If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it

Share This Post

Jo Watson is a freelance copywriter, trainer and speaker hired by people who want personality in their projects. You can find her at www.agoodwriteup.com or online as a minor LinkedIn celebrity.

Biggest fuck up?

I’m the kind of person who can’t get to sleep at night—or I wake up randomly in the darkest hours—because at some point in the past 100 years, some twatbag of a client took me for a ride, and I’ve never gotten over it.

There are several former clients who invade my sleep in this way, and I wish I could say they were all from the early days when I was young, naive, and almost desperate to please clients in the hope of being taken seriously in business (oh the irony of that one). But sadly, once I’d learned from all my own mistakes (and the shithousery of shithouses) and put in place brilliant boundaries to protect myself and build a better business because of it, I have somehow, in the later years, suffered from bouts of ‘going soft’. For reasons that I can only put down to some kind of midlife crisis since I turned 40 earlier this year, I’ve lifted so many barriers that I’m considering getting a job in a car park.

Getting ghosted, going unpaid, and generally being run ragged by clients who almost go out of their way to convince you they’re doing you a favour by giving you work… it’s part of business, and it’s almost a rite of passage as a freelancer, in particular. I always learn from these experiences (blaming myself when necessary), but there are a handful of cases where the anger and blame lie solely with the client. For example, the ‘seven-figure property investor’ who still owes me £6k for promotional materials I wrote for him, and who was the reason that I wasn’t at home to spend any of the waking day with my little girl after she’d taken her very first steps the night before. His matters were urgent, after all. As I write this, I don’t know who I resent more – him or myself.

The red flag that was hidden by my inexperience and lack of self-worth was that this guy consistently banged on about all the money he had and all the travels he was able to go on, yet was always finding some reason to make a shitty dig at me for how much of an expense I was. I should have done what my little girl had done. Walked.

I fantasised for so long that the reason he’d seemingly fallen off the face of the earth and stopped returning my calls was that he was dead. Sadly, he’s still alive. But if the Google results on him are anything to go by, he’s likely to end up in prison or on Netflix any day now. Maybe then I can sleep.


I know I’m known for saying what I think (and most likely what many other people think, too), but honestly, that assumption is not 100% true. I keep some stuff to myself that I know wouldn’t just start fires but would more than likely douse them with vats of petrol. That’s the thing, though – much as I’m no advocate for bottling up your thoughts, mincing your words, or just plain walking on by to avoid a tricky conversation (or an even tricker person), I do believe that we need to learn how to respond, rather than react to other people online.

I could easily scroll through LinkedIn upon waking and have mentally ripped at least eight people’s throats out before my child’s even finished decorating the walls with her Weetabix, but that wouldn’t do anything for my mental health or my reputation, now, would it? Sadly, it’s not a social skill set many people have developed.

Social media was designed to connect us, but instead, I think it’s pushed us further away from people than we ever could have imagined. LinkedIn is probably the worst platform these days, as the people on there are supposed to be ‘educated’ (however you want to take that word) and also most likely hold a frightening amount of power in some realm or another. It’s a cesspit, though, and if we ever want to crawl our way out un-stenched, then we need to take time to think things through before we say them.

Okay, so I rarely fucking DO think things through before I say them, but I’m aware of it, I’m trying, and I’m honestly getting a lot better because whilst we live in a world of ‘free speech’ (which I support), too many people confuse this with ‘freedom from consequence’.

Similarly, we all believe that we can only control our intent, and therefore what other people think, feel, or do in response is none of our concern, but it fucking well is! This is why I (hopefully rationally) challenge people, and I challenge the things that are said and done online when something’s not right.

I guess my rant is that I just hate who we have become in an online space.

Useful advice

Easy. Go search your internet machine for ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ by Baz Luhrmann. Listen to it, think about it, and – if you’re as artistically inclined as I am – go get a large print made of the lyrics to hang on a wall you’re likely to walk past every day at home. I’m not particularly spiritual, but I do look at my framed and mounted copy of the lyrics most days.

In his narration, Baz tells us to trust him on the sunscreen, and I’m telling you to trust me that every single piece of advice you’ll ever need in life is right there in that fucking belter of a lyrical composition.

Every day of my life, something from that song either resonates or applies to my life or my business.

I’ve dug out the picture of me from my branding shoot (that phrase makes me sound like a twat) with the framed lyrics on the wall behind me as I sit on the chair that clients tell me looks like I’m either in the Big Brother Diary Room or about to be lifted and carried away by tribal worshippers.

Jo Watson, sat in a large arm chair with the framed song lyrics of Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen, on the wall behind her.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, check out Sunscreen. That’s my advice.


  1. Funny thing – I wouldn’t dream of saying the sort of words you use here, but I love it when they’re used effectively rather than just as punctuation. I’m off to check out sunscreen now… 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

Self-doubt, freedom from bureaucracy, and the search for meaning

I dream of a world in which people doing creative work are able to suffer only their own internal pain and not be pushed through bureaucracy that causes them additional pain.

Fighting the ‘prove branding works’ brigade

The thing that angers me as a planner is having to spend so much of my time justifying why people should invest money in their brand.

4 Business Trends That Sucked in 2019

A lot sucked in 2019. From global catastrophes to some dubious political situations. But the business world still came through with these 4 sucky trends.

Beware of the alpha male

Biggest fuck up? In summer of 2016, we were all...

Red flags and the toxic topless boss

I'm scared because of what the people in these stories might say and what you might think of me. But putting it out there feels cathartic and unburdening.

A death-threat-inducing fuck up, and adlands obsession with ‘why’

Biggest fuck up? Over the last 15 years, there’s been...