Decide on your rules and then stick to them…

Today my good friend Deborah Lee wrote an excellent post all about working for free. I’ve wrote about the same thing on this blog and I’ve publicly condemned those who think it’s ok to expect creatives to work for nothing.

But today something struck me. Since the end of last year, I changed the way I started working. I discovered what I was worth, decided on how much my services cost and I stuck to it. Anyone who didn’t want to pay or suggested that my quotes were too expensive, clearly didn’t want to work with me. So I wished them well and just moved on. I didn’t change my pricing or scuttle around trying to appease someone who’d already told me that they didn’t think my work was amount that I was asking.

Graffiti with Soul

And you know what? It’s worked. I finally set my rules for working and it has totally changed the way I work. I’m happier, I work with people who I like working with and its a nice feeling knowing my clients respect me enough to know that I’m worth the rates I charge.

Which makes me think about what other rules we need to set in life.

For example time. Time is another commodity that we take way too lightly. People will think nothing of suggesting a quick coffee Continue reading “Decide on your rules and then stick to them…”

How To: Deal With Online Trolls

“Beyoncé isn’t Beyoncé because she reads comments on the Internet. Beyoncé is in Ibiza, wearing a stomach necklace, walking hand in hand with her hot boyfriend. She’s going on the yacht & having a mimosa. She’s not reading shitty comments about herself on the Internet, & we shouldn’t either. I just think, Would Beyoncé be reading this? No, she would just delete it or somebody would delete it for her. What I really need to do is close the computer & then talk back to that voice & say, Fuck you. I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m Beyoncé. I’m going to Ibiza with Jay-Z now, fuck off. Being criticized is part of the job, but seeking it out isn’t. That’s our piece to let go.” (Kathleen Hanna)

Tim Ferris posted this Steve Jobs quote on facebook recently and it got me thinking about online trolls…especially in light of the Stan Collymore fiasco.

“By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize other’s work and belittle their motivations?”- Steve Jobs

image via pinterest

If you’ve ever been on the end of abusive internet comments – then you know it’s not nice. I’ve been called “pointless” for writing a simple piece on first dates, right through to being called a “fucking bitch” on twitter because I shared my opinion on a news story (and let’s not forget the famous “baphead” for daring to go on the radio). It seems trolls don’t just go after celebrities, they’ll go after anyone so long as they get their cheap kicks.

So what is a troll? If you’re thinking those weird little toys {pictured above} you used to play with back in the 80/90s then think again. These are bigger, nastier and uglier.”A troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. The noun troll may refer to the provocative message itself, as in: “That was an excellent troll you posted.” – Wikipedia

Put basically, they’re a collective of people who think that a cheap laptop and a broadband connection gives them the right to be abusive to others. They forget {or more to the point – don’t care} that the person reading the bile they’ve spewed is a human being.  They’re nothing short of playground bullies who have no boundaries because they’re hiding behind their computer screens and often see no consequences.But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Here are a few things you can do…

Ignore them. The most simple of advice and often a lot easier said than done. It’s taken me ages to just ignore these people and not react. I’ve come to the conclusion that if they don’t like what I’ve posted then more fool them for wasting five minutes of their life leaving a comment. Like any bully they thrive on attention. Don’t give it to them and they can’t do a thing.The Internet is written in ink…

It’s so hard not to retaliate and throw some pretty severe four letter words back out there at these monsters but STOP and think before you press that send button. To steal a line from the film The Social Network – the internet is written in ink. EVERYTHING is searchable, once you’ve clicked send, things remain out there and you’ve very little control over it once it’s out. Don’t ruin your future chances by responding in a negative and unprofessional way. You may not think it matters now but you don’t want people to google your name and see a string of inappropriate messages {and by then out of context} pop up.

On Twitter? Use your block button. If someone has upset you on twitter then just click the block button. It’s what it’s there for. Certainly don’t RT the comment, by retweeting you’re just giving the troll the satisfaction of seeing it bothered you.

On your blog? Would you let someone come in to your home and abuse you? No? Well, if someone posts something vile on your blog {YOUR virtual home} then just delete the comment. If you use wordpress then you can block these critters from ever commenting again. Don’t let it put you off blogging either – like I said earlier, if they don’t like your blog then they can quit reading it.

