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.

 

 

Want a remote job? 10 Facebook groups to join to find remote work fast

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'Where there is a will, there is a way.'

Let this be your motto for finding remote work. Even if you feel like the chances of finding remote work quickly are slim, don't let that be your mindset. Think abundance and you will find it!

Facebook groups are a great place to find a remote job for the following reasons:

- People spend a lot of time on Facebook

- People are very responsive

- It's a good way to put a face to a name, unlike a CV or resume.

When I first started looking for remote work, I joined all the digital nomad/remote work/telecommute Facebook groups I could find.  Here's a few (some are gender specific, sorry!):

1. Remote Work and Digital Nomads: 51,618 members

2.  Digital Nomad Jobs: Remote Job Opportunities: 26,714 members

3. Digital Nomad Girls Community: 17,165 members

4. Freelance and Telecommute Job Leads 1, 722 members

5. Female Digital Nomads: 34, 558 members

6. Remote Jobs and Coworking for Digital Nomads: 1,691 members

7.  Remote Jobs: 9,472 members

8.  Let's work remotely: remote jobs and digital nomad jobs: 19,723 members

9. Remote Work Hub: 5,262 members

10. Remote Work and Travel: 4,879 members

stats are correct as of August 2018

You have to be quick off the mark when applying, but scan these groups on a daily or weekly basis, and you'll soon find something that's right for you. Your dream job may feel like finding a needle in a haystack, but it is out there!

I'd love to know how social media has worked for you when creating your ideal work life.

If you'd like more specific advice in leaving your office job to become location independent, you can schedule a chat with me.

And if you'd like more resources, including a list of Youtube channels and inspiring books, check out Freedom Seekers.