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Feeling festive? Fa la la la la, No.

Image result for melting snowman

Snow, scarves, rosy cheeks, hot chocolates by a roaring fire and looking like you’ve stepped out of Joules catalogue is how Christmas is, right?

Not for me…. I’m blue, I can’t remember the last time it didn’t rain, my hair has been unruly for 35 days and I have a cold so suffocating that above the neck there is no orifice not leaking.

Hang on, Christmas is lush

Maybe when I was between the ages of 3-10, yes.

I’m 33 and cynical as heck.

Christmas is abundant with social norms, pressures, ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and I’m growing tired of it. Walking around Cardiff city centre to see huge bags filled to the brim makes me wince and feel a bit sick. As for the Coca Cola van, it makes me stabby.

Oh, so it’s not as fantastic for everyone?

No, sadly not. Winter is not my season, jumpers – yes, dark, cold and changeable winds that make my hair like a helmet are a no.

SAD syndrome or seasonal affective disorder affects many people, including me.  It also means it’s bully of an older sibling ‘depression’ comes along, who invites anxiety, paranoia and agoraphobia to a party where no one appreciates coasters.

The night is dark and full of terrors

Past 5pm I don’t want to be out the majority of the time, it’s got nothing to do with the location or the person/people, purely about me. I know in principle I will enjoy myself but the expectation, real or imagined, to be the extrovert I present myself to be, weighs heavy on me.

Social media does a cracking job of making you feel you are joyless, boring and induces FOMO (fear of missing out).

I get irrationally annoyed at people able to function past 5pm as there’s myself in comparison…. moulded to my sofa, book in hand, finding it easier to get lost in fiction than face reality.

It’s time we want

As I’ve gotten older I realise that time is a precious commodity and something we take for granted. I cannot tell you how many times this year I’ve said ‘I’m so busy’ and that’s utterly rubbish.

I create the busy, seek the chaos and the bouncing from place to place. If push came to shove I would give it up for the people I love.

What I would love most of all from people is time, for us to stop, appreciate the relationships we have, rebuild connections and be present in that moment.

Beat the sadness

If I had a cure I would give you it, but I don’t so here’s some things to consider.

  1. Donate to your local food bank, thanks to the T*ries, people are more in need than ever before.
  2. Give time – go and see friends, family and neighbours, you never know who feels the most isolation at this time of year.
  3. Re-gift – if you are given something that isn’t quite you, but you know would be perfect for someone else, choose to do that.
  4. Appreciate the little things – smells, sounds, taste, touch all help us to be present.
  5. Be honest – if you aren’t feeling it, say so. You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself.

Pic credit.

How and when to rebrand

One of my favourite projects since being freelance has been a re brand.

I loved it, the excitement, possibilities and flow of creativity. Let’s face it, it’s a hell of a challenge too.

Production house Skint Student Productions or SSP  (now Copa) approached me in 2017 asking for brand services, after six years they felt they needed a new direction and refresh and I was the woman to help them.

Image result for ssp mediaImage result for copa cymru

I identified a re brand may be on the cards. but before that decision I needed to get to the heart of them, figure out who they were and wanted to be and if their current brand matched that.

What I also loved is that it HAD to be bilingual, what another great facet to consider. My A level Welsh is pretty sbwriel (rubbish) but I’ve worked a lot with bilingual brands, so I totally understand for Welsh not to be an afterthought but at the forefront of the creative design process.

Phase 1

I did an interactive brand session with each company member in which I presented some theories, a quiz (I am fun) and I got to the heart of the people behind the company. What makes them tick, their hobbies, beliefs and loves in life.

I adored this process, seeing creative people almost explode with pride and energy about who they are and what they do is infectious. It’s like crack (I have not tried crack) and SSP had boundless amounts it (enthusiasm, not crack).

Many people believe brand is just a logo, IT IS NOT OK? Its far, far more and my job is to remind people that.

Phase 2

A brand strategy document, an unwieldy beast filled with research, testimonials, competitor analysis and more.

It was decided a re brand was needed based on their current mission, vision and values (we did that together) not matching their current brand ethos.

