Some brutal honesty for those lacking motivation

Here at Laura Smith Writer HQ things have reached a bit of a slump lately. I’m sure every piece of start-up and business advice would go against admitting that. Business owners are meant to be upbeat, positive and busy all of the time, if not to be successful then at least to appear to be. Nobody wants to hire anyone who doesn’t fall into those categories, right?

But the truth is, business is hard. It’s an uphill struggle when you’re an independent freelancer working from your study at home, competing against big name companies which can afford to woo new clients with champagne and fancy lunches. So it’s time to stop pretending, and to acknowledge that fact. But here’s the important bit – I’m carrying on regardless.

When I gave up my job to return to freelance writing nearly 12 months ago, amongst the congrats and the ‘you go, girl!’ support from my friends and peers, were some that thought beyond the business realm and questioned the social aspect: “Won’t you miss working with other people? I’d go crazy not speaking to anyone all day!” That kind of thing. And no, this didn’t bother me, not at first. I had an exciting business idea in one hand, and the motivation to see it through in the other. Then about nine months in the doubt popped up.

solitary-tree_webThings had gone well – my business advisor told me I was seeing more success than 75% of start-ups locally. Only now I was feeling the need for that reassurance we can only get from people we work with. And who do I work with? Me. After fumbling around inside my own head for a while and considering going back to the safety net of employment, things came to a bit of a standstill. I was no longer as busy as I was in the early days and new clients seemed harder to reach. But with all down periods come a small glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, and here mine was, shining ever so slightly through the grey sky outside.

Sometimes you have to rely on something else to prompt this, and other times a stern word in your own ear can do the trick. Here’s my advice on pulling yourself together, and getting your business back on track:

  • Don’t work in the present. Today might be a slow day, but think about the future. The project you set out to focus on has still to happen and its success can only lay in the coming days, weeks and months. Think about any evidence you have to support the fact that this can and will still happen.
  • Look through your emails. Remind yourself of some really encouraging conversations and begin some more.
  • Don’t assume everyone has heard of you. You might have heard of them, but that’s not to say they know who you are. Introduce yourself, reintroduce yourself and meet new people. New contacts are new opportunities.
  • Remember why you started: this point can be found in pretty much every motivational blog post ever written, but it’s there for a reason. How much did you really hate your job? Would you honestly want it back? How excited were you over your idea? What sort of lifestyle are you trying to achieve for yourself and your family through your own means?
  • Picture the future. Whatever that lifestyle is that you want – imagine it being here. Sitting on a tropical beach every summer, or having the flexibility to spend time with your kids might be a dream right now, but you have to drag it into reality at some point. There’s no time like the present.

For anyone struggling to motivate themselves right now, please don’t give up. There’s nothing like being your own boss (however isolating it can be) which tells us we’re doing the right thing. Picture the worst job you ever had, or think of someone who hates what they do. Would you trade places? Of course not. You love what you do. You’re just having a bad day and that’s allowed. Now make a cup of tea, and bloody get on with it.

*Please say hello if this post has resonated at any point. As I say, freelancing can be isolating, and it’s nice to hear from others sometimes.*

New cultural opportunities in Hull City of Culture

Dance, visual art, photography, theatre, film, music, poetry and more. If you’re in the creative industries in Hull I want to hear from you!

Hull City of Culture 2017What Next Generation Hull is a brand new group being set up to reflect the work of the national What Next movement. The aim of the group is to reach out to young people in the city and enlighten them to the possibilities of a life in the arts. By introducing professionals in the cultural sector to 13-21 year olds locally, through workshops, mentoring and events, What Next Generation Hull wants to turn talent and passion into real life career choices, and nurture the next generation of artists in the run up to 2017.

avatar_cbcb02197545_128I’m looking for cultural professionals willing to volunteer a small amount of time in the next 18 months to the mentoring programme, during which you will be paired with a small group of young people to guide them through the process of developing their own artistic project in your field. Involvement can range from occasional email contact, to fully fledged support at regular group meetings – it’s totally up to you!

