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Freelancing future of work Small business Wellness

Thoughtful exit interviews: how to offboard yourself

My summer work project ended with a bang last week. I was given a day’s notice via email and asked to quickly hand over to the new in-house copywriter. 

I get it – budgets and a new project manager, but it still took me by surprise as we were in the final stages of the work. I also felt a handover was a bit out of my scope as a freelancer – surely this was the PM’s job? So I asked my hiring manager for advice. She backed me up and said she’d speak to the PM. I told the copywriter I was happy to chat but checking the process first (also not clear if I’d be paid for this). 

I was onboarded quickly to fill a gap during the holidays and the project ended as abruptly. Here I am three months later, waiting to be paid for work that started in July. I enjoyed the work but the transactional nature of it has left me feeling frustrated and a bit fed up – where’s the humanity? All a bit soulless. Adland can be like this and it’s something I struggle with. I like to build relationships with the team and see the final end product.

It’s made me realise how important offboarding and exit interviews are with clients, so I have a process and checklist for my personal sanity and mental health…

  • Review the final project – what went well, what could have been improved?
  • Get a testimonial from the PM.
  • Say thank you to the team (people move around all the time, you never know when you’ll be working with them again). Ask to see the end product if possible – for my portfolio.
  • Send the final invoice.
  • Give feedback to HR and ask them to fill in a quick survey if they have time.
  • Leave a review on GlassDoor to help others. 

I may not get a response from the PM, but at least I’ve wrapped things up my side. 

Onboarding and offboarding is something companies need to think about more as the freelance revolution grows, and they need to manage freelancers at scale. Even better, hire a Head of Remote as my hiring manager was in a different country and not involved day-to-day.

Good communication is crucial for remote teams and having a handbook means new starters feel connected and can jump right in. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel disconnected and undervalued – which won’t foster good work. 

I’m also wondering if I need to tighten up my T&Cs and ask for a part payment upfront with overseas suppliers (I’ve been burned in the past). I’m grateful for the NUJ – if I end up chasing payment I know they have my back. Union membership is worth every penny.


Pandemic social fatigue

Is it just me, or is going out exhausting? I went out for a meal last week at a new restaurant, and we ended up sharing a table with a group of guys who’ve just moved here. Sensory overload. Too bright, too loud, too many people. I found it a bit overwhelming, so I guess I’m just out of practice.

I’m not alone – a piece by Lisa Milbrand on why socialising is more exhausting now for both introverts and extroverts and how to get your mojo back. 

Wishing you a relaxing and restful World Mental Health Day🎗 🧠

I’m not going to overload myself this quarter. I’m focusing on what I have, taking care of myself, reflection and R&D – the key to the productivity puzzle, Bojo…

Take care,

— Nicci

P.S. The most beautiful thing I’ve heard lately.


🔗🖐 5 Things 

★ Global Study on Freelancing: 75+ research partners and 1900 freelancers. It’s a big tent – 31% were over 50, and 64% were full-time freelance by choice. Most have a solid workload, but ⅓ are struggling (consider timing and context with Covid). Tech workers are the happiest. Freelancing is large and growing, but the platforms must continue to add value — great to see the expansion into coaching and education.

— Global Study on Freelancing

★ Facebook outage: offline for over six hours on Monday and on Friday. I enjoyed the break, but it highlights the issue of small businesses putting all their eggs in one basket and selling their services via social media rather than websites and customer service software. Excellent piece on how Facebook is acting like a hostile foreign power, and it’s time we treated it that way. Wow to the new cover of Time👀

— Facebookland: The Largest Autocracy on Earth.

★ The future of work should mean working less. Now we have space to reimagine how a job fits into a good life.A call for creating policies to keep work in its place: Universal Basic Income, rights to housing and healthcare, a living wage, and shorter hours at full pay. Human wellbeing is more important than productivity.

— The Future of Work Should Mean Working Less.

★ Headlines Network: free workshops starting in November to support media workers’ mental health in partnership with Google News Initiative. Great to hear they’re working with MIND to tackle mental health stigma in the media. Free, weekly 90-minute sessions: tips and tools for wellbeing and space for a chat – looking forward to it.

