Freelancer FAQs

IMG_4614 (002)It’s been a while since I posted here, but I’m glad to be back with this list of FAQs that I’ve heard time and again since starting to freelance from home.

Have you been out in the sun much this week?
Has the weather been good? I did open the window in my office because it felt a bit stuffy, but I’ve been focusing on proofs this week so haven’t really been out of the house. I’ve had the cardi on the back of my chair on and off the same amount as usual. And don’t suggest I work in the garden. The sun glares off my laptop screen, papers go all over the place in the slightest breeze, and our garden chairs make my back ache.

Don’t you get lonely?
No, I’ve got Facebook, Twitter and Skype. I spend several hours each week on all of them (a bit less on Twitter), and put the radio on when I go downstairs for lunch. I go to the gym most days and have a good chat with my friends there, or meet friends for a walk round the block, but when I’m working, I’m concentrating. And although I left an office job where I was managing a team, since we moved to a small village and I’ve worked from home, I’ve realized I actually enjoy my own company quite a lot.

I bet you like working in your pyjamas, no?
No! I get dressed every day before I start work. It might only be in gym kit/comfy stuff, and it doesn’t involve shoes, make-up or blow-drying my hair, but I’m a professional, and feel a bit slobby in my PJs so it helps me focus if I’m in actual clothes.

Do you have to be really disciplined?
Yes! I have bills to pay! If I wasn’t disciplined, I would miss deadlines. I wouldn’t get offered new work. I wouldn’t earn any money. I wouldn’t be able to eat. And I love eating!

Do you fancy coffee on Wednesday?
Yes, I do. I always fancy coffee (and cake). But next Wednesday I’ll get up, do my usual social media for three organisations, go to my regular gym class, come home for a project meeting, then get on with the project. Then it will be time for a quick lunch, after which I’ll do more project work (remember the deadlines), and do another project call when my colleague in San Francisco gets to her desk at 4.30pm my time. So not much time for coffee, I’m afraid. Let’s book something for next month and I’ll plan around it.

Don’t you miss working in an office?
Sometimes I miss the social side of it. But on the whole, I save myself three hours of commuting time every day (and the related costs), I’m more productive with not having to go to meetings every couple of hours, and I always hated office politics. My waistline has probably benefited from eating fewer birthday cakes, I don’t have to listen to others’ conversations with banks/letting agents/parents, and I’m sure there are fewer germs circulating round my house than are in the average office aircon system.

What do you do if you have an IT problem?
I have no hesitation in asking my husband for help. If he can’t sort it out, I’ll Google or ask friends on Facebook. I’ve only ever needed to pay for IT help once in eight years, and that was to get the inside of my PC cleaned. (Thanks to Rob from Rascom for that. TOTALLY recommended – see photos.)

How many hours a week do you work?
Probably more than most office workers, if you count actual hours worked rather than hours out of the house. As I’ve said, working from home alone is, in my experience, way more productive than working in an office, so I get a lot done, in fewer hours than it would take someone working in house. I aim for 5–6 billable hours each day, but of course that varies. When I have to, I work late in the evenings and at weekends, and sometimes I take a few hours out to get my hair done. But I didn’t go freelance to work less – I did it for a different way of life.

I bet you love the flexibility, don’t you?
Yes, I do. That’s the whole point of freelancing. I can choose the projects I take on, the clients I work for, and where I focus my time. It allows me to do the bread-and-butter project management and editing jobs, but also to pursue projects of my own, like the ELT Freelancers’ Awaydays, ELT Teacher 2 Writer, and my role on the MaWSIG committee. I’m really proud of my contributions to all of those, and if it means I can get round the supermarket at the point in the week when it’s quietest, even better.

Does the fridge talk to you?
No. I’ve tuned it out so I can’t hear its calls any more. The same goes for the biscuit tin. I shut my door, get on with my work, and ignore them. It’s the only way.

I could go on, but I’ve just noticed that the sun is shining and it’s Friday afternoon. One more short report to write and a Skype call, then I’ll log off. Freelancers, eh!

What other questions do you get asked? What’s the funniest one you’ve heard?