Don’t assume everyone is a troll…It’s a weird term really – troll. What I may consider a troll someone else may just think is an old fashioned arsehole. If you’ve been on twitter and facebook for any length of time you can usually see the difference between asshat and a troll so judge with caution.

Don’t let it get you down. Again, easier said than done. I remember when I had my first email of hate, I’d just had an article published and the reader clearly didn’t agree with my opinions – which is totally cool but they chose to verbally express themselves in a way which was less than kind. They’d gone to a whole heap of effort to trace my email address and craft a mammoth hate session so that it arrived in my inbox to read the very next morning. Did it bother me? HELL YES. I was so upset by it that I thought I’d made a huge mistake and should just skulk back off to my PR job.  You get used to a certain level of rejection when you’re freelancing but when someone deliberately sets out be vile it’s pretty upsetting. But the more time you waste on them and let them bring you down the less time you have to achieve things and get stuff done

.If it gets too much or you feel threatened then there are things you can do…

Check out Darlingtons blog post on trolls. He mentions the actions that can be taken if you’re feeling harrassed or threatened such as criminal and civil proceedings.

AND FINALLY…I have to share this piece that I read on Gala Darling’s blog. Whilst not specifically about trolling it does make you think that what people say about you really shouldn’t stop you from going out there and doing what you want.

*originally posted August 2012  

3 Alternatives To Working In A Coffee Shop For Freelancers

As a freelancer I’m always looking for new places to work. I find myself at odds with working in coffee shops, I just can’t settle. My nosiness takes over and I end up flitting between facebook and listening to other people’s conversations.

Not good for a productive work day.

So here are 3 places where you can get your work done without over dosing on caffeine and inane chatter…

A public library…

On Friday I visited Birmingham’s new Library. WOW. With wifi, big open work spaces and a roof garden, it’s a shame that more libraries aren’t like it. But most libraries are pretty good workspaces.    They’re quiet, calm, full of resources and woefully underused these days.

Some more images from Birmingham Library – amazing right? Continue reading “3 Alternatives To Working In A Coffee Shop For Freelancers”

5 reasons why I won’t read your blog…

When I started this blog, one thing I wanted to do was to share my experience about blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2006 and I’ve made some pretty crap decisions, I’ve made some pretty good decisions and I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to carve a career change out of it and well, make money.

But one thing I didn’t want to do is to become all preachy. I didn’t want to tell people what to and what not to do because you know what? No one is an expert on blogging or social media – no one. We can share our experiences and opinions for sure but can we call ourselves gurus? I don’t think so.

So rather than this post being a “how not to blog” I wanted to share with you 5 reasons why your blog will turn me off (i.e. things that make me click the close button before even finishing the title…)

Continue reading “5 reasons why I won’t read your blog…”

A few writing tips…

*reposted from 1st november 2012*

This post was going to be specifically for those who are taking part in NaNoWriMo but I thought I’d expand it for anyone whose interested.

If you’re wondering what NaNoWriMo it stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November and it’s purpose is to write a novel in just one month. So that’s 50,000 words in 30 days! THIS link should give you all the information you need to know!

I’ve decided that I’m *not* going to take part this year. Well, not officially. I have 2 non-fiction e-book projects which I want to work on so I’m going to use the NaNoWriMo structure and get shit done! Plus, I’m not much of a fiction writer, I cover lifestyle, travel and current affairs topics but I do (in my spare time) write the odd piece of fiction so here are a few writing tips that I try to live by (a mix of tips for fiction and non fiction).

Know in advance that it’s going to be hard – writing isn’t easy or glamorous. There are times when I have no money, stress from pitching and deadlines and I think what’s the point? But then I remember this poem by Charles Bukowski entitled “So you want to be a writer” and it sets me right.

Here’s a small excerpt:

If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.

If you’re doing it for money or fame, don’t do it.

If you’re doing it because you want women in your bed, don’t do it.

If you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don’t do it.

If it’s hard work just thinking about doing it, don’t do it.

