Author Archives: Philippa Willitts

British freelance writer and proofreader.

Big Yourself Up! How giving stuff away will have new clients flocking in your direction, make you look awesome, and give you a nice happy feeling inside. Or, self-promotion for freelancers.

recite-19714--1483687329-1e42zxtThere is a lot to be said for providing valuable content, skills or expertise online for free. Offering useful information demonstrates that you know what you are talking about, it helps to show people you can be trusted, and it gives you an opportunity to get your name ‘out there’.

It’s one of the reasons I make a freelance writing podcast – it helps to establish in potential clients’ minds that I’m knowledgeable and skilled in my field. Similarly, the writing I have volunteered for non-profit websites shows editors and clients my writing style and the topics I specialise in writing about. It has also increased my profile, all of which contributes to me getting work on a daily and weekly basis.

Giving stuff away for free is usually good; working for free is usually bad. Work out your limits

Giving things away is not the same as working for free – something that should, in most cases, be avoided at all costs. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you are being exploited or taken advantage of. Instead, giving things away puts the power in your hands: you choose the information, or the value, that you will provide and you offer it openly. Image of en:Stephen Fry

In this TEDx video, Simon Wheatley talks about how he got web design work from the likes of Stephen Fry and the Rolling Stones based on his reputation as someone who  was “good at WordPress”. That reputation came from having developed plug-ins and contributed to the overall open source nature of the WordPress project. It’s a great talk to listen to and could provide some great ideas for freelancers who are considering adding more content to their sites or service offerings.

In the interests of full disclosure, Simon is my brother-in-law as well as being a top WordPress dude.


Episode 65: How to blog about boring topics without sending your audience to sleep

While it would be wonderful if every piece of work we undertake, as freelance writers, was thrilling and enthralling, in reality we do, at times, get assignments which are terribly boring. In this podcast episode, Lorrie provides six ideas to help you create fascinating content when the topic you are writing about is deathly dull.

Show Notes

What should I tweet? 8 places to find fantastic content

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Hello and welcome to a Little Bird Told Me, the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade.

We talk about the highs, the lows, and the absolute no-nos of successful self-employment, saving you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes, and guiding you – hopefully! – to the very top of your chosen profession.

Freelancing is amazing, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Tune in to the podcast every week, and if you go to, you can subscribe to ensure you never miss an episode.

Whether iTunes, an RSS podcatcher or Stitcher Smart Radio is your platform of choice, we’ve made it really easy to sign up and be the first to hear our latest words of – again, hopefully! – wisdom. There, you will also find any links we mention, our own websites and social media feeds, and the A Little Bird Told Me Facebook Page, too.

I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and today, I’m going to be getting you into the swing of 2014 with a solo episode. The lovely Pip, my usual co-host, is squirrelled away and working hard, so this is a solo gig. But fear not, she’ll be back in a fortnight’s time to share her words of wisdom and filthy laugh with you all again.

So, this week, I was thinking about talking about New Year’s resolutions – new starts, business plans and all that, but the Internet has it all pretty well covered. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of sick of it already.

So, I’ve decided to steer away from all the New Year’s Resolution stuff (apparently 88% of them fail in the first month anyway) and talk instead about something that no freelance writer I’ve ever met has managed to quit – and that’s writing about boring, boring topics.

Now you’ll probably already have wondered about how to write about boring topics, and if you go on the net, you’ll find loads of worthy posts about how there are no boring topics, only tricky topics, or boring people, or bad writers, or whatever. It’s not true – it’s a complete lie.

English: Traffic cones Part of the Deanside Tr...

English: Traffic cones Part of the Deanside Transit railway yard beside Makro at Hillington is now being used to store traffic cones and roadworks related signs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are boring things in the world; my boring isn’t the same as yours, and yours isn’t the same as someone else’s but we all get bored – we’re all human. If you have to write about something you find boring, it can be really hard, so it’s no good pretending that everything is sunshine and roses and unicorns, and that you think everything is super interesting because nobody does. So I’ve come up with six ways to write about a boring topic without sending your audience to sleep.

So tip one is to be clued up. Now, we all know what it’s like, sitting there, trying our best to absorb a topic that Just. Won’t. Get. Interesting. And whether you’re cowering on the back row of your year 11 chemistry lesson or you’re slouched in front of a computer trying to read the latest news about algorithms and metrics and measurements – sigh, Pip loves those – the feeling is always the same: painful, impending death.

On the other hand, we all know what it’s like to be engrossed in a topic that, while it might be complex or unpopular, just never fails to be fascinating. For me, it’s grammar. I love grammar – how it works, the rhythm of it – I think grammar is beautiful – how it develops, the patterns that spiral out and out from parts of a word to parts of a sentence to parts of a paragraph like some gorgeous grammatical galaxy. I really do like grammar.

But why do I love grammar but not chemistry? Well, part of this is down to natural abilities – I’m a linguist, not a chemist. I have a natural affinity – and ease of understanding – with words that I don’t have with chemical compounds. The enjoyment comes from the understanding. Grammar is one of the most hated topics I know, especially here in the UK, but because I understand it, it fascinates me. And while you can’t choose your natural talents, you can improve your knowledge and use that knowledge to open the door to others.

Now, writing about boring topics requires relatability, and the only way people are going to be able to relate to a boring or complicated topic is if you bring it to them in a form they can understand and relate to.

So, I could talk about grammar as building blocks, if I wanted to be really simple – and, let’s face it, a bit hackneyed. Or, I could use my imagination and use an analogy like my earlier one – grammar as a galaxy. With imagery like this, I could talk about the connections between parts of speech, and use the idea of orbits to discuss how certain words act as an anchor for others in a sentence…you get my point.

But if I didn’t understand grammar, I couldn’t do that. And the same goes for any topic – this is my point. You don’t have to be an expert in something to write engagingly about it, but the deeper your understanding, the more chance you stand of being able to reframe the topic in a way that will spark your readers’ imaginations.

Not only that, and this is the good news for you, the more research you do on a topic, the deeper your understanding becomes. And the deeper your understanding becomes, the more you enjoy the topic and want to learn about it. It’s a beautiful thing.

Tip two: be human

You have to really try to be human when you’re writing. Removing the human element from an article on a potentially boring topic can often be the kiss of death.

Your readers are human (we hope), so you need to appeal to them on that level. People are generally group animals – we like communicating with one another and learning from each other and connecting with one another, so stay present in the content you write.

You don’t need to be “you”, necessarily – you’ll need to be the voice of whoever you’re writing for, and there may be tone or brand guidelines to follow if you’re writing for a client – but you do need to be human and engaging.

The human touch has another benefit when it comes to topics that risk becoming boring due to their complexity – it helps to build trust.

If you – or the client you’re writing for – have a consistent voice throughout your body of content, your clients and prospects are far more likely to engage with the material you present to them and trust what you’re telling them – very helpful when you’re dealing with facts, figures, explanations and things like that.

Build a relationship with your readership over time, and you’ll find that they invest a little more in reading what you have to say – they’ll want to read you and they’re more likely to seek you out again. This is exactly why social media is so effective – when people have an engaging voice, others are drawn to that.

Now, blogging can be a writer’s playground, as long as you have clearance to go ahead with the tone you’re choosing to use.

And remember, if you’re blogging for yourself, it’s important to use your best self for your brand, but not a fake self. Choose and consistently use the funniest, wittiest, most intelligent, most engaging parts of yourself – maybe you wield a great sense of irony, maybe you can spot and shoot a cliché down from 10 paces away. Maybe you’ve got a chaotic family full of hilarious members and there’s always a lesson in whatever your grandma says or does.

Whatever topic you’re writing about, be yourself but be your best self. And, as people get to know you, they start to listen more closely to what you have to say.

Tip three is “Be relatable”. Following on from being human and understanding your topic, we’ve got being relatable. And while this could realistically (and easily) have been included under those two headings, I think it’s important because of the emphasis it places on your target audience.

Being human and well clued-up on your topic is all very important, but you have to aim your writing square at the reader you’re hoping to enthral. Otherwise, all that wit and wisdom is going to do no good at all.

You need to write in a way that touches the target audience, and encourages the reader to create images in her or his own head. And to do that, you can’t always be informing the reader about things she or he has never heard of – although you may need to do that plenty, especially with informative blog posts – you need to tap into things they already know, understand and find compelling.

Now this might be general human truths or it might be sector-specific. So when you’re looking for analogies to liven up your writing, look for the kinds of things that – when you tell someone about them – they interrupt you and go, “Ohhhhh yeahhh…”; the kinds of things that we – or your target audience – have all got a story about.


Showerhead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking at general stuff, it could be the embarrassment of falling flat on your face in public; or the inevitable fact that, if you ask someone to look in the fridge for the jam that you know is at the front of the top shelf, they won’t find it and you’ll have to get it yourself, or the fact that 97% of your time in the shower is spent staring into space and coming up with things you should have said in an argument you’ve already had.

Being relatable is a way of building a strong connection with your reader. All you have to do is find out how it fits with your topic!

Tip four: be relevant. Now I know a lot of people say bad things about click bait and it’s true – patent click-bait without substance is rubbish.

But, you do need to be relevant. It’s worth coming up with ways to link your content to relevant topics but make the content evergreen content as well. So situate your content in a wider context – tap into things that people are reading about, and understand about, and care about. Situate your topic relevantly and people are more likely to want to go and read it – you have to hook them in.

If your boring garden machinery topic comes out of nowhere, then it’s only going to appeal to people who are impassioned by garden machinery.

But if you can link this to something in a wider context – say, there’s some new legislation that says that people can’t use this particular equipment any more, or you can find a political or even celebrity topic that could link to your topic with more than just a bare thread, then that will help you to be found on search engines, it’ll encourage people to click through.

So don’t be mercenary but don’t be afraid to be relevant and get a few more click-throughs on that content.

Tip Five: be creative. So imagine that you weren’t listening to a podcast right now. Instead, you’re reading a dry as toast study about the various factors involved in creating compelling content for blogs.

The text is small, the text is grey and the sentences are looong and unwieldy and boring. There are no pictures, no examples, it’s just corporate boredom hell. You probably wouldn’t get to the end of the article.

Now blog posts about boring topics can’t be boring – that’s the rule: they can’t be boring, not if you want your content to succeed. So instead of lecturing people via the written word, you have to engage them. So, ok, maybe you can’t record a podcast every time, but you can perk up your blog posts with a bit of creativity.

Boost reader engagement with rich media content – it’s all out there: images, videos, infographics, you can create your own web graphics. Even bullet points and tables are a good way to break up text. Appeal to the eye, ear and senses as well as the shrivelled, minging little dry bit at the back of your reader’s brain that enjoys reading about this boring topic.

So find interesting images – steer clear of stock photos as far as possible (no more blonde women in headsets!). Find creative additions to your text – you’re never too old to enjoy text being broken up by something interesting. It doesn’t matter what your topic is – nobody minds a bit of rich media.

Tip six: be sneaky. OK, so as I said at the start of this podcast, when you read what people have had to say about writing about boring topics, most of what you’ll find is a bunch of right-on, faux profound “Nothing is boring, except the writer!” rubbish.

It’s not true – some stuff really is boring. Not for everyone: there’s a topic for everyone, and there’s a person for every topic, but I believe Philippa had an encounter with someone who had to write about traffic cones the other day. And while that might be alright for one or two blog posts, I can imagine that a whole blog on the topic would start to wear you down.

So, here’s a tip: don’t write about the boring subject. Sounds sneaky? Well, it kind of is, but it’s also an intelligent approach.

You can apply this advice on a micro or macro level: either inject different subjects into a blog post about the boring topic, or inject whole blog posts on different subject into your blog about the boring topic.

Now, I always wondered, at school, why they kept making us draw spider diagrams. I couldn’t come up with many possible adult uses for them, but we did so many – it was always, “OK kids, it’s spider diagram time!”.

But this is the time of the spider diagram – its hour is nigh! Take your boring topic, stick it in the middle of a massive spider diagram.

Then think about your target audience, and what they might like to read about. Say, let’s talk about traffic cones again. You could talk about roads, town-planning, people wearing traffic cones on their heads after a night out (weirdly, this seems to happen a lot when people are drunk), different colour cones…I’m being a bit ridiculous, but if I had a spider diagram, I’d come up with much better ideas.

So think about your audience, their interests, the topics that relate to them, or your topic, or the sector, or the current news…and keep doing this until you’ve got a whole range of topics you can write about around the boring one. And you might find you can categorise these topics.

I’ve come up with a few editorial calendars for clients in the last few weeks, and while I wouldn’t say that my clients’ sectors are boring (of course I wouldn’t; they pay my bills), they’re not necessarily topics I’d want to write about all the time. But I found myself becoming more interested as I worked on finding topics around the topics I normally write about.

Imagination - HNBD

Use your imagination: if you’re writing for yourself, go wild. If you’re writing for someone else, I think they’ll appreciate the fact that you’re using your imagination.

At the end of the day, they don’t want the next Tolstoy novel, they just want a blog that people want to read. And if you can show that you’re coming up with new ways to tempt people in and that you can still link the content to their product or service, you’re spot on in what you’re doing.

So to sum up, what it comes down to it, this is actually good advice whether you’ve got a boring topic or a fascinating one: you can’t write endless things on the same subject from the same angle forever. Well, you can but it’ll bore everyone’s socks off.

You need to find new, relevant, current, imaginative ways to write, whether it’s a topic you enjoy or not. So remember:

– Be clued up – do your research, read, learn. It might hurt at first, but the only way to uncover interesting bits is to go digging.

– Be human – make sure people know they’re not just reading a bit of corporate spiel.

– Be relatable – come up with analogies people can relate to, even if you’re informing them about something new.

– Be creative – don’t think in black and white; bring in some colour, some sound, bullet points, shading, borders, different fonts – although not Comic Sans, obviously.

– Be sneaky – if you have to write about traffic cones, write around traffic cones. As long as it all ties in, gets the message across and still works, go for it.

It’s the mark of a really good writer if you can bring a really dry topic to life, so put your back into learning how to liven up those tricky topics and I promise it’ll pay off in the long-term.

That sums up episode 65: Six Ways To Write About A Boring Topic Without Sending Your Audience To Sleep. What remains is the Little Bird Recommendation Of The Week.

Now, HubSpot’s on the money again this week – I might as well just call this my “HubSpot recommendation of the week” at this point, but it’s really good.

So, my recommendation is for a wee slideshare – it’s nothing too taxing; we’re all tired. I don’t want a big blog post and I don’t think you do either – that they’ve created to help you find out where to get really tweetable information.

Now, Christmas and New Year is always a funny time on social media – a lot of people do wind down and just tweet tired, Christmassy/New Year’s Resolution-y things. But, give it a week or two, and by January, everyone’s revitalised again.
Things go from 0-60 and if you’re not sharing interesting content, you’re unlikely to keep up with the pack and there’s nothing worse than starting the year off and feeling like you’re failing.

Finding shareable content can be a drag, particularly when it’s dark and cold, and you’re feeling overworked and underpaid. So use this little slideshare to help you come up with some new ideas – I actually found it really helpful, and I hope you will too. It has some really good ideas, both about finding topics and about automation. It’s not heavy or in-depth but it did spark my imagination.

So that really does bring us to the end of A Little Bird Told Me Episode 65: Six Ways To Write About A Boring Topic Without Sending Your Audience To Sleep. Really hope you’ve found this helpful – I’d love to hear any feedback.

If you want to see where Pip and I reside on social media, just go to or you can come and have a chat with us at – tell us about the most boring topic you’ve ever written on.

We may give you a round of applause; we probably won’t give you anything else but you can still share the pain.

So stay tuned; we’ll be back in about two weeks with another dual episode. In the meantime, make sure you subscribe at via iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio or one of those fancy podcatcher things that Pip understands better than me. Subscribe and you’ll be the first to hear when we have another episode out.

I’ll leave you to it for now, and wish you a very Happy New Year – I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn, and Pip and I will catch you next time.

Podcast Episode 64: Measuring the effectiveness of your content

As content creators, we freelance writers have a responsibility to not just carefully craft words into content, but also to pay attention to what we write that works, and what falls flat. Whether it is content for a client or for our own websites, if we forget about what we have created, we have no idea how effective our content is, which means we risk wasting our time and our clients’ money by writing articles, ebooks or presentations that don’t make an impact. If, instead, we measure how effective our content is, we can quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, what readers can relate to and what they ignore, and when we pay attention to what we find out, and apply it to future work, we learn to tailor our writing to our audience, and considerably improve its effectiveness.

Measure your content to maximise your success! 

Show Notes

Episode 63: 60 minutes to a more successful freelance writing business


Pretty Link Lite


WP Stats Dashboard Plugin

New Statpress Plugin



Pay With a Tweet

‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar.

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


PW: Hello and welcome to episode 64 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me’, the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade we’re here to save you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes and guide you to the very top of your chosen profession. Freelancing is a funny, old world so make sure you tune into every episode of this podcast. If you go to you can subscribe to ensure that you never miss an episode. We’ve made it really easy to sign up so make sure you subscribe via iTunes RSS or just heart radio and be the first to hear our new words of wisdom every fortnight. On that page you’ll also find links to any websites we mention and also links to mine and Lorrie’s website and social media feeds, so it’s well worth coming along and having a look. You’ll also find a link to our Facebook page and we want you to come and say, “Hello,” on Facebook. I am Philippa Willitts…


LH: …and I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and today we’re going to be looking at something that a lot of people seem to forget and thus fall down on when it comes to content. Now it’s my personal suspicion based on perhaps my own feelings that people deliberately forget to do this because it’s not my favourite task but it’s one that’s super important. Now it’s easy to put your heart and soul into a piece of work and just be so relieved once it’s done and out of your hair and published that you never want to see it or think about it again. Or you might just find that you’re snowed under with other pieces of work and that this task is just one too many on your to do list or so you think but it’s really, really important when you’re a freelance writer to keep an eye on the effectiveness of your content and one way to do this is to actively measuring it’s effectiveness. So that’s what we’re going to be chatting about today.


PW: First of all though we want to send out a massive congratulations to Annie Kontor who’s one of our listeners who completed NaNoWriMo!


LH: Oohhh.


PW: Yeah, we said when we did our big episode on NaNoWriMo that we’d do a shout out to any listeners who completed the challenge. So let us know if you are one of them too.


LH: Yes, do come and let us know because we will cheer you on, we will throw confetti bombs and we will be super, super pleased for you.


English: A typical Deutsche Bahn railway stati...

English: A typical Deutsche Bahn railway station clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PW: This is true. And so to the topic at hand, we’re going to be looking at how to measure the effectiveness of your content basically and this is really important because otherwise you might be wasting your time and your energy on potentially pointless tasks. If you’re writing three blog posts a week but you don’t realise that only one of them is getting any clicks and the other two are boring people stupid…


LH: Yeah.


PW: You’re wasting a lot of time every week and energy that you could be putting somewhere else in your business.


LH: And it’s one thing to be wasting time when you’re writing for your own blog and you’re not getting any click throughs. Sure, you know, it’s a complete waste of time and that’s chargeable time when you’re a freelancer but it’s not quite as bad as if you’re writing for an external client. Because if somebody’s come to you thinking that you are the perfect person to write SEO blog posts for them, to stick with the example at hand, and you write blog posts that are getting no social media shares, they are getting no clicks, nobody’s interested, and people are coming to the page and bouncing straight off them, your client will be silly to stick with you as a copywriter. It’s up to you to work with your client to create content that’s worth their while and their customer’s while and their target market’s while.


PW: Definitely and there are so many benefits really. I mean, we could do a whole episode of the benefits of effectively measuring your content marketing because even things like if you’re tracking how people find your website for instance, you might discover things that you would never have realised otherwise but say, for instance, you offer a certain kind of content creation service but then through tracking your stats you discover that lots of people are finding you while looking for something even more specific or something slightly different. Then you can tailor your offerings and create a new page on your site or a new blog post and so you’ve actually got an insight into your potential client’s minds there. If you don’t check your stats you don’t know how people are finding you, you don’t know what people are looking for, you don’t know what’s popular and you’re going to lose out.


LH: Absolutely, because I think you’ve touched on something really interesting there in terms of how people get to a website and the terms that people search for when they find you and the terms that people use to describe your website, all of these things have a bearing and all of these things you can measure using some of the tools that we’re going to look at today.


PW: Yeah, there’s recently… Google has provoked controversy to say the least by limiting, severely limiting the ability of website owners to see what search term has lead to their site. It used to be that you could see everything. If anybody clicked from a search to your site you could see everything that you needed to know but they’ve been limiting and limiting and limiting. So now the number of search terms you can actually see from Google searches is minute and this is obviously you know, causing, people aren’t happy. If you pay for Google clicks you can still see your search terms…


LH: That’s kind of handy.


PW: Yes, so there’s a bit of a motive there but that’s not to say you’ll lose all your search term input data because as long as you’re getting visits from Bing and Yahoo!, you’ll still get an insight and there are other ways as well which – there are plenty of links online if you have a search – but if you’ve noticed recently that the search terms you’re seeing have dropped dramatically that’s why.


LH: You see Philippa is so good with all the tech news.


PW: [laughs]


LH: It’s like a little tech news tracker.


PW: [laughs]


LH: Which is very handy.


PW: Thank you very much.


LH: Yeah but true, if you have a look at some of the factors that Philippa’s just described it will help you to, I think it will help you to position yourself online it lets you see your own website and your own media activity in the context of a wider area and that’s always handy, it’s always handy to know which niche you’ve cornered if you’ve managed to corner one. Which niche you perhaps are trying to edge into but not quite making it and by positioning yourself in a wider context you can start to look at things like that your competitors, what people in the same niche as you are doing really well, what they’re doing not so well, what people in that niche are actually looking for and while you might not have access to the direct incoming data as Pip’s just mentioned you can do your own research, you know.


PW: Oh yeah.


LH: It’s not beyond you to do some research on that so all of the information you get you can certainly go and do some research around that and really use that to shape your own brand.


PW: Definitely.


LH: So basically measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing and your copywriting is, is just so important because if you don’t do that if you don’t measure what’s working well and what’s working not so well there’s no way to build on what you learnt this week, this month or this year as a whole precisely because you won’t have a clue what you actually learnt. So sure you will have picked up some knowledge here and there and you will have grown as a freelance writer and a content marketer hopefully by reading a lot and watching videos and doing online training and things like that and keeping your skills current.


But if you measure your effectiveness systematically and you’ve collected information related to yourself  and your content and your client’s content on say, a monthly basis or a weekly basis or even every two months just as often or as regularly as you can it will just give you something to go off when you need to look back over the year because a lot can happen in a year when you look back over the year you’ll be able to see what worked well, what didn’t and really start to pick up on patterns and trends.


If you’re the sort of person that doesn’t measure the effectiveness of their copywriting, their content marketing you’ll end up shooting in the dark when it comes to deciding where your content marketing strategy goes in the future or where your client’s content marketing strategy is going to go in the future. You won’t be able to forecast what you’re going to need to do next because you won’t have a clue what’s happened in the past and not only that being able to show that you’re an effective content marketer also gives you a lot more leverage when it comes to winning new business and commanding higher fees because you can say to people, “Look you’ve hired me in February, the year previously your website traffic was down here, after you hired me you experienced a massive peak in traffic and that continued over the next month. When you didn’t want any content from me in August your website traffic dropped off but when you took me on again in October it shot back up, I’m clearly the right copywriter for you.” I have…


PW: Yeah and that gives you kind of solid evidence doesn’t it? You’re not saying, “Let me write your blog posts because it will be good for you.” You can say, “Let me write your blog posts because you get an increase in traffic of 60% and an increase in conversions of 30%,” and you know it’s, it puts you in a stronger position.


Important Statistics

LH: Absolutely I was randomly enough, I was writing about how to write a good press release last night and one of the key factors is including hard stats and hard facts and hard figures and people are just more convinced by things like that. So as Pip says, precisely as Pip says if you can go to somebody and say, “Look these are the figures, these are figures that you can’t argue with this is what I do for your business.” It puts you in a much stronger position because you’re not being subjective anymore, you’re not saying, “I’m really good, people like me,” you’re not being persuasive in that sense you’re being persuasive by laying it on the line for them and saying, “This is my value to you, this is your return on investment.”


PW: Definitely and as Lorrie says that also helps with getting new clients as well. You have to…you wouldn’t be able to give direct stats but you could anonymise things with a new…with a potential new client and say, “Of my three main clients in the last three months I have increased social shares by 80%,” and you know, whatever are your most convincing stats basically.


LH: Absolutely.


PW: But if you anonymise them and generalise them. It doesn’t just help with your existing clients it helps you grab new ones as well.


LH: Absolutely, or you can average them out if you’ve got very strong, if you’ve really strong figures across the board you could say, “Look on average my client’s website traffic increased by such and such you know, the click through rate increased by this, the bounce rate decreased by such and such,” you know and you can use that information wherever you like, you can use that in your conversations, you can use it in your email marketing, you can use it in your newsletters, you can use it on your website content.


PW: Absolutely.


LH: It’s all very useful information. And there might be occasions too where your clients want you to track the effectiveness of the blogs that you write for them. So you might even end up having content strategy onto your list of service offerings, you know if you have such an understanding of what works and what doesn’t in terms of that client’s blog or that client’s email newsletters or their direct marketing campaigns. You can start to project into the future and decide what would be a good idea for them to tackle next. You can look at industry trends, you can decide where they should position themselves in the next six months for example and that’s a very valuable skill. So learning to measure the effectiveness of your content and of the content that you write for other people really is very worthwhile.


PW: And so when you’re measuring content you can measure these days anything, anything, every aspect of everything, from where site visitors, mouse trails or to which exact colour is the most effective for a link. But the thing is whilst it’s possible to measure every possible data for a solo worker like a freelancer this is unrealistic and that’s generally more suited for big companies with huge budgets. So instead what you need to do is establish for yourself what your most important market is going to be and what will make the biggest difference to your business. Some examples that could make a real difference to you are things like measuring the open rate on your email newsletters. Perhaps testing one subject line against another and seeing which is most effective because the more opens you get on your email newsletter the more effective it will be obviously.


Measuring how many people click different links on your site. If you write a blog post promoting a particular service and you’re linked to that service twice in that blog post. If you can measure which of the two links get the most clicks you will have a better idea of where in the post people are more likely click when you write things like how many people who visit your site go onto contact you, how many of those end up hiring you, where you appear in search results, the keywords, all those kind of things are things that might be useful for a freelancer. It’s up to you to choose your own priorities and they’re going to be different for everybody.


LH: And it’s a good idea as well to make sure that all your content areas say, your newsletter, your website, your emails, your blog are all pulling their weight, perhaps at least once a year I would say give it a good spring clean.


PW: Yeah, if you have an email newsletter but you also have other ways to reaching out to customers then measuring the relative success of them all can mean that if you discover that literally nobody opens your email and newsletter, nobody cares.


LH: Oh dear.


PW: Nobody subscribes and even those that do send it straight to spam then you know that that’s not an effective way of reaching your own clients. So you can put all your energy into your other ways of doing it. Choose your priorities they may change over time and that’s fine, getting a good baseline to start with is the only way to tell if you can improve or not or if you are improving or not. And measuring different things from different areas will give you a wide overview.


LH: Definitely and it’s…you know it’s tough being a freelancer we only have a limited amount of time as anybody does really. I think we can be kind to ourselves here and say I think we juggle a lot of plates and a lot of very different plates. You know we do external work, we do our admin, we do our business developments sales, finances, we’re everything to our own businesses so you don’t have time to work your bum off on your email newsletter and your blog and your website and everything else that you do to try and attract business. So as Pip says it’s good to be able to know what really doesn’t have a chance of working for you and what does because while it’s good to target areas for improvement it’s also good to know which areas are really going well and which areas are returning your investment basically because you don’t have all the time in the world as I say. You can’t spend hours and hours and hours trying to squeeze three followers out of that email newsletter that really is not working for you. Instead it might be well more worth your while in writing another blog post.


PW: Yeah, so we’ve looked at why you might want to track data, and we’ve looked at the kind of data you might want to track so obviously the big question is how to go about measuring your effectiveness. Now this in many ways can be complicated or as simple as you want it to be, often all it takes is a spreadsheet or a paper notebook or a word processor file in which on the left hand side be it in a spreadsheet column or a margin of a piece of paper you write down the things you want to track and then maybe a list of months and so you can say, “I want to know where I appear in the Google search results for the search term ‘freelance writing’,” and so you’ll have that in your left column. And then in January, 1st January, 1st February, 1st March, etc. you just write down or type out your results each month. It can be that simple.


LH: Yeah, I think for people who aren’t naturally statistic savvy and I count myself in your number comrades it really can seem like a daunting task but the good thing about measuring your contents effectiveness is that I know we’re saying this a lot today but as Pip says, like we’re really on the same page with this, even just checking whether your monthly numbers went up or down is better than nothing, it’s much better than nothing.


PW: Yeah, there are also fairly easy tools like ways you can measure your traffic for instance and if you are doing that then something you might want to measure is for instance what time of day new posts are more effective at. So in terms of how to measure that, if you have a spreadsheet with different post, different times of day you just write down literally how many views you got, it can be that easy, at different times of day and then if you notice that your 4pm posts gets loads more than your 9am or your 10pm posts then go with it. So you can just in terms of how to measure write down numbers. There are other things that make it ridiculously easy like if you want, if you’ve put a promotional YouTube video up, it’s so easy to measure the views you got because it just tells you underneath the video. So some things are very simple.


LH: Absolutely and going back to the point that you made about different times of day, that can also be widened out and have a look at different days of the week as well. And what’s nice about things like that is that so many people have trod the path before you, you can easily go on Google and have a look, have a look, have a look at people similar to you, have a look at the copywriting blog because they’ll be a lot of information and a lot of visual information, what we’re talking graphs, pie charts, line charts, whatever showing when people are most likely to click on, on entertainment blog posts or informative blog posts or when people are most likely to be on Twitter and therefore around to see your link and click on that. You don’t have to start from scratch so you can do your research beforehand and think, ‘Okay, well 10am on Wednesday it looks like it’s a good time, I’ll try that and also 4pm on a Friday looks like it’s good so I’ll try those two times.’ You know stand on the shoulders of people who’ve done more than you because that’s why they put the information online it’s so people will read it and find it useful.


PW: Yeah, and as we will go on to talk about shortly there are plenty of tools of around that can help you do this you don’t have to start from scratch anywhere really because there’s always somebody who also want to see stats, who then built a website or a piece of software that could do it easily for them.


LH: Absolutely and you know if you’re looking to check whether the figures on your website or your social media views went up or down check things like website traffic on a week where you don’t post anything on your blog and then check it a week again after regular posts or compare the before or after figures you know from a re-vamp on one of your major web pages because no matter how scary you think statistics are and trust me they are terrifying seeing where the numbers, like the number of visitors, the time they spent, the pages they visited, the links they clicked went up or down that’s within even most people’s reach.


PW: Mm, mm, definitely.


LH: Even we can manage that dissonance, just about.


PW: And so a lot of what we’re talking there is understandable about measuring your digital reach because that is the majority of what most copywriters do now. However you will still do some print type work. With something printed it’s not quite as clear cut you can’t track where somebody’s mouse moved across a page because they’re not using a mouse. And unless you’re going to go install iTrackers on people it’s not going to happen. So what we’re going to look at briefly now is also some of the ways you can measure how effective something that goes out on paper is for you.


LH: Yeah, and no worries we’re not going to be talking about sticking iTrackers on people or chasing people down the street and watching which bit of your leaflet they read first.


PW: That’s probably unethical and it’s certainly bit too energy intensive.


LH: I was going to say forget ethics I’m just tired, it’s cold, it’s dark I’m not running after anyone. So in terms of measuring the effectiveness of your print media and this tends to be particularly advertisement copy, things are as Pip says a little trick here but it is still worth bringing in a bit of digital and a bit of tech to help with matters. So don’t think just because your words ended up getting printed out that you’ve got to start keeping a big paper notebook full of receipts and you’ve got to start tracking people down and using a biro to scribble down on a piece of paper what’s going on. Say you’ve written an advert for a company and it’s gone in the local paper or you’ve drafted them a flyer and that’s been handed out in the local area there are certain ways to deal with the incoming data that will help you to demonstrate that you’re print media is having positive effects.


So firstly  you can use a dedicated sub-domain on your website and what I mean by that is that you can designate a certain page for recipients or viewers of your print media to visit so say for example you have a lawnmower sales person who has a leaflet handed out, you can create a page on their website with lawnmower promo as the sub-domain so and pop that on your leaflet so that you know that any clicks to that or the vast majority of clicks to that are going to be generated from the interest in your print media.


Second idea you can use a coupon code, everyone loves a coupon so you can actively track who’s been attracted by your media. So if you say to people come to the website and fill in such and such for access to our special promos or access for our latest information, anybody who enters the coupon code has undoubtedly got it from your print media.


PW: Yeah, there’s…if you offer something special really for using that coupon code it’s going to have a far greater chance of success. If you just say, “Use this coupon code for our information,” then they won’t really have any motivation to do that but if you say, “Use this coupon code for £10 off.”


LH: Yeah.


PW: Or, “Use this coupon code for a free…” what were we doing lawnmowers for a free, I don’t know…”


LH: A mower blades.


PW: Yes.


LH: Green mower blades.


PW: Then people are far more likely to use it and as long as you have tracked which coupon codes are connected to which leaflet then you’re alright. If they come in with coupon codes and you can’t remember which one went with which then it’s a waste of time. But yes offering some kind of incentive makes it much more likely that somebody will bother finding the coupon code on the piece of paper.


LH: Definitely and sometimes it can be difficult from experience it can be difficult to convince your company client to give sign offs on freebies. So what’s sometimes easier to get a sign off on is giving people a chance to win a freebie but you’re not using giving everybody a discount or a freebie.


PW: Yeah and also something to bear in mind is that you can do that as a test. If you send out three different flyers each with a different coupon code and you find that the vast majority of your orders come from flyer number one then the discount code you’ve offered for that run will cost you some money but from the next run of flyers onwards you just know to print exclusively flyer number one and you don’t necessarily need to offer a discount code then because you’ve already done your testing to see which is the most effective leaflet.


LH: Definitely so there are ways and means. And people as we said previously people will give you a lot more information if you offer them something in a way of an incentive. So never underestimate that option. And the third option in terms of measuring the effectiveness of your print media is simply to ask people where they’ve heard of you, to instil that in people at your client company or in yourself, to instil it as good practice to ask people where they came across you and it’s not so difficult you don’t have to act like it’s a massive survey. You can simply say to people. “Oh thanks very much for getting in touch can I ask where you’ve heard of me?”


PW: Yeah and you know what we’ve been talking about codes and tracking domains and this can just be you know, a really easy alternative to that. Just say, “Did you get our flyer? Was it the red one or the blue one?” You know, “Was it…did you see our ad in the paper? I don’t suppose you remember which paper it was?” You know that’s it problem solved.


LH: That’s it, keep it human you know, and in the next excel file will go a long way in helping you with this. If you have, I have one big excel file and I use it for all sorts. I’ve got lots and lots of different tabs in it, lots of different sheets. And if your phone goes and it’s a new client simply click through to the right sheet, take their details down which is great for future business opportunities anyway because you can always get back in touch with them and say, “Do you remember we were in touch in September, just wondered if there was anything I can help you with now?” which kind of feeds back into Pip’s last podcast episode about boosting your business development. That you can simply take down where they came across you.


PW: Identify initially what the most important stats are that you could gather don’t waste your time tracking everything go for the key things that will match up with what you need to know and in a way that can build your business.


LH: Definitely.


PW: Now we’ve mentioned spreadsheets and even just a big piece of paper to keep track of these things. But also as we mentioned earlier there were some tasks where they are incredibly useful tools that take all the hard work out of it for you. You might want to I don’t know write down every day how many people visited your website. Whereas in fact there are plenty of tools that will just tell you and you can click on, you know you install them and then you click on any day and you can look at a graph over a period of time and actually doing it by hand creates extra work for you. So what we’re going to look at now is some of those tools that take the hard work out of it for you.


Now one that has improved considerably in recent times is if you have a Facebook page because Facebook page analytics used to be quite difficult to access and quite complicated.


LH: Yes, it was quite clunky wasn’t it?


PW: Yeah it’s called ‘Insights’ and ‘Page insights’, and if you go into your Facebook page you can click through to the page insights and see quite easily a lot of information so for instance you might want to see what type…you might be wondering what type of posts are the most effective and whether you know perhaps posting a video gets three times the number of views as posting just a status update or posting a link might get a lot more click throughs than posting an image for instance. You can look at all of this, what you know, you can look at the kind of posts that lead people to unlike your page for instance. If you know somebody just saw your 18th image in a row and hit a wall and left.


You can look at which posts have the most reach, so perhaps have the most shares appear on people’s timelines the most. There is a lot of information and there is now relatively easy it’s quite well presented these days. So looking at our A Little Bird Told Me Facebook page, now I can see that certain posts have much higher engagements than others. If we took even just 20 minutes to properly analyse this we can use that to shape what we did in the future to maximise engagement with the page, so Facebook page insights is well worth a look. On your website itself you should have social sharing buttons so that people can… you want to make it as easy as possible for somebody to share your site or your blog on Twitter, Facebook wherever and if you’re going to install those buttons what is worth doing is making sure that the ones you install incorporate information about the number of clicks they get. So if you use WordPress which I know both of us do, there are a million different social sharing plugins, have a look through and find one that tells you how many times a post has been tweeted, this can tell you a lot.


LH: You got me thinking with what you said about measuring your Facebook page effectiveness. You got me thinking about a recommendation that you gave a couple of weeks back I think, maybe about a month back and that was for ShareGrab.


PW: Oh yes.


LH: ShareGrab listeners, ShareGrab is basically a tool that allows you to emulate the Facebook activity of a successful organisation. So say you have a look at a competitor freelance writer or you have a look at say a copy blogger who obviously do the most amazing content and have super number of click throughs and brilliant engagement and you think, ‘I need some of that because my Facebook page is rubbish’, what ShareGrab will allow you to do is to have a look, it will give you a snapshot of the effectiveness of that Facebook page and allow you to analyse what works and what doesn’t work quite as well and what was successful and what wasn’t and use that kind of information to shape your own Facebook page activity.


PW: Yeah, yeah well remembered.


LH: Well thank you.


PW: Now another really effective thing to measure is how many people are clicking on links. Now there are lots and lots of different URL trackers available. My saver is one called ‘Pretty Link’ where you can create custom URL’s and then the number of times they are used is tracked. And so if for instance we, say Lorrie and I had made some kind of podcast promo that was going out, what I could do is create three different URL’s, one could be, one could be and one could be /writingpodcast for instance and if during the different promos we use a different one each time what we could look at afterwards is how many clicks each of those got and therefore which was most likely to be the most effective of the three promos. This is really useful. The Pretty Link is also useful because you can create those pretty links which is why it’s called that. So say you have a really long affiliate link that’s just a series of letters and numbers that looks funny and horrible then you can easily and quickly turn that into whatever you want that to be really.


LH: Yeah, visually appealing links is so much more important. I mean look at Google+ and the vanoity URLs at the moment; that’s going down really, really well isn’t it, because instead of a random collection of numbers and letters.


PW: Yeah.


LH: You’ve got something that is just easy to remember, it’s nice to look at.


PW: Yeah.


LH: You can easily see what it says and just type it in and people, this will make a massive, massive difference to your click through rates.


PW: They really held up, held out a long time before giving those. People have been demanding them for years. So we’re…


LH: Have you noticed small print as well?


PW: I’m not sure.


LH: They’ve put in the small print that you don’t own your vanity URL.


PW: They, well you don’t own anything if it’s on a third party site, so. The final tool I want to mention for the time being is one, again one of several that allows you to measure your position in search engines, certain key words. Now there’s a lot trickier these days because searches are personalised a lot so if I search for restaurants chances are Google will give me a good number of restaurants in Sheffield, whereas if Lorrie searched for restaurants it will give her a good number of restaurants in Manchester. So it’s not easy to say these days, “I am number one in the search results for restaurants,” because everybody gets different results based on their location, based on their previous searches, based on the things they search for a lot. However it’s still a good thing to have a general idea of, you know, are you on the first page of Google. And so if you want to see where you’re ranked for you know, for particular key words around what you do, you know, I wouldn’t bother for most people to try and be on page 1 for ‘freelance writer’, for instance.


LH: No, it’s going to take you a while I think.


PW: Incredibly competitive but if you can go more specific perhaps you region or a particular topic you specialise in then it’s good to have a general idea about whether you’re on page 1 of the search result or page 25. You know even though results are personalised these days there are still trends that you want to keep an eye on are you generally going up or down in the rankings. Rankerizer is one of the tools available to help you measure this and what you can do is input a series of key words or key phrases and then choose whether you want it to check Google, Bing or Yahoo or all three and then you just hit run and tells you where your position for each of those, for each of the key words. And it’s good to get a general picture of how you’re doing in terms of your SEO.


LH: That sounds brilliant, very, very handy tool. And as Pip says, it’s good to have a general idea, don’t get obsessed that you know, don’t stay awake at night going, “Ah I was number three and now I’m number four.”


PW: Yeah.


LH: You know because it’s, things change and as Pip says with Google being more and more intuitive nowadays results are personalised so what is number three for you is going to be number four for someone else is going to be number ten for someone else.


PW: Exactly.


LH: You know there are ways and means it’s just good to know so that relative to your own previous results you were doing well. So have you gone up the rankings have you gone down the rankings. Obviously if you’re on paid work 35 for freelance copywriter in Manchester then it’s probably a bit fishy.


PW: Yeah.


LH: But as we say just keep an eye on it. Now one method that I really like, what with me being a stat phobe sometimes as we said Pip and I both use WordPress as our base for our website and I use the WordPress stats plugin and what that does is it adds a nice little page to your dashboard which is your control centre really in WordPress and shows you nice lots of pretty graphs and bar charts and numbers and it highlights the important ones for you, it is so friendly. And it tricked me back in the day when I was new in having a website, it tricked me into thinking that I had a good handle on things. You know it’s handy, it’s really handy because you can see what your best day was for views and where people came from. It will tell you where in the world you are having the most clicks from, it’ll tell you what pages they visited, inbound clicks, outbound clicks, all that kind of jazz. And if you do nothing else then at least get that installed on your WordPress website because it’s a nice, friendly introduction and it just, speaking from my own experience it let me see that alright maybe stats aren’t evil and maybe I can possibly bear to look at some more.


PW: Yeah, when I first set up my website I studiously set up Google analytics because it was what everybody was doing and Google analytics is a kind of thing where you can see how many people visited your site or you can see the most ridiculous detail you can imagine. And Google analytics is quite an imposing, intimidating interface if you don’t know what you’re doing. So I switched to a plugin that sounds very similar to the one that Lorrie’s described it’s called ‘New Stat Press’, and what that gives me is actually the information that I realistically need rather than whether the person visited my site was drinking tea or coffee at the time they were there, which Google analytics is pretty much capable of. New Stat Press yes, it gives me numbers, it gives me referrals which is how people find the site and my favourite bit of it is a little thing called ‘Spy’.


LH: Ooh.


PW: Where you can follow how people navigated your website. So for each visitor it will show you which page they arrived on, which links they then clicked, so which page they went to next.


LH: Aah.


PW: Which page they went to after that and then which page they left your site from.


LH: You see I might be ready to graduate with that.


PW: Yeah, I quite like that it’s called ‘Spy’, because that is what you’re doing, you are spying and it’s fascinating, it’s a…I could use it for a lot more useful things but as it is it mainly just makes me feel, you know…


LH: Powerful. You might be on my site but I know what you’re doing.


PW: That’s it and so if you want, if you’re using Google analytics and you like it that is great go with it.


LH: It is fab isn’t it?


PW: Oh it is.


LH: It is it’s handy.


PW: It’s so powerful but if you find that you’re avoiding it because it intimidates you it’s not actually the only option.


LH: And it’s not an excuse not to have anything either.


PW: No.


LH: Because as we said all the way back at the start of this, even if you just measure the basics it’s better than nothing it’s so much better than nothing.


PW: And all of these things we’re mentioning we will link to in the show notes so go to for a link to the WP stats plugin that Lorrie’s mentioned to you know, everything that we’re talking about basically. So there are more stats options for your sites than just Google analytics, you may well be relieved to know.


LH: Yes absolutely go for what you can handle, you know as I say when I started out with just a wee tiny blog WP stats was perfect because it wasn’t scary and I don’t even remember downloading it, I didn’t even know what a plugin was at the time, it was years ago. So it’s just a part of it, I was like “Aah look that blog post has so much love,” and I didn’t realise that was measuring the effectiveness. I didn’t realise that’s what it was doing. I was just like, “Aah I have so many clicks, this is brilliant,” but as I’ve gone on obviously I’ve started to realise that I can use the information in a more intuitive way and to build on my own content marketing strategy and as Pip says, you can graduate from tool to tool. And incorporate more information as you are able to handle there’s no point having thousands and thousands and thousands of stats if you don’t know what to do with them or if you don’t have time to do anything with them so just do what you can handle.


PW: Yeah because it’s better, despite what analytic snobs may say, it’s better to have a simple tool that you use than an incredibly complex tool that you get so scared of that you never even look at.


LH: Absolutely, we’re not about being snobs are we, we’re just about improving things in a way that you can manage. Measuring things shouldn’t be a whole new terror and fear and horror to add to your business it should just be something that helps you to stream line your business and make things easier and stop you wasting time. So if you find that you’re spending hours weeping over Google analytics going, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” then don’t do it. Quite simple, so to finish I thought we’ll touch a little bit more on some on the major social media platforms.


Now Google+ has becoming more and more important in terms of SEO but one of the tricky things about Google+ is that it has the same functionality as Facebook in the sense of you can have a profile for an individual or you can set up a page for a company but what a lot of companies are actually doing particularly freelance writers and people similar to that, they are actually just using profiles because you can tailor your output on Google+ so that different post and different updates are only visible to different audiences. So I think a lot of companies, correct me if I’m wrong Pip but a lot of companies are finding that there’s not really much point in having a separate page where they can just tailor their profile output.


PW: Yeah, Google gets determined about pages and then starts limiting access to things and it’s good to get because Google+ interface and permissions and all of that changes so often because they’re trying to optimise it themselves that it can be quite confusing to keep track of what you’re allowed to do on a profile versus a page and you’re right a page, a profile, are generally much easier to manage and so businesses are tending to stick with those.


LH: Absolutely but the thing with having a profile is that you can’t quite measure the return in investment as well as you might be able to from a page. So it’s all very simple it’s definitely worth being on Google+, it’s absolutely worth being on there and it’s worth linking your website to your Google+ account. However the way to measure the effectiveness really would be via other tools so using URL tracker, using, you know, putting outbound links from your Google+ profile to your website and then tracking the inbound links to see what’s come from there.


PW: Exactly, yeah.


LH: Because in terms of tracking things that are based in Google+ I think really the only way you could do that would be to see how many people have added you to circles and how many plus ones you’ve had. So Twitter, Twitter is the one that remains, there are lots and lots of ways to track your activity on Twitter. I use something called ‘’ and it’s not the most intuitive but it’s just something that I found handy when wanting to build my followers organically because I don’t know people do still do this, they still buy 30,000 Twitter followers.


And it looks so natural, listeners, totally it looks so, so natural you know, when I see somebody who is in the same kind of line of business as me and they’ve Tweeted six times and they have 35,000 followers I hit the spam button, just a slight note of warning there. I will not engage with somebody who has 30,000 followers most of whom are eggs. I just won’t it’s annoying.


So what Tweepi will allow you to do and it’s nothing particularly useful but you can see when people that you’re following have last tweeted so somebody who’s not tweeted for three months you can just get rid of them and just follow somebody who’s more worth your while. It will let you see who’s following you back, it will set, let you see who’s following you but you’re not following, you know sort of allow you to reciprocate; you can emulate the followers and followees of certain people who have influence. Although you do need to do your own research and see who’s doing well on Twitter and who isn’t, it can really allow you to shape your Twitter activity and to position yourself in a particularly useful sphere. And I think one word of warning that I want to give regarding Twitter and I think Pip knows what this is going to be.


PW: Go ahead.


LH: Is tracking your un-followers.


PW: I know what this is going to be.


LH: Now there is a tool, I think, I’m going to check while I’m recording this actually, I think it’s called ‘Un-follower me’, ‘’, I don’t for the life of me know why people use this, it is beyond me.


PW: There are a few aren’t there that do the same kind of thing?


LH: Yeah, I’ve just ‘’ into the search bar and the predicted results have come up, “Un-followers tracker Tumblr, un-follower checker, un-follower Instagram and un-follower hater,” and that is exactly what it is actually, you are…oh this thing, listeners if you’ve not come across them it will…


PW: Where have you been?


LH: Well yes, one, where have you been? And two what they do they allow you to see who’s un-followed you say in the last week on Twitter.


PW: And that is fine, that is something you may want to keep an eye on.


LH: That’s fine as long as you’re not obsessive about it.


PW: However…yes.


LH: Indeed, however… what these tools tend to do, I think there must be a check box somewhere that people don’t un-check. What they do they send out automated Tweets saying, “Ice checked how many people have un-followed me this week, it’s ten and I know who they are,” and it’s outrageous, I mean you’re basically telling people that I got un-followed because I was boring and I’m potentially going to threaten those people. It’s just dreadful it’s completely dreadful, you can easily use something like Tweepi to see quietly who un-followed you.


PW: Without the passive aggressive tweeting about it.


LH: So you can easily check who’s un-followed you using tools like Tweepi, you know you can have a subtle look. And if you find that somebody important has un-followed you, say a client or somebody you were hoping was going to become a client, you can maybe subtly Tweet them in a few days, “I just…”


PW: Don’t ever say to them, “I’ve seen you’ve un-followed me, why?”


LH: No, God forbid, no never.


PW: People do.


LH: I know it’s just, oh it breaks my heart every time I see it and it also causes me to un-follow people, I un-follow anybody who has automated ‘I got un-followed’ messages. I do, it’s ridiculous, it’s dreadful, dreadful, dreadful, dreadful. So you can easily track whose un-followed you on Tweepi and what you can do is just re-engage with that person subtle. You know send them something of use. Don’t try and you know, openly get them to re-follow you again but just indicate to them that you’re useful, if it’s worth your while, if it’s not, if it’s just some randomer who’s un-followed you then people get bored they want to know about different things, it may just be that you’re not their cup of tea for now.


PW: Another very useful tool that, well it’s not so much about measuring your efficiency it’s a good way of being more efficient quickly through stats. There’s a tool called ‘Tweriod’ kind of…


LH: They keep pushing these words on.


