Categories
cost of living Freelancing Newsletter

Freelancers versus the economic crisis 💸

Cost of living – your freelance thrive guide | #105

I’m speaking at an NUJ session on freelancing and the cost of living crisis this month.

LFB’s shot at crushing the crisis, or anyway, offering a micron of easement via a 2-hour Zoom confab on 24 November, 6.30-8.30pm, open to all NUJ freelancers who care to come.

And you, if you like? I can invite a guest or two.

Two hours of problems and here’s-some-good-news-tho and try-this/try-that to address what we’re all dealing with currently. Full details here.

I’m pulling together some resources on copywriting and community – networks are your lifeline as a freelancer!

It’s not been an easy year. I’ve had two contracts cut short, and the IR35 saga continues – repeal now revoked – welcome to the UK! My freelance work has been more stable. It pays to work on critical projects that won’t be cancelled, like major events or design work. I had a kick-off call for a conference next March – a core part of their membership offering, and hybrid since Covid.

That means six months of pre/live/post comms work, which I’m grateful for – some stability and peace of mind.

There’s no shame in asking for help if things are quiet. Being bold and vulnerable – Lauren Pope was on Twitter

I’m not super busy either, so focusing on biz dev till Xmas – need to update my portfolio and website SEO, do my comms calendar, grow this newsletter etc. Also doing a bit of mentoring via the NUJ and BIMA.

Investing in myself: upskilling and self-care, which includes massage – finding deep body work essential for joint stuff, creativity and mental health.

👀 My digital HQ  some freelance-friendly forums and networking I enjoy!

Leapers

Independent Work 

Hoxby

The Dots

Yuno Juno

Content + UX

Online Geniuses

The Portfolio Collective

Center for the Transformation of Work

The Association for the Future of Work 

Groove

r/freelance – have you noticed how most Google searches now have Reddit in the title? 🤔

Freelance Twitter community and #ContentClubUK #FreelanceChat #FreelanceMafia #CopywritersUnite

I’ve bookmarked them to save time and blocked out the calendar, or it won’t happen. I’m trying to keep Fridays free for networking – a social start to the weekend.

Offline networking, too – there is life beyond social media. I’ve signed up for co-working at The Observer Building – finally open for business! And a discounted rate till Xmas. It’s an inspiring work space and all creative/arts/tech/community businesses, so let’s see who’s around and what I can help out with.

It will make a change from working at home alone and lift my spirits.

For copywriting, media agencies have been a good source of work. Most use freelancers, so it’s worth getting on their books to find projects outside the UK market. Interesting to see how work is becoming fractionalised – I had a one-hour gig with Google – Small Business. Hoping for more little jobs like that – inbound enquiries, well-paid and it fits in with my other freelance work.

The news is all doom and gloom, but hang in there; there are reasons to be cheerful! Past data around recessions shows businesses are more likely to hire independent freelance workers during a downturn.

The future of freelancing – interesting to hear PwC’s thoughts on the future of work.

My strategy is to focus on building products, not rates – e.g. niche newsletters and digital downloads, and I’ve created some service packages.

You’re less likely to have your time commoditised, and you’re charging based on the value you bring, not your time. It’s scalable, too.

What are you doing to keep the fires burning? Love to hear your thoughts – feel free to send any resources to share on the 24th.

– Nika


Upwork – the new Hays! Love their ad campaign – much better user experience 😉


5 Things 

👩🏻‍💻 What is the Metaverse? A free course explaining what it is and how to use it. New ways to connect, learn, and work. The eco ramifications and the role of decentralisation in making it ethical, inclusive and accessible. NFTs, crypto, avatars, devices, AR/VR/ER – a good overview! (Meta/Coursera)

💬 Dread networking? Here’s how to make it feel less icky. Showing up online is no fun if you take yourself too seriously. You have to separate yourself from your online persona and create distance. Loving Jodie’s thoughtful blogs for entrepreneurs who want to think differently. (Jodie Cook)

📧 How to add your newsletter to your Twitter profile (even if you don’t use Revue). A few people have asked me how I did this, so here’s a workaround – helpful if you use Substack, WordPress or Mailchimp. It does drive new subscribers – you just have to add them manually to your list. (Jacob Morch)

✍️ It takes this freelance writer just a few minutes to make her every client pitch 100% personalized. How to present your work to prospects (and save time on personalized pitches). Handy if you’ve written hundreds of articles on different topics. A fab tool – lovely to get a testimonial from someone thanking me for a book I wrote years ago! (Authory/Maya Middlemiss)

📆 Working on your content strategy? Here’s a brilliant content calendar from Anna McLoughlin of Inkspillers. Daily, weekly and seasonal prompts to help spark timely ideas and help you smash your goals. Working on mine and finding this helpful for goal-setting and staying focused. (ProCopywriters)


📣 Have a great story to share? Contact nika@nikatalbot.io

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Categories
Blog Newsletter

Feeling the pinch 👀

Issue #74, February 6, 2022. Art: Rosie Johnson Illustrates

So there it is, Rishi to the rescue with a package of ‘support’ to offset rising energy bills, which covers less than half of the £693 energy bill hike for the average UK household from April 1 👀

£150 rebate on council tax for some and a £200 negative levy on energy bills from October to be repaid in instalments over the next five years. The Centre for Economics and Business Research forecasts a £1,980 rise in overall living costs. The government is trying to soften the blow, but it’s not enough for the brutal cost of living crisis.

All eyes are on the UK to see how we handle this.

And there’s Andrew Bailey, Bank of England boss, telling us not to ask for a big pay rise!! i.e. the 0.5% interest rate rise will be the first of many if we start demanding higher wages. All well and good if you’re earning half a million a year…

Sod that! I’m going to have to raise my prices.

We’ve had bankers’ tax cuts, billions lost to fraud on Covid loan schemes, losses on PPE, and Shell reporting mega-profits. Good to see Red Ed back on it – excellent timing – with calls for a windfall tax on energy firms to help with the price hike.

Time to transform the way we do business. The Better Business Act is collective lobbying for change in company law to ensure companies align their interests with wider society and the environment. 900 companies have opted to be part of the coalition for a cleaner, greener, fairer future for all 👏

Will you join them? You can nominate a leader here.

What help can you get?

Covid cash cut… a running summary from the NUJ London Freelance branch of what help’s available. If you’re going to apply for the Household Support Fund via your local council, do it now – it expires March 31. 

Write to your energy supplier. I’ve written to Octopus to ask for help – they have a £2.5m financial hardship fund and the Warm Homes Discount, which gives you £140 off your bill. This needs increasing and extending.

Turn2us – benefit calculator and grants search to find out what support you can get.

Join a union: the NUJ’s charity has been brilliant and helped me financially throughout Covid as I wasn’t eligible for the SEISS grant. They’ve also given other key workers and me a pay rise and backdated pay to offset inflation.

Citizens Advice are helping record numbers with energy help, advice and referrals for crisis support.

We all need to slowly adjust to paying more for energy bills, and that’s fine. I can be frugal when I need to. But a scarcity mindset isn’t great for my mental health, business and creativity.

I don’t need to cut back – I just need to earn more. So I will be raising my fees and retraining for higher-paying work.

Not going out and spending money locally won’t help small businesses either or create a thriving community to be proud of.

5 Things to Know 🖐

Growmotely’s Align Summit: Building the thriving business of the future. A global online event for entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders transforming the world of work. 7-9 February, free or pay what you can afford. Excellent speakers and topics. Excited about this! Love Growmotely’s vibe ✨

→ Join: Align Summit (Growmotely) 

Tallinn’s Got Talent: Why Estonia’s capital is the best city in the world for digital nomads. James Ware on his week working from Tallinn, recently ranked the best city in the world for remote workers: “not because of one wow thing, but a gazillion small things that accumulate into your experience.” On my list.Love theIgluoffice, a workspace set by the sea – like an Airstream with frills.

→ Read: Tallin’s Got Talent (The Independent) 

Unlearning the way we work – Alastair Simpson, VP of Design at Dropbox, has led the company’s virtual-first transformation. Great to see a design-led approach to the future of work rather than the usual Ops and HR focus – we need more of this! The framework they used for their distributed teams is a Virtual First Toolkit.  

→ Listen: unlearning the way we work (Remote First podcast) 

Move to Sicily for free: restored 1Euro house in Sambuca looking for a live-in Airbnb host for a year. Be the host of a designer house in Sambuca, learning Italian, experiencing local life, and helping regenerate the region. Great initiative from Airbnb – remote work is the way to regenerate small towns. Also good to see CEO Brian Chesky doing the product research… 

→ Read: move to Sicily for free (Evening Standard) 

Clear thinking for 2022 – topline findings from a new report surveying knowledge workers and what we want (flexibility, change, hybrid). Intriguing to hear Julia Hobsbawm (The Nowhere Office) say, “the world is going freelance,” with growing numbers of solopreneurs making their own luck. Ipsos: “we’re going to need offices, but just not for work.” I enjoy every episode of Bruce’s thoughtful podcast. 

Enjoy this newsletter?

→ Listen: clear thinking for 2022 (Eat Sleep Work Repeat) 

Send me a note: nicci@niccitalbot.io

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Categories
Newsletter productivity remote working writing

✍️How to create a writing culture

How does remote work change the way companies get things done?

David Perell (Write of Passage) said, “Remote work leads to writing-centric companies instead of speaking-centric ones.” Amazon and Stripe have a heavy writing culture. Amazon is famous for its six-page narratives, and Jeff Bezos is a brilliant writer. 

We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.

Here’s how to write like an Amazonian 🚀

The GitLab team handbook is their central repository for how they run the company. Over 2000 pages of text, and as part of their value of being transparent, it’s open-source. Darren Murph, GitLab’s Head of Remote, has talked about the importance of having a Chief Documentarian and writing everything down with remote teams. 

Bill Gates was on it in ‘99. New Rules: collaborative culture & digital information flow.

I read all the e-mail that employees send me, and I pass items on to people for action. I find unsolicited mail an incredibly good way to stay aware of the attitudes and issues affecting the many people who work at Microsoft. 

Better writing  Better thinking  Better communication  Clear leadership  Boosts productivity

Writing democratises ideas and lets teams have their say. It breaks down workplace politics—you’re not relying on verbal accounts, 1:1s or presenteeism to get stuff done. Transparency and good documentation build trust. Josh Bernoff“Clear leadership, expressed in writing, creates alignment and boosts productivity.” 

How Stripe built a writing culture ✍️

David Perell asked Brie Wolfson, who worked at Stripe for five years and set up Stripe Press to talk to his students about how companies can create a writing culture. 

Out of their conversations, she made this stellar guide 🚀

I’ve come to believe that Stripe’s culture of writing is one of the organization’s greatest superpowers. As startup whisperer patio11 puts it, Stripe is a celebration of the written word which happens to be incorporated in the state of Delaware.

Stripe has always treated documentation as a first-class product. People from every corner of the company author blog posts. The company publishes a magazine about building and operating software (Increment) and books about technological and economic progress (Stripe Press). 

But what we don’t see is the massive library of content produced in-house for employees. She says that’s where the real magic happens…

This interview digs into the company culture. Go deep and move fast.

One thing that distinguishes Stripe is that it’s an incredibly deep-thinking culture. It’s a written culture really focused on getting to the right answer. 

Another thing is a sense of urgency. The company is especially dedicated to moving very, very fast.  

Bring the Donuts

Ann Handley is also brilliant on this stuff. How to champion a content-oriented culture—the key to a customer-centric, intuitive, empathic point of view.

We don’t appreciate the work that goes into minute-taking—it’s bloody hard work!


