In Praise Of Solitude

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There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely

It was a Saturday Night. I’d been reading famous quotes on solitude, as I was writing an article on silence (I know, so rock n’ roll).

Solitude was praised by Mother Teresa, Nikola Tesla, Antony Burgess, Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka and many more interesting people.

Then I googled ‘solitude’. The very first result from Wikipedia, highlighted in a little black box, rather perturbed me.

“Solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation, i.e., lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, loss of loved ones, deliberate choice, infectious disease, mental disorders, neurological disorders or circumstances of employment or situation.” — Wikipedia.

Wait a minute. This all seems… pretty bad.

I’ve just read that solitude was the answer from some of life’s most brilliant minds:

“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion; free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone — that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.” ~ Nikola Tesla

“People who do a job that claims to be creative have to be alone to recharge their batteries. You can’t live 24 hours a day in the spotlight and remain creative. For people like me, solitude is a victory.” 
― Karl Lagerfeld

Not to mention the recent research that solitude can make you more successful.

Maybe we’re confusing solitude with the feeling of loneliness. It is one thing to be on your own voluntarily, taking breaks away from family, friends and the world, and quite another to be isolated.

I’ve recently moved into a flat on my own. At first, I was gripped with thoughts such as ‘ugh, this is horrible! So lonely!’ but then after a time it was replaced by a feeling of beautiful serenity.

The shift that happened?

Well, for the first week I was distracted. I focused exclusively outside myself — the tasks I had to complete, work I had to do. I was on autopilot.

But after about a week, I mentally dropped the ball and just sat ‘with myself’. It’s an awareness of the present moment, a connection with it that you just don’t get when you’re lonely. It then became incredibly enjoyable.

Perhaps loneliness is sort of a disconnection from others and also from yourself — whereas with solitude, you’re actively staying present with your own company.

Maybe loneliness can come from being somehow estranged from your connection to your own thoughts and feelings, your dreams, your hopes, your desires.

Because even if you’re surrounded by people, you still can be lonely. In fact, if you’re surrounded by people all the time, it can be incredibly hard to hear what your inner voice is saying — it’s been drowned out all your life.

So I’m in praise of solitude. It’s a truly enriching experience for those who want to fully embrace it.

Solitude can be an intentional experience. The intention is not about removing yourself from people and positive relationships, but for giving yourself moments when it’s just you and the universe.

When embracing solitude, it can be like taking a bath in the waters of silence. You dissipate into the present moment. There is sometimes no sense of ‘I’, especially in nature when moments of solitude can be so serenely beautiful.

If I was a newbie wanting to explore solitude, I might have thought twice if I’d read about it on Wikipedia or Google.

Solitude shouldn’t be terrifying. And if it is, what does that say about ourselves?

This article was first published on Medium.com

The Importance of A Clearly Defined Funnel



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Funnel? I hear you say. What’s that?

If you’re relatively new to marketing, you may not know about the concept of a marketing funnel.

Marketing funnels are how you get your client or customer to purchase your product or service.

Each piece of content you create should relate to where each customer is on their journey.

Assuming you already know who your customer personas are, you’ve done your research and know where they hang out. Now you should target them with your copy.

For example, let’s say a new customer has never heard of your business, and what you offer.

This means they are at the awareness stage, also called the attention stage.

At this level, you want to introduce them to your product or service. You want to get them familiar with who you are and what you have to offer.

A great way to do this is with a video or with an organic social media post.

The content should speak directly to their pain point - what problem or issue are you solving for them?

For example, if you were setting up a premium glamping business for busy executives:

‘Here at Orchard View, we know it’s important to take that time out to recharge. So we offer six perfectly formed bell tents in the heart of the idyllic Derbyshire countryside, equipped with your every need. Take a look for yourself. <video> #unplug #taketimeout’

Now you’ve got your audience intrigued. Is this for them? You’ve whet their appetite with some pretty visuals and an explanation of why they might want your product or service, and now they’re at the interest stage. 💭

These are a smaller subset of people who have taken the next step in their mind. You’ve hooked them in with your first piece of content or communication, and now they want to know more.

