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The Shift: Issue #16

Survival Skills for Freelancers; Digital Detox; 5 things…

Day three of the digital diet and I’ve fallen off the bandwagon.

I had to use LinkedIn to post on a client’s page and saw I had a reply from Sarah Townsend about her new book, Survival Skills for Freelancers (treat yourself, she’s put her heart & soul into it). Then I read Eddie Shleyner’s email newsletter and saw he’s giving away a micro-course in copywriting. A compilation of tips from him and his LinkedIn followers—great idea. I had to leave a hashtag on his post to get a copy.

So, I did that quickly and logged off. It’s work stuff, I told myself. I’m not scrolling mindlessly on Instagram.

The only way to avoid using my personal accounts for clients is to set up a work email address to access Facebook and LinkedIn, which I’ll do. I used Hootsuite for a while, but it’s easy for messages to go out on the wrong account… had a few mishaps.

Thoughts so far on the digital detox: I have more time, headspace, and feel calmer. I’m not missing social media, and I’ve made more calls, so actual conversations. Read more.

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Q&A: Abigail Baldwin on managing burnout

Abigail Baldwin makes up one half of the creative studio, Buttercrumble, which she founded alongside her twin sister, Chloe. She shares her thoughts on running a business and managing burnout. 

What was your eureka moment?
We both started sharing our designs and illustrations online in 2008. We did this through separate user accounts. After two years, we started receiving more commissions. Naturally, as twins, our style is very similar, so we thought “two heads are better than one”. We joined forces to become Buttercrumble and have been working under the name ever since.

What was the turning point?
When establishing a new business, it is an obsession. To get the business running, we had to work other jobs to make some income. This meant we were working on Buttercrumble at weekends and evenings. All hours of the day involved work! Yet, we loved it and knew this was a sacrifice we’d have to make. Eventually, this paid off, and we had enough savings and landed a large commission to enable us to go full time on Buttercrumble.

However, we were still stuck in the mindset that we needed to work as many hours as possible. If we didn’t, the business would fail! We couldn’t let our clients (or ourselves) down. Two years into running the business, full-time, we were still burning the candle at both ends.

I had a string of sickness bugs and Chloe was feeling the strain too. We were stressed, and I dreaded opening my inbox. We couldn’t cope much longer.

After receiving business mentorship from our local council, we learnt it was time to set those clear boundaries. It helped to have an external viewpoint and supporter who forced us to step back and look at the bigger picture.

How did you overcome it?
To prevent burnout, I recommend seeking a peer support group or mentorship. This helped Chloe and I gain a clearer, unbiased perspective. We also meet regularly with our friend (who’s also a business owner). We can rant about any difficulties and let off steam together.

Boundaries are also important. Ideally, the weekend should be a sacred time for family and friends. Admittedly, sometimes I feel bored on weekends and evenings. However, we both try to resist the temptation to pick up my laptop! Boredom is a privilege. It means you’re getting some well-earned rest.

How will you manage work-life balance from now on? Have you made any long-term changes to how you run the business?
We now have set office hours during which we communicate with our clients. We also set up an office phone line, so we can avoid distributing our mobile phone numbers. This means we’re only taking calls during those office hours. At the beginning of every new relationship, we issue our ‘Welcome Document’ which helps to manage their expectations. Transparency about boundaries is key!

www.buttercrumble.com 

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5 Benefits of Blogging for Business

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have – multinational, SME or creative solopreneur, you still need to be blogging regularly to help drive new (and returning) traffic to your website. These days, it’s crucial to have a strong web and social media presence to grow your brand – and having a blog is a smart, strategic way to do it. If you’re thinking about starting a blog and wondering what it will do for your company, read on.

Here’s how blogging can benefit your business.

1. Helps drive website traffic for free

Want more website visitors? Of course, you do! But if people don’t know the name of your business or product, how will they find you online? People don’t generally read blogs – they use keywords to research a product/service or solve a problem. If you’re providing unique and relevant content on your site, search engines will index it, so it’s easily found. Figure out what your customer is looking for, common problems, post useful articles and then share them on social media, so word gets around. Do this repeatedly, and your business will grow organically.

One of the advantages of blogging over paid advertising is that it’s free – you’re providing useful information for as long as your site is live. Tip: set yourself a publishing schedule and stick to it to show search engines that your website is active and needs frequently scanning for quality content.

