My fifth year of business is once again being marked here in rural Brittany, France, where I’ve been with my family since March. I’m pleased with how Gudrun Lauret Copywriting is doing, but as always, I feel I could do better.
Of course, while I intend to review how things have changed for me in the previous 12 months, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in businesses going under, redundancies, people losing their homes, and very sadly many hundreds of thousands of deaths.
This post will be more personal than usual, partly because of that, and also because I’m more comfortable sharing. As Chris Ducker says, people buy from people, and my business is very much a personal brand. I’ll be more or less sticking to the same format as last year’s post, too.
The end of 2019 passed in a blur of conferences, planning and Christmas, so I didn’t really get a chance to catch my breath before I was catapulted into a 2020 that was already going to challenge me before we even got to lockdown.
The first three months of the year were hard – I was unwell a couple of times, we had a family bereavement and then a fatal car accident happened right outside of our front door (in England, we live right on a main road), and we were reminded of that tragedy every time we looked out of the window. Business was extremely slow, and I was struggling to know what to do to improve things.
When we realised that the COVID19 infection in China would actually have an impact on us, my parents (with advice from a friend who’s an epidemiologist), suggested that my husband and I take the dog and sit out the pandemic in rural Brittany, where we could easily isolate ourselves from people during and after lockdown. I have chronic poor health and was considered ‘vulnerable.’
Lockdown was occasionally mentally hard, but in the main we were ok. We had access to the internet, Netflix, books and other entertainment, the house is large enough for us all to have our own space, including the dog, and we could take her down the farm track beside our garden, so we each took it in turns to get some air. In comparison to a lot of people, we were extremely fortunate.
Towards the end of June, I started to feel unwell, and had a recurrence of one of my health conditions that has been in remission for some years. I thought I was managing it, but by the start of August I had deteriorated to the point where I was urged to attend the nearest accident and emergency department.
The upshot was that I spent a week in hospital in France for life-saving treatment, and I was at risk of a perforated bowel or something equally nasty. It was very hard to go sit in A&E alone, especially as my French isn’t up to explaining my complex health problems to assorted nurses and consultants.
However, I managed, and I was very lucky that I could have visitors, including my dad, whose French is far better and was also a lot more with it than I was, particularly in the first few days of admission.
I was extremely impressed by the level of care I received, and the standards were just as high as those of the NHS. The consultant here happened to be a world expert visiting temporarily, and she liaised with my doctor at home, so he’s happy with my treatment. This scare will, unsurprisingly, have an impact on the rest of my year and into 2021.
What I’ve Been up to
So, like many people, I’ve not done as much as I might have! Lockdown meant many events were cancelled, so I’ve spent a lot of time with the dog! As I said in last year’s post, I attended Marketed.Live, Cambridge Social Media Day and then the Youpreneur Summit in winter 2019, which were all brilliant.
I like attending conferences because, even if I don’t learn anything wildly new or revolutionary, it confirms what I know, reminds me of the possibilities when it comes to marketing, especially online, and I enjoy the networking. Attending the same events means you meet the same people, which allows you to build relationships with them.
I had my ticket ready for Atomicon 2020 in April, but Andrew and Pete decided to move it online. This turned out to be a great move, because they added a whole month of events in the run-up to the big day. I attended lots of webinars, participated in ‘round table discussions’ on various topics, and I also joined in a virtual bar crawl, which was a lot of fun.
Doing all of these sessions meant I met many new people, and if I’m honest, probably more than I would have done in-person. Atomicon is held in my hometown of Newcastle, and a lot of attendees I know from Andrew and Pete’s breakfast networking events they ran locally a few years ago. The in-person event would have been lots of catching up, and I may not have networked as much with strangers.
I’ve continued to work with a couple of my long-term clients, which has been a pleasure. Each is an expert in a completely different sector, so I learn something different from each of them. And as I’m still a journalist at heart, I love that part of my job.
I’ve also done a lot of learning – I’ve watched webinars, read a lot of business books, attended courses and conferences, and participated in the Youpreneur Incubator Mastermind Programme. This includes regular calls with all the members, guest coaching and quarterly mastermind days, where we each get half an hour in the hotseat. This has worked just as well virtually as the ‘real’ one did in January.
