Menopausal Melee

After an evening with friends who spent their time alternately fanning themselves, I had a flash of inspiration, in the form of the Three Little Pigs. So I thought I’d try my hand at writing a poem. It’s been fun, I might carry on, as the mood takes me. Here’s to all the women enduring their own unique menopause, past and present, ladies, you are wonderful.

Menopausal Melee

Menopause, menopause, why did you begin?

Now I have hairs on my chinney-chin-chin

Sweat runs down my sides, face beetroot red

Little control over what my mouth said

I huff and I puff and the weight that I’ve gained

Makes my clothing too tight, stitches are strained

A wobbly belly, wrinkly skin

A shrivelled up uterus, lurking within

My brain’s in a fug, I leak when I sneeze

Once magnificent boobs heading down to my knees

I have not a clue what I came in here for

Or what we just talked about moments before

Rhino-hide skin and more delicate bones

Tight vocal chords, set to ‘old woman’ tones

Ms Grumpy, Ms Cranky both wait in the wings

To leap centre stage at the slightest of things

But I’m female, I’m strong, I’ve coped with much more

I’ll cope with this shit, and soon be restored

A bold new me is coming along

She’s a wise old bird, she’ll sing her own song

Menopause, menopause, why did you begin?

I’ll ride out the storm, until then, there’s gin

© Nicola Dunklin @ My Words Work For You

Sorry about the rude word Mum & Dad 🙂

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Too Many Cooks Spoil The Result

Teamwork Not Me Work

I’ve recently been involved in the creation of a product (I am being deliberately vague here). Not my usual ‘bag’ of content writing or business support, something altogether different.

Quality Control

The quality of the final product mattered, a lot. The client had employed a Project Manager who had been working on it for ten months. Every facet had been planned meticulously leading up to the actual product creation over the course of five days.

Production Begins

The day arrived. A team of specialists had been recruited, each individual briefed, and highly skilled at what they do. Stakeholders had come to observe the process, flown in from across the globe. As production was due to commence the first meeting was called where the Project Manager passionately voiced how much this project meant and that they would be picky throughout the process (alarm bells).

Business teamwork Meeting

Photo by Campaign Creators

And So It Begins, To Go Downhill

From this point, it may have been sensible to allow the professionals to step in and do their job, but that isn’t what happened. The Project Manager felt compelled to step in at every stage to analyse, dissect and re-invent, showing their authority, and worth. Throughout the numerous discussions time for production of the product ebbed away, along with its potential.

The Production

Days of frustration as each professional was compelled to justify their actions and wait as unnecessary changes were made. Observers shifted to ‘inputters’, decision became indecision and the big picture became a pixellated, distorted mass of disjointed fragments.

The Result

Almost everybody involved remained polite. They listened and responded to each new view, doing their best to please. Many changes were made, often ill-informed and illogical, rarely working towards achieving the goal. Time spent actually creating the product fell from around 80% to around 20% leaving no time for critical appraisal and fine-tuning at the end. I dare say the Project Manager walked away with a huge payment feeling they had worked hard. They may not even realise the detrimental effect of their interference throughout, and they certainly will never realise the difference in quality, had they simply allowed the professionals involved to do what they do best.

The Moral

Understand your role, play to your strengths, and allow others to play to their strengths too. Ultimately, a team can be greater than the sum of their parts if they work well together. Above all, know when to step back!

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Top SEO Tips For A Sustainable Business

SEO – An Ever-Changing Game

I attend the Optimisey Events in Cambridge each month. It is a regular meet up for SEO professionals to find out what is going on in the SEO world and keep ahead of the curve. Bear in mind that Google make some 3,200 updates per year, it is some curve to keep ahead of.

The Latest From SEO Professionals

This month’s speakers were Jasmine Granton, Digital PR at Aira Digital and Jono Alderson, Digital Strategist at Yoast. These guys know their stuff and share it well.

Jasmine’s top tips:

  • Get organised
  • Think about the end user
  • If you want journalists to cover your news, relevant pitch to relevant journalists

Jono’s Top Tips

  • Spend energy moving forwards and upwards
  • Focus on the basics, the quality of your product and service matter above all else, the rest will follow
  • Consider your audience’s needs/interests first
  • Add value to others, it isn’t about what you can get, it is about what you can give
Jono Alderson of Yoast Entertains the Audience

Getting the Fundamentals Right

As a Content Writer, I need to factor SEO in to everything I write for my clients. Good quality, useful content that reaches and adds value to a relevant audience is a major asset for any business and a worthwhile investment. Having a top quality product and offering the best customer service are the fundamentals, telling people about your hard work is vital.

