How I Invoice Brands and Chase Late Payers: Tips for bloggers

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'Just a friendly nudge'. 

That's my opener when I'm chasing brands for overdue invoices. It's code for 'hey pal, remember me? yeah I'm the schmuck that worked his ass off for a whole month peddling your crap. How about you pay me.' 

Maybe I've seen Casino too many times. Remember that scene where Pesci tells that Banker he wants his money back? Well I'm never far from that level of resentment when it comes to chasing invoices. 

The dichotomy of it all, is that we have to chase them in a polite 'excuse me, excuse me, I'm British', kind of way because of the following reasons; 

  1. We don't want to sound desperate for cash as it looks like we're on our last legs and undermines our bartering power for the next commission. 'He was gagging for that £100 payment last time. Felt like he chased us to the ends of the earth, bet he'll do this job for £50'. 

  2.  We don't want to appear pushy as we want repeat business and want to maintain a good professional working relationship. 

  3. We're naturally too polite and far too good willed. 

I know a lot bloggers and lifestyle magazines have different invoicing policies. Some demand payment upfront before publishing. Others demand payment before they even write the feature. 

I'm quite happy to give brands the standard 30 days, which I believe is fair to both parties. The law for business transactions is 60 days, which is far too impractical for independent businesses that depend on cash flow for survival. Yes you can demand interest on late payments, but the rates are small beer and only compound the issue. 

Imagine if you were owed £1000 by a company like the rates suggest on the Government website. Technically that company can delay payments for nearly another 2 months at the fee of only £11.50. 

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What can you do if a client or brand doesn't pay you? 

The reason why some of these rates and laws feel so draconian is because the Government legislative has not been updated in the last 6 years. The below is also taken from the government website. 

"Amended late payment legislation comes into force on 16 March 2013, implementing European Directive 2011/7/EU on combating late payment in commercial transactions." 

What happens when clients don't pay me? 

I give them every chance. I sometimes walkaway if the pay is modest, I don't look over my shoulder too much. However, one of the bonuses of building a pirate ship is that I get given a megaphone to use over the internet. 

If I know someone else has also been duped by a company, I'll call them out and draw as much focus on their erroneous doings as possible. 

Last summer I was owed a handsome sum of money buy a company, which was a creative content platform for brands and agencies. The CEO did a runner, and lots of influencers were out of pocket. 

My advice on chasing brands for payment? 

Give them the 30 days. Email them with something over than a demand for payment such as.. 

'Hi XXX

Just a quick note to say how great it was working with your team and getting to know your brand last month. Here are the stats from the campaign in case you wanted them. Also I've attached a few extra images from the shoot you may not have seen. Please feel free to use them on your social channels'. 

That normally prompts a response. You want to make sure there’s someone there on the other end of the phone before you start demanding your money back. Sometimes an email like that will trigger them into action. 

If you don't get a reply or a payment, in the next email I'd suggest this. 

'Hi XXX 

Glad you like the photos, I look forward to working with you on the next campaign. Any chance you can give your accounts team a nudge and let me know when I can expect payment for the invoice I submitted last month. I've attached again for their reference'. 

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I’ve attached a copy of my invoice so you can see a working template. 

Hopefully that should do it, and people will want to work with you again in the future. 

BE WARNED 

I made this mistake once of hounding a PR guy for a payment. They were acting as a 3rd party for a clothing brand and the reason why I wasn't getting paid was because I had put the wrong name on the invoice. 

I subsequently had a big fall out with both the PR team and the brand and it took a lot of lunch dates and ass licking on my part to get back in their good books. 

So make sure you have all the details on the invoices correct before you send them out and start threatening to come down there and crack their heads wide open in front of everybody. (Really Joe Pesci says it so much better). 

 

Streamline Your Time Spent Blogging | Get These Apps Now!

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We're all looking for new ways to make our lives more time efficient. There's nothing that grinds my gears more than waiting in line with nothing to do. Especially with regards to the blog. The biggest strain on my time is often not the writing (as you may have guessed) but the uploading, the photo editing, the tagging, then the distributing across social media. 

I've put together a mini-listicle of Time Saving Blogger Hacks, I'd be interested in hearing in the comment section if anyone has any more. 

Otranscribe 

Otranscribe is a free web app to take the pain out of transcribing recorded interviews. I've tried countless of different apps, some with varied level of success. Ultimately if you can afford it, outsource it. However, this app makes transcribing those recorded interviews a sh&t tonne easier. Not such a well-kept secret anymore. 

Tailwind 

Oh the sweet joy of bulk image uploads. Talking earlier about multiple social media distribution, Tailwind will relieve you of all that heavy lifting. It will post all of your visual marketing content to Instagram and Pinterest from one tool with a single workflow. 

LogoGarden 

Especially if you're just starting out as a blogger, Logo Garden will not only save you time, but money as well. You don't need an all singing-all dancing logo for your blog because chances are you'll change it in a few months when you rebrand. Yes many bloggers think it's a great idea to write about one thing, their love for cats or thrift stores, but soon realise that money isn't allocated to a single genre. Why do you think the word 'Lifestyle' was invented. 

Loom

Ohhh yes baby, this is the biggy. Loom is a ten minute screen recording device that allows you to share a screen and record audio. Perfect if you have a team of minions that you need to address, rather than hammer out a dissertation email, this software is free and has been a revelation for me. 

For example on my e-commerce site I have a small team, each assigned different roles. Copywriting, graphic design, layout etc. Rather than shoot them independent emails I get to summarise in a five minute video, sharing my screen and highlighting the problems that need addressing. 

Also a really good tool for those big pitches! If you want to make that very big pitch personable, nothing better than a very recorded video just for that one client. Less spammy. 

Last Pass 

Oh sweet Lord, what a find this is. Passwords were the bane of my life. Constantly having to refer to my little black book, then I'd need to decipher my own handwriting, then I'd lose the book anyway. 

Last Pass, it's a vault for all the passwords and populates all the fields so you can do away with that little black book, if you haven't lost it already. 

 

 

Things for Bloggers to Know Before Buying Drones

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Are you thinking of buying a drone? Well cool your jets there hotshot, because if you don't play by the rules you could be facing jail time. Drones have become ubiquitous thanks to the upsurge in technology, increased fascination with photography and videography and the decrease in cost.  

Now new legislation for drone users is rolling out as we speak and UK drone users may have to pass online safety tests under legislation being introduced to the Commons. Here are some of the KEY facts you should know before buying a drone. 

 

How much should I pay for a Drone

Depends pal, how flush are you right now? The sky is the limit (pardon the pun) when it comes to drones. Generally the less expensive the drone, the more of a remote control plane it becomes targeted for your ten year old nephew.

But you're a blogger, and you want to up your YouTube game. You're just finding your feet in videography and want a drone to film around the hotel you're reviewing, or do a 360 around the new outfit you're wearing? 

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Here's what you need to consider

You need to factor in the following. The wireless range and battery life. Can the drone land safely automated when out of range or better yet, can it return back to you once it reaches it flies out of range? Here are my recommendations:

The Yuneec Typhoon H is an auto return drone currently selling for just over £700. It has an automatic takeoff, landing, and return to home so you don't have to do an Anneka Rice treasure hunt to find the thing. 

Is the drone compatible with my GoPro? 

You might want to put your own camera into the drone. In that case you can purchase the GoPro Karma Quadcopter currently on sale at Amazon for £375. It's portable, compatible with GoPro HERO5 and HERO6. Also backwards compatible with HERO4. The only downside is the fly time of 20 minutes, which could be better considering the price. 

Does it have Orbit Me? 

This is the coolest feature. You might be interest in the Orbit Me feature (otherwise known as follow me mode, which locks the camera onto your movement). Very handy if you're a mountain biker, skateboarder etc.  A lot of bloggers and videographers would recommend the Mavic Air if you're just starting out or the Mavic Pro (which is the drone that I personally use).

The Mavic Air/Pro comes with Active Track so it can zero in on moving targets. It's renowned for being extremely lightweight and portable, folds up and easily fits in a camera bag. Perfect for travel. Though I strongly recommend you seek out the travel allowance for airlines and countries. 

Lithium batteries are on the banned and restricted list for British Airways flights, this is direct from their website:

Due to the potential fire risk associated with lithium batteries, hoverboards and other self-propelled electrically-powered vehicles such as Air Wheels, Solo Wheels, skateboards, scooters and Hover Karts are completely forbidden.

