The new iPad Pro 12.9 – a web designer’s dream

%name iPad Pro web design Norwich

I know I was fixated with Apple and tried, with counselling and support, to wean myself off this expensive habit, but it sucked me back in. That pesky iOS, suitable for a 3 year old or 93 year old, in its simplicity, made me return as an Apple sheep again.

Quick recap – when the iPhone XS and XS Max were released, I scoffed at that notch and their prices – £1499 for a mobile phone – and promptly, petulantly, traded in my iPhone 8 Plus for a Samsung Note 9.

The defection then saw me sell my Apple Watch, HomePod and go all Open Source with a Google Home Max and Samsung Watch.

Increasingly though, armed with an older iPad Pro and a Mac, I missed the integration. The omission of photos on phone being airdropped to Mac or iPad or stored in iCloud began to bug me and although the Note 9 took better photos, had a superior display and was excellent, I decided to divorce it and remarry an iPhone.

Now on a XS Max, I know it’s a better fit for my life as a Norwich web design freelancer, but an inferior product.

I’ve now gone the whole hog and invested in a new HomePod as I like taking iPhone calls on it and the sound quality is impressive and invested recently in a 3rd gen iPad Pro, which is lightning fast.

I had an 11 inch iPad Pro initially and despite reassurances that size didn’t matter in counselling I knew it did.

The problem is though that having invested in an 11 and 12.9, I prefer the 11 in so many ways. It’s so much a better size for surfing online and checking emails and social. It is a perfect tablet for casual use and professional.

There’s other reasons an iPad Pro in either size is great – photo editing and that pencil. I invested in a couple of low price editing apps and last year bought a low end Canon DSLR to take high res photos locally of Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Norwich as a hobby and SEO tool. The USB C to SD card dongle makes photo transfer a doddle and editing on the iPad Pro is easier than on the iMac in Photoshop. I love it.

The pencil too is great for when I’m proofreading for clients as I can mark up documents, adverts, PDFs in Notability and send them back for changes very quickly. That app Notability has replaced my beloved Moleskine notebooks and fountain pen too (pretentious, moi?) and notes from clients, lists of things to do sync across all devices. I can add titles like Naturally Vegan Food notes and find the scribbles I made on that website design very quickly.

As for web designing on the iPad Pro, certain elements are possible like changing content, images and colours, but the precision is lacking as the iPad Pro does not support an external mouse or easy import of docs and files.

iOS 13 though is supposed to address many of these issues and though Dark Mode is its hotly anticipated feature on the Beta release, I’m hoping for improvements that will make the iPad Pro a laptop slayer.

Working on one, watching YouTube, scribbling with that pencil, is so much more satisfying than working on my MacBook Pro or iMac.

I justify spending on them as it’s my primary job – I write for businesses, design websites and manage social media.

Being locked in a comfy Apple jail makes it so much more enjoyable.

Decent website but how are you driving traffic there?

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Decent website but how are you driving traffic there?

I design websites for clients. Done pretty well at it the last year too. 150 projects completed, with more stacked up, in line. I didn’t drive business though solely through this website or blogging prolifically. I’ve built a following, a big following on social media.

LinkedIn – 5000 connections and about 100 blocked.

Facebook – 710 likes and reach that regularly exceeds 1000 and way more with paid ads.

Instagram – 2500 followers.

Twitter – similar.

Pinterest – 1.3k monthly visitors.

Pretty good for a sole trader who has been in business for under 4 years, don’t you think?

This website is no slouch either in terms of visits. 

Many blog posts, promoted on social media, can generate 1000 visits in a week. Some less. Obviously.

My point is this though – you’ve probably invested good money in a website, paid someone to add the social pages and promptly forgotten about why the website and social is there – to generate business.

A website is only a tenth of your digital marketing, in my opinion. Yes it showcases your products and services, gets you found in time on search engines but social media should account for 90% of your online revenue. Social media should make you stand out from the competition.

I’m lucky in that I can write. I’ve got a 2.1 degree in English (big I am) and a lifetime of motivating my customers – hormonal teenagers – to buy into my business, which was teaching.

I knew full well though that when I set up the business 4 years ago, it would be a slow burn to make it a success and the website that was designed for me then bears no resemblance to what it is now – and in 4 years’ time, it won’t look as it does now.

That website was to give me some online credibility, sate my creativity and a project for me to work on. I’ve expended more time working on Get Pro Copy than I ever imagined. I love it though and love the returns I see. 

Social media marketing comes naturally to me as I’m an internet whore. I know what interests me and what bores me. I know the strategies to position yourself as an expert, to walk the walk and talk the talk. 

Cut to the chase, I hear you say?

Your website is probably getting very little attention for one reason – you’re not driving traffic to it. Content marketing does that. Blogging does that. An active and engaging Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram feed does that. 

Ok, you’re too busy to be messing around on social media. You’re still pissed off that you were charged £2000 plus VAT for a website that has done little.

It doesn’t have to be like that though at all.

You outsource your social media, your blogging to someone reliable, creative and responsible.

Me.

I’m a reliable brand ambassador who won’t get pissed and start an argument on your company pages (I save passive aggression for my own channels, mainly LinkedIn, which I love and hate). 

I don’t go for the white noise of sell, sell, sell.

We all fast forward through TV ads, we skip YouTube ads after 5 seconds and mass delete sales emails and direct messages.

No one wants to be sold to. 

My network knows what I do – write, design websites, mark exams, walk the dog, and manage social. I don’t need to tell the world that every status update – 1 in 8 will suffice.

So no sell, no yawns.

I do it already for quite a few companies and those who’ve stuck with it have seen returns, big returns. It’s not guaranteed though – but your chances of being found on search, building tribes of followers in social are much higher than if you leave that website and those dusty social pages in a coma.

I have extensive experience of generating results for companies. I don’t charge daft prices or tie you in. If you think it’s not working, you stop. I may try to persuade you otherwise if I can see growth. 

I work for individuals and companies based in Norwich and locally; I work for high profile individuals in London (who presumably are too tired from commuting) and others whose websites I’ve designed, who haven’t got the time or inclination to post a daily interesting status on their once inert social channels.

Have I piqued your curiosity for blogging or social media marketing? Or have I been too salesy? Look too at the social media icons on this page and you judge if I demonstrate social media marketing prowess on a daily basis with my own business. 

If you like what you see and don’t want to become a hostage to an expensive web design or marketing agency, drop me an email: [email protected] any time. 

WordPress web design Norwich – a no brainer.

%name wordpress web design Norwich

Why should you use WordPress web design Norwich and elsewhere?

I’m not religious at all, not a zealot, but I do try to convert people all the time – firstly into using WordPress web design Norwich and, much to the chagrin (coughs up dictionary) of web developers and agencies locally, convince people to work closely with a freelancer instead.

Why WordPress?

It’s a simple and fast interface, tried and tested millions of times over with a vast range of plugins, themes and versatility. It’s used by giant companies to sell their products or services, like Apple I’m told. Their website is a masterclass in sleek minimalism I’d say and it’s a WordPress website.

WordPress also makes a website build easier, particularly once you’ve mastered its intricacies, its foibles, its oddities.

If Apple trusts WordPress as their digital marketing platform to stand out from the crowd, shouldn’t you?

The other aspect about WordPress that shouldn’t be underestimated is that search engines readily index it. I’ve recently taken on a couple of Squarespace and Wix sites that were invisible on Google. By that, I mean even a search for them by name yielded nothing.

Now there may be other reasons? No site map submitted? No verification on Google My Business? But it does seem to hold true with so many non-Wordpress websites I see. A website built with WordPress seems to do better on Google in Norwich and elsewhere, I’d say.

The other great aspect of WordPress web design is that they are responsive. I laugh when I see web design agencies levying a monthly fee to make a website mobile friendly. Any good theme comes with that built in and you shouldn’t have to pay. Ever. If they want to charge, swerve them.

Some web developers claim to code from scratch but to me, it’s like saying I want to get to France by car; I’ll build a car from scratch when you can buy one new or used locally.

I highly recommend WordPress and premium themes for a responsive, easy to use website.

Now on to the agency bit.

Yes you do have specialists in a web design agency. You have coders, writers, social media “experts”, graphic designers, illustrators, photographers perhaps but you pay a steep price for this extensive experience and expertise.

I’m a freelance web designer and copywriter. I dabble in photography but my results are mediocre compared with a professional photographer. My logo designs are not the best. But guess what? I have a vast network of trusted connections I can call on to do graphic design, create logos, take photos.

I have my own web design agency, if you like, of trusted freelancers, who I can outsource to, without charging an arm and a leg to customers.

What I excel at (apart from modesty) is the full package of digital marketing, particularly social media and content marketing.

Having taught English for 27 years from Years 5 to Year 13, I have a way with words, extensive experience with serving my subject to a tough audience of 13 year olds on a Friday afternoon. I run another venture called Get Pro Marking as a nod to the past.

I began that career in a brutal church school in Oldham and aptly ended my career in a brutal church primary school, locally.

Spells in teaching in Manchester, Bolton, Stoke, Doncaster and Scunthorpe saw us relocate with two kids in tow to Norfolk 11 years ago, initially as a teacher but more recently as estate agent, writer and web designer.

The last six years have probably been the best of my life and I don’t use hyperbole often.

Exaggeration, in other words.

You and your Norwich business, or Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft company (or wherever) need words that make you stand out from the competition and as content marketers and web developers know, words are the most difficult part of web design. Projects based in Norwich or further afield can be put on hold for months because the words aren’t ready.

But when words are ready, this WordPress web design Norwich freelancer goes full steam ahead.

I’m a graduate in English, admittedly from the days when mullets were the height of sophistication, but I’d like to think that this expertise and experience is better than that found in most Norwich web design agencies.

Social media marketing is something I do well too. Look at my channels linked on here and decide for yourself whether I walk the walk. I pin on Pinterest, vlog and write on LinkedIn, post on Twitter and my Facebook page and positively go mad on Instagram with stories and updates.

I don’t sell, sell, sell constantly but what I think I’ve got from that classroom audience again is an ability to motivate and entertain.

How many Norwich web design companies are led by a classroom clown?

Just one – me – at Get Pro Copy Ltd, who specialises in copy and WordPress web design Norwich.

Contact me to find out more.

Affordable web design Great Yarmouth – where?

%name affordable web design Great Yarmouth

Are you looking for affordable web design Great Yarmouth – if so, this freelancer can help.

If I drive 3 miles down the A143, the congested route of Beccles Road, or the A47 (formerly A11, renamed to make us think we’d got a new dual carriageway?), I arrive in Great Yarmouth. It’s a funny place, desperately rundown in parts, yet with buildings and beaches that if they were in Aldeburgh, Southwold or North Norfolk, would have second homers flocking here.

It’s a town that is in need of inward investment and some increase in living wages as the poorness of the area is clear for all to see. In Norfolk terms, it seems an incongruous place, particularly given the regeneration of its neighbouring town, Gorleston, which, in my 11 years here, has seen massive improvement in amenities and property prices.

Great Yarmouth though is not so Great, which to my eyes, wandering the town and its periphery today is a bit of a shame.

Politically, I don’t align with the dominant politics here, yet I do feel some pride in what this freelance web designer and copywriter unearths on visits every month or so.

Great Yarmouth market

Take the market place. It’s a bit forlorn in parts, and rescued mainly by the many chip stalls. It’s surrounded by grand buildings, that have seen better days admittedly, that show its former stature.

Daniel Defoe called Great Yarmouth a finer place than Norwich – I think his opinion would probably change now.

The Fisherman’s Hospital, 1703

But wandering away from the gulls and chips, there’s a fisherman’s hospital on the east side, with almshouses and impressive statues and wall plaques dating from 1703. Across the road, St Nicholas Church or the Minster, is the largest parish church I believe in Britain. It has several claims to fame – Anna Sewell, of Black Beauty fame, was born next to it and the churchyard was notorious for body snatching.

Head east and Sainsbury’s car park is lined with medieval castle walls; these remnants are dotted around the town.

Northgate Street is home to houses of real historical merit, one of which we viewed and have written about before here, and the oldest residential building is in this area – dating back to pre 1400.

That’s some history.

South Quay is arguably more impressive – it looks out over the Yare and the herring trawler that is free to visit that marks the town’s fishing past, the Lydia Eva. The town hall is magnificent, as is the former Post Office, Star Hotel and banks that line this section.

Museums, like Elizabethan House and the Nelson Museum dot the quayside along with impressive Georgian structures like the Port Commissioner’s home, which is beautiful. I chatted today with the owner there as I was taking photos and learned more about its heritage and history.

The Rows also run along North Quay and South Quay – alleyways that are still numbered with many being cleared or bombed in World War 2. These provided access between the town centre and quayside and were bustling, I’d imagine, back in the day.

Time and Tide Museum sits off South Quay, as does the impressive Tolhouse Gaol, which is 13th century.

The seafront is no slouch either – the Hippodrome circus remains Britain’s only surviving permanent indoor circus – and the shows are superb; grand Georgian hotels, the wooden rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach and the iconic Snails in Joyland, which are listed. There’s a Royal Naval Hospital which is now residential and sought after as a place to live.

The beach is brilliant, with the sea cleanliness rated as excellent by the Environment Agency, as I blogged about on The Old Hall Caister’s website here.

The town of Great Yarmouth, from the outside looking in, has lots of potential. It has wealth from offshore and tourism, but I feel needs an injection of cash, lots of it, to make the town have some renewed civic pride.

It has beaches, broads, woodland walks and, despite my constant itchy feet for movement, Great Yarmouth is the place I’ve called home now for the longest period of my life.

That should tell you something about the town and area.

If you as a local business, based around here, need help with digital marketing, social media management, content marketing or affordable web design Great Yarmouth, I’d be delighted to help.

Does greed kill Norwich web design agencies?

%name web design Norwich

I don’t gloat when I see a web design agency locally or further afield go under, or cease trading. Far from it, I’ve been there myself in education – when I was metaphorically thrown under a bus – but that trauma is the past, a foreign country, it has become.

When I heard that a town I used to work in, Bolton, is so indebted as a football club, that no employees have been paid in March and April, it saddened me.

Admittedly, those footballers on high salaries shouldn’t need to panic, perhaps, but the groundsmen and women, admin staff, cleaners, cooks, physios etc, will be worried. No wonder.

I do think though that, in the context of many web design agencies, and possibly footballers, they’ve sacrificed themselves on the altar of pure avarice.

Locally to me, here in east Norfolk, I know of one web design agency who charge £199 + VAT per hour and another in Norwich who top trumps them at £400 + VAT per hour. Only this week, I pitched and won a web design contract, where the lowest quote nearest me was £3500 more.

Now don’t get me wrong.

I’ve few overheads. I work from home. I don’t pay for an office space, commuting, parking or employees. I’m a one man band. Sole trader in my own Ltd Company. Therefore, after tax, liability insurance and living expenses, much of my modest hourly rate for copywriting, management of social media marketing, web design Norwich and elsewhere, is profit.

I’m sure if I had a team of 10 developers, a large office, pensions etc to pay, £200 per hour would be logical. But it’s not for me. Nor for the target audience I’m working for.

ASOS, Amazon, eBay, Next are not going to come knocking on my front door, asking me for a new website or copy. Course they’re not. My target audience is start-ups, small and medium sized businesses who can’t afford web design agency prices but perhaps want the more customised approach of a freelance web designer and their prices.

Horses for courses.

I’m over the moon that two large companies with hundreds of employees in Great Yarmouth and Norwich have had me pitch to them for web design and each company (who I’ll showcase soon) have said Yes to my proposal.

That thrills me, no end, because it means that from scratting around a few years ago for copywriting, web copy and social media, I’m actually dead busy now.

It’s because my service is good, my prices are keen and I’m hungry to dominate the local web design market, by not growing or becoming greedy.

The Old Hall at Caister, with the lovely manager, Mike Gilbert, entrusted me with a web design and writing for him. Matthew Clarke, a mate, had his photography website done by me. Same with JS Swimming Pools. Ditto, Envision CAD and the delightful man, David Frazer, who is Gorleston-based.

None of these clients, who’ve become friends, have turned round and tutted at what I’ve done. On the contrary, they’ve paid for further services.

Further down the A12, I became quite handy with flooring websites in Chelmsford and Hornchurch with Softlay, Athena Flooring Contracts, Murexin and Simply Flooring Contracts and have since done other websites in the flooring industry in Bolton and Reading.

You see, when work stacks up, I don’t sigh or shudder, I embrace it. Yes there’s an expectation that I’ll turn websites round quickly, but there are inevitable delays as I do work solo and do have other tasks to cover and prioritise.

My point is this though – I won’t become so greedy that I’ll grow to hire a team, invest in offices. No. I’m happy with no commute, few overheads working with clients who see the quality of work I do and accept that sometimes lower prices can mean better quality.

I drive a decent car, have a great lifestyle and am happy.

Next year, I can officially retire too.

Money is nice, but delivering a service that is liked and loved is more satisfying, I believe.

What more could this freelance web designer and copywriter want?

Am I on holiday in Norfolk, still?

%name web design Norwich

We say it every time we travel down the Acle Straight, towards home, which was Gorleston until 3 years ago, and now Bradwell, a suburb of Great Yarmouth. Not the eponymous “Are we there yet?” but does it still feel like we’re on holiday here?

Last weekend, heading back from Norwich  the question, usually habitual, wasn’t raised. Bet you’d love to be a part of the riveting conversations the Waltons have!

Let’s rewind.

We moved here in July 2008, gifting the house away in Crowle, near Scunthorpe, for a fresh start in an area I’d cycled through once and loved in 1994, with a teaching colleague, Dave Southern from Bolton. We’d parked at Hunstanton and toured East Anglia by bike, ending up in London and then heading back to Hunstanton.

Coming from Bolton, the weather in Norfolk amazed us – warm and dry for a two week cycling tour, and I decided then, single and childless, Norfolk would be a future home.

Two teaching jobs secured locally, for myself and my wife, we upped sticks and to the anger of our then 7 year old son and 1 year old daughter, who didn’t understand events, we moved south and east.

There’s been good times and bad times here professionally, which are well documented.

But Norfolk, Great Yarmouth, after 11 years, is beginning to feel homely, even though my heart belongs in the north, I like where we live and I love the lifestyle and climate. So much so that I may be reluctant to forsake Norfolk in 6 years’ time if we do make the trek back north to County Durham, where we stayed last week at Grace’s Retreat.

I designed that website and was smitten, as usual, by the area – which I blogged about here.

But heading back from a long day in Cambridge three weeks ago and Norwich more recently, that choral conversation of “Does it still feel like we’re on holiday here” never reared its tedious head and instead other conversation flowed.

Perhaps, at long last, after living here for almost 11 years, Norfolk is home and my SEO efforts to climb page rankings as a freelance web designer Great Yarmouth and Norwich are absolutely worthwhile.

I’m getting found locally, and not just in woods  and being commissioned locally to write and design websites – my passion from my Norfolk home office.

Distance is no object though – if you’re looking for a web designer in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, or Lowestoft or you’re in Edinburgh, Manchester, London or Cardiff, I’m happy to oblige with market-leading prices with no corners cut.

Wherever you’re based, I can help your business grow.

Contact me today.

Apple to Android and back again

%name Norwich Apple Store

I’m a fickle, feckless spender of earnings and having defected from the walled garden of Apple before Christmas to Android and a snazzy Note 9, this week I knocked on the orchard door and asked to be let back in – wearing the metaphorical sackcloth and ashes.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Note 9 was a superior device to the iPhone 8 Plus it replaced; Android was no longer the mess it used to be and Android let me access anything online without restrictions.

But this week, I entered the Apple chapel, in Norwich, knelt before the blinkered hipster staff and prayed for a safe return.

With profits sliding, from an almighty 1.1 trillion in case you’re tempted to weep, I was welcomed with open arms.

The prodigal son returned with a fatted lamb in the form of an XS Max (forgive my biblical ignorance if the analogy is inaccurate, as I stopped believing in God from the age I could reason – about 10 years old).

It’s good to be back too, as my primary work device is a 2016 iMac 27, which syncs beautifully with all iOS devices, but petulantly refuses to even phatically acknowledge the Note 9 perched on its wireless charging plinth, just 5cm away.

Plonk an iPhone near it and there’s an almighty digital ejaculation.

I went back.

This Norwich web design freelancer broke the adage – never go back.

In many ways, the Note 9 is a superior device – the screen, the battery, the S Pen, the widgets, the layers, the camera, but, alas, the iMac and iPad Pro refused to cohabit so it had to reluctantly leave.

I traded it in and got an exceptional price and bought a new one from one of these trading shops, where I went all Arthur Daley raiding drawers and cupboards for old tech like iPhone 5s models and old Samsung handsets and the like.

With my Note in Grade A condition, and the bag tipped on the counter, I could get an upgrade for far far less than with my network or in the Apple chapel. I did it. Stumped up cash walking out with a fine XS Max with vast memory so that the iMac and iPad Pro would stop sulking.

Why change?

I like change. I like trying new devices. The Apple iOS is still redolent of that on my first Apple device – an iPhone 4 and the tiled layout is a bit shit, tbh, after Android, but the chip, the A12 Bionic chip set is superb, better than the Snapdragon in the Note 9 which was no slouch. It is like a knife through butter and the way it talks to the iMac makes for a happy desk.

I’ve also pissed around in recent weeks, with various smart speakers: my office desk began with a modest Echo, then upgraded to HomePod, which I sold on eBay last week and then to a Google Home Max, which is terrific in terms of sound and Google Assistant.

But the Home Max looks odd now on the desk – it looks like someone in the Apple store without tattoos and piercings, I guess, so yesterday a new HomePod was bought. Again, its integration with the iMac, iPhone etc is staggering and I realise now why Steve Jobs was so evangelical about a locked digital tech space – once you buy one product, you’re hooked.

I had 6 months in Apple rehab, but alas now I’ve returned and to be honest I’ve no regrets.

Until next month?

LinkedIn – the best place to promote your services

I’ll start with a fairly obvious opening gambit – if anyone on LinkedIn sends me a connection request, followed within nanoseconds by a sales pitch, I turn all Shania Twain.

If someone sends a follow up to the message Ive acknowledged with a thanks but no thanks, Shania Twain morphs into Joe Pesci and they get removed and blocked as a connection.

No one, including me, as Twain or Pesci, likes a sales message.

LinkedIn is however my best platform for sales, followed by my website, Instagram and Facebook, with Twitter, for me, pissing around in the background.

LinkedIn, done properly, delivers and we all know that old saying people do business with people they like so a copy and pasted message offering you an app, a virtual PA is not going to get me inviting you for fondues in Norfolk.

No.

You have to find a tribe, a network of like minded followers – in my case, nice people who post interesting stuff and don’t gob off about Maseratis, Rolex watches and send canned messages.

I’ve just had a month on LinkedIn Premium and will be making it permanent next week as I did feel its search tools, its InMail facility and ability to send unlimited connection requests (without that sales message) was valuable.

But if you’re not Premium, I’ll give five salient points for using LinkedIn to engage, grow business and have a laugh along the way at the smattering of pompous bellends who pop up on your feed.

  1. Make it clear what you do in your LinkedIn headline with a decent headshot (mine goes from corporate to dogging in woods as the mood captures me). My headline and location is clear: Web Designer and Copywriter. Owner of Get Pro Copy Ltd. Norwich, UK. No one likes a smart arse (apart from Mike Winnet, who is worth being on LinkedIn for, on its own – a satirical genius) who posts riddles in a headline. I design WordPress sites and I write. I could clutter it with saying GCSE English exam marker, ex teacher who had a breakdown, keen shopper, snob, Nespresso lover, driver of a BMW – but you get my point? If you’re after someone to write and design a website, let me loose.
  2. Engage in conversations and be yourself. I know this is hard if you’re toeing a company line, with a bellend of a boss, who micro-manages and monitors your every interaction. That’s not living. That’s contributing more vapid white noise on a platform that has moved away from comatose self-congratulation. Be politically correct – because it is correct, I believe – but don’t be a drone, droning on about yourself and boring everyone to tears. If you work for a twat, consider something else – you get one life, you’re not a tree, so move.
  3. Write articles sparingly. They used to get reads of 400 to 500 within a week when I posted on here but the algorithm seems to have buggered it up. 7 likes and 17 reads is now the new reach on LinkedIn, which is fairly shit. Post a snippet of an article that leads to a website and you may add the link in the comment to improve reach and trick the LinkedIn police if you can be arsed.
  4. Block people. It’s your feed. It’s your place to promote you, your brand and engage. In the schools and companies I’ve worked in I never sat with bellends over breaks and lunches to chat – so why should I on LinkedIn? It’s my staffroom, my feed and I do block people who irritate me, politically or business wise.
  5. Groups. Like articles, a waste of time. I’m a member of LinkedIn groups, but do I see the posts in there on my feed? Never. So why bother?

The last point I’d make is that it is much easier to be ballsy when you’re in sole charge. No suit will tap me on the shoulder in my office and say “Stuart, have you got a minute?” It’s one of the reasons I left employment. Being self-employed as a writer and web designer means those “difficult conversations” (apart from with the wife) never occur.

I love LinkedIn, I love self employment, I love having no bellend bosses or colleagues. I’ve thrown off the chains and shackles. It’s great. I even love Mondays.

When are you going to become your own boss and yourself on LinkedIn?

Web design courses Norwich from this ex teacher?

%name web design courses Norwich

Should I start offering web design courses Norwich? Read on.

When I was at school, apart from English Literature, the curriculum seemed utterly pointless. The cookery teacher made Gordon Ramsay look a model of patience, maths consisted of repetitive drills, history was about roads and canals, geography was colouring in – still is apparently.

Obviously what I’d like to learn now didn’t exist – I’d love to speak French fluently but my memories of lessons back then were saying my name and age for 3 solid years, a skill I’ve never used in France ever.

Web design didn’t exist, because the nearest we got to technological ejaculation was a Casio digital watch and Pong – Google it if you’re under 40.

I’ve learned web design in the past few years in partnership and through adding content to websites directly. I’ve never ever enrolled in web design courses Norwich as to be honest I like independent learning. I do keep saying this to a point of sounding like a stuck record – web design is not particularly difficult, it’s the content that is most challenging.

Buying a domain, adding it to a hosting package, installing WordPress and adding pages is a piece of piss.

Time-consuming yes; difficult no.

Not when you’ve learned how. I did this one reasonably quickly.

I consider it a bit like me being forcibly removed from Britain for my Remainer views, stripped of my nationality and having to relocate to France, muttering “Je m’appelle Stuart; j’ai quinze ans” to the disbelief of locals.

I’d be immersed in France and mingling and would learn to speak and write it fluently within, I reckon, about a year.

I’ve been tinkering with copywriting and web design for 4 years, and I’m pretty fluent in both now, just, as I would be, if the Home Office removed my nationality and said “Off you go to Lille.”

I’d manage and become proficient quickly – just as I have with web design.

Web design courses Norwich – or Great Yarmouth – or Lowestoft – or wherever – are something I should probably consider doing, given that I enjoy an audience and love imparting information and coaching after 27 years in education.

WordPress could become my new “Of Mice and Men”.

Those PowerPoints, mouldering in forgotten folders called Poetry, could be adapted to a guide to making a website secure; compressing images for fast rendering; how to write and append a GDPR Privacy Policy in a website footer.

Okay, it’s not quite as exciting as Lennie busting Curley’s hand in Chapter 3, but, trust me, the appeal of that faded on its 20th read to classes.

What do people think?

Has this web design courses Norwich (or elsewhere) idea got legs? Would people pay to attend a workshop and come out with the basics of designing a website and become my competition?

Or should I just stick to knocking out websites for clients, undercutting web design Norwich agencies for both value and service?

I’m not sure, tbh.

Is Norwich city centre recession-proof?

Apart from Thorne, Doncaster, a place I spent 18 years in from birth to university, I’ve never remained anywhere as long as we’ve stayed in Norwich, Norfolk. I’ve had a few bad experiences here, in the recent past, in education, but even that, with hindsight, was a massive favour. I had fallen out of love with teaching and a collective kick from various people propelled me into what I now love doing: writing and web design Norwich.

We’ve been here 11 years in July, a Personal Best, and I honestly never thought our time here would be so lengthy. Dare I say it, after the experiences 5 years ago, I actually like living here, in Bradwell, a gridlocked suburb of Great Yarmouth.

Gorleston, close by, was home for 8 years, and our move to a new build 3 years ago was hardly an epic trek – with it being just 2 miles.

I love Norwich city centre too, and, as someone who likes eating out and shopping, it is a great county capital.

It seems to me too to be fairly recession-proof. The blight that is obvious in so many city centres – failed businesses, shuttered premises, empty retail units, vacant restaurants are lacking in Norwich. Admittedly we’ve seen changes to the city centre in our 11 years here, but it’s not dramatically altered and is rightly, as it calls itself, “a fine city”.

Property prices are not low there though, even though statistically, wages are below average, I read. You won’t get much change out of £200,000 in the city centre, which may strike you as cheap if you’re comparing London or expensive if you’ve got other comparables.

The cost of living is quite high too.

Eating out in Norwich is relatively expensive, I think, and the costs of goods and services (to go all old skool) is high – getting a wall built or a decent discount on a car is challenging in Norwich and Norfolk. 

But I’m trying to buck the local trend with my WordPress website offers.

I was talking with a joiner last week, who’d been looking at getting a website, with the lowest quote being £500 plus VAT for a simple brochure site. He’s now bought into my deal for £299 no VAT. Northern prices in an eastern county. The websites are not poor either and I don’t compromise on service or what’s included as you can see in the image or my prices.

Obviously, this is just one aspect of my work – if you’d like to know more, contact me today.

 

Do you subconsciously avoid clicking Google ads?

When I launched my first business six years ago, I was smitten by the Google ads offer of £75 in free advertising for Pay Per Click in return for a £25 investment. Seemed an absolute no-brainer back then. I sculpted an enticing advert within the set Google parameters, paid my money and watched as the business (an independent estate agency) appeared at the top of page one for various search terms for over a month.

