On getting slummocky

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Working desk

Slummocky is a great word, isn’t it. I (re?)discovered it when reading Stella Gibbons’ “Nightingale Wood”. To be slummocky is to behave in an indolent or careless way, and a slummock is a slovenly person.

Now, of course, I’m NOT slovenly or careless or indolent. But I tell you what I have been doing, and that’s letting the admin slide.

Not the invoices: no, of course not. I’m not actually stupid, and I would like my money to come in nice and regularly, thank you. And we all know that I run my accounts and do my tax return almost obscenely promptly every year.

But there are other things: deeper, darker, murkier things, which must be done when you’re running your own business. Things like Bank Reconciliations. And like all admin or indeed everyday things, they are far better done regularly, in small doses, rather than in one great slummocky lump when you have started to panic about the huge bulk of them waiting to engulf you …

Bank reconciliations

The basic principle of the bank reconciliation is that you go through your accounts and your bank statement, and make sure they match up. A bit like the old-fashioned practice of balancing your cheque book – and we all do it to some extent, I’m sure, popping in to check the bank account online and make sure there are no unusual or incorrect transactions.

My friend Aly Mead at Silicon Bullet has written a great article on this subject; it’s particularly good to read the article if you do your accounts in Sage or a system like that. I run my accounts via a spreadsheet (which I do keep scrupulously up to date) recording invoices raised and paid on one sheet and payments and charges on another.

Basically, I turn these two sheets into one long list of incomings and outgoings, listed by transaction date (i.e. the date the invoice was paid or payment made) (Spreadsheet A) and then I download a spreadsheet version of my bank statement (Spreadsheet B), and compare the two. I write the line number of the item on Spreadsheet A into a column on Spreadsheet B and vice versa, and then I rather satisfyingly colour them in green. In a basic version, the two look like this:

Bank reconciliation example

Even though the entries aren’t quite in the same order, I have matched them all up, and the running total is the same for both. I pop the accounts spreadsheet into the same order as the bank account spreadsheet at the end (I do this by sorting the spreadsheet by that column) and the two should match up.

Keeping up with the admin

If you do this every month, it’s simple. It’s like housework and ironing and all those other chores (actually, I never do ironing, but that’s probably for another time). I only have between 20 and about 35 transactions per month. Which is fine when it’s one or two months, not so great when it’s … erm … nine.

And there are always little tweaky issues. I have missed putting a couple of payments in the right place on my main in/out spreadsheet, and forgot to record the info about a mystery payment, all resolved with the client a couple of months ago. I’ve also forgotten to pay myself back for membership of a website that I paid for using my own credit card. There is probably only one little issue per month, but when there are a few months to go through …

The other thing I’ve been a bit lax about is moving payments from other places. I have a PayPal account and a few regulars and one-off clients pay me by PayPal. I used to withdraw each payment immediately to my bank account, so it created one line on my bank statement which matched at most one in and one out on my accounts spreadsheet. But I’ve let these build up before withdrawing, which means I’ve got one line on my bank statement which matches five or six sets of incomings and fees on my accounts spreadsheet.

That will be changing, too.

Reforming my ways

I wrote this article to remind myself how hideous it is doing your bank reconciliation if you leave it too long. It’s taken me a good few hours and given me a thumbing headache. Don’t be slummocky: little and often wins through!

Do share any tips you have for making yourself do this stuff, by the way!

Paper is sometimes best

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Sometimes paper is best!

I was looking at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders website and musing about how I almost never do work on paper manuscripts (once in well over 500 jobs), and then the doorbell rang and my new to do list stationery had arrived … so that’s one thing where I do stick with paper.

Well, one of two things.

With my to do lists, I have flirted with Google Calendar / Tasks and I do put meetings, events and appointments like Skype chats or phone calls in there. But all through my working life, I have had a paper to do list, and, you know what? That’s what I like to have. I had been using one of my few Libro notepads to keep it, but I’ve now bought a special book – appointments on the left hand page and Things To Do Today (why is that capitalised when the name of the book is all lower case, though?) on the right. With tick boxes and everything. There is also room for notes, which is handy for those phone calls.

