Freelancer Friendly Working Environments

Nicki CawoodI’ve been self-employed for over eleven years now and a full-time freelancer for over eight years. I can’t imagine ever being employed in the traditional sense again. Working for yourself is something that you’re either going to love or hate. It’s the working version of Marmite. There are pros and cons of course however for me there’s nothing better.

If you’re going to get the most out of freelancing or being self-employed and working from home in any capacity, there are certain things you need to get right. First of all, you need to be self-motivated or find an accountability partner to chivvy you along (more on this another time) and you need to find freelancer friendly working environments.

Working from home initially is perfect. It’s free, you don’t need to leave the house and who will know if you’re working with giant fluffy slipper boots on? There comes a time for many a freelancer however when working outside the home office, even if for short periods helps with focus, motivation and tackles the very real problem that many freelancers face, and that’s being isolated. When you’re logging into social media at lunchtime to get your fix of people contact you need to consider how best your needs in this area might be met in the real world.

Join a Jelly

This isn’t anything to do with food, I promise!  UK Jelly is a movement where individuals set up no hassle,

Logo credit: Anil Amrit

free monthly co-working events in the local area. These events are free and are perfect for taking along your work to if you’re avoiding procrastination, to collaborate with other freelancers, to have face to face contact with real life people (the people you see in the supermarket don’t count) and to work companionly alongside others with the same mindset as yourself. I’ve very recently set up a local UK Jelly, the first session being this week (16/11/17). If you want to see if there’s a Jelly local to you just search UK Jelly and see.

Freelancer Office Space

Sometimes you just need to be working in an office. If you regularly meet clients at work or need the structure of going out to work daily, then looking for a space via somewhere like Pall Mall Estates could be the answer. You may choose the perfect working environment for yourself and your business, either by yourself or with colleagues or others in the same boat as yourself. If done properly, i.e. speak to a solicitor if thinking about a shared office space, you could find yourself with a perfect freelancer working environment.

Home Freelancer Working

mindfulness, Nicki Cawood

There’s a lot to be said for working from home, I do much of the time. It’s the cheaper option (although you have to feature in the extra costs of having the heating on and electricity use during the day). I think that the most important thing is to create somewhere in the house that you feel good about working. I have several places. We moved recently and realising that I rarely used my home office set-up in the old house, I haven’t actually got one here. I use the dining room table, with music on and a candle lit. I have fabulous hidden storage in here (I’m writing this in our dining room now) so that I have everything to hand, all my files, folders and everything else however it looks like a normal un-cluttered dining room to the uneducated eye. It works for me. Sometimes sitting under a blanket on the sofa with the laptop works for me too.
If working from home as a freelancer find somewhere that works for you (and avoid too many sofa working sessions, they’re terrible for your posture).

I do sometimes hit the working space and take advantage of the free WIFI at the local library too so that I can escape the house!

In Summary

I think the perfect freelancer working environment depends on the freelancer and the area they work in. Some need a more structured office environment, some would feel stifled by that (me included). Some like to mix and match, working from home, attending co-working events and so on. Sometimes my perfect working environment depends solely on whether it’s term time or whether I am working with my boys at home. What would you say your perfect working environment is? I’d love to hear more about what ticks the boxes for you.



Top Tools and Apps for Business

We all have such a lot to get done, especially those running our own businesses. I came across a really interesting thread on a Facebook group I belong to about what tools people recommend for getting things done, and efficiency. It made me think about what tools I currently use.

Apps and tools are great for helping get things done and I have worked my way through a great number of them over the past ten years. There are no wrong tools, it’s all about what works best for you and this is my current collection. It might alter slightly as time goes on.

I use Canva for images/headers and all things social media related. The phone app is rubbish (right now) so don’t base your opinions on that, stick to the web version which is excellent. 95% of the things I create on Canva are free however occasionally I will buy credits so that I may use specific premium images that are perfect for what I’m working on.

A quickly put together image for a client’s Facebook page using Canva.

I use Buffer (paid) for all of my social media/client accounts. I’ve used Tweetdeck, Hootsuite (hated it) and various other scheduling apps and sites and have found Buffer to be the best one for me by far. We just clicked Buffer and I.  This is one of the few things I pay for (I don’t pay for anything unless I need to) and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Buffer run a Twitter chat weekly which I find great fun for hints and tips, and brushing up on certain areas (as well as meeting some great freelancers and what not). These chats are found via the #bufferchat hashtag and a recap each week will fill you in on what you missed if you couldn’t make it. There’s also a #bufferchat Slack that some find useful. 

I use on phone and web for resource collation/bookmarking. I’ve used Evernote web clipper and Pocket before now, however, find this the smoothest one for me. Even better, I have it installed on my Kindle Fire tablet so when I have some time I can catch up easily on everything in my “Read Me” collection that isn’t urgent or client related yet interesting, business-wise or not.

What can I say, I’m an Outlook girl, using as my main email and my calendar. The desktop Outlook 2016 and I are having some syncing issues right now so I’ve moved back to the web-based version as part of Office365. The Outlook calendar I love. I don’t keep a paper schedule/date book etc anymore as this has taken over, and of course, syncs brilliantly with my phone. 

Again, I’ve used other cloud-based programmes but always come back to Dropbox for safe storage/file sharing.

I use Zoho invoicing (free) and find it very user-friendly. Their customer service is also excellent! If you have a query there is a web chat function and if mid conversation your chat disconnects (for example if like me you forgot to plug the laptop back in) they email you to make sure you receive the answers you need. 

I use Asana for some web-based info storage (lists and what not I don’t need daily) and KanbanFlow for the Pomodoro timer. If you haven’t used the Pomodoro system before now it is well worth looking up. Highly motivating, great for productivity, especially if you’re having one of those days where you’re easily distracted.

There are so many online/mobile apps and sites for to do lists, task management, planning and more. I’ve stepped away from all of these and instead my task lists/schedules/get stuff done has reverted back to paper via the Action Day 2017 planner. There’s just something unrivalled about putting pen to paper.


What are your must-have tools, apps, websites and systems for getting things done?

*Please note that this post contains an affiliate link to a product I value.

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