10 (ten!) years

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Image via Pixabay

Ten years ago today, I used my redundancy pay to convert the dining area in my home at the time into a proper home-based office. It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far — with thrills and scares, at times exhausting, but mostly exciting.

Ten years is a good point to sit back and think about where I want to take my career, and about which way to head with my business.

And yet, it’s probably going to continue to go the way it’s always been going: with the flow. Just going with the flow of life, demand, technology and so on and so forth.

No big plans or reveals: Let’s just continue to go with the flow.

I don’t need my head above any parapet, no shouty banners, no big hoohas; my business is about providing support, discreetly and without making a song and dance about it.
A lot has changed in ten years — that part hasn’t.

 

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2018

Clouds, Silver Lining
Photograph by Jo Hughes

2016 was, sadly, a year of bereavement for me.

2017 was my year of recovery.

2018 will hopefully be my year of fresh new starts, even if they’re just reboots of previous attempts in previous years.

Watch this space.

Merry everything and a happy anytime

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Image via Pixabay

Don’t worry, I haven’t suddenly turned all fearful of using the word Christmas, nor has anyone else in the diverse area of London where I live and work — people haven’t hesitated to wish me a Merry Christmas around here, regardless of their own cultural or religious background and what (if anything) they celebrate around this time of year and when.

Considering I have no intention of celebrating anything at all myself this year – Christmassy or otherwise – I could take offence at any and all of the Merry Christmasses Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays you and others wish me. Again, don’t worry, I won’t. Kind wishes are exactly that: kind. It’s really nice when people are nice and nice would be my kind of ideal world to live in.

Therefore I have no hesitation in joining the seasonal chorus here to wish you… a merry everything and a happy anytime. Which may sound flippant, but please trust me on it being 100% genuine and sincere, and my heartfelt and inclusive way of wishing you –wishing everyone – all the goodness and happiness life could bring you and your loved ones, beyond merely this time of year.

Bah, humbug!

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Image via Pixabay

This close to Christmas, it’s really time to post a generic holiday message, isn’t it? As I haven’t quite wrapped up my work, administration and other business activities before Christmas, allow me to precede any virtual seasonal greetings with a different kind of greeting, borrowed from the Twitter user who posted this last week:

I realise this may appear a bit crude, unfriendly and ungrateful; you may have expected a cute winter-y picture accompanied by a ‘Seasons Greetings’ or something like that instead. There are still a few days left until Christmas for me to come up with one of those, but like plenty of freelancers I am currently experiencing an issue that takes a lot of joy out of the season: outstanding invoices.

So before you leave the office this week to take your colleagues out for drinks or celebrate the holidays with your loved ones, please make sure your business has paid not just its employees, but also its contractors and freelancers. Thank you.

As I won’t be taking any time off between now and the New Year, I’ve still got time left to send you warmer seasonal greetings than the pleading message above — and you still have time left to outsource any work to me before my new, increased rates take effect in January. 🙂

Excuse the mess…

After two years of the same look, it’s time for a bit of a makeover. This is gradually being applied between now and 1 January 2017, so in the meantime, my apologies if this site looks a bit of a mess.

Flowpr.co.uk / YVAweb.com isn’t the only website receiving a makeover, so are two of my other sites:

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ClogWatch.org was launched as a Posterous blog in 2013, then moved to WordPress when Posterous ceased to exist. It is a website in English, collating news, links, music, literature and anything else from the Netherlands and Belgium that may be of interest to an audience outside of those countries.

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Londonforcloggies.com is a website in Dutch that started in 2014 as a Facebook note in response to frequent inquiries from Dutch family and friends who were planning trips to London and asked for advice on where to stay, what to do, and so on and so forth.

As I’ve run both sites as ‘hobby projects’ so far, the time I’ve been able to spend on them has been (too) limited. They depend on spare time, of which I’ve had very little these past couple of years. Both ClogWatch.org and Londonforcloggies.com are currently hosted on WordPress.com, with affiliate links to cover some of the cost; ideally I would like to attract enough advertisers to move both sites to WordPress.org (which would allow for more advertising and sponsored content) so I can afford to spend more time to maintain and update them.

If you would be interested in becoming an advertiser on either site, for instance if you manage a venue, event or service in London that may be of interest to Dutch and Flemish visitors, or if you have something in Belgium or the Netherlands that you think might be of interest to an audience outside of those countries, do get in touch via the contact page.

Job Applicants: Letting people down gently

Unless I have a book translation to sink my teeth into over summer, July and August are generally quieter months in terms of freelance opportunities. At times like these I’ll browse LinkedIn and other career/job sites for temporary or contractor opportunities; and like anyone else applying for jobs will have experienced, often I receive a badly-put-together automated response, or no response at all.

Personally I find both reflecting incredibly badly on employers, and even worse on agencies who are paid to act as proper  professionals; yes, I know you don’t make money on rejected candidates, but please respect the human beings behind those applications, even – personally I would say especially – in the current market where you are never short of applicants.

Sometimes I get to be on the other side of the situation, when organisations hire me to support their recruitment campaign(s). Having experienced both sides fuelled my arrogant desire to write this post, dishing out advice you probably never asked for but which I hope you’ll read anyway.

In my opinion, if you care about the people who work for you, one way of showing that is in how you treat the people that don’t and won’t work for you nor are of any financial or otherwise professional or personal profit or benefit to you.

As a hiring manager or agent you often (not always) have no way of knowing whether an applicant clicked robot-like on your ‘apply’ button (and many others before and after that), or if he or she seriously took the time to study your organisation and the job description and then (re-)wrote his/her CV and cover letter especially for his/her application for the role you advertised. So why not treat all applicants as if they were the latter, even if you do end up turning them down?

You may wish to complain about the umpteen applications you received to your latest job advertisement, but have you ever spared a thought for those umpteen applicants who may (and probably will) have received equal or higher numbers of rejections, while having no idea about the gazillion other jobs they applied for because they never even received so much as an acknowledgement that their application even got a look-in? Why not appreciate your luxury position of (a) having a job and (b) receiving so much interest in your organisation?

Based on my experiences from both sides – either supporting the hiring process or as a candidate trying to get hired – please consider my following suggestions:

  1. Always reply to each and every job applicant.
  2. Make sure each and every response you send is a good one.
    1. If you can, send individual, personal replies;
    2. If you’re having to deal with hundreds or even thousands of applicants, by all means make it an automated response, but then at least make sure your automated reply is personalised to each recipient and the message sent appears as something that has been written by an actual human being, not by a robot.
    3. Good replies:
      • are genuine, friendly, polite, and respectful, but do not contain guff/fluff;
        acknowledge the time and effort an applicant may have put in his or her submission;
      • do not state your opinions as facts (“You are” should make alarm bells ring before you hit the send button);
      • do not blame the applicant for any oversights on your part (a requirement you failed to list, a closing date you failed to mention, a job advert you failed to take offline, company information you failed to update on the official website, etc.);
      • explain to the applicant what you have done and will be doing with their personal information (hint: treat people’s personal information with due care and attention, don’t hang on to information unnecessarily, make sure storage and disposal of information are handled securely, assure the applicant all this what you’re doing and stick to your word!);
      • do not (pro)verbally ‘kick people when they’re down’ (hint: imagine yourself without thick skin, receiving the message you’re about to send).
  3. When budgeting for hiring costs, allocate time and cost to the rejections. If you don’t have the time to do something yourself, hire someone to do it for you – the same goes for rejecting candidates. If you use an agency to take care of your hiring, insist they treat rejections as seriously and respectfully as their hires.

Does the above sound like too much of an effort to you? Outsource it! There are plenty of people like myself who will be more than happy and able to help you out without draining your financial resources. Remember, this isn’t just about ‘hiring & firing’; even if you personally couldn’t care less about the people you inevitably have to let down, consider it a brand exercise. While I am asking you to care, if you really can’t, at least show your brand to be caring and in your own mind label it as ‘good PR’.

How much should you budget for? Ask around; I can’t speak for other service providers, but if you were to hire me to provide process support towards filling one vacancy (acknowledging receipt of each application, arranging and confirming interviews, sending out rejection emails/letters, checking references, offering and confirming employment to the successful candidate etc.) would generally amount to anything between 4 and 16 hours (£60-240 ex. VAT) plus expenses, depending on the level/extent of support you would want me to give you.

Finally – and I realise this may be pushing it – extending the aforementioned courtesy to recruitment agency representatives who try their luck following a vacancy you advertised… or am I really asking too much now?

About this blog

Currently I am still in the process of importing old content as well as adding new blog content, so check back regularly for updates. Entries are either in Dutch or English and categorised as such, so you can click on either category link to view all entries in your language of choice.

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© Jo Hughes 2008-2013 All rights reserved. I do not accept responsibility or liability for actions based on any content of this website, nor for any content of third-party websites linked on this site. The hosts for this website use cookies; read their privacy policy to find out how. If you don’t wish to have cookies on your device you can change your settings in order to refuse them. Please be aware that I do not accept responsibility for the collection or use of personal data from any third-party website linked here.

All of me

Over the past years I have been asked for my input on quite a number of projects, websites, blogs, books and the like. I have felt incredibly flattered by that and I wish I could say yes to each and every one of them, but I can’t.

You see, there is only so much I can do in the time that I have, and the issue with many of the requests I receive is that they are either low/no pay projects or contain merely a promise of ‘potential’ earnings or profits in future. Unfortunately that doesn’t pay my bills. If I could, I would work entirely free of charge, but like anyone else I have my financial obligations to meet. Nevertheless, I have tried to keep my rates as competitive as possible and provided work for free whenever I could.

My problem is that I am a worker bee rather than a business brain, so it is with embarrassment that I have to admit that my approach so far has left me on the verge of bankruptcy (through lack of income) and others disappointed in me (because I could not provide them with what they asked from me). Therefore, a change of approach on my part was required.

So here’s the new deal. If you hire me, I’m yours. Never exclusively, but nonetheless always fully at your service. If I offer to do something for you free of charge, you’re lucky – but you may have to be patient with me, as you won’t be given first priority. If you’ve asked me to do something for you on low/no/deferred pay… I am very sorry, but the (retrospective) answer is no I just can’t afford to do it. I considered increasing my rates to some, in order to afford freebies for others, but that just didn’t feel like a fair thing to do.

As for ‘freebies-in-progress’, I’ll be finishing some as promised, while letting go of the rest. Not all will be lost, because from now on my coffee, tea, lunch and dinner breaks and other in-between moments will be dedicated to preserving past works as well as publishing my vast collection of notes, drafts, scraps, (anecdotal) tales and expressions of opinion or creativity. Most of it will be made available under a Creative Commons licence, so there will be plenty of stuff available from me free of charge, just no longer anything ‘by request’ or ‘made to order’. (Anything else is for sale.)

Watch this space.

(Note: Creative Commons does not equal ‘free for all’ – follow the rules. Also, anything made public that is not clearly marked as licensed under a Creative Commons license is subject to full copyright protection. If in doubt, contact the copyright owner. A referral to something done well may be better than any attempt to re-create something. Plagiarism (or any other form of copyright infringement) is never cool.)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. (Op dit werk is een Creative Commons Licentie van toepassing.)