🛠🖐5 Things 

★ Stop Asking QuestionsHow to lead high impact interviews and learn anything from anyone (Holloway). Lessons from a veteran podcast host with 2000+ episodes on the secrets of deeper conversation. It teaches you how to interview and how to learn. Excerpt here. I can’t get enough of Holloway’s brilliant books!

⟶ Stop Asking Questions

★ How to take smart notes (Forte Labs). Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says the secret of her career success is down to diligent and reliable notetaking. A simple technique to boost your writing, learning and thinking. Have a listen to Tiago’s interview and Q&A with the author, Sönke Ahren here.

⟶ How to take smart notes.

★ Field Notes: Miami (Devon Zuegel). What’s it like to live in Miami, the new tech hub? Writer and Product Director Devon Zuegel on what makes Miami special. The colours! The flowers! Immigrant spirit. These field notes are a bit different from previous cities she’s explored because Miami is her home. I’m listening to Order Without Design, her new podcast about cities.

⟶ Field Notes: Miami

★ Exotic and sustainable, night trains are coming back to Europe. The ‘Euro Night Sprinter’ map is utopian, but Europe’s rail future could look a lot like it. It’s a proposal by the German Greens, who want a Europe-wide network of sleeper trains. By 2030, it would connect more than 200 cities and places across Europe. Slow, comfortable travel. All aboard! 🙏

⟶ Euro Night Sprinter Network

★ A Twitter thread from Dickie Bush with advanced tips for every internet tool. Starting with Twitter – 10 advanced features, how to master Google search, Google docs, YouTube rabbit holes, Mac tips and more. One to bookmark and return to when well-caffeinated – there’s a lot to digest here.

⟶ Advanced tips for every internet tool.

🤔 Major Lifehack: A New Study Has Found That A Key To Getting Stuff Done Is Not Just Sort Of Wasting The Hours Between 3 And 7 PM Every Day.

Categories
flexible working future of work Newsletter work culture

The Shift: Professional Reinvention🕵🏻‍♀️

• Four big trends at work
• Practical strategies for reinvention – meet your possible selves 

How do you reinvent yourself professionally during precarious times? 

A friend has stopped hosting corporate events because of the pandemic and isn’t sure she wants to go back to it, given all the restrictions – where’s the fun? She’s figuring out her next step and doing another job and a ceramics class – enjoying working with her hands. I’m also in transition, not so much reinventing as repositioning myself, so I’ve been digging around to see what resources can help. 

Catch up on this talk on professional reinvention with Herminia Ibarra, a professor at London Business School, if you’re contemplating a career change or thinking about how to redefine your current role. She takes an evidence-based approach and shares some tools and practical strategies (via The RSA Good Work Guild/Polymath Festival).

Four big trends

  • Longevity – we’re living longer, and we want to do different things, so we’ll need to reinvent ourselves a few times – including reinventing retirement. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott are leading thinkers on this: The 100-Year-Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.
  • Technology is disrupting things – gig work, freelancing, portfolio careers, and remote work – which wasn’t really a thing 20+ years ago when I started working. It’s creating opportunities and changing how companies operate.
  • Work change – the pandemic has disrupted our routines and created space to ask the big questions: what matters? What do you want to do? What is worth doing? It’s also a reminder of our mortality. My neighbour (in her 60s) has quit her corporate job to co-run a brasserie and jazz bar with her best mate here in Hastings. She doesn’t want to spend her life commuting and has more time for herself now her kids are at uni.
  • Social expectations – in a survey of 5000 people (aged 20-60s) asking about a career change, by far, the most significant trend was a shift towards more meaningful work. We want meaning, passion, and balance – and to create our own opportunities.

Professional reinvention is a transition which can be unsettling – but it’s also exciting. 

A psychological and social process:

Moving away from something without not yet having yet left it, while moving towards something without not yet knowing what it is. That’s the magic of it and that’s the challenge of it. 

