Trade secrets: training for 26ers

With thanks to you for your suggestions and requests, we’ve brainstormed the kind of training 26 could offer and how. Our priorities: usefulness, desirability, affordability. You told us. We listened. Then we planned and we planned.

Training sessions will be active workshops that happen quarterly across the year, usually during an afternoon, covering practical professional skills that make the business of writing more rewarding.

We’ll cover things like writing pack copy, presentation skills, grammar, contracts and legalities, listening/persuasion and hostage negotiation.

And we’ll carry on talking over drinks afterwards. All 26ers are invited to the pub, not just the training gang.

Next workshop:

Marketing yourself

Getting your message out to the world

As a copywriter, you spend your working life marketing other people’s products and services. But how well are you selling yourself? Do you market yourself with oomph, sparkle and brio? Or do you save that for your clients?

In the latest 26 Trade Secrets workshop, we’ll explore what makes you stand out, where you want to take your business and how to get there. We’ll talk about your website and discuss how to get yourself noticed – in a way that feels right for you.

The session will cover how to:

  • Position yourself and your work
  • Expand your client base and repertoire
  • Present your brand online
  • Network your way to new business
  • Develop a one-minute elevator pitch.

Whether you want to shout or whisper about your skills, this workshop will help you define your message and go after the work you really want to get.

When: 18.30-20.30 on Monday 23 January 2017
Where: The Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R 3GA
How much: £150 for 26 members

Your hosts will be seasoned wordsmiths Elise Valmorbida, Fiona Thompson and Heather Atchison.

To book your place, please email training coordinator Rachel Marshall. If you’re not already a member, join 26 – it’s only £26 a year!


About the team

Elise is creative director of communications consultancy word-design, with clients such as the BFI, LEGO, Carluccio’s, Dishoom, Arvon and GIANT. She’s a D&AD Writing for Design judge and External Examiner for Falmouth University’s MA in Professional Writing.

Fiona started as a journalist, writing features for national newspapers and magazines. As a copywriter for Wordspring, her clients include Nokia, the National Trust, the Paris Opera House, Save the Children, Help Musicians UK and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Heather heads up Enough Said, a tone of voice consultancy that’s on a mission to free us all from the tyranny of corporate language. Over the years she’s helped the likes of Virgin Atlantic, eBay, Vodafone, Aviva and London Underground to bring their brand to life.



Previous workshop: 1st June, 2015 – Setting up projects for success

Seasoned client-wranglers Elise Valmorbida, Fiona Thompson and Heather Atchison ran the first of our Trade Secrets training workshops – Setting up projects for success. And what a success it was. Hear from some of the 26ers who went along. We even reveal three trade secrets our experts shared during the workshop.

People travelled from Liverpool, Nottingham, Brighton and – well, you get the geographical gist. We workshopped getting a brief right, negotiating money, time and expectations, and generally managing those lovely needy pesky people we call clients. We came to conclusions. Policy decisions. Protocols. We really did. It made us happy.


Here’s what some of the participants thought:

Michelle Nichol

26 is branching out, offering training workshops that make the business of writing more practical and profitable. I was keen to attend the first – Setting up Projects for Success which promised advice and expertise on getting the right brief from the client, negotiating a fair deal and managing the process.

The 26 training team of Elise Valmorbida, Fiona Thompson and Heather Atchison, were our hosts for the afternoon, sharing a wealth of client wrangling experience, with good humour and practical flair.

The 26 members attending this first session ranged from long time freelancers, to in-house writers and those who had recently struck out on their own.

We began with the ugly. All the issues, all the problems, all the frustrations we experience with client briefs. Despite the range of backgrounds, our woes were very similar. And we quickly moved onto the good, as we went on to discuss and create our own ideal brief.

Throughout the afternoon there were plenty of questions and sharing of experience from those who’ve been there and done it. The session on pricing, charging, getting paid and when to walk away was particularly well received, with much scribbling of notes and nodding of heads.

All our notes and discussions, captured on flipcharts throughout the day were magically translated into the perfect brief and emailed to us the following day.

As with all the best training sessions, I took plenty away with me from this one – a sheaf of further reading and recommendations for further resources; hints and tips on what to say and how to deal with clients, and the benefit of great collective experience.

For a lowly £150, it was a session packed with value.

Anys Brown

On June 1, a group of 26ers met in The Free Word Centre for the first
26 Trade Secrets Workshop. Over the course of the afternoon we discussed
bad briefs and how to fix them, difficult clients and how to deal with
them, and how to talk about money. There were also a few eye-openers in
there, like why it’s important to have your own T&Cs and when it’s OK to
walk away from a project.

The afternoon felt like a lively discussion, all the participants had
their own reasons for attending and Heather, Elise and Fiona had advice
for everyone. But the key outcome was that, as we decamped to the pub for
a post-workshop drink, we all felt more confident with our skills and
agreed we were much better equipped to negotiate the occasionally murky
waters of the freelance writing world.


Three ways to set up projects for success

Here are three of the tips we shared during our first 26 Trade Secrets training course earlier this month:

  • Take charge of the brief. Don’t be afraid to challenge the brief and ask what might seem like obvious questions e.g. ‘Why is this project needed at all?’ As well as the names of the people in the project team, find out who’s approving the budget and who has final sign-off for the project. Ask if the budget has been approved and if the final decision maker has seen the brief you’ve been given.
  • Show how you’ll add value. As copywriters we help shape projects through our thinking, as well as our writing, skills. Demonstrate the value you can add by identifying possible gaps or issues in the project when you write your proposal. Then suggest how you’d approach getting around these problems.
  • Negotiate like a pro. Wherever possible, talk about money face to face or on the phone, not via email. You want to hear your client’s reaction. As copywriter Bob Bly says: ‘You want a prospect to agree to your price, but not too quickly!’ Try getting your client to state their budget first and always negotiate an exchange rather than simply dropping your price. For example, you might agree to a discount of 10-15% if your client pays you in full up front.

If you wish you hadn’t missed it, please let Rachel (our 26 training coordinator) know. If there are enough takers, we might offer this workshop again.


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