Think of it like a second date with someone. You’re definitely interested, but there’s a few more things you need to know.

So this is where you delve into the details. You want to get your readers to click more, to get invested in who you are, and what you’re offering.

An interest piece of content may be a blog post which is a feature about your glamping site. It could be something like ‘This Is Why We Chose This Spot For Our Beautiful Glampers.’

Here you want to tell a story. Maybe you talk about taking your dog for a walk over the peaks and you noticed how that part was the perfect spot to watch the sunset. You want to get your audience emotionally invested in what you’re about, and get them picturing using your product or service.

Next, comes the consideration phase, which can also be called the desire part of your marketing funnel. 🤔

This group are an even smaller part of your funnel. Maybe they’ve clicked on your website, read your blog post, and have now signed up to your email list for news and discounts.

These people are clearly interested in what you have to offer - but haven’t yet took the action to purchase.

Content that can move them down the funnel can come in the form of social proof here, so think stats, case studies, and testimonials from those happy customers. These work especially well on your landing page.

I absolutely love Orchard View, I’ve been three times now. From the moment you get there, you just feel this sense of serenity. Myself and my husband instantly relax as soon as we step foot inside, and we know that for the next two days, we don’t have to think about a thing’ - Claire, Cardiff.

Of course, your social proof has to be authentic. Get your customers to comment, like or share their views by engaging with them regularly. Get to know them. Understand them, and find out what really pleases them about your product or service - and vow to communicate that to your potential customers.

In your potential customers mind, all the evidence is now mounting to one thing - that making this purchase will improve their life in some way. It could make their life easier, more enjoyable, less stressful, give them knowledge, help them with a problem - but whatever it is, you’ve answered all of their potential objections along the way.

It’s now time to convert. 🛍️

Here, it’s all about those glittering CTA’s (Call To Action). You want them to take action.

Your call to actions should be subtle at first (maybe a ‘find out more’ at the awareness stage), but when it comes to your conversion content, you want them to ‘Book Now’ or ‘Shop Now’.

This could come in the form of a Facebook ad that you’re retargeting to customers that have already visited your site. Maybe they’ve filled in the booking form, but for one reason or another haven’t yet completed their purchase.

An enticing, beautiful ad with the strong call to action ‘Spaces filling up for April - Book now for 2019’ leads them directly back down your funnel, and into becoming your customer.

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When you create content, make sure you have it all defined throughout each stage of the journey.

Attention - Interest - 💭 Consideration -🤔 Conversion 🛍️

also known as:

Awareness - Interest- Desire - Action

Map it out. Know not only who you’re speaking to, but what stage they’re at in their customer journey.

Want to discuss more about creating content that speaks to your audiences? Get in touch to have a chat.



Making My First $500 With Medium.com's Partner Program

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I must admit, when I first heard about Medium, the online publishing platform many years ago, I thought it wouldn’t take off. An article site for people to share ideas?

How is this going to be more popular than people sharing content on their own blog or on social media, I thought?

But this year I have reconsidered that thought.

Good content on the web is hard to come by, and there are a lot of people churning out articles just for the sake of it. I find that on Medium you find ideas of a different nature - they’re just on the edge of the current zeitgeist to be relevant; yet not so far ‘out there’ to not appeal to a broad audience.

As of last year, Medium had 60 million monthly unique readers. That’s too big to ignore.

Medium established their Partner Program last year in order to encourage more writers. Essentially, your articles are behind a paywall ($5 a month for readers), and you can receive ‘claps’ (the equivalent of likes) in return for payment.

The more claps you get, the higher pay - simples!

Of course, starting to earn is about learning Medium’s platform inside and out - something I am still doing, but I have learned a lot so far, and would like to share what I have learned with you.

  • Write about topics that you have experience in AND that would help others

    My article on the emotional side of freelancing got picked up by the Medium editors, and they put it on the homepage. It got me over 5.5k claps, and a fair amount of new followers. I just wrote about my own experience here, and I was surprised by how many people it helped.

  • Learn how Medium likes to present content

Medium likes to make things look pretty. It pays to learn their editorial guidelines, and read a few of their most-read articles to see the style, tone, and formatting.

  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable

Hiding will get you nowhere on Medium. The best articles are personal stories that are real, raw and authentic.

  • Be a good writer

Obvious point maybe, but before Medium, I thought I was a decent writer. Now, I realise I have a lot of work to do. The quality of writers on there are incredible. The best writers can take an idea in their heads and articulate it in such a way that you are captivated, learn something, and can revisit the idea or thought again and again.

Use Medium as a way to hone your craft.

Study the best writers. Notice that how they write is like a stream of their consciousness, clear, and structured, and always returns to the central point.

  • Don’t go for what you think the audience will like - write what you want to write

There are some articles I’ve written and then made unlisted, simply for the fact that I felt that they weren’t coming from a good place within me. By that I meant writing topics that I thought I should write about, rather than ones that I actually feel that are right for me to write about. Writing is all about feeling inspired. If you’re faking that inspiration or just trying to copy what’s ‘on trend’ to write about, it will come across. Medium is all about authenticity.

  • Write regularly

I’m trying to write at least once a week, even if I’m not 100% happy with the articles (nothing’s perfect, right). I see it as a way to practise my writing, and also as a testbed to test the content with my audience - what kind of articles do they most resonate with? By writing regularly, you’ll come to learn not only the types of people that are on Medium, but also perfect your own writing style.

  • Titles and images are VERY important

What is your piece saying? Sum it up in your title. Or give the audience a teaser; a lead in to an interesting idea. Make it something that you would click on if you saw it on there. Also, think about the visual element. You can be fun and use .gifs, but I like to use photos that are a metaphor for what I’m actually writing about. Don’t be afraid to change it if you’re finding that you’re not getting the engagement you expected.

  • Realise their audience is vastly different to other platforms

People who read on Medium want to better themselves. In fact, they are people quite committed and dedicated to their own personal growth. When I first posted my freelancing article on other platforms, it got one or two likes from my social networks. I could have thought (as I used to think) that my writing wasn’t valuable or didn’t help anyone, but the truth is it just needed the right platform to be appreciated. The Medium platform may not be right for you or your business, but the partner program is a good way to test the waters.

  • Link your social channels back to Medium

From that one featured article, I’ve had people contact me through Twitter, add me on Linkedin, and ask for my work to be published in their magazine. Medium is powerful! Don’t underestimate the power of connecting back with your Medium audience on other platforms. Build relationships with those people - these people get what you’re about!

  • Submit your stories to online magazines that publish on Medium

This is something I haven’t really explored too much, but I have three publications on Medium whom I can submit my articles to, and it will go out to their followers, thus increasing my overall reach. I’m going to search for more online magazines that fit who I am and what I write about.

Summary

From Sept-Oct, I earned just over $514. Not a huge amount, but not bad for what I essentially see as a enjoyable pastime. The total hours I spent writing? Probably no more than 4. But that’s not the point. The point is I am writing about things I love and getting paid for it.

Here’s a copy of my most recent Medium report. It’s shortened slightly as I have a lot of articles on there now, but as you can see, the majority of income came from one article.

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For now, I will continue to focus on growing Medium as one of my income streams by writing through their Partner Program. I believe it’s an exciting time for Medium, and it’s clean and simple platform and app means that it can only go from strength to strength.

Do you have questions about writing on Medium, or building a remote freelance career? Get in touch to see how I can help.

The Art Of A Good Brief

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When it comes to commissioning any type of creative work, a great brief is a must.

Not only can a brief make or break a marketing project, it also sets the tone for your working relationship between you and the agency or freelancer.

Some people may think ‘Why bother with a brief? I’ll just tell them what I want over the phone, and we can begin!’

A brief is essentially your roadmap for the project. Without it, someone could get lost along the way.

Whether it’s a series of emails to your customer list, a product description, or a video script, a clear brief sets expectations from the outset and allows both client and freelancer to establish exactly what is needed, and by when.

Here’s what a good copy brief should consist of. I’ve also included project sample text so you can see how it could be filled out.

Copywriting Brief

Title of Project: (i.e. Onboarding Email for New Volunteers - Christmas 2018)

Description of project: ( ‘We need a new welcome email for volunteers that have signed up in the run up to Christmas who are about to do their first charity visit)

Format of project: (Copy for Mailchimp, up to 500 words. Include x2 alternate subject headings)

Rework of existing job, or new: (New job)

Background to your business: (‘We are a charity based in the UK offering hospital visits to sick children to brighten their day)

Include website URL and any supporting documents: (‘MakeAWish.org’)

Target audience: (‘Volunteers who have signed up to our newsletter’)

Core message: (‘We are happy to have you on board and we look forward to you brightening the lives of children who are ill in hospital’)

What is the personality of your brand, and your values? (‘We are warm, friendly and accessible. We value being kind and this is reflected in our tone of voice’).

What do you want your audience to think and feel with this content?

(‘We would like our volunteers to feel welcomed and supported, and that we are pleased they are on board. We want them to think that they have made a good choice, and that they are looking forward to making a difference’)

Who are your competitors? (N/A)

What is your call to action? (To get the volunteers to join our Private Facebook group)

When is this required by? (Final version of copy required by 1.11.18)

With a clear brief, the freelancer can see exactly what’s needed, and ask questions if appropriate. Depending on timescales, a call can be undertaken to discuss the brief before the project begins too, if needed.

A good brief should be clear, and to the point.

It doesn’t always need to have all of the segments listed above - sometimes more helps, or sometimes less - it depends on the size and scale of the project and the business itself. But keep it to one page of A4 if you can.

So why bother with a brief?

Having a clear brief can save time, because everything is in writing, and agreed before the freelancer starts work - so no questions in the middle of the project to clarify things.

Agreeing on a brief beforehand can save money, because by stipulating the proposed scope at the outset and mutually agreeing on the direction, it can mean that amend times are usually minimised.

Clear briefs can also save on resource - by documenting your work, you’ll be able to dig out old briefs, tweak them a little, and pass them on to the next freelancer or agency. It also gives you a template to refer back to when you’ve completed your project and want to review your marketing goals.


The Emotional Side of Freelancing

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There are so many articles out there about how to get freelancing right, and there is so much to think about: the invoicing, the client communication, the hustle, the accounts, and more.

What I have learned in three years of working as a freelancer is that it can be an emotional rollercoaster, too. Just like an actual rollercoaster, freelancing can be immensely thrilling, exciting, and sometimes can make you feel a little bit sick. Without management or HR to review your work, and without a regular salary in place or colleagues to bounce ideas off of, those dips and twists in your work life can throw you emotionally if you don’t know how to handle them.

Yet, despite the rollercoaster, working as a freelancer has helped me become more emotionally stable. As a freelancer, I am my business. This means I have to stay grounded, consistent, and calm as I go about my work. I have also needed to develop and maintain a steady sense of peace, because freelancing, by nature, can be so uncertain and unstable.

I have always wanted to work for myself, and that, so far, has meant tackling every issue that has annoyed me about jobs I’ve had in the past. I’ve had many stomach-churning moments in this process, and have experienced a lot of positive moments and accomplishments as well. The positives make the lifestyle worth it, and how you deal with the stomach-churning moments — let’s call them dips — ultimately determine the success of your business. Here are some of the dips I have seen come up pretty regularly in my experience as a freelancer:

When the work (seems like) it’s drying up

I have noticed that freelance work often comes in cycles and correlates pretty heavily with your mindset. Panicking about paying the bills and the fact that no one you reach out to with ideas seems to be getting back in touch just won’t help you. I have learned to embrace the fact that I experience cycles of really busy periods, along with bouts of time when things feel a bit quieter, or when contracts naturally come to an end.

