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Podcast Episode 22: The Hows, the Whys and the Wherefores of the Perfect Press Release

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Knowing how to write an attention-grabbing, appropriately formatted press release is an essential skill for any copywriter. Whether your clients are in industry, the public sector, sole traders or charities, you will almost certainly be asked to produce press releases on different topics and you will be expected to know exactly the style and tone that is required. In this episode of A Little Bird Told Me, Lorrie and I discuss when press releases are useful (and when they should be avoided), as well as how to go about writing them.

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Transcript

Newspapers yellow

Newspapers yellow (Photo credit: NS Newsflash)

LH: Hello, and welcome to Episode 22 of A Little Bird Told Me: the podcast about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful freelance writing.  You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, and there you can subscribe to the podcast in any number of ways, including RSS, iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio or on the Podomatic page itself. You can also find the link to our Facebook page, where there will be plenty of tips, tricks and topics to enjoy. I’m Lorrie Hartshorn…

PW: And I’m Philippa Willitts, and this week we are going to be talking about writing press releases. How to write them, what they’re used for – that kind of thing. The ability to write a press release is an essential skill for a freelance copywriter – every client will expect you to be able to do it, and to do it well, so mastering the techniques involved is vital. So we want to first look at what press releases are.

LH: A press release is a pretty important exercise in branding. It’s an official statement that a company or organisation issues to newspapers, websites, magazines and other publications in order to publicise and share, and inform on a certain subject or event.

Put simply, a press release is an official news story, so it’s important that you get it 100% right every time – firstly, because it’s your, or your client’s official word on a particular subject and will set the tone for your or their business, and secondly, because publications receive a lot of press releases from people wanting to shout about something, so the press release itself needs to conform to a strict set of standards to avoid ending up unread and in the sin bin. If an editor or journalist can’t get the right information from your press release straight away, they don’t have the time or the inclination to sit there trying to puzzle it out.

PW: They are written with a really distinctive style and have to follow certain rules, which we will go on to talk about later. But a key thing is that they’re not the place to indulge in extreme creativity or bending the rules! They have a particular format, and if nothing else, journalists are used to receiving them in that format, so sticking with the convention is important if you want to have a hope in somebody picking up your release and publishing a story about it. If they have to hunt around for key information they just won’t bother.

LH: I’ve seen some scarily creative press releases in my time, and I’ve never been impressed by them – it’s never worked. I know some people can get a bit creative with news stories, articles, job applications, but not press releases.

So, now we’ve talked about what press releases are, we want to discuss what they’re used for. So, unless you pride yourself on doing something eminently newsworthy every single day, the most common type of press release you’ll write is for someone else.

PW: This is true. Although sometimes a large part of the challenge of writing press releases is that something the client sends you isn’t necessarily eminently newsworthy either! They’re doing it for self-promotional purposes. Your job is to take their brief and turn it into something that sounds like news, even if what you start with is a brief about a company having hired a new member of staff, or having held a raffle or got a new car park.

LH: I’m laughing because I’m remembering the horror I’ve faced in the past. Yes, that’s sadly quite true – I remember being asked to write a press release for one of my clients on something really quite unexceptional, and being asked whether I’d be able to get it on the 6 o’clock news, please! If I can, I thought, I’m charging too little – it’d be a miracle!

To be fair, it might be that the subject matter really is lacking; other times, though, it might just be a question of finding the right niche. It’s important to bear in mind that it’s not all or nothing with a press release – while it might not be breaking national news, it could still be of interest to the client’s local regional publications, as well as trade press.

PW: Absolutely. If they sell copper pipes and they come up with an innovative new copper pipe, you might think, “Who cares?” but plenty of people do. Send it to the Daily Mail, they won’t care. Copper Pipes Monthly will love it!

English: The Daily Mail clock, just off Kensin...

LH: If you get some sort of immigration angle on it, the Daily Mail will love it – Foreign Copper Pipes Taking Over British Steel!

PW: Hahaha! Killing our swans!

LH: Haha, killing swans – I do like that! The Daily Mail is fond of talking about Her Majesty’s swans! But yes, sometimes it’ll just be a matter of luck – regional press or trade press might be having a slow news day. So if your client just cut the red ribbon on a new car park, as you mentioned earlier, maybe their local paper might want to cover that, especially if there are some nice pictures of the mayor cutting the ribbon.

PW: Yeah, if it’s three days after Christmas and literally nothing’s happening, then you might get it in. If there’s just been a local disaster, you’ve got no hope.

LH: “Local disaster, followed by really nice car park!” Oh dear! But it’s a tough balance. If your client sends out a press release to, say, their local newspaper once a week on something utterly ridiculous, they might end up getting black-listed as a bit of a spammer. But, unless you’re looking at something absolutely ridiculous or offensive, I’d leave it to the client to decide when a press release should be sent. As I said before, you might find it deathly dull, but there might well be a very interested target audience.

PW: This is very true. Interestingly, today on Twitter I’ve seen a lot of usage of the hashtag #notnews, which people are using to highlight when traditional news websites publish content about a celeb losing weight, or a footballer having dyed his hair (this was a genuine #notnews story this morning!).

LH: I saw one today on the Daily Mail – it was a photo of Jennifer Anniston smiling and it was entitled, “Chin chin – Jennifer Anniston shows of a fuller face” and she looked exactly the same as she always does.

PW: And it’s just not news, is it?

LH: Well, I think I need to write to the Daily Mail about those copper pipes if Jennifer Anniston’s chin is considered news!

PW: There may also be occasional occasions, if you will, when you want to send out a press release on behalf of yourself. Perhaps you have won a writing award, or published a book, and you are keen to raise your profile by alerting local press, or trade publications. It can sometimes be difficult to be entirely honest with yourself on these occasions, about whether your news really is… well… news, so checking out with somebody else what they think is a good start. We might feel so overjoyed just by handing in a big website rewrite that we think the world would care, but they wouldn’t.

LH: Haha, yes. Breaking News: COPYWRITER DOES WORK!

PW: Ha ha ha!

PW: However if you genuinely do have something newsworthy, you can consider sending out a press release, because it can definitely help you to make a good name for yourself, and raise your profile. Follow the same rules and guidelines as if you are writing one for somebody else, write it in the third person, and send it out to *relevant* publications, not to all and sundry. If nothing else, annoying reporters does not help you when you have future “news”.

LH: Definitely true – it taps into what we were saying earlier about clients sending something out every week; you don’t want to get yourself black-listed. That said, because we’re British, I do want to say that you should be fair to yourself as well – if you’ve genuinely got some news that you’d be happy to share on behalf of a client, don’t hold back just because it’s you and you feel a bit shy or silly. Remember, you’re not promoting yourself; you’re promoting your business in a perfectly normal, reasonable way.

PW: I know one guy who bought a subscription to one of the big online press release distribution services, and the subscription he bought entitles him to send one press release a day. In order to feel he hasn’t wasted his really big investment, he does send out a press release every single day. That can work if you’re a multinational, but he’s just a bloke running a fairly ordinary business, so you can imagine the kind of “news” he lumbers them with. And you really, really don’t want people to automatically switch off when they see your name in their email inbox!

LH: It’s so massively unfortunate – there really is such a thing as overkill and this would be a perfect example.
I think a lot of clients I’ve spoken to are a little confused by the difference between press releases and news articles – they use the terms interchangeably, and I do sometimes have to go back to them and check. The problem is that it can lead to them viewing the functionalities of the two types of writing as interchangeable as well.

PW: Whereas, as writing exercises, they are pretty much at the opposite ends of the spectrum!

LH: Absolutely. You wouldn’t send a blog post to a national publication, but if someone calls that a press release, you think, “Oh hang on, there are press release search engines, press release distribution services…maybe I should send this “press release” TO THE PRESS!” and you think, “No, don’t do it!”
I’ve got some clients who tell me that they want, say, five press releases a month writing, but they’ll actually be closer to reports. Or blog posts. They do send them to the press release search engines, such as PR Newswire and Business Wire, but it’s pretty obvious that, while this will be handy for, say, Google ranking, because it’s not excessive, it’s not likely that the work will be picked up by publications. The Times isn’t going to be on Business Wire looking for this client’s press releases.

PW: I think a lot of businesses fall into the trap of saying, “OK, we want five press releases a month” and then look for stories, whereas it’s better to do it the other way round – to do something good and then write a press release about it.

LH: Definitely – it feeds into what we were saying about mixing up press releases and news stories. I write news stories for people and occasionally, I’ll say, “I think we can get a press release out of this.” So I’ll write them a nice press release and then you can bring that down to a nice news article as well, but generally a news story is just a news story.

PW: There are some reputable – and generally expensive – PR distribution services online, and there are some free or cheap ones which send things out indiscriminately, and could result in Google penalties if links to your – or your client’s – sites end up on 8,000 article directories, so do be careful. A good way around it is to have your own personal contact list of journalists and publications who you have built relationships with over years. Your releases are much more likely to be read if they go to somebody with a specific interest in what you are writing about.

LH: God, yes – you have to be so careful not to spam people. Previously, that wouldn’t have done any damage, but with the new Google algorithms, that’s a total no-no. So readers, if you’re interested, that’s the Google Penguin and Google Panda updates. So yes, be so careful not to spam.

Going back to the idea of having personalised mailing lists, that’s actually a service I provide clients with – particularly new start-up firms – and it’s a far better approach to send reasonably frequent press releases to people you know are going to be interested rather than sending a big hit or allowing a site to do it on your behalf, both of which are in dodgy legal territory anyway. You’d not only be looking at getting yourself a whole bunch of Google penalties, as you point out, Pip, you’d be looking at making your business (or your client’s business) synonymous with spam. If your client is clueless and they take a hit from a press release that you’ve sent for them, it won’t do your reputation any good either.

So, now we’ve talked a bit about what press releases are, and how they’re used, we want to discuss how to write one. This is something that both Pip and I have noticed that a lot of writers – massive hand movements here! A LOT! – get horribly wrong and, as we’ve mentioned before, that can have disastrous consequences. Not only that, they’re supposed to be a basic thing – one of the staples of copywriting. There’s no excuse.

PW: Definitely. If a business hires you for any copywriting work and they like what they do, you have to expect that a press release will come your way at some point. As Lorrie says, they’re a staple.
Unlike virtually all other documents you might be commissioned to write, press releases are virtually identical to their typewritten counterparts years ago. They are very restricted in their style and formatting, to the point where I actually have a checklist that I use every single time I have to write a press release. This is to make sure that each odd little necessity is included, from the date and location (and that the date and location are probably in bold italics), to how the document is ended with three hashtags, and so on.

LH: Slight variations on these conventions can sometimes be acceptable. For example, some press releases are finished off with the word “END” or “ENDS”, centred and capitalised. But for the most part, and with a few style issues like this aside, a press release will (or should!) always look like a press release.

PW: Yes, if you google “press release template” or “blank press release” there are lots of examples available. Especially if you’re new to this, it’s good to have a look at a lot. They will all differ slightly, but once you’ve had a look at a dozen or so, choose one and stick to it. Alternatively, the company you are writing for might have a particular template that they want you to stick to, so always check with them before making a start. Otherwise, choose the one you prefer and use it from then on.

There are also features like notes at the bottom, including contact details of a relevant person within the organisation, and the release itself is generally written in a way that starts with the most important, newsy news, and then as it goes on, goes into more detail and explains things more.

LH: Yeah. When it comes to finishing off, you’ll have your Notes To Editors bit, and you might also have a notes bit, so “For more information, please contact…blah blah.” In the notes to editors, I mention company style, so if there’s a date or a capitalised word, I’ll put them in there rather than bulking out the press release.

PW: Yes, or a source – if you mention a survey, you’ll want to include the link.

LH: Right – because you don’t want to go above, say, one and a half pages max, really. But yes, as you said just now Pip, it’s always worth starting a press release with something resembling a two line summary of the news itself, so, for example “A pair of famous UK copywriters have started a podcast that seems destined to take over the writing world.” Just, you know, for example.

PW: Haha, of course. I can’t think where you got that from! You need the opener to really catch the eye. Clarifications and details come later. And overall the document shouldn’t be more than two pages long, and it’s ideally around one A4 page.

LH: In terms of actually formatting the release, and the aesthetics of it, it’s worth suggesting to clients, if they don’t have this already, that they have a media header and footer designed – attractive graphics with which you can top and tail the press release, and which contain the company name and logo, contact details, slogan etc. It’s just a nice bit of branding to finish the piece off. If my clients don’t have one, I tend to include their logo in the header space for them.

PW: Yes, that’s interesting – I do similarly. I will usually send them a plain text, or .doc version of the press release, and also create a .pdf version with their logo on, too. I send both and they may choose the plain text one, but otherwise, they’ve got the pdf.
When you’re doing work for a client, you have to go with their preference. There’s no negotiating if they want x or y header. Unless something to do with the writing is specifically not right, that’s it.

LH: You’re right – the customer isn’t always right, but the customer is always paying, so unless they’re asking for something totally wrong, it’s important to give them what they want. It might not be to your taste, but what are you going to do?

So, once your formatting is sorted, it’s important to get the tone right. As we said, in a number of ways, a press release isn’t a news story. It has a lot of the same content, but it’s not one, and this goes for the tone as well.

One thing to take note of is that, say we’re talking about ABC Client, you write about the business in the third person. This isn’t an internal piece of news, so while your news articles might go on the client’s websites, the press releases need to assume no prior knowledge of the client. So while your news stories might be all us and we, your press release will need to start with things like, “ABC Client, a leading such-and-such in London, has done A, B and C.”

PW: Absolutely. Another thing about the tone and style is that it’s formal writing, but needs to be catchy and friendly, but it’s not casual and chatty. You’re getting across important information in the style of a news report in many ways. It needs to be eye-catching – if you write a dull press release, no one will get past the first line – but keep it formal at the same time.

LH: Definitely. With a number of my clients, they like extremely informal press releases with loads of friendliness, exclamation marks etc. It’s very much The Sun / Daily Mail style writing, it’s horses for courses and that’s fine. That’s NOT fine, however, for a press release.

One final point I’d make is that press releases are written in the perfect tense. It gives a sense of recentness and ongoing relevance. It’s a subliminal message and the journalists who read it will think that this just happened and it’s still worth writing about. Now obviously the whole thing doesn’t need to be written in the perfect tense – if you’re giving background, for example, that’s a step further back, but for the introduction, you really should be looking at perfect tense.

PW: Another thing – we did mention this above but didn’t include much detail. We mentioned that you need to start with a couple of attention-grabbing lines. But as the release goes on, you need to start backing up the claims you made at the start. So, you might say, “Two famous copywriters start an amazing podcast…”

LH: I really want to hear how you’re going to substantiate this now!

PW: Haha! And then further down, you’d give our names, then mention our listening figures had grown by x percent. You need to be catchy but you need to back up your soundbites lower in the document.

LH: One of the most uncomfortable experiences is when a publication picks up one of your client’s data-sparse press releases and puts almost everything in inverted commas. So, “The company has seen, quote,  “a large number” of improvements in, quote, “the last few years”…” Because none of its evidenced and a publication will quote you as saying anything they can’t back up.

PW: Or “An industry source says…”

LH: Or, worst, “The company claims…” which is awful. Sometimes companies will try and go a bit light on the data to avoid letting competitors know too much, in which case, they just shouldn’t send a press release, because I’ve seen lots of “The company claims…” articles and it looks really bad.

LH: So, another important point to remember, if you’re the one sending the press release out – or if you’re asked to advise a client on how to do this, is how it should be framed in the email. You need to attach the press release, and a zip file of any relevant images – nothing huge but not thumbnails – as well as including a short message in the body of the text, plus a couple of lines and a copy of the press release text below that.

So, your letter might be something as simple as, “Please find attached and below a copy of a press release detailing, [insert specific details here], which I hope will be of interest to you. If you would like further information on this subject or a higher resolution version of any of the attached images, please do not hesitate to contact [insert person’s details here]. With kind regards etc.” Don’t make it any longer unless it’s a one-off email to someone with whom you’ve had previous discussions on the same matter. Even then, don’t make it much longer!

PW: Yes, you don’t want to distract from the purpose of your email, which is the press release.

LH: Yes, keep the press release above the fold of the email. You don’t want to write six or seven paragraphs and have someone scroll, scroll, scroll until they find the press release.

PW: Or forgetting there was a press release full stop!  And what Lorrie said about pasting the text into the body of the email is really important. A lot of people are understandably wary of opening unsolicited attachments, so always make sure you copy and paste the text of the release into the body of the email, as well as sending it as an attachment. The easier you make it for a person to access, the more likely it is to be picked up. I know from writing for blogs that receive press releases, you really do get a lot of them, and they have to 1) stand out, 2) be coherent 3) meet at least some of the usual conventions, and that’s just for them to be read properly, never mind acted upon!

LH: Totally agree – one of the most annoying things people can do is send you an attachment with absolutely no hint in the email of what it’s about – something like, “Please see the attached press release” is definitely not a winner. Another point I’d make is that you should make sure to give your documents an appropriate name. “Lame-arsed PR for loser client” is a terrible name and you should be looking at a title with a date, an underscore, a brief title and dot whatever.

PW: Oh, and company name as well! And as Lorrie said, “Crappy press release for the client I hate” isn’t great, but neither is just, “Press release.”

PW: Another point to mention is that many PRs have to be submitted via online forms, most of which don’t even accept attachments.

LH: Good point. So, to sum up, press releases are a very exact science, rather than a strictly creative type of exercise. While it’s important to write them well and include lots of information that’s going to grab the reader’s attention, the formatting does need to be quite strictly observed.

PW: Defnitely. I, and a lot of copywriters, charge quite a lot more for press releases than for news articles because I can take three or four hours to get a press release right. If you do it properly, it’s quite a big job.

LH: What I tend to do is combine press releases and news stories. I’ll perfect a press release and then bang on a news article quite quickly afterwards – knock off the header/footer, get rid of information based on the assumption that the reader hasn’t heard of the company, getting rid of a couple of middle paragraphs, bringing the tone down, changing the third person to ‘us’ and ‘we’ etc. Then, they can use it as unique content for their website, as well.

PW: Yeah. Now, it’s time to go on to this week’s Little Bird Recommendations, in which Lorrie and I choose something that’s caught our attention over the course of the week. So, Lorrie, what’s your recommendation?

LH: My recommendation isn’t something that’s really related to press releases in any way, and I think that’s OK because press releases can be really tiring work. So what I’m going to recommend is a lovely website called http://search.creativecommons.org/. And it’s a lovely little resource where you can find lots of creative commons licensed media – photos, videos, music etc. Basically, this kind of media can be used on blogs, websites, etc with no copyright issues. It’s been released by the author of the piece for general use; depending on the type of license, you can use it for commercial purposes, you can modify it.

The lovely thing about this website is that you don’t have to go to all the various websites – it pulls in media from the various websites. If you just go to creativecommons.org, you can click whichever website you want and it’ll open the site for you. It’s lovely for perking up blog posts a bit.

PW: It’s always good to add a bit of visual interest to your blog. And, if someone spots a lovely picture on your blog, someone might decide they want it on Pinterest and you could get a load of back links to your website. Just one thing: make sure you check how the artist wants you to use the image – you might have to credit the photographer.

LH: A good way to do that is to either credit them at the bottom of the post or to include their name as part of the file name when you upload it.

PW: Yep. For my recommendation, at the end of the day, you want to break through the clutter and streamline what you bring to the table. And of course I’m talking about buzzwords…

LH: Hahaha, I was wondering! Go on, do it again…

PW: You meanie! At the end of…hahah!

LH: They’re so awful, you can’t do it. You should be reassured by that!

PW: At the end of the day, you want to break through the clutter and streamline what you bring to the table.

LH: it’s just vile – and my immediate thought was that I had no idea what you were talking about!

PW: Yes, that’s part of the point and everyone kind of hates them, apart from the people who use them all the time. In business, there are so many. “Going forwards” is one of my least favourites, I have to say. The worst thing is when you find yourself using them without realising them.

I found a really interesting blog post called, “Death to buzzwords”. The writer gives an example: “Our writers are detail-oriented problem-solvers and team-players, who create a proactive synergy that can deliver a paradigm shift within your organisation.”

It’s meaningless, it’s alienating, it’s lots of awful things. So the author, Lori, from the Words on the Page blog, gives some really good advice on getting posts, emails or social media messages out that are short, succinct and don’t talk about paradigm shifts and proactive synergy.

LH: When I was at University, we actually did specific courses to make sure we came up with “crystal clear English” and what I noticed is that councils and government organisations are some of the worst for language like this. Surprisingly, really large organisations are bad as well, even though they have enough of a marketing team to know better.

PW: There’s an organisation called the Campaign for Plain English and they offer awards for clear and easy-to-read leaflets. But they also offer an award for the worst gobbledegook every year.

LH: it wouldn’t surprise me at all. It used to take us the best part of a whole lecture to work these things out! A communication is supposed to be telling people something – otherwise, what’s the point?

PW: Especially to something from a council – that’s going to people with PhDs and people who haven’t finished school; it’s supposed to be accessible. It might be about your home, your bills, your transport. It’s not fair.

LH: I’m having a look at the Plain English website now, actually, and there are some examples. Here’s one: “High quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for the facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process” and that’s been translated as “Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.”

PW: Hahaha, and it’s so true!

LH: People seem to think that they have to write fancily in order to write ‘well’ but the fact of the matter is that you have to take your audience into account.

So, we hope you’ve found this podcast episode really helpful. As we said before, press releases are an essential part of your copywriting artillery because it’s embarrassing if you can’t, frankly – it’s one of the basics. Once you’ve got the rules down pat, it’s not something that’s hard to do. As Philippa said earlier, choose a template, make sure it’s correct and stick to it. If your client wants to deviate, that’s their business. But when it comes to you offering guidance or taking free reign, stick to your approved template and you won’t go wrong. They’re formulaic but they’re supposed to be. Make sure they’re well written and make the information as easy as possible to find.

PW: Yes, if you want someone to pick up your story, make it as easy as possible. It’s self-promotion for you or your client, so schmooze if you need to.

LH: Yup. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, we’d love you to subscribe at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com. You’ll never miss another episode.

PW: It’d be tragic if you did, so subscribe and save us all from that devastation. You can come and have a look at our Facebook page – the link to that will be on the podomatic page, as will all the links we’ve mentioned in this episode.

LH: So, I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn…

PW:…and I’ve been Philippa Willitts, and thank you very much for listening!


Podcast Episode 19: How to Proofread Your Own Work

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As a freelance writer, there are times when it is impractical or unrealistic to hire an external proofreader to check through everything you write. A full work of fiction or an entire book will, without question, require a professional proofreader and editor, but for 500 word articles or 700 word blog posts we need to be able to check and double-check our own writing to make sure that everything we submit is perfect.

In this solo episode, I discuss numerous tactics that can make this process much, much easier.

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

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Show Notes

Armando Iannucci: Comedy Writing Tips

Transcript

How to proof-read your own work

Hello and welcome to episode 19 of A Little Bird Told Me, the freelance writing podcast that talks about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment.

proofreading...

proofreading… (Photo credit: monsterpants)

Tune in every week to get news, views, opinions, tips and tricks about freelance writing, and find us online at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com. If you go to that website, you can subscribe to the podcast by RSS feed, on iTunes or on Stitcher Smart Radio. And if you do that, you’ll be the first to hear when we have a new episode out. On that page, you can also find links to our Facebook page, and also to my own social media feeds and websites, and those of my co-host Lorrie. Although, speaking of my co-host Lorrie, she’s not here today as this is a solo episode. So you’re with me, Philippa Willitts, and I’m going to be talking about proof-reading your own work.

Now, if you do an extended piece of wiritng, be it a novel, a set of short stories, a book length non-fiction text or any considerable piece of work, then don’t even try and be your own proof-reader. It’s not realistic – nobody can successfully proof-read their own work when it’s a long, decent-sized text. You need a proof-reader, and an editor, and there’s no avoiding that.

However, when you’re a freelance writer, often a lot of what you do is smaller pieces of work for clients such as articles, press releases, website copy – there are a lot of different options that it’s just not realistic to expect to hire an external proof-reader for. If you’ve written 500 words as a news story for a client, sending it off to be proof-read, then getting it back, isn’t common practice.

But, proof-reading your own work, you still face some of the same problems with smaller pieces of work as you do with longer ones – it is really hard to look at your own work with fresh eyes, and that’s absolutely necessary if you’re going to proof-read successfully. A lot of freelance writers are also proof-readers as well – I am, and I know Lorrie is too – so it might seem strange to dedicate an episode to it when we already know how to do it. But when you’re doing it on your own writing rather than on someone else’s, you really do fae some different issues. When you read your own work, you’re familiar with it, so it’s easy to skip over words and phrases without even knowing you’re doing it. It might evem be that you think you’re reading it, but you’re actually remembering it and what’s in your head is what you remember writing, which was, of course, perfect! It’s only when you look at it with fresh eyes that you realise there’s an extra comma and, for some reason, you’ve capitalised a word in the middle of a sentence.

The Importance of Proofreading

The Importance of Proofreading (Photo credit: spaceninja)

The place to start is with the spell-check in your word processor. Now, these are notoriously unreliable and they’re certainly not something you should rely on entirely. They don’t spot homophones, they don’t spot typos that are still words but not the word you intended. However, there’s no denying that looking over your work and spotting one of those red wiggly underlines can help you to see errors that you’ve made. It’s a place to start, but it’s far from the end, So, once you’ve written it, it’s important to remember that, in order to proof-read properly, writing and proof-reading are entirely different mind-sets. If you’re still writing, you can’t proof-read at the same time, and you won’t be able to proof-read properly until you’ve finished writing. Because, when you’re writing, you’re in a creative mind-set. Even if it’s non-fiction – it doesn’t have to be fiction to require creative thinking, because you’re thinking about how to word something, how to structure it, and all that kind of thing. When you’re proof-reading, you have to really zone in on the specifics. In order to do that, proof-reading and writing have to be separate events.

And, ideally, you’ll leave a long gap between writing and proof-reading – the longer the time it is since you wrote it, the likelier you are to be able to spot errors. The best scenario would be to finish a piece of work on Monday and proof-read it on Friday – you’d probably have written a lot of things in the meantime, and proof-reading it would be a lot easier than trying to do it straight after writing.

But, especially if you’re a commercial freelancer, you don’t often have the luxury of that amount of time, or being able to write something so early when you have a lot of deadlines. So, if you can proof-read it 24 hours after writing it, that’s great. But, even if you can write it in the morning and proof-read it in the afternoon, that’s still better than stopping writing and starting proof-reading instantly. You have to refocus your mind – it’s a very different skill, so separating writing and proof-reading as best as you can will only help.

Proofreading advert needs proofreading

Proofreading advert needs proofreading (Photo credit: engineroomblog)

And then you need to take as many steps as you can to view your work with fresh eyes. One really effective way to do this will be to read your work out loud. This has various benefits for your work, and the first is that it tells you if what you’ve written scans properly. Something that looks ok on the page – when you read it out loud, you might realise that you’ve got your tenses wrong, or that a certain word doesn’t really fit, or that you’ve repeated a word, or even that you’ve just got an impossibly long sentence. There are some mistakes that are easier to spot when you hear them than when you see them. And reading your work out loud is obviously a great way to do this – some people even get someone else to read their work out loud. The other main benefit of reading your work aloud is that it slows you down.

Your out-loud reading will almost certainly be slower than your…I was going to say “mind-reading” but it’s not that! Than your ‘internal’ reading in your mind. So, it helps you to not skip words and phrases that you might have overlooked if you were just reading on a screen.

Another important tip is to proof-read for one kind of error at a time. You want to spot grammar mistakes, punctuation mistakes, and spelling mistakes. But looking for all three at the same time can distract you and mean that you miss things, so do at least three different scans of your text. The first one might be for grammar, so you go through very closely looking specifically for grammatical mistakes. Your next might be for punctuation. Some people even, if they know they have a particular problem with commas, they might do a specific read-through for commas. But yes, punctuation: did you use that colon correctly? Did you put that full stop inside or outside of the quotation marks? Then, finally, the spelling read-through. Check you’ve used the right there, they’re or their, or whether you’ve got here and hear mixed up.

