Women in business: top tips from three successful female entrepreneurs

Three successful women in business reveal their top tips as female entrepreneurs

I’ve often talked about how easy it is to stay glued to your Mac as a freelance copywriter. But having written the website and literature for the second year running for Wandsworth Enterprise Week, I was on a mission to have an office jail-break and actually hear some of the inspiring business talkers I’d written about: Nancy Cruikshank, Susan Hanage and Shaa Osmund, three highly successful entrepreneurs.

According to Start Up Donut, at least 25% of registered self-employed workers in the UK are women with an estimated 300,000 mums running businesses and adding around a pretty £7.4bn to the UK economy every year. Wow.

So, what makes a great business idea? What business lessons had they learnt along the way? What, how, why, where, how much????? Here’s what these three mumpreneurs had to say…..


Nancy Cruikshank – MyShowcase

Nancy Cruikshank

Nancy is a serial entrepreneur, set up Handbag.com and is now founder and CEO of MyShowcase, a brand new concept in beauty retail.

How Nancy started as a business woman

She began her career in 1996 as marketing manager of Vogue at Condé Nast, in the days when you might mention ‘World Wide Web’ and the reply would be, ‘what on earth is that?’ with an email pinging into your inbox once in a blue moon. Managing Director Nicholas Coleridge asked her, when just 25, to set up Condé Nast World Wide Communicator, even though she had no real digital experience. She was also asked to run Sky’s first technology-focused station, even though she had no TV experience.

Nancy launched Handbag.com in 2000, which became the UK’s leading fashion and beauty site with an audience of over 1.3 million women a month. What struck her was just how many women in the site’s discussion area talked about wanting to run their own business yet work flexibly while bringing up a family. When Handbag.com was bought for £22m by the Hearst Corporation, Nancy went on to be CEO and founder of MyShowcase, which sells over 30 different beauty brands through a network of female stylists looking to work when it suits them. No wonder it’s often hailed as ‘Avon meets SpaceNK’.

According to Nancy, ‘Beauty is a gift that keeps on giving.’ It’s also a market worth £17m in the UK alone. She’s just launched an absolutely stunning campaign through BBH.

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Nancy’s 5 tips for getting a successful business off the ground

  • Being lean and agile is key.
  • Take some risks and don’t be afraid to fall. It’s important to make mistakes.
  • Be relentlessly determined – it’s the differentiating factor between success and failure.
  • Have fun along the way because the journey can be tough.
  • Having connections is all-important because seed investors are more likely to buy into you whereas getting funding from a VC is highly unlikely. (She managed to raise £600k that way in just one week!)


 Shaa Wasmund MBE – Smarta.com

Shaa Wasmund

Shaa’s attitude has always been to just get on with things – even though she didn’t necessarily have a clue about what she was doing! This woman’s career is eyebrow-raisingly impressive.

How Shaa started as a business woman

Shaa grew up in a council flat. Her mother told her to never be afraid of taking risks and pursuing dreams. And to not live her life by other people’s limitations because ‘your life is you’. She maintains her strong mother’s words have been her absolute inspiration.

And so Shaa started out with all the confidence of youth (where does it go to?). While on an internship at Cosmopolitan magazine, she took some headed paper and wrote a rather cheeky letter to Chris Eubank asking for an interview. Cosmo’s editor, Marcelle d’Argy Smith, sold the article for her to the News of The World for a whopping £20k (I’m obviously in the wrong job) and Shaa paid off her student loan in one strike.

Chris Eubank then offered her job, telling her to turn up at Gatwick airport with ‘enough stuff for 24 hours’. He tasked her with putting on the UK’s biggest fight to date in Manchester, with 18 million people watching on TV. Despite thinking ‘What am I supposed to do?’, Shaa got on with it. After five years working with Sir James Dyson, and then Sir Bob Geldof – building up travel website Deckchair.com and selling it in 12 months – she set up MyKindaPlace.com and then Smarta.com: the website that connects entrepreneurs with one other and provides access to the tip top business advice.

Shaa’s ‘superpower’, as she describes it, is taking action. Her book Stop Talking, Start Doing was the number one best selling business book in the UK for 14 months in a row, and she’s already signed a deal with Penguin for her next two books.

