Networking – find a group that works for you.

As a relatively new business owner, ( first birthday last month – yay!) I still earn most of my contracts through face to face networking. It is time consuming and sometimes exhausting – extending my time spent ‘at work’ by at least a couple of hours either side of the day. Costs can range from a Pay As You Feel arrangement to hundreds of pounds a quarter.
coffee networkingIt’s easy to adopt the scatter gun approach in the early days. This works for some, many successful business owners attend a number of different networking groups on a regular basis. But with some groups requiring a large joining fee and regular monthly payments this can be an expensive marketing plan. I quickly made the decision to join one group where I could invest my time in attending meetings and getting to know other members. This involved a lot of initial research to make sure that my final decision was the correct one, but once I had identified the right group for me I made a clear commitment. I still accept invitations to visit others as a guest and drop in and out of smaller, social networking groups. But I never let these get in the way of my ‘Alpha’ choice. Attending just one main group means that I can stay focused, build strong working relationships and it doesn’t eat into my time for client work.

 

So how do you know that you have found the right networking group?

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Open letter to a stranger.

Dear Sir,

In exactly two weeks I celebrate my 41st birthday. I’ve always had a bit of a thing for birthdays. They act as a perfect excuse for some of my favourite things – like good company, great food and lots of silliness.

My 33rd birthday was a very different affair. Friends gathered at our home and there were lots of thoughtful gifts, kind remarks and hugs that lasted slightly longer than normal. We all smiled, laughed and celebrated but there was a tangible uncertainty hanging in the air – the proverbial elephant in the room.

We never met. I have no idea whether you enjoyed blowing out the candles on your cake or hated birthdays with a passion. You may have been a husband, father, brother or uncle. Perhaps you spent your time walking in the Scottish highlands. Maybe you loved nothing more than a night in front of the telly with a glass of wine. It’s quite odd, sharing a close and unbreakable bond with a total stranger.

I have a lot to thank you for.

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Building a Brand – Start with your Why

Early in my work as a freelance writer I was lucky enough to be introduced to Simon Sinek and his incredible TED talk – How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Everything that Simon advocates looks at the importance of starting from a place of passion – then using the reason why you are in business as a driving factor in building your brand.

the aim is not to do business with everyone who needs the thing you have; but to do business with everyone who believes what you believe.

So do you understand the passion that drives you in your business journey? Are you using this to develop engaging and inspiring narratives in your marketing plan?

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Three places to find inspiration for your business blog.

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Two days ago I committed to a blog writing challenge over at Authors Publish. It felt like a great idea at the time. One page of writing, every day, throughout August. These challenges are a little like the intellectual equivalent of running a marathon. Every time I do one I swear never again – only to find myself signing up when the next one comes along. I love writing. But life gets in the way and – even when my mind is swimming with ideas – sometimes I simply cannot find the time.

As somebody famous once stated in a Facebook meme, “The only thing worse than writing is not writing.” A general nod to the torturous journey many writers put themselves through as they strive to create a piece of work that will never be perfect, only to stop writing and find themselves struggling with the lack of self expression this brings. A short daily writing pledge can be the perfect answer; ensuring that you carve out enough time and stick to the challenge.

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The fair trade movement in Britain – why should we care?

Making York a Fair Trade City

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Since 2004 a group of volunteers have been working behind the scenes to maintain York’s status as a fair trade city. They state Fair Trade – as opposed to Fairtrade – because there are many ways in which everyone can support fairly traded goods even when they don’t meet the exacting status of the official Fairtrade movement. With the celebration of International Fair Trade Day in May, Claire Davies met with Helen Harrison and Kathryn Tissiman to discuss their work within the York Fair Trade Forum.

 

Why worry about fair trade?

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Bridget Bernadette Karn – A textile art dream realised

When Bridget Bernadette Karn began exploring felting six years ago she never imagined it was the first step towards exhibiting in the 2016 Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy of Art.

