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general life

She who dares…

Rather unintentionally, I have made 2018- the 29th year of my life- full of some particularly big personal challenges.

My first challenge was, of course, quitting regular full-time employment to start my own business. So far, this has been mammoth and exceptionally fun, as a personal challenge.

I threw a surprise 30th for my fiancee, during the freak snow weather- and nearly everyone battled through the arctic conditions with him being none the wiser!

I cycled 107 miles in one day. This was a challenge I agreed to last year and thought nothing more of it… until the dreaded month of May came round and we had to actually cycle the distance. The ride was called Carten and involved cycling from Cardiff to Swansea, in South Wales. It took us just over 8 hours, a whole heap of Haribo and fruit pastels, determination, blood, sweat and actual tears as we crossed the finish line into the beautiful town of Tenby. Here we are looking VERY glad it was all over;

IMG_20180513_090851_071

My next challenge is one of the easiest one I am going to embark on- married life. Getting married is actually one of the easiest decisions I have made so far, I guess the challenge is in the years to come.

After that, I am traveling the furthest I have ever physically traveled, to Fiji, to embark on some more challenges namely snorkeling and attempting to get over my fear of sharks!

freelancing, general life

A slight delay in communications

As of tomorrow, (1st June 2018) I will have been officially working for myself for three whole months. Three! In that time, I have built relationships with some great agencies and individuals, written a whole heap of various articles and drank a substantial amount of coffee. I have learned just how long 700 words can take me to write, suffered writer’s block and found inspiration for my next piece in the oddest of places.

I have also known what it is to chase invoices and be critiqued for tasks that were slightly* missold to me (*totally missold) I have pulled my first (near) all-nighter to meet a hard deadline. I have met with recruiters, attended interviews for contract roles and been involved in a *newsworthy project for a very popular high street shop that made my Granny very proud!  (*the project actually made the news!)

As well as all of this, I have traveled abroad on a hen-do whilst hustling for my next business, given people advice on why their website may not be performing well and even subscribed to a paid version of Moz (a subscription which I have subsequently canceled)

At the beginning of my journey into freelance life, I fully envisaged being able to keep up a weekly blog on all things digital marketing and copywriting related. However, I find myself 6 weeks down the line from my last published blog… Oops! I do promise to keep it slightly more regular.

Running my own business has not been the only thing I have had to factor into my life; apart from reading about Google updates, GDPR (ugh) and attending various networking things, I am also planning my own wedding which is rapidly approaching!

My dear mum told me to fully appreciate every day of freelance life, even if I had no work lined up next as I wouldn’t get that time again (and also because a break is also a good time to start wedmin bits!)

So here’s to the next 3 months- and 3 years- of self-employment. May it be just as varied, just as interesting and even better as I embark on a new chapter as somebody’s wife, too.

Uncategorized

Getting out and mingling

As I mentioned previously, I am finding it rather tricky to find networking opportunities. I have decided to join a couple of local meet-up groups in the vain hope of making new friends whilst trying not to come across too keen (or like a person who spends a large amount of time on my own)

So, a few weeks ago I signed up to a few different local meet-ups and I soon received an invite to a monthly bloggers meet-up. Perfect! I imagined a room full of eager writers, needing inspiration to actually get writing! I was not far wrong…

The meet-up session was at GROW, in Green Park. I arrived at a very brightly painted open office space, with a few desks occupied with a variety of interesting objects, indicating the array of small businesses that work out of this space. I was met by a lovely friendly lady who explained more about GROW as a hot-desk project, encouraging small businesses and self-employed people to come and work in an open office space. The first thing that struck me about my fellow bloggers who were looking for some inspiration to write, is they were all women. The second was I was the youngest, by a few years.

There were five of us that arrived at various points throughout the morning. We all took time to introduce ourselves and explain how we came to be sitting in a bloggers group, looking for the drive to get writing! It was exactly what I wanted from my first networking group, like-minded and very driven women, looking to socially network as well as get hints or assistance with promoting their new businesses. What struck me was also the variety of talent and new businesses these lovely ladies had decided to embark on. Among us were a financial management account turned photographer, a proper writer/ journalist who is looking to get back into writing, a business analyst turned consultant and me! A digital marketer looking to become a ‘proper’ writer and part consultant.

I also actually managed to get some writing done too- as well as all the chatting, which made the session highly worthwhile. I have also made three new connections on Linkedin and, where I could, I offered my own advice on how they can improve their personal websites and suggested they all try to post on Linkedin a bit more.

Although it wasn’t directly for gaining business, I did secure a coffee morning with the lovely Kat at Instyle image. Kat works within finance but wants to pursue her hobby of portrait photography and image consultancy as a full-time career. She informs me it is all too common for people to have unprofessional Linkedin profile pictures (mine is definitely not!) so she is on a one-woman mission to help tidy the nations profile pictures, starting with mine! I am assisting in building her profile and in return, I get a shiny new profile picture- a win, win.