— Headlines Network

★ “There is no such thing as info overload. The overload is from ‘noise,’ and your ability to segment and ignore that noise will be a crucial survival skill for the future of your career and personal sanity” – Rohit Bhargava. A deep dive into how we develop this skill from Nir Eyal’s perspective as a tech insider who wrote Hooked: how to build habit-forming products. Clever tips on how to improve your attention and limit distraction. 

— How to Survive in a World of Information Overload


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Categories
AI Content writing

What if a robot could write your copy?

– The Shift: A weekly-ish newsletter about our work-from-anywhere future and making money online.

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Jarvis AI

That was written by AI – not bad, eh? 

I gave it a few words about my newsletter as a prompt – and it wrote that in seconds.

Jarvis is the latest AI writing assistant I’ve come across – thanks to Marianne Lehnis, who suggested it. These tools have been around for a while, but the new AI GPT-3 based writers go a step further and help you write long-form copy – ad copy, sales pitches, emails, product descriptions, social media and more. 

I’ve used it for client work and content pieces, and it’s a very cool tool. Fun to use: it’s made me laugh, surprised me, given me ideas, and saved me time. I’m trialling Boss Mode (the most advanced package💲) and have barely scratched the surface (53 templates, recipes, commands, long-form content), but it’s given me a sense of how powerful it is. 

I asked Jarvis to rewrite my bio:

I am a woman of many hats. I am the author of Remote: Office Not Required and Chief Tingler at Tingler Inc.

I’m Nicci. I write about remote work and building an online business. My favourite thing to do is go on adventures, make friends with animals, and take long walks in nature.

Spot on, Jarvis!! 

Open AI’s GPT-3 is described by Marketing Brew as ‘kind of a big deal’ – among the most advanced language models in existence.

Large language models are powerful machine learning algorithms with one key job description: identifying large-scale patterns in text. The models use those patterns to “parrot” human-like language. And they quietly underpin services like Google Search—used by billions of people worldwide—and predictive text software, such as Grammarly.

Emerging Tech Brew’s Hayden Field.

The goal is to humanise AI and help you write smarter, faster – and get over Blank Page Syndrome. The better you describe what you want to write, the higher quality content Jarvis will help produce.

Super useful for content marketers, digital agencies, and anyone who needs to generate a lot of content. The long-form option (Pro + Boss Mode) is a game-changer – interesting to see on Facebook that people are using it to write books.

It won’t steal your writing job. You get well written generic copy, the first draft as a base to tweak from. It’s not for complex articles, fact-checking or emotional aspects. This post by Danny Veiga, a digital marketer, was written by Jarvis – he told Marketing Brew Jarvis wrote about 80% of it, with 20% fact-checking. 

I see it as part of my writing toolkit. It’s helped me generate ideas, perspective, given me a creative boost and saved me time. Jarvis is a workhorse! 100% remote and 24/7 *shoulders drop*. Forget the threat – embrace the tech and use it to sell your services and promote yourself – 5 x your content in minutes! Read this now! 

Jarvis has over 30,000 users from companies including Shopify, Google, Canva, Zillow, Airbnb, Stripe, lots of positive reviews, and an active Facebook community. Learning in public – good to see them flagging issues and solutions, responsive to feedback and improving the product.

You can sign up for a free five-day trial here (Nicci on steroids – gives me a few more credits to play with) – I promise not to send you five newsletters next week 🤖

Have you tried Jarvis or any other AI writing tools? I use Grammarly Pro, but this is in a different league.


🔗🖐5 Things  

💸Twitter Tips – their latest experiment now lets you tip anyone with cash or crypto (via mobile). Twitter seems to have gone mad introducing new features to try and get up to speed with other networks – rolling stuff out to see what sticks – at least they’re experimenting in public. But if the content is freely available, where’s the incentive for users to pay? Good overview by TechCrunch.

🎙Burnout and exhaustion while working in content – you’re not alone (Content Rookie). I love this podcast. Interesting chat with Jane Ruffino and Candi Williams on setting boundaries at work and moving the conversation from productivity to burnout. How scale (scarcity mindset) shouldn’t drive a company over growth and community (abundance mindset). ‘We shouldn’t have to constantly perform ambition to do well.’ There’s a pressure to upskill – especially in an emerging field like UX.

