The down side of being self-employed?

Is there one? (A down side of being self-employed, I mean.)

Surely, it’s all about…

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“When you’re self-employed, it can sometimes be easy to let yourself get off track. Without a “boss” to answer to, the act of letting your mind wander can often have very few short-term consequences,” suggests Matthew Anderson on his site,

Not with a boss like mine, I can tell you.

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See, it’s Bank Holiday Monday and my boss is telling me I have a lot of work to do, so I’d better do some today.

The sun is shining. The birds are tweeting. The little buzzy bees are buzzing. The garden’s lovely. And…

I’m sitting here at my desk writing this, prior to proof-reading a lengthy piece about recruitment for a building company.

I sometimes wish my boss would take some time off, then I’d be able to take some time off myself.

Oh, what fun I’d have!


THAT’S my problem with being self-employed, you see. It’s not the inability to get started, the lack of motivation, the letting myself get off track.

My problem is the difficulty I have in…

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Oh, my boss has just said I could leave the proof-reading until later…

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The UP side of being self-employed?

Those who make the worst of their time

…most complain about its shortness.” – La Bruyere

Complain? Moi?

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I have to confess, I’ve been complaining about lack of time lately, only internally – oh, and to the millions of people who read my blog, as from this minute. Just don’t tell anyone. I don’t want a reputation as a whinger, though apparently, there’s a cure!


(The best cure, never mind miracle elixirs, is…STOP WHINGING! Annoying that…)


I work long hours, often evenings and weekends, but not necessarilywith the highest efficiency level in the universe, I’m the first to admit.

I consider myself fortunate to have so much work to do and I know it’s because of the quality of material I produce – to deadline and to budget and with a smile on my face. Pleased clients = repeat work = more word-of-mouth referrals = more to fit in to the finite hours in the day.

Though I always, ALWAYS get the work done, and done well, sometimes I run myself ragged in the process.

I’ve concluded that I must be from the Rocking Horse School of Time Management.

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I confuse motion and progress.

Silly me. Note to self, courtesy of Alfred A. Montapert: “Do NOT confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.”

And, with a magnificent Caroline Coxon leap from wooden horses to live ants…

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That’s what I’ll be looking at – when I can find the time!

(If I come up with any magic solutions, you’ll be the very first to know).

“To copy is human, to create divine.”

Thus spake Jeffrey Fry, self-styled Profit Prophet. And yes, I’m human, in this instance. That was a copy of his quote!

I know…

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So. I’m back that that old chestnut of dealing with duplicate copy on a website.

I’m working on a re-write for a client whose original site has several pages which, at first glance, don’t look as though they’re duplicated, but on closer examination, the copy is simply the same paragraphs in a random order and with a different place name inserted.

This is the effect it has on me as a copywriter:

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I’m SURE this copy does pretty well in the Google rankings, however, duplication is a constant topic of conversation on SEO forums, with dire threats of ‘Google penalties’ flying around.

Yet, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, (there’s a name to toy with!) stated quite robustly, last year, that no-one should “stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing.”

In a recent article entitled, ‘Is duplicate content bad for SEO?’ Jennifer Kyrnin suggests that if you look at the copy on your website and ask yourself WHY you’re duplicating content, then it should be easy to determine whether or not it’s a good plan. She concludes that if it’s more about YOU than about your clients, then DON’T DO IT!

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Why would you, in the first place?

  1. Writing copy isn’t your strong point so you put something together then duplicate it?
  2. You simply haven’t the time or the interest?
  3. You want to get the copy higher up the search rankings so more people view it?
  4. You want to manipulate search engine results?

Yep, all about you. Admit it. Pity your poor clients who want to find out something about your products or services and then have to wade through pages of tedious keyword-stuffed GUFF. In fact, they won’t do it. They’ll bounce quicker than a kangaroo on a hot tin roof.

The answer to reasons 1 and 2 is – employ a copywriter like me, naturally!

I’ll ignore 4 because that’s unethical.

Number 3? To create is divine! Remember that. Create more unique copy. Expand pages which do contain, through necessity, similar content. Add unique information to each one.


Employ someone who loves to do that.


A divine copywriter!

Like me.

Above all, don’t forget it IS possible to have interesting, engaging, appealing copy which entertains and informs your clients AND  puts your website high in the search engine rankings.


Writing regrets? I’ve had a few…

but then again, too few to mention.