Phase 3

What’s in a name? Everything turns out, I went in to my brand happy place (think a beach with coconuts and monkeys (throwing pineapples) and picked out a few names with bilingualism at the forefront of my mind and am ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED to say that a suggestion of mine is now the company name.

Copa meaning summit fits with who this company is; Welsh, ambitious, talented, dedicated, outdoor loving, adventure seeking mad men and women who want to exceed and achieve for every person they work for.

Phase 4

Branding needs design so we the next task was to get a designer on board. A call out using digital media was the most effective way of getting lots of quote applications through to my inbox.

It was an fascinating process. There was so much variation in the communication style, presentation, professionalism, portfolio and price of each designer.

I’ve worked with designers long enough to know what I consider to be good/bad, red flags and was able to whittle it down to four that I presented to the client based on their needs and vision. Studio Hicks delivered a great brand.

Phase 5

Implementation – there are SO many things to consider when you rebrand and I focused on the communications and marketing side which involved new content for the website, event organisation, merchandise, networking, many phone calls, ideas, contacts – the list goes on.

Phase 6

LAUNCH PARTY – if you’re going to do a re brand you’re going to shout about it, right? Invites were designed and sent out, press release, blogs and social media content written, new merch ordered – thanks to Printhaus for the tees and Rival Brewing Co for the awesome ‘Copa’ IPA.

New show reels created, The People The Poet booked and a fantastic trip to Costco (Muller Light aside, tut Osian) ensured we had everything we needed. It was GREAT, one of the proudest moments of my working life.

Phase 7

Lie down, it’s exhausting….

Need some help with you brand strategy? Let me know.

How to have an alternative wedding

 

My husband and I said “I do” in May 2018 and celebrated our way.

I’m not one of those women that has planned my wedding since I’m small, yes, I am romantic, Disney films have made me cry and I’ve quite often thought very soppy engagement scenarios involving llamas and birds of prey carrying a ring but I’ve always just wanted the person I marry to be not an arsehole and a bit hot.

My husband and I aren’t very traditional people so realistically our day was never going to follow tradition because it just doesn’t reflect us. It’s hard to go your own way, often you’re fighting against other people’s expectations and beliefs of what a wedding should be. Us humans are creatures of habit, safe with the familiar but that doesn’t always mean being in the comfort zone is a good thing.

If you’re thinking of getting a married or just curious, here are my musings on how to have an alternative wedding.

Stop giving a $hit

As I said, people are very forthcoming with their ideas, comments, beliefs and ‘shoulds’ and often these clash with your own. Let people say and think what they want, rise above it.

The minute you mention a wedding it unleashes the beast in many people, those who are trying to relive their nuptials through you, the ‘should’ brigade and the emotional blackmail crew. Honestly, let it wash over you, laugh, find the humour in it and remember this is about two people, underneath it all, it really is.

I found humour as a great coping mechanism, I would tell Matt what people had told me, the looks of disappointment and we would laugh together – ideal.

It’s all in the dress… or is it?

I’m not a fan of wedding dresses, ivory, cream and white are not my vibe and I think they’re extortionate for what they are. As we were dividing our day up into day and night I knew I could go to town in the outfit department, so I chose three. One for the day, a brightly beaded two piece, pretty but playful outfit from ASOS.

Then I went full Shirley Bassey – a vintage red, sequin, one shoulder full dress with a split from Beyond Retro. On top of that I went shopping to Brick Lane and found the most amazing 90s catsuit, black velour trousers and a pink, sparkly spandex top for the night. Yes Queen, I had an outfit change in the toilets #classy.

All three outfits cost just over £200.

My husband looked proper gorgeous in a tailored wool suit from Hawkes Bespoke Outfitters

Getting your hair did

I knew from the start I wanted to get my hair done on the day, it’s a skill I don’t possess. If looking like a cross between Mrs Twit and Worzel Gummage in the hair department was a style, I would nail it.

I go to Slunks as I only trust lovely Chelsea to colour my hair and felt that a style from transition from day to night would work best. I had a wee look on Google and thought a braid of some sort and some curls would be cool. Lauren at Slunks worked her magic, added some glitter so I felt uber special and I was away. I’m still finding the glitter…..

Location, location, location and food.