Want to be even more involved? What Next Generation Hull is also looking for a Vice Chair for the chapter. This will involve attending national meetings with other Chapter Chairs and taking Hull’s story to others.

If either of these opportunities sound like something you’re interested in, email me at for more info.

What makes art, art?

As I write this I’m sat in a café looking at some local art on the wall priced for sale at £220. It’s approximately the size of two A3 sheets of paper (in fact, it may be two A3 sheets of paper as there’s a suspicious seam down the middle), and pretty as it is, it’s reminding me of an art critic book someone once told me about called ‘Why your five year old couldn’t have done that’.

Art is about original ideas, and while I look at this picture, and think about how I could make something similar myself, I have to remind myself that I wouldn’t ever have done so, mainly because I’d have never had that precise idea for a picture, or anything similar. Does that make it art? I suppose it does. Not quite content with this, I carried on thinking.

What had the best art I’d come across done to stay in my mind? Two pieces of art come to mind. First is a series of photographs displayed a while ago at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, where I live. The series involved large single images of women photographed nude an hour, a day and a week after childbirth against a white backdrop. Each photo involved a different woman, a distinct lack of a smile and the stark presentation of their bodies. Babies or childbirth wasn’t particularly a subject on my mind at the time, so the fact that it resonated so effectively with me made me appreciate the value of the art. The women stared emptily into the camera, in various stages of physical distress after a traumatic event. Were the photos pretty to look at? No, but they had a shock value, layered over after thoughts on the subject.

Secondly, a local poet I know performed a set in which he began with such an emotive and sudden start that it startled me into wondering whether it was part of the performance or not. It was, and it was one of the best introductions to poetry I’ve ever seen.

What do both of these things have in common? Two things: first, the ability to shock, and second, the fact that they stayed with me afterwards for a long time.

Would I want those photographs in my living room, or a recording of the poetry on a CD? Probably not, so that makes me wonder if real, true art is not something which cannot or shouldn’t be consumed, but experienced and appreciated at first contact with it. What we choose to decorate our homes with is art too, but a different kind of art, and something that almost needs a different word altogether.

What I would do if I were on Cameron’s PR team

Crisis management can be one of the most challenging aspects of PR, but challenging turns into outright brutal when you bring certain things into the situation. Say, for example, a pig’s head, a major political figure and rumours of photographic evidence. The news about David Cameron’s university rituals today are going to make hard work for the very best of PRs, but here’s how I’d handle it:

  • Sorry, Cameron. Make that your last sausage roll.

    Sorry, Cameron. Make that your last sausage roll.

    Find out exactly how bad the situation is. Does the photo exist? Who is likely to have it? How likely is it that someone may be waiting to use it against him?

  • Ask him if it’s true. I mean, it sounds pointless. Of course it’s true, why else would Downing St have missed the chance to give an outright denial? But sit down with the man and find out, in excruciating detail, just how bad things got and prepare for those details to make the news too.
  • Fill his diary with high agenda stuff. Nothing concerning meeting the public until the whole thing has died down, and absolutely avoid any direct contact with the press. I’d make sure Cameron was so busy doing his job this week – the really serious stuff – that any attention given to a pig’s head seems immediately trivial.
  • Release press releases about said high agenda stuff. The whole story will die down quicker if there is something coming from Downing St rather than nothing, even if those news stories have nothing to do with what the journalists are after.
  • Do not let him eat bacon, sausage rolls, ham, or anything remotely pork-like in public. Ever.
  • Avoid all future photo opportunities around animals. Especially farmyard animals.
  • Finally, thank every possible higher being that Jeremy Corbyn has vowed not to get caught up in ‘tell tale politics’. This might be the only time in history the PM’s direct opposition is not likely to make this worse for him.

10 signs your office knows it’s summer

Finally, it’s summer. The good(ish) weather has arrived, we’re driving to work with the windows down and weekends are spent enjoying the light nights…or are they? Maybe you’re spending your time worrying how you’re going to get everything done and still have some time off this year.

Still though, there’s always time to read a ’10 signs’ blog post…

10 signs your office knows it’s summer

  1. At least half the staff have filed a holiday request
    Have the men in your office started looking like this?

    Have the men in your office started looking like this?

    for the same week.

