Author Archive | Michelle

Top 5 Days Out in the North East

I’m really looking forward to having some friends come to visit this weekend. I love sharing all the amazing scenery, culture and activities that the North East has to offer.

When North East Family Fun – A UK Family Travel & Lifestyle Blog asked me to pick my  Top 5 Days Out, in the North East it was hard to choose just five, but I did my best.

Coastal and wildlife adventures

Kayaks on Cullercoats Bay

Kayak tour from Cullercoats Bay

Puffins on the Farne Islands

Watching the puffins on the Farne Islands

Seals off the Farne Islands

Seal spotting on a boat trip to the Farne Islands

Wild outdoor activities

Wild swimming at Linhope Spout

There’s also a place full of local history and scandal. And top city cultural spots that offer a window on the world.

Discover more about my favourite days out on North East Family Fun

All of these places and experiences have provided rich inspiration for my writing as well as a welcome break from my writing desk.

Whatever you’re up to, have a great weekend!

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Why creativity is important in writing for business

Painting of peacock and peahen by Gail Armstrong

Peacock and peahen by Gail Armstrong

During the creative writing workshop I hosted in June, I set a free-writing exercise using animals as a prompt. Gail, an artist who creates paintings and drawings of people and places around the North East, wrote about a peacock.

The idea took such a hold that she returned to it as part of her own free-writing practice. As an artist, she was able to visualise her words and draw the beautiful picture of the peacock protecting a peahen that I’ve used to illustrate this blog post. You can see more of Gail’s work on her website.

I hadn’t planned to use that particular exercise in that workshop, but conversations around the table in Beth’s cabin sparked the idea and I felt confident enough to go ‘off script’ and try it.

Creativity inspires creativity. Look at the world of professional creative art. You’ll hear music inspired by books and poems; paintings inspired by music; dance inspired by stories; sculpture inspired by movement. Creativity inspires.

Why creativity is important in writing for business

For all that’s so impersonal about the word ‘business’, business is essentially about people interacting with other people.

From the simplest of individual transactions (“I want that. I’ll pay you for it”), to more complex and subtle negotiation (“I want to be part of that. I’ll give some of my personal data in return”), business is about the exchange of goods, services and ideas between people.

Writing is a creative pursuit. In a world of business, it’s easy to lose sight of that in the midst of targets, focus groups, measurements and ROI. But I hope that in writing for business I never have lost the motivation and desire to be creative.

Connect with readers through empathy

tango dancersWhen Robert Frost wrote: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” he was talking about the power of poetry to connect writer and reader through empathy and shared experience.

In business writing I say: “Boredom in the writer, boredom in the reader.” If I don’t find something interesting in what I write, why should you read it?

It’s up to me as a business writer to find something that excites, intrigues, delights or concerns me and to use that as a means of connecting with readers, customers, audiences.

All business thrives on creativity. Audience, targets, focus and goals are all important, but playing, trying new things, looking for inspiration outside the world of business is vital too.

Looking for creative inspiration?

If you’re looking for inspiration and time to write, join me for my next writing workshop in Northumberland. We’ll enjoy an environment that nurtures creativity. I’ll give you some prompts and time to explore your own writing. And you’ll be fuelled with tea, cake and lunch to keep your inspiration flowing.

Find out more and book your place.

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The word is on the street – how to find writing inspiration

Words always catch my eye. There are family tales of me reading the sauce bottle at the dinner table, and the cornflake packet at breakfast. Maybe even then I was developing the skills that serve me well as a copywriter.

Having an eye and an ear for words is a good thing for a writer, as it means I’m never short of inspiration. I often find words and phrases in unexpected places when I’m out and about.

Words that make you laugh

Sign saying: sweet dreams are made of cheese

Sign outside my local deli

My local deli is a great place to find tasty local food, try new things and find a friendly welcome. It does have an amazing cheese selection. But how much more did I love it when I saw this on their blackboard? A little humour and an earworm to make me smile for the rest of the day.

Words that make you think

Ordinary people build worlds within worlds, ordinary people make a good life out of living

You can find metal discs engraved with words all along a walkway besides the Manchester ship canal. Some tell the story of the effort, industry and history that formed the industrial and social landscape of the city. Others, like this one, are more reflective and invite you to make your own sense of their meaning.