Advertisements

16 reasons why being a freelance editor is like being an Olympic athlete

circles-1573621_1920

Sitting here watching the cyclists whizzing round the velodrome, and the track and field athletes hurdling, throwing and jumping, it strikes me that being a freelance editor has some similarities with being an Olympic athlete. With no apologies for being somewhat Team GB biased, here’s why …

  1. You train hard to be the best in your field. You take your CPD seriously, keep your online profile updated, and network like a champion.
  2. You eat and drink right. If editors were tested for caffeine as often as Olympians are tested for banned substances, we’d all fail. You know that fruit is a healthy snack and cake is bad, and you try and avoid the biscuit tin every time you go into the kitchen.
  3. You’re a team player. Like the rowing eights with their cox in charge, you work alongside others, pulling together to get your project over the finish line. The project manager will keep you on course.
  4. You’re an individual participant. You might only hear from your client at the opening and closing ceremonies of the project, but in the meantime you’re your own boss, managing your own time to meet deadlines.
  5. You fall over occasionally, but you get straight back up again. Mo Farah tripped and picked up some bruises during his 10,000-metre race on Saturday, but he got up and crossed the line to win gold. If you get knocks on a project, you learn from the experience and move on.
  6. You pay someone to do the support roles so you can focus. Athletes have trainers, physios, chefs and caddies. You might have an accountant, a cleaner and a personal trainer.
  7. You’re reliant on your equipment. Your PC (or Mac) is to you what clubs are to Justin Rose.
  8. You see other freelancers as support rather than competition. Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner are friends, GB-teammates, and are sharing a room in the Olympic village. Only at the last minute did they have to go head-to-head.
  9. You occasionally have to have a late night. Anyone else stay up to watch the end of the Murray–del Potro match on Sunday night?
  10. You can change your discipline if you fancy a change. Rebecca Romero won a silver medal in Athens in 2004 in the rowing quadruple skulls, then in 2008 won gold in Beijing in the individual pursuit track cycling. I know of more than one editor who has their name on a front cover as an author.
  11. You can be a success without everyone knowing about it. Ed Clancy won gold as part of the GB men’s pursuit team, but the name everyone knows from the team is Bradley Wiggins. Behind every bestseller is a hardworking editor.
  12. Your fans will always be there for you. Alistair Panton flew to Rio from Aberdeen when he heard Andy Murray had reached the finals of the men’s singles tennis. My husband will spend hours fixing my PC if I need help. Similar.
  13. You always warm up before the main event. Writing your daily to-do list is like Usain Bolt limbering up in his tracksuit.
  14. You occasionally work somewhere else. Endurance athletes go to training camps. You go to your local library or coffee shop.
  15. You change your routine from time to time. Athletes vary their training schedules throughout the year. That’s like putting your sit/stand desk in the opposite position.
  16. You do things that no one other than you and a handful of others understand. What’s the keirin all about? To the casual observer, it’s a man in a hat riding a funny bicycle. If you work on a specialist journal or list, I’m sure you know what I mean.

And of course, some jobs are more of a sprint than a marathon. Others are a marathon when you expected a sprint.

Why don’t you …

If, like me, you grew up in the UK in the 70s, you’ll probably remember being encouraged to “switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead” by the kids’ TV show, Why Don’t You … ?

I’m certainly not saying that my work is boring, but I do think it’s good to get out and do something different from your day-to-day every now and then. I’ve always been an advocate of making time in the day to go for a walk, swim or gym class, but what about literally taking your eyes away from the screen to focus them elsewhere for a whole day. That’s what I did last Wednesday …

I meet my great friend Liz every few months for a mid-week catch-up, usually over a hurried lunch because one of us got stuck in traffic on the way or because we have to leave sharply to get home for a Skype call / school pick-up. About six months ago, Liz suggested we next caught up for a whole day at a craft school rather than in the pub. At a clay sculpting workshop. Erm, ok, yes, sign me up and let me know how much I owe you. And that was the last I thought about until last weekend when she sent me the reminder email telling me to bring an apron and some ideas. Gulp!