2. Traffic becomes leads

Once you start publishing regular content on your blog, you’ll naturally attract new readers and return visitors. Always add a call to action to your posts to turn them into leads. Ask them to download a free e-book or white paper in return for their email address, so you can send follow up e-shots. Direct them to your products and services page or ask them to test a new product. You can set small targets and monitor analytics to see which of your posts are getting the most traction and engagement and then create more content around those themes. Tip: make sure people can subscribe to your blog, leave comments, and add share buttons so they can share content on their social channels.

3. Blogging brands you as an expert

Blogging positions you as an expert in your field, and someone others can come to for advice on a subject. If you share useful content that solves a problem or helps people improve their lives or business in some way, they will refer you to others as an authority and send more leads your way. It’s also an excellent platform for thought leadership – share your views on business (as well as your products) to engage your reader and grow your audience. Blogging can lead to new opportunities – more shares on social media, a speaking gig or even a column in a business publication. It also helps you to build authority and trust with customers. If your salespeople don’t know the answer to a question, they can refer a client to the blog as a helpful resource to help speed up the sales process. Tip: Share your opinions and take a position on things – don’t just sit on the fence – to help you stand out from the competition!

4. Scalable business blogging

One of the joys of blogging is that it’s scalable. It’s a good investment of your time as it keeps on working for you. If you write a blog and share it on social media, you’ll get a few click-throughs every time you share it. It will rank on search engines over the coming months and be a continual source of traffic and leads whenever someone searches for info on that topic. Unlike social media, a blog is on your website as long as you want it to be – a knowledge resource for visitors and your team. Tip: Create some evergreen posts about your products or services that aren’t time-sensitive and update them periodically to keep them fresh. HubSpot recommends that we focus on creating ‘compounding blog posts’ which solve problems, e.g. ‘how’ or ‘why’ in the title) as their traffic grows steadily over time.

5. Press & PR coverage

Having everything in one place on your blog (company news, personal stories, ideas & opinions) makes it easier for journalists to quickly find what they need to write about you and your business. Blogs should be open for comments to help you generate new business ideas and test out new products before you commit to spending money on them. Clients and journalists want to read about the people behind a brand, and a blog is an ideal platform for this as the tone is conversational and intimate. Take your reader on a journey and involve them in your business story and they will become loyal clients and share your content for you.

Are you interested in creating a blog for your business? We produce daily content for clients large and small to help them build brand awareness and drive sales. 

This article was originally published on Perspective Marketing & Design here.

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The Shift: Issue #15

On Staycation; The Big Return; How Companies Can Win at Remote Work; Countryside Communities; Where to Find Remote Jobs.

I’m on staycation till September.

No need to go anywhere—the south coast is like the Med. Why rush around getting to France (& back!) to meet ever-changing quarantine rules so the kids can #getbacktoschoolsafely? Hardly a relaxing holiday. If you’re there, just chill and enjoy it. It won’t matter if the kids miss another week or two. Besides, who’s going to be tracking your movements when you get back? 😉

So, I’ll be attending to the book pile, soaking up the sun, sleeping, walking. Julieta will be back from Italy soon, so I’m making the most of my lack of domestic responsibilities.

Overheard on the beach this week – day-trippers down from London. “Isn’t it great to be out of the city? I feel different down here. The air’s so fresh.” Huge skies too – shifts your perspective.

And some advice from a guy I got chatting to down the pub. “Get your baked beans in. Anything you can eat cold and don’t have to cook. Mix them with curry powder. A year ago, who’d have thought we’d be walking round with nappies on our faces. Being told where to go and what to do…?”

There’s much talk about the big return in September. Read more

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The Shift: Issue #13

A shift in values during the pandemic; how to pull off a successful launch; building an open-source publishing platform; the downsides of WFH; the future of co-working

As you reach midlife, your values shift. Maybe you’ve achieved what you set out to do, but now you can’t see the point of it all. Or you feel you haven’t done enough compared to your peers. You’re halfway through your life and feeling restless. What next?

Psychoanalyst Elliott Jacques coined the term ‘midlife crisis’ in 1965 in a paper on the working patterns of creative geniuses. It was a small part of his life’s work—he had loads of big ideas—but this has become a cultural phenomenon and what he’s best known for. For most of us, it’s not really a crisis, more like a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction in our 40s/50s. “Is this it?” has come up frequently in conversations with friends.

What’s interesting about the pandemic is that it’s left many of us feeling like this—not just the midlife generation. Read more

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The Shift: Issue #12

How to survive the Covid storm when you’re a solopreneur; top tips for going freelance; online communities; Government comms jobs.