I love the thought and care that went into creating something that many will simply walk over.

Words that lead you to new experiences


I love this quote, first discovered on a canvas book bag at the Edinburgh Book Festival. It absolutely captures how I feel about a good book and it’s by a brilliant writer Patrick Ness, who I discovered after picking this up.

I’m not great at taking photos. Even with a phone with a pretty decent camera in my pocket, I forget. Even though I know images are great for engaging blog posts and social media, I still fall back on that old familiar technology of seeing, feeling and remembering sights, sounds, experiences.

But I will snap words and phrases that catch my eye. Words that make me laugh. Words that make me think. Words that spark ideas.

Words that inspire your writing

words at the Hartley Pit memorial
Last summer I took part in a creative writing project with a theme of walking in the landscape. The project identified 26 short walks in the UK going from a place name beginning with each letter of the alphabet to a place starting with the next letter in sequence (e.g. Boarhills to Crail) and asked writers to walk the route and write exactly 62 words about their experience.

The route I chose went from North Shields to Old Hartley, and in researching it, I visited nearby New Hartley, where I found these words. They feature in the memorial garden commemorating over 200 men and boys who lost their lives in the 1862 Hester Pit disaster.

Read my piece inspired by local history on the 26 Steps website.

What words will you discover?

What words will you spark your imagination as you’re out and about this summer? Once you get your eye in, you’ll be amazed at what you find.

I’d love to hear your stories of finding words and phrases in usual places. Tweet your photos to @I_am_wordstruck #wordonthestreet and I’ll send a Wordstruck notebook out for my favourite.

Looking for more writing inspiration?

Join me for a day of creative writing at Christmas Farm in Northumberland on Saturday 23 September.

Together we’ll banish the banish the blank page, put pen to paper without everyday distractions and enjoy a delicious home-grown lunch with produce from the farm.

Book your place today.

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Would your customers recognise your business if it called?

Would your customers recognise your business if it called?What you say about your business and how you say it, is an essential part of your brand. Get your tone of voice right and customers easily recognise your business. Get it wrong and your message may never connect.

To show you what I mean, let me take you back in time…

As a child, I didn’t like answering the phone in my parent’s house. People would call and say “It’s me,” and I’d have no idea who they were.

This was back in the days when phones had handsets and dials or buttons, but certainly no screens, and answering machines were something you’d only find in the office. I was embarrassed and a bit nervous when I didn’t recognise who was calling and would ‘forget’ to take a message.

Now, imagine if that was a business call. Okay, these days technology makes it easier to identify who is on the line and most people would introduce themselves. But if you’re unfamiliar with a business, if you don’t recognise their name, or their voice, wouldn’t you be more cautious about dealing with them, until you establish a relationship?

I didn’t recognise the voices of my parents’ friends because I didn’t hear them as often as my parents did. Yet I could identify any DJ who hosted a show on my favourite radio station with only a few words. We become familiar with voices we know well. But new voices take a while to tune into.

Helping a business find its tone of voice

I’m working with a really exciting new client at the moment, helping to develop a tone of voice that will make their business stand out.

It involves a lot of listening. Not only am I getting to know the specifics of their industry and what they do, but I’m also getting to know them as people. What is it about this business that makes it different from others who make or deliver similar products and services?

Tuning into personality and values

I can hear they have bags of enthusiasm and tonnes of knowledge. They really have to be experts in lots of different areas to provide a great service to their customers.

They are incredibly creative and immensely resourceful. They get up early and stay up late, going the extra mile without even thinking about it. They really care about what they do and want to get to know their customers so that they can offer the right advice.

My challenge is to reflect all that. To put all those values and their personality into concise words that will appeal to their customers.

As I do that, I’ll also be thinking about how I do it, and developing guidelines that will help them maintain their brand voice throughout all their communications.

It takes a bit of time to ‘tune in’, to find something that a business is comfortable with and that will work for them. Developing a tone of voice for a business combines a mix of creative and analytical skills and it’s a process that I really enjoy.

Speaking about tone of voice for business

Inspire Network Northumberland meeting 18 July
I’ll be talking more about tone of voice and why it matters in business at The Inspire Network meeting in Bedlington on 18 July. Find out more and sign up to come along.