Being pretty organised about my diary, I had remembered to avoid scheduling any calls or meetings for the day I’d be out, and didn’t have any problems moving work round to fit, which was a relief. I’d given the key people I’m working with plenty of notice that I wouldn’t be contactable for the day, and set off, determined to enjoy a full day away from all things ELT, editing and social media-related. I wasn’t sure I’d manage not to check in, tweet or download my inbox, but certainly had every intention of not doing so.

I needn’t have worried. It turns out that having hands covered in clay is the best way of avoiding checking your phone! And trying to work out what to do with a large lump of clay focuses the mind and leaves very little room for worrying whether you’ve got any Basecamp messages or missed Skype calls to respond to.

img_1276
Before

And so we spent a peaceful day with Beatrice Hoffmann and six others at the Ardington School of Crafts, shaping, bonding, digging and flicking. Once I’d been told firmly that the idea I’d gone in with was pottery, not sculpture, and had to do a complete re-think, we were off. There was no discussion of anything work-related, and even though I found out that the lady making a whale’s tail next to me was a dentist, no one even asked me if I worked. Liz and I sat in the school’s garden at lunchtime and caught up on personal stuff, and I can report that I didn’t check my phone once during the day, even though I did use it to take some photos. I did have to stop myself a couple of times, but I was enjoying being away from it all so much, I avoided the temptation. Only when I’d got home and had supper did I check in, and guess what – I didn’t have a single email in my inbox that required any action. Plan ahead, and there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t take a day out.

IMG_1281
During. Can you tell what it is yet?

So, what’s the point of this post, other than to share my snaps? Excuses for not taking time out often include not having enough time, feeling guilty, or thinking it feels selfish. However …

  • taking some time away from your work to do something completely different can be refreshing. As you might go for a walk to mull something over, a change in perspective can help you think more clearly when you come back to your desk.
  • learning a new skill or trying something you’ve never done before could help you find a new direction or hobby. (Clay sculpting was fun for a day, but I won’t be pursuing it further.)
  • arranging a day away from your desk doesn’t have to leave you panicking about when you’ll catch up with work. Plan far enough in advance to give clients notice that you’ll be unavailable and put your out of office message on your email and voicemail.
  • if you’re freelance, a day away from your desk is likely to mean a day without income, and if you’re doing a paid activity, and possibly also need to pay for childcare, etc, this is a consideration. But the benefits should outweigh the costs, and there are plenty of activities that don’t cost anything. A simple day of walking would be a great tonic.

Liz has suggested I choose our next activity. Almost a week on and I’m thinking that a day at a spa might be a relaxing thing to do. But then again, I’ve always wanted to know how to ice a cake without lumps and bumps …

Have you got any recommendations for ways to take time out, or how to manage fitting a new activity in with work?

In case you’re wondering, here’s the finished article (with reference photo just in case!). Just waiting for it to come back from firing in Beatrice’s kiln before I find a home for it in my office, as a reminder that time out isn’t time wasted.

Working together, apart

I’ve worked from home for almost eight years. For the first seven and a half of those years I had a quiet existence most days between about 7.30am and 5pm, doing my editorial and project management work, interrupted once a week when the cleaning lady appeared. Then one day my husband came home and told me his company was closing his office and he’d be working from home in future. Much as I love him, I’m pretty sure my face fell. (And he’s read and approved this before I’ve posted it!)

We’ve been working under the same roof now for long enough to have got into a bit of a groove. There has definitely been a period of adjustment, and I still miss the peace and quiet of my solitary working days, but I think we’re getting there. I thought I’d have a look at some of the differences between us and see if I could share some tips for anyone else who might find themselves in a similar situation.

Noise 
This has been the biggest issue for me. I like to work in total silence. No radio, no classical music, no ambient noise. Certainly not someone else’s phone calls, particularly when they come in several times and hour and are heralded by this ringtone. (Him: “It’s a classic.”) And not every ping of a text message, inbox update or calendar reminder.

To address this issue, and to enable him to keep his job in sales and, if I’m totally honest, to save him from hours of my Skype discussions, we try to do the following as far as possible:

  • Keep both our doors shut
  • Put phones on mute, leaving just the vibrate on
  • Keep voices down
doors
Too close for comfort?