How do you feel about the prospect of a second lockdown?

Would you do it differently?

If money were no object, I’d move to the south of France with my freelance family and collaborate on some projects – host events, workshops, cooking, Aperitivo, massage, sunshine, walks, and learn French again. I spent far too much time on my own during the lockdown.

I enjoyed this article by Rosie Murray-west – Progress: how to survive the Covid storm when you’re a sole trader.  

Rosie talks about dealing with the mental health fallout from running a business alone during a pandemic.

Common problems:

  • Loneliness and isolation—having no one to bounce ideas off
  • Homeschooling at the same time as working—feeling exhausted physically and mentally
  • Working longer hours to compensate for the economic slowdown and minimise the impact on your business; doing overtime with no breaks.

Day bleeds into the night when you’re working online at home. It’s hard to switch off when everything you read, see and do feeds into your work. We’ve also been over-compensating with online meetings & events during the lockdown—Zoom fatigue.

She shares some useful tips on how to avoid burnout and keep yourself motivated when working remotely. Read more. 

 

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Interview: Lisa Sweeting, Green Sense Events

Lisa Sweeting quit her full-time job in March and went freelance during the lockdown. She has now set up her own company, Green Sense Events, focusing on sustainability. I asked her what’s she’s learned so far, and her top tips for going freelance.  

TS: You went freelance during the lockdown. What was the catalyst for setting up your own company?
LS: I’ve worked in Events for 15 years, managing a mix of corporate celebrations, weddings, private parties, and mass participation sports events. I’ve toyed to go freelance for about 10 of those years! The thought of having ultimate flexibility, financial independence, fitting work around a family etc, but the comfort blanket of a regular income, paid holidays and sick pay always kept me in my job. When it’s not just you anymore, and you have the responsibilities of a mortgage, and mouths to feed, it’s not a simple decision. 

However, I often felt like I compromised my creativity by working for someone else. I was bored of following a system, of doing the same thing year in, year out. Everyone who knows me knows that I love variety and learning new things. I’m a real get up and go person, and yet somehow, I felt stuck, and I lost some of who I am, which affected my confidence.

I love working with new people which is why I love events, collaborating and connecting with like-minded individuals and I felt so busy all the time just juggling work and home life that I had no time to network with others. One of the biggest drivers was that I felt like I couldn’t implement any ‘change’ in a big organisation. After looking at jobs with event & marketing companies mostly based in Bristol and Bath, both an hour’s commute away, and getting frustrated with the lack of home-working opportunities, I finally decided enough was enough. 

I handed my notice in at the beginning of March, and then lockdown happened. Two months later, having worked my notice period, I had no job, and no prospects, so why did I still feel amazing, like I could finally breathe again! First, I could focus on my children and homeschooling, while my husband worked full time in our home office. I was also ready to connect with a few people I’d lost touch with—albeit virtually! I joined some Facebook groups, thanks to a friend in the know, and started communicating with people, and I loved it. Given that we were spending so little, I felt I could relax a bit and use the time to work out what I wanted to do. 

I went freelance despite no prospect of any events on the horizon, and then I set up a sustainable events company: Green Sense Events. Focusing on sustainability was something I’d wanted to implement while employed, and we had done it as an organisation but nowhere near enough. I soon realised that if it was important to me, then I’d need to incorporate it into my business from the beginning, so it was at the heart of my work and not just a nice to have. 

What have you’ve learnt so far?
Social media can overwhelm. I joined lots of Facebook groups, networking events, and digital events which were all great, but at one point, I had to step back and work out a plan of action, write a business plan, edit and update my social media profiles, just to focus my mind. It’s easy-to-read everything on social media and sign up to every digital event, newsletter and training session going, which is fun and can be useful, but it can also exhaust. It’s essential to work out what is actually helpful to you to upskill and raise your profile. 

I’ve learnt to treat my peers as a community rather than competition. I’ve found that pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to whether they have their own sustainable events company, are a supplier or in a different industry altogether, has been supportive and happy to suggest other contacts and useful top tips. The more you connect with like-minded individuals, the more it leads you to other valuable connections, and it’s a great way to learn. 

Any tops tips on freelancing? 
I’d love to offer top tips that will allow others to gain work, but the current climate means there just isn’t much work around. Things are coming back, and it’s great to have some actual dates for when events can start happening again. I’m using the time to get myself set up properly on social media and finishing my website for the company. Educating myself on the areas that interest me—which is sustainability, learning from similar event companies, and looking at what Tokyo Olympics are doing, for example, to be more sustainable. Building my network of suppliers and networking with others as much as possible. 

