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

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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

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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.

Dear Beyoncé: a brand love letter

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Dear Beyoncé,

I’d like to thank you for having an amazing brand. There are a million things to thank you for – hair, voice, thighs, attitude, dancing, bum – but I am focusing on brand.

Your brand appears to be tightly controlled, and I doubt you ever do anything that hasn’t been extremely thought out, planned and scheduled within an inch of it’s life BUT you make it look like it isn’t, which is extraordinary.

Even when your brand is under threat, the elevator debacle, Jay-Z cheating (idiot) and Ivy Park under scrutiny, you twist it and make it your own. BAM. The Lemonade album tore open the cheating scandal and was the highest selling global album in 2016 and that’s no accident or fluke.

I normally preach about brand consistency but in your case you continually push boundaries, change direction and surprise people – we could learn a lot from that.

Insta-piration

Your Instagram is my inspiration and is insanely good, and inspiring and good. Your use of collages, mixed media and the layout app is outstanding.

beyonce

You also mix personal and business without ever giving too much away but give us 110 million mere mortals a glimpse into your seemingly ‘perfect’ life.

You inspired me to make these Instagram shorts in 2017 featuring my alter ego, ‘The Majorette’, (take that Sasha Fierce).  I wanted to use new techniques and put myself out there because I felt fearless watching what you do.

RED_BATON from Emina Redzepovic on Vimeo.

Thanks to you, I’ve bought rollerskates and want to do a video but I’m accident prone and once dislocated my ankle on a street trampoline in Copenhagen, that was rough I can tell you love.

Please don’t ever stop surprising us with your brand directions, style and revamps.

Bum appreciation

B, you’re a guiding light, shining example of how to boss brand and my god you’ve got a great bum.

Thank you, and I do love you like she loves you.

Emina x

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall.

Happy Freelance Birthday to me!

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I can’t believe I’ve just written that, it’s been six months

The decision I made to go it alone was not a light one, I deliberated, agonised and catastrophised but given my unhappiness, feeling of being trapped and desire to be more creative, it was worth a go.

Luckily, I can say it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Here are some things I’ve felt and encountered along the way.

Imposter syndrome

There have been times when I have felt like a stranger in my own body, like I’m not who I say am, unable to do any of the things I say I can and out of my depth. This can be truly terrifying but in a strange way it almost keeps you grounded.

Encouragement

Thank you to lovely family and friends who continue to support me, give me the kind words I can’t find for myself sometimes and bought me a coffee or lunch – you’re amazing. I wouldn’t be here without you.

The ‘concerned’ look

Some people just won’t get what you do or why you do it and some of the aghast expressions have made me laugh. It’s hard to rise above concern or judgement sometimes but stick in there, you know yourself better than anyone.

Time reclamation

Setting my own hours has been joyous and I no longer feel bound by the clock. In the summer during the hottest days I went to the beach in the morning and worked in the evening and it was heaven. Being able to manage your own time is an absolute gift.

The fear

It can creep over you when you least expect it, wake you up in the morning and make you hide indoors. I’ve had total fear moments about money, that I will have to eat out of bins and that I’ll fail. Fear can be all encompassing but I’m better at keeping it at bay, sometimes you have to tell it to ‘shove off’.

Nothing you do is wasted

I’ve had many jobs and done lots of volunteering and it has all paid off. I think it makes you a better problem solver, less of a lateral thinker and gives you experience of dealing with all sorts of environments and people.

Taxes are the antichrist, or are they?

I was terrified of receipts, tax returns, invoices and anything to do with money for the first two months and pretended I didn’t have to do it. Luckily, I just decided one day to tackle it and with the help of the brilliant Taxdoctor I am on track, recording my money and being an adult.

Fun

I’m meeting lots of new people and I love it, many are now friends and clients and people I can bounce ideas off, it’s awesome. I attend fun openings, launches, parties and events and being the extrovert I am, it suits me well.

Mantra

“I work 60 hours for myself, so I don’t have to work 37 for someone else”

Amen and thanks to Dan Slee, @comms2point0 for tweeting this.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall.

The sugarless diary.

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Sugar sugar? Nuh uh honey. I participated in a seven day sugar free diet for research purposes, this includes no natural occurring sugars or sweeteners – fruit is OUT.

Why you ask? I wanted to see if I could do it, plus it’s excellent blog material.

Pre sugar free diet

I am terror struck at thought of no sugar and panic buy lactose free milk, two Kinder Buenos and a Twix. I take 30 minutes to eat the Bueno and wonder why on earth I have decided to do this?!

