The Shaggy Dog Story

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I first read this story in an Isaac Asimov book. It was supposed to be the originator of the term a shaggy dog story. That term is used to describe any anecdote that draws people in on the presumption that it’s going to have a witty ending. It then rambles on, keeping people waiting, till finally, the audience begging for mercy, it ends with a weak pun. I happened to like the wordplay in this one so it stuck with me even though I must have read it a good 35 years or more ago.

Once upon a time…

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Do you have the resilience needed for the changing world of work?

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The working world is changing more rapidly than ever before, are you properly equipped to cope?

There are two major shifts in society that will change the way we work significantly

  1. More jobs will become automated – up to 30% of jobs in the UK could be automated by 2030.
  2. More people will work freelance. It’s estimated that by 2020 50% of Americans will be freelancers.

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Story engineering & what I write about

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I started writing this blog with the admission that I’ve never read a ‘how to write’ book, but had ploughed my way through several ‘how to edit’ books, which felt true as I wrote it, but made me pause and run upstairs to check my bookshelf because something didn’t seem right about the admission. True enough my shelf has several ‘how to write books’ and I’m sure I’ve read at least two of them and probably more. I have a terrible memory, some people are cursed with the inability to forget anything, they can tell you exactly what they had for breakfast on Tuesday the 12th June when they were five years old. I’m the opposite, my brain ditches information at an alarming rate. It always has so at least I know this isn’t early onset dementia. Continue reading

Adventures in self publishing A birthday review

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This week my update lands on my birthday by pure co-incidence but it got me thinking about how long it’s taken to get to this point. I’m turning 49 and haven’t published yet. I only started writing around 18 or 19 years ago. I’m not entirely sure when as I didn’t record my first few novel’s start dates. Since then, as I’m a bit of a maths geek, I’ve created a spreadsheet tracking my writing, start and end dates, total number of words written, number of stories per year, words per story. So far I don’t see any trends, but I know that I’ve written 3.8 million words (that’s original words and doesn’t count all the rewriting and editing). All the same I only really started writing in my early 30s. I was probably too busy being sensible and holding down a “real” job to take things further. But as I said before, times have changed and self publishing or being an indie-writer is now a respectable possibility. So I am finally tackling phase two of self publishing, editing. Phase one of course is to actually write something. Editing is time consuming so I worry I won’t have huge amounts to write about on this blog till I actually get to publishing although so far that hasn’t been a problem and it gives me a chance to review the process. Continue reading

Freelancing, a sensible option in the changing work landscape

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We have a changing work landscape and old certainties are vanishing. There are a number of trends and traditions that we as a society have noticed but currently do little to address. Freelancing or setting up our own small business, social enterprise or charity provides one way of meeting that challenge.

1. Job insecurity

When I left university in the early 90s I already knew I couldn’t expect a job for life. People spoke as if that was a bad thing, but I was fine with it. As it turns out not only have I regularly changed jobs (I’ve spent no more than 6 consecutive years with any organisation, although I have gone back to some of them) but I have lived in 4 countries and worked in three of them. That is the nature of our world now where you don’t have certainty but it is made up for by variety and a degree of flexibility. Continue reading

The 100 Book Challenge

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What set it all off?

What on earth possessed me to set a 100 books published challenge? Two things converged for me over the last few of weeks. The first was a realisation that I was working with a number of clients who want to transition from office jobs to new careers as creatives. One of my clients wants to ditch the day job and do art, another wants to be a singer whilst a third wants to be a designer of cryptic crosswords. I have encouraged each of them to follow their dream, and worked through strategies to make it happen. Yet at the same time I haven’t pursued my own dream of becoming a writer. This is odd because I really enjoy writing and would like nothing better than to be able to focus all of my attention on that and not have to worry about finding other work to pay my bills.

The second was a book. I have just finished reading Chris Gillebeau’s book, The Happiness of Pursuit, Find the Quest that will Bring Purpose to Your Life. I have always liked the idea of a quest, who doesn’t? Many of us are on mini pursuits, be that train spotting or bird watching, walking from Lands End to John o’Groates, or a friend who planned 40 miniature adventures for her 40th year. They have an instant appeal. Continue reading

Challenges and solutions when you transition to freelancing

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So you’ve decided to go freelance

Unless you’ve come into a sizeable sum of money and can do what you please, for most people going freelance involves a transition period whilst you set up. You have to prepare practically and mentally to make the shift. You have to build up the one job whilst you scale back the other. While you’re still in the beige 9 to 5 job it really helps if you consider this moment as a different career.

Transitioning is challenging

This is a tough moment because it is expected that we give our paid job over and above our contracted hours. Even when I was made redundant with no new job lined up I did 40 plus hour weeks to wrap everything up, make sure they were okay, and ignored my increasingly parlous financial position. Continue reading

How I Became a Writer

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pexels-photo-306533I am not a very reflective person. I tend to look forward to what’s coming rather than to review what has gone before. I also have a terrible memory, which is good in some regards as I can re-watch films or re-read books a couple of years later and not remember a thing about them. So if people had asked me how far back I can remember about being a storyteller or a writer, I wouldn’t have been able to give them a good answer.

Recently though, I have been working as a coach specifically helping people live a happier life by finding what they love doing and helping them set up in that. Many people are desperate to get out of jobs they hate and an equal number of those don’t know what else they could do so feel trapped. One of the most interesting questions I have found to help them discover what they love comes from Marianne Cantwell’s book Be a Free Range Human. It asks, when you were eight years old, what were you most likely to be found doing?

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Working Out What to Charge as a Freelancer

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Deciding how much you should charge for the work you do is one of the hardest parts about going freelance. There are three approaches you can take.

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Charge the same as the competition

Do some market research, see how much everyone else is charging and set your price around the same mark. The temptation is to price yourself slightly lower than the competition, especially when you are first starting out, to build up your client base.

There are a number problems with this strategy:

  • The sum may be too low for you to live on, which means that to be able to feed yourself and pay the bills you will have to put in extra hours. When you’re first starting out putting in extra hours seems ok, but as the months extend into years this is a strategy for burnout and frustration.
  • The people who opt for the cheapest price are people who always opt for the cheapest, quality be damned, so if you put up your prices later they will simply switch to someone charging less than you. So you’re either stuck with your initial low price, or you have to build an entirely new client base.
  • You are susceptible to anyone undercutting you. You set a slightly lower price, then someone else who is starting up sets an even lower price, so you cut your rates again to keep your clients, and so it continues and you’ve got yourself a race to the bottom.

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Why a side gig is a great idea

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I was reading Chris Guillebeau’s book, Born for This, where he described what he called a side hustle. Essentially it’s anything you do over and above your day job that also brings in some money and that you enjoy. I was instantly struck by what a great idea it is to bring in more than the monthly paycheck. It’s always handy to have a little extra for unexpected expenses, a treat or a holiday. I didn’t like the name though. A hustle sound like something dodgy a geezer is doing in the darkened corner of the pub with items that fell off the back of a van. So I’ve opted to call it a side gig.

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The term gig comes from the musical world and is essentially a job, possibly a one off or for a season but not tradition 9 to 5 work. It sums the concept up nicely and got me thinking about all my friends who do make a bit of money on the occasional gig in a pub. Continue reading