When I was planning this post, I asked others on the White Ink Facebook page and Twitter for their workspace-sharing tips. Other noise-related suggestions that came in (names have been left out to protect the relationships involved, but thank you if you contributed!) were to “coordinate so you try to avoid working on a tricky job that needs your full attention when your other half has a conference call”, “make sure he knows not to do the hoovering outside my office when I’m on Skype”, “wear headsets” and “put other half in a soundproof bubble”. Not always easy to do, but in our house we do usually have a quick chat at the start of the day that might include mentioning times of planned calls, just as a bit of a warning to each other in case quiet/noisy jobs can be timed to fit in.

Space 
When we were house-hunting, just as I was setting up as a freelancer, we had strict criteria for our property search: three bedrooms – one for us, and one for each of my grown-up stepsons in case they were both at home at the same time – plus an office for me. Now we have two bedrooms and two offices. His is supposed to be ‘quick release’ in case of several guests – a desk that is made of trestle legs and a worktop balanced on them so it can be put down and moved without much effort, and easy-carry storage boxes for keeping stuff in, so they can be shoved into my office to make way for the futon. In six months we’ve had to do this once, and it worked fine. Far more important is the need to have our own day-to-day workspaces.

His
His

It is going to work out for the best if you can have your own rooms, or at least work in different parts of the house even if you can’t set up permanent workstations. A closed door says ‘do not disturb’. The preferred setup seems to be for one person to be upstairs and the other one downstairs. If one of you is a “keyboard-thumper” it might be best for them to be on the ground floor.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have to work in the same room, let alone at the same desk. I did speak to one freelancer recently who told me she likes to take her laptop into the room where her partner is working because she likes to be close to him. Let’s just say that wouldn’t work for me.

Tips from others who do share a room include having separate desks if possible, particularly if your other half is a “violent writer” who shakes the desk; not using a round table because two laptops don’t fit that shape very well; going into another room for phone calls, and “pretending the other one isn’t there – no eye contact, no friendly chat, no cat videos”. No cat videos?!!

Lunchtime
When we started working from home together, he was ready for lunch at midday. I like to hang on until 12.30, if not 1pm. So we started doing our own thing when we were ready, and have generally carried on like that, not meeting up much for lunch. I like to use the time away from my desk to sit in the kitchen, listen to the radio and catch up on Twitter; he’s more likely to put the TV on in the living room. We’ll occasionally make a date and go to our local cafe for lunch on a Friday but invariably one of us has to get back for a meeting.

Others seem to enjoy meeting up for lunch to catch up, and deciding early in the morning who’s on lunch duty is one freelancer’s tip.

Hers
Hers

What happens about tea and coffee in the morning and afternoon? If I want a cuppa, I’ll offer him one, and vice versa, but we don’t automatically make the other a drink. If you’re the person closest to the kitchen, do you do the tea-making, or do you use it as a chance to get some steps in if you’re the one further away? (The same question to the person closest to the printer – do you deliver printouts to your partner, or let them come and pick them up? We have two printers!)

Hours 
Much as it’s important to respect each other’s space, it’s a good idea to agree on the working hours you’ll keep and define when the end of the workday will be. I’m a flexible freelancer so often start working at 7.30am, take a break to go to a gym class, then come back and work through until about 5 or 6pm. He is bound to central European office hours, so can’t just nip out. The key thing is that we have both generally finished work for the day by about 6pm and then do our best to shut work out. If you don’t disturb each other during working hours, whatever those are, you will have a productive day.

Being able to switch off from work is easier to do if you keep your work stuff out of living areas. Having two offices, we don’t have much of an issue with this (unless you look in our garage, which is more like his company storeroom. The less said about that, the better.), but if one of you works at the kitchen table during the day, it’s a good idea to clear work away in the evening so you’re not tempted back to it, and so you can keep a clear work/home separation.

