Categories
Content Freelancing future of work writing

The Independent Era 👩🏻‍💻

Happy New Year. 

I’ve been housesitting over Xmas and stayed to celebrate my mum’s 70th birthday. Leaving drinks last night in McCarrolls’s – East Midlands’ first fully licensed barbers & ladies’ hair studio. Get a trim, have a coffee while you work and stay for cocktails or their evening clinic – very entrepreneurial!

50 years ago, when his dad ran his salon, haircuts were 25p – how things have changed.

Heading home today after a week of train strikes, we have a hybrid journey with rail replacement buses to look forward to. Let’s hope we don’t turn into pumpkins.

No wonder people want to avoid commuting and prefer home working. 

Just reading Upwork’s new research: the 2022 Freelance Forward survey, a study of 3K professionals, which The Freelance Informer has analysed in more detail. 

Interesting viewpoints in this post. Many of us are undergoing a once-in-a-generation reassessment of what it means to have a fulfilling career. 

“The result: in 2022, a staggering 39% of the US workforce, or 60 million Americans, performed freelance work in the past year, an increase from the year prior.”

“In just a matter of years, the US labour market could reach a 50/50 split between salaried and freelance workers.” 

Will the US freelancing surge make its way to the UK? 

Or is too much red tape counter-productive to alternative earning power? 

It’s worth tracking US freelancer trends as they generally make their way over the pond, and so many of us are doing borderless business these days. 

I had less contract work in 2022 with companies cancelling non-critical projects and the ongoing impact of IR35 – disappointing that the repeal has now been dropped. 

My agent said it’s been quiet, so he’s been travelling to the US to meet clients. I spoke to a creative director at an independent advertising agency who said they are still adjusting to remote agency life – despite a cool beachfront location near New York, many staff still prefer to work remotely.  

Anyway, I hope so! And that the government gets its act together and simplifies IR35. It would be foolish not to – the over-50s are quitting the workforce in high numbers for various reasons. And we have the digital nomad revolution.

Put the kettle on and have a read.

Well worth joining The Freelance Informer community and newsletter if you haven’t already – they are looking for freelance contributors.


My digital publishing platform obsession rolls on! 

I’ve joined Mirror.xyz and will combine publishing on Substack with Mirror and see how it goes. Taking baby steps with web3 – I’ve set up a wallet, now checking out podcasts and doing free courses. 

Still posting on Twitter but doubling down on LinkedIn this year as my main platform. LinkedIn is benefitting hugely from the musky scent of Twitter.

I’ve also invested in Brian Clark’s excellent Personal Enterprise Accelerator, which gives you a solid framework for getting more clients, creating successful products, and building your digital business empire – 7 Figure Small is the podcast.

Nika


5 Things

Creator Economy Expo – the event for content creators, May 1-3, 2023. Learn how to scale and grow your content-first business faster and smarter – without relying on social media. An excellent investment for your business – see the 2023 agenda here.

Curious about web3 but don’t know where to start or who to trust? Introducing Web3 for Beginners: Your Guide to Getting Started with Web3, a free course by Michael Stelzner, the founder of Social Media Examiner. Learn the basics and apply them to your business.

How I got 10K Followers on LinkedIn by Being Myself. Nate Shalev, Founder of Revel Impact, found success on LinkedIn once they became more vulnerable in their posts. Game-changing tips and a success strategy for growing on the platform. 

Workload Planning for Freelance Writers – how to be a better planner and stop overbooking yourself to the point of burnout (saying no to work is hard!) Delighted to discover Marijana’s Project Planner – a simple + powerful tool to help you manage your workload, track your income, and run a balanced business.

Post News – an alternative to Twitter? Just been approved, so will have a play. “Post will be a civil place to debate ideas; learn from experts, journalists, individual creators, and each other; converse freely, and have some fun.” You can share your articles under a paywall, and it allows users to tip creators via micro-payments. 

Feedback, questions, ideas? Hit reply or email me: nika@nikatalbot.io

Enjoy reading this? Why not buy me a Negroni?

Categories
AI Content future of work

Unlock your best writing 🍒

I’m writing this on a new AI-powered word processor from the Every team.

It’s called Lex, and it’s like Google Docs – except it’s got an AI baked in, and there are a few different ways you can use it, but I think my favourite is probably for when you’re stuck. Nathan Baschez

• 25K sign-ups in the first 24 hours

• 10K views of the demo video

• 1M impressions of the announcement tweet

• Included in a market map of AI tools

• Overflowing inbox and DMs

Here’s Nathan on what he’s learned from building Lex so far and the launch. “I think it will be useful for anyone building new products, thinking through positioning, and planning launches.”

I’ve been playing with it this week, and it’s easy to use: simple markdown. Dark mode. Works fast on mobile. You can add pics and links. Easy to share docs – no need for edit permissions.

