About spilledinkwriting

As a story-based copywriter, marketing & website copywriter, content consultant and blogger, I am passionate about helping people achieve success one word at a time. ww.spilledink.ca

Stepping away to move forward

A few months back, I delcared 2018 my year of momentum. And now that I’ve reached the half-way point I can definitely say that this year is indeed shaping up to be one of momentous change.

On the work front, I continue to write for many of the same clients who have kept me busy since 2004. I’ve also forged new connections that are stretching my writing skills and expanding my accumulation of random knowledge. I still love my job and feel grateful to work with such a wide range of interesting people who seem to genuinely appreciate my way with words.

Since January, I’ve had the opportunity to do two speaking engagements. And I just rented a desk in a funky co-working space where I plan to finally get to work on a book project that’s been percolating for the past few years.

BakersWall

A funky wall for a funky co-working space.

I’m now confident that I made the right decision to focus on growing my freelance business rather than trying to enter the traditional work world when my marriage fell apart almost two years ago.

On the personal front, I’ve experienced the love and support of family and friends – both old and new. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to open up my home and feel that I am starting to build a community of people who care.

I’ve also started to take better care of my physical, mental, and spiritual health. For me, that includes finally having the courage to take time away from the office.

As a life-long freelancer, not working can feel scary.

Unlike a salaried worker who can occasionally get away with daydreaming on the job, if I’m not producing, I’m not being paid. In the past, I’ve always brought projects along with me whether I was traveling overseas or just to the (former) family cottage. Over the last 14 years, there has rarely been a day that didn’t include some sort of research or writing.

That stopped this year, when I made a commitment to myself to take one week off in June, July and August.

Last month, I took advantage of a child-free week and flew to New York.

Me and Klimt

Me and Adele Bloch-Bauer, at Neue Galerie. (The original is upstairs – no photos allowed.)

I was joined by a friend and we spent five days exploring. We went gallery hopping – the Guggenheim, Neue Galerie, MoMA, Cooper Hewitt, New Museum , – stumbled upon a Damien Hirst exhibition in Chelsea, and I discovered my new favourite perfume which was kindly shipped back to Canada since the bottle was too large for hand luggage.

Beach

And then – the beach!

Last week, my son and I escaped to a rental cottage on the shores of Lake Huron.  I think I must be a beach bum at heart, because sun, sand, and time spent with friends who came up to visit felt like my first real vacation in ages.

So – what did I learn from my time off?

  • Clients (old and new) are willing to work around your vacation plans.
  • I still love traveling as much as I did in my 20s, and it’s something I want to do more of.
  • I can more-or-less navigate the NYC subway system.
  • Beach time is good for my soul.

Today I’m back at the keyboard with several projects on-the-go. I am not sure what adventure August will bring, but I feel refreshed and ready to embrace the second half of 2018.

How’s your summer shaping up?

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Speaking about words….

A few years ago I ditched the traditional New Year’s resolution for a list of business goals. Then, I wrote them down and taped them to my office wall.

One of my goals for 2018 was to branch out into speaking. And, as we reach the mid-point of the year it’s kind of cool to realize that I’ve already had two opportunities to put my speaking skills to the test.

Even more amazing? I got to talk about two completely different writing-related topics!

In January I was invited to join international speaker and branding expert Joie Gharrity and local image consultant Susan Jacobs as a spotlight speaker at an event called Set Your Intention, Embrace Your WOW Factor, and Grow Your Success.

Speaking

That’s me – centre – with Joie Gharrity (bottom left) and Susan Jacobs (bottom right).

The duo seemed to think I had something valuable to offer and they weren’t phased by the fact that I’d never actually gotten up in front of an audience before. So, I decided to say ‘yes’ to the opportunity.

After giving some thought about the learning Joie and Susan would be sharing with the audience, I put together a 30-minute presentation called Style Your Copy.

My intention? To help participants overcome their fear of a blank page, identify and embrace their unique voice, and learn how to tell a compelling story across multiple mediums.

It turns out that I actually had quite a bit of advice to share. Several women in the room told me they were going home to re-write their websites. Wow!

Last week, women’s empowerment coach Tasha Hughes and I finally tested the waters with our first Women’s Playminar.

Tasha opened the morning event with yoga, meditation, and journaling.