Another really good tip for proof-reading your spelling is to read the text backwards! This way, you won’t miss things in an overall phrase or get distracted by reading the story rather than the words. So, go through your text backwards, and you’ll look at each word individually, out of context, and spot things you might not have seen otherwise.

To view your work with fresh eyes is the best way to get into the proof-reading mind-set. One very simple technique is to simply print it out. You’re viewing it differently than on the screen that you might have been staring at for four hours, so arm yourself with a red pen. You’d be surprised at what you spot in a print-out that you don’t see on the screen. One technique I use all the time is to change the font, and sometimes the font size.

It’s amazing how small steps like that can help you view your work differently. If you’ve spent a long time on a piece of writing, your eyes are so familiar with what it looks like that they skip over words and phrases. When you change the font, there might be fewer words on a line or more lines in a paragraph, and this helps your brain to start again, rather than reading what you think you wrote. Because that’s the key – we write for a living; we write a lot and sometimes what ends up on the screen is what we think we wrote, rather than what we actually did write.

If you come across a mistake, and you correct it, go back and re-read that sentence to check it still makes sense. Sometimes, you’ll make a correction, but then leave in the word you meant to remove or add an extra word a few words early, so when you do make a correction, start again with that paragraph and double check that you’ve corrected what you think you’ve corrected. It can be quite hard for some writers when they proof-read properly to spot the mistakes they’ve made – it can be disconcerting to see you’ve made a number of mistakes in a piece of work they thought was perfect only an hour earlier. But the fact is it’s normal to make mistakes. We might be paid for this, but we’re only human – it’s what proof-reading is for and it’s why we offer it as a service to other people. We know it’s really important and we know that someone can take loads of care with a piece of work but that errors will still slip in. The important thing is to catch it, spot it, correct it and submit as good a piece of work as you can.

OK, so now it’s time for the Little Bird Recommendation. My recommendation this week is a YouTube video – an interview with a guy you might have heard of, called Armando Ianucci. I first became aware of him a few years ago when he used to do comedy panel shows on Radio 4. Anyway, this YouTube video is just three or four minutes of tips on comedy writing. Comedy writing isn’t something that either Lorrie or myself really specialise in, so it’s interesting to get an insight into how that all works. So, if you go to the shownotes at http://alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, you can find a link there to this recommendation.

So, that’s the end of episode 19, and I hope you’ve got some good tips there about proof-reading your own work, and that this will help you to avoid sending something off to a client with a big fat typo in the middle of it, or a semi-colon in the wrong place, or any other freelance writer deadly sins. Thank you so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.


Podcast Episode 18: How to Network Like a Ninja

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Networking. It might not be your favourite thing, but it’s pretty much essential for any freelancer. In this podcast episode, Lorrie and I talk about  why networking is important, and how best to go about it. Like a ninja, obviously.

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Transcript

Episode 18: Networking like a ninja!

PW: Hello, and welcome to Episode 12 of A Little Bird Told Me: the podcast about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful freelance writing.  You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, and there you can subscribe to the podcast in any number of ways, and you can also find the link to our Facebook page. I’m Philippa Willitts…

 

English: High Speed Business Networking Event ...

English: High Speed Business Networking Event by JCI Français : Événement de rencontres d’Affaires à très haute vitesse organisé par la JCI et l’association EGEE (Entente des Générations pour l’Emploi et l’Entreprise) en partenariat dans les locaux de France Télécom (Paris, Gare de Châtelet – Les Halles en 2006). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LH: Today we’re talking about something that doesn’t seem to come naturally to a lot of writers and copywriters, and that’s face-to-face networking. Even if you’re not a natural networker, it’s a really valuable skill to have and one you can learn and improve on as your business grows. By following a few easy rules – and we’ll cover these in the course of this podcast – you can turn networking from what’s basically a necessary evil into something that really works for you and your business.

PW: Networking is not my favourite thing, I find it awkward, and getting the right line between self-promotion – which is pretty much why you’re there – and not being pushy – which puts people off – is hard. Because I’m so averse to being pushy I have a really bad tendency, at networking events, to make polite conversation, listen to what other people have to say, and do a very poor job at marketing myself. However it is something I’m constantly working on. I go to these things fairly regularly – at least partly so I can improve – and also, because it’s actually pretty vital as a freelancer, especially if you primarily do commercial copywriting.

LH: It’s interesting that you say that you go to them for practice, because it’s very much like going for an interview just for the experience. Networking events can be quite daunting, and what you mentioned about going along but just listening to other people is exactly the kind of thing this podcast episode will hopefully help our lovely listeners to avoid. There’s no point going to a networking event if you get there and find you can’t make it work for you. You really have to know how to ‘work the room’, to use a horrible bit of salesy speech there, you have to get in, get done and get out because other people are certainly going to. And yes, while networking might not be your cup of tea – it’s wasn’t mine at first, but I’ve got used to it really – but it’s hugely important for a number of reasons.

PW: One thing that’s really important is that, going into these events thinking, “I must sell myself!” is obvious and offputting. It’s important to let others talk too, and listen. If you go in and say, “Hi, I’m a copywriter and I can write your website for you!” and they’ve just had their website done, you’re of no interest to them. But if you properly listen to them talk about their business, you’re in a great position to identify what their needs are. So you can tailor your offerings to what they need. If they say, “I’ve had a new website done, but I’m wondering how to let the press know.” Then, you can talk to them about how good you are at writing press releases.
So a good way to pitch yourself right is to listen first, then talk.

LH: As long as you don’t both just listen first. Really quiet networking event! But no, you’re right, listening’s really important; people can tell straight away when you’re faking it – your eyes glaze over and if you’ve got nothing insightful to offer by the time they’ve finished speaking, they’re going to know you weren’t listening.

One thing I would add is that, as a copywriter, you ahev to be a good listener. The information you’re going to use is going to come from the client, so you need to be able to email or phone someone to elicit that information. So if you don’t listen properly at a networking event, you’re not setting yourself up for a good future working relationship with them.

PW: You’ll probably get three sentences from them, initially, and you’ll have to fill 24 pages. So what you have to do is get good at asking the right questions and reflect things back, listening properly until they’ve said everything you need to know. It’s quite a difficult skill to develop but it’s a valuable one.

LH: It makes people feel valued as well. It makes people feel like you’re investing time in them, and it’s great for building up trust at networking events. People like talking about themselves and they like someone who makes it easy for them to do that. No one wants to feel like they’re boring everyone silly.  You don’t have to pretend to be fascinated by everything they’re saying, but if you’ve chosen an appropriate event to go to, you should know who’s going to be there and have done some research to ensure that you know what people are selling or producing, and to know where you’re headed in the room so there’s plenty of interest to you.

PW: One thing that’s vital before attending a networking event is to prepare an Elevator Pitch. The idea behind this is, if you were to get into an elevator with Bill Gates, your elevator pitch is the perfect summary of what you do that would get you from the ground to the top floor in order that, by the top floor, Bill Gates would be investing in your business.

This is basically a summary of your business and what you offer, condensed to the amount of time it takes to go up a building in a lift. If you can shrink what you do and what you offer into a perfectly worded 10 seconds, once you’ve mastered it, you have a really good place to start when face to face networking. I adapt and update my elevator pitch all the time. It’s a bit like my website – I’m never 100% happy with it but the more I use it and the more I practice it, the better it gets. At networking events, you need to make a quick impression at a networking event, so if you start by stumbling over, “Yeah, I’m a writer…what do I write? All sorts of stuff really, whatever you need writing I can write, and….” then people will lose interest straight away. They don’t have time to listen to you ramble.

LH: I think there are two, maybe three types of people at networking events normally. One type is the people who don’t really know why they’re there, so they lose interest very quickly. The second is the normal people, I’d like to say, like you and me…

PW: Hahaha, that’s optimistic!

LH: Haha! Well, you’ve got to be! Live in hope, yeah? But the third type, I think, are very aggressive salesy people. If you don’t hit them straight away with a confident pitch, they’ll give you an amused smirk that says,

“Why are you here?”

So, yes, for me, a confident delivery makes all the difference. I’m small, I’m female, and many networking events are very man focused. The last one I went to, I went with a 49-year-old woman, and we were asked, “What are you girls here for?”

PW: Uuuugh!

LH: I was like, “Business – same as everyone else! So yes, for me, confident delivery is everything. As we’ve mentioned before, there’s no shame in owning your own business, and owning the fact that you own your own business. You’ll look unprofessional if you get blushy and worried about describing the services that you offer. Go in there, ignore your nerves and make sure you’re well prepared.

PW: If you want people to believe that you’re the professional you say you are, then you have to present yourself in that way.

Another vital, vital point about networking events, probably the biggest piece of advice I can give you – trust me on this – is, well, go and listen to episode 14, “Mistakes We’ve Made”, and hear my awful error. Seriously. It involves foul language and a massive internal censor failure! So yes, if you just want one absolutely, “Don’t do this at networking events.”, go and have a listen.

LH: It helped me, actually. I went to an event recently, and it was in my head the whole time. I was worried that it was going to be one of those things that was in my head so much that I’d actually end up saying it – but eventually, all was well, everything went well, and I have you to thank.

PW: So, there are quite a few benefits of Networking Events and we wanted to talk about those. Firstly, they get you out and about.  We’ve talked a lot about combatting isolation – we had an episode dedicated to that topic specifically – episode 11 -, and also it comes up regularly in other episodes – freelancers can get very isolated if they live and work at home. Even the most antisocial of freelancers needs human contact once in a while, and networking events are a good way of getting yourself out there. You meet other people who are self-employed and have the chance to promote your business and meet people who can help you too.

LH: Yeah, I think this is another reason to research the events you’re going to go to – don’t just go to any.

You’re supposed to enjoy yourself, at least a little – it’s not supposed to be Hell on Earth, you’re supposed to able to make valuable contacts and stretch the benefits out over the long-term. So if you really research, you can end making some really good contacts – people you’ll come back to again and again, people you can network with, collaborate with, share tips with – anything really. It’s brilliant for getting you out and about as long as you go to the right events.

The second benefit of networking events we wanted to mention is that face-to-face communication is really powerful. It might seem sort of counter intuitive hearing a writer saying that, but it just changes things up really.

With an email, for example, you have a whole range of tools under your belt, but with face-to-face communication, you have tone of voice, a smile, you’re in front of the person so they can’t escape or just click delete on you – there’s that boundary of politeness really, they can’t just get rid of you! You smile at someone, you disarm them – not literally, obviously…

PW: Haha, ninja networking!

LH: Haha, not my kind of event, but don’t let me judge! But yes, face-to-face communication does open channels that an email might not.

PW: Yes, if they’ve just got an email from you, they can hit delete. But, if you’re there in front of them, unless they are a ninja networker with a wide array of violent moves, they have to listen for a bit, as Lorrie says!

LH: This is true – they’re a captive audience, especially if you get them backed up behind the coffee and biscuits, or catch them while they’re behind their stand. They can’t just say, “No!” and walk away. This is why your elevator pitch is so important – it’s your ninja death star, and you can get your prospects quickly!

PW: The third benefit we identified is that networking widens your exposure and increases brand awareness. People, especially business people, hear and see and read about lots of local business, service providers, whereas if they’ve met you a few times or gone home with your business card. If you then email them, they’re more likely to remember you. It makes your brand more sticky in their mind.

LH: One thing I would add is that you should get yourself some lovely business cards. It’s really worth it, even just 100 to start off with. Get something really nice and hand it out – make sure you’re not shy about giving your card, shake hands with people, give them your card, because then people have a physical reminder of you after the day.

PW: Another benefit of face-to-face networking events is that it’s more personal than a pitch email. You’re a lot more memorable if you’re face to face than if you just send out an email which could be from anybody. If they can picture you in your mind, it humanises the person behind the pitch.

LH: Definitely, and it taps into what we said about listening to people when you meet them. If you pay attention, shake hands, make good eye contact, give open body language, or give your number, or arrange a coffee, they’ll remember you. There are lots of things you can do by email, but these aren’t those, so change things up.

PW: Definitely. When someone’s in front of you, you can respond to them a lot better: if they look bored, you can change tack. If they seemed bored but perked up when you said something in particular, you can work out that that’s what they’re interested in. They’re more likely to remember you as a human rather than an email, and to remember that you were talking to them personally.

LH: That’s it – it’s great when you’re face to face with someone to talk about how your services can help their business success.

PW: Yes, and that doesn’t mean telling them about everything you do. It means listening to them and spotting what they need.

LH: Yes, otherwise, it’s overwhelming. So, the fifth benefit of face to face networking is something we’ve touched on already, and that’s that your audience is more receptive: people are actually there for that specific person – they’re not sitting down having lunch when they receive your email; they’re not having a coffee when you give them a sales call. You’re all there for the same reason.

PW: Yes, people go there knowing that they’re going to promote their work, but also knowing that other people will be promoting their work as well.

LH: Do you know, the last networking event I went to, I went with a friend and client. When we got there, we homed in on the biscuit and coffee station because that’s where everyone wants to be. We started doing the rounds, after a while, and we came to these two tiny men, gripping a table and looking terrified. I went to them and I was chatting to them, but they were like rabbits in headlights, so I started out with a “Tell me about yourselves!” kind of opener. One of them looked at me and said, “Oh  no, you’ll have to talk to him about that!”. The other one, his eyes sort of rolled back in his head and he gave me a huge long list, and I tried to get some interaction going, but he was unstoppable. There was no reason for me to be there at all, and that’s someone who really wasn’t receptive, but only through terror.

PW: I’ve met loads of people who just list what they do, or the history of their company. The last event I was at, I got talking to this guy who was saying, “Yeah, I do this, and in 1980, we opened, and in 1984, we changed premises, and then in 1992…” and I was just standing there, not knowing what to say. And even I’d had something to say, he wasn’t up for listening. All the way through, I was wondering what I could offer him, and there was nothing!

Open Coffee Cardiff, Free Business Networking ...

Open Coffee Cardiff, Free Business Networking Event (Photo credit: YODspica)

LH: A pillow and a brandy!

PW: He didn’t have a website or any written material, so I clearly can’t help him.

LH: I suppose it’s a point though: you stood there and listened to him, which proves how receptive the audience is – especially British people.

PW: It’s true! I stood there for ten minutes and said barely 20 words. It was hard work.

LH: Yeah it sounds it – and I suppose it takes us neatly on to benefit six, which is that networking helps you hone your presentation and verbal communication skills for a change. Because obviously, what we normally work with is the written word.

PW: When you’re used to doing most of you communication in a written way, you get used to being able to edit things or coming back to things – or even nipping on to Thesaurus.com. You get used to having time to think things through. When you want to be impressive verbally, it’s quite a different set of skills.

LH: yeah, you have to brush off the dust bunnies and come out of your hole – “Hello world, I’m still here!”

PW: Yes, and just be a lot more spontaneous.

LH: I don’t think a lot of clients realise what a massive gap there is between written and verbal communication. While you might be very comfortable with one, ie. Written communication, verbal communication is very different. I can go a whole day without speaking if I’m alone in the house. So yeah, getting your presentation skills sorted and boosting your verbal communication skills, it’s a great opportunity.

PW: Yeah, and most of the people you’re with aren’t master after-dinner speakers, so they won’t worry if you stumble over a word. So it’s a good way to reminding your brain to be quick, persuasive and to do it without planning.

LH: Good point. And face-to-face, you can smile if you forget a word, or say, “You know what I mean” and rescue the situation with visual clues.

PW: Definitely, definitely. The final benefit that we thought of was, actually, as well as meeting people who might want to hire you, you can also meet people you could work with too. I know Lorrie’s having a website redesign at the moment. You might go to a networking event and meet a designer. Or you might need a lawyer and meet one there. There’s a good chance that you can meet people who offer those services at a networking event.

LH: I tend to find, actually, that graphic designers, web designers and software designers networking in a very similar way to copywriters. Although we deal with different things, I think we’re a similar breed. But it tends to be quite a friendly networking experience, dealing with designers in particular. The way of working is quite similar and it’s quite beneficial to make these contacts, actually, as writers often need to recommend designers and designers often need to recommend writers.

LH: One thing I would say, and it comes from personal experience and personal frustration is that you should only really make connection with people you’re interested in. And when you do make good contact, honour that with an email or phone-call.

PW: Yes, don’t be tempted to blast an email out to all 38 people you met saying, “Hey, great to meet you yesterday, hire me!” – it doesn’t work.

LH: Yes, personalise your email communication. Email your matches as soon as you get back, while you’re fresh in their minds, and try to organise the next step with them. Don’t take it too far – as Pip just said, don’t be all, “Hire me, hire me, hire me!”

It’s good to take it easy, though – suggest coffee or a working lunch if you need to chat more. If they’re further away, a Skype call might be the way forward. Reconnect with them!

PW: Definitely. It’s also important to remember that you might meet someone and think they’re perfect, but they might not remember you as well – so give them a little prompt about who you were and what you discussed. It’s not personal, it’s not that you did a bad job, it might just be that you weren’t immediately what they were looking for.

Something I do, immediately after the event, is to write a note on the business cards I’ve collected – usually the date and where I met them, but also any other pertinent points that you might want to remember. You might think you’ll remember, but a week later, you don’t.

LH: I always think after events, that I’m going to start an excel file and type all the info in, but do you know what, that’s what business cards are for! Get a box, put some dividers in there and, as Pip says, put some notes on the cards and keep them in one place.

PW: I know some people swear by these phone apps where you can take a picture of the cards with your phone – it can extract the info and store it all, so if you want something more hi-tech, it’s worth looking into.

LH: I suppose even without an app, you could keep jpgs on your computer. A bit of a faff for me, but it could work.

I think I’d sum up about business networking events by saying, “Don’t be fake.” Don’t fake interest in people, don’t waste people’s time. Not everyone’s going to hire you, so choose your targets.

PW: Similarly, don’t feel obliged as though you’re going to hire someone if you’re not.

LH: True – you can be friendly and receptive, but let people know that, you know, “Thanks for your time, not really something I’m looking at at the moment. Don’t say you’re interested in hearing from someone if you’re not; don’t say you’ll contact someone if you won’t.

PW: And be aware that the things you might get out of the event might not be clients – there are all the benefits we mentioned above. Even if you go and you’re rubbish, you’ll be better next time!

A few weeks ago, we started the Little Bird Recommendations, in which we both share something worthwhile with our listeners every week. So, my Little Bird recommendation this week is a blog post. Quite often, if you submit work, you can be really confident with your a magazine article or a short story, the editor will nonchalantly add, “Oh, and send a photo and a short bio too, ok?”. I don’t know what it is about the words short bio that strikes fear in the heart of many writers, but lots and lots of people do find them incredibly difficult to write. Similarly with “about me” pages on your website. So my recommendation is a blog post entitled Writing About Yourself When You Hate It and it’s from Angela Booth’s Fab Freelance Writing blog, but don’t worry about remembering that, just check the show notes and there will be a link there. She gives some great advice about how to write about yourself, specifically to do with author bios, and anyone who finds themselves cringing when asked to write one should find it really useful.

LH: I’ll certainly give it a look – I often have to send them with my creative writing.

PW: Yes, it really does strike fear into people’s hearts – considering you’ve just written 2,000 words for someone, it’s funny that another 75 is so scary!

LH: I think it’s easy to be contrived when you’re trying to write an author’s bio. I can only speak from a creative perspective, really, but it’s difficult. It’s very much like trying to be taken seriously with your business: you want to be taken seriously as a writer, but creative writing can be quite embarrassing in a way because it’s quite intimate. You want to come over as someone who’s seriously a good writer, because you’ve been published, so you must be quite a good writer, but at the same time, you don’t want to take yourself to seriously, so here’s a funny anecdote about me but, OH GOD, what if they don’t find it funny? What if they think I’m a loser?!

PW: People always want a comedy last line, don’t they? “And I spend too much time with my cat!”. It’s hard to pitch it right – sometimes you read brilliant ones, but other times you think, “I see what you were trying to do, but oh God…”

LH: I spoke to the editor of a literary journal recently, and he’d received a submission email from someone who’d taken the liberty of including their own author bio, which was fine. The problem was, they’d tried to branch out with the humour into the email, and they’d started it with, “Dear Probably Intern…”

PW: Ohhhhh, dear…!

LH: And it’d gone to the owner of the intern, who reviews all the submissions personally. You’re not really showing much faith in the journal you’re submitting to, but nice attempt at humour! The guy who runs the journal is really nice, actually – we were chatting on Twitter and he really didn’t know what to do with it!
But yes, a blog post about writing about yourself when you hate will, I’m sure, be an absolutely God-send, and I’ll certainly have a look at it.

PW: Well, the link’s in the show-notes!

LH: Haha, thank you!  My recommendation this week is kind of the opposite of Pip’s, for me – it’s something that doesn’t come that naturally to me, and that’s direct marketing copy. I love creative writing, but this stuff isn’t my cup of tea. So, my recommendation is for copywriters who write for the web – particularly those who write direct marketing copy or sales pages: it’s called Unbounce.com, and it’s the blog that’s a treasure trove for copywriters. There are loads of articles on there on how to create brilliant landing pages, very regularly updated, on how to optimise your SEO, and loads more. The emphasis on the blog tends to be on conversions – ie. sales, so it’s a great place to go to improve your skills in persuasive sales copy. It’s quite a hard topic – direct marketing copy actually looks really bad – it’s the kind of stuff that looks so bad that it’s good.

PW: I think most copywriters will be called on at some point to do direct marketing copy and it’s a really specific skill – you can just guess it, and think, “Oh, this is persuasive.” – there’s almost a science to it, and you’ll need tips. Any copywriter could really benefit from having a look at this site.

LH: Yes, more than just tips, you’ll need a recipe! Everything on a sales page – the headings, the sub-headings, the font, the font size, the images, the captions…who would think that the captions were the second most important thing on the page?

PW: Yeah, a lot of it is quite counter-intuitive. You’d think that surely the colour of the ‘buy now’ button would be the last thing to matter, but you’d be wrong. It goes to show that on a sales page, everything has to have a purpose. Through really studying how to convert from experts, you can make every word in your sales copy do a job.

LH: Definitely, so my recommendation this week – in which I’ve been doing loads of sales copy – is undoubtedly http://unbounce.com/blog/. It’s brilliant for improving your skills in persuasive sales copy, it’s great if you’ve just got five minutes, it’s brilliant.

PW: Sounds great – just as you’ll be checking out my recommendation, I’ll be checking out yours.

So, we hope that this episode will help you to approach your next networking event with a ninja mentality. I’m not sure how well that really flows through the theme, but we like and it’s alliterative, so damnit, we’re sticking with it! Hopefully this will push you to attend your first event, or to get a better result if you’ve already been to a few.

LH: This is it! Be a ninja, get the results you want. Get people with your elevator pitch and don’t let them escape. This will help you improve your skills, and it’ll get you out of the house. Get yourself on eventbrite.com, which is great for free events, so have a look. Usually, these events have social media pages, so get researching, prepare for them, go along and use the tools from this episode to make the most of them once you’re there.

PW: Go to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and subscribe by RSS or on iTunes or on Stitcher Smart Radio. We know we’ve got some brilliant listeners because we get brilliant feedback on Twitter, but our Facebook page is a bit lonely!

LH: and we’re ninjas – we can find you. So subscribe, please!

PW: And then, because I’m feeling demanding, you should tell your friends. You can embed this podcast on your website – that would be ace!

LH: Give us a Christmas present, come and say hello!

PW: I’ve been Philippa Willitts…

LH: and I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn, and we’ll catch you next time!

Podcast Episode 17: How to Create an Editorial Calendar

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You might have heard of editorial calendars, or you might have been convinced that they are a good idea, but actually creating one can seem like an intimidating task. Is there software? How flexible will it be? And where on earth do you start?

In this solo episode, Lorrie explains what editorial calendars are, recommends software and gives some great information on the subject.

Show Notes

Links and sites mentioned during the episode:

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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!

Transcript:

Hello and welcome to Episode 17 of A Little Bird Told Me – the freelance writing podcast that charts the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment.

I’m Lorrie Hartshorn, and today’s episode is another solo effort, so for anyone longing to hear the dulcet tones of the lovely Pip – and I miss her too – you’ll just have to go along to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and, there, you can subscribe to the podcast via RSS, with iTunes or with Stitcher Smart Radio, and that way, you’ll be the first to know when another duel episode comes out.

Today, I’m going to be talking about how to create an editorial calendar that works for you. As a freelance writer, you’ll find there are many times when all you seem to have time to do is hit external deadlines: copywriting, editing, proof-reading, social media consultancy – anything you offer, all the stuff that pays the bills. But while you do usually have to prioritise those deadlines, producing unique, interesting, topic content for your own website, or for guest posts (which Pip discussed in her last solo episode, which I think was number 15), it’s all part of marketing yourself and the services you offer.

World Calendar

World Calendar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, why do you need an editorial calendar? It’s often not possible to share work that you’ve completed for clients, either for confidentiality or SEO reasons, but many prospective clients would really prefer to see what you can do in terms of producing content. So, if you have regularly updated content on your own website, or articles and features on other websites that you can direct people to, there’s just that little bit more proof out there that you really are as good as you say you are.

Regularly updated content on your site will also, as Pip and I have mentioned before, help to keep your site ranking high up on Google, making you more easily searchable for key terms, say for people hunting for, say, “Copywriter in London” on Google, Bing or where have you. It’s also a sign that you’re  still on the planet and still trading, and that you’re engaged and up-to-date with the latest developments in copywriting and any industries you specialise in. All in all, it’s a really good thing for you, your website and your prospective clients.

But, while it’s easy to see why regularly updated content is a positive thing, what’s not so easy is making sure you find time to produce and upload it. It’s easy to get started but it’s also easy to let it taper off again, which is where the editorial calendar comes in. It’s a brilliant tool, not only for planning, but for accountability as well, which is something Pip and I talk about a lot – you may have noticed! When you work for yourself, it’s easy to let those “internal deadlines” slide. And by that, I mean deadlines that you set for yourself. An editorial calendar can at least help you to see what you’re supposed to be doing at any one time – obviously, it’s not going to make you do it, but you can see what you’re supposed to be doing and at least try and hit those targets.

While it might sound like something fancy,  an editorial calendar is essentially a schedule that helps you to keep track of your content across your website, blog, your guest posts, publications, e-marketing campaigns, monthly newsletters and social media feeds, to name just a few. If you’re a copywriter, you’ll know that somehow, content ends up everywhere!

But yes, editorial calendars are a great way of seeing what you’ve got coming up in terms of content, and by having those deadlines written down and ready to tick off, you’re more likely to stick to them. Lots of the deadlines will actually, in time, become regular commitments if you stick to this, which will help you box off the time in your calendar or diary from the word go. So rather than thinking every week “Ugh, where am I going to find the time for that blog post/guest post/e-newsletter?” it’ll actually become second nature to block off in your diary when you’re not free and when the work needs to be done.

When it comes to actually setting up an editorial calendar, there are a number of ways you can go about it – starting with the most simple: the trusty spreadsheet. There are a number of spreadsheets you can use: Google Drive, Open Office, Excel – they’re all pretty much the same and they all do a pretty no-frills job. There are a number of software apps you can use instead but if you’re happy using a spreadsheet, it’s a perfectly reasonable option.

If you do want to have a look at some of the apps out there that are undoubtedly more intuitive than Excel, there are things like DivvyHQ, – bit of a weird name, it’s probably from ‘divvying things up’ rather than ‘being a complete divvy’, but a bit risky in my opinion! – but yes, but they are generally paid for. I think Divvy, for a sole trader (you have different options: Divvy for sole traders, small businesses and large businesses, and obviously the price expands accordingly) is about $30 a month, and you do get a free 30-day trial for sole traders, so it’s something to think carefully about because it’s a bit of an expense, so if you’re watching the pennies or you’re just starting out and you don’t know if you’re going to stick to using editorial calendars, start with something a bit cheaper – i.e. free.