I connected with Lisa Johnson, a business coach, early in lockdown, and signed up for free access to her membership. Lisa is an expert in passive income, which is something that I’d like to get better at. She’s also very open and honest, which is refreshing.
I completed one of her courses, which was about business foundations – lockdown seemed like a good time to review, and if I’m honest, some of the things we covered were things I hadn’t been too focused on before. I also connected with a few of the other participants, and we’ve got a splinter group to discuss our learnings.
I’ve also continued to rely on the support of my business mastermind group of three female business owners who I know from Atomic and who are now friends too. We talk regularly via Messenger, and also on Zoom.
I completed my Time Pieces History Project in July of this year, and I absolutely loved it. I now have 100 blogs covering the dawn of time to the future of the iron (yes, really!) and I’ve learned so much. The topics were varied and the research was a lot of fun. My goal for 2021 is to have these professionally edited into a book, both physical and electronic.
A throwaway remark during the quick masterminds at Youpreneur Summit led me to launch a podcast in March. The Time Pieces History Podcast (perhaps not the most imaginative name, but it lets me continue to use the TPHP hashtag!) has just completed its third season, and I’ve got ideas for several more yet.
The idea is to share bite-sized history facts, with shows being focused on a single topic and lasting no more than 10 minutes. Each season is themed and 12 episodes long and these are published twice a week. Bonus episodes are included at the end, and range from interviews to marketing advice for heritage sites.
I’m still working with the amazing Nicola Burt-Skinner from Blue Jeans Velvet Shoes, who does wonders with my Twitter. I may ask her to help me with the dreaded LinkedIn next! I’ve also outsourced the podcast editing to my husband, who had a show of his own a couple of years ago and is a lot techier (and more patient) than I am.
What My Business Does
My intention for 2020 was to get more involved in the heritage sector, which is something that has, unsurprisingly, been very difficult during lockdown. I’ve loved the virtual tours and online offerings from some museums, but it’s clear that smaller venues have struggled.
I want to use my skills and experience to help those in the sector to see that it’s much easier and cheaper than they think to use digital tools to market and promote themselves. I attended a virtual conference on arts fundraising, and learned a lot about the challenges in the industry. Next week I’ll be giving a review of the event on my podcast and blog, so keep a look out for that.
My intention is to do some outreach to find out more about what help people need, but I think training and education will be a key part of this. To support that, I have created a low-cost resource library, updated monthly, which shares workbooks, advice guides and more on content and digital marketing. I’m also offering brainstorming sessions (ideas curation) to help people come up with creative ideas.
I will also offer a range of done for you and ongoing services, including help with blogs, social media and website copy, all of which I know the industry struggles with. I hope to develop a full range of products which match the needs of the sector very soon.
Future Business Plans
Firstly, I want to develop my offerings for the heritage sector, and make sure I understand their needs, and demonstrate how I can help. I know that funding is a problem, but I believe that digital is a worthwhile investment.
I also feel that there is a lot of scope for international venues – here in France there is a lot of Arthurian history, as well as prehistoric and medieval sites, but there is no information for their many English-speaking visitors (and often, very little for the French, either). I want to help them resolve that with better written content.
Finally, I think there is a lot of scope for creating content, products and services to those who are passionate about history but not necessarily involved in the heritage sector – I have a lot of ideas, so I need to build an audience and find out what they might like.
However, all of my plans must be tempered by how my health is – the consultant advised that full recovery could take a year or more, and certainly three weeks post-discharge, I know I’m still at a very early stage of getting back to anything like normal.
Along with my current client work, I am keen to add a couple of long-term projects, perhaps assisting heritage organisations with research and future planning. For the rest of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, I need some stability, and I would consider a part-time role, again preferably in heritage. This, of course, would need to be flexible and home-based, and only short-term, but allow me to use my skills and develop my understanding of the industry.
Thank you for reading! Any comments or thoughts are most welcome.