Hello, 2016!

Readers, it would appear to be February. Already. How did that happen, I hear you ask? I have absolutely no idea.

Hello 2016

So far this year I’ve been one busy Lobster. I’ve visited and caught up with a lot of people, appeared in a panto, and spent a week in a hot tub. I’ve also paid my tax bill, survived a power cut, and taken on an awful lot of work in order to cover the aforementioned tax bill and attempt to fill the hole left in my finances by Christmas and having to unexpectedly buy a new car.

All of this has left very little time for, well, anything, really! That is why I have left it until now to do my traditional New Year look back/set some goals type post. But the wait is over (you can breathe again, Readers).

Let’s have a quick look at 2015. Did I achieve all my goals? No. Did the year throw some curve balls at me? Yes. But did I finish it in a better place than I started it? Well, let’s look at the stats:

  • I decided on a direction for this blog – rather than just being a place for me to witter on about random stuff, this is now a place for discussing life as a freelancer, working from home, and musings on my career.
  • I launched my other blog, writerhiker.com. Not only was it a place for me to talk about walking and share photos taken on said walks, but it was my first little foray into web design. I am ludicrously proud of it.
  • I had my highest earning month and, more importantly, highest earning year ever. Proof that this freelancing game is worth playing – yes, even with all my enthusing about the pros of this lifestyle, I needed to prove that one to myself.
  • Recent events really hammered it home to me that life is short so I finally took the leap and invested my time, effort, and money in going after a long-term dream of mine. But more on that another time.

The cleaning rota did not make it past February. I’m sure those of you who know me personally won’t be the least bit surprised about that.

All in all, a pretty good year for yours truly (I am actually realising just how much I achieved as I write this). So what does the future hold for this Lobster? Here are some of my goals for this year:

  • Blog more. Yup, two blogs are not enough for me, I am itching to do more writing. I had intended to do more guest posts in 2015 and had loads of ideas of things to write and places to submit but alas, I didn’t manage to find time. This year, it’s totally on. (lifelikingslobsters@gmail.com if you’d like me to write something for your blog!)
  • Stop telling myself that I’m not good enough because my achievements don’t count due to X, Y, and Z. I am and they do. This is something I’ve realised I do a lot and I definitely let it hold me back. I have probably, at one time or another, discounted everything I’ve ever done which, trust me Readers, does nothing for one’s self esteem.
  • Finish the new home for this website and implement plans for e-courses, etc, that stalled last year.
  • Get over 100 likes on my Facebook page. It’s been hovering around 97/98 for months now.
  • Spend more time hanging out with friends and family. I’ve been quite busy over the last few years with one thing and another, this year I will make time to socialise. So far so good on this one – now to keep it up!
  • Push writerhiker.com to the next level. I’m not entirely sure what the next level is, so that’s probably a good starting point – decide where to go next with writerhiker.com!
  • Keep pushing myself into scary, potential dreams coming true territory. Again, more on that another time.

So there you have it. My goals for 2016, all of which are entirely achievable with a little bit of effort. Wish me luck, Readers!

Lobster out. xxx

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It’s only forever, not long at all.

On my Facebook page, I do something I call “Brilliant Things About Working from Home”. These are often silly things such as “Dancing in the office is neither prohibited nor frowned upon” or “Your colleagues don’t complain about you singing along to KT Tunstall at the top of your voice”; but yesterday I got to experience one of the truly brilliant things about working from home.

I, like pretty much everybody else in my time zone, woke up to the news that David Bowie had passed away at the age of 69. At first I assumed this must be a hoax; I mean, how could the Goblin King possibly have died? But soon it became horribly clear that this was not a hoax.

Usually when I hear that a beloved star has passed away, I will react by thinking “oh, how sad!” and perhaps read some tributes to them. To my surprise, however, whilst scrolling through my social media feeds and hitting play on various of his music videos that had been posted; I realised that I had tears streaming down my face. I had no idea that David Bowie was such a big part of my life.

In 1982 David Bowie, you could say a little randomly, recorded an introduction to The Snowman. In 1988, my Dad bought a second hand Betamax that came with an assortment of tapes; on one of which was The Snowman complete with Bowie’s intro:

I was only five years old, so I had no idea who David Bowie was, but every Christmas we’d put the tape on and I’d watch the little boy who was all grown up (and no longer cartoon) tell us about his scarf.