The £100 quickly expended and we had the grand total of one fairly pointless lead from a couple who’d viewed a bungalow in nearby Lowestoft and wanted us to drive to Ipswich to value theirs. We didn’t as it’s too far and Ipswich was never our Google PPC target. It taught me back then that, in my experience at least, PPC for an estate agency was fairly pointless.

I know too that as a consumer, when I’m surfing Google, I don’t click paid ads – along with most other people it seems. My subconscious somehow kicks in and nags “don’t click”.

Don’t get me wrong – I have connections who swear by PPC and its success, but it hasn’t worked for me and I’m reluctant to spend money on it again, as I’m not sure I’d get clicks for “web design Norwich”, “web design Great Yarmouth” even when sitting above the big web design agencies in Norwich.

I prefer the organic growth of blogging and social media, providing answers and value in a series of researched (and sometimes random) articles that take more time to generate than a Google ad and yet seem a better proposition long-term.

Content marketing should be high on your business priorities, along with an inventive social sharing strategy, so people recognise your brand, begin to trust your advice and when the time comes for them to buy a product or service they pick you.

Because of the information you’ve provided consistently, and not simply through a 50 word Google ad, you get selected in front of others. 

In theory at least.

In my own freelance web design business, I always advise this strategy.

Create a blog / news / information page and write articles on there – not for the sake of it, or to kill time, but because Google rewards fresh content and customers love reading new stuff.

If you’ve not got the time or ability to write, there’s legions of copywriters out there, able and willing to craft engaging, optimised copy.

Like web designers, some take the piss with price, but most have a reasonable hourly rate that shouldn’t cause too much financial strain on a business. Mine is here. Discounts too for bulk orders. 

If you don’t want to succumb to PPC, invest in a company blog which can go in your newsletters, email campaigns and printed literature, as well as across social media channels.

Trust me, it works.

I hate meetings but love meeting in Norwich

%name web design Norwich

Today, someone asked me to meet in Norwich and as I’d intended to meet someone anyway, my diary shouted “Go.” 

Normally, client meetings irritate as the time spent over coffee could be spent on actually designing, writing and marketing. I’m not anti-social but have been mightily fed up in the past when a 60 mile round trip, £5 parking bill and a lunch over 2 hours, results in nothing coming of it.

But today, I felt that because this client had seen a website launched for a local hotel for Mike Gilbert, The Old Hall Hotel  Caister, that I should make the effort.  

SEO is being aimed squarely at Norwich and Norfolk (not the hospital) and it felt churlish to decline. 

You see web design Norwich is partly what Get Pro Copy Ltd is about and yet when I look at my portfolio, just 9 have actually come from this fine city. 

Which surprises me.

If you know Norwich, it’s a splendid city, surrounded by magnificent countryside, big blue skies and a coastline that is spectacular in places. 

North Norfolk is renowned for its beaches, like at Wells and Holkham, but further south, beaches like Sea Palling, Horsey and Winterton have their own charms (and lower property prices).

Norwich has been largely unaffected by manufacturing recessions as it has little industry to speak of.

Admittedly Colman’s Mustard has gone but Aviva (or Norwich Union) lives on as does the city centre’s thriving reputation for retail and restaurants.

Even though I have perennially itchy feet, I like being associated with Norwich.

“A fine city” is not just marketing speak – it is true, trust me.

When you look more closely online at Web Design Norwich companies, there’s none, as far as I can see, that offer what I do which is design, copywriting and social media. Some agencies do – but you’ll pay a hefty wedge to them and you can get your bottom dollar, outsourcing and low pay is the norm.

Controversial I know.

This means that, though Norfolk may be slow to travel around (I think it’s the only English county without a motorway), I promise reasonably fast website design. I’m in demand because I deliver and don’t charge excessively for my services.

Built on WordPress by an expert, populated with words by an English graduate copywriter and launched on social media to get your business off to a flying start.

So if you’re based in Norfolk, or Norwich city centre or its environs, and are looking for a web design freelancer, looking to support a local company, get in touch with me – we can help you get seen online quickly and economically with a website and social media presence as alluring as Norwich itself, with no congested tailbacks of us waiting for web content from you and with a “Broad” social media launch that will make your business stand out, like Happisburgh lighthouse.

If you’re in Manchester, Bristol, London, Leeds, I can help you too.

You can trust this Norwich web design freelancer.

I’m hoping that the client I met in Marzano in the Forum trusts me too. I’ll keep you posted – assuming you’re remotely interested.

Starting a business is exciting – avoid partnerships at all costs though

%name Norwich

Starting any business, particularly after paid employment, can be incredibly exciting and daunting, at the same time.

You’ve got the fear of leaving the known for the unknown; leaving a salary to risk all on a business idea.

We’ve been there ourselves.

It’s not an easy decision to make.

You will probably lie awake at night thinking – with anticipation and dread.

It’s human nature – but what I can say, having walked the walk, and left secure paid employment for the freelance freedom is go for it but make sure you’re prepared.

Freelance brings incredible liberty – those politics of the office watercooler, the stifling hierarchies of management can be consigned to your mental recycling bin.

You are free.

Except you’re not.

If you fail at freedom.

So I thought I’d give a handy aide-memoire, a checklist to becoming successful as, dare I mutter that dreaded word, an entrepreneur.

There.

I’ve said it.

Not too painful in this context.

So where do you start?

Let me help with my lucky 7 point list:

  1. THE BIG IDEA. Success largely depends on the business idea or business ideas you have and your ability to turn the idea into profit. If your business doesn’t make a profit, it’s self-defeating. You have to have a vision of what you’re selling in terms of products and services, whether there’s demand for it, and, most importantly, you can draw a salary from it. Granted, you need to speculate to accumulate. A business needs an investment plan. An investment plan needs funds, but without the concept, the idea and the drive and acumen to promote and succeed, you may fail. Failure though can be rewarding in that lessons are learned. Don’t see failure as an end to your start-up.
  2. SOLE TRADER, LIMITED COMPANY, PARTNERSHIP. There’s pros and cons to these. What I would advise is to not enter into partnership. Worst ship ever to sail. Stay solo and sub-contract.
  3. SUPPORT. It’s easier to go into business, with reduced risks, if you have salary security from a partner in paid employment. Your friends and family can support you not only financially, but with motivation and a pair of critically objective eyes and ears. If you’re a sole trader, or even a partnership, it’s good to run strategies and ideas by others.
  4. THE WHOLE PACKAGE. If you’re serious about business success, you can’t dip your toe in the water’s edge and dive in without the full support package there – to stretch a metaphor. You need a logo designing, words writing, business cards, brochures, printed literature, a website, a marketing plan, social media marketing in place. You do this BEFORE you launch your big idea, your business, your website.
  5. WEBSITE. Any business, whether sole trader start up, or an established multi-national company, needs an online presence. It shows and tells the world who you are, what you offer and how you do this. A website needs to be adaptable, attractive and future-proof. It needs to be visible globally, 24 hours a day, without interruption. It needs to showcase what you offer in a clear and compelling way. The layout needs to be logical, images attractive, the text easy to understand, with calls to action embedded on every page. It can have two sections: Home and Contact, or 22. The website design you choose and the team you choose to create this need to be able to adapt your shop window, your website, next week, next month, next year.
  6. MARKETING. We’ve all done this. Commissioned a website. Marvelled at it. Been creative with marketing for a month and then lose interest. You may not have done, but others have. Once your website is built, the real long slog begins. Networking to spread your brand, email marketing to potential customers who’ve signed up to your website, phone calls, printed marketing and the big one, social media marketing.
  7. SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING. Let’s make something clear if you’re embarking on a business venture, you may not give two hoots about social media. You don’t have a Facebook account, you never go on Instagram, Snapchat is for kids, you don’t get Twitter, you’ve forgotten your LinkedIn password and never bothered to reset it, or you just engage in one platform. You need to separate your personal social media points of views and start thinking of these as a marketing tool. You need a blended social media marketing approach – to capture the biggest audience on wherever they hang out and engage them. Not for a week, not for two months, but for the next few years. Yes it’s hard work, tweeting, posting Facebook statuses, sending Snapchats, posting on Instagram and LinkedIn successfully every day. There’s shortcuts, there’s quick wins but mainly it’s a creative slog. I personally love doing it for my own business and others. Others don’t – that’s why they pay me.

Now the point is this.

When you ask me to help your start up, you will get help.

  1. You will get a superb website designed on WordPress.
  2. You will get all the content written accurately and compellingly by me, a graduate in English.
  3. You will not be dropped when your website is live – your social media is run, with blog posts included on many packages, for a week, a month or beyond.

Contact me today – [email protected]

Google rewards fresh content and here’s how yo can do it.

Copywriting, blogging or sharing stories; informing, entertaining, prompting and challenging is one major factor that could make or break your business.

In grand terms, it’s called content marketing.

Which means providing content that is not sell, sell, sell, but help, help, help and which people read and feel compelled to share.

Share triggers – built into your blog post as icons at the end – or within Calls to Action in the post, means your content gets seen by more, leading Google to give you a virtual pat on the back or high five and push you from invisibility on search up through Page Rankings.

There’s no silver bullet for SEO or SMO but copywriting, in terms of your website content, and regular blogs, will make an impact.

It’s what I do at Get Pro Copy Ltd.

Google rewards fresh content and here’s how you can do it.

Let me expand – like my waistline does daily.

Producing and providing great blogging content is a 33% operation, or one third, if you’re old skool.

66% is promotion, or two thirds.

Think about an extended blog – spend a week crafting it and 2 weeks sharing it on social media, Quora, StumbleUpon etc, What’s App and messaging to get your content clicked and shared.

Blog posts need compelling titles, a minimum word length of 300 words and calls to action, inbound and outbound links woven throughout the copy, with those pesky CTAs.

You will notice many of the 107 websites I’ve designed have blog posts as a tab.

This is deliberate.

A blogging tab, fed weekly or monthly, marks you out as different to your rivals and people love reading great content and hearing stories, though not being sold to.

My own website has such a menu and you can rest assured that this is not aesthetic frippery but an integral part of my SEO and SMO strategy.

I can do the same for you – build that Blog tab, add posts, dependent on packages you choose and let you take over, or you can pay us to do it.

Open and transparent – my web design packages are here and my copywriting charges are also clear.

So why is a blog post such a great idea?

Here’s 10 reasons:

  1. Cost-effective: with a single one-off SEO researched post starting at £50, you can generate clicks and enquiries with a well-worded blog post.
  2. Quick: a weekly post doesn’t require hours of expended time. Click Add New Post on your dashboard, write the content and publish and share.
  3. Thought leadership: a blog post differentiates you from your rivals, showing that you know your onions and when someone comes to buy, the chances are they’ll pick you.
  4. Loveable: people do business with people they like and if your blogging strategy is informative and warm, with a real voice behind it, you will become liked and hopefully loved.
  5. SEO: Google loves fresh content and a weekly blog post is one of the best ways to climb those Larry Page Rankings organically.
  6. SMO: good blog posts, shared on your Social Media platforms, can generate other likes and shares and direct customers to your website.
  7. Bounce rate: the time people spend on your site before bouncing off. Regular blogging encourages repeat visits and new visits and keeps these potential customers on there for longer.
  8. Dynamic: once a website is built, the initial dynamism of people looking can quickly fade. Repeated blog posts makes your website appear refreshing, on a weekly basis.
  9. Multi-functional: a blog post can also be copied into printed documents like newsletters, brochures or email campaigns. That initial  spend could reach hundreds or thousands of readers.
  10. Brand voice: a great blog can be crafted in the tone and register you want for your brand, increasing your authority as a leading company.

Keen to know more about how Google rewards fresh content?

Contact this freelance copywriter and Norwich web design expert today.

Why isn’t there an Escape to the City?

%name Norwich web design

I used to like watching property programmes – along with the rest of the population – back in the day.

Occasionally, channel surfing, I’ll pause still on “Grand Designs”, “Homes under the Hammer” and “Escape to the Country” and watch for 10 or 15 minutes. I don’t often linger as I saw most on first airing and I already know the outcome.

“Grand Designs” always goes over budget but they get there in the end, despite McCloud’s pursed lips and sotto voce mutterings to the Channel 4 camera team.

The hammer always falls on some wreck (oddly and usually in Stoke on Trent) with the owners quickly making £20,000 in six months selling to someone on a zero hours contract.

“Escape to the Country” is an absolute waste of everyone’s time, it seems to me, as everyone wants alpacas, three acres, a Waitrose within a mile for under £200,000. The voice over at the end confirms our suspicions that this couple were doing it for 50 minutes of fame on Dave and had no intention of ever leaving suburbia (and that Waitrose nearby).

I do wonder though about an Escape to the City, as to me city life, at least in Norwich, my closest, looks appealing.

Okay. I admit Spencer and Allsop the worst negotiators (and mum) on television cover that in their tiresome routine that never makes me pause the channel surfing, but a programme dedicated to city property, to me at least, has legs.

Would love to present it too. Warts and all.

I can see myself standing on Hills Road in Cambridge, saying look at these buildings, look at the size of John Lewis, but the noise and smell is unbearable. Don’t buy near here.

Or near Great Eastern Street in London, where my sister lived, saying “yes it’s trendy, but they empty bins at 2 am and you’ll never ever sleep well.”

Maybe I won’t land that job?

Norwich though is a different kettle of poisson.

There’s two areas I’d give a wide berth to in the city centre (I’m sure you can guess) but most parts I’d gladly call home and here’s why.

Norwich is quite cosmopolitan given that it is relatively isolated. It seems to me, from the north, to be quite prosperous too, and recession proof as it was never really a manufacturing base, apart from mustard. It is quietly entrepreneurial too, with many small businesses popping up and thriving around The Lanes.

Mostly though, it feels safe, very safe, as safe as County Durham.

It’s not the type of city where you keep one eye ready to look over your shoulder. There’s little anti-social behaviour in the city. There’s a serious and growing population of the homeless, but never, ever, walking or driving through Norwich night or day, have I felt any sense of threat, any frisson of menace. 

I think I could live there with my city centre address propelling me further up search terms for web design Norwich and freelance web designer Norwich

There’s another reason too. 

Last night, after a fine meal at Cote Brasserie, we went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform “Romeo and Juliet” at the Theatre Royal. The food and performance were both excellent and walking across the city at 10.30pm back to the parked car, made me think that yes I could easily live here. 

And yes, I could easily present a programme on city living. 

I’d be more Karl Pilkington than Jools or Phil Spencer, but it’s something I could see myself doing and doing well. 

“Escape to the City” episode one Norwich presented by Stuart Walton – has a certain ring to it. 

Woodland walks close to my Norfolk home

%name Bluebell Woods, Gorleston

When my nose isn’t pressed firmly to the grindstone of work, which it tends to be nowadays, I often have a 60 minute to 90 minute daily sabbatical of a dog walk with the most recent addition to the family, a rescue border collie, who is delightful.

Working from home is wonderful, but when I was first anchored here, I had to force myself to go out.

Not because I’d developed some sort of Boo Radley social fear, but simply because I was totally focused on copywriting, social media management for clients (and myself) and freelance web design.

Adopting a dog in September 2018 changed all that.

I can’t stay glued to my Mac in my foxy home office when there’s a tail-wagging daily frenzy which translates into – “Put the work down and get me walked.”

Gladly too.

4 miles most days in all conditions is good for body and mind, I meet and chat with people, whereas without a dog, some Nimby would no doubt be calling the police about a tall, careworn man, who wanders woods daily.

If you know Bradwell and Gorleston, I’d recommend this walk. It’s got advantages in that it’s easily accessible by car or on foot and is impressive as the A143 and A47 (A12 as was) are not audible en route.

There’s a new road, connecting the A47 and A143, where we live on Bluebell Meadow and a 150 yard stroll takes me daily to a deserted footpath that passes just 4 houses on its 3 mile length and takes in mud, puddles and woods, which the dog, Cassie, loves, even when asked to sit in arctic conditions:

The route takes you south along the muddy bridleway, and when you pass two cottages on the left, that’s your cue to turn left for Bluebell Woods, which is decked with bluebells in April and May.

A stile crossed, with a big house to your right, you can go across the field, or turn left into the woods. I mix it every day to keep it real, generally preferring the field traverse.

In the woods, you can’t go wrong. There’s a part signed Keep Out which leads to a dead end anyway near Hobland Kennels, and you can wend round Beacon Park and actually leave the woods near the Captain Manby. 

I tend to head back to the new road, and again, it’s a walk that I enjoy most days as you witness seasonal change close at hand. 

Back on the new road, or Nurburgring, as I prefer to call it, as 30 mph seems to be flouted by every driver on there, and the few, who stick to it, are overtaken relentlessly by bellend drivers, it seems to me.

You can then cross the pruned wood to Woodfarm lane and weave back to Beccles Road via a bridlepath next to Ormiston Venture (Oriel High as was) or cross the field and footings of the next Persimmon phase.

There’s wildlife in abundance – pink-footed geese, various birds of prey, Muntjac deer and squirrels. Lots of squirrels. 

I’d recommend it and if you see me en route after reading this, say hello to me. 

I’m not a Norfolk local but I am northern and friendly. 

Are you exploiting the millions of zombies?

%name Great Yarmouth web design

I am a zombie. My daughter is, my wife and son less so. We are the living dead.

Walking round with fixed stares.

Stares set on screens – living life through a lens, vicariously, whatever you want to call it.

Not alone though as most of the population seem glued to smartphones and the internet. It’s revolutionised life, changed business cultures and destroyed, perhaps, the high street as we knew it, 20, 30 years ago.

You either embrace your zombie clientele or end up as a footnote in history, like Woolworth’s, BHS, Toys R Us, the Goliaths amongst the Davids who’ve all crashed and burned in recent years.

Any business needs to be online and active on social media – whether that’s a start up or an established brand.

Look at Greggs – would their vegan sausage roll have made such an impact without that PR exercise on social media? I doubt it.

Few may go online and order a pallet of Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls, but anyone walking through an identikit town in Britain may wander in there to see what the fuss is all about.

That sausage roll campaign would have got nowhere without viral online marketing, with Piers Morgan chipping in, with the general population not knowing, perhaps, that the same PR manages him and Greggs.

They have an app too and a delivery service with active social media channels.

Life in 2019 for any business needs to be like that – social, digital and disruptive (a word I dislike).

If you’ve got the germ of an idea for a business in Gorleston, Great Yarmouth, Norwich or elsewhere, sit and make a plan. Write down ideas. Develop a brand. Get found on social. Build a tribe of followers. Be likeable.

Oh and get a website from this freelance web design Norwich expert.

You can even pay online now for it, after you’ve chatted with me.

How to get found on Google in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston?

There’s riches in niches, clearly, and I’ll grab a knife, carve that humble pie and eat a slice now, because, I admit to being wrong. There. Said it. A native of Yorkshire admitting fallibility is unheard of. But I’m wrong.

You see, in my aim for SEO dominance with this venture, I went for low competition and medium to high search volumes and ignored the low search volumes. 

Confused?

Let me in explain in simpler terms.

1,000 people per month search for web design Norwich and I wanted a piece of this. 100 people per month search for freelance web designer Norwich so I targetted this search phrase too.

You might want to be found for dog groomer Gorleston, childminder Bradwell, window cleaner Great Yarmouth, removal firm Norwich – you get the idea.

So what happened when I narrowed my scope down, so to speak.

The tactics worked and this freelance web design and copywriting company is now appearing on Google for those – admittedly you’d get repetitive strain injury clicking “Next Page” or “More Results” to find me for web design Norwich, but I’m on there after a concerted content and social campaign in just 8 months.

This is where I went wrong though as in the past three weeks, I’ve had four firm enquiries about freelance web design from people who’d searched web design Great Yarmouth. Google told me there were only 10 searches a month for that term so I ignored it.

Not any more though.

What I’ve learned whilst eating that pie is that:

  • Search volumes is not the Holy Grail of optimising your content. Competition is. The number of firms competing in Norwich, my nearest city, is much higher than here in Yarmouth, Gorleston, Bradwell and yet I’ve taken on new clients who found me online locally.
  • Social media matters just as much. I promoted a post locally on Facebook and Instagram for a modest tenner about where I live, Great Yarmouth. It was, I hope informative and engaging, and not sales oriented and again two messages have resulted from that £10 promotion. One asking about writing, another about web design.
  • A website audit (which I offer free) will tell you about SEO and SMO (Social Media Optimisation – if there is such an acronym) and I’ve learned that a business ignores social at its peril. Your client base, your readers are scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn and that subliminal, guerrilla, stealth marketing takes place there. You engage them on the apps, by offering something of worth, and then, when they make a decision to buy, they choose you, as web designer, estate agent, undertaker or whatever.

So I was wrong this week. Now I’m going for niches and all out on social media to keep me in the lifestyle I’m accustomed to: a BMW that does 26 miles to the gallon, San Pellegrino on tap, and gluten free humble pie. 

If you’re not appearing on searches and have no idea where to start, get in touch with me. I can get you found online for car hire Great Yarmouth, removal firm Lowestoft, tattoo artist Gorleston or indeed in any other field of work in any other part of the country.

I may have been wrong this week, but most of the time I know what I’m doing and I do it well. 

Put me to the test when you’re ready. 

Are you actively pursuing 5 star Google reviews?

%name Google reviews

I’m of an age when I remember the thud of Yellow Pages and the BT phonebook landing though letterboxes, the free newspaper (which I carry now from the welcome mat to recycling as it lands) and the days of buying newspapers, which seems so arcane, that I actually pinch and zoom when I stumble upon one.

Long opening sentence aside – my point is this.

Marketing has changed with the internet and won’t ever be the same. If your business is stuck in the 70s to 90s, it will slowly die. Marketing is on social and search engines, predominantly.

This brings me neatly to Google reviews. Did you know that having a business verified on Google Maps and Google My Business is a ranking factor, along with your presence on social media. Did you know that a Google review positively affects rankings, particularly on maps?

I’m 8 months old as a freelance web designer Norwich next week.

Don’t see me as a foetus though, as this 8 month old business has previous as a solo copywriter and in 12 months in a web design partnership.

I know too that the best review strategy is still P2P, people to people, word of mouth, but a close second is social and search.

Your business needs to be registered on Google, through sitemap submission and signing up to Google My Business, who then send a postcard (how 1975) with a code to verify. It stops people setting up businesses on maps at fake addresses for SEO, obviously. Your website needs to be fast to load and responsive too.

When you’re signed up for Google (Analytics, Bing, Apple Maps, Yelp, Yell, Thomson Local, local business directories), you then can focus on getting 5 star reviews.

My advice is clear.

If you don’t politely direct clients to write a 5 star review, they won’t usually do it. You have to tell them with screenshots and instructions how to do it. I do this regularly and only one client so far has refused – yet without irony, asked me to do some website changes to the next day. Which I did.

They are vital because the number of reviews appears on Google Maps – I’ve 23 of them.

People like to check out reviews before a purchase, I’ve been looking at Bose Quiet Comfort 35 ii headphones (praying my wife doesn’t read this!) and like any inquisitive human, have read reviews of them on John Lewis, Amazon and review sites. I’ve not bought any. Yet. The reviews though assure me it would be a good decision.

Whatever products or services you are selling, you need to build trust with a Google review policy. Contact me if you need more advice.

What does responsive website design mean?

%name Norwich Cinema City

Responsive website design is probably a term you’ve heard of and even perhaps know what it means.

I won’t keep you hanging – responsive means it fits to screen on mobile, desktop and tablet.

I used to naively think that a web designer created a website and hey presto it rendered correctly on all devices. If only. I, in common with other Norwich web design companies, build a website on a desktop machine, then have to work through how it appears on a smartphone, laptop and tablet.

I’m quite methodical in making them all render well.

A website is toggled off coming soon and I view it on my Note 9, Dell laptop, and iPad Pro and adjust images, text sizes, icons and menus accordingly.

Effectively, a page, like the Home page is designed and checked three or four times and every page undergoes the same process.

So many websites are still unresponsive – meaning on your iPhone or Samsung or Pixel you have to pinch and zoom and resize when a responsive website design, done right, does all that for you as a matter of course. Does yours?

This responsive website design Norwich freelancer can sort it.

It’s vital obviously because if 83% of internet activity – whether you’re on the apps of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or asking Siri, Google Assistant or surfing on Chrome or Safari, your website not only needs to feature on social and search but also appear right on mobiles and tablets.

I am also offering now a fully comprehensive free audit of your website. This evaluates your page speed, page size (should be under 5MB), your social media optimisation (mine gets a cross for low activity on YouTube, which I’m addressing) and a bulleted list of priorities. Which you can tackle.

This comes with no strings attached – all I need is your email address and domain name to check and you’ll get a free PDF audit in no time. Contact me now – [email protected]

Great Yarmouth, a town I live in

%name Great Yarmouth snails

Seaside towns have a bad reputation: think Blackpool, Bridlington, Rhyl, Great Yarmouth, Hastings. Seasonal tourism, low paid jobs and a poor transport infrastructure, generally.

We moved to Gorleston, a major town, south of Great Yarmouth, 11 years ago and have since moved to Bradwell, a generally modern suburb, and I feel like it’s home now. People in Norwich get a bit sniffy about the place, but there is lots to recommend it, apart from just the climate, so here goes.

BEACHES

No word of a lie, but the beaches here are as good as any in Britain. Perhaps. Gorleston beach stretches for miles and the ground has few pebbles and the sea has a handy shelf you can happily wade into without being submerged. Admittedly 11 years ago, we swam in it, come rain or shine and now, never, but you get my point? It’s a town that is so on the way up that Danny Boyle, no less, filmed his Beatles movie here from the Pier Hotel.

No matter how often I walk along the beach or promenades, I never tire of it. Been wonderful for our physical health too after the dreadful air pollution of living near Scunthorpe.

Great Yarmouth beach is no slouch either and has its own dunes, piers and golden mile of amusements, with terrific historical resonance. The Barrack estate housed Napoleon’s troops. Queen Victoria was a regular visitor here and Dickens set parts of “David Copperfield” here. There’s blue plaques aplenty with a 13th century gaol, some superb museums and two theme parks, with listed attractions – the Snails at Joyland and the wooden rollercoaster on the Pleasure Beach.

Horsey Gap, Caister, Winterton and Hopton all have fine beaches too.

They’re one of the reasons why, when I get itchy feet, to move, I stop and think of what we’d leave behind.

 

 

CRIME

Bearing in mind, I’ve lived in crime-ridden places like Oldham and Bolton, Norfolk is Edenic in comparison. Never been the victim of a crime in 11 years here – it feels and is safe. My home insurance and car insurance testify to that too, so it’s not apocryphal.

CLIMATE

Winters tend to be mild and short in duration with sunshine and dryness stretching from March to early November. Rain is rare too. As is snow. When I look north for relocation, I do ponder rain and light levels, as I used to suffer from SAD in other areas, until we headed east.

BUSINESS

The area is largely dominated by tourism and the off-shore industry. The cost of property in Great Yarmouth is relatively affordable compared with the south east but rises inexorably as you head to Norwich or north Norfolk, where average prices in places like Cley and Blakeney exceed £1 million. Wages are low here though (apart from offshore) and seasonal. The town and borough is definitely deprived, and could do with massive investment for local employment with higher wages. It’s perhaps why the term “web designers Great Yarmouth” or “freelance web designer Great Yarmouth” has such low search volumes, yet Norwich, just 35 minutes away, has huge search volumes for “web design Norwich” and competition.

I do like living here though. The beaches and climate are brilliant. The road network and infrastructure pretty poor, but I’m beginning, for the first time since moving, to see it as home. 

Given my predilection for serial relocating, 11 years in Great Yarmouth is a Personal Best.

I am now happily anchored here. 

 

Was George right to shoot Lennie?

I realised when the reptilian Gove removed “Of Mice and Men” from the curriculum that my days were numbered in a classroom. I’d taught it for over 20 years and seen the old and newer versions of the dvd repeatedly.

I realised too, when I set up this business, that the days of coaching students on zoom, micro-macro on descriptive writing, or presenting a balanced argument on the perennial essay on school uniform, were over.

Writing was to remain with me in this business – it was its primary purpose when I set it up four years ago now, but I had to learn how to write to sell, to persuade people to buy goods and services and not train some hormonal teenager in how to sell an argument about vegetarianism or such like.

I’ve learned loads in four years – if that doesn’t sound too technical – and one lesson is this: the title is king.

If I don’t go in my MSN junk email box for a few days, it’s spam city and I have over 200 emails waiting to be binned. I do scroll through though and check which ones to move to my inbox and not mass destroy, and invariably these have some importance or have an arresting subject line.

It’s the same with blogs.

The title matters.

This one hits upon a successful formula in that it asks a question. Its length of six words is good too for SEO. Too long and Google truncates it. Too short and it looks lame.

There’s a power word in there – shoot. And an uncommon word: right. It scores 69% which is decent but you need to aim for 80.

A blog title needs a balance of all four, apparently.

I could do better though with this replacement headline.

Much better.

What happens when murder becomes a matter of survival?

That scores 82 and I could actually get it higher with some uncommon words.

Now I don’t at all claim to have invented this tool. I found it online and used it frequently in early writing days and irregularly now. But if you’re writing blog posts, email campaigns, marketing copy and want better click throughs, start with this tool.

If you want the crib sheet too, without the hassle of finding it online, it’s below.

Happy headline writing.

2019 begins as 2018 ended – excellently.

Christmas this year was a bit of a damp squib as 12 year old daughter, Ruby, was forced to admit that she knew Santa was fictitious and she knew last year too. I became suspicious when I saw the letter to Santa had been replaced by a full Amazon basket, which irked as I’m weaning myself off exploitative companies.

New Year was similarly lacklustre – they both lose some appeal when you accept that drinking is no longer the main agenda item for 2 weeks.

2019 though has begun as 2018 ended – brilliantly.

This web design Norwich freelancer continues to accrue website deals on what seems like a daily basis. Bragging yes but truthful? Yes.

The only fly in the ointment so far has been deceit from an estate agent I write for (or used to write for) and still owes me money with the usual dog ate my homework excuses.

This irritates me, as I did the 750 word piece at the start of December, yet am still awaiting payment. Ordinarily I’d be accepting of this, but given that this estate agent near Derby, expects 24 hour turnaround, it’s a bit rich to take 31 days and counting to stump up.

Most clients though are great. I’ve met five in 4 years who I would not work with again – 3 of this group are estate agents, unsurprisingly perhaps. But, some of my best clients like Nick, Chris, Stephen and Julia – are all estate agents and great ones to work with.

I have high hopes for the rest of this year too, as my radar for spotting bellend clients is now finely tuned. They probably say the same about me, I know.

I’ve not written any resolutions – as I’ve been resolute in 2018 personally and professionally.

The success of 2018, with 100 website designs, is a target for this year.

6 days in, I have 5 new website projects on the go, with quite a few others bubbling under.

That makes up, in part, for quite an ordinary festive period. 

I’m looking forward to next Christmas too, as we will be spending it on a walking holiday in some remote hilly corner of Britain.

Have a great 2019.

The literary heritage of Norwich and Norfolk

%name web design Norwich

I don’t claim to be a native of Norfolk at all. We moved here for careers in teaching and a coastal lifestyle 11 years ago and it’s a good place to bring up children and live.

The roads are antiquated and that warmth you get from conversations in the north is conspicuous by its absence, but it’s home, more so to our two children than us and I can see its attractions as a place of literary pilgrimage for quite a few well known authors.

Let’s start with Charles Dickens – ok he lived in Kent, but he did live in Blundeston, Suffolk for a while and having read Claire Tomalin’s biography I marvelled at his walks into Norwich from there – a good 20 miles each way. He also set “David Copperfield” partly here and captures the accent and dialect of Great Yarmouth remarkably well, though I’ve yet to finish reading this voluminous novel.

More recently, Ian McEwan studied creative writing at the UEA and his work resonates as he was for a few years my favourite novelist. In fact, when we got married in 1999, the wedding cake depicted three books: Enduring Love, The Child in Time and Amsterdam.

All three are tragic yet they represented facets of our early relationship.

John Boyne, author of “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, was another student at UEA and his holocaust novel was inspired by the fences he saw when looking from his windows in his accommodation in the Golden Triangle of Norwich.

Lastly, though I’ve not researched this properly, is Kazuo Ishiguro, also at the University of East Anglia, and his time here marked in at least one novel: “Never Let Me Go” with North Norfolk, the rich honeypot of east Anglia featuring prominently.

Norwich bills itself as a “fine city” and the UNESCO City of Literature and it is a fine place, not just in terms of climate, but also in its vibe. It does have an underbelly though with the highest percentage of homeless people of any town per head of population and Riverside Road is apparently edgy at weekends, but in visiting Norwich regularly most weeks, I’ve yet to see anything that alarms me, apart from the onerous car parking charges.

It’s why when I dream about moving up north to County Durham or Northumberland or the northern Pennines, I sometimes stop and think. Norwich is a great city to live near and have a web design company based here, and do I really want to sacrifice this weather, this coastline, the lack of casual conversation for hills and longer chats on daily walks with my border collie? The jury is out.

Should I use a freelancer or a web design agency Norwich?

%name Norwich web design

There’s no easy answer to this. No binary “yes use a freelancer” or “yes use a web design agency Norwich”, assuming you’re in Norwich and would like someone local to complete a revamp or a completely new website.

A web design agency often will have more expertise and specialists within that agency – someone who can code, someone who can create content, someone who can create a marketing strategy. They probably have a graphic designer too.

Inevitably though this expertise often comes at a higher price.

A price that is not always passed to the coder, copywriter, graphic designer.

You may be quoted £120 plus VAT per hour (a fairly normal figure) but the employees are not getting that level of pay. Same in any industry. Obviously.

The barista in Costa and Starbuck’s is on a low hourly salary but the profits of those two companies are huge. That’s business.

Jeff Bezos is no different.

A freelancer often charges much less and probably won’t levy VAT because their earnings don’t exceed £80,000. They don’t have the Norwich web design agency overheads of offices and business rates and staff salaries so they are able to charge much less.

To go all coffee again, it would be like me charging £1.00 for a latte which costs me 30p to make on a Nespresso machine, leaving me a 70p profit with no expenses accrued. Starbucks have to charge more to cover premises and employ creative accountants to tax dodge.

A freelancer may not offer the level of specialism but they often know people who can help out. I’ll come clean – logo design leaves me in a state of fear, but I’ve got excellent graphic designers, fellow freelancers, to outsource them to.

Just as many reciprocate when they need accurate, optimised web content. I can write well, but design a logo badly, whereas that web design agency Norwich, Northampton, Nuneaton will probably have someone in-house.

I do think though, apart from price and specialists, freelancers are a better choice. I know I’m biased. 

But hear me out.

If your website crashes on Friday at 6.00 pm and you’ve no access to hosting support and the agency is shut, that means the Out of Office reply to an email and automated voice message telling you they reopen Monday will annoy the hell out of you.

It would me.

If this website went down for a weekend, I’d be fummin’ hun but I know it won’t.

The 100 I manage won’t either, because this freelancer has his name on those sites and wouldn’t accept shoddy service himself and certainly wouldn’t expect my clients to accept it from me, and my company.

Should I use a freelancer or a web design agency Norwich?

You decide. 

 

This web design Norwich UK company is climbing

%name web design Norwich UK

SEO.

The 2018 equivalent of a box ad in Yellow Pages and one of the most prized ambitions of companies – featuring on Google Page One for a specific search term and failing that, pole position on page 2.

Beyond page 2, it’s a lost cause we are told.

Getting on page one in private browsing mode is difficult, unless you’re incredibly niche.

You need to do your homework too before a SEO strategy is born.

Take this website: I could optimise it for WEB DESIGN GREAT YARMOUTH and quickly reach page 2 or page 1 but there’s a problem – search volumes. 

People on Google are not searching for web design Great Yarmouth – there’s under 100 searches a year and that makes all the effort a bit pointless.

So I’ve optimised for further afield:

Web design Norwich and variations on that search term.

There’s 1000 searches per month for that specific search term, but, alas, competition is high, so I’m on page 11 of Google for Web design Norwich which isn’t too shabby in 7 months given that I didn’t feature at all in May 2018, when I decided to make Get Pro Copy a web design and copywriting service, nationally, not just in Alan Partridge territory.

I’m on page 7 though for a longer tailed search locally from nowhere and that gives me hope.

Now I could succumb to PPC and pay Google to inflate me to page one but in my experience it’s a complete waste of time and money. You send a signal too to Google that you’re prepared to pay to be on page one and your organic growth (in my experience over 5 years) is that a nail is hammered in your SEO coffin.

Far better to have a strategy to get there – and there’s two ways – backlinks and blogging that are dynamite.

Quality backlinks to your website are worth their weight in gold but often difficult to attain. I’ve got 70 plus backlinks but none scream BIG LEAGUE at all.

Blogging is easier. That’s why I do it so often. And you should.

Either blog yourself or pay a SEO copywriter to do it for you.

They’ve got to do their homework of course and determine what you’re looking to be found for and find out what the competition is. I could have blithely fallen for the Copywriter Great Yarmouth and Web Designer Great Yarmouth ruse when I was naive, but any copywriter worth their salt, should be able to find out search terms, volumes, competition and craft copy that speaks to humans and Google algorithms.

You can always go down the SEO route with an audit too. I had one carried out by Danny Andrews of Sheffield who didn’t prescribe the steroids of Pay per Click but a strategy for reshaping this website and climbing Google organically.

Which I followed.

It’s working too – check out his website and philosophy which doesn’t involve BS and empty claims.

I’ll end with a reference back to the title: this web design Norwich UK company is climbing. Okay page 7 and page 11 is not the best – but in seven months, I’ll gratefully accept those places and see what happens in the next 7 months.

If you want your website to climb rankings organically, get in touch with me, I’ll gladly introduce you to Danny and let him audit with me then filling those needs with a blogging strategy that will see your business climb too. 

 

Printed business card or a digital one with a new website?

I have business cards wedged in wallets and drawers and occasionally use them, though I do feel ordering 1000 was a tad optimistic, given that they seem to me, at least, to be somewhat archaic.

Given that we all carry smartphones in our daily lives, it’s much quicker to add someone on Slack, or What’s App, and send them your contact details rather than root through a wallet or purse to share your details.

Don’t get me wrong.

I still think if someone asks for one, you’d look a bit silly saying “Sorry, I don’t do business cards.”

Ergo, a website.

A business card with a company email address and web address looks so pro that anyone serious about business at the fag end of 2018 would be mad not to have either.

When someone connects with me on LinkedIn asking about services, like web design and copywriting, I don’t say “Er it’s in development and not ready yet.” I point them to this website and its portfolio of completed website projects. If I meet someone locally, I hand over a business card to send them digitally to the website.

In 2019, if your website is not fit for purpose (or your printed marketing materials), get in touch with me and let me make both so.

Is print as dead as that Python parrot?

%name Manchester

I don’t jaunt that often – if jaunt can be made into a verb; but when I do it inevitably involves some Alan Partridge excursions into budget hotels which are invariably paid for by companies who’ve commissioned me. 

Premier Inn, Hyde, the home of Britain’s biggest serial killer, Dr Shipman, where the residents were all drinking at 9am in the car park, all bizarrely wearing masks. 

Holiday Inn, Cambridge, which had as much culinary choice for a coeliac like me, as a Welsh fish and chip shop (Red Dwarf reference).

Once you’ve got past the excitement of boiling the mini kettle and spluttering at the taste of tea with UHT milk, logged into wifi and explored the bathroom, I often look at the tourist pap, the printed rack, of brochures welcoming you to Hyde (the magazines were in pieces when I thumbed through them) and Cambridge, more appealing than Hyde, as the land of bikes and pudding skies.

The Holiday Inn in Cambridge had an impressive text that was almost biblical in weight and girth and, after a cursory glance, I returned to it repeatedly to read the articles and adverts about Cambridge.

Now we know Yellow Pages and JR Hartley hark back to a past pre-internet and trolls, but my point is this.

Print has a permanence.

Okay you can’t measure its reach, you can’t adjust the campaign once it’s launched without new costs, but you can be sure it’s not dead, far from it.

Print clings to life like Theresa May to number 10. It has a barnacle-like quality that won’t be shaken even though we wonder whether it or she should let it go.

We’re on a new estate and the site plan and Persimmon brochure (produced before that £75 million chairman pay off) is well thumbed. 

When I buy a new car, I order a printed brochure online to be delivered, read through it and stack it away with the thirty other new car brochures I’ve wasted money on, and occasionally revisit.

Now if you’re looking for printed marketing materials, I know how to write them, but if you’re looking for brochure design, property brochure design, I know just the man: Jim Adams from Designers Up North, a southerner laying claims to be Manc by pouring gravy on his tea and having a brew 17 times a day.

Want to know more? Contact Jim or let me make the introduction – he’s bloody good at it too. 


Trust me. 

I would like more retainers after Christmas

Wouldn’t we all, you may be thinking, with my temerity of asking for more money. The thing is though that self-employment is feast or famine, boom or bust and other clichéd parallels, and you may mutter “cheeky sod” at my front.

But bear with me.

When I was in employment, I often observed of myself and others that the most energy was expended on actually avoiding work. Who wouldn’t on £8 per hour, or £25 per hour as teacher? The wages and conditions of employment, looking back, were exploitative. I worked for one company where we were even expected to contribute £1 per week to the tea and coffee fund – even though we were all on zero pay, commission only, exploited leaflet droppers and brand ambassadors. 

What an idiot I was trying my hand with that company. 

But now, I don’t do employment but I do do retainers.

I like them and companies do.

You don’t have to pay me a year’s salary for someone sitting, avoiding work, in your company. 

I ask what you want doing in terms of writing, web design and maintenance and social media, I calculate the time needed for this per month and quote you a fixed amount ranging from £150 to £1000 depending on the jobs in hand. 

The beauty of this arrangement is that you think I’m not offering genuine value for money with what I do, or offering a good ROI, you cancel the monthly retainer. I don’t tie clients in because it works two ways – if I don’t like your way of working, your attitude, your demands on my time, I walk away and refund you if you’ve made a further payment. It’s not a free trial as such for a month because I don’t do a thing until I see the bank credit.

But if you like my modus operandi and what I’m doing for your business, we carry on. If you don’t, wave goodbye and part amicably because neither of us wants a longer term relationship based on mistrust or exploitation, do we?

So how can I help you and your business?

If any catch your eye, get in touch.

  1. Sort out your website if it needs sorting out. Make it responsive, quick to load and fit for 2019 and beyond. Maintain and host it too for a fixed sum. 
  2. Add a blog tab and actually write some content for you within that time. It will delight Google and give your social media tribes a frisson of delight when they read engaging content from a website and company that normally offers little new insights or information. Add new blog posts to an existing news page that is comatose. 
  3. Manage your LinkedIn profile and company pages, not as me, acerbic Stuart Walton but as you in your company tone of voice, mining for connections and engaging in conversations on that platform. 
  4. Add new landing pages for offers or new services.

Contact me for more information.

Planning for 2019 – always think ahead – bellends need not apply

Whilst you’re sipping your Harvey’s Bristol Cream (oh I do miss that and other alcohol!), your thoughts may turn to 2019 or they may not. I’m always planning ahead, because being freelance and self-employed means you can’t think “Sod it I’ll take January 2019 off and have a much-needed rest.”

I’ve got plans underway too – there’s websites on the horizon for various clients that will occupy that month and beyond, but I’m also tingling with anticipation at working with three new clients – all on their social media, which is great.

Without divulging too much, I’ve carried out an audit of a company who’ve contacted me and have agreed to pay me a monthly retainer for a year to write content for their email campaigns, newsletters and website and run their social media for a set amount per month. I say a year. There’s an unspoken rule that it can be terminated by me if they turn out to be bellends (technical term for bad clients).

There’s certain things I don’t like you see – mainly being owned and micro-managed.

A company last year tried to treat me like a skivvy in the company – I told them where to shove their retained contract, after a couple of months.

I have this mentality that if I pay someone to service my boiler, landscape my garden, write my will, I don’t go all nit-picking and controlling on them and accept they’re the experts.

Just as I’m half decent with marketing and writing, I kick off when a bellend client insists on owning me.

Got a great feeling about all three though as I’ve tested the water so to speak with each.

The second client is paying me to lead their personal LinkedIn company pages and profile, as well as prospecting for suitable connections. Serious stuff and quite ironic given that I blur social media boundaries on LinkedIn and post family and personal stuff to piss the LinkedIn feds off.

The third is another estate agent. I work for about ten already, so this is a busman’s holiday indeed.  Estate agents have a bad reputation and I must say it’s largely deserved.

But I’ve mined a rich seam of decent ones – like Hogan’s in Leeds and Pure North Norfolk in Fakenham, whose staff and ethos chimes with mine and never a cross word has been muttered in 2 years with each company.

There you have it.

I won’t be getting drunk this Christmas or with any others in the future as I’m an avowed teetotal whose relationship with alcohol has been terminated for good.

I wish you all a great break and if you need any work done in terms of content marketing, a new website, social media stuff, get in touch now.

I have an expensive San Pellegrino habit and I intend buying a new BMW soon so every little helps.

Social media selling – more than a modern Roy Walker catchphrase

%name 1970s TV

Facets of growing up I remember fondly are my addiction and skill at Taito Space Invaders, the Sunday ritual of watching “Bullseye” and believe it or not, the enjoyment of “Family Fortunes” and “Catchphrase” before the internet existed, as there was little to do, on a council estate near Doncaster.

Or anywhere else for that matter.

I think if “Catchphrase” was to be relaunched tomorrow, modern day words and phrases would emerge like “gammon”, an overweight Brexiteer, predominantly male, harking back to an imperial age of Enid Blyton and open racism of “Mind your Language” and “Til Death us do Part.”

The contestant could shout “Racist” and Roy’s replacement could say “It’s good, but not good enough.”

Other phrases like YOLO could make an appearance, as well as social media selling, which I admit is far-fetched, but it’s what I want to explore after this random opening.

I get asked to run my eye occasionally over websites and some give me access to their WP login and I’m often unsurprised to see little has been done with SEO, sitemap submission, keywords, alt tags etc and the clients think, fix that and I’ll be quids in.

If only.

SEO does need attention yes, obviously, but, in my experience, over the past 5 years, is that investing in PPC is about as lucrative as placing a card on a board in your nearest One Stop.

More measurable, yes, more expensive, yes – as fruitful yes.

Unless you’re selling something someone is specifically searching for to buy – a particular laptop for example – you’re not going to get someone to sell their house with you based on a page one Google ad.

This is where social media or social selling comes in.

One in four of your social posts should be selling, experts say. I reckon fewer. I advertise the fact I’m a copywriter and web designer on this optimised website and its six connected and active social media channels, but I don’t overly sell my services.

Yes I’m like that kestrel hovering over a verge eyeing mice, but I don’t connect with people on LinkedIn or Twitter and launch into a canned, scripted sales pitch.

I hate cold calls, but a scripted message is worse in my opinion, because you can’t simply hang up.

I’ve no formal training in sales, but I can spot bad sales techniques a mile away and I think, given that this business pays for a lifestyle, I can’t make schoolboy errors in selling or in the quality of service I provide.

The key to social media selling, in my view, is to join in, not hover like that kestrel and drop some inane sales pitch in and fly off, but join in and contribute. You don’t have to add value or be the equivalent of beige trousers or vanilla ice cream, as many experts state, but you do have to contribute, which shows what you’re like and your commitment to communication.

I had a Homer Simpson epiphany a few months ago and shared it on social and it went sort of viral with a reach of over 100,000.

It stated something like that I realised I was good at selling, because I’d had to sell English as a teacher to tough clients – teenage pupils in challenging schools. If I could make them listen to poetry, buy into “A View from the Bridge” and “Macbeth”, surely I could convince businesses and start-ups to buy into copywriting and web design, without being one of those awful teachers who moans about respect yet treated kids badly and provided lessons that were dull.

Social selling is selling without selling.

It’s selling, if you like, by stealth.

The people I connect with may not need a website now, but they may in the future – or someone they know may.

If you’re helpful, sociable and knowledgeable, then selling socially will be easy.

Pestering, haranguing and repeatedly selling your services makes that difficult.

My business is now successful, but it’s been a long haul, a marathon; but I’ve held true to my principles when selling literature to demanding school clients and I’m not going to change that formula now.

No call to action either you see at the end – you know what to do, if you need help, I don’t need a pesky internal link.

 

 

Off to Paris at Christmas before Little Brexit Britain shuts down in March

%name Paris

I’ve never ever understood the mentality that Britain is Great.

When we hop across to France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain et al, I have never once thought “not as nice as Scunthorpe” or “I prefer Oldham” or “Blackpool tower has better views.”

No.

That’s why the Brexit vote bewildered me. Okay it was predicated on lies painted on buses, but surely anyone with a modicum of sense can see that continental Europe top trumps Little Britain for everything.

Like:

  • Road network
  • Food and drink
  • Culture
  • Sightseeing
  • Cost of living
  • The weather

Yet 52% voted to Leave this on the deluded belief that Britain would be better off alone.

Hence the trip to Paris at Christmas before the doomsday predictions for March 2019 see us marooned and that 26 mile channel gulf widening further.

We’ve other motives too – we last went 8 years ago in summer and our daughter has only vague recollections of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, yet oddly can recall the street hawkers selling bottled water then waterproof capes when the heavens opened.

Son James turns 18 next week, and having his mum’s flair for languages, intends to study French (and English Literature) for degree next year at the University of Warwick. It’s his birthday treat too.

I like travel. It does broaden the mind. I love city breaks, having experienced Berlin recently and Rome the year before. I’m no fan of London though, to be honest but Paris is something I’m keenly anticipating.

I wish we had the backbone of the French too – would they have let Brexit happen? Doubt it, they blockade streets over the cost of living. Would they have allowed the pernicious privatisation of schools, like we did with Multi Academy Trusts (who I don’t trust)? No.

As we cross the channel (keeping it real, driving from Great Yarmouth to Paris) and the bluebirds yammer over the white cliffs and we set off to Paris from Calais, I’ll take one backward glance and ask:

”British people, why did you believe Farage, Gove, Johnson et al? Why do you want to cut yourself off from this road trip?”

I will showcase all on Instagram if you need further convincing.

 

Five easy first steps to set up a website

%name web design

The mystery, the mystique, the wonder and awe of watching a domain name become a website used to enthrall me. It still does in fact.

Someone buys a domain name for £7.19 and within a week it’s a living, breathing digital presence.

I used to think that was beyond me and the average person, but sorry web designers, it’s not. It’s a process, a series of steps to take to get a website live from domain purchase to sitemap being submitted for search.

Here it is in 5 steps:

STEP ONE – DOMAIN

You can find many domain sellers online and I personally don’t waste time shopping round as 99p ones that appeal for year one are often inflated for year 2. I go to tsohost.com and buy domain names for clients there. Invariably they cost £5.99 plus VAT for the year. Because I have payment set up in tsohost, it’s a three click operation.

STEP TWO – HOSTING

You cannot have a website online without hosting. Repeat. Your domain name with a WordPress theme installed does not become an entity without hosting. You can buy it from the domain provider as many web designers insist you do or you can find a web designer who includes it free (me). I don’t go all Go Daddy in Year 2 either and demand £8 a month to continue hosting it. It’s £3 a month or £30 for the whole year, otherwise I remove hosting and that domain and website you’ve had for 12 months disappears. I give warning of course. But £30 for a year is hardly onerous, I don’t think.

STEP 3 – INSTALL WORDPRESS

I do this via hosting, mine is with Siteground. I have access to a control panel where I can add on your domain, point your nameservers to my hosting packing and install WordPress. The website then invariably appears on a default theme of Twenty Seventeen – your website has that ubiquitous cactus showing until I login to the back end and begin.

STEP 4 – DESIGN WEBSITE

I then go into the back end of your website so to speak and install themes and plugins. I tend to use Generate Press, GP Premium, Elementor, Elementor Pro and Avada. Avada costs $60 to purchase with a year’s support from the theme provider. In my early days, I thought buying the domain and installing a theme was all there was to it. There’s far more to it of course, but when you’ve designed 90 in 6 months, the process becomes second nature.

STEP 5 – CREATE CONTENT

The hardest part of web design, trust me, is not putting the pages in a menu, sorting out a logo, setting up sliders, headers and footers, it’s the content. If a web designer (ie, most of them) rely on clients to provide all the copy, there are delays. Some web designers cannot write and most clients are reluctant to. This is one of my USPs – that bloody dummy Latin text doesn’t faze me. I see it as my forté. I love writing. I love web design. A marriage made in heaven. But don’t be fooled. Writing content, that is engaging, accurate, relevant is not a walk in a park. But I do it for all clients, even when they’ve given me copy, I improve it. Teacher in me. English teacher from 1987 to 2013. I can’t help but help.

In my next post, I’ll explain more about themes, plugins, site maps, caching, etc and become quite a nerd.

If you need help with content, web design, blah de blah, contact me now.

Why blogging is good for your business

%name blogging

Before I get accused of vested interests, I’ll come clean, as I’m always an open book, that yes blogging is good for your business and it is for mine too. I get paid reasonably well to do something I enjoy and am reasonably good at: writing.

When I used to tell people I met that I was a writer, I was always asked for titles of fiction I’d written – there was always a faint whiff of “oh dear” when I explain I write blogs for others.

I’m no author on Amazon, ‘tis true, but I make a handsome and enjoyable loving from copywriting and web designing, as y’all know.

Unless your website is a shop, with new products added and offers, or a forum, with frequent updates, or a news site, you’re unlikely to get much in terms of web traffic on a daily basis. If this website was bereft of blogs (300 plus now), would people turn up to marvel at my mug shot in woods or admire the contact form or read what I do?

Not really.

But when I post a blog, traffic surges.

Now don’t get me wrong – the website doesn’t crash with traffic. Some posts garner 100 views, some a 1000, some even more, according to Google Analytics.

But.

When I don’t post articles, traffic drops to a small amount as the website becomes static.

Yours will too.

A blog keeps the momentum bubbling, engages readers and gives people something to come back for.

Provided it’s not shit of course.

Some businesses write blogs (or pay others to write them) in a SEO mechanistic way. Keywords and phrases sprinkled in and your Google ranking will soar. That is shit of course.

No human, me included, wants to read a post that has been carefully constructed to appease an algorithm, but the real readers not the Google bots, see it as the equivalent of watching magnolia paint dry.

I see it all the time with companies, particularly property companies, playing safe so as not to offend but gaining zero interest with those painting by numbers ghostwritten blogs.

They’re boring.

In my opinion.

If you want people to come back and  read your next post, and your one after, and your one after that, for goodness sake don’t serve them an SEO clappy smiley beige blancmange of words that may please search engines but certainly won’t win you followers.

A blog should do that: it should create tribes of followers who know that when they click that title, that featured image, that it’s not going to be a coma-inducing yawn fest.

If you’ve nothing to say in your blogs that interests readers, don’t say it, but find a freelance writer who can and will – and there’s tens of thousands of us out there, waiting to weave words for you.

Another thing.

Google rewards fresh content.

It likes backlinks too, which I’ve debated this week, but it loves fresh content.

Your website should have a blog page – a news page, articles, call them what you want – and each time a blog is created, with a carefully crafted metadescription, an alt tagged featured image, some H2, H3 subheadings and is submitted to Google Search  Console or to Google Plus, Google’s all-seeing eyes shine with delight.

Even more so when you use the 70-30 rule.

30% spent creating content and the other 70% throwing it to the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn, your Facebook page, Stumbleupon, Medium, video highlights of your content on YouTube and Instagram.

A blog post that takes a copywriter an hour to shape, should have two hours spent sharing.

Previous blog posts can be reshared too and when someone lands on your website, from a blog, they may just look at the Home page, your bio, your services, your products, your testimonials and your social media links and make a decision to buy into what you’re selling – maybe not there and then, but some time in the future.

It’s an absolute no brainer having a news page.

Any web designer can add one, and you or a paid writer can create the content for you to share with your network.

If you’re keen to know more, drop me an email at [email protected] and I will sort out a blogging page for you or a full website with a news tab, and point you in the direction of some fantastic content creators who I’m friends with.

Let me end with an example.

South Coast Boilers was created from a new domain by me and I liaised with Bruce Crabbe the owner about the news page and together we created three unique posts which you can see here. They signal that this new enterprise is not simply an online business card, but a source of information for others about Ideal, Viessmann and Vaillant boilers.

Bruce knew it made business sense and I was happy to confirm that it did.

Whether you’re starting a business or regenerating an existing one, blogging is good for your business (and of course, mine).

If you’ve got a website, with no blog posts, or a website with blogs that are older than the clients in a Toyota dealership, get in touch and let me help you and your business grow.

 

 

A website is only part of your business journey

That title may sound a bit odd, coming from this Norwich web designer and copywriter, even self-deprecatory to a point of self-defeating but it’s true. A website won’t make you any money. It won’t pay the bills, your mortgage, your car loan and feed you at all.

Let me explain, before you assume I’ve lost the plot and am telling people to not bother with a website.

A website is an important part of your business but a website won’t create business. You do that by sharing and promoting your skill sets, services and providing answers to questions that people are searching for. A website gives you credibility, shows your expertise, highlights your commitment to communication via social media, but unless you’re prepared to work at it, you’d be better off splashing a grand on a week at Butlin’s With Squirrels (Center Parcs).

My point is this – you can lay out a relatively small sum of £300 for a simple, responsive brochure website from me, or £1000 and have a website with functionality like a shop – but unless you’re prepared to roll your sleeves up and get strategically involved, stick to Parc Market for spending sums like that.

You see, a website is only as good as its owner.

I can design one, add a nice logo, optimise the content for search, get business cards sorted, set up company email addresses and your social media channels, a blogging page, but once that month of intense excitement has waned – you’re left with the digital equivalent of a brand new car, which looked and smelled great a month ago, but now has faded from your immediate attention.

You’ve got to work at your website and your digital networking.

It takes time and effort.

But without it, you’re in danger of the fading syndrome of the new car.

How?

Physical networking (which I’m no fan of actually – BNI are three letters that fill me with dread).

Social networking.  Connecting and not selling but conversing and gaining some trust. My business comes primarily from LinkedIn then my website.

Blogging. You either do it or pay a freelance writer to do it – and trust them – no one likes being micro-managed as freelance means you’re free from bosses, technically.

Being a helper. You don’t have to become Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi, but helping others in their business is not only good for your soul but will reap rewards later. If you’re a selfish, money-grabbing type, no one will do business with you.

Finally don’t give up.

You’ve got to have self-motivation by the bucket load and an ability to see the long term picture.

Self-employment is ridiculously painful at times. Working with the wrong clients. Underpricing a job. Chasing payments.

But when I’m on my daily stroll along the Groundhog Day bridlepath and woods with my rescue border collie, I never think I wish I was back in paid work, with commutes, meetings and odious bosses in schools.

No.

I’ve made Get Pro Copy Ltd a success – and if I can do it as a cynical 53 year old with no formal training, other than a lifetime of teaching and writing, you can.

Need a helper?

I’m one – just ask.

 

Communicating with web design via What’s App – what a schoolboy error!

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When I begin a web design project, I often ask “Do you use What’s App” and 97% of the time, the answer is “yes I do.”

Good I think.

That means files, photos and text can be ported quickly between myself and the client with me even having it minimised permanently on the iMac.

It saves the faff of email. It makes communication instant. But it can become an unwelcome distraction and here’s why.

I have “read receipts” toggled on within the app and this is the first issue. Clients, friends expect instant action. You’ve read it and they anticipate immediate answers and quick responses to problems.

Except sometimes I need a break, I need to drive, I need to shower, walk, eat but 30% of clients I’d say expect an instant response and if they don’t, because that is a cultural norm, they can get arsey.

I think most of the time iMessage, What’s App is great, but there is that constant expectation that you’ve deigned to open your phone, read the message and will now abandon your shower, walk, meal to change a word or image on a website.

I’m feeling that vibe now as my client list grows and existing ones and some new ones begin to treat me like an employee.

I’m not an employee, I don’t do bosses, I certainly take umbrage at constant pecking from certain clients who expect responses and actions in nano-seconds.

That’s going.

I’ve actually decided now I’ve become established to drop clients who are bother.

Not because I’m lazy, or can’t be bothered, but because it’s not often reciprocated. That appreciation for the extra mile you walk weekly for all clients is not appreciated or respected.

Some do.

Don’t get me wrong. 70% are fine. They pay for my time, thank me for my time and will leave reviews saying how prompt and thorough I am.

Others – about a third – don’t and when you ask to write a Google review or a LinkedIn recommendation, they don’t respond – even though I respond instantly 95% of the time to sort out their requests.

Things are changing though.

What’s App read receipts are being toggled off and when someone next asks to me to add a block to a website, find a different picture, they can find a different web designer and copywriter.

Not being a prima donna at all, just the new teeth have emboldened me and to be honest, I’m a bit tired of the ball and chain anchoring me to the phone and computer.

New teeth, new me, new What’s App processes.

Agree?

The budget, housing and the ghost of Banquo

So what happened in yesterday’s budget for housing, announced by the wan Philip Hammond, a man with less colour in his complexion than Banquo’s ghost? Quite a few points actually.

1 Help to Buy

Help to Buy was extended for a further 2 years to 2023. It’s a scheme that has got many people into home ownership who would still be renting – so it is commendable, though I think it’s inevitably favoured the new build market and possibly, longer term, may affect resale values for those who didn’t climb on to (or were ineligible for) the Help to Buy wagon.

2 Stamp duty

In my experience, this is the single biggest obstacle to moving and it remains so. When we downsized two years ago, stamp duty was high on the purchase but the buyers of our £410,000 property were hit hard. Stamp duty stops people moving, in my opinion. It’s the biggest cost and that’s why so many estate agents work for say that the property market remains quite stagnant. Unless an estate agent offered to waive stamp duty (and that will never happen) on any property we were interested in, we would be reluctant to move. Pallid Philip abolished it last year for first time buyers for homes worth up to £300,000. Now he’s extended it to shared ownership of 25% to 75% of a home. The new limit is £500,000 which will presumably get a London buyer a garage in Kensington to share or a northern village. I like the idea. I bang on about cars with single occupants and I like the idea of two separate people buying a property and halving the mortgage and bills.

3 The High Street

Rest in peace. The internet and high taxation has murdered the high street. Debenhams paid £80 million in tax last year whilst Amazon paid £14 million. If Toys R Us, Debenhams, M and S, BHS buildings in town and city centres stand empty, there is a valid argument for converting these into homes. They’re in prime locations, often have ample parking attached (in the case of Toys R Us) and will breathe life back into high streets. I remember visiting a friend in Amiens who lived above a business in a flat in the heart of the city and there were no empty buildings, no ghost town feeling, instead ample footfall and a general sense of community. I felt this in Leamington Spa a few weeks ago, but many British towns are depressingly empty and grim. Repopulating them is a good start.

4 More homes

Phil put £500 million in the Housing Infrastructure Fund, used by councils for building homes. There’s something deeply ironic about a government (that legacy under Thatcher) who sold off social housing and created a mini nation of council estate Tory voters and set about emasculating them further with the Multi Academy Trust programme that they are now prodding the same beleaguered councils to build 650,000 new homes and nine housing associations to build 13,000 more. Royston Vasey’s land will benefit too as that and 499 other local communities will be able to allocate land, build and sell to local people for local prices. The cap (snapback?) on councils to borrow money to build council houses is also scrapped.

Ostensibly then, from my perspective, the budget did seem a good one for housing. I still think stamp duty needs seriously addressing for all buyers – if it’s the biggest impediment for me sticking a For Sale board on the lawn and moving, I’m sure it is for others. The town centre idea is a great one in my opinion, as long as planning regulations are maintained. A large out of town commercial units can’t simply be partitioned and people scooped in. Architects need involvement in making these fit for living and sleeping and not just shopping.

Finally, I invite Philip Hammond to get some Vitamin D along with the rest of parliament – they all look like the Walking Dead, presumably because they never get fresh air. Phil, come walk my dog with me, and I promise you won’t end up in a Norfolk ditch with twenty mortal gashes on your head. Don’t bring TM though – her dancing alarms both me and Cassie.

Landing pages – preaching to the converted

Some times less is more.

Brevity in a message can speak louder than a scripted call to action.

Same with websites.

The problem is though that one page websites – those you land on, scroll through and feel compelled to act upon – can be financially onerous for a start up or small business.

But do they have to be so expensive?

No.

I’ve chatted this weekend with a friend Nick from Essex. I don’t normally class clients as friends but I do occasionally make exceptions as he is, to go all Mancunian, “dead sound”.

I asked Nick what he’d pay as an estate agent for a domain and designed page for a property he’s selling as an estate agent and he told me.

I thought more about this as when I go on a twice yearly hunt for O level certificates and the like, I often find the printed brochures of property I owned and marvel at how bad marketing, writing and photography was back in the 80s and 90s. I occasionally wish I could still find these online as a digital brochure and that’s one of the ideas behind this.  How many vendors would estate agents attract if they could say at valuation: our writer will ring you, our photographer will take great shots and then you will have your own microsite.

It’s not just for estate agents though.

Developers – I don’t mean Barratts, Persimmon necessarily – but the smaller ones who have a local presence (I remember Mell Builders in Doncaster as one example) who could benefit from a microsite of developments they’re planning with the usual suspects of site plans, photos, descriptions but also a microsite on each type of property.

I counted the number of “Hadleigh” type properties on the new build development we live on (yes I need to get out more) on Phase One and I do think some of the owners would have liked a microsite of their home for posterity. Mine could be 11colbydrive.com.

This landing page scenario is to stop website bloat.

I often get asked to look at websites where it’s had the equivalent of 20 extensions built on and now it looks and feels like you can’t find your way round.

Home – About – Products – News – Contact will general suffice on a website and you may decide that a separate domain will serve you better than constantly adding information, new pages and posts to an existing website.

You know me, or should know me.

I’m not one of those types who advocates something and never practises what he preaches.

I’m building a one page website for Nick as a trial run. I’ve bought the domain, added it to hosting and am in the process of creating it, once other business has a lull.

If you’re interested in me creating a new domain where you can showcase a new development, a property, a product, a new service, an offer, email me at [email protected] – it’s more affordable and greener than designing and printing a leaflet and will last a lot longer.

Here is the live example: https://downhallpark.xyz

 

 

What should your website home page include?

If you use Google Analytics for managing your own website, or tracking those you manage, you will recognise this scenario. The Home page records most visits, which you’d expect if it’s linked to your business card, your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook bios, closely followed in 90% of cases by the About page.

I’ve tinkered with the Home page of this website so that now monthly numbers are climbing and the bounce rate is reducing. A Home page needs to be sufficiently engaging to retain visitors and have enough calls to action to take visitors on a journey across your site and compel them to do something.

Mine starts with the logo and menu header, visible on desktop, tablet and smartphone, the 3 slider images that I hope encapsulate what I do: web design, copywriting and social media. No one should land on any home page and be unclear about what services / products you offer. Each of the three sliders has a Contact button.

It could have a top layer of my address, email address and telephone number, but in the interests of aesthetics, I didn’t include them here. There is a Call Now button on the mobile version of the website as a direct CTA so that visitors looking for direct contact don’t have to scroll to Contact or the Footer. You hit call now and are prompted to ring me on my mobile. Phone calls have increased as a result.

I moved Live Examples from a Portfolio tab, as the question I used to get asked the most (apart from how’s your teeth) was “have you got examples?” There’s over 20 now, with more added weekly, with live links when you hit any of them.

Below are six rather dry sections, that are keyword researched and have seen the website be found more frequently in organic searches.

Then a CTA of FAQs which again has been a huge factor in the website rankings. If people are googling looking for answers like:

How long does a website take to build?

How much do you charge for hosting?

How much do you charge for writing?

you can find them in the two sections of FAQs.

A list of questions follows (for human and SEO purposes) and three flip boxes, before the four most recent articles are shown before the social media and copyright footer.

I do tell clients that a blogging strategy is one of the most cost-effective ways of climbing Google and getting website visits.

When I publish a new post (and there’s over 300 on the blog page) website traffic explodes and I can get over a thousand new visits over a few days (and more when I pay to promote on social media).

I find writing comes as naturally to me as whinging, but I’m conscious that if I advocate a blogging strategy, my own business should exemplify that.

It does.

In bucket loads.

Now what I’d ask you to do this week – homework if you like – is look objectively at your own home page and ask yourself if you landed on it as a first time visitor would you stay and explore – or click away?

Look at the design, the layout, the content, the links to other pages and ask if there’s a logical navigation route evident from the landing page?

Finally set up Google Analytics and see what sort of traffic you’re getting, where it’s landing and what a visitor does.

A website, a good website, with an active social media strategy, will make you money, good money – my job is to make that happen for you – as I’ve done with this and for others.

Why you should work for free (sometimes)

I’m a big user of LinkedIn, where I enjoy the company of fellow cynics and often tut, frown or even comment on the sermons that are spouted there.

Two in the past week have caught my eye: can you guess or do you not give a damn?

I’ll tell you anyway.

The first is that failure is the best way to success.

The second is never ever work for free.

Point 1: is failure necessary for success?

I am quite binary in my views and I can sort of see the logic in each – as the first set of failings has led me to success, but to be honest, I’d have preferred success without the estate agency I set up with a partner failing, as I still see myself as someone with a keen eye for property and sales. In fact that failure, those connections, those lessons, did lead to my niche of becoming a property writer, and website designer for that industry, having created quite a few online outlets for estate agency.

It’s like working in estate agency, without the crippling portal costs.

Point 2: should you ever work for free?

This one is even foggier for me. I’ve switched camps constantly on the issue since going freelance and I think to be honest it’s a judgement call. If a one man band asks me to design a brochure website, I charge the same affordable rate as someone with lots of money. I don’t get greedy when I see a person’s name and status (you’ll see one soon). Similarly, when I was approached to quote for the website for the Manchester Tattoo Trust, I set a figure and then waived it not because I’m loaded (far from it) but because it was the right thing to do. I’ve been occasionally asked to do work for ex-students and ex-colleagues too: like proofreading, being a referee for job applications or offer advice on business ventures over coffee. I don’t sit, like some taxi-driver, with latte in one hand and meter in other, clocking up a bill, because some times it’s just the right thing to do.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no Mother Theresa. I tantrum loudly when someone asks for a trial piece or mentions exposure. Happy to do trials – as long as I’m paid for the trial. Less keen on the exposure myth, particularly when NDAs quickly accompany the brief. I’m quicker than a Tory on a fox when I see those two arrive. I’m getting better too at spotting bad clients and swerving them.

You see the enigma? I will work for free, yet I can’t abide late payers or slow payers.

By the end of this article, you’re probably no wiser.

But what you need to understand is this.

I work with integrity, creativity and to a high standard – yet I don’t exploit friends and clients with ridiculous copywriting charges and web design prices. 

Quality and affordability will be etched on my gravestone, which I’m hoping won’t be any day soon as the order book is creaking.

 

 

Good grief, this Apple fan boy has moved to Android

Seismic shifts happened last Thursday in my personal and business world, in that a man who’s worn iOS blinkers since the iPhone 4’s launch in 2010 has moved to the dark side, Android.

Let me explain first why this was so chasmic a move.

It reads like a long brag, perhaps, or as excessive myopia, but since 2010, I’ve accrued most Apple gadgets.

  1. MacBook Pro late 2011 (RIP)
  2. Various incarnations of the iPad ranging from the original with no camera up to the behemoth iPad Pro 12.9 this year.
  3. iMac – 21 inch and 27 inch 4k retina (my daily work tool).
  4. A MacBook Air
  5. Various iPods
  6. HomePod
  7. Apple Watch (series 2)
  8. Superdrive
  9. iPhone 4, 6S Plus, 8 Plus
  10. Apple Pencil

If anyone’s locked in that ecosystem, it’s me.

But on Thursday night, after a week of YouTube browsing, I headed to Norwich to upgrade my iPhone 8 Plus.

It worked perfectly, was in great condition, but my head had been turned by the XS Max, and, though needing a new phone is different to wanting one, I was a man on a mission.

Except.

The much vaunted retained value of Apple began to look a bit thin. Every retailer I went into offered me the same price: around £370 to take it off my hands with the 256gb one still selling new for £849.

I did the maths in Apple, Carphone Warehouse and worked out to upgrade to a bigger phone with Face ID, an OLED screen and less memory, would cost me just over £700.

Ouch.

That’s a hell of a leap for a new iteration of a smartphone.

Using delaying tactics, I wandered into Samsung, knowing full well its passionate devotees and its manufacturing of screens for Apple and was offered a trade in for a Note 9 with 128gb that would cost just over £300.

I bought one.

No one believed I’d do it, people shook their heads with disbelief that this blinkered Apple sheep would ditch iOS 12.

But, I bought one.

So what’s it like?

Sick.

Which means awesome if you’re 17 in age, or 17 mentally like me.

The technology of the bluetooth S Pen, the 4000 milliamp battery, the water cooled screen are a joy after staid incremental progression of iPhones. The build quality is as good as the phone I left behind and the ability to customise after the comatose tile arrangement of Apple is wonderful.

And there’s no frigging notch, which in any other phone manufacturer, would lead to media ridicule.

Okay there’s a few drawbacks.

My Apple Watch is now just that: a watch and contactless payment device.

When I take a photo on the Note 9 it doesn’t port automatically to my other iOS devices but overall I like it.

Now whether this switch to Android is long term, or a flash in the pan, remains to be seen.

But Apple have lost my custom on their latest devices, which I never ever expected to happen.

Oreo, despite my coeliac disease, is now my favourite smartphone snack.

 

 

You can pay monthly for phone contracts so why not your website?

Despite my prices being “affordable” I occasionally get asked if I’d accept a fixed monthly payment for a new or redesigned website, and I’ve thought about this and decided to trial it.

All my WordPress sites come with free hosting for Year One, with a nominal £30 being levied in Year 2 for the 12 months and I’ve decided to incorporate monthly payments in web design.

Here goes.

3 page starter website. £60 upfront. £20 per month for 12 months then it’s all yours – you’ve paid £300 in total for a responsive website with content, social media links and hosting included. £20 x 12 = £240 + £60 upfront to commit.

5 page SME website. £140 upfront and £30 per month for 12 months, working out at £500 with no strings attached – other than if you default, the website goes on Maintenance Mode.

10 page website with logo, business cards is £750 and the split is £210 upfront and £45 per month for a year, totalling £750.

Ecommerce sites from £750 but you’re looking more at the £1000 mark with £50 a month and £400 upfront.

I also offer reductions for full payment upfront – you’d probably get a website for £270 if you’ve got that amount to expend’ and a bigger website for £450 or £675 for full whack upfront.

Please have a good look at my portfolio and if you’re interested in a pay monthly website or all upfront one, get in touch with me.

I’m trying to build 100 websites by Christmas and I hope these prices, my quality and service will get me there and even further in 2019.

Radiator in the hall … check … or this property listing?

Fancy a room (or rooms) with a view? We can’t promise EM Forster’s Florence but this 4 bedroomed first floor maisonette in Wimbledon has a very pleasing outlook.

The property is tucked amongst similar Victorian and Edwardian bay-windowed housing stock on Trinity Road, on the corner of Faraday Road. The property overlooks South Park and for families, within a quick stroll is Holy Trinity C of E Primary School, rated “Outstanding” in a recent church inspection report (Feb 2018).

There’s high schools and independent schools too in close proximity.

The property is incredibly convenient for restaurants and retail.

Leave home, choose either the Kings Road or Queen’s Road (we’d choose King’s as the park is your companion on the route) and you reach The Broadway, Centre Court Shopping and the Odeon iMax in about a 12 minute walk.

Want to travel further afield?

Haydons Road station, in one of the oldest parts of Wimbledon, is served predominantly by Thameslink trains and is in Zone 3. You’ll reach it in around 10 minutes, walking along the tree-lined Faraday Road.

The Grade 2 listed South Wimbledon station is under a mile away too, or 14 minutes on foot along Trinity Road itself.

Deen City Park is close by too, as is Wandle Meadow Nature Park, an urban conservation area.

We believe this to be a perfect fusion of city and greenery in a spacious property.

Want to know more?

Contact us today on —

Durham or Norfolk? Seasons of mists and mellow flooriness.

Seasons of mists and mellow flooriness.

I’ll come clean – flooriness is not a word but to get some loose connection with Keats’ “To Autumn” I had to bend rules.

I used to despise autumn with a passion and there’s still aspects of it that irk. Declining light levels, shorter evenings, until the lunar armageddon of clocks going back near November, which used to send me quivering with SAD.

Norfolk though has light levels that are great in all twelve months and, my immediate family, keep warning me that a proposed move to County Durham (the villages like St John’s Chapel, Westgate, Wolsingham, Daddry Shield and Stanhope) will see me blubbering with seasonal depression in November and December. I’d have a new 4wd to compensate and probably be mortgage free, but will Weardale affect me negatively in autumn and winter?

Perhaps.

What I do know though to go all Paul Young, is that wherever I lay my hat, that will be home.

A good broadband connection, Google WiFi and 4G outside the house, along with my Apple gadgetry accoutrements means I can write, mark and design websites in the flatlands of Norfolk or the rolling cloudy, cooler landscapes of County Durham.

Son goes to university next year so the need for a large family home will end and my 12 year old daughter takes after me in so many ways and will gladly throw her metaphorical hat in the air and settle where it lands.

Cassie, our border collie rescue, will be in her spiritual home too in those dem dere hills, with sheep and waterfalls and friendlier natives.

But, apart from light, I have a nagging doubt, as I think we should move elsewhere.

TOWIE territory.

Not because Essex has sheep or hills but because all my business seems to be coming from there.

Really though, these companies and individuals in Chelmsford, Colchester, Rayleigh are not picking me up from SEO phrases, but from the micro-network I’m building there.

County Durham it is hopefully, in 2019, but I’m certain that demand for my web design work, copywriting and exam marking won’t diminish from a change of address.

My gut should diminish, though, tramping daily for 5 miles across that rugged, empty and beautiful terrain, with, hopefully, real winters and not the half-arsed ones we get every five years here in the east.

 

What is the most difficult part of web design?

Web design is skilful.

It is at times a frustrating process, from initial set up of domain, to pointing nameservers, arranging hosting, to propagation to installing themes and plugins.

Naively, I used to think it was about buying a domain, installing WordPress, buying a theme and oof the website is done.

If only.

It’s a process, a skilled one, but a procedure I’ve now mastered where I can get a domain to Coming Soon page in double quick time.

Once the theme is installed, the design begins and this is where the most difficult part emerges. It’s not the building of pages, the menu, the customisation of the footer, the embedding of social media links – no, it’s the content.

Themes have a handy way of adding lorem ipsum dolor placeholder text to an element and that’s often where designers and clients’ toes start curling.

Not mine though – stretched out in Birkenstocks – because I am a copywriter who’s evolved into web designer as I realised, in a Homer Simpson epiphany moment, that the content is the most difficult part to complete well  and I should do both. Which I now do.

The setting up of the website is relatively easy, but words, sentences, unique copy, calls to action are where the real work kicks in.

Look.

That dummy Call to Action box with subscription comes pre-loaded with lorem ipsum – the web designer wants the client to add copy here in two lines. The client asks web designer if they could do it.

Result?

Often inertia.

 

Now this is where Get Pro Copy differs.

Not only do I not have to call on a web designer to build the website scaffolding so I can add the bricks. I erect the scaffolding, add the bricks, the internal features and leave you with a website that is not a compromise, a new build shell. It’s there with optimised content, social media links in headers and footers and a commitment from me to support your website so you achieve a good ROI.

You get copy that is optimised for search, written by a graduate in English, a responsive website design and maintenance that is standard.

Websites start from £300 up to £1000, with all that included and more.

That’s my USP: content and design at prices you’ll like.

Want to know more?

Get in touch.

Aftercare and why it matters with web design

Aftercare- and why it matters with web design.

I thought I’d explain how I operate and how some web designers behave, exemplifying what you get after your payment has been credited and your website shines bright like a diamond. On all devices.

I back up your website daily within the WordPress dashboard with a nifty plugin that does it for me. Siteground and Tsohost, the two hosting providers, where your website will sit with me having overview, back it up constantly too so you’re doubly assured.

You need someone to have your back up, hun, because if your website comes tumbling down, you and I want it restored, with me facilitating that through the plugin or by contacting the hosting specialists. If your site is not being backed up, it’s like leaving £1000 on the front seat of a car, with your keys next to it, ready for both to be taken.

Standard with websites from Get Pro Copy Ltd, and if your website gives you the white screen of death on Friday night at 8pm, you don’t have to wait for the web design agency to facilitate the fix on Monday or contact your hosting provider yourself. It’s what I do for your website and the 53 others I manage. See more of I what offer here.

Updates.

I like to think at 53, I know a fair bit about web design having been in copywriting and web design (front end and back end, ooh Mrs) since 2015, but I always learn more and now instead of going into every website’s dashboard every Sunday to manually update plugins, I’ve been alerted to a paid tool that does it. It costs money every month, but it will save me 2 hours every week, so it will pay back in time efficiency.

Which brings me neatly to outsourcing.

I’ll hold my hand up and say clearly if someone asks me to create an email marketing template, I’ll try it, but something that may take you 6 hours to do will take me three and a specialist one hour. I outsource it. Same with SEO. I have a rudimental understanding but I wouldn’t claim to be an SEO specialist (or email expert) but I know two excellent ones and will point you their way.

Same with web design – if someone asks for a website that I know is well outside my comfort zone, instead of letting you down and stressing myself out, I’ll refer you on to web design experts in that niche.

Obviously, brochure websites, property listing websites, blogging sites and ecommerce ones are all well inside my comfort zone so I don’t hand them to other designers like confetti at a wedding, but if someone asks for something that is incredibly complex and where I’ve no experience, I’ll pass you on.

I’ve built 53 websites since 1st May 2018 when I went solo and several clients have had more than one from me – what does that tell you? Business is all about treating people right, so Adam, Khaleel, Steven, Julie and Rita can turn round when asked who did their website and say without gritted teeth “Stuart Walton, he’s great.”

I care about you and your business before the website build begins, during it and afterwards when your payment has long been expended on a customary purchase of some Apple device or accessory. I get repeat business. Seen my testimonials?

Aftercare is one reason.

You want more pages adding or minor changes? I do that for my reasonable hourly rate and don’t deliberately swerve requests as CBA,

Want to know more?

Contact me.

 

27 years in a classroom – time well spent.

Time is a great healer, they say and it’s true. Time heals and gives perspective and sometimes when I think back over recent events, I get a little bit sad about what happened from 2013 onwards to my teaching career.

But there’s absolutely no need to be – because my time in teaching from 1987 to 2013 was time well spent. Not particularly for my own health, but for the impact I made on so many pupils.

If I was to draw a pie chart, the shit fest of the final few years would pale into insignificance compared with the great times that went before.

1987 to 1990 working in a church school in Oldham, with the claim to fame that I briefly taught Anna Friel, the actress, before a promotion took me towards the promised land of Manchester and arguably the best staff I’ve been privileged to work with. Not the types you get now, but old school colleagues with a spine and a fierce sense of integrity.

Same in Bolton in the early 90s until Staffordshire called in one of the most challenging schools in the country, as Head of English at the Mitchell High School, where I met Prince Charles, witnessed a headteacher assaulted, lost my front teeth in a bike accident but soldiered on teaching and inspiring this corner of Stoke.

Teaching continued to please until the latter years and, when I was effectively locked out of the profession, it felt like the end of life.

It wasn’t.

Only tonight, I’ve had messages from pupils I taught years ago, who’ve seen me tagged in social media posts from the weekend wedding of Anthony and Helen.

That’s my legacy.

Respect and lovely words from ex pupils, many of whom still come back to me for references, proofreading and CVs, which I do without payment of course, because I feel pride in the fact that 20 or 25 years on, I’m remembered and trusted.

Ex students often come to me for websites too – they implicitly know I will do them proud as I’ve always done, without ripping them off.

So, at the start of term, when I see former colleagues preparing for school, ex pupils kids dressed in blazers too big on Facebook and give my own children’s shoes their once a year polish, I feel decreasing resentment because my time in teaching was time well spent.

It’s just now I’ve started a new chapter in my life – writing and web design – where I can hopefully forge another legacy.

Can you run a web design business with just an iPad Pro?

I was debating for weeks whether to get a new MacBook Pro or an iPad Pro, because when we were holidaying in the north Pennines, work didn’t stop. It’s not because I didn’t want to turn off from writing, social media and web design, more that I’ve crafted a reputation for getting things done quickly and to ignore clients for a week felt wrong.

Bits of work did materialise and it was a struggle to manage tasks on my iPhone 8 Plus, which prompted a visit to Stormfront in Durham and an internal debate about whether a MacBook Pro or new cellular iPad Pro (12.9) would be a better portable investment.

Now I’m usually impetuously impulsive but I delayed until return, completing tasks on the iPhone.

The decision was made on return as I realised I could get an iPad Pro with generous data on upgrade and sell my older one.

Apple Pencil purchased, returned and repurchased. Don’t ask.

Dock bought and YouTube videos watched and I’ve now concluded that I prefer the versatility and portability of the massive iPad to my ageing 2011 MacBook Pro and indeed the new 15 inch ones I tried in Durham.

I’m not sure I could design a WordPress website entirely on an iPad but for editing, publishing new posts and operating social media, I think it’s a better choice.

I’ve just created this post on the iPad and though not as fast as a physical keyboard (next purchase?) the buttery smooth OS, processor and screen real estate makes running a business, a web design business, a distinct possibility from this iPad alone.

Tomorrow, I will buy a 99p domain, install WordPress, themes and add it to my hosting c panel all from this device and tell you definitively whether it’s possible or a pain.

Check back later this week.

Estate agents – revitalise your USPs with this property writer

What marks you out as different as an estate agent?

Is it the fact your staff don’t drive Minis?

Is it because your fee structure is openly displayed on your website?

Is it because your social media is engaging and active?

Or does your office look lovely to those who walk or drive by?

Have you built a tribe of followers, who’d endorse you wholeheartedly by word of mouth, putting their reputations on the line for you, do people trust and like you?

Do you offer something different from Agent A, B, C and D in your small patch?

The problem now is that people aren’t moving as often.

I remember being told by someone who’d been in the industry for over 25 years that the average timespan spent in a home was 7 years, only 6 years ago, and on new estates, just 4 years.

I read recently it now stands at 16 years and the supply chain of first time buyers has dried up with investors clogging the bottom end of local housing markets, with landlords holding on to property for 25 years and more.

So what do you do?

You should do something different.

Put it this way: we will probably move in 2019 and relocate. I already know who will sell our home: it’s a company that does things differently. 

Your job as estate agents is not only to source vendors who will pick you from the other two shiny suits who rock up in Minis but to help them sell so they leave reviews and tell others, but you may also want to consider something different.

I know estate agents are cash-strapped: the portals, office and staff costs absorb most profit.

But I have a service that I didn’t invent, that I can’t claim originality with or pretend I found estate agent clients, good ones, who buy into this as one of their USPs.

Property stories.

Vendor narratives.

Call them what you will – but it’s a service that me as a copywriter, property writer, turned web designer, offers on an increasingly frequent basis.

It costs you as an estate agent around £25 and here’s how it works.

Your staff email me draft particulars or a set of photos via Dropbox, Google Drive or We Transfer, with a contact name and no preamble. I look at the photos, maybe the floorplan and sometimes Street View, and then ring the vendor for a 10 – 15 minute natter.

The estate agent has already promoted my services at valuation and when they’ve committed to listing, I get the photos and vendor number.

I like doing it.

A lot.

The home seller gives me a potted history of their home, their plans, favourite aspects, I listen, prompt when they’re drying up and make notes. I don’t look for the radiators in halls rubbish – though I did in the one below!

Estate agents often bandy superlatives around – stunning, delightful, immaculate – so much so, that they can become clichéd and almost self-parodies, but we’re quite confident to add those three epithets to this property.

And some more.

You can see why when you look at the photos and floorplan and step foot in this stunning, delightful, immaculate property.

The current owners bought this Victorian villa in 2014 and were smitten by the smorgasbord of original features – the stained glass windows, the balcony, the cornicing, the original fireplaces adorning reception rooms. We know you will fall in love too – and perhaps declare love from that balcony?

Known locally as the chocolate box house in ———-, the house delights.

From parking up to three cars, to venturing into the hall, we think the entrance will impress. Original tiled floor from the Victorian heyday. A beautiful radiator – yes beautiful and radiator, two words that don’t often rub shoulders in a sentence, but they do in this hall.

A magnificent kitchen, complete with range cooker, original terracotta tiles, plus living room with real fire and orangery complete the downstairs, with more delights waiting upstairs on the first and second floors.

Why spoil your anticipation though by showing and telling all?

You need to view this property for yourself.

In terms of practicality, ________ station is under 2 miles away – a brisk walk or short drive – and you can be at ________ in 38 minutes.

But why would you want to leave this stunning, delightful, immaculate home?

The beauty of this arrangement is that estate agents don’t have to waste time creating a decent property story as you’ve outsourced it to me, a graduate of English and professional copywriter.

You don’t have to wait days for John or Joanne to finish the description.

You shouldn’t have to spell check – but I am human and sometimes commit typos which I inevitably spot just as I hit SEND on emails. I made two yesterday which were spotted but the estate agent was cool with it, as they were obviously typing errors and one was an autocorrect to deepening, bizarrely.

You must though have a vendor who’s up for it. I give up after a few tries if I’m getting nowhere.

I turn them round quickly as I know getting a property live is paramount.

Vendors love it, estate agents love them and now I’m writing for eight of these Mini driving property suits in various parts of England.

If you want to gain vendors, add a USP and not be ripped off by a property writer, get in touch with me. Each story costs £25 – unless you’re already one of my clients.

Mobile is best via iMessage or What’s App on 07462923476.

Or email [email protected]

As long as you pay me quickly for my quick writing service, I’m happy to take on more stories. 

 

 

It’s 2018, not 2008, so sort your website out.

%name apple

10 years is a massive length of time in technology – remember 2008 was when everyone craved a BlackBerry for BBM and that QWERTY keyboard, before Apple killed it with the iPhone 3GS in 2009. Boris Johnson became Mayor of London and David Davis resigned in 2008 – so some things don’t change.

The internet has.

Smartphone use has exploded.

All about the smartphone

Once they began to morph into decent cameras and MP3 players, digital camera sales nosedived and now the iPod Classic and Touch are veritable museum pieces.

The way we shop and search has changed. High speed broadband is available for all, universal 4G (soon to become 5G) has changed the way we act and interact. Social media now dominates the marketing and communication sphere.

Voice controlled speakers, from Google, Amazon and Apple, mesh WiFi, like Google WiFi, have all developed.

The problem is though that many businesses have failed to keep up with these 2018 times.

Responsive website design

So many websites are still not responsive – meaning they don’t resize and render for tablets and smartphones, where 83% of internet browsing takes place. Some websites not only look and perform poorly on mobile devices, but they have no channels for communication through digital social spaces like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Criminal really.

It’s a missed opportunity.

Adapt or die

If you want to survive and thrive, you have to adapt, you have to move with the times. You can’t ignore your poor website or even grow without one. Social media may not be your favoured pastime but with Facebook alone having 2.23 billion active monthly users, you can’t sit with your hands over your eyes and pretend it will go away. Social media is growing and for businesses it’s probably the most cost-effective form of advertising.  Measurable too. Which printed material isn’t.

If you want to grow your business, increase sales of products and services, you need compelling content on a responsive website with active and engaging social media platforms.

Rest in Peace

18th December 2008 – Woolworths announced all its stores would close.

That shop was anachronistic.

Like BHS, Maplins, Toys R Us since, it didn’t adapt.

Now I’m no business guru, just a manic consumer, but the company doing best in 2018 is heads and shoulders above the rest:

Apple.

Trillion pound profits.

A website to die for, in terms of simplicity and user friendliness.

One built on WordPress, I was once reliably informed.

Stores that feel uniform and cultish but are nonetheless (for me at least) a pleasure to visit.

I don’t think we’ll ever read of Apple closing down, but I’m sure that there will be big business, retail and restaurant casualties in the next decade – from those who failed to adapt.

Grow your business

Do you want to grow your business? Do you want to adapt? It costs less than you’d think – if you do want to thrive, contact me today.

At last, three new estate agency websites land and a cafe!

I’ve always been madly fixated with property. I bought my first house at 23 in Oldham and have made money from buying, selling, moving ever since. House prices may be unreachable for so many, but for me, investing £18,000 when on a salary of £8000 pa in 1988, it’s been a nice little earner, that equity.

A few years ago, now, I worked in estate agency, to take that mild obsession to a new level and when I set up this business, it quickly morphed into writing for the property industry.

Branching into web design though, in May 2018, after a year of website partnership, I was longing for a new property website to slake my housing thirst and not 1, but 3, have landed.

Nest Negotiators

I was asked by Nick Cheshire of Nest in Essex to design a new landing page for his buying service in Rayleigh, Essex, and to say I was pleased to be commissioned, is something of an understatement. I thoroughly enjoyed creating it with Nick.

Next up was:

Rickner Charles

Bizarrely, perhaps, another one from Essex, this time for Ronnie Rickner. Unlike Nest Negotiators, Ronnie intended listing properties on the new website and when I accepted, it was with anticipation and doubt. When I was in the property selling industry, I commissioned a web designer for mine, but now a challenge had been set for me. I did it. Loved it. Ronnie even thanked me in a video testimonial, which was nice.

Like buses, though, a third came along; from Nick again and Nest in Essex who wanted his website to have an overhaul.

Could I do it?

Course.

I’m a veritable expert I reckoned until the timeline reared its head.

Have a look at the home page below and the rather snazzy timeline that eventually developed nicely but kept me awake at night initially – for real.

Nest in Essex

See what I mean? We’re both chuffed with it though after launch. Live properties too.

Last week, a LinkedIn contact asked me if I’d take on a project – a cafe in Chiswick.

Clearly, my Essex days are over now I’m heading into Landan?

Here’s the website. The brief was to integrate colours from the supplied logo, explain opening times, include menus, and have a Call Now button for mobile phones.

The Odd Spot Café

I like this one. Ok there’s no property but it’s https, mobile responsive and hosted free for a year – as all my websites are.

Now what will come next?

Who knows?

I’m up for any web design challenge thrown at me!

Contact me in whichever way you like and I’ll respond instantly.

 

An expanding web design portfolio – to match my waist

I went solo at the beginning of May 2018, having been a partner in a web design company for a year to see if I could continue the success single-handedly.

The jury has returned a verdict saying yes you managed it.

The web count now stands at thirty in 3 months, which is 10 per month on average, or 2.5 per week and it’s increasing daily.

Clearly clients like what I do and what I charge.

So without further ado, here’s a list of ones I’ve created that I can disclose:

  1. Moloney Developments – for a team in Manchester. Simple landing website with Home and Contact.
  2. Finding the Finance  – a simple one page website for a finance firm in Glasgow.
  3. Nest Negotiators – a new extension of an estate agency service for Nick Cheshire of Nest in Essex.
  4. Masutes –  a website for a property investment firm.
  5. Matthew Clarke Photography  – a local lad who took my headshots in the woods.
  6. M8 Financial – a finance firm in Scotland.
  7. Manchester Tattoo Trust – built for the bee tattoo charity .
  8. Vinyl Archivist – launching soon.
  9. Brabbey Flooring – for a top flooring fitting company in Bolton.
  10. Quick Flooring – launching soon and I traded the website for goats (I kid you not!)
  11. Mooredges Airguns and Country Clothing – a full ecommerce site for a company in Doncaster.
  12. Crespire Creations – an Anglo-Indian wedding and events company, based here in Gorleston, Norfolk.
  13. Eagle Eye Camera Systems – coming soon.
  14. Refresh Bathrooms – for a Wigan firm.
  15. Hunt and Oak – a clothing firm in Lowestoft, launching soon.
  16. Penny Farthing Jewellers – East Sussex, a full ecommerce site, launching soon.
  17. Event Safety Consultancy – Manchester.
  18. Cav-mate – for Matt in Kent.
  19. Total Documentation Services – launching soon, from Manchester for Neil.
  20. M8 Commercial – having a redesign and launched soon.

The other ten are under NDAs and haven’t got my name on the footer.

My point is that the step from copywriter and social media manager to web design has been a tremendous success.

You can contact any of the twenty clients above and ask them what I was like to work with – or check out my testimonials on Google, LinkedIn and Facebook if you’re a bit shy of a direct approach.

If you want a website designing at an affordable cost in a quick timeframe, give me a bell anytime or drop me an email.

I’d like to add another 10 to the above list in August and two are already under construction for an August launch.

I need just eight more to maintain this batting average! Go on, punks, make my day (or month).

Which social media channel should I use most to grow a business?

Which social media channel should I use most to grow a business? is a question I’ve never been asked but for the sake of giving this titular question some clout, I’ll pretend I get asked it daily.

4 years ago when I set out with Get Pro Copy, I’d have said unequivocally “Facebook” followed by “Twitter”.

I wouldn’t now though.

Facebook only seems to show in feeds if you pay to boost Zuckerberg’s bank balance (and forehead space); Twitter raises awareness but is only there to observe the madness of Trump et al. Instagram has grown in users and is nifty for photos, stories and going live but for me, it’s brought little financially to the table.

Brand awareness yes, improved SEO ranking possibly, but money? Not directly.

Pinterest is good for SEO but no one has ever said to me “I found you on Pinterest, now write me a blog and design me a website.”

But the one referral channel I’d endorse and recommend is LinkedIn.

Four years ago, when I first discovered the platform, it was akin to watching paint dry. It was full of shallow, vainglorious egos showing off. Don’t get me wrong – they’re still on there, but it’s populated now, it seems to me, with normal people.

There’s the deification of Branson still and the nonsense spouted by other “influencers”. It’s a nest of Tories too. The types who were in the Question Time audience in York two years ago jeering Corbyn for refusing to begin nuclear Armageddon.

But putting these factors to one side, it’s actually financially rewarding and, dare I say it, quite a laugh now.

The platform appears to have been roundly subverted by freelancers, who in previous jobs were muzzled and gagged, but have now left caged employment and are free to express opinions. I really like the new LinkedIn.

The key with any social media channel though is to participate.

Scheduling 20 tweets a day, a Facebook status daily and then ignoring any interaction is a bit self-defeating. Same with LinkedIn.

There’s bores on there who post worthy links, motivational quotes and memes but there are genuine lessons to be learned from so many great people.

Now I’m a copywriter, in the property industry primarily, who’s evolved into web design, and LinkedIn fits my needs perfectly. I can promote my services, interact with others, entertain and make money on there.

But don’t get me wrong – it takes time to do, and it’s no use expecting engagement if you don’t engage with others.

I post statuses three or four times a day, tag people and comment frequently.

It works.

Tomorrow, when I’m walking the dog, and some random person asks: “Stuart, which social media channel should I use most to grow a business?” I’ll point them to this blog, passing them a business card and try to sell them a website as I’m bagging faeces.

To be honest, it’s good practice for the BS you have to sidestep on LinkedIn.

 

Why web design shouldn’t cost the GDP of a banana republic

%name pirate

I’ve always got axes to grind, and my latest of many is the absolute racketeering that goes on in the web design industry.

And it is racketeering, trust me.

There’s skills involved yes and they take time to build yes. They can be a nightmare with glitches. Rogue plugins can mess up a site. But, having launched 27 now, in 3 months, since going solo, let me put the record straight so you’re not being charged ludicrous money for web design – and before people come at me with the price of adding value, wind your necks in – the hard work comes after the web launch, adding content, sharing it and being prolific on social media.

This is how a website is built on WordPress by the majority of web designers, including me.

Some will charge £1000 upwards to get you online, others more, little old me £250 for a responsive website.

Domain name – everywhere sells them. Buy one for a year or more and make a note of the login details, so a web designer can point nameservers at it. I can buy you one if you want me to.

Hosting – don’t bloody buy it. It costs anything from £8 a month and most web designers have reseller hosting, where they’ve paid a fair old amount for a year of unlimited hosting. Some will charge you – I don’t though for a year. Then it’s £30 in total for year 2. Don’t be conned!

Install WordPress from the hosting cpanel. This used to flummox me but now I can do it with one eye closed and a leg around my neck. It then comes up (after propagation) with that standard poxy cactus image saying My Blog.

Put it on Coming Soon. There’s free plugins for this that can display your contact details and announce the site is imminent or under maintenance – so don’t pay for this privilege! Some web designers charge for this.

Install a premium theme. There’s zillions of these and any web designer who tells you his or hers are all bespoke is being economical with the truth. I started off paying for Salient, moved to Avada, and now I am hooked on Generate Press, and GP Premium with Elementor Pro, as paid for plugins.

Create the pages – add new – publish – go to appearance – menus – add pages to menu – publish. It really is that simple.

Some web designers will charge you £200 upwards to get you to that point.

Just say no. 

Begin the design. By this I mean put in elements that you want – icon lists, flip boxes, sliders, call to action buttons, headers, footers and then the real hard part tell that Lorem Ipsum to get lost.

That’s the biggest challenge – crafting the content. The design, trust me, is much easier. I do that adding content for web designers too, cos I is a copywriter by trade.

Once the home page is done and you’ve set it as home in the Customise, you can then begin on About, Gallery, Products, Contact.

Once all the pages are built, you have to adjust font and image sizes for tablet and smartphone, back it all up and toggle maintenance mode off.

A word of warning – the above has described a brochure website. Shops with payment are a different kettle of fish and can induce trauma with their complexity. I make them –  but only at gunpoint, with my San Pellegrino held hostage.

The costs?

£250 to £300 for a 2 page website that can have 700 words of information and more. Free hosting and back ups. Me on call at any time to fix niggles.

£500 for a 6 page website with more bells and whistles. Same service levels as the £250 one.

A grand for Ecommerce – I was charging £750 but realised this was minimum wage pay for the job in hand – so I’ve increased it.

Now, I’m not trying to be controversial.

I do realise that working from home without commuting costs, staff and office overheads, means you’re only paying for my time. My hourly rate is reasonable and unlike so many web designers I don’t ride a horse and wear a mask.

Cheap does not mean nasty, cheap does not mean it won’t last. My company name goes on every website footer and I don’t want to blush at the work I’ve produced.

I’m proud of what I do.

I’m good at it too.

But I won’t rip anyone off. 

Want to know more?

Get in touch.

 

Shrek – how to structure your content like Shrek

%name Shrek

I’ve developed something of a resemblance to Shrek in recent years – the waistline has expanded big time, my grumpiness occasionally rears its head and I sometimes end up with clients who are donkeys: stubborn, answering back and reluctant to pay for work done.

But, back in the day, I used to show “Shrek” on DVD regularly: one, because it is a class film; two, students and I enjoyed it; three, I could relax knowing that my fetish for showing films in English engendered high GCSE grades and instilled intrinsic motivation.

Like business, innit, if you like where you work and who you work with, you produce better results. Films did that for me – and my students.

“Shrek” though, the original film, has other crucial factors too as I explained to Joshua over the phone last week, who rang me to pick my brain about writing.

I used the Shrek analogy then and make no apologies for repeating it here.

Ogres have layers, onions have layers, content has layers.

“Shrek” begins in one place (the swamp) and your blog posts should begin and end in one place: like the swamp.

Here’s why.

Your subject line or title should contain enough enticing detail to get people clicking through to read; the opening should compel your reader to continue (that opening can also become your metadescription – that snippet Google shows); the content should be informative and entertaining and take the reader on a journey (like Shrek does to rescue the Princess) and the finale should return to the start.

It’s called in media circles: Freytag’s Triangle but in copywriting it’s called structure I guess?

So there you have it: some pearls of wisdom from someone who graduated in 1986 with an English degree, taught the subject from 1987 to 2014 from ages 8 to 18 and is now sitting in his Norfolk swamp, wondering when Donkey clients will pay up and when his partner, Fiona, will knock out a fresh stovetop coffee.

 

 

Building a website in return for goats

I am a grumpy old troll, I know that. If I was represented as a character in a soap, I’d be a meld of Norris Cole and Roy Cropper, a mixture of OCD and meddling. It’s my way. I sit under bridges waiting for goats to cross and challenge them. I don’t hide behind a fake profile picture or a nom de plume like many keyboard warriors. But I do get labelled as a troll for calling out preposterous humble brags.

Being under a bridge though, waiting for the stream to re-emerge from its dryness, has its advantages. I spy goats. And I’ve realised I want them and they need something from me.

These goats trip trapping over my bridge to reach the sweet green grass of Google page one have no idea how to get there, because they don’t have skills.

I now trade my skills for goats.

How?

A goat has something that I don’t have – that delicious milk that can be made into delectable cheese – and I have abilities that will get the goat online.

Web design and writing skills.

The goat won’t pay – like some clients so what do we do?

Barter.

Yes, swaps.

That’s a phase I’ve now entered.

Trading.

If don’t like the connotations of olde England soon to return to backward Brexity Britain, let’s call it skill sharing.

You selling goat’s cheese or goat’s milk or carpets or SEO services or logos or email marketing nous? I’ll lift my fat submerged head above the bridge parapet and say “I’d like some of that – in return for blogs, web design or social media marketing.”

After all, I am in Norfolk where the wheel has recently been invented, with a vague promise of a motorway in the next 70 years.

Barter is now Norfolk’s Bitcoin and I intend to embrace it.

Would you run a car for five years without a service?

%name service your website

Would you run a car for five years without a service?

No.

And yet SMEs, big businesses and sole traders run websites without getting them updated or serviced. But you shouldn’t and here’s why.

Logging in to the WP Admin section of a website and clicking Dashboard to see 27 updates needed is like lifting a car bonnet, and seeing a whole host of issues – low coolant, minimal brake fluid, a lack of oil etc. You let a mechanic loose to service a car once a year, but businesses neglect to service their website.

Here’s what I do.

I get a WP Admin login and head to that dashboard like some Norfolk Kevin Webster (Corrie reference) to purse lips and puff cheeks to deliver that verdict – “your website is knackered mate.”

Except I don’t.

After adding a back up plugin and making a copy of the site as it stands, only then will I start updates. I do more too. I can add caching plugins to speed up your website, paid for image optimisers and look at your site speed on Pingdom (for real) and follow the report to get it running faster.

That knackered old Fiesta of a website with its 1.0 litre petrol engine will come out of the blocks roaring like an ST (car, not disease).

You only pay for my time when I service your website.

And that’s usually an hour to two hours to service your website without the car dealer prices.

I did it twice last week and one client paid £50 for the service, another £100 because they wanted a new page adding and a pop up email subscription form, as well as updates.

I’m like that mechanic, without a boiler suit, or a copy of The Sun propped on my desk.

I lift the bonnet of your website, check fluid levels and an hour later, slam it down and get it back online – for you to test drive it and say it’s faster and slicker than it was before.

You know what too?

One company I had dealings with charges £95 plus VAT per hour for that sort of work and £160 plus VAT to install SSL.

I don’t charge those sorts of prices. Some companies wear masks and will happily rob you.

I’ll service your website for a reasonable price.

Call to action …

If your website needs a service, drop me an email and I’ll happily go in the dashboard and quote you an affordable price to improve it. Or your money back. 

 

What comes standard with websites I design?

%name Norwich web designer
  1. COPY. All copy is included in the  web design. By all means, give me ideas, but let me whip the words into shape.
  2. HOSTING on fast cloud servers. Free in Year 1, £3 per month in year 2.
  3. SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION: I can add your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest in headers, footers and calls to action.
  4. GOOGLE ANALYTICS. Set up with instructions for you on how to track web visits.
  5. FREE SSL. Not a £40 extra. Standard HTTPs with all new websites.
  6. SUBMISSION TO GOOGLE: site map, Google My Business, Apple Maps – I’ll sort them for you.
  7. UNLIMITED EMAIL ADDRESSES: info, hello, Bob, Jane – whatever you want, they’re included with instructions on how to set up on Windows, Android and iOS.
  8. RESPONSIVE. All websites render as standard on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
  9. UNLIMITED PAGE OPTIONS. You name your menu and sub tabs and I’ll create them.
  10. UPDATES and BACK UPS. All websites are backed up weekly with revisions stored. Updates of plugins and themes is manually carried out by me weekly.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

EMAIL me: [email protected]

Cheap website design for small business

Cheap website design for small business

What a dangerous, foolish title – and the temerity of me pushing the word “cheap” to the front too.

Cheap is associated with nasty, “cheap and nasty.”

The commonplace “cheap as chips”.

Or the slightly more charitable “cheap and cheerful”.

But there’s a problem with this linguistic apartheid where cheap is replaced by affordable – because does cheap have to be nasty?

Perhaps yes or perhaps not?

Cheap supermarkets

I used to crow about my Waitrose shopping habits, occasionally M and S and Sainsbury’s before heading to Asda and Tesco as spending power dwindled.

I still use all five but I’m a bit smitten by cheap supermarkets – namely Aldi and Lidl.

Each one is cheap – a typical trolley costs £60 which you know would cost £100 in any of the others and yet neither is nasty.

In fact, I quite like the experience in Lidl and Aldi.

Okay I don’t get a free Latte or a green token to drop in some charity chute, but is that coffee worth £40 and a 40 mile round trip?

Perhaps yes – I certainly used to think so.

I’m not so sure now.

Are you?

Cheap copywriters

When I first started out, I’d happily undercut others and others would undercut me too – in the so-called race to the bottom. Neither I nor the rival were cheap and nasty. We were both good, but I decided to stop that game as my skillsets with web design expanded, along with my waist.

Cheap copywriters exist and like Aldi and Lidl, they’re serving a need.

My prices aren’t Waitrose but as I’ve found out working with a new web designer, producing copy for some of his websites, he considers me cheap.

Or affordable, if you’re squirming.

I’m not really cheap – compared with my previous pay as an English teacher, my writer hourly rate is excellent, but he’s right, I’m cheaper than others.

Because I’m skilled and quick with words.

Cheap web designers

Held in the same regard as cheap copywriters, as well as cheap shops, but is there a sea change coming on?

I used to drive to Waitrose and still love a wander round John Lewis and will, when I feel an urge, spend big in there for quality of service and the experience.

Some web designers have Waitrose prices and they’re fully justifiable as they deliver excellence repeatedly.

But my point is this – if you need a website that renders on mobile, tablet and desktop, that is well designed with optimised copy, you choose who to go with and if I had millions to spend, I’d happily spend a small fortune on a top web designer.

But I haven’t; so I choose Aldi and Lidl for services, yet I drive BMWs and spend money on bulk San Pellegrino. An enigma wrapped in a puzzle, me.

Affordable websites

A website built on WordPress, hosted on fast Cloud servers, can cost as much as you want and what you perceive the value to be.

If I can build one in two days to a week, I’m happy to do that. It keeps me busy, spreads the word about Get Pro Copy (900 new visits to the website in the past 7 days) and makes small businesses, where initial capital outlay can be problematic, happy.

If you’re quoted Moët and Chandon prices, but have beer money, like me, ask me what I’d charge.

I specialise in cheap website design for small business.

All my contact details are here. 

Google Analytics and how it can help your business

%name Google Analytics

Google Analytics should be on your website – and if it’s not, sort it out please, so I can sleep easily.

It’s not a difficult process to set up and it’s made even easier to track when you download the App from the App Store (or if you’re poor, Google Play). The App is actually genius and works better on smartphone and tablet I believe than on a desktop browser.

HOW TO SET UP GOOGLE ANALYTICS

But there’s a few steps to do before you get that far.

Google can obviously explain it better than I can – so here’s the link.

ADD THE TRACKING CODE

The tricky part comes when you’re faced with adding the code to your website – this is not as straightforward as you’d expect, given that Google Home and Google WiFi are beacons of simplicity.

You end up with what looks like some form of Sanskrit over 7 or 8 lines and Google tells you to add this to the Header of your website.

Come again?

The header above the body?

That’s clear – but it’s not to people facing what may be an unfamiliar WordPress dashboard. I can do it of course as it comes as standard with the websites I build. I’ll create a Gmail account and sort out the Search Console, the UA key and the gtags, giving you access on desktop or the rather fine App once built, and this is where the magic starts.

If you’re into geeky data magic, that is – which I am.

WHAT GOOGLE ANALYTICS DOES

The Analytics shows you Real Time views, shows you which Content is being viewed and the Bounce Rate (how long someone stays on your site before they click close or navigate away). It tells you whether people are on tablet, desktop or mobile, which country they’re from and pinpoints areas.

Here’s my geographical breakdown;

  1. UK
  2. France
  3. USA
  4. India
  5. Peru

Now Peru and France surprise me a little bit. I’d expect India and USA as I’ve worked with clients from both, but never anyone from Peru or France.

If I look further though, France is centred around Paris (how bijou is Get Pro Copy Ltd?) and 53% of UK visitors are based in London or Bristol, oddly.

Apart from me lying awake wondering why Bristolians find my website so fascinating, Analytics provides better information and it’s this. It shows where my traffic is coming from – Direct, Search, Organic or Social – and tots up the numbers.

THOSE PESKY NUMBERS

At the beginning of May, I went properly solo and backed out of a business partnership. I decided to revamp Get Pro Copy, begin offering web design in Norwich, and anywhere else that would have me, and focus solely on the business I set up three years ago, instead of butterflying round various projects.

Here’s April’s figures, when Get Pro Copy was on its 2015 design:

Here’s the transition month of May when I began a major redesign – website was down for a week too during the redesign. So just a slight increase.

But this month has exploded. I built 11 websites in May and rebuilt mine and have 5 on the go this month, but the number of sessions leaped by 170% and users by 162% – because of the redesign and the concerted blogging campaign. Bounce rate has actually increased though, which is odd.

 

INEVITABLE CALL TO ACTION ON GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Now you might say “Well done Statto” and think “sad get” but my points are these:

  1. Have you set up Google Analytics on your website?

  2. Do you want more eyes on your website?

  3. Would you like to know how to achieve both?

Contact me if you do and here’s an internal link to hopefully keep that sesh data healthy.

 

 

“Lorem Ipsum” be gone – use a proper copywriter

%name Lorem Ipsum

Ah Lorem Ipsum, or Lorem Ipsum Dolor (I think) if I’m feeling expansive – the beige text place filler that says put text here and a sight that many web designers and clients sigh over when they see it.

Lorem Ipsum needs replacing you see. And that causes navel gazing and head scratching, because trust me, as a seasoned writer (no salt though as it induces strokes) that is the biggest part of any web project. Well that and the bloody images.

You can find copyright-free images on Pexel, Pixabay and Unsplash and download to your heart’s content, but you can’t find the equivalent for words – because the equal of VAR (topical World Cup reference – tick), Google, will penalise you.

So if you’re faced with this as a web designer or client, how do you react?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

To my mind, you’ve several options when you’re faced with Lorem Ipsum:

  1. Die slowly inside.
  2. Play client-designer ping pong. Designer asks client for content, client bats it back to designer, ad infinitum.
  3. Outsource it.

3 is where I come in.

I’m a Lorem Ipsum warrior, a word hero without the cape, and increasingly, designers and clients are dropping table tennis rackets, looking at me, esconsed in my foxy office and asking “Stuart, fancy being our Lorem Ipsum surrogate?”

The answer is invariably yes – particularly if you can provide me with a staging or development site or an outline of what’s needed where.

My words

I do it quickly, efficiently and creatively too, a man on a mission if you like to write copy that answers web visitors questions, speaks to them like a human and gets a fist bump from Google.

As a client wanting a website, you could try doing it yourself with inferior results – that’s not me being cocky, but I’ve had years of destroying Lorem Ipsum – or ask the web designer to pay me or head directly to me and say “Stuart, don’t launch into a WordPress sales pitch, we’ve already got someone doing that, but the copy is beige, vanilla and Latin and needs some pizazz.”

I’ll do it.

I quickly assess the word count and quote you a fixed price for optimised, human copy that will have Lorem Ipsum disappearing, embarrassed.

There’s conditions of course – I don’t have scope stretch – by that I mean I quote for 2000 words and you ask me to add a blog or improve 3 you’ve drafted. No way, Jose. You pay upfront too as I hate spending days working and waiting for a month to dine out on it.

Web Designers have it easy

But I’ll tell you this now as someone who has learned a little bit about WordPress web design (I’m on page 14 of Google you know), I could train a 4 year old to ADD NEW – PAGE / POST – CUSTOMISE – APPEARANCE – MENUS – ADD PAGE TO MENU (I hope it goes like that) but said 4 year old, 40 year old client, 50 year old web designer couldn’t craft content as well as a skilled website copywriter, like moi or t’others.

Enough.

I’ve Lorem Ipsum to banish on three websites alone this week – you want me to banish yours?

Drop me a line (no, not that type of line) to [email protected] or connect with me on LinkedIn (don’t worry, I don’t bore on there) and watch Lorem Ipsum disappear, whilst website traffic and sales increase.  

Bog off with your silly WordPress web design prices

%name bathroom

I had a superb May as a newbie to this website design malarkey and you can see the 11 I built on my About page, and feedback has been universally good.

June has maintained the momentum and I’m working now on North of Winter – a tattoo studio site for a leading Manchester tattoo artist, Sam Barber, based in Mossley.

I’ve just launched a website for Matthew Clarke Photography and he was pretty chuffed too with it, saying this:

I wanted a clean, simple & easy to navigate web page that showcases my photography work & with the help of Stuart Walton at Get Pro Copy Ltd I now have that…& one I am very pleased with.

Stuart has been very accommodating to my requirements in terms of my vision of what I wanted from my website. He has been brilliant in making slight tweaks at the drop of a hat & open to the suggestion of different ideas of the look of the overall website. His own creative input has been welcomed with some additions to my website that I wouldn’t have thought of. He has helped me set up emails, given great advice on my web presence & tips on how to get the best out of my social media accounts & activity. My website will always be a work in progress in terms of updating new images, writing blogs (another area Stuart has helped me with), adding new testimonials & introducing new elements to the website over time that will come naturally but I know with Stuart helping me I can’t go wrong. Stuart really is a one stop shop in terms of copy writing, web building & social media, all of which I believe are major components in what make a great website.

I would highly recommend Stuart & Get Pro Copy Ltd for website building. Another string he can add to his already impressive bow 😉

Next up is a drone website: Eagle Eye Camera Systems for Scott and I think he’s likewise impressed with my service, copywriting and design skills.

Then after that, I’m ditching the manly drone talk and going full on with a beauty website for Katie called Hair and Holistics. 

I think what’s happening is that many people are seeing that’s there a good living to be made from running a freelance business, as I and others are proving.

You need a good business idea, some money, a website with social media channels and a shedload of motivation and you can do whatever you want.

I’m proof of that.

There’s times when I work til midnight, work all weekend and all week, but there’s other times when I do little.
I don’t commute, I don’t have bosses and if clients try to own me, I bin the client, and focus on people who aren’t micro-managers.

WHAT I DO

I create optimised content for you.

I design your website.

I coach you on social media marketing best practices.

And people are buying into all three.

Now I don’t exploit clients at all – my prices are ultra-competitive and that perhaps explains why I’ve built 15 in two months.

But there’s another reason too. I do more, much more for clients.

I coach people on best social media practices, give advice on SEO strategies (and I seek advice from others, like Danny Andrews); I set up company email accounts; I back up and update websites; I host the websites free. I set up Google analytics. I optimise the content for search and what’s more, because I’m utterly motivated to succeed (because I love what I do) I build websites quickly.

SPEED

A domain name is purchased, I put it on Coming Soon mode as soon as the nameservers have propagated and once the 50% invoice payment has been received, I’m up with the larks and in bed with the owls (metaphorically of course) building your website.

What’s more, if you refer someone to me and they commit to a website redesign or a brand new build, you get paid £50 for the referral – no questions asked.

