The Beginner’s Guide to Working from Home

Benedict Cumberbatch in LA gif

Try as I might, I can’t seem to stop being a freelancer. Sometimes I go to an office, but usually I don’t, especially now I’m getting into the final stages of my Open Uni course and working on dragonnovel. I’ve learnt a lot during my time of commuting down a set of stairs or across my bedroom to my desk, and I thought it high time I share some tricks of the trade.

Your wardrobe should be work-appropriate

For example, your trousers should be elasticated to account for all the caffeine you’re drinking and all the angry snacking that takes place after a less than fruitful Skype call. Matching socks can help one focus on the day’s tasks, but as long as they’re clean you’ll be able to sit at your desk with pride. Just kidding – if you’ve cleaned your teeth today, you’re already 99% set for work!

Sometimes working from home does require you to leave the house – perhaps in search of your sanity, which you fear you may have lost underneath paperwork. In these situations, I recommend you consult WikiHow to re-learn what deodorant is. For those days when you’ve got people over, or have an emergency video chat, I recommend you keep a couple of unstained outfits at the back of your wardrobe. Remember, only the parts of you that are visible need to look like you’ve got a self care routine.

 

I wish I could tell you where I found these gifs, but my computer has eaten that information. It was in 2015?

Your workstation should be organised

Even the most organised work from home-er has a tendancy to multitask, especially if you’ve accidentally overbooked yourself, so you need to ensure that your paperwork, computer and faintly stained coffee mugs are well-organised. I find that keeping stationery in odd places, like the key tray by the front door, or in my dressing gown pocket, helps make home feel more like an office, and there’s always the old trick of piling all your papers onto one tiny allocated space so you look far more official than you actually are.

You need several planners

One or two, at least. Probably a wall calendar. They contain nothing but deadlines because you last saw your friends on Halloween 2016, but they’re a nice reminder that the end of the tax year is coming up and you’re not as rich as you thought you would be by now.

Invest in quality headphones

Not to block out your neighbours! Not to listen to interesting podcasts while you work! Your headphones are there for when your family members come home and you’ve accidentally read Atlas Obscura all day so you have to catch up during the evening and need to look focused.

Disconnect your wifi

So you can get lots done with no distractions! Wait, you need the internet to work from home in the first place? Hm. Well. If I ever work out a happy medium, I’ll let you know, but I spent a full thirty seconds this afternoon watching a Facebook video of someone’s pet fox zoom around their living room. You should probably just go and work in a coffee shop or something. Or a library.

Or an office.

 

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Introducing a BOOK, Sort Of, That I’m Writing, I Think?

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

It occurred to me recently that a) I should start calling the Giant Enormous Writing Project a book, and b) I should probably talk about it more because it’s driving me a bit mad, in a good way, and when it’s done I’m going to brag about it until hell freezes over, and I should set the ground work for that.

So, yeah, I’m writing a book! It hasn’t got a title yet, before you ask, but I’m calling it dragonnovel, because there is at least one dragon in it. It’s a children’s book, probably. I’m not telling anyone anything else yet, because the dragon is one of about three elements that definitely won’t change. Kind of like in an essay when you know that you’ve got to answer a specific question but how you’ll answer it is really anyone’s guess because you’ve deleted about 5,000 words and made 14 separate plans and look please come back later I need emergency snacks and the ability to spot repeated sentences with my eyes closed.

But it’s going well. This week I rewrote an irritating paragraph and I haven’t felt such a sense of satisfaction since I finished my A Levels. I guess the whole not-discussing-the-plot thing is going to keep this post quite short haha, because all I can tell you is that it’s a CRUCIAL PARAGRAPH. There are also many characters. Several conversations pass the Bechdel Test. I think. Ugh, now I’m paranoid that they don’t. I’ll check in a minute. Look, I made a Pinterest board? Enjoy?

I’m going to try to sort-of track my progress with the book by blogging about it sporadically. In theory, the further I get the more I’ll be able to talk about without worrying that whatever I’m telling you won’t make it into the final draft, so hit me up if you have questions you want answering or have strong feelings about dragon mythology or something.