Next month’s event will be pearls of wisdom from Koozai’s Hannah Butcher & Natalie Mott. We’ll be hearing the latest on content marketing & SEO strategy, I can’t wait for my clients to benefit.

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Does Your Business Give A Crap?

This article is about improving your business. It is not about finding gimmicks to make people buy your products, it is about being the best you can be so people want to support what you are doing. It is about the impact your business has on the planet. In terms of the environment, we all have to do better.

A Moral Responsibility to Care

I just took delivery of 48 loo rolls from Who Gives a Crap. I like their marketing style, and the £5 voucher sent by a friend I trust was great too, but those aren’t what persuaded me to buy. I chose to buy from this business because I love what they are doing. 50% Of their profits go towards providing toilets for the 40%, yes 40%, of the world’s population who don’t have one, an outrageous statistic. The product is great quality (‘like wiping with unicorn tears’) and I felt a moral responsibility to support them. I also now have enough loo roll to last the year.

Businesses That Get it Right

I am cutting down the amount of plastic we use in the household. Bar soaps, no clingfilm, re-usable shopping bags, cups, bottles, bar shampoo, Smol washing and dishwasher tabs, glass bottle milk delivery… you know what I’m talking about. Small but necessary steps, not enough people taking them.

I ordered some products from Lush, the place with the overpowering smell and synthetic appearance as you pass by. When you go in and talk to any staff member it turns out hey are all natural and they’ve been saving the planet for years. Lush have had outstanding ethics from their 1970s origins, they’re just not bragging about it. Their packaging is not plastic, they encourage re-use, the ‘polystyrene’ chips used in delivery boxes are in fact biodegradable potato starch. Labelling is clear, contents are ethically sourced and involve no animal cruelty. I wish they could address the dichotomy between the impression they give on the outside and the company they are on the inside, the brightly coloured bath-bombs are fun but don’t shout ‘natural’ to me.

What Can Your Business Do?

Whatever steps you take it doesn’t have to cost the earth (excuse the pun).

  1. Listen, learn, educate, inform, get everyone on board at every level
  2. Reduce plastic use
  3. Choose an energy provider who uses renewable energy
  4. Recycle, and make it easy to do so
  5. Save energy at every possible opportunity, carry out an audit
  6. Source ethical materials
  7. Ask suppliers about their ethical policies
  8. Reduce waste
  9. Plant trees, bring in plants
  10. Ask for advice from any of the free expert sources
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Make People Want to Stay At Your Workplace

Have you ever worked for that ‘difficult to get along with’ boss? Or have you ever been in a workplace that took plenty but gave nothing back? Life is short, working hours are long, if employees are unhappy they will find a new place to work. We would and should all choose to work and thrive in a place that makes us feel happy, healthy and supported.

Best Boss Mug happy workforce business support
It begins with kindness

Make everyone feel like they belong

Create a supportive community, welcome your carefully chosen newbies and nurture them. The start is the precursor to what follows. Happy people are far more likely to be positive, creative, and productive. We don’t need evidence, it’s obvious, but in case you need to put a case to the decision makers who may not be able to see it, have a look here.

How to Create a Happy Workplace

Communication – Keep the dialogue open, a workplace rumour-mill can be far more detrimental than any truths you openly discuss. Listen to everyone in the workplace, solutions are as likely to come from the person on the shop floor as the ‘shirt and tie’ behind the desk, they know what works and what doesn’t.

Honesty – Be open and transparent, good relationships are based on trust. People will mess up, mistakes are learning opportunities, they need to know they can be open without fear of recrimination but knowing they’ll have the chance to learn how to get it right in the future.

Awards – Employee of the week/month, recognition awards, achievement awards – None of this has to be costly, or monetary based. Dangle a carrot in front of the donkey to move it forward, smack it on the backside and you get an unhappy, stubborn donkey. Noticing achievements costs nothing, but reaps rewards aplenty.

