Why is “Flexible Working” Still So Inflexible?

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We live in a digital age, apparently. We have technology available at our finger-tips, supposedly. Why is it then that many businesses still can’t use this technology to allow their employees a better work / life balance?

According to a recent survey, a whopping 80% of employees say they would be happier with more flexible working options. Better work flexibility means greater happiness and more productivity for business. And yet why are we still not getting this quite right? Why is it that the majority of working people I know are still plodding through a 9 to 5 hour day for 5 days a week chained to their office desk?

My Ultimatum

Four years ago, I had a job that I loved in London. I went on maternity leave and was hoping to go back. I asked to return on a part-time basis but that wasn’t deemed possible. So then I asked if I could work from home but apparently that wouldn’t work with the systems in place. Eventually, I was told that I either had to return in a full-time capacity or not at all. And so I made the difficult decision to leave. I couldn’t face working full-time with a heavy commute, and leaving a young baby for so long.

It still makes me quite cross now. Why should this have to be the case? Why in this digital age can’t there be more working from home? Why can’t there be more flexi-time? Why can’t there be more job-sharing or part-time work?

A Question of Trust

I can only assume that it is because of a question of trust. If technology can make us all work faster, smarter and in any location, the reason most businesses don’t employ flexible working practices is because they are suspicious of what might be going on if they can’t keep a beady eye on their employees. Perhaps organisations think that if they can’t see their employees grappling with an excel spread sheet they may instead be at home with their feet up or putting the washing on dancing round the kitchen to Uptown Funk?

Their Loss?

I passionately believe that many businesses are losing out in not offering flexible working patterns. My talented sister used to work at a well-known children’s publisher, she quit her job along with 5 other senior, well-regarded women in one year because they would not allow any of them to work a 4 day week in the office and 1 day at home. This to me seems ludicrous. Surely it would be more beneficial for the organisation to try and accommodate these women than to go through the painful procedure of recruiting, training and replacing the staff who all had valuable years’ experience?

When I started writing this post I was mostly thinking about mums and how there should be more flexibility for working mothers. But really, why can’t there just be more flexibility for workers full-stop? Why can’t organisations trust their work-force to get the job done in whatever time suits them best? If employees are happy they will be more productive. Better productivity equals better profit. Output should be measured on achievements, not on how many hours are being clocked up at the office desk.

I’d love to know what you think. Are you a parent who would like the opportunity to have more flexible working hours? Would you be more productive if you could work from home more often? Or do you disagree with me entirely?!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly World of Freelancing

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I knew when I started freelance writing that there would be some good and bad points. Some of these have become clearer to me over the past few months and let’s just say I was completely unprepared for the ugly!

The Good

  • I couldn’t contemplate going back to my full-time job along with a heavy commute after the birth of my first daughter, so flexibility for me is the main “good” point about freelancing. I can work my hours completely around my children. I can (and often do) work many evenings just so that I can enjoy the benefits of looking after my children whilst working too.
  •  There is no commuting for me anymore. I can work at whatever time I choose and wherever I like (usually my kitchen table).
  • I love the fact that I work for myself. Whatever I put in, I get out. All the money I earn is completely down to me. I’m no longer lining the pockets for a boss because I am the boss!

The Bad

  • The biggest ‘bad’ of freelancing has to be not knowing what the next project will be and where the next payment is coming from. It can be rewarding working for yourself, but it also takes hard work and dedication in finding the next project. I had no idea when I started out about the amount of time I would need to spend on promoting myself. As well as setting up a website and pushing myself on social media, I generally need to be persistent and get into people’s faces. If I’m not working, I’m knocking on doors and quite often getting turned away. Finding work is in itself hard work.
  •  As a freelancer, you never switch off. If I had a full or even part-time job I would work my set hours, come home and cook dinner for my family. Now I find that if I’m not actually working, then I’m thinking about working. And if I’m not thinking about working, I’m thinking about how I can promote myself more in order to get more work.

The Ugly

  • Lo and behold there have been some occasions when the work and the children cross paths. And it isn’t pretty. This usually happens when I have to speak on the phone. I was once talking to a new client when my eldest daughter decided this was the moment to have a melt-down about needing to “do a poo right now!” The client calmly said “I can tell this isn’t a good time, shall I call back?” Which he luckily did but not before I’d beaten myself up about appearing unprofessional and losing a potential client.

Then there was the time when my youngest daughter woke up unusually early from her nap whilst I was on a scheduled conference call and proceeded to scream the house down until I’d brought her downstairs… You just don’t get this kind of thing in the office.

For me, the ‘good’ of freelancing still outweighs the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’. What do you think? If you’re a freelancer have you encountered any more good, bad or ugly factors that I haven’t mentioned? If you’re a working parent does freelancing have any appeal or would you rather stick to a regular paid job with regular hours? I’d love to hear from you.

Why Self Promotion is Critical

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I have a confession to make. I’ve been freelancing for over two years now and I’ve been lucky enough to have been very busy with a constant flow of work. But in the midst of all that hard work writing copy and marketing other businesses, I’ve managed to neglect the promotion of my own business.

It’s such a ridiculous and cardinal sin of a marketer – to disregard your own promotion. I’ve talked to many clients about the importance of having a regularly updated blog and written their blogs for them, but yet I’ve not taken the time to write my own. I suppose my only excuse is that I naively felt that I didn’t need to do it as I was so busy.

A lesson that I’ve quickly had to learn in the world of freelancing is that nothing remains constant. There are times when it can be incredibly busy and you wonder how you’re going to cope. Then it will suddenly change and you’re left scratching around for work. This is probably true of many small business owners, but one thing that I’ve learnt is that to remain competitive, you have to spend a huge percentage of your time promoting yourself.

The Art of Self Promotion

As an owner of a small business, there’s no room for shyness or being self-effacing. If you don’t promote yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. It’s essential to keep reminding others what you do and why or risk losing out to the competition. You know your business best and therefore you’re the most able person to promote yourself, but if you simply don’t have time to keep on top of it, let others help you.

Social Media

Consumers expect to be able to see you and follow you on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s also essential. Twitter is a great way to network to find new clients or prospects who might be interested in your product or services. It’s also a great way to find like-minded people to learn from. If your business is creative and lends itself to products which are more visual – make use of the other social media tools like Instagram and Pinterest.

Blogs

Blogs let others know what you’re doing. They can be more personal and let customers know more about your personality and your thoughts on a subject. They not only promote you and your business, but they act as a retention method to keep your customers coming back to find out more. They also drive traffic to your website – if somebody stumbles upon a blog post on a Google search and they like what they read they will be more likely to click through to your website and will be a step closer to making a sale or enquiry. Finally, regularly updated blogs are loved by the search engines such as Google which means your website will gradually rank higher.

PR

Nothing beats a bit of self-promotion like an article in a magazine or newspaper, an interview on radio or some favourable write up online. The key to PR is finding a hook which will interest the different media and their respective followers / readers. So perhaps you’re launching a new product that is completely different to anything else in the market. Or maybe your business is approaching a landmark anniversary. There are plenty of things that can act as a good hook, it just needs some thought and some dedication to contact the relevant media.

So what have I learnt? Never assume that work will remain constant or that business will continue to boom. You need to spend a large percentage of your time promoting yourself. In doing so you’ll be seen as a key player and remain competitive. Self-promotion takes time and dedication and sometimes it can be a chore, but in this cut-throat world of business, it’s absolutely vital.

Perhaps you’re struggling with the art of self-promotion or you don’t trust your writing skills to maintain a blog? Maybe you’re running out of things to say on social media or you’re unsure about contacting the press. Get in touch and I’ll gladly give you some pointers.