Day 1 

Take lactose milk to work and porridge oats, realise I’m having salty porridge for breakfast and die a little inside.

Tell everyone in sight that I’m doing a seven day sugar free diet, many give me sympathy but talk about cakes anyway. One colleague tells me “you’re going to withdraw like a heroin addict” – I imagine myself like an extra from Trainspotting sat in a dirty flat, groaning in agony.

Can’t bother to Google ‘sugar in pasta’ so I panic eat another bowl of salty porridge for lunch and my hope slides further away.

Have tea but go to bed absolutely starving.

Day 2

Wake up absolutely starving, make scrambled egg for breakfast and realise I have nothing to put it with. Burn eggs to bottom of pan and leave it ‘soaking’ so boyfriend will clean it up.

Go to gym and do really hard class, cycle home and feel like I’ve been dragged through a field by a tractor.

Meet friend in town for a drink, the cafe doesn’t stock unsweetened milk and goes to check on loose leaf tea situation. Massive queue forms behind me because I’m clearly ‘that knobhead’. Spend £3.50 on green tea which is vile.

Buy unsweetened peanut butter for £3.60 and feel deeply ashamed and annoyed at Tesco.

On walk home see a little girl with a choc dip and really want to steal it from her – realise this is bad, plus I don’t have energy to run away. Lethargy sets in and I’m almost asleep by 4.30pm, go to bed ravenous.

Day 3

Add unsweetened peanut butter to porridge and conclude it’s worth its weight in gold and could cry at how happy it makes my mouth.

Lethargy is quite bad today and spend a lot of time in bed.

Boyfriend makes me a steak dinner and it is fantastic; the peas are super sweet and are like little balls of joy, is there a vegetable of the year award? He also buys me carnations and I wonder what on earth I have done to deserve him.

Go to a gig in the evening and feel very sad that my only drink choice is water, although being hydrated is excellent, as is not spending ANYTHING. Downside is my tiny bladder which means I have to go to the toilet all the time.

Day 4

Wake up cranky and irritable and go in to a teenage mood mode.

Decide I hate everyone and everything even after delicious avocado and eggs.

Am meant to be doing multiple things today but can’t face people or people drinking beer in front of me so decide not to go out and watch rugby after all and hide in bed. The second half of the rugby is shockingly bad and adds an extra layer of sour to my mood.

Meet a friend in the evening and very sad not to have a cocktail but the cappuccino is oddly delightful, as is her company – decide I like people again and shouldn’t hide away from them.

Go to bed feeling kinder towards the human race and not like I could eat a mound of marzipan.

Day 5

Don’t feel as fatigued which is great and eat my porridge joyfully.

Go to spin class and it’s very hard but enjoyable, feel accomplished, not too tired. Enjoying porridge so much I have a second bowl for lunch and realise that if peanut butter was a person I would marry it.

Day develops and the headache starts, not too bad at first but after watching Thor: Ragnarok not even Chris Hemsworth’s beefy arms can distract me from the thumping pain in my head. Go to bed with huge headache.

Day 6

The huge headache is still there and feel like drilling in to my own head. Force feed porridge to myself but this time I can barely stomach it and would kill for jam on toast.

Tell more colleagues about sugar free diet and they are sympathetic. I am asked if I want a piece of lemon curd Victoria sponge and doughnuts and to overcome this I eat two packets of ready salted crisps, I am health personified – take that Joe Wicks.

My mother made flapjacks and they smell like heaven and I can almost taste them. She gives me a boiled egg and I could kiss her, getting energy from protein is so much more gratifying somehow.

Look in mirror and realise my skin is looking pretty good, clear and less dull. My bloaty ridge below my stomach is flatter and I no longer have that Sideshow Bob paunch.

Day 7

Last day of sugar free life and I feel weirdly sad. Realise I am terrified of eating sugar and not being a slave to it has been liberating.

My mind feels clearer and I feel more alert, able to process things quicker which is refreshing after feeling like I was in a fog. Work is so full on that I barely remember that I can’t have sugar and take solace in another boiled egg and chicken.

End my evening by watching my boyfriend eat the cupcake I brought home from work and realise this is my porn.

Life after sugar

I tentatively eat some flapjack and it’s like an explosion in my mouth – the sugar is overwhelming and delicious. I could cartwheel but would end up in A&E.

I have decided to try and stick with this but introduce fruit back in as life is too short to not eat a pomegranate. I will do my best to keep sugar free as much as possible because even with the initial headaches, mood swings and fatigue I feel better in myself, less bloated and healthier.

Sugar is ridiculously addictive and I hadn’t comprehended how impactful it is, I would seriously recommend trying this but be planned, get in food to give you energy – nuts and seeds are your friend.