Transition takes longer than you anticipate, and it’s a messy, non-linear process of experimenting and learning. It’s about knowing what you don’t want anymore, but you can’t pinpoint what you’d like to do instead – or the goal posts are shifting. It’s also under-institutionalised – there’s no set pattern and the steps are unclear.

As she calls it, I’m in the ‘messy middle’ phase – an exciting and challenging period between old and new – oscillating between ‘holding on’ a bit longer and ‘letting go’ and taking the leap. Psychologists call this ‘fertile emptiness’ – you may be busy exploring things or having quiet time to reflect and do inner business. I’ve been doing both over the last year. You can’t shortcut it. Play, explore, and delay commitment.

3 things you can do

Get out there and start activating some of these possible selves. 

  1. Get some side projects – experiment with your ideas. Take on projects at work or advisory roles externally, work with friends, do voluntary work, give or take a class, start a side hustle, write a book, speak to a headhunter… Bring those possible selves to life.
  2. Shift your network – our identity is the company we keep. Find mentors and kindred spirits – this helps generate ideas and shapes the messy middle process.
  3. Make sense out loud – create new experiences and self-reflect out loud to help yourself figure things out. Talk about it with others, it’s hard to self-reflect in isolation. 

As adults, we’re more likely to act our way into a new way of thinking than to think our way into a new way of acting.I love that. Get out of your head and do stuff. It’s a really productive phase of taking action rather than getting stressed about not having clarity or knowing the outcome.

There are all kinds of constraints – financial mostly, and of course we can’t get into every career in our 40s, but from what she’s seen during her research: “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Lots of positive comments about her book Working Identity changing people’s lives along with Charles Handy’s The Age of Unreason.

For more on multiple selves check out psychologist Hazel Marcus.

Follow her research @HerminiaIbarra.

I’m taking a break from publishing the newsletter in August – going on a pilgrimage locally with a friend and seeing my folks – can’t believe it’s been a year! I’ll be on board #Ship30for30 in mid-August and sharing essays on Twitter🚢

Have a great summer!


5 things🖐

📆What really happened in Iceland’s 4-day week trial? It’s complex: this project was about understanding the impact of fewer hours, not specifically the 4-day week. Key lessons: Regardless of the type of work, productivity does not slip if we cut hours. We unquestionably waste time at work (and in the UK, we work some of the longest hours in Europe). We need more trials like this – sign this petition to encourage companies to join the 4-day week pilot in 2022.

Nicole Michaelis’ on teaching content marketing, running a business, and UX writing at Spotify (includes tips and advice). Super practical and encouraging career advice, and she tells it like it is! Fantastic example of a one-page resume that has inspired my own on Canva. 

🤾🏻‍♀️When we allow ourselves to work and live at full throttle, scarcity is bred very quickly. I personally think [it] destroys our psychological freedom and the ability to enjoy the successes that we do have in life.” Dr Pippa Grange on how we can let go of fear and lead more fulfilling lives. I love what she says about the power of small acts of intimacy to unlock teams’ performance (she’s worked with some of the biggest names in sport and business). 

Well done, Simone Biles and Ben Stokes, for taking a break from sport to prioritise your mental wellbeing and have a rest. Physical health is mental health. 

👩‍🎤How the desire to maintain a personal brand may be harming your business. A deep-dive into the darker sides of having a personal brand as a business owner: distraction, burnout, cancel culture and the tricks that followers and algorithms play on you. There’s a lot at stake in the world of the digital entrepreneur. Ellen Donnelly on how creator culture is distracting us from our craft – “at least make your job your job, not talking about it.” 

🛣Remote, hybrid or in office? How to travel the (messy) road to the future of work. As we move to a ‘new’ normal where remote work is possible if not required, it’s important to recognise that the likely leaning toward hybrid work conditions will be a messy road to travel down. Minter Dial on what needs to happen to make hybrid work work. “Trust is the glue that makes remote work work – how trusting and trustworthy are you as a leader?”


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is your guide to running a successful minimalist business🚀 Start living and working on your own terms.

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To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups. We’ve got 10 years to sort this out – no time to waste🌍