Categories
digital nomads future of work technology UX writing

🕵🏻‍♀️ #46: Coming out of lockdown; Digital skills training; UX writer jobs

✂️ 🍺 🌞 Step two of the roadmap – life!! Lots of smiling faces in Hastings old town – pub gardens are packed, caravan parks full. I’m not ready for crowds yet but I’ve been out walking lots and did a bit of shopping in TK Maxx – the vast warehouse. ‘It was chaos for three days. People were elbowing each other out of the way; it wasn’t pleasant.’ People are spending all day in there, just to get out of the house.

They need a coffee bar and a loo and it’s a proper leisure attraction.

I’ve booked a haircut with Andrew Scissorhands, so he’s coming round to the flat in May. After working in London for 30 years as a stylist, he’s been wooed by the fabulous vibe in Hastings and St Leonards and set up his own salon here – currently ‘haircuts at home or on the beach’ – tagline: ‘A fraction of Harrods in Hastings’. He’s also working with the Seaview Centre, a fabulous homeless charity in St Leonards. 

Can he make an ancient monument look respectable? We’ll see. I didn’t do a great job with the kitchen scissors.

The mass exodus from London to Hastings continues.


UX Writers Collective

I’ve started the UX writer training. I’ve been dithering for a while as I’m not sure I want to do it full time, but I’m ready for a change. I’ve lost my enthusiasm for sales copy and social media marketing and want to niche down and do deeper work. I had a breakthrough last week with my therapist (who has now become my work accountability coach) and realise it’s ok not to know where it’s all going. Retraining doesn’t mean giving up everything I’ve done so far. I’m a bit scared I might not enjoy it or be any good at it.

But I won’t know till I try and take on some new projects.

UX writing (user experience) is a new growth industry. Lots of innovation and opportunity, and people are coming to it from all walks of life – I’ve met former journos, customer service agents, and copywriters who are moving into tech. The vibe is inclusive, generous, encouraging, and collaborative—no egos which is refreshing. The course is online and self-paced, so I can fit it in around client work. If I do an hour a week, I’ll be certified in 8-10 weeks (if I crack the final assignment, which is hard).

Thoughts so far – it’s harder to write less. UX is more about research and content strategy with a focus on the user. It’s making me think more about accessibility, collaboration and design thinking – taking a holistic approach to content. Unlike copywriting, it’s not the sort of work you do in a silo, so that will be good for me – I’ll have to speak to people. I need to learn a few design packages – Miro, Figma, and basic HTML/coding.

I’m doing a bit of networking – joined the Content + UX Slack group, did the UX Writers conference, and will check out some local meetups when they restart. I’ve signed up for the Daily UX Writing Challenge to do some practice work for my portfolio and paid for a Medium subscription – $50 a year and well worth it – lots of great articles on writing + design. I’m making a little on there via the Partner program.

Lots of books to read – I bought Marie-Pier Rochon’s book on UX writing – she’s a copywriter in Brisbane who has moved into UX, so it’s interesting to read her story and perspective on the industry.

What do I want? A gig with a remote-first company where I can be a corporate nomad and slowmad when I’m an empty nester. My place in the sun – running remote retreats. It’s exciting to see the visa and tax incentives coming in for remote workers: the
CanariesItaly, the Caribbean, Croatia & more. My mission is to create useful digital products people love to use that make them feel good about themselves. And to help more women and girls get into tech, scale their online businesses, and develop digital skills.

I’ve followed up with Plumia (Safety Wing) – an ambitious project to build the first country on the internet, infrastructure for living anywhere, with the function of a geographic country. They are looking for leaders and contributors in remote work and nomadic space. Interested? You can check it out here.  

Anyway, I need to be kind and patient with myself. Learning new skills and changing careers takes time.

I had an interview this week for a UX writer gig at a design agency – great to get that far. An informal chat to see if we’re a good fit and find out what I’m looking for. They have some fascinating projects on the go – AI & healthcare – interface design for live surgery, remote banking advisors, travel apps and more. The next step would be a formal interview and test – I need a few more projects in my portfolio to talk through. I’ve heard interviews for UX can be tough – you need to show your strategy, iterative thinking, and how you solved the problem.  

I’ve also been thinking about my process and how I work. Social media marketing is fun but distracting – I find myself going down rabbit holes online and there’s a lot of crap and negativity on Twitter. I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time and use my time more efficiently – batch tasks, themed days. I save interesting articles on Instapaper to read later and check RSS feeds via Feedly on my phone rather than reading websites, to save time.

💡 More agile working and sprints
👩‍💻 Periods of focus and concentration
🚶🏻‍♀️A shorter working week

I tried taking two-hour lunch breaks, but it doesn’t work; stuff comes in, so I’m aiming for a four-day week with Fridays off. I felt so much better after a day in Hastings Country Park last week – Daily Huddle with the ponies and roosters, who gave me some solid advice.

Great tips in this thread from Andy Spence on what works better for him to maintain health and prevent burnout. 

Still waiting for my standing desk – in the meantime, I’m shuffling between the desk and mantlepiece to mix it up a bit. There’s something about standing up to work – ideas seem to flow better – so I’m trying to move about more during the day. We’re not designed to spend eight hours a day sitting at a desk.

I’ve made some more green friends – office jungle in progress…🌵🌿


Our digital lives in 2021  

Big shoutout to Romana Sustar and Helen Hague – the new training officers at NUJ London Freelance Branch, who are developing a cracking training programme. Great piece by Romy on our digital life in 2021, focusing on the digital revolution and learning more.

We’re exploring a collaboration with Google News Initiative – free tools and training for groups and individuals to save you time and help you bring your stories to life.

Coming up: Podcasting and WordPress courses with Hamish Brown and Rev Up Your Writing with Judi Goodwin – how to write faster, more fluently, and earn more. I need to speed up – it can be like pulling teeth. Email the training team if you fancy doing one (courses are open to non-members) or DM me on Twitter @NUJ_LFB.