Another way of setting up an editorial calendar – and it’s one that’s free, and one more reason to switch your email to Gmail if you haven’t already – is using a Google Drive spreadsheet and synching it with your Google calendar. While this sounds complicated – you might be sitting there thinking, “I don’t know how to synch things! What are you talking about?!” – it really isn’t complicated – there are a number of editorial calendar templates and step-by-step instructions you can use to help you get started. I’ll include instructions on how to do this in the show notes.

To take another tack, if you’re looking to organise the content on your WordPress blog or WordPress-based website, there’s also a handy little app – again, link will be in the shownotes, called, imaginatively enough, “Editorial calendar” – imaginative! It’s a brilliant little tool, it’s completely free, and it’s well rated by a large number of people, so you don’t just have to take my word for it.

Not only does the WordPress editorial calendar give you a clear overview of your blog post schedule (and that’s something that’s not always that easy to see in WordPress), it also offers a pretty intuitive drag and drop facility, which is really nice, actually – you can shuffle posts round, manage drafts, change dates, and perform quick edits on your blog title, content and times. It’s really good little plugin, so if you have a WordPress website or blog that has a pretty busy content flow, it’s definitely worth trying this plug-in.

Now I’ve talked a bit about what editorial calendars are and the different options for setting them up, I want to chat about what needs to go in them.

I think a lot of people find the fancy name ‘editorial calendar’ quite misleading. It sounds like some huge, complicated document full of super neat information, but that’s really not the case at all. The whole point of an editorial calendar for freelance writers, at least, is to keep all your bits and bobs in one place, so to speak. It’s the digital version of sticking loads of post-it notes in your diary. So, for most freelance copywriters, the process for the production of your own content – and I’m not talking about work you get from clients – should go something like this:

Planning proces

Planning proces (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Firstly, researching topics you want to talk about, finding places you want to publish them (this might be on your own website or blog, or somewhere else) and deciding when you want to publish them. Ideally, you’ll be thinking ahead and writing something that will be suitable for publication at a later point in time, but if you’ve written something about some breaking news or development, you’ll obviously need to have a rejig – I remember when iPhone 4 came out and I got a lot of clients getting in touch with me saying, “Is there any way we could like the iPhone to our business, because it’d be great for SEO!” So yes, if something like that pops up, you need to be seen to be on the ball. So yeah, have a rejig and an editorial calendar will help you rejig without forgetting things.

Secondly, in your processes, actually writing each piece of content according to your production schedule – you won’t need to start writing a piece that’s due in six weeks, for example, but you may well want to get started on a draft for something that’s coming out at the end of the week.

Thirdly, proof-reading and editing your content. Can’t stress this enough – you have to proof-read and edit your own content. I think Pip is actually planning on talking about how to proof-read your own work soon, so stay tuned. But yes, as a freelance copywriter, proof-reader, editor, whatever, the last thing you want is to proudly announce to the world that there’s a new article out that just so happens to be chock full of terrible typos and rubbish spelling! It’ll do you so much damage, so proof-read!

Finally, publishing. Whether you hit send manually, you schedule a number of posts at one time, or you choose to synch your editorial calendar so that the publication of posts is automated, the content actually needs to find its way out there. Once that’s done, you can tick it off and start all over again – yay!

A few pointers to remember

OK, so to sum up, I just want to include a few things that I personally find helpful when it comes to editorial calendars. Firstly, no matter where you create your calendar – whether it’s Excel, Google Drive or whatever – I think it’s a great idea to include two things other than just the calendar itself. Number one: a brainstorming area, where you can jot down ideas for any upcoming posts, or any links you want to refer to, and number two: an annual overview, complete with important dates that might influence anything from your content, your theme, your tone, right down to your expected open rate.

Say, for example, you’re a Brit like me and you forget that Americans have snuck in an extra holiday before Christmas – with yet more turkey – namely Thanksgiving. If you send out a huge e-marketing campaign on that day, you can pretty much kiss goodbye to any expected sales because they’ll be stuffing themselves with turkey, not reading your email.

Or, worse, you publish a happy, jokey, cheery blog post but you forget that it’s actually September 11th – you can actually risk offending or hurting the feelings of the very people you’re trying to target. An annual overview will help you avoid these pitfalls so, when you set up your calendar, take an hour or two to really scour the web for major public holidays, religious festivals, bank holidays here in the UK, memorial days and anything else you can think of.

The best way to find an editorial calendar set-up that suits you is to get started. If you’re really unsure of how to go about it, start with a template and build up from there. As I say, there will be some templates in the show notes. Think about the kind of things you’ll need to keep track of, the basics being:

– The title of your content, if applicable
– The date you’re going to start writing it
– The date you’re going to proof-read and edit it
– The time and date it’s going out
– The URL where it’ll be hosted, if applicable

Once those are sorted, you might want to include more details (you also might not!), such as:

– Keywords or phrases
– Tone / theme
– Target audience
– Call to action – what you really want people to take away from the blog post, email or newsletter.

So, organise yourself week by week, then month by month, then by year if you need to – I like to, as I say: I like the annual overview thing, and then it feels nice and neat to fit things into an annual plan. But remember, if you end up looking at the calendar and thinking it’s too complicated and you’ll never get everything done, you can always take stuff off. At the end of the day, it’s about optimising your time, not over-filling it. There’s no point sticking stuff on there if you’ve literally got no time to do it. But, if you can, set up an editorial calendar, add some modest targets. Honestly, I promise, it really is worth producing content on a regular basis for yourself: it keeps your skills polished, it shows clients you’re still engaged with things and it keeps you nice and high on Google – what’s not to love?

So, I hope this has been a helpful introduction to creating and maintaining an editorial calendar. Obviously I’ve not been able to cover everything – for the sake of brevity, I’ve kept it simple, but as I say, I’ll pop a range of resources in the show-notes for you, which should help you get started.


If you have any questions or comments at all, Pip and I don’t bite. You can find all of my social media details at the podcast page, which is alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com. You can also find the same details for the lovely Pip there, plus loads of ways to subscribe to the podcast so you’ll never miss another episode. So get in touch and subscribe! I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn, thanks so much for listening and Pip and I will catch you next time.

 

Podcast Episode 16: How to Avoid Letting Things Slide

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When you’ve got a lot on your plate, it’s easy to discount the bits that seem less urgent. However, letting the day-to-day management of your freelance writing business slide is a recipe for disaster, so in this episode of A Little Bird Told Me, Lorrie and I discuss the aspects of freelancing that you need to keep on top of, as well as tips and tricks about how to do this. As if that wasn’t enough, we have a interview with Sally Bramley, an Occupational Therapist who has some wise words about keeping motivated and accountable in self-employment.

Show Notes

Links and sites we mentioned during the episode:

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

Subscribe via RSS

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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 14: Mistakes We’ve Made

In this episode of the podcast, Lorrie and I come clean about some of the mistakes we’ve made during the course of our freelancing careers, as well as some of the boo-boos we’ve seen other people make. You don’t want to miss us cringeing our way through this one!

We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.

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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!

Transcript

Philippa: Hello, and welcome to Episode 14 of A Little Bird Told Me, the podcast where two freelance writers talk about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful self employment.  You can find us on the web at ALittleBirdToldMe.Podomatic.com and from there you can find out all the multitude of ways to subscribe to make sure you never miss a future episode.


You can also find links to our Facebook page and to my and my co-host’s various social media profiles and websites.  I’m Philippa Willitts.


Lorrie: And I’m Lorrie Hartshorn, and my cold is gone.


Philippa: Yay!


Lorrie: Everything is good again.  So today we’re in a cheery mood and we’ve decided to change things up a little bit.  The whole A Little Bird Told Me podcast is all about how to succeed as a freelancer writer, so all the things you can do and not to do make sure that your self employment goes as smoothly as possible.  What we thought we’d like to do this episode though is talk about some of the ultimate boo-boos that Pip and I have made along the way.


Philippa: It might be astounding to hear that we’ve made them but it’s true.


shocked

shocked (Photo credit: apdk)

Lorrie: It’s true, there’s been boo-boos.  As we’ve mentioned a couple of times before, mistakes are horrible, they’re unpleasant, but they’re a brilliant, brilliant learning experience.  Pip and I have been freelancing for eons so if there’s anything we’ve got plenty of besides skills, experience, and professionalism of course, it’s horror stories.  Lots of them.  So it will be safe to say we’ll be talking about the mistakes that we’ve made, mistakes that we’ve seen other people make because really, there’s nothing better than a car crash moment and you look at someone and say, “Oh, thank God that wasn’t me.”  Hopefully, it will give you some insight into what can happen and how you can avoid it, or if you can’t avoid it how to kind of recover from it if it does happen.


Philippa: Absolutely.  In this podcast we both give advice which is based on our experience and our knowledge.  But the fact is some of that experience and knowledge really does come from us not getting it right.  We get it wrong, we’ve both made mistakes some small some big and we thought it might be useful to share some of those embarrassing moments with you.


Lorrie: I’ll get the first and most unpleasant one for me out of the way.  It’s about making a good first impression.  I had a meeting with a potential client, and I’m pleased to say that they are now my client rather than just being too horrified to employ me, but I didn’t leave enough time before I went to this presentation.  I turned up extremely sweaty and red in the face and I then had to go and present a marketing strategy in front of a room full of directors which was just awful.  The room was dark, they put a spotlight on me and then I was there shiny, and red, and embarrassed, and getting hotter and hotter the whole time and just hating the world and wishing for the hall of shame to swallow me.


But it didn’t and I had to stand there for a good 40 minutes dripping and growing sweat patches all over my clothes.


Philippa: Oh, poor thing.


Lorrie: It was the worst thing ever.  Eventually one of them looked at me and went, “Do you want to sit down?”  And I went, “Yes, I do.  I do want to sit down.  At this point I want to sit down under the table.”  Oh, it was so awful.  But I was going to say what it learned me, because [inaudible 3:52], what it’s taught me is that you need to leave enough time for meetings.  You need to double check Google Maps before you set off.  Even if you think you know where they are find out which floor they’re on, find out if there’s a lift, cover all eventualities because it was excruciating and I was literally in the spotlight on one of my worst professional moments for a good 40 minutes.


Philippa: I had an almost moment like that because of similar lack of preparation really.  I was doing an interview with a woman who was reasonably high profile in the area she works in and it was a very important interview.  I was meeting her at the hotel she was staying at and I had spent pretty much the whole week preparing for this interview.  I had read and watched every other interview she’s ever given, I found out everything I needed to do.  What I didn’t double check that the hotel which I thought she was the hotel she was in.


Lorrie: Oh, no.


Philippa: She had given me the name of the hotel and I Googled it and found the street it was on and left it there.  I got to town and I went to the hotel only to find it had a different name than the one I was looking for.  So I just assumed because of the street name and because I knew there was a hotel there, I assumed it was there.  I had to go into that hotel to ask them where their competitor was, I bet that went down well, and it was about another five minute walk.  Thankfully, I got there just in time but it would have been much preferable from my point of view to have gotten there five minutes early and have been able to get myself together for a few minutes before the interview started.  But yes, always double check.  Even if you think you know where you’re going always, always double check.


Lorrie: I’m so glad you didn’t actually mash it up at the last minute.  I didn’t mash it up but it was sheer compassion on the part of the client that meant that I didn’t mash it up because I gave everything to be there on time.  I was there on time, I had prepared the whole week, and it was a decent presentation and we’ve had a great working relationship since then.  But every time I try and go in now and see them face-to-face I remember it.  I remember being there and looking like some sort of beached jelly fish.


Philippa: I think from both those examples, we both have that feeling of horror of what if because, we were both in a situation where we pulled it off but we equally might not have done.


Lorrie: Definitely.


Philippa: That feeling is really horrifying.


Lorrie: And it won’t go away.  That’s why it’s been such a good learning experience is I can still feel the same way. When we have meetings in the same room, I’m there.


Philippa: To remind you.


Lorrie: I’m there thinking of, “Oh past me, please get this presentation right.”  It’s just the most awful feeling.


Philippa: Another area where I got it wrong a couple of times is definitely marketing.


Lorrie: Yes.


Philippa: When I started out I really didn’t know much about how to market myself.  Like many people, I built myself a website and thought, “There we are.”


Lorrie: Yeah, that’s quite common I think.


Philippa: Yeah, it really is.  That’ll do it.  Then of course you start and go –

Lorrie: Where are the clients?


Philippa: Yeah, why am I expecting people to suddenly hire me on this basis and realizing how ridiculous it was.  So, I started doing that kind of panic research and trying a bit of everything which is never really a good idea.  You want to focus in on something until you find out whether it works or not.  But, because I was panicking a bit, I was doing bits of this and bits of that.


Some of them were very successful and I still use them now and others failed entirely.  In some respects that’s fine because the thing with marketing is a lot of it will fail.


Lorrie: Of course.


Philippa: Just by its nature.  It’s very unusual indeed to send out some pictures and get 100% positive response.  So, you have to do some that won’t work in order to find the bits that do work.


Lorrie: Yeah, people are often surprised to find that say a 1% or 2% conversion rate is absolutely amazing in a lot of fields actually.


Philippa: Definitely.


Lorrie: If you pay for some advertising, or if you send out an email marketing campaign, to get a 2% conversion would be stunning.


Philippa: I think when it becomes a bigger fail, even bearing that in mind, it’s like you say conversion rates tend to be certainly under 10%, is where it actually cost you a lot of money or taken you a lot of time.  That’s when it feels more of a fail than just a low conversion rate.  I know Lorrie and I have both mentioned in the podcasts before, that we both tried something independently of each other, we just had the same idea and it bombed similarly for both of us, which was to choose a business website and proof read a page or two of it and then contact the owner of the site to say, “I was just having a look at your website and I thought you’d want to know that on this page you’ve got a couple of typos.  If you want, I can proofread the rest of your site for you.”


Both of us had either no responses or negative responses.  The problem with that is we had taken quite a lot of time to do the proofreading in order to make the initial contact.  That is where in my opinion, it becomes a fail rather than just a lack of conversion because, we did hours of work for no return.


Lorrie: Definitely.  I felt really hard done by when I did that because I think we took a slightly different approach.  I popped a page on my website which is still there but won’t be by the time I’m finished recording this podcast, that’s what reminded me, that said I would happily do a free proof read and content analysis of a couple of pages on peoples’ websites, they just had to get in touch with me.


So although I got some contact details from it I found that I would do the proofreading and then never hear anything back or get a thanks very much have a nice life from people.  So they were happy to take the work and that really did teach me something, that people are very, very happy to take work from free from you and I suppose I was a bit naïve when I started out because I didn’t think people would have the nerve to do it really.


Philippa: Yep, people like a freebie.


Lorrie: A freebie yes, but getting in touch with somebody and saying, “Can I please have this free content analysis,” and you get back in touch with them and give them – you know, I sent good 1,000 word documents over to get no response.  I chased a couple of times and said, “Oh hi, I just wanted to know if everything’s okay?”  I got, “Yeah, thanks it was fine.”  I said, “Alright then, thanks for letting me know.”


That’s taught me that certainly freebies, keep them to the minimum unless you need to offer a freebie.  They are a very short boost, the freebies, so if you’re absolutely desperate for more work and you really need to raise your profile very, very quickly then offer a limited time freebie that you know you can deliver.


Philippa: Yeah, and that won’t take hours and hours.


Lorrie: Yes.  Yeah, don’t feel stingy by offering something small.  I suppose that takes us onto something else that can be a little bit of a mistake when you’re freelancing and that’s offering too much work for too little money.


Philippa: And, it is so common especially, when people are just starting out.  But, even people who are established aren’t immune from sometimes miscalculating how long a piece of work will take, or just making a mistake with calculations and offering too much for too little.


Lorrie: Definitely.  You can find yourself actually paying to do work at some point.  If you take your overheads into account, and you take how much other work you’re turning down into account, it can actually cost you a lot of money and I’ve done that.  I’ve sort of charged far too little and then combined it with another newbie fail by failing to sign an agreement before entering into the work.  I can hear you, you’d be like, “Oh yeah.”


Philippa: Yeah, when I first started out I took on a big piece of work for very little money and it was because I was in that, “Oh my God I might never get any work ever come in.”  So, when someone offered me some work and suggested a price I mistakenly thought that that would be better than not taking it.  But the fact was, for the whole 5,000 words I resented every sentence because, I knew how badly I was being paid because by then it became clear how much I was getting hourly and all that and it was just horrific.


I did the work because I agreed to do the work and I did it for the price I had agreed on but, it really taught me, it was a kind of sweat shop shock really that I had to value myself for more than that.  While it might seem in the short term better to take badly paid work than no work, the fact is if you refuse that either they will pay you more because they really want you or they won’t.  But, it gives you time then to spend marketing yourself and getting paid work.  If you’re stuck in a contract with badly paid work your time is full and so you’ve not got the opportunity to find better work.


Lorrie: That is it.  I think there’s a fear with newbies, and I can certainly admit to it myself, I didn’t want to start making demands.  That was my fear, I didn’t want to say to people, “I’m not starting the work until I get a down payment.”  Now, for larger projects, not for ongoing projects, but for larger one off projects I take a down payment.


Philippa: I do similarly with new clients as well quite often.


Lorrie: Yeah.  It’s a very sensible move to make.


Philippa: It is.


Lorrie: You imagine the worse things.  You imagine thinking, “Oh, my client is going to think I’m so rude.”  But, it’s just business.  It’s just business.  I take a down payment because I’ve had people not pay me up to 800 Pounds before and because of no contract in place, this was when I was really starting out, I’ve done an incredibly amount of work for literally no money because there’s nothing in place to make sure that they pay me.


Philippa: I’ve found that if you’re just very matter-of-fact about your demands – demands sound like a very demanding word, but if you’re just very matter-of-fact –


Lorrie: Yeah, they’re requirements, aren’t they?


Philippa: Yes, that’s a better word, “I will submit the work once I’ve received payment,” or whatever your own terms are, “Copyright switches to you once I receive payment,” or whatever it is.  If you just state what they are people rarely pick me up on it, people rarely challenge them in my experience.


Lorrie: No, on the contrary I think it’s actually quite a professional thing to do.


Philippa: Yeah.


Lorrie: If you present someone in writing with a list of requirements from your end, they know that you’re serious about what you’re doing and they know that you know what you’re doing.


Philippa: Similarly, a client sometimes has a list of requirements.  Maybe they’ve been burnt before by freelancers or something, but I quite like it.  I know where I am and I can agree or not and they’re usually very, very reasonable.  It’s things like, “Deliver the work on time.”


Lorrie: Actually give me the work if I pay you.


Philippa: That’s it.  So I’m not offended and I don’t feel like someone doesn’t trust me or whatever if they have requirements and similarly if you present them in a similar way, other people don’t tend to get like that either.


Lorrie: No, absolutely.  People have accounting departments, and human resource departments, and they need paperwork often, that’s all it really is.  They need to know what they’re going to get and how much they’re going to pay for it.


Philippa: Exactly, exactly.  And, who will own the work once it is completed and that kind of thing.  There are lots of little small embarrassing mistakes I’ve made over my life.


Lorrie: I was hoping that we were going to get off the embarrassing ones and just talk about the more sensible ones.


Philippa: Oh no, there are plenty more of those.


Lorrie: Oh no, here we go.


Philippa: Little small ones that don’t have a big impact on your business but still just make you cringe.  One of those for me is I manage all my email through one Gmail account.  I’ve got about 12 email addresses and that’s not an exaggeration, it’s ridiculous.  So, I get everything forwarded to one Gmail account and from that account I can also send from the other email addresses and that kind of thing.


Lorrie: Sure.


Philippa: If I receive an email to say my Philippa@SocialMediaWriter.co.uk account, then when I reply to that through my Gmail it automatically applies from that account so I don’t need to think about it.  The result is if sometimes I send an email, even to reply, but in fact is a first email I forget to change in the drop down box to the correct account and so I’ve sent a few, a few –


Lorrie: I notice your voice breaking on that.


Philippa: A few emails in my time, from my personal account.  It’s not awful.  Thankfully, my personal account isn’t named something horrendous like SexyBabe84 or anything like that, but it’s still somewhat embarrassing in a professional capacity.  Also, I do work quite hard to keep my professional and my personal quite separate.


Lorrie: Sure.


Philippa: So it’s one of those mistakes that is easily done and I spot it about five seconds after I’ve clicked send.


Lorrie: That’s always the way.


Philippa: I hate doing it but it has happened to me a few times.


Lorrie: Luckily, I have not actually done it but again, it’s the near miss thing where I’ve sent something – I was with Yahoo for years.  It’s not as bad as BlueYonder or Hotmail, but it’s still a bit old fashioned.  But, I was resisting the fact that Google is so sort of omnipresent now.  But eventually I left Yahoo and I went to Gmail.  The way that emails are stacked when you open a mail trail, when you want to forward something to somebody and not reply it keeps it in the same thread.


Philippa: Yes.


Lorrie: So there have been a number of times where I’ve had horrible clients, or clients doing something really, really frustrating and I’ve just wanted to really vent my frustration and I’ve emailed you Pip obviously, and just said, “In confidence, am I completely wrong in thinking this person’s being a bit weird or am I reading this the wrong way?”  Then for about five minutes afterwards I’ve thought, “Please tell me I didn’t send that back to the person.”


I’ve done that in my personal life never, touch wood, in my professional life.  But when I was about 18 I sent an email, it was one of these university ones, and we’d just gotten to university and everyone was working out who liked whom, and who was friends forever and who was just never going to speak again.  I sent an email to somebody sagging her off and I sent it to the wrong person.  Rather than send it to the person I wanted to send it to, I sent it to the actual person saying, “Oh, she’s annoying me so much.  I don’t think I’m going to speak to her much anymore.  I think this is it.”  You know, real 18 year old drama and it went straight to her.  From that, thank God it wasn’t professional.


Philippa: There is something that saves me on a daily basis from this kind of thing and it’s a little add on you can use with Google where you can undo sending.


Lorrie: Cool.


Philippa: Yes, I know.


Lorrie: You’ve got me excited.


Philippa: All it does, and you can set the timing yourself, I think I’ve got it set for five seconds, and for five seconds after clicking send you’ve got the option to undue sending.  All it does basically is delay sending it for five seconds.  But the fact is that nine times out of 10 you spot that you haven’t included the attachment you said you would, or that you’ve spelt somebody’s name wrong, or that you’ve sent it to the wrong person, often you spot those things the moment you click send.  So with this little add on in Gmail where it would normally say, “Message has been sent,” it just says, “Message has been sent, click to undo,” and for five seconds has a link to undo.  If you get there quick enough, you get it back and then you can fix it.


It is that thing of you do spot it the moment you click send so that for me is a lifesaver, or I’d do a lot more of –


Lorrie: I’m certainly going to go in and install that.


Philippa: Do it definitely.  You know, that classic, “Please find attached,” and then there’s no attachment.


Lorrie: Definitely.  Gmail actually tells you now doesn’t it, it picks up if you’ve mentioned attach.


Philippa: Yes.


Lorrie: That’s another reason that even though I’m not too keen on the thread organization in Gmail, I do prefer it very, very much.  I will be going in and installing this because just as I’m thinking about it I have been known to send vest regards to people and vest wishes.


Philippa: Similarly, I also have been guilty of sending tweets from the wrong account.


Lorrie: Yeah, I’ve done that.


Philippa: I have my personal Twitter account and I have my professional Twitter account, and I also run the Twitter accounts for two non-profit organizations.


Lorrie: You’re basically most of Twitter.


Philippa: I am most of Twitter.  99% of it is me.


Lorrie: Good marketing strategy though.


Philippa: Although Tweet Deck is a lifesaver in the terms of I don’t have to have four different browsers open, I can manage all the accounts from the one place, and it’s quite easy to highlight the account you want to send a particular tweet from, but the fact is that when you’re a bit on autopilot there are occasions where I’ve sent the wrong tweet from the wrong account.  Sometimes that’s fine.  They’re not that much [inaudible 24:12] but they’re not contradicting each other so it’s not usually the end of the world if I send something through my personal account that was meant for one of the non-profit accounts because I tend to agree with what they’re campaigning about.


More embarrassing is if I send something personal through my professional account.  There are ways you can sign certain petitions by sending a Tweet and I’ve done that with embarrassing consequences at times from the wrong account.  It’s rarely the end of the world, but it’s certainly embarrassing and it makes you feel a bit incompetent when it happens.


Lorrie: Definitely.  I do use Tweet Deck now as well, you’ve finally converted me.  It was just too difficult having even just two browsers open at the same time.  The thing with Tweet Deck, lovely though it is, is it defaults to one account so obviously, one of your accounts has to be the main account.  For some reason, I think it’s just a glitch, or I might follow one person from both accounts and in that case when you reply to somebody’s tweet sometimes both or all of your Twitter accounts are highlighted so this person receives the same tweet from about four different accounts that they’ve never heard from.


Then obviously, they want to go and see who’s been talking to them and they head over to my personal account and it’s full of feminist rhetoric and angry responses to the daily mail and things like that.  It’s a bit of fun but it can be a bit of a shock to people when they’ve just been reading about my copywriting.


Philippa: Exactly.  If I send something to my personal account about the latest content marketing strategies, it’s irrelevant but nobody really cares.


Lorrie: That’s it.


Philippa: If I send something to my professional account about, I don’t know, being annoyed –


Lorrie: [Inaudible 26:06] do you.


Philippa: [Inaudible 26:09] trying to get across the seriousness without implicating themselves.


Lorrie: Don’t worry, I’ve already implicated myself.


Philippa: If I send something to my professional account about being annoyed with a client or being stressed about not having enough work or too much work, or whatever it is.


Lorrie: Oh, those would be the worst

English: graphic convention of manga, sweating...

English: graphic convention of manga, sweating, used to represent feeling anxiety, confusion, embarrassed, and so on. 日本語: マンガの表現技法。汗。不安、困惑、戸惑いなどといった感情の表現。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

.


Philippa: That’s more problematic.  Thankfully, touch wood, which I am.


Lorrie: I’m touching all the wood within reach at this point.


Philippa: I’m leaning on a desk so much of me is in contact with wood.  That hasn’t happened, but it’s easy to do and I can see why it does happen.


Lorrie: I suppose it’s on a similar vein and I am going to implicate myself, I don’t really mind at this point you’ve all heard that I sweated my way through an initial client meeting so how much worse can it get.  When I started a Facebook page for my business I was reading up on how to get sort of more followers in an organic way rather than do that whole follow me, follow me, follow me and then buying followers [inaudible 27:13].


So I was reading these articles and it said, “Why not invite people you know?”  I thought, “Fair enough,” because most of my client base is sort of from a friends of friend, colleagues of colleagues, people I’ve worked with kind of origin.  I went to my Yahoo account, as I mentioned earlier, and I selected the people from my address book that I wanted to inform about my professional Facebook page and I clicked send.  I deselected all the randomers that I had spoken to over a good five years with that email account and I went on my merry little way.


All of a sudden I started receiving emails and likes from people I hadn’t heard from in years.  As it transpires, Facebook had a little promotional tool of theirs that had sent the email to everybody I had ever emailed or who had ever emailed me in five years.  Estranged family members, ex-boyfriends, people that I no longer speak to for a multitude of reasons, people I used to work with, people I never used to work with, everybody.  The builders, the window cleaners, the gardeners, everybody, thousands of contacts received this SPAM email about my Facebook.


Silly me, well actually I don’t think silly me, I’m going to stand by it.  I went on my personal Twitter account which is in no way connected to my professional Facebook account, there’s no link between the two and I basically had an, “Oh shit moment.”  I was like, “Oh my goodness.  Oh, no a horrible horrible moment.”  I mentioned, and I didn’t name anybody but I said, “Oh this awful person just tried to like my Facebook page.”  And then I got a Tweet from the awful person.  They must have Googled me and found their way to my personal email account because there they were saying, “I hope I’m not the awful person you’re referring to,” and they were.  I went, “Oh no,” and they wouldn’t go away they tried phone me, texting me, and emailing me for days afterwards.


