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]

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. 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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

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?

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.

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

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?

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

Have Friday or Sunday seven days a week

%name Good Friday

I’m no fan of Morrissey to be honest, even though “This Charming Man” is a key song of my university soundtrack from the early 80s, but he is on to something with his “Every day is like Sunday” tune.

I prefer an analogy to Friday to be honest.

That’s what self-employment is like.

Sunday (or Friday) every day.

Read moreHave Friday or Sunday seven days a week

Cut to the chase, give me a copywriting definition

%NAME copywriting definition

Copywriting? Give me a copywriting definition now, you pretentious wannabe.

Following the 10 commandments of email copywriting, here I go for some broader brush strokes and give you a copywriting definition, in terms of what I do and what I can do for you and your business.

Read moreCut to the chase, give me a copywriting definition

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