I don’t want to be able to access these for sixty minutes for instance. The fact that you set it up yourself means that you can break it down yourself but, it does actually help with the mindless checking of those sites that you don’t even realise you’re doing. If you want to go into the back end of the software and re-allow yourself permission, you can do that. I never do, even though I know I can. What it does protect me from is those thoughtless, switches to Gmail. It’s only off for an hour so I’m not going to miss anything massive but it’s handy.

LH: It’s super handy. I think there are certain website blockers where you can’t deactivate it once it’s started.

PW: To be honest, if you know what you’re doing, you can. But, some make it a lot harder than others.

LH: Right, okay. See you’re ‘techy’ I’m not. So for me, it’d be like Alcatraz, there’d be no getting out, at all.

PW: There’s one that’s supposed to be quite difficult to find your way out of and what that does, rather than the one I use, I just set it going now and it blocks it from now but there’s another one that’s very popular that limits your time on a site to something like sixty minutes, a day. You set it up in advance that you don’t want to be allowed on Facebook for more than thirty minutes every day. You don’t want to be on Twitter for more than thirty minutes a day, you don’t want to be on YouTube for whatever your own personal places that you go to procrastinate. I’ll try and find a link to that one as well.

LH: No that’s a nice take on it actually, that’s slightly creative isn’t it.

PW: It’s kind of an overall philosophy isn’t it? So that in general, I know I waste time on Facebook and I can’t justify any more than an hour a day or half an hour a day or whatever it is.

LH: No you’re completely right and they sound fab. Same goes for productivity towards sort of like, stay focused and focus booster, all that kind of stuff. You set a timer and you work to that timer and then you take a break. All these kinds of things can help you win time when the temptation is there to go ‘oh I’m too busy I need to outsource this’ when you really can’t afford to. As we said earlier, if you find yourself super, super, stretched every single week with a particular task, then yes, it’s probably worth outsourcing that, if you can afford to.

PW: If you can’t afford to when you’re overworked every week it may be time to look at your pricing structures.

LH: Yes, very good point because, either you can price yourself out of lower paying clients reach…

PW: Which automatically reduces your workload.

LH: It does. Or you can get clients who are already on your books to pay you more which will facilitate you higher in freelancers help you out. So either way it’s a win, win. But yes, if you find that you’re wasting time but that you’re still tempted to hire a freelancer and you’re wanting to save money, think carefully and have a look at productivity tools and website blockers and time management training as well. If you can take maybe one of your weekend days and do a little course on managing your time better and managing your projects better or if you can have a look for software that helps you streamline certain tasks that you do, maybe you’re taking the long way round on a task that shouldn’t really take you more than 5-10 minutes. There are always ways and ways and ways to try and snip a little bit more time out and if you can save just fifteen minutes here and there that quickly adds up because with just four fifteen minute slots over the course of a morning, you’ve got an extra hour. You could equate that either to your hourly rate and you could say well I’ve just got this extra hour to be doing this billable work. Or you could equate it to the money you would of spent on a freelancer, well I’ve just saved X amount of money.

PW: Indeed. So we hope that some of those ideas will help you to save a few pennies or cents, depending on where you live, in your business to help you become more profitable and just live a bit more comfortably. We do understand that especially for freelance start-ups it can be a bit overwhelming at times and so there sort of the ideas we’ve had in mind basically, just things to try, you might think you can’t possibly do without something, cups of tea but it might be fine.

Coffee cup

Coffee cup (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

LH: That actually reminds me if you do buy a cup of coffee every day from Starbucks or Costa or Nero, or your coffee company of choice, maybe add up what that costs you, if you’re talking £3 for a cup of coffee, five times a week, £15 a week, £60 a month – a lot of money every year. So thank you Philippa for reminding me of that. But, basically we wanted to share tips that would help you save money without having to compromise too far into your equality of life. Because remember as a freelancer your job and your life are slightly more interwoven than they would be if you had a salaried position that you could leave at the office.

PW: Yeah definitely, and we’re also not saying that you can’t ever have any fun or spend any money. One of the joys of being a professional writer is that you can buy pretty stationery from Paperchase and it can be put through the books, because you’re a writer, you therefore need pretty pens and beautiful notebooks – it’s just part of the job. So don’t you know, never give yourself a treat, just be careful and use some of the techniques we’ve mentioned in order to give yourself more treats really.

LH: Well this is exactly it. This is the point I was going to make, is that by saving you can stop spending money on things that you don’t have to like bank charges, overdue library book charges and paying tax that you don’t have to. These aren’t treats, these aren’t little treats that you’re going to be depriving yourself of, and these are things that you’re throwing money away on. There’s no point paying extra money when you don’t have to, especially if you’re not getting anything for that money. You can save your pounds, your dollars and really afford yourselves something lovely, maybe a holiday, maybe a new car eventually, maybe some Christmas presents for the kids, whatever you want to spend your money on. Don’t spend it on pointless things that you don’t even notice. Library book charges, there not anything good, paying for a bank account that you don’t need to, spending extra on your mobile phone contract, none of these things are fun, so don’t get stung and pay more than you have to.

PW: Absolutely. And now it is time for our little bird recommendation of the week in which Lorrie and I pick something to share with you that we think some of our listeners might like, now this might be a web press plug in, a blog post, a twitter account or a website, or anything else indeed. And so Lorrie, what is your recommendation this week.

