Freelancing while on holiday

Photos often show a working holiday as being idyllic, laptop on a sun lounger, floppy hats and a cool drink on the side as you work on your latest project. While I would looove to work like that, my experiences of freelancing during a holiday is nowhere near this picture perfect image!

I’m in Kenya for 5 weeks visiting family until the end of April. I’ve usually had a lot of downtime during past visits, so this time I decided to spend some weeks working as usual.

Boy was I wrong!

Instead of some much needed relaxation time, I’m spending my time trying to steal a few minutes to work, calming a hysterical baby down and juggling family commitments.

Before I went on holiday…(is that what you still call it with two kids?)

As I prepared to go on holiday, I wondered whether I should tell my regular clients I was away or keep working as normal.

I decided to work only 3 of the 5 weeks and take the last 2 weeks off. I was also going to be in a different time zone (7 hours behind Sydney) which could prove a little tricky in case someone tried to call. Also Sydney would be awake while I was asleep. For non-urgent stuff it wouldn’t matter, but just in case a client needed a quick reply, I decided to inform them of my availability.

Here is the email I sent two weeks before I left:

Hi X
A quick email to let you know I’ll be overseas from 24 March to 4 May. I’ll be online and working between these dates only:
27 March to 20 April 2018 (time zone 7 hours behind Sydney)
I’ll be on holidays from 21 April to 4 May.
In case you’d like to contact me, happy to Skype with you between 4-6 pm AEST time. 
 
Thank you

Most of my clients got back to me immediately and said they wouldn’t bother me while I was away.

While I wasn’t expecting huge amounts of work to come in while I was on ‘holiday’  so far I’ve completed and submitted:

  • an entire website
  • brochure
  • small proofreading jobs

In past trips, I have worked successfully while my parents or relatives looked after my son. This year I haven’t got as much time because I have an 8 month old who howls when someone new so much as looks in her direction!

With projects to deliver, I’ve still had to work. Instead of looking for blocks of time, I’ve tweaked my working style and hours by:

  • working speedily while bub naps
  • working at night after everyone has gone to sleep and the house is quiet
  • doing chunks of work – a page at a time or research in bits and pieces

It’s not an ideal situation but I’m trying to make the best of it.

I’m still hoping I’ll have some time to really think about things, complete unfinished projects, and concentrate as I don’t have housework or other things demanding my attention. I’m hoping bub will settle down soon.

Do you freelance while overseas or do you switch off completely?

Get specific: 5 ways to turn a generic blog post into a work of art

Did you know it’s easier to write a blog post that tackles a specific subject than one that talks about everything? In my last blog post, I shared how I brainstormed 60 blog ideas in 30 minutes.

My first strategy was choosing 4 areas I wanted to focus on; feature writing, copywriting, productivity and running a business. In short, I got specific.

Get specific. Stay away from generic blog posts that are bland as old porridge. Click To Tweet

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that I write a mix of feature articles and content for businesses. Recently, I’ve realised how much the structure of a feature article overlaps with a blog post.

A good feature article and an interesting blog post:

  • talk about a specific angle as opposed to talking about everything
  • cover real life examples to explain points
  • feature interesting people as experts
  • support arguments with statistics and research like Neil Patel does
  • keep readers hooked beyond the headline

So how do you take a generic blog post idea and turn it into something people read, share or comment on?

  1. Pick one topic and brainstorm different ways you could write it. For example, instead of writing a listicle based on 10 different marketing tools, pick one and write about it in-depth.
  2. Research the topic to see what others have written about it. Could you add new information to it? Add a time factor to it to give people a quick fix e.g. Turn your life around in 10 minutes.
  3. Look for an angle that other bloggers haven’t mentioned. For example, there are thousands of productivity articles out on the web, could you share a personal story about one that works well for you or an app that’s made you more efficient?
  4. Feature an expert in a particular field and relate it to your business. For example, say you found a new start-up which became successful quickly. Could you interview the CEO to get insights on lessons learnt and apply that to small business owners who might be stuck where they are?
  5. Predicting trends is a good one as I found out recently. Following this one blog post, I had over 1,000+ people visit my website from social media, received over 20 LinkedIn connection requests, comments and shares. To date, just on LinkedIn, I generated over 200 views of my post with people not in my network reading and commenting. This has been my best performing post so far.
  6. Attended a networking event and enjoyed it? Write about it including key learnings. Many people hate networking events so reading something positive can be great for them and your website.
  7. News and current affairs are a valuable source of blog post ideas. I saw an ad on TV that I loved and so I blogged about storytelling and capturing your audience’s attention.

