Category Archives: Podcast

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

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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.

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

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 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.

Show Notes

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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

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

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!  


Podcast Episode 57: The lowdown on proofreading and editing

Like many freelance writers, I also offer proofreading services. It’s a part of my job that I love, and in this podcast episode, Lorrie and I go down and dirty into the world of proofreading and editing, looking at the difference between the two roles, how to explain to clients what you offer, and how to choose your own proofreader or editor if you need one in the course of your writing work.

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. Today we’re going to be talking about proofreading and editing. What they are, why they’re different and when you need to do them. We’ll be looking at offering them as services to clients, and also touching on what happens when you have work you need proofreading and editing. You might think that, because you’re a freelance writer – and possibly an editor and proof-reader – that you won’t need anyone else’s help when it comes to amending your own work. It’s not the case, though, so we’ll be talking about how to go about getting your work polished up.


PW: So what we’re going to look at first is the difference between proofreading and editing. They often get lumped together but they, in many circumstances, have a totally different role and involve very different skills.

LH: Absolutely – I proofread for an academic translation agency and the work I do comes after the articles have been translated and edited. There’s no way the work could be lumped together.

PW: Yes – I think the confusion comes when you’re proofreading and you suggest “edits” – it can be a linguistic issue.

LH: It’s important to know exactly what’s mean by proofreading and what’s meant by editing if for no other reason than that clients often don’t. Everyone’s definition of where the line between proofreading and editing lies can tend to vary, so it’s important to be very clear in your own mind – and with clients – about exactly where that is for you. As long as your definition fits somewhere in the generally accepted one – or near it – you should be fine.

Managing clients’ expectations is part of freelancing, no matter which services you’re offering. Verifying their expectations at the start of the project is a good way to ensure that neither party feels disappointed or ripped off with how things have gone. If you think you’re making sure all the commas and semi-colons are in the right place, but your client is hoping that you’ll turn their The Very Hungry Caterpillar into the next Tolstoy, someone’s going to get a shock.

PW: This is it. It’s important to make sure that you and your client are on the same page – if they hire you to proofread, be clear about what that means. It’s more important that you both know what you’re offering and what they’re getting rather than what you’re calling it.

LH: Quite right. If your ‘proofread’ is someone else’s ‘minor edits’, that’s fine. As long as your client knows what’s what with you, that’s fine.

Now, for the sake of this podcast, we’ve looked through some popular definitions of proofreading and editing. You might be new to freelancing, so it’s helpful to know generally what’s involved in what.
With proofreading, the aim is to check for basic errors. Think of the kind of corrections your teachers used to make on your work at school – this is basically proofreading. You need to scan for grammar, syntax and spelling mistakes. What it’s not up to you to check is the document’s success as a whole, the overall content, logical fallacies and so on. You need to look at the correctness of the text on a word-for-word basis and that’s all.

PW: Sure. You might spot a blatant factual error, or something contradictory, for instance, in which case your client will be glad you’ve pointed it out, but it’s not your main role when proofreading.

There are all sorts of documents that need proofreading. From epic novels to blog posts, any document can benefit from someone looking at it with fresh eyes and an in-depth knowledge of grammatical rules. Personally, I love proofreading. It allows me to geek out on grammar for a while, and whereas normally when I spot an errant apostrophe or a horrible typo I just have to suck it up and live with it, when I’m proofreading somebody is paying me to fix these things that really bug me. It’s brilliant!

LH: Listeners, this is totally true – Pip loves getting her teeth into a good semi-colon, as it were! So, when it comes to editing, there are two main kinds of basic editing, really – copyediting and substantive editing. When you edit a text, you’re trying to make sure it fulfils its purpose as a whole, rather than just being correct and consistent on a word-by-word basis.

PW: Exactly. Editing a non-fiction extended essay, for instance, might involve pointing out where the author has made an illogical point, or is assuming their audience will have an understanding of an obscure topic. Similarly, you might be responsible for ensuring that all the points in their argument are properly backed up with evidence, and are written convincingly. All of these things are out of the remit of the proof-reader, and are the responsibility of an editor.

Editing and proofreading

PW: In fiction editing, your job can be to tell the author where the story moves too slowly, or where there are contradictions in the text. If a character suddenly ages four years or is described as having long, flowing locks of jet black hair when they were previously introduced as a short-haired ginger dude, the editor has to spot that. Editors also have to look at the text in a wider way: does chapter 7 really contribute anything to the narrative? Is the ending convincing enough? Does it really make sense that the killer would be an evil twin sister who nobody had known about until the last chapter?

LH: This is quite vivid – I feel like you have some secret novel somewhere!

PW: And I’ve given away the evil sister! Oh no!

LH: As a literary editor, I have to advise you against the evil sister. Sorry! Now, what you’ve described there to me is more substantive editing. Copy-editing for me would be all the proofreading stuff – spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, and all that, paragraphing, making sure that people’s names are the same all the way through. In terms of substantive editing, it’d be looking at the document as a whole, its narrative style, characterisation, narrative voice – that kind of thing. And then of course you get towards ghost writing.

PW: And something I know just from working closely with Lorrie, doing that kind of editing – as well as requiring all those kinds of skills – also requires an immense amount of tact. You’re not just saying to a robot “Chapter seven offers nothing”, you’re saying to someone that they might as well chop their “baby’s” arm off! It takes a lot of tact to deal sensitively and effectively, and you need to be quite brutal.

LH: Yes, it’s not about what they like, it’s about their reader, so you have to be quite harsh. I remember editing a novella for someone and about a third of it was written from the perspective of one character, then suddenly you were privy to another character’s thoughts in a way that would only be possible if the protagonist were psychic.

PW: Yes, I enjoy books written from multiple perspectives but I always think how hard that must be.

LH: Which brings us back to why it’s so important to have someone professionally proofread your work – whether that’s fiction or non-fiction. It is hard to have someone saying, “I don’t like that, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make sense and it needs to go.”

PW: Yes, I know that Lorrie and I have both edited each other’s work and there’s always that scary moment – if you’re the one editing it, there’s a real level of responsibility and if you’re the one being edited, it’s nerve-wracking – if you’re at the point of asking someone to edit it, you think it’s alright. Nothing we’ve handed over to one another has been awful, but it’s always scary!

LH: As Pip well knows, I received a request last week from someone asking if I’d take a look at some web content they’d written…

PW: Hahaha!

LH: Oh Pip!

PW: Sorry!

LH: So yes, this person is a very competent writer, but for whatever reason, they’d lost the plot a bit. Normally, their writing is fine but this was just a disaster.

PW: They’d tried something new and it’d gone wrong.

LH: Yes, they’d overcooked the noodles by quite a long stretch on this occasion. So I sent some very gentle feedback back to that person and made some constructive criticisms. The minute I’d sent those back, they got back in touch with me saying, “I’m so sorry – I’m so embarrassed because I’ve looked at it again and it’s terrible.”

PW: Much as that’s mortifying, I’d always rather have someone say gently to me “That page on your site is really off-tone” rather than having the content online for three months.

LH: And I said that to this person – the only way you can work out if something is a good fit is to try it on and see what people think. And I’m telling you from my perspective that I don’t think that’s a good fit for you.

PW: Yes, and if you think about it, in terms of being the one who’s being edited, much as I’d be embarrassed to have something awful on my website for three months, I’d be even more embarrassed to put a novel out there that was full of things that needed fixing. So much as it’s horrible to be edited, the alternative is to publish a book that really needs more work.

LH: And taking things back to the corporate side of things, if a client gets in touch with you for some content that they want to use to, say, attract a new contract, and you don’t proofread that properly, you can really damage that brand. And proofreading and editing are things where you absolutely have to tell the truth – sometimes there isn’t much you can do to be tactful, because there’s nothing much good about a document. So to do your job properly, you have to find a way to really tell the truth without causing more offence than you have to!
PW: There was a study a few weeks ago – and I’ll try and find the links for the show notes – and someone had asked British consumers what put them off businesses’ social media messages. The number one thing that put them off was spelling and grammar mistakes – even in the 16-25 age group, that was the second most damaging thing. And much as we think we live in a world of “text speak”, the fact is that it’s the number one off-putting point for British consumers.