Other tips that were offered during the planning stage of this post, and from my own experience, include the following …

  • If your partner is having a bad day, show some empathy. It’ll be your turn next.
  • If you’re the one having a bad day, consider going out to give the other one some peace and quiet.
  • Communicate via email if you want to ask the other person something so they can answer when they’re ready, rather than shouting up the stairs and disturbing them.
  • If one of you is a hot body, but the other someone who feels the cold, get a heater for the cold one’s room. It will save you both battling over the thermostat.
  • Have a night out separately each week so you don’t get totally sick of each other.
  • If it’s not working out, or for a change of scene/company, consider booking into a co-working space for a while.

Can you offer any other tips? Add them in the Comments.

An unexpectedly quiet week

Here are a couple of snippets from conversations I had with a client last week …

Monday
Me: Can you help me prioritise the tasks I need to do this week? I know I need to do a, b, c, d, e, f, g, and possibly h, but I’m not sure which are most urgent.
Client: Sure. Please do c, f, e, h, a, b, d, then g. If you finish those, do i, j and k.

Friday
Me: I think I’ve nearly finished. Can that be right?
Client: I think so. Have a good weekend.

Having worked flat out on this project for a couple of months, it seemed incredible that I’d been so engrossed in meeting the deadlines of last week that I’d totally failed to notice that everything would be off my desk this week. So imagine my surprise when I sat down on Monday morning and realised that I don’t actually have anything pressing to do this week. I have a new project coming in towards the end of the month, and some further stages of the busy project to oversee in the next few weeks, but for now the pressure seems to be off for a few days.

What a relief. Or is it? As someone who likes to be busy, I always find it a bit odd when I have a (fortunately rare) bit of down time. When I first became a freelancer, someone who’d been at it for some time told me to make the most of the quiet times because there won’t be many of them. She was right, but I find it very difficult to step away from my desk when I’m so used to being there. I think that’s probably a hangover from working in-house when you’re expected to be at your desk from 9 til 5. Seven years of being my own boss haven’t fixed that quite yet.

Having said that, I have been quite productive in other ways and it’s only Tuesday. Here’s how I’m using my quiet time …

  • I’ve published an eBook for ELT Teacher 2 Writer. ELT T2W is one of my other hats. Anyone who has ever published a book on Smashwords will know how time-consuming it can be to meet all of their formatting criteria for inclusion in their Premium catalogue. Amazon is much more straightforward, but having a chunk of time to devote to getting this done is time well spent. On publication day there’s always more activity on our social media so it’s also good to be able to follow up on that as it happens.
  • I’ve spent some quiet time doing some reading for ELT T2W. It’s great to be able to focus without emails and Skype messages coming in all the time.
  • I’ve written a guest blog post for the Indian Copyeditors Forum and this blog post, which was totally unplanned.
  • I’ve read the latest members’ magazine and had a mosey round the forums on the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ (SfEP) website, having just become a member.
  • I’ve thought about installing Adobe DC on my desktop PC. I might actually get round to doing it tomorrow but I’m not feeling brave enough just yet.
  • I’ve updated the Recommendations page on my website and my LinkedIn profile.
  • I’ve had a wardrobe clearout and taken six bags of stuff to the charity shop. Some stuff I hadn’t worn since I worked in-house in 2008. Ridiculous.
  • I’ve arranged to have lunch with a friend on Friday. Can the quiet time last until then? I hope so!

How do you spend your time when you don’t have much paid work on?

charity shop stuff cropped

My favourite tools of 2015

The best of 2015

If I hadn’t been too busy having a break from the PC over the Christmas/New Year period, I’d have written this sooner. I did spend some time over the holiday reflecting on tools I’d enjoyed using in 2015 however, so, better late than never, here’s my round-up of favourites from the last 12 months.

Canva
What a find! I’m hugely grateful to Denise Cowle for telling me about Canva, a design tool which is free and helps you put a professional look to presentations, social media images, posters, etc. I’ve used it for PowerPoint slides, Facebook posts, Mailchimp campaigns and blog posts (see top image in this post). It’s totally free unless you choose to use premium images or designs, which are $1 a time, and its drag and drop interface is idiot-proof. Watch out for lots more smart visuals from me in 2016.