Some countries require a permit; others simply won't allow them into the country. Morocco for example. 

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And what are the new laws coming in I need to be aware of before flying my drone? 

The chances are all the spectacular footage you've seen on YouTube of drones circling over cities and hotel resorts have been captured illegally. 

Consumer drones (classed as those that weigh under 20kg) must be flown no higher than 400 feet (120 metres), and be kept at least 50 metres away from people and private property, and 150 metres from congested areas and organised open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 people.

New restrictions soon to be implemented will mean restrictions around airport boundaries have also been clarified stopping any drone flying within 1km of them.

Also, people who own drones weighing 250g or more will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Make sure you check the weight of your drone if you're augmenting its features. I.E adding your own camera.

Users who fail to adhere to the flight restrictions could face unlimited fines, up to five years in prison, or both.

 

I’m glad they are taking a reasonable initiative to ensure the safety of the public and drone pilots alike. Drones are getting cheaper and a lot of people are taking them out of the box and flying them without understanding the rules and limitations. The new law won’t stop people from buying them but allow them to fly safely and with confidence.
— @GadgetsBoy | Instagram

Blogging Tips | SEO for Beginners and How to Optimise old posts

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I do get asked some similar questions about blogging, blogging tips, best practices, how do I drive more traffic to my site? etc. I can tell you there is more to blogging than just reviewing a brand or product range, taking a couple of flat-lays and hoping that people will pour to your site. 

I am by no means the authoritarian, (although I will recommend some in this article) but I will share with you some of the core basics if you're just starting out. 

YOAST WORDPRESS PLUGIN

If you're running your blog from Wordpress this is a simple plugin and it's free. By now you should be able to install plugins. If not click on the image below that will take you to the tutorial by Siteground on how best to install plugins. 

Once you've installed Yoast you'll start to get familiar with Keywords and you'll be given a light metered scheme on how well Google will index your article. Basically you want to get all the red lights green to optimise your chances on getting this article seen on Google. 

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This is a screenshot taken at the time of writing this article, notice I've chosen the Keyword: blogging tips, I'll add another one at the end. 

IMAGERY

It's best to get into good practices when uploading your imagery. Naming your files before uploading them and not having them too large will enable your page to load quicker. (Google will notice your site speed and rate you accordingly). 

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For the sizing I normally go medium at 800 width, and in the ALT text (an image attribute added to the image in HTML). It's handy for people with screen reader devices or those with poor vision. I add a description which I'll try and tie in with a keyword if it's natural. I should also fill out the Image Title Attribution tag but am often a little lazy. Do as I say not as I do people! 

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If you're getting a little stuck with some of the mechanics of Wordpress and you don't have a tech geek you can lean on, Wordpress respond quickest via Twitter, so if you have questions then simply tweet them @wpbeginner with the hashtag #AskWPB. 

TWITTER

Speaking of Twitter it might be an idea to start immersing yourself with some of the SEO gurus and keep up with all the trending news. Google is constantly in a state of flux and the algorithms shape shift, as Q from Skyfall aptly puts, 'It's like a rubix cube that's fighting back'. 

GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE

You may have already started blogging, uploaded a lot of content but you're unsure on how to optimise those older posts. Installing Google Search Console will enable you to see which articles have a high impression count but low click through rate. 

You can look at adding or augmenting these articles to entice people into engaging more. Being more specific or perhaps adding a few more keywords or alt texts if you haven't already. Knowing your way around these kind of platforms will give you a great head start against your competitors. 

HIRE A GURU 

Believe it or not I have a guru that helps me navigate my way through the coded-abyss that is Google. It can be expensive but rather than hiring someone to do a site audit or optimise your site, pay them by the hour and do a screen share via SKYPE or Google Hangout. 

As they say don't give a starving man a fish, give him a fishing rod and teach him how to fish. Data crunchers like Semrush offer a great SEO academy with a series of videos for free. Alternatively get in touch with me at the comment box below and I will try and offer as many blogging tips and answer as many questions for you as I can. 

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Fully optimised article according to Yoast

 

Blogging Tips: How To Create a Kickass Media Pack

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As a blogger I've found the best way to optimise your time is handling the majority of conversations and introductions via email. I still like to network; do the meet and greets, press the flesh etc. But you'll find the one commodity that’s in short supply as you get more successful, is your time. 

