How to survive a freelance dry spell in 7 easy steps.

surviving a freelance dry spell

How to survive a freelance dry spell. (Photo by Brad Helmink on Unsplash)

 

The perks of working freelance are well-documented: working in your jammies, setting your own hours (to an extent), no more standing for hours on the train as you make your way in to the office for 9.00am.

Of course, this comes at a price. The obvious trade off is the complete lack of stability. One month you’re rolling around on a bed covered in £50 notes (okay, not quite!), the next you’re watching tumbleweed blow through your inbox and you’re asking your husband to call your mobile to check it’s still working.

I know we’re not really supposed to admit when we’re struggling but I’m not one for playing coy. I’ll happily admit that just a couple of months ago I fell victim to the dreaded ‘freelance freak-out’. I had had my busiest quarter ever and instead of enjoying the unexpected quiet spell and taking a few days to catch my breath, I started to panic. In my wee head, the busy spell was the anomaly and the quiet patch was the new ‘normal’. I started perusing job ads…

Can you relate?

If you’re currently in the midst of a quiet spell and feeling the onset of your own ‘freelance freak-out’, I want you to stop and take a breath. Assuming you still love your freelance work, this is the time to have faith and just power on through the rough patch.

Some folk turn to praying, others like manifesting and trusting in the universe. Whatever floats your boat. Me, I like action. I’ve put together 7 things you can do today to get that inbox pinging again.

1.Hit up your old clients.

Don’t forget to keep in touch with old clients. If you’ve updated your services, let them know; maybe they’ve been meaning to get in touch for another project and they just need a nudge in the right direction. Perhaps they’ve been meaning to pass your name along to someone who needs your skills but they assumed you’d be too busy to take on additional work. Maybe they’d be happy to provide you with a new testimonial that will help you close a new client you’ve been courting.

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

2.Send out a newsletter.

People are busy and it’s so easy to fall off their radar. Sending out a newsletter packed with useful content is a great way to remind people that you’re there! Let your list know that you’re currently available and see if anyone bites.

surviving a freelance dry spell

I’m available!

3.Advertise your availability on your social media platforms.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your audience know that you have immediate availability. If you’re usually booked up months in advance, there may be the odd client or two who jumps at the chance to get a project started without having to wait around for you to have a spare week in your diary.

4.Consider launching a new service or event.

Have you had the seed of an idea germinating at the back of your mind for a while? Now is the time to do something about it.

During my last quiet spell, that’s exactly what I did. Based on the conversations I’d been having at networking events, I could see that there are loads of entrepreneurs who have hit stumbling blocks with their content marketing and blogging. I realised that there was a very real need for a consultation service that helps beginner bloggers overcome these blocks. Sure enough, when I offered the service up to beta testers, I had several clients (some old, some new) jump at the chance. Quiet spell over.

Could you apply this to your own business? Could you introduce a new service or hold an event that would help out your target market? Not only will it get some pennies rolling in now, but it could be a great marketing opportunity that will pay dividends in the future too.

5.Get your butt out there.

There’s no point sitting at your desk, crying into your coffee. The best way out of a quiet spell is to get yourself out there — if clients aren’t coming to you, you’ll need to go out and find them.

Book yourself onto a networking event, sign up for a craft fair, go out and meet potential clients.

6.Cold emailing.

If you’re determined to sit at your desk, crying into your coffee, at least be productive about it. Make a list of clients you’d love to work with and send out some emails. Find out more about cold emailing here.

7.Use your contacts.

Do you know anyone in your industry who is swamped with work right now? Let them know that you’re having a tumbleweed moment (they’ll get it, they’ve been there too!) and that you’re willing and able to help them out with any overspill. It’s so important to foster these relationships; after all, there will be months when you’re the one who’s overrun with work and you’ll be able to return the favour.

surviving a freelance dry spell

Get your address book out. Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

8.Hire a sandwich board and parade the streets.

But only if you’ve tried the first 7 tips and haven’t had any luck.

Need some more tips for getting your business out there? Check out this post: http://www.clarecrossan.co.uk/low-cost-marketing-tips/

 

 

Do you have the confidence to blow your own trumpet?

 

Blowing your own trumpet in business

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash

 

A recent networking event, which focused on the topic of ‘Confidence in Business’ has got me thinking. We all know that confidence in business is vital. After all, if you don’t believe in your skills, talent and business prowess then how do you expect to convince your clients that you are worthy of their hard-earned cash?