Next time, you feel stuck writing generic posts, get specific. If you have to blog for a living, you might as well enjoy it!

Need a blog copywriter? I offer blog writing packages for businesses. Email me rashida@rashidatayabali.com.au or visit www.rashidatayabali.com.au for more information.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

How I brainstormed 60 blog ideas in 30 minutes

Let me start by saying brainstorming blog ideas is the easy part. The harder part is writing the actual post and then clicking the “publish” button.

In December 2017, I set myself a goal of writing 52 blogs (one for each week) for my website the following year.

I added it to my goals list for 3 reasons:

  • It’s an experiment to see if it brings me more clients/work
  • To provide a platform for all those ideas which buzz in my head begging to be turned into blog posts
  • To see if I could commit to a weekly writing schedule.

Logically, I needed to come up with at least 26 blog topics to cover me until June 2018.

5 blog posts in and I’m already one blog post behind.

I’m a little red-faced to say I fell off the wagon last week because of work deadlines. But I’m back this week, determined to catch up, so expect another blog post shortly.

 

How I brainstormed 60 blog topics in 30 minutes. Click To Tweet

My blog idea generation process

When I decided to write 52 blogs, I first let the idea marinate in my brain for a few days.

I also thought about what areas I wanted to blog about and who I’d be speaking to in my blogs – fellow writers or potential clients.

I decided to write on these topics: feature writing, copywriting, productivity and running a business.

These were the core areas where I had something to share with readers based on personal experiences.

When I sat down to generate blog ideas a few days later, I turned off all distractions; phone, social media and the Internet.

Armed only with a pen and a fresh, clean page in my idea notepad, I started writing furiously as topics poured out of my brain.

I eventually reached a point when I couldn’t come up with any more blog topics.

As I re-read my list of topics, I found many generic blog ideas with a few sparkling in between that could be refined and turned into interesting blog posts.

Out of 60 blog post ideas, at least half were rubbish and the other half needed refining.

I’ve held on to not-so-great ideas so I can brainstorm different angles from them later.

How to make your blogging into a success

1.Schedule blogging into your diary

The next step, I believe is what determined whether my blogging goal would be a success or doomed to failure resting among the dregs of blogging enthusiasm and tired, neglected topics.

I scheduled writing a blog post in my diary every Sunday.

For the last 5 Sundays, I’d been writing and publishing a blog post religiously. Why Sunday and not Monday? Usually, my Sundays are unscheduled so I do have one or two hours to work without being disturbed. I prefer to allocate Mondays to income producing activities like sending out pitches to editors.

Last weekend, I missed my morning ritual and so my post never got written.

2. Flip the topic over or turn it inside out

If not one of the topics on my list excite me into writing a blog, I scroll through social media or think about something interesting I’ve seen on TV. Could I turn it into a blog by putting a personal spin on it like this one?

If a topic has been done to death – I try and flip it into a negative or opposite to make it sound more interesting.

For example, how not to write a blog that puts readers to sleep.

If I want to go off on a tangent, I give myself permission instead of churning out a ho-hum blog post that no one will read.

Sometimes, a topic pops into my head when I’m reading something unrelated. I write it down quickly in the notes function on my phone or it gets lost forever.

Research blog topics

If you know the areas you want to blog about but are still stumped: use this website to help you think of fresh blog topics or look through Facebook group posts to read what people are talking about. Put that aimless social media scrolling to good use!

These are the blogging tips that have worked for me so far:

  1. Have a list of topics at hand to get me into the blogging mindset. I don’t brainstorm each time I want to write a blog post
  2. Schedule it in my calender
  3. I don’t try to make it perfect. I think of one or two things I want the reader to remember after reading my post
  4. I keep a running list of blog topics on Evernote or a notepad. So I’ll never run out of blogging inspiration!

If you’d like me to help you create blog topics for your business, get in touch at rashida@rashidatayabali.com.au

How do you think of blog content ideas for your business? Do you have a technique or process that works for you?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

using storytelling to capture audience attention

Using storytelling to capture your audience’s attention

Last week as I was mindlessly scrolling through different channels on TV, my finger stopped when I saw this ad. I’d probably seen close to 200 ads combined over the Internet, TV and magazines that week yet only this one caught my attention and stayed with me as did the name of the business: CGU Insurance.

The question is why did I only remember this ad out of a possible 200 I’d seen that week?

Even though the ad starts with a fact: 33% of Australia businesses are owned by migrants, the story that follows is an emotional one of hope and triumph. One that many migrants (including myself) can relate to. It also starts a positive conversation about migrants’ contribution in Australia.

The ad using a personal story connects beautifully with a product that all small businesses need: insurance. It humanises insurance – something that many people buy without any emotional connection to the product/service. Buying insurance is like doing your taxes, it needs to be done but it’s nothing to be shouted about from the rooftops. This CGU ad shows insurance can make a difference in someone’s business and impacts lives.

The ad works because of its moving narrative – both images and soundtrack combine to form a memorable story which sticks in the customer’s mind. I may not have considered buying business insurance ever from CGU (I had never heard of them before) but I’ll definitely consider them when it comes time to choose an insurer.

Science says that human beings are wired to tell and absorb stories harking from our cavemen days. Many cultures around the world still use stories to communicate their way of life and wisdom to others. I grew up hearing stories like Why the chameleon can change colours and why the tiger has stripes. Stories I still remember and tell my own children – it’s an emotional connection to my own childhood and makes me happy.

Storytelling can win you customers

Many clients are still unaware of how powerful storytelling can help forge a connection with customers whether it’s through blogs, or videos or even case studies. They are hesitant to create content using storytelling perhaps because they’re worried they might come across as unprofessional.

On the contrary, weaving stories into corporate narrative can create trust with customers and lead to desired actions and behaviours. So if you want them to do something, tell them the right story. You can do this by:

  • sharing the company’s past and present stories through employees
  • using images to tell the story – show, don’t tell
  • create a suspense in the story building up to a finale
  • show emotions through characters
  • use a powerful song/soundtrack to play alongside the story as it unfolds
  • sharing other customers’ stories – NFPs do this very well
  • end the story positively – leave the audience feeling good
  • engage the audience’s senses by giving sensory details

Storytelling can help you stand out from your competitors and more importantly keep you top of mind when it comes time for the customer to choose a product or service.

According to a study by Stanford University, people remember information up to 22 times more when it is weaved into a story rather than telling them facts alone.

Create a deeper connection with customers using storytelling techniques instead of dry, hard facts.

What’s the most powerful storytelling ad you’ve ever seen? Tell me in the comments.

freelance writing predictions 2018

What will freelance writing look like in 2018? 9 experts reveal all

What will freelance writing look like in 2018?

I like reading predictions about where the freelance economy is headed. It’s a good way to keep an eye on freelancing trends and identify gaps.

To answer this important question, I asked 9 experts to share their thoughts on where they believe the industry is headed in Australia, and what freelancers need to do to stay relevant and in-demand.

For this week’s blog post (4 of 52!) I’m publishing 9 predictions for the gig economy (including one of my own). Thank you so much to all the experts who contributed.

SEO adds value to copywriting

I’ve seen clients have little to no knowledge of how SEO can impact their content creation and marketing efforts. As copywriters it’s our responsibility to be experts in what we do so it’s crucial to have that understanding of how SEO marries with copywriting and marketing. Improve your SEO skills by seeking out proven, practical courses because increasingly clients will demand results for their copywriting investment in future. I offer SEO along with copywriting and the satisfaction of seeing tangible results like increased sales for clients is amazing especially after they’ve been struggling for a while. Rashida Tayabali Copywriter

The complete package

One trend we’re increasingly seeing in the freelance writing world is that it’s no longer enough just to be a great writer. 2018 will be all about how well you package your pitch, and that means thinking about digital repurposing of your stories and offering a package of copy, multimedia, tweets, web-ready images. We’re now seeing some publishers (print and digital) demand all of the above as part of commissions, so it’s always good to consider your pitch and how it might work on multiple platforms in order to be easier to sell.

Another trend? Your work doesn’t finish when you file copy. Granted, it’s not something many journos are fans of, but there’s no doubt that if you have a strong online presence and aren’t shy about spruiking your work you’ll get more of it. It might be sharing a recently published story, copy you’ve written for a client, a project you managed, a social campaign that did well. Not only will you score brownie points with the one paying your invoices, but it’ll keep the work flowing as well. The passion for audio stories and podcasts continues to grow as well, with 58 percent of publishers saying they’ll be focussing on these areas in the near future. Finally, we’re also seeing a rise in the use of journalism crowdfunding platforms – which could be worth a shot if you have a strong, loyal readership which loves your work and what you do. Rachel Smith & Leo Wiles www.rachelslist.com.au

