Consultancy journal

Online Diary

Recruited my subjects for the happiness consultancy.  I decided that people with a close personal connection to me were more likely to initially try out the activity I set for them, so I have recruited my boyfriend, Andy, who is 23 and my mother, Jo, who is in her mid-50s (she protested against me disclosing her exact age).  I believe these two subjects are also appropriate for my planned happiness activity of gratitude as they are prone towards pessimism and have trouble finding silver linings.

I have chosen gratitude as my planned happiness activity for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it is an activity that I believe will definitely have a positive effect on my subjects’ happiness, which is not only good for this assessment, but also good for their wellbeing, which is by extension good for me.  Secondly, the activity recommended for this happiness activity by Sonja takes up minimal time – in fact it she proves that a shorter amount of time per week doing it increases its effectiveness – and I think this will increase the chances of my subjects sticking with it.  Thirdly, it is an activity that I would personally enjoy doing, and I plan to try the activity myself to get a personal experience of its attributes.

My activity:  The activity that Sonja outlines in her book is straightforward and seemingly effective, so it seems counterintuitive to mess with a winning formula.  I have made up these sheets and given them to my subjects to be filled out once a week.


As I have a personal connection with both of my clients, my interviews weekly will take the form of an informal catch-up to see what their experiences have been.
Week 1:

Both participants filled out their sheet on Friday night, as instructed.  Here are the notes I have made about their first week experience:

Found it difficult to name five things straight away that he was thankful for.  Said there were a couple that jumped to mind straight away, but then had trouble filling out the last two.  Most of his items were large events or experiences in his life such as ‘living in Australia’ and ‘family for Christmas’.  I mentioned that he could have smaller things as well.  He said he felt glad when he looked back over the list and really did feel grateful for each item.  Said that he felt like an ungrateful person in general because he didn’t ever think of those things until he was asked to write them down.

Said she immediately put down individual names of family members which filled up the list straight away. Then she wondered if she should have put them all under the same category of ‘family’. I said that she could do it next week, and it was okay if she had considered why she is thankful for each of these people.  Jo said that she had done this while she was writing each individual name, and had been thankful for these people being in her life.

Week 2:


I forgot last week, so this was my first attempt at writing in my gratitude journal.  This is the week of Christmas so I am happy for:

  • Generous and loving parents
  • A pool to escape the heat in
  • Pavlova
  • Andy having Christmas with us
  • Watching the cricket with my brother

Reflecting on my week, I noticed the things that I most enjoyed doing (which I hadn’t consciously realised before) and realised that I could increase my happiness by doing them more often – such as watch cricket with Ryan. It seemed to easy once I noticed it, I just had to spend the time reflecting!

Found it easier to find things to be thankful for this week and wrote a list of both big and small items that he cherished.  As it was the week of Christmas he said that he had had an uplifting week and as such had an abundance of things he was grateful for. He said it was easy to bulk out the list with presents and food, as there was plenty of it going around.


Similar to Andy – had much more variety in her items this week and a balance of big and small. Thinks Christmas is an easy time to find things to be thankful for as it lends itself to reflection and a stocktake of the year and its pleasures.


Week 3:

I feel there’s some leftover goodwill still hanging around from Christmas so this week was also quite easy. I also visited a waterhole on the same day a man had died there, so that was quite a stressful experience.  Sonja says in her book that gratitude can help people cope with stress and trauma, and I think that reflecting on this incident really helped me appreciate my life.

Friends coming to visit

I am alive and well

End of lots of the troubles and stresses of 2016

Gong friends want to hang out

My view


Said he had been more aware of things to be thankful for throughout the week as he knew he would have to think of some on Friday. He said that he felt more likely to relish and take pleasure in experiences as he was more prone to gratitude.  I asked if he dwelt on negative aspects of his life (as he is prone to do) and he admitted that he still did, despite also spending time dwelling on the positives.


Felt time pressured to complete the list this week and lapsed into default.  I asked if she’d later on thought of other items, and she said she had dwelt on more solid things that she was thankful for as she went to bed.  Has noticed more things that make her thankful in her life.


