This is Vivienne, a TOP CERT digital marketer and copywriter from Hatfield. With frenetic days but an agile and flexible approach, Vivienne is a hard working and well respected lady.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into freelancing?
It was a case of ‘when the going gets tough…’. I had lost my job, had just been into hospital for a major operation, I was off sick recovering and totally broke! You really could say that life looked rather bleak. I really didn’t know what to do for the best. Certainly, I had always harboured what seemed like a crazy ambition to earn my living by my creativity, however that looked like an impossible pipe dream. In November 2011 I appeared to be washed up.
What was your previous job before deciding to go freelance?
I had been a secondary school English teacher and university lecturer but I packed it in because I didn’t like the direction education was going. I no longer felt happy or fulfilled, so left education and undertook a stint as a PA in the construction industry, which was rather random.
How did you come across PPH?
A good friend suggested PPH to me. I was really sceptical to be honest but I respected her knowledge and thought I might as well give it a go. But who would want to buy anything from me I wondered? I was proved spectacularly wrong.
What was your first job like on PPH?
I knew that I had to build up a portfolio. My experience did not seem to fit what was required on PPH at the time. I figured the best way was to sell cheap. I sold an article (forget the topic now) for a whole £6! But that was enough. I knew that I had something people might need. The next job, I do actually remember! It was a series of very short stories for children that I also undersold massively for just £150. ‘Petter the Pink Polar Bear’ is still for sale on Amazon and has sold well for the publisher. As I say, it was a steep learning curve!
What is a typical day like for you?
My days are frenetic. I often get up anywhere between 3am and 6am depending on the level of worry! I wake up composing copy in my head and just have to grab the laptop and start writing. I now have an office, an employee, an intern and an apprentice so there is much to manage. I run a digital marketing agency that offers a range of marketing services. Actually the word digital is redundant. Marketing is marketing wherever it is! We spend our time liaising with clients regarding web design and all that entails. Then we’ll work with our designers and developers who operate elsewhere. Phone calls, proof-reading, creating events, SEO work, local search work, social media management all follow. Often we vacate the office for lunch as we are all lucky enough to work walking distance from our homes. However, our intern is based in Hong Kong so he never makes it to the office at all!
The afternoon is spent in discussion, working on social media management, client strategy and also CPD. We research every new thing we do very thoroughly and I am keen to promote new learning. Currently I am on a new course that will lead to an executive diploma in digital leadership. It’s very exciting. We man the phones, see clients in the office, carry on writing, designing and usually kick out the office some time around 7pm. It’s tiring but such a buzz!
How does freelancing compare to a 9-5?
None of my jobs have been 9-5 so it’s more of the same in one sense. But running my own business is exciting, creative, stretching and totally scary. However I do love calling my own meetings and not having my creative ideas dismissed. We don’t experience legacy thinking in our office and that is such a difference and so refreshing. Being so agile and flexible makes each day quite an adventure. Anything could happen.
What benefits have you found by using PPH?
I have made a lot of contacts. It allowed me to manage my own business from the start. I lived wholly from PPH work in the early years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the platform. I have much to be grateful for, I know. It gave me flexibility. It gave me the opportunity to showcase my abilities. It also demonstrated what was trending, what I needed to learn about and where my skills needed updating or developing.
What does your future hold? Where would you like to take this?
The future’s not orange but a funky teal colour! That’s the colour of our business cards. The future is anything we wish to create, to be honest. I still work with the PPH platform. But the business is augmented by more local company projects. They find us on other platforms, such as Yell for example. Having moved into a business centre we make connections and find work there too these days. Obviously it’s important to keep my profile at a good level and that means continuing to work through PPH as much as is practical. We are hoping to take on more staff in the next twelve months and keep expanding the business. It’s very much onward and upward!
What are your top 5 tips for freelancers who are new to PPH?
People have told me it’s hard to start and achieve leverage on PPH. My top tips would be:
- Start your pricing low. You need to build up a track record. Leave ego out of it and just bite the bullet. If you are not prepared to do this then try another platform.
- Be communicative, be yourself, be honest and transparent. People appreciate those qualities.
- If you are serious about PPH then put it top of your agenda. Don’t let clients down.
- Be reliable. Aim for swift turn-around of work. Imagine you are actually working with the client in the same room. They might be in India, Saudi Arabia or Australia but they need the same level of service. That’s a given.
- Keep learning. Keep adding skills, never stop exploring your subject. Things change so rapidly you have to try and stay ahead of the curve not always chasing to keep up with the pack.
What are your top 5 tips for copywriting?
As a copywriter, which is just one strand of the agency’s offering my top tips are:
- Keep sentences short. You may think you are a great creative writer but that’s not necessarily what’s needed in web content. It’s a very specific style of writing. Yes, you need to be creative but also terse and cogent usually wins the day.
- Read masses. Subscribe to sites that discuss content writing. Join groups on LinkedIn that talk about the trials and tribulations. Be part of the community and keep up with trends in your niche.
- Don’t become touchy at client feedback of your work. Always see your copy as a work in progress, until it’s actually signed off by the client. I’ve had articles sent back covered in scribble, it’s enough to make you cry. But use each piece of feedback as a learning experience and develop crocodile skin.
- Find your niche. It might be script writing, web content, product descriptions, micro blogging, long form content or any other type of writing but understand what is required. I undertake all of these forms but have researched them thoroughly and now have plenty of experience in each, and more besides. It pays off when you are perceived as an expert but that doesn’t come without a mass of hard work behind the scenes. Also tastes, algorithms and needs change so be prepared to be flexible. Things are written in water not stone these days.
- Have a sense of humour. If you write with a smile on your face you’ll find it does shine through in your work. Tone is very important. Sometimes you need 100% gravitas. Sometimes you need a quirky sense of fun. I write everything from safety manuals to quirky blogs from the perspective of a Chihuahua (don’t ask!) You need to be all things to all clients as a writer. But most of all become a top-flight proof-reader of your own work.
What web browser do you use?
If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
I guess I would be a black cat: curious, agile and ready to pounce whenever I spot an opportunity. I also like curling up in the sunshine but there’s little time for sleep these days!
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