How confident are you in business matters? Are you the best in your field? More importantly, do you tell your customers how much you rock?

I have a sneaky suspicion that we Brits do not lack confidence, but rather suffer from an ingrained reluctance to blow our own trumpets. In this country, self confidence and blatant self-promotion are often mistaken for arrogance.  While we supposedly live in an increasingly classless society, we do love to hate anyone who we perceive as having ‘ideas above their station’ — Tall Poppy Syndrome in all its glory. How often have you thought that you’d like to bring the insufferably smug Simon Cowell down a peg or two?  I wonder if Mr Cowell is received somewhat more warmly across the pond where, in my experience at least, success is cheered and encouraged.

Don't let Tall Poppy Syndrome cut down your business

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

There is of course a fine line between confidence and arrogance and you do need the talent to back it up. Unfortunately I have met a good many talented people who hesitate in talking themselves up precisely to avoid seeming arrogant.

One of my clients is a perfect example. Articulate, intelligent and remarkably talented in her field, she is extremely confident in her business abilities. Yet, when it came to writing her website, she choked. She just couldn’t sell herself. She admitted that it felt completely unnatural to be so blatant in shouting about how fantastic she is.

This is often when people turn to copywriters. It’s not so much that you can’t write, it’s that you can’t write well about YOU! This particular client told me about her business, her skills and her qualifications and I did the hard bit. Since she couldn’t blow her own trumpet, I did it for her and she was thrilled with the results.

How’s that for a bit of shameless self-promotion?  I hope you don’t think I’m being arrogant…

 

So if you find it hard to sell yourself, drop me a line and I’ll help you out: office@clarecrossan.co.uk

You may also be interested in:

How to use social proof to boost your small business.

How to market your business when you’re broke.

 

The little-known tool that will help you improve your writing, today.

The Flesch-Kincaid scale. Hands up, my writerly friends, if you’ve never heard of it. And don’t sweat it if you haven’t; I hadn’t either until a few months ago when it was discussed in one of the many copywriting groups I stalk on Facebook.

I’ve since spoken to a couple of fellow content creators who hadn’t heard of it either so, generous soul that I am, I’m going to give you a quick overview so you can start using it to improve your writing, today.

So, what is the Flesch-Kincaid scale?

It’s essentially a readability calculator, based on some complicated mathematical shenanigans that go way over my head. All I need to know, and all you need to know, is that it can grade your writing, letting you know whether you’ve hit the right level of readability for your intended audience.

Where do I find the F-K scale?

If you’re creating a word document, it’s easy to set up the F-K grading. Open your Spelling and Grammar checker, click on ‘options’ and enable the ‘show readability statistics’ option. Now, after you’ve worked your way through your spelling and grammar check, you’ll be presented with your document’s readability stats. At the top, you’ll see your word count and the number of paragraphs and sentences in your document. Right at the bottom of the box, you’ll find your Flesch-Kincaid grade level.

How does it grade your writing?

As I say, there are all sorts of equations going on in the background as your grading level is calculated, but here are some of the main things to think about:

The number of sentences in your paragraphs.

For an improved readability score you want to avoid filling your writing with excessively long paragraphs. Never-ending chunks of text are hard to read and do tend to put people off. Generally speaking, it’s best to stick to two or three sentences per paragraph.

The number of words in your sentences.

Rambling sentences can work but more often than not, the longer the sentence, the higher the risk that you’ll lose clarity. For a clearer message, try to keep your sentences a bit shorter — around 20 words per sentence tends to be about right. That said, if you don’t want your readers to fall asleep halfway through your post, it’s a good idea to vary the lengths of your sentences.

The number of passive sentences.

I’m going to save a big discussion of passive and active voices for another day but here’s a quick example:

“I read the book” is the active voice.

“The book was read by me” is the passive voice.

There are times when the passive voice is the right way to go but generally, you want to avoid having too many passive sentences in your writing.

(As ever, Grammar Girl is the go-to site for these linguistic debates and here’s her take on the passive voice: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice)

What grade should you aim for?

If I had a pound for every time I answered a content-related question with this response…

It depends on your audience.

I primarily write for Joe Average — my clients employ me to write clear, concise content, which will appeal to a wide range of people with different backgrounds and education. Even those who read at a high level prefer an easier read when they’re consuming blog posts in their lunch hour or surfing websites to find a new accountant or designer.

