Between 2008 and 2016 the number of freelancers in the UK increased by 43% to around 2 million workers. It’s probably no surprise that London is home to a good many of these entrepreneurial souls (21%, according to the good people at IPSE) and if you’re one of this number, you’ll know that while it’s a great way to work, it can also have its pitfalls. It’s no coincidence that the rise in the number of freelancers has a great deal to do with the increasingly higher tech world we inhabit and so, even when it all gets a bit stressful, there are some brilliant apps, companies and services that can make life that little bit easier for London’s freelancers.
If you’re struggling to work out of your spare room/ kitchen table/ sofa, there are some really great – and affordable – co-working spaces available for freelancing Londoners. From desks in trendy warehouse conversions, to home-from-home comforts, there’s a heck of good selection now.
Nomad operates as a kind of AirBNB for workers, and you can search by location and amenities and request a booking really easily. It’s affordable too: desks are available from as little as £8 per day (though there are considerably more pricey options available).
If the thought of renting a desk in a communal workspace fills you with dread, Vrumi is a very interesting alternative. They’ve set up a kind of house sharing enterprise where people can rent out their homes as office space during the day when they’re out at work. Roddy Campbell, Vrumi’s CEO was inspired to create this business after living next door to a man with a piano. When the neighbour left for work in the morning, a music teacher would arrive and spend the day working from this space. Campbell’s realisation that there were probably as many empty homes during work hours as there were workers who could ulitize them has transformed into an interesting business plan. Many home/ offices look straight out of Elle Decoration and with daily rates to match, but there are more affordable options too.
Organisation & practicalities…
For the times when freelance contracts come to an end and you feel you need to cast your net a little wider than your established contacts, there’s a great resource in town. Enter YunoJuno, a site that connects freelancers with clients. It’s easy to register without the usual palaver associated with uploading CVs and the like, and it covers a wide variety of sectors. Well worth a try, if you’ve not found it already.
Whether you’re working from home at your kitchen table/ office/ sofa or utilizing one of the coworking spaces now available, there’s still a real need for physical space to store physical business-related stuff. We all know (or at least should know) that certain documentation likes tax returns need to be kept for a minimum of 5 years, and if your business is document-heavy you may find that you just need a little extra secure space to keep these important documents. Boxman is just the ticket: they’ll deliver boxes to your home for you to pack up at leisure and return to take them away to their secure storage facility. You can of course keep a digital inventory of what’s in each box, so it’s easy to call back boxes as and when you need them.
Keeping track of your accounts has been made considerably easier with online tools and Quickbooks is one such program. It’s easy to use, allows you to calculate VAT, generate and accept invoices and can even connect you to your accountant. If you’re self-employed it starts from £2.99 a month (for the first six months), so you can get your business finances organised for about the cost of a cup of coffee.
My Accountant Friend
Luckily we’re still a reasonable way away from end-of-year tax shenanigans, but if you’re self-employed or freelance accounting is one of those things that you can’t avoid. My Accountant Friend specialises in working with freelancers, from sole traders and those taking their first tentative steps in the freelance world, to those who’ve been in the game considerably longer. There’s also loads of really useful (and interesting) information on their blog about freelancing life, as well.
Working & productivity…
Most freelancers work at least some of their time away from the office, so Slack is useful as a virtual meeting room where ideas, documents – and yes, the occasional meme – can be shared.
Google Drive, Dropbox & WeTransfer
It almost seems too obvious to mention (and perhaps it is), but we’d be remiss not to mention these stalwarts of modern business life. Google Drive is fast rendering the Office suite obsolete, providing much of the functionality with the added convenience of being able to share documents with colleagues with a single click of a button. Dropbox is similarly invaluable as way to share other, larger documents where you need to transfer something permanently and want the capability to collaborate on something, but WeTransfer is worth mentioning as a way to quickly send large files (up to 2GB to up to 20 people), but with links that expire after 7 days.
Boomerang is an add-on to Gmail that allows you to schedule when you send emails, set reminders to follow up on an email after a given period, or remind you if you haven’t heard back from a recipient. It’s perfect if you need to follow up on something within a certain time frame, but worry that you’ll forget.
Trying to arrange video conferencing with colleagues or clients can sometimes be a bit tricky: there’s often one member of the group who doesn’t have a Hangouts account, or someone who isn’t on Skype. Videolink2.me is a quick and easy way to get everyone talking, quickly. It works by simply sending a link to a video chat to your contacts, which you click on and…. well that’s it. No trying to get someone to sign up to something they don’t have, or sign in to something they’ve lost their password for. It’s a good resource to have in your back pocket for the times you need to get talking, fast.
Asana is a project management resource that allows both individuals and teams to organise their work schedules. It’s a superb tool for anyone who works remotely, or who enjoys checking things off lists.
If part of your work involves social media management, there are now numerous tools to help with this often time-consuming task. Hootsuite and Sprout are big in the market, but Buffer is worth a mention as a cheaper alternative, particularly well-suited to freelancers and those managing fewer accounts. You can connect up to 10 social profiles and schedule up to 100 posts at any one time for $10 per month (for the ‘Awesome’ plan).
If Photoshop brings you out in a cold sweat, then Canva is an easier-to-use alternative. The new-ish program makes it easy to create document-ready images compatible with various social, blogging and marketing requirements. It’s about as idiot-proof as they come and also allows you to create teams so you and your colleagues can work cooperatively on images and marketing materials.
Speaking as someone who suffers from periodic bouts of debilitating procrastination, the Pomodoro Technique is a godsend. Like so many great ideas, it’s a simple one: using a simple timer (the one used originally in Italy, where the idea was born, was shaped like a tomato, hence the name) focus on a single task for 25 minutes. When the timer goes, you stop, take a 5 minute break, then start again. After 5 cycles (or ‘Pomodoros’ as aficionados term them), take a longer break. There are of course loads of apps, timers, printable checklists and the like to go with this idea, but you don’t necessarily need any of them. Once you’ve got the principle, you’re away.
Are you one of the capital’s growing breed of freelancers? If you’re in need of a little extra storage space, be it for your documents, files or even things like photography equipment, Boxman can help. We’ll deliver our sturdy boxes straight to your door and return to whisk them away to our secure self storage unit when you’ve packed them up as you see fit. It’s a great, modern solution for modern living – and working. Contact us for more information – we like to chat.