Have You Got What it Takes to Work Remotely?

Being a digital nomad, working from a co-working space, taking your laptop with you onto the beach. The remote working life promises so much.

But does it deliver? And how can you be sure you are up to it?

Here are a few key areas that you might want to consider before taking the plunge.

Work Remotely from any Timezone

So, where in the world are you working from this week? Or more importantly, what timezone are you in? GMT? UTC? ET? PT?

Want to organise a video call for your remote team? Which timezone are you going to base that on? Which one of you is going to stay up late/get up early/set their alarm for 3am to make it? See, the glamorous lifestyle is there for the taking, late nights waiting for a team meeting with other people who are sitting in sunny daylight waiting to speak to you.

Or are they? If you are like me then maybe you also have a habit of reading calendar invites/messages and seeing what you want to see rather than what is written there. This can result in you waiting online for a call at the wrong time, or even (as I have done more than once) the wrong day.

So it’s not just about clock watching, like it may have been when you worked in an office. Can you watch the clock, the calendar and then translate that into 4 different timezones and still make your meeting on time?

Co-Working Space

I’m pretty sure this is the most glamorous that it gets for me when it comes to remote working. Yes, you too could be sipping cocktails and working from the beach in digital nomad epicentre, Chiang Mai.

But let’s face it, you’re not. I’m sure like me the reality of working remotely is a little less glam.

My main co-working space is our dining room table. I can usually carve out about enough space for my laptop and notebook. My surroundings are not a minimalist dream. They are leftovers from this morning’s breakfast and whatever Lego creation the kids are currently working on. And if I’m really lucky, there’s probably a cat, either sat perched on top of a Lego creation, or trying to wedge itself onto my lap, tail in the air, waving around in the foreground of my video call.

There are other options. Coffee shops make a good ‘office away from home.’ Well, they would, and there are a few choices in the town where I live but one has Wifi that kicks you off after an hour and a half, the one with unlimited Wifi is usually busy and the rest have no idea that offering Wifi might be a good business choice.

I’m a Brit so there is another option — the local pub that has free Wifi and an app that brings your food and drink order to your table! What could possibly go wrong there?!

And finally, the best Wifi in town is at the local library. A space where I’ve discovered the truth about the generation gap. It seems to be perfectly acceptable for older people to come into the library and chat to each other. I get that it’s a place for community after all. However, if anyone under the age of retirement speaks or has an electronic device that they haven’t put on silent then it’s glares all round from the older generation — how dare they?!

Dress Code

Be a digital nomad they said. Dress in your PJs all day they said.

This one quickly goes from win/win to win/no win. Yes, you could dress in your PJs all day. Score. But see the above note about video calls. Are they PJs that will look acceptable on your next Zoom call?

And it isn’t just your PJ top that needs to be up to scratch. You will definitely get someone – parcel delivery, concerned neighbour, random stranger – turn up on your doorstep after midday and, when you open the door, look at you like you grew a second head because you are still in your PJs.

And if you do get dressed? Well, the advice blogs would have you believe that’s a great thing. Dress for the job you want they say, and don’t let anything like remote working get in the way of that. Get up and get dressed just like you would for the office.

Except most of the things that you do during the day as a remote worker don’t really need the same level of smart casual/smasual (I can’t believe I actually just typed that word into a blog, I don’t know who I am any more) that is required in an office. Full office outfitting for a quick pop to the shops for some biscuits, which along with any other snack are the remote workers’ nemesis, just isn’t required.

And finally, dressing to be outdoors just leads to a far greater temptation to leave your desk and the house. Which can only lead to bad things and brings us on to…

Work/Life Balance

Living the remote working dream. Schedule work around your life. Take that morning yoga class, go to the cinema of an afternoon.

But what about the flipside of this. Yes, we’d all love to go to the cinema in the afternoon but then you’re stuck working of an evening when everyone else is out doing something fun. Without you. Outside of ‘normal’ working hours you find that everyone else is not working and is out enjoying themselves and posting it all gleefully on social media. That’s not the time anyone really wants to work. Is that afternoon cinema trip seeming like such a good idea now?

The real pitfall here is that we’ve constructed a situation where we want to do less work during working hours and not make it up at any other time. That’s just a part-time job. Or, taken to extremes, retirement.