👩‍💻Letting go of perfection – I wrote a piece for The Portfolio Collective on the rise of perfectionism as a cultural issue and how we can keep it in check – some strategies that have helped me. One of the members, Zarir ‘Zed’ Vakil said: “One tip I use for avoiding toxic perfectionism is being outcome-focused and always taking action. This avoids procrastination and rumination.”

🕵🏻‍♀️Reinvigorate your career by taking the right kind of risk – inspiring piece by Whitney Johnson on taking smart risks. Exploring underserved areas of your industry and crafting a new role for yourself, staying in your current job and inventing a new product or service or switching industries. Finding the gap – what no one else is doing – and creating opportunities – businesses don’t disrupt, people do.

📕Free book! Collaborate: Bring people together around digital projects by Ellen de Vries (Gather Content). Content is about people and collaboration – how to think about the work you do as a collaborator in your day-to-day life – and some practical activities to test out. How to work with others online efficiently – this will be helpful to anyone in digital, not just content people. Via the excellent & new Working in Content.


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is your guide to running a small but mighty business. Start living and working on your own terms. Supercharge your solo work🚀

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Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #21

#CopyCon2020—Top tips for being a successful copywriter; Death to perfectionism; Blogging for business; UX jobs—design systems are the new frontier.

“8 hours of copywriting gold” – 10 speakers, 8 training days, satellite sessions, poetry, illustration, networking, cats…🐱 ProCopywriters’ 7th annual conference and 100% online for the first time.

It’s my first one, so I had nothing to compare it to, but it was a fantastic event—inspiring talks (9 female speakers) and seamless tech. I’m still using the app (Attendify) to replay videos and download docs. If there’s one good thing to come out of all this madness, it’s being able to do global conferences that I wouldn’t have been able to afford. No travel costs and you can listen in while you work or on the go. I can’t sit at a desk all day, so I did a walking Zoom to break it up. See more.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #8

Back in Business

Did you go out yesterday? Super Saturday. It was raining here, so I didn’t bother. Not in the mood for shopping or being in a crowded pub, so I stayed home and made some calls. It’s been a busy week, and I had to take my daughter to Heathrow on Tuesday. She’s spending the rest of the summer in Sardinia with her dad, so I’m getting used to being on my own again.

A friend made a comment the other day about being an unpaid skivvy and how she’s glad to get back to work (she runs a vegan café and has been doing takeaways). I know how she feels. I’ve enjoyed spending more time with my daughter and having a co-working buddy, but it’s been hard work. Lots of shopping, cooking and cleaning on top of my paid work, which women tend to do more of.

I need a break. 

A friend said her neighbours are having an existential crisis about having jobs with no meaning. The pandemic has polarised jobs into two camps: essential and nonessential. We’re celebrating key workers—teachers, doctors, nurses, supermarket staff and delivery drivers because they’re out there doing important (and visible) jobs. It’s easy to feel demoralised and fed up if you’ve been furloughed, worrying about redundancy, or doing less visible work like IT, marketing and social media.

If you’re feeling that way there are some good tips in this piece by The Enterprisers Project. Read more

 

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

Copywriting projects – June 2020

It’s June, my birthday month. A special anniversary this year – I’m 46 years young and also celebrating 20 years as a freelance writer!

What am I working on in June?

Here’s an overview.

  • E-shots and newsletter for a retail trade body
  • Annual Review 2020
  • Social media copywriting for a journalists’ trade union
  • Promoting #ForgottenFreelance and #NoFreeWork campaigns
  • Developing a new blog series – thought leadership pieces from the gift card industry
  • Social media reporting
  • Writing blogs on perimenopause and sex, and menopause and sex (yes, two different things!) for a sex tech startup. A slight challenge as I have Safe Search on while homeschooling
  • Boilerplate for a press release
  • Email newsletter, The Shift, my weekly (Sunday) update on work culture
  • Research – listening to podcasts on marketing and work trends: Hot Copy, Is This Working? Call Paul, Being Freelance, The Copywriter Club. I go by the 25% rule and spend the first hour of the day working on my business rather than in it
  • Pandemic check – updating my website SEO, links, blog, checking tone of voice etc

It’s a diverse range of content and comms across very different industries.