YOUR STEPS

  1. Domain name – buy one from Tsohost for speed of propagation. Do not buy hosting.
  2. Tell me what you want, what you really really want in terms of layout, functionality, pages, sub pages etc.
  3. I quote; you accept with open mouth and I invoice you.
  4. You pay 50% upfront.
  5. I set up hosting for your website – see point 1.
  6. We communicate via FaceTime, Whats App, email, Skype and I send you screenshots of the build and you tell me what to change.
  7. I launch the website when you’re happy with it and you pay me the other 50% within 7 days. Or I cry.

Like with haircuts, places to buy food, hand car washes, solicitors, copywriters, plumbers, you’re spoilt for choice in this search engine world.

But think of me as delivering a Waitrose experience (if you can stomach conversations about sun-dried tomatoes and cries of “Tarquin, put those olives back”) without the Waitrose prices.

Need a WordPress website?

Fancy going freelance?

Want to tell your boss to do one?

Get in touch. 

I might even let you have a free coffee – if you have a My GetProCopy card too.  

 

How much do I charge for web design in Norwich?

%name web design

How much do you charge for web design in Norwich is a question sometimes posed to me by prospective clients and I used to estimate hours needed and charge accordingly.

But I read an article today on LinkedIn that really resonated with me as someone is looking to climb ranks and make a name for web design in Norwich.

The argument, in a nutshell, was that freelancers shouldn’t have an hourly rate but be paid on the value they offer a business or customer.

I like the concept.

Here’s why.

When someone asks me what I charge per hour for copywriting, social media marketing or web design, I blithely give a figure.

But.

Here’s the point.

And I’m not giving it the Big I Am at all, but for me to research a topic, create a unique article that is optimised for search, is actually quite a quick process.

What do others charge?

Where other copywriters – and I know this from a conversation this week – would take twice as long and charge twice as much.

Think of the plumber or the hairdresser.

You pay a plumber £50 with no questions asked for half an hour’s work, because you know that it could take you 4 hours and you’d probably cock it up. Same with a barber or hairdresser – £12 for 15 minutes work but it’s not something you could probably do yourself without making a mess.

What I can do for web design in Norwich and elsewhere?

I write quickly, I design websites quickly, I manage social media creatively and effectively – not because I Am Legend, but because they’re my core niche skills.

Ask me to build a shed, lay a patio or wallpaper a room, and I’d make a right pig’s ear of all three.

So instead of asking me in future what my hourly rate is for web design in Norwich, copywriting in Newcastle or social media management in Manchester, ask what I can add to your business and think of me as that plumber, electrician, hairdresser, who can do the job much faster and much better than you can.

Does that make sense?

 

What does an ideal exam schedule look like?

%name book

The death of controlled assessments and GCSE grades led to increased pressure on schools, their leadership, departments and students to pull out all the stops in a terminal examination – in English, four of them!

The days of dishing out past papers a few weeks before Year 11 leave or once in Year 10 at Christmas are over.

Relieving staff of coursework moderation has been replaced by the heavy burden of exam marking three to six times a year.

Many schools have seen the light and are outsourcing marking and have gone so far to publish exam schedules on websites, newsletters and social media channels.

I did lead English across three federated schools in Suffolk for 3 years from 2009 to 2012 and have led English departments since 1996 until becoming freelance in 2015.

I still mark exams for four exam boards and numerous schools though – so I’ve definitely walked the walk, so to speak.

So if a cruel fairy waved a wand and plonked me back in a school of 800 with a department of five tasked with raising attainment, this is what I’d do in terms of assessment calendar.

Year 10

November (just after half term): full set of exams, set in lessons in controlled conditions split into one hour chunks. September onwards would see students being taught about the exam contents and coached in sections.

March (just after half term again, as pupils and staff are exhausted): full set of exams, on a timetabled fortnight with the hall being used.

June: see March.

Year 11

November or December: full schedule of internal exams, in a mock month.

March: see above.

Now this blog post will hardly win the Booker Prize for originality, I know, but it does give some decent guidance (I think) from a classroom veteran and one who doubled results over 5 years in a school in North Lincolnshire.

There is a cost to your school if you go the whole hog and outsource the lot – or you can have a pick n mix approach with your English department.

Outsource English papers only and mark Lit internally, as some do.

What you will have though is consistent, objective marking with a list of useful bullet points for staff, students and school leaders to use.

Better still, that department will smile from being unburdened and your exam results will rise.

Want to know more for the next academic year?

Get in touch today.

Before I’m fully booked up!

Who is best to sell your property?

%name online estate agent

Let me start with a truism – the best estate agent to sell your home is the one who achieves the highest price.

Now who will achieve that largely depends on who you trust most – I’ve sold with hybrid, traditional and an online estate agent.

So should you use an online estate agent?

Depends.

If your property is valued between £280,000 to £310,000, the agency fee is largely moot.

Let me explain why.

That estate agency who charges 1% to 1.5% plus VAT with nothing to pay upfront will collect commission of £3600 to £5400 if the property sells for £300,000.

An online estate agent may charge around £1000 upfront or deferred and may or may not achieve £300,000.

I realise I’m playing devil’s advocate having bought and sold properties through all three routes.

But I would argue that, usually, a traditional high street agent may be considered to have greater motivation to see a sale through to exchange and completion – because if they don’t, they collect zero commission.

This is an argument used by the so-called traditional agents to explain that they are more motivated.

There’s some problems though, in my experience, with this approach. I’ve experienced frustration with high street estate agents overvaluing and under-delivering repeatedly and I can’t say I felt a greater sense of urgency from the traditional estate agents I’ve used in the past (with one exception – in Leek, Staffordshire) to the online estate agent we used recently.

Similarly, having sold our property in 2016, through a purely online model (not the Watchdog attendees), I can’t say that this was a smash and grab exercise by this well-known company.

Okay, they left the writing of property particulars to me, and outsourced photography, but they delivered online, on the portals and on active social media channels and we achieved a selling price higher than the valuation offered by two local estate agents.

Our property brochure was, to put it bluntly, in a different league to other houses being marketed in the area – so much so that our neighbour switched to the same online estate agents and sold quickly too at a higher price than expected, I believe.

Some may argue that as long as your property is on Rightmove and Zoopla, it will sell.

Again, something of a fallacy.

43% of property sales stem from portals.

Leaving 57% sold elsewhere.

How?

Having worked now for the best part of three years with content marketing and social media marketing for traditional, hybrid and purely online estate agents and letting agents across the country, I’d argue that it’s a combination of factors.

  1. The obvious silver bullet of selling is price. Get the asking price right and a property should sell. You have to get it right too at the outset as the first two weeks can make or break a sale.
  2. Estate agency ability. Like any walk of life, like any job, some estate agents are excellent – whether purely as an online estate agent, or on the high street or in a commercial unit – some aren’t. The ones I work for now are people I’d happily market my home with, even though the nearest is 50 miles away!
  3. The silent sentry of the For Sale board. We sold with a board going up – to people three doors away. A post and For Sale sign alerts people to the fact that you’re looking to move and directs them to make enquiries – whether that’s to the local agent or one based 200 miles distant.
  4. Presentation of particulars. The photographer who did our photos and floorplan was a professional freelance photographer – not someone armed with a bridge camera or smartphone. I wrote the description admittedly, which I obviously enjoyed doing, and I proofread the neighbour when he switched (for no fee too!)
  5. Being in a state of constant alert. By this, I don’t mean watching Twitter for Donald Trump meltdowns but ready for viewings. It was a Forth Road Bridge operation for a few months for us – keeping the house prepared for a hypothetical hour’s notice from the agent. It worked too. We sold, having had three separate viewers – and the house was showhome condition across the seven occasions of second, third and fourth visits. Estate agents shouldn’t have to tell you to clean up? We didn’t need telling. It’s common sense?

There’s other factors too beyond this – the speed with which agents respond to queries, how viewings are conducted, location, the use of social media and email campaigns, but I’d say price and presentation overarch everything.

Get the price right, the brochure spot on and buyers will materialise – regardless of whether you’re selling with a local agent on the high street, a hybrid with local experts, or a purely online model.

Move to Berlin if you want affordable city living

%name Berlin

The suburbs of towns and cities used to be the desirable, in-demand places for families and young professionals.

City centres were where you went to work or shop or pursue leisure but always to venture out of at night.

Time have changed though and urban living is now in vogue and becoming an expensive lifestyle choice.

I know because I write constantly for property developers, estate agents, SMEs about various city centres from Leeds to Liverpool, Bournemouth to Bradford, Reading to Rotherham.

City centre prices now eclipse those of many suburbs – take Leeds, for example. I studied there in 1986 and like many students lived in Headingley and ventured into the city for shopping and cinema.

Back then, Leeds wasn’t renowned for city centre living but now the average sold price for a city centre property sits just shy of £200,000.

Venture over the Pennines to Manchester and Salford and an urban lifestyle costs even more.

Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Norwich, Nottingham, Milton Keynes, Exeter (places I’ve recently ghostwritten about) are suddenly cool places to live and work.

There’s a lot to recommend city living too.

We recently returned from Berlin and experienced capital city living, albeit for just four days, and I must admit that, as a family of four, we enjoyed having everything to hand: restaurants, public transport, museums, art galleries, shopping and cultural history. There was something edifying and liberating about jettisoning the car and relying on a slick and affordable S Bahn, U Bahn and buses and trams.

Berlin has affordable city centre property too, as I found out on return: much, much lower than cities like Oxford, London or Cambridge.

A studio flat could be bought for around £100,000 which compared with London is cheap, I believe.

But is city centre living in Britain as cheap?

Yes.

If you pick the right city.

There’s one northern city where brand new urban apartments can be bought for under £100,000. This city isn’t an ugly duckling either – it is a swan, a beautiful place with UNESCO World Heritage Status and regeneration projects on every corner.

It’s got city, coast, countryside and the National Parks of Snowdonia and the Lake District within easy driving.

The city?

The place you should look to invest in or move to?

Liverpool.

Liverpool, I reckon, is the next big UK property hotspot.

Mark my words.

Where’s best to invest in property?

%name investment in Liverpool

If anyone were asked to hazard a guess as to the U.K. city with the highest combined property values, few would offer any other place than London.

 

Fairly obvious, isn’t it?

Astronomical property prices combined with a huge urban population and inward commuting, along with the paucity of building space, would make the capital number one on Top Trumps for Property Values.

London is worth £1.5 trillion.

I’m certain though that if property Top Trumps was ever released, you could easily grab that card from an opposing player with something like a category of Best Air Quality or Lowest Cost of a Glass of Prosecco.

London property prices seem to rise inexorably year on year, with little sign of decreasing.

But it is in fact one of the slowest rising cities in Britain – recording increases of 2.37% overall in the past year.

Some parts of London are worth more in property value terms too than entire cities: SW1 alone is worth £55 billion in that postcode, just £4 billion shy of the entire property value of Leeds.

But what is the next highest city after London?

I won’t delay but list the top 10 now, with data taken from Zoopla in January 2018:

1 London £1.5tn
2 Bristol £115bn
3 Glasgow £90bn
4 Birmingham £81bn
5 Manchester £80bn
6 Edinburgh £68bn
7 Nottingham £66bn
8 Reading £60bn
9 Leeds £59bn
10 Sheffield £55bn

There’s few surprises for me here, apart from Glasgow having a higher total value than Manchester (and Edinburgh).

But if you, as a HNWI, an investor or property developer, were looking to maximise capital investment, data says there’s just one city from this list of ten you should invest in as its total value grew by 5.63% from January 2016 to January 2017.

Anyone care to guess?

Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to offer an answer or comment below.

And my top investment city is not in the top 10 – but do look at Liverpool.

18 reasons why your business needs a website

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#1 We’ve come a long way from 1991.

That’s the year when the first website went live – 27 years ago. Things have moved on greatly since then. John Major was the UK Prime Minister and Bryan Adams broke all music records with 16 weeks at the top of the charts. Some things haven’t changed though – the Ford Fiesta was the best selling car in 1991, and remains so, now.

#2 Street cred

Your business will have credibility with a website. You may be doing well on social media and selling well on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn, but you want those bios on there and Twitter and Pinterest to have a link to a website. Your website. Professionally designed. Responsive on desktop, mobile and tablet to make you look the part. I revamped this one because it lacked street cred in my new passion to design websites. It’s sick now, I reckon.

#3 Saves money

If you’re serious about saving money and time, you need to invest in a website. They cost very little to create and maintain. Some web designers charge eye-watering amounts, others don’t. There’s skills involved in web design and it takes up a lot of time, trust me, but when you’ve commissioned and paid for a website, hosting it costs very little and with a web designer making back ups and updates, it should last 5 years or more. 5 years of you being able to showcase your products and services on iMacs, iPhones and iPads – or if you’re Applephobic, any other inferior devices! You can then dump the Fiesta for a Golf R with the money you’ve saved? Phwooar.

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#4 Influence people

Let’s face it. We’re all glued to devices daily. And if you’re not, you’re in a minority. You’re not going to influence people to use your services, buy your products and trust your judgements if you’re without a website. In 1991 to 2011, you may have managed without a website, but with every consumer aged 11 upwards glued to the internet, not having a website in business is a bit like admitting you’re not bothered by missing out a daily global audience of 2.4 billion users. Ridiculous to not have one – agree?

#5 Show off your knowledge

No one apparently likes a show off but if you’re not prepared to show off your knowledge online you’re in danger of becoming a dinosaur. Call it what you will – B2B or B2C or P2P (People to People), your website needs to connect and engage. How many times before a major purchase or sale do you head online to check credentials out. I buy my whips (street cred again) from a car dealer 60 miles away when there’s ones closer. They inform me regularly of news via email, social content and blog posts on their websites. If they hadn’t, I’m certain I’d pick someone nearer. Same with meals. I look at reviews. With Google WiFi I read product reviews on various websites before I purchased and decided where to buy from. Before I book hotels and holidays, I look on Trip Advisor. You get the idea. Websites show off your knowledge. You should have one.

#6 The 24 hour a day shop

Your website doesn’t close at night, on Bank Holidays and your customers expect instant information and purchases. John Lewis stores physically close at Christmas but their briskest trade takes place annually I read on their website and app on Boxing Day. It doesn’t mean you have to sit there, surrounded by sprouts, sherry and the Queen’s Speech, running your website. Orders can be placed any time and you choose when to respond to these – but without a website, like the turkey, you’re potentially stuffed.

#7 Tell your boss to swivel

Probably should be number 1, because this for me and others is the biggest and best reason to have a website. That company you’re working for, commuting to, those colleagues you’re just about tolerating and those bosses. Yuk. I had my fill of them in education and estate agency but when you have your own business, your own website, your own workspace, bye bye office politics, petty gossip, stifling hierarchies and working to make someone else rich. By all means, have the security of a job, but use it to build an escape tunnel. A website, a freelance business, doing what you love for yourself and your family, is priceless. I feared the huge step for years but regret not telling school leaders to swivel for the past two decades and creating my own business.

REPEAT AFTER ME: “NOT FOR MUCH LONGER.”

 

#8 Find your real voice

Going self-employed with a business idea and a nice little website is like being let out of a cage. We’re all caged – but the door is wide open. You can find the real you, your authentic voice when self-employed. Add a blog to your website and you’re armed with a platform to air your views, show off your knowledge, inform, entertain and persuade.

#9 You own the website

Don’t forget this either – any web design company you choose should let you own the website. You register the domain, pay someone to host it and keep it backed up and updated but it’s not a hire car, a library book. It’s yours. You own it. Not the company, you. You own the property and pay rent to host it. Think of it like that. You can build your social media links on there, and showcase what you do, safe in the knowledge that the website belongs to you. I own this company name, the website and pay for hosting. No partners. No stakeholders. It’s brand Stuart Walton, Get Pro Copy Ltd and I won’t be owned ever again. Watch and learn, kids.

#10 A website makes you money

If you’ve a skill, a passion and mine is writing, you need a website because to be bluntly capitalistic, it will make you money. I live handsomely on the earnings from social media contracts, web design and copywriting. I had a big gross salary as Head of English and Assistant Headteacher in a local high school, but that made me increasingly miserable. This website never makes me groan or sigh, when a writing contract materialises, I don’t prevaricate and employ work avoidance strategies. This website, along with its active social media channels, makes me money. A website will make you money too whether you spend £200 or £3000 on a smart digital presence. I’m proof of it. Trust me: a website makes you money and if you work at it, lots of money.

#11 Get found on search engines

Okay, rephrase that: Google unless you go on Bing to search, you have to be found on Google, ideally near the top for search terms you’re targetting. It’s a long haul though, think of it as getting to Australia but on foot. I get found on Google for various search terms and make many sales from being found. But. There’s 3 years of digital networking, social media whoring and over 2000 blog posts that have made me appear online. Google is not an overnight fix, or over year. Getting found takes time, strategy and persistence. It’s worth it though when you can walk a dog daily, work when you want and think about those bosses who you wanted to tell to swivel still in miserable workplaces.

 

#12 Contactable

A website gets you found – my home address, landline, mobile number is public for all the world to see, but what makes it a bit better is it has a dedicated professional company email address – no [email protected] for me but [email protected], meaning I can be contacted whenever people need to. Without a website, where would I be found? On a card in One Stop, a local rag or in some doctor’s surgery screen? I’m online and can be found online 24/7 and emailed or phoned. You can even have live chat added to your website with manned outsourced agents or intelligent chatbots. Social media done well makes you digitally available too – see point 14.

 

#13 Cheap

Not as cheap as chips, one of my fave foods, but cheap nonetheless and if you’re quoted huge prices, keep looking. A website can be had for less than a weekend in Center Parcs and its impact will live longer and be more cost effective than that hole in your wallet from the Sports Bar and Parc Market. It’s quite a straightforward process too I’ve realised, but because many web designers wrap it in some Masonic mystique, and Joe Public is uncomfortable with buying a domain and installing WordPress and themes, adding content and design elements, they accept exorbitant pricing. A simple website is quick to build and launch and don’t let anyone kid you otherwise. It should be cheep and if that word appals you, call it affordable or cost-effective.

#14 Sociable

Your website and social media platforms can have a cosy, symbiotic relationship. Your website links out to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram and those repay the compliment by linking back in their bios. Your social media channels show off your website content and drives visitors to it. Your website converts visitors into social followers. 54% of my website traffic comes from LinkedIn according to Google Analytics, which your website should have incorporated. That tells me to focus on there and spend less time on Twitter. It’s no coincidence that most of my earnings stem from LinkedIn. Sometimes Facebook, often organic search but LinkedIn is a big lead generator, as well as my favourite social media hangout. Check out my LinkedIn feed and connect. 

#15 Serious about business

A website to me and others indicates to the world that you’re serious about business because you’ve invested money in designing one and time in making it work. That street cred again. My website, its content, its functionality shows this is a business, not a hobby or pastime. You can succeed with an eBay shop, an Instagram feed, don’t get me wrong, but a website says “Look I’m serious.” That’s not me below by the way. I’m much older looking but deadly serious about this business.

 

#16 Blogs rock

Video apparently killed the radio star but have blogs killed books? No. Has the Kindle killed book sales? Yes.

We’re in a 300 MBPS information rich world where we can ask Alexa to play James on Spotify, ask Google Home to turn the heating up and learn about celebrity deaths online 3 seconds after they’ve drawn a last breath. Blogs are easy to read and find on any topics you want and search engines, like Google, bloody love fresh content. Every algorithm change featured on SEO Roundtable (how nerdy am I?) mentions the importance of fresh content. Not 300 word little posts that unshared get 5 views – and 3 of them are from people you Whats Apped it to. A website with a news page, a blog page will be caressed by Google and customers and get you found online and your content shared. This blog post is intentionally weighty as I long for the day when a post of mine goes viral or some media company rings me and says “Stuart you’re the main man – write for us and we’ll pay you handsomely.” I know detailed content in a blog like this will have more impact than 4 blog posts of 5oo words. It’s like skimming a few stones across a lake, making little ripples that disappear or carrying a massive rock and chucking that in to make a real splash and impact. This is long form content. This is using the Skyscraper technique and I will be genuinely gutted if it gets 50 views and not 1000 in the next few weeks. Blogs show your authority, keep website visitors returning to read more and are loved by Google. You can blog on Medium and Tumblr of course, as well as others, but you’re piggybacking when you need to be striding proudly with boulders, to stretch that rock metaphor to its final extreme. I hope I’m making sense?

#17 Stand still and you go backwards

Okay, vinyl records may be back in vogue and you could say the Compact Disc and streaming should have killed the LP, but it’s unusual. If you’re adamant you’re managing okay without a website, you’re stationary. A website is not a luxury in 2018. Anyone can afford one but by standing still you’re actually slipping into reverse gear long term. The internet is not going anywhere. 5G is on the horizon, 83% of web browsing is carried out on mobile devices: smartphones and tablets and if you’re thinking the world will slump into some nostalgic longing for advertising in newspapers, Yellow Pages and the BT Phonebook, give your head a wobble and get in the 21st Century.

Any business needs a website and if you become one of my many clients from Manchester – you can tell your boss not to swivel, but to “do one” as you walk out with a Gallagher swagger, to become your own boss with your own business.

#18 Have I convinced you?

If so, get in touch and free yourself like I have.

How a regular property blog can win you business

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I’ve run Get Pro Copy Ltd since 2015, constantly adding blog posts, as I knew this would lead to success. It has. I then realised that much of the property industry is beginning to recognise that a regular property blog post increases web traffic and leads to sales, longer term, so this venture was born.

Get Pro Copy has provided ghostwritten services for social media marketing, copywriting and proofreading across a range of industries, but Property Blogs aims to be a niche content marketing platform for the wider property industry.

It’s not simply aimed at estate and letting agents, but the full gamut of property developers, construction companies, removal firms, small, medium, large housebuilders, conveyancing solicitors, architects and the like.

So how can a property blog strategy help companies win business?

Simple.

Your website, your social media platforms can quickly become static – if you don’t work on them.

Providing a daily, weekly, monthly property blog for your followers leads to them seeing you as a thought leader and when that decision is made to buy products or services, the information you have provided daily, weekly or monthly means that you’re increasing the chances of being picked.

A property blog will do that.

It’s not a short term gain, but a longer term goal to make readers consciously or sub-consciously pick you.

There’s more to be gained too: Google rewards fresh content.

So when a property blog is posted by you as an architect, conveyancing solicitor or candlestick maker, that post can be submitted to Google Webmaster Tools and “crawled” and indexed so that your website climbs page rankings.

It’s organic climbing too, and not a short-term steroid fix of Pay Per Click.

A property blog will get you website visits, will build a tribe of followers if that content is interesting, engaging and provides answers – and, it will win you business.

Take a look at Hogan’s Fast Sale’s property blogs here – all written by me, in liaison with Stephen, Peter, Ian, Adam, Nicole of that Leeds team and count up how many total reads those twice a month blogs posts have had.

Has it won them business?

Yes.

A property blog will do the same for you.

I promise it will.

Making money out of property development

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20 years ago, we were all encouraged to become property developers on tv programmes by the likes of Sarah Beeny and Martin Roberts on “Property Ladder” and “Homes under the Hammer”, which always seemed to be set in Stoke?

Since then, I think the high yields of property developing have evaporated.

As Farrell Walton estate agents, we sold an original 1920s bungalow with sunken bath three  years ago for £240,ooo locally and a year later it was back on the market, after an extensive makeover, for twice the amount. It didn’t sell though.

I’m connected on LinkedIn with professionals who make a living from sourcing properties and selling them on, and with developers who renovate wrecks and turn a tidy profit.

It seems though that it’s becoming more difficult according to reports I’ve read, because:

  • Capital for deposits is harder to raise with stricter lending criteria
  • Land has become expensive
  • Developers are sometimes seen as unethical – aiming to make as much money as possible for as little outlay (isn’t that what we all want to do though in life, providing there’s job satisfaction?)

There is though an attempt to change the perception of property developers in New York, of all places, where a Masters degree is being offered with the focus on making property developers more focused on the community, which seems appropriate given that the President made his wealth from property development.

You can read more here.

American property developers are also heading to Croydon, but the teachings about community seem to be being roundly ignored according to this report. Housing is turned into a commodity, not a home, within this model, with housing stock developed not for ownership but for buy to let landlords. This is perhaps inevitable given that capital and land is difficult to source – but it does seem to negate the aim of that Masters degree.

What do you think of property development in the UK?

Given that renters outweigh homeowners, should Greystarand the Blackstone group be welcomed to Croydon and elsewhere to assuage the housing crisis?

The 5 things I’d like to see on new developments in 2018

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The diesel engine may soon enter the footnotes of history as car manufacturers cease production, but will property follow suit?

Brighton elected a Green MP, Caroline Lucas, and I’m pretty sure she won’t be representing the party alone in future elections as the world wakes up to global warming and environmental damage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of planet carnage myself with two cars and an addiction to plastic bottles of water, which I do aim to curtail in 2018 (the water, that is), but I can see from living in a new-build home how far construction has come, how energy-efficient new homes are but how much further, home developers and their buyers could go.

Solar panels are conspicuous by their absence on this estate, yet 9 years ago, new estates locally seemed to have them as standard – why have they disappeared?

Persimmon don’t fit an outside tap, or include power in garages but I think that has less to do with being green and more to do with saving money for them.

How soon before developers include charging points for electric cars outside homes?

Given that cycling is so planet-friendly, why aren’t builders considering communal cycle storage areas, with lighting, shelter and smartphone controlled locks.

Norwich, not the most cutting edge city, has embraced bicycles that you can use around the city at the flick of an app?

The new road flanking this Bluebell Meadow estate has cycle paths running along it – but why don’t residents, like myself and neighbours, use this carbon-neutral transport?

It’s because using the car is too easy, in my opinion.

So this is my wishlist for Bovis, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Persimmon for 2018 and beyond:

  1. Solar panels – give buyers the option of this on first fit.
  2. Cycling – make the car peripheral to the development – no one bats an eyelid at Center Parcs when the car is emptied and left away from living accommodation for a few days or a week, and cycling (or walking) becomes king.
  3. Incorporate EV charging points. Let’s face it – if you or I bought a new home with one outside, we’d all be looking at Teslas and the like longingly.
  4. Ask buyers for what they want. Any business looking to grow has to ask consumers for their opinions and their choices.
  5. Consider pre-fabricated options to bring down the unaffordable costs of most new developments, even with Help to Buy. A 2 bedroomed turnkey home can be bought from around £50,000 from many companies – now that’s starter housing not the £189,000 entry price here.

Would you add anything else to my wishlist?

Please comment below or via social media links.

Is a home office a worthwhile investment?

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A garden home office appeals hugely to me.

I think it harks back to caveman times when man could colonise rock fissures and perhaps now modern man needs a man shed, a man den or a pod. Not just males either – women too.

There’s been an inexorable rise in self-employment and freelance work and the internet has made us all would-be “entrepreneurs” and with technology shrinking: like the advent of high speed broadband and laptops that are uber powerful, we can all nestle in gardens and make money.

I would like one, even though the box bedroom of our new-build is a perfect space.

I think what appeals is the separation. I could commute down the garden path, unlock the pod, boot up the iMac, fire up the Sonos and work. Then at night, I could lock up and hopefully switch off given the physical separation between house and office.

In expansive moments, I visualise a path meandering to the end of the garden (a tiny garden) with a curved pod waiting at the end, with a nice tub armchair, a panel heater, a compact desk, printer, iMac and a bookcase for those Instagram live parades.

A home office is much cheaper than an extension too and arguably more practical than a conservatory – which are generally ovens or freezers for most of the year.

It would cost only £10,000 maximum for a small space, resting on new foundations and with electricity, broadband and decent levels of insulation.

But that is what deters me: the costs of running a garden office.

If bedroom 5 is a perfect space that doesn’t cost an extra penny to run as it’s in an efficient new build, why would I want the costs of heating a home office for 6 months a year?

And in summer, would the glorified garden shed be too warm to sit in?

It’s one I’ll keep thinking about – any advice would be welcomed too.

Why do developers insist on building garages?

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I’ll hold my hand up now and say I used to have an obsessive habit of wanting to put my cars to bed in garages. I think my mind was programmed to behave this way because I’d lived in Oldham in the late 80s and 90s when car theft or vandalism was a weekly event on the road I lived on in Shaw.

With immobilisers and alarms, deadlocks and rising car ownership, vehicle theft seems to be on the wane yet developers insist on building garages.

The house we bought in Bradwell, Great Yarmouth, has a triple garage block, and we own two of these. It’s detached and to the rear and has a handy double drive, but the garage is not used for cars but for storage and seems to me to be utterly pointless.

Integral garages are a cost cutting measure I know, and there is something handy about being able to access one internally but, in my experience, they create cold spots which rather defeats the whole point of new builds – warmth and low energy consumption.

When I look at this Bluebell Meadow development and others in Norwich, garages seem to be the modern equivalent of a class system. The terraced starter homes have just parking and no garage at all, with the indignity of wheelie bins on front drives, the smaller semi-detacheds have a single garage and single drive, the detached homes a double drive with integral or separate garage and the five bedroomed homes, a cavernous double garage to store even more junk in.

I feel like king of the hill knowing I have double the capacity for storage of junk.

I think developers and builders though need to allow buyers to customise more. Surely someone with an integral garage on plans would happily pay £5,000 more to make it an additional reception room. I know I would.

My double garage could be split in half, forming a garden study with French doors back into the garden.

Again I’d have paid extra for that.

Please Bovis, Taylor Wimpey, Charles Church, Avant Homes, Persimmon, Barratt, think outside of the box, the garage, and accept that a glorified shed is low down the list of priorities for most modern homeowners.

What do you think?

Design Access Statements – help for architects

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Bestriding Thorpe Cloud in Derbyshire last year, fending off a nose bleed after hitting heights unheard of in coastal Norfolk, I took a call.

Out of breath, I chatted social media and content with an architect.

The long and short of it was that I was asked to optimise and improve the content of his new website and write an evaluative report on the site and its social media accounts. Bank details were handed over and before I’d taken off my boots at the hillside car park, it was credited.

Now this meant the heat was on to check a website and social media whilst marooned in a Premier Inn in Leek (how the other half live eh?) with wife and children in tow.

