According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a freelancer is someone 'who works freelance'. Terrific. Dig a little deeper and you're rewarded with 'a mercenary in medieval Europe'. Well, this does at least begin to paint a picture: willing to travel, adaptable and for hire. But there's more...
Today's freelancers, of course, rarely go to war. In fact, many work remotely from a home office and get the job done with surprisingly little face-to-face contact with clients. In the communications industry a willing army of self-employed people provide a range of vital services as designers, web developers, social media specialists, copywriters, and internal comms specialists.
Freelancers are a diverse group of people: they may be at the start of their careers seeking to build a portfolio of experiences to take forward into employment; working freelance between paid employment; or mid-career, having made the conscious decision to leave full-time employment and embark on a new adventure. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), between 2008 and 2011, 147,000 people joined the ranks of the self-employed and 80% of these were women. Interestingly, the number of self-employed people in the age group 35-49 fell by around 40,000.
Self-employed freelancers are responsible for their own tax, NI and pension contributions. Offering great value for money to their clients, they typically only require a good brief – not constant supervision – to get the job done. They rarely require your office space, your support staff, or even an invitation to the office party. Hired on an assignment by assignment or contract by contract basis, they are your ultimate 'flexible friend': there when you need them but never overstaying their welcome or overstretching headcount restrictions, or the company purse. In short, with few employment rights, hiring a freelancer who can demonstrate their record of work means clients take on little in the way of risk.
A survey undertaken by freelance copywriter David Jacobs at Lewis-Barned & Associates of more than 500 LinkedIn contacts, including clients and non-clients, revealed that in-house internal communicators used freelancers when faced with a range of circumstances:
- When the expertise was not available in-house
- When in-house resources were fully deployed
- To meet the deadlines of a new, unexpected project
- To meet the deadlines of a project that had been put on hold but now needed to be delivered quickly
- To support the internal team when staff were unexpectedly absent
Asked for what advice respondents would like to offer other internal comms teams about engaging freelancers, comments included:
"Go for it - it can help solve many issues including saving time, bringing in expertise and also a fresh perspective." (Name withheld)
"Don't just go with what may be commonly accepted in other parts of your organisation. If necessary, have the debate with procurement about why you want to make your own decision over a freelancer and prove why your choice is the right one for the project."
(Laura Kingston, Internal Communications Manager, Siniat Ltd)
The survey also revealed that, typically, respondents used freelance staff on between two and five projects each year and they agreed that freelancers generally offered "great value for money".
So why not grab yourself a bargain and make 2013 the Year of the Freelancer?
I have to admit to being a tea addict - without it I struggle to get out of bed in the morning and I have found that a chat over a cup of tea can solve most problems. I've written about tea before (see my blog at: http://wp.me/p34vk4-4) but this time it's different: it's for a cause that's dear to my heart because it affected one of my closest friends - twice - and she's survived.
Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in women and accounts for more UK deaths than all of the other gynaecological cancers put together. The good news is that, if it's diagnosed early, the outcome is good with five-year survival rates in excess of 70%. However, if diagnosed late those rates drop to between five and 33%.
The Eve Appeal is helping to fund a five-year international research project aiming to halve deaths from ovarian cancer in the UK and beyond. So my tea party is to raise money to help fund this worthwhile cause.
If you would like to help, you can either organise a tea party of your own, or donate direct to the appeal by visiting: www.eveappeal.org.uk/tea. Or, if you live within reach of Gatwick, you can contact me and come to mine!
We've upped the tweets and blogs so if you want to find out what's going on in our lives from minute to minute:
Follow Suzi at https://twitter.com/healthwriter4LB
Follow David at https://twitter.com/copywriter4LB
Suzi's blog is at: http://suzi2013.wordpress.com.
In a recent cross-sectional analysis published by the Archives of Internal Medicine (http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/journal.aspx), researchers studied questionnaires of 9377 patients who were taking drugs to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol. The study found that patients who felt that they were not only being heard by their doctors but also were involved in certain medical decisions were more amenable when it came to following their doctor's orders and taking the drugs that were prescribed to them, throughout the refill cycles. Conversely, patients who perceived a lack of communication with their healthcare providers had higher prevalence of poor secondary adherence to their prescribed medications.
This study expounded on previous studies which showed that patients are more willing to follow their doctor's orders when the doctor takes the time to provide adequate explanations of any and all information.
This underlines our experience writing patient support materials across many disease areas. Patients feel supported when they are receiving good communications and we, as writers, feel fulfilled when we are helping to make a genuine difference to patients' way of life.