Then I spoke about the power of the personal narrative. I shared my own story and invited the small group of women to put their pens to paper to see if a more structured writing exercise would trigger any revelations. And it did!

The morning wrapped up with artist Annette Dutton leading us through a guided paint tour where we created a story canvas to take home.

Playminar

Annette, Tasha, Ann, and me – with our story canvases.

So, what have I learned from these first steps into speaking?

  • After 14 years in the writing business, I actually know quite a lot about the power of words. And it’s knowledge that I am happy to share.
  • I can figure out Power Point.
  • I can get up in front of a room full of people and speak coherently. (I may even be able to make people laugh.)
  • I enjoy helping people overcome their fear of writing and it’s something I want to do more of.

And finally:

  • Writing down your goals and keeping them in sight actually works!

If you’d like to learn more about my speaking services, check out my website!

 

Three women to watch on International Women’s Day

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman. I recently realized that the past 18 months is the longest stretch of time I’ve spent single since I was a teenager. I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m kind of enjoying (re)creating my own life on my own terms, even if it can get complicated with a 12-year-old in tow.

As a woman, I know how lucky I am. I live in Canada, where my rights are well-protected. I managed to dig myself out from a suffocating common-law relationship with my dignity and bank account relatively intact. I’m surrounded by friends who check in to make sure I’m OK, make me laugh, and hold me accountable. I’m well-educated and have a job that I love.

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day got me thinking about all the fantastic women I’ve interviewed this year….

So, in honour of International Women’s Day 2018, I’d like to celebrate three women who I had the privilege of interviewing over the past year. Each left their mark on me for different reasons.

Phuong Pham – Owner, Fantastic Nails & Spa
I owe Phuong Pham an apology. I mis-spelled her first name throughout my story, and my editor didn’t catch the slip. Although I’m sure she noticed it, Phuong didn’t point out my mistake – even though it’s a cardinal sin for a journalist. (It was a first for me, but something that I am sure happens to everyone eventually!)

That’s just the kind of warm-hearted woman behind Fantastic Nails & Spa, one of London’s most successful nail salons.

Puong Pham - Fantastic Nails and Spa

Puong Pham (l), believes that every business can make a difference in the community. (Photo: Facebook)

If you think Phuong is running a small business, think again. Without divulging any numbers, I can say that this well-run salon and spa is undoubtedly one of the most successful businesses I wrote about last year.

Phuong is also a Buddhist, and it was her attitude towards money that impressed me the most.

If you read my story, you’ll learn that she came from very humble beginnings and arrived in Canada as a refugee with no formal education. So it would be understandable if Phuong was driven to make money for money’s sake.

Instead, she is using her hard work and good fortune to help improve the lives of others.

In fact, Phuong didn’t want my story to focus on the success of her salon, but rather on how it has enabled her to support many charitable initiatives – both here in Canada and in her native Vietnam. She hoped it would inspire other independent business owners to consider the good they could do in the world.

Something to think about this month as women around the world #PressForProgress.

You can read my story about Puong Pham here.

Stephanie Ciccarelli – Founder & Chief Brand Officer, Voices.com
As a former classical musician, how could I not love interviewing Stephanie Ciccarelli? She graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from Western University in 2006, where she studied voice.

Stephanie Ciccarelli

Stephanie Ciccarelli is a music grad turned entrepreneur. (Photo: Facebook)

Today, she and her husband run Voices.com – one of the world’s largest on-line marketplaces for voice-over talent. It’s a seriously big business, and only getting bigger.

I interviewed Stephanie about the launch of her new podcast, Sound Stories. Targeted towards the demand side of their business, Sound Stories features conversations with creative professionals speaking on a wide variety of topics. If you are in any kind of creative field, you should definitely check it out here.

Stephanie is also the mother of three young children. We did our interview at 7:30 in the morning at the Voices.com head office in downtown London. She had to catch a flight to New York and was already dressed for business with her carry-on packed and read to go. She’s another smart and ambitious woman who somehow juggles the demands of working with her husband, motherhood, and a big career, with grace, humour, and style.

You can read my story about Stephanie Ciccarelli’s Voices.com Sound Stories podcast here.

Jo-Ann Fisher – Founder, Hangar9
You wouldn’t think that women who call places like Toronto, Washington D.C. and New York City home would turn to a London, Ontario-based clothing boutique for fashion and styling advice. But that’s the kind of loyal clientele that Jo-Ann Fisher has built over 30 years at the helm of Hangar9.

Jo-Ann Fisher

Jo-Ann Fisher has been dressing women from Toronto to New York for more than 30 years. (Photo: Facebook)

While many independent retailers are crumbling under the weight of online shopping, Hangar9 is expanding, both in physical size and scope. What’s more, three out of Jo-Ann’s four daughters are actively involved in the company – and they’ll be taking over the reigns when Jo-Ann retires from the business side of her independent clothing store later this spring.

Jo-Ann doesn’t have a business degree, a diploma in fashion merchandising, or a family connection to the industry. She grew up on a farm and stumbled into the business through Mary Kay Cosmetics when she was approached to become a consultant at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

What she does have is a strong work ethic, an engaging personality, a keen eye for fashion, and a genuine desire to help her clients look and feel their best. Her nine grandchildren are blessed to have a granny with so much style, energy, and zest for life. They may even have a hard time keeping up with her!

She’s setting a great example for the next generation of women who dare to dream big and want to  succeed in life and business without compromising their vision and integrity.

You can read my cover story on Jo-Ann Fisher and the next chapter for Hangar9 here.

Happy International Women’s Day 2018 to all the fabulous women I know, and to the men who love and support them….and I wonder who I’ll be writing about next year?

Nicole Laidler is a freelance journalist, copywriter and word strategist based in London, Ontario. She loves helping people grow their success, one word at a time. See what else she’s been writing at spilledink.ca 

 

My top 3 stories of 2017

The last 12 months have been a whirlwind. I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed a steady stream of work, which has given me the opportunity to write about everything from the Canadian fin tech sector to dairy farming in Oxford County.

Along the way, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some amazing individuals doing some amazing things. That’s made it difficult to pick my favourite stories of 2017 – but after much consideration, here are the three that made a lasting impression:

Roads to reconciliation
(United Church Observer magazine, November 2017)

I don’t remember when I first learned about Canada’s residential school system, but I know it wasn’t at school. And I’ve written stories on First Nations issues in the past where my sources were wary about sharing their stories with a reporter.

geraldine robertson - photo Dwayne Cloes

Geraldine Robertson shares her experiences as a survivor of Canada’s residential school system. Photo: Dwayne Cloes

Geraldine Robertson had no such hesitation. A survivor of the residential school system, she has worked tirelessly to educate her own community and Canadians in general about the abuses suffered by generations of First Nations children.

(In case you think she must live ‘way up North’ – Geraldine is a member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia. That’s less than an hour from my front door.)

This year, Robertson and two fellow survivors shared their residential school experiences in a documentary film called “We Are Still Here,” which led to my assignment for The United Church Observer magazine.

It can be difficult to interview people about traumatic events, but Geraldine answered my questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. She also posed a few questions of her own, which made me see the legacy of the residential school system in a new light.

You can read my story here  and view the documentary ‘We Are Still Here.’   It should be screened in every Canadian school.

The Peacemaker
(Ivey In Touch, September 2017)

I was excited – and a bit nervous – when Ivey Business School asked me to write a profile of Frank Pearl for their alumni magazine.

Frank Pearl

Frank Pearl studied at Ivey Business School before returning to Colombia. (Photo: Facebook)

After all, it’s not every day that I get to interview a peace negotiator.  And like most Canadians, I have a limited understanding of Colombia’s long-standing civil war.

Luckily, it took a few weeks to arrange the interview so I had plenty of time to research and prepare my questions – which I hoped would provide readers with some insight into Pearl as a person, Ivey grad, and peace broker.

Often people who are in high profile positions have received tons of media training, which doesn’t always make for the most interesting quotes. So when I finally reached Pearl at his home I was relieved and delighted that he spoke with such candor about both his role in the Colombian peace process and his time in Canada.

I even had to ask my editor if she could stretch the original word-count. (Which she did!)

You can read my story here.

The Art in a Deal
(London Inc., June 2017)

I first met Marla Marnoch at an event at The ARTS Project in downtown London sometime during the summer of 2016. I think we may have been the only people in the room without visible tattoos, so of course we got to talking.

Marla mentioned her concept of marrying social enterprise, real estate transactions and community building – and I immediately thought “That’s something I need to keep an eye on.”