Week 4:

Uni is back this week, and so I had a tough week full of tasks that I had neglected and some bouts of illness.  As I was experiencing adversity I had more trouble thinking of things, but in the end I did what Sonja says in the book and turned negatives into positives:

My chronic illness isn’t as severe as it could be

I have the opportunity to go to uni (and am nearing completion), which is stressful but I can be thankful for it

My black silk shirt and pink skirt outfit

Air con

I have lots of people wanting my time – lots of opportunities.



Generally has started feel better in his position in life by thinking about what he does have rather than what he doesn’t – which he says is his default. He says that he still gets frustrated by things that go wrong for him, but they do not seem as significant or often when they are interspersed with the things that go right. This week he had lots of small things on his list and said he still felt as grateful as when he had lots of big things.

Jo: This week she found it even easier to think of her list, but then encountered sadness while writing it because she said she felt sorry for all of those people that don’t have the good things in their lives that she does.

I hadn’t ever thought about that before – it almost seems like an inverse version of Sonja’s sixth benefit of gratitude; that it ‘tends to inhibit invidious comparisons with others.’ Instead of Jo envying what others have, she is pitying what they don’t have.
Week 5:
Last week!

I’m unsure if I will continue to write my lists down when this experiment finishes, but instead, as with meditation, I will try to find miscellaneous times to be mindful about things that make me grateful. My list:
Almost finishing uni!

Spaghetti Bolognaise (and parmesan!)

Ability to take risks on new adventures

Being asked to do more work for uni

My smile


Said he had already thought about more than five things he was grateful for throughout the week and could smash out the activity in a minutes. I asked if this signals a mentality shift in him, and he still thinks he has plenty of negative thoughts, as it is a habit he has had for years, but he is finding more opportunities to be thankful.



Saved some of the biggest till last on her list (maybe because this is the last week).  I think Jo has realised how much she has to be thankful for throughout this experiment and she said she has found it easier and easier to write down her lists each week.


Mediation Weeks 2 – 5

Having kept the diary for my happiness activity on my computer, I have uploaded the rest of my diary entries belatedly, as I review them and begin my reflective journal on the experience.


Week 2

Meditation sessions: 2

What I like about Smiling Mind is that it can be used anywhere.  In fact, the app itself recommends you use it in the car or at your desk when you have a spare minute of uninterrupted time.  I have been using it lying on top of my covers on my bed at home (on top so that I am not tempted to fall asleep) with a big set of over-ear headphones on.  These headphones cut out the outside noise, which is a bit of an issue because you are asked to listen to sounds around you at points in the session, but I do find that it makes me more immersed and focussed.

In search of some of the research used to design the program (in the hope that it would give me some insight into the supposed benefits I would get from it), I came across this background information on the Smiling Mind website.

It seems that the program was developed with the aim of reducing incidents of mental health in young people.

Smiling Mind’s vision is to see Mindfulness Meditation on the national Australian school curriculum by 2020. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the benefits of mindfulness in adults. However, little research evidence exists in children and adolescents and even less has been published exploring the benefits of integrating mindfulness into the classroom.

The mental health statistics in children and adolescents are alarming and in recent years attention has started to turn towards taking a preventative approach to enhancing mental health to reduce this burden of mental illness.

Despite the fact that I am probably now past the age considered to be adolescent, I think the fact that this program is tailored to them has been beneficial to me as it means it is accessible.

The aim of the app, to help young people become more aware of their minds, I find admirable, as this is the age where many people struggle with a variety of mental issues due to social issues, hormones and negative outlooks.  If Smiling Mind can help young people deal with these problems, then I believe Australia’s future will be positively affected.


Week 3

Meditation sessions: 1

I have had assessments galore this week so only ended remembering to use the app once. However, I still believe I got use out of the session, as I did it when I was stuck and stressed in the midst of an assessment for another class.  I attempted to clear all of the muddled thoughts out of my mind and focus on sensations and breathing.  I found that when I returned to my computer, I could not only process my ideas more clearly, but also formulate them into sense on the page (compared the drivel I was writing before).

A quick search found that this is another known benefit of mediation.  A study published in the Psychological Science journal found that mediation can help people focus their attention and sustain it.  “It also notes that research going back to the 1970s has established that Buddhist monks who have regularly meditated for years perform better than most of us on concentration tests. In the past five years, other studies have shown that meditation also yields substantial gains in concentration for laypeople who take up the practice.” says a Time piece on the research.


Week 4

Meditation sessions: 3*

I knew I was heading back home for Christmas and the associated chaos this week, so I snuck a couple of sessions in before I left.  On Tuesday I also found an article by Harvard researchers that found a link between mediation and less stress – a supposed benefit of my experiment which I figured would be appropriate for this time of year.

The study by Goyal, Sing, Sibinga found that mindfulness meditation programs had “moderate  evidence of improved anxiety” in the data they analysed.

For me, I’m not sure yet whether the meditation I have been doing has helped with the day-to-day stresses and anxieties that seem to keep cropping up at the moment, but it has given me strategies on how to deal with them. Mostly, I have become better at slowing down my racing thoughts, breathing deeply, and then tackling the issue.

*Also floated around on the pool and practiced some mindfulness. I didn’t use the app while I was doing this, but used the techniques that it practices.  This was interesting because the sensations that I was paying attention to were completely different to my usual surroundings of lying on my bed.  I think if anything this heightened the results of this session because I was so fully focused on the new sensations.


Week 5

Meditation sessions: 2

I’ve been having trouble finding time to meditate lately, but I have managed to work through another few modules of Smiling Mind.  The more I progress through this program, the more I look forward to my put-aside time to escape from real thoughts and problem-solving and take time to process this.

As I have said before, Smiling Mind has been an easier program to follow because, unlike other meditation I have attempted, it acknowledges the other thoughts that will undoubtedly surface and encourages you to recognise them but not focus on them.   This concept fits with a couple of the guidelines that Lyubomirsky outlines on pg 251, namely:

– Be nonjudgmental – observe your thoughts impartially

– Be open – to seeing those various thoughts flow throw

– Let go – don’t attempt to stem the flow which often results in other thoughts creeping in anyway.

(The three principles are Lyumbomirsky’s, and the italics is how I have interpreted them as relating to this issue).

The program has helped me to acknowledge my brain’s activeness and given me time to control its often overwhelming tendencies.  I think this is the most that I have gotten out of Smiling Mind this week especially, but I guess as I begin to reflect on the whole process next week I might find other benefits that I have unwittingly had.

Meditation – Week 1

For my personal happiness task, I’ve chosen to practice meditation.  The reason I’ve picked this practice is twofold. Firstly, meditation is one of the most widely and devotedly recommended activities to increase happiness – one of my classmates said just this week “You never meet an unhappy person who meditates”.  Secondly, meditation is a process that I have often wished that I could do to clear my busy, messy mind, and so this task is a good opportunity to force myself to pursue seriously and consistently.


As such, yesterday I gave meditation a go.
I found a part of the house devoid of noise (i.e. my family) and lay down in a comfortable position.  I haven’t done much meditation apart from ‘body scans’ introduced to me this year by one of my sports coaches. Body scans aimed to focus concentration on breathing and the sensations and energy around the body, to ready us mentally and physically for sport.  I found these sessions difficult, as my mind would wander in at least five different directions throughout the process, no matter how hard I tried to draw it back.
I found yesterday’s meditation effort a somewhat similar experience to this. I made conscious efforts to bring my mind back to my breathe and push all other thoughts out of my head, but I soon got distracted and the little thoughts flooded in.  Soon after this I fell asleep, which was somewhat relaxing and refreshing, but not really what I set out to do.

I’ve been told that there are some useful apps that beginners can use to assist their meditation.  The Independent UK has a list of the top 10 they’d recommend, and one in particular jumped out at me.  I’ve heard of The Smiling Mind before, and the fact that it appears on this list as an Australian app aimed at young people means that it sounds just perfect for me.

So I’ve now downloaded it to my phone and am keen to try it out a couple of times this week to see if I get better at emptying my mind (and not falling asleep). Stay tuned!

Internship Journal Weeks 5-7

Week 5

Today we began putting words down on paper for Melinda’s website (note: by ‘we’ I mostly mean ‘Nadia’ – I’ll get to that soon).

After a quick chat about life and freelancing, Nadia said she had some things she could be doing if I wanted to make a start on the copy. How hard could it be after all the research we’d done? I decided to begin with the About page, as this is the part of Melinda’s business that I most across.

Nadia pointed me towards some resources on how to write a good about page, and I also went looking at what competitors had written about themselves.  With this information up my sleeve, I had a crack at writing about 300 words (the optimum amount of text for SEO)about Melinda and her work.