 

 

 

 

How to run a great campaign

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My recent role to assist Cowshed with campaign work gave me a great insight in how to run successful campaigns for a broad range of clients from start to finish.

I worked mainly with Wales Co-operative to deliver the Social Saturday campaign, a day to champion social enterprises and it was a great experience. Thanks to Vicki and team for the warm welcome and fondness for afternoon snacks.

In former jobs, running a campaign came alongside a huge amount of other work, often felt a momentous and uphill task, but having enjoyed the freedom to focus gave me some clarity on what it takes to run a great campaign.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Be organised – planning is your friend, it’s the thing you need to come back to over and over again and keeps you on track.
  2. Budget – know what you’ve got from the start then you can look at what each element of the campaign will need, having a little extra without allocation at the start won’t hurt either.
  3. What’s your ask? Do you want people to sign up? Donate? Attend? Give? Whatever it is, that should drive your campaign.
  4. Be realistic – setting unachievable targets and aims is only going to demotivate you, have realistic goals and if you do better than that’s great. You can learn for next time.
  5. Free is your friend – don’t have lots of budget? Remember that a lot of digital media is free to use and can reach a lot of people for not too much work.
  6. Stories – they should be at the heart of the campaign and will ultimately drive your intended audience to act. It’s what the media love too, always have them.
  7. Media contact – Let them know what you’re planning in advance – if they aren’t interested ask them what would make them interested and think if you can accommodate them.
  8. Pick up the phone – emails get lost, piled up, deleted, unread and having an actual conversation is a great way of starting a relationship.
  9. Communicate – it’s so important to communicate with your colleagues so you’re on the same page, updates are good so everyone is clued in.
  10. Have fun – campaigns are great and there’s plenty of opportunity to do things differently, whether that be with graphics, pictures, events or stories.

If you need any support with campaigns then please get in touch.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall

10 things I love about you

the-ledge

My friend told me a story about an acquaintance sending a list to someone during an argument entitled ’10 things I hate about you’.

Three things came to mind,  I was reminded of the incredible film of the same name with Heath Ledger in it (he went too soon), how horrible it would be to receive that letter, and on what planet do you do that? Even if you thought it, don’t send it. Words as weapons alert.

It stuck with me the entire day and I decided to flip it and sent her a ’10 things I love about you’ text and realised it was not only a lovely process, recalling memories and really thinking about that person, but it’s a nice thing to do. She was chuffed and said it made her day.

Similarly, to my blog about the Power of Testimonial, it’s a reminder to be nice to others, find the good and I actually think it’s good to do with yourself so in the name of self esteem boosts I’m going to have a go and try not to cringe throughout the entire process.

I could write 100 things I hate about myself but why be that negative? Here we go:

  1. I am loyal to the bitter end, if you’re in my pack I will lioness for you
  2. My hair – thanks to Slunks, I’m living my dream as the flame emoji/ budget Ginger Spice
  3. I say hello to animals alot, cats on the road, dogs in the park, they all get a hello
  4. Dancing, I dance for joy, in my pants at home, in the club (ha ha ha rarely) in the street, it makes me feel good so I do it
  5. I care, a blessing and a curse for me but I do, deeply, passionately and honestly
  6. Laughing – I like cackling and giggling in equal measure and do it alot
  7. Photos are a thing for me – my friends and family groan but I take a lot of photos and yeh I Instagram them…
  8. I swim upstream, I rarely do something I really don’t want to, time is important and I try and do things that make me happy
  9. Admitting my faults – It takes bravery and strength to really look at yourself and recognise the crappier bits and I do that and am willing to work on them
  10. I am different, this is the hardest thing to love about myself but I do
Awesome illustration by The Meekshall

Let’s talk about brand, baby.

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Brand.

The word can strike fear in many, those who don’t like asking themselves questions and those who think it is just a logo.

Brand is more, far more. It’s experience, reputation, feeling, behaviour and communication to name a few.

One of my favourite exercises with clients during my brand workshop is to ask these simple questions.

“What brands do you love? What brands do you hate? and why?”

The why is the kicker, I’ve seen a few directors crumble at the why and look like I’ve asked them to choose their favourite child.

If you’re pondering your brand, I suggest you ask yourself these questions too. Here’s my answers for inspiration.

Brand I love = John Lewis.

The minute I walk in to the shop I feel like a better person, someone that has goals in life, got their $hit together and likes quality. I feel safe, homely and warm, like I’m being hugged by a middle class blanket.

The products they stock are of high quality, trusted, good brands, aspirational and somewhat affordable.