Almost 12 months later, Marla launched earmark.ca, I pitched and wrote a story, and as an added bonus I made a new friend!

Marla Marnoch earmark

Marla Marnoch (far right) building our community through her social enterprise real estate initiative, earmark.ca (Photo: Facebook)

Marla’s enthusiasm for London and her ability to bring her vision to life make this story one of my top 3 picks of the year.

You can read my story here.

So, what’s up for 2018?

I’ve already got a few new assignments lined up for January, as well as a small speaking engagement – so I’m looking forward to the year ahead. I’ll also be starting work on a book that I’ve been thinking about for several years now…stay tuned!

If you’d like to keep up with what I’m writing, follow my Facebook page or visit my website.  And if you’ve got a story idea, or need a freelance writer – please drop me a line!

In the meantime, thanks for reading my blog – and Best Wishes for 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

12 Months of Transition

I dubbed 2017 my “Year of Transition.” And as I mark 12 months since my separation, I can honestly say that life as I know it is almost completely different from what it was a year ago. It hasn’t always been easy, but everything I’ve gone through has given me the opportunity to grow.

change-948024_1920

For me, 2017 was a year of incredible change….

So, since it’s the season of lists, here are 12 things that I’ve learned during my first year as a single mom:

  1. I can make great decisions in high-stress situations.
  2. I can use a snake to unplug a sink.
  3. I can rise above negative situations. (If you’re surrounded by drama, try it sometime!)
  4. I can choose my mood. (see #3)
  5. Mom was right. Your reputation counts.
  6. I can assemble a hockey net – even if it takes three days!
  7. I can write more words in a month than I previously believed possible.
  8. I have a great poker face. (see #3 & #4)
  9. Simple things can make me very happy.
  10. I may be middle-aged, but I can still learn new things.
  11. Not everyone who is friendly is your friend. (But don’t take it personally!)
  12. Girlfriends (and male friends) who make you laugh are the best.
Railway

It’s full steam ahead for 2018….

I have dubbed 2018 my “Year of Momentum.” After the free-fall of 2017, I feel like my feet are back on the ground and that I’m on the right path forward.

Who’s coming along for the ride?

 

 

5 tips on how to make working from home a success

A friend recently decided to streamline and simplify her professional life by relocating her business from a traditional storefront into the finished basement of her family home. Great move, I thought. She’s got a loyal clientèle, a strong social media presence to attract new customers, and an effective on line store.

She’s also got a partner and two young children, so the change makes sense for her family too.

I know a thing or two about running a home-based business and a household. Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing has been based out of my home office since 2004.

Working for myself, and on my own, has given me a 10-second commute, autonomy, and the flexibility to walk my dog in the middle of a sunny day. But merging home and office can have its challenges, and definitely isn’t for everyone.

Skye

Being able to take this beauty on a mid-day walk is one of the many perks of working from home!

So here are five tips on how to make working from home a success.

Create a dedicated work space
I am fortunate to have a dedicated office. When my workday is done I close my office door – and it remains shut until I am ready to tackle the next day’s to-do list.

The biggest pitfall of running a home-based business is allowing your business to dominate your home. If you hope to achieve any sort of work-life balance it’s vital to create a space that separates the personal from the professional.

small home office

A home office doesn’t have to be large, but it does need to be a dedicated area separate from your personal living space.

Don’t work on the sofa. Don’t work in bed. Don’t work at the kitchen table. Even if you live in a bachelor apartment, set up a desk and chair and call it your office.

Don’t eat lunch at your office desk. Don’t watch Netflix on your office laptop. Your work space is for work. Your personal space is for family, friends, and relaxation.

(Still not convinced? Then ask your accountant about the benefits of claiming a home-office deduction on your tax returns.)

Create a work schedule
With your office only steps away, it’s easy to work at any time of the day and night. Having the flexibility to arrange your work schedule around your family schedule is great. Never taking time off work to spend with your family, not so much.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re busy. If you’re an entrepreneur and a parent, your schedule is probably in overdrive. If you’re an entrepreneur and parent with a home office, you may never sleep.

You need – and deserve – time off. Decide how much you want to work and when you want to do it, and then stick to your schedule.

Remember – if you answer client emails at 11 pm, that’s what they will come to expect. Unless it’s a real emergency your reply can wait until the morning. You’ll sleep better. They’ll probably email at a more reasonable hour the next time. If not, it’s time to find a new client.

Just do the work
With the kitchen just steps away from your office, it may be tempting to take a break and empty the dishwasher. Or fold the laundry. Or pick up your son’s dirty socks.

And with no boss looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to lose a morning to Facebook.

Doing dishes

Your dirty dishes can wait until your workday is finished….

If you don’t have the self-discipline to focus on your work without the threat of being fired, then having a home office may not be the best choice for you. Getting up from your desk for a quick break or having a proper lunch at your kitchen table (or out with friends) is fine – but losing your day to housework or social media is no way to grow a business.

Dress for success
Working from home means you can roll out of bed and hit your desk in your pajamas. Right?

Wrong.

You may not need to wear a button-down suit to work from home, but you should still dress in a manner that makes you look and feel like a professional.

Find your tribe
Working from home means you don’t have to face the creep in the next cubicle or deal with a narcissistic boss. But it also means you miss out on the camaraderie of a traditional work environment.

If you’re a social person, a home-based business may not be for you. The truth is, working from home can be lonely and isolating, and you may find yourself having long conversations with the family pet.

It’s important to make an effort to get out of your home-based office. And this means more than just going for coffee with your friends. You need professional colleagues who can offer advice and support. You need new customers, who won’t find you if they don’t know you exist.

Networking

Make time to get out and meet new people!

Set aside a few days each month to attend meaningful networking events, or join a professional organization.

There are also plenty of virtual groups on Facebook – and they can be a wonderful resource – but nothing beats meeting people face-to-face.

Maintaining social interactions is good for your mental health, will keep you motivated, and will help forge the connections you need to enjoy long-term  business success.

If you work from a home office, share your biggest challenges and helpful hints in the comments below! 

Nicole Laidler is passionate about helping people grow their business, one word at a time. She is a story-based copywriter, marketing & website copywriter, blogger, and content consultant based in London, Ontario, and the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing. 

 

The Fur-Bearing Trout, and the power of patience

This summer, I got to add the words ‘contributing author’ to my resume.

My story, The Secret That Won The War, was selected for inclusion in The Fur-Bearing Trout…and Other True Tales of Canadian Life.

The book is a collection of non-fiction pieces by 16 local writers, and was published by the London & Southwestern Ontario chapter of the Professional Writers Association of Canada to mark the Canada 150 celebrations.

TFBT Cover

I am grateful to be a contributing author….

This was a thrill for me for two reasons: I can now say that I’ve been published in a book, and more importantly – I had been sitting on this story for 13 years.

The Secret That Won The War was written in 2004 when I was still in journalism school at The University of Western Ontario.

As a student, my goal was to publish every assignment I wrote for J-school.  I did – with the exception of this one.

Perhaps it was the subject matter, telling the story of Canada’s top-secret radar program through the eyes of Word War II radar veteran Fred Bates. A storekeeper from Wingham, Ontario, Bates had been trained at RAF Station Clinton – located 85 km north of London – before serving on Canada’s West Coast and in Europe.

Perhaps it was the length.  Bates’ personal recollection was interspersed with plenty of historical and technical information – necessary, I felt – to properly tell the tale. But at more than 4,000 words, the draft I handed in was certainly far too long for most traditional publications.

Perhaps my student writing skills just weren’t strong enough to pull off such an ambitious project. I received a mediocre grade and some unenthusiastic feedback.

But Fred Bates had passed away less than two weeks after our interview, and I felt that I couldn’t simply throw away his words.

The story was filed away on my computer. And then on another computer. And another.

Filed away, but not quite forgotten.

When the call for submissions for non-fiction stories about any facet of Canadian life dropped into my in-box last November, I knew that The Secret That Won The War had finally found a home.

It’s now 2,500 words shorter than the original, with a new beginning and ending, but each one of Bates’ words remain.

As for the fur-bearing trout, that’s another slice of Canadian history worth reading about.

The Fur-Bearing Trout…and Other True Tales of Canadian Life was launched at Anderson Craft Ales on June 25. Copies are available at Attic Books and Chapters / Indigo in London, Ontario and it will soon be available on Amazon.

Learn more about Canada’s secret WWII radar program. 

As a story-based copywriter, marketing & website copywriter, content consultant, and blogger, I am passionate about helping people grow their success by sharing their stories with the world. Read what I’ve been up to at Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing.