Writer’s block – if it is real, can we combat it?

All outdoor writers, even copywriters lucky enough to live in Devon, have moments when the words refuse to flow. You know the feeling, you sit staring at your screen, your mind starts to wander and then, bingo, you’re faffing around with one of the million and one other things your technology has to offer and your 1,000 words are as far away as 1,000 miles in a slow Toyota campervan (other campervans are available). The topic of writer’s block must be one of the most commonly discussed issues on the internet. I’m not sure I believe in this procrastination-ridden phenomenon but here are the 5 things I usually do when my writing reduces its usual flow.

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Need spelling and grammar help? 5 common UK spelling mistakes and how to avoid them

Ever confused your discrete with discreet? Not only have I done so, I managed to do it in front of a rather large national audience in The Guardian newspaper. English is such a delightfully perverse language that even the most proficient of wordsmiths make spelling mistakes… and then laugh at other people doing the same. Here are 5 common spelling mistakes in UK English (all homophones), avoid them or risk public ridicule on comments forums.

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From moor to sea – the life of an outdoor writer in Devon

Devon is definitely a beautiful place to visit but for me, it is also the perfect place to base myself for my outdoor writing. I discovered a long time ago that, in order to write about being outside (and keep a successful outdoor blog going) I needed to spend as much time under the sky as possible. My writing, even when it isn’t about the outdoors, is stimulated by my time outdoors. Whether I am writing a children’s book or investigating the latest thing in business apps for a client, the outdoors is as necessary to me as coffee, frilly knickers and soap operas are to other people (not that I have any objections to coffee!) Here’s how I make getting outside and copywriting in Devon work together.

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How many hashtags? 5 top tips for using hashtags in a business social media post

Have you ever looked at a social media post and been turned off by the number of hashtags used? We have too but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make the effort to understand exactly what it is these little grammar newbies can do for you and your business. People often ask us, ‘How many hashtags should I use?’ but, in truth, they are asking the wrong question. It isn’t the number (and definitely not the size) of hashtags that matters, it’s how you use them…

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How to sell your brain – the rise of the freelance worker

Who would have guessed back in the days when the boss was in charge and employment meant set hours, set wages and a set of frown lines to match, that freelance working would experience such an unprecedented rise across the UK. There are some that would argue, of course, that the disadvantages of freelance working by far outweigh its advantages but, like it or not, it would appear that freelance work in the UK is here to stay (at least until the next employment trend).

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Top Tips for Would be Travel Writers

The great news for travel writers or those who would like to get into freelance travel writing is that, with the increasing importance of inbound marketing, there are more opportunities to write about travel than ever before. The bad news, if you want to be a travel writer, is that the growing popularity of travel (according to ABTA, 31% of people plan to spend more on their holidays over the next 12 months)  and the well-published attractions of the digital nomad lifestyle (in 2016 the UK boasted 311,000 freelance workers in ‘Artistic, literary and media’ occupations)  both mean that there are also more people out there trying to make a living out of travel writing. Here at Fi Darby Freelance we regularly put our talents to writing about just about everything, but our real passions are travel and the outdoors. We have five top tips about how to get into travel writing.

Start doing some travel writing

With so many travel writers out there, clients are looking for authors with experience, who can show a flair for the task. If you want to be a travel writer, the chances are that you like travelling, so get out there, explore and make sure that you write about your experiences. A great way to start is a travel blog, which will give you excellent opportunities to build an audience. Remember, travel isn’t all about luxury overseas hotels, a wild camping trip can give just as much writing inspiration as a stay in a luxury hotel.

Find your travel writer’s voice

One of the great things about travel is that we all experience it differently. Quality travel writing is about telling the travel story with a unique voice that will draw people in and make them want to read more. Letting your sense of humour or your wonderment at your surroundings show is important. Lots of people choose travel destinations because they have talked to someone else who has visited previously. A good piece of travel writing will achieve the same effect.

The client is always right

Using your own voice for a piece of travel writing does not mean that you should ignore your clients’ expectations. Most travel organisations will have a format that works for them and their target audience. Finding the balance between pleasing a client and letting your personality shine through takes practice but, in  your quest to be a travel writer, you will be getting plenty of that.

Do your travel writing research

It is easy to work out what to write about if a client has made a particular request. However, when you are first starting out with travel writing, you will be deciding on articles yourself and pitching these to editors. You will need to come up with ideas that stand out from the crowd, appeal to a specific audience and, ultimately, sell either holidays or publications. Your research should include,

  • Forthcoming travel trends (refer to these in your pitch)
  • The topics of previous articles
  • The style of previous articles
  • Your own budget and travel costs

Don’t take rejection personally

This takes us back to our original point; there are lots of people out there trying to make money from being a travel writer. This means that editors have plenty of options to choose from and will definitely not choose your work every time. Your pitch (an initial idea for a piece of writing) or your article may be rejected for any number of reasons, including market trends (the travel market can be fickle), previous publications (always do your homework) or a clash of styles (think about a publication’s target audience). It would be great if editors had time to give individual feedback but they don’t so be prepared to move on, make changes or make your pitch to someone else.

