Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Working from home is harder than it looks!

It is a common dream, is working from home. Hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of office and factory workers the world over sit at their desks at work, thinking how lucky we at home are for being able to work from home.


This morning my husband woke up and sighed. I asked what was up and he said he couldn’t be bothered today. Ditto, I replied, and was met with the usual withering look I am met with whenever my hardworking hubby hears me decry my work at home situation.

Ok. I'll be honest. I would not change it for the world. In an earlier post, I mentioned how my life was actually very hard work and it is. But like I said, I feel lucky to have it at the same time. It's not harder than going out to an office job per se, but there are issues that do sometimes make it more difficult than you would think.

So if you are thinking of jacking in the day job and setting up office on your kitchen table, watching the pounds roll in as you slurp coffee in your PJs, here is a lovely reality check on the myths for you.

1. You can sit in your pyjamas all day whilst earning
You can indeed, if that's what you want. The question is why is that a good thing?  What if someone knocks on the door?  The postman with a parcel? How embarrassing to still be in PJs after lunch.   Whatever your embarrassment level, you will soon realise that sitting in your pyjamas every day starts to affect your work, your lifestyle and your psyche. You start to feel smelly, lazy and embarrassed when your other half comes in from work, sees no housework done (because you've been working, right?) and you still in the fleecy get-up you've been wearing non-stop for two days. You don't go out that much anymore because it becomes a huge effort to get ready and look presentable like normal people.  It's a slow, downward cycle and one day, you'll wake up and realise that all aspects of your life and work are suffering because you never change out of your pyjamas.

2. It's easier to work from home
It isn't easier to work from home in itself. It is if you get an easier job than you did when you went to work. Say you used to be an astrophysicist and now you work from home as someone who fills in surveys.  Working from home is like working anywhere else. And because you often work for yourself, running your own business, you may find the work is harder than you did before. I do.

3. You get lots of free time to chill out
Yeah, right. Any free time you get is spent on housework, or if you’re a parent, dealing with little children. I can count on one hand the number of times I've done something frivolous whilst working from home for the past 18 months.  Chill out means no money. At least at work you are paid for every hour you're there!

So in a nutshell, work is work, wherever you do it. Working from home can be very fulfilling and can also be flexible, depending upon the type of work you do. But for some it can be a lonely and hard existence that sends then running back to office gossip at the first opportunity.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Freelance Opportunities RIGHT NOW

Freelance Writers Wanted
One of the companies I currently write for when I have the time is currently recruiting for a number of freelance workers.  The jobs available are mainly for writers but they do have other types of work available for people who can proof-read or conduct web based research. For the majority of the work you get paid weekly although there are some jobs where the client has to give the go-ahead so it takes about two weeks to become eligible. If you think you have what it takes then sign up here to take the aptitude tests.

Monday, 17 September 2012

How to juggle a baby and a business for stay at home mums who want to earn

Juggling a baby and a business? Yep. And the rest.
I am currently writing some product labels for a well-known website. I’m also about to start cleaning our shower, thinking about baby snack time and chasing an eleven month old round the half-renovated living room.  I’m thinking about making dinner too  (have just extracted frozen minced beef from freezer) and also that I need to pay our outstanding gas bill before we change suppliers. I’ve just made a makeshift draught excluder from a bed I just took delivery of, because we have a wide open chimney and the temperature has plummeted and me and said baby both have frozen feet. 
I am also updating this blog.
I’m not.  This is my highly (mostly) organised life. This is what I aspired to and this is what I have become. And you know what? Forget moaning about it. The only thing I moan about is how I need more time because there are not enough hours in my day. But I would not change it for the world.
I have a little baby, a business and my husband has an exhausting and demanding job. He is also renovating this house in his spare time. Wow!  So I take care of the vast majority of household tasks whilst trying to grow my business so I can continue to have a viable career and so we have a little more cash coming in.
So how do I juggle a baby, a business and everything else?
1.       Make lists
I plan my day by making a big list over my morning coffee.  I put far more on this list than I can ever achieve in a day, but it drives and keeps me going. The feeling of ticking just one more job of that huge list is amazing. That list gets carried over to the next day, with new important tasks added on.  Nothing leaves the list until it is done and that can sometimes be three weeks later.  I know this against conventional wisdom but you did ask how I do it all. This is how I do it. This way nothing gets missed, nothing falls off into obscurity if I don’t manage to complete it on the allotted day. And I keep going and keep organised.
2.       Priorities
Each week I make sure I set aside one whole day for me and my boy to go out and have fun. He goes to a relative one day per week to be spoiled there, so that day is totally devoted to work. Sunday is always family day and Mondays I tend to give the house a deep clean.  The rest of my hours are organised on an as-need basis.  This means that no one area gets neglected and I can manage the other hours and days to focus on any area that needs more attention than others.  My husband and I also try to go out at least once per month but evening babysitting is a bit of a nightmare so this is quite rare, sadly.
3.       Forget pressure
When my son was born, I was adamant I could do it all. I got into a real state and almost had a breakdown when he was around four months old and had to temporarily shut down all areas of my business and take a break. Seven months later and that is a distant memory. I had put so much pressure on myself and had a little demanding new born to content with too. It was so unhealthy so even if your children are older, never put too much pressure on yourself.  You can only do so much and the key is not to work faster or harder or to do more in less time. It’s to work as smart as you can and be as organised as you can so that tasks in themselves actually take less time. Flylady has been a revelation to me and means I spend only 6 hours per week on one day per week deep cleaning my entire house. A few minutes per day keeps most things in check.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Looking for hard work and low pay? Be a freelance writer.

I am appalled.  I just spoke with a potential client who had invited me to get in touch. He had heard great things about me and my work and had lots of work he was desperate to push my way.  I wrote to him as soon as I could and told him a bit about me, what I do and how we could develop a working relationship. All very professional.

Before contacting him, I looked at his site and current marketing materials both to get a feel for his business and make sure that I was able to work with it. Great! This was a successful entrepreneur with a successful business in a niche I have a great interest and lots of experience in.

His overriding concern was 'how much'?

I told him, offering a variety of options with differing price structures.

It transpires he has been using the services of writers on a well known site where they charge around £5 less commission (so £4) per task, and this was his benchmark. I think we can all work out what I'm talking about here but I refuse to promote them in my blog. "But they're just rubbish. I can't use them".

Sadly, we've gone our separate ways.  There was no way I was going to write website content for him for five pound a pop and there was no way he was going to buy web content from me at £35 per pop. There was just no room for middle ground. No opportunity to educate or manage expectations.  Some people want cheap then complain when they get it.

Whilst this is an extreme example of how these sites have managed to change how people perceive value in the online writing world, it is actually very common for potential clients to, and I love this American freelance phrase, 'nickel and dime' you.  I hate being nickel and dimed and now that I'm more established, refuse to fall victim to it.  Know your worth without being arrogant and those serious about quality work will pay your prices without question.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Make money writing articles with HubPages - Part 1

I'm always looking for ways to generate an online passive income. It's not that I don't like hard work. I do, and I do it often. It's more that I would like to generate income even when I'm not working, to make every hour really work for itself when it comes to my time.  Anyway, from what I can gather from my research so far, generating an online passive income is HARD work, and often not successful.

So I've heard that HubPages is a good place to generate income if you're a good writer. Well, I'm a web writer so it sounds good to me. My core business model is making money writing articles so why not make money writing articles for myself (aside from this which is my hobby blog, that is!).

I joined up with HubPages last week and have spent ten minutes here and there having a look at what's hot and what's not. I have gathered that there are people making money writing articles on HubPages but there ar emore who aren't.

I've decided to create a challenge. A year long challenge. How much money can I make writing articles on HubPages in a year, if I write 3 per week?  I know for many writers it takes a year to see any results, so we need to get learning and try and fast track our way to some earnings.

This is episode one of the challenge, where I tell you about the challenge. We'll say this is Week 1 of the HubPages Earnings Challenge, so the challenge will be complete one year Last Friday gone.  Keep checking back because I am going to link my articles and their earnings. Here is the link to my little world on HubPages in case you want to read or join. 

I would love it if anyone would like to join me. If you want to try the challenge too and race me to bigger earings, sign up for a HubPages account here and link back to this blog. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

How do I work out my hourly rate?

This is one of the first questions many freelancers ask AFTER setting up their freelance business. When I started up my online writing business, I was lucky to have a great mentor, a former boss of mine from a well-known, Blue Chip company.  One of the first questions he asked me was ‘how do you work out your hourly rate?’. So I told him.  I want to earn at least 20k per annum in my first few years. There are 52 weeks in the year, so I need to earn £384.62 per week.  Working around 8 hours per day for five days per week, that means I need to charge £10 per hour roughly, the extra being to make up for shortfalls, other business etc.
I heard him laughing down the phone.  You see, I have a business degree, but they teach you nothing about earning your own money through your own business. More, how to run someone else’s business and earn a high wage as an MD or something similar. Needless to say, my idea of an hourly rate was completely unrealistic.  Do you want to know how I work out my hourly rate?  He asked me.  Yes, I said.

1.       Add up overheads.  These are costs associated with running the business that you pay whether you have work or not.  The internet connection is a big one because I still have to pay my broadband bill, even if I have no work.

2.       Work out the minimum you need to live on No point working just to pay your business running costs!

3.       Work out how many hours, realistically, you can work.  8 hours a day is a nice thought, but who is going to pay me for 8 hours work when I’m a freelance writer?  Who is going to pay me to update my accounts, spend a few hours on an afternoon marketing for new customers or writing on forums to build my business?  No one. Certainly not anyone with any sense. So the rate needs to take into account that I won’t be doing an hourly paid 8 hours.

In the end, you know what I did to work out my hourly rate?  Nothing.  I don't have one. I decided to quote on a per piece basis and increase my prices as my testimonials and experience grew. It’s a much better way to do it in the freelance writing business. I have different prices for different ‘products’, just like in a supermarket or bakery. I don’t want to pay more for a loaf of bread that took the baker longer to make than usual because he had a hangover.  I want to pay the going rate for a loaf of bread.  If he wants to make a better profit margin on that loaf, he better learn to do it quicker, better and with more economy. And that is how I run my business – with a  simple pricing structure that’s fair to everyone. All of my clients know what they’re going to pay before I start, they don’t get wacked with an invoice for an unknown amount. It also means I can grow my business by outsourcing work on a per peice price basis.

So my rate consists of:
-          What is the market rate for this kind of ‘product’
-          How long does it take me to complete one of these (roughly, some will be longer, some will be less)?
I then have a minimum number of pieces I need to do each month and because I don’t put a price on my time, I can make as much or as little money as my marketing allows.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Why I love ODesk for online writing jobs

For any aspiring freelancer, part of the difficulty in starting your online business is to find someone who will let you work for them before you have a solid portfolio of work and a string of word of mouth referrals. It is so much easier to get started these days, however, because there are a wealth of sites designed to match businesses looking for freelancers to freelancers looking for work.

ODesk is one of the best freelance sites on the market for a number of reasons and I say that as someone who has used it as a business looking for freelance help and as a freelancer looking to establish my online writing business.  Even though my online writing business is now fully established and much of my work comes in privately, I still use ODesk as a freelance writer when I see something that I want to do.

So what makes ODesk so great?  Well, for business you can obtain some fantastically skilled work for a very reasonable price. In fact, competition is so high that you can get good quality work for very little outlay.  This review is predominantly for freelance workers so if you're a business looking for graphic design, web design, wordpress development, SEO or even copywriting, Do More with Less on oDesk.

Good Points for freelancing with ODesk
Quantity and quality of work is good
 As a freelancer, whether you specialise in writing content for the web or develop PHP sites, ODesk is usually teaming with available jobs.  For some reason you also tend to get employers that are happy to pay a little more for a higher quality of work than other well known freelance portals.  This means wider choice and if you are serious about your business, plenty of opportunity to show what you can do.

Long term relationships can grow from small jobs
Some of my best clients are ODesk clients. Thanks to some relationship building in the early days and being willing to compete with the Far East on price without compromising on quality as a sweetener, I have developed some long term working partnerships through ODesk which continue to be lucrative today.

Reasonable Fees
So many freelancers complain about the fees charged by freelance sites. I find this utterly ridiculous and always say, if you don;t like the fees then find your own work.  They don't, becasue the 10% of your fee that ODesk charge (and the fees that all sites charge - whether they take it from you or your client),  is the price for the enormous market place that ODesk offer you.  Most freelancers, when they think about it, would rather have 90% of £100 than 100% of £0. Me too. And you too. So even though yes, you have to pay ODesk for their services (they need to pay their staff, feed their kids and all the usual things we all need from our work), the fact is that without them, there is no work for the majority of people that do find work through ODesk.  Their fees are also reasonable as far as the freelance market goes. You only pay when you actually do work, and yet you have access to the whole market. Many of these sites want an upfront monthly subscription for access to the online jobs then a cut of each on top.

The market is growing
ODesk have invested considerably in marketing to raise awareness of their fantastic services. They come highly recommended accross business forums and this greater awareness means more businesses on there looking for great value work.  Your market is growing and as Google continue their war to eradicate spam and junk information from the internet, the amount of jobs for quality article writers, bloggers and all other kinds of online writers is growing. There is a lot of money to be made writing online content these days and the demand is not slowing down.

Bad Points
Well, this is an unbiased review so there has to be some bad points, right?

Of course there are bad points with the online freelance industry but actually none of these points are specific to, or the fault of, ODesk.

As I mentioned above to businesses looking for low cost freelance work, these sites are amazing. The competition is huge because we are all now operating in a global market.  That means that prices over the last few years have been shaved to minimum, so onlne writers like me were struggling to make ends meet by just using freelance sites alone.

But you want to know something?  This site is predominantly aimed at English speaking (as a first language) readers, so I'll tell you what I know about this situation. It is changeing.  All acrross the business forums, people are warning against buying cheap work from ODesk and other freelance sites. Everyone is saying that you have to pay a good rate for good articles these days. And Google is constantly striving to wipe poor articles of the face of the internet.

So this bad point is turning into a very good point for us online writers because we have something that few people actually have, even in a worldwide market. The ability to write very well in fluent English.  It's a talent and one that is worth more than businesses have been willing to pay. But this is changing fast, so join ODesk now in confidence that you will be well rewarded for your work and you won't have to compete with Indonesian article spinners.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Clients from Hell!

Warning : Angry rant ahead!
The things they'll say to squeeze you down and squeeze you out! I've worked with my fair share of difficult clients over the last few years. Every freelancer has them. Every freelancer loses sleep over them. For those of you just starting out, or wondering what to do about a difficult situation, here are the problems I have encountered thus far and how I (mostly) successfully dealt with them.

The 'let's keep discussing this project ad infinitum whilst using your up your time and squeezing down your hourly rate to about 10p by the time we've finished'.
Grrr. That's all I can say. These people are a waste of space and when I realise I have one these days, my price automatically goes up.  For straightforward clients who appreciate that I can understand what their business is about, I have one price. For those that think I'm an imbecile and who rob me of my free time to impress this upon me, they pay around 50% extra. As soon as I realise I am starting to lose out financially, I start charging for my time on the work. There is not much that I cannot understand through email or a quick phone chat. Unless I am to write your Astro Physics thesis for you. In which case, I don't even do that anyway.

I need a free sample to check that you're good enough
I need an abacus to count the number of times I've been asked for (and in the early days did) free samples of my work.  I can count on one finger the number of times these clients were actually serious and went ahead with copywriting from me or anyone else. Tyre kickers. Time wasters.  People who think you have nothing better to do and are waiting around to be thrown scraps.  I absolutely DO NOT do free samples now I am established and can pick and choose my clients. In the beginning, when you do need the work, it's easy to be persuaded by the slick sales pitch:

- We have lots of work for you
- Your portfolio is great but we need to see how you interpret our business
You rarely hear from them once they've got your writing. They probably won't use it. They're not completely stupid. What you will find, if you check their website and other literature, is that it gradually morphs into a paraphrase of your work. It's not a copy, but where you've added bullet points, they acquire them.  Where you've used a catchy phrase, they steal it and twist it beyond recognition. But you know that it's yours.

The moral here is, don't do free work. You won't get paid, you won't make any friends and you certainly won't grow your business.

This will be a long-term thing. We have lots of work for you.
This is the line that gets you to drop your prices in the often mistaken belief that you will have a long and lucrative relationship with this client. Sometimes you do but often, once a defined project is finished you don;t hear much from them again. This is not about the quality of your work. They just want a discount and vague promises about long term work nearly always hook in newbies.  Apart from long-term partners I made at the start, who helped build my business and who still come back time after time, I DO NOT offer discounts for ongoing work, big volumes or anything else I am promised out of contract.

There are lots of devious ways shrewd business people will use to get you to work for free or cheap when you start out. They can smell your inexperience. Don't worry if you do become a victim though. More often than not it can be both character and business building. You do get the practice, even at low prices, and hopefully the great testimonials. In fact, doing these gigs and putting up with some shtick in the early days can get you some great clients and even more lucrative jobs in future. Testimonials are also worth far more than your bit rate - they offer residual income and help to build your reputation to the point where 1)you can spot trouble from a mile off and 2)you can choose who you will and will not work for.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Home Based Business or Employee?

Most people searching for home based work that flow through this site are looking for jobs.  Paid jobs.  Instructions given, salary paid.  Even though they would in most cases be freelance, at the end of the day, they are acting as employees.

And sure. You can make plenty of money working for others if you look in the right place. I do alright writing for various agencies. I join, do a writing test then bag the writing jobs either when they become available or when I have time. I use this method of working when  I have a lull in my regular work as it keeps me ticking over.  However, I am not an employee because I like the greater rewards of actually running my own business.

I go out and find my own work. I create it, in some respects, with clients. I work hard, gain testimonials, file my accounts and go out and find some more work when I need it or when I am approached.  If I wanted, I could be full time with my business. If I had the time. But I have a baby who I want to be a mum too so business has to fit round him.

Whilst this constrains me to some extent, working this way has enable me to build my reputation and whilst I can't charge top prices because I am inflexible, I can charge a great deal more, The best agency I write for pay less than a third of what I command in my own time.

For me, I am a business person. I started out writing for agencies and websites and this is how I broke into the online writing arena but I always had, in the back of my mind, the thought that there was nothing stopping me cutting out the middle man. For some, it's easier to just do the work put in front of them. Others will always wonder how they can go out and grab that work themselves.

So the question I asked at the beginning of this post kind of has no true answer. For me it was home based business. For you it could be employee. There's no right answer and the critical decision factors are different for everyone. Do what feels right for you. Demand for online content and other online services is growing fast, not slowing down. Start out with agencies and content sites if you are not sure. Eventually you'll find your niche and decide how you want to take your new 'career' forward.

I'm back with authority!

It has been around two years since I last posted on this blog and I have come back to it surprised at how many visitors we've had in that time. Despite the content being old and irrelevant, it seems people are still looking for help with working form home so I've decided to revive this blog. 

I always loved it and was really happy with how it looked when I set it up. Then life happened. I got a job, I got married, had a baby, bought a house and then..... I set up my own home based copywriting business. It is successful and I love every minute of it and whilst sitting here waiting for family to collect my son so I can work today, I thought about this blog out of nowhere and tracked it down. It looked as great as ever and since I have been looking to have something personal of my own to write on rather than writing for clients all of the time, I decided to try and log in and recover my blug. 

So for everyone who finds us now, you are now reading the posts of someone with a thriving home based business rather than someone who just knows alot about it.

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