I’m also here because even though I hate talking about works in progress, a condition of finally talking about dragonnovel is to share my Patreon page more often. I’ve reworked it – again! – because I could do with a little bit of financial breathing space while I write, just for tech expenses and website domains and the like, so I can focus on getting as many MCR jokes into dragonnovel as possible and finishing a proper first draft by the end of summer. I want to make this whole thing as fun and off-beat as possible, too, so everyone who pledges from now until I’m finished writing will get their names in the thank yous of the book, and anyone who pledges $3 or more will get a free ebook/PDF of the finished novel. I am hoping to get traditionally published with a proper agent, but I’ve been working on dragonnovel since 2016 and even if I end up printing it on my home computer, there will be an ebook or PDF. All patrons will also get behind the scenes updates and extra content like playlists and previews (spoiler alert: Lorde is on a playlist). I’m still going to write little short stories and things too, as a break, so there is still early-access to those. Oh and I’ll always name a character after patrons, because I enjoy naming characters hugely.

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures
from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

I’ve done some research and did a soft opening of the new page for friends and apparently it all makes a lot more sense than the old one did, so have a read and bask in the glory of my reward tier names. I also got rid of all tiers above $5, because who has more than $5 spare every month, and added some cool rewards. I’m not really ever expecting to hit 10 patrons but if I do, you guys better prepare yourselves for some excellent fan fiction reading.

Have a good weekend!

I Took a 2 Week Break from Instagram. Here’s What Happened.

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Spoiler alert: I got loads done.

Soooo a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how fed up I’ve become with Instagram and why I wanted to take a little break. I turned it into a mini protest against Insta’s crappy algorithm, because why not, and I took a solid 2 weeks off from the app. I thought I’d end up on there via work, posting for a client or something, but that didn’t happen in the end, so it’s been a full two weeks with zero Instas. I’ve never kept a note of how long I actually spend on social media, because some of it is for work and all that, but in the first week I think I probably had a good half an hour every evening where I found myself looking for something to do. It also snowed awfully that first week, and usually being stuck inside is Prime Internet Browsing Time, but after a few days I stopped reaching for Instagram and started reaching for Twitter instead. Then a few days after that, I stopped reaching for Twitter. I think that during the last week or so, I have hardly even been using my phone. More on that in a minute.

Here is a brief list of the things I got done that in retrospect I might not have had the discipline to do if I hadn’t had one less app to look at when my concentration wavered:

  • 2 separate pieces of art that I’d been thinking about for ages and hadn’t got around to doing properly
  • Posted a bunch of stories online to sites I hadn’t got around to joining
  • Made about 3 spreadsheets for work and actually used formulas and got my financial shit together which is probably the highlight of my year
  • Researched some events and markets and stuff, which I hate doing because selling at events means acknowledging my business requires people to survive ugh
  • Ran a survey about Patreon and did some proper market research
  • Researched potential wholesale partners for my shop, which I have avoided for 2.5 years because it requires talking to people
  • Reorganised my dressing table which is something I have steadily put off since last summer, and if I hadn’t been stuck for things to do I think I would have kept putting it off until I drowned beneath an avalanche of spare hair pins

I also started editing the first draft of the Giant Writing Project (you know, I’m just going to start calling it a book because at this point it is long enough, damn it), made macaroni cheese, had lunch with my dad, did some Pilates and listed some stuff on Etsy. I probably would have done those things anyway, but the weirdest thing about coming off Instagram was that I realised how much time I spend online generally. At first I replaced Insta time with Twitter time, but gradually I kind of just stopped looking at my phone. I think I messaged a few friends a bit more, because WhatsApp and Messenger were the only apps on my phone that didn’t require m i n d l e s s scrolling, and I think I’ve been more disciplined with work in general. I have the natural attention span of a gnat, but taking away one major distraction definitely helped me get away from other distractions, if that makes sense?

I think I also benefited from not seeing, or posting, the highlight reel photos we all post to Insta. I don’t really know any other writers and the people I follow who are also freelancers or on Etsy aren’t of the bragging variety, so I wasn’t missing anything that would directly make me feel inferior – but taking time away from all the likes and the popular page and the constant struggle to get a post noticed helped me to focus. I didn’t have myself down as someone who lets other people’s posts, highlight reel or otherwise, make me feel bad. But I must feel bad on some level, because in the last couple of weeks I’ve felt oddly at peace. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the feeling: I’m focused on what I need to do in the next few months, and I feel confident about how I’m doing it.

That being said, there are a few things I’ve missed. A handful of accounts I follow are by people who aren’t online anywhere else, and I’ve found myself missing their posts. When I go back to Insta this evening I’m going to catch up with Gerard Way’s photos, because I heard he’s got new music on the way, and @lgbt_history, which is possibly the most informative account on the whole of Instagram.

I might trim down who I follow, so I’m not seeing the same photos on Twitter and Instagram, for example, and I might set some sort of timer so I can only spend a certain amount of time on Insta per day. The good stuff on there is great, but I am ready to keep my distance from it, partly for my mental health but partly because god I’m getting so much done! This book might actually be ready to be pitched to agents by the end of the year, for one thing, and for another I can actually find I need on my dressing table which probably hasn’t happened since 2007.

Has anyone else taken time off from Insta or social media? How have you found it? I’m tempted to avoid Twitter for a few weeks next. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT.

Brownout 2.0: the To-Do List from Hell

Tom and Jerry goldfish bowl head

Morning! I don’t usually write blogs before lunchtime because mornings are for Serious Work but a) I have to leave the house soon and can’t get my teeth into anything in case I forget to leave and b) I’m feeling a bit pffft. I would like to blame the weather, but I think I’m getting a bit of brownout. Again. And this time it’s a peak first world problem, because I know exactly what’s causing it. I have so much to do that I don’t know where to start, and then I end up doing none of it! I probably should have learnt how to get over this during my GCSEs (how did I cope with TWELVE SUBJECTS?) but I didn’t, so this is what my internal monologue was like at 9am:

Do I start off today working on an Etsy plan for 2018/19? Do I do some ads for my freelancing services? Do I go back to my Giant Writing Project for a stage of edits and the next draft? I’m really excited to get back to that! Or do I rework my Patreon plans? Do I write another blog post? Is a blog post going to translate to cold hard cash? Probably not. Maybe that’s why I should focus on freelancing or Patreon. Except, I want to use Patreon to support my writing and blogging, and no one will support me if there are no new stories and blogs! Wait, what about Etsy. Oh and the printer needs rebooting and the car needs petrol. Go and buy petrol you idiot you literally can’t get to work otherwise. You have an appointment today. The end of the tax year is coming up. That feels momentous.  Hang on that means you were in Asia a year ago. A year?! God that went quickly. Have you finished that blog post about Laos yet? No, because blogging about Laos won’t make any money and you’re trying to focus on money stuff, remember? Go and work on your Patreon! By the way you’re behind on your uni course.

[continue for half an hour, break for coffee, start again]

Tom and Jerry goldfish bowl head
from Twiter

So I’m here. Definitely not making any money, but not tearing my hair out either. What do you guys do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Usually I am a big fan of the list, because it helps me prioritise, but I don’t know what to prioritise! I want to work on my Giant Writing Project but if I’m going to spend time on that, I need to have more traction on my Patreon because otherwise I can’t really afford to write. I also need to keep up with my uni course because it’s good for my brain development and future prospects, but I have to finally work out what’s up with my printer because I can’t keep putting it off and I want to write that Laos blog but I can’t keep justifying all the time I spend on blogging when I have the Giant Writing Project to finish. Ughhhh.

Right, I have to get ready for my appointment, and I’ll get petrol on the way. I can tick writing this week’s blog off the list, ha, and Google the shit out of fixing my printer. I’m actually doing a bit of market research about Patreon and crowdfunding in general because there’s no point having a Patreon if I’m not using it properly, so if you have three minutes to spare I’d really appreciate if you’d let me know your thoughts. I’ll go from there. And Etsy… I’ll spend half an hour today on a plan for that. After I’ve done some course work.

Hang on. Did I just make a list? HAHAAAAA HELL YES. THANK YOU BLOG. Maybe I’ll keep you around after all. Spiritual nourishment and all that. That being said, I’d love to be able to work this blog into my Patreon plans as well (two or three or ten birds, one crowdfunding stone) so if you have any ideas about how to incorporate blog posts into reward tiers, leave a comment! And/or do that survey. Please and thank you.

It’s Not Me, It’s You | Why I’m Taking a Break from Instagram (and kind of staging a protest)

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Yesterday I floated an idea with some fellow bloggers and Etsy sellers, and their response didn’t make curl up in embarrassment, so here goes. Last week I posted a photo to Instagram of the Kuang Si Waterfalls in Laos, with a link to the accompanying hilarious blog post. In the space of a few hours, which is the average lifespan for an Insta post, it got three likes. I work in digital marketing so I would have understood if I had tagged the post badly, or done a dodgy caption, or posted a photograph of an actual turd. But the Kuang Si Waterfalls are literally paradise:

My cousin even wrote some comments, so every point on the old ‘how to post a good Insta photo’ check list was ticked: funny caption, relevant tags, engaged audience, LITERAL PARADISE. I gritted my teeth and thought ‘maybe it is time to take a break from Instagram.’ I’ve been cutting down on my social media follows and posts generally lately because I’m busy, and if LITERAL PARADISE can’t reach my other friends and family, let alone potential blog readers, what is even the point? Intagram’s recent algorithm changes are making it harder and harder for people to see recent content, or even just… content. I think I see more ‘sponsored posts’ and ‘recommended posts’ than I do actual posts, and then photos from a week ago show up on my timeline that I completely missed a week ago. I’m not an expert but I did some Googling and here is the science behind why that happens:

  1. When you post a photo, Instagram shows the photo to 10% of your audience
  2. If within the first 10-60 minutes, your post gets high engagement (likes, comments, shares), Insta shows it to the rest of your audience (the exact amount of time seems to be debatable, but it’s definitely no more than an hour or two)
  3. If the post doesn’t perform then Insta, um, doesn’t show the rest of your audience.

TEN MINUTES. Here is a good article with more info, by the way. I dunno about you, but a lot of my followers are in a different timezone and a lot of the rest are spam accounts that don’t care anyway. No one sees anything in 10 minutes! Anyway, that’s not the point. Algorithms used by Insta and Facebook show you posts based on what the algorithm thinks you want to see, based on your history and previous engagement and whatnot, not on what you actually might want to see (again, I am not a computer expert, if anyone has a good explanation for how algorithms actually work, hit me up).

In theory this means all accounts (businesses, personal, robots pretending to be people) have to engage with followers by commenting, posting to Insta Stories, watching Insta Stories, etc. Officially, the new algorithm is a way of rooting out fake accounts that spam everyone. But it is also a sneaky unofficial way to get more people to use the app. To gain followers/readers/customers, we have to give Instagram more of our eyeball time, and thus give Instagram’s advertising partners more of our eyeball time. Small businesses or bloggers are more likely to pay for a sponsored post to reach more people, but how many of us see a sponsored post and immediately engage? I do sometimes, but not when I already follow that account and can’t see their organic posts!

Frank Iero fuck off gif
from Tumblr

Anyway. At first I was annoyed with Instagram as a regular person, then I was annoyed as someone whose job includes posting to Instagram for clients who expect results, and then I was annoyed as someone with a blog, Patreon and Etsy shop that deserve way more coverage than they get. But I don’t like moaning about a problem without trying to fix it, so I’ve had an idea for a little protest project.

As I said before, Instagram is fundamentally concerned about hooking users into spending more time on the app. It needs us to engage, because it’s a for-profit company that relies on advertisers paying lots of money in exchange for exposure to lots of people. And the only thing that really resonates with businesses is money. If users spend less time scrolling and watching Stories, there will be less exposure for advertisers and less revenue for the company. If lots of users spend less time on the app, citing the algorithm, the boss dudes might consider improving it.

So I’m taking a two week break from my personal Insta accounts, effective Monday 26th February. I can’t delete the app because I have clients who will want me to post for them, but I won’t be on my account, or the alternative Etsy account I run. If you’re annoyed too, join in! Of course, you don’t have to take two weeks. If spending an hour less a week on there is all you can manage because you have customers and friends to keep up with, that’s cool too. I am clearly not going to be monitoring you – this is a fun lil project that will stop me gritting my teeth so often, not Black Lives Matter or the gun control protests. I’m not really expecting to get through to a multi-million dollar company. There’s not really a time limit either – I can’t see this going viral and all 800 million Instagram users taking a two week break, somehow. And I’ll definitely be back on the app in a fortnight, because there are people on there I really care about. But best case scenario, Instagram’s bosses remember their audience is a community and worst case, I get a bit of headspace and meet some other disgruntled bloggers and business owners!

So if you’re taking part, hit me up in the comments – I’m also on Twitter and Tumblr, and my blog Facebook is here. You can email me at transmissions@indifferentignorance.com too. I wanted to hashtag #FuckInstagram but I think that might be too combative. I’m thinking maybe #ItsNotMeItsYou?

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Late Night Ramblings of Someone Who Just Edited About 100 Sentences and Ironically Can’t Work Out How to End This One dot dot dot

Sherlock proposing to Janine Series 3 GIF

So I’ve had a long day and I promised myself I was winding up the work, because the only thing more depressing than being at home on a Friday evening in your pyjamas is being at home on a Friday evening in your pyjamas, writing. But I actually have the Freedom app installed so my Internet cuts off at 11pm so I had a mooch around the stats pages of my websites and it turns out this post on marriage proposal ideas from 2011 is my most visited ever. It doesn’t even make sense. The post, I mean, not the fact a lot of clearly desperate people are continuing all the way to the third page of Google to get advice on how to propose. Ironically, my parents are now separated although I still do not know how they got engaged.

Sherlock proposing to Janine Series 3 GIF
from the BBC I think

Anyway. I’m writing this at 10:40pm because the stats page seems to think the better-performing blogs are the ones from 7 years ago that I put zero thought into and contain so many in-jokes I can’t actually remember what my original point was. Ugh, youth.

I lied about the writing. It’s not depressing, it’s really good. I’m tentatively hopeful I might finish it before I hit my mid-twenties. I kind of want to go back to writing it right now but my eyes are fuzzy. Ugh, human restrictions. Happy weekend!

Help Me Decide My Next Story!

Kermit the frog typing manically from Giphy

IT’S A NEW MONTH. WE HAVE SURVIVED JANUARY! SPRING IS ALMOST NEARLY HERE. I’m feeling dangerously new years resolution-y, mostly because the sun is out and I am about to re-dye my hair. New beginnings are upon us! Or upon my washed out highlights, anyway.

Followers of my fiction work may have noticed a new story popping up on my stories blog. The Elastic Band Theory is brilliantly strange and inspired partly by a drunken conversation on New Year’s Eve about Pablo Escobar and partly by people’s suggestions of posh town names when I asked for ideas online, so I should probably thank a) my friends, b) the power of Facebook and c) gin. I’m working on a big old project at the moment have I mentioned that so I’m rooting around for ideas for my next short story that aren’t too long or convoluted. Since The Elastic Band Theory felt a bit like a group effort, I thought I’d expand the group and ask you guys. Yes, you, reading this on your mobile while you wait for a bus. You.

Continuing with the new-month-new-start theme, my current ideas are:

  • Something about rebirth
  • Springtime?
  • Easter/Mardi Gras/Lent/resurrection (which is kind of like rebirth if you stand on your head and squint?)
  • The commercial evils of Valentine’s Day
  • Okay Valentine’s is not very spring-like
  • But I have mixed feelings about it which can come in useful when writing characters
  • I mean, I’ve made an entire print collection taking the piss out of Valentine’s Day, but people buy those prints thus earning me money what does that say about my relationship with commercial evils?
  • I mean it might snow here before March so possibly I should just do something about the weather

What do you think? I’m leaning toward something that explores my complex relationship with V Day, but I’m aware that in a week or so, no one on the planet will want to hear the words ‘Valentine’s Day’ again for another year. Let me know and I might, I dunno, get writing.

Kermit the frog typing manically from Giphy
from giphy

PS The next instalment of The Elastic Band Theory will be available tomorrow for those of you signed up to my Patreon, and on the story blog on 6th February. Shit gets real. I’m excited.

How to Digital Detox in 5 Minutes and Win 2018 | An Almost-Scientific Study

Jerry and a Canary from Tom & Jerry GIF

HELLO 2018. I AM WINNING THIS YEAR SO FAR. Okay so technically I woke up 45 minutes late this morning and am wearing a pair of unflattering tracksuit bottoms that I actually said I was going to stop wearing so much last July and technically I embarked on my new year’s resolution on Boxing Day. I also went back to my office job yesterday and thought I was actually going to die when my alarm went off.

But.

So far.

Hell yeah 2018.

Who else is feeling good about themselves? Who wants tips? Of course you do.

Remember when I wrote about new year’s resolutions? I thought about them a lot over Christmas and the only one I really wanted was the third one I talked about: making my writing and art succeed financially. So I worked backwards and thought about how I use my time and the level of discipline it takes to really focus on achieving something important. Then I decided to get rid of my smartphone.

It sounds drastic, but my phone is on the blink anyway and those old-new Nokias with no 3G are pretty nifty. I decided to use a non-smart (stupid?) phone generally and use my computer or iPad for Etsy and social media a couple of times a day. I WILL BE FREE OF BLUE LIGHT AND DISCIPLINE WILL BE MINE, I announced. I WILL SUCCEED FINANCIALLY.

Baby Groot Dancing in a Plant Pot GIF

Francesca, pointed out my entire family, you really need Google Maps. They had a point, so I’ve decided to just get a cheap and cheerful smartphone with a mildly-working camera and enough space for Google Maps. And my banking app, because I have no idea how society functioned without the ability to check their balance whenever they fancied (also it’s probably good to know your cash flow when your heart’s desire is financial stability, ha).

Midway through my thousandth free-from mince pie on Boxing Day, I faced up to the uncomfortable truth: the issue with me having a smartphone isn’t that it’s a smartphone. It’s that I use it too much. Buying a stupidphone might stop me from checking the Internet, but I’d just become obsessed with checking my iPad instead. I never go online on Christmas Day except to message people – I don’t think I ever have – and every year I think ‘why don’t I do this more often?’ So since Boxing Day I’ve been trying this thing where I only use the phone for five minutes at a time. I’m not rewarding or punishing myself for sticking to it or going over, I just wanted to see if it freed up my time. Shocker: it absolutely does! The general Christmas holiday notwithstanding, I reckon I’ve done in three days what usually takes five: I’ve got loads of studying done, written about 1000 words of a super secret writing project and even remembered to order contact lenses. DISCIPLINE IS MINE.

Jerry and a Canary from Tom & Jerry GIF
from Twitter

So there you have it: to WIN AT 2018, you just need to put your phone down!

You’re welcome.

In the spirit of finding success, I am linking my Patreon page again. I love to write and make art, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to try to cover my blog or portfolio domain costs via the very blog I’d like to fund. I will absolutely consider 2018 a roaring success if I reach $6 a month in total pledges (the grand sum of my domain costs), because then I can focus on blogging and not on how to pay for the blog. I can also focus on the super secret writing project but it’s only 3rd January so I’m staying super secretive until it’s progressed further. Watch this space, literally.

Happy new year!