LH: This week I wanted to come up with a recommendation that would feed into what we’ve been saying about quality of life. During episode 48 and this episode 50, we’ve been talking about how to save money but also how to balance saving money with having a decent quality of life. Now I spotted a blog post on, which is one of my preferred freelancing sites, and its called ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ and just as you can save money sort of snipping out bits of wastage here and there, you can also snip out stress and I think that’s a really important thing to do when you’re a freelancer, is not just cut out unnecessary waste issues in terms of money but cut out unnecessary stress

PW: Oh, of course. Who wouldn’t enjoy a bit less stress?

LH: Well, I think some people thrive on it, but in the end it’s not very helpful for you.

PW: It’s very easy to burn out, isn’t it?

LH: It is, and I don’t know about you Philippa but I imagine it’s the same for a lot of us, the more stressed I am the more mistakes I make.

PW: Oh yes

LH: so again, false economy, working your fingers to the bone and staying up late for seven days in a row, and getting up early and working, working, working causes the quality of your work to go down. You need to take care of yourself because as we said throughout these episodes, there’s a cross-over. You and your business are one and the same, and if you’re not healthy and you’re not happy and your mind is full of stress and tangled wool, then your work is likely to resemble that, and that’s no good thing. You will end up not having happy times, and if past clients disappear then so does the money they bring in.

PW: Definitely, there’s not much more, you can’t argue with that really.

LH: I thought that was pretty water tight, and this is how it is. Well it is, so don’t stress yourself, I’ve sorted it for you. So what I like about this article is that its just a small, little tiny weenie blog post and it’s the sort of thing you can read if you’ve got two minutes to spare so don’t flop over to Facebook and do some mindless checking of someone’s Facebook page and don’t go onto Twitter, read this instead. Its five small problems that freelancers worry about and it says ‘Do you fell stressed out and overwhelmed by freelancing problems? It’s possible you’re worrying too much about the small stuff and it’s that saying, don’t sweat the small stuff. It says, give yourself a break and reduce worries. Here are some common occurrences that you should cross-off your worry list right away’.

And I agree with them, and its stuff that we’ve said previously.

Number 1 is the ‘lost’ prospect. Now the author and it’s by Laura Spencer and she’s a freelance writer from Texas.

Philippa: Oh, I follow her on Twitter, she’s lovely.

LH: She said, ‘I used to really stress when a perspective client didn’t agree to do business with me. I felt that by losing the deal I might have done something wrong, now I realise that some prospects will never become my clients. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I did something wrong, freelancers shouldn’t waste a lot of time and energy when there trying their best but still can’t close the deal. And she’s right, you can’t win every client in the world, you can’t, it’s not possible. Even if you could, you couldn’t cope with all the clients in the world. Some clients will just not hire you, it might be a personality thing, it may be a timing thing. Somebody better suited to their needs might have cropped up on their horizon, whatever it is.

Philippa: Yeah, pricing. You don’t get every contract you go for. It’s just how it works.

LH: It reminds me of people who go on quiz shows where there are large money prizes. As much as you might want that $20,000, as much as you want that £1,000,000, that money is not yours. It’s not yours, just the same as a prospect it not a client. Don’t get too attached to a prospect, it can be exciting when a prospect gets in touch and you can think ‘oh I really, really, really want this job’, we all do it. But when a prospect doesn’t decide to work with you, you haven’t lost anything. Don’t let yourself, try not to let yourself feel like you’ve lost something, you’ve let something go and it’s slipped between your fingers. They were never your client.

Philippa: And sometimes it is really difficult, if it’s a job you really wanted. If you’ve done a proposal that you thought was really spot on, if it was totally in your area and you think it would have been the perfect job, then sometimes it can be really disheartening to have put all that work in and to have had some great ideas and to not get the work. Other times, of course you’re not too bothered, you’re busy already, it was a random one off article that didn’t mean very much too you, then you might let that flow over you. But what you have to learn is how to let the harder ones flow over you as well.

LH: Yep, absolutely just let them go. They weren’t your clients and you know be quite realistic about it, as long as you’re sure that your proposals are up to scratch, there’s no harm in periodically checking how you to propose to a client. If you think your proposals are fine and they’ve worked before and they’ve worked with you for a large number of prospects, let them go. Let the ones that don’t want you go, because there’s nothing you can do anyway. Even if you have messed it up, even if you send over a proposal with a mistake in it, there is nothing you can do. There is nothing you can do, they’re not your client, they were a prospect, they are no longer – move on, learn from it if there is anything to learn from it otherwise dust your hands off and carry on.

The second one feeds into what we were saying a couple of weeks back about unkind comments. Now Philippa and I recorded a podcast recently about how to deal with criticism and it can really knock your confidence, it can make you feel like the smallest person in the world. If somebody criticizes you or somebody says something unkind about work, especially work you’ve worked hard on, again, it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean anything at all.

Tip three: small typos in Tweets and other places. And I think this is a very good point. People who pick up on typos in Tweets are quite small-minded; everybody knows that Twitter and social media are very fast moving media. And you don’t have to be the next Tolstoy.

Philippa: Yeah, I’ve always said that why I try to glance over tweets once I’ve written them, I don’t apply the same degree of standard to my writing in a tweet as I do to my writing in an article. And, I know that mean once in a while I’ll make a mistake but I can live with that, rather than spare the time it would take to triple check every tweet before going out. When it is a fast moving media. Having said that, the other day I did post a tweet where I used ‘and I, LH and I’ instead of ‘me and LH’ and I wrote it and posted it and then noticed and I did re-write it and delete the original. That’s not a step I would normally go though, I wouldn’t bother for a mistake on a tweet. But for some reason that one bugged me a bit more than a little typo, but, if you’re fretting to much about typos in tweets then you’re kind of doing Twitter wrong.