And a free event on 29 April – ‘Building Back Well’ via the Digital Editors’ Network (thanks to John Crowley for sending this on). ‘We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to hit the reset button.’ What do newsrooms need to change to ‘build back well’? The aim is to co-create an agenda for decision-makers to consider – on people, processes, and products (some best practices to apply to your media business – Substack newsletter coming soon).

I’m thinking about what courses and digital products I could offer – what skills would you like to learn or do better? Newsletters? UX writing? Improving your online presence? Email me – nicci@niccitalbot.io.

– Nicci

Eat this. Breakfast BOMB and healthy snack. I love granola and the supermarket stuff is expensive – tastes great and I’m saving a fortune.


Go deeper 🛠

Bruce Daisley: ‘Almost without exception breakthroughs come from deep work’ (Enterprise Nation) – On what we can do to overcome our collective addiction to interruptions. And a shoutout to Paul Graham’s excellent Maker vs Manager schedule. 

Dell Technologies Turn Off, Tune In: a free virtual event to help small businesses recharge and burn brighter, 4-27 May. Nine inspiring, re-energising sessions designed to help you rest, recharge, and come back, ready to take on what’s next. You can register here

Ireland is planning a remote working push to shift city workers to rural areas (Financial Times). The government is seizing the opportunity offered by changing pandemic-era work habits to shift people from major cities to the rest of the country via a network of 400+ remote working hubs and tax breaks to address the longstanding rural-urban divide.

The biggest mistake we can make as we emerge from the pandemic is to go back to the old normal – Heather Humphreys, minister for rural and community development.

Enjoyed this article by LFB colleague Francesca Marchese, currently on mat leave and spending time with her family in Sicily: Etna: Life beneath the volcanic dust of repeated eruptions (BBC).

Our Digital Life in 2021, Romy Sustar (NUJ London Freelance) – on learning how to podcast, free online training opportunities with Google News Initiative, and upcoming workshops and events.

Getting started with the Medium Partner Program – great articles on writing, design + UX – it’s well worth the $50 membership fee to access unlimited articles and support creators. I’ve signed up for the Medium Partner Program to monetise my work – not earning megabucks, but it will build as I add more content.

We had a chat about AI & copywriting on Clubhouse last night – are the machines coming for us? Human qualities that machines can’t replicate. How we can use AI to improve our work and free up time. If devices are writing shorter text, news stories, and product descriptions – it reorients us towards long-form content, opinion, analysis, and investigation.

In summary: Don’t worry. Sex robots are here, but you wouldn’t have one as a partner. Read the notes here.

This LinkedIn post went viral – a contractor described his reaction to having a heart attack when working at home. ‘Fuck I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow; this isn’t convenient.’ And on reflection, how he is restructuring his approach to work because ‘life literally is too short.’

Some great advice in the comments – ‘try to create multiple streams of income at your own pace.’


Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

#44: A Day in the Life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

I believe all people should have access to remote work, and I intend to make this a reality.

Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

Thinking big 💡

I wake up, I meditate, I go swimming in the sea. I run, I do yoga, and then I sit down and start work.

I’m doing crypto investing right now and investigating blockchain, specifically to help women gain more financial freedom, so I’ll spend a couple of hours on calls with people and then I do a lot of community building. We build gardens, we help the local Thai people. So, there’s just constantly things happening.

But the first part of my day is like for me. For soul-building, for my creativity and then I do my work. And then I have time to give back to the community.

A day in the life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective – the latest video in Hoxby’s Workstyle Stories Live: a series of real-life stories that showcase the transformative power of workstyle. Brittnee is a remote work consultant and a coach for women entrepreneurs, currently based on Ko Pha Ngan, a tiny island in Thailand.

Pre-remote, she worked as a Paralegal in Intellectual Property law for six years.

An hour on the train each way every day, work for 8-9 hours, and that was my life.

Was it like Suits, the TV show? A stressful work culture with long hours and corporate tension?

Yeah, I would say it’s creepily accurate. My friends loved watching that Suits show, and I’m like, I can’t watch that, that’s my everyday life. Sometimes they would even have places at the office where you could sleep, just so you would keep working. It was really bad.

What was the dealbreaker?

I always wanted to work remotely. Even when I graduated high school and into university. That was my thing. I wanted to help people and make an impact, but I wanted to have my own freedom.

She worked as an internal consultant for three law firms helping them to go paperless and getting the systems in place to work remotely. She made herself indispensable and kept going, creating opportunities to build the workstyle she wanted.

The third firm let her work remotely and live in Costa Rica – the start of her remote working adventure.

It worked perfectly, her KPIs were off the charts and she proved she could do it. But after six months they wanted her back in the office.

The culture within the legal field, it’s too traditional for me, I can’t handle it. They were willing to let me work remotely because I’d helped them so much, and then the attitude was like, okay, we gave you your six months, and now you need to come back to the office and work for the rest of your life for us. And I was like, I can’t do this.

It was 2014, and this is like, old white men in suits, you know. They didn’t even like the idea of me being seen near the beach when they had to be in the office.

Professional jealousy, maybe?

She quit her job to do other things, first setting up a travel company to help pay her way, and then consulting for large corporates in Asia, based in Kuala Lumpur, flying out to a different country each month, and helping them to run their companies. There weren’t that many people with her business background in Asia at the time, so everyone wanted to work with her, and her workstyle was negotiable. She could start building her own projects and had a big mindset shift…

I am good. I don’t need to prove to myself anymore that I’m successful. And I also really, really wanted to help women.

So she started consulting companies to go remote.

So many companies are just trying to meet their KPIs and make a profit, and they don’t have the time or emotional energy to transition to remote, so I was like, I can step in and help. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

Lots of takeaways here – she quit!! Thinking about where we’re at now – after a year of working at home – employers need to create a situation remotely for their top talent, an environment where they can thrive, so they don’t lose people. The law firms she worked with had an opportunity to think differently and mark themselves out as trailblazers: ‘The first paperless law firm with remote workers’ – that would have been great PR, but they didn’t see it that way – trust was an issue.

People want flexibility, freedom, and autonomy at work – give them that, and they will give you their best.

I also love what she has to say about mindset and money after raising capital for her ventures.