Toggl
Another freebie unless you upgrade to their Pro or Business levels, which, if you’re a member of a small team or just working on your own, there is absolutely no need for. Toggl is a time-tracking tool that syncs across your desktop and mobile devices to allow you to keep a log of the time you’re spending on individual projects. Projects can be broken down further to task-level if you need more detail. Smart-looking reports at the end of each day/week/month show you where you’ve spent your time, and you can export these to send to clients with an invoice. Anyone who’s followed my White Ink Facebook page for any time knows I’ve been wedded to my notebook and coloured pens since 2008 for logging time, but last year I had to use Toggl as part of a team for one client, and after a period of ignoring it and assuming I’d forget to turn the timer on and off efficiently, came back to it as an experiment in December. I got into the swing of it so much that I’ve locked the app to my iPhone dock for easy access. Notebook, be gone!

Evernote
This is another tool that I’ve heard project managers, writers and others rave about in the past. I signed up over a year ago, had a fiddle around, then left it in the corner of my desktop to languish. I could see a use for somewhere to save articles to read later but had always just emailed them to myself and put them in an Outlook folder. Then I started writing this blog and came back to Evernote as a place to note down ideas for posts, and store links and images that related to those ideas. Stuck in Gibraltar airport on the way back from holiday, I used Evernote on my iPad to write a blog post, and have been hooked ever since. It’s another tool that syncs across my PC desktop, iPad and iPhone, and has a neat interface that appeals to me. There are lots of useful features such as the ability to tag notes for easy retrieval and categorization, make lists, annotate images, and you can use a messaging feature if you need to discuss anything with a team. As with Toggl, it’s free unless you want to go for Plus or Premium features.

WordPress
I’d been thinking about writing an occasional blog for some time. On the White Ink Facebook page I post a daily tip, link or photo, but sometimes want to write more. Only when I got my sit/stand desk did I finally get round to it, and it was really only after I’d written my first post and published it that I started to look at the Reader feature and read others’ blogs. Prior to that, I’d subscribed to blogs and got email notifications of new posts, but it’s great to have them all in one place. I really wish I’d found the world of blogs sooner – both writing and reading. I’m sure there’s a post about the ones I read most often coming later this year.
WordPress is simple to use (although I’m learning something every time I write and publish a post) and free at the basic level, but if you want to set up a website that’s more than just a blog, make sure you register at WordPress.org rather than WordPress.com. Many more widgets, themes and options available at .org, but not all are free.

Word Swag
Just for fun. This is a free app for funking up your photos with text. Endless options for layouts, colours and backgrounds if you don’t want to use a photo. Expect to see the fruits of my fiddling with this on the blog until I find something to trump it. Haven’t found a sensible use for the ‘creative quotes’ feature yet though.

The one I flirted with but will spend more time getting to know better this year was Periscope. I can see some applications for this in my freelance life, but like any other social media platform, it’s going to take some effort. I’ll let you know how I get on later in the year.

Hope there’s something here that you didn’t already know about. What tools should I be looking into in 2016?

Me and the sit/stand desk

Sitting is the new smoking, or so they say. They also say ‘my back’s killing me’, ‘my neck’s agony’ and ‘my shoulders are up round my ears’. Or variations on that kind of theme. I’m one of them. And when I say ‘them’ I mean freelance editors, designers, project managers, media researchers, writers, etc. And sore back/neck/shoulders is an affliction that troubles freelancers more than in-house staff, because when you work in an office you’re nipping off to meetings, or popping in to someone’s office, or over to the printer, and maybe even to the sandwich shop over the road for lunch. If I go to a meeting, it’s usually on Skype, right there in front of me. I haven’t got any colleagues to go and have a chat to. If I want to chat, I open a window in Facebook or Skype message a friend, on the screen right there in front of me. My printer is an arm’s stretch away and although I have to leave my office to go to the loo or get something to eat, I’m back within a couple of minutes to pick up the latest email, call into the next meeting, or check my PDF proofs. You get the picture. Most weekdays I do this sort of thing from about 7.30am until about 5.30pm. I try to powerwalk or go to the gym for an hour most days, but not having a schoolrun to do or a dog to walk, there is nothing forcing me to get up and move most of the time.

I’m well aware that this isn’t good for me, but until last year I didn’t suffer particularly in any way, so I just got on with the work and built a reputation as someone who gets the work done and meets deadlines, which is what you’re aiming for as a freelancer. But last summer my neck, shoulder and arm all down my right side became so painful it reduced me to tears, and I was worried I’d have to stop working altogether. I spent time and money on McTimoney Chiropractic treatments, a CT scan, sessions with a physiotherapist and monthly deep-tissue massages. The scan showed that I do have an issue with some vertebrae at the top of my back, but eventually the pain eased up and it seems to be kept at bay with the monthly massages and a McTimoney session about once every four months. But I’d had a wake-up call.

When the pain was really bad I asked for advice on my business Facebookstanding 2 page and got lots of suggestions, mostly to do with taking regular breaks. I didn’t really need telling – I know that sitting down for hours on end, hunched over a keyboard or proofs isn’t good for me, but I needed a push. I installed a month’s free trial of some software that locked my keyboard every 45 minutes, showed me stretches to do, and gave me a report at the end of the week on how well I’d done. That was fun for a while but I soon learnt where the override button was. I started to read about sit/stand desks and their benefits, and heard from a couple of people who’d already invested in them, who seemed happy with them. Then IKEA launched a well priced model (the Bekant) and another ELT freelance editor got in touch to tell me she’d just got one and it was really good, and I decided to take the plunge.

If you’re not up to speed on the reported health benefits of a standing desk, you can read more here.

I’ve had the desk for a couple of months now. It was easy to assemble …

and although it’s a bit shorter than my previous desk, it’s plenty big enough for my two monitors and a few piles of papers. One of the things I really love about it is the fact that it’s not a dining table, which my old desk was. This means there’s no ‘skirt’ so when I’m sitting I can get my chair properly tucked in so my arms and legs are at the right angle. I didn’t have to pay £500 to solve that problem, but for me it’s been a revelation.

Using it is a doddle. You can fix the up and down buttons wherever you like while you assemble it and I’ve got them just to my right. Press and hold the button and the desk goes up and down without a wobble or a screech.

Watch this!

It really couldn’t be better. You can preset heights but now I’ve been using it for a while I’ve worked out what it aligns with on the wall when it’s up/down/in the middle. For the mid setting I also bought a stool from IKEA which is designed for this purpose rather than being a stool to sit on. It’s ok as an emergency chair, but you wouldn’t want to sit on it to work. I actually find the mid setting far less comfortable than full up or down so I’ve hardly used that actually. There’s a sling fixed under the desktop where all the wires hide which makes it all really neat-looking.

So now I’m the sittingproud owner of a sit/stand desk, how do I use it? The editor who’d already bought one told me that she leaves hers at the standing height at the end of each day so if she just pops in to her office to send a quick email, she does it standing up. This has been a really valuable piece of advice and I try and do that every day. During the working day I tend to start of standing up as I check my inbox and sort myself out for the day. I try and do an hour or an hour and a half standing up, then sit down, and alternate like that throughout the day. If I’m on a Skype meeting I try and stand up. If I’m content editing I tend to sit down. For browsing the internet and social media I usually stand up. If I’m checking proofs either on screen or on hard copy I mix it up because I find that as easy to do standing up as sitting down. The biggest surprise of all has been that standing up is no hardship and if I don’t tell myself to sit down I could stand up all morning or afternoon without noticing particularly. Which is good news, because it means that neither state makes my back ache, and both are comfortable.

In conclusion then, I’m on the move far more with the new desk thanleaning I was previously. If I need a file from the bookshelf behind me, I move my whole body to get it rather than swivelling in my chair. I move about while I’m standing – shifting my weight from side to side while I’m Skyping (without making it look like I’m doing a funny dance to the other callers), and when I sit down my desk is at the correct height for my body. Combining standing at the desk with sitting at it in a good position, and regular massage and occasional McTimoney seems to be working well for me. I’d recommend a sit/stand desk to anyone. The initial cost might seem high, but if you can save money in the long run with fewer trips to the osteopath or physio, it’s a good investment all round.

I’d love to hear your comments if you’ve tried a sit/stand desk, or decided not to get one. And how was my first proper post?