Well, this is going to be a short post then!


No regrets?

Just call me Edith Piaf.

I don’t believe myself. I must be in denial. SURELY I must have some regrets about my writing, hidden somewhere in my psyche?

By M F Hussain

By M F Hussain


I’m struggling to think of any. Just the general purpose regrets, I suppose, that I haven’t been able to attract an agent or a publisher for my creative writing for children.

(Except for myself!)

Then, there are the regrets attached to my naïvety, being taken in by less than scrupulous film-makers, for whom I’ve written and then…nothing. Having said that, I still have the work. The experience hasn’t been wasted.

“Regrets… Regrets are bootless. A vain trick of the mind. An impotent raging against what cannot be changed anyway. A distraction from the moment,” says wise Andrew Ashling.

The best I can think of is expressed in a broader context by Ted Hughes, in his letters.

“And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”


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How can I regret a single moment of doing something I love so much?


On praise for copywriting: “Sweet words are like honey…”

“a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.”  ― Anne Bradstreet


Not MY stomach, I can assure you! At least, I’ve never experienced praise for my work like that.

Some people seem to have the extraordinary facility (extraordinary to someone like me, that is!) of being motivated by criticism. A client says something very much less than flattering and it’s like a shot in the arm to these people.  “I’ll SHOW them. Just you wait and see!”

Whereas I…

…tend to



(Here, I’m not talking about constructive criticism but…insults to one’s professional competence.)

John Wooden says, “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

Yes but, no but…

I defy anyone, ANYONE, not to be pleased when their work receives praise. Not even just the teeniest-weeniest bit pleased?I assert that, if you say that praise is inconsequential to you, you are a…


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Yesterday, I received two separate emails and one phone call heaping praise on three pieces of work I’d completed for different clients.

This didn’t de-motivate me, lull me into a sense of complacency that I needn’t try so hard next time…

I was delighted and am attacking my work with renewed vigour and a song in my heart today.

I’m of the Tolstoy school.

“In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations, flattery or praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turning. ”

My wheels are turning so smoothly today, believe me.

“The single biggest problem in communication…”

“is the illusion that it has taken place,” said George Bernard Shaw. Yesterday, however, I was under no illusion. Communication had NOT taken place.


It was ME, by the way, lacking in the communication department. No-one else. Me.

I’d started on a new project over the weekend. ‘A monster pitch,’ as described by the agency.

This was not meant to imply that I was pitching TO or FOR monsters.


Neither was it meant to mean that the pitch was monstrous, dreadful. (Perhaps that’s where the seed of doubt was sown in my mind, if I thought that?)

It was simply BIG. Important.

I sent off my preliminary work on Sunday. Heard nothing until late Monday. It was a ‘Thanks for this and could you do more?’ And ‘Let’s talk about this tomorrow.’

I thought I’d already done what was required. So then I assumed I must have done it WRONG…that my work was unsatisfactory, that I hadn’t understood the brief.

A sensible person would do this: First thing in the morning, she would get on the phone to the agency and find out what was what, then move forward in full possession of all the facts, whatever they may be. Be in communication.

Shame I’m not always very sensible.

I spent the entire morning and the early part of the afternoon Doing Other Things – pure displacement activity. And always, at the back of my mind, or at the front…concern, anxiety, incipient panic.

‘Get a grip, Caroline,’ I might have said to myself. But I didn’t.


…until 3.15  (after I’d suddenly remembered I must make a hair appointment and pay my horse insurance.) THREE FIFTEEN.  More than six hours after I’d started work.

…when I phoned the agency, had a four minute chat, was reassured and ready for the next stage.

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Let’s hear it for being in communication!

P.S. Have a nice day? Grrrrrrrrr (see yesterday’s post)


“There are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.”

As Malcolm Gladwell says, in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinkingrather than by verbal instruction, we learn by example and direct experience.

As a copywriter, I’m thinking more of the difficulty of project briefs conveyed by verbal instruction. There are some clients who love to work over the phone, asking me to carry out a piece of work, suggesting amendments to work I’ve already done, making requests, sometimes out of hours when I’m in the middle of cooking dinner.

I don’t find it a particularly easy way to work.

Homer - listening comprehension cropped-resized-600

It’s not that I lack intelligence, more that it’s so easy to misinterpret a conversation – or,  indeed, forget bits, assiduous as I am in note-taking.