What to do when you can’t find freelance work

As a freelance writer, you don’t have to work for long before the freelance work pros and cons become very apparent. Freelance working is great, it fits in with your lifestyle, you don’t have to take on jobs you don’t like and you have the type of freedom about which the employed workforce can only dream. However if your freelance work dries up, for even a short while, the whole, ‘Where is the money coming from?’ thing can get a bit scary. Such is the nature of freelance work jobs; companies employ freelancers for many reasons, but one of the most popular is that the commitment to pay a freelancer is transitory whilst the commitment to pay an employee is far more permanent. Don’t worry, we have some answers below to the question of what to do when you can’t find freelance work (as well as looking for more work of course).

Don’t panic!

Most of us are fairly good at unnecessary panic, particularly when it comes to anything to do with money. However, the truth is, for most freelancers, there will be times when the work isn’t coming in as quickly as they would like it to. Panic is a waste of time and effort, time and effort, which would be far better spent on more productive activities. One way to avoid panic when freelance work dries up is to make sure you always have an emergency fund to cover your expenses during any gaps in income. We have some suggestions below as to how you might wisely use any time made available by freelance work gaps.

Develop multiple freelance income streams

When you find a client or a niche you like, it is very tempting to send all of your work effort in that direction. This however can be a mistake, if you have too narrow a bank of work, you are putting yourself at risk should a particular client no longer need you or a particular niche lose its market value. For example, at Fi Darby Freelance, we love to write about the outdoors and will always jump at the opportunity to do so for clients. However, our policy is to be as broad as we can in both our writing topics and our genre. Having multiple income streams is healthy; as well making good business sense, it keeps your writing interesting and keeps you at the top of your writing game.

Create your own digital products

One way to increase your number of income streams when freelance work dries up is to develop your own digital products. Self-help guides, well-written e-books, infographics and high quality images can all have a market value if you target the right audience. Well thought out and carefully crafted digital products are also a great way to showcase your abilities and show both potential and existing clients just how useful you can be. They are also a useful means of collecting subscribers and opening up a whole world of marketing potential.

Take a look at freelance work patterns

As with any job, freelance often work falls into a pattern. The difference is that, as freelancers, we are often so involved with our current project that we forget to look at overall patterns of work. For example, you might want to ask yourself the questions below and take action on the answers:

  • How much freelance work comes through on a Friday?
  • Do you get sent more work at the beginning of the month or the end?
  • Is there a month when you can predict low work requirements?
  • Do you have a steady income from month to month?
  • Which of your clients provides the most steady income?
  • Has your income level from any particular clients shown a significant drop?

Find time for networking

Networking, particularly if it is done face to face, is a great way of gaining a trusting audience and letting people know exactly how you can help them. As a freelancer you have an advantage because lots of people are interested in freelance working. When you find yourself with time to spare look for business networks to join and start making online contact with possible new clients through a social media that will suit your demographic (if you haven’t already created a LinkedIn account do so asap). Don’t go for the hard sell but make yourself available to answer questions about what you do and be as helpful as possible.

Teach someone else your freelance skills

Teaching freelance skills doesn’t just mean standing in front of an audience, although we do recommend this as a confidence boost and a really good way of putting your skills out there. Teaching can also be done online or via individual tutoring, so have a think about how you can open up your horizons by providing hints and tips about your niche or experiences. The great thing about teaching is that it immediately puts out the idea that you are the expert. You may well surprise yourself when you find out how much you know about your topic.

Tidy up your freelance systems

Freelancers are often very busy people and, as such, can sometimes let their organisation systems slip. If you have a period of low work levels, take the time to improve your systems so that they make your life easier when you are busy again. For example you might like to consider:

  • Creating a spreadsheet to record of all your freelance work
  • Brushing up on the latest VAT and tax information
  • Contacting previous clients and re-offering your services
  • Streamlining your invoice and receipt systems
  • Updating your contacts list
  • Creating a website portfolio
  • Updating your own blog
  • Checking and updating your social media profiles
  • Scheduling social media posting via an SMMS such as Buffer
  • Working out how to implement the latest SEO advice

Whatever you decide to do if the freelance work dries up, make sure you do something productive, that you will be pleased you have done when the freelance work picks up again… because it will do… we promise!


How to choose your blogging niche

Blog writing within your niche

Most bloggers start blog writing within their niche, in other words writing about a topic that they enjoy and know something about. In my case this blogging niche led to a career as a very successful outdoor blogger and later as a freelance copywriter. Here are my three top tips on how to choose your own blogging niche and maybe end up with your own new blogging career.

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My website needs a blog – where do I start?

Why does my website need a blog?

If your beautifully designed and eye-catching website isn’t presenting itself on the first page of Google searches (SERPs) then you have a problem; most people don’t look beyond this key first page, which means that most people aren’t going to even see your website. Continue reading “My website needs a blog – where do I start?”