PW: Yeah, I know it’s pushing it isn’t it? But what this does it’s a very simple tool, you sign in with your Twitter account and it analyses your Tweets and your followers Tweets and simply tells you the best time of day for you to Tweet.


LH: That’s really good.


PW: And in terms of doing it when most of your followers are online and the most responsive and that’s a kind of great use of Twitter stats really. It’s very simple it does just what it says it’s going to do, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but if you want to know when the most effective time is for Tweeting your latest blog post or your latest opinion, Tweriod is the kind of thing that can help you work that out.


LH: Absolutely and I think to sum up it’s important to say that these tools are the most effective only use them in conjunction with other tools.


PW: So much, I was thinking that when you were talking about using like your URL trackers with Air Google+ the same applies to Twitter, the same applies to Facebook.


LH: Yeah, email marketing as well.


PW: Exactly all of these tools are best used if combined with each other really.


LH: Absolutely and what you need to do is come up with a package of tools really that suits you. So if you find that you use Tweepi and you hate it, don’t use Tweepi. If you find that you go for Pretty Link but you don’t like it, have a look at Bitly or, is it


PW: Yeah, yeah.


LH: Have a look at those see if that suits your needs. You know have a look at WP stats if that doesn’t work for you have a look at what was yours? Was it News Stats Press?


PW: Stats Press, yeah.


LH: Stats Press there are ways and means and if you build up a suite of effectiveness measuring tools you can start to just integrate that into your daily activity, you can start to really build up a picture of yourself online. And as Pip mentioned earlier there’s no point looking at Google analytics in all its glory if you only need to see a corner of what it does. There’s no point having a look at…it’s the same when we talk about social media isn’t it? There’s point being in Pinterest if you’re not going to update it, there’s no point being on Vimeo if you’re not going to upload anything.


So don’t go and think I need to measure everything, you literally just need to work out where you go and what you do online and offline occasionally and then work out how better to track information and keep in mind why you want to know that information, and how it’s going to be useful to you. Don’t just start collecting facts and figures for the sake of it but find stuff that’s useful to you.


PW: Yeah and if you’re metric measurement routine takes you four hours a week you’re not going to keep it up. So much as we were saying use simple analytics tools if they help, you know if they make it more accessible to you. Similarly don’t set up a procedure that’s so onerous that you’ve not got time to do anything else, be realistic, find out the things you really need to know that will really benefit you.


LH: Now the New Year is coming up fast and we will be doing another podcast episode just as we did last year. I can’t believe it’s a year ago on setting goals and setting yourself targets and objectives and realistic aims for 2014, just to get your business into the swing of things. So this has really been a bit of an introduction to that. If you can get a good handle on how your business is doing and whereabouts you’re positioned online and what you could do better with and what’s going okay, you’ll be in a much, much stronger position when you come to setting your goals for next year.


PW: Absolutely, and so now it is time for the Little Bird recommendations of the week in which Lorrie and I pick something to share that have caught our eye that we think our listeners might enjoy. And so Lorrie what is your recommendation this week?


LH: My recommendation this week is a lovely little tool called ‘Pay with a tweet’, and I was thinking about it because I’ve been re-doing my website but I’m having a big, big overhaul and it just seems like website content is never done doesn’t it?


PW:  Yeah I added a few pages a few weeks ago and my plan was to add a few pages a week and it’s, oh it’s such a job.


LH: It is, it’s a huge, huge job and because…


PW: Especially considering we’re writers and this is what we do for a living, it’s surprisingly hard to get it done on your own site.


LH: Oh God yeah, you know if I let my clients know how onerous this has been for me, oh my God I can’t write anymore web content and yet when I do it for other people it’s fine. It’s just I think talking about it yourself is quite hard.


PW: Yes, it is. Like I’m sure if Lorrie and I swopped and I did hers and she did mine we’d get on much better actually.


LH: Absolutely why haven’t we done that?


PW: I don’t know it’s only just occurred to me.


LH: Give us a break, I was sitting there at eleven o’clock last night going, “I must finish this page.”


PW: Yeah, it’s like if you’re at somebody else’s house you don’t mind washing up after a meal but at home it’s a really horrible job.


LH: Yeah, I did that I went to the in-laws the other day and I washed all the dishes then I came home and there were some pans to wash and I was really angry with my husband and he hadn’t done them, I have to wash pans. So when I was busy tootling away on my own website I was starting to think that I wanted to build up my mailing list a little bit more in the coming year and a good way to do that, listeners, is to offer people a freebie.


As we’ve said earlier people love a freebie so it can be a free guide to something, it can be a white paper, it could be a mini e-book, you know something that makes them want to give you their email address. So that’s a really good way to build up your mailing list but then I thought well actually it’s not all about getting people on your mailing list because email marketing is only one side of things and I quite like what’s happening with my social media feeds, I’m doing quite alright with my social media. So it seems sensible to maybe put some eggs in that basket as well which brings me to my recommendation which is ‘Pay with a Tweet’, now what Pay with a Tweet will allow you to do is to give people access to something on your website if they tweet about it.


PW: Ah ha.


LH: Or also if they update it on Facebook for example you can also pay with another social media post. So if people share the link to and the information about the object that they’re wanting to get their hands on they can get access to a download link.


PW: And I believe you can set your own text for what that’s going to say?


LH: You can, they can alter it of course. If you can’t set, you can’t set text that they can’t alter. But you know you can set text that includes SEO content and your, say your Tweeter handle and a link to whatever they were wanting to download from your website.


PW: Yeah or a good hash tag.


LH: Definitely so…


PW: I think like Lorrie said people will be able to alter it but a lot of people won’t bother.


LH: I know.


PW: So it’s worth thinking about crafting that message quite carefully.


LH: Definitely, so yes, once they’ve clicked send on that Tweet it will start the download for them and they will get whatever white paper or guide or report or freebie that you’re offering them and you will have a nice fact social media share.


PW: Which, you know, is great, it’s social proof but it’s also just it expands your reach a bit. If 50 people want to get hold of Lorrie’s white paper and 30 of them Tweet it and 20 of the post it on Facebook then all of their followers and all of their friends, you know, get a glimpse of what Lorrie has got to offer and a number of them will click through and will also go, “Oh I quite fancy reading that,” and will do the same it’s kind of potential for virality isn’t it really?


LH: Absolutely and if you make sure to include your Tweeter handle in the Tweet you’re going to get a notification every time somebody does that and that means you can build up your following, you can start to interact with people who’ve actually come to your website so potentially interested people. You know they’re on your website, they’ve spent enough time on there to be interested enough to download what you have to say, that’s a warm lead.


PW: Oh definitely, definitely, it’s so much easier to interact with somebody who’s actively interested than to build up a cold lead. So I just really liked the idea of ‘Pay with a Tweet’ and although it seems at first okay Tweets maybe not as valuable as somebody’s data, you know, their name, their email address, I do think it can be quite valuable so that is my recommendation this week.


PW: I like it very much.


LH: Thank you I thought you would. So Philippa, Philippa my love, my lamb what is your recommendation this week?


PW: My recommendation this week is a great article about a weird, new little feature that we’re seeing in grammar.


LH: Why do you always find the weird things? You’re like Queen Weird.


PW: This is brilliant, right it’s about…and you’ll recognise this as I say it but it’s about the fact that ‘because’ has become a preposition.


LH: Oooh.


PW: And you will, you might, it might sound like “What?” but you’ll recognise it, people will say something especially on Tweeter, like “Turning off my alarm clock because weekend!” or “I’ve got three jumpers on because winter” and this is catching on I see it more and more and more and I’ve used it myself I have to admit it just seems a little bit quirky and a bit kind of implies a sense of urgency or importance.


LH: Yeah because hipster.


PW: It’s just quite cute and anyway and so this is something that anybody with an interest in language will have noticed once and a while, you know that usage but what this article is just a brilliant and in-depth and long look at why this has happened, how it’s happened the kind of way it’s being used and there’s a…


LH: I love these kinds of cultural linguistic things.


PW: Absolutely and it’s, he has listed a load of Tweets things like, “Not in the UK yet because aaah,” “Falls on bed and cuddles pillows because tired,” and “Guy closes a record hive for 35th time this year because Obama,” and so it’s something…


LH: It doesn’t stop being funny for some reason…


PW: No it doesn’t, that’s it will at some point get tiresome but at this stage it hasn’t. And this is a really nice writer of how it’s working, why, you know why it’s happening, what…the implications are and yeah, it’s…I should give, it’s on a blog called ‘Sentence first’ and Irishman’s blog about the English language. The blog post I got is because it’s become a preposition, because grammar and of course I will link to it in the share notes but if you’re interested in words which you are because you’re listening to this you will want to read this post.


LH: Absolutely I love that.


PW: I Tweeted the guy who wrote and I said something like, “Everybody’s got to read this because awesomeness” and then one of his friends went, replied to me and said, “It’s great that people keep tweeting because traffic,” and then he, the author replied to me and this just went on and on and on it can run and run and run.


LH: Brilliant, no I really like it and I, like I say want to hate it but I can’t.


PW: I know because we know…


LH: Because what?!


PW: Because we know as you know as linguists or people interested in language, that language is constantly changing and evolving. And we also know as writers and proof readers that that can be really annoying. There are things that change in language due to decades of errors that eventually just become assimilated and become correct, even though originally they were errors and this is incredibly frustrating.


LH: Oh yeah the earth was decimated, ooh.


PW: Exactly, so people like Lorrie and myself that is a really annoying thing to come to terms with. However this is another example of grammar constantly changing and evolving and it seems directly informed by the internet as well which makes it doubly interesting in my…


LH: It’s true isn’t it?


PW: …in my geeky brain. But we do, the fact that language is evolving it always does it’s, so it’s doing so now and this is one example of it that, that it’s more interesting than just the…like things like ‘decimated’ like Lorrie says, that gets people very annoyed because it’s used in a way that isn’t what it originally meant. The point that now it’s usage has essentially changed but this is just a bit more quirky and a bit, a bit more, I don’t know…


LH: You know I think it’s interesting I had my dad round for a chat the other day and for some reason we were talking about, oh it was dad jokes of course, of course it was. My dad like most other dad’s in the universe can tell really, really bad jokes and I’m kind of scarily kind of turning into him as I get older. But we were talking about humour and there are certain things that are funny because internet basically.


PW: Oh yeah definitely.


LH: Hash tags there are certain, you know somebody using a self-effacing or witty hash tag. My dad will never understand why that’s funny, memes they are specific…


PW: Oh yes.


LH: …internet humour and then jokes…


PW: Yeah when somebody says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” that makes no sense out of Tweeter really.


LH: Absolutely, you know and if people speak in lol caps speak, you know that can be quite funny or people will add like an ironic hash tag onto the end of something then you can “oh lols,” that’s so funny. It would be funny to you because you know the context almost without knowing that you know context. You simply have acclimatised to an online world.


PW: Yeah and I mean on a much more basic level there are people now who will say, “Lol,” instead of laughing, you know and that, I hate that, like if it’s funny either laugh, you know, if it’s funny laugh don’t say, “Lol.” And yeah the thing, yeah means it’s spread outside of the internet like Lorrie says, if we met up and we would laugh at those things but if my mum and Lorrie’s dad were involved they wouldn’t have the first idea what we were laughing at.


LH: No because there are so many references, I mean things ‘like a boss’, I love ‘like a boss’.


PW: She does, she uses it in every email she sends me and that’s not an exaggeration.


LH: Let it be said I do not use it with clients. Honestly hire me and I will write your website copy like a boss, like a boss, like a boss. But I don’t know why I find it funny, I don’t even really know where it’s from but I’ve seen so many uses of it that are so funny and so many stupid pictures of seagulls standing on other seagulls heads captured with ‘Like a boss’, that it’s just embedded in me that this is funny. So it’s really strange isn’t it how language evolves, I really like that recommendation because it’s nice to go back to roots sometimes and get a bit of pleasure in language again.


PW: And you know, it’s one of the reasons we’re writers, it’s because we really like words and we really like the way words are used.


LH: Yeah because it’s a creative job at the end of the day, you know, we can talk all we want about stats and metrics and things but inherently it’s a creative job and you need to stay creative and you need to be able to keep track of what’s going on because as we say we’re mostly digital copy writers and if you can keep your finger on the pulse of what’s funny and what’s current on the net, you can turn it to your advantage because I mean look at the at blog post title, ‘Because has become a preposition because grammar’,  that caught your attention immediately.


PW: Yes absolutely and it was…


LH: So just…


PW: …it was incredibly widely said, so it wasn’t just me being geeky this is something people could relate to, you know, languagey people because words and you know if you’re not sure what a preposition is then read it and you’ll find out what a preposition is.


LH: Oh God yeah.


PW: Yeah it’s good because it’s detailed and it’s very geeky grammatical but it is also humorous and something that makes you nod a bit and think I know what he’s talking about.


LH: Perfect recommendation.


PW: Thank you very much. Now if you’d only given access to it by Paying with a Tweet it would have brought both our recommendations together perfectly.


LH: Could you imagine the perfect storm. And so there we are it’s the end of episode 64 of A Little Bird Told Me. Now what we want you to do is head over to and subscribe. We know we say this a lot but it’s because we know you’d be terribly sad if you miss one without realising, it’s for your own good.


LH: Yes we’re saving you from yourself.


PW: Yeah.


LH: Come and have a look at our Facebook page too, we are on there we chat, we talk, we offer advice, we offer support and we confetti bomb people who do well and tell us about it, so come and have a nosey, we’re at so we’re nice and easy to find, vanity URL for the win because it’s easy to share. So that brings us like a boss very much to the end of a little bird told me, have a wonderful day, thank you so much for listening, I have been Lorrie Hartshorn.


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

Podcast Episode 63: 60 minutes to a more successful freelance writing business

You can boost your freelance business in under an hour? Really?

Doing business development work can seem like yet another onerous task that gets in the way of the things you’re supposed to be doing. Like, well, writing. However if you want to run a sustainable and successful freelance business, it is essential. In this podcast episode, I have condensed your business development tasks into a simple 60-minute plan, to help you to get a load of bizdev under your belt without the need to sacrifice hours and hours of writing – or fun – time!

Show Notes

Episode 37: Freelance Writers and Social Proof – What it is, why you need it and how to get it

Relationship Marketing Basics for Freelance Professionals

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

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Hello and welcome to episode 63 of A Little Bird Told Me, the podcast where freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade. We’re here to save you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes, and guide you to the very top of your chosen profession.

Freelancing is a funny old thing, so make sure you tune in to every episode of this podcast. If you go to, you can subscribe to ensure you never miss an episode. You can do that via iTunes, RSS or Stitcher Smart Radio – we’ve made it really easy to sign up and be the first to hear our latest words of wisdom.

On that page, you’ll also find any links we mention, plus the links to my own websites and social media feeds.

I’m Philippa Willitts and today I’m doing a solo episode without my usual co-host Lorrie, who’ll be back in time for our next dual episode in two weeks’ time. Today I’m going to talk about things you can do in under an hour to boost your freelance writing business. Often if we feel we need to expand, get a few new clients, it can seem like a really big task.

There are all kinds of things you can do like designing some flyers or adding pages to your website. They might be helpful but they can take a long time and you might not just get round to them.  So what I’m going to talk about today instead is, if you set aside a period of one hour, then by the end of that hour, you’ll have made progress in several areas, all of which can help you make your freelance writing business more successful.

And so without further ado, let’s get started. The first task on the list of things you can do in 60 minutes is re-connect with an old client. It’s usually far easier to get repeat work from an existing client than it is to find a new client, build and develop that new working relationship.

So, chances are you have some clients you’ve worked for in the past but who have dropped off your radar a bit. This is a good time to make contact with them again. Now, you don’t have to send them a pitch for work – you don’t need to be too blatant about the fact that you’re wondering if there’s any work coming your way. Just making contact can be a good way of making sure they remember you exist and that you’ve done some good work for them in the past.

Making Contact

Making Contact (Photo credit: Thompson Rivers)

And there are a few ways you can do this – you can just drop them an email, saying, “Hi, I’m aware it’s been a while since we spoke. Hope everything’s going well for you – let me know if there’s anything I can help you with!”

I sent a very similar email to that to someone I used to get a lot of work from, and he’s since got back in touch with some work, so it’s paid off – and it only took me about three minutes to draft something that’s suited to him and his style. And just nothing hard-sell, nothing heavy, just a quick hello.

Alternatively, you can drop them a line on LinkedIn or say Hi on Twitter. Or, it’s coming up to that big December festival, so send them a Christmas card! Any way you can think of really to remind them that you exist and puts you back on their radar.

So that’s task number one. Task number two for how to boost your freelance business in an hour is to read a blog-post or watch a video about a topic you need to know more about.

Lorrie and I always talk a lot about keeping your training going. It doesn’t have to be formal training but make sure you’re always learning. So, maybe you’re aware that, say, there’s been a new Google algorithm called Hummingbird, but you don’t know what it is and you’re aware you probably should, given the nature of your work. So find a good blog-post about it on a reputable website and spend five or 10 minutes reading and absorbing the information.

Alternatively, it may be that you want to know more about how to use LinkedIn to market your business. Find a couple of good blog-posts on that, read those and see what information you can apply to your own situation.

Or if you have a specialist area you write in and you want to make sure you’re on top of the latest developments, spend five or 10 minutes looking up a good blog-post, or a video on YouTube or Vimeo. The only thing is that it has to be informative and it has to be from a reputable source so that you’re not reading something that’s actually not helpful to you and could damage the way you run your business. So that’s task number two: learning something new. It doesn’t have to take hours and hours.

Task number three is one a lot of us overlook, I think, and that’s to spend five minutes updating your Twitter bio – the profile information that appears when someone looks at your account. Now most of us probably set up a bio when we created the account and have done little to change it in the meantime. I know I’m guilty of this: I can go months and months without thinking about it, but then it’s a good thing to do once in a while because the services you offer might change, the language you use to describe them might change, or you might just have a look and think, “Well that suited me then but it doesn’t really represent what I’m doing nowadays.”

A lot of people will follow you – or not – based on your bio. If your bio consists of something you thought was funny six months ago but doesn’t really mean anything now because it was related to a TV programme, or you offer a wider range of services than you did six months ago,  have a look at your bio.

Try and look objectively and ask if it represents you now, shows you in the best light and is a successful and effective piece of profile information. This is what a lot of people will use to decide whether to follow you, or to get in touch with you with regards to some freelance writing work. It only takes a few minutes but it’s well worth your while.

Task number four is to ask one or more of your happy clients to write you a recommendation or a testimonial. I put this in partly because I’m really bad at doing it myself: I get self-conscious, it feels cheeky and I mean to do it but then don’t get round to it. So this is as much a prod to myself as it is to anyone listening.

If you have positive reviews on your website, your LinkedIn profile, this helps your business a lot. It reassures potential clients that you can do what you say you can do, and it provides social proof which is the phenomenon, where, if people see that other people like something, they’re more likely to go with it themselves as well.

Lorrie did a whole episode on social proof a while ago, so I’ll link to that in the show notes – it’s well worth a listen. If you think about it, if you’re on a website and you’re not sure whether to trust the claims made on it, if you read genuine customer reviews, it can sway you one way or the other.

There are different ways to ask for a recommendation or testimonial. A simple one is to email, say, three recent clients and ask them whether they’d mind sending you a few words about the work you’ve done for them that you can put on your website. Alternatively, you can approach people on LinkedIn and ask them for a recommendation on there.

Lorrie did this recently – I’m sure she won’t mind me saying this. She asked some clients if they’d write a few words about what she offered them. And because I know this is something I get stuck on myself, I asked her advice on how to go about it. And something I really liked about what Lorrie had done was that, in asking for these testimonials, she actually pointed out a few specifics that those people might like to mention.

So, she said something like, “If you could leave me a recommendation…if you’re not sure what to mention, perhaps you could talk about whether I submitted work on time, whether it was good quality, how useful it was to you – that kind of thing.”

What that meant that any recommendations she did get contained the kind of information that’s useful to prospects before they hire you.

You can use your recommendations in a variety of ways. I have a page on my website for reviews and recommendations that people have left me and I update that from time to time. If a person does it through LinkedIn, that will appear on your profile as soon as you approve it. Some people put them on flyers or postcards that they send out; others even put them on business-cards so if you can spare some space on there, that could be helpful.

There are lots of ways you can use recommendations and, as well as providing really good social proof, it can be a little boost to your confidence – and we all need one of those once in a while, let’s face it!

Point number five in how to improve your freelance writing business in 60 minutes is to make contact with a potential alliance colleague. Now, we’ve talked about this quite a lot in this podcast – there are other freelancers and small businesses you can make contact with who offer different services to you, but services that are related in some way.

handshake II

handshake II (Photo credit: oooh.oooh)

And these relationships can be really important because you can mutually refer clients to one another. If a client asks you to recommend, say, a web designer – if you have a client you’re writing a new website for, they might ask you to recommend someone. Similarly, there will be web designers whose clients say to them, “I don’t suppose you know a good copywriter, do you?” because they might as well have new text to go with their new design.

So making contact with people in that kind of profession can be really valuable for both of you. It’s the kind of thing that has to be mutually beneficial, so that you’re not asking a favour so much as coming up with an agreement that benefits for you both.

It leads to goodwill, which can only be a good thing, but also it can work both ways. In terms of how to make contact with these potential alliance colleagues, this will very much depend on whether you already have a relationship with these people or not. It might be that you already know a great team of web designers, or a printing company who sometimes needs to recommend someone to fill a brochure with content. Don’t just limit yourself to web designers, even though that’s the example we nearly always come up with!

There are all sorts of people who might need copywriters and who, equally, copywriters might need to refer to. So let’s have a look at printers then, for the sake of a change. These are people who print business cards, brochures, flyers, leaflets – anything you can think of. Maybe a client’s asked you to recommend a good print company. Now if you have a connection with a print company that you know is good quality, you can recommend them to your client.

Similarly, someone might contact that printing company and say, “We’re after new brochures – I don’t suppose you know someone who writes them?” Now if you already have a relationship with them, then they can refer to you.

So how do you go about this?  If you’re in a situation where you have no contact in that company, then making contact could be as simple as saying Hi on Twitter and saying, “Hey, it’s nice to make contact with another local business!” You might make contact on LinkedIn, which is a more professional based networking opportunity. And certainly, just for this 60-minute task that we’re doing today, just make contact, introduce yourself, say hello and make a good impression.

Alternatively, if you have already made contact with someone and you’ve been thinking, “Yeah, actually, that woman who works there could be a great mutual referral connection…” and if you feel you have a good enough relationship so that you know first of all that they offer great work, because you certainly don’t want to refer someone who doesn’t because that makes you look bad by proxy. But if you’ve thought about it, you like them, you think you can help each other and you know they do good work, this may be the time to make a suggestion about this.

Ask whether they fancy meeting for coffee if they’re local, or a chat on Skype – or you can even do it by email. Explain why you think it’d be beneficial for both parties. Make it clear that this isn’t a favour you’re asking for, this is a mutual referral – informal but it has the potential to bring you both some nice bits of work now and then. And present it in a positive way, explain why you think it might work, ask what they think.

Now if you spend 10 minutes identifying the right person and either making initial contact or, if you have a relationship with them, making a suggestion of a kind of alliance, then that could really blossom into something very positive for you both.

Now, task six – and this will take you two minutes maximum – is a very simple one: put a handful of business cards in your bag, purse or wallet. Whatever you tend to have with you most often, because you just never know when you’ll meet someone who wants your services. You might be having a haircut and the woman in the next chair gets chatting to you about how they’re looking for a writer. You can scribble your email address down but it looks so much better if you can hand them a well-designed, attractive business card. You might be in the post office queue with someone who needs a writer.

Planetshakers Queue

Queue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of my best clients have come to me through completely random scenarios – you can go to as many formal networking events as you like but, in my experience, I’ve got just as many clients from those chance meetings. And it’s a real shame if you have one of those conversations with someone in the post office queue, in the hairdresser’s chair, on the train and you can’t take it any further because you don’t have a business card with you. Just always make sure you have five or 10 in your purse and it’ll take you two minutes max at this stage and it’ll pay dividends in future. Keep them topped up and there you go.

So that’s six of the seven steps completed. Have a look at how long those have taken you. It may be half an hour; it may be 50 minutes but it’s likely to be somewhere between the two. So what I want you to do for the final task – this is more personal to you and your situation. This isn’t something I’m going to tell you specifically how to do, but I’ll tell you what you need to do and that’s to look at yourself honestly and ask yourself “What’s the task I know I need to do but that I’ve been putting off doing?”

There will be something – you know there is! Whether it’s sending out a dreaded pitch email, or some overdue invoices, adding a new blog post to your website – there’ll be at least one thing, so just choose one that you know you’re supposed to be doing. As you’ve given over an hour to follow the tasks in this podcast, use however long you have left to make a really good start on that task.

It might be that you’ve been putting it off so long that you imagine it’ll take you three hours whereas it’ll actually take you 10 minutes. Some tasks will take you longer, but once you’ve made a start, it’s a lot easier to carry on with. So all you need to do for the remainder of this hour is to make a start on whatever task you’ve identified. Just to make a start. Not necessarily finish it, although you may well – once you’ve started it, chances are it’ll just flow. So just make a start.

So those are my seven quick wins that will make a real difference to your freelance writing business and that you can do in under 60 minutes – let us know how you get on!

And so now it’s time for the Little Bird Recommendation of the Week, in which we recommend something we’ve seen, read, played with, thought about or learnt that might be of interest to our listeners.