This is a ladies only networking event, but I offer training, presentations and advice to anyone interested. If you’d like an expert business writer to speak at one of your events or want to discuss  your writing training needs, please get in touch.

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Copying Jane Austen – how other writers help you find your brand voice

Copy of Pride and Prejudice with the opening lines copied into a notebook

Trying to sound like Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, when thinking and writing about novelist Jane Austen, this writer will inevitably adopt aspects of her tone of voice and writing style. What may not be quite so well known is that copying another writer’s words is an excellent way of adopting their tone of voice, that may, in turn, assist you in finding your own voice for your business brand.

In copying those famous opening words from Pride and Prejudice, I was actually demonstrating a top tip that has helped me and other copywriters adopt a new tone of voice for different business clients.

Find a piece of writing that’s a good example of the brand voice you want to adopt.

Copy it out word for word.

It will help you to write in a similar style.

It sounds rather simple doesn’t it? But honestly, it works. And it’s not just me that thinks so. I’ve seen this tip crop up in a number of copywriting resources, most recently in this podcast of 50 copywriting tips from Radix communications.

Why does it work?

I’d love someone to do some proper scientific research on this, but I like to imagine my brain firing off signals as I write. As I  copy a different style, it fires off those neurons in different patterns or intensities and in different directions, helping me to make new connections and discover ‘oh, I do it like this.’

As children we learn to talk through mimicry. Imitating the sounds we hear, we eventually learn to speak. So, it makes sense (to me anyway) that we can and do learn to write in a similar way. We start out copying letters, then words and sentences, and eventually develop the skills to make them say what we want them to.

Copying the words of another writer mimics how we first learned to write and understand language, through imitation. I like to think that it puts my brain into ‘learning’ mode.

How this helps you find a brand voice for a business

If you’re looking to express who you are and what you do in a new and distinctive way, then finding a style of writing that you think sounds right for you and copying it is a good place to start. It could be the style of a publication that you admire, a book, an advert, a letter from another company – but I encourage you to search out things you like to help you get started.

There is a leap from copying and imitating to making a voice your own. It involves more in-depth analysis of what the writing does, how it does it and why. But once you’ve found it, you should be able to work out the rules. If you’ve got the right voice, they’ll feel natural.

It’s also important to test your new style. Do your customers like it? Does it do what it needs to communicate what your business does?  Does it truly reflect your values and ethos? Are you confident you can apply it to all aspects of your verbal brand, from website to tweets, corporate report to customer email?

Why I’m thinking of Jane Austen

Rebecca Vaughan stars as 13 heroines from Jane Austen’s novels.

Rebecca Vaughan stars as 13 heroines from Jane Austen’s novels.

Jane Austen wrote mainly novels and letters, but with her precise turn of phrase, I like to think she’d have been a natural on Twitter.

She’s on my mind at the moment as this month marks 200 years since she died. To have created characters that are so familiar and stories that are still read, enjoyed and endlessly adapted so long after you have gone is a wonderful legacy for a writer.

On Sunday evening, I’m looking forward to seeing some of Jane Austen’s characters brought to life on stage at The Customs House as part of the Write Festival 2017 in South Tyneside.  The critically-acclaimed Austen’s Women sees writer and performer Rebecca Vaughan become Emma Woodhouse, Mrs Norris, Miss Bates and other characters from Austen’s novels.

I shall no doubt smile as I recognise their words, and if, on Monday morning, I’m sounding a bit Lizzie Bennet, I do hope that you’ll forgive me.

For fun, try this quiz:
Which Jane Austen heroine are you?

For more tips to help you improve your writing, sign up to my mailing list.

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Exercise your writing muscle – train to be a better writer

Use your writing muscle - writer wearing a hoodie, holding pen and note-book

Like physical training, your writing can benefit from exercise. Just like challenging your body, heart and lungs to take on new challenges, you can improve your writing by focusing on your writing practice and trying new things. Here’s how I exercise my writing muscle and keep myself in top writing shape.

