10 tips to working from home when you’re used to being in the office

Many people are finding themselves working from home for the first time in a long time, or even ever! Adjusting to this situation, which has occurred very quickly could take some work. The children may be home from school and your partner may also be around more. There could be a lot of distractions, but you’ve still got to get work done. As someone who has been working from home for a while, here are some tips to being able to effectively work from home.

Laptop, coffee and cake on a duvet work from home

Set up a workstation. This may seem simple – but you need a chair that you can sit in comfortably, a good internet connection and a big enough screen so that you can see your work. It is best if you can find a space where no one else is, so that you can take telephone calls and conference calls.

You may also need to find a different space so that everyone can work. It is still best to supervise children while they use the internet. They should have work set for them, but it won’t take up the whole day.

Stick to Work Hours

Decide on your work hours. These do not have to be the same as your normal hours, as long as you can fit your work in. You need to take work calls into account, but allow yourself time to get away from the keyboard in the middle of the day.

Stick to your work hours. Once you start answering emails at 10pm at night, then there’s no going back! Well, there is, but it’s best not to start.

Make time for your loved ones too. Make sure you have time to connect with them and spend time with them. Equally, don’t let go of your work friends. Find some time together to chat or you could spend time in a team chatroom over lunch.

Ignore the Housework

Ignore the housework that is calling to you. Do it at the time that you normally would.

Make time for exercise. This might be pedalling an exercise bike, following a YouTube exercise video or going out for a walk in isolation. You really need at least 15-30 minutes of exercise every day.

Make time to connect and spend time with the children if you have any. If your children have just finished their school term, it could be a very strange and confusing time. Encourage them to get their school work done, but also to have down time and be more creative.

Take time away from the Screen

Give yourself some time away from the screen. Dig out the board games or even have a conversation so that you’re not constantly staring at a brightly lit screen. Get out in the garden if you have one or take a socially distanced walk.

Take advantage of the shows and concerts being live-streamed at the moment. Look for things that you would enjoy and make time to watch them.

Take time to be creative yourself and do something you enjoy.

Have you got any tips for someone working from home for the first time? Share them below.

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Sunday Church Children’s Talk

Today, I have been promoting my Sunday Church children’s talk.

I was due to lead an all-age worship service for the baptist church I attend, but it was decided fairly early on that it would move online. With my daughter’s help, I recorded both a children’s talk and a sermon bit.

 

I offer this as a piece of vlog! Enjoy.

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10 Facts that China have shared with the World about Coronavirus so far

The Chinese government have shared a document that explains what first happened when coronavirus or COVID-19 was discovered as a rapidly transmittable disease back in December 2019. They shared the lessons they learned and compared the disease to two outbreaks of virus that have happened within living memory: SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2002-3 and MERS in 2015. All three diseases share characteristics, and it may surprise you to know that SARS has mutated to a second strain and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) still isn’t considered contained.

Who am I to share these facts? I am not medically trained, but I have been reading and writing about medical studies for 5 years for a blog client. When you write regularly on a subject, you learn the language and look out for the studies that show the bigger picture. This disease has already affected most of the countries of the world on a huge scale and it has the potential to disrupt normal life for some time. I offer this, in the hope that someone who needs to, will read and understand why governments are taking the measures they are.

The facts

COVID-19 is very easily passed on from human to human through close contact. In the early days of the disease, the scientists noticed lots clusters of the disease in certain towns – between 2-4 cases each. These were caused by members of one household passing the disease on to each other.

The disease spread from one city to a whole country (China) in just 30 days.

It takes 5 days on average for an infected person to show the symptoms. This can give several days where the person is infectious but shows no symptoms, thus spreading the disease further. Some people have shown symptoms in as little as 2 days or as many as 14 days. Keeping away from other people when you think you may have been infected is a measure that could mean the disease is not passed by you. Current recommendations suggest standing 2m away from the next person.

Washing your hands thoroughly and regularly will not completely stop you from getting the disease, but it is an effective way to destroy the virus. The soap and water penetrate the water barrier around the virus and renders it inactive. The problem is, if you have been exposed to the virus, you might well have already inhaled it.

Not touching any part of your face when you are out and about is one of the best ways to prevent coronavirus infection. The illness could enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth.

The symptoms

The symptoms include a dry constant cough, a fever of over 37.5 and often includes difficulty breathing. That last symptom could get worse as the infection moves down into your lower respiratory system (lungs) and can cause pneumonia. Other symptoms that have been observed, but less often include a sore throat, headache, fatigue and some digestive issues.

You need medical attention quickly if your breathing becomes laboured, you feel a persistent pain or pressure in the chest, sudden lethargy or confusion, bluish fact or lips, revealing a lack of oxygen or if you are struggling to get going or get up.

The disease has been noted for making older people very ill. 87% of cases are people aged 30-79. Most 30 year olds would not consider themselves old, but it is the way the illness was reported in China.

People who have autoimmune disorders, diabetes, heart conditions etc are at risk and should stay well away from other people as a precaution even if they do not. A good measure is if you are  offered a flu jab every year, then you should take care not to catch the disease.

81% of the cases in China, had a mild form of the disease, 14% had a severe form of the disease and 5% a critical form. The death rate is 2.3%, which may seem low, but given the extremely contagious nature of the disease, with high numbers contracting it, the amount of people dying from the disease could rise hugely if unchecked.

Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK

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Blogs Interrupted

UK March 2020

Day 14 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Things have gone quiet round here. I’m still hoping to publish 30 blogs, but not in 30 days. The world seems to have gone mad: university students are being sent home, IT people are being told to work from home, schools are shutting and everyone is being told to stay home. I can’t think of anything to compare it to in my lifetime and I don’t think I will again.

The good news is that we have the internet to keep us sane. One of the consequences of the direction of non-essential gatherings is that churches are unable to meet. I was about to do an all-age service on Sunday. You know when I chickened out of doing a vlog post? Looks like I will be doing one after all – for my church!

So how do you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs?

Find the positive.

Thankfully, my children are old enough not to need supervision, although my son might if he is to do the work that the school sets. My daughter, the university student is coming home at the weekend and may not pay the third instalment of her accommodation. But what if your child is of the age where they are meant to be doing GCSEs? Or your children are too young to be able to be left?  Hopefully solutions can be found. Everyone’s situation is different and we will all have to find our own solutions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people – everyone has got a similar problem.

Allow yourself to be overwhelmed

I know, it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to feel the emotions in order to get past them. Then you can pick yourself up and find a way through.

Social distancing, not social isolation

These two things are very different. We need social distancing – to stay 1-2m apart to prevent the coronavirus spreading. In China, there were lots of clusters where family members from the same household all caught it. Finding ways to be apart while being together is going to be a crucial part of this time. No one wants to be socially isolated. Those online communities are going to matter more than ever.

Money matters

If this time is going to leave you financially worse off, then reach out to the people who can help sooner rather than later. Contact your bank, talk to the people you owe money too and make sure you take full advantage of any help the Government is offering, even if it is a loan. Businesses that were profitable before this virus will be profitable again after it. Take all the help you can get and make sure that you have money coming in.

Mental health matters

Do look after yourself and your mental health. Stay healthy, get some exercise, eat your 5-a-day fresh fruit and vegetables. Find some hobbies to do that can help you – knitting and crochet, painting or even journalling. There are lots of companies about to offer deliveries online – take advantage.

How do you plan to sit out the current situation in the UK or where you are? Keep in touch via the comments below.

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Secrets of Stronger Fiction – more realistic bad guy/girl

Please note there are some spoilers in this blog post in the interest of creating stronger fiction.

Many adult stories do not contain a definitive bad guy.girl. In many children’s stories you will find a baddie character – someone who sees it as their life goal to thwart the main character and make their life difficult. Sometimes that evil character is just out-and-out bad, but sometimes, they are more morally ambiguous. This makes for stronger fiction.

Harry Potter series

For example, in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, the evil-doers are evident from the start. Even the reluctance to name him (he-who-should-not-be-named) points to the fact that Voldemort is not someone that you would like to be best friends with. Some of the other characters who support him are not so clear cut (and some are!). Draco Malfoy, for example, hates Harry with a loathing and the feeling is mutual. Draco tries to kill Dumbledore and this reinforces that he is evil. However at the end of the books, Draco is rather a pathetic figure who has been damaged by the evil that he has done. Dorothy Umbridge, however is definitely evil, but Professor Snape is eventually revealed to have been working for the good forces, for all he disliked Harry.

Of all the characters in Harry Potter that appear to be evil, Snape is the most interesting. At the start he is always there to catch Harry out, his allegiance as head of the house of Slytherin gives him a vested interest in taking points off Harry and therefore Gryffindor, his rival. But as more of Snape’s story is known: his closeness to Harry’s mother Lily at one point and how he felt when Janes and Lily got together gives the reader a sympathy for him by the time of his last scene.

Matilda

The best stories have a mix of characters including those who are borderline. Matilda by Roald Dahl has a very definite bad gal in Miss Trunchbull, the angry headmistress who hates children. Miss Trunchbull is tall and broad and uses her size to intimidate both the children and teachers. Everyone that is except for Matilda. Matilda is able to use her new powers to scare Miss Trunchbull and protect her friends. But while the headteacher is a very obvious evil person, less so are Matilda’s parents. These two people are self-centred and not above indulging in criminal activity. They don’t seem to care very much for their daughter and even less for her schooling. They are not as vicious as Miss Trunchbull, but because they ignore Matilda instead of chucking her in the chokey, does that make them any better?

Matilda knows her parents’ failings and they do not seem to affect her, but neglect could be a very serious thing for her. Thankfully she has met Miss Honey who is prepared to take her on and love her.

Artemis Fowl

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer introduces a character who self-identifies as a criminal mastermind, or at the very least an anti-hero. He aims to steal to further his own ends, but finds himself in trouble when stealing from fairies, more specifically a police fairy known as Holly Short. Artemis may have started out as evil (how can you help it after being named Artemis), but he fairly quickly finds himself being forced to do the right thing. Throughout the series of books, he finds himself involved in a number of scary escapades, but usually on the right side of the fairy police. Incidentally, the books introduce Opal Koboi, a narcissistic pixie who is capable of far more evil actions than Artemis, himself.

Which characters are your favourite bad guys/gals and why?

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Is there ever a time when a freelancer should work for free?

I came across a job website tonight and read their information on becoming a freelancer. I was shocked to see that they advocated taking a first job and doing the work for free. I am a firm believer that at no point should a freelancer ever work for free. Nor do I believe that they should sell their skills cheaply.

When you are just starting out, it is tempting to take any offer of work that is going, so that you can add to your portfolio and have something to show other prospective clients, but I still think that you should expect to charge for your work.

There is a process of thought that suggests that early-stage freelancers should take work in order to prove themselves. They should take low-paying or free work until they can work themselves up to a more reasonable level of compensation. There are several reasons why this is unacceptable:

Freelancers have to pay bills like everyone else

Taking low-paying work can make you feel as though it is all you are good for

You have to have a certain level of competency to even consider going freelance. Why should you sell it cheaply?

I’m a start-up, will you work for free?

Then there are the people who advertise jobs who usually suggest that as they are a start-up, they cannot currently afford to pay someone to do the work. They usually dangle the offer of more, paid work down the line. But there are some problems with that:

If they can’t afford to pay someone, then why are they starting up a business? Surely if they have no money for it, it will be doomed to fail.

The promised paid-for work rarely materialises or when it does, the pay is not worth the effort

Consider this:

The time that you spend working on something for free, is time that you can never get back.

Does that make it more valuable?

Or

The time that you have offered for free, could be used to market yourself to find a paying customer

Or

Will the product that you have created for free be used to bring this client money?

Then you deserve some compensation for it.

When you start up as a freelancer, it is advisable to work out how many billable hours you can find for your job. That is, the amount of time that you have available to work for clients. Once you have that number, you can use it to do a number of things.

You will need to set aside some time to market your business. This includes writing for your own website, creating products for your own website and running your own social media (without getting sidetracked on Facebook).

You will need some time to do the administration of your business – invoicing and chasing payments.

You will need time for clients.

If you give up some of your time for free, then you are taking some time away from your business. Even if you are a brand new freelancer, you have chosen this path because you believe that you are good at what you do and that you can bring some skills to the table. Your skills deserve a decent reward.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Have you ever worked for free? If so, then do comment below. Did more work materialise? Do you agree with me that freelancers should not work for free? Please comment below.

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Posting to all social media channels helps promote your blog

Consistently Post across all your Social Media Channels

When you post a blog and press ‘publish’, what then? Close the laptop with a sigh of relief and go  do another chore? Move onto the next project? Or do you think of promoting your words across channels? Do you use social media for leisure or business or both?

The best way to promote your business is to promote it regularly, with the same message across all channels and as many ways as you can. These days you can promote on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked-In, Instagram and any other social media channels you use. You just have to learn how each works. If you post regularly to each, then it can only help your blog traffic.

Facebook

This social media channel has made it more difficult to get likes and follows if you are just a page and not buying advertising. It has also hidden away its scheduling under tools and made scheduling posts more than just a click. It doesn’t always pick up the photos correctly from the links and it has far too many sponsored posts and yet…I wouldn’t write it off just yet. It can still be an amazing place to keep in touch with people, for groups of like-minded people and also for the 30 day blogging challenge. There is no easy way to keep up with people, except forming groups and posting regularly, unless you want to pay for advertising. As part of a social media strategy, however, it is still the place most people turn to first.

Twitter

There is the most amazing writers’ network on Twitter. There are regular groups devoted to freelancing, call-outs by editors and authors to follow. Having run social media for another company, I also noted that it is possible to have 2 different accounts on Twitter and have a completely different experience when you follow people related to a different subject.  Scheduling is easy with Tweetdeck. This belongs to Twitter, so you just join with the same name & password.  The feeds show you notifications, live feeds, scheduled posts & anything you have posted. Searching hashtags will help you use the right ones.

Linked-In

Do post regularly on Linked-In, even if you are just sharing your posts. I am more conscious on this platform than anywhere else about what I’m posting. There are some amazing courses out there to help you get the best from this platform.

Pinterest

Create a board just for your blog promotion. Make sure you have a good graphic. Creating pins is pretty easy – you can upload images from your computer and add a headline, description and links. The medium is very good at sending traffic to your blog. Use it to find new ideas and that chocolate cake recipe!

Instagram

Did you know that you can post to Instagram from your laptop by using a developer view? It makes it easier to manage social media. Use hashtags to attract other people to your post.

Which social media medium have you used to promote your blog? Let me know in the comments below.

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New Business Expectations vs Reality

What can a new business owner expect?

How did you expect things to be when you started your new business? Did you expect it to be effortless, fun, empowering? Was failure part of the plan? What about clients who don’t want to pay? Every person who starts a new business, has an idea in their head about their future work life and how it is going to be. Unfortunately, the expectation does not often meet the reality.

Here are some of the expectations that a new business may have and the reality behind them:

Expectation 1 – Clients will beat a path to your door

Stop the world – my new business has arrived! I offer such an amazing service that clients will be falling over themselves to hire my services! The phone will be ringing, the email will be filling up and my bank account will be growing fat.

Reality: Most new businesses rely on friends and family to begin with. Unless you are excellent with Facebook marketing, you will find likes, shares and follows difficult to come by and there will be long periods of boredom, followed by (hopefully) frantic rushes where everyone arrives at once!

What to do: Market yourself constantly. Build a profile on Linked-In, set up a Facebook page, build Twitter and Instagram accounts. Reach out to past colleagues, contacts, anyone who might have an interest in what you do. Decide on a strategy that you will actually feel confident carrying out and get on it. Paid advertising can work, but it can also be a black hole for your money, so should be approached with care and preferably with sound advice.

Expectation 2 – Clients will always pay on time

You always pay your bills on time – so why doesn’t everyone else!

Reality: Sadly it is not uncommon for large companies to postpone bill-paying for up to 3 months! How can you keep your cashflow going?

What to do: The answer to this is in your initial communications with a client. When it comes to buying a product, most people expect to pay before the product is shipped. Buying services is a little different, and it can seem as though you don’t want to raise the delicate subject of money. However, the client expects to pay you and you expect to get paid. In order to ensure that you are paid in a timely fashion, the best thing to do is to expect clients to sign a contract with you before starting work. This way, you can state how quickly after delivery of the product that you expect to get paid and the client understands it too. I f the client pushes back and says that this is not possible, then you can either negotiate or walk away.

Expectation 3 – Your website will fly to the top of Google in no time

Such a well put-together website will surely be recognised by the search engine for the artistic masterpiece it is!

Reality: Search engines work off a series of algorithms in order to rank non-paying websites in response to a search request. This means that you need to ensure that your website follows all the principles of good SEO.

What to do: Keep adding fresh content and optimise that content for SEO or search engine optimisation This means making sure that your blog posts are written with good SEO principles in mind. If your website is on WordPress, there are some good SEO plugins out there which will help you manage the SEO. Length of time helps too.

Expectation 4 – Clients will always love the work you do

Reality: Unfortunately not all clients are able to explain or even know what it is they really want. Some business owners are left to give it their best guess.

What to do: Find ways to pin down what it is your client wants before starting work. You can use a questionnaire, a telephone conversation, ask for examples of other websites that they admire – all these things can help them to explain to you what they want. This is not a guarantee that you will get it right first time, but it can help. Also always emphasise that the first piece of work you turn ij, can be raft which can be changed.

Expectation 5 You will always have polite customers

Reality: Unfortunately not!

What to do: Keep your cool. Working for someone in your own business does not give them the right to abuse you or get angry with you. Stay calm but don’t take any rubbish from them. If they regularly get rude or abusive then it is best to end the relationship. As a business owner, you do not have to experience that kind of thing.

Business owners, how did you negotiate your expectations over the reality of your experiences? Comment below.

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New Business Owners, Health and Origin of Words – the best of my first 9 days in the 30 Day Blogging Challenge

I have thoroughly enjoyed testing and strengthening my blogging muscle during the first 9 days of the 20 day blogging challenge. It’s strange how, when you really want to get something done, you can.

Normally I am staring at my blog, thinking, ‘I know I should be writing about something – but what?’ Yet, here I am, 9 blogs in. I wish I could say that it’s all been easy – but it hasn’t! I didn’t take into account things I was already booked to do and emergencies that come up in life! But here I still am, and I’m stronger for it.

I last did the 30 day blogging challenge in 2016, about a month earlier. It brought some great things into my life that are still here today.

So, what have you missed over the last 9 days?

I had already begun writing a series of articles for new business owners, starting with ‘systems the beginning freelance business owner needs’. Ok, not strictly for the blogging challenge, but still a great start, and a theme that I have built on over the challenge.

This includes ‘3 fears you face as a beginning business owner and how to work through them’ and an article all about #hours on Twitter. It is hard to begin promoting your business and get into that ‘elevator pitch’ mindset. Using the regional #hours on Twitter can help take some of the hard work out of it and help to get you known. It is a time when you are encouraged to promote your business, just don’t forget the hashtag to get it retweeted.

In my other life, I write health blogs, mostly based on studies, so I have included a health blog here. This could apply to anyone, wondering about whether they should be following the usual diet mandate to ‘eat breakfast every day’. I try to choose scientific studies that are credible and offer interesting insights.

I am at heart a freelancer, so my Friday freelance post talks about making your blog posts readable. Do mine fall into that category or not – I will leave it to you to decide! Authors will have their own series of blog posts on ‘secrets of stronger fiction’. I love writing short stories and my influences include the stories I enjoyed in my youth. Anne with an E has come back into collective consciousness with the excellent series that finished recently.

These are some of my favourite posts over the last 9 days. Do let me know which you enjoyed in the comments below.

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Origins of the English Language: where did the words ‘ business’, ‘writer’ and ‘freelance’ originate?

Finding out the original meaning and origin or etymology of common words is fascinating if you enjoy playing around with language. The language we know as English has developed and evolved over centuries, taking into account the languages and words of immigrants and conquerors until it became the language it is today. It is still evolving and new words are added to the dictionary every year.

Origin of ‘Business’

The word ‘business’ is thought to have originated from the Old English word bisignes, from Northumbria. The original meanings of the word included anxiety or care as well as occupation. From this word was also bisig, which was the adjective: anxious, careful, occupied, busy and diligent. The word became busy-ness or busyness in the mid-14th century, losing two of the meanings (anxiety, care) and retaining ‘being much occupied’. Johnson’s dictionary also includes busiless, which carries the meaning: at leisure, being without business.

The word being used for a person’s livelihood or occupation was first written in the late 14th century (bisig) as a noun with the sense of occupation, employment. It was also used as something ‘undertaken as a sense of duty’. In the 17th century, the word could also be used to describe sexual intercourse. In 1727, the word is first found to mean ‘commercial engagements or trade’.

Origin of ‘Write’

From the Old English writan which had the sense of ‘to score (mark), outline or draw the figure of’. Similar words were also found in Old Saxon (writan – to tear, scratch, write), Old Norse (rita – scratch, outline, write) and the Old High German (rizan – to tear, scratch, write).

Most of the European languages had their word for ‘write’ originally mean ‘scratch, carve, cut’, most likely as this was the most common form of writing at the time.

Origin of ‘Freelance’

The first written example of ‘freelance’ was written by Sir Walter Scott in his novel, Ivanhoe (1819). A feudal lord refers to the army that he has assembled as ‘free lances’ – literally free weapons. The army are at the disposal of his lord, but they are refused. The word became popular and found other meanings, including a politician who had no affiliation with a particular political party or to refer to a person who worked on their own terms without long term commitment to a single employer.  Our current noun, ‘freelancer’ is quite a late addition, so freelance was used as noun and verb. Throughout medieval history, the existence of free lances was well-documented. Hired soldiers were common for major military campaigns between the 12-14th centuries. At the time, however, rather than being referred to as ‘free lances’, such soldiers were known as ‘stipendaries’ (they were given a stipend for their work) or mercenaries.

Which words would you like to know the origin of? Comment below.

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