LH: Absolutely and somebody will pull you up occasionally, I’ve had smart-alecs pull me up and say, ‘you wrote this’, ‘you didn’t put an apostrophe’ and generally if I’ve left an apostrophe out its because I’ve hit the 140 character limit.

Philippa: And looking at it from a slightly different angle, insults given to a particular, atheist intellectual has become a complete meme on Twitter purely because of a grammatical mistake. Where someone tweeted ‘Your a’ – and then an insult I won’t say’. He spelt your, y-o-u-r and for some reason this captured Twitters imagination.

LH: I’ve seen this everywhere and I really didn’t realize it was a meme. I thought oh gosh people really hate Richard Dawkins.

Philippa: So this then became a thing where whenever Richard Dawkins popped up on Twitter, people in there thousands would tweet him ‘your a’ with you’re spelt wrong. It’s getting even wider now. People are tweeting it to other people. Whereas if you’ve written it in a grammatically correct way it wouldn’t have taken off. There was just something weirdly comical about the error, and so you might be subject to a meme, even if it is one that makes you cringe every time you see it.

LH: Its weird, you can’t predict what’s going to take off can you?

Philippa: Not at all, before we started recording, LH and I were talking about this in relation to something else that – it’s like all the planets have to all be aligned really, so many different factors have to be in place for something to take off on Twitter.

LH: Yeah, you can rarely predict it, it’s just weird. Going back to the typo and the tweets, if somebody pulls you up on a typo in a tweet, what I generally find is that it is somebody who either wouldn’t of worked with you anyway, some smart alec whose got 10 followers n Twitter and isn’t looking for a freelance writer anyway, who is just looking to point score. Or it is somebody that you wouldn’t want to hire. I had somebody get in touch with me on Twitter and they said ‘My friend is looking for a freelance writer’ so I said’ Okay, what kind of writing is your friend looking for, I am a freelance writer thanks for getting in touch’ that kind of jazz. And he said, not your kind because there’s a typo on your website, he was going to hire you but now he isn’t. and this person pointed out where the typo was and it was clear that it kind of a WordPress issue, half a sentence had got stuck somewhere, I’d not seen it, so for people who don’t use WordPress, when you amend a page or a post on there, you can edit either in HTML format or you can edit in a format that’s more readable or suitable for people who don’t know HTML, so you can click insert picture and all your text is nicely formatted you don’t have any of the coding visible.

Philippa: Yeah, you see how it’s going to appear.

LH: Sometimes very rarely between the two formats, between these two interfaces stuff can get lost. You can stick stuff on the end of coding accidentally and it won’t show up in the formatted version, so when you click publish you don’t realise but there is half a sentence stuck at the end of the page.

Philippa: I often, one of the things I find quite often between the two is that it messes up my line breaks, so in the HTML version it will look fine and I switch over and suddenly I’ve got about six inches between each paragraph.

LH: To be fair to this guy, I should have checked, to be fair my whole website. But the fact he was looking for a freelance writer he could see all my experience, all my expertise, everything else was working perfect and there was one typo glitch on the website.

Philippa: That’s a formatting glitch anyway, that’s not even a typo really.

LH: No, I should of check it but, I don’t think its necessary to get in touch with me to say I was going to hire you, not even I, my friend was going to hire you but now he isn’t, just thought you should know.

Philippa: And there are times to tell people they have made a typo. If I spotted a spelling mistake on Lorrie’s website, I’d tell her because I know she would want to know. And similarly I saw someone on Twitter with a typo on their website and they were someone I followed already or someone seemed nice again I would let them know. But what this guy was doing with you wasn’t that. He wasn’t being kind: “I thought you would want to know this page is a bit wonky.” What he was actually doing was trying…he was using that as an excuse to get at you.

LH: Yeah, to make me feel small, and I did feel a bit, but I don’t want someone like that as a client.

Philippa: And when it happens, you were quite upset by it, I think I did have to say to you ‘yeah, but if he’s like that would you want him as a client anyway’.

LH: Exactly, it wasn’t the fact that I had made a typo or lost a prospect. He was never a prospect, I was never aware of this guy. It’s the fact that somebody had been kind of small hearted enough to get in touch with me and you know, if he knew that his friend was going to hire me but then decided, not to on the basis of that, he could of kept that to himself.

Philippa: Exactly, why tell you. If I was buying a new radio and I looked at six different electronic websites and chose one, I wouldn’t then email all the other websites and say, I was going to buy a radio off you but in the end I bought it off Currys why on earth would you, there’s no need, it was only for the purposes of spite really.

LH: Yeah, so that really feeds into point two and three of this small stuff sweating article, people being mean and people noticing small typos in Tweets and other places it doesn’t matter. Anybody who matters really, it’s not going to matter to them.

Philippa: Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

LH: That’s what I meant, but nicer!

Philippa: It took me a minute to work it out, but yes.

LH: Don’t worry me think it’s worthwhile.

Philippa: Thank you

LH: Now tips four and five are the occasional overtime and skipping a post on your own freelance writing blog, and they both relate to being busy which we have discussed a bit this episode. Now overtime is a reality of freelancing, it is, there’s no cut off point really between freelance work and home life. Now there should be, you should implement some kind of cut off point. Whether you choose not o work Monday mornings you choose to work Sunday afternoons or whether you work Monday to Friday 9 till 5. Choose the times that work for you and try to keep your free time at least a little bit sacred, but not to the extent that you won’t do overtime.