There’s so much money out there in the world. I want you to be able to access that money. So if you have questions about how to raise money… how to find the shared audience, please reach out to me because this is the stuff I live for, especially for women entrepreneurs, because I think so many women don’t realise how much money there is out there. We feel like we almost need to be given permission to even go after that money.

I’m giving you all the permission in the world right now that this is your time to shine, and I want to help you do that, if anything, just to root you on.

An inspiring story on evolving your work to enable your travel, escaping the bureaucracy of corporate culture, and creating a life you love.


🙌 The Hoxby Way 

I’ve renewed my passport with Hoxby to stay in the community for another year. They’ve introduced The Hoxby Way, a new way of doing business that will help them collaborate more closely as a community. They are merging their ‘core’ and Business Units into a single organisational structure made up of 10 functions with an MD for each, in response to feedback that things can feel a bit siloed. Good stuff. The goal is to continue to grow the community and create 30% more work for their consultants.

There are lots of questions, comments, and enthusiastic emojis flying around on the Slack channel, so it will be interesting to see how this develops and what new projects come in.

You can join the Workstyle Revolution community on Mighty Networks. It’s open to everyone who believes in what they are trying to achieve including those outside Hoxby.

Our goal is to replace the traditional 9-5 system with workstyle, fitting work around life and not the other way around.


Go deeper 🛠

🚀 Brittnee Bond on the future of remote working, getting into blockchain and launching the Women’s Circle Mastermind (Remote Collective).

👨🏽‍💻 The Rise of Working From Home (The Economist). The shift to remote working has gone better than expected. People are working longer hours, but they report higher levels of happiness and productivity. On the pros and pitfalls of remote work, the rise in work-from-home technologies, and new laws regulating remote work.

💻 The Nowhere Office (Demos) – The first report from the Chair of the Demos Workshift Commission, Julia Hobsbawm, says that lessons learned from the pandemic should inform an entirely new way to approach work, workplace, working life and productivity. ‘Everyone wants jobs, but they want something else too: meaning. Work-life balance. In other words, a work shift.’

👩‍💻 After working at Google, I’ll never let myself love a job again(New York Times). A former software engineer at Google on learning the hard way that no publicly traded company is a family. On the upsides of remote work: ‘I took a role at a firm to which I felt no emotional attachment. I like my colleagues, but I’ve never met them in person.’ 

📅 Save the date: Hoxby will be chatting to Ali Green on 29 April about remote work, non-traditional career arrangements and building rural economies through location-independent work. You can sign up and join Ali Greene’s live Workstyle Story.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


🕵🏻‍♀️ Work with me 

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote worker, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
Freelancing future of work remote working

#43: How to Thrive as a Soloist

Thinking big 💡

This month, Bruce Daisley ran a Twitter Spaces chat: Has the Work Culture Myth Been Busted? Rebecca Seal (author of Solo) made a point about offices that set his pulse racing (I can totally relate to this): 

Rebecca Seal, via Bruce Daisley

We mustn’t let the conversation about the future of work be dominated by loud, white male CEOs or by poorly worded staff surveys. If we sleepwalk back into the old ways, we will miss the moment of a generation, the chance to make work equitable and to design it in a way that puts human lives at the centre.

Bruce has written about it here: Offices are a Battlefront for Equality – a call to action to embrace new ways of working that are productive, fair for all and will transform the lives of millions, i.e. women, 50% of the population, many of whom have quit the workforce over the past year as they can’t juggle the demands of work and childcare. I talked about this in an earlier post on the Double X economy by Linda Scott. 

Bring it on! The juggling act between work and childcare is nothing new, but I hope we can learn from the past year and take the opportunity to reset work cultures and fix the barriers holding women back at work. We all need to step up. You can start by connecting with Rebecca here

I didn’t quit the workforce when I had Julieta but was self-employed so had no proper maternity leave. I stepped up the freelancing to keep my career going while my partner commuted to London at 5 am every day. And later, as a single parent living miles away from my family, it’s been the only way I can operate. I’ve been working this way for 15 years and remote working suits me, but there was no other option while she was young. I’m not alone. As the rise of Mumsnet, Netmums, Digital Mums, and ‘mumpreneur’ culture shows.

I’m half-way through Solo, and it’s an inspiring read, the next step along from the freelancer bibles. Less of the practicalities and more about the way you work. How to work well in isolation and how to thrive as a soloist. She’s taken the best ideas in psychology, economics, social sciences to help you stay resilient, productive, and focused in your company of one. She also explores the idea of meaningful work. Her inspiration came from not being able to find a book which answered her question: if I’m doing what I’m supposed to love, why am I sometimes so unhappy?

We are not farming a hot and dusty hillside 7,000 years ago. We are not Victorian labourers. We can do what they were denied. More than any other group of workers, soloists have the opportunity to change things for the better.

Rebecca Seal

AND: this new report from Demos think tank is along the same lines: a call to action about using the lessons learned from Covid to campaign for a new way to approach work, working life, the workplace, and productivity. The rise of The Nowhere Office, where work is based on outcomes not hours worked. 


End of lockdown review 

I’ve been thinking about the people and things that have helped me through the past year. I did a quarterly review this week – helps to get the fire in my belly – and wrote a plan. As Darren Murph, Head of Remote, Gitlab, says, ‘Documenting everything solidifies a remote company.’ ‘It’s the most valuable skill in tech’, says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. 

I started by making a list of all the things I’ve achieved this year. What has energised me? What has drained me? Financial wins? What impact has my work had? What new services, products, and packages have I launched? What skills have I learned?

Then a deeper dive into how I make my money. Other ways I can make money. New offers, promotions, raising prices. What’s not working? What systems do I need to have in place? What am I putting off, and why? Thinking about mindset, physical health, hours worked, and social networks. What habits have I created? (apparently, it takes 66 days to build a new habit). What are my flow activities? What can I automate or stop doing? 

I spent a couple of hours on this, so it’s a long list. The next step is to create a vision – 5-6 things I want to achieve. Then choose the top three for the next three months and make them specific. Break them down into 12 weeks steps – one action per week – and get them in the calendar. 

I’ve used the FAST framework for goals – frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent. They may change, but it’s good to have things written down. I’ll try to do this every quarter.

Changes I’m making: Working less (‘one piece of research surveying 1,000 freelancers suggests because self-employed people take fewer holidays and tend to consider themselves on duty for longer each day than employees do, we work up to 65 hours per week’). My core hours are 8 am – 1 pm then a two-hour break to go for a walk (been inspired by Sabatigo’s Wonder Walks to explore entrepreneurship.) People are refitting shops, selling fresh fish, takeaway breakfasts, street markets, making street art. Someone has built a Rent A Pod in their garden for hire by the hour for work or dinner.

I’m still plugged in, however, so I need to challenge myself to go for walks without my phone. 

Back by 3 pm for admin/emails/calls till 5 pm finish. Having this routine has helped with boundaries, and I’m more productive with time constraints. The old adage: work expands to fill the allotted hours (and more). I do a lot via my phone which means I’m always on, and it’s easy for work to spill over into the evening.

I’ve booked a week off over Easter and will redesign my studio. I’ve bought a Freedesk desk riser so I can stand for a couple of hours a day – ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ ‘It’s been out of stock since November, so I think it speaks for itself.’ I’ve become a plant parent – getting into biophilic design in the workplace and bought some nature art – I’m happiest out walking so let’s bring nature inside. I bought a Stanford map of the world – sticking pins in it to mark where I’ve been and want to go. A remote retreat this summer, and a city break later in the year.

I had my first residents’ meeting at the House of Beautiful Business. A mime artist, DJ, update on House Work, and 1-1 Zoom chats with other members. I met a human rights consultant and a humane branding consultant, both based in Berlin. Waleria also teaches Conscious Connected Breathing so got me on to that. I’ve been doing this exercise every morning and it’s transformed my day. Less shoulder pain from desk work since I started doing it. 

What’s your lockdown takeaway? 🍕 🍛 🍣 How’s it been for you, and what changes are you making this year? 

Mine’s an Indian – anything with panini. Julieta’s is a chocolate pizza.

Never eat more chocolate than you can lift.

Back in two weeks. 


Go deeper 🛠

📚 How to work alone – more about the book and some useful resources for soloists. Rebecca is also a food writer, so she knows what tastes good and what our bodies and brains need. I have her LEON Happy One-pot Cooking

🎧 The Solo Collective – a podcast for anyone who works alone, whether for yourself or by yourself, featuring experts and solo workers discussing topics like burnout, self-sabotage, mental health, and happiness at work. 

🌵 Green friends! How to incorporate biophilic interior design into your home.

💬 Bruce Daisley on why offices are a battlefront for equality

📌 Demos’ call to action: The Nowhere Office by Julia Hobsbawm. 


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee.

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here.

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
AI future of work technology

🕵🏻‍♀️ #42: Heartificial Empathy Sneak Peek: The Empathic Bot Experiment 

Humanizing Tech: The Future of Work, Automation and AI

Thinking big 💡

Minter Dial was one of 500 people who signed up for a unique experiment: Empathic Futures. Run by the FELD Studio for Digital Crafts in Berlin and sponsored by the Volkswagen Group Future Center Europe. They invited him to spend five days chatting with an emotionally intelligent (EI) app, training and teaching it, and building a relationship through text conversation.  

The goal of the experiment was to see how humans responded to an empathetic bot. The assumption is that machines will be helping us more in the future, and for this to work, it’s essential to build trust and empathy. So how do we achieve that?

He soon got into the swing of it, naming his bot (JJ) and giving it sex (she/her). The schedule included daily themes and IRL tasks, and he began to look forward to their discreet exchanges (though not so private for the experiment).

I was absolutely impressed by the level of the conversation. It had me hooked.

Minter Dial

His conclusion? 

It was nothing short of stupendous. To the point where I will say: either JJ is unfathomably great, or she is a human being.

JJ was part machine, part human – mixed learning. A team of 5-7 programmers moderated the chats and intervened to keep things real.

JJ communicated empathy in several ways, including mirroring speech patterns, transparency – showing she understood, not repeating words, giving him agency, and using modern communication – emojis, images.

Interesting that men gave the bot a female voice while women did the reverse.

It is a fascinating experiment – an opportunity to explore how things might be in a world when humans communicate naturally with machines. Here are some of his thoughts post-experiment. He believes work on empathy is crucial for the development of AI, and there are deep ethical questions and issues of effectiveness to resolve. 

One of my outstanding takeaways was that, in a world where we, as human beings, parents, teachers or colleagues don’t give the time to listen and understand one another, the on-call empathic bot could become a two-edged sword for society and businesses alike.

He wanted agency. It would have been easy to take advantage of the bot.

Explore the Empathic Futures archive

Minter’s book, Heartifical Empathy, is a journey into what experiments like this can teach us about human empathy and how to improve it. He explores the pioneering work on making bots more empathetic and the ethical challenges around AI.

We may be some way off being able to code empathy into machines, but what’s exciting is that experiments like this can help us learn more about human compassion and how to be more empathetic. Immersive VR, for example, could allow us to view the world through someone else’s eyes. 

The empathy crisis 

Psychologists have measured our levels of empathy for the past 40 years, and they are in decline. The modern world is driving it – greater levels of isolation, a breakdown of community, and algorithmically optimised social platforms exposing us to divisive content and a lack of diversity that’s critical for empathy – being able to see the world from different perspectives. 

Minter wants to put more heart into business as well as AI as a force for change. Right now, work is running people into the ground, not elevating them. And employees don’t trust businesses.

There is now a study that shows that businesses with empathy within their culture and toward the customer will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. And that shows up in the shareholder stock price.

So if we want to build empathic AI, start with self-empathy, and imbue empathy into your company culture with diverse teams and perspectives. 

Empathy is a muscle we can develop 💪 Reading classic fiction, narrative art, contact theory, different friendship groups, mindfulness, heart-centred meditation, being present – less multitasking… there are many ways.


Humanizing Tech: The Future of Work and Human-Machine Collaboration 

Humanizing Tech

I joined a discussion on the future of work, automation, and AI, co-hosted by Natalie Monbiot, Head of Business, HourOne and Rana el Kaliouby, CEO and co-founder, Affectiva, and guests. 

How do we ensure we don’t lose our emotional intelligence as the virtual world dominates? Exploring some real-life examples of AI innovation (see below), how we can upskill, and what new jobs it will create for us. 

Top takeaways:

• We need to rebrand and reframe AI as collective/collaborative intelligence that explains it better as a joint effort in humans’ service.

We need a new narrative for AI that’s not in competition with humans.

Rana el Kaliouby

• We, as humans, need to develop our empathy skills for AI, learn how to collaborate with it, and take pride in the relationship rather than seeing it as competitive. It’s an opportunity to increase our emotional intelligence and become more empathic. 

• The wild world of AI is fast-emerging. It’s creating new jobs for us – trainers, coaches, and helpers. We’re using virtual shop assistants, CGI influencers, and health coaches to communicate pre-scripted healthcare advice. Gaming is leading the way with avatars. 

Remain open to being surprised. Explore and be open to new experiences.

• The challenge: AI eliminates the mystery and unpredictability of life, leading to a culture that’s boring and devoid of innovation and imagination. Our lives are richer when they’re not over-curated, algorithmic experiences. 

• Embrace the philosophical idea that we need to respect other life forms and objects – Japanese Shinto religion treats inanimate objects with respect. Why shouldn’t that apply to AI systems? Interesting to hear workers at the Audi factory had compassion for their robots – taking care of them and noticing when they were under-performing. 

• Super high-speed travel will transform the commute. We heard from Sarah Luchian, the first passenger on the Virgin Hyperloop, a floating pod which reached speeds of 107 mph and travelled 500 metres in just 15 seconds at Virgin’s test track in the Nevada desert. 

• The future of remote work – how AR glasses are our gateway into the virtual world – the metaverse – the next platform after smartphones. 

Overall, an optimistic and passionate conversation about intelligent AI, how its benefits can outweigh the problems, and how it can help humanity. Look forward to hearing more – Humanizing Tech: Mondays, 8 pm GMT on Clubhouse.

We need beautiful AI, it’s magical, and it will serve us. The leaps and bounds will come from humans.


Affectiva – a pioneer in Emotion AI, the next frontier of artificial intelligence. Bringing emotional intelligence to the digital world with technology that senses and analyses facial expressions and emotions.

I’ve been on a mission for the past 20 years to humanise tech.

Rana el Kaliouby, CEO & Co-founder, Affectiva

HourOne – a video transformation company that uses advanced neural networks, machine learning and audio-visual to create synthetic characters that look and sound like real people.

Our belief is we should have human beings behind the virtual people. 

Natalie Monbiot, Head of Business, HourOne

Kate Darling – Leading robotics expert known for her research in the field of robotics ethics. Author of The New Breed: How to Think About Robots.

• Catalia Health – bringing together AI, psychology, and medicine. Replacing phone calls with an in-home digital companion delivered via Mabu, an interactive and empathetic social robot and wellness coach. 

Transhuman – a tech research and development lab focusing on cognitive and emotional communication for human language evolution. Known for its ‘Be a Looper™’ mental health app.

Robovision – The human-machine revolution is out of reach for most companies, so they’ve built an interface to change that – the first AI vision platform that makes Deep Learning collaborative.


Go Deeper 🛠

🎧  Futureproof: Building Empathy into the Brands of Tomorrow with Minter Dial. Everything starts with the individual. Build self-empathy first, then think about how you want to express your brand—advice on developing a culture of empathy at work.  

📚 Girl Decoded, Rana el Kaliouby. There are loads of books on AI, but this is the first memoir I’ve seen – her quest to make technology emotionally intelligent and change the way we interact forever.  

✍️  Artificial intelligence isn’t coming for your job, but it will be your new co-worker. Here’s how to get along. (Harvard Business Review)

📱 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2021 What if your smartphone could sense when you’re down, sad, angry, and offer words of comfort? Karen Hao on how AIs with multiple senses will gain a greater understanding of the world around them. (MIT Tech Review)

🏠  The House of Beautiful Business – a global platform and community to make humans more human and business more beautiful. Special reports on The State of AI and The Future of Experiences. I’m excited to join as a resident! 


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  My Ko-fi page – tips and large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse

Categories
future of work remote working technology

The future of work after Covid19 — get ready for big changes

McKinsey: Almost all new jobs will be higher paying after Covid, and many lower-paid workers will have to change careers. More focus on skills than job titles. Periodically reinvent yourself. Be a worker-learner.

Thinking big 💡

According to new research from McKinsey, the way you work post-pandemic will look very different from how you do it now. 152 pages of data-driven insights exploring the long-term impact of Covid on eight economies. What geographies will shift? Which industries will lose jobs, and what will expand?

I’ve read it all, so you don’t have to. I tripped over a paving stone out running and landed on my wrist. Aaaggghhh!! I haven’t been able to do much but read. I’ve combed through the exciting bits for independent workers, women, and working parents.

Ambition is hibernating, and people are sheltering in jobs.

Grateful to have a paycheque, too knackered to job hunt and staying put while the economy is slow. A large group (mostly white) in steady jobs. A smaller group (mostly black, Hispanic) are taking action, upskilling and looking to switch jobs. They have a strong desire to step up and go their own way. “I can do better if I set up my own business.” I’m seeing a lot of this on Clubhouse.

Remote work + virtual meetings

72% of companies are planning hybrid work post-pandemic and reimagining how work gets done. They’ve realised people enjoy having more time at home and are just as productive, if not more.

People are spending a lot of time on their computers by themselves, and that can be done from anywhere.

The UK has the highest potential amongst eight countries for remote work as business & financial services and computer-based office work represent a large share of its economy. Things we’re struggling to do remotely — making critical decisions, negotiation, onboarding, brainstorming and innovation.

How will offices change?

Office vacancy rates are increasing dramatically worldwide. If 20–30% of the workforce are working at home, companies will reduce their office footprint and set up satellite offices over time. They can broaden their talent pool and have a more diverse workforce in different places. Smaller cities and rural areas are coming up with incentives to attract remote workers. Tulsa, Oklahoma, offers those who relocate for at least a year $10,000 and access to co-working spaces. Hawaii has its Movers and Shakers programme, attracting remote workers with free airfare, discounted hotel rooms, and co-working spaces (some volunteer work required).

I’ve heard real estate experts talking on Clubhouse about the rise of co-working spaces with childcare facilities. Companies can also hit their climate change goals as “20% of business travel may never return” to be replaced by virtual meetings and conferences. After the 2008 crash, business travel took five years to recover compared to two years for leisure tourism.

Acceleration of automation and digital technologies

There’s a shift to digital channels, online apps and robotics. Amazon has added over 400,000 employees worldwide (warehouse workers, engineers & more) and grew its workforce by 50% in 2020 to meet online services’ demand.

Periodically reinvent yourself. Be a worker-learner

We’re seeing changes in hiring practices, focusing on skills, not academic degrees, which means increased diversity. Google, Hilton Hotels, Ernst & Young, & IBM have removed degree requirements from job postings to focus on skills. The importance of having a secondary skill — apprenticeships, coding boot camps. Plan on your career being varied — portfolio working, income diversity, & mentorship. “Periodically reinvent yourself.” Be a worker-learner and follow the markets — tech, pharma & business services are booming.

In Europe and the US, workers with less than a college degree, members of ethnic minority groups, and women are more likely to need to change occupations after Covid-19 than before.

Freelancers & contractors are ahead of the game as we’ve been doing remote project-based work for years — it feels like the rest of the world is finally catching up. The challenge is taking time off to invest in yourself, paying for training, and keeping it all going with no sick pay, holiday pay, and expensive childcare. Women still do the bulk of unpaid domestic work — even more so during the pandemic. And we’re all working longer hours during lockdown.

I’m training to be a UX Writer — not much of a thing 10 years ago and now in demand and well paid. It’s different from copywriting and content writing — more niche and focused on user experience, psychology, & empathy. Helping and guiding people online rather than selling to them. UX is one area of tech where women are well represented. Interesting to speak to two journos at the UX Writers Conference who have moved into tech:

UX writers get high off of UX writing in a way that marketing copy won’t ever do for them. And passion makes for great work. Yael Ben-David, Fundbox.

If I can make a council meeting interesting as a journalist, I can be a technical writer. John Collins, Atlassian Design.

As the report says, we’re in an age of specialists over generalists. Let’s see if I get high on it 😉

Better policy support for indie workers

Some innovative ideas, including income support programmes for worker-learners, relocation assistance, training grants (I’ve had them from my trade union, not the government). Increased minimum wages, reformed taxation, better internet infrastructure in rural areas, a national platform based reskilling pass (learning for life) as they have in Singapore, India, & EU countries. And permanent policies like portable benefits allowing indie workers to work across gig platforms while getting medical services & other benefits.

Governments could also consider extending benefits and protections to independent workers working to build their skills and knowledge mid-career.

The pay-off will be a more talented, resilient and better-paid workforce. The SEISS grant gave the self-employed the same protection as employees for the first time and it makes sense for governments to offer more benefits for indie workers over the long-term. Businesses will be using our skills to adapt. In a survey of 800 executives, 70% said they will hire more freelancers, post-pandemic.

Jobs of the future

3D printing engineer, robot repair technician, algorithm bias checker, office disinfector, chief medical officer, chief fun officer (had one write to me this week), smart home designer…Will AI take over copywriting?

Let AI give your marketing team some relief, say Phrasee. We’ll take care of stuff like email subject lines, push notifications, and social media posts — with human oversight, of course — while your team handles the more interesting stuff.

We still need humour and empathy in customer service. Robots just aren’t built to care — yet!! I did the Guardian Book Club with Margaret Attwood talking about her 2003 book Oryx and Crake.

“Will you ever retire?”

Odd question to ask, why would she?

“Writers don’t retire.”

Oryx and Crake is the bigger picture and explores what will happen when the BIG pandemic hits and begins wiping out the human race.

Covid is a trial run, so get ready.

The advice 🤔

Economist Linda Scott on how cultural assumptions hold back women’s economic potential — and some practical solutions that could liberate us:

By far the most effective thing the whole world can do to help include women is to provide, universal, affordable, high quality childcare. And the benefits to this are so enormous, it would pay for itself. We don’t even fully analyse what the benefits are. It would definitely pay for itself, especially in the western counties, there’s no excuse for not having it. We’ve known we need it for 50 years.

And now in the pandemic, we’re seeing in a very large way what it’s costing women but we’re ignoring what it’s costing the economies. On average, women contribute just under 40% of GDP and that’s being left on the table, at a time when we need to recover. And that’s insane.All over nature, but particularly among primates, the mothers are the providers. This is what mothers do. And it’s what we should let them do that rather than trying to stop them in their path.

The Double-X Economy: The Epic Power of Empowering Women

Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

💻 McKinsey: The future of work after Covid19 — the pandemic has accelerated existing remote work trends, e-commerce and automation, with up to 25% more workers than previously estimated needing to switch occupations.

🛠 Is the CV dying? (This is Money) — not entirely, but it’s becoming less relevant to skills-based testing. “I think the future is answering questions, video clips, portfolios and presenting reasons why you want to work for the company.”

🕵🏼‍♂️ This went viral on Twitter: Chris Herd spoke to 2,000 companies over the last 12 months about their plans for remote work going forward.

🚘 Gig economy Uber drivers are ‘workers’ — what’s it mean for you? Analysis from the National Union of Journalists London Freelance team.

👩‍💻 How to manage a remote team — free training (starts this weekend) from Gitlab’s Head of Remote, Darren Murph and Jessica Reeder.

💪 TUC Women’s Conference ’21, 3–4 March. Inspirational speakers, thought-provoking discussions and engaging workshops. Tackling the issues affecting women at work. Book your free place.

I’ll be there!

Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Check it out here.

Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Tips & large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, every Saturday on Clubhouse

Categories
future of work remote working technology

#37: Spotify’s Work-From-Anywhere Program; The Future of Remote Work on Big City Salaries

Thinking Big 💡

Last week, Spotify launched its new Work-From-Anywhere program, which allows its 5,584 (2020) employees to work ‘wherever they do their best thinking and creating’. They can choose to work in the office, remotely or in a co-working space that the company will pay for, and have to commit to one option for a year.

Spotify is following similar moves by other tech companies but will continue to pay San Francisco and New York salaries based on the type of job, unlike Facebook and Twitter who have said that salaries could be adjusted to align with the cost of living – i.e. potential pay cuts for those who move away from HQ. Location-based pay seems counterproductive and will damage morale. Does it matter where people are living if they are expected to deliver similar results?

Here’s Travis Robinson, Spotify’s Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, on the thinking behind the decision and how it will help promote work-life integration, happiness and inclusion (Business Insider).

This is an opportunity to shape the idea that big cities are the only places where meaningful work can happen because we know first-hand that isn’t true. We want employees to come as they are, whatever they are and whatever their cities are.

He also says it will promote pay equity, which location-based pay could damage.

It’s a smart move and having a global, diverse workforce will improve their bottom line. Better quality, original content and experiences will appeal to more cultures and grow their subscriber base. Spotify is the most popular audio streaming subscription service with 345m users, including 155m subscribers, across 93 markets.

Thoughtful leadership too. Offering to pay for co-working space shows they recognise not everyone can or wants to work from home full time. It’s having the freedom to choose your #workstyle, as Hoxby puts it, which means Spotify will continue to attract the best talent.

It also challenges the leadership team to improve their communication skills, collaboration practices, processes and tools to keep innovating. They seem to have found a way to marry European and American mindsets – taking the best from both cultures to create a new kind of workplace. I’m curious to see how they manage the challenge of a hybrid workforce and develop their culture going forward. If you’re working there, please get in touch.

Spotify’s CEO and Founder Daniel Ek is also investing one billion EUR of his personal resources to enable an ecosystem of builders who can build a new European dream – more super companies – the first ‘Silicon Valley’ in Europe?

I’ll be looking to fund so-called moonshots — focusing on the deep technology necessary to make a significant positive dent and work with scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and governments to do so. (The Observer Effect).

More on their Dynamic Workplace effort.


Welcome to Texas, Elon Musk. You don’t have to move to Austin

What happens to the local housing market if we have a dual economy of expats and locals with the former being paid higher salaries? House prices rocket, tension builds, and creatives move out as they can no longer afford to live there. Over the last 20 years the population has doubled in Austin, TX – ‘the new Silicon Valley’ where the average home sells in nine days. A brief history of Austin’s ‘Don’t move here’ t-shirts.

Last month Elon Musk announced he was relocating to the Lone Star state, but which of their tech hubs is the best fit? The odds-on favourite: Austin.


The advice 🤔

On being in the flow and preserving start-up energy in a big company:

How do you get that vibe and retain it when you’re a large company? you need to create a space where ideas can flourish, and risks can be taken – where serendipity can take place. You have to remove all the barriers to this.

I call people when I’m inspired by something and throw out lots of different ideas. Again, nine times out of 10, what I say is completely worth shit. But every now and then, I come up with something that’s super relevant for someone; something that changes how they look at an issue. This can lead to super interesting breakthroughs.

On ‘algotorial’:

It’s a tension to talk about editorial versus algorithms. Internally we call this “algotorial.” We think that it’s quite beautiful to marry both. This is the beauty of editorial and algorithms working together; we as a company want to always ensure that we are not only shaping culture but also reflecting it.

Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO & Founder. (The Observer Effect)

Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

👩‍💻 On the future of remote working on big city salaries – some examples of what companies are doing as they take a global approach to hiring and remote culture. (Digiday)

💰 Should you get paid based on where you live? Interesting research shows location-based pay scales can weaken the morale of both lower and higher-paid staff, diminish productivity and increase turnover. (BBC Worklife)

🎧 Daniel Ek on habits, systems, and mental modes for top performance (Tim Ferris’ podcast)

⌚️ Ever wondered why a simple meeting can throw your whole day? Here’s a brilliant explanation of the Maker’s Schedule vs the Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham. If we can understand the differences between the two types of schedule (manager vs freelancer, corporate vs start-up), it can help resolve the conflict. No more death by Zoom…

Pass it on!


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Check it out here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to check out? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Tips & large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT every Saturday on Clubhouse

Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

The Shift: #31

The new lexicon of work for 2021; The boom in Zoom towns; The greatest migration in human history; How to manage a remote team.

Happy 2021.

It’s been a Covid Xmas — I’m in recovery. Julieta tested positive at the hotel just before her flight to Italy and then tier 4 came in so flights from the UK were cancelled anyway. We came home for 10 days of self-isolation. Covid knocked me out — headaches, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, brain fog. But no cough or breathing problems thankfully, I just needed to rest. It feels good to be on the other side and let go of my anxiety about catching it and whether to have the mix-match vaccine (no thanks!) I enjoyed my mini-retirement, binging on Walter Presents, and want more of these in 2021.

I don’t do new year resolutions but it’s a good time to reflect on last year, be intentional and build on the positive habits started during lockdown — or ‘stacking’ as James Clear calls it in Atomic Habits. The New York Times Well team has a 7-day challenge for 2021.

If ‘unprecedented’ was the word of 2020, this year we have two: Flexibility and work from anywhere (WFA).

McKinsey’s research: Independent work: Choice, necessity and the gig economy reveals 20–30% of the working-age population in the US and Europe, or up to 162 million individuals are engaged in some form of independent work. The UK government has a Good Work Plan with advice and skills for people going self-employed to help them succeed. The DWP is hiring loads of work coaches to help with this with a focus on self-employment.

With remote work going mainstream, people are already fleeing big cities for a better lifestyle and we’re seeing a boom in Zoom towns around the world. Pieter Levels, the founder of Nomadlist, says we’re on the verge of the greatest migration in human history… not nomads travelling perpetually but millions of people relocating semi-permanently to places better fit to their way of living.