With that in mind, I aim for a grading level of anywhere between 7.0 and 8.5. Anything lower is too minimal and could sound patronising or over-simplified. Anything above an 8.5 is straying into the territory of academic, medical or legal writing, which, most of the time, simply wouldn’t suit my intended audience.

There you have it, a quick rundown of the Flesch-Kincaid grading scale. Fellow writers, I’d love to know whether you’re already using this tool or whether you think you’ll try it after reading this. Leave me a comment to let me know how you get on.

(In case anyone is wondering, I scored a 7.7 for this post!)

Read some more super simple tips for improving your content here

How to run a cold emailing campaign without annoying your prospects!

how to run a cold emailing campaign

 

Cold emailing

— why you should do it

and

— how to do it without pissing anyone off

I’m starting this post with a disclaimer; cold emailing is not my favourite way to generate business. Not yet, anyway.

When it comes to landing clients I’m a huge advocate of responding to hot leads (or warm ones at the very least!) and good, old-fashioned networking, whether in person or online. However, I’m the first to admit that these strategies will only take you so far.

At some point you’ll have to look into other forms of marketing.

Traditionally, cold calling has been a fantastic sales tool for businesses but, frankly, I refuse to go there. When the time comes that I can’t afford to keep my kids in Haribo and I’ve sold my last kidney, I may do a U-turn on that but, for now, I’ll stick to cold emailing.

Cold emailing feels far less intrusive than cold calling and definitely far less scary.

I know that many of you will be reading this and shaking your head thinking that you’d rather pluck your eyelashes than send out a cold email. What if you’re rejected? What if you piss people off? What if you’re hit with an angry reply from one of your prospects?

The truth is, all three of these things will happen. They’ve certainly happened to me. And I don’t mind admitting, I let it get to me. So why, I hear you cry, am I entertaining the idea of going down that route again?

Because I know that it works.

One of my oldest clients came to me as a result of a cold email and our relationship is still going strong. Goodness knows the revenue that one little email has generated for me! And, the great thing about failure is that it gives us a chance to do things differently next time. Sure, I’ve annoyed a few people in the past but I now know why and I won’t make the same mistake again.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a cold emailing campaign to generate sales for your business, read on for my tips on how to do it without pissing anyone off.

Be personal.

This was my first mistake, many moons ago, when I was looking for designers to collaborate with. I thought I was terribly clever; I crafted a beautifully worded email, following all of the principles of great copywriting, and sent it out to just about every designer whose email address I could find.

What a disaster.

My emails were largely ignored but I did receive one reply from a designer who was most pissed off at my intrusion into his busy work day. With the gift of hindsight, I don’t blame him.

My email was generic and ‘salesy’. It was bloody awful.

I won’t make that mistake again and hopefully neither will you.

The key to getting this right is to personalise every email. You can use a template but make sure you customise it for every prospect. Use their name when you address them and explain why you’ve chosen to contact them specifically.

Perhaps you’re getting in touch because you’ve read about a new project they’re handling and you know that they might benefit from outsourcing work to you. Maybe you’ve looked at their website and something you’ve read there makes you think that you’d be a great fit for working together.

Don’t bang on about how passionate you are.

As ever, when you’re writing sales copy, it’s not about you. It’s about how you can help your prospect. If you start by listing your qualifications and your passion for your industry, they won’t even finish reading the email.

You have to find a way to make your content relevant to them and whatever problem you think you can help them with. Show them how working with you, or buying your product, is going to make their life easier or more fabulous.

Keep it short.

An email is definitely less annoying than a cold call but you’re still asking for someone to take time out of their busy schedule to listen to you. Keep it short and to the point.

Make it easy for them to contact you.

Remember to include a call to action at the end of your email where you make it clear how the reader can contact you.

Even better, you could offer a follow up. Suggest a specific day or time you’ll call to discuss things further or, if you’re dealing with a smaller, local business, you could propose a time that you could pop in for an informal chat.

Check your spelling!

I kid you not, I’ve received cold emails from aspiring copywriters whose writing is so full of errors it’s practically unintelligible. Needless to say, these people are not working for me. Nor will I ever consider recommending them to anyone if I have surplus work.

Sending out a error-riddled email when you’re pitching for writing work is about as lazy as you can get but don’t think that just because you aren’t pitching writing work, you can get away with mistakes.

You are asking someone, a stranger, to invest in you, whether with their time or their money. Why should they if you couldn’t even be bothered to do a spell-check? Errors in your email make you look sloppy and unprofessional and may even distort the clarity of your message.