Philippa: Yes, you can get kind of precious to the point of being negative. That is will have a negative effect on your business where as doing two hours in the evening that you wouldn’t normally do as a one off isn’t going to do you any harm.

LH: It can save your skin, can’t it? If you super busy or you’ve got an extra piece of work on that really needs doing and its time that your client knows that you wouldn’t normally work, say if you don’t normally work weekends and your client gets in touch, I really need this work can you rush it through for me you can sometimes charge extra for that.

Philippa: And if it’s a very lucrative client who asks you for extra work, then two hours on a Thursday evening is well worth it for another six months of there custom.

LH: Of course, and it’s your business. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

Philippa: Exactly, exactly.

LH: And by skipping a post on your freelancing blog and this, I’m going to extrapolate that really, what Laura says is ‘Like many freelancers I have my own blog, I try to post stuff several times a month but sometimes due to my work load I fall behind and this feels like a failure but it really isn’t. And she’s completely right, sometimes when I’m super busy ill fall behind on updating my blog, updating social media and I really don’t consider it falling behind, I consider it letting stuff go that isn’t essential.

Philippa: A few weeks ago, we skipped a podcast episode. Now we could have really stressed about that and in the past we have really stressed about it. But what we’ve both said to each other is that we both over run with paid work We weren’t willing to compromise out paid work just to get an episode out on time because we can’t do that it’s not responsible so actually we both agreed that paid work always has to come first. And so we missed a week, and we were disappointed and we would rather not have done, however, it’s certainly not something to be really hard on yourself about.

LH: The world is still turning, the podcast as you can well hear, is still recording and life goes on. We have got the work in. Philippa was ridiculously busy on the week where we skipped the podcast I as ridiculously busy the week before and we were both super busy when we weren’t ridiculously busy. It wasn’t going to happen.

Philippa: And had we given in to a massive amount of guilt and stress and worrying about would it affect our listenership, and would it affect our stats. We would of just slowed ourselves down in everything else we were rapidly trying to do, so not only is it less stressful to give yourself a break, it also won’t have a negative impact on the rest of your work if you can take it with a bit more relaxation.

LH: Of course, and so that is why I recommended this handy freelance folder article because I just think that’s it’s important, It’s an important point to make especially after such a hard topic, saving money can be really stressful, for some people saving money might well be just a case of streamlining your finances and cutting out stuff you just don’t have to pay. No matter how much money you’ve got you don’t want to throw it away. You don’t want to walk around with a pocket full of money and just have it dropping out of your pockets as you walk, there’s no reason to do that. But for other people finance can be a really stressful topic, it can be something that keeps you awake at night, as you try and work out where to get the extra £5 you need to meet your gas bill or the extra £10 you need to pay for your child’s school trip. It can be a really, really stressful thing. So it’s important that you stress about what you need to stress about and you chop out stress you just don’t need. I think all of these five recommendations here are really good recommendations for things you should just let go.

Philippa: Yes, she ends with three signs that what you are dealing with is small stuff and I really like them

1. It’s beyond your control
2. It won’t make a difference in the long run
3. It’s a common problem that normal people would understand

And especially if you are very stressed, it’s hard to see things rationally and you can start to stress over the weirdest things. So you could almost use that as a checklist: “Is it beyond my control? If so there’s no point stressing because there nothing I can do.” Will it make a difference in the long haul run? Missing one podcast episode won’t make a difference in the long run. Is it a common problem that normal people would understand? If we said to friends we are so busy and we’ve got to fit the podcast in I think that most normal people would understand that it was perfectly fine to skip one.

LH: I said that to somebody else, If someone said that to me, I’ve got this commission I’ve got all this work and I need to do a podcast, can’t you skip it. There is no point getting up at 1am to record an early morning podcast and then working through, and being absolutely exhausted and having to transcribe it and edit it and upload it and do all the writing around it, I would just say skip it for this week, do one next week, problem solved. So, Philippa: your recommendation this week.

Philippa: My recommendation this week is a combination of a website and a little piece of software. It is called Work Timer and can be found at and I will put a link to that in the show notes so you don’t need to remember it. And it is very much what it sounds like, it is a way of tracking the amount of time it takes you to do various tasks that are involved in your work. Now there is the website which links to this piece of software which you can download called WorkTimer desktop and through this software and the website you can manage what you’re doing and keep reports on how long you spend doing different things.

The way it works is that you specify projects and you set up a project, which might be Podcast, for instance, or it might be blog post and if you want to know how long it takes you to do those things then that is your project and then you go into the project and set up tasks. Under tasks for the project we might have episode planning, recording, editing and transcribing. And then with those, with the software you just click start and then you click stop when you have finished. Or you can stop/ start depending on how you work. Now it syncs regularly with the website which also then keeps a record of all your projects and all your tasks.

Now it’s a completely free piece of software, first of all.

LH: I like it much better now, I liked it a lot but now, how in keeping with our money saving episode.

Philippa: And also what’s good, despite is that despite it being free there are no limits to, for instance how many projects you can have on the go because of a lot of these things might be free for three projects but anymore than that you have to pay. So that’s good about it. Now if you’re doing work that’s paid by the hour rather than by the project, which isn’t my favourite way of working it does do some tasks better and it’s a great way of keeping a record of how long you’re working, so you know how much to bill, but also it’s a great way of making sure that if you’ve agreed to do two hours work on something, making sure that you’re not ripping yourself off by doing three and a half instead.

Now you can then, you do all that on the software and you can then head over to the website which will produce reports for you, you can invoice via the website based on the hours you’ve reported per project, you can export data in numerous different formats f you want to analyse it on you own, and I think I mentioned before, it’s all backed up. So that’s all really good features, buts what also can’t be overstated is that it’s really simple to use as well. I’ve tried various of these types of software an a lot of them are big pieces of software first of all so they take up a lot of memory and also a lot of your computer juice, so you slow down when you’re using it. Given that you’re timing your work, you don’t really want to be running a slow system at the same time. Its simple, it does exactly what I’ve described it doesn’t do more clever things that you don’t need that make it bloated, its very, very simple and straight forward. And, what I also do with it, especially with new clients, if I’m doing work based on an hourly rate I will screen shot my project break down so I can show the client how long I spent researching there blog posts, how long I spent writing it, how long I spent proof reading it for instance. And it gives them I find a bit more confidence in the amount you then invoice them, because other wise they might look at a four hour invoice and think what was that four hours made of, but if you show that you spent three quarters of an hour researching and an hour and a half writing then they can see where there money is going.

LH: Especially if you work for them on a number of occasions and they see that the figures generally stay on a level, and relate to the length and complexity of the work that you’re doing for them.

Philippa: And its really easy to start and stop, so if you do half an hours work, then have a break, just click stop when you come back to it, its there again. The other thing you can do is, input your hourly rate at which point it then how much you’ve earned on a project as well. So yes it is called Work Timer and Work Timer desktop and I only tend to use it on timed work, although sometimes it can be a good productivity tool. It can keep me focused, if I’m struggling to find my focus, then I might get it out then as well just to keep myself working.

LH: Especially if you know that time is ticking away.

Philippa: Exactly, there’s nothing like looking at an empty page and then checking your timer that 25 minutes have passed, to make you realise that you really should be typing by now. So, it’s handy for literally what it does, for keeping time for your billing but it can also be used as a productivity tool and accountability tool as well.

LH: I really like the fact, as well, that it’s easy on your computer system, because everything is exported to the website and its something I’ve been looking at recently. I go through hundreds of news articles and blog posts a week for my clients because of the way my business has built up, because of the fact I’ve worked with other writers to deliver this, I go through hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of news stories every week, now I keep a copy of all these documents on my computer, now that’s quickly been slowing my computer down. So what I’ve been doing is zipping up 2011 documents, zipping up 2012 documents and uploading them to Google drive, removing them from my system. So that they are there if I need them, nobody is realistically going to ask me for a news article from 2011 but…

Philippa: Yeah I do the same, not necessarily the same way, but I keep copies of things.

LH: So, the reason I chose Google Drive for it, if you convert your word documents or your Open Office word processor documents, whatever software you use, if you convert that to Google Drives own format of a word processing document it takes up zero storage on your Google Drive. So, you can put as many word processing documents on your Google Drive and it just won’t take up any space and you can free up, you know, because word processing documents are not huge at all, in terms of memory on your computer but when you’ve got hundreds and then thousands.

Philippa: Even just the scrolling

LH: Yes, so yeah going back to your recommendation Work Timer its fab. Its fab that you’ve got such a brilliant tool that doesn’t even cost anything, it doesn’t take up space on your computer and you can’t really fault it for that.It’s streamlined and it’s not going to slow you down its only going to help things.

Philippa: To coin one of LHs phrases, it does what it says on the tin.

LH: It does do what it says on the tin and I like that phrase.

Philippa: I know you do, and it’s not trying to be everything to all people.

LH: That’s usually when things start to fail.

Philippa: Exactly, it’s trying to do a specific thing and it does that specific thing very well. I don’t use the functionality of sending an invoice from the work panel website, but that’s because I have my own invoicing system. If this was something you used on most of your work then, that could be an incredible time saver as well.

LH: Absolutely its fab. Whether, you choose to use it for that or not. I only think its going to help streamline you work method.

PW: Yep

LH: Fab recommendation.

Philippa: Thank you very much

LH: And so that brings us to the end of episode 50, we have reached quite the milestone.

Philippa: We certainly have.

LH: And we hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, because we really have had a fabulous time, researching, planning and recording all of these lovely podcasts for you.

Philippa: Yes, we have. It’s hard to describe just quite how much of a good time, playing you our outtakes but that’s just never going to happen.

LH: It’s never going to happen, well it depends. If you have millions to offer us

Philippa: Then maybe

LH: Then maybe it could happen, but probably not. So if you would like to subscribe to the podcast which of course you would, go to and you can subscribe from there. You can zip through to ITunes, Stitcher smart radio and subscribe from there. You can subscribe through RSS feed; there is no excuse to miss another episode, so go ahead. Go and have a chat to us, out Facebook page is also listed on the Podomatic page, our twitter feeds are also there and out websites are too. Any questions, any queries, any comments, reviews, feedback, anything at all as long as it’s nice, come and have a chat.

Philippa: Absolutely, we love hearing form you and getting new ideas and feedback on what we’ve already done. So don’t be shy, we’re both mostly friendly but I’d avoid us pre 8am, to be honest.

LH: Yes, pre coffee. Avoid us pre coffee we’ll be fine, you’ll be fine we’ll have a nice time. And here’s to another 50 episodes.

Philippa: Indeed.

LH: I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn

Philippa: And I have been Philippa Willitts and we will see you next time.