Philippa: I nearly invited an ex that I don’t speak to, to connect with me on LinkedIn the other day.  I finally agreed to let it sign in with my Gmail account so it could find people I’d had contact with to request connections and it did.  There were loads of people most of whom I didn’t know who they were.  They were presumably somebody who’d sent me an email once.  It seemed to scrape everybody.


So I was going through this immense list.  There was this kind of check all option and so I did that and then went through unchecking the odd person either I really didn’t know who they were or they had nothing to do with anything I might do professionally.  Of course, once you’ve scrolled down 30 or 40 people you start paying less and less attention to what you’re clicking and unclicking and yes, I very nearly invited an ex that I had a bit of an acrimonious break up with to make contact which, if nothing else, would have provoked a really awkward conversation with that person.


Lorrie: Oh, how awful.


Philippa: Thankfully, it’s another horror of the almost.


Lorrie: I wish it was just an almost.


Philippa: I did spot it, but the horror of what may have happened if I hadn’t still sits with me.


Lorrie: No, I have the horror of what happens if it does happen and it is horrifying.  I felt like my stomach was going to drop out of my feet.  It was the worst thing, honestly ever.  I just sat there and went, “Oh no,” because it wasn’t anything I had done.  I had unchecked everything and it was Facebook.  Oh, I loathe Facebook sometimes because I don’t know whether it was a glitch, I don’t know if it is something they do that is a little bit naughty to try and get more people on there, but it caused me huge, huge problems.


Luckily, I hadn’t said anything awful on my professional account but what it also did was invite people to be my friend at the same time.  So what that does is give people access to all your personal information on Facebook.  Again, luckily my Facebook is fairly neutral.


Philippa: One of the whole points of having a professional Facebook page is that you can keep the professional and personal separate.  So there might be people who you would really like to like your Facebook page but connecting with them on your personal account is a whole other thing that you probably don’t want.


Lorrie: Exactly.  My privacy settings on my personal account are sky high.


Philippa: You’ve got it so locked down and understandably.  More and more people are doing that.


Lorrie: Like you say, for good reason, but yeah, it was excruciating, it really, really was.


Philippa: Other social media no-nos that I see quite a lot is a professional account, even a LinkedIn account which is pretty much entirely professional, or professional pages with awful profile photos of you falling out of a night club.  Not you, falling.


Lorrie: I was going to say, “When did this happen?”


Philippa: Of people falling out of a night club or being a bit sexy.


Lorrie: Or, the duck face.


Philippa: Yeah, exactly duck face.  That’s fine on your personal account, it’s fine on your Facebook personal profile but on your LinkedIn account, no it’s not good is it.


Lorrie: Sexy web cam pics.  I’ve seen somebody who I know is a really, really, really good professional person.  Very, very skilled, very intelligent and I had a look and their profile picture is a murky webcam picture that’s taken in sort of half light and yeah, this person is doing duck face.  For anybody who doesn’t know what duck face is, poor Pip, she clearly has bad experiences with ducks or duck faces.


Philippa: Duck faces, ducks are fine.


Lorrie: I like ducks actually, but yeah, duck faces which frankly do a disservice to ducks, are when people stick their pouts really, really far out and try to be blasé about pouting.  It’s a very, very weird thing so I might actually link to it in the show notes.


Philippa: Do, although I’m sure people, as soon as they hear it, will know exactly what we mean because it’s so prevalent on Facebook in particular.


Lorrie: Definitely.


Philippa: It’s just that every girl seems to have the arm outstretched phone above the head.


Lorrie: Yes, always the arm and in the bathroom.


Philippa: Yes, the bathroom.


Lorrie: Always in the bathroom or in front of the bathroom mirror.


Philippa: The thing about having murky profile photos or just inappropriate ones, 10 years ago that was kind of okay because  lot of people didn’t have digital cameras and would have to scan a photo and scanners weren’t very good and all that.  But these days, you get more photos from people’s phones on one night out than you might have had in your entire digital photo lifetime.  Until a few years ago there were digital photos everywhere.  There were opportunities for digital photos everywhere and there were few excuses these days for having an inappropriate profile picture, I think.


Lorrie: Absolutely.   Carrying on from the theme of really embarrassing profile photos, I’d like to think I’ve never really suffered from.  My personal Twitter account as a weird one sometimes, but it’s nothing excruciating, is embarrassing profile information.


Philippa: Oh, yes.


Lorrie: So whether it’s your Twitter profile or your LinkedIn profile headline, or commonly actually, people’s websites.  For some reason people feel the need to tell people on their professional websites everything about them, and their hobbies, and their interests, and what they get up to and particularly in the copywriting sector, or communications, or editing.  There tends to be this over share tendency with stuff that they write.


Philippa: I think it’s difficult because we’re always told, and it’s correct, we’re always told that we need to inject personality into what we do.


Lorrie: Definitely.


Philippa: That people hire a person as much as they hire a copywriter and that by portraying you as a well rounded individual you’ll do better.  That’s good advice however –


Lorrie: There’s a big however.


Philippa: There’s a line and some people don’t even seen the line.


Lorrie: To some people the line is a dot.  Like you said, it’s good to inject a bit of personality.  I write fiction and there’s a number of times I’ve had to sort of provide people with an autobiography of myself.  You have a look through other people’s autobiographies to get an idea of what’s a good idea and what isn’t.  Often it’s nice to inject a little bit of humour into them. Mine’s got a little bit about trying and failing to write the great British novel and I read somebody else’s that said they had been on the Zombie Walk recently, but it was one line and it was an oblique reference.


Whereas, I’ve been on people’s website and the most recent example I can think of is that somebody had dedicated a paragraph to the fact that they write Harry Potter fan fiction on their copywriting website.


Philippa: Oh, no.


Lorrie: For those people who aren’t particularly savvy about fan fiction a lot of it is quite saucy.


Philippa: It is.  It’s quite often an erotic – people carry on a story from the end of the Harry Potter books, or the Twilight books, or whatever and turn it into a more adult thing.  I mean, that’s where the infamous 50 Shades of Grey, that started off as fan fiction so that gives you an idea of what fan fiction can be like.


Lorrie: This is it.  Or, if you disagree with the original author’s choice for couplings for example, if one character ends up marrying a different character and you think they should have gotten with the other person, then your imagination can go wild in your fan fiction.


Philippa: Which is fine.


Lorrie: That’s fine.  It’s fine for [inaudible 38:49].  I was a bit worried about mentioning this in this Podcast in case people were like, “Hmm, I wonder if she does fan fiction?”  And I assure you I do not.


Philippa: And even if you did –


Lorrie: It would be fine.


Philippa: It would be fine but it also wouldn’t be on your copywriting site.


Lorrie: It certainly wouldn’t be on my copywriting website.


Philippa: If instead you were a writer of erotic fiction and had a website dedicated to that, then it could possibly have a place.  But, on a copywriting site, or a web design site, or anything like that there are lines and you’ve got to think.  You do want to inject personality but you’ve got to think, “Is this what my clients are trying to find out about me?  Is this something I would want them to know?”


Lorrie: Unless there’s a great big untapped niche for Harry Potter fan fiction purchasers than I would suggest not including it on your website unless you know there are companies out there who will buy your Harry Potter fan fiction for a handsome sum.  In which case, by all means offer it as a service otherwise, perhaps stick to your blog.


Philippa: I fear that the 50 Shades of Grey phenomena may encourage more, and more, and more fan fiction than necessary.


Lorrie: It already has.  Honestly, literary work has become interesting in the last few months I’ve got to say.  I believe a number of people that I’m actually friends with have been asked to edit stuff that’s a little bit more adult.


Philippa: Yeah, I’ve edited some erotic fiction.  It was an interesting process, I quite enjoyed it.  But that was very good, it was good quality it wasn’t fan fiction.


Lorrie: Good quality writing is good in whatever form even if it’s a bit eye opening.


Philippa: Back to mistakes we’ve made, probably my worst one by far I’m mortified when I think about it.


Lorrie: I was looking forward to this.


Philippa: I was at a networking event, a face-to-face networking event locally.  I was taught you kind of do the rounds of the room and you talk to various people and I got talking to a guy who is a lawyer and he works with small businesses on writing contracts for their work.  He works with sole traders and freelancers as well.


I was chatting with him saying, “This is pretty interesting.  I’m aware it’s something I need to formalize more in my own work.”  So I was chatting with him and earlier that day I had actually watched a video about why freelancers need good contracts in place and so that came to mind.  I made what had to be my most misjudged comment in my entire life.


Lorrie: I have no idea what it is but I’m tickled waiting.


Philippa: This video that I had watched, it had gone a bit viral understandably, and I’ll link to in the show notes and it was called F*ck You, Pay Me.


Lorrie: Oh dear.


Philippa: But not F*ck You, Pay Me it was the full word you, pay me.  Now, the F word doesn’t offend me, I’m quite a sweary person at times.


Lorrie: It’s true, she is.  The editing is unbelievable.


Philippa: So for some reason while talking to this lawyer at a networking meeting I said, “It’s funny we’re talking about this because I watched a video only today.  It was very good and it was called Fuck You, Pay Me.”


Lorrie: Oh, no.


Philippa: I said it and then the look on his face was pure horror.  There was no amusement.


Lorrie: You think you’d get a little bit, “Oh dear.”


Philippa: You think he might be slightly amused, perhaps taken aback because it was [inaudible 43:09] I shouldn’t have said it.


Lorrie: For sure.  Pure horror.


Philippa: Pure horror.  He looked at me like I had just punched his child in the face and couldn’t get away fast enough.


Lorrie: Could we just say at this point no children have been punched by Pip ever.


Philippa: No, not a single one.


Lorrie: It’s not something people expect from her at all.


Philippa: Yes, it was awful and it was my fault.  When you’re speaking to someone you don’t know in a business context you don’t use the F word and yet, for some reason, my internal sensor didn’t switch on in time and I said it and it was horrific.  So learn from me, if you’re talking to a person you don’t know at a business account and they’re a lawyer and they’re a middle aged man in a suit, I’m making judgments there, but it all plays in doesn’t it – don’t use the F word.  Just don’t, even if it’s a title of a video.  It’s a very good video, I’ll link to it, but yes, please learn from my mistake.  I’m mortified just thinking about it still and this was months ago.


Lorrie: How awful.  I remember saying once, in an interview actually and I got the job, but I mentioned that I couldn’t be asked for something.  That went down equally well as you could imagine they just went, “Hmm,” and carried on.


Philippa: The initial thing was me going, “Oh, I shouldn’t have said that.”  But then it was his reaction that really made it 100 times worse.


Lorrie: Like, “No you really shouldn’t have.”


Philippa: Yeah, I could not have misjudged it more badly.  It was as bad a misjudgement as is possible to make.  But thankfully, I wasn’t looking for work from him I was more interested in possibly using his services actually to get one off full proof contract drawn up rather than winging it.  I’ve got a reasonable one but I’m sure a lawyer could tear it apart.


Lorrie: Especially that one.


Philippa: I was possibly interested in using his services.  Thankfully, I wasn’t trying to get him to use mine.  But, oh, don’t.


Lorrie: I had an excruciating moment recently but luckily, after what we’ve said in the last episode or two about luck and how it’s just not a big part of freelancing, luckily this person is a friend and I was doing some work for him for free for a favour.  We access one another’s fiction writing, we read one another’s fiction writing and offer reviews.  It’s a really nice sort of friendly working relationship.


We were talking about writing scary stories.  It’s a little bit before Halloween and I was in the midst of something spooky.  So we’re chatting away and he said rather than coming up with a spooky story as a whole what he was doing was making a document full of spookiest scariest possible things he could think of and then he was going to write short stories around those.


Well I thought, “What a great idea.  Brilliant.”  Because I tend to start a short story and just see where it goes.  For longer pieces I do pen them out but for short stories I just sort of wing it and then do some editing afterwards.  So I said to him, “Go on, send me your scary ideas because I really want to be scared.”  He said, “No, no, no they’re too scary.”


I thought he was joking at first because we were chatting on Twitter on my personal account and I kept going, “Please, please, please.”  Eventually other people on my Tweet feed who didn’t know him were like, “Come on, please.  Send us the scary stuff.”  I was sitting in bed and I had already terrified myself by writing a scary story that succeeded in scaring me.  It took me ages honestly, because every time I got to a scary bit I was like, “Oh, I can’t it’s just too scary.”   So at least my readers know I do suffer for my art.


Eventually, after so much warbling he was like, “Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”  So, I open the email anyway and I was reading through and I don’t really want to give too much away about his idea but I thought it was hilarious.  I was like, “Oh, you tricked me.  After all this time you’ve sent me something really, really funny.”  I was weeping with laughter, it was so funny.  It was late at night and he was about to go to bed and he said, “I’ll send you a little bit of the document now.”


So I got in touch with him on Twitter and it was quite sweary I was like, “Oh you,” in less than nice terms, “You, I thought you were going to send me some really scary stuff.  This is Fing hilarious.”  And it turns out it was actually the scariest thing he could ever think of.


Philippa: Oh, no.


Lorrie: It was actually generally the scary stuff that he had been so nervous to send me.


Philippa: Because it was so scary.


Lorrie: So scary and also he was embarrassed that he was scared by it.  I still wasn’t taking him seriously, I was still absolutely convinced he was having a laugh with me.  So I was like, “No, you’re so funny.”  It carried on and he was like, “Seriously, this is harsh dude.”  I’ve never felt as such a failure as a literary editor in my life.


One of the services I provide is developmental critiques and people send me a synopsis and a 10,000 word extract of their writing and I tell them what I think of it and how they can improve it.  Sort of assessing the marketability of the writing and I absolutely shredded it just because I thought it was so funny.  I swear honestly, I was convinced he was trying to make me laugh.  I felt so bad.  I’ve apologized to him so many times but he was like, “Yeah, I won’t send anything to you when I’m feeling a bit delicate next time.”


I can’t tell you how bad I felt.  I think you’re getting a sense of it.  I felt so bad.


Philippa: Yeah, I feel for you.  In work there’s a mistake I’ve made a few times, not when freelancing but in other work that I can see could certainly happen in freelancing and that is pretending that I’m further on in a project than I actually am.  If you’re manger says, “How are you getting on with that thing?”  And you go, “Oh God, I’ve forgotten to do it.”  So you go, “Yeah, I’m getting on fine I’m about half way through.  I’ll get it to you in a bit.  But it becomes problematic that you then realize that you need more information from them and you have to go, “Actually…”


Lorrie: Yeah, somebody didn’t send the vital document over and you’ve said you’re half way through.


Philippa: I’m half way through but could you resend me the title?  Would that be alright?  Thank you.


Lorrie: Just so I can double check.


Philippa: Exactly.  Can you resend your whole instructions I just want to cross reference them?


Lorrie: Who was the client again?


Philippa: I’ve done that in a job I have not done it as a freelancer but I know plenty of freelancers who have because you don’t want to imply that you’re running late and your clients don’t want to think that you’re rushing their work.  So it could be tempting if someone says, “How are you getting on?”  To say, “Great, nearly there.”


Lorrie: A bit of a auto response really.


Philippa: That’s it and then you’re stuck if you do need more information on something you’ve said you’re already done.


Lorrie: You’d have to word yourself extremely carefully to get out of that one.


Philippa: Yeah, definitely.


Lorrie: Something that feels similar and I’m not sure why or if it is, but on the subject of sort of getting enough information for a project often with clients, as we’ve mentioned in one of the earlier episodes, you’re not necessarily dealing with one person in the company you’re dealing with several and some are better than others at sending information over.  Some are notoriously bad for it even in house.


Occasionally, I don’t think this is something that I’ve done but I know it’s something that I’ve come extremely close to doing, chasing people for more information and feeling a bit of an attitude with them because really, how are you supposed to write something without the necessary info and then finding that they’ve already emailed you.  There’s nothing like a smug person, “Do you just want to check your emails because I already sent you that.”


Philippa: Often, that could happen with someone that is notoriously bad at sending information.  You might make an assumption without double checking.  If it’s normally someone who is normally very reliable and you can’t find the info you double check.


Lorrie: Of course.


Philippa: But if it’s someone who is notoriously bad you are more likely to jump to the conclusion, “Oh, here we go again they haven’t sent it.”


Lorrie: This is it, always, always check your inbox.  As I said, I almost did it the other day, a client company who is terrible at sending information.  They’re rubbish at it.  You’ll send them something and they’ll send you back question marks, or they’ll say, “Oh you need to ask such and such,” and I had no access to that person.  There’s all these reasons that I can’t get the information that I need for the work they want.


I was on the verge, I had even typed out the email, “I’ll do this as soon as I finally have some information from X person.”  And I looked down and again, I’m sure Gmail sent it for me, it was a Gmail issue, it was sitting under the email I was typing.  It was just tucked in there and I think our emails had crossed and it just popped in the bottom.  It was there so I deleted the email thankful that I had taken a bit of time over it and that that person who is notoriously bad at sending over information wouldn’t have any ammo to use against me.


Philippa: There’s a mistake that I’ve made several time and it’s not strictly a freelance writing mistake.  As well as the freelance writing that I do I’ve got a few small websites that earn a bit of affiliate income which is just a nice bit of passive income really so little bonus extras.  More times than I care to remember, and it tends to be late at night, I get generally over excited with the best idea I’ve ever had and this is amazing.


Lorrie: The one that is going to make you a millionaire.


Philippa: It’s just going to be perfect and how has no one else thought of it.  So at 1AM I buy about six URLs for the amazing, amazing websites I’m going to sell.  I wake up the next morning and just go, “Oh God, what am I going to do with those?”  I bought www.TiredAndFedUp.co.uk.


Lorrie: Deals for freelance copywriter.  It’s just what you want to be telling people, “You know what?  I’m tired and I’m bored.”


Philippa: I don’t even know what I thought it would be but it was a brilliant idea at the time.  Late at night it was fantastic, I had plans galore.  That recently came up for renewal and I said, “No, please don’t renew it.”  Thankfully because it was a .co.uk it only cost me about a few pounds for two years.  But, I’ve done that so many times.


I get my URLs through a website called 1and1, I looked through my 1and1 account and I’ve got my useful ones that I use and then I’ve just got so many that I look at –


Lorrie: It’s a shame.


Philippa: I got, “Oh why did I ever think that was a good idea?”


Lorrie: I think I’ve got www.TheLoveBooth.co.uk up for renewal soon.


Philippa: That’s brilliant.


Lorrie: And I think it’s not going to get renewed.  It was a good idea.  I’m not going to tell you what the idea was in case somebody steals it and then I resent them forever.  But if anybody out there would like to purchase www.TheLoveBooth.co.uk by all means it’s up for renewal soon so stay tuned.


Philippa: As well as mistakes we’ve made we also see plenty of mistakes going on around us.


Lorrie: Yes, it’s far more interesting territory for me because it means that my embarrassment is over and I can start pointing at other people and going, “Oh, thank God I didn’t do that.”


Philippa: So true.  One I see quite often is famous or not so famous people who go onto Twitter with the intention of doing a vanity search and basically search for their own name to see what people are saying about them.  This can be a good idea if you’re running a business, it’s really good to see what people are saying about you.  But, it’s not unheard of for people to get it wrong and instead of typing their name into the Twitter search box they actually put it into the status update box and send a tweet with their name, just of their name.


There’s a politician in the UK with the rather unfortunate name of Ed Balls and he did this once.  He sent a tweet that just said, “Ed Balls.”  I saw it so I retweeted it and I added, “Philippa Willitts,” at the start and lots of other people did too.  The thing is, the poor guy, this was about two years ago he did it and I still about once a week see it retweeted it’s just Ed Balls saying, “Ed Balls.”  If you’re going to do a vanity search that’s fine but put it in the right box for goodness sake.


Embarrassed

Embarrassed (Photo credit: mloberg)

Lorrie: I bet Ed Balls doesn’t do anymore vanity searches because that will probably be the most common tweet that comes up for him.  It’s not quite on the vanity search front but the British Red Cross, the person that manages their Twitter account and to all of my knowledge still manages their Twitter account did something that Pip and I mentioned earlier which is getting their personal and professional accounts mixed up.


Now, the British Red Cross has hundreds of thousands of followers so it’s not like Pip and I with a few thousands each.  It was fairly late at night and we will add an article about this into the show notes, but the British Red Cross announced to its hundreds of thousands of followers that it was ready to go out, drink lots of beer, and get completely slizzered.


Philippa: Slizzered.


Lorrie: They were ready for a hot party time and they were going to get slizzered.  They mentioned the brand of beer and the brand joyfully retweeted it.  They were like, “Oh, good God this is the best endorsement ever.  A British first aid charity has just recommended going out and getting paralytic on our beer.”  Luckily they handled it really well.


It was a bit of a PR triumph actually.  I think they made some comment about keeping people away from their Twitter feed when they were getting slithered.  It all went well but it was so funny at the time.  You just felt so sorry for that person because there’s no way you could get a tweet like that back before it had been retweeted by hundreds and hundreds of people.


Philippa: In a similar vein something I see quite a lot is people trying to copy and paste URLs into a Tweet or an email and they don’t pay attention to what they’re actually pasting and they’ve copied the wrong thing. I’ve seen people emailing, “Please check out my website,” and then a recipe, a whole recipe, or something just unrelated.


This one case where a guy was on his company Twitter account and sent out a URL to a porn site that he’d obviously copied and then perhaps copied something else and it didn’t click properly or something.  But, he lost his job.


Lorrie: I’m not surprised.  I’m really not surprised at that because a lot of people are offended by porn so it’s kind of a case of, “Sorry, you’ve got to go,” in that case.  I’ve done it before but luckily the URL I posted was nothing sensitive although I really, really didn’t want to post it.


I had contacted somebody, and it was somebody I know fairly well, but at the time I was keeping my fiction writing a secret because I was feeling a little bit nervous about getting out of copywriting and into fiction.  It’s a lot more intimate, writing something from yourself than writing a press release for someone else so I was keeping it under my hat while I was getting into the swing of things.


I was in the middle of telling this person, “No, sorry you can’t see my blog.  I’m not telling you where my fiction writing is.  But, here’s another website,” and I sent my blog URL.  It was the most awful thing.  I don’t know whether he saw it but he didn’t mention it.  It’s totally possible, sometimes he’s a little remise on noticing things but we’ve never spoken about it.  It was just so excruciating because it’s one of those moments I really could have fixed with that Gmail undo thing because as soon as I sent the email I just had an, “Oh, no,” moment.


Philippa: It’s awful, it’s awful.


Lorrie: It really was.


Philippa: Another thing is that people kind of forget that if they say one thing to you and are on Twitter saying the opposite you know.  If they say, “I’m going to pay that invoice right now.”  This is an exaggerated example but then they go onto Twitter and go, “Ha-ha-ha, I’m not going to pay that invoice for a week.”  You can see it.


Lorrie: You’ve got some really dastardly clients haven’t you.


Philippa: That hasn’t actually happened, but it was all I could think of.  It’s that kind of, “Oh, sorry I’m really busy this afternoon,” for instance and then they’re on Twitter talking about Carnation Street.  People, don’t forget that if you’ve got a visible profile or a visible Facebook page, just be sensible don’t be stupid.  If you ring someone up and they’re trying to pretend that they’re not in the pub and they blatantly are, don’t lie.  You’re quite entitled as a freelancer to an afternoon of and say, “I’m not working this afternoon I’ll call you back on Monday.”


Lorrie: No, no I’m just in the office.


Philippa: Exactly.  Do you know there’s a pub in Sheffield that’s called The Office.


Lorrie: Oh, lovely.


Philippa: I think it’s ingenious because you ring home and go, “I’m going to be home late I’ve got to stay late in the office.”  Isn’t that clever?


Lorrie: That is good actually.  I though actually you were going to say something really, really ingenious, not that what you said wasn’t ingenious.  But, I thought you were going to say something along the lines of actually you can wave a little flag and everybody will stop making a noise so you can actually pretend that you are home.  That would be great, wouldn’t it?


Philippa: That would.


Lorrie: If you had a pub that was very freelance friendly and you could just stick your hand up and be like, “I’ve got a call.”  That would be a life saver.


Philippa: I think we’ve covered quite a few mistakes that we’ve both personally made or both personally almost made and you learn just as much from almost making a mistake as you do from actually making it.


Lorrie: Yeah.


Philippa: The point is everybody will make mistakes, everybody will.  You can be as good as you want but it’s going to happen.  The point is getting out of them alive, trying to do as little damage as you can when you make them and mostly learning, learning from it.  Don’t assume which hotel on a particular long street it is.  Don’t say the F word to the man you don’t know.


Lorrie: Don’t turn up late to meetings, or almost late because you don’t have time to go and check your makeup in the mirror, check that you’re not sweating all over people.  There’s nothing worse than a wet handshake.


Philippa: That’s it.  That’s just some of many mistakes that Lorrie and I have made in the course of our careers and there will be more to come no doubt.  I’m sure we could repeat this episode every few weeks and there would be more.


Lorrie: I really, really hope not.


Philippa: Let’s hope not.


Lorrie: It’s a question, a lot of time especially, as you go on and you learn from the mistakes that you do make, it’s prevention rather than cure if you possibly, possibly can.  A lot of the mistakes really are just a result of not being prepared or having a lapse in judgment.


Philippa: Yes.


Lorrie: It’s a momentary lapse and you’ve just got to get yourself into the write habit, you really, really do.  Once you’ve done it you’re at least minimizing the chances of absolute agony and it is agonizing when you make a horrible, horrible mistake.  But what I would say is that if you make a mistake don’t try and bullshit your way out of it, really don’t.


Philippa: If you need to apologize, apologize.  You’re not going to lose face, you know, you made a mistake.  So say, “I’m really sorry I shouldn’t have done that.”


Lorrie: If it’s needed.  If not, have a laugh at yourself.


Philippa: Yes, absolutely.


Lorrie: Don’t take it too seriously if you don’t need to.  Apologize for any inconvenience or hurt that might have been caused, duck and cover for a while if you need too, lay low while the storm blows over if you’ve got to.  But at the end of the day, we all do it.


Philippa: Yep, it’s true.  Now, what we want to do now is introduce a new segment that is going to be part of every episode of A Little Bird Told Me from now on.  It’s the Little Bird Recommendations.  I feel we should have a jingle.


Lorrie: Da-da-dada.


Philippa: What we’re going to do each episode is both of us are going to choose something that we want to recommend to listeners.  Now this might be a blog post, a podcast, a grammar tip, a piece of software, a website, a plugin, anything really that we thought was worth sharing.  So Lorrie, what’s your Little Bird Recommendation this week?


Lorrie: So my first tip, it’s an important one but it’s really, really simple, but it’s something that I’ve noticed recently, sorting out your emails.  Two things, first as we’ve already mentioned, I think in one of the early podcast, an email signature is a great way to get a little professionalism into your communications and as we’ve already said it’s a great way of getting in a link to your website and your social media feeds.


Secondly, the autoresponder.  This is something I’ve really been thinking about recently.  In the last few weeks I’ve emailed a number of different freelancers about a number of different things but always with a view to actually hiring them.  On every occasion I’ve had nothing but silence.  Nothing but silence.


I understand that people, particularly freelancers, and particularly those doing sort of manual work which is what I really wanted which is window cleaners, gardeners, builders, that sort of thing, they can be out and about.  So I waited for a day or two, waited over a weekend and then when you hear nothing you go elsewhere.


But what’s also happened is the minute I go elsewhere I’ve had an email back from the original choice going, “Oh, I’m really sorry was away.”  If I had known they were away and if I had known when they were going to come back via an autoresponder I would have waited for them because they were my first choice.  So as it is they’ve missed out on business because I’m not going to go to somebody and then say, “Oh, sorry my original choice has got back to me.”


Philippa: No, no you can’t.


Lorrie: But if you’re like me you can’t afford to just go chucking clients away.  So my tip is this, if you’re going to go out of the office even for a day, even for half a day, let your clients know.  You don’t need to tell them all because they might not get in touch with you that day, but schedule your out of office autoresponder.  With Gmail you can schedule them so far in advance that you can just do it and forget about it.


