Young and Free(lance): Hot tips for working at home

I have been able to claim rights to the somewhat envied title of “Freelancer” for three years now, and in three years I have learnt a lot, especially about how to motivate myself at home. It’s easy to do, but like anything in life it requires moderation, dedication and some leniency thrown in. If you aren’t careful you can lose hours in the day to that coffee and news in bed, but on the flipside you can also overwork yourself until your weekends are day six and seven of the working week; so how do you survive?

Below are nine of my personal tools/tips for surviving working at home, some might work for you and some might not, try them out and see what is convenient for you:

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Get Yourself Dressed

Sitting in your pyjamas or even just lounge wear is easy to do, but it won’t help you get in the zone. Getting dressed up smartly might feel unnecessary but it will help you focus, and will even help you feel more confident about your work.

Michael L. Slepian et al. Investigated The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing, and during their study they discovered that wearing formal clothing correlates with a boost in abstract processing. This is when we isolate a relationship or common feature between a number of things. It's great for problem solving, and can help you think outside the box a bit more.

In addition, formal clothing also seems to help us feel more relevant and confident in our abilities, perhaps because we associate more formal clothing with success. So take off those trackies and dress for success.

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Plan your tasks

Sit down and plan your day/week/month/quarter, whichever increment you like. Once you have a plan, check in everyday to see how you are doing.

If you are like me I like to write down my tasks everyday. I do a broad monthly plan, but checking in everyday to look at and register even the smallest tasks, helps me to break down what can seem like a daunting journey.

The organized mind.

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Invest In A Good Chair

If you have a standing desk hooray! Please skip to my next tip, but if you do not please read on.

If you have an Apple Watch or a Fitbit or other, you know that sitting down for too long is not recommended, but the nature of many desks jobs is you will likely be sitting down for awhile, whether you do it in one long stretch or small sessions is up to you, as is the choice of your chair. You know your body, but investing in a good chair not only eases your back, but can actually help you to improve your posture over time.

The bonus is you also don’t need to splurge on a Herman Miller Aeron chair (add it to the mood board though), there are plenty of chairs such as the ones below which are stylish and comfortable.

Herman Miller Sayl Suspension Back Office Chair

Abbey Medium Back Leather Office Chairs

Ergo-tek Mesh Manager Chair

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Get A Filing System That Works

A USB, a floppy disk, a CD, an SD Card, a hard file, Dropbox, icloud, One Drive, Google Drive etc. there are hundreds of storage options, some are easier than others to work with, but I suggest you stick to two or three options max.

Using a cloud storage option like Dropbox, means your files are backed up, can be easily accessed, and you can easily add more space if and when you need it. For me this is a great option, especially if I find myself hopping from one spot to another, it just makes my life a little more flexible and also means if my laptop becomes a casualty, which it once did, i’m not left weeping over my lost files.

Good old paper, punched pockets, and files are still hard to beat. I like to print and keep anything to do with accounting, not because it is “safe'“, but because I personally struggle to fully grasp numbers unless I can see them all together and in a hard copy form. I’m all for being environmentally friendly but this is an honest exception for me.

Not sure what works? Try different styles out and see what sticks, maybe you automatically like to print everything. Either way make sure you figure out a system that works, if not for you, for anyone who has to live with you and your home office.

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Home is Home, Work is Work

If you think your are deviating from work, and maybe trying to over-rationalise an activity, ask yourself if this is a home job or a work job. Are you cleaning the sink? That is a home job, no matter how much more productive you think it will make you, it’s time lost. Are you looking at your energy and water bills? That is also a home job which you can save for later.

Distinguishing your day to follow a normal office life, despite your location, will help you separate work from home life. There will be exceptions, like the friends who are begging you to bake a cake for your friend for tonight because you work at home and it just makes sense for you too, but pick these exceptions wisely. Yes you are at home but you are also working.

If in doubt get smart, if you know you will be tempted to clean the sink, clean it before you start your work day.

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Know When to Change It Up

Whether you work at home part of the time, or all the time, it’s likely you might start to need a change of scenery. I can’t speak for everyone but there came a time for me where I needed a change, partially exasperated by my lack of constant colleagues. The solution for me was to recognise when I needed a change of scenery and to go out and work in any coffee shop with decent plugs. It felt a bit cliché, but it really helps in jolting my thinking when I might be feeling stuck. It also get’s me out and about amongst people, which in the early days was a welcome habit.

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Stick By Your Decisions

Some day’s you might have worked hard all month and taking a weekday off might just feel so right, so do it. It’s likely a few voices, either your own on others, will pipe up and judge you for working from home, or for taking an afternoon off because you have that job on Saturday. All I can say is you are the one making the decisions so embrace it, it’s the one big luxury that you have when working from home. It’s possible you will take an afternoon off and in that afternoon a work storm will strike, but if you know you have planned and you believe in your capabilities, you know it will work out one way or another.

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Move

If you hadn’t already gathered, movement is good for the body/soul. It is an antidote to many a problem, it is cheap, and it doesn’t necessarily mean weight lifting.

Picking your poison; for some walking around the local park and back before they work is perfect, for others it’s about pushing their body to the extremes using weights or others (with prior training I stress). For me personally, it’s a mixture of activities, solo and team activities help keep things interesting and keeps me motivated and successfully clears my head by allowing me to focus on just one activity.

How does it help me work from home? Working from home can be a little more relaxing than an office but that doesn’t mean stress isn’t accruing. It might be hours, days or a week, but without a bit of physical exercise it’s likely you will start to get tense, perhaps without even realising it. So preempt this, throwing a bit of exercise in your day can give it structure, offer some mental clarity, and just help you to unwind a little. It doesn’t have to be tough, just find what activity you like and that works with your schedule.

For those in need of inspiration:

  • Classpass: great if you like to change things up, or you just want to try out lots of activities to see what might work for you.

  • Go Mammoth: Team sports! If you like team sports, and perhaps don’t know enough people to make a team then Go Mammoth is great. They can stick you in a team with others. They host a variety of sports, in a variety of spots, for both men and women, so go forth and play!

  • Midnight Runners: There are lots of running clubs in London but these guys are the ones in the evenings carrying speakers. Run by Reebok this is a global community who basically get together most evenings and run around London.

**All photos sourced from Unsplashed

Self-care at Work

Self care is the big buzzword across many social media channels, it’s the luxury which is now considered a necessity, but what actually is it?

Perhaps you know it as the moisturiser that you get every few months just to treat yourself, or maybe it is the Deliveroo you order after that long day, either way it is the gesture which makes you feel a little bit closer to, the more commonly talked about, physical version of you - but what about the likes of your relationships, emotions, and your mind? These are all aspects that make you, You .

You spend a vast amount of your life at work, and a lot of what goes on there affects the other aspects of you, as such below are some tips for you to bear in mind when you want to up your TLC game.

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Pause, Slow Down, Breathe

It can be hard to pause, especially in a potentially fast paced environment. However, in the long run giving yourself time to breathe and recoup will allow you to practice resilience, and ultimately help you build a reputation for being stable. This kind of reputation helps you keep momentum at work, and keeps you on track for that promotion you might have in mind.

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Work on Building Relationships

Sometimes we find ourselves in positions where we say “Hi!” to a colleague but we never take a moment to get to know them. It might be the girl who you go to for graphics help, or the person you always see in the kitchen at 4pm, either way why not ask them if they want a coffee or if they want to grab a drink after work. Not only is it good to let you hair down and step away from work mid-week, but developing relationships can be a game-changer at work, and you might even find a new friend to bond over that strange hobby of yours.

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Try to Stop Using The Word “Should”

It’s pretty likely you life is already hectic, perhaps because of work or perhaps because of personal reasons, so why add more to your plate by saying “I should have done that.”. We have lots of things we could have done, and in many cases you still can, but give yourself some space to focus on what you are doing right now in the present. And if you cant stop yourself from ruminating, try changing “Should have” to “Could have” in your internal dialogue.

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Celebrate Yourself and Learn About Yourself

If you find the negative self-talk is getting to you, or you need to pick yourself up, write a list of your successes. Reminding ourselves of our successes can help us to remember what we are capable of, you may have negative self-talk but you still managed to do X.

A side opportunity with this activity is to learn why our successes were successful. If you were drawn to this activity because you cant figure out a problem, look back at your successes, and as well as celebrating them look at them and think about what made it a success; was it your drive? Was it the skillset at your disposal? Or was it the creative angle you brought to it?

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Get Away From Your Desk

If you have an office coffee machine and you bring in your own lunch, find other ways to get out of the office. Finding time to go out gives us space to do what we might need to do. Use the time to think of that problem, hold a walking meeting, or just be.

What to Wear to an Interview

Nik Macmillan

Nik Macmillan

You have come this far, and now you have an interview - what do you wear?

With a suit being given a run for it’s money by jeans and a T-shirt, it’s fair to say choosing an outfit has become a little more complicated. An interview is meant for you to be queried, and dare I say it the judged, so it’s important you do your research.

Below are some pointers as to what to consider when it comes to choosing your outfit.

Research the Company

It’s likely you have already done your due diligence, but take a look at the company again, is it a really relaxed company that frames itself in the same class as google or Red Bull? Or does it look a little more suit orientated e.g. it’s a law firm or an energy company? If their website doesn’t make it obvious you can always check out their social media accounts. If it’s still not obvious it’s likely best to be cautious.

Research the Role

So you find out you are interviewing with a fairly relaxed tech company, but what role are you interviewing for? If you are interviewing for a data scientist role maybe it’s okay to be a little more relaxed, but if you are interviewing for an investor-facing or client-facing role it might be worth considering that. You might be working around people in jeans and a t-shirt, but you might be working with companies and/or individuals who have a more formal attire.

Accessories and Colours

Unless you are interviewing for a fashion based role, it’s usually best to keep the bright colours and bulky jewellery to a minimum. An overload of both can be pretty distracting and ultimately might detract from what you are saying. It might seem over the top, but as humans we undoubtedly make connections between what colours we see and what this might predict, for example the age old wear blue or red to seem powerful. It’s true and according to this paper might be because we see them as dominant.

Do You

Having just given you some suggestions I now want to say - do you. If you have an interview with a law firm and you want to wear a bold pink suit because that makes you feel confident and feel like you, then go for it. Likewise if you want to wear a three piece suit to an interview for a jeans and t-shirt company because you know you can do your job in it, then go for it. And if you don’t get the job because of what you like to wear, then that company probably wasn’t for you.

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Satski Gamble - Founder of The Japanese Cupcake Academy

Satski Gamble - Founder of the Japanese Cupcake Academy

Satski Gamble - Founder of the Japanese Cupcake Academy

Satski Gamble is from Ibaraki, near Tokyo in Japan, she left to study at Long Island UniversityStony Brook University in NY after feeling that the status of women in rural Japan was too oppressed for her. Since her studies she has held jobs as a Henna Artist, a cupcake decorator, a keyboard player in a punk band, a translator and now she is the owner of the Japanese Cupcake Academy. I spoke with her to see how she managed to come, in a way, full circle.

AL: Hello Satski! So tell me what your first job was? Did you have a job at home in Japan?

SG: No, so when I was growing up women didn’t work so much, they were really meant to stay at home and be good housewives rather than work. It’s part of the reason why I left Japan. The women were just so oppressed and I was just curious about what else there was. I actually bought this book that had a bunch of American universities in – we didn’t have internet - and I just chose one which I knew was in a place that had seasons, I like the seasons so California didn’t appeal to me. My parents let me go on the condition that I would come back after graduation and weren’t happy but they were like “Go get a good a job in Japan and then come back and find a nice husband.”

AL: But you didn’t go back and instead you moved into Greenwich Village yes?

SG: Yea, I used to go to NYC every weekend and I was totally fascinated by it, so by the time I graduated, all I want to do is move to Manhattan, definitely not going back to Japan! I was in Long Island, it was really easy to get to Manhattan so when I finished I was just like well I don’t want to go back, so I decided to try and find work in New York.  Obviously my parents weren’t happy at all, they didn’t speak to me for a while because they just didn’t know what I was doing. 

AL: What did you end up doing in New York then?

SG: Well I started doing Henna on the street for people, I learnt this art while travelling Morocco and also I had quite a steady hand so it was easy for me to do, so I just hustled. I did it for about a month making probably around $100 dollars a day, until I saw an ad in a free newspaper Greenwich’s “ Village Voice” that was asking for Henna Artists, I applied to the job and the next day I suddenly get this call being like “We have a client who needs some Henna done, here are all the passwords you need to get into her Penthouse.”. I went into this penthouse after putting in so many passcodes and passwords, and then I arrived and it was Brooke Shields. It was crazy, I was on the street hustling one day and then I’m in Brooke Shields penthouse.  

AL: That’s quite funny, you were quite lucky there, because I assume you were an unlicensed vendor on the street, and then you have this new job where you are in Brooke Shields penthouse. Did you never get caught on the street?

SG: I was lucky, I never did get caught, I could have so easily.

 AL: Did you end up doing the henna full-time then? It must have been okay money?

SG: I didn’t, it was okay money, but it was only really an evening thing so I wanted a day job. I knew this bakery near me that every time I walked by smelt so good, so I went in and asked them if they would hire me. They needed cupcake decorators and the henna already meant I did have a steady hand that was good with design so I knew I could do it easily. They hired me that day.

AL: Now, the bakery is quite a famous bakery now isn’t it?

SG: Yes, so one day I’m at work and the manager says do you want to design this pink cupcake for these TV stars who were filming outside. I was broke and didn’t have cable, so I had no idea who these people were, but I said yes. It turns out that, the show was called Sex and the City, and I was designing cupcakes for Carrie Bradshaw. I didn’t realise how big a deal it was until a few days later when I got to work and there was this queue for blocks lined up outside the bakery – everyone was there to have a pink cupcake. That day was wild, it was honestly like a riot these people were banging on the windows saying “We want cupcakes!”. I remember we only made pink cupcakes that day, and we had to close midway through to catch-up. 

AL: It must have been pretty hectic from then on, did it make you want to do more cupcakes?

SG: Well I didn’t mind doing the cupcakes, but at the time I was also in a punk band that started doing pretty well in New York. It was around the time of LCD Soundsystem and The Strokes, so the scene was doing really well. We actually toured around America and The Strokes opened for us. We wanted to get signed, but we then got this offer from a record label in London asking us if we wanted to come over. We googled them and they looked legit so we thought why not.

AL: It sounds like you loved New York though, so you must have been sad to leave?

SG: Well, living in New York could be a gift or curse.  you get to party in New York, but everyone kind of keeps the same job but gets older. It was so common to walk into stores and to see 60 year olds who had, had that job for decades because you can easily get stuck in the bubble. I didn’t want to be a 60 year old cake decorator so it was time to try something new. It was `now or never` moment for me. `We were being recognised on the street now, but the lead singer of my band really believed she was going to be so famous, so she thought this was our break. 

AL: So you moved to London with your band, which area did you move to?

SG: Just my lead singer actually, it was only really her and I. She was crazy, very ambitious, but people didn’t like working with her. We didn’t have a place to stay so we would just ask people after our gigs if we could come and crash with them. It was pretty wild thinking back now, but it was easy, and I quite liked talking to people about what they did.

AL: Was your bandmate okay with this?

SG: She liked talking about herself, and the fans would listen so it worked for her.

AL: How long did you couch-surf for?

SG: About six months, at one point we crashed in a graveyard, that was weird and again pretty crazy thinking back to it. Eventually though we found out that the label didn’t want to sign us, instead they were going to sign The Editors.  

AL: What did you do then?

SG: I literally knew nobody in London at this point, and we had raised money back in NY to help us get over here to London, so we couldn’t go back. I started giving out Doilys to people on the bus to see if I could basically find friends. It was hard because the English obviously aren’t the most open, and back then they really were pretty quiet and not very friendly. I think they thought who is this crazy Japanese girl trying to sell me stuff when really all I was trying to do was find was some friends.

AL: Is a Doily one of those contact cards?

SG: Yes. It’s like a little business card which people use to always give out.

AL: Okay, I can imagine people must have been a little wary of you. I think even now if I saw someone at the bus stop giving out cards people would keep their heads down, not the friendliest but its usually just the British not wanting the awkwardness of “No” , or “Yes let me take all your flyers and secretly dump them in approximately 30 seconds.”. You clearly found friends eventually though – was it via doily?

SG: No, it was pretty scary giving out the doilys. Eventually however I bumped into this girl who I knew from New York. She had worked for American Vogue and knew my band from there – she had just been moved to British vogue when she bumped into me. She recognised me and invited me to this art exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery. I ended up sitting next to my husband. I gave him a doily and told him to call, he did, and we eventually got married.

AL: That’s a fantastic love story, at least one of you doilys clearly worked! Were you still in the band that whole time then? Were you even still trying to get signed?

SG: I was and we were. We kept going, my bandmate was still convinced she was going to be famous, but we weren’t getting too many gigs so I got a job as a Translator in the City. It was a good job that paid well, but I was made redundant one day.I walked out from my bandmate after I met my husband actually. I had enough…I wanted less drama in my life. Chasing your dream was priceless but at that point I was 32 and That was the time to give up.  I got a super square banking job in the city and worked really hard but I was made redundant after a while.

AL: At this point had you moved out of London?

SG: We had, and now it looked like I was just going to be a suburban housewife, which like in Japan, I didn’t want to be. Cupcakes were now huge in the UK, it had taken a few years for people to catch on over here, but now people loved them so I thought I would do a Cupcake recipe book. I did it, but I still felt like “Oh, this is it.”. I had one child at this point but I still wanted  to do more, so we decided to move to Japan for a few years.

AL: What happened in Japan then?

SG: In Japan you can turn a skill into a sort of graded system with levels, and you can call it ‘X’ method. People do these and it’s sort of a thing where people collect these skills and methods. 

AL: Is it like yoga were they have Iyengar Yoga for instance?

SG: Kind of I think. An example is like the Ikebana flower arranging method, it’s trained in levels. I decided to do this with my cupcake & icing method. I wanted to teach Japanese housewives to take responsibility, so when we moved back to England after a few years I started delegating a lot of the work to see If I could help build individual confidence. Japanese women are so humble, so I really have to push them. I now work with agencies who call every so often and see if I have someone who can ice some cupcakes in a department store for example. I make sure I choose someone who might have kids so I can help them get out of the house. It’s exciting for them to do, and confidence building.

AL: It’s really interesting how you kind of came full circle. You didn’t want to be a Japanese housewife but here you are working with them now. Are you going to grow the business? Is there a way you could help more?

SG: I think now it’s good, I will see how it goes though. People always say I should do a shop, but I don’t want to have the pressure of running a shop – maybe if I find a good partner I would.

AL: It’s incredible how you have hustled so much, I think now, in all honesty, if someone did a lot of what you have done people might roll their eyes a little and question what you are doing - would you have any advice for similar hustlers?

SG: Be charming. You really need to win people over, my bandmate really didn’t have that and I think that’s why she hasn’t been as successful as she might have been.

AL: But how do you keep the charm whilst you are struggling so much? Charm can be hard to develop, even more so when you are under such pressure.

SG: Well, being in NYC and in music business etc., I have seen a lot of Diva behaviours which taught me to be complete opposite of that. If you treat others unkindly, you will be treated the same way and if you are kind to others, they will like you!  It’s so simple and also it boosts your confidence.

AL: Thank you Satski, a pretty amazing series of jobs to hear about.   

**This interview has been paraphrased in order to condense it**

Excel Refresher and Simple Excel Shortcuts To Save You Time

Need an Excel refresher?

Save time and improve your excel knowledge with these starter shortcuts.

Copy
Copy items from one cell/area so you can paste them elsewhere in your workbook.
PC: Ctrl + C
Mac: Cmd + C

Paste
Once you have copied items, use this shortcut to paste them elsewhere
PC: Ctrl + V
Mac: Cmd + V

Undo
When you need to quickly undo something
PC: Ctrl + Z
Mac: Cmd + Z

Save a workbook
Save. Just always save your work, and now you have the shortcut so you have no excuse.
PC: Ctrl + S
Mac: Cmd + S

Bold
Bolds text/data. When dealing with a vast sheet of data and/or text use this bold shortcut to help you section it out.
PC: Ctrl + B
Mac: Cmd + B

Add Borders
Adds borders around the selected cell(s). Like the bold function use this to help you section out your worksheets.
PC: Alt + H, B
Mac: Ctrl + Shift + &

Delete Column
Sometimes you need to just delete a whole column for whatever reason, use this shortcut.
PC: Alt + H, D, C
Mac: Ctrl + -

Insert Table
If you need a table select your data and then use this shortcut or vice versa.
PC: Ctrl + T
Mac: Cmd + T

Select Entire Row
If you want to quickly highlight a row, perhaps because you want to format the whole row use this.
PC: Shift + Space
Mac: Shift + Space

Select Entire Column
Like above, if you want to quickly format a whole row use this shortcut.
PC: Ctrl + Space
Mac: Shift + Space

Hide Row
If you are dealing with a large data sheet hiding rows and columns can be really useful in order for you to compare data which might be rows/columns apart.
PC: Ctrl + 9
Mac: Cmd + 9

Hide Column
Like above, hiding a column can be really useful to compare data across a large data set.
PC: Ctrl + 0
Mac: Cmd + 0

Copy formula from a cell above
If you know the formula above is what you need to copy use this shortcut and then paste.
PC: Ctrl + ‘
Mac: Cmd + ’

Copy Value from a cell above
If you know the value above is what you need to copy use this shortcut.
PC: Ctrl + Shift + “
Mac: Cmd + “

Top Freelance Websites To Get That Side Hustle Going

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Side hustle” seems to be the buzzword of the moment (just like buzzword seems to be). If you have a successful hobby, have visions of running your own Brexit free empire or you simply just want some extra cash it can be a pretty fun idea to play with.

So how do you start said side hustle? There are many options, many people start by making things for their friends and colleagues, but one of the most common method is via freelance websites. If you haven’t already heard of these, these are websites designed for all kinds of freelancers. Most allow any type of freelancer, but as you will see, some are more specialised for certain freelancers, which many argue is a better way to get good, potentially higher paying jobs.

  1. PeoplePerHour

    UK centric company. Peopleperhour (PPH) accept any type of freelancer as long as you make it through the moderation team. You can apply to up to 15 jobs free per month, there after you have to buy credits to apply. You can create bundles which you sell, e.g. for £10 I will proofread a 500 word segment. This is great, especially if you get traction with customers. It’s also worth noting PPH do register you as a top seller if you are turning around a lot of business. Like any search engine, this means you will appear higher up the seller list when buyers are searching for freelancers. It is also worth noting that PPH commission is around 10% per job.

  2. Upwork

    The more international version of PPH, most freelancers can find work here because there is such a variety of jobs. Once you have applied and passed you can start applying to different jobs which are usually pretty high paying. The fee that Upwork takes is a little higher than PPH, but it is staggered per client meaning the first $500 you earn with just one client they take 20%, from $500 to $10,000 they take 10%, and then above that it drops to 5% (again this only applies if the earnings are from the same client everytime).

  3. Fiverr

    The biggest freelance platform worldwide. It caters to most freelancers, but you are likely to see a lot of other writers, developers, designers and editors. The idea is once you have created a profile you can create the gigs that you are going to sell. A bit like the others except it’s a bit more specific to you. You can charge anywhere from $5 to $10,000, and Fiverr takes $1 for every $5, so 20% of every transaction. This is pretty high in comparison to other sites, but on the plus side they have a Learn section which teaches freelancers how to really sell their services.

  4. TaskRabbit

    If building Ikea furniture is your calling Taskrabbit is perfect. It’s focused on mainly physical jobs such as cleaning and moving, but it does also list jobs for the likes of virtual assistants. It cost’s £20 to register, and you have to physically go to a meeting and prove your identity, but it notifies you by text when there is a job nearby. They take a 15% fee for each job.

  5. DesignWorks

    One of the staple freelancer roles is a graphic designer, as such DesignWorks came up with its website purely for Graphic Designers. It’s a simple system in which Designers can either apply for jobs, or they can enter design competitions which companies post. The competitions involve putting forward a design for a brief which might then be chosen by the company. DesignCrowd take a 15% commission.

Simon Tefula - Founder of TRENDiPEOPLE

Simon Tefula - Founder of TRENDiPEOPLE

Simon Tefula - Founder of TRENDiPEOPLE

Simon Tefula is a serial entrepreneur. He started out with a Law Degree from Manchester University & a Masters in HR & Business Studies but quickly found his way into the Startup world where he is now, among other things, a start-up coach. I chatted with him to see what drives him.

 

AL – So you have had many jobs, which we will get to, but what was your first job? Did you have a job at school?

ST - My first job was at B&Q stacking shelves, it was when I was at school. I always just worked, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t work.

 

AL – So you were quite academic too?

ST – Well at school I did Law, Economics and Business Studies for A-Level, so quite academic. My dad just wanted us all to get a good job. I then went to study Law at Manchester University. After realising Law wasn’t for me, I decided to study a Masters in HR & Business Studies at Aston.

 

AL – What was that like?

ST – I really liked learning Law, but I’m quite a creative person, and at trials for instance you have to wear really straight, modest, grey clothing that has no personality and I didn’t really like that, I like to wear bold clothing, so I wanted to do something different. I decided to get a job at a Start-up after uni that helped companies apply for EU funding. At that time there was a lot of EU funding available, it was easy funding so we helped them fill out all the necessary legal forms to apply.

 

AL – It must have been pretty interesting to see all the companies?

ST -  Yea, definitely it was nice to help them, and it was quite easy to do, but if you don’t know how to do legal paperwork it could have been really tough to approach stuff like that.

 

AL – I can confirm that trying to figure out a lot of paperwork is incredibly daunting. I think the first time I did anything like that I went over it, knowing it was probably common sense, but I didn’t want to miss one thing and pay for it. How long did you stay there?

ST – Exactly! If you don’t know it can be confusing, but once you do understand it it’s straight forward.

I was there for about 18 months, and then I decided to go and do a Masters in HR at Birmingham. My parents lived there, but I lived in Uni Halls. It was quite good. HR is really all about understanding the psychology that motivates people. This course taught me how to understand people and their psychology. I also learnt how to create and run training programmes.  

 

AL – Why a masters in HR?

ST – I wanted to understand people a bit more, I also wanted to try something different from Law but complemented Law. It was 2008 so it was around the time companies first started using Social Media to engage with customers. It was really interesting to see, so I did my dissertation on how companies could use social media to engage customers before it was really a mainstream thing. I also looked into whether or not companies could create an internal social media networks for their employees, kind of like an internal Facebook. I thought it would be such a good idea. It was quite funny because really just after I’d completed my dissertation, a company called Yammer started licensing an internal software that provided just that. Yammer  did so well they were eventually bought by Microsoft.

 

AL – That’s pretty cool, quite fortuitous of you. Your dissertation also sounds quite fortuitous, were many companies using Social Media back then? Maybe it’s my age, but I thought it was a fairly recent thing?

ST -  They were using it a little, it was only really Facebook then, and also websites. At the time my brother and I were just having a bit of fun and started taking pictures of people wearing quite weird, and interesting things around campus. We did it just for fun, just because you would see some colourful outfits. We turned it into a blog called studentfashionblog.co.uk. Really basic idea, but we did it enough and eventually fashion brands started contacting us saying they would give us free clothes for these people to wear if we photograph them. It was just as a joke really but it was the first time we had seen brands offering free stuff for content.

 

AL – That is pretty early, I really thought brands would have been slower to uptake that kind of content. What happened to the StudentFashionBlog?

ST - Eventually we sold it on. A guy offered to buy it from us and we were never really in it for the money, just for fun, so we sold it to him.

 

AL – And then what?

ST – I went to work for a PR firm for a bit. They needed someone to help with their Social Media and I now had a bit of experience. I wasn’t there for too long though. I got an idea for this platform, kind of like Twitter but for fashion. I realised that the problem with the fashion & beauty industry was that they promoted a distorted and harmful image of ‘beauty.’ I believed then and still believe now that every single person is a unique and beautiful individual in their own way. I decided to create fashion social network that enabled anyone to celebrate and share their individuality through fashion while getting rewarded. The idea was for a website or software where people could post pictures of themselves and start their own trends while getting rewarded by brands. I hired developers to build the first version of it. However eventually I got too nervous. It wasn’t my industry, and my business model relied on too much advertising. I realised that I’d need hundreds of thousands or even more people to make a success of it so I decided to park the idea as I was not going to be able to afford developing and maintaining it while we try to secure advertisers. In between that I went back into full time jobs while trying to figure out my next move.

 

AL – You thought it would take too much time?

ST – Yes. It was just a big risk, and I wasn’t sure. Eventually I decided to spend some time travelling to East African. It was really good for me. People in that part of the world are very entrepreneurial so it was great checking out the opportunities available there.

 

AL – Are they just always hustling?

ST – Most people in East Africa, have to be very creative due to the lack of job opportunities. Those that are lucky enough to have a job also have other jobs side hustles/jobs. When I was in Uganda, one of the things that I noticed was that many NGO’s and charities that are meant to be helping the locals tend to employ a significant number of western staff and few locals. The majority of their products and services were very much procured from western countries. Their cars, the food, the clothing. This lead me to question whether most people in the west truly understand how these international charities really operate on the ground.

 

AL – And how did this help you when you came back to the U.K.?

ST – It made me appreciate all the opportunities that I had living the UK. I decided to invest in myself and improve my skills as you can never go wrong with that. I wanted practical skills, so I decided to get my LPC* at Cardiff. While in Cardiff I struggled to find an Afro Caribbean barber that was close enough to my flat. This created that light bulb moment to create a platform that connected people with skill in fashion and beauty to clients.

 

AL – What is TRENDiPEOPLE?

ST – TRENDiPEOPLE is an on-demand marketplace for bespoke fashion products and services. We connect clients to fashion professionals that make bespoke fashion products and services like Tailors, Dressmakers, Seamstresses, Alterations, Personal Stylists and shoppers. The idea is basically to get people in contact with makers and small entrepreneurs. We want people to sell their skills.

 

AL – That idea came along quite awhile ago now, around 2013 you were at Cardiff, so what’s happened since?

ST – The idea has obviously evolved from what it was originally. Initially it was just going to be a social network for fashionistas. However that idea was parked when I realised that it was just not feasible. In it’s current form, it’s bespoke fashion marketplace.

 

AL – I know when I first started there were so many questions I came across, I think I was lucky because I had parents who taught me to use common sense, but when lots of things like bill’s cross your desk you need to have your whit’s about you, so I can see why people would like your workshop. Has this helped TRENDiPEOPLE then? It looks like this has helped you experience wise, and maybe capital wise?

ST – I still do motivational talks to encourage and empower people from under-represented background to be the best versions of themselves. I now also do the Simon Tefula show which showcases emerging entrepreneurs and small business owners, but yes, I’ve been working with developers to launch TRENDiPEOPLE.

 

AL – Do you think you do too much? I know I feel like sometimes I have too many projects, and people always seem to hammer away saying entrepreneurs should always focus on one thing, do you think this at all?

ST – You know I will eventually do two to three projects max hopefully, but right now I need the funding so you have to juggle. The side gigs help for funding. I like what I am doing, it’s hard, but it’s supporting and empowering people so it’s okay.

 

AL – Can I ask how you stay motivated then? Juggling isn’t easy especially if you are working partially as a solo entrepreneur so what do you do? I mean do you ever struggle?

ST – I believe in doing work that empowers people and makes our world a better place. I definitely get imposter syndrome, however I know I don’t like 9-to-5 jobs, and I know I love motivating and empowering people, so you know you just have to make sure you keep yourself balanced.

 

AL – Final question for you, any advice for entrepreneurs? Even just one tip you stick by?

ST – That’s hard. But I would say three things: firstly, Just get started. There’s no such thing as the perfect time to get started. If you wait for all the ducks and stars to align, you’ll be waiting forever. Start where you are, with what you have and do what you can. Secondly, Network, Network, Network. Find like minded supportive people with similar interests that will keep you going. Finally, Upgrade your software, read, watch YouTube, whatever, but make sure you teach yourself all the time. It’s important to keep improving your knowledge.

 

AL – Thank you Simon! It’s been really interesting to hear how you have ended up where you are. I think it’s pretty incredible to see how you have successfully adapted to so many different jobs, and how you have been helping motivate entrepreneurs, I know it can be hard so it’s pretty impressive work. I’m also intrigued to see how TRENDiPEOPLE goes.

 

Keep an eye out for TRENDiPEOPLE coming soon! If you are looking for a personalised/bespoke fashion item like a dress, suit or fancy dress outfit TRENDiPEOPLE is UK’s first marketplace for bespoke fashion. If you want to hire a Tailor, Dressmaker, Seamstress, Personal Stylist or Shopper check out our TRENDiPEOPLE or directly email simon@trendipeople.co and him and his team will help you sell your skills or connect with the right team! For the past year at least once a week, Simon has publishing a one minute video of motivation, inspiration and encouragement called #SimonTsays on Instagram and Linkedin.

 

-       The Simon Tefula Show - https://open.spotify.com/show/7a5AQp9jStblV6kJhMlEP5

-       Refined Creatives - http://refinedcreatives.co.uk/

-       TRENDiPEOPLE - http://www.trendipeople.co/

-       Simon Tefula - http://simontefula.com/

How To Stop Procrastinating

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There are two types of procrastination, active and passive, or adaptive and maladaptive. The former can be useful, it’s usually for the people who thrive in the eleventh hour, you know the ones who don’t study at all until the night before an exam and still pass with flying colours (sigh). The latter, however, is the more common form of procrastination, and it is the one you need to watch out for. It’s the creative voice that says I can’t right now because I need to talk to X, I don’t want too right now because I want to eat this snack, and perhaps; I can do it later because it isn’t urgent. This is unhelpful procrastination, which is fine, until you find this voice is starting to affect the quality of your life and work, then it’s time to shake up how you handle it.

Below I have outlined some points that might shed some light on why you personally procrastinate, and how you can handle it. Remember everyone has different methods, it’s just about finding what works for you and when.

  1. Anticipate the future

    We are psychologically terrible at anticipating the future, we are hardwired to focus on the here and now, so when we get handed a task thats due in three months, we don’t focus on it. From a threat point of view this makes sense, but if you know the next three months will be hectic, and the chances of getting it done well will be slim, it might be better to do it now. Step back. Take a new perspective of the scenario. What could happen if you did it now? Would it make your life that much easier in the future? Would it be tough but worth it? If you answered yes to any of these you know what to do.

  2. Know thyself

    Going back to the introduction here; there is such a thing as good procrastination, and that is active or adaptive procrastination. This is a strategic procrastination that many people employ because they know it works for them. If you know that waiting until the final moment where the intensity of time pressures you to work brilliantly, then by all means use adaptive procrastination, but if you know that you have been there and you have cracked under the pressure on a regular basis, don’t wait.

  3. Too much to handle

    If you are sitting at your desk with you head in your hands because you honestly have no idea where to start, break it down as far as you need to. A simple solution, but don’t doubt it’s effectiveness even if you have used it before. If you are feeling overwhelmed it can help you slowly restart.

  4. How do you measure your self worth?

    Are you scared of failure? Do you think failure will make you worthless? Do you measure yourself according to how you perform? If so, it’s time to realign yourself.

    Doing a job, particularly one that you love, makes it easy for us to tie our self-worth to how we perform, and that can be a good thing, as long as we remember it isn’t the sole thing that makes us worthy. You are a sum total of your thoughts, family, friends, your work, the adventures you have had, skill sets you hold, your tastes, how you treat people and the list goes on. Remember that when you tell yourself you can’t do something.

  5. Set some goals and get them to stick

    You are now focused, so how do you stop procrastination from creeping in again?

    Set some goals. Goals can help you keep a routine which may not be your style, but it really will keep you on-track and help you slip out of procrastination mode that much easier in the future. So, try writing down some goals that you want to achieve, break them down into smaller, easier steps like you read above, and give yourself some deadlines. If you need help sticking to them try the following:

    • Accountability - Find someone, or something, that will help keep you on track. Be it an app, a friend, or even a pet (Have a dog? They can give you a routine).

    • Visualise - What would it look like, feel like, and taste like if you just successfully finished your tasks with ease? It wont always be easy, but if it gets your goals to stick try following in Michael Phelps’ very large footsteps and practice visualising success. If you can, set aside some time before doing a task to close your eyes and just visualise its completion.

    • Reward yourself - Food driven? Exercise driven? or perhaps you are driven by fun? Figure out a system whereby every-time you achieve a goal you reward yourself in some small way.

It is almost certain that you will procrastinate again in your life, so when you do, remember to cut yourself some slack, and simply start again when you are ready.

JF