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Podcast Episode 49: How to Make Creative Marketing Ideas Work

Many new freelance writers are surprised by the amount of marketing that they need to do. Because these activities need to be pursued relentlessly it is easy to run out of ideas and feel uninspired. In this solo episode, Lorrie looks at some creative and unusual marketing approaches that freelance writers can adopt.

Show Notes

Roses are red pub sign

Amnesty hanging people flyers

ESPN Brasil interactive advert

Rock FM air guitars

Accountancy terms glossary

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LH: Hello and welcome to Episode 49 of A Little Bird Told Me: the freelance writing podcast that’s here to help you through the highs, the lows, as well as the absolutely brilliants and the unbelievably awfuls of running your own business.

Our home on the web is at, so head on over if you’re not there already and subscribe to the podcast in whichever way suits you best – there’s an RSS feed, as well as iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio and Podomatic subscription options, so pick whatever you fancy. Make sure you do it, though, because you’ll get a notification as soon as our new episodes are out.

On the Podomatic page you’ll also find the links to our Facebook page where you can come and have a chat to me and my co-host Philippa. You can post your most pressing freelance questions, make suggestions about future episodes and give feedback on the episodes you’ve listened to so far.

You’ll also find links to our websites and our social media feeds, as well as to other episodes, transcripts and show notes, many of which are actually handy links to resources for freelancers, so come and have a nosy!

I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and this week, I’m here without my usual co-host – the lovely Pip. She’ll be back next week as usual, though, when we’ll be recording another dual episode, so stay tuned for now with me and the time will fly by.

This week, I’m going to be looking at how to come up with some marketing ideas that will help you boost your freelance business. While we all know that creative marketing ideas are the ideal weapon for grabbing your target market’s attention, it can be hard to know where to start. In this episode, I’ll be looking at a few of the key components to help you get your creative ideas off the ground but not too far off the ground!


So, as Pip and I have said a thousand times (and it might actually be a thousand now we’re nearly at episode 50!), freelance writing isn’t just writing. If you get into this business because you like nothing better than putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), that’s only a small part of the battle won. A huge part of running a successful freelance writing business is marketing yourself and your services, getting business development down to a tee.

If you can do this in a way that grabs the attention of your target audience, and makes you memorable to them, you’re already a huge step ahead of the competition. Marketing isn’t just about you – it’s about your customer. So the key to developing some creative marketing ideas, even before you decide which fabulously inspiring thing you’re going to try, is to start with some preparation. And yes, I know that’s not as fun as getting stuck in, but you know what they say: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” And it’s true, so suck it up.

Firstly, what are you trying to achieve? Maybe you want more clients in a particular sector. Maybe you want to promote a certain type of work – your blogging services, for example. Perhaps you’re trying to establish yourself as an authority in a certain sub-sector of freelance writing – technical writing, scientific writing, academic proof-reading. Whatever you’re trying to achieve, keep that central in your mind as you brainstorm marketing ideas. There’s no point catching people’s attention with a marketing campaign if they don’t know what they’re supposed to think or do once they’ve spotted you.

Jot down the core ideas behind your marketing. Really get it clear in your own mind what you want to achieve – pop it down on a piece of paper, pin it up on a notice board, start an Excel file, get coloured post-it notes and write your objectives on those. Put them somewhere you can view them with a clear mind.

target market

target market (Photo credit: yelahneb)

Secondly, decide who your target market is. What are their motivations? If you’re looking to attract small business clients, it’s likely that cost is going to be a huge factor in their decision to hire you, or not. If you’re looking to grab the attention of huge blue-chip firms or exclusive consultancy firms with a lot of disposable income, for example, cost won’t be such a key issue. They might be more concerned with hiring someone who’s known to be the best of the best.

Put yourself to one side for a moment and think about things that will push your ideal client’s buttons. What do they want? What do they really not want? What motivates them? What will make them hire you?

Brainstorm everything you can think of. Surf the net, get on social media and see what they’re talking about. Read newspapers and magazines for inspiration. Keep an eye on that client’s sector – maybe there’s some legislation that they might be a bit worried about; can you tap into that?

Copy, paste, snip and collect anything that fits with your idea of what your ideal client thinks, feels, needs and wants. This will help you to get inspired, and come up with ideas that will really attract the kind of target audience you’re after.

So, now you’ve done your research and your planning, we come to the fun stuff. Or do we? Well, not quite. Almost, but no. Sorry, it was a trick!

Now, the reason we haven’t quite come to the fun stuff is this: during my research for this podcast, I’ve come across a lot of suggestions for creative marketing ideas for small businesses that, to me, seem either legally or at least ethically questionable. So I want to talk briefly about that, and how, in my opinion at least (and I know I speak for Pip), it’s best to steer clear of anything dodgy, even if it might get you some short-term gain.

One suggestion was to hire a number of interns to do your marketing work for you. While the cheery suggestion was, “Interns Make Dollars and Sense!”, there was no indication that the interns should be paid. Anything. At all.

This is something that both Philippa and I feel quite strongly about – in my view, at least, if you can’t afford staff for your business but you need staff for your business to succeed, there’s a serious problem with your business plan. It’s not acceptable for your business to be dependent on free labour. Free labour isn’t a solution, so let’s knock that idea on the head right now. If you’re thinking that you need to do some business development and you think, “Hmm, I can get some graduates or people who are looking for work to do this for me.”, be careful. If you run a freelance business, it’s not like you’re likely to be in a position to offer people realistic job opportunities afterwards, so I would suggest you just steer clear.

fly posting

fly posting (Photo credit: Belfegore)

I’ve also seen suggestions that fly-posting and glueing your flyers to the front of newspapers is a good idea. It’s not – it’s probably illegal; it’s definitely annoying and I can’t see it winning your business any real brownie points.

For this podcast, we’re going to be focusing on ideas that are creative without being spammy. In terms of long-term benefits, I do always find that ethical and professional work best even if it might take a little bit longer.

So, moving on to the creative side of things, while only you will know what’s suitable for you, your business, your objectives and your target market., there are certain things you can do to try and ensure you come up with some good, actionable ideas. The key to a creative marketing idea is that it’s unique and captures the imagination. For that reason, I can’t come up with one for you now – of course – but what I will do is go through some of the criteria that you can bear in mind when you’re looking to come up with a creative marketing idea. And a lot of these feed into one another – hopefully you’ll be able to sit down, juggle them around in your own mind – keeping in mind your own needs – and come up with something that works for you and your target audience.

First off, emotional marketing campaigns work a treat. If you can make your prospects laugh from their belly up, you’re probably on to a winner. From where I’m standing, intelligent, topical, relatable humour is one way to get into your prospects’ heads where you want them to be.

Now, while toilet or crude humour might be the easy option, try to avoid that – remember that whatever you do has to fit your brand. Unless you’r brand is normally controversial, rude, cheeky, potentially offensive, say if you’re a funny blogger by trade, I’d suggest you steer clear.

If you’re not looking for wit and you want to be a bit sillier, surreal and absurdist humour is a good option. Things that make you laugh but you don’t know why.

There’s a picture floating round the internet of a sign outside a pub that reads, “Roses are red, violets are blue, poems are hard, BACON.” and I always think that would have made some really good flyer copy for a copywriter, for example. You could finish up with something like, “Need help finding the right words? Get in touch.” You will have made people laugh without resorting to being crude.

You might decide not to go with humour – other strong emotions can work just as well, so use your imagination. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re trying to target, making people feel sad or envious or worried can all help you achieve your goals. As long as you move someone emotionally, you’ve got a better chance of getting through to them rationally.

One emotive campaign that really caught my attention was by Amnesty International, which, if you don’t know it, is a global human rights organisation that campaigns against the death penalty, torture, rape and other abuses. They ran a campaign using public transport – in each of the little straps that bus passengers can hold on to, they inserted a flyer in the shape of a person with their hands tied behind their back. And on the front of the flyers were photos of people who are blind-folded and they have bruises on their faces – they look like torture victims, basically.

What passengers on that bus saw were people being hanged. Shocking, yes; powerful, yes. When you look at photos of people responding to the campaign, they’re holding the flyers and reading what’s on the back, and that’s exactly what you want. A rectangular leaflet probably wouldn’t have had the same effect. It definitely wouldn’t be being talked about long afterwards.

You might be thinking, “Oh, but I don’t have the resources for something like that.” but the point is that the power of the campaign came from the shape of the flyer, the positioning of the flyer, the content, the message, and not the money behind the organisation. In the grand scheme of things, a flyer’s not a high-expenditure piece of marketing, so it’s not difficult to take and adapt for your own needs if this sparks your imagination.

Secondly, and it kind of follows on, interactive campaigns. If you can get your prospects to interact with your marketing campaign, then you’re over the first hurdle. You can talk at your prospects but if you can get them to interact with you, you’re opening a positive, two-way channel.

People don’t like to feel like they’re being targeted and sold to all the time. If prospects can have some kind of meaningful relationship (and I’m not talking a house, car and two kids – I’m talking however long you need them to pay attention to you) , that eases some of the pressure.

The way you get someone to interact with something is to tempt them into it by connecting with them emotionally. You make something fun, funny, shocking or cute, and often people won’t be able to resist interacting. Humans can be horrible, but we can actually be pretty nice too, and we like to feel connected – which is why these creative kinds of marketing – work so well.

So, if you give your prospects a toy, something edible, a photo opportunity, something that they want to fill out, or colour in, or draw on, or anything else you can think of, you’ve captured their imagination. And if your marketing message is strong enough – that’s a matter of offering and content combined – you should be well on your way to winning new business.

Air Guitar Championship

Air Guitar Championship (Photo credit: AxsDeny)

One of my favourite examples of this was by Rock Radio, who put an empty guitar stand out on the street, along with a big sign offering people a free air guitar. There aren’t many people who can resist a freebie – even an imaginary one! – and there are loads of folk who would leap at the chance to do something a bit silly and get playing a free air guitar – either for their friends, for YouTube, for Instagram, whatever. It’s a brilliant idea. It’s fun and nice without being rude or crude.

One of the real benefits of this kind of marketing now is that people will share things that they find unique, clever, funny or interesting across social media platforms, even if they weren’t the person in direct contact with the marketing material itself. If you can come up with something arresting enough, you could find yourself reaching more prospects than you’d originally planned!

The third point to bear in mind is that your marketing should be relatable. Whether you tap into something like observational humour (for example, the funny little things we all seem to do) or nostalgia to grab people’s attention, or you use clever analogies and metaphors to make something more specific relatable, it’s important that your prospects feel that your material is aimed at them. While it’s not good to have people feel like you’re targeting them purely as a sales exercise (which, usually, you are – you’re looking for clients, not friends, right?), it’s good for them to feel that your material is speaking to them, that you understand them and that you can therefore meet whatever needs they have.