I know that if I wanted to hire a business for something, and I got one brochure with a spelling mistake and one without, I’d look badly on the company with the mistake. And I thought it was just me, but it’s clearly a bigger issue than we thought.

LH: Definitely. And it’d be worth letting your clients know about that when you try to explain why editing and proofreading are both necessary. One point I want to make is that a lot of my regular clients use ‘proofreading’ and ‘editing’ interchangeably, so I just charge my hourly fee for looking at work that’s already been written.

So, now we’ve looked at the differences between proofreading and editing, we’re going to move on and look at some of the tools you can use for both of these tasks.

PW: The most used tool, I would guess, for proofreading and editing work is Microsoft Word and its Track Changes function. If you haven’t used this, it’s a way to mark up other people’s work so that they can look at each suggestion you’ve made and either approve it or not. You can also add notes alongside the text if you want to explain why you’ve made a particular change or question something.

There are other options – I know Open Office has a similar function, but in my experience, Word is used so much more often, so it makes sense to do most of your work there. A client may request that you use a certain word processor’s editing features, in which case go with that – as long as the software doesn’t cost you hundreds of pounds! – I imagine they all work in a similar way.

LH: It’s so worthwhile using Track Changes. The number of times I’ve had work back from clients that’s covered in yellow highlighter, or italics, or bold text. Track Changes isn’t optional, in my opinion, so get online and have a look online for some training materials if you’re a bit iffy.

PW: Yeah, I had to practise and play around with tracked changes for a bit because I was worried and didn’t want to mess up. But actually, it takes no time to get the hang of it and it’s brilliant. It saves you having to make changes and then note them down in another document, or an email, which is when mistakes happen.

LH: Yes, with tracked changes, you have to actively click and approve on things, so it’s impossible to miss things. That’s the good thing.

PW: Talking about software and tools, it’s also time for a warning. You can find tools that scan documents for you, for spelling and grammatical errors. Many word processors will also automatically highlight errors it spots.

And these have their place – spellcheck has saved us all many a time, I don’t doubt, but you can’t rely on these products and services to create perfect documents because they do not have the intricate understanding of grammar and punctuation that a proof-reader should have. If Word spots a glaring error, be glad it helped you out. But just because software doesn’t identify any mistakes does not mean you can do a half-hearted job at proofreading it yourself.

LH: Absolutely. So if you’re proofreading someone else’s work, you can tackle that with fresh eyes. But when you’re proofreading your own work, I think it’s fair to say you have to be doubly careful. You can think you’re proofreading but you’re actually just remembering.

PW: Yes, you think you’re reading what you wrote, but you’re actually reading what you thought you wrote.

LH: Pip recorded a solo episode – episode 19 – on this very subject. And there were all kinds of tips on how to stop mistakes slipping into your own writing, so go back and have a listen. Most of us have to proofread our own work before we send it back to clients, so do go and pick up some of those tips.

PW: Yes, some of them are really helpful, such as changing the font or font size, which makes the writing look different to when you wrote it. We’ll link to that episode in the show notes.

Now, when you’re proofreading or editing professionally, there’s always the matter of fees to consider. And it can be complicated sometimes giving the variety of work that can be encompassed.

LH: Absolutely. And with copywriting, for example, I’d never charge on a per-word fee – I might say, “OK, let’s talk set fees for blog posts of around 500 words” whereas with proofreading and editing, I’d offer a pence-per-word cost.

Now if you deliver proofreading and editing as paid services to clients, you need to bear in mind the depth of detail and the extent of amends you’re willing to go to for what kind of fee. It’s entirely normal to have differing fees for basic proofreading, basic copyediting, and substantive editing, which doesn’t just look at grammar, punctuation, syntax and vocab, but also takes into account a document’s concept and intended use, its content, the organisation, structure and style.

The Importance of Proofreading

The Importance of Proofreading (Photo credit: spaceninja)

The difference might only be a few pence per word, but scale it up to a feasible document length and see what the difference is there. Maybe even work it backwards, say, from a 1000-word document. I think your previous episode, Pip, on how to work out your fees could come in really handy here.

PW: Definitely, I’ll link to it in the show notes. In this case, like with a lot of freelance work, you essentially have a choice between charging on an hourly basis and charging per word, or per thousand words, for instance. Ultimately this is a decision between you and your client, but it’s important – as always – to make sure that you give yourself a fair deal that recognises the skills and value you are offering.

If these are new services to you, you might well get it wrong. And you’ll just have to take the hits on those underpaid projects. But always look to get yourself a fair deal. If you can get a look at the document you will be working with, this can be useful in helping you to decide on a fee.

I proofread quite a lot of CVs – or résumés, if you’re American – and sometimes they require four or five edits in total, other times there are mistakes on every single line. Because of the length of a CV it all tends to balance out and I don’t worry about it. But if you think of that in terms of a full-length novel, the amount of time your task can vary considerably depending on how much work it will involve.

So one important factor in pricing your work, especially with larger pieces of work, is how many corrections, suggestions and rewrites a piece of work will require – if you can have a look at even a short sample before you set your price, you will have a much clearer idea of the work involved and you’re less likely to find yourself angry and resentful at turning out to be paid far too little.

LH: Yes, never go into a long proofreading or editing job without at least having a look at the document. I remember a certain 65, 000 word project that I did for an EU proposal on civil engineering. I quoted a certain price and I got it horribly wrong – this thing was my nemesis and I ended up not sleeping for about a week. The document included segments by agencies in different countries, so the English in parts was dreadful and also talking about ecology and water filtration. And I really wanted a big project, particularly one with an EU connection. I lived on coffee for a week, and now I know that you should have a much closer look! We’ve all done it.

PW: Yes, we have. We all do it. We should get a certificate for the massive underpaid project award. Mine wasn’t a proofreading one, it was a writing one, and it was awful.

Now, looking at proofreading from the other side, there are times when you’ll need to hire someone to proofread for you. You might be about to self-publish a book or you might just need someone to make sure your work is up to scratch. And so it can be a small or large project but if the time comes to hire a proof-reader, there are some things to bear in mind.

LH: Absolutely. You have to be really, really careful when you’re hiring someone to proofread your work. Particularly when you’re a writer. I think this might become Lorrie’s Weekly Moaning Section. I might actually make this formal. But as I seem to be saying most episodes, I do hire other freelancers. And touch wood, most of my proof-readers have been spot on. But, I’ve hired writers who’ve sent back work riddled with grammatical, linguistic, content and factual errors. Imagine you’d written that work and sent it over to a proof-reader because you needed it spot on, but that proof-reader is a bit shoddy. You’ll end up losing a client.

PW: Absolutely. The whole point of hiring a proof-reader is that they’re going to be meticulous – that’s their job. As a professional writer, you have to make a good impression. If you can find a proof-reader who’s been recommended, that’s a good place to start.

LH: If you aren’t able to find someone who’s been recommended, I’d suggest looking around for someone who’s specifically a proof-reader, rather than someone who’s tacked it on the end of a list of skills. LinkedIn has introduced these new ‘endorsement’ things which, while they can be really handy for endorsing your genuine skills, can also allow (as has happened to me) randomers to endorse you for the weirdest things! If proofreading is the last thing in a big long list of skills that someone has, be a little aware and look for someone who’s prioritising proofreading as a skill.

Now, once you’ve found this person, you can test them. If you have a bit of spare cash, you can try them out on a smaller piece. But don’t tell them you’re testing them. As the sometimes very embittered employer of other freelancers, I know from experience that if you tell someone you’re testing them, they’ll go all out to try and impress. If you don’t let them know you’re testing them, even if it’s the first piece of work for you, people will often do a shoddy job.