Motivation – Encourage others to do well, share common goals, know what you are striving for, the small goals as well as the large ones. Rewards for achievement or simply recognition and acknowledgement, just don’t let it be ignored. There is nothing wrong with healthy competition, it can be a powerful motivator especially if the focus is on the achievement and not any perceived failure.

Physical Wellness -Provide easy to take opportunities to look after physical health. Make drinking water available (preferable from a tap not a bottle), allow breaks, get plenty of fresh air. First, listen to staff throughout the organisation to find out what they are interested in. Encourage participation and you will benefit from a fitter, happier, stronger workforce and a drastically reduced sikness rate. Businesses like Innerfit focus on workplace wellbeing by providing highly regarded lunch-time workouts, wellness talks, one-to-one sessions and pop-up sessions. Consider providing that for your workplace.

Supportive Relationships – Human relationships are not perfect, it’s OK to gel better with some people than others. Everybody has some good in them, highlight that and keep focus on good characteristics. It’s worth mentioning here, positive recruitment is key, employ people who are suited to the role, as well as the team.

Mental wellness – Look out for each other, make time and take time to ask how colleagues are doing, remove the stigma and encourage people to speak up before a problem grows too large. Life can throw curve balls at any of us, acknowledge that and provide support when needed. According to Forbes, a recent survey revealed that the largest source of workplace stress is cited as ‘the boss’. The study also revealed that workplace stress has increased by almost 20% in the last 30 years. Provide mentors and make sure every employee is able to speak to someone in confidence. Don’t be that boss that causes stress.

Play to your strengths – Don’t allow people to struggle in jobs they are not suited to. If possible, train them or move them into positions that match their skill set, they will feel happier and perform better. Encourage peer learning, share examples of good and bad practice and be prepared to learn from them.

Community – Not just the workplace community, but the community around you. Be seen to be actively engaged, take an interest and participate in community events. Here are a few ideas to start you off. The feel-good factor for the team is a side-effect, this is on top of profile raising and developing a fan base of supporters for the business.

Environment – Create environment champions – People with knowledge, training and decision making power. Look at the environmental impact your workplace is having and reduce, reuse, recycle. Many small and large changes are easy to implement, some are less easy but possible with effort. We all know by now, but knowing and doing are separate things. Individuals and businesses have a moral duty to care for the planet. Imagine how good you’ll all feel knowing you are doing good, not causing harm. Here are a few ideas to be going along with.

Silhouette of nine happy people in a team
Happy Team, Productive team Image Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Supporting small businesses is what I do, it comes as part of the package. I want the businesses I work with to succeed so I happily invest my time and energies into making your business as good as it can be. Have a look here for a list of my services.

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A Content Supporting Artist

Sitting in front of my PC 18 months ago I saw an advert saying Dame Judi Dench was soon to be filming in Cambridge and they needed Supporting Artists (Extras). The thought had never occurred to me, but I clicked on the ad…

Content Writer and Part-Time Supporting Artist

Once my details were entered I got on with work as a Content Writer and forgot all about it. A couple of months later a text arrived asking if I was available for filming in Dereham, Norfolk. A moment to gather my thoughts and I remembered the advert, then I chose, ‘Yes’. My journey into the unknown began in the early hours of the morning about a week later. I arrived on a film set where friendships quickly began. We spent a fun week aboard a train with cast, crew, food, my book, and Richard Madden.

Richard Madden and Supporting Artists
What a very nice man he is

Broadening Horizons

Since then I have seen many sunrises, and sunsets, I’ve visited places I never knew existed, met celebrities and ‘ordinary folk’. I have listened to and shared stories of everyday lives, of struggles and of triumphs, stories that lift your spirits and stories that made me feel grateful for the lifestyle I have carved out. I have played roles including: Christopher Reeve’s mother, John Candy’s mother, a Scene Of Crime Officer, a Family Liaison Officer, a nun, a criminal, a party guest to name but a few. I have worked with wolves, stuntmen, dancers, footballers and models, I’ve had my own trailer, I’ve sat around for hours or been busy from morning to night. I have loved almost every minute. In other news, I have also been signed as a commercial model, who knew!

Supporting Artist in the cast chair on set
Cheeky! This was clearly not my chair!
Nicola Supporting Artist sitting in Trailer on set
Actor’s Doubles Get Their Own Trailer!
Grantchester TV series James Norton and Supporting Artist
Walking away from James Norton, it wasn’t easy!
EastEnders Screen Shot
A trip to court in EastEnders

A Perfect Fit

So how does it work? The answer is, it works extraordinarily well, I am a Content Writer, being a Supporting Artist is purely a ‘side hustle’. Sitting in front of my PC for five years I hadn’t realised how much I missed human interaction. The occasional day spent on set gives me a much-needed chance to soak up human company, meet up with friends old and new and be part of a creative process. It fits in nicely around my content writing as I only accept film work that won’t impact on content writing for my clients. I take a laptop or iPad to set with me and in the hours of waiting around I can be managing social media accounts, researching and writing. It adds a new dimension to my working and personal life and keeps me fresh.

Upcoming appearances

Too numerous to list them all but here’s a snapshot:

Speechless, ITV’s Autopsy, Warburton’s bread advert, Lucozade ad, EE ad, Rocketman, London Kills, Dracula, In The Long Run, The Split, Lee and Dean, EastEnders, Holby City, Bancroft and Gameface. Mostly I can be found here, in front of my PC, in my study with my faithful Springer Spaniels, feeling content with my lot.

Addendum

I never did get the part in the Judi Dench film, Red Joan, but I now know people who are in it!

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Variety, The Spice Of Life

I have been creating content for businesses since 2013. Retailers, Accountants, industrial services, chauffeurs, plumbing merchants, business development, the science sector and the sport industry to name but a few. Each client and each task brings a its own challenges and adds variety to my day, but… As much as I love what I do, and as much as my Springers and I love spending the day together, I realised I needed more human company. So I have ‘mixed it up a bit’…

Take Every Opportunity

One day, I noticed an ad, they were filming with Dame Judy Dench in Cambridge and needed ‘Extras’ (more correctly, Supporting Artists). On impulse, I filled in the form, then got on with writing content. Fast forward a couple of months and I receive a text asking if I am available for filming in Norfolk, recalling the form I had filled in, I hesitated for a heartbeat, then chose ‘YES’. It wasn’t long before I was on a train, surrounded by new friends for a week filming ‘Bodyguard’. And the seed was sewn.

Nic and Richard Madden Bodyguard Supporting Artist
Yes OK I blushed, old enough to be his mother too!

The Best of Both Worlds

Working on the premise that we are only here once and life is to be lived, I found my perfect solution. The Supporting Artist industry is reaching saturation point. Too many agents, too many artists and not enough work, I would advise anyone in need of a reliable income against entering. For me, it was perfect.

Content Fired By Enthusiasm

I am happy, enjoying a varied and interesting life and I’m surrounded by creativity. I only take on clients I know I will love working with, and for whom I will produce content that will work hard for their business. Whether on set, made up and in costume or sitting in front of my PC, I am enjoying a life that includes two different worlds that dovetail rather nicely together. Great work comes from happy people, if you are unhappy in your work, brainstorm some ideas to fix it, it’s your brainstorm, there are no wrong answers, the sky’s the limit so dare to believe.

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Win Customers – Be Extraordinary

Welcome to Budapest

November 2018, a quick flit through passport control and I enter the arrivals hall of Budapest airport. Within minutes I spot my name on the board held aloft by a smiling driver. We wait a few minutes for three more passengers and head to the car. Half an hour later he unloads my luggage at the door of the hotel. Nothing extraordinary so far? Wait for it…

The Extraordinary Bit

The car and driver were sent by the dentist I was due to visit the next day. Fast forward to the next day and the car is outside the hotel, on cue, to take me to my appointment. After a warm welcome, and a free toothpaste shaped pen, I am called in on time for my 360° X-ray, shortly followed by a consultation with Dr Gergely Joós, PhD. After a comprehensive explanation of my options, treatment began. Afterwards, the car took us back. Five glorious days and four appointments later, My new crown and I were bidding farewell to the driver at the airport.

Sounds Expensive?

Here’s the best bit. I had been quoted £750 for a new crown in the UK, this sum would include the crown only. My Budapest crown cost £297, this included airport transfers, chauffeur service to and from each appointment, four appointments (all on time), the crown which was created in the nearby lab and couriered in, and the 360° X-ray. In fact if I included two flights, six nights in a hotel beer money for the week and spends at the Christmas market, I am still ‘quids in’. Budapest’s dentists are considered some of the best in Europe, it is surely a ‘no brainer’. We Brits are cottoning on, and UK dentists are losing customers.