Philippa: That’s really good advice.  I mean, if you’re a freelance writer or something changes are you’re at your computer a lot of the time.  But like you say, if you’re a window cleaner we understand that you’re not going to check your emails every half hour and that’s fine, but if you don’t get a response within a day you don’t know if that’s they don’t care, or if they don’t use that email account, or if they’re full up.


Lorrie: Or, out of business.


Philippa: Yeah, exactly or, whether they’ll be there the next day sorting it out.  That’s a really good tip.  My recommendation is something I only discovered yesterday but it’s brilliant.  I was doing some proofreading and I was editing a document in Google Docs.  Now, most of us, however much you might know and understand about language and grammar, most of us have certain mental blocks and for me one of them is complimentary with an i versus complementary with an e.


Lorrie: Oh, okay.


Philippa: Now, if you’re saying something nice to someone that’s a compliment with an i, I know that.  But there’s also complimentary meaning free and there’s complementary meaning things that go well together and I can never remember between those two which is spelt with an i and which is spelt with an e.


Anyway this came up in the document I was proofreading in the content of meaning goes well together.  So I knew I needed to double check whether the client used the right spelling or not.  So I highlighted the word and I was going to copy it into a Google search and do some research but when I highlighted it and right clicked what I discovered is there is an option called research that word.


Lorrie: Oh, brilliant.


Philippa: If you click on that it starts at the top with a definition and then underneath that is links to the thesaurus page for that word.


Lorrie: Oh, that’s really handy.


Philippa: For instance complimentary with an i, the top is a definition, adjective and then it has a few synonyms and then there’s loads of websites like Merriam Webster Dictionary, Free Dictionary, grammar sites, thesaurus sites.


Lorrie: It does it all for you.


Philippa: Wikipedia even, they all appear just to the right.  You don’t have to go into a separate page.  If you want to know more you can click links to those other sites. But for me, I did it, I found out that the client had used the wrong spelling because complementary with an e means goes well together so I changed that and I was able to fix it without leaving the Google Doc I was in.


Lorrie: Sure.


Philippa: So that’s my Little Bird Recommendation.


Lorrie: That’s brilliant because it’s one of those things that you need to be able to pick up on yourself and you need to be able to not waste too much time because spell check is not going to get it.


Philippa: Exactly.  I could have picked up a dictionary and looked it up and I could have done a Google search for the word, but sometimes you’re so busy that saving 10 seconds is still important.


Lorrie: Sure.  It’s not so much the 10 seconds it’s the process, it’s the fact that you have to stop the process that you’re doing at that time and start a different process and then get back into what you were doing.  You know as well as I do that once single click on the Internet when you’re in the middle of a really, really boring document can be fatal because you think, “Oh, I’ll just check my Twitter.  I’ll just have a look at the news.  Oh, what’s this?”


Philippa: Exactly.


Lorrie: You get distracted and you might lose a really good idea or you might just not go back to the document even though you really need to get a bit more done.


Philippa: With paper dictionaries I have a particular problem that a lot of linguistically minded people do which is if I look something up in a paper dictionary I’m reading it for 20 minutes because I then look up another word, and then another word, and then another word.


Lorrie: It’s like, “Oh, that one is nice.”


Philippa: Exactly.  People last but I can read a dictionary quite happily so yes, that’s a relief for me.  If I use a paper dictionary I will be distracted.  Yeah, like Lorrie said if you go into a separate tab and look something up there’s always something because yeah, you’re out of the original document so you mind as well check Twitter, and you mind as well check your email.  Whereas, if you can remain within the document itself and get the information you need just on the right hand side it’s handy, it’s quick, and yeah it reduces distractions considerably.


Lorrie: So I think that just about sums up our A Little Bird Told Me Recommendations.  We’d love to hear any recommendations that you’ve got over the coming weeks.  We are happy to feature them if we think they’re good.  If they’re a bit rubbish, sorry no.  You’ve got to be cruel Pip, you’ve got to be cruel.


Philippa: Cruel to be kind.


Lorrie: It’s true, we’re not having any rubbish recommendations.  We really, really hope that you’ve enjoyed the podcast.  We hope that baring our souls, if nothing else, has given you a bit of reassurance especially if you’re having a bad day or if you feel you’ve mucked up royally and nothing is ever going to be okay again.  It will.  It’ll be fine.


Philippa: Take heart, we’ve all done stupid things.


Lorrie: That’s it.  Usually, things work out better than you think.  Look at British Red Cross, that person lived to get slithered another day.  I sweated my way through a presentation under the spotlight and that client is one of my best clients now.  We’re human, we’re all human so try not to worry.  If you do worry, come and worry with me and Pip.  Come and have a chat with us.


Philippa: Exactly.  I got the wrong hotel but I still got a cracking interview because thankfully I was a few minute ahead of myself in the first place.  I swore at a man but that didn’t prevent any work I was going to get because I wasn’t going to get any work from him anyways, it wasn’t that kind of conversation.


Lorrie: Sure.


Philippa: Sometimes you might swear at a man and lose work and that would feel even more horrendous.


Lorrie: It’s not the end of the world.


Philippa: It’s not the end of the world, things happen.


Lorrie: There’s ways and means of repairing situations.


Philippa: There are.


Lorrie: Even if there aren’t sometimes it’s okay.  We’re all still here, the world’s still turning it’s all good.  The podcast is still podcasting, the most important thing.


Philippa: That’s the most important thing.


Lorrie: It is.  It is, as long as this keeps going we’re all fine.  If you have any worries at all or if you have any horror stories you want to come and share –


Philippa: We want to know your horror stories.  We’ve bared our souls and we want you to do so now.


Lorrie: Come and share with us. You can find all the links to our social media feeds, you can find the link especially to the Podomatic page which is ALittleBirdToldMe.Podomatic.com and you can find our Facebook page from there so come and have a chat with us.  Tell us what you’ve been up to.  Tell us what you think of the podcast, the good, bad, we want to hear it.


Philippa: If we get any particularly good embarrassing mistake stories we will share them next time.


Lorrie: Which is a huge incentive for you to share them with us. The whole world will know so it’s all good.  I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn.


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

Podcast Episode 12: It’s not about luck (well, it’s a little bit about luck) aka “The harder you work, the luckier you get”

In this brand new podcast episode, Lorrie and I tackled a rather tricky subject – just how much of freelancing success is luck? We discuss whether the “you’re so lucky!” sentiment actually downplays the hard work that writers put in, or whether saying that hard work automatically will equal success is unfair to those who do put in the effort but still struggle to meet their goals.

As you can imagine, there were lots of issues to cover, and we hope we did it justice! Listen, enjoy and spread the word!

We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.

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Transcript:

Philippa: Hello, and welcome to Episode 12 of A Little Bird Told Me: the podcast about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful freelance writing.  Now, before we start we wanted to apologise for the lack of podcast last week.  Lorrie had a really nasty bug and I had tonnes of work to do.  This is going to happen from time-to-time but we do, as a rule, aim to produce weekly podcasts.


I’m Philippa Willitts…


Lorrie: …And I’m Lorrie Hartshorn, and yes, it’s been a hugely busy and buggy week but, we are back to it now, so you can all breathe a massive sigh of relief.  Before we get on to our topic for today, I just want to remind you if you head over to ALittleBirdToldMe.Podomatic.com you can subscribe to the podcast so you never miss another episode.


There are a number of ways you can subscribe including RSS feed, iTunes, Sticher Smart Radio, and you can also find all the links to our social media feeds and websites so you’ll never miss us again.


Philippa: We would also love it if you left us a review on iTunes, or a comment on Stitcher.  If you liked the podcast, do share it with others.  We would love to get your help to get the word out.


Lorrie: It’s true.  Anybody you can think of to tell, tell them!  We love to have new listeners.  We’ve got some great feedback so far and we hope to carry on, so all we need are people with ears, or indeed eyes, because we have a transcript for every episode.


Philippa: We do indeed.


Chinese lucky cat

Chinese lucky cat (Photo credit: _yammynelly_)

Lorrie: Today, we’re going to be talking about a bit of a contentious issue and that’s about how to succeed as a freelance writer or a freelance anything really, and how it’s really a case of luck.  Now, we do hear a lot of people out and about and on social media sort of lamenting their lack of success as a freelancer and it’s often before they’ve even tried anything.


The message that Pip and I always try and get across is that, like anything, building a self-employed or freelance career does take hard work and dedication as well as imagination and persistence.


Philippa: Exactly, you think it would be obvious really, that starting and running your own freelance business is hard work but, both Lorrie and I have come across the attitude from others that it’s a matter of luck more than effort.


Lorrie: It’s true.  I mean, I really do get the impression sometimes that people think I sort of fell into freelancing like, “Whoops, I’m freelancing!”  It is really not the case.  I’ve been plugging away at it for 10 years now, although I did start out part-time.  People ask me things like, “Do you reckon I can do a little copywriting on the side?”  Or, “How do you manage to get so many clients.”  And it’s a bit of a head in my hands moment, really.


I got into freelancing because I made a conscious effort to get into freelancing.  It was based on a conscious decision and I’ve made a real effort over the years to make it work.


Philippa: This is it.  I mean, it’s almost insulting when people say, “How do you have so much work?”  Kind of like it’s being bestowed upon me from above.


Lorrie: Most of it has been bestowed on me from above, but I’m quite short, so it’s not really much of a shock.  But you know, you’re right, a lot of people who talk to me, they’re genuinely talented people but unfortunately they seem to be labouring under this misapprehension that talent is enough and it’s not.  It’s never enough.

I’ve seen frankly mediocre freelancers do exceptionally, exceptionally well because they’re so consistent in what they do and they’re really persistent in their approach to marketing and business development.


Philippa: Definitely, I’ve seen the same.  It would be lovely if talent was enough, it really would, but sadly, clients don’t know that you’ve got talent if they’ve never heard of you.


Lorrie: This is it.  You can’t be invisible because people aren’t going to come and hunt you out to offer you work.  It would be great if they did.  I see some people on the Internet, and on social media, and in my emails and things and they don’t bother responding to clients and their social media’s all to pot, and I think, “You must have clients to throw away.”  But for most of us, that’s not the case and you might be good but you definitely are not the only decent freelancer out there.


There is somebody who is just as good as you, or even as we said before, not as good as you, if they’re more visible, they’re going to get noticed by clients not you.


Philippa: This something that can be quite difficult to tackle really as an issue, because lots of things come into play when you’re talking about how or why one person is successful and another is.  Neither Lorrie nor I believe that it is all very clear cut and all you have to do is X, Y, and Z and you’ll be successful.  It is more complicated than that.  But, what does get frustrating is the assumption that making a freelance career work is simply a matter of, “Ooh, lucky you.”


Lorrie: Yeah, definitely.  It really seems to be a very, very common assumption, at least from what I’ve seen.


Philippa: It does and there is always an element of luck in anything, but putting it all down to luck does discount all the effort that people put in to get work and to then do the work well.  Now of course, there will always be occasional bits of luck in terms of getting work.  You might meet someone randomly who just happens to need the exact service you offer and then hires you.  Or, you might have a friend who starts a business and needs copy for their entire website, for instance, and you’re the only copywriter they know.


But that’s not exclusive to freelancers.  There are people who get a job interview because their mum’s friend was doing the listing.  There are people who find their ideal job in a newspaper that someone else left on a train.  There is luck in every part of life.  But, other aspects of what looks like luck are actually not so much.


For instance, I could be considered lucky that one of my clients knew other people who also needed some copywriting.  So he was able to act as a go between and get me work from them and take a commission himself.  So I got extra work, but that luck was actually part of a really carefully planned marketing campaign that I did that included a plan for referrals and targeting prospects really carefully based on who may well be in a position to contract work to me from their own clients.


It wasn’t a lucky accident; it was something I thought out, spent a lot of time on and designed to work that way.


Lorrie: Definitely.  I think there is a real tendency to be quite fatalistic actually, when thinking about freelancing.  There’s this attitude of “Oh, it will either happen or it won’t” and people forget that in freelancing, perhaps more than in any other career really, you are the one who has to make things happen.  The impression does seem to be quite often that working for yourself is some sort of easy option.


Philippa: Hahaha! Bitter laughter at this end!


Lorrie: Hahaha! I wouldn’t say, “Bitter”, more just “tired”!


Philippa: Hahahaha! Overworked!


Lorrie: Over worked, under paid, tired!  It’s true there’s no boss breathing down your neck but I don’t understand this belief that if you’re talented enough, people are going to seek you out and just throw work at you.  When people start getting an inkling that this might not be the case, and I’m thinking of people who are interested in freelancing or who are new to freelancing, that’s usually when they come and chat to someone like Pip or me.


I think we discussed it in Episode 10 actually, more often than not Pip and I are happy to give any advice that we’ve got.


Philippa: Yeah, definitely.  I mean, that’s one of the reasons we do these podcasts.


Lorrie: It’s true.  But, the problem I come across really often, and it’s something that I had to be quite careful with in Episode 10 because I didn’t want to come across like I didn’t want to help anybody, but fairly recently I’ve found that when people are approaching me and I suggest to them that they try freelancing, or that they try certain techniques to overcome problems they’re having with getting started as a freelancer, I find their interest level drops dramatically the minute I come up with something that sounds like hard work or a bit of a gamble.


Philippa: Yeah.


Lorrie: There’s always 101 reasons why the suggestions just won’t work, and there’s no comprehension of the fact that actually it’s up to you to sit down and find ways to get over these hurdles.  Sometimes I really do get the impression, when I’m approached by some people, and asked for tips on freelancing, and “How do I get into copywriting?”, and “How do I do this?” that they really think that I’m missing a trick and there really can’t be that much work involved!


Philippa: This is really true.  People often ask me how I find work when they find out what I do.  Once I start explaining the numerous steps involved their eyes just start to glaze over.


Lorrie: It’s true!


Philippa: But this is the reality of it.  Work doesn’t just arrive with no effort on the part of the writer, it doesn’t come with the morning post.  You either seek it out which is frankly relentlessly hard but necessary work, or you occasionally get approached based on something you’ve written before.  But even that, is actually based on previous hard work; it’s still not a matter of pure chance.


Lorrie: Yeah.  I mean, you’re completely right it’s a bit of a truism but in this game you make your own luck, at least a lot of it.  Definitely, I’ve had some lucky breaks, I’m not going to say, “Oh, it was all a massive slog.”  There were good points as well as bad points.  But the fact is I put myself out there a lot, I’m consistently obnoxious on LinkedIn like, “Hey everybody.  I’m having a great day doing some copywriting, doing some other things!”


I’m out there and I’m constantly letting people know what services I offer.  I offer discounts to people, I do all sorts of things to try and attract new business.  Also, what people are forgetting as well is that there have been loads of mistakes along the way.  It’s been a learning experience and I’ve had to just take the rough with the smooth.


Philippa: Of course.  I know, in one of the earlier episodes I talked about this brilliant marketing idea I had when I would proof read a page of somebody’s website on spec and then email them and say, “Look, I found these mistakes on your website.  Why don’t you hire me to do the rest?” and I thought, “This is a brilliant idea!”  I didn’t get a single bite.


But the thing is you have to do things like that in order to find out that it’s not going to work and then you need another tack.  Ideally, you need about four or five to start off with.


Lorrie: I did the same thing you suggested, at first I thought, “Yeah, this is working really, really well.”  I just ended up doing loads of proofreading for free! Haha!


Philippa: Exactly.


Lorrie: Which wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Fair enough, I got a little bit of praise and a couple of testimonials out there like, “Oh, you’ve done just a good job.”  But it certainly didn’t pay the bills.  With some people they got in touch with me and said, “Could you do one of the sample proofreads for my website for me?”  And I never heard from them again!


Philippa: Yeah, because while there are always certain proven tactics you can try that will increase the likelihood of having success with your marketing, it isn’t a pure science.  There are no guarantees and you do have to take risks.  Now, if you’re something like a freelance writer these risks needn’t be horrifically expensive.  You’re not going to be putting billboards up that go wrong or anything like that.  But you still do need to go somewhere out of your comfort zone and try things.

Lorrie mentioned about taking risks, and it’s true. When you’re not in that out of your comfort zone place and you’re doing your day-to-day writing work, something that’s important to remember is that you’re only ever as good as the last piece of work you submitted.  You can have written a dozen flawless press releases for a company but if the most recent one was late, and it had typos, and there was no coherent structure, and no contact information they will probably go elsewhere next time.  You have to always be on top of your game because you have to prove yourself pretty much daily.


Lorrie: Yeah, that’s true.  That is absolutely true.  I’ve suppose it’s a bit unfair when you come to think about it but, at the end of the day, clients can be really fickle.  To a certain extent they can afford to be because they’re paying you.  It’s not mates’ rates or doing a favour for a friend, a client wants the product; they don’t want you.  Especially, when there are so many people who are fighting to take your place and offer lower price, a quicker turnaround.


A client’s head can be turned really, really quickly and you have to stay on top of your game.  You can do that quite easily but again, it’s a long game and it’s a long game that takes a lot of effort.  We’re talking training, research, reading, online courses, networking events –  anything you can think of really, do it and keep your skills polished.


Philippa: A while ago I clicked a link that I saw on Twitter and it was to a blog post, I can’t remember where, but if I can find it I’ll add the link to the show notes, but this post is called something like “How to be better than 95% of your freelance competitors”.  I mean, how could I not click on something with that title.


Lorrie: Haha, you sly fox. There I was thinking we’re all in this together.


Philippa: The thing that really shocked me was the article was saying things like, “Astounding as it is, the way to be better than nearly all freelancers is to submit your work on time, and be pleasant when you’re interacting with clients and potential clients.”  Now, it sounds ridiculous that people are giving out that kind of advice but sadly there are many freelancers who don’t follow even those rules.  It’s similar with doing even basic marketing, if people aren’t willing to do that they can’t be surprised when they don’t magically get jobs.


Lorrie: Oh my word, yes.  I mean, I’ve been amazed recently, honestly I have, by just how many established freelancers seem to be just happy to completely bend the rules and hand work in late, and hand it in unfinished and just be like, “Yeah, I’ll get the rest to you ASAP.”


Philippa: It’s unbelievable.


Lorrie: Then you get people wanting to get into freelancing but worrying about taking the first teeny weeny little step.  Sometimes, honestly, I feel like shaking people and saying, “Look, these people can’t even get work in on time and they’re freelancers.  The only thing between you and being a freelancer is saying, ‘I’m a freelancer.’  So, what’s stopping you?”


Philippa: I’ve had more clients than I can remember who thanked me profusely for getting my work in on time and who tell me how rare that is.  Now, that should not be the case.  I do get my work in on time, it’s very important to me that I do.  It’s vital for me and it’s absolutely basic, it shouldn’t be a rarity.


Lorrie: No, no, it really, really shouldn’t.  It is something that I want to cover in my next solo episode.  Recent experience with both clients and other freelancers actually has shown me exactly the thing that we’re talking about now which is that many freelancers and many wannabe freelancers really are falling down on the most basic of things.  Sometimes it’s really frustrating because things like time management, admin, communication, all the stuff you need to be on top of when you don’t have support staff and managers, a boss breathing down your neck, an HR department, accounting department – there’s so much.


If you want to be self employed you really have to be self employed because you are the only thing keeping your business moving, keeping plates spinning.  If you stop, your business is going to come crashing down more quickly than you think.


Philippa: This is true.  While people may imagine that freelance writers spend the majority of their time reading poetry in a sunny park surrounded by admirers and having a muse to inspire writing perfection, the reality isn’t always quite so blissful.


Lorrie: No, it’s not exactly the life of lattes and velvet jackets I was hoping for, to be honest. Never mind!


Philippa: It is really hard work.  It involves stepping out of your comfort zone in many ways.  Like Lorrie said, the fact that you have to do every aspect of running your business means you have to suddenly become enough of an expert in a lot of areas.  It’s hard. You get dream commissions and you get awful commissions and, if you’re doing this to make a living, you can’t really pick and choose between them because the bills have to be paid.  Doing just the ones that boost your ego, or promote your profile, or are just simply on a subject you love, will limit your work and that will limit your income.  If you hate marketing, if you hate financial spreadsheets, if you hate admin then it’s kind of bad luck because you just have to do it.


Lorrie: Honestly, you really do touch on a point that I want to cover so much, but I have to be careful with myself not to be too cross about it because what you touch is basically what I call the X Factor attitude; it’s kind of like, “This wasn’t my dream.  I want to follow my dream, it’s my dream!”


You have people going on about the dream commission, the horrible stuff…The number of times I’ve seen freelancers or wannabe freelancers almost stamping their feet really at the idea of having to do work that doesn’t interest them in order to grow their business and pay the bills, it’s phenomenal.


I feel like saying, “Some of the subjects I write about – I don’t do it for fun, I do it because it’s my job.  It’s copywriting it’s not writing.”


Philippa: So true, being upset if some work isn’t deeply fulfilling is not going to get you very far.  Speaking of the X Factor, slightly off topic, something that particularly bugs me on this program is 15-year-olds going, “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”  I’m going, “You’re 15!”  Hahaha! But anyway, as you mentioned X Factor that’s always my particular annoyance.


Lorrie: Oh, dear.  But you know, to go back to it, really, genuinely, I see people almost throwing tantrums and it’s like, “Yes, but I don’t want to write about that.  I don’t get how to monetise this.  I don’t want to talk about that.  That doesn’t interest me.”  I feel like saying, “Sorry love, but it’s the nature of the beast because I would love to be paid a fortune for everything.”


I write a lot of short stories, if somebody was going to pay me as much for them as I get paid for copywriting I’d be in heaven.  But the fact is, that just isn’t the way life goes.  I take on commercially viable work so that I can spend some time building up my fiction.  That, like the rest of my work, the fiction it’s not just a case of sitting down and waiting to be discovered.  It’s loads of hard work, it’s loads of content production, reading, research, marketing, thinking about the long game and really being the driving force behind it.  I’m not sitting there having a sulk.


Philippa: This might sound a bit brutal but if you want to succeed as a freelancer but you’re not putting the work in, it’s not that you’re unlucky, it doesn’t work like that.  Unfortunately, unless you put the hours in, and that includes finding work as well as doing the work you get really well…


Lorrie: Even if you find it massively boring.


Philippa: Even that.  Plus also, putting the hours in liaising with clients and so on.  If you don’t do those things then work is unlikely to just land on your desk.  And, if work does land on the desk of a fellow freelancer who did all that stuff to generate it, that doesn’t make them luckier, it means they worked harder in this particular instance.


Lorrie: Definitely.  As we just mentioned before, there is no magic formula to it.  There’s no waving a wand and getting loads of work.  We’re not saying that if things are a bit tough that it’s all your fault, that’s definitely not the message we’re trying to send out here.  Some of it might be because of things you’re doing or not doing.  Some of it might be just the way life goes sometimes.  Freelancing is really tough and sometimes it can be really disheartening.  You will have down weeks, or down months.


You’ll try something like my proofreading thing and you’ll work really hard on it in good faith and sometimes it just doesn’t work.  You know, I talked to someone on Twitter recently and he’d done his best for a client and he found that they just weren’t happy with what he produced and what’s more they weren’t willing to take in all of the previous good work that he’d done into account and they just don’t want to hire him anymore.  It stings but it’s just the way it goes sometimes.


Philippa: Yeah, there are lots of factors that are beyond our control.  We can’t get every job that we pitch for, we can’t please every client no matter how hard we try.  I think the nature of freelancing is that there will be dry periods as much as there are periods when you’re overrun with work.  We’re not saying that if you’re having a dry period then you’re doing it all wrong, there’s way too much to take into account.


However, there are also things that it’s vital to be doing if you want to have a chance at getting some of this “luck” that people keep talking about!


Lorrie: Completely.   I mean, as Pip says, there’s no saying that if you’re going through a dry patch that you’re a complete failure and you’re never going to get it to work but if you are going through a dry patch, try and be honest with yourself.  There’s no better time than a dry patch to look at yourself and really give an honest assessment of what you might be doing or not doing that’s not helping you.


It goes for the work, it goes for marketing, it goes for self promotion.  Depending on the unique mix of clients, and projects, and sectors, and skills, and anything else that you’ve got on your plate, different things will have different effects. Sometimes you can be really, really salesy and that will bring you massive business and other times people just think you’re being obnoxious and they’ll bugger off.


That’s another reason that you have to stick at it and that you have to be consistent.  It’s like I mentioned in, I think Episode Nine, one of my first solo episodes, don’t just try one thing and then give it up.  Especially in the early stages, you need to find out what works and then get that down to a fine art.  Don’t just try one thing and then go, “Oh, this is too hard.”


Chinese Lucky Cats

Chinese Lucky Cats (Photo credit: manda678)

Philippa: I wrote a blog guest post for a copywriting website which I’ll link to from the show notes, and in that I said something like, “Marketing as a freelancer is like throwing 100 balls into the air and trying to guess which four will be caught.”


Lorrie: That’s a great analogy.


Philippa: Yes, especially when you’re starting.  It really does feel like that and even, I like to think the longer and the more I do it, I’m not going to get 50 of those balls caught, but I do like to hope that I’ll eventually have a clearer idea of which four they might be.  But there was a famous copywriter, I can’t remember his name, he said, “50% of my marketing budget works but I just don’t know which 50%.”


Lorrie: That’s very true.


Philippa: You really do have to try lots of things.  Even things like the time of year, you might get away with doing something cheesy at Christmas in terms of marketing, but try that in February and everybody will hate you.  It would be lovely if we could find the brilliant marketing that worked for our business and then do it forever and nothing else, but even that’s not that straightforward.  You can certainly build on it, but you can’t get complacent.


Lorrie: This is it and that is what frustrates me when people actively approach you and me and say, “Give me some tips.  I want to get into freelance writing.  I want to do copywriting.”  Then they really don’t believe you when you say all this and it’s like, “No, no, it can’t be that hard.”  Or they’ll be, “Yeah, but…  Yeah, but…” to everything you suggest and it’s like, “Honestly, take my word for it.  After 10 years if I didn’t have to do all this stuff I wouldn’t.”


Philippa: If they have a yeah but, then they have an objection but it’s then their responsibility to find something more suitable.  If they says, “Oh, I couldn’t do cold calling because…” and I know that’s not something that either of us do so I quite agree with them, but if they say, “I couldn’t do cold calling because I feel too self conscious,” for instance it’s not then anybody else’s responsibility but theirs to come up with an alternative.


Lorrie: Definitely.


Philippa: Like you said, when people are saying, “Yeah but…” to everything you suggest then it’s really frustrating.


Lorrie: Especially the easy stuff.  Obviously, if somebody approaches me and says, “You know what, I’m unemployed, I really want to get into being self employed rather than going back into salaried work,” or, “I’ve got a part-time job and it’s not really paying the bills I need to do something else.”  I’m not going to go in at level 10, I’m going to go with the basics and obviously, the basics are a little bit boring sometimes.  That’s the way it is, the leg work is always a bit dull – of course it is.  As it is with anything, the basic stage, the first day of the job, it’s your induction and it’s all dull, dull, dull but it’s necessary.  There’s always this, “Yeah but…yeah but…”, like I haven’t thought about it.  Honestly, I know!


Philippa: “But if I email companies they might not reply!”  Then I go, “They probably won’t so you have to do quite a lot of it.”


Lorrie: Yeah, with cold calling, I hate phone calls! I absolutely hate calling people but I had to get over that.


Philippa: We’ve talked about that, haven’t we, ourselves?  Not on the podcast, but it’s something that both of us don’t enjoy but we both see that it makes such a difference to a relationship with a client.


Lorrie: It really does.


Philippa: We do it, but it’s still something that neither of us really relishes.


Lorrie: No, I have no natural affinity to phone calls at all I’m far more of an email person.  I don’t know if that’s because I’m a writer or a translator.  Maybe I’ve just been indoors too long with too many books.


But, it’s just one of those things and it’s kind of like, “Why don’t you set up a Facebook page for the business?”  or, “Why don’t you set up a Twitter account?”  It’s like, “Oh, but I don’t know how.”  It’s like, YouTube…Google… “Google is your friend!”, it really is.  Honestly, I’d love to record that as a jingle, I may have to actually, and play it for people: “Google is your friend!”  It really is!


Just learn how to do things.  If such a teeny weeny hurdle is going to stop you from freelancing…oh it’s not very good is it really?


Philippa: The thing is, in any job, any salaried position, when you are the employer, when you’re the employee, any job has bits that you really like hopefully, but also bits that you really don’t like.  It’s not exclusive to freelancing that there are parts of your job that you don’t get up excited to do.


Lorrie: But I think people think that freelancing will be a job without those bits.


Philippa: I think you’re right, I think they do and yet it’s actually a job, the same as anything else.


Lorrie: There are more of those bits as we say because, you’re your accountant, you do your tax returns, you do your invoicing.


Philippa: You don’t have the marketing department other than that part of your own brain.  You can’t refer things on to the other person in the office who you know knows more about certain things than you because you’re everybody.


Lorrie: That’s it.  When we first started doing the solo episodes of these podcasts, I didn’t know how to use sound recording software.  I had to go on YouTube and find out.  I’m not a naturally technical person.  I don’t enjoy it at all.  I had to watch a YouTube video quite a few times.  I’m not going to say how many because it’s embarrassing!


Philippa: But no, what that proves is that there was something that you weren’t confident at and you did what you could in order to be able to use it.  That’s a good thing.


Lorrie: Yes, this is it.  I would have much rather gone and read something about translation theory, because that’s my comfort zone.  But, needs must – I needed to record a podcast so I went and then found out how to record a podcast.


Philippa: One thing that is a really positive takeaway from all of this is to remember that there are practical steps you can take which will increase your luck in inverted commas.  Market yourself well, do any commissioned work that you get to your very best ability, stick to the deadlines you agreed to, always keep trying.  Like Lorrie said, it won’t always work or what works for one job won’t work for another, but by doing as much as you can the best you can, and by assessing what’s working and doing more of that, you do increase your chances.


Lorrie: This is it.  Especially, what you just said about assessing what you do, take a moment to look back over what you do.  Don’t just go for a scatter gun approach to work.  Be consistent and measure the results. That way you’re not trying one thing that doesn’t work twice, you’re saving yourself work.


Philippa: Yeah.  If you send out a marketing email to 20 different companies and you send four on a Monday, four on a Tuesday, four on a Wednesday, four on a Thursday, and four on a Friday, see do you get a dramatically different response rate depending on the different day, the different time of day, the different type of email?  You need to pay attention to that kind of thing so you can boil it down and have better luck.


Lorrie: Well that’s if you want to do less work in the future, otherwise you can stay at the same level and as we said, the leg work is no fun.  Basically, there is no magic formula.  I keep trying to think when people ask me, is it just A + B= C.”  But, when we say to people that it really just is hard work, I’m not being an ass about it.  Honestly, I’m not saying it to be difficult.  I’m not trying to keep people out of freelancing, I’m telling the truth.


Philippa: Yes, keeping it for yourself!


Lorrie: That’s it, keeping it all under my cloak.  I’m not, honestly!  I love freelancing, but it is hard work.  I’ve done other jobs and I’ve been in salaried employment for a number of years, but freelancing is perhaps one of the hardest things that I’ve done for all of the reasons we’ve mentioned.  You do everything yourself, you don’t get to leave the job at the office, you don’t get maternity, you don’t get sick pay, you don’t get holidays so you really do have to make sure that it works for you.


To do that, I think you often need to come up with solutions that are a little bit more creative especially starting out, as many people are and as I was when I started, I was 18 with little or no money.  To torture a cliché, because I do like doing that, you definitely have to think outside the box.  If you can see any opportunity to legitimately get a new lead whether that’s approaching someone and giving them a business card, asking a friend to put in a word for you with someone they know, contacting all your ex-colleagues and asking for testimonials which is what I did when I started out, then do it.


It’s a full-time thing, at least at first.  If you find yourself groaning and sighing like, “Ohh,” and all of that, I really would suggest without being harsh just turn around, get yourself on the job sites and stick to salaried employment because that’s just the beginning of it all.


I do love what I do even though it really doesn’t sound like it!  I do.  That was the leg work and although there is still always work to be done on that kind of level, it does level out after a while.  You’re not always going to be having to start up, you’re only going to be a newbie for so long.


I wouldn’t swap freelancing for anything.  As we discussed before, I love being flexible, I love the sense of achievement I get from winning new clients and doing the work for them.  I love thinking, “Oh my God, I’m a grown up: I have my own business.”  When people go what do you do?  I go, “I’m self employed.”  It’s a lovely feeling.


Philippa: I think I would conclude by saying I do feel lucky to be doing the job I do.  It suits me so well and I really do enjoy it and in that respect I am lucky.  But that’s not the same as saying that any success I have is down to luck.  I mean, this morning I spent two hours – two hours! – finding businesses to approach and looking at all sorts of spurious information to try and make sure they’re the best targeted people.  Then, starting the admin of actually doing it, personalising approaches because you can’t just be sending off the same thing to everyone and so on….and if that results in work then it’s due to that effort, it’s not any kind of random luck.


Lorrie: Definitely.  All you can do really is get your processes right and then stick to them.  Find what works and stick to it.  Really, we’re just hoping this podcast has given you a bit of an insight into making self employment work for you because, it can.  I do believe that self employment can work for most people as long as they’ve got the basic talent to pursue the freelance work that they want to do.


Although, it might sound like we’re doling out some really nasty hard truths, and I really hope it doesn’t, the advice that we’ve given in this episode is in response to genuine queries that both Pip and I have received pretty recently.


Philippa: It’s true, it’s a fairly consistent discussion that I have with various people.  It’s, I guess, we perhaps have been a bit along the hard line today, but I think to be honest, we’re doing it a bit kind of tough love really because we do both genuinely like our jobs.  But we also get a bit defensive sometimes when people suggest that we have it really easy and we’re being carried around on gold trays by handsome men.  It’s a great job but if people go into it and don’t put the leg work in then –

Lorrie: It’s a nightmare job.


Philippa: It’s a nightmare job and they’re probably not going to do very well.  The title of this episode, the “aka.” after the episode, the harder you work the luckier you get, was a phrase I saw on Pinterest of all places, just after Lorrie and I had been discussing this general subject.  I think our general message is that there are elements of true luck that happen to everybody at some stage, both good and bad and then there’s a lot of heavy digging you have to do yourself.  It is true, the harder you work the luckier you get.  You can never account for all sorts of random extra factors but working harder generally makes you luckier in freelancing.


Lorrie: Definitely.  I mean, I’ve spent the last two weeks in bed with a hot water bottle and feeling really, really poorly.  Now, I don’t get sick pay.  If I hadn’t spent so much time communicating with my clients and really building up strong relationships, and planning my social media in advance so that at least one or two useful articles go out every day, the wheels might have fallen off this freelance car.  But, because I work hard and because I keep the plates spinning, it’s been okay.


I’ve had a quiet couple of weeks.  I’ve managed to get a little bit of work done, and it’s all good.  But freelancing can be really, really hard.  And as Pip’s basically summed it up, you have to work hard to get the luck.  I’m lucky that my clients understand that I was feeling poorly but, they understand that I was poorly because I communicated well with them and they know that I’m normally reliable and that I normally get the work to them.


Philippa: You’ve proven yourself many times.


Lorrie: That’s it.  If I hadn’t, or if I’d been a bit flaky in the past they would have been like, “Oh, enough is enough, this is the final straw.”  Really, you might be thinking that the advice is primarily aimed at newbies to freelancing or that Pip and I think of ourselves as the royalty of freelancing but that is really not the case!


Philippa: Not at all.


Lorrie: Maybe for me, but…you know. But, it never does hurt to reassess yourselves, even if you’ve been doing it for years.  We get it all the time.  I often find myself reading through the podcasts transcripts, or having a listen to them again and taking advice that Pip shares on board and I’d hope vice versa.


Philippa: Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.  We always seem to, when we finish recording, and then have a bit of a chat – a long chat! – we always, both of us say, “Oh that thing you said, I’m definitely going to try that.”  You can always get new ideas that can be helpful and just give you a fresh perspective.


Lorrie: True.  There are always ways to improve work, cut costs, and try something new.  If you think about it really, and don’t be defensive while you’re listening to this, even if you think, “Wait a minute, they might be talking about me.”  It’s in your interests to do it. Genuinely, even if you loath Pip and I now and think that we’ve been super harsh on everybody.  We’ve tried not to be, but even if you’re feeling a little bit like, “Hmm, I’m not sure I like that advice very much.”  Take it on board, have a think about it and honestly, honesty, honestly, I promise you it will make it more likely that you’ll succeed in freelancing.


Philippa: Yeah, definitely.  There is so much involved in freelancing and much of it is brilliant.  However, it’s not all brilliant because nothing is all brilliant.  I had a weird parallel at the beginning of last week when I was getting emails from Lorrie about how stressed she was because she was ill and it would mean she wouldn’t get as much work done as she normally would.


In parallel, I had a Facebook friend being joyous that she had a cold because she could have time off from her job.  It was a really weird parallel at the time because Lorrie getting ill was really stressful for her because of her business and yet some salaried people, not all, I know a lot of people in salaried jobs get stressed if they’re of sick because of the work they’ll miss and have to catch up and so on, but it was a quite interesting parallel at the time that the two were having simultaneous.


But it’s not easy, especially in circumstances like that.  But the really positive aspect about success being about more than luck is that it means that you can take positive steps yourself.  It means that it’s not in the laps of the Gods and there’s lots you can do to help yourself succeed.


So, that concludes Episode 12.  Thank you so much for listening.  I’ve been Philippa Willitts…


Lorrie: …and I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn.  Hopefully, we’ll catch you next time!

Podcast Episode 11: Overcoming Isolation as a Freelance Writer

In this week’s podcast, I talk about the problems that freelancers can face with isolation – working from home alone can lead to cabin fever, so I discuss plenty of tips for making sure you maintain social contact while still getting all your work done.

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Links Mentioned in This Episode

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Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Episode 11 of A Little Bird Told Me, the podcast about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful freelance writing. I’m Philippa Willitts and today I am doing another solo episode and I’m going to be talking about how to overcome isolation as a freelance writer, or freelance anything really.

Before I start, I want to remind you that if you go to ALittleBirdToldMe.Podomatic.com you can subscribe to the podcast in a number of ingenious ways such as RSS, iTunes, Stitcher and you can also find links to our Facebook page. As well, you can find links to my various websites and social media presences. So please, head over to ALittleBirdToldMe.Podomatic.com and sign up and get in touch.

Working at home

Working at home (Photo credit: gibsonsgolfer)

Like I mentioned, I’m going to be talking about overcoming isolation. Working from home is brilliant in many ways. There’s no need to set out early in the morning on a freezing winter day in the rain to catch a crowded bus to work. You don’t have a dress code, you can basically just stumble downstairs in the morning and you’re already at your desk. If you want to take an early lunch you can do it. If you want to start late and finish late you can do it. If you want to work Sundays instead of Wednesdays, one of my own favourite things, you can do that too.

There’s no office politics, no one eavesdrops on your phone calls and let’s face it, there’s no heart sinking moments when that unbearable colleague walks through the door. However, that being said, working from home isn’t without its problems. You don’t have annoying colleagues in the room but, you also don’t have supportive ones either. You don’t have to trudge to the office in the morning but, you also risk not leaving the house at all. When your home is also your workplace, isolation is a big risk factor that many freelancers face.

So, what steps can you take to overcome isolation? My first suggestion is lunch dates. You need to eat lunch in order to fuel your brain for the afternoon ahead so why not once a week arrange a lunch date with a friend, or a former colleague, because when you work at home it’s really easy to get into the habit of grabbing a sandwich and eating it at your desk because taking half an hour or an hour can feel a bit pointless.

However, if you take an hour or two to go out and socialize over lunch it can do you a world of good. You get to see your friends. They’re probably in a similar situation even if they don’t work at home, at their desk they may be tempted to just grab a sandwich and work through so it’s good for both of you and you get to see your friends.

On a similar note scheduling social time specifically is a really good idea because it’s easy to promise yourself that you’ll take an afternoon off but then some work will come in or it’s raining, or you just don’t feel like it so your planned walk in the park, or trip to the shops starts to look quite a lot less appealing. But, if you’ve scheduled the time in your diary and preferably arranged to meet other people during that time it’s a bit harder to cancel so you’re more likely to go out and rediscover what having human company is like.

You don’t need to feel guilty about taking time away from work because chances are if you have a change of scene and some good conversations with someone you care about you’re going to come back refreshed, full of ideas, you might have seen something that sparked your creativity. So it’s not a negative anti-work move, it’s actually good for you socially and for your work.

The next tip is don’t always email. When you need some information from somebody the easiest thing is to just drop them an email. It’s what we do all the time, “Hi, do you have that document?” “What time do you want to meet on Friday?” It’s quick and easy to just send them an email. However, breaking that habit and making a phone call instead, just perhaps once a day, it can be a great way to break through the monotony and have a conversation once in a while.

Why not ring and say, “What time do you want to meet on Friday?” You’ll hear a human voice, you might have a chat, and it’s all good; do it. We kind of forget that before 15 years ago that is what we did, we rang people or heaven forbid saw them. You don’t want to make a phone call for every single email you have to send, but once or twice a day why not pick up the phone.

If you find that you’re getting cabin fever and you’re sick of the sight of the same four walls, work somewhere different for a while. Go out to a coffee shop, go to the library and do some work there. You might find that you’re more focused but also, just having people milling around and being in different surroundings can do wonders for your state of mind and for the work you do.

You might cringe a bit at the thought of those guys in Starbucks with their Macs but they do it for a reason. It’s quite nice to have someone bring you coffee and to be in a bustling environment once in a while rather than the solitude of your home office. The library similar, especially if you’re a writer, they’re full of books and information what more could you need.

They may not have Wi-Fi but if they don’t, you’ll probably get even more work done. There are books everywhere, it’s writer heaven and they’re all free which is even better. I generally tend to be too self conscious to set up in Starbucks to work but, setting up in the library is brilliant.

Collaborate [11/52]

Collaborate [11/52] (Photo credit: Brenderous)

My next suggestion is something that Lorrie’s talked about before which is collaboration. It can be a good idea to collaborate with fellow freelancers to offer a more complete service. So freelance designers for instance, because web designers are often times asked to recommend copywriters. Copywriters are sometimes asked to recommend web designers. There are also times when working together on a bigger project can be really valuable.

If you make connections with other freelancers, perhaps local to you, although with the Internet they don’t have to be local to you, they can be anywhere in the world. But, if you collaborate with them and make some really good connections you both benefit and it’s great for business to have those kinds of collaborative relationships. But collaborating with other professionals can break down isolation problems as well.

Now, the next suggestion is one that seems to divide people. Some people love the idea, others hate it and this is co-working spaces. These are where people who work from home can get together and all work together in the same room. They are events that might take place weekly or monthly, they can be in a variety of places but what they’ve all got in common is people who normally work alone can all work together.

Now I attend a co-working space in the city I live in. It’s weekly but I can’t always attend that often. However, when I do go I thoroughly enjoy it. Some weeks it’s quite chatty, other weeks everybody has strictly got their head down and getting on with lots of work. Either way being in the company of other people is great. It’s a whole different situation and I’m quite often very focused when I’m there and I get a lot done.

Some people’s criticism of it is that I think they worry that it might be really chatty and it’s more of a social event than a working event. But, the ones I’ve attended even where some people are chatting, others have headphones on and are working away so even if some people are chatting it doesn’t mean everybody is you can get a lot of work done and you can just get the benefit of being somewhere with other people.

Another feature of co-working spaces is they can offer the beginnings of a collaborative relationship. Some of the coders that attend the one I go to collaborate on work and I am now looking at working with the venue to provide some workshops soon. Now, that was a really unexpected lovely benefit of attending these events. I’ve met some really nice people.

The one I go to is called Jelly. There are Jellys all over the country, all over the world I think but there are other types of co-working events. Google your area and co-working and see if anything comes up and you can try it. I was really nervous the first time, I didn’t know what to expect but it’s been great.

Something to bear in mind when thinking about isolation is accountability. That’s a bit of a sideways reference I suppose but, it’s definitely related to isolation because being entirely isolated can make it hard to keep yourself accountable and make it hard to achieve everything you’re trying to achieve. Keeping yourself accountable does very often involve somebody else. Lorrie and I have mentioned before that we have what we call accountability days once or twice a week or a fortnight.

We basically email each other either every hour or every half hour with what we’ve achieved and what we are doing next. It’s a really effective way of keeping us focused. Some people go quite a lot further. A guy called Maneeshi Sethi writes a blog called Hack the System and recently he wrote a post about how he hired someone to slap him in the face. Honestly he did! What happened was he put an ad on Craigslist looking for somebody who he would pay to sit next to him, they could do their own thing, as long as they kept an eye on whether or not he was working.

What led up to this was that he had used some software to see how much time he was wasting and he was really horrified by his results. I suspect a lot of us would be. So for some reason what came to his mind was paying somebody to slap him and he did it. His productivity increased from an average of 35% to 40% up to 98% on the day that the slappy person, I’m loathed to say slapper was by his side. It’s a fairly extreme example but what it does go to show is it’s harder to waste time when somebody else is keeping an eye on your progress.

Now rather than hiring somebody to sit next to you and carry out acts of violence, why not get together with somebody periodically. You could sit next to each other and encourage each other to keep focused. It can work wonders for your productivity and help to beat feelings of isolation as well.

Networking is an important factor in being a freelancer, being self employed. But, it doesn’t just have to be a business benefit, it can be a really good opportunity to socialize as well including meeting possibly other self employed people who will be in a similar situation to you. I attend networking events, I’m not brilliant at them I have to admit, I’m forever striving to improve how I do them. But, they’re a great way of meeting lots of people who quite often have something in common through your work.

They can have many kinds of benefits and bonuses from a business point of view. You can make contacts, you might get some work as a result if you meet someone who needs just what you’re offering. You’ll probably swap lots of business cards but also it means you spend two hours talking to people, making conversation, chatting. It’s not just good for business it’s good for freelancers to make sure they get out and meet new people.

The next point is easier said than done but it’s keep the work coming in. Basically the more work you’ve got the less time you’ll have to feel lonely. Having a good structure to your day can also really help to keep your mind on work rather than thinking about how much you want to chat with someone.
I’m one of these people who functions very well on her own but there are points where I realize I haven’t had human contact for way too long and that’s not healthy. But sometimes if I’ve just not got enough work I kind of mistake that for feeling feed up personally. I’m not, it’s just that I don’t have enough to do so, if you keep a steady about of work coming in this is obviously easier said than done for a freelancer, but if you can do your best to do that it will help with pangs, I think.

Now, social media it’s not the same as meeting up with people face-to-face but getting yourself on Twitter or Facebook, wherever your friends are basically, can be a really positive way of interacting with people when you’re home alone. Mutual support, interesting links to click, and just silly things to make you laugh. They can all make a positive difference.

Similarly online forums for freelancers or local business forums can provide advice and support that can be really beneficial. Even start a podcast, the conversations that Lorrie and I have around our podcasts, not to mention once the recording is finished on Skype, are really good for mutual support and plenty of gossip. Lots of people, not just freelancers, who can’t get out and about rely on social media for social contact.

I know lots of disabled people who can’t get out and Twitter for them is a life line. Even if you’re in a different situation and it’s just work that you do on your own, having somewhere, be it a supportive forum, or friends on Twitter or Facebook, or wherever it is that works for you where you can go and let off steam or get some advice is really valuable so don’t write it off just because it’s not face-to-face contact.

The final tip is join, join, join. Join groups, join classes, join societies. These can be work related or they can be entirely unconnected with your work. Do you want to learn about bird watching? Do you want to improve your dancing? Do you want to improve your professional development? Go for it. Do it. There will be something that you can join that will force you to meet other people, probably once a week, and having that as a regular event in your diary will be brilliant.

You’re learning new skills, be they work ones or personal and you’re forcing yourself into a new situation with new people. There are things like Geek Up which is where web developers can get together and just socialize because a lot of web developers are freelance and work on their own. I know various people who attend Geek Up and really get a lot out of it.

There are that kind of group for all sorts of professions and all sorts of interests, and skills, and situations. Check out your local college, look for adult education centres, and look for societies and groups. Lots of towns and cities have one of those cafes where there’s a notice board with notices about all sorts of things. I can think of the exact one in my city. Go and have a look at the notice board and see if anything takes your fancy. Then, sign up and do it. Don’t think about it endlessly, just do it.

I hope some of those will give you some good ideas about how to combat any isolation you might be feeling if you work at home on your own. Freelancing is brilliant. I love the flexibility, I love working from home but, sometimes you really do need human contact with somebody else. When you’re self employed you have to make more of an effort with that than most people do. Plan things, don’t be vague, plan it specifically and mnemonically to do it.

Thank you very much for listening. Don’t forget to go to ALittleBirdToldMe.Podomatic.com and subscribe. You can also leave us reviews on iTunes, comments on Stitcher, or on our Facebook page too. We’d love to hear what you think. Also, go to the Podomatic page to check out the show notes where I will link to places I’ve mentioned on this podcast and you can also find how to contact me.

I’ve been Philippa Willitts and I will see you next time!

Podcast Episode 10: Harnessing the Power of We for Freelancing Success #bad12 #powerofwe

We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.

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In honour of Blog Action Day 2012, Lorrie and I have created a podcast episode on their theme of The Power of We, and how it can help freelance writers. Have a listen and let us know what you think!

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Transcript

Philippa: Hello and welcome to Episode 10 of A Little Bird Told Me – we’ve reached double figures – hurrah!

Lorrie: Woohoo!

Philippa: This is the podcast where two freelance writers chart the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment. You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and, from there, you can find out all the details about the podcast, including how to subscribe via RSS, with iTunes or with Stitcher Smart Radio. You can also find a link to our Facebook page, where you can like us – and if you do any of those things, subscribe or like us on Facebook, you’ll be the first to know when we’ve got a new episode out, so you won’t miss a thing. I’m Philippa Willitts…

Lorrie: …and I’m Lorrie Hartshorn, and today, we’re podcasting in support of a really great cause – Blog Action Day. Since 2007, Blog Action Day has been uniting bloggers, vloggers and anyone, really, with an online presence, and encouraging people all over the Internet to blog about one important global topic all on the same day.

Now, this year’s subject is ‘The Power of We’, and although it’s a bit of a cheesy title, it’s a great one because there’s so much to say. Pip and I wanted to get together – which is very apt for the Power of We! – and record a podcast that reflects our thoughts and feelings on the topic.

Philippa: We have talked before about the fact that both of us really benefit from working together on the podcast, and also from the mutual support we give each other on a day-to-day basis, really, whether that’s when we have accountability days with each other, which we mentioned in Episode eight, I think, we also check things out that we’re unsure of, or just offer each other an opportunity to offload!

Lorrie: And my God, don’t we take advantage of it?

Philippa: We certainly do!

Lorrie: Whether it’s email or Twitter, there’s usually a message from Pip somewhere around and I know I return the favour, so it’s all good! But, our podcast, really, is just a collaboration in what can otherwise be quite an isolating job. We tend to think of it as keeping your competitors close but your colleagues even closer, as it were. There are a lot of freelancers and sole traders out there who seem to operate under a big dark cloud of constant suspicion and they’re pretty cagey when it comes to talking to other freelancers. But, while there’s some wisdom in keeping clients and your business techniques under your hat sometimes, it’s really exhausting to have to be on your guard 24/7.

Philippa: It really is. And the fact is, if you are helpful to people, others have a tendency to be helpful to you back.

Lorrie: It’s true. It can be counterintuitive first because someone has to take the first step and be helpful first, and not everyone’s going to reciprocate. But, at the end of the day, as a freelancer or sole trader, you can’t win and do all the work in the world. It’s not possible. I think we’ve gained much more from collaborating than we ever could have from regarding one another with squinty eyes across a room – or across a social media platform, in this case!

Philippa: It’s so true! I quite often get emails from people saying they want to be a freelance writer and asking for advice, and I do try to be as helpful as I can, because I did the same to a few people when I was starting out and they were kind enough to offer me some really useful help and advice, so I feel it’s important to pass that on too.

Lorrie: Yeah, I have a bit of a different experience with that. When I was setting up – I started freelancing when I was at University and it was on a part-time basis – I felt that I couldn’t approach anyone for help because I’d be begging information from people. I realise now, 10 years on, that that’s not the case.

It can be easy to be a bit stand-offish with other freelancers – and wannabe freelancers, in this case – because building up a successful freelance career really can be hard and you get visions of them swooping in, becoming this copywriting wizard that you can never be and stealing all your clients – but, really, it’s a good idea to help one another out. While you do have to be careful, there’s plenty of advice you can share that will help someone else build up their business without having a single detrimental effect on your own.

Philippa: Definitely. And this is just one way in which “the power of we” really does benefit freelancers. A sense of solidarity and mutual help and support empowers individuals to access information and make connections with others. But there are wider benefits from harnessing “the power of we” too, for freelance writers.

Lorrie: Yeah, I mean, if you consider the success of some of the best businesses out there, it’s never really the result of one person working alone – it might be when they’re setting up, but sooner or later, it’s not just one person anymore. I’ve rarely met anyone who has all of the skills necessary to deliver a range of services without any assistance, or advice or input from someone else.

You and I, Pip, for example, have different strengths and skills – we’ve got quite a different skill set even though we’re both copywriters and editors, we sort of lean in different directions. While it’d be easy to become envious of one another if we were that way inclined – I could think, “Oh, well Pip’s got a more innate understanding of social media than I do!” and you could think, “Oh, well Lorrie understands narrative technique better than I do!” But, the fact that we’ve got an open and honest dialogue with one another means that we’ve both actually got twice as much information at our fingertips, which is never a bad thing for business.

Philippa: Exactly! In episode four, I think it was, we talked about whether or not freelancer writers and editors should ever work for free. We both felt really strongly that, except for the odd incidents or doing voluntary work deliberately for a non-profit, writers and editors should always insist on being paid for their work. Because working for free, or for a very low fee, it devalues your skills and abilities, but also devalues the skills of other freelance writers who are trying to make a living.

Lorrie: Yeah, in the weeks that followed that episode, we had so many discussions across social media with other freelancers – not necessarily just writers and editors. There was that cake-baker wasn’t there? Tsk, I say “cake baker” – I’m obviously not an expert! “Confectioner” would be the word – I’m quite ashamed now, as a wordsmith, that I came out with “cake baker”!

Philippa: Well, she does bake cakes! Sometimes it’s just good to say it as it is!

Lorrie: Haha, thank you! You know, everyone I spoke to – both on and offline (as you can well imagine, I took this topic to the end of its possibilities!) – was outraged by the idea that there are people out there who have the cheek to ask writers and editors to work for free. But, this isn’t a rare thing – that was the most shocking thing of all – that it’s a very, very enduring belief that working for free is both necessary and desirable.

Philippa: Yeah, I think if you’re not aware of certain freelancing websites or that kind of culture that’s grown online, then it is really shocking to hear that people are expected to write 1,000 words for $5. Offline companies wouldn’t dream – if they’re not very savvy online – of hiring a writer for that amount of money and, yet, online, it’s become a cultural norm, really.

Lorrie: Definitely – I had a meeting with a new client the other day and I mentioned it to her; she was appalled! She was so, so shocked, and she was actually wanting to pay me for the meeting I was having with her because some people just don’t have that mentality. Unfortunately, though it’s just something that’s come to the fore at the moment.

When it comes to the Power of We, Pip and I really wanted to talk about the fact that there’s strength in numbers: the idea that by sticking together and adhering to a list of standards, freelance writers, editors, what have you – can help to alter the state of the market.

Philippa: Yes, because it can be so difficult when you are on your own, to stand up for your right to be paid a decent wage for the work you do.

Lorrie: Definitely.

Philippa: Yeah, some clients put the pressure on to accept lower fees – I’ve had emails saying, “Well, this person will do it for $5, why won’t you?”, but strength in numbers is a really powerful thing. And without wanting to come across all lefty, it’s also why Unions exist for people with regular jobs! It’s not something unique to freelancers.