If you’re trying to write like somebody else, forget about it.
Continue reading “A few writing tips…”

How To Blog: Dealing with Negative Comments

I’ve had a bit of a sabbatical from my “how to blog” series. With holiday, work and a little more work on the top, I’ve simply had no time. I’ve also not had time to tell you about the talk I did for ignite.

Which is handy as I’m going to pinch that idea for todays post.

A few weeks back I spoke to a room of people about dealing with negative online comments, we were all in the same boat, everyone in that room either blogged, tweeted, uploaded photos, facebooked, generally created something online etc so its safe to assume that most people had come across a negative comment or two in their time online.

If you were at the talk, you’ll know I got side tracked…if you weren’t then I had to hone my usual rabbeting down to a 5 minute segment so briefly here are my tips on dealing with negative online comments.

*note for the purpose of the blog post, when I talk about negative comments, I’m not talking about the type of comments that include death/rape threats or fascist and violent behaviour – those need to be reported to police asap.

Instead I’m talking about those pesky commenters who lie in the shadows, waiting for you to post something before leaping out and essentially shitting all over your work.

One story I shared with the room at ignite was a time when I was a guest on BBC Radio Wales. I was talking about something serious at the time I’m sure *ahem* so the last thing I expected was to receive was a tweet calling me a “bap head” – seriously!! BAP. HEAD. This person had gone out of his way to set up a twitter account with the sole purpose of tweeting the presenter of the show (and kindly @‘ing me) just to call me a name. It was the ONLY TWEET on their account!

I’ll be honest, I laughed it off since I’ve always thought I’ve got a bit of a moon face anyway.Since I’ve been blogging since 2006 I’ve come to expect that there will always be someone sat in wait ready to kindly share their shitty, irrelevant opinion of you. But it’s not always that easy, especially if you’re lacking confidence, are new at blogging or you’ve posted something personal and heartfelt.

So here are my 5 tips on dealing with negative comments online…

Put it in perspective:
Think about the type of people who are leaving these comments. Whilst you’re there trying to create a successful blog and sharing your wise words with the world, they’re using their internet connection to scour the net for things they can be mean about. It’s dull, its childish and the majority of these comments come from grown ups so I found it a lot easier to start picturing what these people are like in real life. If you start picturing these people as sad, middle-aged virgins, living in their parents back bedroom, with very little going for them (probably true) then suddenly it doesn’t seem to matter so much.


Turn off comments:
A little bit drastic but bloggers like Seth Godin, Gala Darling and Danielle LaPorte all made the decision to switch off the noise and turn comments off. As Gala Darling said on her post “Comments are a blessing and a curse”. Personally, I’m a comment whore, I love a good comment so I couldn’t switch them off but if you find that comments are dampening your creative genius then flick that switch.


Turn the hate around:
It is generally the case that those who leave you negative comments basically want you to “shut the fuck up and die” { < that is actually a direct quote from one of my fans} but instead of doing that, take what they say and use it as inspiration for your next post. For example, going back to #bapheadgate, I could use that as a perfect excuse to chat about my favourite bap filling {fish fingers with plenty of salt and vinegar btw}. Not only will you have pissed your hater off by not shrivelling away but you’ll also have gotten a blog post out of it. Result.


Your mother wasn’t wrong when she told you to just ignore the bullies and they would go away. Luckily social media has a great invention called the block button. If you don’t want that kind of hate in your space block the offender or if it’s a comment on your blog, delete it and block the commenter. You can find out how to do that here. Although, just a word to the wise, don’t just delete comments because you don’t agree. There’s a difference between a healthy debate and people disagreeing with your views to sending you hate comments so don’t be too sensitive when dealing with the dreaded block button.


Be mindful about what YOU are putting out there:
Its all very well saying that you don’t want to receive negative comments but if you’re putting bad stuff out there (ie “isn’t that celebrity fat, doesn’t that girl on factor sound hideous etc) then you’re going to get it back. If we want to make the internet a kinder place then everyone has to start doing it, the odd celebrity slagging off session makes you a slight hypocrite. So be nice. Make your social media and your blog a nice place. Have an opinion yes but don’t be cruel.


