We can learn a lot from dogs
Some of my clients already know but in October 2014 I took on the role of Volunteer Puppy Socialiser for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. We only planned to do holiday cover but when we got a call asking if we would take a puppy full time…. well you can guess what we said!
Willis arrived at the age of 11 weeks and took about 3 seconds to steal our hearts. It will be hard to let him go but we have always known he has a very important job to do.
Working in Learning and Development has helped understand how to train him but I have learnt so much more. These puppies go on to make such a massive difference to a deaf person’s life that you absolutely cannot get the training wrong. Hearing Dogs will never fail a dog though. They work with the individual personalities of the puppies and always manage to place them with the right person.
If you’d like to find out more, click here here .
So now, every day, I am reminded of what good learning should look like.
- Sessions are always short and positive
- The learning is always reward based
- The reward is sufficient to ensure motivation
- Criteria increases slowly
- Behaviours are learnt in different contexts
- The learner must never be fearful or anxious
- The learner must never be stressed
Willis and I are off to do another few minutes training while the kettle boils and I am reminded to put the learner first.
After all, they all have important jobs to do too!
Published 2nd July 2015
Live outside the box
The pressure on instructional designers to keep coming up with new ideas for e-learning is immense. You can’t do this if you spend all your time in your box. Trust me; staring at the same four walls every minute of every day is not going to spark your imagination!
Get out in the world! Go places, talk to people, experience things.
I really love writing scenarios but some days I can sit in front of a screen with a brand spanking new Word document open and write………………….
I just can’t think of anything at all.
I love to cycle so when writer’s block strikes I’ll just get up from my desk, get my bike out and soon enough the stories are pouring out. It doesn’t have to be for long but a change of scenery and some fresh air can be enough to spark some ideas and get my productivity back up to where it needs to be.
Change your scenery. WiFi and a laptop make it easy to work in the garden or maybe you prefer a hotspot at your favourite coffee shop. Whatever it is, don’t just sit there.
If you want to think outside the box you have to live outside the box!
Where do you go?
Published 4th June 2015
I've got a secret
You’ve finally made it as a freelancer and you want to let the world know. But what’s this? Your client wants you to say you work for them.
This is a tough one and my advice would always be to do what your client wants. I do wonder however why they think this is necessary?
As a freelancer, you are only as good as your last project. All we have is our reputation. In some respects, we have to be better than permanently employed staff if we are to get repeat business.
I am sometimes given an email account to use when emailing on behalf of a client and this makes perfect sense. All the emails are kept together and if something were to happen and you were unable to continue with a project, all your correspondence would be easily accessible. It also makes you think about what you are writing.
But why the secrecy about my employment status? I have ended up in some really awkward situations…
‘How long have you worked for ACME E-Learning?’
‘How is John Smith?’
‘What are your new offices like?’
It’s difficult but I hope I have always smiled and said the right thing at the time! I’d really like to get to the point where all clients are happy to have me on their team as a freelancer and be open about it.
How about you?
Published 21st May 2015
How many hours do you work?
Officially I work around 28 hours a week. Well that’s the hours I invoice my clients for anyway. 9.30am to 6pm Monday to Thursday with a lunch break long enough to walk the dog and eat something nourishing.
Sounds great doesn’t it?
The reality is slightly different…
If you’re working on an e-learning project, you can’t just switch your brain off at 6pm and totally forget about it. Inspiration can strike at any time!
It might be a conversation you’re having with a friend, something you see in a magazine or just something you notice when you’re out and about. It all gets added to the mix. And then your brain starts ticking…
I have found that getting the idea out of my head and stored safely somewhere else helps me to switch off. I use whatever I have to hand, a scribble on a piece of paper, a note on my phone, a quick photo to remind me. Just make sure you know where to find it!
So in answer to the question, how many hours do you work? It’s not so easy to answer after all.
What would your answer be?
Published 7th May 2015
Where do your clients come from ?
Until recently my marketing strategy was ‘throw the net wide enough and you’ll be sure to catch something.’ And it worked… up to a point.
The nature of freelancing is that work will nearly always be feast or famine but I’ve found recently that the gaps between projects have been too frequent and too long. So I decided to do something about it!
A couple of years ago in Ibiza I got chatting to my neighbour. She turned out to be Alicia Cowan, a discerning online marketing coach who helps big hearted entrepreneurs grow profitable, streamlined businesses. Using modern marketing techniques and clear-cut business systems, Alicia guides you to confidently take deliberate action, putting you in the driver's seat and helping you achieve exciting results.
And she did!
After listening to her Modern Marketing Makeover, my website is now written for my ideal customer, I have a regular blog which is being read, I have a system in place to keep in touch with my clients and prospects and I’m working the right social media.
It all seems so simple now but I really needed someone to point out the obvious to me. Sometimes we are so busy working in our business; we forget we also have to work on our business.
What works for you? I’d love to know!
Published 23rd April 2015
Where is everybody?
You’ve taken the plunge; you’re all set up and raring to go. But hey, where is everybody??
There’s no one to answer the phone, fix the IT glitches, do the invoicing, chase late payments, order the stationery, complete your Self-Assessment and VAT return, maintain your website, update your blog…
Nope, it’s just you!
Outsourcing is the key but how do you know which jobs to give to someone else?
Sometimes it can be a purely financial decision. Look at what the service costs per hour. Is it less than your hourly rate? If so, use it. You can be busy doing what you do while someone else takes care of your [insert service here] for you.
Play to your strengths. Do accounts leave you cold but you’re an IT geek? Outsource the services you’re not so good at and concentrate on the ones you can do. That way you don’t leave yourself feeling frustrated and stressed.
Working from home? Don’t forget about domestic jobs. My cleaning lady has revolutionised my weekends! And let me assure you, good, reliable cleaners are like gold dust! I have an ironing company in my contacts too when the pile gets higher than is manageable.
If you accept that you can’t do it all but are strategic in the jobs you outsource you can concentrate on the important thing. You!
Got some great contacts? Let me know who you recommend.
Published 9th April 2015
I can work when I like!
Before you consider working on a freelance basis, take a pen and paper and make a list of ALL the pros and cons. Every. Single. One.
Obvious pros are ‘I can work when I like’, ‘I can work where I like’, ‘I can earn more money’.
What about the cons? No sick pay, no holiday pay, no employer contributions to your pension.
Be realistic! You are going to have to do a certain amount of work and earn a certain amount of money. This will depend on your circumstances but before you start, work out what your minimum monthly income needs to be. Make sure you have some savings to fall back on if the money doesn’t come rolling in straight away and keep saving. No one is going to pay you to lie in bed or lie in the sun so you’ll need something to live on.
At some point Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will come calling too. Not everything you earn is yours to keep! There are National Insurance contributions to think about and I’d strongly advise you to sort out a pension if you haven’t already.
Still fancy the idea? Great! Get that pen and paper out and start listing!
Let me know how you get on.
Published 24th March 2015
Free as a bird
I think I was always heading for a freelance career, it just took me a while to work out what that career might be.
I went to a progressive primary school where we called the teachers by their first names, the classrooms opened onto well-equipped activity areas and we could come and go from them as we pleased. From the age of 10 we were given a weekly plan of the work to complete and could do this in any order we chose. I learnt that spending 3 days painting a picture and writing a story didn't leave you much time to get your maths done! Secondary school came as a massive shock...
The difference between the two styles of education ignited my passion and my original plan was to go to teacher training college. I lasted 3 days...
I got a job, a house, a car, all the things you're supposed to do but something was still nagging away at the back of my mind. It was only when I went on a course as part of my job that I had my light bulb moment. I wanted to train and coach people, not teach them.
I changed career and worked as a trainer for one or two companies but it still wasn't quite hitting the spot. A freelance career was beckoning.
I've now been freelance in the learning and development field for over 20 years and can honestly say I wouldn't change it. The clue is in the name...
Published 10th March 2015
Welcome to my Blog!
This is my first step into the world of blogging. I hope to share the experience of freelancing, the good bits and the pitfalls!
I've got some ideas of the things I wish someone had told me but if there's anything you'd like to know, please get in touch. I'd love to hear from you.