I did it of course on iPad and iPhone over the next few days, and, as these things tend to develop, I was asked to write Design Access Statements some 10 months later.

The architect is an excellent bloke, who coached me patiently on the Design Access Statements, set me up with a company email and access to Asana.

The rest is history as they say.

I’m not an architect, obviously, but I am a property writer for the wider property industry and, from that initial phone call to checking flood risks, I enjoy writing those Design Access Statements.

Now if you’re a time-pushed architect with  12 page Design Access Statements that need improving or completing, to the highest level of accuracy with no factual inaccuracies, get in touch with me.

I’m becoming an expert on nearest schools, London stock brick, parapets, density of housing etc, and I can write these for you, whilst you’re acquiring and completing architectural projects.

I will save you time and money.

Trust me.

Drop me an email or call me today.

I’ll even call them DAS to show how clued up I am.

Would you choose timber-framed or brick and block for new homes?

%name building

Brick and block or timber-framed? I pose this question as today, out walking, this very question was debated between myself and a neighbour.

I’d not realised as we’d bought a home that had been first-fitted that ours (and the rest of Persimmon Phase One) was timber-framed and the new builds leaping from muddy foundations opposite in Phase 2 are brick and block.

This got me thinking about why one method would be chosen over another and what are the pros and cons of each.

I realised that timber-framed houses are quicker to erect than block, and tradesmen (electricians and plumbers) can start internal and external work much faster as a typical timber framed house is ready in around 10 days.

There’s less internal drying out too, which speeds up the process by 2 to 3 weeks.

A timber framed house is also warmer – which doesn’t surprise me as the insulation levels in our own home make the place feel tropical in summer. Brick and block houses take longer to heat up, though one advantage they have is better noise insulation, which could be a factor if you’re building near a busy road, railway, hospital etc.

You’d think that the cost of timber framed building would easily exceed brick and block construction but again this is true but not by much.

So why did Persimmon make Phase One timber and Phase Two brick and block?

Is this typical of large developments or unique to this one?

Any answers appreciated!

Are micro-homes the answer to the housing crisis?

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A micro-home is defined as having a living space of below 37 square metres – or the size of a tube carriage.

To be honest, I could live in a home that size.

I think the key with a micro-home, as with caravans, is design.

Having been the proud owner of a touring caravan for 3 years, I think 37 square metres would seem palatial compared with 13 square metres, which we holidayed in frequently.

In our Sterling Eccles Sport 586 (a grand name for a tin snail), there were all sorts of ingenious design cues. The front wraparound sofa converted into a huge double bed, with the dining table forming the “divan” and the cushions seamlessly fitting the space. Worktops folded down. A wardrobe contained the TV aerial and the dining table / divan when not in use. The shower and toilet were minuscule but perfectly adequate for our family of four. At the back, a mini diner could form a bunk bed and the fixed beds on the other side could become three, with some shuffling. A slider split the accommodation in half and I can’t remember once in 3 years thinking that the proportions were irritating.

So what should developers put in a micro-home?

37 square metres requires some design ingenuity and I believe that the assumption would be that a single person, or a couple, would live in that sort of space.

What would I include if I was buying (unlikely) or designing (even more unlikely) a micro-home?

  1. A distinct bedroom with doors and walls. I say this, being fully aware of the layout of studio flats, but I think a micro home, for comfort, should have a separate living quarter, for quietness and privacy.
  2. A small ensuite shower room, with sink and toilet. I’d like an external window in here – more so than the bedroom – but I wouldn’t insist on a door to close between bedroom and ensuite.
  3. A living kitchen. Nothing expansive, but a place to eat, dine and lounge. Big enough for a two seater sofa, a breakfast bar and a couple of stools.
  4. A dishwasher, fridge-freezeer, washer-dryer.
  5. Fibre optic broadband.

If a bedroom was 3m x 4m, the kitchen 4m x 5m, that still leaves a footprint of 5 square metres for ensuite, storage etc.

Given the UK’s housing crisis, I could live easily in such a space – couldn’t you?

If four of us could enjoy a month in the Loire in 13 square metres, I don’t think a 37 metre micro-home would feel claustrophobic – do you agree?

Area guides for estate agents – prove you know your stuff

%name Great Yarmouth

Area guides for estate agents – prove you know your stuff

As leading Great Yarmouth estate agents, we know this part of east Norfolk well and what surprises many visitors in the spring and summer months is just how affordable the area is.

The most expensive part of the borough lies 4 miles inland: Burgh Castle, pronounced Borough, named after its Roman fort perched loftily above the Norfolk Broads, in splendid scenery, yet with the town only a 10 minute drive away (traffic permitting). Burgh Castle does lack amenities though like schools, but many families living there choose to send their children to Hillside Primary in Bradwell, which sits very close to the village border. There’s a choice of three high schools too: Ormiston Venture and Cliff Park Ormiston Academy in Gorleston (about four miles away) or Lynn Grove Academy in Bradwell.

Bradwell is another popular area for families, as it is not as remote as Burgh Castle, and does have shops, a petrol station and supermarkets as well as a range of schools. It straddles the Beccles Road, the A143, with its oldest part being near Green Lane and Sun Lane, but largely characterised by 1930s homes on Claydon Grove and Lynn Grove (the road leading to the high school) and ending with brand new Persimmon builds, at the Belton end of the settlement, called Bluebell Meadow.

Belton is another popular suburb of Great Yarmouth and it has a size somewhere between Burgh Castle and Bradwell, with its own range of small businesses and some prized addresses of its own, like Sandy Lane and Station Road North.

Heading north of Great Yarmouth, there is Ormesby (St Margaret and St Michael), Rollesby, Martham and Filby. Each has its own property microclimate and these villages are a little bit more accessible for commuting to Norwich.

Acle makes the perfect halfway point between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, but property there is not cheap and it climbs even more as you travel along the A47, passing hotspots like Blofield, Blofield Heath and salubrious Brundall and Strumpshaw, which are not part of Great Yarmouth.

Great Yarmouth is a typical seaside resort. It has a fantastic seaside and property prices here are amongst the lowest in the east of England. Regeneration work is underway for the town and it may become like its near neighbour, across the river, Gorleston, which has seen rejuvenation and property price growth.

Gorleston has one of the best beaches in Norfolk, with golden sand that stretches to Lowestoft. Its town centre has one of the busiest high streets in Britain and has seen a new cinema open as well as restaurants open. Gorleston has property prices ranging from £100,000 to above £1 million, with its most expensive areas clustered on or around Marine Parade, known locally as the Cliffs area, as well as Warren Road and Yallop Avenue at its southern extremities.

Great Yarmouth, as a borough, has lots to recommend it.

In summer, it is thronged with holidaymakers and day visitors, but in winter, it can be equally as alluring, with those cloudless skies and empty beaches.

If you need any more advice on buying or selling in Great Yarmouth, contact us today.

Will Alexa replace humans in the property industry?

%name Alexa

I’ve switched gas and electricity suppliers in the past month in our new build from British Gas to EDF, mainly, sadly, to witness a Smart Home meter from Netatmo (supplied and fitted free) along with a free Amazon Echo.

They’re both impressive pieces of kit, and I think if I’d forked out £250 for them, they would still please.

“Alexa, what’s the weather like today?”

“Alexa, turn the heating up to 23.”

“Alexa play The Lumineers from Spotify.”

have become daily utterances, along with its question of the day and bad jokes.

I can see though a use for Alexa or Google Home or Siri in the wider property industry.

A house for sale by an estate agent could have its accompanied viewings replaced by a smart speaker, answering questions like “Alexa how long has this house been on the market? Alexa what is the likely rental yield of this home? Alexa why do estate agents drive Minis?”

Obviously there’d be the risk of theft of said devices and perhaps Alexa would need some software tweaks to allow them to use estate agent speak (similar to politicians) with some selling spin, but it could work?

Voice control has already impacted on our family of four at home so the next steps surely will impact further on the wider industry of home selling and home building?

Alexa could replace the high street estate agencies too? Passers by could ask to be emailed properties that are listed in a locale by voice command? The industry behemoths of Rightmove and Zoopla who are charging a king’s ransom monthly to estate and letting agents or access to monopolised portals could be killed by Alexa?

Those branded BMW Minis could become electric, driverless and voice-activated?

Access to properties for sale and let could become smart controlled like some hotels and many smartphones now have.

Fantastical thinking on my part?

Maybe.

But I reckon this week, with the closures of Maplins and Toys R Us (two companies, along with BHS, Blockbuster, et al) that sadly failed to move with the times, property developers and estate agents need to futureproof their businesses.

Alexa may not be ready any day soon to replace the human service but it will happen, I believe, in some form, and in the not too distant future.

I’ve just asked: “Alexa how much are Countrywide shares worth?” and that should be a warning to all.

People sell property with people they like

%name tic tac toe

I work alongside a fair few estate agents and having been in the industry myself for a couple of years, I totally understand the holy grail of trying to acquire listings.

If you operate a no sale no fee model, you have to get vendors selling homes and then hoping that they pick you and not a cheaper online rival or the 8 other agents clustered in close proximity.

You can’t turn around to your office staff, or email Rightmove, Zoopla and Metropix, and say “Look I know this is inconvenient but we have had four valuation requests this past month and just one went with us, which should net us £2500 in 12 weeks all being well. Are you all ok with me not paying you?”

No.

You can’t and wouldn’t want to, because if and when the market improves, you’ll need those portals and your team to cope with the upturn in demand.

I explain this to estate agents I blog for: offering me a free EPC, a £250 selling fee or no sale, no fee at 1% won’t remotely tempt me into allowing your silent sentry of the For Sale board on to my meagre front lawn, because at this moment in time, I don’t want to move.

Same with your leaflets.

Your social media sponsored posts.

If I don’t want to move, others won’t either.

And this means inertia and empty pockets for estate agents up and down the country.

People used to move every 7 years on average, and 4 on new estates, but I’ve noticed on the development we bought on that there’s been no property up for sale in 2 years – properties to let yes, for sale, no.

Norfolk is not atypical either.

The only movement in the market it seems to me from discussions and my own daily portal perusals is with new builds.

First time buyers have almost disappeared and with that, there is no consequent upward demand from those FTBs who would want to upsize in 4 or 7 years.

Starter homes are being pocketed by investors with a 25 year strategy of holding on to their investment.

If that £100,000 two bedroomed terraced home is being bagged by landlords, not young buyers, then the demand for £150,000 homes reduces and we’ve ended up in a state of stasis.

No matter what agents may say, the market to me seems deader than a dodo.

I remember in 2010, the election uncertainty was blamed and for the past two years, Brexit, but I think the market has been declining for many years and these are just factors to peg a slowdown on.

I might be wrong, of course.

But I’d argue that what you need to do is continue to work at clever marketing. That doesn’t mean offering to sell homes for peanuts – if an estate agent rocked up in a Mini and said to me “Stuart, we’ll sell this house for free, pay your conveyancing fees and removal costs,” I’d smile and say “Thanks, but I don’t want to move.”

I will eventually but not now.

When I do decide to move, I won’t pick because of price, discounts, high street location, I’ll choose on emotions – who I like and how they have made me feel.

It’s the same with any major purchase – why do I drive 57 miles to a car dealer to get the same deal and car as the one I could have got 23 miles away? It’s the people, the relationship marketing, the fact that they all connect with me on social media and engage with me.

House selling is no different.

I’ll choose based on the people, the relationship marketing, and the fact that they all connect with me on social media and constantly engage with me on LinkedIn.

People buy from people they like, and people sell with people they like.

Instead of throwing money at portals, premium listings, new office furniture, wrapped Minis and sharp suits, work instead on connecting at a human level.

Make yourself loveable – and, if that’s too difficult, at least likeable.

I can show you ways to do that too. 

Let’s talk.

 

“Room” – not a Room with a View, except a skylight

%name room

Last night, I streamed the film “Room” on Amazon Prime. I’d intended to watch this at the cinema a few years ago but never got round to it.

The basic premise is that Joy, the lead character was kidnapped at 17 and held captive in a “room” in a garden for 7 years, with her being raped by the captor, “Old Nick” and having a son Jack whose only life experience is this 8 foot by 10 foot garden shed.

As a property writer (and former English teacher) like all good novels and films, this one made me think.

About lack of freedom – how did Joy and Jack cope daily in such a confined space without going mad? 

About what we need to live – mum and son had food, water, and a skylight but no access to people or outdoors.

About microspaces– is it possible to live in small spaces?

In 2012, we bought a new touring caravan, on a bit of whim (and sold it 3 years later) and that was an absolute genius of design of how to cram everything into a small space.

The comfortable front couches converted into a huge double bed with a dining table forming the base. The kitchen had flip-up worktops, an oven, a fridge, a microwave, a sink cover to use as preparing space.  There was a slimline shower cubicle, cassette toilet and sink and to the rear a mini diner and bunk area which could be adapted to 4 additional beds, with a concertina door separating the two areas.

I loved it and having spent a month in it in France in 2014 I never got bored with its mini dimensions – although we obviously didn’t sit in it daily and nightly, 24/7, like Joy and Jack did in their space.

I think the main difference though was the abundance of light.

Huge windows, three roof lights and a large glass sunroof meant it was awash with sunshine and permanently warm, even in snow, when we toured in winter.

I think that developers, house builders, architects could learn a lot from caravan and static home design.

Firstly, include lots of glass – our current home has expansive light in the kitchen due to French doors and two separate windows. The bedrooms are light too with generous glazing. Our old home, an Edwardian villa, had vast original sash windows and was awash with light (and draughts) and I think natural light is key in a home.

Secondly think logically in design.

En suite shower rooms should be standard in new builds and is a bath in a family bathroom necessary? Maybe with young families in mind, possibly, but we didn’t need access to a bath with a 5 year old daughter in a caravan in 2012.

Get rid of garages.

I can’t think of a bigger waste of space in 2018 than the inclusion of single, integral or double garages on new developments, I’ve blogged about this before,and met with some resistance, but Persimmon, Bovis et al would do well to say to homebuyers I believe – garages are not included though drives and gardens will be bigger and we can install garden officesor sheds at a small extra cost.

As the government commits to 300,000 new homes a year, will any property developers out there grasp the nettle and create new developments that are different?

What do you think?

 

Local property expert – do you want to become one?

%name property

The term Local Property Expert or LPEs have become synonymous with online estate agencies in recent years, mainly due to the fact that they’re local and have some insights into the property market locally, we’re all led to believe. It’s a curious term, because the traditional high street estate agents with MNAE and RICs behind their titles don’t resort to using any of the three words. Presumably, because they own a chunk of high street real estate, people assume they have knowledge and expertise in what they do.

Instead of arguing over semantics though, estate agents, to compete, would be better off not racing to the bottom with fees to match the online agents who don’t have so many running costs, but with providing content that showcases their expertise.

An example of a Local Property Expert

I’m going to look now at an unnamed small town (not city) which I’ve researched and see if there’s a correlation between number of listings and their content marketing strategy – bear with me, it shouldn’t be as dull as it sounds.

Let’s call the town, Cressley (the fictional setting of Stan Barstow’s “Joby” which I used to love teaching, back in the day).

Cressley has just nine estate agents.

The first page of Google search has the usual AdWord suspects but ignoring those estate agents who’ve chosen steroid PPC and not organic growth who is top?

  1. A big well-known franchise, which appears in most towns and cities and, unsurprisingly perhaps, has a corporate blog tab but one that is only updated once a month. It’s very generalised and has no relevance to Cressley. But it’s number one and it has a Google Plus review strategy which is very positive about this corporate giant. It has Live Chat too.
  2. A local independent estate agency with four regional branches, dotted around Cressley. Blogging is focused on the property market locally, breaking news and great information for buyers, sellers and landlords. It’s a minnow of an agency compared with others on Google page one, but it is getting regular listings for sale and rent – when there’s better known estate agencies and the online gang surrounding it locally and online.
  3. Another independent in third place and a newbie, only recently launched, but they have a top notch social media strategy, a beautiful website and, you guessed, a fortnightly blog post. It has plenty of let and sold properties showcased – highlighting a key facet of traditional – the motivation to see a sale through to exchange and completion.
  4. Fourth is another independent estate agency, with a blog and social media strategy in place, but both are comatose. I bet they used to be top of page one but have taken their eye of the ball, allowing the newcomer, local franchise and newbie to leapfrog them.
  5. Fifth is On the Market, various portals and other firms – I kid you not and sitting on page 2 are the other five estate agencies. All are without social media, a decent website or a blogging strategy. One estate agency even has a one page website built on Wix, with adverts popping up constantly. Would I choose them to market my home? No.

My point then is this.

If you want people to find you on Google and make a decision to ring or email you – you must be found on the top pages, your website must be user-friendly and content rich, social media should be active and fun, and you should have a news tab which makes people like you. Your website, blog posts and social media should show you are the leading local property expert.

Now I can design websites as I did for leading estate agents. I even blog and write property narratives, articles,  making you the local property expert.

I can breathe life into your website, social media pages and blogs.

I can get you seen online and picked to sell your property as the real local property expert– in Cressley, Carlisle, Chester or Chelmsford.

Call me now to find out more on 07462923476. 

 

 

From Poundworld to House of Fraser, retail is in meltdown

%name BMW

I’m not a business analyst and would never claim to be though I do read the news and follow events on social media, and so couldn’t miss the announcements that Poundworld and House of Fraser are in financial trouble and are doing a Jessops / HMV / Game and going on a financial diet with store closures.

What this tells me is that the top end and bottom end of retail is struggling, along with those in between, and I think to survive economic downturn, you have to offer something new – and that does not mean cheaper necessarily.

It’s the same with the service industry – banks are closing because footfall is low and consumer behaviour patterns have changed; estate agents are liquidating because the costs of running that business are too high on the main road through town and returns are diminishing because online agents sell houses not for a percentage fee but for a fixed fee, but the race to the bottom from high street agents has put another nail in their coffin.

To differentiate yourself, you have to offer something more than simply a product or service that you can pick anywhere online – you’ve got to offer a better service and make sure you charge accordingly.

Example: hand car washes.

Great Yarmouth and Norwich are dotted with car washes on every corner with prices varying at each one.

I can get my whip washed (pretending I’m some hip-hop distant relative of Drake’s) at any one and pay either £1.99 or £17 depending on where I pull up and what level of valet I have.

You’d think that the £17 one would struggle and the sub £2 one have queues round the block but they don’t.

These two are the most popular ones locally and the ones, that always seem to be empty, pitch themselves somewhere in between – like the ones charging £12 for a full interior and exterior clean.

Poundworld and House of Fraser car wash businesses are doing best.

This is why.

The £2 one does a basic job on your car through a machine that used to leave me in paroxysms of fear when car aerials protruded from wings and roofs. There’s no human interaction here but always a steady queue. £2 is handed over, you drive in and are waved on to the moving rail and you are dragged through the canopied machinery.

Your car drips at the end, is smeared and the inside remains untouched but it will do, you think, this week.

The £17 one takes your shopping trolley back for you, gives you a dangly air freshener and here’s their USP – they use Autoglym products inside and out to valet your car in 15 minutes. £17 does seem steep until you watch and realise 6 people are cleaning your car expertly whilst you collect half frozen salad leaves on a meander round Tesco.

The car is smear free, smells wonderful inside and looks like new after you part with the dosh.

This is what I think they do right – they differentiate themselves not by price but by quality of service and quality of cleaning products. You pay more, but you get more for your money. They are helpful too and customer focused.

So if you’re reading this and thinking physical business is dying, by all means go online and improve your digital presence, but be customer-centric, set yourself apart from rivals by charging more but doing more for them in return.

I used to think, naively, when I first became self-employed that helping others was noble, but helping rival copywriters and web designers would be like shooting myself in the foot.

It’s not.

People like helpers and just as that car wash will continue to get my £17 per month as I drive past the £12 ones, you have got to set yourself apart from others by offering more, doing more and being helpful.

Here endeth the sermon.

 

 

This property copywriter can add zing to make listings sing!

%name property copywriter

Property copywriter, me, going back to basics.

I’ve just started a new sideline: interviewing property vendors for two leading estate agencies and adding their stories to the property listing as a property copywriter.

I could pretend this was my idea but I’d be lying – I was approached to do it by a leading independent estate agent, Perry Power of Power Bespoke, who I’ve worked with previously on website design. Perry is a thoroughly decent fellow and a top estate agent, so it was a no brainer for me to accept the role.

I’m waiting for Perry to post the name badge: Power Copywriter too!

It’s going very well I reckon – the triangulated narrative between estate agent, vendor and copywriter is proving to be a success. 

So much so, that another top estate agency has approached me to do the same.

What’s good from your point of view is that you can mark it out as a USP – “we have a property writer who will interview you and sell your property with words” rather than spend time haggling about fees or dissuading them from the thousand pound coin toss of using the mauve cult.

Here’s the process:

  1. I’m emailed the photos and vendor details by you – or currently by Jen at Power Bespoke.
  2. I contact the vendor and explain I’d like 10 to 15 minutes of their time where they talk to me about their property. I find out things like how far a walk it is to Caterham, or Guildford, how long they’ve lived there, favourite aspects and because I know my way round property descriptions and have a good rapport with people from 27 years of pleasing teenagers in the classroom, the interviews all go swimmingly well.
  3. I make notes as I’m chatting and looking at photos and I craft a neat property description of between 300 to 400 words and send it to the estate agent promptly – without spelling errors, grammatical mistakes or property detail inaccuracies.
  4. I send an invoice for that week on 7 day terms and carry on with others.
  5. The estate agent has me on a Pay as you Go contract not a retainer – if they don’t want me to write many, or just a few, or for every listing – that’s fine. I’m cool with that.

There’s pluses for me: I find it very enjoyable; I like people and property and I like finding out about owners’ lifestyles, future plans and property history.

Each story takes me around 35 minutes to craft – from emailed photos to phone call to sending the property interview to you.

What does it cost, you may ask?

My hourly rate, split in 2.

Now don’t be expecting Fiverr prices or the charges of a solicitor or barrister.

Expect reasonable charges for a service I’m dedicating time to and spinning unique content about.

Ask me and I’ll tell you!

I’m not about to retire to Monaco (or even Surrey) on the earnings, but I love doing it and being paid for a service as a property copywriter I think I do well.

Proof of the pudding and all that so here’s one this property copywriter made earlier:

Despite the absence of water near this property, this property’s name is remarkably apt: The Moorings. The owner James is an expert boatsman who bought this cottage over 20 years ago. The property became his anchor, his safe haven, having decided impulsively after a first viewing to make an offer, which was accepted:

“The Moorings appealed in so many ways to me; firstly the location is splendid and the seller made coffee and fresh bread, which along with the open fires, proved irresistible. I went to the pub and decided there and then to buy it.”

But what about the property itself?

It’s a 2 bedroomed cottage that could easily be extended, subject to the usual planning permissions. It dates from 1830 and is steeped in history as a home and location.

Stagecoaches used to stop at the property as it was halfway between London and the south coast – in fact, the meadows adjoining the rear garden were where the horses rested. 

Down the road are stunning views of Box Hill, of Jane Austen fame, with many visitors comparing the vista to that of the white cliffs of Dover. France is not visible but there are vineyards nearby to match those across the Channel.

The nautical theme of cliffs and boats continues both inside and outside the property. The bathroom contains a bell from The Titanic; there’s a live water well in the garden as well as a modern irrigation system. Viewers of this quintessentially English property may spot other features too that mark it out as nautical – the anchors of the secret garden and the English Springer Spaniel, Mr Boatswain, who unfortunately does not come as part of the fixtures and fittings! 

It’s a practical home too: multi-fuel stove in the dining room, complemented by an open fire in the sitting room, as well as a sunbaked terrace that is perfectly private to the rear. 

Now the question we ask at Power Bespoke is this: will you be as impulsive as James was 20 years ago when he first saw The Moorings?

We think the answer is a resounding yes. 

Want to know more? Contact us on …

Now obviously with two leading independent estate agents on board, this one man band can’t open up property interviews to the whole estate agency market – but I always have capacity to add a few more estate agents in the mix. 

Want to know more about my property writing services?

Contact me today.

Are you looking at page 14 for web design in Norwich?

%name Norwich

We all want to be found on page one of Google, don’t we, for our services and products?

We all want that moment when someone searches for removal firms in Sheffield that you come up on page one.

Assuming of course you’re a removal company.

And in Sheffield.

Companies invest big money in SEO because it reaps dividends for them – if they can be found prominently online and what they offer answers questions to solutions a customer is looking for, boom.

I’ll come clean now and say I only look at the first few pages on Google search, ignoring the PPC ads in the main.

But I’m a man on a mission to get this company, ostensibly a copywriting and social media marketing enterprise, up on Google rankings.

I’m on page 14 in private browsing mode of Google for this search term:

Web Design in Norwich.

Now rather than be despondent, I see this as a positive.

In April, this year, I was part of a web design company and had been for a year and made a decision to go solo.

My copywriting and social media management business was being found on Google frequently by clients after 3 years of constant work at promoting it and I knew adding web design in Norwich to my services would take a long time to be seen in organic searches.

But it’s taken a month.

One month of optimising and blogging and social media sharing to get to page 14 from Search Engine Obscurity.

It’s a start, a good start and I know that by constantly refining what I offer, using the one third two third rule in marketing and creating backlinks, the business Get Pro Copy Ltd will rise in the ranks.

I’m not naive enough to think that I’ll be on page 5 next month, but I do have a clear progression strategy and if I’m on page 13 by July and page 10 by October, I’ll high five myself.

Society has changed you know that – just today House of Fraser announced shop closures, hot on the heels of Toys R U, Maplins et al.

Products and services are now largely bought online  and if you’re serious about surviving and thriving, you have to be found digitally and compel people to buy into and from you.

People hark back to the past as if life was better before the internet – it really wasn’t was it?

We played out all day in the 70s because there was nothing to hold us in the house – no Netflix, no apps, no daytime tv, so digging for worms or den building or hanging around shops or phone boxes was better than being indoors.

Don’t get me wrong – I love going out, getting Vitamin D and meeting people daily, but if someone asked me, which did you prefer – the past or the present, I’d have no hesitation in replying “Present.”

There’s key aspects to be found online then if you’re in Norwich or Nantwich, Newcastle or Newport and here’s a few:

  1. A responsive website
  2. A social media presence
  3. A commitment to communication
  4. Optimised content
  5. An ability to think longer term

I think as a business I embody all five key principles.

I talk the talk and walk the walk, as that cliché goes.

If you’d like to know more about how I can make your start up develop or breathe life into a dated, unresponsive website, drop me an email now: [email protected] and I’d be glad to advise you.

East Norfolk property prices are soaring – and it worries me

%name sheep

Many industry professionals see rising house prices as a good thing and to be honest equity has been a nice little earner for me over the years. £13,000 profit pocketed on moves in the 80s and much much more in recent years, but I do think property prices are now out of control and brinking on the obscene.

Now I’m not looking back nostalgically to the 80s – the house prices were attractive, but mullets and the glam rock look – no thanks.

The reason I’m concerned is that I’d like to move, to move locally, to something more rural, so I can fling open doors, see open countryside, hear birds chirping, rabbits cavorting and England flags on farmsteads waving their insular casual racism for all to see on large holdings.

The problem is that the countryside, around here in east Norfolk, is bloody expensive.

Burgh Castle, home to a Roman river fort, appeals, but the prices are too high.

Haddiscoe, Ormesby, Lound, Browston are all areas I’d move to in a heartbeat with my dog, family and Google WiFi boxes but alas I’d never get a mortgage, self employed at 53, with those prices.

When we first moved here, you could get a country bolt-hole for £200,000 but now you’re looking at £450,000 for the same property in rural east Norfolk.

Head to north Norfolk or nearer Norwich and east Norfolk property prices are made to look like you’re in the north.

That’s my first world problem I’m ruminating on today. I like the new build we moved into two years ago. Its running costs and thermal efficiency are trememdous. It’s quiet, reasonably close to bridlepaths, but it’s not my forever home, though I’ve accepted Norfolk may be for life, given the climate and fineness of Norwich city centre.

So if anyone can suggest a sub £200,000 property in rural east Norfolk, where I can smell parochial Brexit attitudes, with 3 bedrooms and walks from the back gate, drop me a line (an email, not cocaine).

 

 

How Google WiFi is the pinnacle of functionality and design

%name Google Wifi

My fibre optic broadband that we pay handsomely for each month has been getting me down. It won’t allow rendering of images on various websites, takes an age to load LinkedIn (though that may be a good thing given the number of vainglorious egos on there) and is slow to update and back up websites I’ve designed locally near Norwich and further afield.

Admittedly it’s not quite 2G or back to the days when you attached a telephone cable to a laptop and perched on the stairs but you know it’s bad when you consider website design from a pew in McDonald’s. Wi-Fries and all that.

SLOW BROADBAND FOR BIG MONEY

Despite my screenshooting of speeds and emails and calls to the monopoly provider on this Persimmon estate, speeds seemed to be reducing daily.

Yesterday a neighbour kindly tested the wired speed and revealed all is hunky dory in the attached broadband world, but given that I don’t want to recreate 1999 with an iMac wobbling on my knees on the second stair step, I needed to take action.

Like in Scooby Doo, the culprit was quickly unveiled – the pesky router selling for £5 on eBay and supplied free on moving in.

Now you’d think all routers would be created equal but, like me, you’d be naive to make that judgement. They are not. Not equal at all.

I knew I needed to upgrade and the neighbour offered options but when I realised I had to wait til Tuesday to end the 2G, dial up hell I was marooned in, I took action.

IT WAS AMAZON WHAT DID IT

We’ve all been spoiled by Amazon Prime. I need Illy coffee, it’s here next day, I want to stream Blade Runner 2049, boom it’s on.

So the wait for me was unbearable – so I did what any consumer does: head online, turning WiFi off obviously, to research and read router reviews. Exciting life eh?

I knew though of a real life expert whose video on LinkedIn a few months ago struck a chord: a certain Kyle Heath from the West Midlands, who demonstrated Google WiFi, whilst I watched with a quickening pulse. Sad I know.

I messaged Kyle and he told me what to get, a twin pack Google WiFi and I added it to my basket on Amazon. I couldn’t wait til Sunday though once the decision had been made, so I looked for physical stock locally.

Now this used to be easy, but alas, Amazon and its loyal customers, killed Rumbelows, Comet, Tesco Direct so my only options were Currys / PC World and that antiquated half pen catalogue empire, Argos.

I chose Currys because I’m registered there as a business, they had stock and I know their returns policy is sound, unlike Argos, where you have to build a pyre of pens and set fire to them to get within a sniff of a manager for a return.

I got £1 discount for the business purchase (I think) which cost me as it took three times as long to buy and I could have been crafting copy for clients at home in that time. An ex pupil served me, who remembered me as his History teacher, oddly.

WHAT’S GOOGLE WIFI LIKE?

Sick.

Which means great. If you’re 15. Which I am mentally.

Set up was a doddle with Kyle Heath online assisting and I have one unit in the hall (attached to the ONS)  for recreating days of 1999 and one in my foxy office acting as a “mesh”, sitting next to my Amazon Echo, which quietly glares at me for not proceeding to checkout with the basket.

And the speeds?

Bear in mind, I pay for 100 MBS and was getting 28 wirelessly.

To go all 15 again, it’s lit – meaning on fire.

Speeds, I kid you not, of 250 MBS are being recorded in the Google WiFi app, which, I kid you not again, is a masterpiece of user simplicity.

I can set a guest wifi point up, and control the password, which I can see great use of with businesses and hotels. I can control the kids’ devices and pause and stop their broadband access at set times or whenever I feel like being a bastard.

It monitors channels for me so I don’t have that ball ache of finding out the IP address and deciding whether to go Channel 3, 8 or Auto, and I can prioritise devices.

During the day, when everyone is out, and I’m uploading images to WordPress media libraries, working on Photoshop or backing up and migrating websites, I can set the bulk of the WiFi to point at my office iMac via the App and watch as steam rises from its rear orifice.

You can’t just read this though and think “nice ramble Stuart” you want a sales pitch.

A CALL TO ACTION.

Here’s mine.

My router worth £5 was shockingly bad. I upgraded it for something costing 50 times as much and my broadband now functions brilliantly.

Your website, your digital presence may work and function well – but isn’t it nigh on time you brought the content and design and functionality and user-friendliness up to speed?

Think of me as your human Google WiFi boxes.

I can speed up and optimise your website, your marketing materials, your social media, so your digital presence doesn’t look a bit 1999, whether you’re after new web design Norwich or Northwich.

Contact me today. 

 

15 topics I’d like property developers to write about

Many major property developers have embraced the art of blogging on their websites and produce articles that are interesting, informative and engaging. I’ve read a hefty amount of material that does this ever so well, but there’s a few glaring omissions from some major players.

As a devotee of new-builds and a serial homebuyer, I don’t think I’m untypical of many buyers.

I look for new developments online, visit their microsite, examine site plans, house types and availability. If the area is unfamiliar, I’d check out Google maps, proximity and reputation of local schools, access to town and country.

On the company website, or even development microsite, there’s at least 15 topics that I’d find useful and I’m convinced others may.

Here goes:

  1. Location. Not just the marketing speak but really good location information like how close is the nearest primary school or high school, whether there’s shops to hand, or walking and cycling from the doorstep. Persimmon do this well. Others don’t. It’s useful. All developers should do it.
  2. Running costs. We all take car manufacturers’ mpg figures with a bucket of salt – but a new build’s energy costs aren’t measured in a vacuum like those VWs. Give the average monthly cost of gas, electricity and water – I can tell you for this Hadleigh home precisely – £80 per month for all three.
  3. Construction methods. Timber framed or brick and block? Types and styles of windows – hardwood or uPVC. Colour of roof. You get the idea?
  4. Schools. New developments attract families as a rule of thumb – I’d like to know distances and reputations of schools close to the development.
  5. Play areas. Are there going to be any? Or will there be any public open spaces?
  6. Public transport. Bus routes and train information for example.
  7. Testimonials. Now I know many big housebuilders sometimes get bad press – but they don’t highlight the positive feedback they get. Some positive reviews should be on websites.
  8. Floorplans. I remember fondly when new builds showed radiators, power points, telephone sockets, washing machine and dishwasher points on floorplans but they seem to have disappeared – I think developers should include detailed plans for would-be buyers.
  9. Broadband options. A page alone could be dedicated to this on developers’ websites, talking about modems, routers, fibre-optic cabling, download speeds and consumer choice.
  10. Customisable options. I’m sure before the first fit phase buyers would like clearly costed options so they can choose a double oven not a single, go for better flooring than the cheap free stuff, choose to have an integral garage made into another room etc. Local builders who can add a garden home office etc.
  11. Area guides. Where is the nearest town? What amenities does it offer? Bluebell Meadow (where we live) mentions it is under 30 miles to Norwich – but that fine city could occupy 10 blog posts on its own merits. 23 miles or 40 minutes’ travel time to Norwich would make this development even more appealing.
  12. Leisure facilities nearby. I’ve been writing Design Access Statements and many of the criteria named there – like railway stations, schools – could offer a blueprint for content marketing. Why don’t developers mention the nearest David Lloyd, Nuffield or Bannatynes? The closest cinemas and theatres? The nearest public swimming pools?
  13. Landscape and walks. I’ve only recently unearthed great walks from the doorstep – why don’t developers name walking routes, describe the local landscape, rather than relying on estate agent speak like “a stone’s throw away from … a beach, woods, a river?”
  14. Financial and legal advice. Just some generalised advice on the types of mortgages available, how conveyancing works, what is the difference between exchange and completion, Help to Buy etc.
  15. Snagging. New homes all develop faults – some major, others minor, so an outline of what to do in the event of a toilet blocking, a path subsiding, brickwork cracking, doors sticking, walls cracking etc – plus some general advice on how to hang blinds and poles on those walls – would be welcomed.

If you’re a property developer at a national or local level and are thinking “this sounds like a good content strategy” drop me an email or ring me directly on 07462923476 to see how this property blogger and web designer can answer questions your buyers will have – and enhance your marketing strategy.

To win property listings, focus on relationship marketing

%name relationship marketing

Cards on the table: I worked in estate agency for a while and formed my own company in 2014 which was on the road to becoming a success with 13 property listings shortly after launch, but it lacked a long term financial commitment from myself and my business partner. It did get a key aspect right though – relationship marketing.

We established ourselves quickly with vendors in the local area not by a race to the bottom with fees, not by Rightmove Premium banners (we launched with Zoopla alone), but by focusing on relationship marketing.

We made it our mission to dispel any negative stereotypes about estate agency by being helpful, positive and genuine. It worked. We listed properties ahead of established high street rivals and online giants. People trusted Farrell Walton Estate Agency.

In many ways, I miss the company – longer term, it would have turned an operating profit and generated even more trust locally. We had a great website, active social media platforms and a reputation for being honest – because both Claire and myself had worked in education and estate agency. I’ve no doubt, now, two and half years since it was wrapped up as a business, it would be doing well.

There’s a message in here for any start-ups or established estate agencies.

See customers, see properties, in terms of relationship and not transactions.

Build the relationships, prove you’re helpful and trustworthy and listings will appear.

We managed to get on page one of Google for three key search terms: Gorleston estate agents (where we were based), estate agents Great Yarmouth and were hovering on page 2 for similar search terms for Lowestoft, a neighbouring town. We did that through active content marketing and social media marketing, and it got enquiries and even when other local estate agents disparaged us to home sellers for only being on Zoopla, we managed to secure valuations and listings.

Obviously, we didn’t sell all 13 we listed – and I read today that just 60% of housing stock sells, meaning 40% won’t sell, regardless of who is marketing it.

We knew that at the time and when a vendor changed their mind asking to take a property off the market, or switch agents, we didn’t wave contracts at them and say “You’re tied in for 18 weeks” like one local estate agency does, but mutually parted, knowing that the vendor would speak highly of our philosophy to others.

Proof of this is that one property we listed in 2015 generated few viewings and zero offers, up to our business closing, but, with four estate agents being employed since, in the past three years, it remains unsold today.

Apart from the business closing, we did well, I believe, looking back and I’d like to share with you what relationship marketing looked like to us back then, and were I to relaunch a new hybrid estate agency locally (which I’d love to do) what I’d do again.

  1. Content. Primarily I’m a content writer, having taught English for 27 years and run Get Pro Copy Ltd since Farrell Walton closed. Content became the epicentre of marketing – via a daily blog on our beautiful website, printed newsletters and email campaigns designed and populated on Campaign Monitor. Content got us valuations and listings. When I wrote and boosted posts about local villages Belton, Bradwell and Burgh Castle, we got three valuation requests and two listings there in a month.
  2. Portals. Other estate agents dissed us for not being on Rightmove as if portals were the holy grail of marketing. They’re not. We sold a stunning property locally with a For Sale board, an active social media strategy and placement on Zoopla for 1% commission. We were open about our rates. We told people what we did: accompanied viewings, gave constant marketing feedback and we came across as people to trust. We got business from word of mouth referrals too.
  3. Social media. We grew our social media presence quickly by targeting demographics and areas across five vibrant social media platforms and again that generated followers, listings, sellers and buyers. We didn’t just let Facebook, Twitter and Instagram start off well and sink into a torpid coma. No. We fed social media daily, engaged with people online and at the end we had more social media followers than any estate agent in the three places we targeted. Shame it all went.

If I could time travel back, I’d obviously do some things differently, like making sure the business had a financially viable future with a committed partnership (we both developed lukewarm feet about the enterprise) but I don’t think I’d change that much.

If you’re an established (or a start up) estate agency looking to get more valuations and turn these into listings and sales, focus on relationships.

Be helpful and honest.

Give useful advice for free.

Build a beautiful online presence in terms of your website and social media channels.

Provide informative content.

Be people-centred not property-centred.

People buy from people they like.

No matter what your fees, your high street office looks like, your portal premium presence, if customers don’t like you, you have to change their minds about you in the way you conduct business.

Rest in Peace Farrell Walton Ltd.

Hopefully one day, the concepts we built the business on will be of use to other estate agents looking to become likeable, become established or win more business.

People first – remember that.

Relationship marketing is the top priority.

Web design Norwich – from this fine literary city

%name Web Design Norwich

Web design Norwich – from this fine literary city.

Norwich proudly proclaims itself as a Fine City in its marketing literature and I cannot argue with that at all. It is a fine city – possibly the best city we’ve lived near ever. It has other claims to fame too (apart from Alan Partridge) as the UNESCO City of Literature.

The UEA runs a renowned Creative Writing course, whose alumni include Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and, more recently, John Boyne, whose Holocaust novel “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” was triggered by the author looking out of his window in the Golden Triangle of Norwich (its own Notting Hill, bound by Unthank, Newmarket and Earlham Road) and seeing fences all around.

It’s a city that hasn’t suffered much either in terms of economic downturn – because, I presume, there was never traditional manufacturing industry here to be ravaged by recession. Norwich Union, Aviva as now called, I’m sure has shrunk in employment numbers but it’s not as if shipbuilding, mining, engineering ever dominated Norwich, so, to me at least, it seems to live in a bubble, a bubble of relative prosperity.

I like Norwich as a city immensely.

It’s quite an entrepreneurial place too; where we live in Bradwell, near the gritty town of Great Yarmouth, I constantly see freelance businesses springing up and I’m sure that’s replicated across the whole of Norfolk.

There used to be a time when teachers, like I used to be, were envied for their holidays and seemingly short days, but in the past 10 years, it appears to me that few people actually go out to work and commute in this part of Norfolk.

Working from home, freelance and self-employed, seems to be the norm now and who can blame them?

I’ll state categorically that I won’t go out and traditionally work again, in some office or school, with meetings, rules and bosses. No I won’t. Life’s too short I realised belatedly.

What I’m going to do is write, manage social media, handle digital marketing and become a web designer for Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (and Suffolk). 

There’s no better way to live that being your own boss – and I can help you ditch the commute, office politics and piss poor pay by launching your own business.

Call to action?

You know what to do.

I did it in 2015 and wish I’d done it sooner. 

 

 

How long until I rank for freelance web designer Norwich

%name Norwich

We celebrate 10 years in Norfolk soon. July to be precise. It might now be an appropriate time then to get some search engine traction for this new aspect of Get Pro Copy Ltd: since I evolved into a freelance web designer Norwich. Competition is stiff to be honest to be ranked up there, but I always relish a challenge – and though I’m not a native of Norfolk, I think 10 years is a fair old stint and I deserve some SEO recognition.

We moved here for jobs in 2008: teaching jobs and on the understanding that our two children would enjoy the sun and sea – and they have. They have little desire to leave Norfolk although I’ve got itchy feet for a change of scenery.

Norwich though is a marvellous city in a county that is largely good too. Okay its isolation and road network is problematic. But the absence of rain and abundance of blue skies compensates.

So what can I offer as a freelance web designer Norwich, apart from a decade of living here.

I have a knack with words, a good grasp of social media marketing and an understanding of hosting control panels, the WordPress dashboard, CSS, HTML and Javascript that four years ago would have been a dark art.

Some web developers charge a pretty penny to get a domain showing online and to be honest there’s some skill in it. It’s easy when you know how and you understand the idiosyncrasies of domain propagation etc but for most people logging in and seeing this could result in a metaphorical seizure:

 

That’s the first obstacle to overcome – understanding and not panicking about Custom DNS, MSSQL databases – but working out to go from domain purchase to a simple coming soon page.

I must admit, back in North Lincolnshire in 2008, I had zero understanding of websites. I know more now – and Norfolk can be thanked for that. This place made me learn because I simply had to, when teaching doors closed.

I bought that domain: stuartwalton.co.uk yesterday for the princely sum of £1.20 to run as a test and in the past, I’d have to have grovelled to other web designers to get the domain working, email accounts set up, custom nameservers pointing correctly and installing WordPress and various themes and plugins.

You see, I’m a quick learner – so the new site with that cheap name – was on Coming Soon rapidly.

The real work comes after – getting the layout right, putting the right content in, and using it to test property plugins on – as I intend expanding my repertoire of 11 website builds in May to more complex ones in June and beyond.

I’ve got to link it to social media accounts, feed it with blog posts, link it to Google Analytics and test its speed and functionality and then I can confidently say to a would-be client who asks for a website listing properties for sale or to let, “yes I can do that.”

That’s my pragmatism kicking in. I want to be sure before I commit to a website build that I can do it solo. I’m sure I can – but websites can behave in strange ways and throw up all sorts of problems.

I revamped this website too, single handedly, as I was aware that given my high profile builds of sites like Manchester Tattoo Trust, the increase of website traffic to Get Pro Copy had not resulted in enough conversions of visits to contracts. It needed to look the part and I think it does, now. It’s much slicker, faster to load, more visually attractive, but has lost none of its traction because I’ve kept the Google indexed content intact.

You don’t throw out the baby with the bath water do you?

I do though have a good feeling about the immediate future and longer term. May 2018 saw 11 websites entrusted with me and already there are others earmarked for June. I’m hoping there’s more, because I find the activity of website building from domain purchase to launch incredibly enjoyable. I think I’m good at it too as the hardest part of web design it seems to me is the content – and obviously I’m a decent writer (so others tell me).

So if you’re reading this and thinking “I need a website” or “My current website is poor” drop me an email or call me and I’d be glad to block out another full day, evening and weekend to get me that 5 star feedback and you a website that makes you money.

After all, it does make the world go round, as the song goes.

 

 

Why I decided to update this website

“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.”

Ok.

That’s the pretentious opening quotation out of the way and now on to the meat of this post.

I decided, as you do, when I was looking at the portfolio of websites I’ve designed, to give this one a belated makeover. Don’t get me wrong. It functioned well still, scored highly on search engines and was easy to navigate, fast to load, but it had become a little bit 2015.

You know what I mean?

When you get in a car without air-con, or with air-con, but no climate control; or one that has a tape player – still does the business but 3 years is a long time in web design evolution.

Mama didn’t raise a fool so I knew the steps to take – back up and export the current content, disable the old theme and install a new one, and start rebuilding.

It’s taken me longer than I expected, given that all the content was already there and the media library populated with alt-tagged images.

But here it is.

I like it. A lot.

It now has more of me about it – including my new headshot, as well as a link to my YouTube channel which I’m assiduously feeding as vlogging is so 2018. There’s a video on there. The social media links sit neatly on my footer. I’m pleased with it.

I’ve maintained the permalinks and metadescriptions as I wanted it to maintain Google rankings – it’s had 3 years of blog posts and indexing with Google and I’m not about to lose that SEO traction fest.

Now if your website looks a little 2015 or 2005, get in touch with me. I’ll back it up, redesign it, optimise it and make it look fit for this year and beyond.

Contact me today (and I’ve tested the form – it works!).

Manchester Tattoo Trust – designed by Get Pro Copy

I used to live in Manchester, well Oldham to be precise, from 1987 to 1996 and having taught English in Shaw, Failsworth and Farnworth for 9 years, I’ve always felt a great affinity for the area.

Not so much the weather – but the people.

I’d say that Lancashire folk are generally the friendliest people I’ve met and Manchester still occasionally pulls me back on business and pleasure.

Read moreManchester Tattoo Trust – designed by Get Pro Copy

The one third – two third rule in marketing

If someone had said to me 10 years ago, write down your expertise on marketing and hand me the notes, it could have fitted on one side of a Post-It. Now I could easily fill three Post-It notes because I’ve learned through setting up a successful business (and failing with several others) that unless I understood how to market myself, my services and abilities, I’d soon be destitute.

Read moreThe one third – two third rule in marketing

Why this new marking venture came about

I’ve blogged repeatedly on my company website about my GCSE Marking service and when I first launched that business and left teaching for good, marking became a good source of both income and satisfaction.

I have a big network of teaching friends and from various exam boards on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as long red pen experience, which made this a logical next step.

Get Pro Copy Ltd is a freelance copywriting service, where I get contacted for marking by many individual schools, academies and Multi Academy Trusts.

Read moreWhy this new marking venture came about

Start a freelance business, live and breathe again

%name Norwich

I’d little intention of becoming a teacher when a child, but I fell into it, a rut I kneeled in for the best part of 30 years. I was held there partly because I like teaching, the students, but mainly because of salary security. I should have left to start a freelance business.

Yesterday though I realised again how misguided that career longevity was.

Read moreStart a freelance business, live and breathe again

Not drowning but waving – from a sea of red pens

%name classroom

I welcome lighter nights, the clocks going forward, the shutting off of central heating until October (well at least here in Norfolk), but spring and summer for me comes with an added bonus: GCSE English Language exam marking.

I mark all year round for various exam boards, schools, multi-academy trusts and colleges, mainly GCSE English Language and English Literature papers, from September to July, ad infinitum.

Read moreNot drowning but waving – from a sea of red pens

Rolling back the years with a weekend away

%name Manchester bee

We’ve been in Norfolk for 10 years this summer – tempus fugit and all that – and when we occasionally hitch up the camels to make the trek out of this remote corner of England, I feel frustrated with the isolation and accompanying journey times.

Amsterdam is closer to us than London, believe it or not (and probably quicker to get to) but this weekend, I went on a missionary trip to the north of England, bearing bottled water and delusions of grandeur to Manchester, no less.

The trip was business-related, but, as it was the north, business quickly became pleasure.

Read moreRolling back the years with a weekend away

GCSE English Language marking – work smarter

%name GCSE English Language

I’ll come clean now.

I am a marking expert.

That’s not me giving it “the Big I Am.” It’s fact. I marked in 1988 for the NEAB (I think?) and have done ever since, on and off, with internal exams as an English teacher, head of English since 1996 and with exam boards across GCSE and A Level English Language and English Literature for some of my 31 year career.

I’m a master craftsman with a red pen; an artist at interpreting and applying mark schemes; a ninja at giving diagnostic feedback.

Ok, that is me getting carried away – but you catch my drift?

Read moreGCSE English Language marking – work smarter

Raise attainment at GCSE and raise departmental morale

%name pen

I am a sucker for punishment, a man with a sad admission: I am embroiled currently and will be, until July, in GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature marking.

Mock exams and real exams for various exam boards, schools and multi-academy trusts.

I’m good at marking too: I can spot errors, apply a mark scheme consistently and give individual feedback to students and departments about what needs to be improved for those magical level 4 – 9 milestones.

Read moreRaise attainment at GCSE and raise departmental morale

Who should sell your property – your three choices

%name property

I posted an article yesterday on Property Blogs, a sister site, about the pros and cons of the three ways of selling your property: traditional high street, hybrid or online and having used all three as a buyer and seller, and worked alongside many companies with content marketing, I feel qualified to comment.

I’ve been a homeowner since 1988, when my first home coast me £18,500 in Oldham and still am to this day.

So what do I think?

Visit Property Blogs now or click this link to read more.

Swap the mortar board for a hard hat with a housebuilding degree?

%name liverpool

I like to see forward thinking from companies and one story that caught my eye over the weekend was the news that Redrow were starting a dedicated degree in housebuilding.

Britain, you all know probably, is facing a housing and skills shortage and Theresa May’s annual target of 300,000 new homes is unlikely to materialise without some dramatic changes of plans.

Redrow has seized the opportunity it appears in creating a BSc in housebuilding, which I expand upon on my sister site, Property Blogs:

READ MORE.

Possible opening chapter to a gluten-filled autobiography?

%name gluten

Please indulge me; this autobiographical tome has been a long time coming. It’s self-centred, as it’s about me, about my life, my family, my career. It may strike you as indulgent and self-obsessed and I apologise, but what it isn’t is a niche piece for diagnosed and undiagnosed coeliacs.

Hopefully humour and personality will shine through, even in its darker moments and there’s a few of those along the way.

Read morePossible opening chapter to a gluten-filled autobiography?

How to increase sales with a blogging strategy

%name business

Companies have at last latched on to the value of a blogging, or content marketing, strategy.

Visit 10 websites at random, go on, of various small businesses and count how many have a news or blog tab. There may not be 10 but there will be a few, I guarantee, because blogging is a great way of getting website traffic and increasing sales.

If you’re cynical, like I am, you may say, “Stuart you would say that, you’re a writer, you’re not going to say it’s a waste of time and money.”

Read moreHow to increase sales with a blogging strategy

Goodbye 2017, you were a fine and dandy year

%name new year

2017 – the year of the Phoenix for me – the year I stopped looking back and started looking forward, and built on successful businesses, as well as developing new ones.

Get Pro Copy became a Ltd Company with my wife asking for (and being refused) a shareholder role. That business has served me well for over two years now and deserved a Nick Clegg type honour – I think?

Read moreGoodbye 2017, you were a fine and dandy year

Estate agent fees – how to survive and not die.

%name estate agent fees

All about estate agent fees – how to survive and not die, my thoughts.

I live in Bradwell, a bungalowed suburb of Great Yarmouth, nice place, but permanently riddled with roadworks and delays along the A143, Beccles Road.

A 1.5 mile school run can take 20 minutes to do by car and I’ve tried all sorts of devious routes to bypass the interminable traffic lights that seem to be a fixture since we moved here in 2016.

What I do notice though, as I meander along the torturous route daily is how many houses are for sale and how there’s no pattern.

Zero brand loyalty, it seems to me.

Read moreEstate agent fees – how to survive and not die.

How to change from teaching to selling easily

%name street selling

When I first went into estate agency, I thought I had no eye for sales, as it wasn’t something I’d done all my career.

After estate agency, setting up Get Pro Copy, I still had the same doubts.

How could I convince people to pay for my services with writing or social media, when I’d been a public servant for 27 years?

Ergo: 321 Websites, then Man Stress.

But I’ve realised that I’ve been selling stuff since 1986 and have not been aware of it.

What stuff?

A love of English.

Read moreHow to change from teaching to selling easily

The art of awesome writing in just 300 words

%name Mercedes 300

I find writing comes easy to me, not because Shakespeare was a distant relative or I had a marvellous public school education, but because I taught.

If you had 5 one hour slots a day, five days a week, with a demanding teenage audience motivating them with a love of English and Literature, you’d grow to know how to write.

Read moreThe art of awesome writing in just 300 words

Content marketing strategy – why you should have one

%name typewriter content marketing strategy

Get Pro Copy reached a milestone yesterday – it turned 2 years old. I knew when I began planning the business that it would succeed, namely because I love writing and I knew that the idea of providing a decent content marketing strategy for others would work.

To be honest, I never had any doubts about it “having legs” as a concept, but rather than sing “Happy birthday to me” I need to give an explanation of what content marketing is about.

Read moreContent marketing strategy – why you should have one

Is 2017 better than 1977, 1987, 1997 etc?

%name ford granada 1977

You sometimes hear people bemoan bygone days, but I think the past is overrated, don’t you?

For the sake of a decent headline and no other particular reason, I’ve skipped back 30 years in 10 year segments which I can handily update after Christmas by adding +1 on.

To save you reading to the end, if you’re short of time or patience, 2017 is undoubtedly better than 1977, 87 or 97.

Read moreIs 2017 better than 1977, 1987, 1997 etc?

Haircut takes 15 minutes for £10 so what should I charge?

%name barber's

I keep my Facebook personal account separate from my public profile and it’s so locked down that when people try to add me, they can’t. It’s not because I’m anti-social, far from it, but I do like to voice on my personal platform views and opinions that may make a bricklayer blush.

Not pottymouth stuff, but banter and views I don’t want to share with thousands, just a select few.

Read moreHaircut takes 15 minutes for £10 so what should I charge?

Ditch that SEO monkey in the corner

%name monkey

If you’re looking to be found on search engines for certain terms, don’t be too broad, aim to be specific, but make sure it’s being searched for.

I’d like to be found on page one of Google or Bing (Crosby?) for Copywriter UK but it’s a bit of a pipe dream. Copywriter UK is too broad, as is Freelance Writer, Property Writer or Social Media Expert.

I could spend hours optimising my search terms to make it regional: Copywriter Norfolk, Norfolk Freelance Writer, Norfolk Social Media Expert and Norfolk Property Writer – but, believe me, Google suggests no one is searching for those terms.

Read moreDitch that SEO monkey in the corner

The Basics of Social Media Screening for Employers – a guest post

Social media is a modern-day phenomenon, allowing people to keep in touch with friends, family, coworkers, and even Internet strangers they’ve never met in person before, rather than requiring in-person, face-to-face communication. The number of people with at least one social media account in the United States has increased significantly each and every year.

For example, not even one-quarter of the United States population had a social media page, ringing in at $24 in 2008. Social media use in America hit the 50% mark sometime between 2010 and 2011, finishing the latter year at 52%. Today, an astounding eighty-one percent of Americans own at least one social media profile.

Read moreThe Basics of Social Media Screening for Employers – a guest post

Dear Apple, I’m quickly posting this in case my iPhone dies

%name Apple

Clearly I’m not sending this to Jonny Ives. They have more important things to deal with than a letter from some two bit freelance writer, known as Victor Meldrew in the trade, moaning about Apple, iOS 11 and the battery drain.

First world problems indeed.

But I will address this to my small band of readers, who like me, are part of the Apple clan and feel a little pissed off at the moment.

Well I do.

Read moreDear Apple, I’m quickly posting this in case my iPhone dies

Website copywriting services – without the delays

%name website copywriting services

Website copywriting services – increasingly I find I’m asked if I offer this and the answer is an emphatic yes.

You see a website without compelling words and fresh content just hangs in limbo so to speak.

To make your online presence standout and get hits, you need copy.

Copy for your landing pages, about, services and news.

I’ve got another admission to make about why it matters too.

Read more:

Read moreWebsite copywriting services – without the delays

How not to become a boring sod on LinkedIn

%name Alcatraz

I’m not stupid.

I came from a job with more rules and restrictions than North Korea.

Education is divorced from the real world, operating in a petty set of rules that only apply to certain people lower down the food chain and not further up, where Teflon suits are worn daily.

The hypocrisy and double standards are startling, trust me.

Read moreHow not to become a boring sod on LinkedIn

The darling buds of Mrs May are dying?

%name May

Remarkable watching the rerun of the speech of our glorious PM, Theresa May, yesterday, but instead of focusing on her coughing fit, that P45, Amber Rudd telling Boris Johnson to stand up or the falling letters, I’d like to steer clear of those four icebergs and touch upon what Mrs May said about housing.

Or rather didn’t say.

Read moreThe darling buds of Mrs May are dying?

Terminally self-employed with a dog lead in my hand

%name dog

I’ve watched Sean Penn in “Dead Man Walking”, I’ve seen “The Green Mile” and witnessed first hand the reaction to Tom Robinson’s demise when teaching Harper Lee’s classic. Carlson shooting Candy’s dog though in “Of Mice and Men” made little emotional impact on me, until last weekend.

You see, like any major decision: buying a car, choosing a holiday, selling and purchasing a home, last weekend I ended months of googling and adopted a dog.

Read moreTerminally self-employed with a dog lead in my hand

The poor estate agent needs that Market Appraisal

%name estate agent

I’ve decided, given that my bottled water and posh grain free dog food is paid for largely by estate agent types, to produce a series of articles about them.

I’ll start with the rationale behind this.

I bought my first home in Oldham in 1988, in an area so rough that even dogs went round in twos, and have gradually self-gentrified with the heights being hit in a beautiful Edwardian villa in Norfolk, though now currently in a eponymous new build, straddling a new road, meant to ease congestion, which is defeated by building 1000 new homes along its narrow girth.

Property has always intrigued me – so much so that in 2014 when I was given the chance to go self-employed as a Sales Associate in a local estate agency, I grabbed it with both hands; then forming a partnership in Farrell Walton, before portal costs crushed us.

Enough of the stories though – let’s go to Part One: what is an estate agent?

Read moreThe poor estate agent needs that Market Appraisal

Oh CD – you sound so much better than streams

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The Compact Disc is perhaps going the same way as the humble cassette, into musical heaven as a footnote in history, but I believe strongly that the CD should be saved.

Why?

To my rather large ears, they sound so much better than streamed playlists from Apple Music or Spotify.

Okay they’re cumbersome and bulky and devour a lot of drawer space and glovebox volume in cars, but aurally, they are superior.

Don’t you agree?

Read moreOh CD – you sound so much better than streams