Ceremony

Matt and I chose to have our ceremony in City Hall in Cardiff so we picked a room that could hold around 60 people, invited around 40 and went with that. We kept the service short and simple, the process is a ‘wedding by numbers’ experience, you pick how the service is delivered by choosing options. One of our favourite things was picking the music, I walked in to ‘, signed the register to and walked out to ‘Let’s Dance’ by Bowie.

Meal

We wanted a family and close friend meal so picked The Pot, an amazing independent French bistro based on Whitchurch Rd. They managed to squeeze 38 lovely people in to their lovely restaurant and served us traditional French food for mains and desert with wine – ideal. They were lovely to communicate with, so flexible, friendly and made the whole experience great.

Partaaaay

I wracked my brains to think of a non traditional party venue, the theme definitely being party, we wanted it to be FUN. I wanted space to dance, eat and drink and out of the blue I thought of Spit & Sawdust indoor skate park. After a brief conversation on Facebook we met Nia who is absolutely amazing and we just fell in love with the space. There’s a great outdoor space, café area and a large skate space and I just saw potential.

The amazing people at Spit & Sawdust helped us create the space of our dreams, we were able to decorate how we wanted, invite Ffwrnes to dish out some delicious pizza to hungry guests, get in our friends Rival Brewing Co to make a delicious session IPA and a red ale and Enthusiasm Events to make our disco dreams come true with huge disco balls, lighting and a great sound system. Colin and Connie Caterpillars cakes can be ordered in a larger size from M&S, yaaaaas.

Music

We thought about bands and couldn’t decide on anything (Venga Boys not available) so asked our friends to DJ, Sophie aka Mrs Hardlines and Nathan aka Mr Disco Motel were amazing, playing everything from Janelle Monae ‘Tightrope’ (I love you SGS) to funk, soul, old school rnb and loadsa bangers. Nathan even bought his mirrored disco booth along which is so me I could cry!

Deck the halls with many pineapples

I’m not a fan of a chair bow, my friend calls the white things over occasion chairs ‘chair condoms’ and she’s right, so that was never going to happen.

I am huge fan of pineapples, they are a majestic fruit, bright, beautiful and wear a crown so I knew they had to take part in the day. Thanks to Sunset Cycles for their bike boxes, friends and I set about cutting out and painting around 14 large pineapples to decorate the space on the beams.

My friend Amy John is a magical party wizard and helped to create incredible coloured paper fans, tassels and cocktail umbrellas for the 40 actually pineapples that adorned the tables. Lisa Derrick is just a wonderful human and spent the Friday before the wedding helping us set up the space. Pinterest scares me because everything is too perfect but I had a look for inspiration before it made too unwell.

You do you

This is easy for me to say, I don’t know your budget or pressures but the day goes in a blur and if like me, you only want to do this once, then please add some ‘you’ to it or it’ll feel forced. It’s likely you will annoy people or they won’t get it but ultimately IT IS YOUR DAY so please, please, please enjoy it.

I’m excellent at being direct so if you want your future mother in law/family member to stop pestering you about beige buffet options or a lame DJ then I can be hired to tell her to shut up.

I’ve given up drinking-ish

Image result for drink meme

Before you start with, ‘she’s on a health kick, thinks she’s superior, ‘my body is a temple’ BS’ then pipe down, let me explain.

I haven’t stopped drinking altogether, I just don’t drink often anymore. I go with what I feel, if I want a few drinks, I have them, if I don’t, I won’t. This isn’t me telling anyone off, more like me discussing a decision I’ve made. I’m not judging you, try not to judge me.

Am I justifying myself to you? Maybe, indulge me. Welsh people in particular can’t seem to fathom NOT having a drink, it’s the epicentre of the world. I render people speechless when I refuse a drink or say I’m only having one. They look at me like I’ve asked them to give me a rectal examination whilst bouncing my arse around to some trip-hop.

Depression, anxiety and crying.

Alcohol is a depressant, fact. I suffer from depression and it’s not good for me. This is not generalised to everyone with depression, but for me I need to consider it. Anxiety and feeling of utter shitness go through the roof when I’ve had a drink and I’ve had crippling spells of feeling like the worst person in the world after drinking. I can get paranoid, emotional and can’t stop crying. Cry me a river? Cry me the Adriatic Sea more like….

