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Virtual Office Space - Our Top 7 tips for choosing

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Working from home, but don't want your clients to know that? Many freelancers find that a virtual office is the perfect solution while they get their business up and running.

As well as providing a place to meet clients and collaborators, a virtual office means you'll have a professional-sounding address for business correspondence and deliveries.

But a virtual office can become more than that, too. Pick the right one, and your virtual office can one day become your real office, giving you a cost-effective working environment and the day-to-day social contact that many people miss when working from home.

However, with so many options available,  how do you to choose between them?

Our Top 7 Virtual Office Tips:

  1. Don't have the same address as another thousand businesses. Do they provide a selection of central London addresses and don't allocate too many businesses to the same address? When you use their address you don't really want it used by thousands of other companies, so Google the address and see what is shows - you want to find a discrete address that doesn't scream 'virtual office'.
     
  2. Make sure there's room to grow. If your business grows does the Virtual Office service provide options to grow with you? Features like shared office space or desk space at the same address so that you don't need to change your address when you grow?
     
  3. Make sure they provide a both a Trading and Registered address. Can they provide both a Trading Address and a Registered Address for your business? A Trading Address is one where you can use the address on your business cards and website and have letters/goods delivered, whereas a Registered Address is one where you can use the address for statutory mail, ie. mail from Companies House and HMRC. This is how  Companies House defines a Registered Address:

          "All companies must have a registered office, which must be situated at a physical location in their country of registration. It can be your business address, the address of your accountant or any other address you choose. However, it must be an address at which you will be able to deal with all official letters and notices that you receive."
    - Companies House

     
  4. Large package delivery. Do they allow delivery of large packages or only letters? Make sure that you can have larger items delivered and cared for as well as small letters.
     
  5. Same day mail forwarding. How quickly can they forward mail? Is it forwarded on the same day as received or the next day? Do they tell you when mail is received/forwarded? How do they ensure that mail sent has been received by you?
     
  6. Bespoke Telephone Answering. What telephone answering services do they provide? Is it 24/7? Can their telephone assistants answer questions about your company according to your supplied information or do they simply take messages?
     
  7. Meeting rooms and Hot Desks. Can you use the address as a physical base? Are you able to visit your trading or registered address and meet your clients there?  If you need to work for a few hours in-between meetings do they have a hot desking service that you can use?

ABOUT RENTADESK

The Rentadesk coworking community helps freelancers, independent workers, and entrepreneurs build their dream business in a fun, inspirational environment, surrounded by like-minded individuals. Check out if Rentadesk is right for you.

Work from Home Vs Coworking

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Having worked from home for over 3 years before starting at the Rentadesk coworking community here's my rundown of the good and bad of working from home vs a coworking space.

Pros

There's no commuting so you save time and money, yay!

You get that extra little time in bed each morning, ah the luxury of it all!

You can dress 'very casually' aka work in your pyjamas all day

All the comforts of home are just a few feet away - fancy a nap? Have a lay down for 20 minutes, nobody will know!

You can rustle up lunch at home in a jiffy without paying over fiver for a sandwich and cappuccino at Pret, saving a small fortune.

Fancy making use of a beautiful sunny day when there's not much work to do? Just drop everything and enjoy the rest of the day doing whatever takes your whimsy.

Cons

It's socially isolating, your world narrows down to the TV, your partner (if you have one) and next doors cat. Some people can handle this and even enjoy it, but most of us prefer at least some face-to-face social interaction each day.

You're missing out from all the connections you make through meeting people in a coworking community - connections that put you in touch with new customers and new collaborators.

Still on slooow Internet DSL at home? You're losing productivity compared to the Fibre Internet connections available in most offices these days.

Believe it or not, the walking and climbing stairs involved in most commutes may be a considerable part of your daily exercise, so if you stay at home you're going to need to make up for this with more exercise - boo!

Meeting your clients at home or in the local coffee shop may not give the best impression, some industries still expect you to have an office or a business address to feel comfortable doing business with you.

If you have a family, you'll get lumbered with all the little errands 'because you're at home already' - after all it's not a 'proper' business is it?

Noise and distractions! Children, dogs, postmen, noisy neighbours, nosy neighbours, builders, Jehovah's witnesses...the list goes on and on!

You've been tied to your home all day waiting for that all important package from one of your client's to arrive, but you pop out for 5 minutes to get some milk for that much needed coffee, only to return to a  'we just missed you' card from the delivery driver...argggh! 

Separating work from home life can be difficult when working at home unless you have a will of steel you'll end up working all hours and find it difficult to switch off and stop thinking of work, especially if you don't have a separate office within your home and just use the living room or kitchen table.

All your bills go up - electricity, gas, phone all from the extra usage of your home  during the daytime.

If anything goes wrong - with the internet, the phones, the printer -it's you that needs to fix it!

 

So there you have it - my pros and cons of working from home. The best bit is that you don't need to commit to one or the other these days, you can mix them both according to your lifestyle.

ABOUT RENTADESK

The Rentadesk coworking community helps Freelancers, Independent workers, and Entrepreneurs build their dream business in a fun, inspirational environment, surrounded by like-minded individuals. Check out if Rentadesk is right for you.

 

 

 

Would you Use a Standing Desk at your Office?

Standing Desk

There's a lot of talk lately about how 'sitting is the new smoking' and how standing while you work is a more healthy, calorie-burning way to work that's great for your heart and general wellbeing.

However, in practice would  you really choose to stand instead of sit? We asked over 100 freelancers and independent workers at the Rentadesk coworking community in Bloomsbury whether they would use a standing desk if one was available in the office space, the poll results are plotted below for the 40 people who responded.

We were astounded by the number of members that said they would like to use a standing desk during their work day - almost a third would stand,  a far higher proportion than expected.

Standing Desk Survey

Here's what Rentadeskers had to say about Standing Desks:

"a 80/20 rule. 80% standing 20% sitting (or chairs available to rest occasionally)
"I like stand-up desks and have used them before (Ergotron)
"Not personally but the idea of having one or two available is attractive
"Could work well as a booth (Dr. Who style...), somewhere to go for Skype chats/phone calls, where you need a laptop etc. during the call but don't want to disturb others in the office
"Maybe for 20 minutes at at time
"Sit-to-stand desks would be very useful for some of us."

So it seems that some standing desks are definitely called for at the Rentadesk community!

Do you use a standing desk in your office or home office? Have you found it improves your health and productivity? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, we'd love to learn from your experiences...

ABOUT RENTADESK

The Rentadesk coworking community helps Freelancers, Independent workers, and Entrepreneurs build their dream business in a fun, inspirational environment, surrounded by like-minded individuals. Check out if Rentadesk is right for you.

Coworking vs Working From Home

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If you're currently working from home you may be considering using a coworking space - but will it be worth the effort of leaving your cozy home? We'll check out the benefits of coworking vs working from home and explore whether coworking may be worthwhile for you.

  • Coworking gets you out of the house and meeting people each day, if nothing else this is good for your mental wellbeing and exposes you to those random acts of serendipity which can often bring new business your way.
  • Splitting work life from home life can help you compartmentalise your day and makes it easier for you to relax and turn-off when you are at home. You may find your productivity actually increasing despite working fewer hours each day.
  • A coworking space often has meeting rooms which you can use to meet clients, a bookable meeting room means that you don't need to worry if a space at a coffee shop is going to be available at 11:15am next Monday morning, and those frequent latte's do add up to your expenses over time if you meet several clients a week.
  • Coworking spaces are often full of other independent workers with complementary skills to yours, so cross-referrals and collaborations can introduce new clients while allowing you to provide a wider range of solutions to your clients.
  • It doesn't need to be an either/or situation. You can mix coworking with working at home - perhaps with a part-time hotdesk that you use on those days when you fancy a change of scenery or need to meet clients.
  • More and more these days a fast internet connection becomes more important to get your work done, especially if you work with very large files. If you live out in the sticks or your home internet connection is not the best, a good coworking space helps by having a fast and reliable internet connection which over the course of a day saves a considerable amount of time in staring at the screen.
  • Need to print off the odd brochure? Laminate a sign? Guillotine a paper manual? All these bits and bobs are normally available at a coworking space if you ask.
  • Last but not least you can expect to learn something simply by being at a coworking space from the general conversation that goes on around you, and if you are working on a niggly problem you're surrounded by colleagues that you can simply ask - someone is bound to have had a similar problem in the past as so many issues being a freelancer are common - getting paid on time, finding new clients, juggling your work-life balance and so on.

 

About Rentadesk

The Rentadesk coworking community helps Freelancers, Independent workers, and Entrepreneurs build their dream business in a fun, inspirational environment, surrounded by like-minded individuals. Check out if Rentadesk is right for you.

Shared Workspace Pitfalls

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Thinking of sharing workspace with one of your major clients?

Be very wary with shared workspace where there is an existing business relationship with each other as supplier/buyer as one relationship can affect the other when things go wrong. If the relationship deteriorates then your shared work space may disappear overnight.

One of the biggest issues for startups is cost and the ability to control costs is an important element especially when you are at the early stages of starting your business, you want as many as your resources as possible going towards growing your business and not to your landlord's business!

When an office or workspace is shared it allows the people who share the space to share the costs - so if you share a space with one friend for example, your costs dramatically reduce by half. Getting more friends or colleagues in on the action reduces your cost even further, so sharing space can be a godsend when you need to keep costs to a minimum.

One of people's main concerns when sharing office space is will they get along with the other people in the office? Will there be a noise problem (with them or others making too much noise), will they like the people in the office? Will they be able to leave easily if they don't like it? All these questions will normally be racing through your mind as you hunt for that perfect space.

The first port of call would usually be to ask existing clients, or friends or colleagues if they know anyone who has spare capacity in their offices to fit you in. If that doesn't turn up anything suitable then searching google or gumtree for shared workspaces is the next port of call. These searches can bring back literally hundreds or thousands of results and it can be quite daunting to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. Which one's are any good? how can you get feedback for existing businesses in the workspaces?

Doing some Googling around the space might bring about some extra information, like what businesses are located there at the same address but it will often be difficult to find feedback on any space which is mainly made up of one large company renting out some extra-to-requirements desk space - after all they are not in the business of providing desk space, just topping up their income and helping themselves to pay their own office rent.

One of the benefits of renting space from a client is that it makes it easier for that client to use your services and therefore may very well start using your services more and more, so you get more income simply by your proximity to one of your clients (when in sight, in mind). The downside is that your client will expect you to drop everything and work on their requirement and unless you draw certain work boundaries they may start expecting you to put their work at  top priority ahead of all your other clients, thus lowering your overall productivity with constant interruptions and 'urgent' tasks.

You may well get the impression that your needs are put to one side and that you are the ‘David’ in a 'David and Goliath' relationship - after all - it is their office and they can choose to do as they wish within reason. They get to choose if music is played, whether food can be eaten at the desk, even what type of milk gets ordered - and you need to fit in, without much of a vote to change any of it.

So without control of your environment you are at the mercy of your host - they may fit your requirements perfectly and you get lucky, or as often happens the initial harmony may change because your host's needs change - perhaps they are growing and now need that space for their own staff, or perhaps they no longer want to use your services so would prefer if you left and found some other shared office space.

The possibilities for issues such as these are endless - all based on the inequity between the people who are the original tenants in the office (the leaseholders or owners) - being in effect your landlord and therefore not being your equal but being a supplier of services. If those services were been supplied 'below cost' because of a special relationship between you (their supplier) and them then if the relationship changes then your tenability for having space at their office may also change.

About Rentadesk

The Rentadesk community helps Freelancers, Independent workers, and Entrepreneurs build their dream business in a fun, inspirational environment, surrounded by like-minded individuals. Check out if Rentadesk is right for you.

Hot Desking - 8 Awesome Advantages

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How does the popular new way of working called Hot Desking stack up against the old-school way of sitting at your own desk in the same office every day? Here's our rundown of the advantages of hot desking.

  1. Hot Desks train you to de-clutter your life, you can't leave things overnight  on the hot desk so you learn not to clutter your desk - something many people find helps them stay focused and work better.
     
  2. Hot Desks are cheaper than having your own dedicated space because the cost is shared with other hot deskers that use the same space, you're basically time-sharing which allows the costs to be lower than a dedicated fixed desk.
     
  3. Hot Desking allows you to try new locations and services at a drop of a hat as many providers have several locations to choose from, you could go to a different space each day if the fancy took you.
     
  4. Hot Desks have more flexible terms than conventional office space, so if commitment isn't your thing they are an attractive option. One month notice is usually the maximum needed, and if you're lucky some spaces don't even ask for a deposit.
     
  5. Hot Desks are intrinsically social - networking is built-in - you never know who you are going to meet from day to day, which although daunting for some, can be a boon for finding new business collaborators or potential clients and referrals for your business.
     
  6. Hot Desks often have other services thrown in for free or at an additional cost. So you don't need to worry about setting up your own printers, phones or buying a pint of fresh milk for your coffee each morning.
     
  7. Hot Desking is a great learning environment - being surrounded by other freelancers of varying experience you can ask questions, learn new things and save a fortune in free advice! You can even help give others less experienced than you a helping hand for that warm-glowing feeling inside! You'll find your efforts come back to reward you time and again.
     
  8. Hot Desking makes you feel part of a community of like-minded professionals. You're not alone working at home any more, there are people just like you with all the same problems and opportunities trying to make a go of creating your dream business - it's good to do that together, and share the highs and lows with friends.

ABOUT RENTADESK

The Rentadesk coworking community helps freelancers, independent workers, and entrepreneurs build their dream business in a fun, inspirational environment, surrounded by like-minded individuals. Check out if Rentadesk is right for you.

 

Part Time Jobs in London

Night owlers Ellie and Eimear

Many enterprising Londoners are taking-on part time jobs in the evenings or weekends to earn that little bit extra or start a new business without taking the risk of quitting the income and security of their Nine to Five job.

Rentadesk asked it's members what would be a fair price to charge for an overnight and weekend hot desk - in comparison to a normal 'daytime' hot desk.

rentadesk

Here's what Rentadeskers had to say -

"Sort of like Economy 7. It would be about Two Thirds. Enough to encourage people to do it."

"I would put this at 100 pounds per month. Would be Ideal if you are a student and need a quiet place to study in."

"Would the permanent desk possessions be safe with people coming and out late and night - especially near a pub?"

"Don't fill it up at night! The joy of working after hours is peace and quiet."

"Like a 3rd of the normal price."

"Still same facilities being used, so same price."

"You can look at it as a 'Happy' Time and also as a special service. Be careful about security."

"If they pay too little you might get all types of undesirable types and the building may not remain as secure!"

"Would it restrict how 'daytime' hot deskers could use the building? If so you'd have to reduce the cost to them."

"Would there be cleaners coming in after the night owls have used the offices? So the offices, kitchens, washrooms etc. would be left clean and tidy ready to be used by the daytime hot deskers?"

"The 24/7 hot desk access that we signed up to is great because we need flexibility but the opportunity to use the space during either the day or night for a reduced rate is a good idea for those who know they will only need it for say, 8 hours per day/night."

Using a simple back-of a-napkin calculation, where ‘a little’ = 25%, ‘a lot’ = 50%, using the data from the graph above we would calculate a suitable price for a night owl hotdesk to be somewhere between a quarter and a third reduction on day rates - an Economy 7 style discount seems to win the day!

Are you a potential Night Owler? Join the other night owls at Rentadesk and create that new business or project that you’ve been itching to start...

Best Secret Santa Gift Price?

What's the best Secret Santa gift price?

What's the best Secret Santa gift price?

We're nearing the time of year that a burning question of utmost importance passes through the minds of all intelligent thinking individuals.

However, putting this important question to one side, there is also the question of the office Secret Santa gift price limit. At Rentadesk we let the community make all decisions for us so we surveyed around 80 Rentadeskers with the following survey:

What should the Secret Santa gift price be? We restricted answers to a choice of £0, £5, £10, £15, £20,  or 'Unlimited'.

We had 4 generous souls willing to spend their entire fortune on a Secret Santa gift,  and a relative lower number, only 2, who were so tight with their money that anything over £0 would be a stretch of their generosity. The vast majority chose the £5 or £10 option with £10 just edging ahead to win (see fig 1. showing results from 28 responses.) 

 

fig 1. 

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So what should we do at the Rentadesk office this Christmas? Choose the £10 winning vote or choose £5 as that would possibly be an amount that makes most people happy? Add your votes below in the comments and effect real change at Rentadesk's christmas party!!

How to accept direct debit payments

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One of the problems I find when running my own business is in getting paid on time and keeping a healthy cashflow. The last thing I want to be spending my time on is chasing late payments from my customers - it takes up time, and aggravates customers.

Having relied on customers to set-up Standing Orders in the past, I still had the problem of a small percentage of customers paying late and taking up a lot of administrative time to chase-up, so this was a problem as yet unresolved.

Then the other day at one of Rentadesk's weekly group mentoring lunches the conversation heated up when we turned to the topic of how to deal with late paying customers. Rentadesker Ellie of @TruffleSocial told us how she had used a company called Go Cardless to accept direct debits. This was news to me as I thought direct debits were only for big companies, I hadn't realised there would exist third parties to provide a direct debit service.

Ellie recommended Go Cardless as they offer free setup, slice a 1% commission on all sales and hold the cash for 7 days - simple to understand and simple to setup. However, being the kind of person who likes to do some research before choosing to buy, I Googled 'How to accept direct debit payments' and came up with a few other providers including Paymill, Smartdebit and Eazipay.

Smartdebit didn't show online pricing so I didn't follow it further. Paymill transaction fees at 2.98% seemed a bit high, so again I didn't follow any further. Deciding on an Eazipay vs GoCardless smackdown I drew up a comparison chart to summarise the main differences (see fig 1.)

fig 1. Eazipay vs GoCardless 

EazipayGoCardless
Initial Setup Fee£495Free
Setup Fee per Payer£1.50Free
Setup Time2 weeksInstant
New Payer Drect Debit MandateSigned by Payer. Details emailed in Excel spreadsheet to Eazipay, and signed mandate posted to Eazipay as confirmationPayer completes Online
Fee per Transaction (deducted at source)£0.401% (max £2)
Maximum Transaction size£5,000Unlimited
Funds Cleared3 working days7 working days
Payer's statement entry[Your Company Name]DIRECT DEBIT TO GOCARDLESS.COM REF [Your Company Name]
Failed PaymentAutomatically re-present Direct Debit requests after 10 daysEmail notification. Retry payments manually through GoCardless dashboard
Accounting IntegrationNoneIntegrates with Xero natively for one-off payments. For variable direct debits use a Xero add-on called 'Directli' and have your customers charged each time you raise an invoice
SecurityAll funds are held in a ring-fenced client monies account All funds are held in a ring-fenced client monies account

For Rentadesk's purposes (ease of use for us and our customers, and integration with our accounting package Xero) GoCardless seems the best option - so I am going to be opening an account with them. For companies with a large number of transactions and more staff to deal with the administrative work, Eazipay may be the better solution as their ongoing costs are lower.

Do you have any experiences to share using GoCardless, Eazipay or any other direct debit services I haven't mentioned? Please let me know below.

Office Snacks - Healthy or Unhealthy?

Office Snacks - Healthy or Unhealthy?

Office Snacks - Healthy or Unhealthy?

We've been doing a little soul-searching here at the Rentadesk community the past few days.

Should we be providing indulgent office snacks like donuts and ice cream in the office, or should we be helping people stay healthy and provide nutritious snacks like apples and nuts? 

Well as always to solve this challenge we turned to the natural wisdom of the community to provide the answer - we polled over 70 Rentadeskers with our 'Office snacks survey' to see what they preferred. 

We asked them to choose one of these four office snacking options:-

  • Keep it Healthy
  • Indulge me
  • Mix it up
  • I don't mind

We had around a third of people responding to the survey and the results are shown graphically below:- 

 

Office Snacks Survey

Office Snacks Survey

The results show that you are a very level-headed healthy bunch - you want a selection of healthy snacks and from time to time a tasty treat to liven things up.

Nobody wanted to be indulged 100% of the time! We discussed the results at the office and the idea of indulgent Mondays and Fridays came up with a healthy midweek and treats at the beginning and end of the week when you need them most!

Let us know what you think would be the perfect office snack in the comments below. 

Temporary Hot desks

Aista enjoying her Temporary Hot desk

Fancy a temporary desk with no strings attached?

Many desk spaces in London don't allow a pay as you go style of usage for using their desk spaces so we've added a Pay As You Go Hot desk service to complement our existing lineup of subscription based desks.

With a temporary desk it means you can pay for just the one day, a few days, a few weeks or a few months - and spend only for the time that you need with no mess or fuss worrying about long contracts, notice periods or deposits.

To find out more about Rentadesk's options and pricing on temporary desks, or to book our Pay As you Go Hot desks check out our new Pay As You Go Hot desk package.

 

How to create a vanity bitcoin address

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Want your own bitcoin address with a custom prefix?

Here's how to create a customised bitcoin address quickly and safely.

1. First get yourself a wallet (read my Introduction to Bitcoin blog post if you don't have a wallet).

2. Open your web browser and navigate to these two web sites: https://bitcoinvanity.appspot.com and https://www.bitaddress.org. Notice the web address of every page starts with ‘https:’ this means the data you send and receive on that page is encrypted in transit.

3. On the BitcoinVanity site enter your desired prefix, starting with a '1', then click 'Get Prefix'. Why the '1' at the start? All bitcoin addresses must start with a '1'.

For a free prefix you'll need to choose approximately four or fewer characters, depending on the actual characters chosen e.g. '1Dave' would be free, anything over four characters will cost money, e.g. '1BLEDDYN' cost me 0.2BTC anything over seven will cost a LOT with 9 chars e.g. '1RENTADESK' being 'too hard' to brute force a solution.

4. Now the BitcoinVanity site will display 'Your-Part-Public-Key' and a 'Your-Part-Private-Key'. Ignore these, as for extra security we now navigate to the bitaddress.org site.

5. On the bitaddress.org site click on the 'Vanity Wallet' tab, and click on 'generate' to create the public and private keys. Keep the private key SAFE (you will use it later). Paste the Public Key into the 'Your-Part-Public-Key' box on BitcoinVanity site.

6. Click 'submit' on the BitcoinVanity Site, then click 'StatusPage'.

7. The status page will refresh every minute. When the status reads 'done' enter 'your-part-private-key' and click OK. A short vanity prefix will only take minutes, whereas '1BLEDDYN' took 17 hours.

8. Click 'Calc Private Key in Wallet Import Format' and enter the 'Your-part-Private-key' that you kept from step 5.

9. Click 'Get Key'. The results will show RESULTS: your vanity address and private key.

10. Login to your MyWallet bitcoin wallet account, click on Import/Export, paste the private key obtained in step 9 into the private key box, then click 'Add Private Key'. 

You now have a vanity bitcoin address added to your wallet.

Introduction to Bitcoin

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What's all the fuss about Bitcoin? Should you be using it in your business? Are you missing out? 

We've just gone through the Bitcoin learning curve here at the Rentadesk community, so save yourself the hassle and read our bitcoin cheat sheet below!

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is digital cash you can use to buy and sell goods or services directly without an intermediary such as a bank.

Why use Bitcoin?

  • Low transaction fees for sellers
  • Anonymity for buyers (if desired)
  • Can be used in any country
  • Can be traded speculatively for profit

How to get started with Bitcoin

Sign up at My Wallet to get a wallet and bitcoin address. In your Wallet click on 'Bank Transfer' to buy Bitcoins using your UK Bank account.

***UPDATE: The blockchain.info wallet recommended above isn't currently allowing bank transfers from the UK so I recommend bank transfer into a verified OKPAY account and then transferring your GBP to an exchange such at BTC-E where you can buy bitcoins.***

How to Trade Bitcoins on an Exchange

Buy and sell them through a bitcoin exchanges such like BTC-E. Be careful! Bitcoin is highly volatile at the moment.

How to Buy Products or Services with Bitcoins

Some sites have 'Buy Now' buttons others simply provide a bitcoin address that you can fund via your wallet's 'Send Money' option.

How to Sell Products or Services for Bitcoins

Show customers your 'Bitcoin address' for receiving payments. e.g. To join Rentadesk you can pay by sending money from your Wallet to Rentadesk's Bitcoin address at 1RD1o59DtGggmjB3VD9jaGmsEYNLhwxEj You can also use services such as Bitpay to create Bitcoin 'Buy Now' buttons that you can embed into your website.

Have any Bitcoin tips? Please comment below!

Freelancer Accountancy Costs

Ever wondered how your accountancy costs stack up with your fellow freelancers?

We took it upon ourselves at Rentadesk towers to poll our community and our meetup group Born Freelance and asked how much do you pay per month on accountancy, bookkeeping and completing your self assessment personal tax return - basically the whole shebang of looking after your finances.

We received 30 responses and here are the results in graph form - where do you fit into this picture? Any surprises? Let us have your comments!

Freelancer Accountancy Costs.png

Forget Working From Home, Rent a Desk Instead

Jason from Smart Social Videos

Jason from Smart Social Videos

In this guest post we look at the rise of coworking from Rentadesk's Jason Theodorou of Smart Social Videos.

Working for The Man – it's no fun at all, is it? Stuck in your tiny cubicle, hammering out spreadsheets while a sweaty boss looms over your shoulder, stroking his white cat and breathing down your neck about 'knocking off the horseplay and filing the Henderson report'. It's enough to make you fantasise about working from home, that paradise where you can wear your favourite novelty rabbit slippers, sip a hot cup of cocoa and watch Daybreak – and get double the work done in half the time.

The Terrible Truth About Homeworking

For those who reach the oasis of homeworking – remote workers, freelancers and startup businesses – the dream rarely lives up to their expectations. For one thing, it's really hard to be productive when you're working next to a pile of dirty laundry, or an Xbox and a pile of unplayed games. Too many distractions, even for the iron willed!

And even if you make a strict schedule, you need to work on your own for nine hours a day. After a few months staring at the four walls of your boxroom, you'll start to feel like John Tracy in Thunderbirds, orbiting the Earth in a lonely space station, starved of human contact and reduced to crying lonely tears into your little blue uniform. Nobody deserves that fate, not even a puppet.

The Joys of Coworking

The solution for many freelancers is coworking. In simple terms, this usually means a group of self-employed professionals working together in a shared office space. On a basic level, this can mean three graphic designers sharing a cramped studio in Dalston, with project sketches and ironic posters all over the wall. But in the best case, it's a range of professionals from different industries, working together in a shared office.

To the uninitiated, it may sound like a traditional office arrangement, albeit one populated by a more rag-bag crowd of workers than the average paper supplies company. But coworking is actually a modern and growing style of working, an industry that has naturally thrived in a harsh economy where self-employment or remote working is an attractive alternative to the unforgiving scurry of the rat race.

My Top 3 Reasons for the Rise of Coworking.

1. The Social Benefits.

The Deskmag Global Coworking Survey, released this year, shows that 92% of coworkers see a boost in their social circle from renting a desk, and 84% of all coworkers see the interaction with other freelancers as their primary reason for renting a desk. Coworking provides an unmatched equilibrium between a social and professional experience.

2. Freelancers Are Thriving.

The 2012 Freelance Industry Report indicates that 49% of freelancers have felt little to no impact from the economic downturn, and 77% are optimistic about their business prospects. More self-employed people can afford to escape the homeworking trap, and they aren't scared of doing it, with the number of coworking spaces doubling every year.

3. It's Good For Business.

While often portrayed in some industries as bearded wierdos operating in a bubble on the fringes of the 9 to 5 world, freelancers are actually very good at networking and creating new opportunities from informal conversations. This is borne out by the good old Deskspace report, which shows that 82% of coworkers prize the 'random discoveries and opportunities' that come from sharing an office, and collaborating with their office mates.

3B (yeah, I know). Mad and Fun Things Result From It.

Coworking is an adventure! Who knows what's going to come next!

The guy in the office next door could get you involved in running a Zombie Boot Camp, as happened to Rentadesk coworker Laura Yates (read Rentadesk's Case Study of Laura to get the lowdown on her mad, exhilarating journey into the world of zombies).

Get Started With Coworking

If all this sounds good to you, the good news is that you are spoilt for choice if you want to sign up for a coworking space. There are at least 2150 active spaces across the world, so with any luck there's a spare desk with your name on it (and a couple of other people's names rubbed off it, but that's a given, as self-employed people do love to move around a lot, don't they?).

I could be accused of bias (cough), but I think Rentadesk in Central London is a great place to get started with coworking. Made up of offices within Grade II listed buildings, Rentadesk has an amazingly varied clientele – from business journalists to a full time marine biologist, pretty much every industry has been represented here over the years, which makes for a lively and inspiring working atmosphere.

It's also got to be one of the most flexible coworking spaces in a capital city, anywhere in the globe – there are five different coworking packages to choose from, which is perfect for anyone from an ambitious entrepreneur who needs all the desk space he can get, to a grungy fashion designer working one day a week who 'needs a lot of flexibilty and space, man'.

After all, it takes all types to make a coworking community.

Happy coworking! Jason Theodorou of Smart Social Videos.

Working from Home vs Coworking

Laura from yourlaura.com

Laura from yourlaura.com

In this guest post from Rentadesk's Laura Yates, we learn how she ditched her pyjamas for full work wear.

Working from home can seem like a luxury in the world of self-employment. It definitely has its pros - you can choose your own hours, avoid the hideousness of public transport and even have the odd lie-in. It’s cheap and likely to be quiet if you need or prefer to work in a peaceful environment.

The problem is though, when the novelty of Jeremy Kyle, too many biscuits and not getting dressed until 3pm every day wears off, working from home can be distracting and unproductive. For me, the first few weeks of working from home in my pyjamas was great. After two months I hated continuously working alone, was becoming stuck for ideas, completely out of sync with a work/life routine and generally feeling a bit uninspired.

I heard from a friend that coworking can be a good solution for freelancers or self-employed folk like myself, so I tried Rentadesk. Whilst it doesn’t seem very business savvy to be forking out extra cash on something that isn’t really necessary, it can actually be hugely beneficial to your business. And your sanity. You get all the luxuries of an office – a desk, a kitchen, the odd boozy Friday night; if you’re lucky - an office hottie - but also retain your independence. Overall, my work time is definitely more productive because I feel like I’m ‘at work’.

Also, you’re probably going to be surrounded by likeminded people who you can network and brainstorm with and potentially work with in some form. Who knows, if you’re really nice you might even make some friends.

Of course, it all depends on the nature of your work, your situation and your business/work objectives, plus the type of person that you are. If you’re not a fan of people, coworking probably won’t be for you. Then again if you find it difficult to network in the traditional sense, it could be a good way to get you speaking to people in a more informal environment and make some great contacts. If nothing else, it encourages you to get dressed at least 5 days a week. Working from home can definitely lead to one becoming sartorially sloppy. And I speak from experience.

What are your experiences and thoughts on working from home versus co working?

Spare Desk vs Coworking

If you're a freelancer or startup, a spare desk located in a larger company's office space can be an easy option if you already have a relationship working onsite with a larger client, perhaps by having supplied them with some of your freelancer services, or having worked for them as an employee in the past.

Often there's a client - contractor relationship here, where they need your skillset but don't need you to work for them full-time, so they pay you partly by providing you with a subsidised spare desk usually in a place where none of their employees want to work - next to the WC or photocopier!

So the spare desk solution can be a quick and easy stop-gap for when you are initially transforming from employee to freelancer, and resources are tight.

The downside is that you are disconnected from the host in the sense that they are a different business to yours and that the power relationship is unequal - it's THEIR office space after all! If they need more space or don't need to use your freelance skills anymore they may turf you out.

You're also missing out on the huge networking potential that is available in a space full of other freelancers - a space like a coworking space, where there is a mix of startups, freelancers and up-and-running smaller businesses with a wide range of expertise and experience.

Do you want to be an outsider huddled using a spare desk, or an equal participant in an active coworking group that can both challenge and support your business goals and objectives?

Rentadesk is London's original coworking space, we have a variety of freelancers, startups and entrepreneurs working in a close-knit business community, drop by and see us some time!

How to get feedback from a lost sale?

How can you find out *why* a prospective client rejects your service? Why would they want to tell you, after all - they have more important things to do, such as starting to use your competitors service!

Don't ask your existing customers - they have already bought *despite* these barriers to sale, so they’re no help in identifying the barriers. You can listen to them to increase your service's value, but not to identify the barriers to sale.

Every truthful piece of feedback from a lost sale allows you to hone your service offering until it represents compelling value to your chosen client niche. It also feeds back into devising a clearer pre-qualifying process so that you don't waste time on unsuitable prospects in the first place. One of the most useful outcomes of analysing a lost sale is to find out if the prospective client understood correctly what you offered - if not, you need to fine-tune your *sales message* to remove unsuitable prospects.

Now how to get that truthful feedback? They just rejected you, they don't want to hurt your feelings, and they want to move on… One way is to word the email in a way that the person involved in the sale is not the one asking for the feedback - the feedback is going to their manager, or a third party company collecting data. It is possible to find the real truth behind the lost sale if you use an independent person or company to do the questioning.

Now offer some free stuff - give something away, cash to their favourite charity so that they get something of value out of giving you feedback, or alternatively a shopping voucher for their own personal use. Budget for whatever you can afford; don't skimp!

So here's the basic template:

- make sure you have the contact details of the lost client.

- email the lost client, here's an example:

Subject: We'll Donate £15 To Your Favourite Charity Today!

Dear [Lost Client],

Thank you for considering [name of your service], I understand that you have chosen not to use our service on this occasion.

To help us improve we’d appreciate your feedback to understand where we missed the mark, and to show our appreciation we would like to make a donation of £15 to your favourite charity.

Just click on [your website feedback page] to leave your feedback and select your favourite charity.

Thank you for your time!

--

Kind Regards,

The Marketing Team

[Your company]

I have partnered the email with a web feedback form in this example, but you could simply have everything in the text of an email that they could respond to directly.

Here's an example webform that I use with Rentadesk to collect feedback (If you are looking for an easy to use hosted form provider I recommend Formstack.com, and for making charitable donations I use justgiving.com/giving which provides a receipt that you can email to the lost client):

Hope you find this useful in fine tuning your sales message and breaking down those barriers to sale! Let me know your own experiences, comments and feedback welcomed!