My recommendation this week is an excellent blog post by Jennifer Mattern of All Indie Writers. It’s a great blog – if you don’t subscribe already, then do. And this post is called, “Relationship Marketing Basics for Freelance Professionals”.

Relationship marketing is really important for freelancers and I really enjoy this kind of thing. They describe it as, “Relationship marketing is simply the act of nurturing relationships with your clients and prospects, and emphasizing client retention. In other words, it’s everything you do to stay fresh in your clients’ minds and keep them coming back for more.”

Now, this is stuff that, if you’re a regular listener, you’ll know we talk about the importance of those things a lot. We probably don’t always frame them as relationship marketing, but that’s what it is. And this blog post is great – it gives five simple, easy tactics you can use to improve your relationship marketing and even if you just choose one or two, it can make a real difference to how you relate to your clients, how they relate to you and how they think of you when you pop up in their inbox, or indeed their mind.

So I’ll link to that post in the show notes as always, so head over to to find the link to Relationship Marketing Basics for Freelance Professionals on the All Indie Writers blog.

So that’s just about that for episode 63. Thank you so much for listening. Make sure you head over to Find our Facebook page, say hello, find links to mine and Lorrie’s sites and social media stuff and we’ll see you next time.

Podcast Episode 62: How to meet – and exceed – your clients’ needs

Retaining existing freelance clients is generally much easier than constantly finding new ones, so it’s important to ensure that you are always seeking to meet, and exceed, their expectations. If someone hires you, make sure you are impressive! In this podcast episode, Lorrie and I recommend various ways to make sure that you correctly identify the needs of your clients, and how to go about meeting them.

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


PW: Hello, and welcome to episode 62 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me,’ the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade. We’re here to save you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes, and guide you to the very top of your chosen profession. Freelancing is a funny old job, and we want to help you along the way. Tune into the podcast every week, and if you go to, you can subscribe to ensure that you never miss an episode. Whether iTunes and RSS podcatcher, or Stitcher Smart Radio, or your platform of choice, we’ve made it super easy to sign up and to be the first to hear our latest words of wisdom. There you will also find any links we mention, and our own websites on social media feeds, as well as the A Little Bird Told Me Facebook page. I am Philippa Willitts…

LH: … And I’m Lorrie Hartshorn, and today we’re going to be talking about how to make sure that you’re meeting your clients’ needs. Building a freelance writing business, or any business for that matter really, is about finding and exploiting, or creating an exploiting demand for service that you can offer. And when I say ‘exploit’ I don’t mean anything untoward. I mean just making the most of something for the sake of your own benefit, and in this case, money to pay your bills.

Now in today’s climate, where clients can rightly or wrongly, especially wrongly, get what they think is the same work for much less that you probably want to charge them, and also where thousands and thousands and thousands of freelance writers are all vying for the attention of big business clients, meeting your clients’ needs will definitely be the difference between your business sinking or swimming.

PW: So what we’re going to do is go through various areas in which you can check what you’re doing, and maybe change the way you work a little bit, just to make sure that you are doing your best to really meet your clients’ needs. And the first area that we want to look at is listening. You should never assume that you know what your clients’ needs are. It’s easy to assume that if somebody contacts you wanting a blog you might think, ‘Oh, they want a blog because blogs are good for this, that and the other,’ and never say to them, ‘So what are your aims with this blog? What is it that you want to achieve with this blog? What do you want it to do for your business?’ Because it may actually be something entirely unrelated to what you think, and if you’ve guest and if you guest wrongly, then you’re not going to do a great job because if you think they’re aiming for SEO, but in fact they’re aiming for relationship building, then the blog’s going to be written in the wrong way.

And so while you can’t assume you know what their needs are, what you need to do is basically ask them. If you are having a first contact with a potential new client and they say, “We’re looking for press releases. We’re looking for news stories,” talk to them about not just what they want but why they want it. What are their goals for the piece of work? What do they hope is going to happen? Because without that information you’re not going to get anywhere.

LH: Definitely. And I think as well as actually getting useful information from them, you can really strengthen relationships, particularly with new clients, but as well with existing clients. There’s never too late a time to do this – letting them feel that they’re being listened to, and that you’re prioritizing what they want, even if they’re not quite sure what they want. If you give your clients the feeling that they’re being listened to, that is really, really valuable, and it’s something that will make them stay with you rather than going somewhere else.

PW: Yes, definitely, because I think we’ve all had to experience, even just as a — say you’re ringing up your gas company with a complaint. You know if you’re not being listened to, and it’s really frustrating. Or if something that drives me particularly up the wall is when you email a question to a customer service team, and you get what’s blatantly a form response.

LH: Oh, I hate those so much.

Most people do not listen with the intent to u...

PW: That is answering a different question to the one you asked, but it has some of the same keywords in it, for instance. There is nothing that makes me angrier, I don’t think. Because I can’t help myself but reply and go, “Well, if you could read what I actually said, and respond to that question, please, I would very much appreciate it.” And it’s so frustrating when someone assumes they know what you want, because it comes across as you don’t feel valued, you don’t feel heard, you don’t feel anything other than annoyance, I think.

LH: Yeah. You’ve wasted your time communicating with somebody that’s not listening to you. And time is really valuable. I think it’s a difficult balance to strike when you’re a freelance writer, because often your clients will need some level of guidance from you. They need your expertise. That’s why they need a freelance writer, they need somebody who’s got your skillset.

PW: Absolutely.

LH: So you do need to guide them, and sometimes… Say if you’re having a conversation with somebody for the first or second time, you do need to interject with suggestions of what they might be hoping to achieve and “Well, maybe, if we did this we could achieve such and such for you, or maybe we could increase website traffic by doing A, B and C.” But, as Pip just said, you don’t want to overstep the mark, and just make assumptions about what they need. Because you might be so busy trying to impress them with what your writing can achieve for them that you’re not actually hearing what they’re wanting to achieve.

So when you’re looking to take on new clients, market research is really important. You need to know who you’re dealing with, and consequently how you’re going to deal with them. So depending on how you’re making contact with these prospects, you might want to bear certain things in mind. One of the ways that you can make contact with people is via a networking event. And when you go along to these networking events active listening is really, really important, if you want them to pay attention to you or you at least want to get somebody’s interest, and get their business card off them. So, as Pip and I discussed before in our ‘Networking Like a Ninja’ episode we…

PW: [laughter]

LH: I know.

PH: I do feel we somewhat misrepresented that, but the title was so good that we couldn’t not use it, frankly.

LH: I disagree. I think it was absolutely accurate —

PW: [laughter]

LH: — that you will impact network like a ninja would. Who knows if ninjas network? They’re probably so sneaky you wouldn’t know even if they did.

PW: True.

LH: But when you’re networking you can’t simply tell people about your services. Although it’s good to have an elevator pitch, you can’t give people stock responses, because just as Pip said with that gas company, for example, people want to feel that you’ve tailored what you know to their needs. It’s not about you, it’s about them and how you can meet their needs. It’s quite different.

PW: I know at networking events the most success I’ve had tends to be when I’ve spoken the least, because if say I meet someone who runs their own small business, and they ask what I do, and I say, “I’m a freelance writer. I do this, that, the other -” which I may well introduce myself as. So if I then say, “So, if you need a new website, I’m the person to contact,” whereas they’ve actually already had a new website, and they would be interested in something completely different, I’ve probably lost them. Whereas if I say, “I’m a freelance writer. This is what I do. I do A, B and C,” and then pause, that’s when they will say, “Oh, I have been wondering about getting some help with press releases.” Whereas if I launched into why I’m great at websites or why I’m great at blog, then they would have thought this wasn’t something I could help them with. Listen, listen, listen.

you're not listening

you’re not listening (Photo credit: jessleecuizon)

LH: Absolutely. And if you leave a pause and they don’t come in with anything, you can ask them what do they do, because it’s a truth universally acknowledged, I’d say, that people like talking about themselves, even if they don’t, because it’s a bit uncomfortable at a networking event. But at a networking event you do have to talk, and the usual thing for people to talk about is what they do. And the more you know about them, the more you can tailor your speech in their direction.

PW: Yes, definitely. If you make an assumption about the kind of business they run, like if they say, “I run a small shop,” you might think, “Oh, there’s not much copywriting I can do for a small shop,” but they might… First of all, what “small” means to one person isn’t the same as it is to another. You don’t know if they’re running an online shop or a local shop. You don’t know what they’re selling and how much potential there is in that for content.

LH: You don’t know who they’re targeting, so how they reach people. They might reach people via the web, or they might reach people using printed literature.

PW: Yes. Or it might entirely be an email newsletter. If you make assumptions you’re going to miss opportunities.

LH: Absolutely. And being face to face with somebody is a really, really valuable opportunity, and it’s something you don’t want to waste. Now you might not be going to networking events. You might just be contacting people on the internet, and coming across people on social media, in which case it’s important to know which kind of social media you need to be on. The clue is in the name – social media is social – and you can learn a lot from listening to people that you would like to target as clients on social media feeds. But in order to be able to do that, you need to be on the right social media feed. Facebook, for example, is not all together the best social media feed for B2B businesses.

PW: Yeah. It can work, but it’s certainly a far less intuitive way of doing B2B networking, I think.

LH: Definitely. Whereas, if you’re looking for B2C clients, Facebook is perfect. So for B2B clients Twitter, I’ve always found, is very good. You’ve got a lot of people on there talking about a lot of complex things, and if you can insinuate yourself into a conversation, or just be a bystander in a conversation, you can learn more about your prospects. And as we said, the more you know about these people, the more you can make sure that you’re meeting their needs.

PW: You can also set up very strategic searches, especially if you use a tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite. You can have a constant column open, so that anybody who mentions, I don’t know, “dressmaking Sheffield” will pop up on your screen in front of you whenever they do. Or you can do it manually. You can save searches on the Twitter website and then you can just set them up and watch for a few weeks and see what are people’s concerns, what are people wanting, what do people want to know, what’s missing from people’s lives. You talk about whatever your chosen subject is, and it’s a brilliant way. You don’t have to do any work, you just watch what people say publicly. Compared to setting up surveys and saying, ‘What do you want from a dressmaker in Sheffield?’ you can just let people tell you.

LH: Definitely. And it’s not just a good way to find perspective clients, either. It’s a good way to formulate your content if you’re for clients in that sector, because it’s what it says. If they’re asking questions about – oh, I don’t know, let’s stick with the dressmaker – where can I find a good dressmaker in Sheffield, there’s a blog post in that.

PW: Yeah. And if lots of people are saying, “I want a dressmaker in Sheffield, but nobody’s listing their prices,” for instance, then —

LH: You’ll know what their priorities are.

PW: Exactly. And what website needs to stand out. The listening tools available in the world of social networking are really mind blowing when you compare to even five or ten years ago.

LH: You’re basically able to eavesdrop on any conversation that’s taking place online, and it’s really amazing, because it can take a lot of the pain out of contacting new prospects, as well. If you were to get in touch with the dressmaker in Sheffield and say, “I’ve noticed on social media that there’s a lot of discussion about the fact that dressmakers in Sheffield don’t have very good websites and don’t list their prices clearly. I’ve noticed that your website is -” and then you can give a bit of insight into how the website is functioning. “Would you be interested in talking about A, B or C?” And that shows that you have your finger on the pulse, that you’re interested in that business, have a concrete way to improve their business, and that you’re in touch with prospective customers for them.

PW: And you can back it up with links, screenshots. You can say, “In the last week alone 15 people wanted to know this.” You could do graphs.

LH: [laughter]

PW: Everybody’s impressed by a graph.

LH: You go for something visual. You could do a pie chart.

PW: And that’s all ways of listening in a way that, again, it’s getting rid of those assumptions, and listening to the reality of what people want, so that you can meet the needs of your client.

LH: This is it. Because depending on how generalized or specialized you are, even if you’re the most specialized person, you can’t know any sector inside and out. You can’t know what everybody in that sector is thinking in all the associated industries. What you hear might not be what you’re expecting to hear a lot of the time. I think it’s good not to rest on your laurels and assume that you know a sector even if you’re a specialist in it, because sectors develop, don’t they? There’s always something changing and growing and evolving. I suppose particularly if you’re a specialist actually, you need to keep your finger on the pulse, and to really, really listen to what people have got to say.

Now another way to do this, staying on the same theme, is to subscribe to and read trade publications and trade blogs. Because it’s not just the value that you’re going to get from the articles themselves, but also from the comments below the line. So where you will have a trade publication about skip hire, for example, you will have people who are interested in skip hire. And where you have people who are interested in skip hire, you’ll have perspective customers and their perspective customers. So you’ve not just got the people who you can target, you have the people looking for skip hire companies, so you can learn not just about your prospective clients’ needs, but about their prospective clients’ needs. Again, it’s like a social media feed in your specific industry.

So it’s well-worth subscribing to popular high-traffic blogs and publications and e-newsletters, because that keeps a finger on the pulse without you having to do it. That’s a whole load of research, isn’t it, that you don’t have to do. You can go along and see what they’re researching because to stay popular, to stay high-traffic, they will have to keep their finger on the pulse.

PW: Another thing that’s important to do if you want to really focus on meeting your clients’ needs is to be flexible and responsive.

LH: This is always the tricky one, isn’t it?

PW: It is. There’s always a line to be drawn, and it’s sometimes not 100% clear where that line is, but basically you want to impress your clients, and you want to do the best by them. They are paying your bills, and you want them to feel thoroughly happy with what you’re doing. And this does mean sometimes maybe taking on an extra piece of work when you aren’t planning to, it means responding to your emails and phone calls fairly quickly, and keeping on top of keeping them happy, really, but not at the expense of the rest of your business and your life.

LH: I think this is it. When you start out as a freelancer I think it’s easy to go overboard trying to meet the needs of your clients. And given how eager people are when they start freelancing, it’s a bit of a perfect thorn, because you are likely to take on clients who don’t pay you enough, in my experience, and usually, in my experience, again, it’s the clients who don’t pay you enough who tend to be the most demanding.

PW: That is very true.

LH: So when you start out I’d put money on it that you’re likely to think, “Oh, I can’t do this. I can’t cope with this. I’m having to respond to emails at 11 o’clock at night,” and “Oh, this person’s not paying, and it’s costing me money, and I don’t know what I’m doing.” So as Pip says, there’s definitely a balance to be met. And as you carry on freelancing you’ll realize how far you can stretch yourself, and indeed how far you should stretch yourself to meet your clients’ needs and to be responsive with them without sacrificing your own wellbeing, and in some cases, not just your free time but the time you need for other clients.

PW: I think something’s that’s really important to bear in mind is that if the time you spend communicating with your clients or dealing with them in ways other than just writing stuff for them – if that’s taken over and losing you money, then you’re probably doing your pricing wrong. The fact is you’re a freelancer and a big part of that job is liaising with businesses. And that has to be incorporated within your overall pricing structure. And so if you think, “No, this is taking up too much time and it’s unpaid work,” then look at your pricing because you have to take into account that you’re not just going to write stuff. You do have to be dealing with people in their terms, as well as working to your own terms.

LH: Absolutely. And there are ways of doing that. It’s good to look at how long you’re spending, because if one client is on the phone all the time and on the email all the time, then it might be a problem with that particular client. But if you have a look across the board, and you find that you’re spending too much time across the board talking to people, then absolutely you need to look at trying to incorporate that into your pricing structure. And there are ways and means to do that. You can either increase the prices for say… I mean, something I’ve done – I increased the price of a case study or a blog post if I have to do a phone interview for it.

PW: Yeah. Other ways that you can be flexible and responsive are things like often it’s not unreasonable demands, it’s just things that you may have to just shift things around a bit. If a client needs to speak to you, and they’re only free at 4 o’clock, then do everything you can to make sure you can speak to them at 4 o’clock. It’s not a big deal, it shows them that you’re making the effort, and it keeps things easy. Similarly, a way of being responsive can be to set an out-of-office auto-responder if you’re away. Then your client won’t feel that you’re neglecting them if you don’t get straight back to them.

And things like if you’re a proof-reader and somebody wants you to work in the Open Office software suite rather than Microsoft Word it’s not a big deal. It’s easy to do, and it shows them that you’re willing to take steps to work with them.

LH: Absolutely. It’s good to keep in mind that you and your clients are on the same team, I think. Because sometimes you can feel quite resentful, especially if you’re chopping and changing what you’re doing. It can be easy to think, ‘Oh, for goodness sakes, I’ve just changed this, and I’ve just done that.’ And then now I need to do this, and he’s only free at 4:00 – it’s the nature of freelancing.

PW: It is.

LH: It really is. Things aren’t as structured as they would perhaps be in a salary position. You do have to chop and change, because it’s your business, and that’s just the way it is. I found myself at first getting really stressed out and thinking, “But I’ve just changed that. Now I have to swap this around…” If you just accept it, really, it’s less difficult.

PW: Yeah. The lack of structure in freelancing is one of the reasons a lot of freelancers get into it. So go with it.

LH: It is the other side of the coin that allows you to go out for lunches, or allows you to do your shopping in the morning if you need to, or go to doctor’s appointments in the afternoon. It’s the same coin. So in terms of being flexible and responsive, it doesn’t just go for looking after existing clients, either. It’s actually a good thing to bear in mind when you’re looking for new prospects, as well, because part of winning you business, people will say, “How did you find new business? How did you get new customers?” Part of it, and a large part is just being in the right place at the right time and saying the right things. You need to be seen to be doing the right things and seen to be being the suitable person for them. So there’s no point in saying the right thing if they’re not there. There’s no point in being there if they are, but not saying anything. You really do have to say the right thing at the right time in the right place.

PW: Yeah. And some of that will happen by very good planning, and some of it will happen by complete luck.

LH: Almost miracles. When I think how I found some of my clients I think, “Gosh, how did that happen?”

PW: Oh, I know. It’s ridiculous sometimes. You think, “I worked really hard for client X. I did everything and eventually snacked them.” And then client Y will just almost trip up and land at your feet. And you think, “How did that happen?” But go with it. It’s all good.

LH: Yeah. If you move in the right circles it’s far, far more likely to happen. So I think that’s a good time to interject with kind of the words on marketing. It’s really good to plan and streamline your marketing rather than having a scattergun approach, because you can put hours and hours and hours of effort into hitting every possible social media platform and trying every different thing. It’s far better to streamline your marketing activities and to respond to what works well. And to be able to respond you need to be able to measure your marketing activities, as well. So it’s really worth having a look at coming up with a marketing plan, and there’s so much online that will help you do that. And you can actually spend a lot less time just hitting the right target than spending a lot of time hitting all the targets, many of which won’t tick any boxes for your perspective clients.

PW: Now the next point which is really important in terms of meeting clients’ needs is about being proactive. But sometimes you can feel like you’re just sitting back and everything’s going swimmingly.

LH: [laughter] That’s always when things go wrong, isn’t it?

PW: Yeah, and you’re going with the flow and everything’s working perfectly. But if you get too comfortable in that situation you can suddenly find it all drops away. So being proactive is what we’re going to look at next.

LH: Definitely. I think the first point I want to make is that just because everything seems right doesn’t mean it is. That’s a really sad fact. It is, but it is a fact. It’s easier, as Pip says, to rest on your laurels and think, “Oh, everything’s good,” and just let things slide.

PW: Because there are times as a freelancer when that happens – you’ve got just the right amount of work, you’ve not got too much, you’ve not got too little. Everyone’s paying their invoices on time, and you just think, “I have mastered this now.”

LH: [laughter] Bravo.

PW: We fall for it many times. And it feels lovely, but what we don’t hear is the Jaws music in the background.

LH: [laughter] No, it’s definitely true. What I was going to say? Then you laugh just thinking about Jaws now.

PW: [laughter]

LH: That tickled me so much, the vision of you on a lie-low with a cocktail. And there’s a big danger in thinking that everything’s okay, and everything will always be okay, and sort of lay back on your lilo with your cocktail, just thinking about how marvellous freelancing is. Because as a freelancer you don’t have the security that you have in a salaried position. It’s sensible to put something in place when you start working with a client that says a month’s notice, for example. But unless you’re willing to really pursue that, depending on circumstances that might just not have any bearing. They might decide that they don’t need a copywriter anymore, effective immediately, and are you really going to try and force them to keep to that one month’s notice theory?

PW: A lot of businesses that hire copywriters, that hire freelancers do so because they don’t want to commit to a certain amount of work and a certain amount of time. It’s the very appeal of freelancers, that’s why they will go with the freelancer rather than hire someone who they’d have to provide a certain amount of work for.

LH: Absolutely. So while you might be able to persuade them to give you a notice period, unfortunately a lot of clients aren’t ideal clients, and when they won’t need you anymore they won’t need you, and that’s as far as it would go. So don’t assume that just because everything looks okay, and your client’s not saying that anything’s wrong, that there aren’t things going on in the background. It might be that the company is planning on downsizing, it might be that they’re planning on increasing their marketing capacity in-house, and they might be wanting to hire a copywriter in-house or a marketing exec. It might be that they’re not happy with your work. It might be that there’s something about your work that’s not suiting them. And I know it sounds obviously you might think, “Well, why wouldn’t they say something?” But some people just don’t.

PW: They’re too polite, so they’d rather just never deal with you again than actually say, “It’s not good enough.”

LH: Yeah, it’s completely true. So you need to be proactive in order to keep your clients happy. They might not even know that something’s wrong. But if you find that their responses to you are getting a little bit lukewarm or that they used to be in raptures about your blog posts, but now they’re just like, “Hmm, thanks, yeah, cool.” They might not even know what it is, but it is your job to find out, to be proactive, and to make sure that you give them as little reason as possible to become dissatisfied with your work.

PW: Yeah. Because also it impresses clients. If you come across as having thought something through beyond what they were respecting…

LH: Definitely. Actually, that’s a really good point. I was there with all the doom and gloom, but there’s a positive side, isn’t there?

PW: Say you provide regular blog posts for a plumbing service, a plumber. For them it’s a content marketing tool and it’s a lead generation tool. If you do your weekly post of whatever it is, but then if you once in a while get in touch with your client, the plumber, and say, “I’ve noticed that three of your competitors have done this particular thing recently, and it seems to be successful. So I did some keyword research, and I did some wider research in other plumbing blogs, and this is what I suggest.” We do just maybe as a one-off, see how it goes. They will be impressed that you’ve taken the time to do the extra research to compare with what their competitors are doing and to take the time to go ahead with it, basically.

LH: Absolutely, because it’s just adding value to what you do for them. It’s easy as a freelancer to, “Well, they’re only paying me for this. They’re only paying me for five blog posts a month, so why should I spend more time not being paid?” Particularly, you don’t have a salary. Why should I spend chargeable time doing work for nothing? But it’s ten times easier to keep a client than to get a new one. That will never stop being true.

PW: Definitely. Plus, back to what we said earlier, if doing anything extra like that is for nothing, then your billing is wrong. You’re not taking the right things into account when you set your fees.

LH: Definitely. And like I say, we’re reiterating things that we said earlier, but you and your clients are on the same team. If you find yourself resenting doing anything for them, and you don’t have at least something invested in their business, then there’s something amiss. You have to be able to invest your energies into your client’s business, because the better their business does, it may well be the better that your business does.

PW: Yeah. If you’re blogging for the plumber, and he starts to get twice the number of leads as before you were blogging for him, then he’s happy, so he keeps you on. And then, when his mate, the electrician, says, “Where have you suddenly got all your work from?” and the plumber says to the electrician, “Well, I found this woman who does blog posted and my leads have doubled.” Then the electrician will get in touch with you, so you’ve got extra work. And then you do matching things to her website, and then she doubles her leads, and then her mate, the bricklayer gets…

LH: [laughter]

PW: If it works it’s beneficial in so many ways, not least —

LH: It is starting to come out like a really bad joke – “and then the plumber said to the electrician.”

PW: [laughter] So yeah, so it does more than just impress the client that you’re taking the care. If it improves their results, then that will improve things for you, because they’ll keep you on, they’ll recommend you. You’ll have better case studies to give to potential new clients where you can say, “I doubled the plumber’s leads.” Some will hear this plumber is doing very well thanks to me. And so yeah, it has more than just that immediate gratification of someone saying, “Wow, that’s brilliant. Thank you.” It can go a lot further.

LH: And not just referrals. Although referrals are one of the best ways to get new work. I mean, they’re so amazing, aren’t they?

PW: Oh, definitely.

LH: Because it’s a real foot in the door, and it tends to be business owners talking to business owners.

PW: Yeah, it takes a layer of the process out, which is proving your credibility, I guess.

LH: Absolutely. But in terms of other benefits, it may be that if this fabled plumber does super well and that blog doubles the number of customers that they take on, it may be that they’ll need more content work from you. So the benefits really are numerous, and it’s worth it. Besides which, you should actually just care about doing a good job for people.

PW: Exactly. If I send off a piece of work that I know is really good – you know sometimes you just go, “I have mastered this. These 750 words are the perfect 750 words from this situation.” Sometimes you just know you’ve nailed it.

LH: You go above and beyond, don’t you? And it’s okay to go, “Do you know, that was a really good piece of work.”

PW: That’s it. Like Lorrie says, it can be great for business reasons, but also if somebody has gone out of their way to hire me, I really want them to feel good about that. So when I want them to be pleased it’s partly for all those strategic business reasons. But it’s also because I really enjoy what I do and I want them to be pleased with it. It can be just that.