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Shaa’s pearls of business wisdom

‘If you have a dream to pursue, it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from but where you’re going.’

‘There will be moments that aren’t going 100% the way you want. External confidence can be taken away at any time, so you need inner confidence to know you’re good enough. Perfection doesn’t exist – just your version of it.’

‘If you know your ‘why’, you’ll find your ‘how’. Knowing how to do something may seem the easiest part, but it’s actually the hardest. What’s hard is working out the why.’

Shaa’s recipe for business success

  1. Ask for help if there’s something you want to do.
  2. You have the power within you to make your business a success.
  3. Your most valuable asset is your support network.
  4. Perfection doesn’t exist – what exits is our version of it.
  5. We envy others’ success yet it’s often a façade.

Susan Hanage – NappyValleyNet

Susan Hanage

Susan is founder of NappyValleyNet, which now receives visits from over 50,000 info-hungry mums each month in the Wandsworth, Balham, Clapham, Teddington and Richmond areas.

How Susan started as a business woman

Susan launched NappyValleyNet in 2009 because of a frustrating lack of information, having spent an agonising five hours trying to find the number of a scout hut for a child’s 7th party. That was her light bulb moment. Although two websites for mums existed, there wasn’t a local mums’ forum, like a neighbour, nest friend and all-knowing school mum wrapped up in a website.

She therefore decided to set up an online community for mothers in South West London to give and receive advice on anything from great local schools to the funniest party entertainers to the dodgiest builders.

Susan remarks, ‘I love every day of NappyValleyNet but it’s not a job, it’s a huge commitment.’

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Her 10 tips for starting a successful business

  1. It’s hard work, especially with a young family. What do you want to be: a mum setting up a business? Or a business run by a woman who happens to be a mum?
  2. Set ground rules.
  3. Inflate costs. Deflate revenues. New business eats up all your cash.
  4. Work with amazing people and get rid of rubbish people and rubbish suppliers. (I sense your head nodding vehemently.)
  5. Banks aren’t your friend. Try crowd funding instead and ask family and friends who know you and care about you.
  6. Hustle and be paranoid: find that street fighter within you.
  7. Listen to your customers. (Susan recommended The Mom Test as a great read about how to talk to customers and see if your business really is a good idea when everyone may be lying to you.)
  8. Networking is important, so make time for other people.
  9. Recognise what you can’t do. A bookkeeper could transform your life – and make invoicing the last thing you have to worry about rather than the first. As for legal costs, skimping is a no-no.
  10. Have a plan and financial forecast. What do you want to do? Expand worldwide? Make a profit? No one cares about cash flow as much as you do.

Whether you’ve got a great business idea that you’re burning to launch, or looking to get your business flowing and growing, it seems you just need to take a deep breath….and get on and do it. (And if you need a name for your lovely new idea or a punchy website to lure those customers like moths to a flame, why not get in touch?)

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

How to freelance as a copywriter

Ten things to get your head around if you really, really, really want to be a freelance copywriter

Mention the word ‘freelance’ and people assume a life in which you take the whole of August off, spend your days in pyjamas and resort to daytime TV.

If only….

I’m not sure if anyone chooses to become a ‘permanent’ freelance copywriter. I’d been made redundant four times and had a toddler the last time I was ‘let go’, fifteen years ago. But I’ve never looked back since and could not imagine returning to the ‘dark side’, ensconced behind a desk or snatching a seat daily on the District Line.

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance copywriter, these tips based on all my years of freelance copywriting experience may help.

Ten key things to consider when freelancing as a copywriter

1. You need a good accountant

Set up a separate bank account and get yourself a good accountant – and keep every single receipt, bank statement etc etc for six years. You’ll need to decide whether to trade as self-employed, register as a company or register for VAT.

2. You have to pay tax

Never ever think in terms of a monthly salary. Sometimes, you may be able to shop at Waitrose. Other times, you need to say hello again to LIDL. Either way, always keep money aside for when the tax man cometh i.e. just as you’re about to go on your summer holiday (July 31) or just when you’re recovering from Christmas debt (January 31). As soon as I get paid by a client, I transfer about 60% of the money into another account which is my little pot of gold for the tax man and quitter times. Oh, and don’t send a cheque to the Inland Revenue: mine was intercepted last year. Naughty Post Office people. Always pay your tax online via the HMRC website.