Hangovers

I cannot cope with hangovers anymore, the nausea, spinning, headache, dry throat, wanting to die etc have to stop for me.

I had to call in sick at my last job because I drank so much (for me) on a Wednesday, tried to stand up in the morning, felt like I was in Mordor and couldn’t eat or drinking anything for 36 hours. That was the beginning of the end.

Small woman alert

I am a small woman, I cannot drink the volume that the majority of people can, I used to have three pints in Brewdog then be completely at the mercy of my heels, fall over and do regrettable things in Clwb and I also need 5,000 wees. No, thank you.

Broke with expensive taste

I no longer earn a monthly salary that deems me sinking £8.50 espresso martini’s down my gob with relentless cheer or be in rounds that are £40+. My money is spent on travel, gigs, eating out, charity shops and my goddamn cat who I love.

Blackouts

I’ve had several blackouts and it’s dangerous and stupid, I can only thank friends for looking after me so that I haven’t done or been subjected to something really bad. Yes, I’ve done stupid shit, I won’t deny it. Being told by your friends your actions whilst having to apologise and see them look at you like the idiot you feel is not a repeatable experience for me. I’m regretful and sad for those moments and apologetic to all the people that ‘had to’ pick up the Tazmanian Devil of self destruction.

Me, me, me

Sober or not, I like being the centre of attention, I don’t particularly need alcohol for bravado, confidence or to dance like a lunatic because I can do all those things without it. Oh look at her, showing off, yeh I know, I can but I won’t apologise for it.

Best times x worst times

I cannot deny that some of the best ‘night out’ times I’ve experienced have been drink fuelled and I absolutely do not regret them, when I could handle drinking I loved mixing my drinks and playing drinking games badly, but that just isn’t me anymore.

What not to say

If you notice someone isn’t drinking, can you please just leave them alone? Don’t point it out, ask them why, look at them like their psychotic or make them feel under scrutiny… it’s really annoying and pretty demeaning.

No one should have to justify their choices to you. When do you get asked if you really need that 17th pint? Or should you have really doubled up for a £1 babe? You’re twatted.

Compassion please, I’ll drink to that… (if I want to).

 

Cycling in a City: My new found love of cycling in Cardiff

cardiff_cycling_penelope

One of my earliest memories is getting a tricycle for my birthday, it was red, blue and yellow and I loved it. I would take it up Skewen park and ride for hours and my friends would take turns too.

Fast forward a few years to a bike with stabilisers and my Grampa. One day he encouraged me to have a go without the stabilisers, I could feel him holding the back as I wibble wobbled my way down the path, suddenly I looked back and he wasn’t there, he was just shouting encouragement at me to keep going.

I would ride my bike with reckless abandon, take it to country parks, wheel it to town and not have a care about falling off or hurting myself which I did more than once. I’d spend hours with friends pedalling faster to catch them, and go on epic adventures.

Vintage bike adoration

cycling_cardiff

At 24 I realised I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 16 and saw the most gorgeous bike at Cardiff Cycle Workshop, an incredible social enterprise that fixes up old and used bikes to resell. They also help to upskill people from all backgrounds. Help people to ride, do bike maintenance and much more, I adore them.

It was a red Krone fold up bike with a dynamo on the back. Bulky, impractical and beyond pretty. I barely used it. Four years ago I moved back to Cardiff and decided to bring the bike with me and ‘tootle’ down the Bay which I adored, it was a ride of leisure than of fitness.

Where do you put that cream?

My husband is a lycra clad, jelly bottom shorted, hard core road cyclist with terrible tan lines – cycling is not a hobby, it’s a way of life. When I started going out with him I was transported in to a world I had never been aware of – Ajax Cycling Club, shaved legs, bum cream, tall, lanky men, training and competitions. I was in awe, his dedication was impressive as were his thighs and after watching him at a few races I kind of got it.

Ajax members would ask me if I had ‘the bug yet’ and all I could do was shake my head, nope, not in me. I had become a bit afraid of my bicycle, roads are busy in Cardiff, and are rabid taxi drivers who appear to love accelerating towards cyclists.