If you aren’t great with words, ask someone else to proofread your email for you or hire a professional to do it. At the very least, make sure you’ve run your content through a spelling and grammar check.

If you’ve followed this advice, written personal, concise and relevant emails and you still haven’t made any progress, don’t despair! It may be that you need to tweak your content a little or that you simply haven’t contacted enough of the right people. Cold emailing is a numbers game and if you keep at it, you will eventually strike gold.

Good luck!

For more advice on running your small business or all things copy related, subscribe here.

 

 

 

How to use social proof to boost your small business.

social proof in marketing

 

A few years ago, I read “50 Shades of Grey”

“50 Shades of Grey”!

I am a writer. I like LITERATURE. Do you know how hard it is for me to admit this?

So why did I pick up this abomination of a novel?

Everyone was talking about it. Everyone. And I wanted in on the conversation.

I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Despite being a grown-ass woman, I didn’t want to be left out. I know, I know, I’m rolling my eyes at myself!

That’s social proof for you.

It’s powerful and if you want to grow your business, it’s time to harness that power!

What is social proof?

Social proof is marketing gold. It is a potent sales tool and if you’re not using it in the promotion of your small business, you’re missing out.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that influences and changes people’s behaviour.

When we see a product flying off the shelves, we assume that it must be amazing and we join the queue.

If we walk past a restaurant and see that there are only a couple of tables left, we hurry on in. If it’s that busy, the food must be outstanding, right?

When all of our friends are raving about an amazing novel, you don’t want to be the loser who doesn’t know what everyone is banging on about.

Social proof is bloody powerful. It is the sole reason I wasted an afternoon of my life reading ‘THAT book’.

We are fundamentally herd animals. We want nothing more than to seek social acceptance. We bow to peer pressure and we worry that if we miss out on “The Next Big Thing”, we will be social pariahs.

However, many small business owners just don’t appreciate its importance, or know how to use it effectively.

How can you use social proof to boost your business?

Social proof, when used correctly, can improve your credibility, create hype, reassure hesitant buyers and generally make you lots more money.

Here are a few easy ways that you can start incorporating social proof into your business marketing, today.

Testimonials.

I was chatting to a fellow solopreneur this afternoon and we somehow ended up talking about testimonials. She admitted that she hadn’t really thought about asking clients for testimonials or reviews before. She had no idea that she was missing a valuable source of free marketing for her business.

Client testimonials prove that your marketing isn’t just a load of unfounded hype. They show potential customers that your services ARE as brilliant as you say they are, maybe even better. They let everyone know that your products DO work. Your coaching sessions can change lives; your cupcakes really do taste amazing…

Of course, we all hesitate when it comes to asking for a testimonial. We appreciate that our customers are busy people and we don’t want to bother them. However, if you’ve done a great job for them, my guess is that they will be only too happy to write a few sentences for you, as long as you ask nicely!

And, when you do receive these testimonials, don’t forget to shout about it. Add them to your website and share them on social media.

You don’t have to be too ‘braggy’ about it. I like to share any new testimonials alongside a wee thank you to the client for taking the time to provide the feedback.

Social media endorsements.

If you’re a LinkedIn user, it is worth asking clients to add a brief testimonial to your profile or endorse you for skills. Whenever anyone is looking for someone with your particular skill set, they will be reassured that you can provide a kick-ass service and they will feel more confident in reaching out to you.

If Facebook is your social media platform of choice, offer customers an incentive to leave a review or to check-in to your location. You could add everyone who reviews or endorses you into a prize draw or offer a freebie to one lucky person who has checked in to your business in the last month.

There is something very powerful about seeing your Facebook friends reviewing a business or checking-in.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite particular about pizza (living in Italy has ruined me!). So, if anyone in my network sees me leave a 5* review for a pizzeria, they know it is probably worth checking out.

When I see my fitness fanatic friend check in to a local gym, I know that when I finally get off my lazy butt, that’s probably the best place to check out.

Case Studies.

Case studies work in the same way as testimonials but they allow for more detail. You can really go to town on a case study, drawing in your audience with a compelling story and making the most of any before and after pictures you may have.

My advice for using case studies is to look particularly to customers who fit your ideal customer avatar. Tell their story; highlight the problem they had when they came to you and how you helped solve the issue. Others, with similar problems, will be able to relate to the story and will be able to picture you solving their issues too.

Brand logos/celebrity endorsements.

Have you worked with any well-known brands? Are your products stocked in a high-end store? Have you sold any products to celebrities or ‘influencers’?