Bridget’s fascination with the arts developed at an early age. However life got in the way as work, family responsibilities and health issues prevented her from following a creative career. Undeterred Bridget continued to study her passion at college, attending summer schools and evening classes whenever possible. Then in 2006 she started an Arts and Crafts Club in her local area.

Bridget Karn in her studio. Photograph by Jo Hughes
Bridget Karn in her studio. Photograph by Jo Hughes

“I wanted somewhere for likeminded people to come together, sharing ideas and skills. Members brought in different crafts for each other to try and one of the ladies suggested felting. I had never tried it before so had a go. Straight away I could see the potential for picture making.”

Bridget continued to experiment with felt picture making until 2012 when a supportive friend saw a picture of sunflowers she had created during her time recovering from an operation. Her friend suggested she show it at the Boston Spa Art Festival.

The experience acted as the starting point for developing her passion for felt picture making into something more than a hobby. Time was something of a premium though as she had a busy life being a full time carer and running another business alongside a part time job. But the death of her Father in 2013 left her exhausted and struggling to cope with chronic fatigue syndrome.

“I realised that the world didn’t stop without me and I needed to take some time to rest and let go of some of my responsibilities.  Making my felt pictures played a large part of my recovery.”

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Three places every foodie should try when visiting Newcastle

I have been making regular trips to Newcastle city centre for around five years now, all part of my post transplant management at the wonderful Freeman Hospital.  After an early start in clinic I’m usually done by lunchtime and have the luxury of an afternoon to trip round my regular haunts before jumping on the train home.

After much research and deliberation (my life is so hard sometimes, not) I thought it was time I put together a blog post sharing some of the venues that have made a visiting Yorkshire gal so welcome. Here are my three ‘must visit’ food and drink venues in the economic centre of the north east of England.

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Owner Profile – Juliet Powell Choice Therapy

Juliet Powell joins me for a cuppa and a birthday treat in Hotel Du Vin to talk life, business and how she is applying her advanced diploma in therapeutic counselling to support the parents of tweens and teens.

Juliet Powell and I enjoying a birthday treat at Hotel Du Vin
Juliet Powell and I enjoying a birthday treat at Hotel Du Vin

If you would like to share your story of self employment please email greedywordsmith.com to arrange a cuppa with Claire.

The setting.

We chose to meet at Hotel Du Vin, York in recognition of our first meeting at the coach led networking group Winning Women. As it was Juliet’s birthday (I don’t have permission to let the cat out of the bag on age) we ordered the affogato and pear and almond tart before settling down for our interview.

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Interview with my local Foodbank

Many look to curb eating or adopt a healthier lifestyle as we head into Spring. But what if you are one of a number of residents who struggle to buy enough food to see you through a week, never mind make choices on whether your minced beef comes from grass fed cattle?

Earlier this year I spoke to Laura Chalmers about how she became York foodbank manager and the help they offer to York residents.

Laura at foodbank

 

In 2010 Laura Chalmers stepped away from a career in childcare to volunteer with Christian Aid. She found her time at the orphanage in South Africa extremely rewarding and volunteered again – this time with TearFund – in Bolivia helping local people tackle issues such as drug abuse and child prostitution. On her return Laura found employment in the local youth hostel and that was when she heard that York foodbank were recruiting their first full time manager.

“Due to increasing demand their efforts had grown considerably. Eventually someone was needed to oversee the work, to keep it managed effectively and ensure sustainability. The Trussel Trust recognised that without a full time member of staff there may be no foodbank.”

Laura says that her time volunteering abroad had also brought her to the conclusion that there was a very real problem with poverty in Britain.

“At home the poverty is more hidden with a lot of complex issues and misunderstanding. We have seen a breakdown of community and people are increasingly disconnected from their neighbours. I saw my chance to take a job where I could make a real difference to my own local community.”

Part of her role involves visiting local schools, groups and professional bodies. These visits highlight many of the questions and misconceptions that exist around foodbank and the service they offer. I asked Laura to answer the six most common topics that come for up for discussion whilst she is out and about.

 As the 6th wealthiest country in the world why do we need foodbanks?

“It’s true that there is a great deal of wealth in Britain but it is poorly distributed amongst the general population. There is a huge gulf between the richest and poorest members of society. Here in York the figures are surprising. 25% of children live below the poverty line, a higher percentage than the national average, and men living in the most deprived parts of the city die an average nine years earlier than those in the least deprived areas.”

Foodbanks are just an extension of the welfare state

“Whilst we take referrals from agencies such as social workers and health visitors, foodbank remains independent from the public sector and relies solely on public donations. We work hard not to be seen as a replacement for government provision in terms of assistance. Foodbank offers a safe place for people to access support without fear of judgement. The Trussel Trust looks to be part of the solution not part of the problem. We work in the hope that one day our services will no longer be required.”

People just don’t know how to manage their food budgets properly.

“Foodbank users are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met. Many know exactly how to stretch ingredients but, ultimately, that is not always enough. Without transport it can be difficult to purchase items in bulk or reach cheaper supermarkets; many people are forced to buy food from the nearest store they can access on foot – often the most expensive way of purchasing food.

An additional factor is the number of our visitors who have grown up in care. They’ve had little family stability and not learnt how to run a household in the same way many of us do. As a reaction to this the Trussel Trust has introduced the Eat Well – Spend Less workshops, teaching people how to make nutritious meals on a tiny budget.”

What about those of us who work and still struggle to survive? Why should help only be given to people on benefits?

“The foodbank is open to anyone in need of assistance, regardless of benefit status. Less than half of foodbank recipients are on benefits and often those who are receive ‘top up’ benefits to bolster low wages. Over 50% of individuals living in poverty in the U.K are from working households and many of those helped by foodbanks are in work.”

My neighbour needs your help. Can he drop into our local foodbank tomorrow?

“We cannot dispense a food parcel without a referral from a frontline agency. I suggest your neighbour speaks to his G.P. or makes an appointment with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The largest group of visitors to York foodbank are young men of working age so he is not alone. Health visitors, head teachers and social workers can also provide a referral.”

Why don’t you provide visitors with fresh vegetables rather than packaged food?

“Fresh food is a complex issue and not suitable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is much harder for the foodbank to store without wastage. Additionally, fresh produce is more difficult to prepare if you haven’t been able to pay your fuel bill that week. Never mind ‘heat or eat’ – some can’t afford to do either. This makes preparing a cooked meal extremely difficult.”

I saw someone leaving my local foodbank in a car the other day. Why should we provide someone with food if they can afford to run a car?

“Many foodbank visitors struggle to get to and from a foodbank. Each food parcel provides enough food for three meals a day for three days per person in the household. The average family of four receives far too much food to carry home on foot or public transport. A beneficiary might need to be at work during open hours so a neighbour will pick it up on their behalf; or require help from a community support assistant to due to a disability. Also, there are many reasons why someone may need use of a car and, as I mentioned earlier, it is not our job to pass judgement on such choices.”

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3 things your copywriter needs to know

In that ever elusive quest to attract more customers, many small business owners consider using the services of a  freelance copywriter. But how do you make the most of this important decision to invest?

Here are my three golden rules to create a rewarding copywriting campaign.

Know what you want to achieve

Every marketing step needs focus. No matter what the medium you must be specific about the desired result. Are you launching a new product and want to get people on board? Maybe you need to appeal to a particular type of customer, or persuade website visitors to sign up to your newsletter. Clarity on your aims and objectives will bring you one step closer to success.

 
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Get up close and personal

Do you know what your perfect customer looks like? No marketing campaign will succeed without a clear idea of the needs and desires of your client group. A customer profile can help you identify how to attract those ideal clients and – crucially – who you don’t want to talk to.

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Clarify your ‘Why’

There are many reasons why we choose to go into business for ourselves. Whilst we all need to turn a profit, there will be many other aspects that keep you going day after day. I love to be part of a thriving local community, am passionate about supporting small business and am thrilled to spend my day telling stories. Let your passion and drive shine through.

Like the sound of The Greedy Wordsmith? Visit the website or ring 07928122079 to find out more about my services and copywriting workshops.