Plus, if it’s not your inner voice talking you out of doing work and into daytime leisure activities it’s everyone else you know who knows that you ‘work remotely.’ To them that just means ‘is around during the day.’ The invites to lunch, and other day time activities start to stack up. I’ve been asked to babysit because ‘you’re around during the day.’ I’m not sure that turning up to someone’s place of work to hand over a baby for a couple of hours during the day because ‘well, you’re nearby’ is quite acceptable, but with this remote working, you’ve got all these extra hours that have magically appeared when you decided to stop going in to an office every day.

So, what do you think? Have you got what it takes to be a remote worker?

 

Don’t do as I do, do as I say: Learn from my top social media mistakes

I think it goes without saying that when something is your area of expertise, that doesn’t mean you have it all sorted. So, with some trepidation, I will admit I’ve made my share of social media mistakes.

Although I work on strategy for startups and SMEs across content, social media, SEO and marketing, I’m sure that my own set up lacks a few of the ingredients I talk to clients about. I might be working with people to make and execute their strategies but I’m not always working on mine as much as I should be.

Before I get started I’d also like to point out here that I’m not detailing my mistakes in that slightly jokey way that people sometimes do. You know the self-talk – ‘oh yeah, I’m so bad at XYZ’ – that kind of thing. These are areas that my business lacks and I’m working to do something about them.

I loved this article from Convince and Convert about how they made themselves their own best client. This is what I want to work towards and achieve, running my business the way I would for a client. It’s just that while this is a work in progress it also makes a catchy blog title and a good way to show you where you might want to focus when thinking about your own business.

My Social Media Mistakes

My advice here is clear – don’t do what I am doing right now, do what I’m telling my clients to do as they are seeing real results from working with a defined strategy to reach their goals. Here are my top mistakes and what to do instead.

Mistake 1: I don’t have a clear strategy or goals

One of my main problems is this: I don’t have my own strategy or goals for what I’m trying to achieve with my content and social. Not knowing what I want to achieve from being on social, or how I want my content to connect with people, things are a bit disjointed.

I enjoy using all my channels and post to them regularly. However, with no real overview of why I’m doing this, it’s hard to get them to join up with my work or the development of my business.

Goals and strategy go hand in hand. Goals are what you want to achieve and strategy is going to get you there. Both sound big, and can sound a bit scary, but they don’t need to be. What you are really asking is; what do you want to achieve from your content or social media and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

This might be tied into other areas of your business. Your content might be connecting with more people in your industry to raise your profile with a goal of being a influencer in your chosen field. Or you might see your social as one part of an overall marketing strategy.

Goals can change. I often work with clients who want to start by getting everything in order. Their goal is simply to get to a stage where their content, website and social reflects the successful business they already have. After that they set goals again to take them to the next milestone, and then the next.

Mistake 2: I’m not sure who my audience is and whether I’m posting in the right place to find them

Since I started working as a freelancer it has become pretty clear that my market is startups and small businesses. However, that’s a pretty broad category.

Within the section of ‘every startup and small business’ there are many ways that I could define my audience better in order to make sure my content connects with them online.

Why is this important? If you are a food and lifestyle blog, taking wonderful flat lay pictures of your latest bake, there’s little point in posting that to LinkedIn. Your professional audience on LinkedIn are going to want to know how you grow and maintain your engaged community and the skills you’ve learnt from it but your well-staged photo is going to play out much better on Instagram.

By defining your audience, you know who you are looking for, and by extension where to find them. In the example I just used you’ve got two different audiences, followers on Instagram and connections on LinkedIn, who are looking for different things. You might have both of these things, which is great, it’s still a good idea to make sure you are posting each strand of your business to the right place rather than just scattering it over all your channels and hoping for the best.

Mistake 3: I don’t engage with any communities or grow ones of my own

I think one of the big areas that people don’t consider on social media is their community. We all check in on our social accounts and like comments that other people make on our posts but do we spend time really engaging?

Do you reply to every comment that someone makes on your social channels? It’s a powerful way to engage with people who’ve taken the time to comment on your posts, and just one great way to grow your own community.

Seeking out communities that fit with your audience, brand and niche is also a great way to grow your engagement online. This could mean taking part in a twitter chat for local businesses or relevant industries. It could be searching relevant hashtags on twitter or Instagram and replying to comments that resonate with you. You might want to congratulate every one of your connections on LinkedIn that has a milestone which appears on your notifications.

All these small interactions add up. They come together and bring momentum to what you are doing. When you spend time finding and growing your community you start to know them better. You know what they like and what resonates with them, which in turn starts to inform your business. It’s a win win.

So there you go. Three social media mistakes that I know I’m making and I’m working to improve. Let me know what you think your social media mistakes might be. And, as always, do get in touch to chat about your strategy. As you can see from this, I’m all about making sure my clients don’t follow my own mistakes!

Why do we need someone to do social media? Isn’t it just all common sense?

When I first started out freelancing I organised coffees with some of my friends who I knew worked in the kind of industries and sectors I was interested in. I felt a bit nervous and thought that just having a chat with some people I already knew about something work-related would be a good place to start.

And it was. I met up with a friend of mine who is a CTO. He was really encouraging, stating ‘I’m really glad you are doing this, you’re good at it and we need more people like you.’ I was, understandably, grateful and very pleased to be starting out like this.

My friend got back in touch within a few weeks of our coffee. Would I like to do a proposal for him for a local community initiative that he was working on. There might be some work in it, nothing big, but the chance to write the proposal would be a good opportunity.

I was happy to do it. I saw it as a chance to show him what I could do, as well as the chance to pitch for potential work so I put something together.

When we had a follow up chat, I asked how things were going. Yes, the proposal was great, everyone liked it and agreed with the content. And one person had made the comment that makes up the title of this blog – ‘Why do we need someone to do social media? Isn’t it just all common sense?’

It’s a good point. In fact it’s such a good point that still, 2 and a bit years on from receiving this feedback, I think about it every time I write a proposal, or content, pitch for work or post for clients.

I welcomed this feedback at the time and I welcome it every time I think about it. It focuses me to think about what my skills are and what value I add to my clients.

When this feedback was given my friend qualified it straight away. ‘You and I know the value of this work but you know what people can be like.’

Yes, I do. But I’m more than happy for people to question what I do, to be curious and ask. OK, it’s not always said in a nice way but I’m a pretty positive person. I’m good at answering questions for people and deflecting their bluntness to chat about what they really want to know.

And I’m happy to chat about what I do. The power of social media is an awesome thing and I could geek out on it for hours on end. (Sidebar: if you want to get in touch and discuss your social media, please do! Always happy to chat, virtually or in person. 🙂 )

Yes, a lot of social media is common sense. It is a skill that can be learnt. In the same way that doing your accounts is just maths. It is just maths. That doesn’t take anything away from accountants, who understand this ‘maths’ on a grand scale for small and large businesses. In the same way, as a social media professional, I have the skills to show you how you can reach your goals with social media.

Some of my clients want to learn how to do social media themselves, they are looking for tips and tricks. Others have heard that they ‘should’ be doing social and want to know more about what that means. Resourcing for small business, which I specialise in, is an issue and having someone who can take care of another thing that’s looming on your to do list is valuable.

I was reminded of this last week when I was doing a tiny victory dance as one of my clients ranked onto page 1 of Google for their chosen keywords. Last year, before I started working for them, they were sold multiple keyword URLs. They were told this is what would get them ranking on Google and they did nothing.

There is a lot of noise in the digital content, SEO, social media arena for small businesses. Some companies do make their money from small businesses by using words that don’t mean much and selling ‘must haves’ for things they could do easily and cheaply themselves online. I’m often working with clients on just untangling all the ‘advice’ (sales!) they’ve been offered to show them what it all really is so they can make a decision about whether it adds value for them.

If you are looking to do social media for your business then I think there are many things to take away from this. Yes, it is a skill you can learn. It might be a skill you want to outsource. Don’t be blinded by someone telling you what you ‘need’, if you really do need it they should be able to explain exactly why to you in a way you understand.

And question. Ask where the value is. Everyone I know, who is doing great work, is more than happy to tell you. I would be more worried if I couldn’t answer this question, not whether you’ve asked it.

Activities for Kids - Free Printable

What to get the kids to do when they don’t know what to do – including free printable!

A while ago I started leaving out things for my kids to do when they got home from school. To get from our back door – our main entry point to the house – to the TV they have to go past the dining room table. If I leave out something that looks inviting then I can often tempt them to stop on the way.

After a few times I’d done this, I was setting up the table before I left for the school run and I saw my eldest’s favourite toy on one of the dining room chairs. I set it up so that it looked like his toy had left him something for them to do together. This was an instant hit.

Soon I was getting requests from my eldest that his toy leave him something to do after school. And my youngest had adopted a new favourite soft toy and wanted in on the action.

Not knowing what days these would be most popular I thought I’d put together a box of slips with loads of suggestions on it as to what the kids could do. That way the box was there whenever we needed it, not just after school, and we could pick out something and give it a try.

I put slips in the box for activities and reading. I included ones for reading as I felt like we’d got to a stage where we have a lot of books but tend to stick to the old favourites. By getting them to look for a book with a character or colour in it, I thought this would encourage them to browse a bit more.

I posted a couple of pics of the box and an activity on Instagram this weekend and friend suggested that I make her one. I thought, that’s a good idea. And then thought, actually, why don’t I make a download of it?

Activities for Kids - Free Printable Activities for Kids - Free Printable

So here you have it. My first free printable, download and kids activity right here on the blog! I’ve typed out all the slips that I wrote, which is just over 2 pages, and then left the rest of the 3rd page blank for you to add more slips of your own. Enjoy!

Download the pdf here: Free Printable – Activities and Reading Ideas for Kids

What Did You Buy on Instagram Today?

What Did You Buy From Instagram Today?

Social Media Explained with DonutsI’ve always loved this picture explaining social media through the medium of doughnuts. As you can see it is a little out of date – FourSquare has since pivoted its business model – but I’ve often thought that adding ‘doughnut eating’ as a skill on LinkedIn is a sure fire winner!

For a long time Instagram was, to me, just a load of vintage/filtered pictures. It has always had a cult following and when Facebook paid $1bn for it back in 2012, we all knew it was here to stay.

Fast forward to today and I couldn’t imagine my personal social media consumption without it. I definitely check and post most days and using Instagram is something I do personally, as well as to build my own personal brand.

As I mentioned in my last post, I love a good virtual coffee. I think this definitely informed my choice of format for my podcast – Follow Me: Social Media Perspectives. I’ve not dedicated enough time to it as I would like in the first quarter of this year, so expect more on it soon. In the meantime my thoughts about Instagram were sparked by something Jacqueline Jensen, my guest in Episode 2, and I were chatting about when we recorded together.

Are There Ads on Instagram?

One of the things that we chatted about was our shared love of Instagram. Jacqueline uses it to document her wonderful travels as she lives and works remotely. I have gravitated towards the platform after gradually reducing my personal Facebook use. Something she said really struck a chord with me ‘I don’t mind being sold to in my Insta feed.’

This has had me thinking ever since. With Instagram’s mobile-first platform the newsfeed is one long scroll. In order to place ads into the feed they have chosen to go with a format that looks a lot like any other post on your feed.

Couple that with the fact that advertising on Instagram seems to be very targeted. I often see ads in my feed from accounts that are so close in look and feel to ones that I already follow. The tiny ‘sponsored’ text under the account name – usually where the location on any other post would be – is often the only way I can tell whether it is native to my feed or not.

There are more direct, formulaic ads coming through in my feed recently. These do stick out more and are clearly more along the lines of the more spammy ads people dislike on the Facebook feed. This is a real shame and I think could become a problem in the future.

But for now the ads seem pretty targeted. Back to Jacqueline again ‘it’s usually something I would definitely buy anyway.’ Instagram has always seemed to be set apart from other social channels and they’ve continued this trend by treading lightly when it comes to ads.

The rise of the influencer

Alongside this kind of subtle advertising there is something else going on in the Instagram feed. One of the key trends on recent years: the rise of the influencer. And I would add to that: the rise of the micro-influencer.

If you think about the things you buy, what influences those decisions? Word of mouth sells. You want to see what you are getting and hear a real person that you identify with and trust try it out.

That person often used to be a friend. You would complement something they were wearing ‘Oh, this old thing? It’s X brand.’ You might comment on a book they are reading or a service they use. ‘I’ll send you the link.’

This kind of influence takes place in dark social, a term to describe social sharing and recommendations that you can’t measure because you can’t see them happening. It is the idea that if a friend sends you a link on WhatsApp, you trust them so you click the link. If the link were somewhere on a social feed, or in an ad, you might scroll by thinking it wasn’t worth your time.

So far, advertising on Instagram seems to model this word of mouth feel. It looks like something you invited onto your feed, so you have an added level of trust before you’ve even read the caption.

To take this one step further, influencers are looking to make the gap between scrolling on past a brand link and clicking straight on it that bit smaller. If you think about who you follow on Instagram I’m sure bloggers/lifestyle blogs and small niche brands make up a proportion of your follows alongside friends and family.

You start to see these people as friends too. The platform encourages us to all mirror the same chatty way of captioning. Photos have an instant intimacy as a window into someone else’s life. So if someone is in your community, is on your feed, I think you are more likely to take their recommendations.

Your community on Instagram, the people that make up your feed, have been invited into your world by you and their influence really does have weight.

When is an ad not an #ad?

I’m sure we’ve all seen a post on Instagram with the little #ad at the bottom. The first time I saw it I had to go back and read the caption again – what about it was an ad?

There’s a great piece on #ad by Mother Pukka, an Instagram favourite. As she rightly points out, as long as these posts are signposted, getting your style advice from someone you follow anyway, alongside posts about their bin collections, makes sense.

As we’ve just discussed, these are the people you’ve invited into your feed. So more often these days brands are reaching out to bloggers with a large or niche following and paying for #ad posts. I have to say I don’t find them too worrying. Provided that paid-for content is properly signposted, I’m happy to see ad spend going to bloggers like Mother Pukka.

Another side to this advertising trend is something that we all respond well to: insight and honesty. Having someone not just model a new bag, shoes or the latest gadget but chat engagingly on Stories, show us the unboxing, give top tips and how tos, gives us a sense of just how these products will fit into our lives. That’s always a sure fire winner when we’re considering whether to make a purchase.

I’d have to say that one of the only places where ads really are not working for me on Instagram is in Stories. Having my Stories feed interrupted by a (usually) loud and not at all subtle ad doesn’t encourage me to keep checking my Stories. I’ve taken to clicking on Stories individually and not going on to the next in order to make sure I don’t come across too many.

I’m also not sold on the ‘Swipe Up’ feature currently being trialled on verified accounts. Gary Vee is using it to sell merch as well as to link to content in other channels. I find it a bit too jarring, with Instagram having been such a contained world (with its ties to only uploading from mobile, making it difficult to provide links except in your bio etc.) to suddenly have frequent links to other places.

Monetisation vs Brand Awareness

The other key thing to note here is where the money paid for this advertising is going.

Where ads appear in our feed, or between Stories, Instagram is the winner. Monetisation of platforms is the way they are kept free to access. People pay Instagram to get to our feed.

In turn Instagram will make more money the more targeted the advertising they can offer. The more they know about you, the better targeted the ads will be. Their growing data on their users is also what gave the company its $1bn price tag – the value of their data is what Facebook paid for.

Data driven advertising like this is a win/win. As we mentioned earlier, well targeted ads don’t feel like ads and companies are paying to get directly into the feed of someone more likely to click and buy.

On the flipside brands pay influencers directly for ads on their feed. This puts influencers in control and the increasingly inventive ways that I’ve seen people bring #ads and brand awareness to their feeds can be great fun.

So, what did you buy today on Instagram?

So what have we learnt from this quick round up? Advertising is certainly more subtle on Instagram than other channels. People don’t feel so marketed to, which means they are still engaged with Instagram in a way that contrasts to Facebook feeling increasingly quite ad heavy.

And does it work? Well, I’m the first person to shun a direct ad but I follow and have bought from countless small and ethical businesses I’ve found through my Instagram feed. Whilst I still scroll past ads in general, I have to admit I do take recommendations regularly from those that I follow as well as buy from them. It feels nice to be in the know, part of a community that supports small business and each other, that marketing works on me and I have the pile of cute stationery to prove it!

What are your thoughts on advertising on Instagram? Where do you think it’s going and do you like/dislike its place on your feed? It would be great to hear your thoughts.

Why Freelancing is like Running and Other Marathon Analogies

Freelancing is Like Running and Other Marathon Analogies

Why Freelancing is like Running and Other Marathon AnalogiesOne of the things that I’ve consciously done since I started freelancing is to build my own virtual watercooler.

As you can see from my previous posts, I was never the natural networker. In fact, I now often describe my networking at previous office-based jobs as ‘whatever events were offering free cake and time out of the office.’ As you can probably tell, I didn’t see much ROI from it as an activity.

Fast forward to my new working life as a remote worker and freelancer and – guess what? – networking is something that plays a big part in everything I do. And my favourite part of it? Organising a virtual coffee with really cool people around the world.

So there I was, having a virtual coffee with the very cool and lovely Kat Loughrey. We were talking about freelancing generally, what we see in our working futures and where we get our blog ideas from. Talk turned to other freelancers and how it is often the case that you compare yourself to others.

My comment was ‘freelancing is like running, you don’t know where anyone else has started or how they’ve trained, so how can you compare yourself to them?’ Kat’s response? ‘Now that’s a blog idea!’

So, without further ado, here is the aforementioned blog. How is freelancing like running? And if you are going to run a freelance marathon what do you need to do to get training?

Freelancing Is A Marathon. Start Training For the Long Haul.

Despite the fact that the London Marathon was founded as an event for amateur runners, no one turns up on the day without having trained. Well, I hope that’s the case!

If you want to go the distance as a freelancer then you need to be playing a long game. Training is essential. By that I mean a few different things:

  • Physical and mental well-being – being physically and mentally fit is the basis of your business as a freelancer. If you aren’t in good health, then your business won’t be either.
  • Train for effectiveness – think about how you work best. When do you have the most energy? Do you work best alone or at a co-working space? Get your environment set up to help you be successful.
  • Plan to succeed – use your time effectively. Think about your time management and how you can make the best use of your time. As a freelancer this is your key resource, so plan to use it well.
  • Invest in the long term from day one – train to be the freelancer that you want to be in the future. Think about how best to network and build a community around you. It might not seem like a priority when you are first looking for work but over time these are the things that will bring you long-term benefits, so start investing time in them now.

Try different ways to train and seeing what works for you. Try out the Pomodoro technique for your time management, or a new workout at your gym. These are the things that will get you fit to take on the challenge that is freelancing.

You Don’t Know Where The Person Running Past You Started From

When I’m out running I often see other runners. Most of the time they are running past me. Sometimes they are coming towards me, and we greet each other with a sweaty out-of-breath nod as we pass. And sometimes I’m lucky enough to be the one overtaking.

Whenever I go past someone, especially when I overtake, I always think the same thing. Don’t get smug because you passed them, you don’t know where they started. We all have off days when we run slower. We have days when we fly around our chosen course.

You might be out for a quick 5km, running past someone who is on mile 9 of a 10 mile long run. You didn’t start at the same place when you set out on your run.

It is the same when you are freelancing. There is no point in comparing yourself to anyone. They might have started freelancing last week, when you’ve been established for years. Or the other way round. They might have a strong background in blog writing, but be publishing their first YouTube video.

 

Train For The Distance You Want to Run

Some people love to sprint. They want to run flat out over a short distance and collapse into a heaving pile at the end. Others want to run further and longer, pushing their limits with ultra-marathons. You need to know what distance you are looking to run in order to train properly for it.

It is the same in content and social. There are so many ways to produce content and get a social buzz going, the best way to establish yourself as a freelancer is to specialise in the area/niche/channel that is your passion.

You might have a niche that you love working in or a specialist interest that drives your community work. You might be an expert in all things Snapchat. Focusing on the work that you want to produce gives your offering clarity and shows people what you are passionate about.

 

So there it is, the running/freelancing blog I needed to write, thank you Kat! Let me know your thoughts, and where you see crossovers with your hobbies and freelance life.

 

 

Single Tasking or Multi Tasking? Just Don't Forget to Task!

Single-Tasking or Multi-Tasking? Just Don’t Forget to Task!

I love a good productivity read. Whether it’s a book or a blog, I’m there.

5 tips for a better morning routine. Yep.

5 tips to stop you checking your phone every 10 seconds. Click.

10 things all those people you want to be do before 5am. Check.

I know that it is click bait, but I can’t help it, I’ll click every time.

I don’t know what it is. I think I know myself pretty well, I think I’m self aware. I know that I can’t spring out of bed every morning at 5am and write for an hour before the rest of my house wakes up. I can squeeze in some frantic typing if my partner does bedtime stories, so that’s extra time picked up every few days for writing.

But when I see those few words, the optimistic idea that I could read one article and become this amazing version of myself that gets everything done and more, I can’t help but click.

Recently though, I’ve had a productivity break through and it goes something like this: do stuff.

That’s it. Do stuff.

It doesn’t matter if you are single tasking or multi-tasking. It doesn’t matter what you focus on. It doesn’t matter if you have every single one of the notifications on your laptop or your phone switched on or off. It doesn’t matter if you are listening to Bach, heavy metal or the sound of the kettle boiling.

What matters is that you are doing something.

This is the focus that I’ve lost. I’ve become so worried about what I need to be doing that I’ve lost the ability to do as much of it as I used to. Which further feeds into the worry that I’ll never get it all done. Which further gives me the ridiculous idea that reading all these productivity articles is a way to achieve what I was actually doing before my mindset starting to trip me up: doing stuff.

Yes, of course, once you are fantastically busy doing actual stuff there are many ways to become more productive. Deep work is a great idea. I remain convinced that no novels are written in the 10 minutes between tweets and Instagram stories.

No amount of Pomodoro Timers can distract from the fact that you aren’t actually doing anything. They can only keep you focused if you are actually doing a task.

So, in order to get over this, and hopefully do it as quickly as possible before my to do list gets way out of hand, I’m back to tasking. Just simple, good old, doing stuff. By any means possible. The productivity advice can wait until I’ve ticked some things off the list.

What’s that? 10 tips for focusing while you’re cat is sitting next to you on the table making eyes that say ‘why haven’t you fed me today?’ Well, go on then… maybe just for 5 minutes… click…

This Girl Can? How About This Woman Can?

This Girl Can? How About #thiswomancan?

Listening to the radio this morning I heard a segment about the #thisgirlcan campaign run by Sport England. This campaign has been running for a while now. It is reaching out to women and encouraging them to be more active. Research showed that one of the main reasons that women don’t exercise is that they are worried about judgement and how they look when they do. This campaign aims to combat that and make women feel that they should take part, not worry about the reasons why they might not want to.

It got me thinking about the piece that I first wrote about this campaign when it launched. I scrolled back through the mists of my Medium account and found what I had written. It seems a good time to revisit those words and I’ve included the original post here with a few edits.

I don’t like it when I see blogs or articles written online which criticise. I’m not a big fan of the negative. Mainly just because I don’t believe that there is much in this world that is totally and utterly negative and so for all that stuff in the middle that is just a bit ‘not OK’ maybe we could all exercise some balance?

This is one of the reasons that I don’t tend to write anything about things that I don’t like myself. I think ‘well it’s not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it speaks to someone else.’ Yet there is one thing that has been going around and around in my mind recently and now I want to write about it.

I’m a runner. I’m a woman. And, on the whole, I really like the #thisgirlcan campaign run by Sport England.

Their message is simple: ‘This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it.’

And it is a great message. There are so many new runners that come along to our club who think from the start that they aren’t fast enough, can’t run far enough, don’t know what they are doing. When they ask questions about how to ‘become a runner’ I just say — you are a runner.

So where does the message fall down for me? The use of the word ‘girl’. This girl can? Does that apply to me? Not really. I have two kids, I’ve been running since I went to university. When I compete in races I am in the VF35 age category — Veteran Female. Not girl.

The campaign is aimed at girls and women from 14-60. It isn’t just aimed at girls, it is aimed at adults.

I want women to join up for sports, to go out and find something they love doing and ‘just do it.’ Why do we have to do this at the expense of acknowledging that on the one hand we know what we are doing   but on the other hand we are all ‘girls’?

Much of the campaign focuses on women who take their sport seriously, as well as beginners. I can’t help but feel that using the word ‘girl’ to describe grown women who are taking their sport to the next level is somehow diminishing that.

It would just take one more letter on that hashtag. #thiswomancan Why don’t we show girls these women as role models that they can look up to and aspire to be? Aspire to be the person who decides to try kickboxing for the first time, or who is running their 100th marathon? Wouldn’t this be such a great message?  Hey girls, look at these women!

I know a lot of people will say it is just one word. Friends of mine have said this to me. I agree, it is just one word, but it is one word that I’ve not used to describe myself for a long time.

So yes, I’m all in for taking part in sport but for me I’d rather own my age, and my identity as as woman in sport, at the same time as owning my sport.

Freelancing and the Never Ending Salary Discussion

Freelancing and the Never Ending Salary Discussion

I read this article from Independents United about salary transparency with interest. I will fully admit that I have always been someone who never really wanted to talk about salary. I’m nosy enough to want to know what someone else earns but if that means I have to say how much I earn, suddenly I’m not so interested.

However, having just started out as a freelancer, I’m also realising that the luxury of being coy about how much I charge is fast disappearing. When every person you meet wants to know what you do there is a moment at which that interest is going to turn to how much they would have to pay you to do it.

I get it, it is completely natural. As a business owner, especially for startups and SMEs, you are talking to someone you’ve just met about your business and they are talking to you in an engaging and interesting way about what they do and how it could enhance your own work. You’re already thinking ahead: What projects could they work on for us? And, inevitably, how much is this going to cost me?

In the same way that I’ve never wanted to talk to someone about my own salary, at first I really didn’t want to talk about how much I charge. But then as I realised people were curious I also started to learn that how much you charge can be used as another benchmark by people who want to work with you as to the quality of your work and where you sit compared to other people they have spoken to.

When this all started out and I was feeling a little uncomfortable about it I sat down and had a good think about what I wanted to charge. I did my research: What are other people charging? What should I charge? How do other people go about deciding what to charge? I learnt that what you charge and what you earn are two different things and this gave me a chance to really think about what my overheads were where before I just assumed I had none. (Note: you never have no overheads!)

I’ve discovered that telling someone what you charge and negotiating what they are going to pay are also two different things. Salary negotiations for a new job are perfectly natural but when every new piece of work or contract is a small scale salary negotiation you need to decide if there is any room for manoeuvre once you’ve put a price on a project. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules here. Sometimes I negotiate, sometimes I politely say that the price I’ve given is the only price I’ll do it for.

If you look around in your niche you won’t have to look far for to find someone who is happy to disclose what they earn from their work each month. There are many people in social media, bloggers, digital nomads, who are happy to put together and share a monthly report of what they earn and how they’ve earnt it. I find these fascinating. From seeing how people utilise other revenue streams, make passive income, run online mentoring in their niche, it is so much more than the numbers they are sharing.

So I think I’m somewhere in between at the moment. I definitely have a good sense of what I would charge for a project but I’m not quite on board with laying it bare on my blog once a month. Maybe one day, but not right now.

Overall, I think transparency is good. Whether we are talking about money, how we do business, our values, our lives or our families, being as open as we feel we can be is a great way to conduct yourself in any part of your life.

2017 Year of Video

2017: My Year of Video

Late in December I saw that my online friend and all-round nice guy Paul Thomson had challenged himself to do #365daysofvideo in 2017. His aim is to record video of some kind every day in 2017.

My first thought on this was — eek! That’s a lot of video!

But as with the best ideas, after that it got me thinking.

I’ve recently launched my own video podcast; Follow Me: Social Media Perspectives and I did my first vlog the same week. Actually starting my YouTube channel and posting my first few videos was a big deal for me and I felt like it was the start of something big as well.

More thinking. It’s not like I could join him, right? I mean, video content every day in 2017? That’s a crazy idea. Right?

December wore on. I was still thinking about it. Planning my next few video podcast guests and scribbling notes for new vlogs.

When I started doing video content late last year I had just one thought: this is my MVP. I’ve never edited a video myself, despite having project managed editing many times. I’d written scripts and questions, invited guests, set up filming days but me and my own skills and equipment had never been pressed into service.

When I thought about all the reasons that I didn’t want to do video after the initial and most natural thought everyone has — eek! Is that really what I look like?! — it came down to the quality of my videos. I knew that I didn’t have the equipment or skills to go straight in with a polished final edit.

But then my internal monologue of doubt started to listen to what I tell my clients. Everyone has to start somewhere. Quality content always shines through. Think of this as a first go, you are building from here, every time you do this is a chance to improve and grow.

Suddenly it didn’t seem to daunting. Just playing around and recording the ideas that I had seemed to work. I was pleased with what I had said. I contacted my first podcast guest to pitch her the idea, and she agreed. I was off!

So when I thought about video content every day in 2017, I was suddenly thinking — why not?

As of today, Saturday 14th January 2017, I have published video content everyday. For me, I’ve chosen to include all video content in my challenge, including Instagram Stories and Snapchat. I have learnt so much from just messing around with these already that I know I’ll use for my vlogging and podcast.

I’ve recorded my second podcast episode, which I’m so proud of. Recording one could have been a one-off, but no, two makes it real! I’m going to edit it this weekend and release it next week.

So, I’m off to a good start. I think. It was only yesterday that it got to the end of the day and I realised I’d not made any content and recorded a hasty message on my Stories. Every other day I’ve found nice things to record or document, retold a little story or shared a client challenge from work.

I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m keen to have you all along for the ride. You can follow me on Instagram or Snapchat as @thatlaurawinton and subscribe to my YouTube channel here.