Lorrie: Definitely. And I think a lot of clients don’t really understand what goes into the process of, say, translation or copywriting or editing. They see someone doing, as you’ve just said, “the same thing” – which, of course, never really is the same thing (it’s just a hash-job version of what you do) – and they want to know why you can’t price match. It’s a real shame.

Recently, I joined a really good business forum online and, although it’s got some really great information and topics on there, I was so, so disappointed to note that one of the threads recently was someone who was a self-identified copywriter offering articles in return for backlinks

Philippa: Uuuuugh!

Lorrie: I know! I really wanted to just say to him, please listen to our podcasts!

Philippa: Oh that’s so depressing! Yes, he clearly needs to tune in!

Lorrie: It’s true – it is depressing! And it was clear to me, as a copywriter, from his description of himself that he’s not a professional copywriter – he referred to “doing a bit of content writing in between other projects” and stated that he normally charges between about 0.9 and 1.2p per word.

Philippa: Ugh, alarm bells!

Lorrie: Yeah, and yet, there he was, getting so many positive responses – this was a massive thread. Everyone was like, “Oh, yes, me, me, me – I want free articles!” And if you’re a full-time writer, you can’t compete on those terms and still pay the bills. And as I mentioned in Episode 9, you need to compete on quality instead, otherwise you’re on to a loser.

Philippa: A particularly depressing thing about this is that a lot of people who want some website content or whatever just won’t know the difference between hiring someone who “does a bit of content writing between other projects”…

Lorrie: Uuuugh!

Philippa:…and hiring someone who really knows what they are doing. This is why they then think start to that writers asking for decent pay are being greedy!

Lorrie: That’s it – and they lose sight of the fact that this is a person who’s trying to pay their bills. All they see is, “Why is that person asking so much money when Person X wants to do it for free.”

Philippa: I should say at this stage that neither Lorrie nor myself charges extortionate fees!

Lorrie: I think people – clients – lose sight of the fact that everyone deserves to be paid for what they’re doing. They’ll see one person saying they can do 50 articles for two dollars, and then you don’t want to do the same thing and they don’t stop and think, “Would I want to do hours and hours of work for about £1.50 an hour?” – no, they wouldn’t – of course not – but they lose sight of that and they just want you to price match.

You just can’t argue with people like that on the face of things. People who hire freelancers for nothing, and there are so many of them out there, or for less than a penny a word will soon find out – well, this is my hope, anyway! This is the plan I’m sticking to! – they’re going to find out that they’re not getting the results they’re after, they’ll have sales letters that don’t work and email campaigns that no one will open. And this is when you step in as someone to whom copywriting isn’t just a time-filler – it’s not something you do “between other projects”, it’s something you’ve trained long and hard to be able to do properly.

Philippa: I think often you can only prove your worth by producing great quality copy. Reassure them you’re worth it, and then prove that you’re worth it!

Lorrie: There’s no nicer feeling, really, than getting a first communication back from a new client when you’ve sent them a piece of work and finding out that they’re really happy with what you’ve produced for them. I had it recently – I wrote some sales copy for a brand new client and got some really positive feedback. And it never gets old, and that’s because I researched my topic and I sat down and spent a concentrated amount of time getting the content just right.

Philippa: It always scares me – opening the first email after I’ve submitted something, especially to someone new but it feels amazing when they open it and they’re really pleased!

Lorrie: Haha, definitely! The fear is always there – and I think it should be, because it drives you to do well.

Philippa: You don’t want to get complacent.

Lorrie: But, as we’ve mentioned previously in a couple of episodes, it can be so hard not to drop your standards and say, “Yeah, alright then, I’ll do you one piece of work for free,” or “OK, then, I’ll do you a special discount.” When, you know, why? That person doesn’t deserve a discount just for giving you business – they’re hiring you, they’re getting something in return! But, as we say, it can be so hard not to do that when you see other people doing it

It’s easy to lose sight of what’s reasonable and what’s not when you’re spending hours every day on these freelancing sites and business forums and you can see people offering what they’re calling ‘the same’ work as you for peanuts. Which brings me on, actually…

Philippa: Haha, that was a beautiful link!

Lorrie: Haha, I know! I was quite pleased with that, actually – it was like, “Ooh, actually, next bullet point!”

Philippa: It was flawless!

Lorrie: Thank you – I genuinely am! But there’s a movement I’m a bit of a fan of, actually – Pip and I discussed it the other day – called, “No Peanuts for Translators”. It’s quite an informal movement – the website’s a bit chaotic – rather than anything big or official, but it’s quite a heartening thing to have found.

Philippa: Yes, I had a look at their site after you told me about it and it’s certainly based on a really great philosophy. For listeners, we will link to the site in the show notes if you want to have a look at it.

Lorrie: Yeah, do go along. It is just for translators, but Philippa and I are working on something for copywriters and editors – and other freelancers, actually – something a little more generalised, and with our own take on things, rather than just a carbon copy. But yes, for translators and interpreters, it’s great.

Really, what we were impressed by was that the mission statement, if you like, empowers translators and interpreters to resist lowering their rates, to communicate their standards to existing clients and to explain to potential new clients – and colleagues (which I’ll come back to) – why they’re not prepared to work for unreasonably low rates. The aim, as outlined in the site’s mission statement, is to create sort of a provider-led market rather than a market in which clients can drive down prices again and again until they’re at a tiny, weeny level.

Philippa: That’s so important. There are problems with a lot of the freelancing websites on the internet for this very reason, but there is one that I write for quite regularly – and I think Lorrie has as well – called Constant Content.

And while it’s not perfect, because you’re doing on-spec work rather than commissioned work, what’s good about Constant Content is that they have a minimum amount that you’re allowed to charge. And it’s quite a low amount, their minimum, but the principle is good – they encourage you to ask a decent amount for your work – and that’s really important, and sadly unusual.

Lorrie: Definitely – I know you’ve just said it’s quite a low rate…

Philippa: I think it’s seven dollars…

Lorrie: Yes, it’s seven dollars an article and, yes, that’s low but, compared to what some people charge for an article, it’s bloody not!

Philippa: Plus, they are perfectly happy for you to charge $100-200, or whatever you deserve. And what’s lovely is that, when you get an email that your article’s been sold, you know you’ve got $100-150 on the way. Which is great!

Lorrie: This is it – they’ve got a list of average prices. I think, for the full rights to one of the longer articles, it’s $120.

Philippa: Yes, and articles do sell at that price – I’ve sold articles at that price.

Lorrie: Ugh, I haven’t yet, but I’m quite new to the website.

Philippa: Yeah, it’s great but it does frustrate me sometimes because you can do quite a lot of work for seemingly no benefit but, once it’s up there, you don’t have to do anything. Someone can buy it and you get a lovely surprise. And what’s good about them having a minimum price is that it protects writers from themselves, really.

Lorrie: Yes – it’s true. The problem in a lot of cases, though, is that it’s not just clients who are driving down prices, as we see from the copywriting example above – and I hate to call him a copywriter because he’s not – is that freelancers are often complicit in bringing down market conditions.

Philippa: I agree, but I think the nature of the market encourages that.

Lorrie: Yeah, unfortunately. But No Peanuts also discourages sourcing work in ‘translation mills’, as I call them, such as ProZ, GoTranslators etc., and for agencies, actually. It’s become quite the thing for anyone and his dog to set up a ‘translation agency’, which a lot of the time, it’s just someone with a front-end website and a database of translators that they’ll regularly try and exploit. And I’m not saying the same thing about all agencies but, for new translators and new graduates, it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other and find a reputable agency rather than one that will rip you off.

It’s the same for copywriters, editors and for other freelancers as well, actually, you’ve got sites like freelancer.com and elance.com. Prices are driven down and down, to the point where it’s often impossible to get work that will pay the bills.

Philippa: it’s true.

Lorrie: So yeah, the No Peanuts scheme is a bit chaotic, and it’s lost its way a little bit, I think, but the fact is that there’s strength and identity in numbers than if you’re on your own. Even though the No Peanuts scheme is now just floating in the water, it gives freelance translators and interpreters a more legitimate way of refusing to lower their rates – you can have a badge for your website, you’ve got a mission statement you can adhere to. It just takes the pressure off a little bit; you can refer people to the site and say, “No, I’m sorry, I’m part of the No Peanuts movement and I can’t lower my rates any further than that.”

Philippa: Yeah, because if enough writers and other freelancers refuse to write for pennies, then clients will just have to up their game. What I would love – ideally – is that every writer in the world would stop writing for rubbish pay

Lorrie: Yes please!

Philippa: Yes indeed! People would have no choice but to pay people what they are worth. But even if completely eradicating low pay in that way is an unrealistic dream, then just knowing that there are people who will back you up and will reinforce your worth is important.

Facilitation Working Group

Facilitation Working Group (Photo credit: suenosdeuomi)

Freelancing work is often done alone, by its nature, really, but when we can make connections with others, be it in real life or online, we can strengthen each other’s resolve.

Lorrie: Definitely. I’ve had as much strength from my clients as I have from other freelancers, actually. Having a client sit there in front of you and say, “Do you know what, that’s disgusting – I’m prepared to pay you what you’re asking; I think you deserve to be paid for your work.” can be such a boost. You might not even realise you’re in need of that boost to your self-esteem and confidence but you are, because as we say, freelancing can be really isolating.

I mean, for example – for a couple of days ago, or maybe weeks, now, I was blind copied into an email from a fellow translator recently, and I get the impression that she was basically just using me as a way of whistling in the dark and boosting her own confidence (which is 100% fine with me!).

The email was to a translation agency that had offered her some work that was way, way below her very reasonable minimum rate (that’s how you charge for translation – it’s per source word, so per word in the text you’re going to be translating).

From her email, it was clear that she’d already explained to them on several occasions what her rates were but nonetheless, they were still asking her to drop her rates to 0.2p per word…

Philippa: Ouch!

Lorrie… for medical note translation! So that’s likely to be hand-written stuff, medical terminology…

Philippa: Very specialised.

Lorrie: Exactly, you don’t just pick that up while you’re sitting in the bath – you have to sit down and have a good read about these sorts of things. So anyway, in her email, she reiterated her minimum rates in the email, she highlighted the fact that she’d asked them previously to stop emailing her and offering her unreasonable rates. She signed it off professionally – she wasn’t rude – but it was 100% clear what her standards were – basically, the agency ‘got told’. I just wish more freelancers, myself included, had the courage to send emails like that rather than just brushing it off!

Lorrie: Yes, it gives you a massive boost to your confidence. As we’ve said before, it’s sometimes really hard to be as assertive with clients as you sometimes have to be, simply because you are your business. You feel like you’re going to be judged or attacked because you’re just one person who’s saying, “No, I think I’m worth more than that.” It’s one of those times when a bit of distance and objectivity really helps – you think of yourself not as Lorrie or Philippa, but as ‘my business’.Philippa: Yes, I mean, harnessing the Power of We does mean we have people we can check things out with. I know that both Lorrie and I have, on more than one occasion, emailed each other and said, “I’ve just got an email from someone who wants me to do x, y or z. Am I being really unreasonable to think that’s not OK?”. And by doing this, we can talk out what is happening, really, and if we come out of the conversation saying yes, they are being unreasonable, it feels much easier to refuse the request because we know it’s not just us!

Philippa: We are going to be talking more, in an upcoming episode, about dealing with isolation as a freelance writer, and sticking up for ourselves in this way is yet another reason why combatting any isolation we may feel is a good idea.

Lorrie: We’ll also be looking at how to be assertive without being unprofessional, and I reckon the topics will be more closely linked than you might think at first!

Philippa: Yeah, yeah. Something I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, just because somebody accepts low pay does not mean they are a bad writer.

Lorrie: No, that’s true.

Philippa: It could be that they live in a country where the cost of living is very low, so they can afford to ask for those fees and don’t suffer as a result. Or it could be that they really need to be charging more but simply don’t know how to break out of the elance / guru.com type trap. Some badly paid writers are great, some are awful – but that can be the case with well-paid ones too! What I want is for all writers to feel empowered to ask for the wages they deserve.

Lorrie: Exactly – and that’s not an unreasonable thing to want, I don’t think. After all, we have a minimum wage when it comes to salaried employment. We’ve all got bills to pay and it’s only fair to earn something that’s at least somewhat in line with living costs where you’re based.

As I mentioned earlier when I was talking about the No Peanuts movement, I think the key thing is for freelancers to harness the Power of We to try and alter the way the market works. And if one person stands there and shouts about the low wages they’re offered a lot of the time, it’s true that they’re likely to be priced out of freelance work. People will at them and think he’s more expensive than Copywriter X, best not go with him. If, however, we take a leaf from No Peanuts’ book and understand that, without the Power of We, we’re all going to end up working for peanuts, I think we’ll be on track for a much fairer deal.

Philippa: Absolutely, absolutely. This is such a big issue in freelancing, and it’s not one that’s going to be solved quickly. But in order to try and solve it, we really do have to join together and support each other – as friends, colleagues, fellow freelancers. Trying to price other people out of the market does no one any favours, including ourselves because we might go, “Wahey, I got the job in the end!” but you’re not even making the minimum wage as a result. And this is why we really wanted to talk about this again, but specifically in the context of Blog Action Day and the Power of We.

Lorrie: Definitely – if you start pricing other people out of the market, as Pip says, you’re pricing yourself out of the market. It’s going to be costing you money to allow clients to lower the market rates – you’re paying for your own demise, really.

Just with a bit of collaboration, just by saying to clients, “I really appreciate you paying me a fair wage” and by saying to other people, “It’s fine for you to ask for money for that.” Or, BCCing someone into an email where you tell a potential client that what they’re offering is unreasonably low and that you’re not interested in working for peanuts. All those things added together can really help to shift the market.

Philippa: Definitely. So, on this Blog Action Day, do visit the link to Blog Action Day, which will be in the show-notes, and have a look at the other blogs and vlogs and podcasts that have been submitted – I think it really has the potential to be a really interesting selection of writing. We’re really glad to have been a part of it, and we’d love you – especially if you just found us through Blog Action Day – to go across to our website (alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com) and keep in touch with us there. You can also find links there to Lorrie’s website and social media feeds, and my websites and social media feeds, so say hello – we’d love to hear from you!

Lorrie: Yeah, absolutely. Do come and say hello and remember, while you’re listening to this podcast, we’re doing what it says on the tin – it’s the Power of We. You’re sitting there, somewhere else in the world…or standing there…or doing goodness knows what, we don’t want to know!

Philippa: Hahaha!

Lorrie: And you’re listening to two other freelancers, and you’re getting ideas and support from other people; that’s why we do this podcast. It’s all about linking up with other people in the network and we’re so grateful to each and every person who has a listen. We’ve had some really good news – we’ve reached number three in the Podomatic careers chart…

Philippa: Yay!

Lorrie: Yay! This is episode 10 – we’re really happy to have reached that milestone – and we hope to carry on for as long as you want to listen really. So, as ever, huge thanks for listening! I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn…

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

Podcast Episode 8: Essential Software and Online Apps for Freelance Writers

Episode 8 of the podcast is ready for your listening pleasure! In it, I talk with Lorrie about some pieces of software, apps or websites which really help us in the day to day running of our freelance writing businesses.

We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.

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Software and Links We Discuss

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Transcript

Philippa: Hello and welcome to Episode 8 of A Little Bird Told Me – the podcast where two freelance writers chart the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment. You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and, on that page, you can find out how to subscribe to make sure you never miss an episode. You can subscribe by RSS, with iTunes or with Stitcher Smart Radio, and you can also find a link to our Facebook page.

I’m Philippa Willitts…

Lorrie: And I’m Lorrie Hartshorn. And today we are going to be talking about Software and Online Applications that can be useful for Freelance Writers. Now, there are some brilliant applications out there that can really help you improve your productivity and, in some cases, we’ve included some that will actually broaden your service offerings by, for example, enabling you to send email marketing campaigns out.

Philippa: In the course of working as a freelance writer, there are lots of tools available, both online and as software downloads, that can really make life easier. A lot of them are even free or very low cost, so Lorrie and I decided that we wanted to share some of our favourites today.

Lorrie: Definitely. As a freelance writer sometimes, you can feel that all you need is your dictionary and your Word file and that’s it – you want to be a writer, pure. There’s this impression that any apps are really going to make life more difficult because, of course, you have to learn how to use things at first. And it’s true: if you don’t choose the right apps, they can just add to your workload as you work your way round the internet and round your desktop trying to remember to use them all – that’s how you know you’ve chosen the wrong ones! But, if you choose some that are simple to use and straightforward, and they’ve got a lot of fans, you can get some really great results and you’re on to a winner.

Philippa: Yes, definitely. I’ve downloaded apps and software before because they have been recommended and they took much more time to take care of the app than the work itself does in the first place! The trick, really, is to find the ones that suit your working style and also match up with the tasks you need to manage.

Lorrie: Definitely, it matches up to what we’ve said in all of the previous episodes that you have to find a way of working that suits you. Same with social media – don’t use Facebook or Pinterest if they don’t suit. And then same goes for applications, whether you download them or use them online.

Now, a lot of the applications we’re going to talk about today are actually there to help you boost your key working skills, rather than doing something super complicated and all-singing and all-dancing. As I say, we have included some that will help you deliver specific business services – such as MailChimp, which I’m going to talk about in a minute. Others are just there, though, to make life easier.

Philippa: Yes, and they’re not all apps for writing. They cover all sorts of areas that are really useful when you’re freelancing. The first one we wanted to mention is Google Docs, which has recently been rebranded as Google Drive. Now, what this does is offer the ability to produce documents, share them and collaborate with other people. You can also upload files and folders to Google Docs and store them in the cloud.

Now, Lorrie and I use Google Drive all the time for this podcast! It’s how we do the vast majority of our planning. We have a shared document with ideas for future shows and we create a new document and share it for each new show. We can both work on the documents separately or at the same time, and if you do it at the same time, you can see any changes the other person makes, live on the screen in front of you.

Lorrie: Yes, that’s actually one of the best features about it – I can be in the Google Doc (I still call it Google Doc, even though it’s Google Drive!)…

Philippa: Hard to remember now that it’s changed!

Lorrie: I keep thinking, “No, it’s not Google Drive, it’s Google Docs!” I’m strangely loyal! As we’re in the document, I can typing away, and chatting to Pip at the same time and jotting down any ideas I have. And what we’ve done, as Pip says, is create a list of topics that we want to cover in future.

And what Google Drive allows for is an interactive, organic element to the growth of ideas – when you’re on your own, you can only have so many ideas. When there’s someone to bounce off, and bounce different thoughts off, you can come up with something really good.

Now, there are negative some aspects. I’d logged into the Google Doc last night and there’s a little pink square in the corner that says, “One other viewer – Philippa Willitts”. And it could only be Pip because she’s the only person the document’s been shared with apart from myself. But Philippa didn’t say anything – she just lurked there in the corner for a while! And it made me rather paranoid. What I realised however, was that Pip wasn’t being sinister; she’d just logged into the document and gone off doing something else for a while. I think it turned out that you were watching a programme…?

Philippa: I was, I was watching a video. I’d just left the page open.

Lorrie: Well, it kept me on track with what I was doing because I thought, “I’m being watched!”

Philippa: Hahahaha!

Lorrie: There was no time-wasting for 45 minutes! I typed you a couple of messages, like, “Helloooo? Pip?” and put them in big bold letters, but I worked out that you weren’t there and that I could go and get a brew – it was a relief, I have to say.

Philippa: Yes, I’m not that scary!

Lorrie: Generally, though, Google Documents – or Google Drive, now – is great, and it’s great to have someone there for immediate feedback.

Philippa: Definitely – like Lorrie said, if we’re both in the document together, we really do bounce ideas off each other and we come up with a lot more ideas than we started with.

We don’t just use it for word processor-type documents either. As soon as we have finished recording, the first thing I do is upload the raw audio file to Google Drive in case of some kind of horrific computer failure! Then when I’ve finished editing the audio, I upload the mp3 file; I share that with Lorrie so she can access it to start transcribing. It really is invaluable, and if we were dealing with everything through email, there’s always that problems of having lots of versions of the same word processor document, and the mp3 files would be too large to send to each other – that kind of thing.

Lorrie: Yes, it’s not just easier to send documents to one another, and it’s not just more secure in terms of storage, as you say, it also saves space on your hard drive and helps to prevent your computer getting bogged down with unnecessary and huge files – particularly audio files in our case, they really are massive, so it’s great to have somewhere remote to store them.

Philippa: Yes. Google Drive definitely makes my life so much easier. What we’ve mentioned is how helpful it is with podcast planning, but you can expand that to any number of areas of your working life; it’s invaluable really.

Lorrie: Yeah, I have a friend who uses it instead of having any kind of word processing software on his computer. He doesn’t have Word, or anything resembling Word, he just uses Google Docs…or Google Drive! I keep saying Google Docs – if anyone related to Google Drive is listening, I’m going to get sued. Sorry!

Philippa: Brilliant!

Lorrie: Another app we wanted to talk about today is Focus Booster and this is an application to help you increase productivity levels. While you might be thinking, “I do enough already, thank you very much!” that might well be because you get up, you work through and you carry on working until late at night. And then you sit there and think, “I’ve still got loads of work to do”. This is what a lot of freelance writers do and it’s really not a good idea; it’s not good for your work, as your energy levels will dip and you’ll start to make stupid mistakes, and it’s not good for your soul, either. Who wants to live in their office, even mentally? Who wants to be switched on 24/7? I don’t.

Philippa: Absolutely.

Lorrie: Now, Focus Booster – what’s nice about it is that it’s a pretty simple application that’s based on the pomodoro working style, which means “tomato” – it’s a little tiny type of tomato, so it just means ‘bitesize’ really. And what the working style advocated is that you get your head down for 25 minutes and then take a five minute breather, which is really important for refreshing your mind. Have a drink, go and have a wee, stretch your legs and giving your hands a break from typing. I don’t know about you but I get really bad repetitive strain injury in my hands if I type too much.

Philippa: I don’t know loads about the pomodoro technique, but from what I do understand, it makes the five-minute break as important as the 25 minutes of work.

Lorrie: Definitely, you have to build it in. Otherwise, you get less and less effective as you go through each 25 minute period because you’ve not had a break. You really have to push away from your computer, go and do something else. Humans aren’t designed to sit still and type for hours and hours; that’s not how we’re built.

When it comes to Focus Booster, there’s an online app and a downloadable one, and they’re pretty much the same – basically just a sleek little timer that’s set for 25 minutes. It gives you a happy little ‘tick, tick, tick’ for a second and is stays quiet for the remainder of the time. I know that sounds really obvious, but that’s really good because there are some timer apps that actually tick for the whole 25 minutes!

Philippa: Oh my God, that must be unbelievably annoying!

Lorrie: It really is – I tried one, I can’t even remember the name of it, but it was like there was a bomb on my laptop! Like, “You must get this piece of copywriting done, otherwise the whole house is going to go!” I was sitting there in a panic for 30 minutes; it was just too much pressure. But no, Focus Booster is polite; it’s nice and discreet.

Now, apart from being polite and discreet, there are a number of reasons I really like focus booster. Firstly, as I’ve just mentioned, it helps me to be more productive in my working hours so I can switch off when it’s ‘home time’ – at least for me, I have to separate home-time and work-time. I also feel better for having got more done during the day, and I can mentally relax. As well as putting the laptop away, I can put the thoughts away. I don’t have to sit there thinking about what I have to do the next day, so when I do get up, I can start the day with a fresh head rather than thinking about what I didn’t get done the day before.

Philippa: This is really valuable. When you’re freelancing it can be easy to get into a pattern of not properly starting, and not properly stopping, and instead just kind of drifting in and out of work mode all day, every day. Finding a way to make a clear distinction between working and not working is something I have phases of finding quite difficult at times. So anything that helps with that will reduce your overall stress and increase your productivity as well.

Lorrie: Definitely – I’m definitely not saying, “Do more work”, I’m just saying, “Do work more effectively.”

Another reason I like applications like Focus Booster, is that I never usually take on a piece of work that’s going to take me less than 30 minutes – just for productivity reasons and invoicing reasons. If I do take on a piece of work that’s a little tiny thing, it’s either because I’m doing it as a favour or because it’s for a long-term client whom I invoice frequently. In that event, I can just add little 10 minute jobs on to another piece of work when it comes to billing and accounting for the time.

But, I only invoice from 30 minutes upwards and I keep track of the work I’ve done in a day with an Excel file – just a nice simple one that contains details of what the work is, who it’s for, how long it took and whether it’s been completed, signed off and invoiced and what have you. Focus Booster is actually really good for motivating you to get through the little 30-minute jobs like press releases, blog posts, news articles, web pages, and it’s also really good if you want to dedicate a bit of time to something ongoing like business development via social media. I don’t want to fiddle about with it all day. So, 25 minutes scheduling some updates is great – I have a lot of Google Alerts that I want to share via my social media feeds, so 25 minutes a day scheduling some of those helps to clear my inbox and keep my social media ticking over. So yeah, thumbs up to Focus Booster!

Philippa: Excellent. So I guess, as well as keeping you on track and helping with invoicing and things, it would be quite good if you’ve got a list of tasks to work through.

Lorrie: Definitely – in combination with Focus Booster, that’s the perfect way to stay accountable for work you’re doing.

While we’re on the subject, accountability really does work – obviously, as you know Pip, when I’m not using Focus Booster, I’m using you for accountability purposes! I’m sorry to break it to you – I’m just using you. You knew all along!

Philippa: I use you too, so it’s alright!

Lorrie: I forgive you! So, for any listeners who aren’t Pip and me, I’ll explain a bit. We have what we tend to call an accountability day, sort of every couple of weeks, where we clock on in the morning, say good morning to one another by email, and set ourselves targets.

I’m not sure about Pip but I’ll have a to-do list that I want to cover during the day. I prioritise everything just while I’m having my coffee in the morning and I’ll decide what I want to do in each 30 or 60 minutes, and I’ll tell Pip what I hope to achieve by the end of each slot. And it really helps me to stay on track.

Philippa: Yeah, it’s great. What we tend to do is say, “OK, I’ll see you at 9.30” or whatever time. And then, at that time, we send each other an email. I’ll say, “By half past ten, I’ll have researched this article and finished the introduction.” And Lorrie will say, “I’ll have finished this press release and started a case study.” And so at half ten, we email each other again to say whether we’ve completed what we said we would, and what our next tasks are.

Lorrie: Definitely. It helps me, particularly, to really motor through a lot of work – I’ve got a lot of little bits from a number of clients. It’s easy to sort of, once you’ve finished one piece of work, take five minutes – even if the piece of work was only 15-20 minutes. It’s easy to stop and think, “I’ll just read one of the papers, have a chinwag on Twitter…” Not that either of us talks a lot – no, not at all!

Philippa: No…

Lorrie: And it’s good, it’s a good reason to get to know other freelancers, as Pip and I have done. For the rest of the time, or if you’re anti-social, there’s Focus Booster.

Philippa: Definitely – I mean, we’ve done accountability days a few times now and it is alarmingly effective! We’ve both got to the end of the day exhausted but having completed so much work. There’s something about making yourself accountable to somebody else, rather than just yourself, that really focuses the mind.

Lorrie: True – but the problem is, I’ve been so productive on one of our accountability days, I took the next day off! Hahaha!

Philippa: Hahaha!

Lorrie: I was so tired, and I got so much done, I just went shopping! Let that be a warning for everyone: don’t rest on your laurels once you’ve been productive, try and keep it consistent!

Philippa: I use them… I have to play mind-games with myself sometimes, just so I can get stuff done. I remember, there were a couple of articles that day that I was a bit intimidated by in advance, so what I kept saying was, “By the next check-in time, I will have…” and I set myself bite-size chunks of that piece of work, knowing full well that, once I started writing, I’d be fine and it’d flow and I’d be able to finish it. The thoughts of setting myself the finished task was too overwhelming, so instead, I set myself small bits of it. Once I started, by the next check-in, I’d completed the whole thing. Very helpful indeed!