Their customer service is fantastic, I have experienced this and I was treated like a queen when I had to return something that ended up being troublesome.

They treat staff well, the staff are lovely, I like their café, toilets and price promise, I like them.

Volvo

My Grampa had many a Volvo car, like him, I have always thought they are reliable, safe and sturdy. Their lights are constantly on. Whenever I stepped in the car it was time for adventure and feeling loved.

The Volvo took me to exciting places, the beach, on holidays, for ice cream and I loved it. Even when a car drove in to the back of us once, we were all safe, my whole family.

This is more nostalgia than anything else, I have never owned a Volvo, I just resonate with their brand on a personal level. My Grampa’s trust in them has made me also trust them. Endorsement from someone you trust and admire is often the highest form of accolade a brand can get.

Brand I hate = Primark

I used to shop here and am ashamed. Fast, affordable, throw away fashion at the price of who or what?

Mass produced, inferior quality clothing and accessories that mean your bargain is someone else’s terrible wage, working condition and lifeline in equal measures. Don’t believe me, look at what happened in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

Yuck, I can’t even… cheap does not mean good. This is mainly about reputation and being conscious of choice and how it impacts others.

Hertz

The rent a car company without a soul. Last year we took a trip to Italy and were meant to drive from Milan to Lake Como.

On picking up the car, the credit card we used to make the booking was declined and according to them, that was that. I wasn’t able to use mine because my name wasn’t on the booking.

Their customer service was appalling, the front desk staff uncaring, unkind and their phone staff even more so. Luckily, we took public transport and a sympathetic lift from our Air BnB host. We complained, asked for money back and told everyone we know not to use them.

Think about your customers/audience/user needs and experiences – their recommendations are powerful.

Need help with your brand? I’d be happy to work with you on strategy, direction or whatever you need.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall

I got bullied at 31.

I listened to a great talk on equality last Friday and want to thank Lyanna and all those who have already read this blog for giving me the courage and support to post it. Without action, nothing will change and I hope that my words resonate and make a difference, even if it’s tiny.

I sat there motionless, I knew exactly what was going on but felt utterly powerless to stop it. My brain was processing each word but my mouth barely opened and I was frozen to the spot.

Every fibre in me knew it was wrong and that no one should have to experience this but I could feel myself shut down. Any words that I wanted to respond with got stuck in my throat, I began feeling smaller and smaller and wishing there was an eject button.

Have I painted an uncomfortable picture? It was, truly, and not one I want to experience again.

What hurt me as much as the complete verbal undressing was the fact another woman was sat opposite me delivering this character annihilation. Hello? Aren’t women supposed to empower and support each other? This person missed the memo, or read it and shoved it in the bin.

Yes, I had a made a mistake, for which I apologised and was upset about but apparently that was never going to be good enough. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.

It got personal and ugly, words and experiences I had said in confidence got taken and repurposed as weapons and threats.

What this person saw was someone vulnerable, upset and an apparent ‘easy target’ so they used that to their advantage and went on the attack. I felt the low self esteem and paranoia roll off her in waves but it didn’t make me feel better, it made me feel worse.

When I walked out of the room I felt disconnected from my body, a shell of a person and the realisation that I had been bullied came only later when I had completely broken down. Through the negative thoughts conjured by the vitriolic words used I suddenly realised it. A part of me felt ashamed.

I remember being teased when I was younger, it’s a tough gig being 5ft, having a ‘weird’ name and feeling different to others. Some people would rhyme my name with Ribena, others would call me short and weird and someone even told me ‘go back to wherever you come from’. The latter really hurt me and my friend laughed at that comment and that hurt more.

I was lucky, I don’t think I ever truly experienced bullying that was prolonged or that cruel, words have always hurt me but underneath tears I was a resilient kid and pretty proud of who I was. I saw others around me experience that, daily, and the look on their face – beaten, dejected and self aware – I wish I had done more to help them.

What I’ve learnt is bullying transcends age and will never be ok, it speaks more about the person doing it than it does about you. You aren’t the weak one and speak up about it if you can. I didn’t pursue or formally report it for a variety of reasons but a big part of me wishes I had.

To the person that bullied me, I thank you. You made feel like shit but in being that low I realised how proud I am of myself, how much support I have around me, people that love and care about me.

When I look in the mirror I am happy, truly, I treat people well, I live, laugh and love.

What do you see when you look in yours? Look closer, it might help you.

If you are experiencing bullying or inequality, then you aren’t alone, I promise. Contact organisations like The Samaritans who can help you and please tell someone, you can even just tell me.