One aspect of social proof is that people tend to look to authority figures for guidance. If you can show that your product or service has been ‘approved’ by a well-known brand or personality, you will instantly boost your credibility and public interest in your brand.

There are loads of ways you can harness the power of social proof when marketing your business and the best thing is that most of them won’t cost you a penny.

Which one will you try first?

Now, let’s all try to forget that I told you about reading “50 Shades”…

For more posts on running a small business, please subscribe:

7 Benefits of Having a Business Blog

 

Have you started a business blog yet?

Or have you started, uploaded a couple of posts and then let it fade?

I mean, you have other stuff to do, right? You know, designing, coaching or whatever it is that your clients pay you to do…

I get it. Blogging takes time and it takes effort.

You have to set aside time to research, write and (for the love of the wee man don’t forget this bit), promote your blog posts.

Given the whole ‘time and effort’ objection to blogging, you might wonder why I made such a big deal of it in my previous post ‘How to market your business when you’re broke’. Sure, it’s free but is it really worth the hassle?

In a word, yes!

Now, if you’re happy to take my word for it, then you can go and get started right now.

If you still need a bit of convincing, I’ve listed below the most basic benefits you’ll get from starting your own business blog.

1. Improved SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Now, many copywriters are SEO experts—I am not. I’m not super- techy and they keep moving the damn goalposts on this one. Google changes its algorithms more often than I change my mind about my favourite Game of Thrones character.

 One thing that remains constant though, is that search engines love fresh content.

There is absolutely no point getting yourself an all-singing, all-dancing website and then letting it stagnate.

And that’s what’ll happen if you don’t keep updating your content. All of the well cared for websites, with new and exciting content will float to the top of the search pile, leaving yours to sink lower and lower into the depths.

It’s heartbreaking. Especially if you paid a fortune setting up your site in the first place!

The easiest way to introduce fresh content to your website: a blog.

2.Long-tail keywords

While we’re talking search engines, it’s worth knowing about long-tail keywords. This is something that probably deserves a post of its very own but I’m going to stick with just a simple explanation for now.

What are long-tail keywords and how are they going to help your business?

Let’s take my own business as an example. A relevant long-tail keyword might be ‘how to write a great landing page’. In search engine terms, this is going to have far less competition than the more generic ‘copywriter’ or ‘marketing copy’.

The more long-tail keywords your website contains, the more people will be able to find it —providing you are not jamming keywords in just for the sake of it. (Don’t do this! Google will recognise that you’re trying to cheat the system and will penalise you for it. Always remember you’re writing for people, not search engines).

Blog posts are a brilliant way of naturally incorporating long-tail keywords into your website.

3. Building relationships

Blogging is NOT about making sales. Increased sales will happen further down the line, but when you’re writing it’s worth remembering that the main purpose of your blog is to help your customers.

Before you even start blogging, it’s a good idea to spend some time putting together a strategy.

Consider who your customers are, what they want to know and how you can help them. What kind of topics could you cover that will improve their lives or their businesses?

Assuming you’re providing useful content and showing a bit of personality, your customers will come to know, like and trust you. When they get to the point that they’re ready to buy, they’re far more likely to come to you, the person they know, like and trust.

4. Establishing credibility

In a similar vein, by posting useful information about your industry you’re proving to your audience that you know your stuff.

Diplomas and qualifications are great but producing relevant content highlights that you are constantly honing your skills and keeping your knowledge fresh.

This shows your professionalism and your expertise —and instils confidence in your customers.

5. Getting to know your customers

When you’re blogging, invite your readers to comment on your posts. The conversations that can ensue here are a goldmine.

Are customers frequently asking the same questions? Great, there’s a topic for a new blog post or even a new page on your website.

Is there a recurring problem with one of your products? Great, now you know about it, you can fix it and tell everyone about the improvements you’ve made.

Maybe some of the comments are highlighting a particular problem that your clients are experiencing — here’s an opportunity for you develop or repackage one of your products or services.

6.Improve your industry knowledge

Not every blog post you write will require research. You are writing about your own industry after all. Some will though and when you’re researching these topics, I guarantee that you’ll improve your professional knowledge along the way. This will ultimately improve the service you’re offering your clients and help you grow your business.

7.Increased visibility

I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth saying again:

Promote your posts!

There is no point in writing a post that no one will ever read. As soon as you’ve hit publish, promote your post on every social media account you have, including your personal ones.