Make time for writing

I swim, cycle and run so that I can take part in triathlons. I do weight training to keep me strong and in good shape for my sport too. Yes, it is sometimes hard to fit in physical training. But I know that if I don’t put the effort into consistent training, I’m unlikely to reach my potential, and I risk injury. Training challenges me, and I enjoy it. So I make time for it.

I make time for writing too. Not just as part of my daily routine, which involves creating content for my writing clients. I make time to explore writing outside of my work commitments too.

Time to try new writing challenges. Time to write with no expectations or judgement. Time to play around and enjoy it.

Time for writing can be a regular 20 minutes free-writing to warm up my writing muscles for the day. Or, it can be more intense and concentrated, in the form of a workshop or writing retreat with Dark Angels, or a training event from 26 Characters.

Become a better writer by reading

Most writers start out mimicking their heroes. I did. Somewhere in a box in the attic, there’s an exercise book filled with a story about a girl who runs off on horseback in the dead of night, in the style of C.S Lewis. Reading was how I first learnt the elements of stories, about heroes and conflicts, about character, place and action.

It may seem like a long path to go from writing fantasy tales to writing marketing materials for businesses. But business writing has its heroes with their obstacles to overcome too. It’s just a matter of seeking them out. Call that my daily quest.

Writing stories of my own taught me about structure – about the importance of beginnings, middles and endings. These are important elements in business writing too.

You need a strong headline to catch attention. You need to draw people in, take them on a journey. And then at the end, you need to persuade them to take action.

Become a better writer by analysing technique

While studying English Literature and Language at Leeds University, one of my tutors used to set us the task of writing essays in the style of the writers we were studying – Philip Sidney, John Milton, Alexander Pope.

This was very different from modern writing, but in mimicking the rhetoric, structure, and language of different writers, I learned to appreciate the craft of their writing even more. That meant I could write about it from a position of understanding.

Using metaphor, drawing on all the senses, writing from another person’s point of view, choosing a potent word – these are all techniques I have learned through studying language and literature. And they serve me well as a writer for business today.

Become a better writer by finding your voice

As a writer, the ability to adapt my writing to different styles is a very useful skill. It helps me sound like the brand or company I’m writing for. And I can still do a decent impression of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, should you need that kind of thing.

But to be authentic, it’s not enough to mimic someone else’s style.  You have to develop your own.

While a brand and business may borrow and adopt words and language from its own industry and environment, as a tone of voice consultant, I advise them to look for the things that make them different.

Just as in speaking, we all have our own individual, distinct and recognisable voices, it’s important to find your own voice when you write – whether that’s writing for business or writing for yourself. It’s what makes you different, unique and memorable.

To exercise your writing muscle and improve your writing

  1. Make time for writing

  2. Make time for reading

  3. Try on different voices and see what fits

  4. Use what you’ve learned and make it your own

For more tips to help you improve your writing, sign up to my mailing list.

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How to write a blog post in one hour

Blog faster- how to write a blog post in an hour

I often hear people running their own businesses say that they’d like to write more blog posts, but they just don’t have the time. I don’t think it has to be that way. So I’ve set myself a challenge. Can I write this blog post in one hour and show you how to do it too?

The clock is ticking. Or rather, the timer on my phone is counting down, so let’s go.

Where to start? With a store of ideas

Where do ideas for blog posts come from? I read, listen and watch the news. I browse the web, read articles and blog posts. When I find something interesting I stick it into a swipe file or a notebook.

Stick your ideas into an online pot, like Evernote or OneNote  and they’re accessible any time anywhere. Or keep a notebook and jot them down at the back. Just make sure you always have it with you.

Ask your friends, family and community what they want to hear about. Even if you only have a small number of followers or subscribers to your mailing list or blog, a few ideas from them are better than none at all.

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. You may find you’re waiting a long time. The more you go looking for it, the more you’ll find.

10 mins gone and I’m well into creating content from one of my stored ideas.

What does a blog post need?

  • Title
  • Image
  • Lead para
  • Practical hints and tips
  • Question/conclusion/where to go for more

Applying a structure can help you focus on what you need to get the job done and stop you getting side tracked.

So what do I have?

  • Title  – well that’s the challenge of this blog and something I swiped from my ideas store
  • Image – I can go to my file of images on my laptop and use something like a picture of my desk. Or I can spend 5 mins looking for rights-free images on a site like pixabay or pexels.com. I’ll do that in a few minutes.
  • Content – well that’s what I’m doing now. Typing directly into WordPress, or a simple text editor such as One Note or Evernote.