Freelancers as edupreneurs

I think the biggest trend for 2018 will be freelance writers starting to think of themselves as entrepreneurs. As the number of people working as freelancers grows worldwide, there is a strong movement towards freelancers becoming “edupreneurs”. I think this will translate into seeing freelance writers stabilise and diversify their income streams by producing e-books, resources and courses. It seems like a smart trend – freelancing can be so fickle and developing your own intellectual property that you can then share with your audience makes use of freelance writers’ communication and entrepreneurial skills. Lindy Alexander The Freelancer’s Year

F2C Freelancer to client

There’s a definite trend in businesses skipping the whole ‘big agency’ model and heading straight to a freelancer, if not a freelancer working in conjunction with a production company. If no serious hardcore research or substantial strategy is needed, savvy, self assured marketers and business owners are seeing great opportunities and serious savings in utilising specialist freelancers, who not only write and ideate expertly, but can think strategically and work collaboratively. More than ever, quality freelancers, in my mind, are ‘go-to’ suppliers in the marketing food chain. It’s never been easier for companies to tap into their expertise, similar to how they’d engage a production company, web developer, or sound studio – most of which work independently to a core agency. No longer are freelancers simply the poor cousins of the big boys. Steve May Rockatansky

Niche freelance writers

I’ve definitely noticed more clients are looking for freelancers who have some experience or knowledge of the industry they’re in. As a health writer, I’ve experienced an increasing number of clients in the health space, who want to work with me. While they definitely value my broad knowledge of the current health ‘climate’, and knowledge of where to source information, they’re more concerned with HOW to communicate to their constituents. (i.e. tone of voice, language etc.). Some health topics can be fraught with fear and overwhelm so finding someone who can break down this information into ‘easy-to-understand’ language that empowers, rather than scares, is increasingly important to my clients. I would imagine that the same would apply to other niche industries such as legal, fintech, finance. Nerissa Bentley Write to the point communications 

Agencies adopting freelance model

I’m seeing more digital agencies in particular use a freelance model instead of employees. It frees the agency of staff related burdens and costs. And it gives them the luxury of picking and choosing a combination of freelancers appropriately skilled for the job. I’m on a roster for a few digital agencies working in this manner and selling that approach as a benefit to clients. Kate Merryweather Dot Com Words

Professional development on the list

2018 is the year for freelance writers to take charge of their own professional development. Keep up with industry trends, new technologies and audience behaviours. No matter your niche, we live in a fast-moving world. You need to be across why a Facebook algorithm change is important, or how voice recognition will change content. Businesses, brands and agencies are keen on the freelance model, and they warm to freelancers who bring industry smarts as part of the package. Amanda Vanelderen WorkWords

Video copy

2018 will be the year where businesses see the value in using freelancers who have specialised knowledge in particular industries. Whilst there will always be low cost overseas alternatives, as a financial services and fintech copywriter, having an in-depth understanding of the Australian market and financial products brings a unique advantage to the table. I also see an increased demand for copywriters to provide video copy. Traditionally, a blog post might include some social media snippets but being able to bring a strategic approach to leverage the content to its full potential via video is what smart brands are looking for. Catherine Fowler Cath Fowler Marketing

Authenticity

There is an increasing need to engage with the consumer in an authentic a way as possible, particularly in the professional services sector. This will influence the choice of communication channels, propel reluctant social media users onto the platform and hopefully result in more genuine messages of real consumer benefit. What does that mean for freelance copywriters? One of the main areas of increased involvement will be assisting clients to find this authentic message. Working collaboratively to drill down through their marketing messages for a greater understanding of their purpose and philosophies which should shape better communication. It could mean more time needed for this process or a change in mindset when shaping a brief. Lyndall Talbot LTD Consult

What do you predict for 2018? Share your thoughts by posting a comment.

 

feature story

Where to get even more feature story ideas (Part 2)

Last week, I listed 7 different sources of feature story ideas which I use to brainstorm ideas for feature articles. Here are more ways in which I find story ideas that editors might be interested in.

Personal experiences

I’m a fan of using my parenting experiences to write articles but not comfortable sharing extremely personal things. So if you don’t mind sharing your experiences, there are some good magazines especially online that you can write for, like Daily Life or a weekly print magazine that shares people’s experiences – like I lost 80kg in 2 months.

At my last job, I experienced some situations that led to this article for Women’s Agenda:

Blurred lines: When should you add a work colleague as a friend on Facebook?

Local newspapers/magazines

Do you read your local area newspaper? If you do, then keep an eye for stories or profiles of people that can have national appeal. Sometimes people have unique businesses or hobbies which make a good roundup article for a national magazine.