3. How much should you charge for freelance copywriting services?

That depends on your experience. There are now a number of sites where you can bid for work such as Elance and Freelancer – for peanuts. Please, please don’t. It lowers rates and quality for everyone. (Which is why I haven’t even added links to these sites; they’re a disgrace.)

4. How should you charge out your copywriting services?

By the hour, day or project? What about allowing for revisions? Don’t forget to allow time over the phone and on emails with your client – you’ll be amazed how much this can eat into your day. No wonder lawyers charge for every single second spent on a client.

5. What kind of payment terms should you agree with clients?

Some clients assume freelance creatives lack any business acumen. Chasing up invoices can be tricky and time consuming, but it’s important to be like a rottweiler. If a client looks as if they may not pay, then tell them (email and recorded delivery letter) you’re entitled to charge interest and failure to pay will result on a small court claim.

I add this to the end of invoices: Please pay this invoice within xx days. After this, interest and debt recovery costs are chargeable in accordance with The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 as amended and supplemented by Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2002. Pay On Time is packed with invaluable payment advice for freelance copywriters.

6. Draw up terms and conditions 

Ask a lawyer to help you sort out terms and conditions for clients to sign. However, as a much cheaper option, there are some great templates online such as at Simplydoc.

7. Get your client to provide details and agreement in writing

It’s essential to get agreement on what you’re proposing to do and how much for, before you start. You also need to get the right contact and address details. This isn’t just for invoicing purposes: if  you ever need to take someone to the Small Claims Court, it’s vital to have the right information.  Make sure you know if your client is a registered company or a sole trader. If a registered company, check their trading address at Companies House.

8. Ask for a deposit upfront

Don’t forget to agree milestones in terms of timings and payments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told a copywriting project is needed urgently, yet six weeks later I’m still awaiting feedback. If your client has payment terms of 30 days, that’s a long wait for your money – especially if the project is small. Don’t be afraid to ask for a deposit upfront, I normally request 25 – 50%, depending on the project size. I usually suggest a further x% after I’ve submitted the concept or the first draft, with a further payment at a mutually agreed stage.

9. Plan your time wisely and well

One huge advantage of being a freelance copywriter is that you can be flexible. One huge disadvantage of being a freelance copywriter is that you have to be flexible.

Clients may tell you their deadline is ‘tomorrow’ but, trust me, days and days can pass before you get a) go-ahead or b) feedback.

I always aim to deal with a project as soon as it hits my desk, as I never know what lies in store the following week. Yes, working can eat into my evening or weekend (which is when I’m writing this) but, on the other hand, I’m freed up to go to my daughter’s netball match. So, for me, it works both ways.

10. Get agreement on your client brief

As with Ts & Cs, get as much confirmed in writing as possible. Whether you’re writing a leaflet, brochure, press ad or website, pull together all the info you need about USPs, competitor info, target market etc etc, and ask your client to check and sign off. You know the score: after all, you’re creative director, account director and planner rolled into one. If you need a creative brief template, take a look at mine.

Good luck! And if you have any questions about becoming a freelance copywriter, feel free to drop me a line.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

Working from home 9 – 5. Or not, maybe?

Does working from home ever mean nine to five?

The big plus to being freelance (mainly as a freelance copywriter) is that you can work just about anywhere and any time. But the big (and I mean BIG) downside is letting clients know when ‘any time’ starts and stops. Hang on, let me rephrase that to ‘letting potential clients know’.

My day working from home never ever starts at 9 and stops at 5. Sometimes, the best ideas come when I’m away from my desk, especially if sitting on the tube. It’s probably because I can’t be interrupted by phone or emails.

Should you answer out of hours enquiries?

I do sometimes receive emails and even calls in the evening or at weekends from prospective clients making an enquiry. I’m sorry, but I won’t answer these.  As a freelance copywriter, you have to maintain professional integrity and keep to professional hours. Even if I’m beavering away on a project at 8.30pm, that’s my choice but to the rest of the world I’m what Skype terms ‘offline’.

Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of contacting a client between 1 and 2pm or after 6pm – unless asked to or if a deadline is looming.

‘Are there exceptions?’ you’re wondering

Of course, there have to be exceptions. Right now, I have a client in Oman (i.e. three hours ahead) and a client in New York (i.e five hours behind). The working week for my Omani client runs Sunday to Thursday. If either needs to get hold of me, of course they can – we’ve discussed and agreed this beforehand.

How late is late?

So, how late is late? After 6pm in my books if you’re not an existing client. But look at it this way: I won’t be ignoring you – I’ll just be giving you 15 hours extra thought until I get in touch at 9am the next day.

What’s the best way to spend your working day working?

Imagine a sunny day and no deadlines to meet. It’s all too easy to put off what can be done today until tomorrow.

If you’re the type who likes to spend all day in your jim-jams or whiling away the hours on eBay, then a freelancing life is definitely not for you.

Yes, of course it can be distracting sitting at a desk by yourself all day. There’s always washing to do, holidays to book and parcels to take to the post office. Yet, working from home can definitely be productive. Best of all, you’re a happier person because you don’t have to face a dull, dreary, sweaty commute.

A different way of working requires a different way of thinking. So, how can you make the most out of your 9 til 5 working day?

1. Learn to prioritise. Send out your invoices first thing and as soon as your copywriting project is signed off – you have to keep your cash flow turning over. Reply to client emails as soon as they come in – even if it’s to acknowledge them by saying “Let me read through your comments and get back to you later today.”

2. Make a list of what you need to achieve each day, especially deadlines. Tick them off as you get through them. So what if you haven’t managed to do them all – at least you’ve achieved some and, hey, tomorrow’s another day.

3. If you have a freelance project you really need to concentrate on, switch off your phone and quit your emails for a few hours.


4. Try not to sit at your desk for more than 60 minutes. Get some fresh air, do some exercise. Having short breaks can help your concentration.

5. Avoid feeling isolated. Go to networking events or courses to improve your skills. Suggest to clients that you’ll come in for regular meetings – it’s also a great way to net more work and get introduced to their colleagues in other departments who may need your skills.

6. If you really need to do some personal online tasks, avoid cutting into your precious 9 – 5 working day and leave them until the evening. Resist the urge to turn on the TV or go shopping.

7. Keep up with paperwork. If the thought of filling in those book-keeping columns is dull (personally, I’m a woman of words and hate anything to do with figures which is why I took the laughingly student-named ‘Maths for Morons’ subsidiary course during my degree at Keele University), then find a good accountant and never let them go.

8. Switch off and recharge your batteries. I’m a great advocate of a power nap and used to have a 10 minute lie down under my desk when working permanently in ad agencies as a copywriter.

9. Dress as if you’re going to the office. I recently arranged a Skype call the other morning, without even thinking my client would want a video call. All I can say is thank goodness I wasn’t still in my dressing gown. Being dressed as if you’re off to work (which you’re doing anyway) somehow makes you feel more professional and ready to deal with any client challenges.

10. Keep motivated. If you’re freelance or running your own business, it’s vital to remember the reasons why you started in the first place and use those to see you through any tough times.

11. Book lunch. Meet friends. Meet clients. It’s a lovely treat that beats the daily cheese on toast.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

Marketing communication channels – where is as important as how

Where is as important as how when considering marketing communication channels

As a freelance copywriter, clients sometimes ask me how to make their advertising work hard for them – not just in terms of words but also £££. Here are two key areas to consider when choosing your communication channel.

1. Where, what, how?

Where should your advertising communication run?

Selecting ‘where’ you communicate is as important as ‘what’ you communicate. For a piece of communication to be effective you need to plan the media, balancing several factors against the overall objective of the campaign.

What do you know about your target audience?

What media do they consume? How can you get your message across in the right channel, at the right time? All media planning derives from understanding the audience and the more you know about them, the more insightful you will be with your plan.

How large and how widespread is your audience? Can you reach your target market through print ads, or are would it be more efficient to target them through email?

Which marketing communication channels should you use?

