My Top Books on Resilience

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Reading is one of my all-time favourite pastimes.

You get to absorb yourself in another world and switch off from your own; you get to learn about faraway lands and places, some real, some make-believe; you get to while away an evening without the usual distractions of television or phones. These are some of the many reasons I love to read.

One subject in particular I love reading about is resilience. I love reading books about other people’s struggles, because you learn so much about their abilities to endure and come through stronger than ever.

These types of books are so inspiring for so many reasons. They motivate, uplift and make us feel empowered. They equip us with knowledge and show us a strength we didn’t know existed.

Here are my top books of all time on resilience:

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Written by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner.

A woman and a girl form an unexpected bond during the volatile events that shook Afghanistan during the past 30 years, including the Soviet invasion and the reign of the Taliban.

During a time when women were not allowed to leave their homes unchaperoned by a man and public stonings were the norm, Mariam and Laila manage to support one another through some of the toughest and most challenging circumstances, and the most inconceivable suffering.

This is an evocative and beautifully written book that makes for a very emotional read. Some bits were so moving they genuinely brought me to tears.

I would definitely recommend reading this book!

Total Number of Times Read: Twice. This is my favourite book, so I plan on reading it again sometime soon!

Pachinko

Pachinko is a novel about Korean immigrants living in Japan during the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910 (and beyond), when Japan formally annexed Korea. It is so interesting and I knew nothing about this situation before reading this book!

Again, the protagonists endure unparalleled suffering, including poverty, abuse and war. But their resilience in the face of unimaginable hardship is admirable and awe-inspiring.

Total Number of Times Read: Once; would love to read it again!

Memoirs of a Geisha

Young Sayuri is unwillingly thrown into the mysterious world of the Japanese Geisha, where she is forced to survive in the same okiya as the wicked Hatsumono, in the hopes of one day becoming a successful geisha herself.

This is an intricately woven tale of hope, beauty, innocence and the complex world of the Geisha.

Total Number of Times Read: I have lost count! At least 20, if not more!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

This is the first time I’ve read a book about Auschwitz, and I’m so glad I did.

Even though it was very difficult to stomach at times (it’s so difficult to fathom what went on in Auschwitz, and the book is based on interviews with Holocaust survivor, Ludwig Sokolov, so a lot of it is based on fact), I couldn’t put it down, namely because of the resilience that the characters demonstrated in the midst of the most terrifying and disturbing circumstances.

Total Number of Times Read: Once. Would consider reading it again!

What are your favourite books of all time? Leave a comment below!

I Doubt I’ll Make Millions from Freelancing, and that’s Okay

Since making the transition from full time employee to freelancer, a lot of changes have gone on in the world.

When I first started freelancing, it was less common and less heard of to work from home. Particularly in Cyprus, it was hardly heard of to work part time let alone to work from home, and the vast majority of jobs advertised were only offered on a full time basis.

While freelancing probably is not without its disadvantages, for me, particularly at this stage in my life, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Since I started freelancing in 2013, it’s certainly been a bumpy ride. I was lucky enough to land a major client fairly early on, but when that fell through in 2017, I felt shaken up, and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get back on my feet.

Since then, I’ve managed to build up a relatively steady stream of clients (and have had another child), so although the work sometimes feels like it’s not enough, I also feel like I’m able to strike a really good balance between working and parenting/managing all the other stuff that comes with being a working parent.

But with the rise of social media, I’m frequently bombarded with articles, emails, videos and social media posts on subjects like ‘How I Made my Millions from Freelancing’ and ‘Yes you CAN Charge $2,000 per post!’

While I don’t doubt that these posts aren’t true, I do think that this sort of success is difficult to come by. And while I believe in the law of attraction and the power of positivity, I also believe that if you do attain this level of success, it will come at a cost.

At this stage in my life, I’m happy to make a little bit of extra cash each month to support my family and put less financial pressure on my husband.

While I used to be obsessed with calculating my earnings each month from freelancing, some months I know have been much quieter than others, and if I’ve made close to nothing, I have learnt to accept that that’s okay.