Hence the Media Kit, will be your new business card. I like to say when you're networking, your smile is your business card. Well when you're making an introduction or someone has asked to see your portfolio, this Media Kit will be that best smile. The one you give the cute waitress when you want a table, but don't have a reservation. 

You don't need to a bachelor’s degree in IT to put together a Media Kit. I did mine on Photoshop and if you're not familiar with that software there's plenty of YouTube tutorials out there that will guide you through it. 

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Before you start compiling the Media Kit, ask yourself, if you were a brand or in PR, what would you want to know about the influencer before employing their services. I made a list before I did mine. If I was hiring someone to represent me, I'd be looking for the following qualities. 

1. Professionalism
2. Professionalism
3. Professionalism

The above means you'd need to be reliable, presentable, with a good client roster. There's no room on the Media Kits for witticisms. I know a blogger who is a good guy, but can't help himself when it comes to wanting to stand out and he has some tongue-in-cheek gags on his Media Kit. Which might work for him, but unless you're looking to get an open mic spot down the Comedy Store, you're Media Kit should be so straight laced to the point of boring.

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Why I like to keep my Media Kit straight laced is because there should be zero-ambiguity when it comes to delivering the message. Your message is YOU. Who YOU are, and what YOU can deliver. I've started with some strong images of me at the top. It greases the wheels; you're not hitting people with a lot of text to read which can be off putting. I've kept the text to a minimum, (unlike this blog haha) and have dissected the text with some strong images, site and social media stats, and client roster logos. (Logos look better than simply reeling off names).  

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You might also want to include your website. I know it sounds daft, but I've seen a dozen or so Media Kits, and it's so frustrating when I have to double back on the email and ask them to send me a link to their page. Lastly, try and show a dusting of diversity in your kit. It's important to let your potential client know that you're not a one trick pony. I've listed other interests such as interiors, photography, a cute picture Charlie made the kit. Who doesn't adore a cute dog pic right? 

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If you're Media Kit can deliver a message, that you're an influencer with many arrows in your quiver, then that versatility could pay dividends later down the road. You'll find more doors could open for you. 

5 HANDY WEBSITES FOR FREE STOCK PHOTOS

There is nothing better than creating your our unique personalised photography, however on occasions you may need inspiration or you might need a quick image that 'will do' for your latest blog post that needed to go live 3 hours ago. For a style and fashion blogger, creating the perfect image can be the most stressful and time-consuming aspect of 'the job'...if you havent already read it, check out my 'Day in the Life of a Fashion Bloggers Boyfriend' which will give you an insight into what goes into getting that perfect shot. I have been writing/blogging for a long time now and have gathered a collection of handy websites to use when looking for high-resolution copyright free images and here are my top 5.

Pixabay

All images are copyright free and you can copy, distribute, modify the images and are even copyright free for commercial use! No permission or payment although you can opt to buy the photographer a coffee. The search functionality is good as all images are tagged with metadata that is searchable. Sign-up required.

Life of Pix

Great layout, large images displayed by default, single click to download and no sign-up required. All images are high-resolution and no copyright restrictions and each photo is tagged with the photographer who took the photo. I always think it is a nice thing to credit the photographer whenever you use their photo, although not required. Life of Pix also has a bigger brother Life of Vids for copyright free videos...win win. Life Of Pix is curated by a web agency in Montreal that designs sites like Sunglasses and private clinic.

Gratisography

My favourite looking website with the images on the main page spanning the whole width of my mac allowing a larger and a greater number of thumbnails to be displayed with super fast loading times. Copyright free and also use for commercial purposes allowed. New photos added weekly by the same photographer who has a very unique, weird yet wonderful style.

Unsplash

Exceptional high-resolution images by some fine photographers and with the slogan 'Free do whatever you want' this is a great place to spend hours scrolling through their 1000's of images.  If you fancy yourself as a bit of a photographer or would simply like to give back to the website, simply sign-up, create a profile and start uploading your own images. You never know where your photos will end up.

Startup Stock Photos

If you are looking for office, work or meeting type photos this is the only place to look - they have it all. High-resolution and simple to download although no search or categories filter functionality, so be prepared to scroll through a lot of images to find the one you are after.

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you find these blogging tips useful.

Carl Thompson :)