Right, off to tame my fringe before we meet for coffee!

freelancing

9 things I have learned from the world of freelancing

It has been precisely four weeks and three days since I left full-time employment and what a whirlwind it has been! When I first embarked on this career move, my family, friends, and colleagues had their own ‘pearl’ to offer me. As well as taking these (mostly) on board, I have also discovered a few other things since becoming a full-on freelancer;

  1. Getting dressed

This one is not a difficult one for me, as I get dressed as soon as my feet touch the bedroom floor in the morning. However, I can completely understand how easy it would be just to roll from bed to laptop and remain in PJ’s for the rest of the day which brings me on to my second lesson learned…

  1. A walk in the park

Getting out before I even open my laptop means I will have got a few steps in (around 4k) and had some fresh air before the day starts. I have even reignited my Borrow My Doggy account which lay dormant for 8 months, introducing me to the wonderful Bagel.  I think of it as my commute, it eases me into the day and I have gained a lovely four-legged friend. I now find, if I don’t make it around the park, I find it hard to muster any enthusiasm to leave the house at all!

  1. Applying for work

It is very easy to create job alerts on various job sites, check your emails every 10 mins and then bulk-apply to any jobs that come through with even a hint of ‘copywriting’ or content management. I am so guilty of having done this in the first few weeks, in fear of missing out on a more regular contract. However, I have changed my ways and resisted the urge to just blindly apply to any role. I now carefully consider the role, take my time to write a cover letter and adjust my portfolio and then click ‘apply’. Patience is key!

  1. ‘Good-will’ hunting

Keeping in contact with colleagues from previous roles has meant my first few bits of work have been from ex-colleagues, asking me for availability. It has been so welcome, too! Their gesture of goodwill to help me out, whilst getting their work done too. It has meant I have written for a range of bigger clients whom I would never had exposure to. It has also meant I haven’t had to scrabble around for work. I also have a small(ish) pipeline of work as they know how quick I can turn things around now.

  1. Social networking

This leads me on to my next point; networking! Networking is tricky when you’re a one-man band and only have a certain amount of time in the day- I mean, how many breakfast clubs can one person attend?! Linkedin and my existing contacts have been such a great source of work for me, I have managed to network with fellow writers on Twitter too. I am also going to try a ‘meet-up’ this week, with fellow bloggers in Reading. If nothing else, I look forward to chatting to someone other than myself!

  1.   Being terribly British about pay

Nearly everyone mentioned getting paid to me, as in- make sure it happens! I may have only sent a few invoices out in four weeks but I have already had to have that awkward ‘chasing money’ conversation. And it was just as painful as I imagined. I can only hope I will actually get better at discussing rates and paying invoices etc. Either that or moving forward I can only work with people who will pay me without discussing it…

  1.   Time management and managing time

Time management is fine if you’re not also trying to go to the gym, cook, do the washing, take calls etc. etc. within the usual ‘9-5pm’ time frame. I have not mastered this yet. I am often trying to do 4 things at once, resulting in having to work in the evenings- heck I even found myself sending emails and invoices on Easter Sunday evening! This is definitely something I will learn to do better, managing my time is something that I can work on when I have a bigger contract!

  1.   Bills for bills

Bills, or should I say receipts, have now become my new obsession. As my Mum has become my accountant, she has drilled it into me to collect receipts for everything. I have never been more dedicated to keeping tiny folded pieces of paper in my purse, that is not money!

  1.  It’s ok to say no

I have also been contacted by a strong number of recruiters since changing my employment status. In fairness, I do use job sites to look for contract work but this then inevitably flags me as someone looking for work. I am, of course, looking for some work but it does not mean I will just say yes to any old role. I am very keen to stick to my freelance goal, meaning I often say no to recruiters offering me perm roles. If things change, I may consider going back permanent but for now, I am giving it my best shot.

web content

Copywriting Vs. SEO- Can’t we all just get along?

 

I was recently interviewed by a fellow copywriter who was interested in exploring the battle between Copywriters and SEO’s and wondering why we can’t just all get along. As someone who considers herself as a bit of a hybrid, I argued that the two can get along, they just need to understand the importance and value that each can bring.

In my own experience, copywriting and SEO tends to sit miles away from each other, in nearly all campaigns I have been involved in. In fact, SEO is always the last factor considered when any type of content is published online. I have very rarely worked as an SEO manager or consultant and actually been consulted before any content has been created. Understanding why is easy enough as SEO is a relatively mysterious and misunderstood part of digital marketing. It is also fairly new- heck, Google itself has only existed within the last 20 years. With this new process in town, it is understandable why so many companies are resistant to change their content-publishing ways. An SEO’s job, therefore, becomes more reliant on educating and providing research to back up their own suggestions. It can sometimes feel like ‘proving your worth’.

Content creators have always had autonomy, especially in larger companies, as content has been around since time began and SEO optimisation has not. Content is, of course, still as important as ever but it needs to have a purpose and be optimised for the web if it is going to be successful. Whether the sole purpose of your content is to drive more traffic, gain more emails for remarketing, or simply to improve the performance of a landing page, the content that is created needs to be guided by an SEO professional, in order to ensure it is well-optimised and will actually perform.

Being interested in content has meant I was always striving for a balance between quality content whilst keeping the copy optimised- what is the point in creating content if it just gets hidden! I truly believe there is space for all of us in a campaign; SEO needs good quality content and good quality content needs SEO. In the interview, I also describe SEO as the ‘science-y’ bit behind producing good content (full article can be found here) and I still stand behind this statement. It should be considered the ‘why’ behind each piece of content and how it is formed. I have always sat on the more creative side of SEO, technical SEO did interest me but it really needs the full attention of a technical SEO person.

It may be a slow process but it will definitely be worth the fight. After all, both content writers and SEO experts want the same thing- great performing content and ultimately more ‘hits’.

freelance copywriting

What exactly is a Copywriter?

When meeting new people, there is inevitably the moment where you discuss what you do. At which point, I tend to pull a face as I try to think quickly about how best to describe what I actually do.

I have always envied my nurse and doctor friends who are nearly always met with an impressive ‘Hmmm!’ noise when asked what their profession is. Or my police, teacher and architect friends, whose jobs are self-explanatory, needing no further explanations Even my accountant friends don’t need to deliver a five-minute presentation on exactly what their job entails.

At the start of my career, when my job titles were ‘Content Marketing Exec’ and ‘Digital Marketing Exec’, people vaguely knew that I ‘did some stuff with words and marketing for the company or brand’. It was digestible as a job role that everyone can grasp. However, as I have directed my career into a more specific area of digital marketing, SEO to be exact, I quickly discovered no-one I meet has a clue what SEO or copywriting is, and I may as well just lie about what I do…

When met with the inevitable question, I answer straight ‘I am an SEO consultant’ or ‘I am a freelance Copywriter and SEO consultant’. ‘Oooh, what’s SEO?!’, they then ask and my brief‘It stands for search engine optimisation’ is then met with a blank stare. I ramble on about websites and making them ‘rank better in Google’ by editing the content etc, to no avail. In short, my experience of having a more unusual or ‘exotic’ (I wish!) job, has led to me over-explaining my role, in the vague hope the person who now regretting asking me, will loosely understand what I do.

Outside of the digital marketing industry, copywriting and SEO, it seems, is widely unknown as a career, which surprises me as we all consume words that will have been carefully considered and created by a Copywriter. From billboards, posters, TV adverts and social media marketing, to printed magazine pages and even junk mail- every single word that is present on anything you see and read, has been thought-up or created by a person who carries the title of Copywriter. The inclusion of ‘SEO’ means the content is optimised for the web.

To me, being a Copywriter means I am able to focus nearly all of my attention on writing. It was always something I enjoyed at school, through university- and I still enjoy today. I have managed to shape my previous job roles to include creating content, in some form. SEO is something I have learned along the way. I discovered early on that if I want to succeed in a digital world, I need to understand what is required for content to perform well online. Understanding what makes a ‘good’ website? What makes some content perform better than others in search results? I needed to learn how to create content that compliments the users online, whilst ensuring it is also easily understood by the ‘crawlers’ that ultimately decide whether it meets their requirements to show it in search results.

Being a Copywriter and SEO consultant may mean not ONE person I meet will ever understand what I do, but to me, it reassures me that I am a part of a great community of fellow digital marketing professionals, who are all seeking to create great content and  fight the good fight to making the World Wide Web a better place for us all.

freelancing

My first week as a freelancer

I have officially survived my first week as a freelancer, or should I say my first 8 days. In this very short amount of time, I have learned a lot. I have been so fortunate to have had work lined up, as I have been recommended by friends of friends. However, as I slow down for my 8th day, I am reflecting on the things I have had to quickly learn or adapt to, during the whirlwind of ‘Yes, of course I can help!’…

  • Although I have worked every day for 8 days, I have only invoiced for 3 and a half (not including a £30 article that took me hours to write!)
  • Which brings me on to my next point… I agreed- and have subsequently written- a 1500 word article for just £30. I agreed to it before I had any previous experience of just how long it would take me!
  • I have had one ‘business meeting’ in an office, before securing some business
  • I have also assisted in a site migration (HTTP to HTTPS) and embedded analytics tracking codes on two websites that had previously not been using analytics (I know!!)
  • I have consistently drunk three cups of coffee daily
  • I have worked in three cafe’s, each one a welcome break from my dining table or view from the sofa
  • I have had two proper business calls with bigger corporate companies about contract work. I am now also learning the important art of patience whilst I wait to see if they are happy to offer the work
  • I have also had to lower my expectations on just how long I can go to the gym for! Before embarking on my new journey, I envisaged having the freedom to go to the gym at any time of day, with loads of time for big old sessions etc. This is simply not true. If the gym is on the schedule, I will be working way past 6pm to get the work finished. Ugh
  • I have also be tasked with completing some assessments, again which are not paid, in order to join an agency pool for freelance work. Needless to say, the assessments have taken a back seat until now, due to my time vs. not actually being paid to do them!
  • Each morning I have got up between 7.30am and 8am and gone for a 25min walk around our local park, to ensure I keep my steps up, get outside and also put a ‘commute’ into my morning

So there we have it, my first week being my own boss! Now there is a more quiet period I will have a bit more opportunity to write some of my own content too, to stock up for the busy periods that may be on the horizon (fingers crossed!)