The other thing I keep on paper is my customer records. Not entirely: I keep a note of people’s pricing and other terms on their contact details in my gmail account. As I do work for people, I either create an invoice for that piece of work, including details of the time spent or word count, depending on how I invoice them, or add the project to their current monthly invoice But I have an A4 spiral bound book with a section for each major client and one for one-off/student clients.  This is where I note down the date, time, word count and charge for each job I do.

I like writing. I like pen and paper. I like using fountain pens with different colour inks. I might do all my editing, proofreading, writing and transcription on the computer, and I might have an online book review blog; I might even have a Kindle … but when it comes down to it, I read real books too (mostly, actually), write my book reviews in a nice notebook first, and keep paper records and to do lists.

You don’t have to do what is most up to date and modern. Everything doesn’t have to be In The Cloud. Do what you feel comfortable with!

A typical day for Libro

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See, I do relax. Here’s me at Easter, hanging out with a friend!

It’s great working for myself full time, but sometimes I am reminded that not everyone realises that, just because I might mention I’m working at, say 6am, and again at 10pm, that doesn’t mean I’m working as such for the whole day. If I was, that would be a bit worrying, of course. Anyway, I thought I’d note down a “typical” day in my life now (and contrast it with one from my former office-part-time/libro-part-time life, too). Note that these are example days, but they are common ones.

A typical day now

6.00 – 8.00 Get up. Check email and work for about 90 minutes.

8.00 – 9.00 Breakfast with M. Shower.

9.00 – 9.30 Check and answer emails, check Facebook and Twitter. Publish a blog post.

9.30 – 11.00 Work of various sorts – projects large or small

11.00 – 11.30 Cuppa and a drink of squash. Emails and admin

11.30 – 12.30 More billable hours

12.30 – 14.30 An hour at the gym, lunch and shower

14.30 – 16.00 Work.

16.00 – 16.30 A soft drink, a cuppa (a bun?) and some emailing.

16.30 –  18.00 Work.

18.00 – 19.00 Either work or walk down to meet M on his way home from work

19.00 – 20.00 House admin and dinner.

20.00 – 21.00 Maybe an hour of work if I’m busy or have tight deadlines. Otherwise, TV etc.

21.00 – 22.00 TV or reading.

22.00 – 22.30 Check email, last minute bits and bobs, check personal email

22.30 – 23.00 Get ready for bed, a bit of reading.

23.00 Bedtime.

So that gives me between 7 and 9 billable working hours – usually more like 7, which is what people do in an office, of course, just not so spread out through the day.

And in a week of days like this I will get out to the cafe to meet friends at least once, pop into town or meet a friend for dinner, and have some time writing up blog posts etc.

A typical day in 2011

On a day when I worked in the office and at home, my day would look like this:

5.45 – 6.00 Get up, check Libro email, maybe do some Libro work

6.00 – 7.00 Breakfast, shower, get ready for work.

7.00 – 7.30 Travel into work.

7.30 – 13.00 Working at the Library.

13.00 – 13.30 Lunch. Check Blackberry and reply to Libro emails / make calls.

13.30 – 15.45 Working at the Library.

15.45 – 16.30 Travelling home.

16.30 – 19.30 Cup of tea then working till M gets home and beyond. He makes my dinner.

19.30 – 20.00 Hasty dinner.

20.00 – 22.30 Working on Libro projects.

22.30 – 23.00 Getting ready for bed.

23.00 Bedtime.

That was 4 then 3 days a week through the whole of 2011 pretty well. Phew! I would have a day like the above one 1 or 2 weekdays a week and work solidly at the weekends. Not so much gym, certainly not any cafe with friends, not so many blog posts, not so much reading!

Writing this post, and the reason for writing it, has got me musing about “presenteeism” and the way it creeps into self-employment. Here’s my article on that topic on the Libro blog.

On Bank Holidays

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When you work in an office, Bank Holidays (or public holidays, or whatever you call them in your country) are really important. There’s lots of discussion about what you might do on the Bank Holiday, and what you did, afterwards. Lots of chat about “don’t forget not to come in on Monday”. People who have odd working schedules get upset or pleased about how Bank Holidays are treated in their pay and holiday schedules (if you don’t usually work on a Monday, do you still get an extra holiday, etc., etc.)

If you’re a freelancer or run your own business, especially if you work from home, alone, let me tell you that Bank Holidays disappear into the ether. They do not matter. They might as well not exist, except that a) there might be extra people around the house, startling you with their presence occasionally, and b) people might expect you to be free to do stuff.

I’m not sure if this is limited to people who, like me, have a lot of international clients whose public holidays are at different times to ours. But I bet anyone with a big project to complete doesn’t stop just because it’s Bank Holiday Monday. I’ve coped OK with this double one for the Jubilee, but the  early May one was a different story. Up the stairs I popped at 6 am, as usual. “See you at 8 for breakfast,” I cheerily called to M, as usual. “Eh? What?” I’d completely missed the memo that there was a Bank Holiday. Oh, because there are no memos when you work alone …

By the way, I have been known to check what day it is, or whether it’s morning or afternoon, when entering the gym, for example. I know which column I’m in on my Gantt chart, and I’m never startled by my deadlines, but I do hope that other home / lone workers are the same and I’m not starting to go a bit odd …

Good Things About Working From Home in the Summer

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This is not my garden

I was slightly bemoaning the fact that when it was cold and rainy the other week, I didn’t have much work on, whereas now, when the weather is glorious, I am busy, busy, busy, slaving away at 8 -10 hour days up in my study … but actually, compared to people working in offices, with other people, or both, I’m pretty lucky.

- It doesn’t matter what I wear (within reason – I do have windows in my office) and I can change part way through the day if I want to

- No window / fan / blinds wars – it’s just me and the cat, and the cat doesn’t really have a say in which windows are open. Every office has window open/closed, fan on/off and curtains or blinds open/closed wars and it’s liberating to be able to do whatever I choose

- If I really want to, I can start at 5 am and have a siesta after lunch

- I can have lunch in the garden. I perched on the garden bench today, Denis Healey autobiography in hand, washing ready to peg on the line, just for 15 or so minutes, but it was lovely

So I might be busy, but I’m lucky to be busy … and I’m lucky to be able to keep comfortable in the heat and to be able to do what I need to do in order to keep comfortable. No more bemoaning for me!

State of the TBR – May 2012

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State of the TBR shelves 1 May

Inspired by my friend Ali’s book blog, where she has a regular post talking about what’s coming up in her reading for the next month, I’ve decided to post a State of the TBR post every month. So: here’s a photo of my TBR (To Be Read) shelf as of today. One shelf full at the back, half a shelf at the front, and a Pile (the pile is made up of books in series where I haven’t got there in the series yet, comforting pony books, and books in French I claim I’m going to read one day). The ideal shelf is just one shelf full and a Pile, so not doing too well so far.

Current reads (Kindle not pictured)

Here’s what I’m reading at the moment:

  • Denis Healey – “The Time of my Life” – excellent autobiography, but it’s my Downstairs Book (large tomes I can’t carry around in my handbag or comfortably read in bed) so by its very nature is being read quite slowly. I like to have a big book on the go, and the next one will be the fat collection of diary entries to the left of my TBR shelf.
  • Sinclair McKay – “The Secret Life of Bletchley Park” – a BookCrossing book passed to me by Ali. Really interesting so far, and a lively, well-researched read; I’m getting through this quite quickly.
  • Thomas Hardy – “The Hand of Ethelberta” (not pictured: on Kindle) – this is (was) the March-April read for the All The Novels of Hardy readalong I’m taking part in (that’s Ali again). I didn’t get round to starting it until yesterday and there are some annoying locals at the start, but it’s getting good now.

Coming up ...

And finally, a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to make the books look like they’re in a pile … this is the beginning of my TBR and I’m hoping to get through some of them this month. The bottom one is the big book of diary entries that will replace Mr Healey when he’s done. Then we have a Georgette Heyer, a Tove Jansson that’s been raved about on the LibraryThing Virago group, some Zora Neale Hurston and lots of Persephones – “To Bed With Grand Music”, “Making Conversation”, “It’s Hard to be Hip Over Thirty” (I’ve read some of these poems already), “Hostages to Fortune” and “The Children Who Lived in a Barn”. So it should be a grey May in a GOOD way!

With my newly added Home Worker’s Resolution to read more, hopefully you will see a number of these reviewed by the end of the month …

New resolutions

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I’m still climbing up the path to being completely sorted out in my new working-from-home life. Regular readers will remember that I wrote down some Home-Workers’ Resolutions when I first went full-time with Libro, based on what I’d learned while doing it part time.

I’ve been doing it for nearly 4 months now, and all is going really well – the work has expanded to fill the space, and most of it is from a good roster of regular clients, giving me a range of different tasks for different kinds of people and companies. I’ve recently added another transcription client and another localisation client to the mix. But I have learned about a few more tweaks I need to make, and writing this post, writing them down, will hopefully help me to achieve them (as the original post did).

Have my lunch by 2 p.m.

I’ve got a bit bad at this one. Hence writing this at 2.29 p.m. I get into what I’m doing or I go to the gym late, and time is ticking on … It’s not necessarily BAD to have lunch late – I have my breakfast later now, so that I can have a chat with Matthew first thing, so I’m not fainting by this point, but it is important to have regular anchors in your working day when you’re alone all day, and I think this one is important.

Leave the phone alone during meal times

I’m REALLY bad at this one. In my case, for “phone”, read “Blackberry”. All those little email messages binging into my phone with that tempting noise. And I do have a lot of regular clients who need work doing at short notice. But, honestly, in the time it takes to consume a meal, is anything so urgent going to happen that it would really matter if I put the phone to one side? Do I need to be twisting round to grab my phone, only to find it’s spam or bacon*? I’ve started to try this at lunch and will extend it to dinner, too. Fair enough, I will have the phone within reach in the evening, and it’s by my bedside as I find it comforting to just check if something’s come in without getting out of bed first thing. But mealtimes will henceforth be sacred.

*bacon is stuff you’ve signed up for but then feels almost like it’s spam when you receive it – newsletters and updates, that kind of thing.

Spend at least a little time every day doing something that I love

I’m getting better at this one – hooray! In my case, this thing that I love is reading. I was missing reading: I’ve always been a big reader and love reading and reviewing what I’ve read. This nice new home for my book reviews has helped with this. And I’ve taken to grabbing a book when I’m on the way to the gym once a week, and reading on the exercise bike (yes, I still have a good, hard workout!). I’m happier as a result, and less panicky about the size of my Mount To Be Read. Even if you love your job, do a little different thing, whether it’s watching the telly, reading a magazine, or having a bath. If it’s a special thing you can do every day, like reading, so much the better!

I’ve updated the Home-Worker’s Resolutions page with these: and as ever, do let me know if you’re a) following the resolutions yourself or b) have any more to contribute!

End of project … end of year

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Photo by Adam Yosef

I really like this photo of me at Birmingham Social Media Cafe and wanted a chance to use it somewhere – my friend, Adam, kindly took some photos for me as I had to submit one to the website of an event I’ve been invited to, and he got this one too. Me, in Libro colours, pouring tea.

Anyway – I’ve reached the end of a big, ongoing project transcribing conference sessions, a project that comes up fairly regularly and is great fun to do, but takes a lot of my time and energy. And I’ve come to the end of my financial year, which coincides with the UK financial year. So a time for reflecting and taking stock of things.

Peaks and troughs in work life

I’ve noticed that I’m a lot more relaxed about the quieter times in my business life. I used to get nervy, thinking it had all somehow, miraculously, “gone away” and I was going to end up destitute in a gutter. Now I know it goes in peaks and troughs. I know that most of my clients are regulars, that it would be rather odd if they all stopped sending me work at the same time, and that I will be as busy as anything really soon.

So I’m using this time to chill out a bit. I had a massive reading in bed session after breakfast today (and finished a book I’d been reading for AGES – watch out for reviews coming soon) and plan to do a lot more of that. Matthew is off for the University General Holidays and the rest of next week, and hopefully I’ll get some time to spend with him, even if we’re just lolling around the house watching telly. We are going to the park this afternoon (mainly to have a cuppa out).

