Guest Posts

  • Returning to freelancing after a break: What I learnt

    Guest post from Nina Lenton

    I’m about to start freelancing for the second time in my working life. The first time was after redundancy, when I did a series of contracts before taking the plunge and working from home as a freelancer for a couple of years. This time round it was an active choice after returning from maternity leave.

    So what did I learn the first time round?

    What did Nina Lenton learn after returning to freelancing after a break? Click To Tweet

    It’s OK to change your mind about what you do.

    One of the great things about being freelance is that if you find you don’t enjoy a certain type of work, you can just stop doing it. Don’t take on any new projects that involve it, and ease your way out of any ongoing ones. Likewise if you suddenly realise that everyone needs a certain skill and it’s something you love, you can take on more of that type of work.

    You don’t necessarily need a website.

    This depends on what you do. The first time round I did set up a website for some services I was offering – but I probably spent more time than I should have done on developing it and marketing the services, and not enough time actually working in that area! This time, I think LinkedIn is sufficient to give an overview of what I can do, and I’ll be able to supply potential clients with a more detailed cv and case studies if needed.

    Don’t pin your hopes on one contact, company or conversation.

    When I first started freelancing, I got excited anytime someone showed an interest in what I was doing. I’d imagine myself working on a project with them, and then be disappointed when they didn’t reply to my emails or took ages to decide they didn’t need my help at that time. I realised that it’s helpful to put these contacts to one side as potential clients for the future, and just follow up with them again in a few months.

    Always do some business development in the background.

    Last time I freelanced I had a contract that was meant to be ongoing for a year or longer. However the client we were working with decided to cancel the programme after six months. Because I’d been focusing on that project and very little outside it, I suddenly had to look for some new work.

    This time round I’ll find a way of keeping in touch with my network even if I’m focusing mainly on one client. This might be going to networking events, dropping a note to a former colleague, or sending an enquiry email to a company I’d like to work with. Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group has a weekly reminder to do this, which will come in very handy!

    Don’t keep popping into your social media accounts.

    It’s easy to feel like you’re being productive when you’re tweaking your LinkedIn profile, chatting to other freelancers in a Facebook group or tweeting links to your blog or other people’s articles. I found that the best way to deal with the social media temptation is to have a system for getting stuff done, and fit social media into that. Having a short list of three important tasks for the day helps me focus. Once I’ve made progress on those tasks I allow myself to look at social media for a short period of time!

    Work to your productive hours.

    After managing my own days for a while I realised that I had times when I worked really productively and was in “flow” and times when thinking felt like walking through treacle. So this time as far as possible I’ll work around this. I’ll allocate time for my thinking and writing tasks when I’m most productive, and leave email, social media and reading for my low energy times.

    Go outside! 

    It’s tempting to just get on with working and decide you’ll have the fresh air later, especially if mornings are your most productive time. I found that it worked for me to either go for a short walk first thing, or commit to myself that I’d have walk after lunch. I’ll be continuing with that approach this time round to make sure I get some exercise and fresh air. It can also help with thinking through a tricky problem or communication!

    It’s OK to go back to employment

    If an interesting opportunity comes up, or if you need the stability of a regular income for a while. You can always start freelancing again if you miss it, when you need a new challenge or if your circumstances change.

    Nina Lenton is a freelance marketing and communications consultant, specialising in health. You can connect with her on LinkedIn 

  • How my job-hopping years prepared me for self-employment

    This week we’ve got a guest post from the lovely Michelle Abrahall, a member of the Freelance Lifestylers group and a graphic designer, illustrator and copywriter. I loved the idea of this post she suggested, as I know quite a few freelancers have a history of job-hopping a little before settling into freelancing (myself included). 

    You can also check out Michelle’s charming illustrated gifts in her Etsy shop. 

    Here’s her guest post! 


    Like many freelancers, my path to self-employment was far from smooth sailing. After leaving Uni with a degree in Illustration, I had a ‘what now’ moment that I’m sure every graduate can relate to. Caught in the Catch-22 of not having enough work experience to apply for jobs, and not being able to get a foot in the door to gain said experience, there followed a decade of job hopping that would have put Kermit to shame.