The fun bit is the AI tool. If you get stuck or want inspiration, type something and hit command + enter or +++, and GTP-3 will give you a few sentences it thinks might come next. It’s not perfect, but it offers prompts and ideas to help your writing process.

Not sure it will speed up my writing, though. Been down a few rabbit holes 🕳🐇

What shall I do today?

Could keep playing with Lex…

Can you give me a shoulder massage?

I’m sorry, I can’t do that.

Julieta: I’m hungry

Could get something to eat.

Who will be the next prime minister in the UK?

I’m sorry, I can’t do that.

How can AI help writers do their best work?

I’m not sure, but Lex might be able to help with that.

How do I share this document?

To share, click the Share button in the top right corner and choose how you want to share it.

Who will ultimately benefit the most from all this new technology?

eking ahead!

The people who will ultimately benefit the most struggle with writer’s block or have difficulty getting their thoughts down on paper. This new technology will help them tap into their creative side and develop ideas they may not have had.

What dataset does GPT-3 use?

GPT-3 is a natural language processing model that uses a dataset of over a trillion words to predict the next word in a sentence.

What’s your favourite newsletter?

Mine is the Lexicon!

It also has todos! Hit command + enter, and you get some alternative suggestions…

Stuck on the header? Hit the button next to the title and it will generate 5+ title ideas.

A word processor with AI baked in. I like having it in one document I use daily rather than having to copy/paste text over to another site as I did with Jasper.ai. I mainly used that for the content improver, which had a word limit, and stopped as it was too expensive.

Here is a writing prompt to help spark ideas, not replace them. AI still has its limits – it can be factually inaccurate, and GTP-3 is only trained up to mid-2021. It can also plagiarise text, so better used for suggestions.

Lex is currently in beta, while they iron out any problems and make sure it’s stable. Free for now and there will be a paid plan at some point “as AI is expensive”.

I’ve given some feedback – it would be cool if it could recommend a quote or recently published article on a topic. Save some time on research.

See the roadmap (upcoming features) – exciting!! It’s refreshing to have something that helps writers rather than putting us out of a job.

Congratulations to the team – and thank you for a great tool.

Look forward to seeing where this goes. It could be the next big thing in word processing. We relied on Photoshop then Figma came along, disrupting the design market. Now acquired by Adobe for $20 billion.

Will Notion come knocking..?

Sign up for Lex here 👯‍♀️ (via Google for now)


More green friends. I’m slowly turning my flat into a jungle. Plants not politics.

Very healing – reduces my stress levels and anxiety and always free for a chat if you need to get things off your chest. I haven’t killed any yet.

Antiviral properties – lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, mint. I’ve been wiped out for weeks with this weird flu thing.

– Nika


Dive Deeper 🏄🏻‍♀️

Joe Rogan interviews Steve Jobs | Podcast.ai “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the show.” (except he never was – this is a conversation entirely generated by AI). Each week they explore a new topic in-depth, and you can suggest topics, guests, and hosts for future episodes. Fascinating to see how AI is evolving.

Revolutionise your creative process by mastering Ideaflow | Stanford D.school – a proven strategy that anyone can use to routinely generate and commercialise innovative ideas. How to establish a daily creativity practice – free bonus chapter: How to think like Bezos and Jobs (via Eat Sleep Work Repeat).

Freelance Business Month | A fantastic lineup with a ‘future of work’ focus for the final week. “How HR & talent acquisition strategies are changing to welcome more independent profs” and opportunities for freelancers. I’ve enjoyed dipping in and out of sessions – and my Freelance Goody Bag!

Semafor | An exciting global news startup and a new way of presenting news – facts first, then opinion, analysis and perspectives. A focus on relationship-building between the journo and the audience via the website and newsletters. Reminds me of Axios, which also disrupted the market. One to keep an eye on!

The Active Voice | Podcast with Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie about writing and the internet. How do we tell stories when social media dominates minds and attention? On making space to create and how to make a living amid the economic volatility of the 2020s. Episode #1 is out now.

Made for you with love by Firebird – an award-winning one-woman content show.

Contact me if you have something to share, a link suggestion or just want to say hi 👋

Categories
Brands Content Marketing talk

God Save the Brands 👑

I was in a Zoom meeting at home when the news about the Queen broke.

“The Queen has just died”, my colleague posted in the chat. 

Nobody said anything, and the meeting continued, business as usual until the chair eventually spoke up: “Did someone say the Queen has died? It’s a pity the last face she saw was Liz Truss.” 

I kept re-reading his words, and for the rest of the meeting lost focus.

Maybe it was shock, the Keep Calm and Carry On British thing. I wasn’t expecting a two-minute silence but making a joke of it felt hugely disrespectful. 

I had one thought running through my mind.