  2. You’re trying not to think about it.
  3. There’s at least one person who has swapped all normal lunch options for salad ‘for their holiday’.
  4. All of your clients seem to have a big project on at the same time, and it’s when you wanted to take a day off.
  5. You can almost see people pretending the water from the cooler is actually cold beer.
  6. You convince yourself staying until 6pm is OK really because it won’t be dark until almost 10.
  7. Going to the nearest beer garden after work seems more appealing than going home.
  8. Your clients have all started turning up to meetings with sunglasses on their heads, if only to rub in the fact that they are allowed to go outside during the day.
  9. The men in the office have started regularly talking about shorts as viable work wear.
  10. You have no idea how you’re going to cover everyone’s holiday.

Sound familiar? All is not lost! Summer is the perfect time to take on some temporary help in the office, and to celebrate the warmer days, I’m offering 25% off day rates when booked in July and August.

Whether it’s copywriting, keeping on top of your own business’s blogs and press releases or full PR for your clients, there’s no reason to fall behind. Get in touch and book today!

Stitch Education is launching in Hull

The news is out! As of September this year, I’ll officially be launching Stitch Education, a new course for schools which will see creativity being celebrated through arts and storytelling. I spoke to Laura O’Donnell, who runs Really Hull, to tell her about the project. You can see the original article here:

We caught up with Hull writer Laura Smith, who specialises in educational writing and has devised a new project, Stitch Education that she plans to roll out in Hull schools from September. She tells us about all about Stitch, and about her love for Hull, a city “that doesn’t feel like it’s going to get too carried away with itself.”

Hi Laura, give us the lowdown on your new project.

Stitch Education is a complementary curriculum for children who may be held back from reaching their full potential at school – whether that’s due to behavioural issues, learning difficulties or other reasons. It’s a programme of sessions that tie into subjects on the curriculum; the sessions are classroom-based but use creative and kinetic learning. Stitch is very ‘hands-on’, centred around arts and crafts and teamwork. The programme gives kids permission to use their energy and be a bit wacky for an hour or so, while building confidence and social skills to help them improve at school.

stitch logoHow is Stitch unique?

I don’t know of anything else out there that uses creativity and art quite like this. There are other courses that teachers can use to run alongside the standard curriculum; courses that, like Stitch, enable children to learn in a context that is separate from their usual teacher and their usual class setting. But no, there’s nothing exactly like Stitch.

How did the idea come about? What’s your background?

I used to work at Thomas Ferens Academy in Hull as a Teacher of Adventurous Learning. (We love that job title.) The premise of my role was similar to what I hope to achieve with Stitch. I’d come up with ideas and inventions to help kids use their imaginations and become more engaged – whether that was by pretending to be spies or crawling through school corridors like we were in a maze! I loved the job but eventually decided to go back to freelance writing, which was what I did before going into teaching. I then realised I had a huge backlog of teaching ideas that I still wanted to put into practice. I also missed the interaction with the children and thought that going back into schools on a freelance basis would be the perfect solution.

Your favourite things about Hull?

I’ve recently got into poetry and spoken word events, like Away With Words. Events like that seem to be popping up all over Hull. I don’t get up [to perform] myself though! I’m also really into what the Hull Independent Cinema Project are doing. Generally, I like the grass roots stuff, and there’s loads of it, which is great. I lived in Beverley for a couple of years until recently; now I love that everything is in walking distance and I don’t spend loads on taxis anymore!

I like having friends to visit who haven’t been here for a while, who – despite their preconceptions – admit that Hull is actually cool now. It is changing for the better, but it still feels like somewhere that will never get carried away with itself.

And what’s next for you?

I plan to launch Stitch in schools this September, and will continue my work as a freelance writer, writing education packs for schools and working on other projects. And I’ll also be enjoying living in Hull and seeing all the exciting stuff happening in the city over the next couple of years!

Find out more about Laura’s Stitch Education project or her other work by contacting her on email:, Twitter: @StitchEducation or via her website: