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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #26

Sole trader vs limited company or umbrella – what’s best? IR35 changes; Parliamentary debate on the future of work; Seth Godin on creative practice.

I had to set up a limited company last year for a new contract role via an agency. My tax status only came up after I’d done the interview, a written test, and been offered the role. My agent said, “oh, we don’t work with sole traders.”

It was a chunky project – a six-month contract to write a book for a big brand and they were happy to pay my day rate, so I went for it. I set up a limited company via Companies House – fast, no-nonsense, and costs £12. I had to sort out business insurance (took much longer), an accountant, and a business bank account with a UK address for IBAN (EUR) payments.

A bit of hassle for one contract but that was the deal. And I wanted the job, so I did it but not happily. I’ve been a sole trader since I started freelancing back in 2002 and was gifted a limited company once (we broke up, I wasn’t ready; I have commitment issues). I don’t think individuals should operate as companies unless you’re employing someone. Nor should agencies and companies dictate your set up. These roles are often last-minute so you’re under pressure to act quickly or someone else will get the gig.

Anyway, the project went well – a good challenge and I learned a lot. Great to work with a team and have a physical product at the end of it. The contract was due to be extended in February to finish the editing, but this fell through with lockdown. Things have been pretty quiet on the contracting front since. Companies have cut budgets this year, which tends to hit freelancers first, and bigger clients are preparing for IR35 changes next April which will bring private companies into line with the public sector. Many have now banned the use of limited company contractors which is the way most contractors have operated up to now. See more.

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #25

Finding freelance work; The rise of the media artisan; Creative Coalition 2020; Interview with TikTok star Kirsteen Atom. ⚡️

November’s NUJ meeting was on surviving and thriving as a freelancer—tips on finding new work and diversifying with trainers Louise Bolotin and Steve Mathieson. Steve works as a freelancer mainly on tech and government—both growth areas and runs data journalism and freelance courses. He’s had steady work during lockdown and has taught himself how to teach online.

In some ways, the world has been catching up with how many freelancers work, and arguably that has given us a head start. We are often used to working remotely.

Louise has worked for BBC Radio Manchester and launched a local news site. She now works as a sub-editor mostly, doing commercial editing work. She was laid off from her local paper just before lockdown and lost her commercial work, so was left with nothing. She’s busy trying to bring work back and has invested in a new website, logo and training.

Most of it has involved spending my way out of the mire, because you sometimes need to spend a bit to earn a bit.

She pledged to do two things a day to find new work and her efforts have paid off—she was fully booked this month for the first time since March. See more.

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The Shift: Issue #24

Bored and Brilliant; Creative Coalition 2020 Festival; Reasons to be Cheerful; Lemn Sissay on Daily Acts of Creativity.

Can boredom lead to your most brilliant ideas?

Here’s Manoush Zomorodi’s story – journalist, entrepreneur and author of Bored and Brilliant.

Her son and the iPhone were born three weeks apart in June 2007.

While everyone was busy with this new toy, she was stuck at home with her hands full of something else sending out constant notifications.

Manoush Zomorodi – Bored & Brilliant Project

A colicky baby who would only sleep in a moving stroller with complete silence.

She walked 10-15 miles a day and got fit but was bored out of her mind.

Three months into this daily routine, something shifted. As she walked her mind wandered, she started daydreaming and coming up with ideas.

She finally got an iPhone and created her dream job hosting a public radio show (on the hustle beyond Silicon Valley – it’s excellent, check it out here).

She could be a mum and a journalist.

In the playground and on Twitter at the same time.

She got busy again. But when tried to brainstorm ideas and how to boost audience numbers, she couldn’t think of anything.

When was the last time she’d had a good idea? She realised it was when she was out walking her baby.

When you fill all the cracks in your day with scrolling and multitasking, you don’t let yourself daydream and be bored.

What happens to the brain when we get bored or if we’re never bored? She spoke to neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, and the results were fascinating. See more.

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #23

Frazzled Café: it’s ok, to not be ok; Creating community; Support for creative workers; Career development tips; #NaNoWriMo.

Feeling frazzled? I am. Here we go again with #lockdown2 which all feels a bit pointless as it’s not working. I’ve had my mother ranting down the phone this week. “You can’t stop a virus spreading! We’re just kicking the tin can down the road. They should sack the Sage lot! I’m listening to the other scientists…”

The Great Barrington Declaration is back on Google – big tech has no place censoring debate. It takes a holistic approach – we can’t focus on one virus at the expense of everything else – the economy, our mental health. Partial protection seems like the sensible option – protect the elderly and vulnerable and let the rest of us get on with it. There has to be a better way than full lockdown. We should at least have more public debate on this.

I’ve signed up to join the Frazzled Café, a charity providing a safe space to share your stories. “A place to connect with others to help us cope with the overwhelming stresses of modern life. A place where it’s ok, to not be ok,” i.e. to vent your frustrations!!! See more.

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #22

RSA: Making Remote Work Good Work; Hiring a Community Manager; WFH in Tuscany: Live local, think global; Send someone a virtual hug 🤗

I took part in an RSA event this week on how to Make Remote Work Good Work with Bruce Daisley and Alexa Clay.

How are we doing seven months on from the first lockdown? Our mass experiment in remote working – the results are in! 

The data is largely positive—a swift and widespread adaptation to new working practices, cultures & techniques. Every age group is happier WFH. A recent survey shows over ¾ of UK CEOs say WFH is here to stay. Greater flexibility, digital transformation, and less office space look set to be permanent features. Read more.

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #21

#CopyCon2020—Top tips for being a successful copywriter; Death to perfectionism; Blogging for business; UX jobs—design systems are the new frontier.

“8 hours of copywriting gold” – 10 speakers, 8 training days, satellite sessions, poetry, illustration, networking, cats…🐱 ProCopywriters’ 7th annual conference and 100% online for the first time.

It’s my first one, so I had nothing to compare it to, but it was a fantastic event—inspiring talks (9 female speakers) and seamless tech. I’m still using the app (Attendify) to replay videos and download docs. If there’s one good thing to come out of all this madness, it’s being able to do global conferences that I wouldn’t have been able to afford. No travel costs and you can listen in while you work or on the go. I can’t sit at a desk all day, so I did a walking Zoom to break it up. See more.

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Newsletter

The Shift: Issue #20

Big Tech: The House antitrust committee report; Instagram at 10; No Filter; The rise of the Meta Me; Microcopy + UX writing.

This week, the House Antitrust Subcommittee released its long-awaited report into online markets – how Big Tech (Google, Amazon, Apple & Facebook) have developed monopoly and are abusing their power to stifle the competition. It’s a brick at 400+ pages (+ 2,540 footnotes) and evidence-based – conversations with previous and current employees, users & sellers – a greatest hits of bad behaviour. Amazon has been described as “a data company that just happens to sell things.” An inside look at the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook – here are the most revealing bits. There’s more focus on Google than the other three with some notable omissions: Microsoft, TikTok and Spotify. TikTok is Chinese owned and a baby, so doesn’t yet have the size and breadth… Read more.

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The Shift: #Issue 19

The rise of the creator economy; the ‘unbundling of work’; paid newsletters; the Second Renaissance is coming…

Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen enormous growth in the Creator Economy—independent creators making money from online content. It’s down to the rise of the gig economy, better tech—5G, faster internet, and new social networks & products. COVID-19 is speeding things up – we’re at home and online more.

There’s also been a shift in consciousness towards caring more about being happy in our jobs, having control over our time, and being our own boss. We want to make a living doing work we’re passionate about that creates change. Gen Z’ers grew up with the internet and social media and place a high value on self-expression. I can see how my daughter and her friends interact online.

According to Li Jin, we’re in the process of the ‘unbundling of work’ i.e. moving from companies to independent solo businesses.

A new report from Signalfire takes a deeper view of the ecosystem to give us some context, a history of the creator economy and trends to watch. It’s a fascinating read—useful for investors looking for opportunities and creators needing help… Read more.

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The Shift: Issue #18

How to be productive WFH without going crazy; The State of Remote Work 2020 Report; Inbox Zero.

I did some training this week on ‘how to be productive working from home without going crazy’ with Thanh Pham, founder of Asian Efficiency.

Marie Kondo’s relative, surely!?!

I’ve been working from home for years and enjoy it, but am curious to know what else I can do to improve my set up and make it more fun. We’re six months into this global WFH experiment, and after this week’s government U-turn, it looks set to continue for another six months.

So, what have we learned so far? Will WFH be a permanent thing for companies or just a byproduct of the ‘interim economy’—a term used to describe the theoretical two years it could take for the economy to bounce back after lockdown? A new report on The State of Remote Work Q3 2020, highlights some significant and emerging trends. Read more.

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #17

Job hunting, The Social Dilemma, a history of Silicon Valley, slow journalism, how do we live ‘a good life’ in 2020?

I had a chat with two recruitment agents this week. Things are picking up – briefs are coming in and companies are hiring–mostly remote work. Employers are investing in remote training for staff and reassessing office space, so remote working is here to stay. Both were furloughed and are just back at work.

It’s good news for multi-skilled freelancers – we’ll be more in demand as employers may want fewer people on the payroll. We’re also flexible, agile, and used to working remotely.

Skills check–MS Office, Photoshop, InDesign (you can download the free trial for 30 days and do a YouTube tutorial to learn the basics). Google Analytics, HTML, SEO, & social media.

I made a one-page CV on Canva–wasn’t sure if it’s long enough, but they liked it. “It’s good to have it condensed on one page and you can expand as required.” Read more.