I usually type in Word, but I don’t want to be distracted by too many formatting options and I know that when I copy and paste into WordPress, it does some wonky formatting that I’ll have to reset. So keep it simple and avoid having to spend time re-formatting.

Use a template or formula

You may think that writing posts to a formula or template will get dull and boring. But most well written stories on the web, including news stories, are written to some kind of template and chances are you’ve never really noticed.

A template, such as headline, lead paragraph, content, conclusion gives your writing a structure and direction. That keeps you focused as you’re writing it and helps make it easy for your audience to read too.

Applying a formula is one way to help you write blog posts quickly and consistently. Once you’re up and running, and have built your confidence, then by all means play around a play around a little and try a new one.

If something works well for a post – then repeat it.

30 minutes left

I’m not working through my list in the same order that I’ve written it. The first thing I’m working on is the content, what I’m writing or typing right now.

I’m not particularly crafting each line as I go, just getting my thoughts down in some kind of order. When I have my first draft complete, I’ll go back and tidy up any spacing, capitalisation, spelling and grammar problems.

And I’ll  start formatting headers and sub headers in WordPress too, to make this easy to read.

Next up I’ll go and hunt out that image and place it in the post with a description and alt tag (because that’s good for SEO).

How to write a blog post quickly and consistently

We’re all busy. We all have lots of things to do. But the truth is that we all have the same number of hours in a day and days in a week. It’s what we choose to do with them that differs.

If writing a regular blog post for your business is important to you, then make time for it. Schedule time with yourself, just like you would for a meeting or a call with a customer.

Make an appointment

Commit to writing a blog post in a regular time slot and see how productive you can be. That means no phone calls, no sneaky peeks at social media, no email checking. Just focus on your appointment to get that blog post written.

Once you get in the flow, you may find that you can get more done more quickly. And get smart. If you do find you have a chunk of time, and you’re in the flow, why stop at one? Write two or three and get them scheduled ready to post.

If you don’t have a block of time all in one go, then break it up into chunks and do a bit at a time. Say you have ten minutes on Monday – use that to fill your inspiration file. Another ten minutes on Tuesday? Start sketching out the content for your blog post, do some more research or look for images you can use.

Okay. Content’s written. I’ve got an image. How am I doing for time?

10 minutes left

Time to review and check and see what this post looks like. I spotted a few errors and tidied up some bullet points and formatting.

I’ve also time to do a quick review of SEO, looking at keywords. I use the Yoast plugin to help me.

My one hour blog post plan

  • Pick an idea from my swipe file
  • Commit to a time to write and create the post
  • Draft rough copy in OneNote
  • Copy into WordPress (second draft) and write in complete sentences
  • Create a title
  • Insert an image – choose from my own library or search online
  • Format the post with headings, bullet points etc
  • Preview and amend
  • Check SEO
  • Publish or schedule

Okay, just a few minutes left now. Time to preview and check again and to write a quick line to introduce this on my social sharing platforms.

Now, time for the truth. Was this helpful to you? Did you find it useful? Let me know in the comments below.

For more business writing and marketing  tips like these sign up to my mailing list.

11

The network power of Forward Ladies

One of the best things about starting my own writing and training business has been building my network. It was always part of my plan to work with new and different clients, but I didn’t anticipate how quickly I would be welcomed as part of the small business network in the North East.

I’ve joined a couple of online networking groups, and attended a couple of face to face get togethers (for details see my blog post about networking as an introvert). And I’ve been impressed by the level of support and encouragement I’ve received from fellow business owners.

So, when three amazing business women in my new network mentioned Forward Ladies, the UK’s largest business support network for women in business, I took it as a sign that I should go and see what it was all about.

A new business network

Griselda Togobo and Antonia Brindle of Forward Ladies network

Griselda Togobo, Antonia Brindle, Forward Ladies network

I attended my first Newcastle Forward Ladies Power Breakfast last week. Sarah Gray of Grays Powers of Attorney even gave me a lift – how easy could it be!