Tax time … and Payment on Account time

It’s nearly Tax Self-Assessment time: hooray! I might post a bit more about this at some point (should I? What do you think?) but basically I discovered early on that you don’t have to do your tax return in a frenzy at the end of January, just before the deadline. You can do it as soon as you have all your stuff together. I used to have to wait for my P60 from the day job, but I have my P45 from December all ready and waiting. I’ve done my accounts, because I keep them up to date all year round and then just make sure I include everything I’ve invoiced up to the end of the year (this may change next year: I hope it does!) even if it hasn’t been paid yet. I just have to get my Statements of Interest from the banks (this makes me laugh: my two banks combined a year or so ago. They use the same computer systems; even their online systems are almost identical. But Lloyds TSB will print out your Statements of Interest there and then, whereas Halifax insist on posting them to you. One for each account) and then I’m ready to go.

I don’t do my Self-Assessment in April, just after the end of the financial year that it’s for, to be smug and feel clever. I do it because then I  know what I will have to pay the tax man by the end of January! I’d just far rather know what it involves. Then I can put that money away in a safe place, take the bit that’s left over and put it into my personal account (to, y’know, live on and all that) and start afresh.

This coming year I will start Paying On Account, which is a bit of a pain but all explained over on the main Libro blog. I don’t mind paying my taxes, but this does seem a bit mean, as I will basically have to give the tax man 30% of my income (income tax and national insurance) on all of my Libro income (I earned exactly the threshold in my day job), twice (because of the Payment on Account thing). So, although I’ve done better than I thought I would this year, I will only get to play with about 40% of it.

I am so glad that I saved up enough money to live on for a year while I was working full time, in anticipation of running the business and eventually needing to support myself. It is possible, even on a smallish wage, but it did mean that I had to be careful in 2009 and 2010 when I started the business and worked full time, saving up living money, 2011 when I was managing to live on my part time wages and not touch my Libro income, and now this year while I am just able to add a little bit to the living-on-money pot. It’s just about doable, but it’s a bit annoying, and doubly so for Matthew, who probably thought I’d be able to justify the odd holiday by now!

Looking on the bright side …

Anyway, I’ve got some time off, I have Matthew with me, will be seeing various friends and doing some good old rest, relaxation … and reading. Happy Easter, everyone!

A typical week … now

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A few months ago, when I was still working at the Library 21 hours per week, I wrote this post about a typical week, so that I remembered what it was like trying to manage the two. Now I’ve settled into some kind of routine working at Libro full time, I thought it was time to repeat the exercise. So here’s a “typical” week (if there is such a thing) these days …

Monday 19 March – got up just after 6, came up to the study, worked on this post then got down to finishing off proof-reading the third chapter of a PhD a client’s sending me in batches. I also put the finishing touches on a localisation I’d done for a big newish client – the client had answered some questions and I updated my “translation” on the software accordingly, signed the job off and added it to their monthly invoice. I had breakfast with M before he walked to work. I then did some admin to do with an event I’m speaking at in June, and settled down to a good session on another client’s PhD. It’s my exercise rest day, so I can get some good long working sessions in.  I had a good, healthy lunch and went for a walk up the High Street to pick up a few things: a real benefit of working from home is being able to pop out the shops at quieter times in the retail day (I’m also spending less, although I’m not sure how, as I’ve never been a big spender anyway) and lunch and day time trips out are a good, healthy habit since I sorted out my Homeworker’s Resolutions. Back home and I had a few little bits in from regulars before doing another localisation session followed by some more PhD. I popped out to meet M on his walk home then had a quiet evening, interspersed with the odd email from a client, dealt with on my Blackberry.

Tuesday 20 March – I had some work in during yesterday evening / overnight – three student essays, two of which are from people I’m taking through their Master’s course. Oh, the luxury: if this had been in the Old Days, I’d have been frantically working on my previous projects before starting these. I completed one and started another before breakfast: while putting the bibliography of the first one in alphabetical order, I was inspired to put together a blog post on how to do that, so I created the screen shots and a draft blog post for that before getting on with the next essay. After breakfast I responded to a few emails asking for price and service quotations before continuing with student essays. I went to the gym, booked in another job with a regular client which involved downloaded and learning some new software, and after lunch met an editing friend for a walk in the park and a chat about business – she’s someone I recommend academic enquirers on to when I’m too busy to take them on and we needed to discuss a few things, and it was nice to do that in the sunshine. Then back to my desk for another editing session for some regular clients. I then ended up struggling with some recalcitrant software which meant I got behind and had to spend some of the evening after dinner working.

Wednesday 21 March – up early as usual and a couple of hours of PhD editing before breakfast. I realised the table numbering in the thesis had gone awry so emailed the client with the options. After breakfast I published my blog post on adding Contents Pages to Word, publicised that and continued with the thesis. I popped down to the Post Office depot to pick up a parcel (I’m here almost constantly; how did it not get delivered?) and then up to the cafe for a regular “grown-ups’ homework club” / catch-up with a fellow freelancer and friend. It’s good to sound off about how things are going and chat about plans as well as just relaxing and seeing a human face. I set up a Facebook group to co-ordinate this a little while ago and it’s proved an excellent addition to my week. Came home and did a quick edit of a text translated from Chinese, and after lunch wrote a press release for a medical client. I worked some more on the PhD, went to the gym and did a little more after dinner. I explained why I’ve got to pay my tax twice next year to M (oh, the thrills! I’ve commissioned an article on Paying On Account from an accountant for the Libro blog). A good balance today although another evening spent away from “family time”.

Thursday 22 March – I worked on an academic article in the morning, including checking all the references were there (they weren’t) and tracking down the missing ones, as well as making sure everything conformed to the author guidelines set out by the journal the article was being written for. That was fun and a bit more challenging than some of my work. A few payments in (including a big one I’ve been waiting for anxiously, which achieved my targets for this month and next!) and I checked a press release for a regular before getting down to working in the Scrivener software for my author client – I’m helping her combine her articles into a book. She’s provided lots of guidance for me on what she wants, which is marvellous and very helpful! I also put a wash on – how lovely to be able to see the sun and get a wash done and out on the line: I’d have been in the office this time last year, looking at the sun and knowing it wasn’t drying anything on my line! I then walked in to the University (3 miles), got my hair cut and walked back again (3 miles) before doing a couple of hours of PhD work in the evening. I had commissioned a guest blog post on Tax Payment on Account from a great accountant I met recently, and was thrilled to have that come in to me by the end of the day; I’ll publish it the week after next once I’ve tidied up the formatting and written an introduction.

Friday 23 March – I’d had lots of requests to do projects in through the evening and, in fact, the night, so had to crack on: finished proof-reading an advert and localising some company communications before breakfast, then published a troublesome pair blog post, wrote an article about a man and his dentistry, localised some information on electric cars and finished the big thesis I’ve been working on all week. Phew! Another wash out on the line, lunch and then a couple of hours on some more chapters I’d had in from my other thesis client, before treating myself to an hour on my Iris Murdoch project in the cafe before meeting a contact to chat about some work she’d like me to do writing for her website. I went to the gym and was set to do some more work after dinner, but unfortunately a house-related mini-emergency took up the rest of the evening, leading me to cancel plans for Saturday afternoon. Nothing changes there, then …

Saturday 24 March – This is where it gets tough. A late evening and then disturbances related to neighbours in the night meant I had to drag myself upstairs to the study to try to complete the work I’d promised my client by mid-morning, which I should have got on with last night. I had at least written up my Saturday freelancer chat, so that was ready to just publish and promote before breakfast time. Fortunately, the first work project was continuing with a PhD I was fairly familiar with, so I could press on, knowing I was already aware of the writer’s style and common errors. If I’d been too tired to do it, I wouldn’t have, but I was just weary, and worked on it as well as I would normally do (maybe a little more slowly: I’m glad I charge by the word and not by the hour nowadays!). I finished that, sent off the chapters, worked on an issue of a magazine and put in a couple of hours on my author’s blog-to-book project: I did also go for a walk in the park and didn’t work after dinner time.

Sunday 25 March – Oh no: the clocks changed! I also found out I had a community meeting in the afternoon, so I didn’t get the lie-in I’d hoped for (but I couldn’t sacrifice my run). I finished my author’s work and started a new PhD chapter, did my run, had lunch, finished the PhD chapter and sent it off, then started a transcription project I have had in from my student proofreading company – 5 hours of lectures to type up for a student (!). I got on quite well, so not too much worrying about finishing it. I also had quite a long piece of work from one of my translator clients, which came in just as I sat down to watch the TV with Matthew …

Conclusions

It’s still a juggling act – between work, personal and social life and exercise. But it’s not between work, work, personal life and exercise, at least. Not having fixed, monolithic hours to go to the office makes things a lot easier, although it’s easier to cancel fixed items like networking meetings, which I really shouldn’t do. I still get tired, and I still work a few evenings, but if I work in the evening it’s often because I’ve done something in the day time: it’s rare for me to truly put in a 10-hour day! In terms of working hours, I did 40 billable hours this week, with perhaps another 7 or 8 admin hours. So that is actually about 6-7 hours more than before, although without the commuting time. Note that I’ve done 35, 18 and 36 hours in the other weeks this month: there is no such thing as a typical month.

I’m going to write about the general changes I’ve found in my life over the past three months in another post, but this should serve as a (n interesting?) contrast to my week “before”. It feels better … it’s definitely paying better, per hour and generally, and I’ll run this exercise again in another few months to see if anything’s changed or resolved.

How to be an overnight business success

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Someone posted on Twitter the other day that people should follow me because I’ve built up my business so quickly.  And yes, through the first 50 days of my full time business adventure, I have been running at full capacity. But I don’t feel like it’s been an overnight success, and here’s why (and why I think that’s a good thing).

You’ll have read all about the way I started Libro by now, so I won’t bore you by going on about that. But how have I brought that up to full capacity since I went full time? It’s been a combination of things:

- having a good set of regular customers I can rely on to keep sending me work

- having a marketing strategy which keeps people aware of what I do

- carefully using a few sources to help me gain more work

- keeping careful track of what I can and can’t do, and being selective about what work I take on

These all mean that I could grow the business slowly while I was part time, and then ramp things up to fill in the full time hours.

Keeping regular

I’ve built up a roster of regular customers over the last couple of years – some who send me lots of work, some who send me something every now and again. I’ve made sure to keep them happy, keeping them informed of when I was available when I worked part time, setting sensible expectations and being reliable. I’ve also kept these diversified, from editing, to writing, to transcription. I let them know first when I went full time, I have kept them as my priority customers, with others fitting around them – and they have rewarded me by sending me more projects to work on.

Read all about it!

My Libro blog is primarily written to be useful and helpful, of course. But my aim is also to drive business to my website. Do a quick Google search for “troublesome pairs”, “spelled or spelt” and “what is a transcriber?” and you should find me on the first page of results. This time last year, I instigated a policy of making sure I got hits on the website every day, and often had to go and publicise myself on different fora to do so on a particular day. Now I have lots of hits every day, I never have to do that, and most of my hits come from search engines.

I have also kept on networking and using social media. All of this ensures that I have a steady stream of new customers finding me and heading my way.

Paid help

I looked at a lot of freelancer websites when I started out – where you register and then bid for jobs. But I was never successful and I found that I was constantly underbid by companies offering the work for peanuts. Thanks to my friend, Sian, I found www.proz.com which is a site for translators. I took out a paid membership last year, which means that people who want editing, proof-reading, transcribing and localisation services are given my details and can come through to me for a price and service estimate. Some really good, regular, clients have found me this way, with minimal effort from me (setting up my profile and then of course responding to questions and requests for quotations) and it was well worth choosing this one site to use. Getting a recommendation to use the site from someone else who had success with it was key here.

Being choosy

I gained great experience in being choosy and setting expectations when I was juggling the business and my part time job. Now it’s a case of juggling projects large and small – my Gantt chart is my friend here, but so is being honest about myself and my abilities. I’ve been working a lot on a big transcription project and other ongoing work recently, and I know that around 40 billable hours is the maximum I can really do in a week – it’s hard work that involves a lot of concentration, and that’s not counting admin time.  I am lucky enough to have a few people I can recommend a prospect to if I can’t take on their work, and I am getting better at doing that rather than taking too much on. That way, I can make sure I do a good job for my customers, and keep reliable for my regulars.

The next step …

I’ll write another post about where I go from here, as I’ve had a few questions and suggestions recently. I’m really happy that I have avoided the quiet couple of months I was fearing when I went full time, and I did take the day off today …

If anyone else has recently gone full time self-employed, I’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve grown to fill those new available hours!

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