PW: The other reason I’d suggest not saying, “If you do this well, I’ve got a lot more work for you.” is that freelancers hear this so often from people trying to get cheap work.

LH: Good point, and it can be quite patronising as well. At this point, I’m feeling very cross with a lot of freelancers and as though you, I and our listeners are the only decent freelancers out there. But of course it’s not the case. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt, so saying to someone, “I’d like to test your skills as a freelancer and if I am satisfied with the work, then maybe I will honour you with more.”

But, you have to protect your interests, so try the new person out on something short. And I would also say, on the understanding that you should try not to be condescending, that you should feel free to chat to the person beforehand to make sure you’re getting the right person.

PW: Yes, because proofreading can be a very stylistic thing – it’s good to find someone who’s likely to make amends in a similar way to you. Lorrie and I might proofread things and amend one thing very differently.

LH: There’s one thing that sticks in my mind – there was an occasion when one of us had a very, very naughty client who needed a telling off. Now, Pip and I got our heads together – the person with the naughty client sent the other person an email saying, “What do you think of this?”. And we worked together to come up with a response that we would both be happy to send off. But the point stands, that Pip has just made, that if only one of us had been responsible for the text, the other one perhaps wouldn’t have been satisfied in sending it off.

PW: One point I want to make is that if you’re looking for a proof-reader, you should check their websites. The number of proofreading websites I’ve come across that had loads of mistakes was unbelievable. Proofreading websites!

LH: We sat down and had a proper rant about this, didn’t we?

PW: Yes, because it angers me that these people are offering proofreading services while there are several mistakes on each page of their website. And I’m trying to be generous here but I’d accept maybe one or two…no, I wouldn’t even accept two mistakes on a proofreading website.

LH: I don’t want to send off work with one typo in it, so why would you accept it from a proof-reader?

PW: Exactly. The second point I want to make is about proofreading qualifications – some of which are worthwhile and some of which are worthless. Now, if someone mentions on their site that they have an unnamed proofreading diploma, for instance…

LH: Snap them up!

PW:…that’s probably meaningless. If they have an accredited qualification with a reputable organisation, that could work in their favour but don’t automatically go for someone just because they have a proofreading certificate if you don’t know where it’s from or what it involves. There are people with fake doctorates, so you can certainly fake a proofreading certificate. If you’re going to look for someone with a proofreading qualification, then research beforehand which of those you’re going to take seriously.

LH: Good advice. And I’d add that if you can find someone who has previous experience and testimonials. The thing with diplomas is that they don’t say anything about that person’s working style.

PW: Yeah, there are still a lot of questions to ask.

LH: So look at their qualifications if that matters to you, their testimonials, previous experience, recommendations, and build a whole picture. The point I’d finish off on is that when you decide to hire a proof-reader or editor, it’s not the time to cut costs. Hiring someone is an investment, whether for your novel or a brochure to win new business. It’s the final touch on your piece of work. If you need someone regular, maybe try and come to some kind of arrangement. But if the proof-reader isn’t happy to offer you a discount, I wouldn’t get rid of them on that basis. People expect proof-readers to be really cheap…

PW: But we experience that every day as writers, don’t we?

LH: I still think back to episode four on not working for free, and I remember that indie author trying to pay proof-readers in chocolate. And this was for a novel for which he was going to be paid.

PW: And he apparently had several successful novels published. This guy was earning money and wanted proof-readers to be satisfied to have their name listed somewhere and get some chocolate.

LH: And it’s not like he was charging 99p for a book – they were £15 each! So while it can be tempting to cut costs, you’re more than likely to regret it.

PW: Yes, it’s not something to scrimp on. So if you hire someone who’s no good because they’re cheap, then you’re wasting your money – you’re not getting the meticulous work you need. You might think you have a good deal, but you haven’t because you’ve wasted money on nothing.

LH: Of course. So hopefully this has just been a handy little insight into proofreading and editing, the differences between them, how to do them and how to get them done.

PW: And so now it’s time for the Little Bird Recommendations of the Week, in which Lorrie and I mention something that’s caught our eye. So Lorrie, what is your recommendation this week?

LH: My recommendation this week is possibly the biggest infographic I’ve ever seen and I think it needs recommending just on that basis, even though I think they could sensibly have stretched the information out over several graphics to get more for their money.

Anyway, the infographic is 120 Marketing Tactics For Your Blog and it’s from the Business2Community website. Now, this infographic comes with a bonus intro which is Five Steps To Creating A Successful Blog, which talks about creating a blog, deciding on your audience and tone, and how to get going with the basics. But once you have, it covers all sorts – social media, content marketing, Pinterest, outreach, interaction, syndication and even design and user experience. It’s brilliant – how to make sure people visiting your site have a really good experience and don’t click away. There’s email marketing and one particularly nice section about providing naked links to your visitors. And then there’s a miscellaneous bit – it’s so useful, and when we talk about educating yourself, this is the kind of stuff you can use.

PW: This is really good – I hadn’t looked at it until now but it’s absolutely packed with useful information.

LH: And it’s not guff, either – it’s all solid stuff.

PW: And what strikes me as well is that if you have your own blog and website to promote your business, that’s great. But also, as a freelance writer who does commercial copywriting, there’s a good chance that you’ll do blog for businesses. And this kind of information can help you blog well. And you can also pick up a few tips here and suggest it to your clients – they’ll be impressed because you’re being proactive in making their blog a success.

LH: As we often mention, added value at no cost to yourself is so easy and useful. It won’t cost you anything to tell your clients that you’ve read a study or seen an article and that you’ve found out X. It makes sure you don’t have clients who look elsewhere.

PW: Well, I heartily recommend this – I’ll definitely have a proper read later on. My recommendation this week is from a site called the Columbia Journalism Review. It’s a great website – first of all if you’re a journalist, but also if you’re any kind of professional writer.

Anyway, this article is called The Art of the Interview. And interviews tend to be something I dread but enjoy when I’m doing them. But this article gives some really good tips on how to prepare for an interview and how to go about it once you’re doing it, and it’s written by someone called Ann Friedman, who’s quite well known. And although it’s aimed at journalists, you can use a lot of the advice even if you’re not a journalist. You might need to interview someone for a case study or a blog post, so it can apply to all kinds of writing.

There are so many uses for the information and it’s a well-researched and well-written article that covers a lot – it’s really worth a read.

LH: It’s surprising as you diversify how many clients will just turn around and say, “Oh, we need a case study” or “Oh, can you write us a press release” and you’ll need to just phone someone up to get the information. So you really have to know what you’re doing – once you’ve got someone on the phone, the pressure’s on. You really have to pack the questions in without machine-gunning someone’s brain.

PW: Yeah, because you want to get really good information but if you alienate someone by asking them the wrong questions or the right questions in the wrong order…One thing I learned in my first serious media interview, which was face-to-face and recorded. When I transcribed it later, I found that the interviewee would start answering a question and I would say “Mm.” in what I thought was an encouraging way, but then the interviewee would stop, and it made getting quotable sentences really difficult!

LH: Oh, so you’d chopped them with your “Mm”s!

PW: Yes! And I thought I was saying “Yes, tell me more” and that’s the kind of thing that varies from person to person, but that I’d always be aware of in future. And so, also this is the kind of thing you may do without actually thinking about it as an interview – you might just be phoning someone up and asking them about their product.

LH: Brilliant recommendation. Sourcing information verbally can be a big part of the job. We think of ourselves as writers, but you have to be a good talker as well.

PW: Yes, and pitch it just right. It’s different every time and you have to build relationships quickly. But yes, it’s something most people could improve on, so yes, that’s my recommendation this week.

LH: I’ll definitely check it out. I’m so much more comfortable communicating in writing simply because we do it so much more.

PW: Yes, I interviewed someone for an article recently – actually a friend of mine. And I was commissioned to write a piece about a particular health problem, which my friend has. And even that, I did so much preparation and research and I had to talk to her differently because I needed quotes. I had to talk to her as though she were a stranger. It’s different every time so the more hints and tips you absorb the better.

LH: Brilliant recommendation, and that brings us firmly to the end of A Little Bird Told Me 57. Pip is here – she’s hale, she’s hearty and she’s back.

PW: Yes, I meant to say that at the start – thank you, Lorrie, for valiantly swapping this week’s dual episode with her solo one. I’ve been so ill with the flu’ for the last few weeks, so thank you Lorrie for stepping up – I really appreciate it.

LH: Ahh, my first public declaration. But no, seriously listeners, it was like talking to Swamp Beast on the phone – cough cough, gurgle gurgle. So yeah, it wasn’t going to work for a podcast, entertaining though it might have been! On that note, I wish all our lovely listeners a very happy week. Do go and tune in to our past episodes and subscribe at I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn…

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

Podcast Episode 56: Seven reasons to fire a freelance writer

What, as a freelance writer, should you never, ever do? What reasons would a client be justified in firing you? In this solo episode, Lorrie gets tough and outlines the seven top reasons she will fire a freelancer.

Show Notes

Episode 19: How to Proofread Your Own Work

Episode 55: How to Deal with Rejection

The 45 Inbound Marketing Terms You Should Know (HubSpot)

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Hello and welcome to episode 56 of A Little Bird Told Me: the freelance writing podcast about the highs, the lows and the absolute no-nos of successful self-employment.
You can find us on the web at, which is not only our Podomatic HQ but a hive of handy resources and past episodes. Every link and recommendation we ever give in the podcast – ever! – is listed right there, along with all the links to our websites, social media feeds and subscription options so it’s worth having a nosy!

Subscribing is so worthwhile, although of course I’d say that, because there’s a new episode out every week, with new advice and topics covered in every single one.

I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and this week, it’s another solo episode. Sadly, my lovely co-host Philippa has been struck down by a particularly persistent flu’, so I’m holding the fort while she coughs and sniffles her way back to wellness.

Pip will hopefully be hale and hearty again next week, though, so stay tuned and subscribe for a dual episode then.

This week, I’m going to be tackling a topic that kind of makes me the bad cop sometimes. While Pip comes to you with lovely supportive episodes about overcoming rejection, I’m here to discuss something that is far less friendly but equally important.

Despite the best efforts of many of us, the myth that freelance writing is an easy – or easier – ride than a salaried position is one that persists. What this can lead to is a lack of professionalism on the part of some self-identified freelance writers, often to quite extraordinary levels.

As many of our regular listeners know, I operate my business like a mini agency and I hire writers, editors and proof-readers to help me deliver some of my work.

Fired red stamp

And, I’m going to go through 7 things that would cause me – and have caused me – to fire a freelancer. I’ve fired plenty of people in my time and, while it’s not as dramatic as if you were firing an employee rather than a contractor, it’s still not great. I don’t like doing it any more than some people like me doing it to them. So listen up for the top reasons freelance writers fail to secure more work.

1) Lateness

I’m putting this first not only because it’s one of my biggest bugbears – and I can’t tell you how much I hate it – but because it’s something that I’ve experienced very regularly with the writers I’ve hired and freelancers my clients have hired, either before me or in a different field to me, such as photographers, project managers, that kind of thing.

In a lot of businesses, mine included, lateness on the part of one person has a massive knock-on effect. If one of my writers is late with work, I have to communicate the reason for that delay to the client. I have rearrange what I’m doing because the work I was expecting to proof-read, edit and send off in the early afternoon, isn’t there until 6pm.

Or, in one case, the work I wanted to upload on a Friday wasn’t there until the following Friday – when I received a bit of a hash-job with an email about how the person had been so busy that they hadn’t been able to email me. And no, I’m not hiring them again!

I would go as far as to venture that about 50% of the people I’ve hired have been late with work at some point – crucially, without letting me know. And that’s huge – it’s something that Pip and I have had lengthy, frustrated phone chats about as we try and work out how so many people think that unexplained lateness is par for the course.

Sometimes, lateness happens. You really can’t help it: maybe you get really poorly, maybe – as happened to poor Pip last month – your internet access disappears in the middle of a hugely busy afternoon. And in those cases, lateness can’t be helped.

What you do in those instances, though, isn’t to just carry on in silence. You contact your client as soon as you know you’re going to be late. You give a short explanation of the reasons, you apologise and you offer them a new ETA. I’m not sure what it is with some freelancers – the excuses I’ve had after the fact are that they forgot the deadline, they lost track of time, they thought I’d said Wednesday in general, not Wednesday at 10am, say…


Delayed (Photo credit: Aquila)

The point is, though, as a freelancer, you check the deadline. You make sure you note it down, you put a reminder in your Google calendar, you get the work done before the last minute. It’s your job and you should be ashamed to take a rubbish excuse to someone you’ve let down. Not only that, but you need to realise that it will absolutely jeopardise your chances of making a success of your freelance writing career if you don’t get it sorted.

I put the word out on social media about what freelancers thought about people handing work in late. The responses were more closely aligned with my own feelings than I’d expected.

Author, @J_Wisewoman wrote:

“Agreed. If you set a deadline, you can say that you will go elsewhere. You have deadlines to meet too.”

and Miss_KristyB, a freelance proofreader and copy-editor added:

“I’d ask why they hadn’t told me sooner so I could give the work to someone else. Then I’d ensure I never used them again.”

It’s worth noting that the majority of people who responded are successful freelancers, and so are familiar with the kind of chaos that can pop up behind the scenes when you’re working from home. And not one of them said that lateness was OK. On the contrary, many responded in a “one strike and you’re out” fashion. So bear it firmly in mind!

So, moving on to our second point, which is closely connected:

2) Blurring the lines between the professional and personal.

Working from home can mean that the lines between your personal life and your business are less easily defined. You might start early, finish late, and catch up with work on weekends. Often, as a freelance writer, you are your brand – your name is above the door, so to speak, and people deal with you whatever their query. It can be hard to know where your business ends and you begin.

The mistake I’ve found a lot of freelancers seem to make is thinking that these blurred lines are anyone else’s concern. From people on Twitter sending out tweets from their personal accounts, reading, “Please, someone employ me!” (this has happened to me – A LOT – and it’s never once worked because it’s so inappropriate) to writers handing in work late – or not at all – because their children didn’t nap at the right time or got a tummy bug over the weekend (both real examples!), I’ve seen a lot of stuff that kind of just makes me shake my head.

At this point, I should add a caveat – and it’s one I’m not going to repeat because I think this topic really does deserve a stern talking about (!) – I understand that having children is a commitment. This is in no way an attempt to demonise parents and, more particularly, Mums, who often bear the brunt of criticism.

I understand that children are teeny humans who need looking after and who sometimes – even often – get ill or need more care. And all that’s fine. The same goes for having a partner, having a pet, having personal issues – whatever it is that’s having an effect.

What isn’t is allowing your personal life to impact on your client. I have to be really objective in these cases – I don’t hire freelancers to be my friends; I hire them to deliver work to me because I need that work delivered.

So, back to my point: on several occasions, I’ve had to chase writers to find out where work is – the deadline’s passed and I’ve had no word from them. Only when I checked in did I find that child-care issues were a problem and that the work was either going to be even more late than it already was or, in one case, not delivered at all.

Another tweet out, asking people whether they thought the issues I’ve just mentioned were a valid excuse for lateness brought responses in thick and fast.

Professional editor @WhoDoesSheThinkShe commented:

“Oh God. I’d be pretty cross – I mean, that makes it harder for all of us who have kids but ARE responsible about deadlines. But I’d prob just say, “regardless of reason, I need you to let me know in advance if you can’t meet an agreed deadline.””

Journalist and web editor, @Black_Kettle tweeted:

“Pay them late. Genuine emergencies are the only valid excuse for missing a deadline.”

And that’s about the harshest response I had to the question, although it’s one I can fully sympathise with. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that, recently, when the aforementioned freelancer I hired was a week late with work for no discernible reason, I considered not paying. I still think I would have been well within my rights not to. As it was, I paid and left it at that.

And all of the other responses followed the same vein, which gives a glimpse into how people react to freelancers claiming that home life has prevented them from doing a job.

Even the most sympathetic, by children’s clothing company Love it, Love it, Love it (@loveitloveit), read:

“I have some sympathy for childcare issues, but not contacting you to warn work would be late & say when it’ll be done isn’t on.”

The point I’m really trying to make is that I know life can be tough. That’s the whole reason Pip and I record this podcast: because freelance writing can be a total slog and you’re on your own, juggling home-life, work-life, clients, kids, chores, fluctuating work flow, accounts, admin, invoicing and isolation. It’s not an easy job by any means, so our aim is to just be a little bit of an island in all those rough seas. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone out there, isn’t it?

But, while I genuinely do have sympathy – and plenty of experiences of my own where I’ve ended up pulling an all-nighter to get work in, or chirped happily down the phone to clients that, “Of course I can take on that extra piece of work that’s super urgent!” when I’ve just been crying my eyes out about being tired and stressed – my sympathy can’t excuse a lack of a professionalism. It isn’t your client’s job to fill in the gaps where you fall short.

They shouldn’t get to hear about your homelife crises – they’re your clients, not your friends. Try to imagine yourself in a company. That level of accountability is really helpful to bear in mind when you’re tempted to bury your head in the sand or flake on a commitment.

If you’re stressed out and up to your eyes, text a mate or come and have a tantrum on the A Little Bird Told Me Facebook page. Don’t take it to your clients and don’t let it affect your work. Deadlines aren’t optional unless you’ve got an emergency on your plate. And no, being tired isn’t an emergency.

Most importantly, if you keep missing your deadlines, you need to have a look at solving the problem. Take a look through our back catalogue of episodes – we’ve got loads in there about planning your time, organising your week, optimising your client base so you can earn more without running yourself into the ground… while it’s not your client’s job to hear about all your woes, it’s important that you get the underlying issues sorted and keep yourself as happy and healthy as possible.

3) Lack of proof-reading

On to something a bit different now – proof-reading! I’m not quite sure why so many writers fall down on this, given that it’s a crucial part of our job, but not proof-reading is something that really lets writers and their clients down.

Spelling mistake: freelanceres

Spelling mistake: freelanceres (Photo credit: engineroomblog)

I’ve had work back from professional writers that is badly structured, makes no sense, contains typos, grammar errors, unfinished sentences and duplicate lines. Even more frustrating, when I open the file, Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar check highlights the issues immediately!

On other occasions, I’ve had people misread the information in the brief and make silly mistakes such as spelling crucial people’s names wrong, typing the wrong figures into a finance report and even getting a company’s name wrong. There’s just no excuse. None at all. Same goes for leaving the formatting all to pot. Why would you think that kind of poor presentation is acceptable?

Freelance writing isn’t just about writing something and then pinging it off for better or worse once you’ve done it or you’re too tired or bored of it to proof-read it. It’s about delivering the whole package to your clients so that the content is ready to go. Never think, “Oh, it’ll be OK!” and leave the proof-reading stage out – even if it is OK some of the time, that might just be because there are mistakes in there that your client doesn’t happen to spot. And on the occasions when it isn’t OK? It’s usually really not OK.

Poorly written work doesn’t just reflect badly on you (and often, if it does reflect on you, it’s just to that client and anyone they mention the issue to because it’s not your name on the bottom of that page), it reflects badly on your client. You’re actively damaging their brand.

Equally to the point, what you’re also saying, when you don’t proof-read, is that you’re happy to take your client’s money in return for sub-standard work. You’re telling your client that that’s what they’re worth to you – a half-hearted job that’s not as good as it could be. And who wants a freelancer who thinks that way?

Proof-reading is a bore but it’s your job to get as close to word perfect as you can. And when it comes to factual errors, like mistaken company names and incorrect figures, you risk causing serious trouble or offence.

Pip recorded a solo episode on how to proof-read your own work, which contains loads of tips on how to make the task a lot easier and more effective. Be honest with yourself and, if you’re one of those people who really should proof-read better, go and have a listen. This job isn’t about being just good enough – that’s no way to build a business, aside from anything else – it’s about being excellent. So make sure you are.

4) Lack of communication

Now this is a funny one. Freelance writing is a pretty isolated thing. And, as I’ve just pointed out, your clients are your clients, not your friends. But, while I’m not saying you should be pinging into your clients’ inbox every hour, I want to make a few points about communication.

It’s a bit of an unfair thing, this, because clients can be terrible at communicating. Many’s the time that your client will disappear into the ether – either for a while, or for good. Numerous are the times that we send off pitches to prospects, magazines, organisations, and hear nothing but the gentle hush of the Internet in response. You can often hear nothing from a client for three months on the trot and then suddenly, they’re there in your inbox, needing a few days’ worth of urgent work – now, now, now!

The bad news is that you have to suck it up. Bad communication being the norm with clients doesn’t mean that it can be the norm with you. You have to have high standards, and you have to stick to them.

There are times when it’s more crucial than usual to communicate – mostly when there’s a problem. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a lot (way too much!) of experience with writers waiting until the deadline on a project has passed and, worse, waiting until I’ve emailed them, going, “Uh, hello?” before letting me know there’s an issue. This gives me nothing to work with. And, in an age of social media, I can often see that the writer’s been tweeting or Facebooking away while treating me to a nice big slice of radio silence pie. It’s so rude, and it’s so unprofessional, so while it can be weirdly tempting to just duck and cover, and deny there’s an issue, you owe it to your client and yourself – if you ever want to be employed again – to let your client know if you’ve hit a stumbling block.

The same goes if you’re not clear on a brief. If you’re not 100% – and I mean 100% – sure of what you’re supposed to be doing, you need to check with your client before you start the work or, worse, complete it. Handing over a piece of work that’s totally wrong is as bad as not handing it over at all.

As you become more experienced at freelance writing, and you learn to be more assertive, you can start to see what kind of information you need from a client in order to fulfil the brief they’ve given you. It can be a good idea for things like news articles and press releases, for example, to come up with a form for clients to fill in. That way, they know what you need, you know what to expect and you have room to come back to them if the information isn’t sufficient. If they don’t fill the form in, you can say, “Look, I don’t have enough info from you.” It’s harder to do that when you’ve had a quick phone chat with them and then hang up to find that you’re missing huge chunks of info.

When you’re a freelancer, it’s your responsibility to be pro-active and professional in your communications. You need to let clients know where you’re up to with work, if there’s a problem and what you need from them. If you’re phased by pinging off an email or picking up the phone – enough that you’d rather not do it – there’s a definite issue.

5) Lack of availability

The next point I want to touch on is that of availability. Now, although freelance writers do often have to be flexible with their working hours, I’m certainly not advocating being at the beck and call of your clients. As regularly listeners will know, I tend not to work evenings and weekends. When I have to, I charge extra according to the rule that “my client’s panic is not my panic”. If a client needs something done from Friday to Monday, it needs to be worth my while too. I take evenings and weekends for the sake of my own health and personal life and, while I do sometimes privately catch up on work then – say, invoicing, admin, business development, I’m careful not to let work spill over.

The kind of availability I’m talking about, though, is working day availability. Being around when your clients are around. Responding to them within a reasonable length of time. Not starting a project with them and then disappearing off for three days while they desperately try and get hold of you to give you more info on the work they need doing. While it’s not your job to sit around waiting for clients to get in touch, you do need to be reasonably available during regular working hours.

I hired a freelance writer to assist me on one of the accounts I work on. We’d just got underway with a project that was on quite a tight deadline, when I had an email from them saying, “Oh, I’ve decided to go away for a long weekend, so I won’t be here Friday or Monday. Is that OK?”

Given that the project was running from the Thursday to the Tuesday, this was less than ideal. However, I got back to them and said, “It’s fine, but I need you to make sure you send me this, as previously agreed, by Friday at 11am.”

I got no response: they’d already gone. Friday morning at 8.15am, they sent me the first part of the work, which was absolutely terrible and didn’t even nearly meet the brief. Worse, I couldn’t do anything with it because I needed more info from the writer on the sources they’d used. I emailed back before 8.30am and got no response. 11am came and went, and that’s when I’d been due to send the work over to the client. I’d got different parts of the project coming in from different freelancers, so all of the work was held up while I was waiting for this one person. I texted them and got a response saying that they were on the motorway, on their way to this weekend away, but that they’d send me the work shortly.

Cut to Tuesday – I’d heard nothing from them. A quick look at Twitter showed that they were responding to other people about cheery things, but I’d had no update. I emailed and got a lengthy response about why they hadn’t been back in touch, finishing up with, “I’ve decided I’m not going to do the work.”

I can’t for the life of me think why you would 1) do this to someone and 2) think that it was OK. I’ve actually rarely been so shocked in my – well, it’s more than ten years now, as a freelancer. I would never, never do something like that to a client and, while it’s an extreme example, it’s not entirely removed from the actions I’ve seen with a lot of freelancers. One writer delivered three pieces of work in a row late. The third piece was so poor that I had to rewrite it, which I mentioned to the writer, who – after a week of silence – insisted that I should tell them next time, as they would do the amends. Next time work was needed, I got in touch immediately after the writer emailed to say that some amends were needed. 24 hours later, and still with no response, I emailed again to ask what was going on. The writer then quit.

The main issue with not communicating is that it’s worse than just emailing to say, “Do you know what? I can’t do the work.” because you’re leaving people hanging. The knock-on effect to my business of waiting around to find out what’s happening is huge. I have to hang off making decisions because I’m waiting for someone to email me back and, in my opinion, it isn’t OK to send off a piece of work and then disappear for more than a day leaving your client to sit and wait for your response. Work often needs slightly amending – being available for that is par for the course.

6) Basic skill gaps

This one is pretty obvious and you’d think it wouldn’t need saying. Sadly, it does. Too often, I’ve come across writers (and you must think I’m making this up – I’m really not!) who don’t know how to optimise their content, or write a press release, or invoice properly. If you’re advertising yourself as a freelance writer, and you’re taking money for the work you do (quite right!) it’s your responsibility to know the tools of your trade.

If you don’t know how to do something basic and you tell your client as much, that’s inconvenient enough – no one’s saying you have to know everything; we all have our own areas of expertise but things like at least a basic knowledge of up-to-date SEO conventions aren’t optional. What’s worse, though, is when writers don’t know how to do something but give it a go anyway.

With all the online training material available for free (and Pip and I have done a number of past episodes on improving your skills, so get looking through the back catalogue if you think you’ve got gaps!), there’s no excuse for doing a hash-job because you don’t know how to do something. 1) If it’s something simple like a press release, for goodness’ sakes, get yourself on Google and look at some examples. 2) if it’s something more complicated, like creating SEO web content, having a pop at it will leave your client paying for rubbish work. You can’t just guess at these things and accept money for your efforts – it’s so not on. I’ve caught people out on this on a number of occasions (that sounds like I enjoy hunting out these kind of messes – I really don’t) when they’ve sent over work that isn’t even nearly what it’s supposed to be. I’ve had to say, “You’ve never done this before, have you?” and then there’s been that awkward, “Um, no, sorry.” moment, where I’m left with a rubbish piece of work, a looming deadline and a decision as to whether to pay for the work and re-hire that writer or not. It’s an all-round mess, so don’t put your clients in that position.

7) Being dismissive of corrections and amends

This last freelance writing fail was suggested to me by a successful journalist on Twitter, @TauriqMoosa and it’s something that resonated with me immediately.

When you’re working for a client, it’s important to recognise that every business, every company, and every brief is different. You’ve got things like subject, style, tone of voice, brand, conventions and personal preferences to bear in mind.

So, when your client comes back to you with amends, what you shouldn’t do is throw a tantrum. I’ve always gone out of my way to offer a lot of training and feedback to the writers I hire, particularly if they’re less experienced than me in certain areas.

What’s shocked me is when I’ve had to go back to a writer with less than fantastic feedback and have got attitude in response. If, after ten years, I don’t have the guts to dismiss what a client says to me about my freelance writing before at least checking up on what they’re saying, I’m kind of at a loss to see why someone who started out say, six months ago, would think it was a good idea to talk down to someone who’s 1) more experienced and 2) paying them for work.

Sadly, it seems like it’s not just me that this happens to. Tauriq states that his pet peeve is when journalists and writers are rude, unresponsive and dismissive – without good reason – of editorial changes.

Now, with publications like io9, New Statesman, the Guardian, New York Times, New Yorker, Forbes,, and the BBC on his resumé, someone like this knows exactly what they’re talking about. The idea that freelance writers are giving attitude to anyone, let alone someone like this, about suggested amends is something that is totally outrageous to me.

Being a freelance writer doesn’t mean being a doormat. But while you might often work in isolation, you have to accept that you’re not writing for you. Your content needs to be suitable for a wider, and often specific audience. If you want to write what you want to write and you don’t want any feedback, or any guidance, write for yourself.

Freelance writing – particularly corporate content – is about your clients, not you. If nothing else, the less receptive you are to feedback, the less likely you are to be a good fit with that client. No one likes being told that their work isn’t up to scratch, but if you think you’re 100% right and your clients are just being annoying by daring to request amends, you’re in the wrong job.

This kind of self-absorption is a fatal flaw in a freelancer for me. It can manifest itself in different ways – not just in refusing to tailor your writing to a client or publication’s preferences.

In the past, I’ve seen people moaning about the fact that publications don’t approach them to pitch, about the fact that companies approach them with work that they don’t find interesting, that they only want to write about very niche, very interesting topics, and that they don’t enjoy marketing.

These are all the kinds of warning signals that make me think freelance writing isn’t the job for everyone. In a salaried role, you can slump and moan your way through the boring bits to a certain extent, and you still get paid for every hour you spend. And, again, to a certain extent, you leave some of the menial stuff behind as you progress. With freelancing, while you should be able to become more choosy about the work you take on as you become more experienced, you will always have to put your own preferences on one side when it comes to accommodating client preferences. That’s what makes us different to authors, say.

So, those are just seven of the reasons I’d fire a freelance writer! While it’s not nice to think you could lose your clients, it’s far better to think about it in advance than to actually have it happen because of a silly, avoidable mistake on your part.

Freelance writing is hard enough without shooting yourself in the foot and leaving clients looking elsewhere for their future content writing needs.

If you’ve listened to this and you think it all sounds a bit scary, take heart. The fact is that these are basic things that really need sorting out. Take it from me that a lot of freelance writers I’ve encountered muck up in these ways, not just once but again and again. While that’s bad news for them, it’s good news for you. When a lot of freelancers are failing at things like basic courtesy and professionalism, you can take that chance to get right ahead and scoop up all that business they’re losing. It’s a competitive world out there, so if you can boost your skills, market yourself well and deliver work that, while it won’t always be perfect, always meets a good standard in terms of quality, you’re already well ahead in the game. Pip and I are always here to offer guidance if you’re stuck with anything, so do come and have a chat to us on Facebook, Twitter or by email – you’ll find all of our details at our Podomatic homepage at

Little Bird Recommendation of the week

My recommendation this week is a handy post from Hubspot, which lists a whole load of marketing terms that you’ll need to know and understand at some point to be as successful a freelance writer as you can be.

As I said earlier, writing isn’t done in a vacuum – content is an integral part of a content marketing strategy, whether formal or informal, in most cases and it’s important to be able to have discussions using professional terms.

Saying, “But I’m just a copywriter!” won’t cut the mustard. Neither will an awkward silence while your client tries to work out if you have any clue what she or he is talking about.

By understanding these terms, you’ll be able to widen your awareness of how content affects marketing and talk the talk, as well as writing the words. Getting to grips with terms and concepts like ‘closed loop marketing’, ‘sales funnel’, A/B testing and many others will not only help to give you the tools to talk with confidence (and who knows, win more business?) it’ll broaden your understanding of the marketing that surrounds your writing.

It’s worth sitting down a few times this next week and highlighting any of the phrases you don’t know in this glossary, and giving them a good look over. There were a couple in there that I hadn’t come across before (I’m not admitting which ones!) and even just knowing them now means that I can address issues I wouldn’t have been aware of before. Dropping a few well chosen buzzwords into your interactions with clients and prospects can really impress, so take a good look!

Podcast Episode 55: Coping with Rejection

Part of being a freelancer is facing rejection, sometimes repeatedly. It can be really tough when your work is not wanted, whether that is a pitch for a magazine feature, an approach to a literary agent that goes wrong, or a business that just isn’t keen on your suggestion of content. It is important to not take this personally, but that is easier said than done. In this solo podcast episode, I talk about numerous different ways to cope with rejection, so you can brush yourself off and keep going.

Show Notes

Yes, your submission phobia is holding you back

Why Freelancers Are Saving the Internet

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Hello and welcome to episode 55 of A Little Bird Told Me – the freelance writing podcast about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment. I’m Philippa Willitts and I’m doing a solo episode today. Make sure you head over to our website at because there you’ll find all the links you need to subscribe and make sure you never miss another episode. You’ll also find a link to our Facebook page, where you can come and say hello, as well as all the links to my websites and social media feeds. There will also be any links and websites that I mention during the course of the podcast.

So today, I’m going to talk about something that affects all writers at some point in their career – whether they’re commercial writers, media writers, fiction writers or novelists – and that is the dreaded rejection. It does happen to everyone. In fact, when you look at skills needed to be a freelance writer, one of them is always to be able to cope with rejection. Because it’s just part of the job. Not everything you suggest to an editor, not every agent you approach, not every business you get in touch with will want to buy what you have to offer, whether that’s your novel manuscript or a great deal on press releases. It’s going to happen, so what you have to be able to do – brutal as it may sound – is deal with it when it does. If you think about it, you’re never going to be able to appeal to everyone. We’ve all got our preferred styles of writing – some people like very descriptive passages in novels, whereas others will skip those right over to get to the action. Some people love long, in-depth blog posts coming in at 3,000 words; others like quick sound-bites that you can quote and get on with your day.

English: Rejection

English: Rejection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So just like you don’t like every kind of writing, not everyone will like your kind of writing. It’s life and it’s part of the job. However, that’s not to say that it isn’t unpleasant to have your work rejected, particularly if it’s something you had particularly high hopes for. You really researched and found who you thought was the perfect agent for your manuscript or you planned a proposition document for a business for days and weeks, and you really thought you had it spot on. It can be quite painful when they say no, so what I’m going to do is look at various ways of coping with rejection, and also with the possibility of rejection. There are some people who are so scared of rejection that they never submit anything. And sure, you won’t get rejected but you also won’t ever get hired or published.

So the first important factor in coping with rejections is to anticipate them. If you send everything off thinking, “This is going to change my life!” you’re going to be really disappointed when it doesn’t come through. However, if you send things off knowing there’s a chance you’ll be rejected, it might not hit you so hard. It’s inevitable and you just have to keep going. Some writers even advise that you assume that your writing will be rejected as your default reaction, and then you can only be happy when it doesn’t happen.

And so I think that’s one of the most important factors. Even if you’re not pessimistic enough to assume that everything you sent out won’t work, it’s important to be realistic and remember that a lot of it won’t. And so a key to managing that – the next stage, really – is to make sure you have plenty of submissions on the go at any one time. And I’ve heard many numbers – I think the number is arbitrary, really; it’s the principle, really. But, say, for magazine feature submissions, I’ve heard that between eight and twelve. You should always have eight to twelve pitches out and on the go at any one time. So, you should always be waiting to hear from eight. When you hear back from one of them, you send another one off. And you hear back from the next one, you send the next one off. If you keep submitting and approaching editors and businesses, the focus lessens on that one piece of work.

If you send one thing and then wait for a response, which can sometimes take weeks and months, then everything is riding on that one submission and if it goes wrong, it’s very hard to deal with. If, on the other hand, you have eight submissions on the go and you hear back from one and it’s not gone well, first of all, if there’s not as much riding on it because there are another seven out there , but also as soon as you get the rejection, your next job is to get another pitch out there. That helps to take the focus off the individual pitch which just wasn’t right or wasn’t a good fit for whoever you’d submitted it to, and instead just makes it part of your job.

Something I found myself doing for a while – which was really stressful and counter-productive – was, as soon as I’d sent off a pitch, I’d sit there hitting refresh for 20 minutes. And it was stressful, time-wasting and pointless – even if someone loves your idea, they’re unlikely to get back to you in a few minutes to commission it. They might have to think about or check that they have space for it. Or, they might need to discuss it with someone else. Or, they might just not be at their desk. And so, I’d find myself sending something off and, even thought I knew I wasn’t going to hear anything in the next few minutes, I couldn’t help obsessing over my inbox.

So, I put a plan into place where, the moment I hit send – whether it’s a pitch to a magazine or an approach to a commercial company – I have to leave my desk and go and do something else. For me, that’s usually something like doing the washing up or going and getting some lunch. Whatever it is, I have to physically go and do something else and it really helps to take the focus off that one individual submission.

Now the next tip for coping with rejection is something I mentioned in the introduction but is worthy of more, frankly, and that is: to not take it personally. There are many reasons your work might be rejected. If you send a feature idea to a magazine and they don’t want it, there can be many reasons. Maybe they’ve already commissioned someone to write about something similar; maybe what you’re suggesting clashes a bit with one of their key advertisers. And that’s a real concern because most magazines are predominantly funded by their advertising revenue not purchases.

And so if…this is an extreme example but it’ll give you the idea…you submit an idea to a magazine about why cosmetic surgery is absolutely evil but they’ve just taken on a £10,000 advertising contract with a cosmetic surgery brand. Chances are the magazine will prioritise the advertiser over your piece! Equally, it may be that they love your idea but they’ve already got something similar planned for next month. It could be any number of things. These people don’t hate you; they’re not there to disappoint you – they’re there to produce a really good publication.

Sometimes it’s just not about you at all. If you approach a business offering to do regular blog posts for them but they’ve just hired an in-house copywriter, they don’t need you. It’s not that you’re not good enough; it’s not that your approach was rubbish. You just got them at the wrong time; they might be cutting back on their budget – there could be any number of things, so don’t take every rejection as a sign that you’re rubbish. “I’ll never make it as a writer because I approach The Guardian and they didn’t want my article… I approached a big company in my niche area and they didn’t even reply.” Often, it’s just not about you.

Now one thing you’ll find often happens with rejections is that you don’t actually get one – you just get silence; no response; nothing at all. And that can actually be more disheartening than an actual rejection, because then you at least know where you stand.

Especially if you’re going to incorporate the idea of having a certain number of pitches circulating, it’s important to set some kind of parameters, just for yourself really. If you haven’t heard back from an agent, magazine or company within, say, four weeks, then you class that as a no. You never know – I’ve had this quite a few times, actually, especially with magazines – I might hear nothing but then suddenly, after two months, I’ll get a message saying, “We didn’t need it at the time, but if you could write it for us now, that’d be great.” And then that’s a bonus but, in order to keep a sense of control over the number of pitches circulating, it’s worth putting some kind of time limit in.

Now if you do get an email back saying, “Sorry, this isn’t what we’re looking for”, it’s important to learn from what they tell you. For instance, if they say, “Thanks for getting in touch but your suggestion doesn’t really suit our publication”, then there’s a message in there that you may not have studied the magazine carefully enough before pitching. And I think there’s little that annoys editors more than people sending out pitches without reading the publication before. They want to think that you’ve thought it through and pitched to their readers, so take it as a sign that you might not be researching well enough.

Or, if they say, “Thanks for sending this to us – I’m afraid the first chapter isn’t compelling enough to make me read on.” Sure, feel upset at first but then turn it into something useful. Obviously, editors, agents, marketing departments don’t always get it right – but often this is very valuable feedback, so nurse your ego for a few hours then say, “OK, is my chapter compelling enough?” Ask how you can bring more interest, action, suspense into it. When you get feedback, value it. Try to consider it objectively and if you can learn anything from it, do so. If you don’t, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.

If the same editor who’s already told you once that your article doesn’t fit what they do has to tell you again next time that your writing doesn’t fit what they do, it won’t go well. So don’t be arrogant – don’t assume you know best and say, “My first chapter is already perfect, I’m not making any changes; I’m just waiting for an agent to spot my genius” then you might not get very far. You may be right, but be a bit humble.

If you’re starting to feel a bit down because you’ve had a few rejections, and you’re thinking that you’re no good at this and you’re never going to make it, then a good tip can be to do something that will give you a sense of achievement. Often in this case, a small “quick win” is the best choice. If you can spend two hours doing five tasks that have needed doing for a while, you can gain a real sense of achievement and rebuild your confidence.

Another tactic is just to keep going. As I said earlier, it’s important to keep submitting. The more submissions you have circulating, the less personally you’ll take an individual rejection and the less focused you’ll be on a particular pitch as well.

So in a similar way, make sure you’re strategic as you work. If you’ve really thought through which agent would suit you best, and you’ve sent your novel out and you don’t want to send it to five others in the mean-time, that doesn’t mean you have to sit and wait. It’s a cue for you to start working on something else. Maybe start redrafting the later chapters or do some work on your website. Get yourself on social media and get networking – don’t ever just sit and wait for a response to one submission – chances are you’ll have a long wait; you may well be disappointed and you’ll be annoyed at the time you could’ve spent working on your next pitch.

And if you’re in a position, like a lot of listeners, where this is how you pay your bills, you have to be careful not to constantly pursue things that are difficult. If you need some quick wins and you know you have a brilliant approach to businesses that almost always works, then send some of those off as well, even if it’s not your dream work. You have to keep moving forward rather than stagnating, otherwise every rejection will affect you really badly. You’ll get downhearted, wonder what the point is, over-analysing everything. It does you no good – both in terms of work and emotions. It’s a dangerous state of mind. It can stop you writing, stop you working and make you scared of trying anything new if your last thing went down badly. If you want this to be your job, you can’t stop – you have to keep going.

The final key piece of advice for dealing with rejection is that much as all I’ve said about keeping positive and rejection not being person – all of that is true and important – but what you can’t do is get complacent and stop questioning your own work. If everything you send off is rejected or if you’re getting the same feedback every time, you might be doing something wrong. It might be that your emails aren’t snappy enough or don’t grab attention; it may be that you’re sending off a first chapter that really isn’t good enough. It may be that you’re not sending enough work to give them an idea of what you can do.

Much as many rejections aren’t about you, it doesn’t do to live in a bubble and believe that everything you do is perfect when all the evidence points to the contrary. It’s hard work, as a career, and if the work you send off is sloppy, or doesn’t present you well, or you’re just not working hard enough on it, that could be why you’re getting rejected. So, if you’re finding that almost everything you send off is getting rejected, find someone you trust and get them to look over what you’re sending – your approach email, any documents you’re sending off with it, your previous examples of work. Find someone who knows the industry and get them to have a look. Listen to their feedback. Have a look at what other people send to agents, what others write in magazine pitches – there are blog posts all over the net with examples of successful pitch emails and you can learn a lot.

You think perhaps that your genius will shine through and, if there are a few typos in your email, but you’re the undiscovered genius of the 21st Century – and maybe you are – but some of these people get constant submissions; you have to stand out so learn from other people, ask for honest feedback and pay attention. Apply what you learn and keep improving.

I found an interesting article on this topic by a woman called Michelle Seaton, at a site called The Review Review. And I’ll link to it in the show notes, of course. And she was writing about submission phobia and, in this post, she wrote:

In 12 years of teaching at Grub Street, I’ve learned three truths about students:

  1. They don’t submit enough, especially the most talented ones.

  2. Many of my most talented students never submit anything.

  3. The students who publish most often submit constantly, as though it’s their job or their final year on Earth. And guess what? It works.

And that’s the key thing to take away – if you stop submitting work, you’ll never get published. Keep going, stay positive, don’t take it personally but if there do seem to be issues, be sensible and pay attention. And KEEP GOING! It’s the only way it’ll work – you’ll have good weeks, bad weeks; good months and bad months, but if you don’t ask people for work, you’re very unlikely to get it!

It’s now time for my Little Bird Recommendation of the Week. In case you’re feeling a bit down because you’ve just had a rejection, then this week’s recommendation is perfect for you. It’s an article called, “Why Freelancers Are Saving the Internet”. As you read it, you find out that we’re not just saving the internet – we’re actually saving the planet!

And it’s a very positive article. When you read it, it refers to freelancers as the backbone of the internet. It says, “Small and medium-sized business are the ones creating the majority of everything on the Internet. Basically, freelancing is the backbone of those businesses.”

They discuss what would happen if freelancers stopped working: there’d be no Huffington Post, no phone apps, and no great blog posts. And it’s just a lovely article, especially if you’re feeling like it’s all pointless or you’re just having one of those days, it might just make you smile. So head over to for the link to Why Freelancers Are Saving the Internet.

I hope that’s been helpful and that you go over to our website and subscribe – you don’t want to miss next week’s episode. Like us on Facebook, say hi on social media. In the meantime, I’ll see you next week.


Podcast Episode 54: How to expand your freelance writing business

Do you want to grow your freelance business? Take on new clients and work on more projects without dropping your regular, steady work? In this episode, Lorrie and I talk about how to expand your freelance writing business, as well as the different reasons why you might want to grow.

Show Notes

SWOT Analysis

Episode 20: Goal Planning – Your Freelance Aims for 2013

The Freelancing Mindset: Don’t be Afraid

12 Nonprofit marketing emails that actually convert

There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me. Subscribe via RSS Subscribe via iTunes Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio And finally, please ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!  


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

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

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

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

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

Show Notes

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

Subscribe via RSS

Subscribe via iTunes

Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PW: Yeah, definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adriano Gasparri - My LinkedIn Profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LH: They are the freelancer for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PW: It’s so odd, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

LH: It’s so inappropriate, isn’t it?

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

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

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

LH: Thanks goodness.

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

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

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

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

PW: I was totally pissed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PW: This is Lorrie speaking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LH: Ooh.

PW: Yes.

LH: Ooh, did not see that one coming.

PW: Neither did I.

LH: Congratulations to her but bad choice of platform

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

LH: Oh dear.

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

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

PW: No, no.

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

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

LH: It’s a huge deal obviously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

PW: Go with less rather than more.

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

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

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

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

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

PW: Yes, I’m exactly the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PW: That’s so true.

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

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

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

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

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

PW: Do you agree Lorrie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LinkedIn (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PW: And what could be more exciting than that.

LH: Very little!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PW: Unless you’re a professional runner.

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

PW: Why not?

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

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

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

PW: We will be watching.

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

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

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

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

LH: Oh, ok. That’s not usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LH: Scammers! Very clever but really awful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LH: That’s my area as well.

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

LH: Oh, that’s pretty scary.

PW: It is.

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

PW: Thank you

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

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

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

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

LH: Yes, that’s a good idea.

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

LH: Of your own cash.

PW: Yeah

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

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

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

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

LH: A cat stuck in a tree.

PW: Yep, that’s the one.

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

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

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

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

PW: Yeah.

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


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

PW: Yeah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LH: Just being marvellous

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

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

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

LH: Sadly human

PW: Perfection hasn’t quite hit yet

LH: Ohh dear

PW: But we’re close

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

PW: They also on our Facebook page too

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

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

LH: We love it.

PW: We really do.

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

PW: We do and it makes us happy.

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

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