However, I found I was all out of information at around 100 words!  The problem was that I had been too concise and formal in my writing – a by-product of my academic studies I guess. So I recounted what I had to Nadia and she got stuck in.

I really enjoyed the process of collaborating with Nadia to create copy.  She knew how to structure the information and how to appeal to readers through questions, while I could suggest words or reword phrases to make the copy say exactly what we wanted it to. I always have found it easier to edit work that already exists than write my own from scratch, so this way of writing was perfect for me.

It also gave me hands-on experience of writing in the tone used by copywriters. I have consumed plenty of website copy now, but it is a different thing entirely to write my own.   I think I may still need the assistance of Nadia to write in this way, but I am feeling more confident in my abilities as we have used a number of my suggested wordings in the final copy.

Week 6

Today we worked some more on the content of the pages for Melinda’s website.
Through this process, the topic of SEO came up again.

As I’d previously found out during the Google Ad-words search which was a part of the initial research, Search Engine Optimisation plays an important part in website copywriting.

The technique of using search engine-friendly keywords within website copy we covered before, but today Nadia enlightened me about some other tactics websites use to make their page rank highly.

One feature of pages that Google likes is links on pages.  It registers links pointing back to your site from other webpages as creditability.  This is especially true if Google thinks the linker has good SEO themselves (Nadia uses Kate Toon as an example), as it is a credible site who is willing to reference your site. Linking is the online version of word of mouth and so it reflects well on the site being linked to.

However, this linking isn’t always earned.  Some websites buy links to their website to increase the SEO, manipulating the system. This is an example of Black Hat SEO (think black hat vs white hat cowboys etc.).   There are a number of other Black Hat tactics, which manipulate the tools Google uses to judge a website’s SEO and cheat the system.

Nadia prefers White Hat SEO, which recognises the systems and plays to them.  This can be more time consuming as keywords need to be organically written in and relationships need to be built with other sites, but she believes that this is a more durable approach. She has worked with web developers in the past who use Black Hat tactics and hasn’t enjoyed it, so she stressed to me the importance of finding collaborators that align with your values.

Today we attempted to write the copy for some of Melinda’s services menus.  We successfully completed Melinda’s management page, but then when we were deciding on the next page to continue with it became clear that the groupings of her services aren’t entirely clear to us.

We decided that we should discuss the catagorisation of the services that Melinda provides with her before we can proceed any further with the content, as it would be a waste of our time to write copy for pages that we will not use.   I am also looking forward to meeting with Melinda again because I always find myself learning about freelance life by being part of the conversations she has with Nadia.

Week 7

Had another meeting with Melinda to try to nut out some issues Nadia and I have been having while we establish the information architecture of the website.  Our main issues are still linked to the reoccurring problem that Melinda’s line of work is hard to quantify and qualify.  A potential customer needs to know what they will get when they enlist Melinda’s services, and so it is up to us as copywriters to turn her skills into tangible products for visitors to the site.

One issue that we brought up was the services menus on the homepage.  Recently we had whittled the list down to four pages: Consulting, Management, Workshops and Strategy.  The aim of the meeting today was to ascertain whether Strategy was a service Melinda provides separate from her other services, and thus deserving of its own page.  Nadia and I had discussed this previously, as one of us (I can’t remember who) suggested that maybe strategising went into all the other services that Melinda supplies. However, many of Melinda’s competitors had a whole page dedication to strategy on their sites, so we were unsure if this was evidence that it was important to emphasis this service. From our conversation today we worked out that Melinda didn’t like providing a step-by-step strategy document to clients, and instead preferred to talk through the process with them.  This style of working meant that her strategizing should come under her consulting service– while also being referenced as an important part of her management process.

The other problem that Nadia and I had come across was the management packages that Melinda offers.  The package and price list that Melinda supplied had given us a good idea of what she offers, but we were having trouble presenting this information in a way that would appeal to customers. Other social media consultants have management packages of various service levels, ranging from basic to premium, which means that the customer can chose what would best suit their aims and their budget. Nadia and I decided that this could be a good option for Melinda to help quantify her services to customers.  What we needed to check with her was what she was willing to offer, as it would be unreasonable for the copywriters to create packages without first consulting the person who would actually deliver.  This was another lesson in working with a client to make sure the copy we were creating would actually be suitable, and I was interested in the communication between Nadia and her client.


Internship Journal Weeks 1-4

Week 1

Met up with Nadia at a cafe to discuss the logistics of the internship. Since our initial meeting she has made a skill-exchange deal with a fellow freelancer, which could be a good opportunity for me.  Melinda Shobrook is a social media consultant who will look after Nadia’s social media platforms in return for Nadia writing the copy for Melinda’s website-in-progress.  As Nadia is not getting paid for this, she thought it would be a good project to throw to me, as it will give me experience in creating copy for a website – one of Nadia’s main forms of income.

We organised a meeting with Melinda to get a better idea of what she does and what she wants to convey to her audience.

Nadia then showed me her work on a website for Digital Pigeon, a file sharing organisation catering for creative practitioners.  She has a meticulous organisation system, with each page within the relevant drop-down menu that it will be encompassed in. I can see the benefits of this system, especially when working for yourself as there is no-one else to ask where you’ve put each document.  Each of the pages she has written finish with a ‘call to action’ which is an important element of copywriting.

A call to action is the act of presenting the reader with a real-life action after the sales pitch. The copy above a call to action will hopefully convince the customer with persuasive devices and an outline of product, so the call to action is necessary because it gives the customer with the next step for them to take in the sale. I found this insight from Nadia interesting because it is so logical, but I had never noticed it in the countless amount of copy I have encountered in my life.

Nadia will organise a group meeting with Melinda to find out a bit more about her business so that we can accurately depict it through website copy.


Week 2

Today we had a meeting with Melinda in a cafe in Port Kembla. Nadia always prefers to meet with her clients so that they can come to an understanding of each other. Copywriting is about sounding like the person or business, so you need to get a good idea of their voice before beginning. Melinda was full of ideas about her business and more than willing to discuss them.

This is what I got about Melinda during the meeting:

– She is very passionate about social media, as she believes it is the cheapest and most effective form of marketing.

– Has been consulting, managing and training businesses as her own enterprise for a bit over a year

– Still working out the small business/freelancer gig and so not entirely across the abilities of websites

– As such she was unsure of the layout and content she needed for her own website (which will make the job more complicated for us)

– Comes across as very warm, authentic and personable

– Very passionate and keen to help people understand the benefits of the service she actually offers

– Has a background in community development and is a passionate activist.  She has worked mostly with not-for-profits and small businesses so far, but is tossing up whether to target larger corporations.

After the meeting Nadia noted that she had a hard time asking all of the questions she needed as Melinda’s passion on the subject made it easy for us to get side-tracked and off-topic.  This made it obvious that as a copywriter who needs to ascertain their client’s ideas of their business and their personal tone, it is necessary to be assertive when guiding a meeting.  We will need to meet again after carrying out research to solidify our understandings of what it is that Melinda offers.


Week 3

This week was the first week of working with Nadia at her home office. As someone who is fresh to the idea of copywriting, I was even more oblivious to what the process of creating copy actually was.  Nadia’s process, which I believe reflects habits of the broader copywriting community, is to begin with research.

As such, today was spent looking over the briefing document that Melinda had sent to us and finding out about the industry that she operates within.

The first port of call was the briefing document that Melinda had filled in for Nadia about her business.  The briefing sheet is a standard document that Nadia bought off another copywriter and sends to all of her clients.  It questions the client about – among other things – the general aims for the copy, their target customers, their business tone, their competitors, timings and budget.  The document is incredibly useful, as it shows what the client’s idea of their position in the market is, as well giving a head start on research into SEO and competitors in the industry.


Excerpt from Melinda’s brief

Of course, this document must be regarded with reference to your own observations about the client’s tone and personality, as the aim of a copywriter is to write in the authentic voice of the client. This is one of the trickiest aspects of the job, says Nadia, and it is what she positions herself as specialising in in the industry.

Although she doesn’t have a website, Melinda does have a Facebook and other promotional material, so we continued onto these as we researched what Melinda does.  We also looked at the packages document that Melinda sent through which outlines the services she provides and the costs, for her personal use when billing customers.