    During the Decade of No Direction I did all sorts to pay the mortgage for minimum wage: split shifts at a gym that meant finishing at 10.30pm and going back in for 6am the next day, working in a card shop in a new shopping court that was as quiet as a graveyard, and being stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque loop of tidying a perfectly tidy stationery cupboard in an office full of old men.

    At the time, if you’d offered the wisdom that ‘all experience is good experience’ you probably would have got a Grade 5 Paddington Hard Stare for your trouble. When you’re in job hopping hell, you don’t want to hear such platitudes. You just want a job that actually uses your skills (thank goodness for freelancing!).

    But, lo and behold, looking back on my job-hopping years I can see that they did have value and have even contributed to my self-employed success.

    Validation of Ambition

    Many times during those uninspiring years, I wished I was the kind of person that would be happy just doing a job to pay the bills. But I wasn’t, and as a friend of mine says, sometimes dissatisfaction is the price of ambition. All that time spent not doing what I really wanted just reinforced the idea that there was a better job out there for me, even if I had to create it myself.

    Customer Service

    It doesn’t matter what area of business you freelance in, ultimately you are working for a customer. My various retail and hospitality positions gave me an excellent grounding in customer service, and an ability to talk to just about anyone. Dealing with both happy and disgruntled customers taught me that friendliness and politeness goes a long way, but also that some people just can’t be reasoned with!

    Office Life

    Administrative roles were fantastic work experience for me: even simple things like knowing how to compose an email, use a spreadsheet, update a website, and plan an event are all invaluable when you’re self-employed. Helping to run a business day to day taught me so much about how to run my own, so even though giving up a salary felt like taking the plunge, I wasn’t in completely unchartered waters.

    It’s been great to look back and put a positive spin on those job-hopping years, and to feel like perhaps they weren’t the waste of time I always thought they were. Who knows if I’ll ever go back to ‘traditional employment’, but I know that if I do, I’ll have plenty of experience to fall back on!

  • 5 ways to use tech to stay sane

    Jo-GiffordHappy Monday everyone. We’re kicking off this week with a guest post about how tech can help you stick to those January resolutions, from Jo Gifford, digital media genius and lovely tweeter.

    Have your New Year’s resolutions already faded into the ether? Is your willpower for that diet, marathon training plan, novel writing goal or general world domination starting to dwindle?

    Go easy on yourself. Let tech do the legwork for you to help your productivity, information overload, focus and, in general, sanity. Reduce the noise, step away from the screen, and re-discover your goals with some free time to actually do them.

    Ready?

    1. Automate daily habits and tasks

    Taking the monotony out of daily repetitive tasks frees up both your time and inclination to do something else.

    • For daily digests of RSS feeds, newsletters or hot topics to keep abreast of, set up filters using IFTTT to aggregate them all somewhere that works for you, be it Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox or wherever else tickles your fancy. You can browse and comment, share or act on anything in your own time in a more organised way.

    • For habits and daily activities, Routines is a lovely little app with friendly, easy to set reminders to tick off and feel a sense of direction and accomplishment. Set the reminders to vary how strict the timeframe of the action is and how aggressively you wish to be reminded, and keep on track with getting things done.

    2. Reduce inbox overwhelm

    Inbox overwhelm is the antithesis of sanity and productivity. By setting up some smart tech systems and habits you can step away from the inbox and break the reliance on instant response requirements and general “noise”.

    • Scoop is an excellent add on for Gmail that literally scoops up promotional emails and smartly presents them to you in one daily digest, not unlike an inbox VA.

    • Sanebox is another excellent option which allows emails to be diverted from your inbox and re-presented to you when you need to see them again, dictated by you with a simple click to file the email. Lovely.

    • Use IFTTT to collate reading material or emails you need to respond to or read later by storing them in relevant files which dump them into corresponding Evernote notebooks or a Google Docs location.

    • Canned responses by Gmail in combination with Sanebox and IFTTT filters allows set responses to be sent out to emails with certain criteria, filed, ordered and re-presented to you when you need.

    • Awayfind lets you step away from the inbox safe in the knowledge that if the urgent information you need to react to comes in, you can set filters for a text message instant alert.

    How does that inbox seem now you are in charge?

    3. Get smart with social

    Setting up smart social media sharing workflows is another sanity saving trick.

    • Buffer is an excellent resource for sharing content in one dedicated social media portion of time, with the updates flowing throughout the day to avoid an obvious dump of information on your feed.

    • Collating tweets or updates from users relevant to your niche that you need to follow can be easily set up in IFTTT straight to a spreadsheet. Simply read, paste and click to schedule relevant content for your audience throughout the day while you are free to pursue those lifelong dreams…or, indeed, get on with some work.

    • Set up workflows to collate and file tweets you favourite and instagram pics you like to store information and resources for an appropriate time so that social interaction time doesn’t lead you on a bottomless pit of web browsing.

    See? Social doesn’t have to be a time vacuum.

    4. Go paperless

    Living without a constant pile of paperwork and general “Stuff” is a breath of fresh air. Use Evernote to photograph sketches, letters, business cards, Post It Notes, kids artwork, invitations, and any other ephemera which clutters up your desk.

    Free yourself from mountains of letters and find your way around information so much easier.

     

    5. Talk to yourself

    What if you could be productive even in the outside world, away from the screen? Taking time out to enjoy fresh air or a change of scenery doesn’t mean ideas can’t be captured on the go; dictate memos, blog posts and emails into Evernote to transcribe later, or use Dragon Dictation to record your thoughts and ideas to be dealt with when you plug back in – whenever you choose that to be.

    Wishing you a productive, sane and tech powered 2014.

    Jo Gifford

    Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, illustrator & creativity addict; she teaches creative ideas for online content creators, business owners & self employed mums via her Access All Areas programme and one to one sessions.

    Find her blogging over on Dexterous Diva and grab yourself a place on her free webinar The Smart Bloggers Guide to social scheduling

     

  • 9 Tips on co-working and managing teams remotely

    jo2_smallToday, we have a guest post from the digital diva herself, Jo Gifford. Read on to find out a little more about co-working and managing teams remotely.

    Throughout my portfolio career I have had the pleasure of working closely with some amazing people.

    Co-working with others as a solo entrepreneur, when it works, can allow everyone to benefit. As a small business, gaining from the expertise of others in an ad hoc team can open new doors of sales possibilities, whilst co-workers benefit from collaborating on new projects.

    As a self-employed Mum of two, co-working remotely with a team of other designers, social media experts and writers allowed me to grow my business throughout pregnancy, maternity leave and beyond. I was fortunate enough to work with loyal, trusted, talented people who were not only happy to handle clients directly but were excellent at doing so, which meant that our services could carry on more efficiently than if I was still working solo in the early years of having the girls.

    That’s not to say it has always gone smoothly, far from it. Relying on others to deliver a service removes your autonomy and invites in risk, and there have certainly been a few situations where I have had to send flowers, reimburse invoices and apologise profusely. Thankfully, the overall success outweighed those bad times, and it all serves to go in the learning curve pot.

    So, here are some of my tips on working with and managing a remote team as a freelancer or solo entrepreneur:

    1. Choose reliable people

    Ok, so this sounds obvious, but use your gut instinct here. I don’t believe you need to have a physical meeting to work with someone, and as such working remotely allows some great relationships to be formed with experts situated all around the world. However, make some time to speak via Skype or Google Plus hangouts to get a feel for who they are as people, and whether they might be a good fit for your project.

    2. Try them out on a non-risk job

    If you have a new client, a new co-worker and a tight deadline, don’t under any circumstances, try them out on that job. Looking back it seems incredulous, but I did exactly that, and of course it all went belly up. Try your potential co-worker on a small, low risk job that you will have time to amend if needs be, and play it safe before you commission them for bigger projects. Use your instincts; if a potential co-worker is slow to reply to communications and late with work, do you want them working on projects that affect your business?

    3. Be clear on what you expect

    From payment terms to delivery of the brief, be clear from the outset what you expect and require, it saves problems later on for everyone concerned.

    4. Develop smart feedback loops and communication

    Managing a group of coworkers, even remotely, can be surprisingly time-consuming. Build in time in your schedule to manage, as effective management will save time later on if things start to unravel.

    Use a group coworking system like Basecamp, ManyMoon or others to aid project management and accountability, and ask everyone to feedback what they have done that day via systems such as I Done This.

    5. Try to anticipate problems before they arise

    Computers break, files corrupt, children become ill – life happens. Try to scenario plan a fail safe plan if any of the above happens and affects the work of your colleague. This may mean having a reserve team, being able to re-juggle your own commitments to do the job, or negotiating a deadline. Things will and do happen, so think about how you can deal with them without upsetting your client.

    6. Share files and archive them in a sensical way

    We used Dropbox with team access, but whichever service you use, the Cloud is the way to go. File items sensibly, make sure you look after drafts, proofs and final files in a way that the whole team knows about.

    7. Consider documentation

    If you have a workflow that team members need to adhere to, create some simple documentation to refer everyone to. This saves time when managing a few people (alongside children and other aspects of business!), and makes it easier to convey key FAQ’s and standard procedures. Say it once, and keep in on file for reference.

    8. Learn from your team

    A good team will have some points of view you can learn from, so take ideas on board. Allowing people the freedom to be the talent you hired them to be creates possibilities for your business. Don’t over manage and stifle your outsourcers, but do manage expectations.

    9. Make sure your team are tax registered

    I have my accountant to thank for this one, who pointed out that HMRC can come after you, the commissioning business, if outsourcers default on their tax. Make sure your team are registered to pay their own taxes, and consider asking your accountant for a document outline to give to new team members. It’s a formality, but no-one wants nastiness with the taxman, especially as a small business.

    Managing my team as a small business owner has been totally different to managing teams in my previous agency jobs. It all comes back to you, as the linchpin, to make things work.

    If tech fails, people let you down, or work isn’t filed properly it’s your business and reputation on the line.

    That said, co-working with a trusted team is a great way to offer more services and run a very profitable business without the need for overheads like wages and office rent. My leveraging other people’s time the constraint of chargeable hours in the day is removed, and more possibilities can arise.

    Have you worked with other people as a small business owner or freelancer? Have you experienced problems or did it help your sales?

    Jo Gifford

    Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger and creativity passionista. Jo writes on creative tips, hacks and tutorials for productivity, business and blogging on her websiteThe Dexterous Diva. She also works with bloggers and small businesses across the globe, to help them make the most of blogs and social media to elevate their brand.

    Jo is mum to Eva and Mia, and you can also find her on Twitter (@dexdiva) and Facebook.

    http://www.dexterousdiva.co.uk

     

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  • Freelance Freedoms VS Employed Freedoms

    One of my aims at The Freelance Lifestyle was to give an honest and real idea of what freelancing is like. Which is why I love this guest post by freelance writer Katie M Anderson. Katie shares with us the real freedoms of freelancing and self-employment – and how to decide which kind you’re better suited to.

    Freelance and employment freedoms

    As a freelancer, I often come up against other people’s ideas of what freelancing is like. Most of the time it’s ‘the freedom to have a lie in’ or ‘but it’s not a proper job’ or ‘you can take time off whenever you want’. And though I will admit to getting up later than I would if I wasn’t freelancing (let’s think of it as my commuting time), this style of working isn’t all about freedom and flexibility.

    Freelancing definitely has its upsides, but it comes with all sorts of downsides and responsibilities to balance them out. In reality, making the decision between employment and self-employment is a matter of swapping one kind of freedoms for another kind.

    Employed Freedoms

    The freedom to be paid the same amount on a regular day

    Freelancers don’t tend to have set paydays. I certainly don’t! Invoice payments can vary from same day to two or three weeks later. (And in some cases, much much longer!)

    The freedom from having to make all the decisions yourself

    Being able to make decisions yourself is a mixed blessing. Sometimes it’s overwhelming not to be able to leave those decisions to a colleague or manager.

    The freedom to fluctuate workload without affecting your salary

    It’s natural for our motivation and workload to fluctuate over time. Some weeks we feel majorly productive, and some weeks we feel a bit run down and don’t get as much done. When you’re employed, this fluctuation doesn’t affect your pay cheque at the end of the month. When you’re freelance, and only get paid for the work you do, it does.

    The freedom to take a proper day off when you’re ill

    When you’re too ill to work and you’re employed, you phone your employer and tell them that you can’t come in. Any work that can wait is left until you return, and any work that can’t will be picked up by one of your colleagues. When I’m too ill to work, there are always a few deadlines that need to be met… and there’s only me to do it. At these times (when I’m sniffing over my laptop on the sofa) the idea of colleagues on hand to help out seems like a luxury.

    The freedom to step away from work

    There’s a perception that those of us who are freelance can take time off whenever we feel like it. Although there is more flexibility when you’re freelance, it’s actually much harder to step away from work completely. Even when I’m on holiday, I still monitor emails and client work. Why? Because there’s no one else left in the office to do it for me, and not checking emails could mean lost clients.

    Freelance Freedoms

    The freedom to set your own schedule

    All of us have different daily rhythms, routines and responsibilities, and it makes sense to work to a schedule that fits us best. Working as a freelancer means that I can choose which hours I am more productive in in.

    The freedom to increase your salary

    Simply put, the harder I work the more I get paid! This is a pretty good motivator.

    The freedom to make all the decisions

    Remember that thing I said about having to make all the decisions sometimes being overwhelming? Well, here’s the thing: it can be wonderful too.

    The freedom to take breaks when you need them

    Sometimes things just won’t come together. Maybe I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind, maybe I’m a bit under the weather, or maybe I’m seriously unmotivated. Whatever the problem, the freedom to take a break at these times is blissful.

    The freedom to work from wherever you want

    The freedom to work from wherever means that I have the flexibility to get away from my desk… or to move my desk altogether. I’m currently planning a move to a new city for the second time in two years, so this is a vital freedom for me!

    Conclusion

    I find that a freelance working style suits my strengths and my weaknesses, and helps me to live the lifestyle that suits me most. However, what works for me (self-motivated, highly organised, happy to be alone for long periods of time) won’t necessarily work for everyone.

    If you’re thinking about moving from employed work to freelance work, or vice versa, my advice is to consider which type of freedoms are most important to you.

    Katie M Anderson is a freelance writer based in the North of England. She blogs about freelancing, productivity and fiction at http://www.katiemanderson.com

  • Guest Post: When Blogging Took Over My World

    A month or so ago, I signed up for a scheme called Big Bloggers, Little Bloggers. It’s a scheme that matches up newer bloggers or those that want to take their blog to the next level, to those with a little more experience. I’ve been working with the lovely Ashley Stallings from Flats to Flip Flops to help her (although she’s teaching me lots too!) Her blog is a wonderful mix of fashion, parenting and philanthropy.
    Here, Ashley explains a little more about her blogging journey (with a poetic edge).

    So it all happened one night in September.
    I threw some shoes on the lawn, snapped some pictures, and my blog, flats to flip flops was born.
    If you know me, than you know that when I get an idea I kind of run with it.
    Actually more like marathon with it, I guess.
    A fashion blog?  Geared towards mom and real life women?
    Sure, I can do that, what the heck?
    Little did I know the world I was entering.
    Late nights stressing out over posts.
    Signing up for Facebook and Twitter and Bloglovin and Instagram and Hellocotton and Pinterest and the list goes on and on.
    HTML, who?
    I swear I had never goggled so much in my life!
    And balance?
    There was none.
    My kids were left to their own devices.
    My husband came home to a disaster and a crazy stressed out wife.
    Blogging had taken over my world.
    So how do you reign it in? ; ;
    How do you stay at home, take care of your family and blog?
    Here are just a few of my tips to taking back your world:

    1.  Set a schedule.

    I only do the bare minimum amount of work in the morning. ; All my posts are pre-scheduled so they pop up all on their own.
    All I do is Tweet and Facebook that day’s post out to the world and I am done.
    I save all of my other work(writing posts, commenting on other blogs, returning emails, etc) for naptime.
    I make a list, do the most important things first and I get done whatever I can get done during naptime.
    The rest of the evening is family time.
    I occasionally work at night too, once the kids are in bed, only if my husband isn’t at home.
    He deserves my time and attention when he is home.
    Figure out what works best for you and your family.

    2. Ask for help.

    Oh goodness.
    If only I would have asked how to write a guest post in html format.
    It would have saved me a super late night, a fight with my husband and a few tears.
    If you don’t know don’t be afraid to ask!
    The blogging world is full of super nice, super helpful bloggers who are willing to take the time to help (like Miss Emma, for example)!

    3. Take A Break

    Can’t think of a topic to write on?
    Didn’t have time to link up to your favorite linky party?
    Don’t have time for that guest post?
    It’s ok! You don’t have to write every day, you don’t have to link up to every link party known to man or comment on every blog every day.
    Take time for a break.
    This whirlwind called blogging can pick you up, twirl you around and never let you go if you let it.
    Even if you want to take a week or a month off, it’s fine.
    Your readers will understand and your posts might just be better for it!

    4.  Enjoy it!

    For reals people.
    If you don’t enjoy it, it is not worth it!
    Decide what you love about blogging and stick with that.
    Let the other stuff go to the wayside.
    Do you.
    Be you and all the other stuff will fall into place!
    So if you already blog, are thinking of blogging or are wondering how to make blogging fit into your world, those are a few of my tips.
    Just make sure to enjoy your world, first and foremost because you only get one.
    Happy Blogging!

    Thanks Ashley!

  • Guest Post: A day in the life of a newbie freelancer

    I’m on a spa break! Which means that somehow, I’ve been surgically detached from my laptop and I’m hopefully floating in a pool of bliss. Thankfully, some of my fellow freelancers have kindly stepped in to write a guest post. Today, the talented Fran Swaine shares her experience of beginning the freelance life. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    6.45am: Alarm goes off and the boyfriend dives in the shower. Now I work from home I get a lie in. I used to get up at 6.20am. Hells yes – I love that extra time in bed!

    8am: After showering and making breakfast I head upstairs to my office. I turn on my computer and tune in to BBC 6music. Good tunes are essential for a productive day and a mid-morning bum wiggle.

    My first tasks include checking emails, Twitter and my Google Reader. Digital marketing moves so fast, I need to ensure my knowledge and understanding are kept current. Twitter is the best way of doing that. I run through my feed and find interesting links to either schedule through Tweetdeck or load up on Buffer.
    8.30am: I’m annoyed I haven’t started work yet but admin has got in the way. You’d be surprised how much admin there is as a freelancer!

    9am: Finally, I can start some paid work! It’s crucial at this point I open up my time sheet. I record exactly how much time I spend on any projects I’m working on. I work on a day rate, but realistically you end up switching between projects so this is the best way of keeping track.

    Today I’m working on some copywriting for a client’s new events website. Luckily I’ve already set the tone of voice for this website, so it should just be a case of applying this to the new text.

    9.20am: I’ve had to turn the radio off as I can’t concentrate (mainly because I keep singing along). I really should turn my email off too – it’s the most productive way to work! I used to happily email friends throughout the day – but these days I only do that if I have a quiet day. I’m a pretty strict boss!

    10.30am: Copy finished. Phew! Took longer than expected but I’m happy with the results.

    10.45am: After a cuppa and a snack, it’s time to face my next project. I’m working on a marketing strategy for one of my retained clients. I’ve already done the initial analysis for their website, so today I’ll be looking at their PPC campaigns and starting to look at their social strategy.

    The morning is also littered with calls and emails from clients – I’m a good multi-tasker so I like working this way.

    12.30pm – It’s been quite a busy morning – but a productive one. I also managed to get tickets for an awesome free digital event happening in Brighton in September. I head downstairs to make lunch. It also means I can take a bit of time out to read my book and sit in the garden.

    1pm: I only usually take 20 minutes for lunch, unless it’s a beautiful day and then I try and make the most of sitting outside or going for a bit of a walk. Today – it’s grey out, so I head back up to my office and prepare for a meeting at 3pm.

    2pm: Just finished up a blog post for my website that I started yesterday. I try to blog at least once aweek. The topic of this post is on Facebook pages and how to avoid getting Facebook fatigue.

    2.30pm: I head in to town for a meeting with a potential new client. I’m about a 30 minute walk into town, and I try to walk it rather than jumping on the bus. Working from home means you are much less active. I’ve recently got into hula hooping which I can do at home. I can currently do 124 in a row. Needless to say if anyone could see me they’d be in fits of laughter.

    My meeting is at one of my favourite cafes in Brighton. Must resist the temptation of cake!

    4.15pm: The meeting went really well and it’s a client I really want to work with. Fingers crossed they want to work with me too!

    4.45pm: Get home – fuss Rocky and grab a snack. Having a cat makes such a difference to me when I work from home. Yes I am a crazy cat lady! Afternoons are always sound tracked by my Spotify playlists – today it’s time for my summer sizzlers playlist (because it’s raining and horrible outside and I need to get motivated – plus I know my neighbours love hearing me sing Summer of 69 at the top of my lungs!)

     

    5pm: This is the time I used to finish work – but most days I work 8am – 6.30pm now. It’s funny – I always used to be straight out the door at 5pm but I no longer feel the need to stop bang on 5pm. Today I’m going to spend the last hour or so of the day putting together the proposal for the meeting I just had. The proposal is for setting up a marketing strategy for their business and being hands on in the implementation.

    6.15pm: Proposal finished! I’m pretty happy with it but will sit on it overnight and re-read in themorning. I often do this for work I’ve done in the afternoon if possible – best to look through stuff with fresh eyes!

    6.30pm: Time to switch off my computer! Today there are no looming deadlines, so I won’t be working late. Some days can be 12 hours long. It’s a hard graft but I love it. Before I shut down – I take a look at my diary and write a list of things I need to do tomorrow. Now it’s time to put my feet up!

    Thanks for your guest post Fran! I love the timesheet idea, may have to start doing the same.

    How does your daily freelance life compare to Fran’s? Share your thoughts in the comments!

    [custom_author=Fran Swaine]

     

  • Guest Post: Working back at the ranch

    I’m on a spa break! Which means that somehow, I’ve been surgically detached from my laptop and I’m hopefully floating in a pool of bliss. Thankfully, some of my fellow freelancers have kindly stepped in to write a guest post. Today, Betty Bee shares her experiences of working from home…

    Once upon a time working from home was shorthand for waiting in for a washing machine to be delivered. Fine for a one-off but impossible to do full-time. Now with broadband, laptops, Skype and robots (ok I made that last one up) having a home office is fast becoming the smart way to eliminate time-wasting travel and work in a more flexible way. It’s practical, it’s cheap and for working mums it’s often an ideal way to continue a career in-between the tyranny of the school run.

    Working from home may seem like the answer to all your prayers and swapping the inane chat of work colleagues for Woman’s hour is in itself a thing of joy but it’s worth remembering that the pros of working at home are also the cons.

    Not having to leave the house may mean less time wasted on the dreaded commute (no more listening to the tinny beats of an overloud iPod on the train or scraping ice off your windscreen at 7am on winter mornings), but it will mean you have to discipline yourself to ignore household obligations and get down to the task in hand. Procrastination in the form of the ironing pile is not unheard of and daytime telly has to become a no no. Watching the Wright Stuff is not “research” it’s skiving.

    So how do you change your mindset from duvet dayer to office worker?

    One of the easiest ways is to create a workspace that screams productivity.  If you are lucky enough to have an entire room to devote to your office this is an easier task-keep all family life out as much as possible (no Lakeland catalogues nestling next to the report you need to read) and once the door is shut behind you consider yourself at work. Give yourself scheduled breaks and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by what next door is doing in the garden or by poking people on facebook.

    If you are having to work from the kitchen table or in the space under the stairs  (like Harry Potter with a laptop) try and ensure your working area is free of any other household clutter and invest in some file boxes so all paperwork can be neatly stored away. This will be your saving grace once the family come home and your “hot desk” becomes unrecognisable under that particular brand of debris, which can only be created by children. Like space junk, but stickier.

    Educating others that being at home is not the same as being available is possibly one of the greatest hurdles to overcome. You may find at first that friends think its fine to drop over for coffee it’s not. You are not Starbucks despite what the squashy sofa and magazines strewn everywhere might suggest. Keep that kettle switched off.

    Working from home does allow a certain sense of personal freedom and this can be harnessed to great effect-if you are having trouble with a particular problem or need to formulate a plan of action being able to step outside into the garden for a few minutes to clear your head can make all the difference and with no outside distractions you will be amazed how more efficient you will become. Try and remember to get dressed occasionally though-padding around in your dressing gown may be liberating to begin with but meeting clients wearing reindeer slippers may not give the right impression.

    Copyright Betty Bee  2011

    [custom_author=Betty Bee]