My timing couldn’t have been better, as the guest speaker was the impressive owner, Griselda Togobo. She told us how she’s inspired to be in business every day by her mum, who grew up in Ghana, and didn’t go to school, but ignored all the people who told her she couldn’t, and set up her own construction business.

Griselda spoke passionately about not letting anything get in the way of being a woman in business. Making our own decisions, being the ones signing the cheques, Griselda maintains that there’s never been a better time to be a woman in business.

Amazing support

As it was my first event, I was given the opportunity to introduce myself and my writing and training business, Wordstruck. But more importantly, two of my new network friends, Jo Darby of Voice in the Room and Clare Talbot Jones of Talbot Jones Risk Solutions spoke unprompted, about how I’d helped them. I’ve only met these amazing women recently and have been inspired by their personal and professional approach, so their words really meant a lot to me.

That demonstrated better than anything the values of  Forward Ladies. It’s not a network that’s about selling, but one that focuses on supporting each other and helping businesses grow together. That’s a value that I feel is very important to me and the way I choose to do business.

New connections and opportunities

There’s often much said and written about the loneliness and isolation of running a small business or being a sole trader. But my experience so far has been quite the opposite. I’m delighted to have found amazing encouragement and positivity from my new network of independent business people.

I am excited to be part of another powerful and enthusiastic network in Forward Ladies. And I’m forward to learning from other businesses and using my skills and experience to help them too.

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Free writing – how to start writing anything

Just write.

It’s one piece of advice I always offer about writing of any kind. If the blank page fills you with fear, find a way to defeat it.

Free writing

person writing with a pen in a notebookJust write. Take your pen or pencil and move it on the paper. Write as quickly as you can, without thinking too much about what you want to write.

Don’t worry if it’s a scribbly mess. Pay no attention to grammar or spelling or any of the usual things that demand your attention when writing. Just take your mind for a walk and let the words follow as you write.

This is free writing and it’s a great technique to help you get over the hurdle of starting to write anything.

Writing as part of a creative routine

For creative writers, it’s a technique popularised by Julia Cameron in her book The Artists’ Way. She calls this practice ‘Morning Pages’ and encourages writers to start each day with 3 sides of long hand writing.

Much of what you write may be nonsense, or fairly dull practical stuff about what you need to do that day, but given time and focus, other elements start to appear if you can just let go and write.

I don’t stick strictly to the ‘Morning Pages’ routine, but do use variations of free writing in my own writing practice, whether I’m writing for business or just for my own amusement. I always start with something handwritten as I find thoughts flow more readily from brain to pen than they do from brain to keyboard.

Finding creative gifts

Use free writing to spark creative ideasFree writing is useful for any kind of writing, not just for self discovery. It gets you started and gives a structure.

I recommend setting a timer and writing for between 10 to 20 minutes. And importantly, doing nothing else in the meantime. Just focusing on writing, but trying not to think too much about what you’re writing.

Writing in this way allows you to tap into your subconscious, which is a great source of creative ideas. Once you get your conscious mind out of the way, you may find that your subconscious throws in something completely unexpected. That’s an absolute gift for generating original and creative ideas.

I remember using free writing to start a piece of fantasy writing about a monster. After a while, letting my thoughts flow, out of nowhere came an image of a reality TV show contestant singing into a microphone. The clash of the two images gave my creative piece an unexpected twist and the final story was shortlisted for a writing award.

Free writing for business

Girl breathing Free writing also helps me reflect. I turn off the screen, eliminate any distractions and just spend time with my pen and notebook. My handwriting becomes very untidy and often I don’t write in full sentences. But as I do it, I can feel a sense of calm, like I’m taking deeper breaths, or spending some time meditating.

For business focused writing I adapt the exercise by giving myself a starting point or a topic at the top of the page. For example, this blog post began as a free writing exercise around the theme of writing workshops.

Discover your writing inspiration

I’m putting together materials and exercises for a creative writing workshop next month and free writing is very likely to be one of the exercises I will use. I may start people off with a sentence or a phrase that they continue such as: “I’d write more if…”

If you’re interested in starting to write and developing your writing creatively for business, blogging or just for your own enjoyment, check out details of my Get Writing, Keep Writing workshop.

For more business writing tips, sign up to my mailing list.

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The benefits of collaboration for your business

“Working for yourself can feel a bit lonely at times” – that’s something I hear from lots of sole traders, entrepreneurs and self employed business owners. Writing is often perceived as an individual activity, but in writing for business, I’ve found that’s far from the truth. I often work in collaboration with other businesses and benefit from people who offer a range of different skills and experience.

So what benefits does collaboration offer to your business? And where do you find the people to work with?

Collaborate for creative inspiration

I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing designers, animators, photographers and filmmakers throughout my career. Drawing inspiration from people with different backgrounds and experiences really helps spark new and original ideas.

Glass jar etched with the words 'Creative juices'As part of an agency, I got used to working with a tight-knit team creating concepts and visions for creative campaigns. We quickly moved from ‘That’s my idea, that’s your idea…’ to ‘That’s a great idea – how do we build on that?’ We trusted each other to work towards a shared goal of creating something that was bigger and better than the sum of our individual inputs.

Although I may not sit next to a creative team every day, I still find opportunities for creative collaboration. For example, I first worked with Ashleigh when I asked her to come up with a visual brand for Wordstruck I’d seen her work on twitter and really admired her style.

What you don’t see now are all the other ideas we discussed and debated, all the roads we didn’t go down. Ashleigh shared ideas and we discussed, developed and refined them to get to the finished versions. I learned a lot from being on the client side of the relationship and absolutely love my visual brand.

It felt like a very creative and supportive relationship, so now that Ashleigh is set to launch stop. an exciting new brand agency, I was delighted that she asked me to work with her on copy to launch and promote it. I can’t wait to show you the results of that collaboration.

Collaborate to benefit from expert help

I have been making my living from writing in one form or another for more than 20 years, so I am confident that I can deliver a great service as a writer for businesses. But I don’t have so much experience of running my own business, and I know that’s something that I have to continue to learn and work on.

people rafting on a riverI’ve benefited from lots of great free advice. But I’m a firm believer that it’s worth while paying an expert to help in areas where I lack the skills, knowledge  or time to do something properly.

That’s why, I’ll be working with an accountant to help me manage my first self-assessment return. With several different sources of income since last April, I appreciate the reassurance of getting it done correctly and know that it will take them a lot less time than it will take me.

I also greatly appreciate the help and advice I’ve received about risk and insurance from Talbot Jones Risk Solutions. Talking to Richard and Clare about my business absolutely put my mind at rest about possible risks and filled me in on much that I didn’t know. At no time did I feel under any obligation to put business their way, but I was pleased to be able to do so.

And that’s where they really excelled, by providing the kind of personal patience and service that I think you only really get from independent businesses. I got a real sense that they were as invested in my business success as I am and really did their utmost to find me the right product at the right price.

Collaborate to develop skills

I love working with my writing clients, finding out about their business, discovering what makes them tick and how I can help them tell their story.

street performers doing each others make upHowever well I prepare for a meeting or a call with a potential new client, there’s always the element of the unexpected.

I have to admit that I was a bit cautious about working with one of my clients at first, as I didn’t know much about them and it took some time to understand what they were looking for.

When I mentioned I was going off to do some voiceover work that afternoon, our conversation took a different turn, and I’m now using my journalism skills to help them develop original content for a brand new website launching soon.

Finding new people to work with is helping me develop greater confidence in talking about my business and listening for the opportunities to help others.

Collaborate to amplify your voice and support each other

In today’s world of social media, it can sometimes feel like you’re a lone voice shouting into the void, and that no-one out there is listening. My answer to that is to find your tribe – people who do similar things and understand what you’re taking on.

hawaiian hula dancersI found a great tribe of slightly mad people to support my running and triathlon adventures in the online community of Fetch Everyone. My writing tribe are members of 26 Characters and graduates of the Dark Angels courses.

In business, I have found support from other local entrepreneurs through online social networks including Do Digital, the Inspire Network and North East Bloggers and PRs.

Everyone on these forums is running their own business. We support each other by sharing recommendations for services and advice. We read and comment on each others blog posts, share and celebrate each others success and hang out in a space where it’s okay to ask questions.

Do you collaborate with other businesses? What are your challenges and successes? I’d love to hear about them.

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