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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How to connect with bloggers in your niche

First of all, I want to apologise for using the word, ‘niche’ in a heading! Getting a bit jargon-y there!  A niche is simply a narrowed-down subject that you like to blog about. The narrower the better if you really want to know your subject well.

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I have just read the blogging challenge email where Sarah Arrow encourages us to connect with bloggers who do the same sort of thing that we do and comment on their blogs, helping their visibility and ours. I already knew this, but I had forgotten it. Long ago, before Linked-In and Pinterest came along, the first thing that came up when I searched my name on Google, would be comments that I had made on blogs. I just checked today and on page 4 my name comes up linked to comments that I have previously made on blogs – the oldest of which was in 2010 when I was just starting out!

So comments on blogs can hang around for a long time, especially on high-ranking blogs. It is worth doing as long as you are happy with your comments.

I love finding bloggers to connect with in the things that I do. But how can you find people to connect with? And when you do, how do you connect?

Ask a question

If you have any burning questions, then ask them on Google and quite often bloggers who have answered those questions will come back. You can then check out their websites and look around. You may also want to see how well they answer the question as it will help you to see what their knowledge and experience is like.

Search hashtags

You can use hashtags to search on Twitter and Instagram, and even Facebook as hashtags are used there. Look for keywords that link to what you do and see what links the hashtags bring back. Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers and you can get to know people through hashtag hours as quite often the same people show up to chat.

Search keywords

Intentionally searching for people starts with keywords. The bloggers that come back are worth checking out. Again, look around the website and see what kind of information they offer. They may offer free ebooks for signing up to their mailing list or courses. I have to say that I am normally turned off by hyper-spammy websites – the kind where an advertising pop-up follows you down the page like a dog! I normally close those straight away and never go back! However occasionally you find an amazing website that’s full of useful information and those are worth bookmarking.

Facebook groups

Finding and joining Facebook groups that link to what you do is a great way to connect with other people. They can also be the most helpful in terms of giving advice and help to other people. Not all groups are public and you may need to apply to join and even answer a question or two. Of course you could start your own Facebook group too.

Blogging Challenge

Doing the 30 day blogging challenge with Sarah & Kevin Arrow is one of the best ways I know to find some like-minded people and connect with them. You are not necessarily writing about the same things, but that means you get to learn more and enjoy meeting people online. You also get to read some blogs that you might otherwise not have read. 

Other Challenges

Other blogs offer other challenges which can be just as useful. It’s worth searching out challenges to take once in a while. Pushing ourselves brings growth and change.

How to Connect

When you find a blogger that you like, how should you connect with them?

You can try a number of things:

Interview them (I interviewed Sarah Arrow for my blog once) and write up as a blog post

Comment on their blog post (if allowed)

Bookmark the website and come back to it

Even better subscribe to their feed and their email list

Follow on Twitter

Take their challenge

Join their Facebook group

Just one word of warning: try the things that seem right to you, but don’t do it all at once. You’re trying to make friends, not scare them off!

How do you get to know other bloggers online? Comment below and let me know.

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Online networking for stay-at-home workers

Missing the watercooler or the canteen already? It’s been over a week since workers of all kinds have been told to work from home if possible in the UK.

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One of the best things about working in an office is the people that you meet and work alongside. One of the downsides of enforced working from home is that you are unable to get out and about and meet people. We are social animals and we need contact.

Here are some tips for online networking (from home):

WhatsApp chat groups

My book group is on WhatsApp and since the lockdown, it has lit up the airwaves! We have sent quizzes, videos and all kinds of things across it. We are also planning to meet up virtually in our pjs and those who like a tipple will be able to drink and not worry about getting home! If you have WhatsApp group chats, then using them to keep in touch can be quite useful.

Facebook groups

Facebook groups can be good for keeping the larger community together. For example, the local church groups have been busy updating their feeds to keep their congregations informed on how they are going to run their services. They have created events which has enabled them to promote them to their followers. Of course there have been national events happening as well and these have also been promoted.

If you search for Facebook groups related to your line of work, you will probably find one. These are great for meeting new people and getting information and advice. You may have to be approved to join and sometimes you have to answer questions. If you belong to a group which is struggling to keep in touch, why not set a Facebook group up? You can set a group to private or public depending on their type of activity and it’s a great way to keep in touch.

Twitter hashtags

Communities often meet up on Twitter at set hours through hashtags. Try searching the website for hashtags relevant to your work and see what you can find.

If you are a writer or freelancer, there are some amazing Twitter groups who meet up using hashtags. They usually meet up at a particular time each week. Twitter is also a great place to meet authors.

Try:

#freelanceheroes

#freelancechat

#ContentClubUK

The format is usually asking questions and people tag themselves using the hashtag to answer them. It is a great way to learn more about working as a freelancer.

You could also check out:

#amwriting

#WritingCommunity

You can also keep contact through the Linked-In community, either through posting and commenting on posts or through the different groups that run on there. In a lockdown situation, this can only be helpful to your business.

How are you keeping in contact with work colleagues and friends at the moment? Please share in the comments below.

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Stronger Fiction: Should you write what you know or know what you write?

One of the oldest pieces of advice for people who want to write fiction is that they should “write what they know’. This sage piece of wisdom is passed down from teachers to young pupils, from tutors to college students and in many creative writing classes. Yet, what does it actually mean? And is it a piece of advice worth following?

Write what you know

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Writing what you know suggests that the writer can not step outside their own experience. It suggests that their writing should be autobiographical in nature and always include a piece of themselves. While it could be good advice to write about what you know, if you were a former pirate, sailing the high seas who accidentally kidnapped a prince, more normal people may find it more difficult. Most people’s lives are fairly ordinary and there doesn’t seem to be much room for excitement.

Directing someone to write what they know, ignores the rich imaginations that most writers have. We can imagine what it is like to walk on a strange planet or to dive deep in the oceans. We can imagine how things could turn out when you meet the one person that you have always wanted to meet – even if it has never happened to you. I would not recommend that writers always stick to writing what they know or what they have experienced.

Knowing what you write is a different thing. Here, writers research before they write and use it to help create the story. You may not know everything before you begin to write, but you may have done some research and use it to help the story along. You may need to stop and make notes of further knowledge you need, but you can begin the story and leave gaps. This will enable you to slot in extra research, which will enrich the story. The best research fits seamlessly in the story.

Call on your emotions for your writing

We have all experienced emotion in one form or another, even if we have not experienced a specific event such as losing a parent or having our heart broken. Most people understand what it can be to fall in love, to like somebody who doesn’t know you exist or somebody unattainable like a celebrity. Using the emotions that you have felt during your life is a good use of writing what you know. It can enrich your writing and bring your characters to life.

Another variation on this rule is to write what you read. This is some of the best advice that a writer could be given. If you already read and enjoy a particular type of genre, then you will enjoy writing it too. If you don’t read, then how will you know what you enjoy and which type of book calls to you on a deeper level? Being a reader is the first step to becoming a writer.

Do you write regularly? Do you think that you should write what you know or were rules made to be broken? Comment below.

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20+ fun things to do when you’re stuck in the house

Do you feel the need to find something positive to do this weekend? As a freelancer who works from home most of the week, I have never really felt that “stuck at home”. Even this week, I have managed to cope with working around (nearly grown up) children, school online and DH working from home. But the first weekend is looming when everyone has been home all week. What can you do this weekend?

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Get out in the garden.

Typical that the weather should improve now that we’re all staying indoors. Why not get out and do some gardening while you can? The fresh air feels good and a tidier garden will improve how you feel too. If it’s warm enough, why not take a book outside and enjoy some relaxing time?

Give a room a spring clean

Watch a family film.

Half the fun of finding a film to watch with your loved ones is the negotiation required to find a film that you all want to watch at the same time. Don’t forget the popcorn!

Play a game/ do a jigsaw

Time to brush off those old family games and give them another go. Why not have a retro game night where you play the games you used to play when you were in school? Cat’s cradle, dots and boxes, noughts and crosses would all be something different. Or you could play card games or even video games.

Create some art

Time to pick up the paint brushes, drawing pencils, collage materials and glue – and anything else you fancy having a go at. Try dragging the teen away from their games console to create something too. Pick up something that you haven’t done for ages, or search online for ideas. Getting creative is one of those things that is really good for helping you forget stressful things for a while. Pinterest is amazing for ideas or try this website:

https://craftulate.com/12-art-ideas-for-adults/

Even Googling ‘Art ideas’ will bring back an amazing array of images to try.

Brightly coloured knitted teddies

Write a poem with these prompts

Adult colouring pictures

There are lots of colouring pictures that you can print out and colour. They can be uplifting quotes, complicated pictures or more simple.

FaceTime your loved ones

Put on a family talent show

Everyone has to show off one talent in one crazy evening. Could be the start of something new…

Write a letter to someone

Watch a musical theatre production on YouTube or Facebook. There’s an amazing amount of productions moving online at the moment due to the theatres closing. Check them out and make a date with the ones you fancy.

Bake

And you get to eat the delicious results!

Have a pamper day

Time to run the bath, add the smellies and relax. Put on a facemask, manicure your nails and enjoy a pamper.

Plan a future holiday or trip

Put things together, ready for when you can next go out and enjoy yourself

Listen to a new album

Sort out your old photos

This is one of the things we are always putting off. You could sort through your old photos, enjoying the memories and create photobooks, or even just organise your archives.

Try a book by a new author

Enjoy time with your pet

Give them a cuddle or make them something new to play with. Pets can get bored too.

Learn a new instrument

Or brush up on one that you already play but learn a new song.

Collect old clothes for charity

Pen paper and cup of tea

Write a short story

Try some of the prompts on this website, or write a story that you have been thinking about for a while

Get in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while

Try yoga or tai chi through tutorials on YouTube

What are you going to try this weekend? Let me know in the comments below.

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