Penelope

I decided that these tootles would need a better bike and with heavy heart I went back to Cycle Training Wales and gave my little vintage in and came out with a Peugeot ‘Tahiti’ bike that I named Penelope.

PenelopeAlas, Penelope barely tootled, more stagnated in a bike rack outside my then flat… what a let down for all involved.

Just before I became freelance in 2017 something stirred in me, I wanted to cycle with Matt more and really liked the idea of becoming less car reliant and greener.

I almost passed out at the till when I bought a decent D lock and helmet, but felt it would push me in the right direction to get on the road.

Penelope and I didn’t have a bond then, more an appreciation from afar, but I can now confirm we are best of friends.

With Matt’s help I wibble wobbled to the Bay from Roath using roads and being safe, he taught me a bit around road positioning and basically not to be an arsehole on the road.

I am a cyclist?!

I am happy to report that I am now a cyclist, I use my bike at least four times a week to power myself around the city to work, meetings, events and anything in-between. I’m still getting used to the roads, they still scare me; buses coming alongside me are terrifying but manageable.

I have fallen off twice – one scar on my knee and bruises on the other. I’ve bought LED lights and wear my helmet all the time now as I hadn’t been, which was stupid.

I make mistakes and learn constantly but the rush from feeling the breeze in my hair and the happiness I feel when I take each pedal stroke makes me feel more connected to myself and the city I live in. Please try it!

Tips to get yourself started:

Next Bike – unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have seen the Next bike stations around the city, rent one and take a safe tootle in the many green spaces that Cardiff has to offer.

Cardiff City Council – they offer free cycle training for adults and kids, whatever your level of cycling. I’m going to book on!

I want to ride my bike café – a cute cafe on Park Place, maintenance, weekly rides, events, workshops and more run by the lovely Jonathan.

Gweithdy – independent bike workshop, services and maintenance by the highly experienced and lovely Dan based in Printhaus in Canton. He’s my go to for Penelope.

Sundays – try going out on the bike on Sunday evenings, there’s hardly any traffic or people about and I can tell you going across the barrage as the sun sets is amazing!

Emina Red’s Work Experience: Brød

bread model

The beauty of having such varied clients is finding out what they do and how they do it. In my opinion any PR or Comms person worth half a nik nak should properly experience the organisation/company they work for to truly understand how to promote and engage others in their work.

So that’s what I decided to do, get my hands dirty with Brød – The Danish Bakery who I provide digital content management and PR for. More than once I’ve scoffed down their delicious pastries, slathered butter on a rye loaf and not thought twice about the process of it, more the awesome party going on inside my mouth.

I became an apprentice baker for the morning. Think Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience – except I’m not famous, tall, paid as much or televised.

4am

 

My alarm goes off and I feel weirdly excited, very tired (I got to sleep at 12pm, IDIOT) but excited.

4.20am

Betina, Brød founder and lovely Danish person, picks me up. We both laugh. She hasn’t slept well she tells me, probably I think, because she’s dreading having to look after me.

4.35am

uniformWe arrive at the bakery and absolute legend Becky, with over a years experience under her belt, is already setting up, she looks calm, poised and purposeful. I check in the mirror and I look like Mrs Twit. Nevertheless, I get my baker’s outfit on, including fabulous floured slip on shoes and we get to work.

4.40am – god knows when

Bread, bread, bread and a brownie.

Betina sets me to work on bread, there are ingredient cards for each bread and I have to weigh each ingredient ready for the industrial mixers to get going. I don’t tell Betina that I am crap at maths and hate baking because it’s so precise and I end up going off piste and it’s disastrous.

I carry on regardless and I’m not too bad. The starter for the sourdough smells like an armpit that’s been doing 24 hours of extreme sports in the desert, not cool.

For the brownie the margarine needs to be scraped out using a spatula thing but the bag is almost empty, so I put my hand in to get more out – I feel like I’m tending to a cows backside and cannot believe the moisturising effect this has on my hands. WIN.

My apron is covered in a concoction of things, I think it makes me look like I’ve tried which is nice. I notice Becky and Betina are both pretty clean…

When the bread dough is ready I have to chisel bits off to be weighed for each loaf, this gets easier with each go and hitting the correct kg becomes a game I have to win. I line trays with loaves, rolls and pastries put them in the proover as they get ready for their oven sunbed.