Organisation newsletters

If you’re thinking of writing for health related publications, newsletters from research organisations are a goldmine for cutting-edge ideas that haven’t made it into mainstream media yet. Or bookmark their research/publications page and visit them frequently to see what’s happening and if there’s an idea that would appeal to health or food magazines for example .

Custom magazines

Just yesterday I noticed that shops like Chemist Warehouse are now publishing their own health newspapers with tie-ins to their products. These can be a good source of income if you’re interested in this area as usually they need seasonal ideas like how to get ready for summer etc.

Lateral thinking/multiple angles

If you have a great idea to write on a certain topic, think about what other niches/magazines would be interested. For example, if you’ve found latest research for adults addicted to sugar, check if there’s research for children addicted to sugar for a parenting publication.

Podcasts/TV/Radio

If you listen to talk back radio or podcasts often conversations can provide a good springboard for a feature story idea. I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and listening to channels you wouldn’t normally pick to spark some great ideas that can be turned into interesting feature articles.

Journal articles

Constant research is being done in various fields and it can be hard to stay on top of everything – I wouldn’t get anything done if I sat down to read all of it.

So I tackle this in one of two ways – signing up to get alerts (I use another email address to avoid being submerged) or I use an app like Pocket or Evernote to bookmark links to read later.

These are some of my sources for feature story ideas, this list is by no means exhaustive. So add your own to this list and never run out of ideas.

story ideas for feature articles

7 amazing sources of feature story ideas (Part 1)

The most common question I get asked by other people is: where do I get good story ideas from?

The short answer is: I use a variety of sources to find interesting story ideas for feature articles. Sometimes I’ve fallen down the Internet rabbit role following one article after another – but on the flip side, I’ve also found some great ideas and research studies for future articles.

In this post, I share 7 ways I find interesting feature article topics. I’ve also pitched these ideas to magazine editors and been commissioned.

1.Reading a magazine or newspaper 

If I’m interested in writing for a particular magazine, I read it cover to cover, sometimes twice or thrice. I get ideas simply by reading the articles, because while I’m reading, my brain is thinking of other ideas.

You can brainstorm angles from these articles, so if there’s a story on why nuts are not good for you in one issue, you can pitch a story on why nuts are the new superfood and refer back to the first article.

When Cory Monteith from Glee died, TV, magazines and radio were reporting on it constantly. I got the idea of pitching a round-up article to Essential Kids (parenting section of Sydney Morning Herald) on what to do when the television worries your child. This was my first successful pitch to EK.

My first published article for Fitness First magazine titled ‘ An internal spotlight on stress‘ came about because of my weekly gym visits. I saw there was an article on dealing with stress every other month in their monthly magazine. The symptoms and effects of stress are well known – so I flipped the idea on its head and focused on what happens inside our bodies when stressed.

2. Conversations with friends and family

When I’m chatting with friends and family, something they’ll say will trigger a great idea for a feature article. A friend who told me her six year old daughter kept lying to her and then denied it even when she was found out led to when your child won’t stop lying for Essential Kids.

Another friend who was planning her wedding and handling crisis after crisis during the planning led to Destination Weddings: the good, the bad and the ugly for Life & Style, SMH.

So the next time you’re talking with someone, keep an open ear for any complaints or juicy bits: there might be a story in there.

3. Websites that publish press releases

If you’re at a loss for trends or ideas, browsing through websites that publish press releases like Media Connections can be a valuable source of ideas or to find interesting people with a good backstory. PR Log and PR newswire also publish press releases. You can filter the press releases by country. These websites can have good story ideas for trade publications.

The downside: too many press releases to read. I’ve signed up for these in the past and regretfully had to unsubscribe because my inbox got flooded.

Tip: Skim the headings and if they’re of interest click through to the PR.

This story on Eric Agyeman for The Newcomer magazine came from a press release on Media Connections.  I did pitch him for another story to an editor for a major magazine but after an initial interest and multiple follow ups from me, unfortunately it didn’t get picked up.

4. Upcoming events

Upcoming events like markets, red-carpet events, celebrity visits and movie launches are a good way to hook an editor’s interest especially if it’s high profile.

I recently pitched a profile of an actor (in an upcoming movie) to his local suburb newspaper and it got accepted. Thinking local sometimes can lead to a paid story. Be creative in looking for publications to pitch to and don’t ignore niche publications and your local area newspapers.

5. Blog posts by other writers

You can get good ideas from reading posts by other bloggers. Often, they have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening and can be a great interviewee/case study especially if they’re also writing on a similar topic you want to pitch.

Reading a parenting blog led to why fatherhood scares many dads-to-be for Essential Baby. The blogger was a perfect case study for my article as he’d written on this subject previously.

Reading another blog post on holiday etiquette led to this story on dealing with oversharing relatives on Facebook for Life & Style. This time, I interviewed the blogger as an expert since she had a business focused on social media.

6. Community festivals

I live in a multiculturally diverse suburb so we have various cultural festivals throughout the year. By attending an Africultures festival two years ago, I got an idea to write an article on group drumming after taking part in it.

It led to my first in-flight magazine article for Kenya Airways titled To the Beat of the Drum on the benefits of drum therapy. I also didn’t have to look too far for the expert – I interviewed the instructor who was supervising the group drumming at the festival. Turns out he owned a drum therapy business and was more than happy to be interviewed for the article and supply photographs.

7. Niche websites

Niche websites are a fantastic source of statistics and research because they publish the latest research and data. I like Psychology Today and Web MD because they have a treasure trove of articles from which which I can quote research and support my pitches.

If you can find and bookmark a few niche websites on health or fitness or whatever subject you’re interested in writing about, then you’ll never run out of timely ideas to pitch.

I hope these ideas help you to find your next winning feature idea. Tell me in the comments if they worked for you or what you use to find great story ideas.

 

Copywriter Sydney

Remembering 2017

I’ll be honest. I don’t really like reading other people’s ‘year in review’ type of posts.

Mostly because they make me feel a little inadequate – that I should have worked harder, done more, written more and read more when I compare to what others in my industry have done.

This year, I’ve decided to write my own post. So that I can get all the negativity I felt during 2017 out of the way, and start 2018 with a clean slate.

What happened to me in 2017 personally

By far, the biggest life changing event that happened to me was adding baby no.2 to the family. I had a healthy, baby girl in July 2017 after suffering through a nightmarish pregnancy from October the previous year. All-day sickness, nausea, unable to eat or taste my food. I also had to become best friends with my home toilet and those in shopping centres.

I was miserable, floundering because I couldn’t write, had set no goals in 2017 because I wasn’t expecting to work a lot, so didn’t know what to do.

My copywriting community was a big support – took my mind off things, and kept me in the loop so I didn’t feel isolated.

I also piled on the pregnancy weight and felt even more unhappy – I wasn’t eating because of nausea, but still the scales kept moving up.

In short, I was lost, unhappy and feeling resentful that my life and work, once again, were going to change.

What happened to me work-wise

I managed to work all through to June and then went on mat leave. But it was hard and of course my income took a massive hit.

2017 was the first year where my income didn’t double. I felt even more discouraged but my health simply couldn’t keep up and I had to stop work.

So I let go, after shedding a few tears, at seeing all my hard work come to a grinding halt.

But then, things took a turn for the better:

  • I had a gorgeous, sweet baby girl and all the pregnancy weight came off quickly.
  • Because I wasn’t worried about working, I spent time learning how to juggle both kids, with no external pressures.
  • I wrote not one, but two feature articles 3 weeks after I came home from the hospital. It gave me a much needed confidence boost in my writing and that I could still do it with 2 children.
  • A client I had to let go last year requested to come back in 2018.
  • I took on a new client but lost them in 2 weeks – we were not a good match and I’m glad I made that call. The money would have been welcome, the stress not so much.
  • I started exercising again and that made me feel heaps better.
  • I could actually taste my food and coffee again and that made me so happy!
  • I completed the Recipe for SEO Success e-course and doing my very first SEO audit/content writing for a client in 2018.
  • I tinkered with my website design, content and FINALLY I am happy with it.
  • We went for a family holiday to Singapore – we all needed it desperately and had an amazing time.
  • A friend who’s CV I rewrote actually landed her dream job!

So I had some wins, some losses but most importantly, I didn’t have to start my business from scratch despite taking time off.

What 2018 looks like:

  • I’ve set a monthly income target for writing.
  • I’ll be going back to more feature writing – in fact one of my bucket list publications actually responded to my pitch! So fingers crossed the Ed likes it, and it’ll be printed next year.
  • I’ve set a goal for 52 blog posts for my website – it’ll be interesting to stick to a schedule each week!
  • I’ve listed a couple of publications on my bucket list that I’ll be pitching to.
  • I’ve decided to try my hand at travel writing and food writing.
  • Scheduled time for personal development – I’ve enrolled in a few courses I need to complete.
  • Do regular interviews for my passion project – The Newcomer magazine which also got sidelined in 2017.
  • Lose 7 kg through the keto diet.
  • Attend 4 networking events in 2018. I decided I need to get out and meet people IRL as in previous years. I’ve already booked myself in for events in Feb and May 2018.
  • Spend quality time with both my kids and family, travel, read more and exercise more.
  • Get my half written novel to 1st draft – this is a BIG one for me.
  • Be less judgemental (yep, this one sneaks up on me despite my best efforts to not judge) – I have already started this one thanks to this book.
  • Less guilt, more fun – which means housework gets done, when it gets done!

So now that I have a clean slate, I feel ready for 2018! What’ll your new year look like?

lessons learnt as a freelance writer

5 years as a freelance writer: 5 unexpected lessons learnt

It’s coming up to 6 years since I started freelancing as a career. It actually started as a hobby or a side hustle while on maternity leave from my marketing job.

One of my former colleagues had been a freelance writer. She had joined our marketing team on a contract and it was she who first planted the seed in my mind.

However, it took me almost a year to put it into action and only because I was on maternity leave and looking for something to keep busy with.

I had no idea what freelance writing actually meant except I wanted to see my stories published in magazines.

lessons learnt as a freelance writer

Life as a mummy blogger
I started blogging about parenting. Initially it was read by friends and family. Soon, I had followers, met other bloggers in Sydney, and got blogger envy when I saw other prettier blogs.

I taught myself WordPress, bought countless themes and cursed while trying to make it look pretty.

I blogged until my son was about one year old and used the blog to show editors I could write when I first started pitching story ideas to them.

Life as a features writer
I pitched ideas to editors before attempting any freelancing courses. Two of my ideas were accepted by the editor of Fitness First magazine (I had written rough outlines in bullet points and sent it to her through my Yahoo email – CRINGE!).

Surprisingly, she liked these story ideas and wanted me to write for the magazine.

Catch: She couldn’t pay me for the stories as they had no freelance budgets. I agreed to write for free, thrilled at the thought of seeing my byline in an actual magazine, and that hundreds of people would read MY stories!

I wrote the stories, got published and was hooked.

I finally looked up magazine writing courses offered by the Australian Writers’ Centre and enrolled into an evening course. I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment when I discovered I was the only ‘published’ writer in the room on the first day.

At the end of the 6 week course, I pitched a story idea as a ‘proper freelance writer’ using a professional email address to Essential Kids (SMH), got accepted and was paid $300!

This feature article was followed by others in Women’s Health and Fitness and Men’s Fitness magazines. I mixed feature writing with an editorial role for Leaders in Heels magazine and then wrote website copy, brochures and blogs for friends later on.

I kept writing, pitching and looking for writing opportunities online, joined Facebook groups and met new people in networking events.

What did I learn during these 5 years?

1. Don’t think too much or plan for the future

It takes time, effort, persistence to be published in magazines or to get copywriting clients. Take it one day at a time. Have one or two goals in mind but take every day as it comes until you get established, or clients start giving you repeat work.

This can take a few months based on how consistent you’re and how many hours you put into your freelancing business or like me, if you’re juggling a child or aren’t the main breadwinner – at least one year.

2. Don’t give up in the first 3 months

I found the first 3 months the hardest to stay focused, especially given the silence and rejections I faced from editors. But I kept going, wrote down two to three tasks to my to-do list daily e.g. analyse magazine X.

The point at which you want to give up? Keep going for one more day. You never know what awaits you in your inbox the next morning.

3. Life can get in the way of deadlines

As a new mum, life did sometimes get in the way of work but I chose my deadlines with care. I’ve always built in a buffer of 3-4 days with deadlines whenever accepting commissions or new copywriting clients.

I’ve planned submissions so I’m not writing more than one article or copy for one client in a day.

6 years later, building in a buffer into my work has become second nature. I’ve learnt that good writing takes time and I allow myself this time.

I’ve only ever felt stressed when unexpected work has come on top of my regular deadlines and the money has been too good to turn down.

4. Learn and keep learning

I went into this whole freelance gig blind through the first and even second year and made mistakes as a new freelancer.

My biggest mistake was not learning about what it really meant to be a freelancer, or the basics, where to find work, how to diversify, use social media and the Internet to promote myself. I didn’t even have a proper business plan until my third year.

I wish I had aligned myself to the right people from the start. I found The Clever Copywriting School invaluable for copywriters and also the private Facebook group for graduates run by the Australian Writers’ Centre.

5. I said yes to unpaid opportunities

As freelance writers, the cardinal rule is NEVER TO WRITE FOR FREE either for editors or for clients.

I broke this rule a few times during my first three years as a freelance writer.

I chose to look beyond money and instead focus on what other benefits I could get – contacts and experience. I do realise this is not for everyone as many freelancers earn money to support their families. I had the luxury of trying new things and building up my business slowly.

The benefits I experienced were, I learnt so much about writing and the business world, made crucial contacts and got a chance to leave the house and be surrounded by people who were out there doing things which always recharged my batteries.

I’ve not earned huge amounts of money when I compare myself to other freelancers but I look at it this way:

• I got the chance to look after my son full time and not send him to daycare at all
• I wrote some stories I’m very proud of
• I’ve made a name for myself among my peers and clients as a reliable, professional copywriter and features writer
• I’ve finally found my passion – writing

A new horizon…
I’m on the cusp of change in my life and my business as I wait for my second baby to arrive any day now.

I know my income will take a massive hit this year. I won’t be able to hit my double income goal in 2017 but I have peace of mind that I won’t lose this ‘job’.

I’ve no employer to pander to – I’ll start freelancing again when it’s the right time for me and my family.

I’m also planning to restart work on a new magazine I launched last year while I’m on ‘maternity leave’ and seeing what comes from it.

What I’ve really learnt about freelancing in these last 5 years? It’s that it’s constantly shifting and changing.

tips for new copywriters

4 copywriting tips I often share with beginners

No one ever talks about how they dealt with their very first copywriting project. Fortunately, I’m here to share my copywriting tips with you.

It finally happened one morning and you got an email asking for a price on writing website copy, after spending weeks or months hoping someone would notice your website. After doing a victory lap around your living room, chances are you’re probably feeling a little green with anxiety.

Having been in the writing business for four years, I decided to put together a list of copywriting tips and tricks I used in my first year of writing for businesses. I still use most these copywriting tips and techniques 4 years later and hope they’ll help you too.

Research your client and his/her business thoroughly

Before you get on that briefing phone call, or email them a copywriting brief, take the time to know their business inside and out.

Read up on any news articles, read their website content, and LinkedIn profiles of the main people you’ll be talking to.

Doing this as a new and unfamiliar copywriter shows you care about their business, you can ask the not-so-obvious questions giving you more valuable insights you can bring to the writing process, and it’ll give you a confidence boost!

The more you know about your client, the easier it’ll be to write good marketing copy.

Ask what they don’t like about their current copy

Often as a new copywriter, eager to impress, the important question about what the client doesn’t like about their current website content doesn’t get asked.

Why are they rewriting the website content? What’s wrong with the current written materials? Sometimes, it’s a change of strategy, or a branding exercise. Ask the question and you won’t produce copy that gets the thumbs down, smashing your confidence as a writer.

Create a good copywriting brief

To be honest, in my four years of freelance copywriting, I haven’t created a comprehensive, copywriting brief – an email brief has always done it for me. But I know other copywriters who won’t proceed with the client unless the copywriting brief has been signed and sealed.

There are advantages to writing a copywriting brief; both you and the client are clear on scope which avoids troubles later on. I’d highly recommend you create a copywriting brief for each new project – big and small. Here is an example of some copywriting documents including a brief you’ll need as a newbie copywriter.

Be realistic with deadlines

In a bid to win jobs, many new and inexperienced copywriters promise the client unrealistic turnaround times. If this is your first copywriting gig and you’re writing on a tight deadline, you won’t do your best work especially taking into account how much time researching the client takes and organising your thoughts.

You don’t want to be a frustrated copywriter and have a pissed-off client calling or emailing you repeatedly for their copy!

If you need two weeks to complete a copywriting project, then add in a couple extra days to the deadline as long as it’s not affecting the client’s timelines.

Work within their deadlines and project delivery times always.

Never missing a deadline is one of the unspoken commandments of being a trustworthy and reliable copywriter who gets repeat work.

Don’t skimp on thinking time

Most times I’m either thinking of my client’s new project or thinking about the first draft I have written or have yet to write.

Being a successful copywriter means you have to take time out to think.

Ideally after completing a first draft, set it aside for a few days to let it sink into your brain. Go back to it with a fresh set of eyes before sending it off to the client.

ps: When bub was small, I used to think about work when taking a shower, something about the water drumming down opened up my neurons!

I hope these tips help you become a better copywriter, I’d love to know from seasoned copywriters on copywriting tips you’d give to a new copywriter.