LH: Absolutely. I’ve taken on quite a new client. They’re a marketing agency, and of course, with them being a marketing agency they have a number of clients of their own. So I’ve been doing the content for them. And one of these particular clients has a reputation for being quite difficult, and they’ve not been satisfied with some of the work that’s gone through before. They’ve not been super impressed with some of the content they’ve had before, so there’re already preconceptions with that particular client. So I was warned before I did a case study for this person. And I really put my back into it. I really put extra effort in, and I put a lot more time in than I charged for in the interests of building a stable base for future work.

And I didn’t hear anything back for a while and I thought, “Oh, maybe this person’s not impressed with this, either.” But then I got an email from the marketing agency saying, “Oh, we forgot to tell you, but they were really happy.” I was like,”Aaah! Amazing! ” I think it’s just pure smugness. It was pure smugness.

PW: Yeah, it feels good. And you’re in the wrong job if you don’t care what someone thinks of your writing.

LH: Absolutely. And I was so pleased, because it’s something that wasn’t just going to be pleased with anything, and wasn’t just going to go, “Yeah, that’s amazing.” This person had ideas of what they wanted, and I’ve met those needs, and it felt really good.

PW: Yes. Good, and with good reason.

LH: And it does all the world of good for me because this person wasn’t pleased with the content they were receiving previously, so now there’s something else underlining the fact that I am different from the content provider that they were using before, and that I am potentially better. It’s all brownie points, isn’t it?

PW: Yeah. And not only do they think highly of you, that gets passed on the marketing agency, who are all too aware that this is a demanding client, so that makes you look good in their eyes, as well. So that one time of putting a lot of extra working will pay off in lots of different ways.

LH: Absolutely. In the minute I had that feedback I thought, “Oh, I don’t mind I put the extra time in.” It’s very nice when something like that drops into your inbox, and you have to care about things like that, don’t you? And that real satisfaction drives you to be proactive for clients.

PW: Yes. I hired a guy earlier this week to migrate two of my websites to a new host. Now this was a very, very anxious 24 hours for me.

LH: It really was, listeners!.

PW: I was so frightened. Don’t break my sites, please, don’t break my sites. Please, don’t break my sites! Anyway, he didn’t break my sites, and he successfully migrated them. I had hired him from a freelancing website that I’d heard about from Lorrie called PeoplePerHour.

LH: Oh, very good.

PW: Yeah, which is a freelancing site that feels very different to the elance, ones to me.

LH: It’s the only one I’ve used. And I’m not quite keen on the others.

PW: Yeah, it feels like less of a meat market where everybody’s going for the bottom prices. It feels a bit more reasonable in terms of as a buyer, but also as a service provider. I didn’t feel like I was exploiting anybody to get the work done, which also helped. Anyway, and he did the work really well, he communicated with me throughout, and so I left him glowing feedback afterwards, because he had done a great job, and those kinds of sites live or die by the feedback that people leave. And that’s partly why you can hire someone you don’t know, because you can see what other people said about them.

But anyway, the point is I went out of my way to leave him very good feedback because he deserved it, and I hope it helps him get more work. And he got back to me and he was just, “Oh, thank you so much!” He was really pleased, and he was partly pleased that he’d got such great feedback, but he was also genuinely pleased that I was pleased with what he’d done. I could tell that he was proud of having done a good job, and I would hire him again without question if I needed to.

LH: And I asked you to pass his details on to, didn’t I?

PW: Yes, you said that you might need it, and would I pass the details on, and I would happily, and that’s partly because he did a good job, but it’s also partly because he really tried. You could tell he was proactive in doing what I needed, which included emailing me occasional reassurances. And it made a difference to me. So it makes him stick in my mind beyond someone who did a good job, but someone who did a good job and cared that he did a good job.

LH: That’s really, really good. And I think it all comes back, doesn’t it, to listening to your clients. And I mean active listening. And active listening includes three types of listening, which are verbal communication, non-verbal communication, which includes things like body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and intuition, which is just your gut instinct. Say that you’ve had a call with somebody, but you get the feeling that they’re not quite reassured or they’re not quite satisfied. So you find ways to add reassurance or satisfaction or extra value into that communication with them. And if you actively listen to your client, it will help you find ways to be proactive. So say that you’re the tech guy doing the migration – this is as far as I know about migrating websites – is that you are some kind of tech person. So this tech person doing Pip’s website migration – you have the impression that maybe this Miss Philippa Willitts is slightly nervous about —

PW: About this particular task, yes.

LH: Perhaps you’re slightly nervous. She doesn’t say as much, although I know she did —

PW: I think I did say, “Please, don’t break them.”

LH: [laughter]

PW: And he replies and says, “Please, do not worry. I won’t break anything.” [laughter] And then I felt guilty.

LH: [laughter] Yeah, fair to say you felt guilty. Not too guilty, though. She sounds so worried, honestly. So the verbal communication is her saying, “I’m worried. Please, don’t break my site,” and being proactive and responsive and saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t break your sites.” The non-verbal communication is perhaps the frequency of emails. Maybe you still get the impression they’re a bit worried, so you decide to be proactive by emailing them frequent updates, just to let you know. And I’ve done this with another client.

PW: I’ve done that, too, yeah.

LH: Just to let you know, as of this morning I’ve spoken to such and such, I’ve interviewed this person. The first blog post is written, the second one is halfway done, and the case study’s got the framework in place. I just need to write that up. ETA is going to be tomorrow at lunch time. And nothing needed to be said, I didn’t need to send that email to those clients, but if you can be proactive and respond to something that is nonverbal from your client, then all the better for it, you’re being proactive. And if you go with your gut instinct that there’s nothing there, but you just think, “Hmm, if I were one of my clients, I might be nervous about this or I might be concerned about that, or I might want to know about A, B or C.” You can be proactive again or, for example, I had a client who needed a press release, but I got from their Communications that they’ve not really sent out a press release before, so I sent a whole load of extra information on what to do with your press release.

PW: Yes, this is something that I do. I created a PDF document on how to get the most of a press release, and whenever I send a press release, particularly to a new client, I attach this document, and I know Lorrie liked this idea and does it, as well.

LH: I loved that.

PW: And it took me half an hour to research it, write it and make it look a little pretty, and also brand it, so that it was clearly mine, and so maybe an hour’s work in total. And yet each new client that receives it feels like they’ve got – this goes into the next point we’re making, but they feel like they’ve got something extra. They’ve got a freebee; everybody loves a freebee. And it can also – which is also the point – help them get the most out of your press release, which then makes them think, “Wow, she writes really good press releases.”

LH: Definitely. So just a little bit of proactivity has gone such a long way in all of the places. So what we’re going to talk about now is how and when to go the extra mile in a bid to meet your client’s needs, and indeed to exceed your client’s expectations. That’s always a nice thing to aim for – meeting their need, and going a little bit beyond.

PW: If you exceed your client’s expectations more often than not, you have a very happy client who will stick with you. I always try to exceed expectations in one way or another, and it’s really worthwhile. So sometimes it might be that you will take on, for instance, some occasional rush work for a client who is very valuable to you. All these points link to each other, and so this is also connected to being flexible and responsive, and being proactive. But it might be that once in a while you say yes to some weekend work when you’re planning to have a weekend off, because the client is genuinely — they’re suddenly going to a trade show next week that they didn’t think they had a place at, and they suddenly need leaflets and brochures. And once in a while you can say, “I will work this weekend because I really value this client’s existence in my business.” And that, although it will annoy you over the weekend, or you’re thinking, “This is my time off,” in the spirit of keeping a good client, can be worthwhile.

There are also times when you can offer something to a client that doesn’t really have any direct benefit to you whatsoever. I recently had a situation where one of my clients asked if I could recommend somebody who could do a particular task, and another of my clients specialized in that particular task.

LH: That’s so fortunate, isn’t it?

PW: I know. It was unbelievably lucky.

LH: It’s one of those moments where you will like, “Yes, the Universe is aligned.”

PW: Exactly. And so I could direct client A to client B. Client A loved me because I had found the solution to his problem. Client B loved me because I had sent him some extra business. Now none of that got me any work directly, but what it did get me is goodwill from both of them that will be repaid over time. I know it will. There’s no direct – you sent me that work, so I’m sending you this work – but what it does is put you in a good place, a happy place in their mind that will pay dividends.

LH: Yeah, absolutely. And were we not close friends, we’ve certainly done things in the past that would really build up goodwill between the two of us. You’ve sent me work in the past; I’ve sent you work in the past. There’s no direct benefit there, so were we not close friends, it might be the kind of thing where you think, “Oh, well, she sent me work in the past; I could refer this work to her. I’m too busy to take this on. She’s a good person to refer that to.” Now there’s no benefit to pick really directly for saying to somebody, “I’m afraid I’m a little bit too busy to take that on at the moment. However, if you’d like me to recommend somebody, I can recommend someone who’s a good proof-reader, who’s a good copywriter, who’s a good copy editor.” And then yours truly gets recommended. What that means is that Pip has been able to recommend something to a fellow freelancer, and she’s also been able to not disappoint a customer.

PW: That’s very true. If you just go back to them and say, “Sorry, I’m too busy,” they’ll think you’re really obnoxious, and that you’ll never hear from them again, whereas if I could say, “I’m so sorry, I’m overrun. I can 100% recommend this woman. Here’s the details,” then they will have a much better feeling about the whole interaction.

LH: As you say, it’s a goodwill, isn’t it?

PW: Yeah, definitely. And also, like Lorrie says, we’re all friends, and we do help each other out in numerous ways, work-related or not. But even if we were just colleagues and not particularly close, it presents a goodwill between us that if I sent you work, you might then be more inclined to send me work.

LH: Absolutely. Because as freelancers you don’t get paid holiday, for example. You don’t get paid leave, or you don’t get paid sick leave. But sometimes you need a holiday, and sometimes you need to go off sick, and it’s something that Pip and I have discussed that potentially we could look after each other’s businesses, if the other person needed that. And it’s something that offers you extra value and extra security, and it’s something that you wouldn’t otherwise have. So goodwill – it was my old boss that used to say, “You have to have money in the bank to take out money.”

PW: It’s so true. Yeah, it would be unreasonable of me to suddenly expect a favour from Lorrie if I had never done anything at all that showed that I was happy to do a favour for her. That’s just a rule of life.

LH: It’s true, isn’t it? That’s all it is. It’s just true. And another way that I’ve been proactive for clients, sort of talking about your referring, another way that I’ve done something similar is that I upload blog posts for one particular client. Now it would take me just as much time really to upload – I work with them via Basecamp – and it takes me just as much time really to upload a blog post to Basecamp and email it to them as it does – it takes me perhaps five minutes more – to upload the blog post and add in a metadata or add in a picture and to click “Send.”

But it’s so much extra value for the client, because it’s a plug-and-play blogging service. I find the subject, I write it, and I upload it. And there’s a trust there now that they don’t even need to see the blog post. I just upload it for them. So I’m basically keeping their blog going for them. And it’s not that much extra work for me. As I say, it’s another five minutes, but I’m not going to quibble over for five minutes when it keeps my client so happy.

PW: Yeah. Similarly, if I’m writing – I’ve got a particular client who runs an SEO business, and I write blog posts for him. Sometimes they’re kind of instructional step-by-step how to do A, B or C. And I will often include screenshots in that. And he initially, the first time I sent the processed screenshots said, “Should I pay you more for the processed screenshots because it’s taken you an extra time and…?” But for me it made far more sense to say, “No, it’s the same price.” First, because I don’t want him to feel like I’m chancing it, but also if I’m writing a step-by-step, it makes my job easier if I can include a screenshot that points to the thing you have to click on, but also for the extra work, which is maybe five minutes’ extra work on a two-hour piece of work, then it’s not worth adding anything to the fee, because it’s not that much time, and the client feels like he’s getting an extra.

LH: This is an interesting point, isn’t it? Because often going the extra mile it takes more imagination than it does effort.

PW: Yes, that’s so true.

LH: You can think, “Oh, going the extra mile – but that leads to a slippery slope, and I’ll end up working for free.” But really with Pip’s screenshots, for example, and with my uploading things to WordPress rather than just emailing them across, all it took was a bit of thought. All it took was a bit of thought, thinking “How can I make life easier for this client?” It doesn’t take as long. It does not take as long. If it took me a long time, I wouldn’t do it, because it wouldn’t be the extra mile, it would be the extra marathon. It would be an extra piece of work.

PW: There’s another benefit to going the extra mile, which is that it may be that you’ll learn a new skill. For instance – this isn’t true, but looking at Lorrie’s example of uploading to WordPress rather than emailing – say Lorrie had no WordPress experience, and she felt like she was learning how to use it, then there can be a real benefit in offering that client to do it. You will upload it to WordPress yourself – that’s no problem, you won’t charge any extra, because that will also teach you how to upload to WordPress.

LH: Well, this has actually been true with Basecamp. I didn’t know how to use Basecamp.

PW: That’s it. And so you can almost – you can offer this free service while using it as a way to learn how to do it. And then in the future maybe expand it into something more substantial, and then it’s a whole new service you offer.

LH: Absolutely. Like I said, it’s the perfect example, because while I am familiar with WordPress, I wasn’t familiar with Basecamp at all.

PW: That’s it.

LH: And I panicked. I thought, “Oh, my goodness!” This client said, “I’m going to set up a Basecamp. We’ll use that.” “Oh, dear.” I loved it. So simple.

PW: The first time I used Basecamp I was the same. He was like, “You’re okay with dealing with it all on Basecamp?” But of course I was like, “Yeah…”

LH: Like uh-huh… [laughter]

PW: And it’s actually, I think we both agree it’s more intuitive than it might sound.

LH: It’s so, so easy. But now I can proactively say to new clients, “It’s fine to deal with me by email. I’m fine to upload things to Basecamp, and I’m also happy to upload things to WordPress.”

PW: Exactly. And so doing it for free for one person can become a proactive service offering for another.

LH: Absolutely. And you can readjust your fees for new clients.

PW: Oh, yeah. [laughter]

LH: So while you can say to your existing client, “No, don’t be daft. It takes me five minutes extra,” the fact that you can package it more intuitively in the future for new clients… You can say, “I offer just the text for x pounds. If you’d like it uploaded to WordPress, complete with metadata and an image, then I can do that for say 5 pounds more.” There are ways and means to do that. Because it will start adding up if you start doing 10 minutes extra for every single client.

PW: Yeah, or all your little extras for one client. Then it’s an hour.

LH: Yeah, of course. So there are ways and means to really make it work for you.

PW: And what we touched upon just then is also really important. Everything we said about being proactive, being flexible, being responsive, going the extra mile, is very important, but that’s not the same as saying you should do anything and everything a client demands regardless of how reasonable it is.

LH: Absolutely. Because at the end of the day your time is chargeable, so you need to keep a handle on the extras, and make sure that, one, there is a return on investment and that there is a benefit, and that you don’t have a client who’s all take-take-take. And sadly, they gimmick this sometimes. And you need to make sure that they’re not adding up, even if your client’s the loveliest client in the world, that they’re not adding up to what’s significant chargeable time.

PW: Yeah. If you were in a salary job and your boss is constantly asking you to do things for them. It doesn’t really matter because they’re paying you regardless of what you do. As a freelancer, it is different. And so if somebody is expecting loads of extras, then it’s not reasonable.

LH: Absolutely. And there are certain warning finds that you can look out for. Because when you start out you really want to meet everybody’s needs. And as we said at the start of this episode, meeting people’s needs is good. That’s what this whole thing is about. But, but, but there are some people who will take advantage of that, either once or twice or consistently. And you need to be able to know what’s reasonable and what’s not. And it’s not always straightforward at the start to know what’s —

PW: Oh, definitely.

LH: Particularly if you don’t have colleagues to discuss it with. It’s not easy to work these things out on your own, which is why things like this podcast and blogs for freelancers are very useful resources to have. Because you can sound off and you can say to people, “Oh, my client keeps expecting me to do this or my client’s expecting me to do that.” So the first warning sign that you need to look out for really is if the activity is costing you money.

PW: And this can be based on the client’s unreasonable demands, or it can be based on you having priced your services naively, and not taking into account the fact that in freelancing you do need to pay for time that isn’t writing. But if you’re confident you’ve priced your services well, perhaps it’s just one client’s — or if all your clients you feel are costing you extra money, then you’ve priced yourself wrong. If most you feel it’s very fair, and then there’s one that is actively costing you money because you’re having to spend time doing something when you could be doing something that you’re being paid for, then this is definitely a warning sign to look out for.

LH: Absolutely. And there are certain things you can do to protect yourself varying from just cutting down the little freebees, and maybe starting to add a few more to your invoice. I mean, you’ll have to behave in a way that suits this client, so not all of this advice will suit. Putting a writing agreement in place – for example, if they want five or six rounds of amends to every blog post from you, it might be… Obviously, if it’s mistakes that you’ve made, then there’s a problem with your writing, but if they just decide that, “Oh, I forgot to tell you this. Can we add this in? Oh, I forgot to mention that, and it would be really good to talk about this. And I just spotted this in the paper. Can you add that in, as well?” That’s the kind of stuff where you might think you may need to make an agreement with this person that one round of amends is included, anything else is chargeable as per my hourly rate afterwards.

PW: And there are some of these things that often once you’ve been through them once or twice with clients, then you just begin to insist on them from the beginning. If you’ve had a few clients that have tested your patience wanting amend after amend, then, like most freelancers, you’ll quickly start being clear from the beginning how many rounds of edits are included in your fee. So often you just need to go through it once or twice before you then just put it as part of your general work agreement.

LH: And then you can decide when you want to be flexible with that.

PW: Yes, with everything we’ve said before.

LH: Yeah, even if I’ve put in place fixed prices agreements that say that I include one round of amends, but if they need a couple more amends making, and you really value them as a client, and they’re normally ace, don’t be like, “Whoa, well, according to our contract…”

PW: Yeah, especially if you’re in a situation where you’re aware you may not have done the best job in that particular case, then…

LH: Absolutely.

PW: So it can be a close call, but you’ll also have instincts about it.

LH: Yeah, just strengthen your position and be aware of a few things. The second point is if it’s stressing you out consistently.

PW: Yes. Everybody has days where everything feels stressful, and every client feels unreasonable. And sometimes, that said, you just have one of those days. But if a particular client is stressing you out day after day or week after week, then this is something to look at, as well.

LH: True. If you start to dread hearing from them because their demands are getting so excessive – I think we’ve all had clients like that, haven’t we?

PW: Yeah, yeah.

LH: I had one client who wanted me to go round for lunch rather than paying for meetings. And there are certain things that get really, really silly, and you start dreading hearing from that person because they’re always finding ways to try and push you the extra mile.

PW: Yeah. I read a blog post, I can’t remember where, but it was on a freelance writing blog. The title intrigued me because it was something about why the writer was going to refuse to write guest posts anymore. And this wasn’t a guest post on their own behalf; it was a guest post on their client’s behalf. And I thought that’s odd because I sometimes have clients who want me to write posts that they can then guest post on another blog. It’s the same as writing them a blog post.

LH: Yeah. It doesn’t really matter where they put it in the end, doesn’t it?

PW: That was my thinking, but then when I read the article, it turned out that there are clients who expect their writers to not only write the post, but to approach every blog in the industry —

LH: No!

PW: — to try and negotiate terms about how many links you can get in your guest post, and then write the post and give it to that third-party site. And that writers are finding – nobody is shocked surely at this – but writers were finding that they could write that post in an hour and a half, as usual, but then they might spend five or six hours trying to find a blog that would host it, And that’s when I thought, “Of course they’re refusing to do it from now on.”

So I commented and said, “I’m perfectly happy to write guest posts, but I’ve only ever done it in a way where my client or their marketing agency or whatever has found somewhere to host it, has done all the negotiations and all I’m doing is writing a post as I would be writing it anywhere.” That I can totally understand why writers are stressed if they’re having to do all that when it’s not really their role. So that is a sign of being exploited, I think.

LH: Yeah. I mean, I had something similar, and it’s from one of my favourite clients, so it absolutely wasn’t exploitative. It was just them not really knowing about the process. I had written them a press release and they said, “Right. When are you going to send it out?” And I said, “Well, I’m not going to. I’m not going to send it out,” because when you send out a press release you have to not only send it out, but you have to follow up. You have to deal with any of the responses that come back in, you have to negotiate terms. And aside from that, it doesn’t look very good coming from a random freelance writer’s address.

PW: Yeah. I was thinking if nothing else, it has to come from one of their email addresses.

LH: Absolutely. So instead of saying to them as I might have done when I started out, “Oh, okay. I’ll send it forward,” I said to them, “I’m sorry if there’s been a miscommunication. That’s not actually part of what I do. I’m just the content production side of things. However,” – and this is where Pip’s marvellous idea came in – “I’ve attached something here that tells you step by step how to send out a press release, how to follow up, and how to get the best chance at being included in your chosen publication. If you need anything else from me please don’t hesitate. I’m available on the phone, as well, so if there’s anything you’re not sure about give me a call.”

PW: Yeah, absolutely. And that resolves…

LH: They were happy. They were super happy. They were like, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize. Oops, my bad.”

PW: Well, that’s it. Sometimes it is naivety on the part of the client rather than desire to take you for everything you’ve got.

LH: Yeah. No, absolutely. And it’s always good to work off that premise, as well, because it stops you becoming better. It can be really easy, because some people are taking the proverbial; some people will do what they can to get what they can from anybody they can. But some people don’t realize – and it’s easy. I think we’ve discussed this before, when you said if you’ve had the busiest Saturday out in town and people have been knocking into you and elbowing you in shops, the first person who bumps into you on the street when you go home you let fly, and you have a huge go at them, and you can’t do this with clients. You have to just treat them all as though they were just naïve as opposed to really annoying. And then if it keeps happening consistently that’s when you start to deal with things more firmly.

PW: And another sign to look out for, rather than necessarily what they’re doing is how it’s making you feel. We’ve mentioned if you’re feeling stressed, but also if you’re feeling resentful, if you’re feeling angry, if you’re actually starting to hate their name showing up in your inbox – it might be signs that you’re not happy in other ways. Everybody has a bad day where they don’t want to hear from anybody, frankly. But if it’s more consistent, if it’s more long-lasting, look at how it’s making you feel. Do you really hate hearing from them? Do you feel like you’re being taken advantage of? Do you feel like it’s affecting your ability to do what you’re supposed to be doing?

LH: Yeah, it might well be that the more you resent somebody, the less willing you are to do a good job to them. And while that might be fair, that might be the most awful exploitative client in the world, and they might be doing it completely deliberately, you’d be better off getting rid of them than doing a bad job for them.

PW: Definitely, because then if you did a bad job half deliberately or because you didn’t care, you’re then compromising your own integrity. You’re making yourself look as unprofessional and as bad as they’re being, and that’s not a position you want to be in.

LH: You need to be able to be in a position where you’re doing the best for your clients. And if you’re feeling exploited you’re not going to be meeting your clients’ needs but also your career isn’t going to be meeting your needs, and your work isn’t going to be meeting your business needs. So it’s a whole kettle of fish, really.

PW: And so really we’ve been looking at meeting client needs, but not at the expense of your own needs. If you feel you’re being compromised, if you feel you’re being exploited, then that’s a situation you need to get out of. If, however, you have clients who are respectful, who appreciate what you do, then you will find yourself wanting to go the extra mile. You’ll want to do a bit more for them and make them happy. And you will start thinking of creative, proactive ideas that can really build on the relationship you’ve already got and create an even better situation for you and for your clients.

LH: That’s so true, because as copywriters, we don’t just write what we want. We don’t, do we?

PW: That’s so true.

LH: I don’t want to write about waste management half the time, but half the time it’s what I do.

PW: And even if it’s the topic we want to write about, we may have to write from an angle that we don’t want to write from.

LH: Absolutely. And you can inject a level of pleasure into your business by finding creative ways to really meet your customer’s needs. It’s a nice feeling to know that you have a business that is invaluable to people. It’s a really, really nice feeling.

PW: And that that’s you.

LH: Yes. Yeah, absolutely, that you are your business. And it’s just a nice thing to have done. Try and embrace the ups and downs of a freelance business, and really make sure that you’re not stuck in a salaried mind set. So if you hear from a client on a Saturday morning and they say, “I’m so sorry to contact you on the weekend. We’ve just been invited to a trade show. There’s this spare stand. We’d love to go, but we need a press release, and we need it by Monday morning. Could you help us?” Instead of thinking, “Oh, my God, what the hell? Contacting me on the weekend? This is my weekend. Monday to Friday, that’s when I work.” And it is when I work. I do work Monday to Friday, 9-to-5-ish, but it’s not a salary job.

Freelancing is partly about being flexible. So just bring yourself back down and think, “Come on. I go for long lunches, I do brunching, I have appointments, I go to networking events.” You’re flexible in the week when it suits you. We all love a bit of flexibility when we fancy a long lunch or a cup of tea in the afternoon. So when it doesn’t perhaps suit you as much try not to take it too much to heart. It’s just part and parcel of the job, isn’t?

PW: Yeah. There’s an example I think I’ve mentioned before on the podcast, but it highlights that quite well, which is I was having a busy week, and there was one client that was pushing my limits a bit, demanding a lot more than we had agreed in a very urgent way, which is very stressful.

LH: Because my panic is your panic.

PW: That’s it. And then right in the middle of it one of my very regular, very valued, very nice clients said, “I don’t suppose you could do an extra blog post for this week, could you?” And I remember emailing Lorrie and going, “I can’t believe he wants some extra work tomorrow. When am I supposed to do work before tomorrow?” And Lorrie just thankfully said, “I don’t think he was really being that demanding. I think he’s –”

LH: I think he’s just asking.

PW: — just wondering, and that’s okay. But because I was in this state of stress, and I was in quite a state of defensiveness because somebody else was pushing my limits, my quick immediate reaction to a very polite request – thankfully, this reaction went to Lorrie rather than the client. It was like, “How could people want even more from me?”

LH: And God, haven’t I got enough on my plate?

PW: As soon as read her response I instantly knew she was right. It kind of tricked me back I was like, “Oh, of course.” So I could get back to this client and said, “I’m really full, but I could do it in two days. Would that be okay?”

LH: Yeah. I think you said you could do it by Friday rather than Thursday.

PW: That’s it.

LH: And they were super happy, weren’t they? They were like, “Oh, thank goodness.”

PW: That’s it. We’ve all ended up happy. But yeah, there’s always a line, and sometimes it’s difficult to recognize.

LH: Absolutely. At the end of the day it’s all about being human, isn’t it?

PW: Of course.

LH: Because when we run off our feet and we feel exploited and we feel like we’re not getting things done, somewhere inside we feel like we’re failing. And when you feel like you’re failing you get defensive, and it all spirals from there. But really it’s just about juggling plates and just squeezing a little bit of extra value out where you can. And if you can’t, you can’t. If it would take you an extra 20 minutes to form out a blog post in a way that a client would like ideally, then don’t offer it for free. If you can do it in extra five minutes, then maybe consider offering it for free if they’re a regular client.

PW: Yeah. If you’ve already written the article and they suddenly say, “Can we change it to something else?” it’s reasonable to say, “Well, I’ve already done it. I’ll do that one for you next time, maybe.” If you haven’t started it yet, then say, “Yeah, absolutely. I’ll do the new topic. That’s totally fine.”

LH: Yeah, why not? It’s no odds to you, is it?

PW: That’s it. And so do offer — you’re not expected to go the extra mile every day necessarily, every week. But when something occurs to you or if you’re thinking, like what we said earlier, somebody just seems a bit less enthusiastic than they used to be, that might be a good time to try and think of extra things you could do or ways you could just over deliver a little bit, and it will make you feel good, and it will be good for your business, as well as pleasing the client.

LH: Absolutely. And as Pip mentioned earlier, there are ways to see why you’re going the extra mile and to incorporate that into your business in the future. Because your business isn’t static. It grows and evolves just as the needs of your clients grow and evolve. And if you decide that, for example – going back to the WordPress thing – if you decide that you can offer that as another service, that makes you look really good. That makes you look really good, because you’re taking weight off your client’s shoulders, and you’re making yourself invaluable to them. And really, what more do you want? To be paid for doing something that you enjoy, and for delivering a really good service to your clients?

PW: Well, exactly.

LH: So now I think that neatly brings us to the A Little Bird Told Me Recommendations of the Week.

PW: It does, indeed.

LH: So this is the section where Philippa and I discuss something that we spotted over the course of the last week that we think might be funny or interesting, or useful to you. In some way it’s just our extra value to you.

PW: Yes. We’re just going the extra mile and over-delivering.

LH: Sticking with the theme. So Philippa, darling Philippa.

PW: Yes.

LH: Your recommendation this week?

PW: Well, something that Lorrie and I have touched upon numerous times doing this podcast is if you’re self-publishing there are certain things you can do for yourself, and there are certain things that are almost always best outsourced. And my recommendation this week is the humorous look at of those very things. It is a blog that shows – it’s called

LH: Oh, good. I think I’m going to like this.

PW: Its subtitle is “Just because you can design your own cover, it doesn’t mean you should.”

LH: Oh, I’ve just clicked the link.

PW: And people submit the things they’ve spotted, lousy book covers, basically, all self-published e-books that have just…

LH: This is amazing.

PW: Isn’t it? I spent a good two hours going through the archives when I first found it. The blog host does – it’s got various tags. He tags things – bad font choice, pixilation. Art for a Refrigerator is my favourite. There’s MS Paint Reborn.

LH: Oh, I love it.

PW: They are brilliant in their awfulness, frankly.

LH: So funny.

PW: Readability is another one. The number of these that I’ve seen where you cannot read the title because it’s like red on a red background or perhaps it’s really… It’s a very funny blog and it also does give a very clear message, that these people presumably thought they’ve done an okay job.

LH: Oh, so often the case.

PW: And yet they are like unbelievable, some of them.

LH: You’re running out of words just in pure shock.

PW: I know. I’m scrolling through it again, and it does leave you quite speechless, isn’t it?

LH: I love this.

PW: And I think we ought both to choose our favourite lousy book cover off the site.

LH: I think we should.

PW: And I will link to those, as well, because we then need to hear your favourite —

LH: I think we should put them on our Facebook page.

PW: Oh, that’s a good idea.

LH: If you come and a have a look at you can submit your favourites to us. We will mark them together, because they deserve it.

PW: So this blog is first of all hilarious. It will make you laugh and it will make you cringe more than you knew you could cringe. But it also does give a valuable lesson to self-publishers, I think.

LH: Oh, if only they would listen.

PW: [laughter]

LH: Oh, dear me.

PW: And so that is my recommendation. I think we can both safely say that give yourself a good hour when you click this link.

LH: I think I might just quit my business, just spend the rest of my life looking at that link. It’s amazing this is, honestly. I think I’m going to post this a lot.

PW: [laughter]

LH: So my recommendation is comparatively boring. It’s this whole business thing. Rather than looking at lousy book covers, it’s something useful. So I thought, “Right, rather than getting frivolous I’ll go with something useful.” But now I look like the boring aunt. But my link is a HubSpot freebee.

PW: We love HubSpot.

LH: We love HubSpot and we love freebees. In this instance it is a free download. It’s 50 customizable – that was what got me – call-to-action templates. And the reason this caught my eye so much is not just that it’s free and it’s customizable so you can adapt it to meet your own need, it was brought to mind after I was asked for some advice on an article that somebody had written. And the thing that struck me immediately, and it’s something that this person isn’t by any means alone in doing, is that the article didn’t have a clear call-to-action.

Now it can be easy to get carried away as a freelance writer and think, “Oh, I must make this perfect, and get the keywords in there, and really make it very readable and wonderful. And my language is great, and that analogy in paragraph four is marvellous.” If there’s no clear purpose to your writing, there is no purpose to you writing. There’s no point.

PW: Yeah. There’s study after study after study that shows that writing something as simple as “Tell us what you think in the comments” will make people tell you what they think in the comments. It’s weirdly powerful, whether it’s “Sign up for my mailing list” and “Tweet this article,” telling people to do something has a surprisingly high success rate in making them do it.

LH: Definitely. And you need to know how to do that. And in terms of articles, that’s often language at the bottom, so written calls to action, but when it comes to your website it has to be quite visual. And things from the font to the size of the font, to the colour of the button, to everything, the wording – that will all have a massive effect. There are people who make a career out of split testing the results of this.

PW: Indeed, conversion rate optimization.

LH: Yes. You see this, Pip, not just with the lousy book covers, but with the perfect phrases. It’s conversion rate optimization, and you need to be able to measure how effective your marketing is going to be if you want to have any chance of making your website a success. And this free download from HubSpot – HubSpot is brilliant. For inbound marketing, particularly, it’s superb. And the article says, “Redesigning your call-to-action buttons can improve click-through rates by 1,300% or more.”

PW: Yeah. It’s mind-blowing, isn’t it? You can always read a case study somewhere on the web of someone who changed their buy-now button from blue to green and got 12 times the number of sales. It seems to make no sense, but there’s a lot of evidence of this stuff.

What I really like about HubSpot is that they practice what they preach, because they’re a company that is based on offering inbound marketing services to businesses. And so you can hire them to do a lot of different inbound marketing things, but the way they get their business is entirely inbound marketing. They provide brilliant content. If you don’t subscribe to them, then do. If you do any amount of content marketing you need to keep on top of HubSpot. Because they do it. They provide great information about it, and by doing that provide themselves with leads, which is what inbound marketing is.

LH: Definitely. And this is the important thing about a call-to-action, is that people feel that you’re talking to them, that they have a say, that you’re interacting with them, and not that you’re just words on a page. So if you can download this – it’s 50 customizable call-to-action templates. They’re colourful – knowing HubSpot, they are all beautiful and marvellous, and they are visually arresting, and that is exactly what you need. You need to catch people’s attention, because, as we said, if you’re in the right place at the right time saying the right things, and likewise, if your perspective clients are in the right place at the right time namely on your website, you need to be saying the right things in the right way to catch their attention, and a perfect way to do that is to have a customized call-to-action button.

So I’d say that brings to the end of episode 62.

PW: I think you’re right. We also want to mention at this stage that, for a while at least, we’re going to trial doing these podcasts fortnightly rather than weekly. We really enjoy doing them, but we take so much time that is getting a bit unsustainable at times. And so what we’re going to do, just give it a go, see how we get on doing them fortnightly. There are still tons of archives you can listen to if you really miss us, and we will be back with you in two weeks’ time.

LH: Absolutely. And we’re always available on the Facebook page. We’re still busy bees there, which is at, as well as at homepage.

PW: So come over and say hello. Let us know what you think of what we’re doing, as long as it’s nice.

LH: [laughter]

PW: And I have been Philippa Willitts…

LH: … and I have been Lorrie Hartshorn, and we will catch you in a fortnight’s time.

Podcast Episode 61: How To Start Freelancing In 2014

Sometimes the hardest thing is to just get started, so if you are really committed to making freelance writing your full-time business, in this solo episode Lorrie outlines her freelance business planning blueprint. Follow her suggestions to be up and running as a freelance writer in just six weeks.

Show Notes

ALBTM 17 – How To Create An Editorial Calendar

ALBTM 18 – How To Network Like A Ninja

ALBTM 20 – Goalplanning: your freelance writing aims for 2013

ALBTM 23 – How to decide what to charge for your freelance writing services

ALBTM 24 – The art of getting paid

ALBTM 25 – why and How to Charge More For Your Freelance Writing

Monthly budget template


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Hello and welcome to a Little Bird Told Me, the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade. We talk about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful self-employment, saving you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes, and guiding you to the very top of your chosen profession.

Freelancing is amazing, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Tune in to the podcast every week, and if you go to you can subscribe to ensure you never miss an episode. Whether iTunes, an RSS podcatcher or Stitcher Smart Radio are your platform of choice, we’ve made it really easy to sign up and be the first to hear our latest words of wisdom. There, you will also find any links we mention, our own websites and social media feeds, and the A Little Bird Told Me Facebook Page, too.

I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and this week, it’s time for my solo episode. Philippa will be back next week, though, so make sure you subscribe at our homepage so you don’t miss her victorious return.

English: blueprint

So, this week I’m going to talk about something a lot of people have asked me about recently. And I mean – A LOT.  I’ve had emails, phone-calls, LinkedIn messages and long sessions with lots of coffee – all based around the same thing: “How to get into freelancing”

Over the last year and a bit, Pip and I have talked about lots of the different things you need to master when you’re a freelance writer. If you want to make a success of being self-employed, you have to work hard. But what we’ve not really looked at specifically – at least not for a good while – is how you go about getting started.

For a number of reasons – some of them more transient than others – a lot of people seem to be wanting to make a move toward freelancing at the moment.  Whether you’ve been made redundant, can’t find a job, just want to work for yourself, or make some extra money to supplement an existing job, you’ll have your reasons for wanting to go solo.

What I want to make clear, though, is that freelancing isn’t easy – particularly if you’re wanting to make it your sole income. Above all things, you’ll need to be persistent and consistent – if you’re easily disheartened, you’re lacking in drive and confidence (even if it’s fake!), or you’re not 100% sold on the idea, it’s going to be a very steep uphill struggle.

If you’re sure you have the time, commitment and basic skills needed to become a freelance writer (and a knowledge of SEO is definitely included in that – had way too many people recently thinking that SEO’s optional!), this podcast will hopefully give you a check-list of essentials to work to, so that you’ll be able to hit the ground running in the new year, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got the basics sorted.

So, with the end of the year coming up fast, I’m going to look at how to set up as a freelance writer in six weeks. With exactly eight weeks left until 2014, that gives you six weeks of hard work (and you’ll need to do work around all the suggestions in this podcast) and two to recover/be festive.

Even if you’re already a successful sole trader, stay tuned – with 2013 almost at an end, it’s a really good time to make sure you’re doing everything you need to, to make a real success of your business over the next year.

I’ve assigned four tasks to each week, assuming that, like me, you enjoy having a couple of days off. If you’re doing this part-time, or you’re not bothered about having full days off, you can obviously redistribute the work across more or fewer days.

Week 1

So, week one. It’s time to decide exactly what you can and do offer – and how you’re going to communicate that to your clients.

1.Make a list of your freelancing skills.

Grab a big piece of paper and brainstorm everything you *can* do on to that. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s related to freelancing, writing, words, editing, marketing.

Once you’ve got a load of stuff down on paper, you need to work out what could feasibly become part of your freelance writing career. Draw three columns to the side of that list and title them “enjoy”, “good at” and “demand” – namely, whether you enjoy the task, whether you’re good at it, and whether there’s any real demand for that service on the part of clients.

Work your way down the list and tick the boxes that apply. It’s really important to be honest, though, otherwise this is a pointless exercise. Don’t panic if you’re not sure there’s a demand for something – pop a question mark in there if you really don’t know, but don’t let yourself pop question marks in when you know there isn’t a demand but you wish there was!

For stuff you enjoy doing and there’s a demand for, make a separate list and start looking around online for training that can help you improve your skills in these areas. Start scheduling in some training bit by bit – this is really important and something you will have to keep on with forever.

2. Space and equipment

  • the office equipment, software and materials you already have

  • how much money you have at your disposal to invest in your freelancing business

  • where will you work? How much of the house will you use? This is important for tax purposes

3. Journal your day-to-day activities – find out when you get up, go to sleep, eat lunch, exercise, slump, socialise – everything.

4. Time and resources

  • people who can give you support

  • how much time you can devote to freelancing

  • co working spaces?

Week 2

Smart goals

Smart goals (Photo credit: shaggy359)

5. Set Your Freelancing Goals – SMART Goals. Episode 20. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-sensitive. It’s a good idea to set monthly goals so you can set aside time each month to see if you’re hitting those targets.

6. Get Inside Your Client’s Head – who are they? What do they want? Which social media platforms are they on? How do they like to communicate? What are their values?

7. Check out the competition

Quick Check on Your Competitors – are you charging the right amount? What do they do well? What are they doing poorly? Are people interacting with them? Learn what you can!

8. What you’re offering- time to set those services. If you don’t know what you’re offering, your clients won’t either. Know what you’re selling, how long it’ll take you, how much of it you want to do, and what the benefits are. Know your services.

Week 3

9: What to charge and how? Episodes 23-25. What you want to charge, how much you need/expect to make, whether you’re going to charge hourly, by the job or use a combined approach. Very complicated, and not something you want to get wrong – most freelancers charge way too little, some charge way too much, so please check out our three episode series on this!

10: All about money. Setting your budgets – marketing, training, office equipment etc., deciding how you want to be paid, setting up a Paypal account if necessary, checking you’re happy with your bank account, deciding how to invoice, setting up an invoice template

Keeping track of your money

11. What makes you special? USP and elevator pitch – base this on what you know about your target markets and keep it in mind as you start to promote yourself. You can also use this information to help you with your next task, which is setting up a website. Think carefully about your company or brand name, and your website URL. Three important things to remember

  1. Easy to remember. Really long domains can be confusing, as can ones with odd acronyms or letters in them

  2. Easy to spell. If you have to say your web or email address over the phone it’s always better if you don’t have to say it letter by letter with things like dashes or underscores mixed in.

  3. Appropriately descriptive. A name that says something or ties in with your name or business name is best. Its easy to remember and immediately identifies you

12. Set up a WordPress website – time to get ranking. Choose a nice, neutral theme. Don’t worry about being too exciting, just keep it professional. This might take you a while, but trust me – as a former tech-phobe (and still not the techy-est person in the world) WordPress is really easy to use. It’s way easier than some other CMSs.

Week 4 – extra content

13. Pick up some plug-ins: do some research into plugins that will help your site run faster and more securely (Akismet is a lifesaver, screening out spam comments, and Limit Logins helps protect you from automated attacks, and help you to promote the things you post across social media. It’s also a really good idea to add a contact form to your site – they capture emails a lot more effectively than just putting an email address in there.

14. Putting pages on your website: Home, about, services, FAQs, testimonials, training, contact me.  Get some testimonials ready for your site – ask anyone and everyone you can think of. And don’t panic if you don’t have any writing testimonials just yet – it’s also important to let clients know how you work, so if you’ve got people who’re willing to say that you get work done on time, always pitch in as part of a team, have brilliant creative ideas or are just lovely to work with, it’s far better than nothing.

15: Check in with your organisation. Are you keeping to the hours or are you slacking off already? Are you getting up when you need to? Are you working where you’re supposed to or vegging in front of the TV? How’s the training coming on?

16. BLOG. Content marketing important – social media and evidence of your ability to write. Think about setting up an editorial calendar (ep 17) so you can drop in ideas when the mood strikes and keep on top of what needs publishing and when.

Week 5

17. Prep some test pieces ready for your portfolio. You might want to upload these, you might not, but it’s good to have them on hand.

18: Client communications:  be prepared to communicate with your clients like a business. Forget the whole “Who, little old me?” attitude and get ready to talk shop.

  • project proposal/bid/quotation

  • terms of agreement or a contract

  • submission of completed project

  • invoice

  • receipt

  • request for feedback

19: Get social – set yourself up with, at the very least, a Twitter and LinkedIn account. Facebook can also be worth it, particularly if you’re looking to engage with B2C clients – but go with what you can manage. Make a plan to engage daily with these platforms, and/or schedule some updates, including links to your site and blog. Start to subscribe to – and comment on – popular blogs or business sites, so you can start to get your name out there and your voice heard. Make sure what you contribute is quality, and not spam.

20.  Brainstorm some marketing activities you could carry out

Here are some activities of marketing activities:

  • Publish a blog post weekly about a topic your target clients are interested in.

  • Submit articles in article directories.

  • Network on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn

  • Join an online forum.

  • Send a pitch email to a prospect

  • Cold call a company

  • Attend a live conference.

  • Give away a white paper or special report and start to build up your database of contacts

Week 6

21: Make a marketing plan

Here’s what your marketing plan should have:

  • Your freelancing goals and objectives – Simply take this out of your assignment on Day 3, when you set your freelancing goals.

  • An analysis of your target clients – Don’t panic; you’ve done this! Go back to the assignment on Day 4, when you got inside your target clients’ heads.

  • Marketing activities

  • Schedule of implementation

  • Monitoring and evaluation

22. Identify some prospects – blogs, social media, business sites, networking events…use your imagination to identify a number of clients to approach over the coming months. Start an excel file of clients and sectors you’d like to target and set yourself a goal – depending on how much time you have – to start pitching regularly.

Elevator Pitch for Katie

Elevator Pitch for Katie (Photo credit: Marco Wessel)

23. Prepare to get networking – look for events, decide whether to go to one-off events or regular ones, be aware of the pros and cons of both. Make sure you have your elevator pitch down pat and a smart suit ready to wear. If you can, get yourself a small batch of business cards and get used to carrying those – I keep a few in my wallet, a few in my diary and a few more in a pocket in my handbag so whether I’m out shopping, sitting in a meeting or just out and about, I’m likely to have one to hand. Don’t go bad and buy 500 – 100 will do for a start, even 50 if you’re a bit skint.

24. Learn your pitch. It doesn’t matter how you prefer to pitch – whether you’re naturally an emailer, a cold-caller, a networker or a combination of the three. Research how to effectively pitch to clients – both in general and specifically to certain markets. Say you want to target clients in the B2C professional services sector, like insurance and law, consultants, architects, engineers, doctors and dentists. But you also want to target B2B customers in the nuclear sector, because you did a degree in engineering. What do clients in these two sectors need? What are their concerns? What do they want? How do they communicate? What are their values, missions, priorities. If you focus on these things, you’re far more likely to convince companies in those sectors that you can adequately meet their requirements.

NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo, NaWhat?

English: Beibin Park, Bad weather. ‪中文(繁體)‬:...

English: Beibin Park, Bad weather. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 天候不佳的北濱公園。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a bid to get some work done on my own sites, I have decided to undertake the NaBloPoMo challenge this November, which involves publishing a blog post a day for the entire month. I spend so much of my time doing paid writing for other people’s websites that my own can get sadly neglected at times, so I am using this challenge as a way to start populating my own web properties, too.

Other writers are embarking on NaNoWriMo, a challenge that captures the imagination of thousands of people across the world as they try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, and although I don’t have the time or energy to do that this year, we did publish a podcast episode about how to go about it, and I suspect I will be taking some of my own advice from that when it comes to sticking to the NaBloPoMo challenge, too.

November seems to be the month when a lot of these types of challenges kick in, and they are not just related to writing. Plenty of men use the month to grow a ‘tache, for instance, and my hatred of the hairy facial features is not eased by their proliferation during this month each year. However, it’s not for me to say how others present their faces, so I just try to be tolerant.

Thinking about it, November is a good choice for this kind of thing. Spending every day writing thousands of words of a novel or finding a topic for a blog post would be considerably less attractive if it was preventing us from chilling on the beach on a summer’s day. However, the weather here today makes me happy to be inside, typing away: the blustery, freezing wind and soggy clouds are foul, and I am not at all aggrieved at being indoors, writing this instead.

A month-long challenge seems, to me, to be the perfect length of time. If it went on much longer, I would lose any impetus I had to keep going, and if it was shorter it wouldn’t feel like much of an achievement. If I can blog or add a page to one of my websites every day for 30 days, that will be a whole lot more new web content and when I start flagging I can remind myself that 30 days really isn’t a big deal. I am hosting my NaBloPoMo blog at 21 Day Challenges, where I will post every day to highlight what I have published that day. It was a site set up with great intentions a few years ago, and then entirely ignored as full-time freelance writing has kept me incredibly busy.

So, feel free to head over there and subscribe to keep an eye on how I get on with my daily blogging challenge. The more people I have keeping an eye on my progress, the less likely I am to give up halfway through!

Podcast Episode 60: Dealing with Sexual Harassment and Sexism from Freelance Clients

Many freelancers, especially those who are women or belong to minority groups, will have had an experience of being patronised, not taken seriously, or harassed. Unfortunately, these kinds of oppressive behaviours can really have a negative effect on a person’s health and wellbeing, as well as their business. In my own experience, and that of Lorrie’s, this can be a particular risk in sectors which have traditionally been male-dominated, but it can happen anywhere, so in this podcast we talk about how freelancers can recognise when they are being treated inappropriately, and what they can do when it happens.

Show Notes

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PW: Hello and welcome to a Little Bird Told Me, the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade. We talk about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful self-employment, saving you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes, and guiding you to the very top of your chosen profession.

PW: Freelancing is amazing, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Tune in to the podcast every week, and if you go to you can subscribe to ensure you never miss an episode. Whether iTunes, an RSS podcatcher or Stitcher Smart Radio are your platform of choice, we’ve made it really easy to sign up and be the first to hear our latest words of wisdom. There, you will also find any links we mention, our own websites and social media feeds, and the A Little Bird Told Me Facebook Page, too. I am Philippa Willitts…

LH:…and I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and today, we’re going to be talking about how to deal with clients who are chauvinist and/or patronising to you so horrible clients who talk down to you and may be trying to degrade you.

Freelance writing can be hard enough without clients trying to undermine you with negative behaviour patterns. Sadly, you can’t control how other people treat you – at least, not directly. What you can do, though, is learn certain ways of responding to behaviour like this that will help to nip the issue in the bud. It’s also worth assessing your own overall demeanour to see if there’s anything you can do to try and prevent clients trying this kind of stuff on with you in the first place.

PW: There are things you simply don’t have to put up with, but we can often blame ourselves or just think that it’s part and parcel of the job. You don’t, and it isn’t!

LH: No, and to be clear: it’s never your fault if someone else chooses to act unprofessionally. You’re not responsible for their behaviour, and you’re not responsible for changing someone else’s behaviour. But, to get along in business, and for the sake of your own health and wellbeing, it’s good to have some strategies that may at least help to minimise the effect of patronising people’s actions on your sense of self. Now as Pip says, it can be part and parcel of the job – dealing with horrible people. Our hope is not just to give you some tips and tricks for dealing with people like this, but also to let you know that you’re not on your own.

Now, typically patronising or condescending people tend to latch on to people who they perceive as easy to victimise. This may be because of something they see (or think they see) in their target’s personality, or it may be chauvinist behaviour based on cultural or societal assumptions they have – for example, seeing women as less capable.

What we’re going to do in this episode is look at a few ways that condescending people operate, and explore some of the ways you can learn to cope a little better.

So, before we really get started, I want to interject with a little word of warning, and that’s that it’s important to remember that the client may not realise they’re being patronising, condescending or offensive to you.

PW: Yes, some people genuinely feel like they’re being helpful but it can come over as some weird paternalistic behaviour and the underlying sense is that they don’t take you seriously. However that’s not their intention – they just think they’re being super nice.

LH: While that doesn’t make it OK, it does mean that it’s worth taking a gentle stand before you go in with all guns blazing.

PW: Yes, the guns are a last resort! Hahaha! My words of wisdom for the world!

LH: Try words before guns. I think we could just end this podcast there. Now, it can be difficult to want to give clients the benefit of the doubt sometimes – particularly as freelance troubles tend weirdly to come along in clumps.

English: "Henpeck'd Club's peace box No.6...

English: “Henpeck’d Club’s peace box No.6”: a 19th century wife-soothing cradle – errant husbands for the use of – from a Bradford public house men’s club: in Keighley Stories gallery, Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley, West Yorkshire, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might be reaching the end of your tether with a few people at the same time – but you have to treat everyone fairly if only for the sake of your business, and make sure you’re not taking out your frustrations with something or someone else out on the person in question. Sometimes, I’ll have had a bad week or month and will find myself being like, “That’s it. Had enough. Zero tolerance. NO MORE!” but then I have to be careful that the next client who comes along and maybe puts their foot in it a little bit – say with an unfortunate remark – doesn’t get shot on sight!

PW: Yes, this happens in life as well you might have been in a busy city centre on a Saturday afternoon and your patience is wearing thin, and then one person bumps into you and they get it all, and it’s not about them, it’s about the build-up.

LH: So yes, when a client is patronising or condescending towards you, it can be really tempting to just get in there and stick up for yourself – particularly if you feel like you’ve been treated , or feel like allowed yourself to be treated, poorly in the past.

But, as I say, the client might not realise. They might think (and I think this applies in a sadly large number of cases) that they’re being funny and controversial and edgy, or they might just be having a bad day or week, and be responding to that by talking down to you in a bid to buoy themselves up. It’s not OK, but it’s not necessarily malicious or personal to you.

So, rather than retaliating with rude remarks, it’s important to take the opportunity to approach these things carefully and, if appropriate, implement some changes.

PW: So, some examples of the kinds of situations in which this kind of behaviour can occur: from personal experience, the worst experiences I’ve had of being patronised have been at in-person networking events. They can feel very much like an ‘old boys’ network’ – they can be quite dominated by older men who all know one another and pat each other on the back on a job well done. I attend quite a few, but when I turn up as a new woman, I get the feeling I’m being patted on the head like, “Well done, you.”

Another situation in which I’ve encountered this – and I suspect Lorrie has as well, because, for a certain amount of our work, we do work in areas that could be classed as typically male-dominated areas – is in early contact with clients. It can be hard for the people to whom I speak to take seriously that my gentle female brain could possibly understand all that scary tech stuff.

LH: Yeah, with a lot of the clients that I work with, the only women in the company are support, reception or canteen staff, so I’ll often find that men in these companies have a slight expectation that I’ll support them in their work. I’ve had people ask me to print things out for them, and to make them a coffee.

PW: I’ve been asked to Google things for men.

LH: I’ve been asked whether I’ll stay on the phone with them and direct them as they drive, which is obviously part of my content marketing work. It’s always menial, administrative work, and it’s always friendly-friendly until you say “No.”

PW: Yeah

LH: There’s very much this attitude that you’re too big for your boots if you don’t want to do their secretarial work. Or that you don’t know your place.

PW: Yes, behaviour that would be seen as assertive in men – accepted and seen as positives. When a woman does them, it can be seen as uppity.

LH: I’ll give an example later about just how negatively it can be taken when you do assert yourself. And we’re going to give those examples just so you can see how if you get in this situation and you’re being treated like a pariah, you may not actually have done something wrong, you may just have asserted yourself in a situation where people aren’t comfortable with that.

PW: Yeah, so these kinds of situations where we might find ourselves patronised or dealing with outright sexism – we’ve mentioned new clients and networking events, but they really can happen everywhere. And so what we’re going to look at now are some of the specific behaviours you might want to look out for.

LH: Absolutely. Being patronised is sometimes quite hard to spot. You might just think, “I’m not comfortable with this – why am I feeling this way?”

PW: Yes, or is this just their personality?

LH: Or is it a tone thing – did I just take this the wrong way? Am I just being over-sensitive? And the problem with that is that it’s the very basis of some people’s condescending behaviour – they’ll do things to undermine you in a way that leaves them open to saying, “No, you’re just taking it the wrong way; you’re being over-sensitive.” This is called gas-lighting, which can be quite a difficult concept to describe. The Wikipedia definition is as follows:

“Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

The term “gaslighting” comes from the play Gas Light and its film adaptations. The term is now also used in clinical and research literature.”

PW: Yeah, so something might happen that feels inappropriate to you, but if you bring it up later, you might be convinced that you’re being ridiculous, or that it didn’t happen in the way you remembered it…

LH: Or that it didn’t happen at all.

PW: Indeed. And once you know the concept, it can be easy to spot.

LH: So gaslighting is just one of the ways people can undermine you. If you feel like you’re being treated badly, it’s important that you start to try and get examples of the behaviour so you can back up your complaints. If you find concrete examples, it’s good for your own mental state – being gaslighted is something that typically happens to women because we’re taught not to be confrontational.

PW: I think that applies to everything we’ve said and are going to say in this episode, I think. We’re not saying that these things don’t happen to men – there may well be men who are listening and can relate to everything that we’re saying.

LH: That doesn’t make you less ‘manly’ either.

PW: Not at all. Now, another example of the kind of behaviour you need to look out for is your knowledge and experience not being taken seriously. If you find there are assumptions that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or if you’re getting work that you know you could be doing more detailed or better work for them, or simply that someone doesn’t believe that you’re capable of doing what you say you can. It can be very common, particularly in male-dominated sectors.

LH: Very much – and that can extend to micromanaging as well. If you find that your work is coming back with tiny amends and changes and “could you check this, and could you check this, and I’m not sure about this, and could you let me know how you’re getting on…” all the time, and you feel like someone’s piling on top of you, that can start to damage your confidence as well as your relationship with the person you’re working for.

PW: In a workplace I used to work in many years ago, the boss was a full-on tyrant. He fired a woman for bringing him the wrong kind of coffee. I was a receptionist there and he fired my predecessor for putting through a call he didn’t want to take. Thankfully I was there on a temporary contract, so I could distance myself from it, but if that’s your situation in the day-to-day…you may find you have a client who demands things be done in a certain way, using fear and aggression, and that’s another thing to look out for.

The final kind of behaviour we want to look at is out and out sexual harassment. This can also be quite hard to define, so I’ve looked up what the Equality and Human Rights Commission. So, according to EHRC, sexual harrassment is defined in two ways:

The first type is unwanted conduct on the grounds of your sex – which is basically being treated badly because you are a woman (or a man). An example of this could be if you are being bullied at work and the harasser would not treat somebody of the opposite sex in this way. This doesn’t have to take a sexual nature; it just has to be being treated badly on the basis of your gender.

The other type, probably more well-known is unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. This is against the law in the UK at least and it can include comments about the way you look which you find demeaning, indecent remarks, questions about your sex life, sexual demands by a member of your own or the opposite sex. Also, incidents involving touching and other physical abuse are criminal offences and should also be reported to the police.

The conduct must be done with the purpose of, or have the effect of, violating your dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you.

And so this is all about the things that make you feel uncomfortable. It’s often not a blatant assault situation – it’s related to being gas-lighted as we mention earlier.

LH: yes, it could be a sexist joke by email…

PW: Yup, having topless posters in the office. You don’t have to think, “Well, no one’s grabbed my breasts, so it can’t be sexual harassment.”

LH: Yes, if you feel uncomfortable and you feel it may be related to your gender, it may be sexual harassment – it’s that simple.

PW: Yes, exactly. So we’ve outlined some of the situations you might find yourself in, so now we want to look at how to react to these situations.

Now, in terms of patronising clients, which I often encounter as a woman who specialises in technical and SEO and social media topics, my favourite way to react to them is simply to prove them wrong. If someone doesn’t believe that your fragile female brain could possibly handle writing that physics textbook or providing blog posts for a structural engineering website, then let your expertise shine. And the best way to do this is by showing rather than telling – write what they want, and do it exceptionally well. There’s nothing I enjoy more than starting to work with someone who’s clearly concerned that my gender will make me a bad tech writer, then witnessing them grudgingly start to accept that I know what I’m doing when I submit work on EdgeRank or Google authorship and it is clear that I fully understand my subject. Those people often end up being my biggest cheerleaders, funnily enough.

LH: It’s sad though, isn’t it – good and bad in the same breath because when they start being your cheerleader, it’s usually because they think, “Oooh, women are normally terrible at tech writing, but this one’s alright!”

PW: Hahaha!

LH: It’s enjoyable but you shouldn’t have to do it, should you? So in terms of coping, we want to highlight some direct coping methods – ways to deal with the situations themselves – and indirect coping methods – things you can do behind the scenes to strengthen yourself if you’re dealing with something like this.

Sexism abounds

Sexism abounds (Photo credit: ianqui)

Now, first off with the direct coping methods – you can let the snark slide and get what you can from the communication. And what I mean by that is while patronising, passive aggressive or sarky comments can make you justifiably cross, if you want to continue a working relationship with that client, it’s good to try and get what you can from the comments they’re making and ignore the crap basically. Now, I’m not a big fan of letting people off with bad behaviour, but if it’s a one-off, this could work. By distilling the meaning from their words, you may be able to prompt the client to communicate in a more appropriate way in future.

So, if a client says to you – and this is an example I’ve seen online – that they know never to ask you for anything on a Friday because you never get it done until the following week, you can respond by asking a simple question about meaning.

Often, patronising people will actually be embarrassed by someone acting professionally in the face of their condescending ways – it gives them nowhere to go, and gives you the comfort (it might not feel like much comfort!) of inhabiting the moral high ground.

So, if snarky client makes a passive-aggressive dig about you not completing work you receive on a Friday until the following week, you can respond with something like:

“Like with most businesses, I don’t ordinarily work weekends and I charge extra for doing so. However, if you’re saying to me that you need the work you send to me on a Friday turned around within a few hours or returned to you on the Saturday or Sunday, then I need to know.”

That puts it back on them, then.

PW: Yes, and sometimes just a little bit of snark can work wonders – say, asking them if they’re working the weekend, too. Not too much, but just enough to reframe it for them – I’ve seen writers do it as well when they’re asked to work for free. So if you just reframe it for the client by asking them if they’re working the weekend, it might well prompt them to think, “Oh, hang on – I like my weekends, there’s no reason she wouldn’t feel the same way.”

LH: Absolutely.

PW: And if someone’s really hard to work with, you can sometimes speak to their superior – obviously this isn’t possible if it’s a one-person business. If someone remains difficult to work with you can request a new contact in the same company.

In most businesses, you might want to speak to the marketing manager or the PR director, or even Human Resources, depending on who you know. Sometimes, speaking to someone’s superior can help resolve a situation.

LH: Yes, it’s important to remember that in this podcast, we’re not just talking about clients who are a pain in the bum. We’re talking specifically about people who are chauvinist, which means that they view you as inferior as you’re a member of a group they view as inherently beneath them. So, it might be because you’re a woman, or a person of colour, or because you have a disability or because you’re LGBT.

PW: Yes, all sorts of reasons. Or even a man who doesn’t fit with typical masculine behaviour can find himself victimised.

LH: Yes – I think it’s important to make it clear that this is the kind of situation we’re talking about – not just people who are annoying. And if you’re going to report someone to their superior for chauvinist behaviour, you ideally need to go through the advice we’ve given earlier – such as taking notes and keeping records of the behaviour.

PW: Now if you’re dealing with sexual harassment as we described earlier, there’s a website called The Muse and they’ve outlined some pretty sensible advice for dealing with sexual harassment as a freelancer. Now, it’s always hard; as Lorrie said earlier, these are things you need to do but that can start to impose on women and victims of this that they’re doing something wrong if it happens. So I think we both want to make clear that this is advance that, ideally, you’ll take but if you can’t manage it or if you haven’t done it in the past, it’s still not your fault – if it’s happening, it’s always the fault of the person who’s doing it.

So anyway, this is some fairly standard advice for dealing with sexual harassment as a freelancer. So, number one: avoid one-on-one situations. Get them to bring someone to a meeting, or bring someone along yourself. As far as you can, avoid being alone with them.

LH: If you can’t bring someone along, maybe have a Skype meeting. Or just go somewhere busy. And something I tend to do is have breakfast meetings rather than dinner meetings – they’re harder to misconstrue by people who want to misconstrue things, they’re unlikely to have too much wine, and you have a good excuse to leave.

PW: Yup – so number two: clearly decline all advances. Some of this advice is a bit questionable as it talks about sending mixed messages. Now, we know that people who sexually harass don’t do it because they’re getting mixed messages – they do it because they have a point to prove, or because they’re feeling undermined, or they’re just aggressive and rude and enjoy having that power over people. So while I do agree that you should clearly decline all advances, I’m sceptical of some of the reasoning on this particular site. However, it suggests things like letting your client know you are in a committed relationship. Again, you might not want to bring private life into it but if you don’t mind doing that – or even if you want to lie about it – that can help to ward off advances.

LH: Definitely. You may feel that they shouldn’t be doing this even if I have a partner and you’re right. But we’re saying that if you want to do these things, if you feel comfortable doing them and if it makes your life easier, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. If this helps, by all means.

PW: Point number three, as Lorrie mentioned earlier: keep records. If you write down every time something happens, even small things, if something makes you uncomfortable, write down what you have experienced. If you have everything listed in a notebook then if you do need to escalate the situation, this will really make a difference to your case.

Point number four: decide whether or not to report it. If it happens once and you’ll never have to deal with the person again, you might choose not to. Or, you might feel that you won’t deal with them again but other women will, so I’m going to report it. If it’s ongoing, then I think there’s more motivation to report just to try and stop it happening. As always, it’s your choice.

Point number five: be prepared to walk away. They say, “If the behaviour doesn’t stop, be prepared to walk away. Believe me—even if this is a big client, or if you’re a struggling entrepreneur, it’s better to miss out on a business opportunity than to risk your comfort.”

LH: Thanks for missing out the word “reputation” there!

PW: Well, I know!

LH: That’s what made me go “Uuuuuugh!”

PW: Listeners: what the document actually says is “it’s better to miss out on a business opportunity than to risk your comfort.” Now, I missed out reputation because I feel that’s fully wrong.

LH: Yes, you’re not some tainted person because you’ve been sexually harassed.

PW: No, the only person whose reputation should be at risk is the person doing the harassing. So yes, I stand by their advice, but only when I’m talking about comfort.

LH: Definitely. Being harassed can be extremely stressful – it’s designed to make you feel uncomfortable; that’s the whole thing about harassment. While it’s happening and afterwards, you might be questioning yourself, worried, concerned, violated, upset, anxious and angry. And you have to decide whether, if the person won’t stop harassing you, you should walk away. And we’re not saying it’s easy – it might be a really important client to you in terms of work or finances. It’s a bitch – it’s a total kick in the teeth. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but all you can decide is who you’re prepared to deal with.

PW: Yeah, like Lorrie says, we know this isn’t idea. If someone brings in 50% of your income, it’s hard to drop them but your wellbeing is far more important and there are other clients. If you drop this client, you can look for others and maintain your comfort and welbeing.

LH: Even after years and years of freelancing, Pip and I both stil have moments where we’re basically feeling gas-lighted – I’ll email and say, “Someone sent me this email saying such-and-such…it’s made me uncomfortable, is it a bit weird?” And immediately, Pip will be able to say, “Oh my God, that’s horrible!”

PW: It can be really tricky to know if you’re being over sensitive.

LH: Yes, especially when it’s you – you’d be so much kinder to someone else than you’d be to yourself.

PW: And it’s easier to tell if it’s someone else. So, if Lorrie forwards me an email and says, “Is this ok…?”, I can see instantly whether it is or it isn’t, whereas if I receive it, I might need to get guidance from someone else.

LH: Yup – the closer you are, the harder it is to see the bigger picture.

PW: Now, another way to deal with this kind of situation is to disagree or challenge it straight on.

LH: When a client is behaving condescendingly towards you – and this applies more to patronising clients rather than sexual harassment – you can take it one step further than ignoring the tone and continuing the conversation by actively disagreeing with what the client is saying.

Speaking from my own experience, I had a client with whom I didn’t get on well at all. He would constantly refer to my work in degrading ways, saying things like, “Well, go and tweet, or whatever it is you do…”.

PW: Ooooooohhh!

LH: He was part of a company I worked for and one day, when I was producing some promotional literature for them, he got involved in the process. Everyone else had signed off the work but this particular man kept getting back in touch with me wanting to alter the order of bullet points, quibbling over synonyms for various words and then switching them back again. This went on for 16 rounds of amends – I kid you not. Now, while there’s no way I’d entertain something like that now, I was more easily intimidated some years ago, so I kept trying to get the document “right”.

Eventually, though, the client sent over a snarky email about how I didn’t know how to write, and a link to some random website about how to write copy. I’m actually quite grateful now that he did because I got straight back to him on the phone and fully disagreed with him. No shouting, no abuse, just facts: I’d been writing for years. I have a languages degree. I have A-Levels in languages. I have a lot of happy clients. He was the only person in the company who was unhappy with the writing. The only things he was unhappy with were things that he’d changed and then changed back again. By unpicking his argument bit by logical bit, I left him with nowhere to go. He was disciplined internally and I never had to deal with him again.

PW: And sometimes, that’s how it has to be. And so what we’ve looked at are ways of reacting to patronising and outright harassing clients. We’ve looked at proving them wrong, doing such a good job that they stop being sceptical. We’ve looked at being more direct, and we’ve looked at things like avoiding certain situations, making a note of behaviours, reporting or not, and walking away.

What we want to look at now are some more indirect coping methods – this is more, at the end of the day and you get in a hot bath and you feel really bothered by what’s happened…that’s this bit!

LH: That’s definitely this bit, and the first thing we want to look at is self-care, which is looking after yourself. You can’t overestimate the importance of this. When you’re a freelancer that’s particularly important because you are your business.

PW: Yes, when I had flu’ a few weeks ago, Lorrie had to tell me very firmly to stop working because, despite how ill I was, I felt this massive responsibility to my clients. And in this case it took someone else – in this case Lorrie, because we work so closely together – to tell me to stop and kind of give me permission to be ill. But in other workspaces, if I’d been that ill and gone to work, I’d have been sent home.

LH: As a freelancer, it’s really scary when you’re ill because you kind of shut your business down.

PW: So those kinds of things can be harder when you’re a freelancer.

LH: Definitely, which brings us on to the first point of self-care, really, which is getting support from other people. Whether that’s a fellow freelancer, a friend, a partner, a parent, a family member, or whether you just go on a freelancer forum and tell everyone you’ve had a really shitty day, and explain what’s happened, and get some advice. Feeling less isolated is a very good way to take the hot air out of a very unpleasant balloon – it lets you know that the person causing the problem isn’t all powerful; even if they’re one of your most important clients now, you may forget them in a few years. If you have to get rid of them, it’s OK – you’re not alone.

PW: And the real advantage of that kind of external validation is that it helps you put things in perspective. If you’ve spent eight hours having a back and forth with a patronising client, then going for a drink with some friends in the evening will just remind you that there are other things in the world.

LH: And they may laugh at your stories, and you may realise how ridiculous the person is. That can sometimes help – you can have that rant turns into a laugh moment and it can really help. As we said at the start of this podcast, you can’t control anyone else’s behaviour so while you can’t stop someone being a muppet to you, you can change the way you feel about it.

PW: Yup. And other ways to implement some self-care are kind of clichéd, but that’s probably because they’re quite effective. If you’ve got loads of demands looming, lock yourself in the bathroom and have a nice hot bath, have a glass of wine if that’s your kind of thing, have a massage, or if you’re really busy, just take a concerted break for a really nice cup of tea.

LH: Absolutely – you need to say to yourself, “I’m going to take a 15 minute break because I deserve to take a 15 minute break” It’s about the state of mind you’re in. You need to be kind to yourself when someone else is being unkind. Think to yourself: would I let someone treat my friend this way?

PW: Yes, that’s always a very telling thought exercise.

LH: Yes, we’re often kinder to other people than we are to ourselves, and we internalise the messages we receive and think that we really must be bad freelancers. Which brings me on to another point I want to make: if you have one client who treats you like dirt and others who are happy, phone them up. Don’t talk about the situation, just have a catch up and soak up the positive messages.

PW: It’s a way to remind yourself that you deserve to be treated respectfully.

LH: Absolutely – shoot the breeze with them, then talk a bit of business. Give them your energy if you can. Give them really excellent customer service – and that could not just make you feel better, it could actually make a positive change for your business. You may remind a client of your deal on press releases, or blog articles. Just having a nice chat with someone will remind you that you’re a professional, you’re a human being and you deserve to be treated with respect.

PW: Yup. Now if you find that you go through those thought exercises and realise you’re being treated badly, but you might now feel that you have any confidence to stick up for yourself.

LH: What you can do in these situations is investigate either formal or informal assertive or confidence training. There are people out there who offer this as a specific skill. And if you’re a woman freelancer, there are consultants out there who offer this specifically for women and the challenges we face – there’ll be someone out there to suit you.

Five ways to fight sexual harassment(public se...

Five ways to fight sexual harassment(public service poster on a Seoul Subway Line 2 train) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PW: When I was at University, during World Mental Health Week, there was a series of workshops provided, and I went to a Women’s Assertiveness session. It was only like an hour – not an intensive thing. But mainly what I remember was this one exercise where we went round the group and everyone had to say no. Now, this was a group of University-educated women, reasonably privileged, and yet nearly all of us found it hard to shout “No!”  And that wasn’t even to someone, or in a difficult situation – right after being given permission to shout “No!”, we all cringed a bit and it really highlighted how hard we try to be accommodating.

LH: We really are – and it may be that you’re fortunate enough to be in the position of being able to invest in some personal training. If not, have a look online, see if there are women’s networking events in your local area. If there are any other events if you’re not a woman or you don’t want to go for a gender-separate event. Or, there are assertiveness and confidence building exercises you can find online if you’re not very confident with in-person events. Try and surround yourself with positive people, whether online or in person.

PW: They recommended a book during that training, called “A Woman In Your Own Right” by Ann Dixon, and I’ll pop a link to that in the show notes. So as we mentioned earlier, there are times when it’s best to cut and run – to cut your losses and say “No, I’m not working with this person/company anymore.”

LH: Yes, I think it’s important to add at this point that although we’ve given a lot of advice and coping methods during this episode, if you have a one-off incident with one person and you think you can’t realistically cope with working with that person again, and you want to cut and run immediately, then do it.

PW: Do it. We’re not saying that if you’re in this situation, you must do A, B and C. We’re providing as many options as possible for what are terrible situations. So if half of what we say makes sense to you and half doesn’t, then stick with the half that makes sense to you.

LH: Definitely – do what you’re comfortable with. And although it’s not ideal to cut and run sometimes, you might just feel like you’ve got nowhere to go, in which case your answer is clear.

PW: Now, a time you might want to do this is if it becomes unbearable. Maybe that’s one incident, maybe it’s ongoing. But if you get to the point where you’re dreading the phone ringing, or you’re dreading getting an email from someone, dreading a meeting with that person, you need to get out, frankly.

LH: Yes. Feeling nervous and negative is OK sometimes, but when you’re actively dreading any interaction with a company or person, it’s time to assess whether there’s anything to be done. It’s important to prioritise your health and wellbeing. Pip and I aren’t flippant about money – we’ve both been in situations where we’ve lived hand-to-mouth, so we’re not particularly privileged in that respect – we’ve both had lives that have not been secure at all, but money isn’t anything. If you need to see which benefits you can claim, do that. If you need to talk about getting a loan, look into that. It’s not ideal to get rid of a client if you really need the money, but your health is more important.

PW: You can replace clients. There will always be a million companies needing a writer, but what you can’t replace is your mental health. This isn’t something to mess about with.

LH: Absolutely – so what we’ll end on really is that it’s a good idea to keep your business development ticking over. Even if you love the clients you’ve got any don’t want more clients, it’s always good to have a finger on the pulse because then you’re not so powerless.

PW: Yes, marketing has to be fairly consistent because things change all the time. A few weeks ago, a couple of my big pieces of work came to an end. They were big but they weren’t ongoing. So they’d accounted for a lot of my income for a while but they both came to an end around the same time, and that’s the kind of situation where you don’t want to go, “Oh, my income!”

LH: Absolutely. And you need to be able to respect yourself. There’s nothing disrespectful about being harassed or talked down to, but if you find that the only reason you’re keeping a client on is because you have no other clients to rely on – and you find you’re allowing certain behaviours simply because you need the money – then it’s a good time to start looking for other clients. I can recommend LinkedIn, Twitter etc. If you need to get on one of the freelancing sites, or contact marketing agencies, or temping agencies, or look for part- or full-time employment, that’s all better than allowing someone to subject you to behaviour that’s damaging to you.

PW: You might be listening to this from a male point of view and/or as a client. So we just want to take a quick look at what men can do to make sure that people around them aren’t uncomfortable.

I remember, I was walking home one night and I was in a dark side street and there was a man walking behind me. As a woman, I was very aware of my safety. When I got home, I asked on Twitter: “Women: would you find this situation threatening?” and they all said they would. Then I asked men whether they would be aware of that – and almost all of them said they wouldn’t.

And so it’s important to start thinking about situations that you may not perceive as potentially threatening and double-checking whether you might be making someone uncomfortable. Do you ever protectively put your arm around someone’s shoulder when you don’t know them that well? Do you make risqué jokes. Some people are deliberate harassers but a lot of these situations may be you – it may not have occurred to you that you’re being patronising, or that insisting someone goes for a drink with you may be pushy or threatening.

LH: Absolutely. It’s a good idea to check your behaviour, particularly in the case of friendly overtures, and ask yourself, “Would I do this to a guy?”

I went on a reccy mission to see some new equipment at a client company and one of the staff members there tickled me on the breast.

PW: Everything is wrong with that.

LH: Everything. Everything is wrong with that. I’m nearly thirty, I’m a professional and I’m not someone’s bloody hand-puppet! But can you imagine if you did that to a guy? You’d get punched. He was much older than me so I can’t work out if he was being pervy or weirdly paternalistic…but I gave him a dirty look and moved away and made it clear I wasn’t happy, but he may just have thought he was being friendly.

PW: Another thing to look out for if you’re not sure whether women are comfortable with you is whether they avoid being alone with you, or you have a bit of a reputation. Things like that can tell you a lot.

LH: And I think, as long as you’re aware, you’re probably doing better than a lot of people. And there’s nothing to stop you saying, “I hope everything’s OK, I didn’t mean anything by that comment, I’m sorry if it came out wrong.” If you’ve got good intentions, I don’t know many people who won’t give you the benefit of the doubt. We’re not suggesting that you start worrying about being accused about harassment by women, just make sure you’re not singling women out for treatment you wouldn’t apply to men.

PW: Yes, and if you do get some feedback that’s hard to take, don’t dismiss it – actually listen and question yourself.

LH: Yes, I know we’ve talked a lot about men and women a lot today – Pip and I are both women, and it’s something that really does happen. It’s a big issue in the workplace. But there are other dimensions – people with disabilities, people who are gay, non-white, trans…and we can all muck up and cause offence and it’s never nice to hear it. No one’s immune to that but you have to listen to what you’re being told.

PW: Yeah, if someone offends me and I tell them – and tell them why – and they automatically start defending themselves without listening, then that’s annoying. If they say, “I’m really sorry, I hadn’t thought it through, I won’t do it again.” Then that’s it – fixed.

LH: So to sum up: the aim isn’t to wrestle an apology from someone or force them to become the kind of person you’d want to be best friends with. The objective here is to nip any damaging behaviour from the client to you in the bud and to move on – if possible – to have a friendly, dignified and professional working relationship.

PW: Essentially, what you want is a working relationship that does not demean or insult you, in which you are able to thrive and get on with your work in the way you do best. Like Lorrie says, you don’t need to socialise with difficult clients, or turn them into a feminist activist, you just want the best professional relationship you can muster.

LH: Absolutely. If getting an apology from a rude, irritating, patronising or otherwise PITA client is really important to you, it’s worth reassessing your priorities, frankly. From experience, it’s neither realistic nor sensible to go chasing an apology from a client. Even just one who’s been slightly annoying. Instead, just chase better behaviour in future.

PW: So now it’s time for the Little Bird Recommendation of the Week, in which Lorrie and I mention something we’ve spotted that might be of interest. So, Ms Hartshorn, what’s your recommendation this week?

LH: My recommendation this week is just a cute and interesting infographic, called Online In 60 Seconds and it says, “On the internet, we all know things can move at a lightning fast pace. In just a minute, you can read and compose a few tweets, along with look at a dozen Facebook photos. That said, we’ve pulled together this infographic to give you an updated view of everything that happens online in 60 seconds in 2013.”

And it’s set up like a wheel or clock, and in each segment, there’s a different social media platform, or website, or activity. And it outlines exactly what goes on in one minute for that platform or website. So, email: 204 million emails are sent each minute. 278,000 tweets. Professional searches on LinkedIn: 11,000 per minute. Skype – as we’re on there at the moment – 1.4 million minutes connecting with one another.

PW: To be fair, it’s probably 0.4 million people talking and 1 million trying to connect.

LH: Or just 1.4 million people going, “Hellooooo! Can you hear me?”

PW: Hahaha, yes! Now, I really like this infographic, but there’s just one thing bugging me: all the segments are the same size.

LH: You’re such a purist! It’s supposed to be a clock!

PW: I know but it’s annoying me!

LH: God, Philippa – you’re so technical!

PW: Haha, I know!

LH: Well, that’s it – whatever your recommendation is, I’m going to find fault with it. Go on, then.

PW: My recommendation this week has changed at the last minute. I was going to share an interesting blog post I’ve found but instead, I’m going to share something I spotted on Twitter just before we started recording. Now, this is a website called Sharegrab and it’s potentially really useful for your social media marketing. Now what Sharegrab does is you sign up with your Facebook account and input some Facebook pages from your main competitors or from incredibly successful people in your field.

And what Sharegrab does is analyse those and tell you which got the most views, shares etc. So if you need some inspiration on what to post, you can start to analyse other people’s success and get some ideas. Like I said, I’ve signed up but I’ve not had the chance to do anything with it yet, but it comes recommended by Ian Cleary, who’s very good with social media tools.

LH: Definitely. Were I not committed to loathing you for all eternity, I might sign up. As it is, I won’t.

PW: And it’s free.

LH: No interest to me. And so, now that Pip has outdone my recommendation again, that brings us to the end of episode 60. Whether there’ll be an episode 61, who knows? Maybe we’re finished.

PW: And while Lorrie gets all dramatic, I want to ask – are you doing NaNoWriMo?

LH: Ooooh, yes! OK, I’ll leave aside our massive feud – I’ve forgiven you now. Listeners – are you doing NaNoWriMo?

PW: Yes – if you are, or you’re thinking about it, go to, scroll down to episode 58 – we went into real detail about how to cope with the task of writing a novel in a month. Have a listen, share it on your blog, share it on Twitter.

LH: And if you do need some support throughout the month, we’re on We’ll keep you going just like caffeine all the way through the month of November until you have a 50,000 word novel!

PW: Well, exactly. And so, that’s it for episode 60. Do head over to for all the links we’ve mentioned today. And remember to subscribe so you don’t miss another episode!

LH: Thank you so much for tuning in – we love recording this! We’ve had some lovely feedback, so if you’d like to hear us again next week, follow Pip’s advice and subscribe. In the meantime, I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn

PW: And I’ve been Philippa Willitts and we’ll see you next time.


Podcast Episode 59: Make Your Hobbies Pay – How Freelance Writers Can Earn Cash with Topics They Love in Niches They Already Understand

Are you looking to boost your freelancing income? There might be some areas close to your heart that you haven’t considered tapping before… check out this week’s podcast to find out more and get some potentially lucrative ideas!

In my work I can be called upon to write on a wide variety of topics, but sometimes when I’m searching my brain for a suitable subject to write about I overlook some of the most obvious ideas: those things I love and am passionate about.

Most people have a number of hobbies and interests outside of writing, and our knowledge and expertise in these areas can be tapped to produce ideas to write about, and to inform our writing. So in this podcast episode, I talk about a number of ways to make money by writing about interests and hobbies, for different platforms and audiences.

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Hello, and welcome to Episode 59 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, and from there you can find the links to subscribe to the podcast, which you really want to do because then you can make sure you’re the first to hear when we have a new episode out every week.  You might be an iTunes user or you might use RSS feeds to subscribe to your favourite podcasts or maybe you’re a Stitcher Smart Radio fan.  The links to all of those options are there at  You’ll also find a link to our Facebook page.  So come over, like the page and say hi, and also links to my own websites and social media feeds.

I am Philippa Willitts and I am doing a solo episode today.  Lorrie will be back with me next week if you’re missing her terribly but in the meantime have a listen to this and see what you think.

Also, if you’re listening to this and you’re already to embark on NaNoWriMo you don’t want to miss our episode last week.  So go to, again, and go to Episode 58 where we provide tons of information and ideas for how to get through NaNoWriMo without tearing your hair out.

Today is Episode 59 and I’m going to talk about how freelance writers can earn money based on the hobbies and interests they’ve already got.

A lot of the work we do as freelance writers you have to do lots of research, you have to learn about the topic before you can write about it, you have to learn general topics as well as more specific areas within a niche.  You could spend as much time, if not more, researching as you do writing but what we often forget is that we have areas that we already know an awful lot about, things that we do regularly, things that we might read about for fun, things that we spend our time getting involved in.  It’s easy to forget that we can also apply those and use those as part of our freelance writing work to earn us some extra cash or even to focus our writing careers on.

The thing that got me thinking about this was when I was doing some work myself for a client and I was thinking about the different types of work commissions I receive and how much quicker it is for me to write on subjects that I’m already familiar with.  You know, because I do specialist writing on social media and SEO I know that if I get a commission to write 1000 words about a particular new Facebook change I don’t have to do all the background research about what current Facebook statistics are important, how many users there are currently, how many users there are in the UK, what kind of engagement rates, how the site works, how businesses can use it best because this is stuff I know because it’s stuff I enjoy reading about and it’s stuff I write about all the time.  So all I had to research for that particular article was this particular new change that I was being asked to write about.

If, on the other hand, I had been asked to write about a particular change in retail law, for instance, I would have had to do the same research about this recent change but I would have also had to get a real grounding in retail law itself.  I’d need at least, at the very least, a general overview of the most significant, most important aspects of retail law in whatever country I was writing about.  So that, although it could have been a very similar piece of work, would have taken me an awful lot more time to research and write than something in one of my specialist areas.

Takoyaki cooking

Takoyaki cooking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now in my work I do a combination of that kind of specialist work and also more generalised work.  So I have a nice combination of the two but it really did get me thinking about how much quicker it is to write on those familiar subjects.  So I was thinking then about different hobbies and interests that people have, things like going to live music gigs or model making or maybe you’re interested in learning about science or you enjoy sport or reading sci-fi or cooking, gardening, photography, DIY, decorating.  Even things like parenting or surviving on a low budget may not be hobbies but they’re certainly subjects that many people are expert in.

So the first thing to do is have a think about that kind of thing.  What kind of things do your friends ask you for advice on, for instance?  If you find that you’re the person that your friends ring if they have a baking disaster they want to know how to fix, a curdled cake mix for instance, or if you’re the person they ring because a shop is refusing to refund their money for a damaged product and you perhaps, say, used to volunteer with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau so you know all about consumer rights, have a think about what people ask you about because that’s a good indication that it’s something that people respect your opinion on, something that people know that you really understand and that can be something to use to your advantage while freelancing.

Similarly with more hobby related things what, at the end of a working day, do you really look forward to doing?  Are you learning Spanish or do you love nothing more than going to the cinema to watch all the latest films?  There are things that we take for granted that actually when you think about it you know an awful lot about because you’re passionate about it.

The fact is that these are the things that you’re reading about or learning about or just know an awful lot about already.  So it makes sense to use that knowledge and information to make your life as a freelancer easier to spend more of your freelancing time doing things that you really have a passion for and also to give you a leg up in specialist areas.

So have a think and start writing down for things that fascinate you, the things that you love, the things that you really know a lot about and start developing some ideas of those kind of niches that you might want to start spending more of your writing time doing.  Once you’ve got those down there are so many ways to use that information and knowledge you’ve got and turn it into work, turn it into money.

You may decide that you don’t want to focus the majority of your freelance career on those areas.  You might think they are hobbies because, “I enjoy them.  I don’t want to start working on them and then finding that I lose interest.”  That’s fine.  This doesn’t have to be 100% of your freelance writing work.

However, maybe you want it to be 10% or maybe you just want the occasional relatively easy piece of work where you don’t have to research the background of everything because you can talk about it off the top of your head and talk about it well.  So we’re going to look at different ways you can use that knowledge and information.

English: Cinema 4 at HOYTS, Forest Hill Shoppi...

English: Cinema 4 at HOYTS, Forest Hill Shopping Centre, Forest Hill, Victoria, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the first idea is to approach businesses and websites in that niche to see if they need any writing.  So let’s look at the cinema, that was one of the ideas I mentioned earlier.  You might love going to the cinema to see the latest films.  Have a look at some film review websites and pitch a review for the most recent film you’ve seen.  Contact them, say a little bit about yourself, why you’re the perfect person to write this review, give them a brief outline of what you thought of the film and the kind of things you would write within the review and ask them if they’re interested.  It can be worth checking in that particular instance have they already reviewed that film but what’s great about this kind of approach is that especially pitching reviews you can end up getting lots of freebies.  If you prove yourself, you write a few reviews that demonstrate that you’re very good at writing about film then they might approach you, the site might approach you in the future and say, “We’ve got some free tickets for this film.  If we review it would you like the free ticket?”

The same could happen with reviewing restaurants or live music gigs or all sorts.  You can start off by reviewing things you’ve paid to see and end up getting freebies to go and see more of those things without having to pay and getting to write about it afterwards.  It’s a really good way of building up your name in the industry and making contact with people who are also passionate about the same subject.  So find some paying review sites if that’s your thing.

Alternatively, if you’re into pottery then you might want to approach some craft websites or some ceramics websites and suggest to them that you write a ‘how to’ article about how to make the perfect bowl.  That’s not a very creative pottery idea, I have to admit, but I haven’t done pottery since school and I don’t think we ever got beyond bowls.

If you recently got married and you love dressmaking and you made your own wedding dress contact some wedding websites, some dressmaking websites and offer a ‘how to’, a real step by step approach of how exactly you made your wedding dress.  If you thought ahead ideally you’d have taken photos at each stage in the production and that, if you explain that you have photos to back up what you’re talking about, ending, of course, with a photo of you looking stunning in the wedding dress, then they might offer you £100, £200 for that.

The next thing to do, and this is very similar actually, and that’s to pitch stories on your topic of choice to industry magazines.  So your pottery story or your wedding dress story you might approach some crafty DIY magazines and see whether they want to feature a step by step approach to achieving a particular crafty task, be it a bowl, a wedding dress or whatever you love doing.

Similarly, if you have an amazing recipe for beetroot cake that everybody who tastes it loves then contact some bakery or cookery magazines.

Music magazines are always popular.  You know lots of people love music but if you can find the right magazine for your particular favourite then you’re on to a winner.  One of the real benefits of this kind of approach to freelance writing is that if you love live folk music, for instance, you already know which magazines are the best for this kind of story because chances are you read it yourself or you visit their website regularly.

So in the same way as you might approach an industry website, a website in that niche, then look at industry magazines as well and it doesn’t all have to be about you.  It doesn’t have to be you reviewing a gig or you making a bowl in pottery.  You can still use the information you’ve got to write in these ways but in a more objective, abstract way.  So if you love model railways you might not want to write, ‘My Model Railway Collection’, they probably wouldn’t want to publish it anyway, but you might want to interview somebody.  I know nothing about model railways.  I’m struggling a bit here.  You might want to interview, say, a manufacturer of a popular product in that niche and, again, the background information you already have due to your passion for model railways will make this a far easier task than if, like me, you don’t know the first thing about them.  Use the information you have.  Use the knowledge you have to make your own life easier to save you all that background research time.

The next idea is one that not everybody is into, and that’s fine, but there is a freelance writing website called Constant Content.  Now the way Constant Content works generally is that you write articles on spec and then buyers can purchase what you’ve written.  That’s the very short version.  There are real benefits and drawbacks to Constant Content.

On the positive you write whatever you want to write and you set your own prices.  You’re not in that ridiculous territory of most freelance writing websites where you pick up jobs that people are advertising and you write 500 words for $4, none of that.  They even have a minimum price that they allow you to set and you can write about anything you like.

They generally edit very, very strictly.  Constant Content is not a place to submit half-heartedly.  They will reject a piece famously for one wrong comma many times.  They’re quite renowned for it really.  It certainly made me get a bit stricter with myself sometimes because life’s much easier if they accept it first time.  The other real problem with Constant Content is that you’re writing on spec.  So you might write and write and write and not make any sales.

Now in reality, especially if you do take into account the kind of thing that people are looking for, the kind of subjects that do sell, and providing you write well about it chances are your things will sell but it can take a while.

What I love about Constant Content is that you just periodically get an email out of nowhere saying, “Your article’s sold.  You’ve earned £100.”  That’s a great feeling because if you did the work a few months ago it kind of feels like free money because it’s a while since you did it, so it’s great for that.

However, if you don’t like writing on spec you might not want to go this route, and that’s completely fine.  I totally understand why some writers avoid Constant Content.  I don’t spend tons of time on there because I do obviously prioritise work that is being paid for now rather than work that may sell in the future.  What I find it really good for is if I’ve done a piece of work that I’ve done a lot of research for but the client just wants one blog post about it I’ll sometimes then write a completely different article on the same topic for Constant Content.  I feel like I’m making use of the research I’ve already done.  Don’t even think about copying the work you’ve already done but if, for instance, you’ve just written about five things that can trigger a migraine and in the course of your research you learnt a lot about migraines you might then want to write how to cure a migraine and what medicines work best for migraine for Constant Content.  You’ve done the research so you don’t need to do a whole lot more and it just gives you that bit of content that at some point someone might buy and make you happy.

Seedlings from various seeds.

Seedlings from various seeds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now using Constant Content to write about your hobbies and interests works in the same way.  You already know what temperature you should fire your kiln at; you already know what kind of thread you should use to sew your wedding dress; or what the rules of Rugby League are; or which plants are best planted in early May because you live this and you love it and it’s what you enjoy and it’s what you know a lot about.  So use that.  Spend an hour writing something about it and submit it there.  It might just earn you a few quid in the coming weeks or months.

However, like I say, if you don’t like the writing on spec model that’s completely fine.  So feel free to do that or ignore it, depending on your own preferences.

Now those ideas so far about how to make your hobbies pay have all been fairly short, quick ways of creating content from your own knowledge and information.  There are other things you can do that are a much bigger task but that actually have the potential to net you quite a bit more money.  So, again, it’s something to think about, something to consider as part of your freelance writing portfolio really.  So brace yourselves, these are big tasks but could really be a great way to indulge in your favourite hobby and combine that with your writing career.

Two main ideas.  One is build your own website.  Build a whole website around your hobby.  Fill it with tons and tons and tons of information that demonstrates how much you know your topic, that provides great information that people want to know and over time you build up traffic, you build up fans and you create yourself a reputation as a real authority in your field.

Now the initial bulk work of building your own website will take lots of hours, a little bit of investment in terms of buying yourself a web address and some hosting and it will earn you no money whatsoever.  This is definitely a long-term plan.  The thing to do to make it earn you money eventually is first of all you have to prioritise filling it up with really great content or the rest of the plan will not work at all.

So once you have your website and it’s full of everything you want it to be full of there are different ways into turning that into a way to earn you money.  The first most obvious one that most people think of for monetising a website is advertising.  You can either use pay per click advertising, so something like Google AdSense where they put up ads on your site that are relevant to what you’re talking about and then every time anybody clicks on one of those ads you earn money.  It’s usually not very much money.  It relies on you getting lots of visitors and lots of clicks for it to be a decent amount of money.

The other way of having advertising is rather than getting a deal where you earn every time somebody clicks is to deal with advertisers directly and charge them a set amount of money to advertise on your site.  That can be a more reliable way of getting some money in but it can be a bit trickier to negotiate but it’s an option.

However, what most bloggers will say, particularly those with this kind of authority website or niche website, you might hear it called those things, is that advertising doesn’t actually bring in a whole lot of money.  So another way of doing it is to sell what’s called affiliate products.  What this basically means is that if people click a link on your website to a product and then they buy that product you earn a percentage of what they spend.  Now this can vary from a couple of percent, say with the Amazon affiliate programme, right up to sometimes 75% of a product that’s hosted on a site like ClickBank, which is a platform for information products basically.  So you might write a whole detailed blog post about how you learnt a new type of cake decorating thanks to a new e-book that you bought.  You can write lots about how wonderful this e-book is and make sure that every time you link to it you use your own unique affiliate link and then any sales will be tracked and you will earn whatever the percentage is of the amount they spend.  Some people build websites entirely around Amazon affiliates, others entirely around specific affiliate products, whereas others, this may be more likely in this case, is if you spot a product that is really good quality that you feel happy recommending you might then check to see whether it has an affiliate programme and then recommend it.

People can earn an awful lot of money with affiliate marketing.  Not everybody.  There’re a lot of people who try it and fail but those who do succeed can do very well and often the rule really about how successful an affiliate website is will depend on how authentic the information is, how much trust the readers have in the author, the writer of the site.  If someone’s been following you for two years and they lap up everything you’ve got to say about basket weaving then when you recommend a basket weaving product they may well believe you and buy it.  If, on the other hand, you have a six page website that’s been hastily thrown together and two of those pages are dedicated to recommending an information product people won’t trust that and won’t buy through your links.

The next stage that a lot of people go to, especially after experimenting with affiliate marketing for a while, is creating your own product to sell.  This is usually an information product.  So it’s something that you can deliver entirely online, you don’t need to have boxes of stock in your kitchen ready to go to the Post Office when someone places an order.  Instead you might create, say, a video learning series for instance, or a training course so that you can teach others what you already know.  Like the website and like the other articles I’ve mentioned this will take some work but the benefit you’ve always got is that you have the basis of the information already in your brain.  Once you have your own product created you can sell that and you can even recruit other people to be affiliates for your product, which means that, sure, they’ll take some of the profits but they also act as marketers for your product.  They might create a whole website around selling your product and so, sure, you might lose some of the cash from the sale but what you’ve got is the potential for a lot more people to buy.

So if you do fancy building your own website but you do want to make it pay look at advertising, look at affiliate marketing and also often, once you have some experience with advertising and affiliate marketing, look into creating your own information product.  Is there a real gap in the market?  Do you find that people find your website because they’re looking for instructions or information about a particular thing?  Do some research.  Find out what’s already out there and see where there’s a gap and see whether you are the person to fill it and if so, do it with great quality work.  There’s no point building a whole site, setting everything up just to throw something together at the last minute to make a quick buck because that won’t keep the money flowing.  It’ll get you some initial sales, lots of refund requests and all your work will have been wasted.

Now the final way that you can make your hobby pay is another big project, bigger even than building your own website, and that is write a book about it.  You’re a freelance writer, you write for a living, you have this topic that you can talk about endlessly, that your friends get bored of you going on about, that you read everything there is to know about it, that you study all the latest information, you’re passionate about this.  If you can talk about it endlessly then you can write about it too.  Think big.  Can you get a book out of your knowledge and expertise?  If so, do you want to spend the time it takes to write it?  You can approach publishers or you can self-publish; self-publishing is so easy nowadays.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both traditional and self-publishing and this podcast episode isn’t the place for that discussion but briefly, if you get traditionally published that has something of a better reputation.  You get an amount of cash up front but it also takes a long time and you have less control over the final product.

If you self-publish you can make it happen more quickly.  You get more of the proportion of sales in the end but also if you’re going to do it well it’s going to cost you a bit because you’ll need a cover designer, you’ll need an editor, you’ll need a proofreader.

So certainly people are very passionate on both sides.  So think for yourself.  Would you rather traditionally publish or self-publish or, indeed, would you like to attempt to traditionally publish and then if that doesn’t work out, if nobody bites, then self-publish?

Writing a book is the ultimate way of demonstrating your knowledge and your passion in a subject.  It’s not something to approach half-heartedly.  It’s a big, big, big deal.  However, if you do it it could be a really nice way to earn from the things you love.  Make your hobbies pay.  You probably spend out a considerable amount of money on them so even if you just recoup some of that money surely it’s a good thing.

So those are some ways where you can earn cash from the hobbies that you’re already interested in, that you already know about and that you love thinking, talking, reading and writing about.

Let me know what you think.  Come over to our Facebook page, which you can find from, tell us if you’ve tried these things, tell us if you have been motivated to give something a go, let us know what you think.

And so now it is time for the A Little Bird recommendation of the week and my recommendation is a little piece of software which I’ve installed on my computer and which is turning out to be very handy.  It’s called Clipboard Magic and it’s only available for Windows computers.

Now this is a great little piece of software for if you have to cut and paste or copy and paste text again and again and again.  If, for instance, you are submitting some information into several forms and for each form you need to copy the title, and then you need to copy the link, and then you need to copy something else, rather than for each form having to go back and forth to your original document to copy it and paste it, then the next bit of information, copy and paste it, what it does instead is every time you click Ctrl C or every time you right click and click copy or cut then it stores what you’ve copied to your clipboard into Clipboard Magic.  So rather than having to keep going back to the original document all the time what you have is this little window that you can move to the top of all your windows that stores everything you’ve copied and pasted.  From there all you need to do is just click or drag and drop each line from Clipboard Magic into each new document.  So the title will be on Clipboard Magic.  You just need to drag it into the title box on the next form you’re filling in, ditto the URL, ditto whatever else the information is.  You can even save all your clipboard lists to external files.  If you need that same information again and again over long periods of time you can save it and just reload it next time you load the software.  You can edit the clips within the software, you can sort them, back them up.  It works in all the latest Windows operating systems and it’s really handy.  I downloaded it for one particular task where I was having to paste information into repetitive forms but it’s actually handy for all sorts of things.  It’s a completely free piece of software.  It takes up very little space on your computer.  So that’s my tip for listeners this week.

And so that’s the end of Episode 59 of A Little Bird Told Me.  Come find us at  Subscribe to the podcasts so you don’t miss an episode.  Come and say hello to myself and Lorrie and make sure you tune in next week.

Thank you for listening.


Podcast Episode 58: Getting through #NANOWRIMO without tearing your hair out

As November rapidly approaches, thousands of people across the world are getting ready to spend the month undertaking the ridiculous but awesome task of writing an entire novel in 30 days. In this episode of the freelance writing podcast, we take listeners through tonnes of tips and advice for making it through unscathed, and winning the challenge with 50,000 words written by the end of the month.

With guidance for every week of the challenge, #NANOWRIMO participants can find ways to keep their creativity flowing, keep their motivation high and, if absolutely necessary, introduce an alien invasion into their period drama.

Show Notes

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