When work dries up, you need to remind yourself why you started. Did you want to work for just one person, on a never-ending, boring business? Of course not! You like the variety freelancing brings because it means you get to work on lots of small projects. Sometimes these last six months, and sometimes they don’t — that’s a good thing.

Don’t be afraid when things feel stagnant — maybe it just means that it’s time to get creative and go to the next level.

Plus, you love the thrill of the hustle! As a freelancer, love of the hustle is part of your nature. Whether you’re sending out proposals or chasing down projects, you can’t let the uncertainty behind the hustle destabilize you emotionally. I’ve realized that, though it may feel a little scary to get back on the saddle after enjoying a nice six to eight months of steady income, you have to remind yourself that looking for new opportunities helps you grow. I like to think about the hustle that comes from periods where I’m low on work like walking into a sweet shop. There, I get to look through a variety of options and search for exactly what will feel tasty and satisfying.

Don’t be afraid when you’re tested like this and things feel stagnant — maybe it just means that it’s time to get creative and go to the next level.

When you start to feel lonely

As a remote freelancer, sometimes you get lonely. Sure, you may be surrounded by other great freelancers if you’re part of a co-working space, or have more leniency in your schedule to meet friends for coffee, but when it comes to running your business, you’re on your own.

My advice? Get help when you can.

Realize that no man is an island. The beauty of living in today’s world is that there is an answer to every problem you have, including lack of community. You just have to find that answer.

Here’s the positive angle on difficult clients: They can build your emotional resilience.

I’ve also learned that loneliness can often come when you’re not focusing your efforts on the right things. Maybe you feel alienated because the work just isn’t the right fit for you, and does not engage you enough to be a real stepping stone on your journey.

Ultimately, we’re all learning about ourselves, so practicing patience with yourself is something that you’ll definitely get tested on as a freelancer. Try to find and build community wherever you can.

Dealing with difficult clients

These can come in all shapes and sizes. Some examples of difficult clients include those who are unresponsive whenever you reach out, some that just don’t seem happy with your work (regardless of how many edits or changes you make), or others who are simply taking advantage of you and have not yet paid you.

Here’s the positive angle on difficult clients: They can build your emotional resilience. Thankfully, I now rarely deal with them, because I’ve learned to be very careful about who I work with, but I do find it interesting how we can often attract clients who, unintentionally, may help us resolve an area of growth we may need.

Once, for example, I got burned when I was asked to do a fairly large package of copywriting work for a brand’s birthday campaign. Time was of the essence, and I delivered a newsletter, promo copy, emails, and some product descriptions over the course of a few days.

It is easy to put the client on a pedestal and to put yourself underneath that pedestal. But it doesn’t have to be like this, even if you’re a new freelancer.

I had asked for a deposit up front, but as the launch of the brand was “imminent,” (or so I was led to believe), I let it go when the company didn’t pay me immediately. Surprise, surprise: To this day I still have not been paid and the brand itself has gone AWOL.

This was the first time something like this happened to me, but it was a good test and helped me shape aspects of my work, including my boundaries, what I should and will insist upon, and what I decide is acceptable for me as a business owner.

Many freelancers can make mistakes like this when they start out, simply due to a lack of confidence. It is easy to put the client on a pedestal and to put yourself underneath that pedestal. But it doesn’t have to be like this, even if you’re a new freelancer. Learn not to let others take advantage of you. Holding your own when it comes to dips like these can ultimately make you stronger.

Marketing yourself

Ironic as it may sound, though I am a marketer, I really do not enjoy marketing myself. I don’t mind sharing my articles, but I don’t want to become a sales channel on social media for my business. It doesn’t feel right to me — I’d rather just use my platforms to share what I am interested in, and be myself rather than pushing “a brand.” Branding myself feels too confining.

As a freelancer, you are allowed to have a wide range of interests and skills and to use your social media to promote them. I have learned that, by being a little more personal and focusing away from pushing a brand, you may connect with the types of people you want to work with anyway.

Freelancing brings an extraordinary sense of empowerment and freedom. You alone are responsible for shaping your destiny.

I recently had a consulting client that contacted me with the following message: “I wasn’t familiar with you before today, but after looking at a few of your tweets I think we might have a few interests in common (I am a Manc with a fondness for raving and healthy living!)”

This message shows me that sharing my interests on social media enabled me to connect with a potential client who was on my wavelength, and who I felt that I could actually help. Yes, I do want to work with people that like raving and healthy living (and no, the two are not mutually exclusive!)

If someone does not seem to understand you, on the other hand, they are not your client. This is something that has taken me a long time to grasp, after working with lots of people who really weren’t the right fit for me. That’s okay, because there have been plenty of others who were.

I’ve spoken about the dips, but what about the highs? And yes, there are many — I wouldn’t have stuck it out as a freelancer this long if not. Along with the benefits of working remotely I’ve written about before, freelancing brings an extraordinary sense of empowerment and freedom. You alone are responsible for shaping your destiny.

Did you earn £4k this month? That was all you. Did you get a positive testimonial? That’s awesome — your communication style is working, and you’re building relationships. Is your brain bursting with ideas, and suddenly you want to write? Great! This means your creativity is being sparked.

So go for it, embrace the rollercoaster ride and the highs and the lows that come with it. Use each positive and negative experience to build emotional resilience and stability. Freelancing can be an emotional journey, but it doesn’t have to own you. Ultimately, it can be a journey where you’ll truly learn about yourself, and realize that you’re capable of more than you ever thought.

Writing your brand story

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How do you tell a story?

You may not be aware of it, but we are telling stories all the time.

From the elevator pitch you do at a networking event, to the way you describe your day to your spouse, stories are the way we communicate.

To tell your brand story to a customer is all about showing them who you are.

It is to give them your 'why' - the reason why you're doing this in the first place.

  • What motivated you to set up your business, create that product, or provide that service?

Simon Sinek is one of my favourite experts in this area.

He wisely says: 

'Stories are attempts to share our values and beliefs. Storytelling is worthwhile when it tells what we stand for.' 

Your customers will be more loyal to your brand if you understand why you're passionate about it.

To write your brand story is to communicate to your customer as if they were a trusted friend- and tell them what emotionally motivated you to start your business.

For example:

'After much searching, I wanted to provide parents with a range of affordable yet stylish pushchairs that I just couldn't find anywhere else.'

'My own experience in recovery from addiction led me to study the psychology of addiction, and after I qualified, I decided to become a therapist in order to help others in my position.'

'We wanted to set up a sugar-free cafe as there was nowhere around near us that provided the kinds of guilt-free snacks we really enjoyed at home. So we're bringing our sofa comforts to you!'

When you write your brand story, start with why.

Detail your journey, much like a storyteller.

  • Describe the life situation you were in at the time
  • Tell your audience how you spotted an opportunity to resolve someone's problem
  •  Explain to them how that led you to set up your business

It's important to add emotion - tell the human-to-human story of what you were feeling at the time: 

'I realised that time and time again, the shoes I bought for my children just didn't meet their needs, or were poor quality. I was forever throwing them away. With this in mind I started to think about what an ideal shoe for them would look like - one that would work in all types of weather...'

If writing's not your strength, you can record audio or video, and listen back to it to help you. Imagine explaining it to a friend or a person you've just met, and notice the words and language you use. You can then use elements from the transcription to form your brand story.

Most of all, your brand story should grab the reader emotionally- they should identify with you as a person that's similar to them or understands them, and they should see you as a person that is ultimately trying to help them meet their needs.

Here's a brand story I did for baby brand moKee.