What combination of media works most efficiently? What do you want the campaign to achieve overall – what do you want your audience to actually do? Are you better raising awareness with certain media and then provoking action with different media? Do you even need a response? Do you want to capture information about your audience?

Individual media are more effective for certain tasks. For instance, how much information can you include in a poster, compared to a piece of direct mail?

What does your chosen medium say about you? A paid-for advertising campaign might say you’re ‘big’ and ‘established’; a well targeted digital campaign might say you’re ‘modern’ and ‘switched on’; a blog might suggest you have ‘personality’ with an individual ‘tone of voice’.

What’s your marketing communication budget?

How much money do you have to spend and how will you get the best value from your budget? Think of the whole budget involved, which might include the cost of paid-for media, but also might include production money, or the cost of someone’s time – for instance the cost for a freelance copywriter to create a regular blog, or manage a Facebook site, or write Twitter feeds, has to be taken into account.

2. Offline v online marketing communication

 Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Traditional offline media

Press ads

Pros: Can reach a broad audience easily. Allows in depth explanation. Variety of sizes. Cons: Can be expensive. Clutter. Readers rarely look at all sections.


Pros: Broad reach. Can target specific locations. 24/7 exposure. Creative venue possibilities e.g. escalators, train stations.

Cons: Limited message capability. Short exposure time. Prime outdoor locations are expensive and go quickly. Unable to change message quickly.

Direct mail

Pros: Target by location/demographics. Easy to track response. Low cost per thousand.

Cons: Low response rate (a successful direct mail response rate is 2%-3%). Could be thrown away. Only as good as your mailing list.


Pros: Cost effective. Can target different audiences at different times. Local radio station can write and produce the ads. Can measure response by asking people to contact specific web link/phone number.

Cons: Audience may not be listening. Audience is not actively engaged.

Online media

Digital media often allows for high levels of targeting, tracking and measurability which makes it easy to measure the success of your communication and refine and improve it for the future.


Pros: Ease – a template for a newsletter is created, for client to supply copy and images to be placed. Can direct audience to websites for more info and get feedback. Inexpensive and timely. Builds loyalty.

Cons: Can end up in spam box. May be ignored. Needs to be sent out regularly.


Pros: Cost effective. Can promote a service or build a community of supporters.

Cons: Takes time to set up, maintain and update. Not SEO friendly.


Pros: A short editorial piece that is newsworthy/provides an opinion and maintains regular contact with your audience. Boosts your SEO online. Timely. Free. Can create a viral effect through social sharing and bookmarking.

Cons: Needs to be done regularly, so consider hiring a good freelance copywriter. May run out of things to blog about. Social media takes continual time and effort to create a positive, relevant presence.


Pros: Good for starting a conversation around a certain topic. Generates a wide and engaged audience base virally. Instant. Free.

Cons: Takes time and effort to create a positive, relevant presence. Anyone can have a voice can offer opinions, with or without your consent. Large follower drop off rate. 140 character count.

QR codes

Pros: Ideal if you want to avoid content-heavy print literature but have more information to get across. Quick to generate. Simple way to share digital information to a mobile device. Contains trackable links.

Cons: Many people still have no idea what QR codes are. You need to download an app to scan QR codes from your iPhone/Smartphone

RSS feeds

Pros: RSS (Rich Site Summary) is an efficient tool for retaining updated information from frequently visited websites. RSS feeds are spam-free.

Cons: The identity of the source website is often confusing as RSS feeds don’t display the actual URL. Impossible to determine the number of users subscribed to a feed and frequency of visits.

App development

Pros: Can tie into all of the advanced features of your mobile device, e.g. can provide GPS-based directions. When people make a phone call, they might see your logo. When they get a text message, your brand can be reinforced.

Cons: Can be expensive. Can fragment your online presence and/or marketing strategy, i.e. should you guide people to your website or app or Facebook page?


Whichever medium you choose, one thing is for certain, the tighter the brief, the tighter the creative work and the better the result. Want to know more about choosing the right advertising communication channels to boost your business? Or see an ideal creative briefing template? Then email caroline@carolinegibson.co.uk.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

Keep customers coming back and loving you

What makes a customer want to come back for more?