I don’t want to work with people who don’t respect the Queen. A wife, a mother, a woman, and a fantastic role model who served her country for 70 years – the Queen who almost wasn’t… 

Just two days earlier, she was on her feet welcoming Liz Truss as our new PM – her last official duty before she died. That must have had a huge impact on Liz Truss.

Maybe she feels a sense of honour and obligation to carry that legacy. I felt that in the speeches she gave this week. 

Flashbulb memories. We remember where we were when big things happened.

When Diana died in 1997, I was in my tiny room in Maidstone, glued to my portable TV. I’d just started my first job in telly at the Maidstone Studios, and my landlady was a huge fan of the Royal Family – she had mugs and memorabilia all over the house. She came home from work, and we sat staring at the screen, drinking endless cups of tea.

After the Zoom call, I lit a candle and went to the shop to buy a chocolate cake, ate two pieces for dinner, had a bit of a cry, and watched the news.

The following day, I had a text from a client asking if I could do a social about the Queen. Why the rush? Your audience isn’t going anywhere. LinkedIn was a ghost town – official news aside – until the brand tributes started rolling in.

Do you post or not when a big thing happens?

It’s hard for brands to get it right. Post nothing; you may be seen as uncaring and out of touch. Post too much or inappropriately, and God forbid – carry on selling your products & services, and you risk a backlash. Being seen as insensitive and opportunistic. 

See here the best and worst brand tweets about the Queen’s death [via Matt Navarra]. Some people were even telling him to give it a rest.

Bizarre content. Black boxes with white script. Changing company logos to black – er, no, Domino’s. Playmobil!! The entire McDonald’s system? I’m not sure what Thomas Cook was thinking…

I saw a charity shop in Battle with black outfits in the window. I get it, but it feels off-brand.

Queen Elizabeth had a strong brand image – close your eyes and picture her. What do you see? I see bright blocks of colour – fun outfits and her trademark loafers – that canary yellow jacket was my favourite. A cheeky smile and a twinkle in her eye.

Always a sharp dresser. Why not have a window display with neon colours as a tribute? That would be more fitting. 

Paddington Bear got it right. Short and sweet. Love that she was up for that. Always keep a marmalade sandwich in your handbag for emergencies…

In the end, I put this out for the client. 

What a weird week it’s been. Storms, flash floods, rainbows, record-breaking heatwaves, huge moons. Back to school. A new PM. The Queen died. A new King.

Lots of emotional speeches and storytelling bring people together. 

Liz’s speech was good but sombre. A nice touch of humour from Boris and Theresa May – I love the cheese story. I imagine the Queen putting her foot down, driving around Balmoral, and stopping to chat with the stag. 

I thought Charles’ tribute to his ‘darling mama’ was lovely – especially the last line about flights of angels. 

And the 96-year-old woman who summed it up eloquently on Channel 4 News. She’s had a good life. That’s the way to go – no hospital, working till the end. Welcoming the new PM two days before she died.

I bought myself a vintage Pringle cardigan and a silk skirt – work event in London this week and will go pay my respects (more agonising about whether to cancel such things as we’re in a period of mourning, but it’s not the state funeral and I think the Queen would want business as usual).

The Queen has received a piece of Pringle knitwear every year since 1947 and wrote a thank you letter back each time.

Sure it will be a beautiful funeral 💜


First published on The Shift, September 11 2022.

Get in touch if you have a project to share, a link suggestion, or just want to say hi 👋

The Shift is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Categories
communities Content Neuroscience

Building a buzzing (+ kind) community

This week: Community polyamory. Ness Labs’ success – how to build, grow and nurture your network; creating deeper connections; the evolution of digital behaviour; how the use of the internet is causing us to lose empathy; Freelance Business Month: the future of work as open talent.

Happy October! I’ve signed up for Sungod’s Strava challenge – runs or rides every Sunday in October to get as much daylight as possible before the clocks change on 31 October 😱

Excellent performance sunnies and a growing online community – a brand to watch.

Speaking of communities, I’ve been exploring as many as I can lately, and the one I keep coming back to is Ness Labs. It’s inspiring to see how Anne-Laure has built a buzzing, kind community and worth a look at why it works. Read her AMA with Product Hunt here.

Growing a newsletter and a website to 35K subscribers and 100K visitors per month in 2 years. AMA👇

Ness LabsEvidence-based content around productivity, creativity, mental health and knowledge management. 2K community members.

AL now has two full-time employees and hires freelance writers via Upwork. Her main source of revenue is sponsored interviews and paid memberships. She does a bit of 1:1 coaching but says that’s negligible. 

It’s interesting to see how she’s done it in a crowded space of personal development and productivity. Some thoughts on why it works…

Building a kind community 

  • A personal journey: Anne-Laure loves learning in public and shares her successes and failures openly. She’s active in the community with regular Q&As. I’m curious to follow her progress and happy to support a creator. Personal onboarding is a nice touch, and sharing content on a closed platform gives a sense of psychological safety. It’s interesting to see most people have their cameras on during workshops, which creates intimacy.
  • Great value for money: it’s ridiculously cheap compared to other online communities. I paid $35 to access a growing library of content and community. AL says the biggest surprise was people writing to her telling her to increase the price and gifting memberships. 
  • Values of kindness and pay it forward: People are engaged, generous and want to be seen, and it’s down to the topics she’s exploring – personal development, mental health and creativity. It’s not overly self-promotional – there have been a few posts lately from coaches, so she’s created a coaching directory/channel where they can promote their services at no extra charge.
  • Content-first approach: I like the Circle platform – it’s simple, easy to use, minimal friction. The focus is on high-quality content that’s easy to find. It’s organised by channel so you can follow your interests, contribute topics and connect with members.

    *Creator Spark* is a new space where members can host a talk or moderate a panel in a safe, supportive space (people said they felt shy about sharing their stuff). It’s a shame we’ve been conditioned to see sharing our work as boasting and bragging – it causes so many hangups. You have to get your work out there on different platforms: 50% writing, 50% marketing.

    Emotional and informational content works!
  • Online and offline meetups around the world. I’ve signed up for the London event on 18 October, so meeting some of the community in person will be interesting.
  • The zeitgeist – Ness Labs has grown organically during lockdown – we all need connection. It’s also tapping into the current mood – the great resignation, a power shift to the creator, working smarter, not harder, and mental health and burnout at work.

People have set up sub-groups on and off-platform – a sign of a healthy community. I’ve joined the Newsletter Mastermind – an active Twitter group and weekly Zoom.

My only criticism is there’s too much good content in the newsletter! I don’t have time to read all the articles in one go, so I bookmark stuff to come back to (my Pocket is sagging) This can be demotivating – sometimes less is more. I’m mindful of that with this newsletter and being respectful of people’s time.

What communities do you find useful – and how do you make the most of them? 

I carry a notebook around with me for ideas, quotes and things I’m curious about so I can build up a bank of content. I need to get ahead rather than writing last minute. Taking publishing breaks in August and at Xmas gives me time to catch up.

I love online communities but I need my local tribes too. I’m on a mission to turn Hastings into a tech hub. I left London 14 years ago – part of the second wave of regeneration and we have the third wave with the pandemic. It’s good to see new faces, startups and energy – I love all that. Hearing a few moans about how “it’s all gone too far” and property prices…


🔗🖐5 Things 

☁️ Rosie Sherry on how communities are cool again and everybody wants to own a (profitable) one. The tools exist to make it happen but it gets complicated, messy and fragmented pretty easily. I’m using WordPress and Substack and have held back on the community aspect for this reason. I don’t want to complicate things with more platforms. The best and most impactful communities are custom-built like Nomadlist – something we need to talk about more.

🌱 Building, Growing & Nurturing a Kind Community: Q&A with Anne-Laure from Ness Labs. Whether you run a community or are thinking of starting one, here are some solid community-building tips and strategies based on her experiences. Friendliness, the personal touch and psychological safety are important and interactive events that bring people together.

🕵🏻‍♀️ Tribes, Flocks, and Single Servings – the evolution of digital behaviour by Rahaf Harfoush. Nice work creating a visual framework to help her capture the spaces she’s tracking. The interesting bit is the overlap and changes that occur. Rahaf is my go-to for digital culture analysis – Hustle & Float is excellent.

🤔 How the internet is causing us to lose empathy by Eli Baum – written in 2014 but still super relevant – why are we not talking about this more in MSM? Empathy is valuable and the fact it’s declining is alarming – we need people skills, useful products and deeper connections. We can’t slow down tech but we can get the story out to promote change and be mindful of it in ourselves – do the EQ test.

👩‍💻 Freelance Business Month – the largest global event for freelancers. Talks on the future of freelancing, starting and growing your business, freelancing in Europe, the future of work as open talent and more. Learn new skills, speak, and connect with the community – founded by the amazing Elina Jutelyte who is totally on it and open to collaboration. Programme and registration here – there are a few free tickets left.

I’ll be there!

Nicci


I’m a digital writer studying UX and content design – a badass life path 🙂

My mission:

• Making delightful digital products that improve people’s lives.

• Bringing more humanity and creativity to business and technology.

• Solving your problems using better communications – data-driven writing and design thinking skills.

The Shift is my lab where I explore digital culture, creativity, mindful productivity and independent work. I have a ‘pay what you can’ model – you can buy me a coffee or make a regular contribution to support what I do via my Ko-fi page.

Want to talk? Find me online at Polywork, Twitter @niccitalbot or email nicci@niccitalbot.io.

Help me build a forest! To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi 🌱 🌳