Finally, Nadia and I both went in search of other social media consultants to see how they are presented online.  This final aspect of the research was the most time consuming, and despite spending over three hours trawling through the webpages of Melinda’s competitors, we didn’t get through all of the information out there.

What I was most surprised by was the amount of freelancers in Melinda’s field that I found. I guess undertaking this internship has opened my eyes to the different freelance positions that exist, and now I’m more aware of solo businesses and the way that they operate.  While I was looking at the competitors’ sites I noticed that even those businesses that portrayed themselves as larger organisations often only consisted of one or two people. I believe this is an unusual strategy as it is in a way deceiving the customers by concealing the real size of the business.  If I were to set myself up as a freelancer I would instead take the approach of Nadia and Melinda and embrace the fact that it is a one-man show. Although it may be daunting to attach your personal self with your business self, I think authenticity is important when working with clients as it creates trust in the working relationship.

This is a line of thought that I am sure I will return to as I continued to work with a freelancer, for a freelancer.

Week 4

With most of the industry research done, this week Nadia and I turned to SEO research.  SEO is the common acronym for Search Engine Optimisation, which is a methodology of strategies and techniques used to make webpages attractive to search engines (mostly Google) so that they will rank highly on related search results. A higher ranking leads to more traffic to the website, which is the end goal of SEO.

Last week Nadia linked me to a free eBook by Kate Toon called ’10 Day SEO Challenge’, which really clearly explained the importance of good SEO in copywriting, as well as tips on how to incorporate it.

To research some of the phrases that we might use in our copy for Melinda’s website, Nadia and I began by brainstorming relevant keywords. The briefing document that Nadia uses asks the client for a list of words and phrases they think are relevant, so we just added our own ideas to Melinda’s suggestions. Part of the brainstorming process is about getting in prospective customers’ mindsets to try guess what words or even questions they could be typing into Google search. In this instance it was useful to have an idea of what Melinda can offer customers, as well as the research we had done on her industry in our last session.

By using Google AdWords it is possible to find out the popularity of search terms so Nadia signed in to her account (which is now a requirement to use the tool).  After punching in a few of the most likely and relevant keywords, we found that most terms related to Melinda’s industry had fairly low average monthly searches.  AdWords suggests related terms and shows their comparative stats, and it seemed that some of the more popular searches weren’t so relevant to Melinda.  Below is a screenshot of the results from our search “Social Media Consulting”.


As you can see, “social media consulting” has a far lower search rate than simply “social media”, a term that in itself isn’t entirely relevant to Melinda’s business. However, “social media strategy” fares better, so it could be useful term to use in our copy.

There are many other factors of a website that give it good SEO which have more to do with the design and functionality, but I feel that having a good understanding of its importance in copywriting is an important skill to have.

When every ‘Walled Garden’ is a Panopticon

Over two hundred years ago social theorist Jeremy Bentham came up with a design for a prison which relied on the concept of perceived continuous surveillance.

The Panopticon was envisaged as a central guard tower that can see into all the prisoners’ cells, but cannot be seen into by the inmates.  This means that the prisoners will not know when they are watched and will, theoretically, behave as if they are under surveillance all the time.

This structure has never been realised as a brick and mortar building, but does it seem to have become more relevant in the technology-saturated society of today.

When you begin to consider all of the platforms we pour our information into (whether we are aware or not), it becomes obvious that this information is given to certain companies who then can use it in a number of different ways that often aren’t that keen on us knowing about.

Has anyone the time to bring out a magnifying glass to go through the terms and conditions of the sites or products we sign up to?  The ritual is to press ‘I agree’ without a cursory glance whenever we are confronted with a page of legal text.  This means that these companies can variously store, sell and share the ‘private’ information we give to them.

This brings me to the concept of a walled garden – which is basically a site on the internet or in a network that can only be accessed by a registered user – think products that you have to accept the T&C of to use.  These companies can get away with some uncomfortable levels of surveillance and control over users because people are willing to give up a lot of rights just to get in. As such,  each of these walled gardens that we flit between in our technological lives is almost definitely storing information of us.

I find this version of panopticism interesting, because it doesn’t take the form of a classic ‘one-eye-sees-all’ kind of surveillance.

Instead, we are unsure which walled garden has which bits of our information, and so are potentially being watched not by one but by many fragmented powers how could or could not be sharing your information.  Would that idea affect the way you behave online?