Author Archives: Philippa Willitts

British freelance writer and proofreader.

A new year update for 2021

Fireworks

Nobody needs another blog post about how weird 2020 was. Nor about how weird the start of 2021 has been already. But, in short, totally weird.

Now, onto the rest of it all.

What I’m up to

I continue to work hard. Most of my work is writing, proofreading and editing. Last year, I proofread four full-length books and many, many job applications. This may be symptomatic of how many people lost their jobs in the midst of the international crisis. Interestingly, I didn’t proofread as many essays and theses last year as I usually do; perhaps due to the same.

Fireworks

Fireworks

In terms of writing, most of what I do currently is ghost writing blog posts for business clients. Usually SMEs, these businesses know that their website needs a blog that’s regularly updated, that demonstrates their expertise and that is relevant to their clients. They also know that they either don’t have the time or expertise to do it or they simply lack the will.

Not everybody relishes being faced with an empty document and needing to fill it up with juicy content.

Thankfully, I do.

Then, editing. This has divided into two main areas, for me. The first is sensitivity reading / sensitivity editing. I can read your work to check for areas you might have gone wrong in terms of disability and / or LGBTQIA issues.

This is a new service for me to offer but it has been taken up by several writers and editors, including the editors of Florence Given’s “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty”, which I did both a disability / mental health and LGBTQIA sensitivity read for.

The second area of editing that I focus on is that I am editor in chief of Global Comment, an excellent website that showcases the writing of journalists around the world. This involves working with freelancers and commissioning work – one article is published every weekday – and managing a commissioning budget. I then edit each piece, upload it to WordPress and do all the bits and bobs that need doing there, then promote it on a range of social media sites. I also keep on top of a weekly email list for the site.

In addition, I have been on the comms team of the Sheffield branch of the Women’s Equality Party for the last few years. This mostly involves managing the branch’s Facebook Page but also includes consulting on any other areas of communications that arise.

What’s new

I’m currently involved in a new and exciting project with Disability Sheffield, an organisation I volunteered with about ten years ago. They received a pot of funding to hire someone in a comms role to make Covid information more accessible to a disabled audience. They gave that role to me, and I am relishing the challenge.

I am passionate about fighting how inaccessible much of the formal communication from the UK government has been, and I am passionate about providing the best, most well-researched information to disabled people who need it. This role is perfect to address those things.

Before I even knew the role existed and that I was being considered, I was running a campaign in my local branch of the Women’s Equality Party to write to the minister responsible for representing disabled people about inaccessibility, so the planets aligned perfectly.

As I am only a few weeks into this role, I am currently asking a lot of questions so that I can make sure that I provide information that people actually want to know (rather than what I assume they want to know). It is also vital that I provide it in formats that people can access, within the limits of the budget and practicality. So I have started by creating and promoting a survey. If people want to know about vaccines and they want it in Easy Read format, I can do that. If they want to know about Covid support bubbles in image format, I can do that. And so on.

The role runs until the end of March and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. The work is intense but important and I’m meeting new people, as well as reconnecting with staff who are still there from when I was a volunteer all those years ago.

What’s next

Some of last year was a bit quiet, work-wise. Understandably, of course. A lot of SMEs were closed or working with skeleton staff so it makes sense that blog content or a website rewrite weren’t at the top of their priority list.

This year has begun with extreme busyness; there’s so rarely a happy medium with freelancing! But I’m enjoying having a bulging to-do list and am always keen to do more and hear from people who I can perhaps help with content creation or editing or even non-profit comms.

 

A bit of background: an interview with… me

Last week, I was approached by Rebecca Wren, an aspiring writer. She was writing a university assignment about the career she wants to enter – writing – and wanted to ask me some questions to help to guide her in both her uni work and her path to her future career.

I answered her questions and it turned out to be quite an extensive piece of work! So Rebecca agreed that I could reproduce my answers here. I’m all about repurposing content, especially when it’s 1500 words long.

What inspired you to become a freelancer in different fields of writing?

I had a blog, which I started in the days when you still had to explain what a blog was! I then joined a feminist group blog, where my writing got more attention. Being disabled, I was struggling to work out how I could work in a way that I could manage and started to explore the idea of freelancing.

I knew that my writing was appreciated, so doing that in a freelance capacity was the ideal combination of work for me. I could write, which I loved, and I could do it on my own terms, which suited my health.

Could you provide a brief timeline of the different kinds of jobs you have done leading up to becoming a freelance editor?

Before starting freelancing I had done a variety of work, mostly in the non-profit sector.

How did you find the work? How did you go about establishing connections with people to work with/for them in the beginning?

if the only opportunities available will leave you broke and basically being exploited, then you can always do better elsewhere. Always.

In the beginning, I set up a website and set up social media accounts specific to my business (I have separate work and personal accounts on Twitter, a professional Page on Facebook, and a professional LinkedIn account. I also have an Instagram account that is mostly personal but bits of work sneak in).

Once I’d set up my website I kind of waited for work to come in but it quickly became clear that it wasn’t that simple! Instead, I had to start looking for work more proactively. I joined a few freelancing sites but they are mostly terrible, terrible places that want you to write extensively for very few pennies. So I quickly realised that wasn’t the way I wanted to go either.

I started reaching out to businesses in the areas I wanted to specialise in. Some of them hired me, and it started from there. In journalism, I had some connections from blogging so started pitching ideas to those people. With other publications, I just looked up who the editors were and pitched them directly.

Have you ever worked with publishers, etc. regarding your editing or do you work alone? If you have, how did you begin working with them?

With editing and proofreading literature, I mostly work with self-publishers but I have worked with three conventional publishers. They all found my website and approached me.

How did you get your name out there?

Social media, blogging, I started a podcast (like with blogging, it was in the days when you had to explain what a podcast was!), and directly contacting people.

Do you recommend doing some kind of apprenticeship after leaving university, if there are any?

To be honest, it depends. Definitely steer clear of anything that wants you to work for free because you deserve better than that. Ditto if the salary is tiny. However, if you can find an opportunity with a reasonable salary that can give you a great grounding in what you want to work in, then snap that up. Don’t expect to make £millions that way but grab the experience and contacts.

However, if the only opportunities available will leave you broke and basically being exploited, then you can always do better elsewhere. Always.

How long did it take before you felt like you could be a freelance writer full-time?

I did it a bit differently to most people in that I just launched and was full-time immediately. Obviously it took time to build up to a full-time income but I didn’t freelance on the side while still working a day job, which a lot of people do (and is probably more sensible when starting out).

If you’re going to freelance on the side to build up your client base and experience, then you’ll have an idea of how much you’re earning as a freelancer and how to build your business up but you should still have some savings before you take the leap. If you’re just jumping in with both feet, like I did, then you need at least one month’s expenses saved up, ideally around three months’.

Did you ever advertise your services on job sites, etc. or only through your website?

I did but with no results whatsoever so that’s a strategy I abandoned quite quickly. However that was only on sites that offered free advertising so maybe if you pay it’s better.

How did you land on a price for your services?

Pricing is an ongoing issue. I started off working for fees that were a bit too low but allowed me to gain experience and confidence. Once I had a bit of those two things, I started to increase my prices. I still change them pretty regularly, but never downwards. Always upwards!

I saw on your website that you specialise in writing about disability, health and women’s issues. What inspires you to write about these topics?

I’m disabled, I’m a woman and a feminist. They are passions that consume me and that I was already reading and writing a lot about, so writing about them professionally made sense.

How do you make your writing engaging and distinctive, especially when writing about things like garden machinery or health and safety that you might not have initially had much knowledge about?

It’s easy to be engaging when you’re writing about something you care about. When you’re writing about garden machinery or lanyards or health and safety… yeah, it’s harder. I guess I try to write as if I’m having a conversation with somebody who’s really interested in the topic, I re-read out loud what I’ve written so I can see where it sounds awkward (or tedious), and I research as much as I can so that I can find snippets of info that are genuinely interesting even in a somewhat boring topic.

Do you believe a social media presence is essential in this line of work? How do you attract a following on the sites that you use?

I think at this point it’s pretty much essential to have some kind of social media presence. Obviously there will always be outliers who have succeeded without, but social media is a great way to make connections with people who would otherwise be difficult to reach.

You can also use it to demonstrate your expertise or your specialisms in a way that will make other people say to a potential client “Oh, I don’t write about that, but XX does” because they’ve got to know what you’re interested in.

Do you have any tips on how to make a successful website?

This isn’t my area really. My website is pretty successful but I don’t know which bits of it make it so. It’s kinda messy, it’s overly full, and I daren’t take anything away in case it breaks the spell!!

There are specialists in how to design websites to encourage success, and I’m not one of them!

I saw that your website was on the first page of a Google search for freelance writers. I’m guessing this has to do with SEO? What are your skills in that area?

Yes, SEO. I started to learn about SEO when I started out so that I could improve the chances of my website being seen. As a result of learning about it, I realised I was quite interested in it in a geeky way. This led to me learning more and ultimately now it’s something I write about for other clients, such as writing blog posts for companies that offer SEO services.

Do you have any tips on how to write a successful blog?

Find out what people want to know and answer those questions.

Do you have any other advice for people who are only just beginning their writing careers?

People say you have to not have a fear of rejection if you’re going to be a writer. I find that’s not so much the case; instead, you have to get over the frustration of never hearing back from someone. That does happen a lot!

You need a bit of a thick skin in this career but perhaps no more than most other careers. Writing is great, especially as a job, and it’s hard too. But it’s not as hard as working at a fast-food shop or on a building site or on the Customer Service desk in a supermarket at Christmas. People over-romanticise writing when, in reality, you quickly learn it’s just a job. You dream of sitting with your laptop in Starbucks and creating but you also have email backlogs and spreadsheets and invoices and difficult clients and editors who ignore you.

My best advice is to build relationships with other writers as well as trying to connect with clients or editors. I gain so much more from mutual collaboration than I ever would from feeling like I had to view everyone around me as competition.

 

Book: Food Snobbery: An Intersectional Analysis of Fat, Feminism, Poverty, Disability & Health

I always forget to promote this, though I should. I published an extended essay that looked at the privilege of food snobs and how the reality of food and eating affects various groups: Food Snobbery: An Intersectional Analysis of Fat, Feminism, Poverty, Disability & Health. It’s been available on Amazon for some time now.

I wrote it because I was frustrated at the ignorance of people insisting that there was no excuse to not eat vegan, or eat ‘clean’, or eat keto, or whatever the trend of the day is.

I was also annoyed at a discussion I’d had on social media with someone about the fact that the more ‘ethical’ food shops tend to be inaccessible to disabled people, making them actually unethical businesses. That person said that I should campaign for smaller food shops to become accessible rather than shop in supermarkets. I asked what I should do for food in the meantime; she had no response.

People on low incomes face similar lines of attack. As do those who live in ‘food poor’ areas. As do those who are fat. This extended essay covers all of this, and more, and I’d love it if you read it.

It is available in print, including a large-print version, and on Kindle.

Buy here:

 

Disabled Access at Music Festivals in the UK

This was originally published on DisabledGo, which is now AccessAble. This article does not seem to be online since that change so I am reproducing it here. 

The sun is shining, there are clouds in the sky… where better to be than in a remote field, veggie burger in hand, listening to live music in the open air? 

Whether you prefer the vastness of a huge event like Glastonbury or somewhere more intimate, there are festivals to suit every mood and preference. Campaigns like Attitude is Everything and Stay Up Late work hard to ensure that Deaf and disabled people can attend live music events, but what are festivals really like for disabled attendees? Is accessibility provision good or will you be stranded without the ability to charge your chair or get up close to the acts?

Katharine, from East Sussex, attended GuilFest last year. She told me that, as a wheelchair user, she often feels that “wheelchairs are an afterthought”. Being aware of the potential difficulties, Katharine telephoned in advance to get an idea of what to expect, but found that, sometimes, the promises made do not materialise:

“GuilFest had built two wheelchair platforms, the one for their main stage was lovely and right by accessible toilet facilities. However, the act I had gone to see was on the second stage. 

“I had been assured there would be a platform for that stage too. There was; it was raised about 5 inches from the ground and miles from the stage. We found someone to complain to and they put the wheelchairs in front of the barrier when relevant act came on. 

“So, that was an unusually good experience.” 

This year, at Glastonbury Festival, there was a Disability Field, which offered somewhere to charge up electric wheelchairs, as well as alternative therapies and information and support.

Outsiders, a charity with a presence in Glastonbury’s Disability Field, reported that, “Over a number of years, Outsiders has received regular feedback from disabled festival goers – many of whom see the support that the Disability Field offers as the only way that they manage to attend the festival.” 

Accessing the wider events, fields and stages still caused problems for many, however.

There are some common themes: these events often take place in large fields, sometimes on steep hills, which can present barriers to participation in themselves. Manoeuvring across grass can be difficult – moreso if it becomes mud over the course of rainy days and lots of trampling! There will be crowds of people, which some disabled people find difficult to manage, and music will be loud, with few truly quiet areas to escape.

Every event is different, though, so we’ve pulled together the accessibility information for a range of upcoming music festivals this summer. 

I was pleased to find that many of the festivals I have been looking at are making a real effort at improving accessibility and making information easily available. So, while the landscapes may be tricky to navigate, positive steps are being taken, for example:

  • V Festival and Bestival provide charging points for electric wheelchair and scooter users
  • Almost all of the festivals have viewing platforms for wheelchair users and other disabled people who cannot be in a crowd; only Bestival doesn’t have any platforms while some, such as Tramlines, don’t provide them for all stages
  • Reading Festival, V Festival and Bestival have separate, accessible campsites for disabled attendees
  • Festival No 6 and Kendal Calling have information provided in different formats on their websites
  • Each of the nine festivals offers a free ticket for a disabled person’s carer or PA to attend.

Some events go further still, for instance V Festival offers secure refrigerators to store medication and has a Changing Places toilet. 

Gerry Bucke from Chartwell – a specialist insurance provider and advocate for the disabled community – believes that these advances will make festival season far more open to disabled music fans. 

“The improvements to festival accessibility this summer show that the organisers have an interest in attracting disabled fans to their events. Attitude is Everything found that events following their best-practice guidelines had a boost of 59% in disabled ticket sales over just 12 months, which shows that this makes business sense, too!”

There is still a way to go. None of these nine festivals offers BSL interpreters or live captioning, although some do install hearing-aid loop systems, and many do not warn of impending strobe lighting. Wheelchair charging points – described to me as ‘essential’ by numerous people during my research – are only rarely provided, and site shuttle buses, to help people with limited mobility to get around, could benefit a lot of these events.

Progress in accessibility is great, but many of us are impatient for more. 

Blog post pricing special offer

A notepad on a desk

A notepad on a desk

This sale has now expired. However, don’t despair. There is another special offer for you here.

When B2B or B2C clients are looking for a freelancer to write blog posts for them, they don’t just want a couple of one-off articles. Generally, they want one or two a week on an ongoing basis, as this makes the most sense when blogging.

Blogging offers a myriad of benefits for all businesses. Regular new content keeps Google keen, while providing extensive written information adds new conversational keywords to their website content and ongoing posts provide content that can attract buyers, answer prospects’ questions and create a sense of recognition or familiarity.

Because of the importance of ongoing new blog content, I recently created some packages for new clients to choose from when they hire me to write their blog. These packages are:

  • The Daisy Package: 5 x 600-word blog posts per month – £540
  • The Tulip Package: 5 x 600 – 1,000-word blog posts per month – £980
  • The Rose Package: 10 x 600-word blog posts per month – £1060
  • The Sunflower Package: 10 x 600 – 1,000-word blog posts per month – £1850

These are already at a discount when compared to buying blog posts individually. But, until the end of June 2019, I am going to discount them further! You’re welcome.

So, if you are a new client and you hire me to create blog content for you until the end of June, pick the package that suits you best and take off a further 15% discount for your first order. If you are interested in this special offer, contact me and we will make some exciting plans.

Notes on March

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

I sometimes wonder whether I should populate my blog with updates on how work is going. After all, it gives readers and potential clients an idea of what I’m up to.

So, I’m giving it a try this month and will see how it goes.

A particularly interesting part of March’s work was proofreading two books for a French agency. The books had been translated from French and I was proofreading the resulting translation. They were grammatically very good but needed some work on occasional areas of wording that didn’t sound quite right. As I have a degree in French Studies I have done my fair share of translation so am familiar with the way it works and the problems and challenges it can cause, so I felt at home fixing these texts.

March also saw the end of a long-term mentoring relationship that I had had with a client who was a keen writer and wanted mentorship on writing and some personal issues that we had in common. We had worked together for several years and the time came for us to part ways. It was quite sad to see them go, but also a proud moment for me that this client was able to move on to new things.

I also had enquiries about being a disability sensitivity reader for an upcoming book. That is not confirmed yet but should be an interesting project if it goes ahead.

Other than that, I have been writing weekly / twice-weekly blog posts for a range of companies that recognise the benefit of ongoing blogging but don’t have the time or expertise to do it themselves. These are usually focused on either tech / digital marketing or health / disability, which keeps things different and interesting while remaining in my areas of specialism.

Finally, my weekly column at Global Comment has seen me cover Brexit, a Tory leadership election, LGBT teaching in schools and the social model of disability.

Special offer for Equal Pay Day: freelance writing, proofreading and social media management

A woman wearing a hijab applauds

This sale has now expired. However, don’t despair. There is another special offer for you here.

This weekend marks the date when Equal Pay Day takes place: it is used to signify the last day of the year that a woman would receive pay, when taking the gender pay-gap into account.

Enjoy this (NSFW) video:

It is important to remember, when noting this day, that today is the day after which averaged-out women work for free. In fact, Black women and disabled women and other minority groups get even less equity in their workplaces and white women do considerably better than BAME women.

Because of this, I want to encourage the world of work to do better. And I believe that one path towards “better” is having women at the top.

So, from right now until 31st December 2018 – the time women will be working for free according to Equal Pay Day – I will give a 10% discount on all work for any company that has a female Managing Director, C-Suite member or Chairperson.

If you would like to take me up on this, reference this post to prompt me to discount the 10% on your next invoice. Include a link to your company structure and the named woman or women and I will be glad to make a start on your work!

This applies until the end of the year, after which normal pricing will resume. It is valid for both new and existing customers, because I’m a good egg, and you can take a look at my pre-discount pricing here. You can’t mix this with any other offer. To find out more or request some work, get in touch today.

Epic August Special Offer

It is no longer August so this particular special offer has, sadly, expired. However, there’s another freelance writing discount for you to enjoy here.


More and more, I see that my clients are looking for longer-form content for their blogs. Whereas 500-word posts used to be the norm, now clients are asking me to write content that is 1,500 words or more.

special offer design over gray background vector illustration

There is certainly a benefit to this. With longer-form blog posts, you can incorporate far more information and detail than you would if you only had 500 words to play with. You can take a really deep dive into your topic and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to your clients and prospects. It will also have an SEO benefit, with long-tail keywords and snippets of searchable information inevitably making their way into the longer articles.

So, I’ve decided to make it easier for business owners who are looking to invest in some longer-form content but are yet to take the leap. For August 2018 only, I am going to take £100 off the fee of a 1,000-1,500-word article for any new client, so that it is 33% off.

My normal rates for a 1,500-word blog post would be £300 so, this month only, it will drop to £200. You can buy a maximum of two.

If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch. The offer’s good til the end of August 2018 or until demand gets overwhelming. It is for new clients only and you will need to choose between this offer and this one to see which works best for you.

Special offer for new clients: copywriting, blog-post writing, freelance content creation

Piles of coins with plants growing out of them

Piles of coins with plants growing out of them

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere. – Lee Iacocca

 

Everybody loves a discount and, if you are looking for some commercial copywriting, you’ve just found one.

I offer blog-post creation services (blog posts are one of the best ways to market your business and get the word out) and copywriting for static webpages. I also write eBooks, white papers, press releases and case studies for clients.

I have been a full-time freelancer in this business for nine years so I use my wealth of experience in my work. I create content that will attract attention and new customers, providing you with great work to share on social media and attract that gorgeous SEO juice. I specialise in writing about digital marketing, health and disability and women’s issues, but I have written for companies as diverse as those selling garden furniture to those selling car mats.

Copywriting special offer

My fees are public – I believe in being upfront – but I am currently offering a 20% discount for any new client’s first writing purchase. You might want a single blog post or 20, a press release or an entire book, but no matter what you need, I will discount it by 1/5.

This is a special offer that comes and goes; I switch it off and on! But whenever this post is available, so is the discount.

If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch.

Tattoo proofreading: preventing disasters before they happen!

Tattoos can be beautiful, glorious representations of art or complex emotions, carefully applied to our skin by specialists who take pride in their art.

They can also be drunken mistakes carved out after midnight in Ibiza, leading to embarrassment and cover-ups at a later date.

If you are planning a new tattoo and it will involve text, let me help you to make sure you don’t get anything disastrous inked into your skin permanently. Let me check the spelling, the punctuation, and the word order to ensure you go into the artist’s studio equipped to be given the perfect inking.

Find out more about tattoo proofreading and how much it costs (virtually nothing, actually!) here. Prevention is better than a cure. Or, in this case, prevention is better than laser treatment or a big black cover-up that’s usually a panther.