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Survived 2016 as a freelancer? 7 reasons to be proud of yourself

Surviving 2016 as a freelancer

A guest blog by Tanya De Grunwald of Graduate Fog - the website that helps graduates thrive in the new economy.

Staggering towards December 31st feeling bruised and battered by the previous year? You’re not alone – especially if you’re among the growing army of freelancers in the UK.

Shocking new figures reveal that on top of grappling with global political upsets, terrorist incidents, humanitarian crises and a host of celebrity deaths, the country’s freelance community is also reeling from a rollercoaster year in which clients became increasingly demanding or elusive (or both).

Hailed by politicians as the foot soldiers of the UK’s new ‘flexible’ economy, it seems we may be making our lives look a little too peachy. While there are still many up-sides to working for yourself (Hello, 4 o’clock Fridays) the bad days really kicked our butts this year, with nearly half (49%) of the UK’s freelancers admitting we’ve suffered from work-related anxiety. These were UK freelancers’ top gripes from the last 12 months…

Brexit (Part 1): Client jitters

The jury is still out on what impact Brexit will have on British business but very few freelancers at London office space Rentadesk didn’t experience at least a slight client wobble around June 23rd as countless customers put projects ‘on pause’ pending internal discussions about their post-referendum strategy. Most of us kept our cool and say things are now back on track – but for many that was one hell of a slow summer...

Brexit (Part 2) Currency wobbles

Exchange our holiday money before 23rd June, just in case? How we chuckled – as if we’d leave the EU! But – yikes – we did, and it’s already affecting our business. Exporters are quids-in, but everyone else (especially those with suppliers in the States) is now paying more for the same thanks to our newly rubbishy pound. Ouch.

Freebie requests

Old clients suddenly asking for freebies, thanks to ‘budget cuts’? New clients demanding polished plans and pitches before even giving you the gig? Freelancers had hoped the toxic trend for unpaid work would die a death now the economy is recovering – but no such luck. According to Approve.io, 70% of all UK freelancers say they’ve been asked to work free in the last 12 months. That’s right – it seems we’re all unpaid interns now (even established professionals with years of experience under our belts). Happily, we still had just enough fight to slam new freelance-for-free website Freesist in December. Seriously? After the year we’ve had? Don’t mess.

Ghosting

Originating in the world of online dating (where puzzled singletons are ditched without so much as a text message) the phenomenon of vanishing into thin air has now spread to the client-freelancer relationship. One in 20 (5%*) of freelancers lists our top gripe from the last 12 months as a vanishing client who stopped all communication with no explanation, overnight. Rentadeskers report those in big firms as the worst offenders, hiding behind seemingly permanent out-of-offices and rarely answering their phone. Er… Hello??

Late payments

Done the work – but still not been paid for it? Withholding payment isn’t a new client tactic – but 2016 was a particularly rotten year for stalling, according to UK freelancers. Over half of us say our top cause of anxiety this year was clients paying late or not at all (30% and 27% respectively). Next year, things change. We’ve vowed to clarify payment procedures with each client and follow every invoice through every stage. Painful, but the only way to go. 

#FeedbackFails

“I don’t know what I want, but it’s not this…” “I like it, but I don’t love it…” AARGH! This was not a great year for quality client feedback, according to freelancers. Eight per cent listed unclear feedback as our top gripe, while 3% said none at all had left us scratching our heads. What’s going on? A straw poll of freelancers at Rentadesk signalled two main causes. First, junior and inexperienced (ie. cheap) staff suddenly in charge of commissioning. And second, risk-averse firms deciding it’s a great idea to run projects by committee. Spoiler alert: it’s really not.

Unreasonable behaviour

Client asking for yet another round of changes – when you fulfilled the brief three rounds ago? Demanding the work by 9am tomorrow – at 9pm the night before? Eleven per cent of freelancers listed unreasonable requests from clients as our top peeve from the last year, with six per cent saying out of hours calls drove us nuts. Our New Year’s resolution? Be braver about ditching diva clients and replacing them with easier ones. In the meantime, have a very happy and prosperous 2017!

ABOUT RENTADESK

Rentadesk coworking and office spaces help freelancers, startups, and growing businesses build their dream business in a fun, inspirational environment surrounded by like-minded colleagues. Check out if Rentadesk is right for you.

 

*Unless otherwise stated, all stats are from a new survey by the makers of freelance software tool Approve.io, who polled more than 1,000 UK adults who had engaged in freelance work (either part time, full time or on a short-term contract) in the past 5 years. 

 

Would you use a stand-up walking treadmill desk at the office?

 
Photo compliments of Exerpeutic Therapeutic Fitness

Photo compliments of Exerpeutic Therapeutic Fitness

Would you like to burn-off those extra calories from that large business lunch? Or get your daily 10,000 steps while you're still at the office tapping away at your laptop? An office treadmill desk promises to save time and money at the gym, so is it something you should try?

At Rentadesk, we already have a few members using static stand up desks - would they go 'one step further' and start walking while they work?

We asked members if they would consider using a walking treadmill desk if one were made available. Around a third of members responded to the survey, which consisted of a single Yes/No answer with additional room for comments. Here's what they said:

would you use a stand-up walking treadmill desk at the office survey

As you can see from the bar chart above, a narrow majority said they would use a treadmill desk, however a sizeable minority of 46% said "No".

Here's a few comments received from Rentadesk members:

"Need a steady hand - if I was just doing emails all day long then I'd be all over this."

"I did lots of research into this at one point - got the standing desk and contemplated the treadmill. Definitely think it's the future of a lot of office work. Only reservations would be noise, but if the treadmill is fairly quiet would be great."

"I would like to try a standing desk, just not with the treadmill bit!"

"I would love a standing desk - just no treadmill"

"Definitely!"

"I wish; but on my laptop it would not be practical :( I simply go for a short walk at lunch break."

"Will it be viable without any shower, however?"

"I'm far too lazy! Also... it would be tricky to type / use a mouse (but mostly I'm just lazy!)"

"I would like to use one, but I may be too embarrassed to do this publicly - might feel silly! It would need to be in a 'cool' corner I guess."

"Great idea!"

"Possibly, if it was out of the way so I wouldn't look foolish (haha)"

"Yes, although scared if I concentrated on my work whilst on it, I'd fall off!"

"yes but not too sure how efficient I would be!!!"

"To each their own. I enjoy walking outside."


Would you use a treadmill at work? Or perhaps you already use one? Let us know in the comments below!

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.

 

 

What is Coworking?

What is Coworking?

Being self-employed or working on a freelance basis can be very rewarding however it can also make you feel isolated and cut-off from your peers. Coworking offers numerous benefits to those who thrive in a bustling and positive working atmosphere but feel trapped working in a lonely environment at home. 

Coworking began to take traction around 2005 as a way to bring self-employed people together by creating a supportive and informal working community. It was a success and the quantity of coworking spaces has doubled each year, working itself around the world, with new coworking spaces being created to meet demand for an increasingly aware and growing freelance community. 

Coworking is simple. Essentially, regardless of how the space is organised financially, you turn up with your laptop and stationary, choose a desk and make yourself comfortable. Easy! At the end of the day you either pack your things up or leave them in a locker for the next day. 

Working in a shared space can be very rewarding, providing you with a sense of community and a greater sense of 'going out to work' because you have to leave the house. One of the best things about taking advantage of a coworking space is the potential it has to separate your home life from your work life. If you have children and your house is full of toys and children’s things, it can be nice to get away and work in a space solely for grown-ups without bits of Lego strewn across the floor.

Don't be fooled though – just because it’s called ‘coworking’ it doesn't mean you'll be sharing your work load, you’ll still be working independently but you'll have the added benefits of friendships and support from people with a shared understanding of freelancing. Of course the possibilities are endless and working with others can create lots of opportunities you probably wouldn't experience sitting at your kitchen table, such as meeting lots of new contacts and making new businesses connections and networking. 

The obvious thing here is the flexibility – these spaces are created to suit you and your working habits. 

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.


 

 

Out of Hours Office Space

Are you looking for space to start that side project or new business while still holding down your nine-to-five?

Rentadesk's new Evening & Weekend membership may just be for you!

For an affordable monthly subscription you can use Rentadesk's full coworking facilities in the evenings and weekends.

Perfect for freelancing on the side, studying for exams or starting a business while still working a day job.

You can use the space between 6pm and 9am weekdays and anytime weekends, no appointment necessary. Just remove your items after you finish work.

Interested in out of hours office space? Book a viewing today.

Work from Home Vs Coworking

Work From Home Vs Coworking

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.

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. 

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

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

how to create a vanity bitcoin address

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

introduction to bitcoin

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