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RENTADESK Coworking Desk Space London Bloomsbury Workspace for Freelancers and Independant Workers

Coworking desk space for freelancers and independant workers in London Bloomsbury UK

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. 

Best Secret Santa Price.png

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

How to accept direct debit payments.png

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

bitoin_vanity_plate.jpeg

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!

Unbranded Office Space Vs Branded Office Space

When I first setup Rentadesk my gut feeling was that small businesses and freelancers would prefer to work in an unbranded office space vs branded office space as it allowed them more flexibilty on how to present their own companies - visiting clients need not know whether you have a single desk, an office or the entire building.

For example, we decided against placing a Rentadesk name plate on the building, hanging a directory of company names in the entrance hallways, and we did not put any A-frame advertising stands outside the front door. From Rentadesk's viewpoint this could be seen as disadvantageous as we are loosing out on some free advertising, but is it something Rentadeskers care about?

To find out we polled Rentadeskers to see what they thought; was branded better than unbranded? Apart from a few easy-going souls who "didn't mind", we had an almost unanimous response (see graph below)

Here are some of the comments we received:

"Definitely not!"

"Prefer to have a white label office offering as helps with a professional look of the co-working environment"

"Better to keep it anonymous/unbranded as it makes our businesses look more authentic/stable/fixed"

"Would ruin the vibe to be honest"

"I'd prefer not really, it makes the companies in here look a bit amateur as the 'Rentadesk' brand is very literal"

"Branding would make it immediately obvious to clients and suppliers that we are using a coworking space. This would then remove some of the prestige of having a Soho address and would be a negative in my book."

"Looks less impressive to our visitors if it's branded"

"This has to remain White Label. Otherwise potential clients will understand that you are not as big as the address makes out"

..and a minority of positive branding sentiment:

"Go ahead and brand it"

"Minimal branding - it's good for meetings, etc. to have it non branded"

The message seems clear... do not brand the office space!

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