It’s a topic that seems to have filled my week for several reasons.

Reason 1: Having attended the recent TFM&A show (boo to bad link building and yessss to high quality content), I felt I should squeeze in some time to pimp up my Google+ account. But I got a bit distracted and was spirited away to Friends+Me which I seem to have signed up to without so much as sneezing.

Within minutes, I received an email saying, “Hey Caroline, I am Alois, Founder of Friends+Me. I wanted to reach out to see if you need any help getting started.”

Surprised, I replied, “Is this an automated email?” to which he answered, “Hi Caroline, yes, it is an automatic email but what’s important is the message, offer of help. Don’t hesitate to contact me in case you need any help. Have a wonderful day!”

What great – and instant – customer service. A thank you email needn’t be fancy; it just needs to be simple, warm and polite – see examples below!

Reason 2: I’ve been working on a school questionnaire to send prospective parents accompanied by a thank you email from the Head.

SurveyMonkey, I love you. You’re easy, you’re flexible and you’re free for the basic questionnaire package. (Upgrades to extra techy wizardry are available.)

The key thing to surveys is getting the right answers to the right questions. Consider using scales in which people are asked to rate something between 1 and 5 or between ‘Unlikely’ to ‘Very likely’ – SurveyMonkey has all sorts of wonderful options for you to choose from. And keep that online questionnaire short: people get bored very easily.

Reason 3: One of my regular clients, Anatomic & Co, asked me to create a series of thank you emails to customers. The best thank you messages from companies are those with a really personal touch – the ones that make you feel one in a million, not just one of a million. Such as these ones here.

Three examples of effective ‘thank you’ customer emails

Yes, appreciative retailers – my debit card will definitely pay you a visit once more.

 How to write a great customer ‘Thank you’ email 

Use a great subject line

Everything hangs on this. Your subject line is the reason why your reader will open your email. With this type of email, you’re not necessarily selling anything: you’re welcoming your customer to your service or showing your appreciation of an order. A simple ‘Thank you’ or ‘Hello from us’ or ‘A big, warm welcome’ works fine. Just be sure to choose the right tone for your brand.

Reinforce great customer service

This is your opportunity to slip in something about fast delivery times, free returns, providing your birthday in exchange for a small gift at the time etc etc. Anything like this helps to reinforce what a great and caring brand you are. 

Throw in a reminder

A ‘Thank you’ email letter is also a great way to clinch another sale. Think about including an offer such as ‘An extra 10% off for a limited period only’. Or, ‘Be first to take a look at our newly added lines’. Or, ‘As a treat for being a first-time customer, use code xxxx next time for a special discount’.

Be personal to your customers

Your customer is a person so always use their name. I have to confess that I sometimes ignore email enquiries from potential clients who just say ‘Hi’ (and sometimes, not even that!). If they haven’t used my name, I know that I’m probably one of quite a few freelance copywriters that they’re contacting. Which makes me feel far from unique.

And do remember to add your name, such as ‘Regards, Jenny’, or personalise any reply contact details such as ‘Jenny@JoeBloggs’ rather than ‘CustomerService@JoeBloggs’.

Don’t be afraid to add a personal touch, just like Alois, Founder of Friends+Me did with me.

Let your customers be personal to you

Click on my email details on my contact page and see what pops up.

I’ve created a bespoke subject line. I also know that my potential customer is emailing me from my contact page. Which probably means they’ve looked at the rest of my site. Which is great news, as far as I’m concerned, as I know they’re keen to talk to me.

End on a clear call to action

You want to leave your customer with the warm, happy, fuzzy feeling that they’re really special to you. There’s no need to even make this a hard-sell call to action. Something like ‘We look forward to your custom again’ (which is very formal) or ‘Have a nice day’ (which is very friendly) or ‘We think you’re fantastic and can’t wait to hear from you again’ (which is quirkier but from the heart).

And finally…does it need to be a Thank you email?

Buck the trend and be even more personal. If you’re a start up or a small business, why not send out a note in the post? There’s something special about a well written, nicely handwritten note (just proof read thoroughly before sending).

So, pencil sharpened and at the ready to pen a gracious bon mot or thirty.

