E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #9

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Week #9 of the series of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog posts and here I am, once again, ready to share further along the next round of iOS Apps I would be recommending for this week. And this time around with a bit of everything as the themes would be Productivity, Social Curation, Social Bookmarking, Photography and, finally, Traveling. I think I recall reading somewhere how the average number of installed iOS is roughly around 40, although I couldn’t find any recent statistic to confirm that, but if I judge by the number of blog entries I have shared over here recommending apps and based on my own user habits I would venture to state that figure is slightly higher for me. Probably, around the range of 60 to 70 apps that I use on a regular basis. How about you though? Are you on that range of 40 apps installed or a lot more than that like myself? 

There interesting thing though is that, for myself, there are also a few dozen more I use on occasion, or to check something more specific for that time around, and then there is a final third round of apps that I may check two or three times a year, but that I still find them useful at some point in time due to some very specific contexts. But I will talk about those other blocks of Apps in the near future. At this point in time in the series though we are still into the first round of apps, the ones I use on a rather frequent basis. Thus without much further ado, here’s this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps: 

 

  • Bear: I think at this point in time, you may have noticed how I have a slight addiction towards note-taking apps. I love them. I just can’t have enough of them, of playing around with enough of them and to then see which ones, over the course of time, would make it on my landing page regardless of the iOS device I use and stick around with them. In the past I have already talked about Ulysses and Scrivener, hugely impressive note-taking apps, specially, on an iPad Pro. Well, there seems to be another one coming up rather strong and it’s called Bear. 

    I have only just gotten started to work with it in the last few days, after reading some rather interesting and noteworthy reviews and already I can see it has got a lot of promise! The markdown capabilities are incredibly powerful, and easy to grasp right away. The ability to switch in between devices, whether iOS or your Mac, is par to none, specially, the ability to start a note in one device and almost immediately continue working on another as if you have never switched. However, my favourite capability at the moment is how I can make use of hashtags to categorise the documents I create, so instead of using folders I can rely on those tags themselves, in the moment, to then be able to refind my own notes pretty easily, giving me a whole lot more control of how I organise things, as well as a bit more versatility in creating across the board connections of different notes based on the hashtags I use. Like I said, a pretty interesting and rather helpful addition into the note-taking app space. If you are into looking for some other alternatives, Bear may well be it. Worth a try, for sure!

  • Flipboard: Do you remember Zite? Yes, I know, I too, miss it. It was my favourite online service, and by far, to be able to curate content across the board and fine tune the experience to match both my needs and wants while it kept learning over time what I’d find interesting and what not. Gosh, it was really good! I wish it would have continued, but, alas, Flipboard bought it and it started incorporating some of its amazing capabilities. So I started to rely more heavily on the latter from there onwards.

    While Flipboard is not Zite, it does a pretty good job in terms of helping you curate different streams of content according to your interests, ways of consuming links from different sources and other recommended sources. All of that put together in a rather enticing user face that resembles pretty much plenty of the gestures of reading a newspaper. It pretty much feels like that. However, my favourite two capabilities from this app at the moment are the fact I can create my own magazine from Twitter lists I may follow and you know I’m a huge fan of Twitter’s Lists and the second capability I enjoy quite a bit is its widget that allows me to access interesting news items without having to unlock my devices, which is rather helpful while on the go to get a glimpse of what’s happening out there. 

  • Refind: I have always been a huge fan of social bookmarking! In fact, it’s one of my favourite Web 2.0 capabilities from back in the day, right at the time when Delicious.com was just getting started. Over the course of last few years I have been using a number of different social bookmarking tools like Dogear, Delicious, BlinkList, Ma.gonila, Diigo, Pinboard, Inoreader, etc. etc. but for one reason or another they kept falling off my radar due to different reasons I won’t go into much detail today (to save you from the pains I have gone through losing thousands of saved items). Till I have found Refind. 

    It’s my favourite social bookmarking tool at the moment and for a good number of reasons going from a delightful mobile user experience that just works, to an easy to use functionality to fine tuning your own interests on what you are aiming for, sharing capabilities, ability to save items for later reading, as well as a superb integration with other services like Twitter and Pocket, which are my two favourite apps to curate content and links I will be reusing later. Refind has got a lot of promise and it’s quite an interesting service for social bookmarking, but perhaps one other last thing that would be noteworthy would be how it learns tremendously well from your reading habits making the timeline incredibly useful and relevant for vast majority of cases, which is something I just can’t say from other curation sites. Refind would be worth while a look if you are looking for a social bookmarking service out there that still works. 

  • Snapseed: I think I’m building the good old healthy habit, with this series of blog posts, to every week share an iOS app around photography that folks may be able to check out and see whether they may find it useful. I mean, for my own case, I only use my iPhone 6S Plus as my camera, which means vast majority of my editing of photos happens either on my iPhone or, while importing it, in my iPad Pro. At this point in time I have an entire folder of Photography Apps, so I guess that’s going to keep me busy for a little while longer. This week’s suggestion though is perhaps one of the most popular apps out there for iOS photo editing: Snapseed. 

    It’s perhaps the most user friendly app out there you will find to edit your photos without giving you the feeling you need to be a pro to get a good result out of it. The in-depth capabilities to give your photos almost any kind of effect is outstanding and the wide range of filters will keep you busy for a good while deciding which one you would apply and stick with it. That, one its own, is going to be a tough, although equally fun, dilemma that will entice you to spend a good amount of time within the app trying to figure out which one would be your favourite pick to share elsewhere on digital tools. Of all of the photography apps I use Snapseed would probably be, easily, within the Top 5. It’s that good. 

  • Trivago: And, finally, last iOS recommendation for this week. Now, I don’t get to travel as much as I used to back in the day, but whenever I’m off on a business trip, or on holidays, my number one app (by far!) to check for hotels at the best prizes knowing I will get it all without having to go through multiple sites would be, without a single doubt, Trivago. Even more so to the point where if I know which city I will be going to and I’d have a favourite hotel to stay in there, I will still make use of Trivago itself to find me the best prizes for me for that particular hotel as it does check multiple Web sites for me and lists them all nicely. I just need to browse through them, find the one I like the most and make the booking directly from there. That simple.

    In the past, I have tried out a good number of other different apps to find good hotels at great prizes and time and time again Trivago keeps beating them all up as I always end up there. The granularity of specifications it gives me makes it a very personal, engaging experience, which is, eventually, what I’m always after when finding a hotel I’d want to stay at. Thus, if you haven’t tried it out just yet for you upcoming trip, allow me to recommend you have a look into it, please. And then let me know how it went … 

 

And that’s it, folks, for this week! That’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Next week I will be back with another round of 5 iOS Apps I’d recommend you give a try, and if there is any app out there you’d want me to give a try, play around with and share some thoughts about what I think about it over here, let me know in the comments or in Twitter via @elsua and I will be more than happy to check them out!

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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Writing Ourselves into Existence through a Choral Act

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Earlier on this morning I spent quite some time going through a good number of the different posts I have put together in this blog over the course of the last three months and, to my surprise, it looks like I have been posting more entires in that three month period than the entire 2014 and 2015 combined! Whoah! How did that happen? Even plenty of readers of this blog noticed that as well as they decided to unsubscribe for new updates by the hordes explaining I have been sharing just too many of them to keep up with everything else that is going on. I think I know why there is just such a disparity between those couple of years and the last few months. It’s all got to do with my own mindset and how it’s shifted back over time into something I’m very familiar with, but that, somehow, I left it behind a few years ago. It looks like over the course of time I’m shifting away from social media first into blogging first. It’s as if I am longing for, once again, ‘writing myself into existence’.

Indeed, I remember very well the time when I first started blogging (internally, behind the firewall) around end of 2002 and all I could think about, while reading or conversing with other folks on a wide range of different work related topics, was along the lines of ‘Oh, I need to blog about that idea’, or ‘I need to respond to that blog post with another one as well to add further up into the conversation’, or, just simply ‘I need to write that down somewhere to reflect on it further along, so I don’t forget to come back to it later’, to name a few. Yes, indeed, I realise now how I was writing myself into existence as my good friend Euan Semple wrote a few years back quoting David Weinberger himself on what blogging was all about: ‘Writing ourselves into existence’.

Somehow, and over the course of the last 3 to 5 years I lost track of that while my mind switched automatically from blogging first into social media first, as I was spending a whole lot more time in several of those so-called social media tools while ignoring and neglecting my good old blogging mojo. However, at one point in time, this past August, to be more precise, I got too tired with just being the data, I mean, with always being the product no matter what. Frankly, I just got too tired with the surveillance state we are, apparently, creating with the current pernicious polarisation that keeps growing faster and faster than ever as we have confirmed that transition from making use of social media tools into just media tools, where we have become that, the media.

No, I am sorry, that’s not how I would want to spend plenty of my online time anymore. As Euan mentioned on that blog entry, I just need a space where I can be a whole lot more aware of my own thoughts and feelings, and of the world around me for that matter, without having to jump into everyone else’s throats out there every time they are not politically correct agreeing with me anymore on absolutely everything I categorically state because, you know, I am always right and they are not. That’s how things seem to be rolling out there for everyone at the moment. I can, we all can, do so much better than that altogether, don’t you think?

How about blogging as a choral act?, as Bonnie Stewart wrote beautifully in a recent blog entry a couple of weeks back. A superb article, by the way, in case you may have missed it about the healing powers of digital writing. To quote her: 
 

Blogging is a choral act. Posts are commented on; ties are formed. Stories and backstories become known. As I connected with other bloggers and found community first with other parents and then with those whose writing, like my own, unpacked identities in various forms, I stumbled into something extraordinary […]

 

This is just too funny, and perhaps a tad ironic, too, because my last three months of blogging over here in this blog have helped me, once more, finally, comprehend (and come to terms with the fact of) how I no longer crave for attention, at least, as much as I used to back in the day. How I seem to have departed from me, me, me land into the we, we, we land. It’s helped me, at long last, understand as well how most of the times it’s the long-form reads with your own thoughts, opinions and emotions the ones that are the most powerful components towards building, nurturing and sustaining long term (online) communities, where you are just one of the community members, connecting, sharing, learning and collaborating together with others as equals, as a choral act.

Yes, indeed, that’s the underestimated power of blogging. It’s no longer about the self per se, but more about what you could bring forward as part of an already existing conversation that’s taking place in multiple blogs and blog comments from different people who have got a long term common goal: connect, share and learn more about a particular topic with other online partners. Now, when was the last time you had that wonderful sensation while interacting through media tools? Something tells me it may well have been a while. Is that how you see yourself continuing to make use of those media tools in the medium, long term? Think about it… Think closely. Where do you think you will be online in the next 5 or 10 years? Someone else’s home or your own? Hopefully, your own, right? 😀

I realise you may be thinking one of the several reasons why you are still making use of those different media tools (apart from just being there so you don’t appear to be the awkward one, the weirdo) is as an opportunity to showcase and promote some of your thought leadership and expertise on a particular topic by pushing messages out there about the stuff you may have shared or published elsewhere (like your blog) and therefore help others become more aware about what you do. That’s a good reason, indeed. I have used it myself a few times, but only to realise it no longer works. Over the course of the years I have noticed, I’m pretty sure you may have as well, how we hardly ever read anything else on media tools anymore other than our very own broadcasted messages. We are just too busy doing all sorts of other things to then have to stop and read what other people publish, share or would want to converse about. Well, here’s the thing, if that’s how we all feel AND behave, that attention you are craving is then long gone and pretty much dead by now. No-one will read your posts, never mind respond to some of them! And then what? 

Keep posting multiple times during the course of the day adding further along into the already existing noise, so that your audience? may, pontentially, see it and drop by skimming through it rather quick before they head back into their timelines? Yikes! No, no-one would want to have that, so why do we keep sustaining it? We shouldn’t. No-one reads our marketing messages anymore. Somehow, it feels a little bit like a waste of time, resources, energy and good effort. That is one of the many things I have learned myself, through trial and error as well, over the course of last three months where I, along with several dozens of other people, have used different media tools to share some of the blog posts I have put together over here that others may find somewhat interesting and relevant for what they do and, yet, vast majority of my blog traffic still comes through search engines like Google or Bing and not a single one of those media tools despite the thousands and thousands of people we tend to broadcast to. Quite revealing on its own, I tell you, as it reminds me of the long tail of knowledge: as long as you get to write good content, or comment on other people’s blog posts, care about what they post, or take a genuine interest in what they do, etc. etc. they will always find it, with or without making use of media tools no-one stops by anymore to read, accordingly, more in depth.

I know what you are all thinking, but ‘blogging is hard work’. It takes an awful lot of time, effort and energy to put together a blog post versus writing a tweet or sharing a short status update and you may be right. But then again we ought to realise we should never be too busy to blog. It’s just a matter of habit, really; in fact, it’s a matter of (re)building the habit of writing further along about the topics we are very interested in and are passionate about and see what comes out eventually (remember? Blogging is personal), as if no-one else is reading, just for you, perhaps even if you decide to start using rather helpful techniques like writing 750 words per day, you name it. What matters at the end of the day is whether we are willing to write ourselves into existence in a space we own AND partake in the conversations, all of us, as equals, as a choral act. As ever, it’s our individual and collective choice and ours alone. No-one, not even any media tool out there, should interfere with that decision. Ever. We are the ones who need to decide and define what our digital footprint should be like

That’s why I have now, finally, decided to spend more time blogging over here than craving the attention in media tools from an audience we no longer have, no matter what the numbers of followers may well say. They have now become redundant. Instead, I much prefer to crave the wonderful conversations I have been having over here already in multiple blog posts, because they help me learn and grow accordingly over time by caring even more about the topics that are dear to my heart (and mind!). To me, that’s what blogging has been all about all along for the last 20+ years and still going strong: an extended part of our reflective brains about what’s going on around us, and the world at large for that matter, and how do we make sense out of it all.

Why not make the most out of it then, right? Blog on!

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The Downsides of Freelance Work

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Last week, if you would remember, I wrote a blog entry on the topic of ’The Perks of Freelance Work’ to describe some of the things I have enjoyed the most, so far, from being a freelancer over the course of last three years. While that post did not include an exhaustive list of perks, it gave me a pretty good opportunity to reflect upon what I have learned over the course of time, now that I’m getting pretty close as well to my 20th year anniversary in the IT industry. In it I also mentioned how I’d be writing another article where I would share across a number of other different advantages that didn’t make it into the first entry of this series, but I also wrote about creating a couple of different blog entries where I would be musing about the downside(s) of freelance work. Yes, that’s right, the ones no-one talks to you about, nor cares to admit they are going through themselves, mostly because of the lovely, rosy words we seem to impregnate freelancing with as the next big-thing (Remember the gig economy?), when, in reality, it might be everything but… 

The overall purpose of these blog posts talking about the perks and the downsides of freelance work is for me to try to share across a somewhat balanced view around my overall experience in an effort to, perhaps, help you folks understand whether freelancing might be something of interest for you, or not, who knows. At the same time, it’s also a unique opportunity to confirm for myself whether I am alone experiencing and going through some of these ups and downs of freelancing or whether it’s just me. There is that possibility as well. That’s why, with regards to the downsides of freelance work, I am putting together this first blog entry where I would like to explore ten of them and then over the course of time I will be picking each and everyone of them and describe in length how I get to overcome them eventually.

Thus, without much further ado, here are some of the downsides of freelance work, in no particular order, I’d want to share across for now and let’s see how much other folks can relate to each of these, if at all:    

 

  • Uncertainty: If there is anything I have learned over the course of the last three years, as a freelancer, is money doesn’t like uncertainty. It runs away from it like the plague. So when we are going through this exhilarating, nerve-wrecking roller-coaster of tumultuous times, provoked by either global or political turmoils, you know you are bound to learn, and pretty quick, how to live with the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring forward.

    Making plans ahead of time is not only a waste of time, effort and energy, but also a rather distracting activity, because, in most cases, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next week, month, or year! So, very early in the game, you realise that uncertainty helps you, through the hard way, to pretty much live in the moment, focusing on the tasks and work at hand without having much of an opportunity to focus on anything else, because, you know, it’s just not certain. The ever so much more complex times we live in will bring forward such uncertainty that will pretty much scare your customers away, specially, those with the budget to kick off your projects. But here is the thing about uncertainty that I like the most: it forces you to keep moving, constantly, without excuses, nor regrets, into striking the next lovely project work you will be doing with a potential client at some point in time. Now, I will be talking a whole lot more about it, but here is a tip of advice I learned about coping with the uncertainty: the moment you stop thinking about the what next that’s the moment when uncertainty wins. Don’t let it win. Keep moving! 

    [Like I have mentioned above already, I will be putting together a number of different blog posts in the near future where I will explain with much more detail how I get to tackle each and everyone of these downsides of freelancing, so you folks may learn some more about how I try to cope with them and how sometimes I succeed and how, in others, I don’t. But one step at a time …]

  • Insecurity: With this one I’d want to encourage you all to think of it more as in job security than anything else. And here is a short story on what I mean with that. Three years ago, when I had already decided I was quitting my job at my former employer to start my own advisory firm around Social Business and Digital Transformation, I remember having a conversation with one of my managers where he was asking me what I was thinking about doing next as a freelancer. Back then, and without much thinking, I ventured to state I suspected plenty of the work I would be doing would be rather similar to the work I was doing for him, that is, advising and helping businesses make the most out of their Enterprise Social Networking platforms while embarking on their own Social Business and Digital Transformation journey, but do that work on my own. Going solo. 

    His response, after a long silence, was something along the lines of ‘Hang on, but where is the challenge in that? I mean, you would be doing pretty much what you have been doing for the last 14 years, so there wouldn’t be anything new for you to learn and enjoy in your new job and therefore you would still be stuck within your own comfort zone’. I remember how my initial response was fulminant and somewhat categorical. Alas, it had to come out. I remember I mentioned how, while I was working for him, I would be working really hard to my abilities (or not so hard sometimes) and still have the certainty at the end of the month there would be a paycheck. There always would be a paycheck.

    However, I told him, when I start my freelance work I will be working just as hard, if not harder, day in day out, week in week out, and, unfortunately, I would not have any certainty I would be getting paid for that work. How is that for a challenge to shake your own comfort zone of having received monthly paychecks for the last 17 years without not knowing whether there will be a cheque anymore at the end of the next month? That is the kind of insecurity freelancers are constantly being exposed to. It’s not an easy downside to deal with I can tell you, as most other people would confirm as well, but, unfortunately, it’s going to be there from the very first day you decide to go independent and become a freelancer.

    How can you overcome it? Well, I will be talking about it in more detail at a later time on what I do myself to tame it, but my first piece of advice I have always shared with folks has been to have a substantial financial cushion that would allow you to live comfortably those months where either things are slow, or just not happening at all. And keep moving. The important thing though is not to live for too long under the assumption things will be all right as you deplete that cushion month after month hoping it will all turn around eventually. Well, it might not. At one point, you will need to decide what you may need to do to stop the bleeding, before it’s just too late and you end up in a whole lot of unwanted and perhaps unnecessary trouble. 

  • Client Prospects: I know this may sound a bit weird, I mean, the fact I’m adding searching for client prospects as a downside of freelance work. Well, it is and those who may tell you otherwise may not be telling you about the untold costs of client prospecting. Because it does pay a toll, a huge one, actually. While you are doing client work (either with one client or multiple of them at the same time), your mind will always be worrying and preoccupying itself about the next client. Where are they? How can I find them? How can I reach out to them without sounding too aggressive, too desperate, too cheesy? How can I influence them to start working with me when there are millions of other freelancers out there? Will they be interested in the value add I can provide? What do I have to offer to that client that may be unique and no other people may be providing? How am I going to end up finding new clients when I’m terribly bad at marketing or selling my product? Where do I start? Jeez, why is it all so difficult? 

    I’m pretty sure plenty of the questions, concerns and uncertainties I have just shared in the above paragraph have gone through the minds of any freelancer over the course of time. Why is it a drawback? Well, because of focus. It’s a distraction. It’s a massive distraction from the work you are currently doing for your client(s). And here is the frustrating tidbit, that while you know you will want to work really hard for your clients and deliver 100% of your value add, that distraction, that lack of focus on finding the next client is going to neglect you giving that 100%. Ouch! It will hurt. You know you can deliver effortlessly, but the distraction is a killer.

    And while you may be wondering how to get around it, I can share with you all that the way I have done it is by creating in-between blank spaces where I’m not working with a particular client and, instead, do the prospecting. In short, that means I focus 100% on the client work I’m doing in the moment, delivering with the highest quality I can provide, and once the work is done, I will be spending some time (it usually depends, but it ranges from a couple of weeks to a full month) doing that client prospecting, knowing that there will be no income coming through, but it will help me focus on a single task at a time: serving my client(s) first, looking for new ones afterwards. 

  • Trust: This is perhaps one of the downsides of freelance work that has hurt me the most over the last couple of years. And I don’t think it would apply only to people doing freelancing per se, but everyone, in general, whether you may well be in a salaried job or as an independent. Trust seems to be running very low all over the place at the moment, whether we like to admit it or not. And that lack of trust is causing infinite more trouble than one could have ever imagined. The thing is that if you are going solo trust is an even more critical component towards your own success working with clients achieving your various different goals, because, you know, you are on your own. There is no-one else out there supporting you, at least, initially. That’s what most clients would think about you and the work you do. 

    But there is also another component of trust at play, as a freelancer, which is when you connect and build personal business relationships with your ‘peers’, those people who, over time, eventually, become an integral part of your social networks, till you realise that what you thought of, and advocated for all along, as coopetition (i.e. collaborate openly to compete in a healthy manner) is just plain good old vicious competition. By the time you find out, the damage is already done. The horse has already left the building, indeed, at lightning speed.

    I never thought I would be talking about this, but, like I have blogged a couple of months back, trusting people in this social age is a tough job, specially, when there is a lack of coherence between what people talk, preach and advocate for AND what people really do, letting hypocrisy, therefore, run the show while abusing your own good will. What did I do about this one? That’s a great question! I decided to move on with my work life, understanding I may need to work ever harder from there onwards towards building better, more effective, relevant tight social networks where the primary goal may well not be being poached around left and right. See why it hurt back in the day? Onwards and upwards! 

  • Remoteness: This is one of those drawbacks you may not be able to see coming up front early in the game, till it’s, perhaps, too late and you may have experienced it firsthand already. What I mean with remoteness is, essentially, working remotely while freelancing and how, depending on the industry and the kind of work you do, it will become an issue that’s rather tough to overcome on its own. In this day and age of hyper-connectivity, of remote enabled collaboration, of networks and online communities as the new operating model, of digital technologies allowing you to transform work from a physical space (i.e. the office) into a mental state, it’s hard to believe that remote working in social business is pretty much dead, unless, of course, you would want to re-locate or work on-site 24x7x365. Then again everything you may have endorsed throughout your entire working life is bound to collapse on its own, because, you know, your words and your actions will no longer match. Two completely different worlds colliding with one another and you sitting right in the middle about to experience the clash. 

    That lack of coherence will eventually be your dead end, because how can you dare promote a different kind of working together? How can you state you are designing the ultimate new way of working while promoting an emerging set of digital technologies when you end up working in exactly the very same way you have done it in the last 15 to 20 years, if not longer? Why bother? Seriously. Why bother at all? It’s like as if you were heavily promoting the extensive use of all of these digital technologies at work to help improve the way you connect, learn, share and collaborate with others and yet your number #1 tool you still heavily use on a daily basis is *cough* email *cough*.

    I tell you, if someone would have told me, ahead of the time, what a huge challenge would be working remotely in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation I think I would have probably switched off a long long time ago and moved on to better things. That lack of coherence and dishonesty to our core beliefs are just killing us, social business evangelists, big time and, somehow, we just don’t seem to want to wake up and do something about it. Don’t worry, in an upcoming blog post I will let you all folks know what I am doing at the moment to overcome this particular drawback. Can you already hint what it is? 

  • Lack of Discipline: Ok, let’s now move into the more down to earth, mundane downsides of doing freelance work and see what’s out there. Remember when I mentioned free time in a previous article around the perks of freelance work? Well, lack of discipline is one of its worst enemies altogether, more than anything else, because, unless you do something about it, it will manage to destroy your focus and dedication to your client work with a multitude of distractions that will be hard to beat till you realise it’s just too late. 

    That’s one of the reasons why I think plenty of freelancers are so keen on coworking spaces in the first place, because somehow there is a specific discipline in the air to get work done together but still separate, if you know what I mean, and therefore eliminate the urge for any kind of distraction or goofing off. The fact that others are working around you in the same space makes you give in to that thought of not wanting to slack off nor lazy around, to just go for coffee breaks whenever everyone else is having one (GREAT opportunity to converse and connect, by the way!) and to put similar amounts of work like everyone else is doing and eventually conform to an office-like environment where you know lack of discipline is no longer welcomed, nor encouraged.

    You may be wondering by now whether that’s how I have overcome that lack of discipline while freelancing, right? No, I don’t use any coworking space at the moment, even though there are a couple of them right where I live. What I have done instead is build a number of different routines I have developed over the years to help me focus on what I am working on at the moment. That’s why I depend so much on the Pomodoro Technique. That’s why I also rely quite heavily on the effective power of music, for instance, to help me eliminate distractions and really focus on what I need to do in the moment. And the list of routines goes on and on and on. I think I could probably write an entire blog post just on this subject, so I’m going to park it over here for now and come back to it with a follow-up entry at a later time. 

  • Procrastination: Oh my, talking about writing an entire blog post on a specific subject! How about on procrastination itself? Yeah, I know, I bet plenty of you folks out there could write another article about it and how you try to beat it successfully. And yet, it just doesn’t happen. I think it would be silly at this point in time not to realise and acknowledge we all are professional procrastinators. The thing is that while you can certainly bump into dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of articles, blog posts and whatever other publications about how you can stop procrastinating and keep working further along, over time I have learned about something else that works for me way way better: embrace it! Yes, that’s right! If we are all chronic procrastinators having mastered its art over time, why not try to make the most out of it?

    This may sound a bit too weird, but mastering the art of procrastination has helped me, over time, become much more effective and creative altogether. If anything, it’s helped me understand how there is good and bad procrastination and how, over time, I have become a huge fan of learning ‘how to procrastinate well’. Have you tried it out yourself? Believe me, it just works! 

  • Self-pity: You know those times when things are running far too slow in terms of clients asking for your help, support and guidance or when freelance work just doesn’t come up often enough and you start wondering about whether you really have it or not? You know those times when you are on the brink of giving up on freelancing because you keep thinking you are not good enough for it, or you don’t have the right skills, expertise, mindset, networks (to help out and assist where appropriate), etc. etc. Or perhaps you even thought you made the wrong decision about going freelance in the first place and you should be doing something else elsewhere? Well, folks, that’s when you’d know you are entering the world of self-pity. Welcome to the club!

    I tell you, I don’t know a single freelancer out there (me included as well for sure!) who may not have gone through that phase of self-pity, specially, when there is no paid work coming along for an extended period of time. It usually comes in the most unsuspicious ways: thinking too hard too often. Thinking about your current situation; about why you are not getting enough client work any longer; about why hardly anyone comes to you anymore and asks you to speak at an upcoming conference event or to write an article for an online publication, for example; about why no-one asks you to help them, where you can, with their own projects collaborating together; finally, about why, all of a sudden, it feels as if you have disappeared entirely from the scene as if you never existed. My goodness, self-pity can have such a destructive flair to it, can’t it? Well, it doesn’t end up there. 

    Then there is the doubt. That same doubt about whether you may have made the right decision in the first place when you decided to go freelance, as I have already mentioned above. Or when you start questioning your own skills, experience and expertise thinking that perhaps you may not have it after all and that it may well be a good time to move on to other things whatever those may well be. Or when you think you are living in a bubble that has got its days numbered and it’s about to burst, if not already! Or even when you think that some of your most innovative, refreshing, new, profound radical thinking just ends up in the same gutter as everything else. Or, even worse, when you start questioning whether loneliness is harming you more than whatever you may have  thought of in the past. Loneliness as in ‘Who is going to hire this person who goes solo?’ Why is he / she not working with an agency? We only do work with consulting agencies anyway, right? So why bother? 

    Gosh, I know what you are thinking, self-pity can have such a destructive power of the self that it’s just mind-blowing. And while I surely agree with that sentiment, doing some self-pity every now and then shouldn’t necessarily be something negative. On the contrary. It helps you to constantly question AND challenge what you do, to confirm whether we feel we are on the right track, whether we have made the right decisions, or whether we need to perform a number of different changes before we move on. The issue with self-pity though is when you dive into it for far too long that you give up on either moving on or making some changes. Well, whenever that’s happening, the best thing one can do to revert course, move on and get back in business is to eventually rely on your own social networks, more than anything else because they know you better than anyone else and at the same time there isn’t anything more satisfying than relying on their power to get you out of such black hole as self-pity. So handle it with care and whenever you feel you are just going down on a spiral of negativity, reach out to your trusted networks, because, if anything, they are the ones who care the most about you. One conversation at a time. 
     

  • Payment Methods: This particular drawback of doing freelance work may not necessarily apply to vast majority of freelancers out there, at least, as far as I can see, since most of them have got a very clear payment method based on either an hourly rate or a daily one. If you work under either model I don’t think payment methods would be an issue other than, you know, getting paid on time, which certainly can be one of the most poignant disadvantages of freelancing by itself as well, as I keep reading different reports on taking between 60 to 90 days to get paid. Ouch! 

    However, that’s not the main downside I’d want to highlight in terms of payment methods. To me, it’s slightly different. You see? I don’t usually work with either the hourly or daily rates. I much prefer to set my fees based on the overall outcomes of the project or its different deliverables, but also within a timeline manner. The drawback is that most firms are not very much used to that kind of payment method resulting in a good number of unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork that sometimes can delay a project for a certain amount of time. And while I usually explain straight up front why I don’t work with hourly or daily rates (mostly due to time constraints, which I will develop further in an upcoming blog entry to explain more in detail how I work through payments), it’s still a bit time consuming helping folks understand new ways of doing work and getting paid accordingly. 

    How do I break free through this downside? Usually, through one or two additional conversations with the client explaining the advantages of the pricing I enjoy using the most, which is the one that allows me to focus on the work to be done for the client without not necessarily worrying too much about the time constraint, but, instead, focus on the quality of the overall outcome(s). If there is anything I have learned over the course of time in the area of Social Business and Digital Transformation is that you just can’t hurry things too much, because, after all, we are running a marathon here, not just sprints, and some times you need to allow enough time to take place before you can show and demonstrate the real impact of the work you are doing. A single week, month, quarter won’t cut it, I am afraid. So why the time pressure of working through the ruthless law of either hourly or daily rates when we could instead focus on change programs where the quality of the deliverables becomes much more important than the time spent executing on them? I wish I were more effective in being able to communicate why I prefer this payment method over others … Still tons of room for improvement on this one, I can tell you. 

  • Free work: And, finally, the last, but not least important, of the downsides of freelance work for this time around. One that I am pretty sure would come up on the Top 3 pet peeves for most freelancers out there. One that annoys plenty of people to no end, if anything, because of the lack of respect for one’s rights to get a decent payment for the work one gets to deliver on. Of course, I’m talking about the constant requests to work for free for other people. Yes, I know, 2016 and it still is a thing. 

    Somehow there seems to be that expectation that whether your are in pursuit of cheap, or whether you are just getting started with your freelance career, or whether you would want to ask for a few minutes of someone’s time or pick someone’s brain, you name it, you will always get asked about working for free for people, even if you know things just don’t work that way anymore.

    The exposure economy can only take you up to so far, I am afraid, before you realise you can no longer pay the monthly bills. At that point, and thanks to those many many requests still coming through to work for free, you know you are in (big) trouble, because people would still expect you to work for them for free, as it will be good exposure for you, while the unpaid bills tend to accumulate. And before you know it, you are doomed. Freelance work should not be like that. We should pretty much respect and treasure people’s time, hard work, effort, energy and, overall, their own lifetime work experience and get paid accordingly. It’s the least we could all do to recognise and appreciate both people and the good work they do. Anything else is an open call for even bigger trouble.

    Of course, I, too, have been asked to work for free as a freelancer in numerous occasions, although things have slowed down a fair bit at the moment with perhaps two or three requests per week. Mind you, I fully realise it’s very difficult to break the chain of working for free. And don’t take me wrong, it doesn’t necessarily imply I won’t be doing any kind of free work, on the contrary, I’m rather keen on doing it as long as there is a single premise in place that would give me the heads up: that is, I know you really really well and I truly love what you are doing. Anything else would need to be discussed and settled down for payment. No exceptions, I am afraid. Just like everyone else, there are plenty of bills to pay month in month out and that’s something that we all ought to respect and acknowledge for everyone, even freelancers. 

    There is a blog draft I’m putting together to talk at length about this particular downside on its own, more than anything else because it’s an important topic we only keep hearing about from one side of the story without getting the other and I feel, as I am getting closer to my 4th year of freelancing, it needs to get the word out and have a conversation about it, as opposed to just take things for granted. We shouldn’t. We should just take a moment to understand the context and the circumstances as to why people do the work they do and eventually appreciate and recognise it accordingly. It’s not that difficult, nor challenging, right? 

 

And that’s it! Those are some of the downsides I can think of at the moment about doing freelance work. And while I fully realise this blog post may be coming across as somewhat negative, it’s not meant to be. By far. It’s more about exposing some of the issues, the drawbacks, the disadvantages, the challenges, but also the opportunities about freelancing we all have in order to start the conversations on how we can all improve the state of the present of work today to then perhaps still have a future tomorrow, specially, if we all keep claiming the so-called future of work is the gig economy. Is it? If so, we still have got plenty of good work to get done! So let’s get down to it, please!

Here is a final, open reflection for you folks out there who may have been reading this article thus far: What’s the main downside of doing freelance work you may have experienced yourself in the last few months? Or to put it in other words, if you could address a single disadvantage of freelancing, which one would you choose right now and why?

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #8

 Gran Canaria - Cruz Grande

While I keep working on the drafts for the couple of upcoming posts on additional perks of freelance work, as well as some of its setbacks, I figured I may as well put together the next blog entry from the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series. Even more so as an opportunity to keep things rolling with a good effort to take my mind away from the reflection time I am going through at the moment having witnessed, perhaps, one of the most profound and rather mind-boggling changes that may have happened in our recent history and that I’m sure everyone is very aware of, given the recent date in which it took place. My mind is, currently, very much distracted reading, learning and pondering further along about everything that’s going on, so those other more meaty articles would need to wait for a little bit while I get back in shape in the next day or two. Thus hang in there for a bit more time, please, if you were looking forward to those articles around freelancing. They will be coming up shortly! 

For now, I would like to continue with the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series and move into Week #8, which is really interesting, because when I first got started with it, a few weeks back, I never thought I’d be taking it this far highlighting and recommending already 40 different iOS Apps I use on a more or less regular basis. In fact, it’s even more intriguing when I look into my iOS devices and I see I still have got those many, if not more!, to include in this series for upcoming weeks, so it looks like I’ll be busy with it for a little while longer.

Overall, I’m enjoying, quite a bit, the opportunity to blog about these apps, because it also gives me the good chance to go deeper into other tabs and folders within my gadgets that I haven’t been to for a while and question whether I would still want to make use of some of them, and if not, whether I’m ready to ditch them for good and never come back. I didn’t expect this blogging exercise would allow me to do massive housekpeeing and remove all of those other apps I haven’t used in months now, but it has. And it’s more than welcome to help me continue with it. If anything, it’s been quite liberating altogether just as if it were spring cleaning! Thus, for this week, I’ll be recommending apps in the areas of Business, Productivity, Photography, Music and Reference – News. 

Let’s go ahead then and do it!: 

 

  • Ummo [iPhone Only]: If you have recently been doing public speaking, whether just getting started with your first speaking gigs or whether you are well seasoned public speaker, you know delivering a speech / talk is no easy task. There are tons of things to take into account: the pitch itself, the visuals, the delivery, your posture, your enthusiasm, your passion, your nerves, the ideas you’d want to share across, you name it. The list goes on and on and on. You wish you knew what else you could do from the several thousands of articles, blog posts, books, white papers, etc. etc. out there that presumably advise you on what you need to do to become a better speaker and while all of those resources may be helpful, you still feel you could even learn plenty more.

    Well, take a look into Ummo. You may wonder why you didn’t have this app a long time ago! It’s one of those apps that will essentially analyse your pitch and then advise you wisely on how you could improve your own public speaking skills based on what it discovers about you and your delivery style. MacStories, as an example, has written, not long ago, an excellent, and rather detailed, review of the app itself you may want to go through first, before you may decide to take it yourself for a spin, but I tell you, if you are into public speaking and would want to spice up a fair bit your own skills, this is a must-have app. Without a single doubt! 

  • Scrivener: In a previous blog post from this series, I mentioned how one of my favourite iOS apps for uninterrupted and focused writing was Ulysses. Back then, I mentioned how there are a couple of other apps I quite like as well for writing long form, without distractions on my iPad Pro, so for this week, if Ulysses doesn’t cut it for you and if you would be open up for other suggestions I’d like to suggest you take a look into Scrivener. Perhaps, the most powerful writing and note taking app out there at the moment. In fact, if you have been using it on the desktop I don’t need to mention anything else other than it’s now available for iOS, too! And it rocks, big time!

    I still haven’t decided just yet which one of the two of them would become my default one for my iPad Pro, so I have decided to make use of both of them for the time being and get the most out of them. Since both user experiences are rather different and very unique, all the better. Like I said in a previous blog post as well, it’s about having a choice and in this case we are very well served with both of them! 

  • PhotoSync: When talking about photography apps, PhotoSync is probably one of the essential Top 5 Apps, if you are keen on transferring your iPhone / iPad photos on to your desktop (in my case MackBook Air) without having to make use of iCloud per se. At the moment, it’s the main app I use for all of my iPhone photos to be copied across into my MacBook Air, connecting over the same WiFi network, selecting the folder or photos I’d want to move and off it goes. Job well done and painlessly. 

    At the same time, it has got tons of other options to upload all of your photos into online services like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Flickr, Google Drive, etc. making it really easy to manage and export your iOS photos into whatever online service you can then process from there. Pretty neat, if you ask me heh

  • Shazam: What can I say about Shazam that may not have been said before already? If you are really passionate about your music tunes, but, alas, you are terrible at remembering either the singer or the title of that particular song, let Shazam come to your rescue! There are tons of features and neat capabilities I really like about this app, but there are two in particular that I’m just in love with: first, the fact I can trigger it from the home screen itself with its widget without having to first unlock, open up the app and tag that song, making it all really quick and friction free, which is what you want when you are on the move, listen to a piece of music you may not recall, but may be interested in and BOOM! Shazam has it for you! Secondly, the fact it’s fully, and beautifully!, integrated with Spotify, so it allows me to build Spotify Lists pretty neatly directly from the app itself that I can then start listening to in Spotify. Talking about integration of apps done right! Yes! It works just perfectly! 
  • Otto Radio [iPhone Only]: And, finally, one of those rare recommendations that blew my mind when I first bumped into it, by chance, a few months back. Otto Radio taps into the world of podcasting, and news broadcasting radio, and what it does eventually is speak out loud to you different news items, as if you were listening to the radio, and then reproduces snippets of podcasting episodes that may match the interests you have already selected. And if you like them, you can then get the rest of the episode, but without having to subscribe or download the episode itself. All of that nicely packed in different time slots you select ahead of time, so depending on how much time you may have, while commuting, exercising, or waiting for other work to finish, you make your time selection and off it goes, all nicely packaged for you. Ready to be listened to and enjoyed.

    Ohhh, and the more you use the app, the more effectively it learns about the news items that tick for you and the better its fine tuning capabilities. Of all of the new iOS Apps I have tried this year so far, it’s perhaps one of the best out there, specially, if you are a news junkie, or if you just want to be in the know about what’s going on out there. The way it entices you to stick around and engage with the app is really good as well. Wish other apps would learn from it. Remember Zite, by any chance? Well, it’s that good, but with audio / podcasting snippets. Highly recommended! 

 

And that’s it, folks, for this time around! Next week I will be putting together a new set of iOS apps I am hoping you would be enjoying as much as I do and, again, if there is an app out there you would want to recommend I give it a try, please leave a comment below or let me know via @elsua in Twitter, where a few folks have been sharing their suggestions as well through Mentions.

Thanks ever so much for sharing them across and till next time!

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The Perks of Freelance Work

Gran Canaria - Cruz Grande in the winter

 

As I am getting closer to my third year anniversary as a freelancer, and since I also mentioned how every now and then I may write a blog entry here and there to share some additional insights on what it is like the life of an independent adviser (around Social Business and Digital Transformation, in this case, for yours truly), I thought I would go ahead and share across this article today where I would like to reflect on some of the perks I have enjoyed myself the most about being a freelancer in the so-called gig economy. Don’t worry, I know what you are thinking as well, that’s why I am also planning on reflecting on some of its various disadvantages no-one seems to be telling you about just as you keep wondering whether it’s a good time, or not, to start your own freelancing career and leave behind your job as a salaried employee. All in all, and through this blogging exercise, I am hoping to provide a somewhat balanced overview on what it is like being an independent and, essentially, share a few of the things I have learned along over the course of these last three years. Time more than enough, I would think, to confirm whether freelancing really is the future of work or just another buzzword, overhyped to no end, as we try to figure out what’s the Future of Work going to look like, potentially, instead of, perhaps, doing something a bit more meaningful and purposeful as we help redefine the Present of Work itself. What do you think? Hype or sharp reality then? 

Before you answer those questions, though, allow me to expand further along on those perks I have enjoyed the most from being a freelancer myself over the course of the last three years, and then see how many of them you would be able to extrapolate yourself as well to your own working life as a full time worker, so that we can decide whether being an independent is much different, or not, than being a salaried employee. Something tells me both worlds are not that far off from one another, but let’s have a look into some of them and see how many would apply to you folks out there working in a full time job. Mind you, this is not, by all means, an exhaustive listing of all the perks I can think of. There are plenty more, I am certain, but since I have to get started somewhere I will venture with the first ten I can think of from the top of my head and I will add a short paragraph describing each of them as an opportunity to unpack plenty of these thoughts in upcoming follow-up blog posts as part of the series. Then, at a later time, I may put together another article where I can include whatever other perks I can think of I may have left behind…

Thus without much further ado, here are some of my favourite perks of being a freelancer with a short explanation detailing why, because, you know, it all starts by asking ‘why?’. So here are my ‘why?’s
 

  • Freedom: This is, perhaps, my all time favourite perk from being a freelancer and by far! Freedom. And it’s not necessarily about doing whatever you want, but more along the lines of deciding what you love doing, as in what you enjoy the most in investing your time, effort and energy and then do it! Yes, I fully realise that plenty of people would advise you that things don’t work out that way in most cases, but then again you can prove them wrong. It’s that kind of freedom where you embark on doing what you love. Period. No exceptions. 
  • Flexibility: My second favourite perk of being a freelancer and it looks like I’m not the only one who enjoys it. The best thing about flexibility is that it allows you to learn, through firsthand experience, how you really work, and perhaps much more importantly, it helps you also understand your own productivity and creativity peaks. It helps you comprehend, and fully embrace, how you may have slow days where hardly anything happens and you are lucky if you clock a couple of hours of good work, and then you have got days when you clock in 12, 14 or 16 hours of really good work as if the day just went by in a flash and you are as fresh as when the day got started! If only we were more open and keen on learning about how our very own circadian rhythms work. Something tells me we would all be much better off altogether. 

  • Purpose: It all starts with purpose. With having a purpose, more specifically, whether you are freelancing or working as a full time employee in a firm. And while it’s really tough to go through that phase of self-discovery of your own ‘why?’, it’s one of those exercises you can’t skip just like that. The nice perk of finding your own purpose as a freelancer is that it’s you the one who decides what your own purpose should be all about while trying the match the needs and wants of your clients. There is an inefable symbiosis between both of them that hardly anyone can fight, so the sooner we get to embrace how our collective purpose is to serve others into achieving a specific goal, whatever that may well be, the better. That’s what I like the most from the whole exercise: co-create your own purpose with your clients. Help them help you find your ‘why?
  • Meaning: I bet, at one point in time, we all have asked ourselves how we may find real meaning at work and how some of us may have made it through, or not. What I like about this particular perk, as a freelancer, is that I have a chance to define for myself what meaningful work would be all about. At least, for me, along the lines of ‘Why do I still get up in the morning?’ or ‘What can kind of impact, or legacy, do I want to leave behind for others to benefit from when I am long gone? It’s a tough call, I tell you, but questioning it every single day is totally worth it on its own, even though you may not have an answer for it just yet while you keep trying; just the fact you are questioning it for yourself is a small victory already on its own, because vast majority of people have already long time ago forgotten about what it is like having meaningful work and seeing the huge % of disengaged employees it’s no wonder we still don’t spend more time trying to figure it out. That’s why I’m grateful I had the chance to challenge myself to find my own meaning. Have I been successful? Well, maybe. I will leave it down to you all to answer that one for me… 
  • Networking: This week is Working Out Loud Week (#WOLWeek) and this year’s focus is all about working through some different routines to help you become more effective at what you do already by exposing and narrating your own work, by becoming more open, public and transparent about what you do and eventually entice you into making more connections by helping you build, nurture and cultivate different personal business relationships that, over the course of time, would potentially become your own social networks. You already know the gimmick, ‘I am made greater by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections.

    Well, the world of freelancing is no different, perhaps even more prominent, because, you know, you are just yourself out there in a brave new world of trying to make ends meet month in month out and, as such, networking for us all freelancers is no longer a nice-thing-to-have, but an essential, critical skill to master in this day and age as my good friend Harold Jarche demonstrates repeatedly with #PKMastery. So if there is anything in this regard I appreciate quite a bit is the opportunity to be constantly networking with people, as I have written rather extensively in this blog for a good while already, and let it down to both curiosity and serendipity to do the magic

  • Focus: It wasn’t easy at the very beginning, and probably rightly so! Doing freelance work in the age of far too many distractions floating all over the place requires plenty of discipline, hard work and dedication. That’s why focus was perhaps one of the most unexpected perks I acquired, as freelance work kicked in, right from the start. Learning how to work alone can prove to be rather helpful as well. Fully embracing deep work will be another blessing to add into the mix, mostly, because it will help you fight one of the biggest myths of today’s workplace: our ability to multitask.

    Yes, it’s a myth. Get used to it. A myth that’s bad for our brain and, overall, for our very own health. That’s one of the reasons why, back in the day, I switched into single-tasking, through the well known Pomodoro Technique, to, eventually, get work done, task by task, much more effectively altogether. So when doing client work it’s amazing what being focused on the task at hand can do to your overall effectiveness, productivity and morale. The fact you can produce and create a whole lot more in less time, finally, allows me to embrace, fully, the good old mantra I have written about over here a few times already: ‘work smarter, not necessarily harder’. 

  • Free Time: One of the immediate outcomes, and wonderful consequences, of becoming more focused on the tasks at hand, when working with clients, is that, all of a sudden, you realise you are starting to free up plenty more time that you can then dedicate it to other activities whether work related, or not. That’s why I’m spending a whole lot more time outdoors (as you can see from my Instagram and Flickr accounts), exercising (running, too!) early in the morning while keeping up with some other healthy habits, which I can confirm have got plenty of additional great benefits to help me learn more or be even more productive, such as sleep, idle time, walking the dog, blogging, etc. etc.   
  • Learning: Now, you would remember how, not long ago, I wrote a blog entry over here about ‘Learning is the work’ to describe plenty of the work related activities I have embarked on since I went independent that have transformed themselves as well into learning opportunities. Well, that’s another perk of being a freelancer, that constant, lifelong learning experience where curiosity about everything that’s around you and your business (after 17 years of being a salaried employee) entices you to want to learn more.

    It’s an everlasting activity that’s nicely complemented with the free time I mentioned above, because, all of a sudden, you realise things slow down a fair bit to help you see them with a different perspective, reflect and learn accordingly whatever may be happening around you and your work. And there is a bit of everything in there: good practices, worst practices (Yeah, I know, I just made up that word, but you will find out pretty soon why!), lessons learned, opportunities, challenges, personal development, you name it. They say the moment you stop learning at work, that’s the moment you start dying a little bit inside. I can tell you though there is never a dull moment when doing freelance work, which I guess it’s good news! 

  • Reading: If I were to name another unexpected perk of becoming a freelancer that I have enjoyed tremendously over the course of the last three years that would be the one about reading. Again, thanks to having the opportunity of freeing up more time, as I have mentioned above, it’s given me the enormous pleasure of rekindling my love for reading (whether business related or not!) and not just books, but also articles, white papers, reports, studies, research, publications and whatever else.

    One immediate benefit of such an increase of my own reading activities is that I have noticed how much richer my blog posts have become with plenty of links shared across about items I find interesting and relevant, which is brilliant because it helps me add further nuances on already existing conversations hoping to add my two cents worth of additional commentary. The same would go for curating hyperlinks to helpful reading materials I may want to come back to over time, like I have mentioned in previous blog posts with Slack becoming my personal knowledge hub as an example.

    But who knew that reading would be one of our secret weapons? That writing about what we read is a very powerful learning activity? That reading a book can be a healthy activity in the long run? That it will trigger your brain activity with a boost? That you would become more empathic altogether? Or happier? Whoahhh! See what reading can do to you?

    [PS: If you are wondering why I haven’t shared any recent review of the books I have read in the last couple of years, just to get a taste of what I’ve been interested in so far, don’t worry, that’s coming up soon! I’m just trying to figure out the best way of recommending those books I find interesting and relevant without having to maintain, yet again, another online presence]

  • Work – Life Integration: And, finally, one of my favourite topics of conversation from over the course of years, the well known dilemma of work – life balance, whether it really exists or whether it’s another myth we have bought into. As a starting point, I should add I don’t believe in work – life balance itself, more than anything else because there isn’t such balance, work always wins, even for freelancers. It’s all about integration though. It’s about understanding how flexibility kicks in to help you define when to work, when not to work, and integrate them accordingly and make the most out of it. Let me share an example with you on what I mean…

    Back when I was a salaried employee, I was working remotely already from Gran Canaria, Spain, and, as you can imagine I thought, at the time, I had a pretty good balance between both work and life. Yeah, I can see plenty of you thought the same thing. However, little did I know that when I, finally, went independent I would truly understand the whole notion behind work – life integration and it has all got to do with breaking up with the Cult of Busyness. Because, with it, we have got to add into the mix feeling overworked, stressed out, unhappy, miserable, dangerously unwell, addicted, etc. etc.

    It’s all about Quality of Life. And I do realise it’s all easier said than done, but being a freelancer over the course of last three years has helped me, at long last, fully understand as well, some times through trial error, silly thoughts, utopian ideas and other crazy thoughts, how, perhaps, working hard has never been the answer; how we should treasure more the one finite resource we have got allocated upon us (i.e. time) versus other material goods, including money; how we need to stop telling people how busy we all are we just can’t get work done altogether, and how we may have other choices.

    Interesting and rather thought provoking choices like learning how to break our addiction to work, how a potential solution to vast majority of our business problems today may well be to work less, or even mastering the art of doing less, who knows. Or perhaps we should start questioning harder why is it we keep treasuring that Cult of Business as if there is not tomorrow, when it’s been demonstrated, time and time again, how the world’s most productive countries also have the shortest workdays, never mind the happiness factor.

    Yes, I know, you can now see for yourselves, firsthand, what my mind keeps buzzing around while in between client projects. You know, that’s what freelancers (and salaried employees, too, I am certain!) do on a rather frequent basis, when the right conditions AND context are provided: think about the what next?

 

Being a freelancer has got lots of perks, with an increase on Quality of Life perhaps being my all time favourite one so far, as you can hint from the above long list, which will keep growing, the list, that is, as I have come up with a few more already that I will be putting together in an upcoming blog post to keep describing what it is like being part of the so-called gig economy. But, at the same time, there are also some disadvantages. Plenty of them, actually. Of course, it is not a rosy world where everything works just right, so I will also be putting together another article where I will list and detail some of those cons. As you can see, it’s all about striking that balance and ponder whether it’s worth the effort becoming a freelancer to enjoy the various different advantages while putting up with the burden of some of those challenges themselves I will be talking about shortly. It’s a thin line, I can tell you that, but, at the same time, these past three years have been one of the most rewarding periods of time from my 20 years work experience in the IT industry to the point where it may well have been the best decision I have ever made. And by far. Going freelance.

Now, here’s a final reflection, as an open question, I’d want to leave you all with: what’s your favourite perk of being a freelancer or a salaried employee?

Will both of them ever blend together to become one?

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #7

Gran Canaria - Campo Internacional

After having used several hundreds of iOS Apps over the course of the last 7 years, there is one thing I have come to appreciate a fair bit over the course of that time: that is, in this day and age of abundance (of apps, in this case) having a choice is, certainly, just as good as it gets. It’s no longer about having a single app to perform a specific task, but, in my case, it’s about having a handful of apps to choose from that makes all the difference, so depending on the context, depending on what kind of outcome, or result, I would want to aim for, there is a great chance I will no longer default to making use of a single app, but, instead, have multiple of them and use the one that would fit in my needs the best for that time around. It’s all about having a choice, really, why I heart playing around with different iOS apps to get work done more effectively when completing certain actions. That’s why, as part of this series of blog posts around My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week, you will see me highlighting and recommending different apps in order to carry out a specific activity.

So it will then be up to you folks to decide which one you may give it a go first and see if it sticks around and, if not, not to worry, there are multiple other options you may be able to choose from that I will be adding further along over the course of time, which, I think, is a good thing on its own, but we shall see how that goes. For this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps we have got Blogging, Productivity (Meetings and Utilities), Photography and Learning. Thus let’s get down to it then:

  • BlogPad Pro [iPad Only]: I know how a few weeks back I was recommending one of my favourite iOS blogging apps (Blogo), but there is one other that’s coming up pretty close that I’m starting to enjoy quite a bit as well. It’s called Blogpad Pro, and like the name itself says, it’s a blogging app for professionals, because next to a really nice and user friendly interface, it comes packed up with plenty of really nifty features to help you spice up your own blogging efforts, making it worth while taking a look into, if you are contemplating some other options. I tell you, on an iPad Pro, it’s just superb!
  • Zoom: This is really an intriguing one, because on my MacBook Air I have got the tendency to use a number of different emeetings and web conferencing apps, but as soon as I go into my iPad Pro the one single app I almost always default to is Zoom and for a good number of reasons. The quality of the video footage is amazing, I mean, truly amazing, just like being in the same room! Then there is the user interface, which is a no-brainer, even if you have never used the app itself in the past and you are just starting to make use of it. It just works. I really wish other Web conferencing mobile apps were just as easy and effective to use as Zoom is!
  • Forevery: A couple of weeks ago I talked about a photography app (Polarr) that was making an entrance with a splash by using A.I. elements to help us sort out the mess our camera rolls can become over the course of time. While I have been using it quite a bit to make sense of the several thousands of pictures I have got in my iPhone, it’s not the only one I am using at the moment. There is another one, Forevery, that I have been using for a lot longer and that I am enjoying as well, more than anything else because it’s way more responsive than Polarr is, but also because some the A.I. elements applied to it provide me with another perspective of the same camera roll pictures, which is really nice when you are not too sure which one to go ahead with and share across. Well, either Polarr or Forevery, they both come to the rescue time and time again, and I’m grateful for that.
  • TextExpander: Now, I have been using TextExpander on my MacBook Air for a good few years already and if I were to judge all of the productivity apps I use it would certainly rank higher up within the Top 5. It’s helped me save several thousands of hours of typing further along by automating certain expressions I keep using throughout in my own writings. Or to use a couple of characters to then expand certain common phrases or idioms I use regularly that helps me not having to repeat them time and time again. But if there is anything I’m really grateful about from TextExpander is the group of snippets under HTML that allow me to write blog posts and comments using HTML tags to make them easier on the eye, and in most cases, without me not having to necessarily learn HTML per se, specially, for the more complex tags. So, as you can imagine, when TextExpander came to iOS I just had to install it as well in both my iPhone and iPad and since it syncs across from the desktop with my login credentials it gives me an opportunity to use the very same snippets regardless of what device I’m using at the moment. Talking about massive productivity apps! TextExpander is one that I would surely recommend you check it out, specially, if you need to do tons of (somewhat repetitive) writing!
  • Duolingo: And, finally, how about a Learning app? In this particular case, Duolingo. An app that’s certainly helping me keep up with my language skills (for the 4 languages I speak) with enough practice and fancy exercises to make it all worth it on its own, to the point where I have tried a number of other different apps and Duolingo is the only one that is still installed in any of my gadgets. What do I like the most? Well, that you don’t have to download and install an app for each language you may want to learn or keep practising, so having it all in a single app where you can see the progress and switch between one and the other can be just that seamless, you know you are bound to keep coming back! And even though I’m not such a huge fan of gamification components towards learning activities, which is what Duolingo does, the ability to practise with bots is pretty neat. Why? Well, because contrary to real life, they don’t laugh back at you when you say something incorrect or wrong! 😂😂😂 You just keep on going! 😀👍🏻

And that’s it, folks, for this week! As you can see, once again, I made an effort to include in this week’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog post a bit of everything, so that there is something out there for everyone, potentially. Hope you have got a chance to play with some of them, and, like I have mentioned in other blog posts, if you can think of an app I should give a try and then decide to include in this series of articles, let me know in the comments and I will be more than happy to check it out and let you know what my thoughts are and, more importantly, whether it’s an app that will remain installed and that I will use from there onwards.

Bring them on!

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