It is also worth adding any new posts to your newsletter or automatically emailing any new content to your email subscribers.

This is a great way to increase your visibility and stay at the forefront of your customer’s minds.

 

I’d love to know…

If you were on the fence about starting a blog, has any of the info here changed your mind one way or the other?

Have I missed anything out?

If you’ve been blogging for a while and spotted an obvious benefit that I haven’t mentioned here, let me know!

For more posts on marketing your small business, subscribe here:

 

How to market your business when you’re broke.

Marketing tips for when your piggy bank is empty.

 

You don’t need me to tell you that marketing your fledgling business isn’t optional. No visibility, no customers, no business. No good!

However, business start up costs can be pretty intimidating and the likelihood is that, for the first few years, if not longer, you simply won’t have much of a marketing budget to play with.

Luckily there are hundreds (if not thousands) of low-cost or free marketing strategies you can play around with to get things up and running.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a to-do list the length of my arm to get through today. Rather than bombard you with ideas, I’m going to highlight the key strategies I’m focusing on at the moment:

1.Networking — in person and online

2.Using your existing contacts (you have more of them than you realise)

3.Cold emailing (how to do it without annoying people)

4.Creating valuable content

 

1.Networking

If you do nothing else to market your business, make sure you spend as much time as you can networking. Whether in person or online, this is, without a doubt, THE most effective low-cost marketing tool around.

In person

There are some amazingly effective networking groups out there that charge an arm and a leg just for joining — and that’s before you’ve shelled out for your train ticket, the event ticket and the cost of the coffee/wine/valium you’ll need to purchase to get yourself through the event.

If we look at this from the point of view of your ROI (and this IS how we need to view these things), say you pay £500 for membership, depending on what type of business you’re running, you may only need to score one or two clients, at most, to make your money back. Add to that the fact that you’re likely (hopefully) to get repeat business, word-of-mouth advertising and referrals from said clients, it probably is a worthwhile investment.

However, I’m writing this post specifically for those of you who simply don’t have £500 to spare right now.

I have to tell you — don’t panic!

Assuming you don’t live out in the sticks, there are loads of networking events out there that don’t cost a penny. And some of them are downright awesome.

As soon as you’ve finished reading this, start googling. In fact, go and have a look right now and don’t come back until you’ve registered for at least one event. It’s cool, I’ll wait…

Right, is that you sorted?

While you were doing that, I searched for “networking groups Glasgow” and this was the first result Google hit me with: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/d/scotland–glasgow/networking/

Once I’ve sorted by date, I can scroll through and see which free events I can fit into my schedule. There are a good few to choose from and I know it’s just a matter of trial and error until I find the events that suit me.

Some will be great for meeting potential clients. Some will be more useful for meeting potential collaborators. Some will provide useful tips for how to improve how I run my business. None will be a waste of time and literally all I need to pay for is my bus fare into the city.

Online

social media marketing

I’m a massive fan of networking in person, however, as an introvert and a busy mum, networking that can be done from my own living room (or from the café of a soft play centre) is worth its weight in gold.

It goes without saying that you should constantly be working on your own social media accounts, building relationships and posting useful content, but don’t neglect  the possibilities of online forums and groups.

To use Facebook as an example, there are a million and one different groups for entrepreneurs. Some are specifically for mumpreneurs (sorry, I know, I’m not a fan of the term either!), some directed at women business owners, some are aimed at specific industries or specific countries or regions.

Before you get lost down the rabbit hole, it’s best to come up with a strategy.

Realistically, it’s better to join one or two relevant groups and take the time to use them properly rather than joining every group you come across and then not having the time to actually contribute to them all. Begin by building up relationships, offering advice and providing value. Keep an eye out for people looking for the skills or products you offer and don’t be afraid to pitch your business if there is a job posting.

2.Use your contacts

Don’t be so busy trying to find new contacts that you forget about the useful contacts you already have. I can almost guarantee that you know someone who needs your skills right now.

It may be your neighbour’s sister’s dental hygienist but until you put yourself out there you’ll never know.

So make sure that when you’re updating your business Facebook status, you update your personal status too. Tell your friends and family that you’re available for work. Assuming they like you and want to throw you a bone, they’ll share your status and help you spread the word.

And don’t forget to take your business cards everywhere you go. You never know who you’ll end up speaking to at your pal’s birthday party.

3.Cold emailing

I’m the first to admit that this one fills me with dread. I can feel the sweat forming on my brow at the very thought of it but do you know what? I have heard so many small business owners swear by this that I’ve decided to give it a whirl.

Now, it’s early days for me but as far as I can make out, the key to this is not to be annoying; don’t be “salesy” and don’t try to be too clever.

Rather than plodding my way through an A-Z of business listings to find potential clients, I’m having a good think about the types of businesses I really want to work with. For example, there’s a kick-ass pizzeria not too far away that I absolutely adore. I reckon I’d be a great fit for their business, I’m a huge advocate of their product and I KNOW I could help them kill it with their marketing copy. So naturally, they’re on my list.

When it comes to actually drafting your cold emails it’s best to stick with honesty every time. Tell them why you’re contacting them — what do you think you’d be able  to help them with, why are you attracted to that business, how can you help them thrive?

Be brief, be polite and, as with all marketing copy, highlight the benefits you’re providing, rather than focusing on your business.

More on cold emailing here

Obviously emailing is free but if you wanted to push the boat out you could try sending real, actual, I can hold it in my hand, letters. Stamps aren’t as cheap as they used to be but if you really want to keep the cost down you could target local businesses and hand-deliver your letters.

Assuming you find the right businesses to contact and your sales copy is shit hot, you might find that there is more chance of your business card (don’t forget to pop one in the envelope) being filed away for future reference than an email being kept and actually found when needed.

 

4.Creating content

creating content for small businesses

Do you have a blog yet? No? Why the hell not?

Given that many of my clients hire me as a blog writer, you’d be right in saying that I’m an itty bit biased when it comes to this free marketing strategy. However, if business blogging didn’t offer a decent ROI then I wouldn’t still be in business.

Want to know more about the benefits of having a blog?

It’s vital that you come up with a strategy before you start throwing content around and hoping that some of it sticks.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing for your audience.

Sit down and think about your audience. Who do you want to read your content? Potential customers presumably? Now, rather than think about how you can sell to them, think about how you can help them. What do they want to know? What will help them improve their businesses or their lives?

Delivering quality content in this way shows your potential customers that you know your stuff. You’ll be building up trust and relationships. So when the time is right for them to put in an order, they’ll have confidence in you and will know your product is the right option for them. It’s a win win.

Just don’t go to the trouble of writing a blog and then forgetting to promote it! As soon as you hit publish, get your content out there. Stick it on Facebook, tweet about it, print it out and stick it to every lamppost in your neighbourhood. Okay, maybe not that last one…

(Writing a blog is free but it does take time, so if you feel like it’s something you want to try but you worry you don’t have the time to do it justice or you’re not too fond of writing — I gather not everyone relishes the challenge of a blank screen the way I do — then give me a shout with what you need and I’ll check my availability.)

Which will you try first?

As I mentioned earlier there are thousands of cheap or even free marketing tactics you can try to help grow your business. I’ve focused on these today because these are the ones that have either worked well for me or that I feel compelled to try after many hours of research on the subject.

If you’ve found any others that are working particularly well for you, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

 

How to beat post-holiday blues.

beating the post holiday blues

Hubby and I in beautiful Riva del Garda

 

This is surely the king of first world problems.

You’re lucky enough to have enjoyed a wonderful holiday, soaking up some sun, some culture and, if you’re anything like me, a few bucket-loads of Prosecco too.

Yet the dark clouds descend at the same rate as the aeroplane. Actual dark clouds in my case; par for the course when you’re flying into Heathrow, having departed from sunnier climes!

Not only are you coming home with piles of dirty laundry and a tremendous hangover, the thought of hauling your butt into work on Monday will be weighing heavy on your mind too.

So here’s my advice for how to beat the post-holiday blues — get yourself a job you bloody love!

Glaringly obvious, I grant you, but it was a realisation that hit me just this morning.

You see, I’ve been a total grump since Friday. Pity my poor husband and children. We’ve had an amazing holiday beside the beautiful Lake Garda. We’ve had great family time, lots of laughs and amazing food but as soon as the time came to pack our bags and fly home the miseries hit me like a two tonne truck.

Despite not having lived there since my student days, Italy still feels like home. Hearing the language spoken all day, every day, feels like being surrounded by a warm blanket. The glory of temperatures in the high twenties felt like a literal warm blanket (I’m one of those annoying lassies who is constantly complaining of the cold!). And the pizzas…don’t get me started on the pizzas. Mamma mia!

Coming home was a wrench. But it was also a revelation; I’ve realised that, as sad as I am to be leaving the bel paese, I’m actually pretty excited to be back at my desk this damp and drizzly Monday morning.

Because I bloody love my job!

I love the direction my business is heading in, I love that I have appointments set up with potential new clients this week. I love the pile of books I have sitting on my desk, just waiting for a free moment to dedicate to CPD. I love that I’m going to be spending the next couple of days researching a new industry. I love that I’m starting my first day back writing this wee blog post for you guys.

And I LOVE the thought that someone, somewhere might be reading this, someone with a twinkling of a business idea, a desire to get out of a career rut,  someone with the drive to build something for themselves. Someone sick of dealing with the back-to-work blues.

Someone just ready to dip their toe into the freelance life.

My advice to you, I’m going to shamelessly steal from one of the most famous snippets of copy of all time: just do it!

 

I defy anyone not to shed a tear or two at having to leave behind scenery like this!

 

Designers vs Copywriters – a showdown?

 

Content is king? Design is divine?

Design vs Copy; why it’s time to call a truce.

I rewrote my site’s portfolio page last week and seeing my history of working closely with graphic designers laid out in black and white got me thinking about the designer/copywriter relationship.

We’re not traditional allies — each of us is convinced that we are the most important cog in the machine. Just watch a designer’s reaction if you throw the old ‘content is king’ quote at them.

I reckon it’s time to put down the pens and paintbrushes though and shake hands. When it comes to producing a great website or any other form of marketing, a coalition is the order of the day. When a designer and copywriter work together, a project can truly take off!

Why work together?

Like copywriting, design is primarily about communication.

Most designers will tell you that it makes their job infinitely easier if they have some decent copy to work with before they start bashing out ideas. That way they not only know what space they have to work with, but also get a good idea of the overall tone and theme of the website or brochure.

Even more importantly, the designer can clearly see the message the client is trying to convey — and that’s half the battle! If your copywriter and designer can work together, then as a client you know that everyone working for you is singing from the same hymn sheet — that saves you time, money and much confusion.

Good copywriting requires lots of research into a particular subject; you need to look into the industry as a whole, the client’s specific market and the competition. While there are, of course, certain overlaps, this is not necessarily the same research that a designer would do.

Not all designers are confident in their writing skills.

By nature designers are visual people and while many will have great language skills, copywriting is about more than just stringing a sentence together. Most copywriters will have advertising and marketing experience to bring to the table.

Two heads are better than one.

Two creative heads are better still. Just think of the magic that can happen when you get two creative types, both with different skill sets, different ranges of experience and different ideas, working in harmony on the same project!

And if your designer and copywriter can work together and communicate easily with each other, it will save you, the client, an awful lot of time emailing back and forth, trying to keep everyone’s ego in check.

Now it’s time for the shameless plug.

If you check out my portfolio page, you’ll see that I work closely with my very own graphic design teams. Both are extremely talented and have fantastic portfolios — I wouldn’t trust anyone else!

We’ve worked together on print ads, website design/redisign, corporate identity, promotional leaflets and brochures so if you’re thinking your marketing could use a little oomph, you know where to find us.

How to simplify your marketing copy volume 2

There’s a red pen in here somewhere…

 

 

Hopefully after last week’s post, you’ve had a look through your writing and taken a big, red pen to any superfluous words.

This time, I’m not highlighting errors as such, but easy ways to simplify the language you use in your marketing copy.

Many of us have a tendency to make everything  more long winded than it needs to be – I confess I’ve fallen into that trap myself many times in the past!

We think it makes us sound more intelligent, or our writing more impressive. It doesn’t. If anything, it can make us sound pretentious and it lessens the impact of the message we’re trying to convey. And that’s when our readers (or rather, our customers) switch off.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

‘Investigators arrived at the conclusion…’ instead of ‘Investigators concluded…’

Option 1 adds to your word count and makes you sound more wordy, more intelligent, right?

Wrong.

Your high school English teacher didn’t fall for that tactic and your customers won’t either.

Here are a few examples of how to keep things simple for greater impact.

‘at the present time’ replace with ‘now’

‘a large percentage of‘ replace with ‘many

‘by virtue of the fact that‘ replace with ‘because’

‘in spite of the fact that’ replace with ‘despite’

owing to the fact that’ replace with ‘because’

‘in the event that’ replace with ‘if’

‘prior to’ replace with ‘before’

You get the idea.

Always remember, if the word doesn’t add anything to the meaning of your sentence, give it the chop.

And if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, or you just don’t know where to start, give me a shout. I live for this stuff!