Some years later, probably during a school holiday, I turned on the telly and caught the last half hour or so of what has since become one of my favorite films: Labyrinth. Some years later still, I finally became aware of his music, largely through its extensive use in films, etc – Space Oddity, Life On Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Heroes – and I loved them all. I have yet to hear a song of his that doesn’t make me feel something.

To me, however, David Bowie will always be the Goblin King. There really was only one thing I could possibly do yesterday morning. I made a cup of tea and put Labyrinth on.

So here’s my latest brilliant thing about working from home. You can, without the need to make up excuses to your boss or hide your feelings from your colleagues, take the morning off to mourn the loss of a legend you hadn’t anticipated ever needing to mourn.

Lobster out. xxx

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Seasons Sneezings

This should be a nice, happy, festive post about how it’s nearly Christmas and how great it is that I don’t have to do any work-hours Christmas shopping by stealth. Unfortunately for the last week or so, I’ve been pretty poorly so I warn you now, this post isn’t going to be about Crimbo prep. I have a horrid cold and all kinds of sinus pressure pushing down around my poor little brain – sympathy in the comments, please.

Seasons Sneezings
Being ill when you work from home is a double edged sword, Readers. On the one hand, you don’t have to go through the mental anguish of trying to decide if you’re REALLY sick enough not to go into work – incidentally, was it just me who would always put on an extra ill voice when calling my boss, no matter how genuinely crap I felt? – on the other hand, you will inevitably still end up working.

Working virtually when you’re ill sucks. It does. You have all the bad bits about having to work when you’re feeling like death warmed up without the sympathy from your colleagues or the admiring comments on ‘what a trooper’ you are. No, most of the time, your co-workers will never even know you’re not firing on all cylinders, it’s surprisingly difficult to casually slip into an email.

And there’s no reason for them to know. You’ll spend the day spluttering into your Lemsip, not bother to get dressed, and have frequent Netflix breaks; but so long as emails get answered, advice gets given, and projects get returned, your Wonder Woman/Superman status will remain intact.

That being said, a big pro of working from home when you’re unwell is that if you feel the need to curl up somewhere with a hot water bottle and quietly moan to yourself for half an hour, you can go right ahead and do just that. Whereas in a traditional place-of-work type arrangement, if you do decide that you’re not quite ill enough to take the day off and venture into work, you kinda have to soldier on through – I don’t know about you, but in the office I used to work in, curling up under your desk was decidedly frowned upon.

So the last week hasn’t been overly productive. Well, I say that, I have actually managed to get quite a lot of work done, but at the expense of pretty much everything else – getting ready for Christmas, blogging (you may notice it’s Thursday and therefore this post is late), loading the dishwasher, etc. But the silver lining is that I’m getting it out of the way early so with any luck, this time next week I’ll be feeling festive enough to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Lobster out. xxx

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Festive FOMO

So it’s December already, Christmas is a mere 17 days away, and the party season is officially upon us. Or at least the party season is upon those of us who have proper jobs with colleagues in companies with social budgets. Were I to have a Christmas party, it would have a guest list of one and would be catered for with whatever I could find at the back of my cupboards.

Festive FOMO

I know for a lot of people, the idea of missing out on the enforced “fun” of the annual office shindig would be incredibly appealing, but I genuinely used to love having the opportunity to dress up, down a few too many drinks, and make a fool of myself on the dance floor in front of senior management. Besides, the rumors of who did what with who in the coat cupboard would relieve some of the boredom of the winter months and were always so much more engaging if you’d actually been there, regardless of whether you’d witnessed anything or not.

I suppose you could say that, around this time of year when most of my friends are talking about what’s in store for their office parties (usually with a roll of the eyes), I start getting what the kids call FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for anyone not familiar with this particular acronym).

I’ve always suffered with FOMO. When I was at college, if there was any hint that there might be a gathering somewhere, I’d start mentally going over bus timetables to work out how to get there. At Uni I was forever telling myself I was going to get an early night, but very rarely managed it. I’m still often accused of being a bad influence by my friends; I maintain that I’m not, I’m just a very willing participant – if there is any suggestion from anyone that we might go out/order takeaway/open another bottle, I will always be up for getting involved. So for me, the idea that there are parties happening pretty much everywhere to which I’m not invited, is very frustrating and my FOMO goes into overdrive.

One of the most common questions I get asked when I tell people I work from home full time is whether or not I get lonely. Most of the time I can honestly say I don’t, I’m an only child and perfectly happy in my own company. But I do miss the social aspect – going for a drink after work, the group celebrations of colleagues’ birthdays, and, of course, office parties.