Neither is it that I’d rather not talk to people! I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, given half a chance.


A Chris Knight illustration

…and the front legs too.

Verbal instruction is too ephemeral. It’s much better to have everything in writing. This means:

  • There is a permanent record, in case of misunderstandings
  • I can look at it when convenient, rather than be interrupted when I’m doing something else
  • It’s easier to make a considered response

Yay for everything in writing!

(I ASK for everything in writing – but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.)

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…for verbal instruction when copywriting!

(Little rant over!)

Copywriting – variety is life, uniformity is death

Or – to give you some variety on this lovely sunny day – “La variété, c’est la vie, l’uniformité, c’est la mort,” as stated by Benjamin Constant, Swiss-born, nobleman, thinker, writer and French politician, who died in 1830, presumably because his life became too uniform.


Home from my holidays, thinking to myself, ‘I’ll ease back in slowly. Make an effort to be more organised, more calm in my approach, less reactive…’

I planned a day of catching up on administration, writing invoices and suchlike, for which I have an appalling blank spot.

It was not to be. Occupational hazard for a busy freelance copywriter?

A client wanted a script written – a training animation for internal communication.  Now. In fact, sooner than now would have been preferable. It was for a big name clothes retailer, so…I said…

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(I put down the jars of pickles before I started!)

I didn’t get many invoices done – though I worked late into the evening.

The thing is, I was offered variety. An area of business that I’ve rarely tackled before. To me that’s precious. I love the possibility of adding new strings to my bow.

(FYI –  This is a metaphor from archery; related expressions include have several strings to your bow and add another string to your bow.)

It means that when another potential client approaches me, I can say, ‘Yes, I have experience in that sector. Take a look at this.’

More than that, it means that I’m alive, interested…

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Yes. Variety is life!

I’m very fortunate.

Copywriting – on completing a task

Samuel Johnson has something to say about completing a task.

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“The pleasure of expecting enjoyment is often greater than that of obtaining it, and the completion of almost every wish is found a disappointment.”

The jury’s out.

Last night, I was completing a task, the infamous fifty-six house descriptions task, wanting to get it done before going out for a meal with friends.

I was to be picked up at 17.55. I put the last full stop in place at at 17.40.


My enjoyment was GREATER than my expectation. I was NOT disappointed. It was a perfect way to start a night out.

Today, I woke up feeling as though I was on holiday!

That was pretty short-lived.

Now I’m looking at all the other tasks that got a little overwhelmed and left behind, crushed underneath the wheels of the big task juggernaut.

There are lots of them.

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Not least, a huge backlog of invoicing. How crazy it is that I work so hard and when I’m at my busiest, what falls by the wayside? Requesting remuneration for my efforts. Madness.

But I’m lucky.

It would be a very sad state of affairs if, on completing a task, I had no more work to do.

That’s me thinking positive, looking on the bright side.

Sometimes, I even annoy myself.


Copywriting games – part 2

Yes, I’m still at it -playing copywriting games while working on a long and somewhat repetitive task, love ’em.


Yes please.  Writing this blog counts as one of those games – me having a break from writing house descriptions for a few minutes. I guess that could be called Game Three?

Following my request of yesterday I had a couple of suggestions for copywriting games, which I would like to share with you.

Game Four: (from actress friend, Libby Wattis) “Mild exercise programme – e.g two roll downs and 5 sit ups (or whatever other exercise floats your boat) after every five descriptions.”

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I’ve been running up and down the stairs. Sometimes carrying laundry. Other times, a fresh supply of chocolate buttons.

Game Five: (from Mark Garland – yes YOU!)  “Bombay Sapphire! It’s a 4:1 ratio – four words = one G&T. It hapmerss acurissy butt iz gr8 4 cre8ivenessezzzz….zzzzz… ;p xx”

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(Perhaps this explains why he needs a copywriter?)

Thank you, Libby and Mark!

Here are my other copywriting games of today:

Game Six: Set a timer. See how many descriptions I can do in a set number of minutes. Try to do better next time.

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( My actual timer. I can’t tell you how bloody annoying it is with its tick-tick-tick…)

Game Seven: Use a stop-watch to time each description. Try to smash my personal best (of course, without compromising quality.)

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Oh, the pressure!

Well, enough of this Game Three. I have twenty three house descriptions to write.