Tom Ashton, (AKA Ashton Editorial) has been a freelance project manager for nearly a year now. Here he shares an overview of his experience. I must say, he does look rather happy!
Early last year, in a meeting room one day over a conference call, I realized I had traveled 40 miles that morning, only to speak to someone over the phone. Over the course of a week, I wondered: if you take all the benefits of working in a centralized environment, like an office, vs those gained by remote working, how do the two compare?
My assumption was that on one hand, a business benefits from its workforce being in close physical proximity, and that similarly an individual will, socially. On the other hand, offices involve numerous overheads – power, heating, health&safety, maintenance staff and elaborate Christmas parties, and individually, we have to provide the time, finances and energy to get to work in the first place (In the UK we’re apparently averaging a 4 full weeks of commuting a year, according to a BBC report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/25/unpaid-overtime-free-labour-flexible)
Since becoming self-employed almost a year ago now, I’m coming to think of the financial and personal cost of commuting as one of several arguments in favour of increased ‘home-working’ - whether via freelance staff or for employees.
Commercially, beside the question of office overheads, freelancers are flexible, highly-focused and allow employers to avoid making long-term financial commitment to contracts and redundancy packages. The home-worker can meanwhile charge more per hour relative to their employed counterpart, while living ‘off-peak’ – i.e. working flexibly, often at odd hours and at short notice, while structuring shopping, travel and leisure to periods of low demand (which are cheaper of course, generally).
Ecologically, they barely contribute to transport pollution, and even consume less energy, as they’re not maintaining an empty home for 40 out of 168 hours in the week. Politically, they encourage ‘localism’ by increasing their contribution to local businesses but also - in true ‘Big Society’ style – through having greater opportunity to participate in local activity, whether they be in volunteering initiatives, for childcare, or leisure activities not possible or practical within the structure of a 9-5 working arrangement. My experience has been that in addition to these opportunities, one can be remain every bit as much part of a working team, whether present in person or not. With a combination of email and regular client visits, (and presumably, greater take-up of video in the near-future), I’ve felt little sense of isolation and often, found myself to be more focused and productive than in comparable open-plan office environments.
Of course, there are a range of practical considerations to be made, and some specific challenges involved to freelancing. Having declared yourself self-employed, one immediately must become an accountant (handling cash flow, invoicing, and planning revenue), taxman (learning about self-declaring tax and the technicalities of type 2 and type 4 National Insurance), and handle fee negotiation. You provide your own marketing, IT support, and training. A strategy is needed too on how to integrate your professional and domestic life, and how to prevent either adversely interfering with each other. Perhaps the best solution for a permanent settled home-worker is ‘shed working’ – i.e. establishing HQ at the end of your garden (see http://www.shedworking.co.uk).
Beside the financial risk and lack of security inherent in self-employment, these considerations make this type of lifestyle to some extent a matter of personal choice, however, given the current state of the politics, the economy and technology, one I believe worth careful consideration.
For more details on Ashton Editorial, please follow @AshtoEditorial on twitter or check out http://www.ashtoneditorial.co.uk
I was fortunate to meet Fiona Skowronski, author of Smuggler’s Caves, a few weeks ago and loved her experience of self-publishing. Here she shares all:
So, the shamefully easy quiz we had a couple of weeks ago took the form of a mysterious message hidden in a ‘QR code’. For the uninitiated, this was a primitive form of augmented reality, the big idea of which is to enhance the real world by adding virtual elements.
As SJ figured out in just under 13 minutes, QR codes can be read using mobile apps to scan the image and decode it (or by using the nifty tool pointed out by Anna in the comments). QR codes are particularly huge in tech-hungry Japan, adorning everything from t-shirts to entire buildings. Users can be directed to content stored on the web, and by using particular mobile apps, this content can be superimposed onto real-world objects, as shown in this terrifying incarnation of the humble business card.
After the jump there’s a couple more examples of QR for your perusal - what do you think folks, is this a big deal for print publishing, or is it a bit of a gimic?
As if you needed further convincing to drop by the BookMachine party on the 10th, here’s a review of December’s event from employment guru, Sam Coleman.
Whenever I admit to being one of those digital-publishing-type-people, I’m usually told there’s two crucial things I’ve overlooked:
1) eBooks don’t smell of anything. Books should be smelly.
2) I can’t read an eBook in the bath. I must be able to read in the bath.
Yup, readers are a very demanding breed, and digital can’t quite cater for these two demands… not yet. eBooks have made great strides over the last couple of years by brazenly plundering everything that print books do so well - bookmarking, note-taking, page turning, sharing and lending. It may be that waterproofing and scratch & sniff are all that’s needed to win over the sceptics.
But so far the plagiarism has all been one way. Isn’t it time that print books started borrowing from digital publishing? Could 2011 be the year of ‘augmented reality’?
Check back on Monday for more. And for homework, a free drink at the next BookMachine party for the first person to find the hidden info in the image - just add your answer to the comments section.
At the last BookMachine event we were pleased to meet Sam Coleman from Atwood Tate. He’s certainly a man in the know if you’re looking for a job, as he speaks to recruiters in the industry every day. Here he shares some tips for finding work.