Meanwhile, thank you for reading this. I mean it. I do.

Written with thanks by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

Choosing a company name and scratching your head?

What’s the best way to create a catchy new company name?

Creating a new name for your new business, product or brand is one of the most important decisions you’ll take.

The name you choose has to have relevance. It has to make you stand out from the crowd. And it has to summarise your brand and your values in just one or two words, so that your potential customers ‘get it’ in an instance.

Not easy.

How much does it cost to come up with a new business or product name?

Thinking up a name can take minutes, but more likely days. In the early 90s at Wolff Olins, I worked on a brief for a new Hutchinson Telecom brand. Our team spent days, poring over dictionaries and the thesaurus (only Roget’s will do, BTW)….probing books…. ploughing through magazines.

The name? Why, Orange. Seems pretty much par for the course now as we’re so used to it, but Orange was a head turner when it launched.

Yes, there are dedicated naming companies you can use. But at hefty prices.

What if you don’t have a big budget for your naming project?

A good starting point is to trawl through wordy sites like More Words, Word Hippo, The Phrase Finder and good old Roget’s (in hardback, of course).

But do you really have the time and energy to do this? If not, ask a freelance copywriter to help.

It’s rare that a client will decide on a name, plus its url, in the first round of suggestions so you need to allow for plenty of to-ing and fro-ing. Half a day isn’t enough. But two to three days of a copywriter’s time allows for research, mulling, revising and revamping.

The cost may be a little more than you’d anticipated. But the result should be priceless.

Don’t forget – your URL is as important as your new company name

Any naming project these days is a tricky one – mainly because just about every URL worth its salt has been snapped up. It’s been said that 99.9% of the dictionary is registered as a domain name.

With generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are coming up for grabs on a regular basis, the pressure to find a unique domain name has eased. The registry Donuts Inc has plans for over 1,000 new appendages such as .agency, .boutique, .builders, and .cheap. Apple and Ford have already laid claim to registering their names as gTLDs, as protection from naughty cybersquatters.

But for start-ups who can’t afford to pay $185,000 to ICANN when applying – and $25,000 for each year the domain name is used – use a creative copywriter to work out a  great name and corresponding url.

They both need to be unforgettable. Not forgettable.

Ideally, get the suffix for the country you’re in (such as ‘.co.uk’), and grab the ‘.com’ too if you can. You can consider ‘.net’ and ‘.info’ but they don’t have the same weight and reassurance. Try seeing if you can tweak your name to get the suffix you really, really want. For example, by adding ‘The’ or an adjective or a colour or ending in something like ‘Services’.

Just make sure you check out closely sounding domain names as the last thing you want is to have a similar name to a near competitor. Nightmare.

How to choose the right name
Here are five key points to bear in mind/ask yourself.

1. How creative do you want to be?

Have you heard of Rodial beauty products? It’s a remarkable brand, not just because of the turn-back-the-clock anti-wrinkle formulations, but also because the names are truly eye-popping. What copywriter wouldn’t want to pass up the chance of dreaming up Snake Serum, Dragon’s Blood and Bee Venom? Who couldn’t fail to be seduced by the promises of SUPER FIT boob job and SUPER FIT size zero?

Choosing a catchy product or company name increases your chances of standing out and being talked about.

2. How unique do you want to be?

It’s tempting to make up a name completely, like Google. With these types of company names, it’s advisable to check the word in other languages to avoid potential embarrassment.

Try to avoid odd spellings that can’t be pronounced. And be careful of acronyms that rely on explanation. Try to keep your new name short and simple.

3. How personal do you want to be?

Another option is to name your company after yourself. The downside is that you can sound like a one-man band, which is fine as a start-up but may not hold the same allure ten years down the line.

How can you be sure your new company name is the right name?

A client recently asked me to create new names for his luxury events service. He’d already had a naming company work on the project but felt what they’d provided was lacklustre. He’d then come up with a name himself but wasn’t 100% certain. I created variations based on this plus looked at other options that were closely related.

What did he do? He went for the name he’d thought of. Which was absolutely fine. Sometimes, you just need to go around the block and explore other angles.

