Writer's Block: What to Do When it Strikes

Whether it’s a blog post for a client, a short story competition you want to enter or even a new caption for Instagram, when writer’s block strikes it can feel completely debilitating - and like you’ll never be able to write again.

To help overcome it, the first thing to remember is that ‘writer’s block’ isn’t something that crawls into your head zapping you of your writing ability; it’s usually connected to how you feel about your work.

Confidence is a huge part of being able to write and when those sneaky suspicions of ‘am I good enough?’ or ‘will my client like this?’ start to creep in, they can be overwhelming and leave you struggling to write at all.

What to do to restore your faith in your writing ability?

Here are my five top tips for when writer’s block strikes:

1.       Get up and walk away

If you find yourself struggling to find the words to write, get up from your desk and walk away. Pay with cash, don’t take your phone and walk a different way home to the way you came…it will encourage you to connect with your surroundings and look at things differently.

On returning to your work you’ll find you approach it with a clearer focus and the new ideas will start to flow.

2.       Get creative

Writing is a creative output and as described in an article for the New York Times, people’s approach to writing varies, as can the parts of their brains they use to write. Disciplines that require skill and practise need exercise.

Danielle Krysa’s book Creative Block is packed full of creative exercises to help you stimulate the grey matter, give some of them a go.

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3.       Buy a newspaper

Newspapers offer stat-based, short snippets or long form pieces of journalism about people, products, services, businesses – everything! I recommend reading them in hard copy as this is a much more immersive experience than reading online. Plus, you can’t fall into the rabbit hole of click bait if the paper is on the table in front of you.

Get your pen out and scribble all over it as your brain engages and ideas come to you; go grab a paper and feast on its contents.

4.       Talk

 Talking with someone you trust will help your confidence and talking about your work will create new perspectives.

If you’re not quite ready for an in-depth dive into what’s at the root of your writer’s block, think about joining a writing community like Pro Copywriters – but remember to limit your online browsing to no more than 20 minutes, or you run the risk of losing half your day to aimless online wandering.

5.       Write

This comes up a lot when looking at solutions for writer’s block, and as obvious as it is, it’s also probably the best solution.

The chair you’re sat on – describe it, the scene from your window – dictate it, the last time you ate in a restaurant – write a letter about it; just write and focus on how you use language to solve these mini challenges.

Then go back to your work and apply the same process, break it down and start the first draft; write, edit, repeat – you can do it!

 

Running a Business: What I've Learned in Five Years

What is it that makes us Brits shy away from a spot of self-praise? Even as I type this (rather belated) blog post, I’m a little reticent. So much so that there’s a good chance I won’t hit ‘Publish’ when it’s done.

Nevertheless…

Half a blinking decade. 1300 working days. A heck of a lot of hours.

However you frame it, that’s some achievement - and I’m trying hard to be nothing but really blinking proud about it. So, here I am sharing with you what I’ve learned in five years of solid and solitary graft…because if I can keep self-employment up for that long, then so can you.

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No (Wo)Man is an Island

Yep, I’m borrowing the age-old phrase Hugh Grant famously uttered in ‘'About a Boy’. Its meaning? We all need to rely on others from time to time - and there’s absolutely no shame in that. As my workload has grown, so have my stress levels - and try as I might, I can’t manage either on my own. So, I’ve drafted in some help in the form of some equally reliable freelancers. They help keep me sane during busier months and ensure I can sleep at night, too. If I have one piece of advice for anyone else running a business, it’s delegate. As difficult as it can be to hand over the reins, sometimes you must.

Self-Care is Vital

Pah, I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘self-care’. When did it stop being called ‘looking after yourself’ or ‘relaxation’ and start sounding…well...a little bit pretentious really?! But whatever you like to call it, it’s vital for us all. We really do owe it to ourselves to take the time out we need, whether that’s an hour away from our desks or a week in the sun. Do both, when required, and don’t feel guilty. After all, us freelancers don’t get paid for being off sick, so any form of TLC will only help us stay better for longer. I’m up for that; are you?!