Lorrie: Yeah, I completely agree. I end up with intimidating pieces of work – I’m sad to say, because some of them are really boring! Sometimes you get a subject you’re not interested in; I call them ‘fried egg subjects’ – your eyes just slide off that page like a fried egg. And you have to focus – you can’t afford to mess around and do something else when you need to focus on a tough topic. I have clients in the B2B sector; I’ve dealt with stuff on nutraceuticals and starches and stuff – it’s so, so boring sometimes. It can be interesting, but when you have a heavy, heavy piece of work, it can be really daunting. So, set yourself a chunk of it to do and then if you get more done, it’s a bonus. If you don’t, you’ve at least made a start.

Philippa: Yes, work can be intimidating for a number of reasons – we could perhaps go into this properly another time. It could be that it’s very important, for a very important client or newspaper. Or yeah, it might be boring, very big, very small, whatever. There are all sorts of reasons but finding out what works for you in those situations is very helpful.

Lorrie: Definitely.

Philippa: The next piece of software we wanted to mention was Open Office. Open Office is a free suite of tools which is a powerful alternative to Microsoft Office and other similar document software. It has a word processor, spreadsheets, database functionality and lots more, and it can open files that are intended for Microsoft Office, so things like .doc, .xls, and plenty more. Lots of different file types, which is useful when clients might send you a file of keywords or document titles. You need to be able to open it – it’s never a nice feeling when you have to reply and say, “Can you send it me in another format?”

Lorrie: “Can you copy and paste it into an email?” is my favourite!

Philippa: I started using Open Office when I got a PC which didn’t come with Office. I quickly learned that it wasn’t some kind of cheap, pale imitation – it’s actually a really effective and useful programme.

Lorrie: Mmhmm. When I bought my PC (I know there’ll be a lot of Mac users out there wincing at that we’ve both got PCs! But we’re defiant, Mac users, you can send us all the hate mail you want…I actually really like Macs, my husband’s got a Mac – I’ve just not converted yet!), so yeah, when I got my PC, it came with Microsoft Office, which is great. In terms of functionality, it’s a good suite. But, I say that like it was a freebie – it’s never a freebie. Microsoft Office is really expensive, so there’s no doubt it’ll have been added into the overall cost of the computer. But yeah, I’ve used OpenOffice on and off for years and I’ve literally – literally – never had a problem with it. I’ve used it for personal use and when I was working as a secretary, which means that I had plenty of opportunity to really get in there and explore its functionality. I’ve used the database, the document writing software…for a free software suite, it’s excellent.

Philippa: Yes, in fact when I have a choice between Open Office and Microsoft Office, I choose Open Office every time. It’s less heavy on the system, it does conversions to pdf much more efficiently, and it is a well-supported programme as well.

Lorrie: Yes – you’re right. It can compete on a level with paid-for software suites with no issue. As you say, it’s not just good for a freebie, it’s good full stop. And it’s interesting you should bring up the impact that the programmes have on your system because, when you’re just using your computer for recreational purposes – you log on of an evening, check your emails, do a bit of gaming, whatever – you can afford to be a bit laissez-faire about what you have on there. But, when your laptop is your job, you absolutely can’t afford to have it freezing and crashing all the time – and I speak from experience. That’s it, then: you can do absolutely no work.

Philippa: When I was trying to learn how to use spreadsheets earlier this year (I’m quite impressed that I got to 35 without using a spreadsheet but it became a necessity!) – and, for a pretty techy person, I struggled way more than is acceptable with spreadsheets, so I was doing a lot of searching for answers! I was able to find lots and lots of online information and guides for Open Office. There are forums, information pages, blog posts, and even loads of YouTube videos, all with instructions that can help. That’s the benefit of a piece of software being really popular, and it being free really is the icing on the cake.

Lorrie: I’m thinking of recommending it to my dad, actually. He’s just started his own business and he came round for a bit of a tutorial the other day. He’s a bit further behind than I’d suspected at first. I opened an Excel file and said to him, “This is how I maintain my invoices and my projects and what have you.” and he looked at it and said, “Is that the internet?”

Philippa: Hahahaha!

Lorrie: And I was like, “No, Dad, it’s not the internet, it’s an Excel file.” If that was the internet, we’d all be so perpetually disappointed – log on, and there’s just a big empty file. But no, for someone like Dad, I think something like Open Office, which has a range of training materials and resources for it, would be ideal. I don’t want him to go and spend a fortune getting Microsoft Office installed. Really, he’s only going to use it to create files that are Word or Excel based.

Philippa: Yeah, there’s very little functionality that the vast majority of people use in Microsoft Office that isn’t available in Open Office. The only one I can really think of that’s significantly better in Microsoft Word is the tracked changes function, if you’re proof-reading or editing.

Lorrie: I do rely a lot on tracked changes but I think that’s just because I’m used to it.

Philippa: Yes, definitely. I quite often edit other people’s work in Google Docs, partly for the ease of sharing, but there are some clients very specifically want tracked changes and there isn’t a good equivalent for that in Open Office. But other than that, I really would recommend it for the vast majority of people. Because it’s free, you can try it and, then, if you still decide you want Microsoft Office, then go ahead. You haven’t lost any money by giving Open Office a go first – and I think there’s a good chance that most people would get on fine with Open Office on its own.

Lorrie: Yeah, unless you’re going to be doing any extended editing…I edit work that’s 80,000 – 100,000 words, in which case, I need the tracked changes function. But most of my copywriting work is no more than a few thousand words at most, and Open Office would be completely fine for the vast majority of it. Totally fine.

Philippa: Yep. So, like I said, even though I now have Microsoft Office on my computer, I still use Open Office the vast majority of the time, so that’s why I wanted to suggest that particular one. Lorrie, what’s your next suggestion?

Lorrie: My next suggestion is the charmingly dubbed MailChimp. Makes me a little bit sad that it’s called MailChimp…

Philippa: Yeah.

Lorrie: But it’s so adorable, it gets away with it. It’s got a lot of personality. Right, MailChimp: when you start to get a little bit busier as a freelancer, and you’ve got your business website up and running, what a lot of people are a bit lax on – which is a shame – is building up a mailing list. Even if you’re not sure what you’re going to do with people’s data – and I don’t suggest doing anything dodgy with it – I’d recommend you start collecting it and storing it nice and neatly and confidentially for future business development opportunities. Now, obviously you can’t just go around scraping people’s email addresses off the internet – it’s bad etiquette and it’ll get you into hot water.

Philippa: And, I think, in Europe, it’s actually illegal.

Lorrie: Yes, I imagine it would be. Certainly in some ways, it’s illegal. I think you can get round it, for example, if you’re connected to someone via LinkedIn – you can go and scalp their information from their profile, or you can do it via people’s websites and get their contact details from there – there’s nothing to stop you emailing them.

Philippa: Yes, it’s about doing it in bulk, isn’t it? That’s where the issues come in. And it’s just bad etiquette, legal or not, it’s bad etiquette to just start blasting out bulk emails to people who haven’t asked for them.

Lorrie: That’s it – you have to make sure people opt in and one way to do this is to build a ‘newsletter sign-up’ plugin into your website. By allowing people to sign up to receive news from you, you’re not only able to get their data, you can legitimately justify contacting them and sending them information about you and your services. And when people have opted in to hearing from you, they’re less likely to click “delete”.

Philippa: Yeah, yeah, and also – if somebody visits your website just once, they might find it interesting but may never come back again. But if, while on your site, they spot a ‘sign up’ box, and sign up to your mailing list, you have a way of periodically reminding them of your existence basically! This way they are much more likely to come back, and to remember you when they need a writer.

Lorrie: Definitely. When I visit many websites, actually, I often don’t go back. It’s not because the website’s bad, it’s just that the web is so huge and I have so much to do on there, and so many things to research, that I just forget really good websites. I’ll visit someone’s site and think, “Ooh, this is really good” but then, obviously, information pours into my head and I’ll forget them. But, if I sign up to someone’s newsletter, and I get a mail from them in a few days or weeks, it’ll send me back to their website. So don’t think that just because someone’s visited your website once, that they’re going to come back if the content’s good enough – they won’t, necessarily.

Philippa: Yeah, like you, I’ve undoubtedly forgotten some fantastic websites. I add so many things to my Google Reader that it’s just too overwhelming to ever open! So I faithfully subscribe to blog after blog and, then, occasionally read the top ten posts in various categories and I miss out on dozens of things because, like Lorrie said, there’s so much on the internet that’s good. It is hard to keep track.

Lorrie: Definitely. My bookmarks are in a similar state. I bookmark so many good sites and then I never go in my bookmarks because it’s huge! When I click on that drop down box, it’s taller than the page! So there’s not really much I can do with it. I go in there occasionally, but basically, a newsletter is a great way to get people to keep thinking about you.

So, when I mentioned getting a newsletter plug-in for your website, Pip and I have discussed this previously – there are lots and lots of plugins (which is a way of adding functionality to your website) for WordPress – which is the content management system both Pip and I use for our websites – that can allow you to do just what you want, from improving your social media to getting people to sign up for a newsletter.

So, once you’ve got your website set up to enable visitors to sign up for your emails, you need to start thinking about your newsletters and email marketing campaigns. MailChimp, to get back from my tangent, is a free application that helps you to create mailing lists, plan your email marketing campaigns, it will even help you develop attractive emails, avoid spam filters and – perhaps most importantly – analyse how successful your campaign has been – or your newsletter. So, did anyone open the email with that hilarious subject line you included, or did it go straight to the junk because you weren’t as funny as you thought you were? Or that special offer you sent out – did that tickle people’s fancy or were they not bothered?

Philippa: There are lots of options for mailing list management, but MailChimp is the one I use as well. I have to admit that initially I went with it because it is free if you have fewer than 5,000 subscribers, but now I have spent more time using it, it is really user-friendly and has an attractive and very usable interface. And like Lorrie said, so many features for measuring and tracking your campaigns, so you can see what works with your demographic and what doesn’t.

Lorrie: Absolutely. By reading the reports that MailChimp sends you after each campaign – it really is that helpful – you can get to know your contacts and learn what works for you and what works for them. This is a step that a lot of freelancers actually tend to miss out – instead, they try one type of marketing, then they don’t bother to analyse the results and then never try it again. That’s one-step marketing and it’s something I’m going to talk about in one of the next couple of episodes, so stay tuned for that exciting stuff.

But yes, the great thing about MailChimp is that it’s absolutely gorgeous; it’s got a little chimp in there and it sends you interesting links and things. You can switch it off but it’s half of the fun. It’s pleasant to use, it’s easy to get email marketing and e-newsletters right with MailChimp. It’s totally free, as Philippa says, and there are some brilliant resources on there that will walk you through all of the app’s capabilities step by step. And just, one final thing, really, to go back to WordPress, MailChimp can actually be integrated with your WordPress based website, so that when someone signs up, the information goes straight to your MailChimp account, which makes building mailing lists really simple.

Philippa: Definitely, and there are probably people listening, thinking, “I don’t have time to write an e-newsletter – oh my God!” but one thing I recently discovered on there is that you can set it up with an RSS feed so…the RSS feed for, say, your blog – you can set up an email campaign where, perhaps, once a week, or once a month, the people who’ve signed up to your e-newsletter will receive a mailing with the latest posts from your blog automatically – without you having to do anything. And you can choose some attractive layouts and a good structure for it. I think writing an e-newsletter in full is probably better in terms of building a relationship with the people on your list but, if you don’t have the time or the inclination to do that, using something like the RSS auto way of doing it is better than having a mailing list and not sending anything out, or not having a mailing list at all.

Lorrie: Yeah, it’s brilliant. I don’t think you could get an application that makes it much easier to follow up with a bit of email marketing, whether that’s an email marketing campaign specifically, with an offer, or a newsletter. MailChimp is great, and it’s free, and I’d recommend anybody sign up with it.

Philippa – Now, the next tool we want to look at is Boomerang, and it’s a tool that you can use with Gmail. I use Gmail, partly because I have some Gmail email addresses but also, I have all my website address redirected so they all arrive in my one Gmail inbox. It coordinates everything, basically, and has such great functionality that I wouldn’t want to use any other set- up.

Now, with Boomerang, its main feature is that it enables you to schedule emails that you need to send. Because I sometimes work slightly odd hours…

Lorrie: Haha!

Philippa: Understatement! I don’t want to give a bad impression by sending off some work at 9pm on a Thursday evening, or 7am on a Sunday morning. I just think it doesn’t look very professional to be sending off work at weird times of day because, if you’re B2B, you’re mainly sending work to people in offices. However, trying to remember that on Monday morning I need to send off 3 articles, and on Tuesday I should send some marketing emails, just added stress to my already stretched mind! It was just one more thing to try to remember.

Lorrie Yes, your to-do list can end up huge if you add in all the little itty-bitty emails you need to send out, and it puts extra pressure on you. If you turn up to your desk – or kitchen table in my case – on Monday morning and you have a massive to-do list and half of it’s emails, they might only take 30 seconds to send, but you’re faced with a huge ream of tasks to do – it’s not good. So yeah, Boomerang is brilliant.

And, while it’s pretty obvious, I suppose, to say that you don’t want to send your emails out at any old time, but there’s not just the professionalism reason. Your open / conversion rate is never going to be great if you send a sales email late on a Friday afternoon.

Philippa: That’s so true.

Lorrie: If you send something you really need to convert, and you really need to work with people, you need to choose your time, and the best time would be about half eight in the morning on a week day, in my opinion.

Philippa: Quite often mid-week I’m seeing my success with, but I guess it varies.

Lorrie: Yeah, Wednesday and Thursday are always nice days.

Philippa: Yeah, that’s what I’m finding.

Lorrie: After the hump.

Philippa: Hahaha!

Lorrie: No, it’s true! Monday – people hate Mondays. Tuesdays – people have decided, “Alright, the week’s started, there’s nothing I can do about it so I might as well do some work.” And they’re too busy. Wednesday – they’re getting a bit bored of working, they’re like oh, enough of this now, where’s the weekend? Thursday, they’ve already mentally clocked out – they want your email, something that’s not work.

Philippa: And the thing is, with Boomerang, you can test this with your own market. So, try sending out a particular email at 8.30 on Monday morning, try it with a different group at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon – it’s a way of seeing what’s most effective.

Lorrie: Yeah, split testing is really important – like analysing your email marketing campaigns afterwards, it’s something that a lot of people miss out on doing because they think, “Oh, I don’t have time for this jazz!” but, if you do a bit of research, once you know, it’s done! So, when you do finally have a quiet day, don’t do what I did the other week, and go shopping and get some really nice bargains (I really did get some nice stuff actually!). But no, spend some time, do some split testing, and see what’s what.

Philippa: The way is works is that Boomerang sets up within your Gmail interface and adds an extra option to your sending options. As well as your usual “Send”, “Save” at the top of a message, it adds “Send later” and when you click that, you can choose what time, and what day, the email should send. Then you can forget about it. As well as specifying an exact time or date, you can either specify an exact time and date, or you can choose an option like “tomorrow morning” and it will randomise the time.

The first few times I used it I was totally neurotic that it wouldn’t send and it would disappear into the ether, but it is actually great (I hope those aren’t famous last words!). It really takes the pressure off, knowing that one little bit of your work will be done for you.

Lorrie: Yes, you can tick it off, can’t you? But, as you say, it does take some time to get used to automating things – you find yourself double-checking (I was the same when I started scheduling tweets, for example) but when you know you’re dealing with a quality interface like Boomerang (or Tweetdeck, which is what I use to schedule my tweets), it really does take the pressure off.

Philippa: The other thing that Boomerang can do is offer you the option to “boomerang” a message (which means, to make it reappear in your inbox) if you haven’t had a reply in a set period of time. This isn’t a feature I use very much, actually, but it could come in really handy for following up pitches. If you want to re-email somebody who hasn’t replied within a week, or a fortnight, say, you can get Boomerang to make the message reappear to you in a week’s time.

Lorrie: This is something that would be really useful for me at the moment. I’ve had a number of potential clients recently get in touch, say, “I’m interested in your services, can we chat?” Now, I’ve got back in touch with them and it’s gone a bit quiet, so I’ve followed up with them and they’ve said “Oh, yes, definitely interested. I’ve got A, B, C situation going on at the moment. Can you get back in touch with me in a week, two weeks, a month?” I have a potential client at the moment whose mother is over from Australia at the moment, and she’s going – Boomerang would be perfect for that. At the moment, I’ve had to use Google Calendar and set myself a reminder.

Philippa: I don’t know about you but, when I look at my Google Calendar or my diary, I don’t want stuff like that in it. I want to be able to glance at it to see if I need to go anywhere, or to see if I have a big meeting. I don’t want little pop-ups saying, “Send an email now.”

Lorrie: Yep. It’s the same as having emails on your to-do list, as we said earlier, because they’re just itty-bitty pieces of work that should just be taken care of by themselves. As you say, I don’t want my inbox or calendar clogged up with, “Send this email, check that email.” It’s a pain, so that’s definitely a functionality that I haven’t used yet but will in future.

Philippa: Yeah, it’s one I should start using more often. Now, for the details: Boomerang is free to use for up to 10 messages a month. If you choose a personal account, for $4.99 a month or a professional account, for $14.99 a month, you can use it for unlimited messages and get a few other features such as the ability to use it on your mobile and also to send recurring messages. But yeah, that’s Boomerang – I’ve used it for ages and I think it’s brilliant.

Lorrie – The final application I’m going to feature on this one is called Remember the Milk – and it’s another one for boosting your core work skills. It does what it says on the tin – it’s an app that will help you to remember important tasks throughout the day, it’s effectively a to-do list, but digitised. So, while some tasks can be scheduled and forgotten about, some need to be kept in mind, by way of a ‘to do’ list – Remember the Milk is a lovely simple app that – as I say, it does what it says on the tin.

Now, it’s not to everyone’s taste, something like Remember the Milk. I know that both Pip and I can be a bit traditional when it comes to to-do lists – and that’s fine, whatever works for you.

Fairly recently, Pip wrote a guest post on a blog, and she was waxing lyrical about her whiteboard – and you might think “Hmm, whiteboards – how can you get enthusiastic?” but I was there in the comments section, like, “Yes! Whiteboards – God, they’re brilliant!” I’ve got a big whiteboard and a big corkboard, and I totally agreed with Pip!

Philippa: And you weren’t the only commenter to agree, either – it’s clearly an unspoken passion! Hahaha!

Lorrie: Boardaphiles! Honestly, I do really like my whiteboard! But however you do it, a well-managed to-do list is a massive help; it helps you to see what needs doing, what needs to be prioritised – you know what needs doing, you just don’t know which order to do it in. And it’s good, as Pip mentioned earlier, for playing mind-games with yourself. If you can stick something on your to-do list and you can then cross it out, it’s a bit of a boost.

I tend, mostly, to use a paper list and Pip tends to use a whiteboard – I just get covered in ink with my whiteboard, a lot of the time, so it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship. So, Remember the Milk is definitely worth a mention, particularly for those of you who are out and about a lot, or who just prefer to keep everything digital.

Philippa: I seem, actually, to be the only person on Earth who didn’t get on well with Remember the Milk! People are so excited and passionate about it. But I’m not sure why, I just found it kind of unwieldy and did better with a paper list, a whiteboard – like Lorrie mentioned – and a basic Notepad document!

Lorrie: Oh, so this is how it is. This is how it is, Pip – so you mention all your wonderful apps and then I mention one and you diss and dismiss it!

Philippa: I tried to like it! People say how lovely and marvellous it is – I really tried but I just found it annoying, and it was actually adding tasks to my day! Like, Oh God, I’ve got to go and check Remember the Milk now…!

Lorrie: Hahaha! Remember to check Remember the Milk!

Philippa: And it’s funny because most people do think it’s marvellous. I just don’t, really!

Lorrie: No, as we mentioned at the start of this podcast, if it makes life harder for you, it’s just not worth it. Yeah, I do still prefer my notepad – as in, my actual physical paper pad – and I’m not sure, maybe that’s because I tend to work from home rather than cafes or shared working spaces or what have you. And I do tend to stay put as much as possible during my working hours. I don’t have too many meetings in person because my clients are all over the place, I tend to have Skype meetings, e-meetings or phone-calls. So, there’s minimum opportunity for me to lose my notebook if I don’t have to drag it around with me very often. It’s nice actually, to have to write something rather than type it for a change!

Philippa: Yes – as writers, most of us do very little writing with a pen, so it is nice!

Lorrie: It’s true – it’s like, “What is this thing, leaving a stain on a bit of paper? It’s marvellous!” I think, though, for people who are out and about a little bit more often than me, Remember the Milk is one of the best to-do apps to go for. While I’m not super enthusiastic about it because I like my paper, it’s got over 4million users, and I think that’s because it is so ‘no frills’ and because it can be synched with any number of online platforms and technologies, including Gmail, iPhones, Google Calendar, Blackberry and Outlook. Really anything you can think of, it’s pretty capable.

What that means is that you don’t just have to use it for assignments like, say, a piece of copywriting that you’re going to sit down at your laptop and do, you really can use it for all sorts because you can tick things off and add things on while you’re on the go – sitting there in a bus or on a train. You don’t even have to be connected to the internet – you can download the app and manage your list while you’re offline.

Philippa: Well, it’s certainly a very popular app and just because I didn’t get on with it, that doesn’t mean that you won’t. So, give it a go – so many people find it really helpful.

Now, before we go on to the final app we’re going to talk about, I just want to make a short apology if the sound quality has just changed. We’ve had to go on to a separate call because…Lorrie’s husband needed the headset, really! Haha!

Lorrie: How dare he – he stole my headset microphone. It’s actually his, but still, he stole it from me. So, I’ve got my face up against the laptop and I’m hoping that the internal mic will see me through until the end of the podcast. But, as we say, apologies if it’s gone a bit fuzzy or unclear!

Philippa: The final app we’re going to talk about it is my final pick – a tool called Rapportive.
I first heard about Rapportive through Pat Flynn, who runs the smartpassiveincome.com website. If you haven’t checked that out, by the way, it’s great – he’s got a brilliant website, podcast, YouTube channel – he’s everywhere and he’s very good, so if you’re interested in issues of passive income, check it out. Anyway, he was the person who first told me about Rapportive and it’s a tool which, like Boomerang, works through Gmail, but its role is to manage the relationships you have with people. It is really quite ingenious, and also free.

When you have Rapportive installed, whenever you open an email, there is an extra panel on the right side of the screen and that panel contains social media links to the person whose email you have open. Obviously it only displays profiles that are publicly linked to that email address, but it is really useful to have direct access to someone’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles as soon as you hear from them, just on the side of the screen from their email.

Lorrie: That’s true, it does only deal with public profiles

Philippa: Yes, it doesn’t do anything creepy like finding things out about people that you shouldn’t.

Lorrie: This is it – I mean, if you’ve got a client and, all of a sudden, Rapportive tells you that they’re down as @sexybeast69 on Twitter…

Philippa: Hahahaha!

Lorrie: …you’ve got a bit more than you bargained for but, I suppose, in that case, you can be a bit more delicate in what you talk about. Joking aside, it’s really good and it’s a great way of tracking people across social media platforms.

Philippa: Definitely. The panel that appears also displays information about the person’s website, which is usually the URL and a summary of the site, pulled from the meta tags. You are also provided with any public contact information from Google Contacts.

The final feature that Rapportive offers is the ability to make a note, within the Rapportive panel, about the person who sent you the email. Now, this is totally private, so the person you are making a note about won’t see what you have written about them.

Lorrie: Hahaha! I dread to think what you’ve got written about me – “Dreadful woman I record a podcast with sometimes.”

Philippa: “THAT woman!”

Lorrie: Hahaha!

Philippa: And this note-taking ability is useful in a number of ways. Firstly just as a reminder, for instance, “I met this person at the networking event in September at the town hall” or “I worked with this person at such and such a place”. If, like me, you have a bad memory for names, this is invaluable!

Lorrie: That’s actually reminded me of something – I made contact with someone a couple of days ago and they were interested in my proof-reading services. He asked me whether I’d phone him after the weekend, so dutifully, I phoned him back and it became pretty obvious that he couldn’t remember who I was. And he did this brilliant little trick – I even told him it was brilliant when he phoned back! – he said, “Oh, I’ve got another call coming through, can I phone you back in just a second?” and he phoned me straight back and was like, “Right! Lorrie! Proof-reading!” I knew immediately what he’d done, and he knew that I knew, and he was actually pleased I was so impressed. Rapportive, though, would obviously stop you having to do that.

Philippa: Hahahahaha!

Lorrie: Another nice thing about Rapportive is that it’s situated where your adverts would normally be.

Philippa: True!

Lorrie: That’s really nice for me because I’m sick of seeing adverts in my emails. It’s really good to have some useful information for your eyes to glance over if you’re emailing someone or phoning them, rather than there being an advert.

Philippa: That’s really true. The note-taking capability can be especially useful for a freelancer. In the notes section you could add information about why the person contacted you, or if you have worked for them before you could even make a note of whether they paid on time, or were easy to work with! It can be a good reminder if there’s a client from a while ago, that you might have to be a bit strict with.

To have all of this information available within a few seconds of opening an email from somebody really is extraordinary. If I do some really interesting work with a client, when I open their email I am reminded by the Rapportive panel that they are on LinkedIn so I will often go straight there and add them (in fact you can do this directly from the Gmail panel). Also, if I can’t quite place somebody their most recent tweets, also listed in the panel, often give me a clue and even entirely outside of work, if I get an email from a friend I can instantly see from their most recent tweets what is going on for them!

Lorrie: That’s nice – I tend not to use Facebook for personal stuff anymore; I’m a little bit concerned about the privacy issues, so I tend to use it just for business now. But that does mean I miss out on people’s day-to-day updates, so Rapportive is a nice space-filler for that.

Philippa: Yes, and like I said, it’s free, so out of all the apps I’ve mentioned, I might recommend this the most strongly. I would definitely recommend giving it a go if you feel you might need a hand managing your contacts. If you value the screen-space you might not enjoy Rapportive quite so much, but it’s easy enough to uninstall if you don’t like it.

Lorrie: Yeah, it’s one of these easy add-ons to Gmail. To get popular as an app developer, you’ve really got to be slick. So, something like Rapportive, which is hugely popular, is very user friendly – it’s a pleasant user experience, the functionality’s great, it’s not intrusive, it gets rid of the ads. So yes, thumbs up for Rapportive!

Philippa: So I hope that we’ve been able to give you some ideas, and also to highlight that you don’t have to spend a fortune on tonnes of software in order to function as a freelance writer. Many tools are free or very low cost, and the worst that can happen is that you don’t really like them.

Lorrie: Yeah, totally – nothing to add!

Philippa: I will make sure I put links to all the apps we have suggested in the show notes, so do pop over to our Podomatic page so you can get hold of those, as well as find out how to get in touch with Lorrie or myself on social media or our own websites, and also to subscribe to this podcast.

Lorrie: Definitely. The address again is alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, and the transcript will be available when my fingers are feeling friendly enough to type it up, and that will also be at the Podomatic page. Yeah, like we say, have a look at our social media feeds and websites, get in touch! Let us know if there’s an app you enjoy using that we haven’t mentioned, or let us know if you hate one of the apps we’ve included – and tell us why!

Philippa: Definitely. And in the show-notes, we’ll also list some links to other blog posts that recommend other tools for freelance writers – and freelancers of all kinds, really – so if you want more ideas than what we’ve given you here, there are plenty if you look at the links we’ll provide.

Now, we have some great episodes on the way – we’ve got more solo episodes coming up: next week, there’s a solo episode from Lorrie. We’ve also got some dual episodes coming out – we’re hoping to alternate between dual ones and solo ones but we’ll see how it works out. Now, whatever way you normally listen to podcasts, make sure you subscribe to A Little Bird Told Me. As we say every week, you can subscribe by RSS, iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio – do it, then you’ll be the first to hear when we have a new episode out.

Lorrie: Definitely. I think all that remains to be said, as ever, is thank you for listening. It’s been a pleasure. I’m Lorrie Hartshorn…

Philippa: …and I’m Philippa Willitts, and we’ll see you next time!