A recent US study has shown that patients increasingly expect online support from pharmaceutical companies to help manage their chronic conditions.
The study showed that among the most popular features are:
Meal plans and recipes
Tools to track/manage a condition
Registered nurse hotline.
The report also found that 75 per cent of people who use online patient support programmes from a pharma company said they felt confident the prescription they have is right for them because of support from the programme.
This could have a significant impact on the way that patient support materials are designed. For example, at least for certain readerships, a move from printed materials to online support and a focus not only on tracking tools and telephone support but also on 'softer' lifestyle areas, including meal plans and recipes and perhaps psychological aspects of living with long term conditions such as having a positive attitude to life and making the most of every day.
Our 20 years' experience of writing patient support materials suggests that it is the practical day to day advice about living with long term conditions, along with examples of how other people are managing, that can help people to feel truly supported and can help them to carry on taking their medication in the long term. For more, see:
There's an easy answer to the economic climate and the problem of food waste: make soup. Suzi Lewis-Barned explains how this simple old-fashioned practice can make a difference to spending, food wastage and your nutritional intake...
With recent research showing that the British waste more food than any other nation, it's time to listen to our grandmothers' advice and recycle leftovers. It's quicker than trawling the supermarket shelves for ready-made packets, it's low-fat and healthy, and it can increase our intake of vitamins and minerals because none of the goodness of the food is wasted.
According to FairShare, food being thrown away could feed more than 250,000 people or, put another way, 250,000 more meals could be produced, saving householders thousands of pounds. According to waste handlers, consumers in British households now dispose of more than the supermarkets and food industry combined, with food waste accounting for around a third of the weight of waste produced by households. So what can we do to change this?
Once people realise how easy it is to fry an onion, tip all the other left-overs from the fridge into a pan, add some stock, boil and liquidise it into an endless supply of tasty and nutritious soup, food waste could become consigned to the history books and we would have the satisfaction of becoming Kings and Queens of Soup.
How to discover the Joy of Soup
Step 1: Cool any leftovers and cover, then refrigerate
Step 2: Go through your fridge and see what's been left over from the previous day or two
Step 3: Fry leftovers together with an onion, adding any left-over sauces that are still within their use-by date, along with around 1-1.5 pints of boiling water and stock, bring mix to boil and simmer for half an hour
Step 4: Allow to cool a little
Step 5: Liquidise using a hand or jug-style blender, add a little salt and pepper (and any left-over cream if you wish)
Step 6: Enjoy with crusty bread for lunch or as a starter for dinner
As we celebrated the end of our most successful year ever, we had already fixed meetings with two major new clients at the start of January and, as predicted, the New Year has begun on the same optimistic note that 2012 ended. We are about to begin work on some new and exciting - as well as worthwhile - projects.
So, as the snow falls around us, we are ensconced in our little cave, working away to produce materials that we hope will genuinely make a difference to the everyday lives of people living with long term conditions and their families.
You can follow more closely what we're up to via our Twitter accounts:
Our feet have not touched the ground during November - it has been one of our busiest months ever. We have acquired several new clients and have been rushing around (including a day in Basel) while managing to keep to some very tight deadines. Work has included advertorials about how to become Care Quality Commision (CQC) compliant, research and writing about Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Hepatitis C, and brochure copy for care homes designed for people living with dementia.
I was fascinated by the two-part BBC series, Goodnight Britain (28 and 29 November), in particular about sleep apnoea. We've written extensively about this in more than one set of patient support materials but seeing the difference that CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) could make to someone whose sleep (and that of his wife) had been interrupted for years was remarkable. The man affected had been in danger of losing his job (as a van driver) because by law sleep apnoea has to be reported to the DVLA but using CPAP meant he could lead a normal life and return to work. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01p53jj/
We've just had some more wonderful feedback following a meeting Suzi covered in Cardiff about stable angina, and the subsequent report she wrote for the pharma client. This resulted in an email from the person who commissioned the work, which read as follows: "I just wanted to say a massive personal thank you for your write-up. You did an amazing job!! And I got a few brownie points at work!!! - it's not what you know, it's who you know!"
It's great to have feedback, especially when it's as positive as an email we received from one of our regular clients, a healthcare agency, this morning which read as follows: "I'm sure that following my call with David he has passed on the great feedback that we received from (client name) this morning for the articles. No mean feat I can tell you - they are a very exacting client and I can assure you that we truly appreciate the quality of your work and the timescale it was delivered in - thank you!"
This kind of feedback makes the hours that we work - frequently to tight deadlines and involving late nights, early mornings and weekends - so worthwhile.