Yes, we have monthly bills to pay and unanticipated payments always arise, but we always manage to work it out.

Because freelancing means that some months you’ll have made a decent amount, and others you’ll have made nothing! By being as organised as possible with our finances, we somehow seem to figure it out even during the most difficult months.

The flexibility afforded from freelancing has also meant that I’ve got more time to do other things, like meditate, work on my own website, focus on the kids and spend longer on my current workload, without feeling the pressure to get it done as quickly as possible in order to move on to the next task.

And as I said before, while each month definitely differs in terms of workload (and ultimately, income) for the time being, that’s okay.

As a working mum, there have been plenty of occasions where I’ve had to drop what I’m doing to go pick up one of the kids at a moment’s notice, and having the ability to do that means the world to me.

While I’d never say no to extra work, when it doesn’t come through as I’d initially hoped, I have learnt to accept that and move on.

For those of you out there who are making a fortune from freelancing, I salute you!

And while I may not be making millions from freelancing (far from it!), for now, I’m completely okay with that.

What are your thoughts on freelancing? Leave a comment in the box below!

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

Working as a freelancer is both liberating and frustrating. You get to work from the comfort of home – but also with only yourself for company.

While this doesn’t bother me, it definitely doesn’t work for everyone. Some people simply need to be surrounded by other people in order to work productively – and that’s absolutely understandable.

If you’re wondering what it’s really like to work from home and aren’t sure whether it’s right for you, read on for the pros and cons:

Pros:

Fewer Distractions

For me, one of the biggest benefits of working from home is that there are fewer distractions.

Yes, I am guilty of putting the washing machine or the dishwasher on, which can be incredibly annoying, but generally speaking, the house is so calm and quiet, and the only noises I can hear are passing traffic or, if I’m in the mood for it, the music I’m playing in the background.

While I do find I concentrate best in complete silence, sometimes when I’m working on something a little less demanding (like an upload or some admin), I do enjoy a chill out mix.

Set Your own Hours

Need to run to the post office or go to the bank? Working from home makes it so much easier to carve out time for errands or appointments which you don’t always want to schedule around your working hours.

The beauty of working from home is that you carve out your hours around your schedule.

As a working mother, there have been plenty of occasions where I’ve had to pick up my daughter from nursery at a moment’s notice, or stop what I’m doing to show the builder how to open the latch to the roof (the husband seems to love arranging for builders to come round while I’m home and he’s at work!)

But being at home reduces your frustrations around these unforeseen events, and I always feel so grateful that I can be home when I’m truly needed.

Increased Flexibility

Having the ability to set your own hours automatically equates to increased flexibility. If something non-work-related comes up in the morning, I simply pick up where I left off later in the day, or carve out time in the evening when the day just didn’t work out. I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder pressuring me to work during specified hours – I simply make up for lost time when my day hasn’t worked out as planned.

Cons

You Feel Out of the Loop

I have a long-term client who I’ve been writing for since 2013 and have gotten to know him and his team pretty well. They have head offices in Switzerland and I really love their work culture, ethic and philosophy.

It’s an amazing company and they’ve worked on some incredible projects, but sometimes, you can feel a bit out of the loop and it would be amazing to sit in on a meeting (physically) instead of being heard through a speaker!

The same goes for other clients. Yes, I’ve spoken via email, Skype or phone with countless clients, but there are so many of them that I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting in person.

 Sometimes, you can’t beat that physical interaction and the chance to get to know them and all their quirks! I’m really interested in body language and tone of voice, but if I’m not meeting them in person, I definitely miss out on these factors.

Where do you Draw the Line?

As I mentioned above (in the pros no less), working from home offers immense flexibility, but you have to be able to draw the line and switch off mentally from your workload.

When your work desk is right there in your face 24/7, it can be difficult to draw the line between work and home life.

But if you’re disciplined and focused, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds. As long as you are strict with yourself and learn to switch off when it’s time to switch off, working from home is definitely a dream come true.

What are your Thoughts on Working from Home?

Does the idea of working from home put you off or fill you with joy?

We’re all different, and that’s what makes the world go round. I for one love working from home. It suits my personality down to a T and fits in with my routine and schedule. It affords me amazing flexibility, and as a mum of two, this is a huge plus.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

My review of Headspace (& How it helps my Writing)

Image by Snapwire from Pexels.

I’m naturally a very busy ‘thinker,’ which isn’t necessarily a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing, but I wouldn’t mind having the ability to switch my brain off every now and then – or at least the sound!

I’ve wanted to get into meditation for years now but I took the wrong approach and never seemed to find the right time. I began with the book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, which is an incredible book but too deep/heavy for a beginner. Then I switched to various meditations on YouTube, chopping and changing depending on my mood.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across Headspace but I haven’t looked back since. After giving their Beginner’s Level 1 course a go (which is free of charge), I then did session 1 of Managing Anxiety, which is a 30-day course (the first audio is also free of charge). After that, I was in two minds about whether to invest in Headspace. First of all, you can get meditations for free on YouTube, and the app is quite expensive, especially when you compare it to services like Netflix for instance.

As I continued to commit to one 10-minute session a day, a ‘40%-off’ offer came by. I took the plunge and bought a 1-year subscription, vowing to try to commit to one 10-minute session a day.

In the first weeks, during those daily 10 minute meditations, not a lot changed for me, especially outside of the sessions. I still had lots of thoughts coming and going, and my brain rarely stopped ticking. As the weeks developed, I began to notice a small difference as I was meditating, and I occasionally managed to hold on to that calm, focused feeling for a short while after.

But then, without even realising it, the daily meditations began to impact my daily life, from how mindful I was during something as mundane as housework, to my level of concentration within a conversation. I have naturally become more mindful as I am driving (always a bonus), during a conversation with someone, or when writing an article. I now feel much more focused and ‘in the zone’ as I move from one activity to the other, finding more pleasure and enjoyment in whatever it is I am doing.

Image by pixel2013 from Pixabay

Image by pixel2013 by Pixabay.

As a writer, I’m often forced to be analytical and sometimes sceptical about things, and I wasn’t without my doubts when it came to meditation. But this app is definitely up there on my list of top investments!

Don’t get me wrong, like everyone else, I have terrible days where I feel like everything is falling down on top of me. Days where I worry ceaselessly, feel anxious or down in the dumps. Some days, meditation is much harder than others, and sometimes it feels as if my mind has been elsewhere for most of the session and that I’ve actually wasted my time bothering with a session.

But the truth is, I can’t imagine my life without meditation – and the Headspace app – and everything it has taught me so far.

I’m also truly grateful for the impact it’s had on my work. I have fewer ‘fuzzy’ days and my ability to concentrate while writing has definitely been heightened.

I can’t wait to continue with my meditation journey and see how my practice develops and evolves.

Has anyone else tried meditation? What have your experiences been like?

How to Create a Press Kit for your Business

I recently collaborated with an upcoming jewellery designer to create a press kit for her new brand.

Working closely with the designer, we created a press kit that appropriately represented her new brand whilst providing the right amount of information to potential press.

The kit needed to be professionally presented and structured in order to brief the press but also to ensure the information was correctly communicated.

I used an 8- step structure to create the kit, which consisted of:

1. The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the brand

This stage involved gathering as much information as possible from the designer. I wanted to create something that would provide the press with an all-round understanding of the brand whilst maintaining the brand’s messaging, voicing and integrity.

Here, I began the press kit with an overview of the company and some background information, including the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the brand. I wanted to keep the press kit professional and accessible, as the whole point of a press kit is to ensure that the press can access the information they need quickly and easily.

This section included information about the jewellery collection, including what the jewellery items were made from and where the stones and diamonds were sourced from.

We then provided information on how the brand was launched and where the source of inspiration came from for creating the jewellery collection, followed by details about sponsors and exhibitions.

For section one, I also created a Mission Statement for the company, as well as a paragraph of text outlining the company’s vision.

2. Biography of CEO/founder

This section is all about the founder/founders of the company, as well as any notable execs who require a mention. For the jewellery brand, we focused on creating a biography of the jewellery designer, including how she became interested in jewellery and jewellery design/creation, as well as some background information on her work experience and academia.

A biography is something rather personal so you have to collaborate closely with each individual to include the information they wish to be included, in a manner that they are happy with. When working with the designer, there were certain aspects that she wanted to emphasise, and others that she didn’t feel were necessary to mention. We worked carefully together on this section to ensure the content appropriately reflected who she is and how she wants to be portrayed.

3. Any recent Press Releases

If you have any recent press releases, these need to be added to this section.

4. Product/Services Fact Sheet

In this section, I emphasised what sets this jewellery brand apart from the competition. We focused on some key areas of the jewellery that are unique, including where the inspiration came from four specific pieces, what each piece is made from and some specific details about the materials used to create each piece. We also mentioned where the items are available to purchase and some information about placing orders.

Of course, this section is unique to each brand and can be structured in line with your preferences. Some businesses prefer an ‘FAQ’ style factsheet – it is totally up to you. What’s important is that you collaborate with the writer to ensure the section is structured and written in a manner that positively represents your brand and provides all the information the press would require in a clear and accessible way.

5. Case Studies

If your business or brand has received any customer testimonials, these need to be included here. They must be professionally presented and directed at the media, but must not have any promotional ties (remember the press kit is for the media and therefore not for marketing purposes).

6. Any Noteworthy Press Coverage

If the company has any press coverage or up-to-date media (including relevant news) this is where it should be showcased. Anything that shows that brand/founder as an industry leader should be included here. When including press coverage, the name of the original outlet and a link to the original article should also be featured.

7. Industry Awards, achievements and accolades

Here we included any notable awards, achievements, mentions and accolades the brand has received, including a brief description of each. The purpose of this section is to highlight the brand’s importance in its field and position it as a company the media needs to know about.

8. Contact information

Finally, it may seem obvious but a press kit is not a press kit without some contact information! This section needs (at the minimum) an email address and telephone number, but it would also be worth adding a website address, physical address and some social media contacts.

Press kits are unique to each and every business, but this is the structure I personally adhere to when creating one. It ensures that information gets included in a consistent, factual manner that is easily accessible to the press, whilst giving an opportunity to showcase the brand and what makes it special.

If you’re looking for a writer to create your Press Kit or other materials, get in touch!

 

Lessons from 4 Brands that Failed at Content Marketing

Green pencil with shavings

Let’s face it, not every business is going to get their content marketing strategy right, every single time. Even some of the world’s biggest brands have made mistakes, and the biggest positive is that we can learn from these mistakes when we implement our own marketing strategies.

With that in mind, here are 4 businesses that failed at content marketing, and what we can learn from those failures:

Malaysia Airlines

In 2014, Malaysia Airlines was struck with not one, but two flight disasters. In an effort to get the company back on track, they ran a contest asking people to send in their ‘bucket lists’ in exchange for free prizes. Since a bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die, people were quick to make the link between the previous accidents and the bucket lists – which didn’t bode well for the campaign.

Lesson: Think your campaigns through; be willing to cancel a bad idea before it plays out.

Levi’s

Levi’s infamously created a campaign that sold jeans with the tagline ‘Hotness comes in all shapes and sizes.’ The problem was, the image that went alongside it was of four women with very similar body shapes – tall and slim. The campaign was hugely unsuccessful and sparked immense controversy, with many people complaining that the ad was not an accurate representation of the average woman.

Lesson: Ensure consistency throughout your marketing campaigns to ensure that every step of the project has a cohesive and unified tone.

Nesquik

Nesquik’s campaign went off without a hitch, but the company soon learnt the hard way that this doesn’t always equate to success. they spent a great deal of money and a lot of time on creating a campaign that encouraged people to download their app that created bunny ears for your photos and pushed for a new “National Bunny Ears Day.” The campaign resulted in hardly anything and people had no interest in downloading yet another app that didn’t really offer much.

Lesson: Just because your marketing department loves it, doesn’t mean the public will, so put yourself in the shoes of your audience before launching a new campaign.  

Apple

If you’re an iPhone owner, you probably remember randomly receiving a copy of a U2 album onto your iPhone, without your consent or desire. At the time, Apple thought it would be a good idea to give everyone free music – regardless of music preference or storage space. As you can probably tell the campaign wasn’t much of a success!

Lesson: Offer content for specific promotions, but don’t force it upon people.

Having a strategy, goals and plenty of ideas will definitely help your business to achieve its content marketing goals. It’s also important to constantly analyse your content to gain insights into future creation. What’s worked for your brand so far, and what’s failed? Staying on top of your campaigns will definitely help you to stay ahead of the game!

Need help with your content marketing?

Then contact HQ Content Writer today to discuss your content needs!

Why Hiring a Freelance Content Writer Could be Right for You

Fresh, high-quality content is the perfect recipe for more leads and conversions and improved SEO rankings. By hiring a freelancer, a range of content will be delivered professionally including blog posts, articles, website content, SEO pages and much more.

If you’re thinking about hiring a freelancer writer but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, here are 6 benefits to bear in mind:

Get fresh, well-written, industry-relevant content

The amount of research, time and commitment it takes to create something completely new should never be understated. Professional freelance content writers perform plenty of research into the requested subject, taking their time to determine the right angle and tone of voice. Elements such as quality, grammar and appearance are also taken into account, as well as keywords, metadata and much more.

Increase conversions with CTAs

Freelancers are skilled and adept at writing strong calls-to-action. CTAs have the power to prompt customers, visitors or leads to take action, whether that action involves downloading your e-book, attending your latest event or contacting your company. Your CTA must be simple and to the point while being informative and engaging. It also needs to be positioned somewhere eye-catching to increase the chances of it being seen and accessed.

Increase SEO rankings

With competition so rife across the internet, it’s essential that your content is of the highest quality so that it attracts Google’s web crawlers, and ranks your site appropriately. Elements such as meta titles, meta descriptions, headlines, keywords and keyword phrases are all vital contributors when it comes to improving your search engine rankings. In turn, your target audience is more likely to see your content and respond to it.

Give your company a stronger brand voice

When a potential customer visits your website, they want to learn more about your company and what it would be like to work with it. It’s so important that your content establishes your brand voice, not just across your website but across all other channels including your social media platforms, emails and other marketing materials.

When you hire a freelancer, they’ll work together with you to craft content that reflects your branding and corporate message. Before you know it, they’ll know the ins and outs of your company so well that they’ll be able to create appropriately branded, well-written content quickly and easily.

Bring old content to life

When you scan through your current content, consider what can be refreshed and repurposed. Many times, the information is there, it just needs refining and tweaking to bring it up-to-date and make it more appealing to your target audience. This information can also be used to create new types of content, such as infographics, podcasts, email newsletters and webinars. This gives it even greater opportunities to reach a wider audience and improve your presence on the web.

Save time and money

Skilled content writers are superb timesavers. They get the work done, creating something carefully written, error-free and insightful. They deliver the results you want, in an eloquent, skilled way.

Have you considered hiring a freelance writer?

Freelancers are passionate, committed and always striving to exceed your expectations in order to work with you again. You’ll develop a direct relationship with the writer, and be able to communicate your exact needs.

Contact HQ Content Writer today to discuss your unique content writing needs!

 

 

 

The Benefits of Content Writing

Content is everywhere, from a leaflet that lands on your doorstep to an email that you just received from your favourite clothing brand. Everywhere we turn we are presented with content, and without even realising it, we are massively influenced by the content that surrounds us.

In today’s multifaceted world where we are presented with so many different options when it comes to communication, the world of content marketing has never been more diverse or exciting.

Just a few of the many examples include email and social media as well as text messaging, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and much more. As you can see, the means of communicating are almost infinite.

As a result of this, content writing is not some sort of passing fad soon to be replaced with something more exciting, but is a meaningful, powerful and important means of communication. It enables us to get our message across not only as individuals but also as businesses, and is a fantastic tool when it comes to promoting a brand, product or service.

As a business, it is vital that you take full advantage of content writing and its many capabilities.

Since beginning my career as a freelance content writer, I have helped countless businesses to get their messages across in an articulate, meaningful and clear way. I have helped businesses to resonate with their audiences, to communicate with them in a clearer brand voice and to successfully sell their products and services to audiences from across the globe.

This is the power of content marketing.

Content is definitely here to stay so if you’re seeking a steady, secure and reliable means of improving your SEO, promoting your products or services, communicating with your audience and increasing your client base, then it is definitely wise to invest in content writing.

Waiting for the Gift of Sound and Vision

When I read a piece of my written work, I listen to the way it sounds. Okay, I’m not writing poetry or the lyrics to a song, but that doesn’t matter. Regardless, my writing has to have a flow, a rhythm, and a pleasing sound, in order for me to be satisfied with it.

Just like the waves crashing against the shore, a car’s tyres crunching against a gravelled driveway or Bob Dylan singing “Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright” (some of my many favourite sounds), a piece of writing must sound satisfying.

Sound is just as important in your writing as other elements such as research, flow and quality of writing, so when you’ve finished a piece of work, read it and re-read it to hear how it sounds. Are you satisfied with how it sounds?

Great, then let’s move onto how it looks!

As David Bowie said in his song, Sound and Vision, “I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision.”

Just as sound is important to the flow of your content, so too is vision.

It’s vital for your work to be visually appealing.

It’s no longer okay to write heavy, chunky paragraphs laden with opulent, fancy vocabulary.

Your paragraphs need to be short, sweet and to the point.

When your audience sees a piece of text that looks visually appealing, they will be much more likely to dive right in.

Then, when it sounds just as good as it looks, they’ll want to stay with you – right until the end of the piece.

So sit right down, get inspired and wait for the gift of sound and vision to influence your writing and elevate it to the next level!

5 Common Spelling & Grammar Mistakes to Avoid to Improve your Writing

 

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I admit some of these still confuse me even though I’m a seasoned writer (nobody’s perfect:)), so don’t be afraid to refer back to this list during your writing to avoid making unnecessary mistakes.

Fewer than and Less than

Less is used for hypothetical quantities. E.g. “There are fewer than 30 children in my son’s class,” or “there are fewer seasonal fruits to choose from in winter.” On the other hand, less than is used for something that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural (e.g. money, time, air, rain, music.) E.g. “Susan eats less than me,” “It snowed less in Alaska this year.”

Affect and Effect

Once you learn the difference here, this one’s pretty easy. The key to remembering this one is that “affect” is almost always a verb (e.g., “The loud music affects my ears”) while “effect” is almost always a noun (e.g., “I love the effect that music has on my mood.”). While “affect” means to influence or create an impression, “effect” describes the result or the outcome.

Farther and Further

The word “farther” implies a measurable distance. “Further” should be reserved for abstract lengths you can’t always measure. e.g., I swam the ball fifty feet farther than Harry. e.g., The earthquake caused further implications.

Disinterested and Uninterested

Despite what most people think, these words are not synonymous. A “disinterested” person is someone who has an impartial perspective. For example, a judge or referee is disinterested because he or she is operating from a neutral perspective. If you want to write a sentence to imply that someone couldn’t care less, then the word you’ll want to use is “uninterested.”

Whether and If

“Whether” and “if” are NOT interchangeable, meaning you can’t replace one with the other. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives, while “if” expresses a condition where there are no alternatives available. E.g., I don’t know whether I’ll go to the party on Friday. e.g., I can’t go to the party on Friday if I don’t get paid in time. 

Which words confuse you the most? Leave a comment below and let me know!