Beat the Competition on Service

Here I am, talking about it on my Blog and telling my friends and family, just as a friend told me. This particular clinic, aptly named Save on Dental Care, is thriving among stiff competition, they have taken customer service to a whole new level. Most businesses face stiff competition, I am not suggesting they offer customers a free chauffeur service but for sustainability, businesses need to be creative and become extraordinary.

Budapest Illuminated Sign Red White and Green Customer Service Business Support Service
Brilliant Budapest

The Good News

I need to return for annual check-ups, I cannot wait. This business ticked all of the boxes: quality, value, efficiency and extraordinary service, how do the businesses you know compare?

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Easy SEO for 2019

How has 2018 been for you? How’s business? Competition is ever more fierce, cutting through an ever increasing amount of content is like wading through treacle. How will your target market find you? The good news is, if you get it right, you can be ‘up there with the big boys’. Google’s updates might seem complex, but ultimately what Google wants is to see a great user experience. 

Six Easy SEO Steps for 2019

  • Show E-A-T: Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness
  • Keywords are still important. Research the most relevant keywords and use them appropriately
  • Optimise page headings 
  • Optimise meta descriptions
  • Optimise the content of every page
  • Build relevant, good quality links

Quality Content is Crucial

Quality content ticks Google’s E.A.T. boxes. Your page content should not only make you shine, but it must demonstrate your expertise; take time to create authentic content to engender trust. Mistakes or inaccuracies will do you no favours, it is, therefore, a worthwhile investment. I have written for a wide range of businesses from accountancy to Science, research and fact-checking is essential to create authentic and accurate content for every client. 

Feel free to browse through the SEO guidance throughout the site, contact me if you wish to discuss anything further. 

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Business Sustainability, Ryanair Style

I recently booked flights on Ryanair. Since 1st November the only way you can take a cabin bag in to the aircraft is by paying for priority boarding. Ryanair have also changed their seating policy. I waited as usual until 48 hours before the flight to book seats, ignoring copious emails explaining how I will be sitting alone, on a seat I didn’t choose if I didn’t pay for seats immediately. I checked, there were many seats available on the plane, I wasn’t falling for it… 

And Here’s The Catch

On schedule, I checked in and as usual, went to choose my seats. However, those cunning little guys at Ryanair have fixed it so if you don’t purchase seats they are ‘randomly allocated’, in an expensive part of the aeroplane, far from whoever you are travelling with, yet in a sea of available seats. ‘That’s OK’, I thought, ‘I will just change them’. And here’s where Ryanair have got you ‘by the short and curlies’, you can no longer choose your seats for free, you have to have separate seats or buy new ones. Added to that, if you just move one person, you are forced to purchase an expensive (but available) seat beside the other. Either way, Ryanair get more money. 

Hidden Costs

Is this a clever upsell on the part of Ryanair? The flights I paid for because they were cheap (I admit it), were not cheap at all, they were the price Ryanair said they would be + Priority boarding + cost of a seat. How did it leave me feeling? CHEATED, MISLED, DUPED. 

Is This Clever Marketing?

Why don’t Ryanair just sell the flight for a price that includes a cabin bag, and a seat and say up front there are no hidden costs? Because then they wouldn’t appear at the top of the search engines when people are looking for the cheapest fare. Will I continue to use Ryanair in the future? Possibly, but henceforth, I will add another £15 to the stated price and see how it compares. Of course Ryanair know that people will continue to buy flights in the belief they are cheaper, but I wonder how sustainable this way of operating is as a business model.

A More Sustainable Business Model

Surely in time people will cotton on that the seemingly cheap fares will dramatically rise in reality? Will people continue to choose airlines like this? Would it not be better practice to advertise prices with a marketing message that there will be no hidden costs? ‘The price you see is the price you pay’, that’s the kind of open and honest message that would attract me.

It occurs to me, I might choose to forgo my seat and opt to stand/walk around the plane instead, I have after all, paid for the flight. how do you think that might go? 

While on the topic of Ryanair, here is an interesting read about their other scheme to increase profitability, the scratchcards! 

Posts you may like to have a look at:

Sustainable Business With a Conscience 

Do Special Offers Really Work?

Enjoy! 

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