Another way to be a bit more creative about your marketing is to avoid the same old flyers, posters, advertorials etc. and produce something that’s of real value to your prospects. This could be something content marketing-related, such as a blog post, an eBook, or a YouTube tutorial on how to, say, get the most out of press releases.

English: A Swedish box of chocolates called &q...

English: A Swedish box of chocolates called “Aladdin” (top layer, identical to the bottom layer). Svenska: Den svenska chokladasken “Aladdin” (övre lagret, identiskt med undre lagret). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or, it could be a freebie – you can get branded-up products from some business suppliers; choose something good quality and useful to send to your prospects (this could be something typical like a mug, a pen, a calendar etc. or it could be something more unusual – I remember when I was working as a secretary, a company was really cheeky and sent us in a tiny little box of chocolates. We were thrilled – way better than the usual invoices. But when we opened the box, it was empty apart from a note saying, “If you’d taken our call last month and arranged a meeting with us, we’d have sent you chocolates.” To soften the blow, they did send us chocolates the next week – it caught our attention and we did have a meeting with them. It’s stuck in my head so it obviously worked!

If you send your prospect something physical, you’ll capture their attention (plus, as a bonus, there’ll be a reminder of you, your services and your contact details floating around their premises if they decide to keep whatever you’ve sent them). If your prospects feel that they’re getting something of good quality for nothing, they’re more likely to be receptive to a pitch from you. They will already be in a position where they’ve benefitted from interacting with you, even just via your marketing material or content, which gives you a talking point to open up discussions with and an opportunity to discuss with them how you could be even more useful (ie. if they hire you!).

Another way to approach this particular technique is to deliver the value in person so you can get straight into your pitch to your targets. Giving a talk at a networking events, offering free tutorials on social media to local business groups, hosting a Google Hang-out – these are all ways to offer something of value to people. Send out your invites and prepare your pitch – you’ve already got a foot in the door.

So there we are: a few pointers when it comes to thinking up creative marketing techniques. While it can be a bit of a brain-fry trying to come up with something unique that will capture the imaginations of your targets, keep aligned with your branding, help you meet your objectives, one good thing about creative marketing is that anyone can do it, regardless of how tight your budget is. Social media, in particular, makes this kind of marketing so much easier.

Make your ideas unique; make them apply to the target audience, make sure they’re in-keeping with your brand, give them value of some kind (whether they’re informative or entertaining) and make them easy to share – whether it’s because they’re so imaginative and attention grabbing that people want to or because they’re easily passed on via social media or other channels. Give your prospects every reason to get in touch.

The various ideas themselves are infinite, so I’m not going to go into them here. What I will do, however, is post a list of different kinds of marketing activities on my website, which you can find the link to on our podcast page at I’ve split marketing activities into various categories, such as marketing materials, email marketing, relationship building, so you can come and grab that list and start popping ideas into each different section. It’s just a way of helping you to organise your potential marketing plans and deciding which one’s right for your objectives and your target audience.

So, I hope that’s been a helpful introduction to making sure you come up with the right kind of creative marketing ideas. Freelancers depend on being to attract new business, but we also need to attract the right kind of business – and without spending a fortune. Use the list on my website to devise the kind of creative marketing strategy that will work for your business, your objectives and your target audience. Step outside of the ordinary with your marketing, and you’re more likely to stand out from the crowd when prospects are looking to hire.


My recommendation this week comes on the back of Pip and I being in the middle of a two-part series about economising. Episode 48, if you haven’t already listened to it, was all about how not to waste money, and how to make savings, and we’ll be finishing off on that topic next week for episode 50.

But, while I was floating around on social media this week, I spotted something that fits in quite nicely with a point that Pip made as we were recording the episode last week – and that it’s good to know about finances, even if – like me – you’re not naturally a particularly number/tax/finance savvy person. The better you understand figures – and all things finance-y, the better you can look after those pennies. And even if you get an accountant on to help you, say, do your monthly accounts and tax returns, it’s important for you to be able to 1) understand what they tell you and 2) know what that means for your bank balance and your business.

For that reason, my recommendation this week is something I spotted on a website called Now, it’s a UK-centric site so the advice might not be completely right for other listeners, but they’ve published a glossary of accountancy terms. It’s a brilliant A to Z of all those words and phrases your tax advisor or accountant might trot out while you nod and smile and try to work out what they’re talking about, and it’s broken down into easy-to-understand language for easy reference. As well as the more complicated stuff, there are some quite basic terms on there – well, I say basic; they are if you know them! – and some specific kinds of financial and tax legislation that you may need to know about.

Bookmark the page, copy and paste the information into a Word document and save it in your admin folder – whatever, just make sure you keep this list handy and look over it when you get five minutes. Just as marketing is part of freelance writing, so is managing your money – you’re running your own business and it’s unfortunately not something you can avoid. So yes, get your nose out of whatever book it’s in, sit down and have a thorough look at all these terms. Once you know them, life will be a lot easier to manage, and who doesn’t want that?

So, that brings us neatly to the end of episode 49 of the A Little Bird Told Me freelance writing podcast. Fabulous podcast. As ever, I really hope you’ve enjoyed this episode – come and give us some feedback at – try and be kind! You can find all the links to our social media feeds there so if you want to tweet us, tweet us; if you prefer to Facebook us, Facebook us! However you get in touch, don’t forget to subscribe while you’re there – you’ll get every new episode delivered straight to your inbox, which will make tuning in easier than ever.

Pip and I will be back next week, thank the Lord, with the second in our series on how to stop your small business wasting money. In the meantime, I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn, and thank you so much for listening!