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I look after myself by doing my best to keep my business and free time very much separate. I think they call it a ‘work/life balance’ - and it truly is a balancing act, but it’s one I’m managing well enough. It starts by having two phones and not taking your business one out with you for cocktails, if you can help it. Ultimately, the pay off is this: by enjoying your free time to the best of your ability, you’ll feel more than ready and refreshed to return to your work come Monday morning.

(Freelance) Friends Are Important

In fact, any kind of friends are important, to be honest. But as a business owner who works in solitude most of the time, it’s vital I schedule semi-regular catch-ups with fellow freelancers. Again, it’s what keeps us all sane. That and cake. And plenty of it.

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Cake Tastes Better with Colleagues

For me, there have been few downsides to running a business. But one of the bigger ones is this: eating cake while having a coffee break is absolutely no fun on your own. Sure, podcasts can take you away from your desk for 15 minutes or so, but few things beat catching up with a colleague as you make a brew together in the office kitchen, or chowing down on another slice of Victoria sponge, lovingly made by Office Manager, Carol.

Those of you with workmates, cherish them - and the next time you feel a mini meltdown coming on because John from accounts hasn’t washed his mug again, breathe a sigh of relief that there’s someone else to vent your frustration toward in the first place. When you’re freelance, there’s no one. Well, not if you don’t count Barry the visiting window pigeon. No colleagues also means there’s no one to share a post-meeting natter with, no one to share your woes with, and no one to buy a Secret Santa gift for. Sob.

Tax Return Time Will ALWAYS Make me Long for an Office Job

I have an accountant who files my return for me, but that time of the year still manages to fill me with dread. When January rolls around, I wonder why I even chose to be self-employed at all. I find myself pondering if life would indeed be easier if tax was taken out at source.

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It Doesn’t Get Any Less Frustrating When People Don’t Pay On Time

You’d think after five years I’d have developed a foolproof system that ensures late payments just aren’t a thing. But it still happens, despite reminders, despite signed contracts, and despite firm emails.

Another downside to working for yourself? I think so. My newly-enforced rule? A spot fine for payment that doesn’t reach me on the day it’s due. Sounds harsh, but believe me, it’s necessary for the 0.1% of people who don’t feel it important to pay us freelancers on time. And so far, so good. You should do it, too - if you haven’t already.

Creativity is a Process

I used to strive for a ‘right first time’ attitude to my work, but that level of ‘perfectionism’ doesn’t get you anywhere. Plus, improvement only comes by rehashing and retuning copy, right down to every last punctuation mark. Clients don’t mind when there’s some to-ing and fro-ing when it comes to their content. In fact, I think most appreciate the chance to get involved. So if you’re a creative who feels a ‘failure’ when a round of amends drop into your inbox, all I can say is don't. Copywriting, designing or creating of any kind is definitely a process.

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An Uncluttered Office Improves Productivity

For me, this is a biggie. Also: a nice-looking office filled with things that make you happy. My space is a mixture of fresh flowers, colourful wall prints, and calming scents, thanks to my plug-in, light-up room diffuser. I change the fragrance with my mood (yes, I’m that gal!) and it works a treat.

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Working from Home Can Be Great. It Can Also Be Lonely.

I thought that the answer to my work-based solitude was to join a business centre and take up an office room of my own - because while being your own boss is cool, working on your own isn’t. So I took up said space, and found that, after just three months, I missed the quiet of my home office and promptly handed in my notice. It’s bittersweet, as I loved the building and the people who worked from it. But the noise from the other offices made me feel more alone in my little space. It also made me realise that I can’t write with too much background noise. So it’s back to the working from home drawing board for now.

Making Your Own Hours is Blinking Ace

For all my bemoaning of this here self-employed life, it really is fantastic. On the whole. Nothing comes close to being able to make my own hours, take time off when I need it and not feel too guilty for very occasionally being off sick. In the five years since I’ve been freelance, I’ve been able to jump in my car and head down the M6 at literally a moment’s notice when my sister went into labour. I’ve also attended my nephews’ sports days without needing to formally put in a day’s holiday with the boss. And I’ve had numerous late lunches, early finishes and long weekends.