I use a variety of platforms – MailChimp, WordPress, Hootsuite, Microsoft Outlook, LinkedIn, Twitter, G-Suite, Substack, Zoom, SurveyMonkey, Disciple app.

It’s all about communication right now. Getting the right tone and shifting things online – meetings, webinars, podcasts, apps. Finding ways to keep people connected while they’re working from home and having systems and processes in place to manage remote teams.

Being direct is essential – so have one message or call to action per email, use bullets, and keep it short. No one wants long emails with too much information. There’s no point planning too far ahead either as we don’t know what’s coming and things are changing so fast. Focus on the next couple of months. 

Now isn’t the time for a hard sell but don’t disappear on your customers either – keep in touch, a weekly email is fine. People will appreciate you being there and doing stuff. It’s an opportunity to show people how you’ve responded to the crisis, your values and teamwork. Once this is over, we’ll remember the brands that took action and helped others, and we’ll be loyal to them.

Add a personal touch – a sign off from the CEO in an e-shot, or call your clients to see if you can help. Offer to keep in touch via their personal email if they’ve been furloughed. Ditch the Survey Monkey and ask for a quick email update instead. Make it easy for people to keep in touch with you.

Use Zoom for online meetings as people are familiar with it and using it personally. Don’t share a meeting link on social media and set a password to join. Make it fun – jokes, canned laughter, music, drinks. Don’t aim for perfection; keep it real. We’re all in this together.

I was inspired to see how the Jigsaw team have been using Zoom – they are a social bunch! Check out their blog post here.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked across many industries, and it’s been interesting to see how clients are adapting to the new normal. It’s great to share ideas and see how trends in one industry may help another. It’s one of the joys of being freelance – you see things from a different perspective and bring fresh ideas.

If you need help with your copy and content, feel free to get in touch. I’m here to help. nicci@niccitalbot.com.

Sign up for my weekly newsletter, The Shift – exploring new ways of living and working.

PS. If you’re struggling to concentrate, try the Pomodoro Technique, a time management tool. Set your 25-minute timer and work on one task at a time with no interruptions. Short break. Rinse and repeat. I also use Do Not Disturb when I need to concentrate – all calls and notifications off for a calmer working day.

I don’t want to go back to normal, do you?

See this as an opportunity. It’s a good time to think about how you live and work and make some changes.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

Corona Diaries: Day 1 of Lockdown (Artist in Residence)

Day 1 of my ‘Artist in Residency’ – a nicer way of looking at it. Thanks to Sky Dylan-Robbins, Executive Director, Video Consortium, who said, “Despite the anxiety that today’s torrents of bad news may induce, there’s something to be said for taking a moment to breathe, reassess, and do something we haven’t had time to pursue.” Yes! Like announcing on Twitter that I’m going to be learning Italian over the next three months to show solidarity.

27 million people in the UK watched Boris’ historic speech last night enforcing a lockdown and telling us we must stay at home. Sound speech, clear messaging and tagline – “Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” Note the wartime language: “In this fight, each and every one of us is directly enlisted. On the frontline. Beat the virus. An army of volunteers.” A bit belated, he’s clearly in anguish at having to take these measures, but they are necessary given that the UK saw its highest number of coronavirus deaths in one day, with 87 dying in 24 hours. I’m glad we’re finally joining the rest of Europe. 

Woke up at 6.30 am with the sun streaming through the window, dogs barking and birds singing. It’s not great timing, is it? We’ve been stuck indoors for months due to crap weather, and now, just as everything’s coming back to life, it looks like we’re going to be inside for another three months. Still, I’m not running a marathon on my balcony like that fabulous Frenchman – our restrictions aren’t that draconian.

1.18 pm: text from GOV.UK: “CORONAVIRUS ALERT. New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” 

Slight confusion about messaging. The fam all had the same text advising them to stay at home. ‘You may get additional advice on your health condition shortly’. My mum thought this was irresponsible “cos people will be led to believe they are on the 1.5 million list of at-risk people when the text appears to be a confirmation of government policy to the population as a whole. Loads of folk will be panicking for nowt!”

Friend texted in despair after spending 2.5 hours on hold trying to get through to the Universal Credit helpline for some advice. “There’s no other way to continue a claim than to call them. The system is going to stop loads from getting any help at all.” 

Working from home: everyone seems to be using Zoom for online meetings – positive feedback, it’s easy to use. £11.99 for small sessions of up to 100. There’s also a free option, which apparently ends calls after 40 minutes (sounds like an excellent productivity tool!). One of my clients (retail trade body) is digitising its platform for members so we’re exploring webinars, online conferencing, and a portal/forum as all physical events are on hold. Great to see lots of positive news/PR stories coming out about retail and how ‘self-isolation is changing our gifting style’, i.e. we’re buying more gift cards to help loved ones feel better. I’ve already bought three this month for birthdays and Mother’s Day. 

So, I’ll be working on a ‘sunny news blog’ for the retail/gifting world with positive stories. There’s also a free school meals initiative for coronavirus which involves gift cards, so lots of scope for retailers.

Funny how having a tight brief for a client or a ‘lockdown’ in this case helps with creativity – we have to work with what we have so there’s less room for procrastination. As Douglas R Hofstadter said, “I suspect that the welcoming of constraints is, at bottom, the deepest secret of creativity.”

Update on self-employment: 

Proposed amendment to the Coronavirus Bill: “Statutory Self-employment Pay”. If it’s accepted, it compels the government to introduce Regulations for freelancers: 80% of their monthly net earnings, averaged over the last three years OR £2,197 per month, whichever is lower. Write to your MP to support this: ow.ly/53iz50yUow7 – more news on self-employment tomorrow.

5 pm: Had a jog to Bexhill. Seafront was full of joggers, dog walkers, and bikes… cycling is going to be huge this year. Older people are great at social distancing, but millennials don’t seem to have the hang of it yet and carry on walking straight towards you, so I had to do a bit of dodging. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t want to catch this, thanks. Popped into the Co-op on the way home for loo roll and eggs (max 15 people at a time, self-employed bouncer on the door). Empty shelves, which is no surprise, but now the wine shelf and fridges have been stripped bare too. It’s official: the UK’s holing up for three weeks. 

Why aren’t retail staff wearing masks? I’ve been in all the supermarkets, and none of the checkout staff or security are wearing them. The chaps in the corner shops are. This is madness given the number of people they are coming into contact with and the delivery drivers bringing in new stock. We should be looking after these people as well as our NHS staff: they’re on the ‘retail frontline’ after all, and they have to put up with the public all day long…

8 pm: Channel 4 News. The teen on group chat with her mates all night, trying to host a Netflix party. Few tech glitches so it didn’t work, but we’ll try again tonight. Great idea, Netflix!

Some positive news:

After tweeting Dr Mark Ali (Private Harley Street Clinic) to suggest he should offer free COVID-19 testing for frontline workers, I see there’s been a massive backlash about him profiteering from a national crisis. He’s now lost his contract with the supplier so no private testing on his website. Still, he’s made a packet in a few weeks – perhaps he could donate some to the NHS.  

ExCel Centre in London to be turned into coronavirus hospital for up to 4,000 patients

Coronavirus: Joe Wicks keeps children fit with online PE classes

Your NHS Needs You – NHS call for a volunteer army. Join the GoSAM App. 405,000 recruits in one day! I’ll make calls and write letters of hope. 

Free Minecraft education pack to help kids stuck in quarantine. Armchair travel to the international space station and the inside of the human eye. 

Coronavirus: Can Couples Meet up? Couples should test their strength of feeling over whether to isolate together is the official advice from England’s deputy chief medical officer. “Couples need to make a choice and stick with it.”  

Company gives away 100,000 free sex toys and gifts to women stuck in self-isolation

Prada: the latest fashion brand to make medical face masks. Great to see the big brands making medical face masks, hand sanitiser, and funding studies into coronavirus and immunity and intensive care units. 

Enjoy reading this?

Clear messaging (& tone of voice) is crucial at all times – not just during coronavirus!

If you need a little help with your marketing activity in the coming weeks – get in touch today. Nicci@niccitalbot.com.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

Copywriting: Wealth from Words

NUJ training with Eugene Costello and Nick Saalfeld 

Copywriting and branded content creation pay two or three times more than conventional journalism and there is near-insatiable demand for skilled practitioners. Join Eugene Costello and Nick Saalfeld to learn how to delight clients and what it takes to command truly stellar day rates.

So, I went along to find out more… a really enjoyable course, funny, entertaining and inspiring with lots of anecdotes, jokes and useful tips. Eugene focuses on B2C work and Nick, B2B and thought leadership so good insight into the pros and cons of both and different rates of pay.

Key takeaways: Do corporate work. There’s lots of it out there and it pays well. Know your worth and charge a decent day rate. Don’t do piecemeal or project work – sites like People Per Hour and Upwork are saturated. Look for niche areas like tech/blockchain, where there isn’t as much competition. Focus on building a relationship with a client. I also love the idea of having a ‘capability statement’ instead of a CV.

Types of copywriting:

·      Advertising

·      Business writing

·      Blogging for clients

·      In-house journalism

On finding work:

·      Contact small businesses and individuals with high net worth and ask if they need help

·      Contact advertising agencies via LinkedIn

·      Facebook groups – A Few Good HacksJourno ResourcesNo 1 Freelance Media Women, & copywriting groups… Eleanor GooldJackie Barrie

·      Have your own website with slides/logos on it featuring your best clients and an online portfolio. Blog about the companies you’re working with or want to be. Eugene got an in-house journalism gig with Octopus Energy by writing a blog post about their excellent customer service… which caught the eye of the CEO when he shared it on Twitter… a charity donation and eventually, some work!

·      Serendipity – be out there talking to people, go to meetups – Nick runs one for Pharma professionals in London, carry business cards

·      Find your niche – for Nick, it’s thought leadership. Think about where your work fits into the company – do your research and then produce 10 pieces. Move from piecemeal to transactional work to relationship building and make yourself valuable. He jumps at the chance to go in-house, meet people and work out how he can contribute. “Get out of the transactional crap into long-term value work.”

·      Create a ‘capability statement’ instead of a CV, a two-page document showing clients, sectors, logos, agencies worked for, reference examples, 6 referees, commercial boilerplate. Nick has one and updates it every three months. “It knocks the socks off a CV!”

·      Nick also hires writers and looks for: critical thinking, logic and structure in complexity, curiosity, conscientiousness, business sense, horizon scanning, adaptability, flexibility, creativity, emotional intelligence, self-motivation, prioritisation and time management, embracing and celebrating change

·      Learn about new areas where there’s less competition – e.g. cryptocurrency, tech, blockchain

·      Content management agencies – worth signing up for but be selective as the pay can be terrible. Check out www.stickycontent.com and www.thewriter.com

What can you earn?

·      You get what you expect – rates can vary between £150-500 a day

·      On knowing your worth – Eugene asked for £500 per day at Octopus Energy and thought he’d fluffed it as things went quiet… but he held out rather than going back with a lower offer and they offered him £400 per day to be their in-house journalist

·      If there’s something they like about your work don’t be afraid to ask for more. It’s a good thing to try and hold your rate

·      Avoid project rates or piecemeal work – develop a sense of your own value

On writing:

·      Forget the tone of voice corporate bullshit. Speak to people as humans. Be warm, personal, concise, & write as you speak. Innocent Drinks had a revolutionary way of communicating with consumers

On freelance journalism:

·      “Writers are going down the rabbit hole of chasing ever-diminishing work.”

·      “Print journalism has trodden journalists down until they have no respect left for themselves.”

On copywriting:

·      “It’s a nice life. I can cherry-pick between commercial work, which is well paid and other work – features, press trips.”

·      “Anyone can write and get Grammarly. Clients are paying you for your intelligence, ideas, and perspective – not to write!” They pay you to turn up on time, get on with the team, make coffee etc. Consider how you make people feel and know that ALL your interactions matter

·      Ethics – only work with clients you feel comfortable with.

Also, at £15, this course was a steal and far cheaper than equivalent commercial courses I’ve seen advertised. One of the many perks of being an NUJ member!

Contact:

www.eugenecostello.co.uk

www.wellspark.co.uk

www.nuj.org.uk

Photo by Hannah Grace on Unsplash