Maintaining Mental Health as a Freelancer

My mental health is very volatile at the moment. One moment I am calm and enjoying the peace, the next, I am feeling sad, then angry in a never-ending circle. Mental health is a very important issue right now because of the unusual times we are currently living in. Pandemics happen approximately once every 100 years and the living conditions that they impose on those who are living through them are not easy.

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Here are some thoughts about how you can help to maintain your mental health in lockdown times.

Attitude of Gratitude

Try to find the positive thought. Although for many people, normal life has been put on pause, this has meant that people have suddenly found the time to catch up on many things in life. People are putting this extra time, that they have never had before, to good use. People are spending time with their families, they are cooking more healthy food and they are taking more exercise than they did before, because to do so, means that they can get away from the four walls for a while. Be thankful for what you have. Do you have your family around you? Be thankful. Have you been able to cook more regularly? Be thankful. Have you saved some money because you no longer have to travel to work? That’s a good thing. We have been blessed with this time, so enjoy it.

Acknowledge the hurt

There are some families that have lost a lot during lockdown and it is important to acknowledge that and if it is within your power to help someone then you should do it. Whether it is sending a card to keep in touch, a gift to remember a birthday or for some other reason, it can help you to feel better about yourself and it can help someone else to feel better too.

Everyone is having off-days at the moment. The most important thing to do is to own the feelings and allow yourself to feel sad for a while. The second most important thing you can do is not to wallow in them. There will come a point when you feel better and take pleasure in something again. Finding ways to comfort other people will help your own feelings too.

As a freelancer, you may have lost some clients as the lockdown took hold. Believe that you will be able to replace them with better clients. Keep reaching out, sensitively to potential clients, keep networking and following up potential leads.

Enjoy the time off!

Craft your way to mental health

Our family have enjoyed finding time to try new crafts. Our daughter, who has had to deal with the abrupt end of her second uni year, has crafted a paper sloth, done some colouring and doodling and this week we have tie-dyed some T-shirts. We have enjoyed finding new things to try and found it peaceful to create some craft.

Home-schooling to suit your children

Children who have had to find new ways to do their school work, will not have been the poorer for it. It will help their independence as learners to work out which way to revise suits them best, to have to ask their teachers questions about the work required and to manage deadlines. Although the UK Government is hoping that children go back to school soon, the fact is that many will not go back straight away, because of the reduced numbers involved and the importance of keeping them safe. I have enjoyed working with my son and encouraging him to get his work done. It’s hard to hide at the back of the class when it’s one-to-one.

Find new ways to connect

One of the best things to come out of this time, is the way that we have found new ways to meet up with others. People who are very unconfident with technology have found themselves able to meet up in Zoom rooms, virtual pubs and virtual pub quizzes have become a thing and churches and other religious organisations have had to find new ways to connect. My parents have successfully navigated the world of online supermarket shopping, but they have not tried FaceTime yet – one thing at a time!

Which new ways have you found to connect with others? My book group have met more regularly during the lockdown. We just talk about the books we are reading at the time. The church I attend has prayer telephone conference calls and services for download on YouTube via the website. We can also hold deacons’ meetings on Zoom. I notice that both Facebook and Google have started offering meeting options – more help for us to stay in touch.

Get in touch with Mother Nature

One of the most amazing things about this lockdown has been the weather in the UK – it has been gorgeous most of the time. You have to ask whether it would have been quite so nice, had things been normal!

The lovely weather has meant that it has been quite pleasant to get out for a walk every day. I am lucky enough to have a garden and have enjoyed having some time to go in it and do some work there. But what if you don’t have a garden and cannot enjoy going for a walk because you live in a city?

There is some research to suggest that even houseplants can enhance your living space, so do some research and find a plant or two that you can live with.

Now that we can go further away to exercise (in England), find a green space to head to and enjoy. Look for the unusual places, look on maps for small paths and ways to exercise away from the crowd, find some new favourite spots to go to. Think outside the box and find canal paths, disused railways, ride a bike, go for a run.

Find a way out

Some people are finding it hard to be in lockdown because their home is not a safe place to be. If this is you, then find a way to reach out. People are aware that this could be the case. Find a way to talk to someone about your worries and try to find a way out.

Some UK numbers for you:

The National Domestic Abuse Network can be called any time, day or night, by all women or concerned family and friends:

0808 2000 247

You can leave a voicemail and a good time to call you back. There is also support information available on the website.

If it is an emergency, call 999.

Plan your next move

As a freelancer, you should always be planning what to do to keep the jobs rolling in, but it can be too easy to lose sight of this when you are just trying to get the work done. Many people have had some jobs cancelled or slowed, but this time is not going to last forever, so look out for courses to enhance your skills, overhaul your website and improve the SEO and make sure that you continue to network online.

Now could be a good time to change tack, change what you want to do in your business or plan to take it up a notch. Planning for your business can only enhance what you offer and help you to reach your business goals.

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Five tips to get a clear message across

How clear is your message on your website? Can people tell what you do? Can they work out what you are selling or offering? Or does your website leave them confused? Here are 5 tips to help you make sure that you get your message across.

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Know the message you want your clients/customers to get

So, what’s the message in this post? I definitely wanted readers to understand that they need to ensure that the right message is being put across. Are your blog posts the kind of message that your customers expect to see or do they not really relate to what you are trying to do? The worst thing you can do is to confuse the message with extra padding. Decide on a message and how you are going to get it out into the wide world. If you are trying to ensure that your message is heard, then keep it consistent throughout the next few posts. Try to avoid language that will obscure the message or detract from it.

For example:

“It is vitally important that during these days of the Coronavirus pandemic that you do not stop communicating with your customers. It is more important than ever that your customers hear from you.”

or

“Talking to your customers could be a good thing, what if they needed your services during this time of pandemic? If you keep in contact with them then they will know that they can count on you.”

I feel that the second  message is more woolly: it uses words like ‘could’ and ‘what if’ rather than the stronger language of the first one. It could be argued that both get the message across, but which is more likely to make you take action?

Know which customers you want to get the message

Do you know who your customers are? What kind of people they are, what they do and what factors make them buy from you? If you know this information, then crafting a message for them is so much simpler, because you can appeal to them directly. If you are looking to design websites for people, then you need to post case studies that show how you have helped people to achieve the website of their dreams. A photography website needs to be full of gorgeous images to showcase your talent and a writer website needs to show a variety of writing that reflects the kind of work that you are looking for.

Know the actions you want customers to take

And make sure you tell them. Don’t leave people guessing as to what you want them to do – tell them. Explain what you are offering, explain the T&Cs and make sure that they have all the information that they need to make a decision. You could set up a landing page just for those clients that you are targeting to make sure that they have access to the information in one place. Make it easy for them to find the information so they can act on it.

Keep it simple

Keep the message clear and simple.

Here is the offer.

It is worth this much.

It is currently priced at this much for a short time only

Buy before (date) to get this offer

Here is what you get

Here are the bonuses for buying by this date.

Finish with a clear call to action

Make sure that your customers are in no doubt as to the action that you want them to take next. The rest is up to them.

Are you looking to get a clear message across? What are the best ways to engage with your customers? Comment below to share with others.

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Which Businesses are thriving in Coronavirus times?

Whenever there are tough times, some businesses will still thrive. Even in the banking crisis of 2008-9, some businesses were able to survive and even find ways to grow during that time.

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If that seemed like an unprecedented time, then this time is more so. Thanks to Coronavirus, people are staying home, children are working from home, people who were considered the lowest in society are now raised up – all this is so new. Yet there is still a need to earn and make a living.

I have noticed that some businesses are doing better than others. Businesses that already had an online model are selling more. Look at Joe Wicks – from body coach to the nation’s PE teacher. Some normal people have found that what they do is interesting to others – my son’s Hospitality & Catering teacher is doing ‘how to’ cooking videos and they have been a great success. Supermarket deliveries have really taken off and the shops have been recruiting lots of shop workers to help fulfil those deliveries, while footfall is limited or down.

Here are some industries that are on the rise:

Craft businesses

Those businesses that can produce ‘how to’ videos and link it to an online shop are doing really well. People are looking for time away from screens and taking up a craft or hobby can help fill the long hours at home. Some companies are still able to post out resources and kits. Creativity releases feel-good hormones in the brain, and some people are using their hobby to create PPE for health workers, for example face masks. Some of the businesses that I have found include:

Paper sculpture from Flamingo Paperie. Make a sloth, a unicorn head, a pug or a llama 3D paper model

Instagram: @mycrochetplace offers free patterns and patterns for sale on Etsy for people who crochet

The Stitchery is a physical shop that offers online ordering. This quirky website is designed for people who are looking for sewing supplies.

The Little Crafty Bugs sell kids’ and adults’ craft supply kits including bulk orders and party supplies

These are just a few businesses – check out Facebook for your area and see who you can find. Local businesses often prefer to deliver locally.

Sending Cards

Home delivery businesses are doing really well. Particularly places that allow you to create cards and send parcels and packages as presents to save people going out. They also help you to stay in touch with friends and family. These include MoonPig, Funky Pigeon and some photo companies.

Work Out Videos

Workout videos that you can follow at home have become popular. The clever companies will make some content free and some available to subscribers, or sell kit to go alongside the videos. The need to exercise is very important and the weather is not always good enough to go for a walk outside.

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Farm and small shop deliveries.

Our local refill shop has been doing great business locally. They have had supplies of pasta and flour when the bigger supermarkets did not. There has also been a surge in the ability to order from local farm shops, butchers and similar shops. Sometimes smaller is better.

Switching to making PPE

Companies making PPE or personal protective equipment in response to the Coronavirus have also been doing well. I have seen those trusts that need PPE reaching out to companies to make more. Local people who have access to 3D printers have crowd-funded and created visors to help protect NHS staff. Small sewing places have been making face masks – a shop local to me has made over 1000. They have donated to NHS staff and carers and sold them to members of the public. Larger companies have changed their whole way of working and started to make things like hand wash, protective gowns and face masks as well as ventilators.

Cooked Meal deliveries

Ordering a cooked meal is still possible. Some local pubs have turned to delivering cooked meals and it is still possible to order food from Just Eat or Deliveroo. However at busy times, you can be left waiting for a long time for your meal, as I know from personal experience.

Streaming Services

Demand for streaming services has never been higher with people having to stay home. Netflix has reported record levels of people joining their service and Disney+ chose a great time to launch. However, these levels are not sustainable and numbers will return to normal levels once lockdown eases.

Business Coaches

It’s a good time to reflect on what you have been doing with your life so far and to look into changing direction. I would never recommend picking a business coach out of a search engine. Find someone who resonates with your values, follow them for a while, join their list and check them out. Sometimes they offer free tasters. Commit your money and time to someone who can help you reach your goals.

Training

Time to re-skill yourself. There are lots of companies offering courses cheap or for free at the moment. If you are working in a digital environment, I would always recommend starting with Google Digital Garage which are courses offered free of charge. Again, if you are considering taking someone else’s course, then check them out, take your time and only commit if you consider it is worth it.

Have you found any really good businesses that people should know about during this Coronavirus lockdown? Let us know in the comments below.

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Check out an Independent Book Shop during the Lockdown

This blog post was inspired by a Twitter chat this morning all about helping out independent bookshops.

3 bookshelves containing a mix of colours and sizes of book

Here is a link to the amazing chat:

https://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1253073923916402689

although you will have to have an account with Twitter to see it. I know that Twitter can be toxic, but I also really enjoy hanging out there with other writers. On this thread, lots of independent bookshops tweeted back that they were still open for business.

You could also try a search on Facebook, as lots of bookshops will have pages there too. The aim of this post is to encourage you to use your spending power to support smaller businesses.

In this lockdown time, why not support your local small businesses? You can find a good-sized list at Indie Bookshops.

One of Jane Austen’s characters said,

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Caroline Bingley may not have been entirely honest when she said this. She was trying to compete with Elizabeth Bennett for Mr Darcy’s attention by reading a book, at a time when Elizabeth was really trying to avoid conversation with people that she felt uncomfortable with, by reading a book.

Reading a book is a great way to get away from our tablet screens.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading ‘The Tennant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte. It was bought it when we visited the Bronte’s old home last year while on holiday in Yorkshire. I had previously read ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’. It is a great read – took a while to get going, but now I am really into it and not far from the end. I am already planning which book to read next.

Five reasons to look at a smaller bookseller:

  • They really appreciate your custom
  • You may find some unusual books that you may not have found anywhere else
  • It is so easy to place an order and pay online – good for socially distancing too! Check with each shop how they would like you order – some take orders by phone.
  • Browsing books is so similar to the actual experience except you are probably wearing the right glasses already
  • You can often find unusual or specialist books at smaller bookshops.

Some Midlands independent bookshops that are open for postal business:

The hive offers a selection of books and supports local booksellers through the purchases made. You can choose an independent to send some money too. The hive offers both books and ebooks and book-related gifts.

AbeBooks offers a network of independent booksellers which offer rare, used and out-of-print books which can be posted to people through internet orders. Books are shipped directly from the seller.

  • Astley Book Farm in Bedworth, Warwickshire offers the ability to buy online. It looks an amazing place to visit and seems to have a vast array of books
  • Warwick Books in Warwick are currently selling books online. You can request books through email from this page, and they are putting together book bundles too.
  • The Chaucer Head Bookshop, Stratford-upon-Avon are selling through AbeBooks or you can call them directly from the number listed on their website, including a number for overseas visitors
  • The Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham is able to sell existing stock. They are also offering mystery boxes. You can email them from their website.

I have only been able to include bookshops with an online presence. Many independent bookshops have bricks and mortar only and so I could not include them. This is a list for Midlands-based booksellers and I will be doing more blog posts about other areas of the country. If you have had good service from an online bookseller, do let me know in the comments below.

The fact is, that we need independent sellers as well as the big giants. If the big giants are able to capture all our sales and shut the independents down, then the lack of choice will make us all captive audiences. Bigger is not always better.

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Writing a CV, online networking, avoiding scams and losing a freelance writing job – the best of the last 9 days of the 30 day blogging challenge

I had great fun taking part in the 30 day blogging challenge this year, writing about a number of different subjects and adding 30 posts to my blog. My new challenge is to carry on taking it forward and keeping it up to date. So in the spirit of this (after a few days off to rest and recover) here is a round-up of the best posts in the last 9 days.

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Freelance CV help

Writing a freelance CV is an essential part of being a freelancer. Job opportunities often require you to send one off. You should never just drag up an old CV however, you need to tailor it to the requirements of the person description. My CVs have got me a lot of interest over the years, so here’s one way to write a good one.

Write what you know

That old adage should you write what you know, brought a lot of interest from the other bloggers in the blogging challenge group. It was a different way of looking at an old subject.

How to avoid scams

Avoiding scams should be on everyone’s radar, particularly in these days, when it can be difficult to know who is contacting you and whether their intentions are good or not. Always question everything.

Things to do during lockdown

Some great ideas to get involved in while you stay safe at home, were the subjects of two blog posts during these 9 days. I have already started taking a look at my old photos and enjoying the memories.

Lost a freelance job?

Lost a freelance writing job? Here is a personal post with my take on it. There are many people losing their jobs at the moment and it is important to take time for yourself, to grieve and to come up with a new plan. Since this post was written, I have been let go completely, thanks to the lockdown. I choose to look at this positively. There will be someone else who will appreciate my skills – I just have to find them.

Other bloggers who managed to finish

Shout outs go to Cindy Fox from Hearth at Home, Jacqueline Redmond, Your Story Works and Regina Byrne from Leadership & Management Coaching who also managed to finish their challenges.

Finally, I looked at my transformation through the 30 days of blog posts process. I have gained confidence and enjoyed interacting with other bloggers. I would definitely do it again and I would recommend that you do, too.

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My transformation through 30 days’ blogging

30 days ago, I was not quite at the beginning of my 30 day blogging challenge. You see, it has taken my longer than 30 days to reach 30 posts. I was at Day 7, thirty days ago, but it has still been a transformation.

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I love writing, but producing content for my own blog is a struggle. Sometimes I have lots of topics and can write easily, but at other times, ideas come more slowly. Signing up for 30 days of consistent blogging is a test of faith, but I managed it with my trusty editorial calendar by my side!

I have really enjoyed creating the round-up posts and the weird titles they create. Both round-ups consisted of a wide variety of subjects which probably best reflect my brain and the way it flits around! I found that people still commented on the round-ups, even though they had had the opportunity to see the post first time round.

The blog post that got the most attention was Blogs Interrupted, which was the week the world changed. The schools closed, most people were told to stay at home and stuff got real! None of us have ever known a time when the world as we know it changed so dramatically, and I got behind on my blogs for a few days as we learned to deal with our new reality.

Blog with a group

I wanted to join the blogging challenge in March, because I could see that lots of people were signing up for it and I wanted to be part of a group. It’s no fun blogging in isolation, you need people to take part. So many of the people I was blogging alongside, inspired me. People like Vaishakhi, who created Beads of Hope and Regina Byrne Coaching as well as Melina Abbott and Dale Darley. The people you meet while taking the challenge are wonderful and you get to read so many different types of blogs.

You learn so much on this challenge. Some of it I knew and had forgotten, other pieces of knowledge were brand new. Each email arrives jam-packed with information, things to do and actions to take. I learned how to use Canva (and pick the free images), I installed Yoast (and I still have arguments with it on SEO vs my style) and relearned the art of the round-up post (bit difficult to do when you post so infrequently but easy when you have 30 days’ worth of blogs).

Do Yoast & I have a future?

So, what of my future plans? Obviously I plan to blog more and want to work on a content series. I hope to continue with a mix of topics, completely confusing Google and I look forward to reading even more diverse blog posts on the 30 day blogging challenge group. I also intend to take the challenge again some time in the future, but possibly not yet! Yoast and I will also try not to break up, but just be like that annoying warring couple that everyone knows and tries to ignore.

Should you take the 30 day blogging challenge? Absolutely! It will hurt as you stretch your writing muscles, but it will feel so good after! Go on! You know you want to!

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How to put together an editorial calendar for bloggers

Since my first 30 day blogging challenge in 2016, I have used an editorial calendar. Different people may have different ideas of what constitutes an editorial calendar.

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I use a spreadsheet to store ideas for blog posts or other content so that I have a constant stream of ideas to use when I am trying to think of something to write. PR people use editorial calendars so that they can put useful content out when they are trying to run promotions, or publishers might use one to keep track of their publications. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, you might find this tool useful.

How can an editorial calendar help you in your business?

It’s a great place to store ideas. Ideas are all around us, but sometimes it can be hard to remember them. When I find a great story or possible blog post, I make notes about it.

You can use your editorial calendar to note the angle that you are going to take on the subject. This might not matter if it is a personal blog, but if you are working for someone else or even several other people, it might be worth making a note to ensure that you remember your original thoughts.

I find it best to keep an editorial calendar for each different blog, especially for clients. For the blog posts that I write at the moment, some can link to awareness weeks or months and it can be handy to have those planned out in advance, so that I already have some ideas for topics. Bloggers could also use the tool for planning guest posts to keep track.

Using pictures can be a good way to jog your memory. You can add a link or an actual picture to the spreadsheet if you wish.

Dates: I always date when I had the initial idea and I will usually add a date at the end of the row when I have used the idea. Sometimes I will have brainstorming sessions for a number of blog posts and it is useful to know when they came in handy.

Keeping track of sources in an editorial calendar

As well as adding the website for the source, there may be other sources linking to the idea. I will add these too, so that I can keep track of them all. I also keep notes on the possible blog posts, which may include headline ideas and possible keywords.

If you have a number of blogs, then you might like to indicate which blog the idea is for. This enables you to keep all your ideas in one place. It also means that you can repurpose ideas for different blogs, by finding a different angle.

The best thing about the editorial calendar is the ability to plan content. If there are particular dates you want to publish around, or events, then it can help you to plan this in detail. If you want to do a blog post series, then you can use your calendar to plan this. If you have some guest posts planned, then you can include these too.

You can add social media planning, include video links and plan the launch of your next ebook. You can make your editorial calendar as simple or as extensive as you wish.

Here is an example of an editorial calendar:

Date

Idea

Source

Source

Notes

Date used

Social Media Notes

5/3/2020

Using editorial calendars

https://buffer.com/library/all-about-content-calendar

Bloggers – kw

The headings can be changed to suit your own particular blog.

Do you use an editorial calendar? Do you find it helps to plan content? Comment below.

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How to look after yourself when you’ve lost a freelance writing job

I lost part of my freelance writing job recently when it was scaled back. My client hired a full-time social media person and so that part of the role was cut. What’s left is the blog posts, but that is less than half of what I was earning from this job and it doesn’t feel very secure. Here’s how I dealt with it.

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When the email arrived, it was difficult. I had put my rates up at the beginning of the year, so I was expecting something, but I didn’t know what. We had a contract in place, but it only allowed for two weeks’ notice, when I normally put an invoice in every four weeks. The email said that for two weeks things would stay the same, but in practice, the new person had already started and there were changes immediately which gave me less chance to earn.

Allow yourself to feel sad

Suppressing emotions doesn’t help. Being able to grieve will help you get over it sooner. Talk to an understanding friend (preferably another freelancer), listen to sad music and begin to heal.

Decide on a plan of action

For me, the immediate question was whether to continue with the smaller role I had been offered. I decided to continue with it for now, but I can no longer count on it. My client does not pay that well. I renegotiated my blog rate, but that probably means that she may still give me another 2 weeks’ notice and finish it. We have re-signed another contract. I have worked for her a long time – since 2013.

Reach out to previous clients

I have started reaching out to previous clients again and looking for other jobs. I have joined freelance writer groups, looking for tips and leads. Unfortunately, since this happened, the world has changed and there are lots of freelancers looking to replace their income, so this may not be easy.

Add new skills

I am looking out for new courses to improve my skills. SEO Moz are offering free courses until the end of May, so definitely worth checking out. I will also pick up my Google digital garage courses and take some more of those.

Reach out to new clients

I have updated my Linked-In profile and am trying to post more on there. I have declared that I am open for business. All my social media is being updated far more regularly. I am trying online networking and I am looking forward to finding some new clients.

Look at the past with clarity

I can see that having worked with the same client for so long, that things had got stale. Also she would never use Facebook ads as she felt they had overcharged her. The new person in the office has been able to boost her posts, though, so they have done better. Perhaps having someone onsite has given her more confidence.

Take the 30 day blogging challenge

In order to get my (long neglected) website up to speed, I have taken on this challenge. It has reminded me of much I had forgotten and given me a host of new ideas. I would recommend it to anyone. Take it and see.

Have you lost your freelance writing job or client recently? How are you dealing with it? Comment below.

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10+ ways to stay social while staying safe at home

Everyone’s social life has taken a dive at the moment. Social distancing has meant an end to going out to the pub, going to the cinema and even going for a meal. Thankfully we have the technology to ensure that we can still do some of these things. Here are some ideas when you’re ready for a night out but you’ve got to stay in.

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Form a book club and meet on Zoom. Books can be borrowed online from your local library and then you can meet together and discuss them. PJs and wine optional.

Hold a party on Zoom. Following on the Zoom theme, one person I know is holding a virtual cheese and wine party on Zoom. Sounds like fun.

Go to a theatre night at the same time as a friend and message together. There are lots of theatre performances taking place on YouTube. Why not arrange to watch the same time as a friend and message together when you do.

Join a Twitter event – last Monday night, Dr Who fans watched an episode together while actors from the episode tweeted

Have a WhatsApp party – similar to FaceTime and you can have different people on video at once.

Dance in a socially isolated way. There’s a street where people come out of their houses and dance together.

Wave at goats. Love this news story about the goats coming down off the Great Orme and spending time in town. I grew up here, so it’s very familiar to me.

Watch a film together with a friend and chat over a message service. As the theatre idea but a virtual cinema instead.

Go to a virtual pub quiz. 300,000 took part in one recently!

Join a virtual choir – Gareth Malone is organising one at the moment

You can also take virtual music lessons in different instruments. It doesn’t matter where your music teacher is based.

There are also places where you can learn a new language

You can also take part in a dance class – which do you fancy? I’ve seen ballet, tap, theatre and zumba so far!

Order a takeaway and eat out while staying in. Just Eat is still taking orders from restaurants in your area

What would you like to do tonight? Let me know in the comments below!

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How can freelancers and small business owners avoid scams?

It is one of the saddest things about human beings that where there is a crisis, there is someone who has a scam to exploit that crisis. Barely had the coronavirus hit in the UK, when there were people working out ways to take other people’s hard-earned money using the disease as an excuse. From knocking on people’s doors and demanding money for illness testing to people being stopped with shopping bags and asked to pay a fine by people wearing no uniform (true story) there seems to be no depths to which scammers will not stoop.

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As business owners, we put our details out on the internet so that potential clients can contact us, but what if people do not want to hire us but to scam us instead? We should be prepared to get the police involved if there has been a successful scam on our business and we should share the stories so that others do not fall for the same thing.

Here are some scams and some ways that we can protect ourselves. 

ID Fraud

Many scams involve the stealing of ID in order to defraud banks or other organisations. Particularly be careful of potential phishing emails.

Keep your details and those of your customers safe and also keep safe and password-protected those electronic devices where they are stored.

Email Fraud

Email frauds can come in a number of different ways. Be careful of emails from HMRC that do not actually come from the right email address and ask you to click on links. Or be wary of emails from your bank, asking you to verify details by clicking on an email link. There can be emails pretending to be from Amazon or your broadband provider or mobile phone operator, all asking you to click on a link and enter bank details, either to confirm them or to “avoid fraud”.

You should always be wary of unsolicited emails. Scammers are able to copy logos, imitate the way they think an official body should communicate and make sure that the email initially looks legitimate. However, the email link is not usually an official one and will look quite different to the correct email address. If in doubt, then ring the institution in question and check it out.

Scam Phone calls

Scam phone calls can happen in a number of ways. This can involve people pretending to be from your bank, from HMRC or from a computer company which says it needs to check your computer remotely. They may be looking to get your bank details or access to your computer. They can also make it look like the phone call is a genuine number.

Do not give any details out over the phone and end the call. If you decide to call your provider, then be aware that some fraudsters can delay hanging up the phone and pretend to be the person you are calling. Wait for at least 20 minutes before trying to call a number after receiving a suspicious phone call. You can also reject cold calls and put strange phone numbers through a search engine which could tell you which company they belong to. You can block numbers that try to call regularly. Don’t respond to unrecognised missed calls or texts and you can also check a company’s phone number by calling from a different phone. Don’t take a caller’s word for it that they are who they say they are.

Invoice Fraud

A business needs to check every detail these days, as scammers can send fake invoices that seem legitimate. The invoice may appear to come from a genuine supplier, but the details send the payment straight to the scammers. It’s known as APP or authorised push payments which persuade companies to pay a seemingly normal invoice but which has not been sent by the right person. There have been situations where the bank has queried the transaction, but the person paying has been so sure that it was right, that they insisted on paying. Then they found it was a scam.

The answer to this one is well-trained staff who know to check with the supplier before paying. The fraudsters hope that the invoice will be paid with no questions asked, but if your staff are able to check out the validity of invoices, then only the right invoices are paid.

Royal Mail Scam

This can consist of an email suggesting that a parcel is being held for you and that you need to rearrange delivery. Filling in details means that the scammers may install ransomware where your work computers will shut down and you will need to pay money to get them released. There can also be a card through the door where you ring a number which is charged at an extremely expensive rate. There have been some high-profile instances of ransomware where the company paid to get their computers back. Once a computer is locked out it can be very difficult to get back.

For the first scam, you need to back up your computers regularly to make sure that you can access an up-to-date storage if needed. You may need to bring in the Police to get this checked out.

For the second, if you are not expecting a parcel, then check it is real. You can normally pick up a parcel from your local Post Office sorting centre with ID and the card that was posted through your door.

Do you have any good advice on how to avoid scams? Please share below.

Metropolitan Police advice on business fraud

National Crime Agency on fraud

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