Now tell me your tips…

Bloggers are the worlds most powerful editing tools…

I was flicking through Flipbook last night when this illustration by Ani Castillo jumped out at me…

It got me thinking, this image doesn’t just apply to bloggers. Do you ever skim through instagram and twitter and feel overwhelmed by people’s perfect, self-edited lives?

We’re all at it these day’s aren’t we?

The journalist and blogger Kate Bevan was on BBC Breakfast this morning talking Instagram, she said that she finds that her timeline swamped by images so heavily altered using filters that they no longer look anything like the original subject.  And she’s not wrong.

But being authentic online is actually quite hard. Everything has to be filtered at some point, for example, if I’m taking a picture of my dogs I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see my dirty washing in the background so why not make things look better than they are.  But are we taking things too far? There’s something about the perfectness of lifestyle blogs and instagrams that just don’t seem…real.

Maybe it’s time to start getting real? 

Tell me, when was the last time you were truly authentic online? Has social media killed authenticity? Do leave a comment…

PS: If you’re coming to ignite tonight, I’m talking all about negative comments online & will see you there! 



How To Blog: How to construct a good blog post

First of all I’d like to thank you for your wonderful comments on the blog, via facebook and on twitter about this series. It’s always a bit of a struggle writing “how to” posts because, like I said in part one, no one is an expert and we’re all just banging away to our own beat, we can only offer advice based on experience, which is what this series is all about.

Today’s post is all about constructing a good blog post. It’s something that I eternally struggle with because there are so many variables depending on what you blog about. If you’re a photography blog then photographs and lots of them are the order of the day, if you write about fashion and beauty, photographs mixed with reviews and commentary work well…it really does depend on your “niche”.

There are also some very valid arguments that it doesn’t matter how you package it up, if you’re creating great content then that’s the only thing that matters.

However, there are a few so called rules which I think help construct a good blog post…

The Opening…How you open sets the tone for the whole post. It’s also another ideal place to get your keywords in for SEO purposes. ProBlogger has done a post entitled 11 Ways to Open a Post where he gives advice on crafting that perfect opening paragraph. My favorite is…

Say Something Unexpected

The opening line of this post (where I tell about my wife getting my name wrong when we first met) breaks most of the techniques that I’ve stated above – but attempts to do something a little ‘different’ or ‘surprising’ to grab readers attention by sharing something personal and at a first glance ‘off topic’.

I don’t talk about my family often on ProBlogger – so this opening line is designed to break the pattern and encourage readers to take a second look.

I find that when I do this it seems to ‘snap’ readers out of the way that they normally approach your blog and take a little extra notice for a moment or two (which can be enough to hook them into reading your post).

Of course – the unexpected opening line should relate to your post’s topic on some level.

Have a plan…I know all too well how much you want to just get writing when you have that killer blog post idea. But without a point and without a structure, the post will just diminish in to unreadable ramblings. These days I like to just punch out my posts on evernote and then go back over them, editing them in to some form to structured post. I’m an old school girl, I rely on a notepad to build the bones of my posts so I know where I’m going and so I’m sure not to leave anything out.

Continue reading “How To Blog: How to construct a good blog post”

How to blog: Starting a blog

I’ve been blogging since 2006 which means I get asked a lot about how to blog; how to get started, what to write about, which platform to use etc. Since time restraints mean that I often can’t respond to these questions individually (or at least not as in depth as I’d like) I thought a series on how to blog would work well. Eventually, I’d like to dip my toe in to vlogging so if you’ve got any blogging questions you’d like to ask then please email me.

The perfect writing set up

How to start a blog…

First up let’s just start by saying that no one is a real expert in this field yet, sure there are people out there who can set you up, design your site, try to show you how to make money blogging etc but there are no hard and fast rules. Your blog is your blog, if you want to post once a week or every day that’s entirely up to you. This series of posts are based on my experience of how to create a blog, what I’ve done and tips that I find useful. They’re in no way preachy or a definitive guide of what’s right and wrong because it’s a constantly evolving process.

How to Build a Blog

Continue reading “How to blog: Starting a blog”