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.

Red-and-white-heart-connected

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?

Hand holding small plant in soil

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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How to write a freelance Curriculum Vitae or CV

This post was first published in 2017 as Tips for Creating a Freelance Curriculum Vitae. It has been updated with new information.

When you begin applying for jobs as a freelancer, many organisations ask you to send a CV. This article will show you how to write an amazing CV that will help you to get the job.

Arnold Schwarznegger James Bond CV

A good CV will show a potential client your previous experience and where it ties in with the skills that they are looking for. It will show your skills and abilities and more importantly your portfolio of work experience. It will help you get the job. Each CV is individual to each person, but there are some things that should always be there.

Personal Details

Personal details – name, address, email, phone number where you can be contacted, and social media handles including Linked-In. You want to be contactable and these details need to be easy to find. It is a good idea to have separate social media accounts for private and business use.

Freelance CV Header

This CV example is a template from my word processor. You may find similar ones on the one that you use. I used this template to write mine.

The profile or personal statement is a summary of the skills you have learned from the work that you are doing. This should explain to the client the kind of work that you have been doing. It is possible to adjust your statement according to the work that you are applying for, just highlight the different skills according to the job description.

For example:

“Professional, freelance copywriter, who works with creativity and integrity, based in – shire, UK. She has experience creating content for a number of companies, to communicate clearly and effectively through blog posts, web articles, mobile web content and SEO articles, sales letters, landing pages, newsletters and social media, including Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. She has written regular blog posts on health and mental health stories, curates news stories and promotes new products and special offers. She is able to use a content management system to update product descriptions and add new products and images.”

or

“John Smith is a freelance copywriter, based in – shire, UK. He has been working as a freelance since 2010, and during that time, he has worked with a number of companies, to communicate clearly and effectively through blog posts, articles, web content, mobile web content, SEO articles and content, sales letters, landing pages, newsletters and social media including Twitter and Facebook posts.

John has written on a wide range of topics including marble and granite products, car mats, product descriptions, sports clothing, sports massage, serviced office space, travel, photography, the English language, Jane Austen and the Northern Lights.

John has been managing a social media account, for one of his clients, for the past 3 years. In the first two years, he increased their Twitter followers from around 500 to 2500, through organic posts and conversations. John writes regular blog posts on medical studies, curates news stories and promotes new products and special offers. John has also used the content management system to update product descriptions and add new products and photos.”

The first example does not use names at all, just a description,  the second example uses a name but in the third person. It is a matter of choice which you prefer. The first example has got me 3 or 4 interviews so far.

Key Skills

Something that I have introduced into my curriculum vitae is a list of key skills. These can change according to the job that you are looking at and the person description. More desirable skills for the role should be near the top.

Next comes the list of freelance work that you have undertaken. There should be a headline summarising the work, followed by a brief summary and a link to the work if there is one. Work should be in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. If there is anything utterly irrelevant then discard it. I am unusual in that I have a paid part-time job as well as working freelance, but I tend to include it as it shows I can work as part of a team as well as independently.

My CV then includes my education. This can include relevant courses or certificates that you have taken. You certainly don’t need to list out every single exam you have ever taken, but it is worth putting in the top qualification that you have got, again, particularly if it is relevant.

Testamonials

It is always worth asking former clients for testimonials and including them on a CV can look great. If clients have left a testimonial on a website for you, you can link to it. Always attribute quotes and I like to leave them more or less as they are. If there were a glaring error, I would ask permission to change it.

References

You should include a couple of references on your CV as you would on an application form. Check with the people you put down first to check that it is ok to offer their details. If you do not want them contacted before an interview, then say so.

The final thing is to keep your curriculum vitae to only 2 sides of A4 and to save it as a PDF. That way a potential client is not wading through reams and reams of writing. It is why it is important to choose the most relevant pieces of work to include in a CV. It is also why it is possible to adjust your curriculum vitae to reflect the work that you are applying for.

What do you include in your CV? Has it got you work? How often do you update it? Leave a comment below.

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Infographics, Coronavirus and Social Media – the best of the last 9 days’ blogs

It’s been a non-stop whirlwind of opinions, infographics and social media during the last 9 days. I’ve written blog posts on all kinds of topics and there have been lots out in the world to enjoy too. So to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out), here are the best blogs you (nearly) missed!

Heart of coloured pencils - love of writing

Comparing new business expectations to reality was a blog post about the wake up call that new business owners can sometimes get. Alongside the great expectations are tips to help you deal with the reality. Sometimes you need to take a step back and understand how far you have come.

Regina Byrne Coaching wrote a beautiful blog post on how to appreciate your team or colleagues. I really enjoyed it.

Infographic Alert!

Creating an infographic and posting it to Pinterest was a really fun thing to do. I have used Canva for several different things now and I am more and more impressed with it. I could not get my graphic to paste successfully to my website and have it readable. Sarah Arrow’s suggestion of 10 infographics in 10 days is definitely on my ‘To Do’ list!

During this time, I ended up taking a break from blogging, thanks to life. My post,  Blogs Interrupted has been the most noticed blog post so far. Sometimes life just happens and we are all having to adjust to new experiences at the moment.

We all deal with the way life is in different ways. I have loved Vaishakhi’s Beads of Hope series, where you can make a garland of beads of hope by posting beautiful things for others to enjoy.

Health Writer

I also chose to showcase my health writing skills when I wrote about 10 facts that China shared with the world, regarding their experiences of Coronavirus. It was a fascinating study, written from the Chinese point of view and I felt that some of the points would be worth sharing with a wider audience. I also shared my 10 tips to working from home for those who are used to working in an office. I really should share this with my husband, as I have been moved from my usual study so he can have his extra monitor in there! With my son home from school and my daughter home from university, we have all had to learn to carve out a bit of work space for ourselves.

Finally, if you want to see what I look like, I recorded a short children’s talk for my baptist church for last Sunday. It got a great response!

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10 tips to working from home when you’re used to being in the office

Many people are finding themselves working from home for the first time in a long time, or even ever! Adjusting to this situation, which has occurred very quickly could take some work. The children may be home from school and your partner may also be around more. There could be a lot of distractions, but you’ve still got to get work done. As someone who has been working from home for a while, here are some tips to being able to effectively work from home.

Laptop, coffee and cake on a duvet work from home

Set up a workstation. This may seem simple – but you need a chair that you can sit in comfortably, a good internet connection and a big enough screen so that you can see your work. It is best if you can find a space where no one else is, so that you can take telephone calls and conference calls.

You may also need to find a different space so that everyone can work. It is still best to supervise children while they use the internet. They should have work set for them, but it won’t take up the whole day.

Stick to Work Hours

Decide on your work hours. These do not have to be the same as your normal hours, as long as you can fit your work in. You need to take work calls into account, but allow yourself time to get away from the keyboard in the middle of the day.

Stick to your work hours. Once you start answering emails at 10pm at night, then there’s no going back! Well, there is, but it’s best not to start.

Make time for your loved ones too. Make sure you have time to connect with them and spend time with them. Equally, don’t let go of your work friends. Find some time together to chat or you could spend time in a team chatroom over lunch.

Ignore the Housework

Ignore the housework that is calling to you. Do it at the time that you normally would.

Make time for exercise. This might be pedalling an exercise bike, following a YouTube exercise video or going out for a walk in isolation. You really need at least 15-30 minutes of exercise every day.

Make time to connect and spend time with the children if you have any. If your children have just finished their school term, it could be a very strange and confusing time. Encourage them to get their school work done, but also to have down time and be more creative.

Take time away from the Screen

Give yourself some time away from the screen. Dig out the board games or even have a conversation so that you’re not constantly staring at a brightly lit screen. Get out in the garden if you have one or take a socially distanced walk.

Take advantage of the shows and concerts being live-streamed at the moment. Look for things that you would enjoy and make time to watch them.

Take time to be creative yourself and do something you enjoy.

Have you got any tips for someone working from home for the first time? Share them below.

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Sunday Church Children’s Talk

Today, I have been promoting my Sunday Church children’s talk.

I was due to lead an all-age worship service for the baptist church I attend, but it was decided fairly early on that it would move online. With my daughter’s help, I recorded both a children’s talk and a sermon bit.

 

I offer this as a piece of vlog! Enjoy.

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10 Facts that China have shared with the World about Coronavirus so far

The Chinese government have shared a document that explains what first happened when coronavirus or COVID-19 was discovered as a rapidly transmittable disease back in December 2019. They shared the lessons they learned and compared the disease to two outbreaks of virus that have happened within living memory: SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2002-3 and MERS in 2015. All three diseases share characteristics, and it may surprise you to know that SARS has mutated to a second strain and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) still isn’t considered contained.

Who am I to share these facts? I am not medically trained, but I have been reading and writing about medical studies for 5 years for a blog client. When you write regularly on a subject, you learn the language and look out for the studies that show the bigger picture. This disease has already affected most of the countries of the world on a huge scale and it has the potential to disrupt normal life for some time. I offer this, in the hope that someone who needs to, will read and understand why governments are taking the measures they are.

The facts

COVID-19 is very easily passed on from human to human through close contact. In the early days of the disease, the scientists noticed lots clusters of the disease in certain towns – between 2-4 cases each. These were caused by members of one household passing the disease on to each other.

The disease spread from one city to a whole country (China) in just 30 days.

It takes 5 days on average for an infected person to show the symptoms. This can give several days where the person is infectious but shows no symptoms, thus spreading the disease further. Some people have shown symptoms in as little as 2 days or as many as 14 days. Keeping away from other people when you think you may have been infected is a measure that could mean the disease is not passed by you. Current recommendations suggest standing 2m away from the next person.

Washing your hands thoroughly and regularly will not completely stop you from getting the disease, but it is an effective way to destroy the virus. The soap and water penetrate the water barrier around the virus and renders it inactive. The problem is, if you have been exposed to the virus, you might well have already inhaled it.

Not touching any part of your face when you are out and about is one of the best ways to prevent coronavirus infection. The illness could enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth.

The symptoms

The symptoms include a dry constant cough, a fever of over 37.5 and often includes difficulty breathing. That last symptom could get worse as the infection moves down into your lower respiratory system (lungs) and can cause pneumonia. Other symptoms that have been observed, but less often include a sore throat, headache, fatigue and some digestive issues.

You need medical attention quickly if your breathing becomes laboured, you feel a persistent pain or pressure in the chest, sudden lethargy or confusion, bluish fact or lips, revealing a lack of oxygen or if you are struggling to get going or get up.

The disease has been noted for making older people very ill. 87% of cases are people aged 30-79. Most 30 year olds would not consider themselves old, but it is the way the illness was reported in China.

People who have autoimmune disorders, diabetes, heart conditions etc are at risk and should stay well away from other people as a precaution even if they do not. A good measure is if you are  offered a flu jab every year, then you should take care not to catch the disease.

81% of the cases in China, had a mild form of the disease, 14% had a severe form of the disease and 5% a critical form. The death rate is 2.3%, which may seem low, but given the extremely contagious nature of the disease, with high numbers contracting it, the amount of people dying from the disease could rise hugely if unchecked.

Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK

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Blogs Interrupted

UK March 2020

Day 14 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Things have gone quiet round here. I’m still hoping to publish 30 blogs, but not in 30 days. The world seems to have gone mad: university students are being sent home, IT people are being told to work from home, schools are shutting and everyone is being told to stay home. I can’t think of anything to compare it to in my lifetime and I don’t think I will again.

The good news is that we have the internet to keep us sane. One of the consequences of the direction of non-essential gatherings is that churches are unable to meet. I was about to do an all-age service on Sunday. You know when I chickened out of doing a vlog post? Looks like I will be doing one after all – for my church!

So how do you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs?

Find the positive.

Thankfully, my children are old enough not to need supervision, although my son might if he is to do the work that the school sets. My daughter, the university student is coming home at the weekend and may not pay the third instalment of her accommodation. But what if your child is of the age where they are meant to be doing GCSEs? Or your children are too young to be able to be left?  Hopefully solutions can be found. Everyone’s situation is different and we will all have to find our own solutions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people – everyone has got a similar problem.

Allow yourself to be overwhelmed

I know, it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to feel the emotions in order to get past them. Then you can pick yourself up and find a way through.

Social distancing, not social isolation

These two things are very different. We need social distancing – to stay 1-2m apart to prevent the coronavirus spreading. In China, there were lots of clusters where family members from the same household all caught it. Finding ways to be apart while being together is going to be a crucial part of this time. No one wants to be socially isolated. Those online communities are going to matter more than ever.

Money matters

If this time is going to leave you financially worse off, then reach out to the people who can help sooner rather than later. Contact your bank, talk to the people you owe money too and make sure you take full advantage of any help the Government is offering, even if it is a loan. Businesses that were profitable before this virus will be profitable again after it. Take all the help you can get and make sure that you have money coming in.

Mental health matters

Do look after yourself and your mental health. Stay healthy, get some exercise, eat your 5-a-day fresh fruit and vegetables. Find some hobbies to do that can help you – knitting and crochet, painting or even journalling. There are lots of companies about to offer deliveries online – take advantage.

How do you plan to sit out the current situation in the UK or where you are? Keep in touch via the comments below.

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