Many of the traditional networking events have moved online. So, there are still opportunities to network online instead of ‘in person’, everyone is a potential client even if they aren’t looking to organise an event right now. I hope that people will think about planning events from now on, even if they can’t happen just yet. I also plan to start a blog once my website is up and running. There are lots of interesting articles out there on sustainability, and I’d love to share it with my network. I think it’s also a good way of engaging with people. 

I am interested to see how digital events affect the industry so exploring different platforms to see what’s possible in this field. Digital is a fantastic way of lessening our impact on the environment, so it’s an important area to look at and experience. I think even if you’re not hosting a virtual or hybrid event, look out for virtual events that you can attend as a participant, so you can at least talk from experience. 

Useful Facebook groups: #Eventprofsforchange, Delegate Wranglers, Get Ahead in Events, UK Live Event Freelancers Forum.

Anything you need help with?
I am keen to hear from anyone who is a sustainable supplier or venue, and I’d also to hear about what people think about sustainability. I worry that we could move backwards slightly with all the use of plastic PPE, and restrictions on the use of re-useable cups. But equally, I feel that businesses might do more online and perhaps not hold events for the sake of it as much as they used to. 

lisa@greensenseevents.co.uk

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The Shift: Issue #11

NUJ legal challenge to the lockdown support measures; #Giftcard500; the rise of micro-entrepreneurship; Remote work & AI.

I’ve been in full campaign mode this week.

The National Union of Journalists has submitted a legal challenge to the government’s lockdown support measures.

They believe the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) introduction by the Treasury has excluded large numbers of freelance workers and is therefore discriminatory.

It’s a step up in their campaign to secure equal treatment for all freelance workers.

The government has excluded PAYE workers from the SEISS scheme and often from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). This means the chancellor has failed to protect a significant number of working people whose incomes were affected in precisely the same way as others who have qualified for assistance.

Another reason why you should #JoinAUnion.

After months of asking the BBC to help their PAYE freelances, the BBC has now agreed to provide some financial support to about 649 PAYE freelances and they will receive their average earnings for March, April, and May (capped at £2,500 a month). 

This is being funded by the BBC, not the government, but still, good news – can others follow suit? Read more

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The Shift: Issue #10

A minimalist approach to business.

Last July, I had to set up a limited company as clients and agencies won’t do business with sole traders for various reasons. This came up after I’d been offered the contract, so it was a bit of a rush job. I registered with Companies House and sorted out business insurance (difficult when you have poor credit – finally got it sorted via a broker). I was apprehensive as I like to keep things simple. Was it worth the hassle and expense of going limited for a short contract?

I went for it anyway as it was an interesting project with a big brand, well paid and could lead on to other things. I worked on it full time for six months and kept my other clients on reduced hours – gruelling – a good practice run for the lockdown. I learnt how to handle an ever-shifting brief, multiple sign-offs and differing opinions on tone of voice. It felt good to be earning proper money. Going limited has made me think about my business as a separate entity. I’ve given my agency a name, and it means I can apply for a wider range of projects.

Now it’s listed on CH, I’m being approached by lots of people keen to sell me stuff. Sales letters in the post, random calls, InMail – do I need staff, office space or software solutions? (nope, it’s just me). All trying to persuade me to buy, upgrade, do more, get bigger.

Read more

 

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The Shift: Issue #9

How Newsletters Are Redefining Media (and how they can help grow your business)

“For me, the newsletter is the most important tool that I have in building a global denim brand. Second only to the sewing machine” – David Hieatt. ‘Scrapbook Chronicles’ has become a cult offering from Hiut Denim Co and it’s grown his company by 25% each year for the last three years.

Cool, huh? For a humble email newsletter (which costs next to nothing to produce, just your time).

I’m obsessed with newsletters. I subscribe to loads – business, marketing, remote work, fashion, travel… new ideas, inspo, fab design – they are a THING. As is newsletter curation – there’s so much great content out there. Where do you start? Check out Really Good Emails. Email is such an old school platform, but it’s not going anywhere. I had my first Hotmail account 20 years ago when backpacking around Australia pre-mobile brick (I thought I had to go back to the same internet cafe to send emails til someone put me straight). I still use email every day, multiple times a day, for work and personal stuff. It’s like a comfy cardigan, no matter how holey, you keep wearing it.

And it has huge potential. Email is so much more than a sales tool – you’re building a relationship with your reader. Read more