Becky is on the sandwich loaves and encourages me to try kneading and shaping – I am absolutely terrible at both. Some of the sandwich loaves that day look like deformed fingers, apologies. The same goes for the buns, they need a little hole on the bottom which I can barely achieve and Becky has to re-do about 40% of mine…. She has patience of a saint.

Betina asks me if I want a cup of tea. I could kiss her, but that would crossing a boundary and it’s likely she may fall in love with me as I’m so magnetic.

coffee break

Pastries, pastries, pastries.

Turns out you need muscles to be a baker and I am not graced in the upper body muscle department. My attempt to lift the 5kg of brown sugar off the floor is pitiful and Betina has to save the day.

Becky sets me to work piping the icing the snegl and spandeur. When she does it looks effortless and her wrist does a cool flick thing. When I do it I can barely hold the bag up (sparrow arms) and have as much wrist grace as a potato. There were pastries with very random icing on that day, again, apologies.

Disaster strikes when the chocolate icing from the piping bag begins to ooze from the top down my hand, I am rendered even more useless because I can’t stop laughing which is I’m sure what all good apprentices do.

I lick a huge chunk off and feel really sick yet rewarded.

The kitchen at this point is baking hot (get it?) and the smells from The ovens are incredible. I get to eat a crispy end off the pastry and I feel like I’m in a Danish utopia.

When everything is cool enough it goes on the shop floor to be bought and consumed by you lovely people but my morning isn’t over, the kitchen needs to be cleaned and tidied ready for the next day and Becky once again soldiers on.

10:18am

breakfast

I sit down and have a mini pizza I helped create (added toppings to) and a cappuccino and reflect on my morning

Reflection

Baking is hard work, you need to be strong mentally and physically to do it but the team effort from Betina and Becky is outstanding, they sort of have a synchronised dance going on that compliments one another and get the job done quickly and efficiently.

The amount of organisation and preparation that goes in to it is mind blowing, so the next time you visit Brod, before you’re about to wrap your chops around a delicacy think about the amazing team behind the product.

Their love, care and attention has crafted your moment of joy.

Would I get hired as an apprentice baker? Unlikely…

flour face

CBT and me

cbt_depression

As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week now seems the time to share a little bit of my experience.

I haven’t spoken openly about my mental health before, so this feels a big deal.  Even though we’re in 2018, sadly I still feel an element of shame, guilt and weirdness about saying that I suffer from depression and anxiety. Well, this is part of me and who I am, so here goes nothing.

I want this blog to focus on CBT as a coping mechanism because it’s worked for me. I’m not saying it will work for everyone or it’s the right treatment method either but more just outline my experience.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. NHS

CBT hasn’t ‘cured’ me and even though I’ve learnt brilliant coping mechanisms, I’m not perfect and sometimes I try and use the techniques and it doesn’t work or I don’t practice enough but I know that it’s ok.

Also, sometimes in the darkest days I don’t want to do these good things and would rather let the wave crash over me because it’s easier to relent than fight and that’s ok too, there’s always tomorrow.

CBT

I first discovered CBT in 2011 after the end of a long-term relationship and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt empty, guilty and unable to deal with day to day life.

The negative thoughts were relentless, kept me up at night, distracted me and made me jittery, paranoid and at a total loss of control. I felt joyless and when I smiled or felt briefly happy, I was ashamed because I felt I didn’t deserve to.

A friend recommended a therapist and I felt like I had to try something. The NHS could only offer me medication and said that the waiting list for counselling was six months and I was fortunate enough to be able to see a therapist privately.

I was apprehensive, but I do like talking and the thought of making myself better was a driving force. We discussed a minimum of six sessions and there would be elements of ‘work’ for me to do. I felt a little overwhelmed to begin with but being a task orientated person, I relished the opportunity to understand myself better.

Thought Diary

I kept an unhelpful thought diary which was based on ‘fact v fiction’ in which you rationalise the thought you’re having. It’s an extremely clever way of being mindful of your thoughts, you dissect it, see it for what it is and writing it down is a cathartic experience. It didn’t always make me feel better but this process was a huge help.