So, readers, I am giving myself a year to come up with a solution. In twelve months’ time, I hope to be reporting on a work Christmas do – whether I find other freelancers/business owners/solopreneurs and persuade them to party with me, or whether I find something to gate crash. Until then, Lobby and I will be making do with the odd mince pie, my party play list (come on, you know you all have one), and enjoying the return of my digital snow.

Lobster out. xxx

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Dropping Everything (or a very scary halloween)

I’ve had a pretty rubbish week, Readers. Well, I say that, actually I was having a pretty good week until Saturday when I was driving home from town.

Car Crash

Let me paint you a picture. It was mid-late afternoon this Halloween and I was driving along a country lane in Oxfordshire. Although I am new to this particular area having only moved here a few weeks ago, I am already fairly familiar with this particular lane so am aware that it contains a blind corner for which you have to slow down and make sure you are as far over as possible.

So this, Readers, is exactly what I did. Unfortunately the white van who was approaching the corner from the other direction hadn’t slowed down enough and was unable to break in time. I would argue that this resulted in my having a scarier Halloween than most.

Before I go any further, I would like to just comment that I am physically fine. I was very lucky that he hit the wing rather than my door and, as such, I have once again avoided the lobster pot. I am sadly anticipating, however, that we may well be having Yaris thermidor in the near future.

It isn’t often you will hear a freelancer say this (as those of you who also freelance will no doubt be able to confirm), but I am very pleased that I don’t have a huge amount of work on at the moment. Having the ability to free up hours of my schedule to sit on the phone to insurance companies, breakdown services, hire car companies, etc, has made this whole process marginally less stressful. Had this happened a couple of months ago when I was working round the clock to meet my deadlines, this would have been a very different story.

That is surely the single greatest argument in favour of working from home, Readers. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes there are more important things than work to deal with (I know, right, who knew?). In the traditional employment structure, however, work still has to take top priority. For me, however, I can spend all morning on a personal call and nobody minds, so long as I still meet my deadlines, log into the system, etc, once I’m done.

That reminds me, I have to call the garage as they’ve still not called me.

Lobster over and out. xxx

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A Tale of Two Fridges

As regular readers know, I have just moved house which means, for a work-at-home freelancer such as yours truly, that I’ve also moved office.

My new office is much bigger than my last one and is also the first ever office that is solely mine with no other purpose than for me to work from. Exciting times, Readers.

You know what’s really exciting? My new office has both an executive toy in the shape of my old Screwball Scramble set (if you are unaware of Screwball Scramble, it’s this and it’s awesome) and a fridge.


Yes, that’s right, a fridge. In my home office. Which is about ten seconds walk from my kitchen.

I also have a kettle, teabags and various bits of cutlery. Now why, you might well ask, would I go to the trouble of putting a fridge in my office? Well, I should probably clarify that I didn’t go out to buy a fridge especially for this purpose; our new house already has a relatively modern fridge-freezer in the kitchen which meant the fridge we bought for the old house was going spare. Two fridges in the kitchen felt a bit overkill, you know?

However, I am finding that having a fridge and a kettle in my home office is really useful. I’ve spoken before about how important it is to physically separate out your work space from your home space – if you routinely work from the sofa, for example, the chances are you’ll find it incredibly difficult to put your laptop down at the end of your working day.

The kitchen, however, was always the one area where I was unable to do keep things separated. I always found that, even on a quick trip to refill my mug, I’d switch from work mode to home mode – which would mean I’d have to switch back again on returning to my desk. This is a problem no more!

Talking about fridges may seem a little silly, however it is just one way in which I’ve been able to tailor my working environment to suit me. You may not have a room to spare which you can claim as your office – I didn’t for years – but I can highly recommend staking claim to a desk, a table, a corner, whatever you’ve got and making it your own. Put up a “do not disturb” or a “no boys/girls allowed” sign if you have to; just make sure it’s yours.

Having a space filled with things I find useful/inspiring/fun/relaxing is just brilliant. Even though I’m still unpacking, I’ve had an incredibly creative and productive few weeks. And my fridge? It’s covered in fridge magnets which my partner hates. Do I care? No, Readers, no I don’t.

Lobster out. xxx

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Commuting for Real

Readers, you may remember that a few weeks ago, I told you all about how I was ‘commuting’ a couple of times a week by going for a walk first thing in the morning.