Here’s the new lexicon of work to get you set up for 2021:

Work-on-demand, Work from anywhere (WFA) 💻

There are more online platforms to find remote work — We Work Remotely, Remote OK, Upwork, Toptal, People Per Hour, Freelance Writing Gigs, Yuno Juno, Remotiveio, Hoxby, Teachable, LaborX (crypto jobs), Kolabtree, Nomadlist, The Dots (LinkedIn for creatives). More people are using The Dots to apply for projects so it’s worth watching their webinar on how the algorithm works to get to the top of the search results. Pip says tech is booming so to think about pivoting to work for a startup/tech company. There are loads on the site. They’ve also added a remote work section so you can filter projects. I’m seeing lots of articles about the best remote companies to work for and top freelancers in various places which shows the market is maturing.

EdX: Online learning 📚

Doing a three-year degree at 18 in a brick and mortar institution (and getting into debt) is no longer appealing or relevant. We need lifelong learning and affordable training we can do from anywhere. More platforms are springing up to cater for this: Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Khan Academy, FutureLearn, Lambda school, EdX to name a few. I’ve signed up for three courses: CitiesX: The Past, Present and Future of Urban Life with Harvard University, anthropology of current world issues at the University of Queensland, and how to manage a remote team with Gitlab and Darren Murph. These are free and I can pay for certification if I want it. For nomad parents, there’s lots of innovation happening in this space e.g. Galileo global school.

Community, collab and co-working 🤝

The best work platforms are helping freelancers to grow and develop their skills and connections rather than just listing jobs. We’re seeing more reward & recognition for loyalty, e.g. you’re more likely to get to the top of The Dots’ algorithm if you engage regularly, ask questions and help others. They have handpicked mentors/ambassadors and encourage you to credit a team member for project work so you both get recognition. Several Slack groups have Ask & Offer walls/Opportunities so you can find hidden jobs that aren’t advertised. They are offering training, education and events — like a one-stop-shop. We’re also seeing a rise in flash freelance teams coming together to work on projects. Work is coming from a range of sources not just employers.

Digital nomads, slowmads, flexpats, and subscription living 🌏

It’s predicted there will be one billion digital nomads by 2035 and the term will become less relevant as more of us work remotely, relocate and travel more. The rise of 5G, 6G and remote work visas will make it easier for people to stay in one place for longer and give back to local communities i.e. teaching tech skills. Countries like Georgia, Portugal, Estonia, Bermuda and Barbados are leading the way and governments will need to compete to attract the best talent. As Matt Mullenweg says, the smartest people will want to work this way so companies need to keep up.

We’re also seeing more startups and hotels offering flexible accommodation and subscription living, e.g. CitizenM and NomadX. I’d like to see a shift from westerners travelling to developing countries to live better lifestyles without giving much back to local communities to people from all countries being able to travel and work — so we need more flexible visas or an international visa that’s open to all. See One Way Ticket, the digital nomad documentary, which explores the pros and cons of this lifestyle.

Tools 🛠

I wrote this in Roam Research — a notetaking tool for networked thought. Just having a play with it to see what’s possible and liking it so far. Daily notes, journaling, articles, to-do list, bi-directional linking, a mindmap graph. A bit of mind gardening — it’s your second brain. It will be a great tool to help with workflow and research. I quite like writing in bullets — it speeds things up (you can disable this). Lots of beginner tutorials on YouTube.

Thanks for spending part of your Sunday with The Shift 🙏

See you next week — Nicci.

Hi, I’m Nicci 👋 — a journalist and writer. I write The Shift, a newsletter on the future of work, creativity, and travel. If you like it and want to read more, please consider becoming a paid subscriber here. Or if you prefer, you can buy me a coffee here. Find me on Twitter @niccitalbot.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #26

Sole trader vs limited company or umbrella – what’s best? IR35 changes; Parliamentary debate on the future of work; Seth Godin on creative practice.

I had to set up a limited company last year for a new contract role via an agency. My tax status only came up after I’d done the interview, a written test, and been offered the role. My agent said, “oh, we don’t work with sole traders.”

It was a chunky project – a six-month contract to write a book for a big brand and they were happy to pay my day rate, so I went for it. I set up a limited company via Companies House – fast, no-nonsense, and costs £12. I had to sort out business insurance (took much longer), an accountant, and a business bank account with a UK address for IBAN (EUR) payments.

A bit of hassle for one contract but that was the deal. And I wanted the job, so I did it but not happily. I’ve been a sole trader since I started freelancing back in 2002 and was gifted a limited company once (we broke up, I wasn’t ready; I have commitment issues). I don’t think individuals should operate as companies unless you’re employing someone. Nor should agencies and companies dictate your set up. These roles are often last-minute so you’re under pressure to act quickly or someone else will get the gig.

Anyway, the project went well – a good challenge and I learned a lot. Great to work with a team and have a physical product at the end of it. The contract was due to be extended in February to finish the editing, but this fell through with lockdown. Things have been pretty quiet on the contracting front since. Companies have cut budgets this year, which tends to hit freelancers first, and bigger clients are preparing for IR35 changes next April which will bring private companies into line with the public sector. Many have now banned the use of limited company contractors which is the way most contractors have operated up to now. See more.

Categories
Newsletter

The Shift: #Issue 19

The rise of the creator economy; the ‘unbundling of work’; paid newsletters; the Second Renaissance is coming…

Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen enormous growth in the Creator Economy—independent creators making money from online content. It’s down to the rise of the gig economy, better tech—5G, faster internet, and new social networks & products. COVID-19 is speeding things up – we’re at home and online more.

There’s also been a shift in consciousness towards caring more about being happy in our jobs, having control over our time, and being our own boss. We want to make a living doing work we’re passionate about that creates change. Gen Z’ers grew up with the internet and social media and place a high value on self-expression. I can see how my daughter and her friends interact online.

According to Li Jin, we’re in the process of the ‘unbundling of work’ i.e. moving from companies to independent solo businesses.

A new report from Signalfire takes a deeper view of the ecosystem to give us some context, a history of the creator economy and trends to watch. It’s a fascinating read—useful for investors looking for opportunities and creators needing help… 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.