Labelling was also a great way of seeing what kind of thoughts you were having, categories like ‘catastrophising’, ‘black and white’, ‘emotional realising’ and ‘should/must’ helped you track yourself and determine triggers and patterns.

Talk, talk, talk

Talking to someone who didn’t know me and had no preconceptions was liberating and gave me a sense of self. I felt lighter knowing that another session was on the horizon and the space we spoke in was safe, open and honest. I didn’t feel judged and this was important to me because of the paranoia and anxiety I was experiencing at the time.

I won’t lie, there were times I cried and found it exhausting and painful to talk about my feelings, but I persevered and am proud of that.

Breathe

Focusing on breath is a great physiological way of dealing with stress. Breathing in for 7 seconds and breathing out for 11 seconds is a great way of feeling calmer and more relaxed. This is a mechanism that’s stuck with me and use if I feel very stressed or overwhelmed.

Mindfulness/Meditation/Exercise

I learnt about mindfulness and bought a great book Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world that came with a CD including a 10 minute mindful exercise to do each morning and even though I was rubbish at it, after a while I got a bit better and it became my sanctuary.

I did a couch potato to 5k app and this was amazing in channelling my thoughts and making me feel connected to the present. The achievement of being able to run further and further was great too, it gave me purpose and passion – endorphins are your best friend.

Being nice to yourself

Another task was to get friends and family to write three nice words about me. This felt really weird at first but it was so lovely. I felt like a piece of shit but other people saw me differently and it gave me encouragement and strength to believe I was a good person who deserved happiness.

I realised how much I filter out the bad comments from the good too, I easily overlook the good to skip to the ‘bad’ and it’s bad habit that I’m still trying to get better at.

CBT is a process, a period of self reflection, understanding, compassion and hard work which if you’re willing and able to commit to, can be an incredible experience.

If you’re feeling rubbish and ever want to chat to someone I would gladly talk to you, I hate the thought of someone suffering and you’re not alone, ever.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall

A year in the life of a freelancer: Lets bust some freelance myths

emina_pancakes
Me, my phone and pancakes. Pic: Severn Tides

I’ve made it to a year, still no bin eating. I’m delighted.

Occasional crying, working past 10pm, only drinking tap water, huge elation followed by crippling self doubt but no bin eating.

I wrote a post for my six month freelance birthday which seemed like five seconds ago and it looked at what I’d learned so far.

In this post I’ll bust some freelance myths after a years reflection, because it’s a big step and being armed with some facts is a good thing.

You’ll miss the end of the month salary

Technically this is a ‘truth’ because if you’ve been employed you will miss it initially. BUT it will disappear, your focus will be on other things and no longer refreshing your banking app every 20 seconds on pay day to make sure your money has gone in.

Don’t mix business and personal

RUBBISH. I am privileged to work with some amazing people including two old friends who became colleagues when I became freelance. I have formed friendships with some of my employers and know even if our professional relationship ended we could go to the pub, have a cwtch or just be friends.

You can work in pyjamas 24/7

Um, ok, so If I said I don’t don some pjs from time to time it would be an utter lie but you simply can’t everyday– it’s not good for you. It’s likely to have a detrimental effect on your motivational and productivity levels. Dressing appropriately is good for you, fixes and focuses your mind for the day

I am my own boss #girlboss

Yes you are, BUT depending on your situation and much like mine, I have several clients which means several micro bosses whom I’m answerable to. They come with different personalities, ways of working and ideas of how a project should work. Building up relationships with clients is crucial, don’t ‘hulk out’ and ruin it.

Freelance = loneliness

There are SO many people doing what you do, some or longer and others have just started and they’re there to support you. Get out and go to events like Creative Mornings and Creative Cardiff Show and Tell and meet people or just send a friendly email. I’ve met lots of new people doing this and they don’t necessarily do what I do but they’re freelance – mix it up.

Charge less, win more work

No. I feel there are circumstances where you may consider introducing a nominal reduction on rate but that is if a retainer is being offered (regular monthly salary). You’re a professional, you charge the rate you do because you’ve got the experience, skills and knowledge. Know your worth. Some clients may even be put off with a low rate.