Well, whilst moving house, I spent around a week commuting for real. The reason for this is that my internet provider decided to wait a little while after my move date to switch my internet from my old address to my new address. So, as we’d got a bit of an overlap between the new tenancy starting and the old tenancy ending to allow for cleaning of the old place (and lots of trips backwards and forwards with various bits of furniture…), I kept on my old office and drove in every day.

Readers, it’s been a few years since I’ve had to drive to my place of work. It was a very interesting experience commuting to a half empty house that didn’t really feel like home anymore.

I’d forgotten how frustrating it is to be sitting in traffic watching the arrival time on your Sat Nav get later and later and later. I’d forgotten how long a relatively short journey can take when you add rush hour traffic into the equation. I’d forgotten just how irritating other road users can be (is there anything worse than being stuck behind a bad driver first thing in the morning?!).

Back when I was working in a traditional office job (I know, yuk, right?), I was working on a business park which was 15 miles away from my home. Now, where I’m from (North Devon), a journey of 15 miles should take around 20 minutes. Half an hour, tops. Readers, I used to think I’d done well if I managed my commute in under an hour.

I think this last week has done a fantastic job of reminding me just how lucky I am to work from home. I’m not going to pretend that the novelty of actually going somewhere again wasn’t fun – it was for the first day or two, even if the somewhere I was going was just my old house.

But I remember how irritated I used to be when I finally reached my old office. I used to start every working day in a right huff because, inevitably, somebody would have cut me up or dithered at some traffic lights or just generally driven like an idiot. It’s not a nice way to start the day.

It is also supremely eerie to be spending a day in your home office, which looks more or less the same as it has for the last year or so, knowing that just outside the door is a very familiar space that’s completely devoid of furniture.

Today, as I write this, the internet was switched over to our new house. This morning, I dismantled my office, put it in the car and drove it away. It was sad and exciting in equal measures, as moving often is.

So my brief time as a frustrated commuter is over, and a new era of having my own office room is about to commence. I feel that my new space could be the start of something big – I had been stagnating somewhat in my old office as it was a little cramped and not entirely mine. I do feel a little sad that my little cocoon of a desk has been ripped apart and will soon be rebuilt in a very different space, but the possibility of what I can achieve in said new office is pretty exciting. Not to mention terrifying.

Lobster out. xxx

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A Brand Spanking New Lobster Towers

Readers, you may recall that I am busy building a new website for Lobby and I to move to in the not too distant future. You may even be wondering what’s taking so flippin’ long as I’ve been talking about this for ages – and that is a very reasonable question as I can only apologise for the delay and assure you that all is in hand.

Lobby Lobster

One of the reasons why Lobby and I have yet to move to our virtual new home is that we have just unexpectedly had to move to a physical new home. Said new home is bigger, more grown up, and has enough room that I now have a dedicated office just for me. This is an exciting prospect as I’ve always had to share my office with my partner – or with housemates, back in the days when I was living in shared houses and working from the dining room table.

Exciting as all that is, the logistics of moving house are never fun. Things always go wrong, for example, on the night we moved in we had planned to watch the opening game of the Rugby World Cup. We ensured that we had all the equipment we needed in the first load we brought to the new house and I spent some time setting up our entertainment system (I’m calling it that as we have a ludicrous sound system attached to our telly – honestly, wires frickin’ everywhere). Everything was relatively painless, until I turned the telly on and scanned for channels. Nothing. Like, absolutely nothing. Not even a channel that broke up a lot. I tried various aerial sockets around the house to no avail and eventually had to admit defeat.

But what does moving house mean for a freelancer? I work from home, so when my home is in boxes and I’m attempting to persuade my broadband supplier to switch my account to a new address, there is inevitably a knock on effect.

For the purposes of keeping this post to a sensible length, I’m going to talk about the purely financial aspects. Moving always involves extra expense. There’s the fees and deposits and rent in advance, there’s the van hire or removal men costs, there’s the inevitable increase in rent (Readers, you don’t even want to know the percentage increase on my new home) – and all that without getting to take paid leave to allow for the time it takes to physically move all your worldly possessions from one location to another.

My solution to this was to take on waaaaaay too much work to get as much cash as possible in the bank so I could cover all of these expenses while still affording to take a little bit of time off. I spent most of this summer working 10/12hr days – hence the lack of recent blog posts and new website. I am able to say with some pride that this month I will be receiving the highest amount of pay I have ever received. But I am also physically run down, mentally knackered, and pretty crotchety (Readers, I didn’t deal well with the telly debacle).

So was this a good solution? Financially, yes it was. Overall, however, I would say that it wasn’t. Moving is a stressful experience so going into it when you’re already unnecessarily stressed is not smart. I think part of the problem was that I was taking on anything that was offered which meant that I wasn’t always working on projects that I enjoyed. When you’re pulling a 12hr shift on something that bores you to tears at the expense of projects you actually find interesting just because it’s ready cash, that’s pretty miserable.

Moving house is a fantastic opportunity to declutter and reassess. So I have decided that, from this point onwards and no matter what the circumstances, I am not going to take on that amount of work unless it’s for a project I find interesting. That level of tedium is like clutter I don’t need to bring to my new home.

And I pledge to you, Readers, that my next blog post will be up next week and my new website will be up and running ASAP.

Lobster out. xxx

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Using my own voice

Readers, I come from Devon. And I moved to where I live now with a bit of an accent.

Using my own voice

For anybody outside the UK and/or unfamiliar with Devon, it’s a county mostly made up of farms and moors and those of us from there have a recognisably rural accent.

Although it isn’t exactly an attractive quality and my accent was never extreme, I always quite enjoyed it (there are certain words that are really fun to say in Devonian). The problem with having a rural accent, however, is that certain people make unfair assumptions about your intelligence.

Back when I was working for The Man and attempting to appear “professional”, I felt the need to make several changes to how I presented myself and I’m sad to say that my accent was one of the first things to go.

I’ve noticed in recent months, however, that my accent has started to return and I am feeling more like myself than I have done in years.

For me, working in a traditional environment involved hiding who I am and my voice is a very obvious example of that.

Now that I’m a freelancer, I get to be myself. It’s taken a while for the pressure to appear a certain way to wear off, but now that it’s starting to, I feel oh-so-very-much better.

To put it another way, freelancing rocks.

Lobster out. xxx

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Road to Freedom – Part 2

A few weeks ago, I told you about my first freelance career: Stage Management. And, although I’m freelancing again, that couldn’t be further removed from what I’m doing now.

Freelancing is who you know

Those of you who have been regular visitors to this blog since the early days will know that I started it whilst unemployed after following my partner halfway across the country. I’d been working in academic publishing doing a regular 9-5 job for several years prior to moving and a friend of mine very kindly started sending the odd bit of work my way. When I took the decision to stop job hunting and go freelance properly, I contacted a few more former colleagues to let them know I was available, and things started snowballing from there.

I think this is something that rings true no matter what industry you’re in: tell everybody – EVERYBODY – that you’re freelancing now.

Seriously, shout it from as many rooftops as you can scramble up to.

You see, here’s the thing. The universe will always surprise you with what it drops in your lap, all you have to do is be a little bit proactive. As a result of my telling everyone that I’m a freelancer, I’ve had work sent my way from the most unlikely of sources. People who I would never have thought to ask if they’d got anything going. People who, as a general rule, don’t have my kind of work going. People who found themselves suddenly needing someone to edit some text, or manipulate some data, or type something up – these people thought of me.

In this game we call freelancing, it really is who you know.

Now as I’d been knocking around the industry for several years, I already had these contacts in place and, as a result, I now get regular work from two well established publishing houses plus have various bits of ad hoc stuff to do on the side. In short, I am one busy lobster these days.

You may be thinking that you want to go freelance, but in an industry where you don’t know anyone. If that’s the case, then don’t despair. The good news is that social media has made it very easy to make friends!

Gone are the days when networking meant making awkward small talk whilst trying to balance a canapé on a napkin and worrying you’ve drunk too much free wine. Neither do you have to exercise your stalker skills to ensure you’re hanging out in the right bar so you can engage some unsuspecting exec in conversation when he/she gets up to order a drink.

Just think of Twitter as a 24/7, 365 networking event where you can talk to the right people without having to wait politely for a gap in the conversation. Think of Pinterest as a wine bar filled with people who’ll tell you all you need to know about getting into pretty much any industry where you don’t have to come up with a snappy opening line or hope to get introduced. Think of Facebook groups as Uni clubs where you can learn from one another and get potentially useful contacts without having to wait for Thursday night (or whenever the weekly meeting is).

If you’re a new freelancer, don’t be shy – spread your net wide and make an effort to keep in touch with people. Obviously don’t badger anybody incessantly (they will get annoyed and block you), but a friendly “How’s it going?” message every so often will act as a reminder that you’re around.

Lobster out. xxx

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