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If you’re thinking about going freelance, too, please do it. I have a feeling you won’t regret it. Not a jot.

Here’s to the next five years…




How to Improve Your Customers' Experience with Great Web Content

When you’re creating web content, the golden rules you read from experts all over the Internet can become overwhelming. Add to that the ever-evolving trends and changing SEO practices you need to keep up with - and before long it can all seem a little out of your control.

I always say that the most important point to remember when you’re writing anything for the web is that you’re creating it for a customer. So, when you’re writing your content, think about how it can genuinely improve your customers’ experience of your website.

Not sure where to start? Here are my tips on improving your website’s customer experience.

Write for Humans

Your customers and website visitors are humans. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to begin to distance yourself from your audience, especially if you’re elbow deep in SEO keywords and product descriptions. Take a good look at the content you’ve created and ask yourself one thing: ‘does this sound natural?’

Of course you’ll need to take your own company’s branding into account, and what’s natural for one business might seem unusual or awkward for another.

Make it easy for yourself and put your metaphorical feet inside your customers’ shoes. Take a little browse around your site. Are there any pages that seem off to you? Could your writing use a little less jargon? Make a list and use this to inform how you amend your content.

Be Positive

You might not have noticed at first glance but you may be talking your business down. You need active calls to action in your web content in order for it to be truly functional, but increasingly savvy consumers are getting wise to this, and they don’t like it.

The best reaction to this is not to force it. Don’t try sneaking your ‘Buy it now’ links into text - and instead be upfront. Offer help, support and a friendly team member’s undivided attention to your customers  in return for a quick chat about their needs. It sounds much more positive than a fake offer or a ‘time’s running out’ deal.

Aim to make your customers happy and you’ll be glad you did.

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Offer Something Unique

Your customers are looking for value - and this is called ‘value propositioning’. They’ll understand what your company does quickly, and they’ll even grasp the basics of your products within a few minutes.

What you need to show them is why your business can offer something nobody else can.

  • How can you pique their interest?

  • How can you delight them?

  • How can you fix a problem they didn’t even realise they had?

  • What can you do that goes above and beyond?

  • Why should they subscribe to your blog?

Don’t just list your team members. Talk about who they are, why they’re great, what they can do for your customers. Use your web content to create a connection, and you’ll stand out far above the crowd.

Use More Straightforward Language

Just because you use acronyms within your office all the time doesn’t mean your customers will understand what they mean. Even if your industry-specific products come with long-winded, technical descriptions as standard, break them down so that anyone could understand their benefits and appreciate their usefulness. Think of it this way:

  • A parent could be buying this for their tech-savvy child

  • A newcomer to the industry could be looking for equipment they need

  • Acronyms could vary between countries and within industries.

Jargon can easily be misunderstood and can present a barrier through which your customers are unlikely to try and break. As long as you use the wording expected of your business and industry, speaking simply and in straightforward language will only make you seem more professional, not less.

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If you’d like to find out more about how to create great web content, or you’d like to chat about how I could support you with yours, contact me today. I’d love to help.

Until next time…

Three Resolutions Your Business Needs to Keep in 2019

It’s the start of January - and you’re probably full of good intentions and big ideas. I love the motivation the start of a new year gives me; what about you?

A new year marks a new start – a clean slate where we can forget the bad habits we accumulated over the past 12 months and dive into a year where we never forget to respond to an email, never eat chocolate for breakfast and never, ever forget our business cards.

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While some resolutions are doomed to fail (I’ll eat chocolate for breakfast if I want to, thank you very much) there are some great new year’s resolutions for your business that if you keep up, will help your enterprise grow and succeed. Here are some of the best new year’s resolutions you can make that’ll keep you motivated, bring in new customers and push your business to the next level.

Regularly Update Your Business Blog

Your company blog is vital to your success in 2019. Keeping your website updated with fresh content is essential for your search ranking, and it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about your new products, shout about your success and reveal new information about exciting plans that may be afoot.

Start off small. Setting aside half an hour twice a week to research, write and edit your blog posts means you’ll easily manage one blog post per week. Feel that achievement!

Of course, if you really don’t have the time, or you need a little support, contact me. Helping businesses out with their content is what I do best.

Keep Your Social Media Ticking Over

How’s your Twitter account doing? Are you answering all your Facebook messages?

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Ignoring your social media accounts can seem like the only way to deal with them when you’re busy but honestly, in 2019, your customers will be reaching out to you via social media more than ever. Making your accounts a priority will make them far less scary and gain you new business. I promise.

Take a look at Buffer’s useful tips on using social media to your advantage, and while you’re at it, have a gander at their post scheduling tool. I use it, and honestly, it saves me so much time.

Carry Out A Web Audit Twice a Year

Ever wondered what your customers think when they reach your website?

Take some time to walk in their shoes by carrying out a web audit. If you’re not sure what one is, don’t worry, I’ve written about them before in my blog. A full web audit means talking a deeper look at the content on your website, and running through it with a fine-tooth comb to see what needs to be amended, what needs to be removed and what could be enhanced to make your website earn its keep.

Trust me, it’s well worth doing.

Want some help getting that new year’s motivation going? I’ve got plenty to go around. Get in touch today and let’s talk about how a freelance copywriter like me can help you make the best possible start to 2019.

Until next time..

 

 

Why hire a copywriter?

You know how important good content and communications are for your business, but perhaps you just don't have the time to put fingers to keyboard and get cracking. So what now?

If you’ve never outsourced your work to a copywriter before, it may be time to try that out. After all, what better way to make your website stand out than with the help of a professional who specialises in copywriting for businesses?

There are plenty of reasons to hire a copywriter - and I’ll be going over five of them in this blog post. Read on...

They Free Up Your Schedule

You can say 'cheerio' to your hectic schedules when you hire a copywriter. You shouldn’t have to spend hours figuring out why no one’s clicking on your website, or what the heck crawl stats are (hint: you can find out in Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO). Pumping out engaging content takes up a lot of time, so leave that to the pros!

Copywriters will do the technical stuff you’re struggling to do and give you the time to focus 100% on your business. Rather than stressing over how to write copy that draws traffic, you’ll now be able to give your undivided attention to the things that really matter.

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They Can Really Sell Your Service

Yes, copywriters write, but they also spend time doing research that leads to richer, more vibrant content. You’ll find plenty of copywriters who specialise in an industry-specific niche. If you sell handmade baby clothes, for example, you’d do well to find a copywriter who specialises in the industry that caters to mums.

A copywriter can capture the essence of your service and sell it to your audience in a way that is both engaging and fascinating.

They Provide Consistent Content

Let’s be honest for a moment: churning out consistent, new content can quickly get tiring. It can be easy to recycle old content by tweaking a word here and there, publishing it, and hoping readers won’t notice you wrote about the same topic two months ago, but please don’t do this.

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When you have a freelance copywriter on your side, you don’t have to worry about that. They can whip out fresh, high-quality content to capture your readers’ attention like nothing else. Even better, avoiding duplicate posts will turn your site into a Google-approved page. Who can resist that?

They Know How to Speak ‘Google’

There are plenty of SEO guides out there on the Internet, but it can still be tough to learn if you’re also trying to juggle your business on the side. Rather than try to force-feed this information to yourself, hire a copywriter who’s already familiar with SEO.

Copywriters can keep your website looking up-to-date and polished. No matter how many tweaks Google makes to its search engine, copywriters will keep on top of it so you don’t have to. Leave the technical mumbo jumbo to them.

 They Can Boost Sales Organically

Adverts are important for maintaining an online presence for your business, but organic traffic is just as important. After all, you’re more likely to get legitimate, long-term customers this way, rather than hoping someone scrolling through Facebook clicks on your ad.

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Copywriters will reach out to potential clients by creating fresh, original content for your social media accounts, and then by crafting equally brilliant content on your site that will keep visitors once they get there. By going the organic route and going easy on the adverts, you could see a significant bump in your sales.

So now that I’ve given you five reasons to hire a copywriter, I’m here to give myself a (shameless) shoutout. Need a hand with your business? I’m a copywriter based in Yorkshire - but I can work on your project remotely - wherever you are in the world. Let's chat!

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