It’s so much easier than being employed

Um, hell no. There is no ‘new starter’ form to fill in; you are now your own accountant, communications team, marketer, cheerleader, life coach and everything in between. You have to rely on you to sort your life out – tax, clients, meetings, equipment, website, blogs, savings, research and more. Unless you’re android you’re likely to feel all the feelings too – anxiety, stress, elation, excitement, self-doubt, happiness, fearfulness and isolation. It is hard and scary but so, so, so worth it.

If you ever want a chat then just get in touch. I’m very nice.

Who is your audience?

who is your audiencePhoto by Paul Bergmeir on Unsplash

The eternal question, a hugely important one and it can seem so overwhelming.

So, if I asked you, would you know?*

*Clue: The answer is never ‘everyone’.

Every day we are bombarded with new information, products, services and offers and how do we decide what is relevant? What attracts our attention?

People respond to different things based on their age, location, habits and interests so trying to please ‘everyone’ is never going to work.

Ever noticed that the sponsored ads on a website or social media channels are based on what you like? That’s because marketing budgets have been focused on finding about you and your habits… scary but effective.

Personas

Sounds like a tasty tapas dish but isn’t.

Personas help you create a ‘person’ to reflect a target audience group so you can understand who they are.

Things to consider when creating a persona:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Hobbies/Habits
  • How they consume news/information

For example, if you are trying to reach 18 -25 year olds then spending time on a Facebook sponsored post or a printed flyer is unlikely to yield results… why? They don’t consume information that way, it’s not part of their daily routine.

Once you build a picture of who a group of people are you can focus your brand and channel it in to promotion and marketing, saving you time and money.

I can help

This can seem a huge task but as part of my services I can help you do this.

Together we can look at who you need to target and how to engage them to achieve the best results for your organisation and business.

Just get in touch, we can tackle the world of audience and personas together.

Top Tips for Effective Presentations

toptipseffectivepresentation.jpg

Presentations and talks are bizarre aren’t they? They’re the unfamiliar for the majority and dreaded by most. What is natural about standing in front of a group of people and being the only one to talk? That’s right, nothing.

So when the opportunity arose to speak to arts and design students at Cardiff Metropolitan University in a Media Forum about my career I didn’t exactly jump at it, I hesitantly shuffled towards it whilst hugging myself.

I have always seen my role as supporting others to give presentations and talks. I’ve helped many others prepare PowerPoint by gathering content, giving feedback and an enthusiastic thumbs up at the start and finish.

It felt very odd to focus on myself, but I enjoyed my experience, it was rewarding and a great chance to reflect on my 10 + years in the PR and Communications industry. I got some laughs during my talk and some students came to talk to me and ask for advice, which is awesome.

I’d like to share my top presentation tips with you.

Who is my audience?
This should be the driver for your content and how you present, what do your audience want and need? Gauge how your audience respond and react to that.

Rule of slides
Stick to 10 slides maximum, the slides do not and should not contain everything you are going to say, use headers, bullet points, pictures/diagrams and at least 30 point font size.

Stories
We humans are more likely to engage with a story, it helps us empathise and remember what is being said to us. Try to weave your presentation together like a story.

Say it out loud
As you write your notes up, say what you’re going to say aloud and pretend you’re talking to your friend in the pub. I always think of it like getting your mouth used to the words, so they’re comfier to say.

Time
If you have 10 minutes, stick to 10 minutes. Time your talk and make note of where you think you’re rambling or talking too briefly about something, then tweak it.

Projection
Microphone or no microphone, you want to be somewhere in-between Marilyn Monroe and Brian Blessed, by practising your talk you get a good idea of the pitch, speed and tones you need to be working to.

Dress like you mean it 
What clothes, colours, accessories or even props make you feel confident? Anything that gives you good vibes, use it!

Eye contact
Make sure to look around the room as you talk, it’s all about engaging with the audience. If you notice a friendly or encouraging face, return there if you need a boost.

Body talk
Stand tall, strong shoulders and with a bit of sass and a smile. Droopy shoulders, hunched back and eyes on the floor won’t make you feel at all confident.

Have fun!
You’ve been asked to do this, so it means at least one person thinks you’re cool, you’ll feel totally accomplished when you’ve done it and it’s a feather in your career cap.

Need any help or advice to deliver presentations then get in touch.