Like to know more? Check out my page on namings and give me a call.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

My Mighty Rice client has won a mighty nice award

Mighty Rice wins award in Dieline Package Design Awards !


My Mighty Rice client has just won an award in The Dieline Package Design Awards 2013 –  a worldwide competition devoted exclusively to the art of brand packaging.

Twelve industry experts judged over 1100 entries, based on quality of creativity, marketability and innovation.

A great brief from Mighty Rice in Mauritius led to gorgeous packaging by Mouse Graphics in Athens with packaging copy from freelance copywriter me in London. Now that’s what I call a mighty fine international collaboration.

Hungry for more rice? Check out their website.





Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

How can a freelance copywriter stop a brand being bland?

Is your brand tired, dull, flabby and, er, bland?

I was invited recently to a meeting to explain how I could help a company – not a big company but definitely one you’d have heard of – that had lost its way. With a hands-on founder and a marketing director who’d been there for years, they’d realised the need for some fresh perspective.

Being a freelance copywriter is about more than clever words and ideas. It’s about demonstrating strategic thinking. You need to be able to understand how a brand works.

What’s the vision and what are the values? What’s the position in the marketplace – now and five years from now?  What are the USPs? Who’s the target audience? Who’s the competition?

The brand values have to clearly summarise the characteristics of the brand and how it should be perceived by our customers. How will you articulate those values? And how will they be reflected by a distinctive tone of voice that’s delivered consistently across all communications?

As a client, you can do this yourself – but you may not see the wood for the trees. Or you can appoint an agency – and pay big bucks. Or you can work with a freelance copywriter who’s also a good strategic thinker.

Get it right and your brand will not only stand up but also stand out.


Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

Here's to copy without excess baggage fees

How to keep copy short and sweet

Did you know that, right now, there are models, actresses and famous people flying all over the world with a cashmere wrap and scented candle?

But of course…because that’s what they tell us in various “I never travel without” articles.

Please get real. Travellers fall into two categories: those with lots of stuff and those who travel light as light. I would rather not go away at all if I didn’t fall into the latter category: even on a two-week family holiday to the States, we only took hand luggage and still managed to bring back bargains from an outlet centre.

Maybe it’s because I hate waiting for luggage to arrive at the carousel (or not, as in the recent debacle at Gatwick) or because writing copy is like packing for holiday. Dump down all your thoughts and info on paper, just like you throw down everything you’d like to pack on the bed. Then start whittling away. What do you really, really need?

It’s not easy to do. I’m in the middle of revamping my website and even I find it hard to discard work I’d love to show and words I’d like to keep.

(There you go – even that paragraph can be pruned to ‘It’s not easy. I’m revamping my site and it’s hard discarding work and words I like.’)

Jakob Nielsen says page visitors only have time to read a quarter of the text on pages. Unless your writing is “extraordinarily clear and focussed, little of what you say will get through”. Less is more. Nielsen goes on to say that your value proposition must be communicated within 10 seconds or you’ll lose the reader’s attention.

Striking through stuff with a red pen yet retaining sense is hard; losing unnecessary words yet retaining brand character is harder.

Which would you prefer: a wordy site worthy of a Ryanair excess baggage fee? Or an engaging, gossamer-light site by an experienced freelance copywriter?

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter

A mighty fine product with a mighty fun name launches

Mighty Rice now has a mighty fine website

I’ve been transported to the lush island of Mauritius several times since May. Sadly not in person, but by email and Skype while working on the launch of Mighty Rice.

This was a great project to work on, right from the start, with a motivating client brief:  ‘We want to shake up the rice market – compared to the coffee aisle, the rice aisle is boring. There is a lack of life and rice brands sell their provenance, fair trade status etc. Mighty Rice desperately needs a voice and we feel you are perfectly suited!’

Mighty Rice is a fantastic product (a premium rice that’s healthy, with a low GI value, and ethically grown) from a quirky company (an independent boutique rice grower on the island) with a heartwarming story (see for yourself here).

In addition, the packaging and website by Athens agency Mouse Graphics is gloriously simple and stunning.

With a name like Mighty Rice, did I have fun setting the copy style then writing the packaging, press ads and web content?

Yes, I mighty well did.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter