Back to work, Korean food & Pinterest

I had a very busy week last week, which was great, as I am now almost fully recovered from my hip replacement and finally in a position where I am able to make some proper money! So I took on a decent sized project and got stuck in, occasionally taking a break to wrap and send items sold on eBay – it’s nice to be able to walk again and take these parcels to the post office myself.

There are a total of three building sites across the road from us at the moment so it is quite noisy in the flat at the moment. This can be very distracting when I am trying to concentrate so am dealing with it by wearing earplugs all day, it is a bit difficult to get them out quickly when the intercom goes but at least some work is getting done. Am hoping that the builders are taking advantage of the good weather and that they will be gone by the end of summer – not sure it works like that though!

Some of the food on offer at Bullgogi

To celebrate the end of the week, we bought a takeaway from Bullgogi, a new Korean ‘urban dining’ restaurant that has opened in our area. So, far I love all their food, so am happy that they decided to open a branch nearby – it’s just nice to have something different that is fresh and reasonably healthy. If you are ever in Notting Hill Gate I would recommend that you give this place a go.

After much gabbling about it, I have finally got around to sorting out my Pinterest account. Have now ’created pins’ for the images that are already on this website – at first I was not saving them properly as I didn’t realise that it was necessary to also create a ‘board’, but soon got the hang of it. There is a nice touch where the header image is an automatically created collage which updates itself as new pins are added. Now I really must remember to ‘pin’ my images when publishing future blog posts! Recently, I read on twitter that Pinterest is a very good way to drive traffic to a blog – let’s see. Another blogger kindly pointed me towards Snapchat last week, so that is the next social media mission.

Until next week!

Diary of a Freelancer is a weekly blog post about my freelance work, stuff relating to extra ways I make money online and my lifestyle. New post every Monday 🙂

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Delayed Sleep and eBay

This week I thought I would explain that one of my reasons for becoming a freelancer is that I am a bit of a night owl. This started at a very young age and has continued well into adulthood. Every night, without fail I get a surge of energy – no matter how tired I am. Falling asleep with this surge is an absolute nightmare and early mornings have always been a struggle. A few years ago I was diagnosed with ‘Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome’, it is essentially a fault with the body’s circadian rhythm. There are various treatments including melatonin supplements and bright light therapy, but none have really worked for me, so I just work around it. My sleep pattern most days is roughly 1am to 9am, which is a lot better than it used to be and my work fits around this easily.

Diary of a freelancer

It also works to my advantage sometimes. If I get a request to do a translation in the evening and there is nothing much happening – more often than not, I will jump up and do it immediately as this is the time of day when my energy levels are their highest and when my best work gets done. An example of this came about last week, when I was contacted at 9pm to translate a legal document and the client wanted it back by 9am, as it was only 1084 words, I was able to do it there and then and charge accordingly as the work was completed ‘out of hours’.

Other than my translations, I have managed to list a few items on eBay after a temporary pause whilst I was convalescing and unable to get to the post office. This is my third biggest source of income after my translation work and matched betting so I am going to enjoy seeing that money rolling back in!

I still need to sort out my social media, will try to find time this week…

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Short projects and getting to grips with social media.

As I am still convalescing after my operation (see last week’s post) and don’t feel ready to go back to working full time yet, I have been taking on some small projects to keep me going.  Most of this work has been translating CV’s, which are not my favourite thing to work with as they tend to have a lot of jargon and job descriptions are often unclear, so it can take a while to work out what it is the candidate is trying to convey. But as most of these projects contain less than 1500 words, I can turn them around quickly. You may be interested to know that 90% of the CV’s I translate at some point mention that the candidate is fluent in English!??

As the summer holiday is in full swing now, many translators are taking time off. As a result, a few agencies that I have not worked with before have contacted me requesting quotes for projects with very short deadlines and then disappeared into thin air. My rates are probably higher than they were expecting – it really makes me wonder what other translators will work for!

Diary of a freelancer

Other than that, I have spent some time getting my social media accounts in order, as I realise their importance in the blogger world. On twitter, I have posted quite a few tweets and made more of an effort to read and comment on the posts in my feed – this has led to a few interactions with other bloggers, which has been nice and I have learnt quite a lot about social media and blogging too. Have also put some photos on Instagram – I think I will use it mainly to post photos of restaurant meals or random things I see whilst out and about. With regards to Pinterest, after setting up my account a few months ago, I haven’t managed to do anything with it – so will try and look into that this week. Have gained another ‘like’ on my Facebook page but I really need to work at trying to increase my following there too.

How do you use your social media accounts? Would love to read your comments below!

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Convalescence and a new direction.

After trying out a few ideas, I have decided to focus this blog around my experiences of working from home and my lifestyle, and start my ‘diary of a freelancer’. Am not really sure whether this will work or not – but am giving it a shot anyway. The aim is to and write a new post every week, and be consistent, so that readers know when to look out for an update. Occasionally there might be a post on how to make money online, as I do a lot of this in my spare time just to increase my income.

Diary of a freelancer

I have spent the last few weeks recovering from hip replacement surgery and the doctors’ orders were to get as much rest as possible – no bending, no lifting, no housework (hooray!) So, as well as giving me time to reflect and re-think my blog, it has also been an opportunity to clear out my inbox, catch up on accounts and sort through paperwork. I hoped that I would have time to categorise and edit a folder full of digital photographs, but this didn’t happen – am sure that it will, one day…

As I work from home as a translator, and on a freelance basis, it was possible to prepare for my convalescence period by completing some monster projects in the time leading up to the operation – which freed me up financially for a few weeks. I was actually a bit worried that strong painkillers would be needed, rendering me unable to work in the post op period, but luckily this did not happen and I was able to do some small projects like translating CV’s and marketing material, nothing too major as I didn’t want to potentially let any client’s down.

As well as doing these smaller projects, I also completed some money making online tasks whilst watching TV including prolific academic surveys and matched betting (see my recent post on this here).

I’m starting to feel better now and have been going out a fair bit in the last few days, which has been lovely after being housebound for a while. The highlight was a visit to the Design Museum in Kensington, London – we spent about an hour in there (it has lots of places to sit, thank goodness!) and then had a snack in Gail’s Bakery next door.

So, there we go -the first entry in to my new diary of a freelancer is complete. Till next time!

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How to do Matched Betting for free

I started Matched Betting in 2009 and have made myself a tidy sum over the years. It is the most profitable of my money making side-lines, but it is also the most complicated. It takes a little time to learn and is definitely not something than can be rushed into.

Matched Betting is a way of taking advantage of the sign up offers that bookies lure you in with when you register an account and place a bet. However, as you will soon find out, it is not limited to sign up offers as afterwards come re-load offers as well as casino bonuses which can also turn a profit. It is done by carefully calculating bets with the help of spreadsheets and placing them in order to guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome of the event that the bet is being placed on.

There are many websites that explain matched betting, including Oddsmonkey and Profit Accumulator which will guide you through the process step by step, have their own dedicated forums and some useful spreadsheets. But there is a monthly charge (around £18) to use these sites after the initial trial period.

However, it is possible to access the same information for free with websites such as Freebets 4 all and Matched Betting Blog. In the same way as the paid websites both of these sites contain; up to date lists of sign up and reload offers, simple oddsmatching tools and basic matched betting calculators.

Admittedly, the information is not as comprehensively laid out as it is on the paid websites and there are some missing features – for instance, the more advanced calculators, but you really don’t need these at the start of your matched betting career. Also, beware that these websites are funded by affiliate links and you may not necessarily want the bookies to know that you are clicking through from a website that is dedicated to matched betting. It is worth considering sending a donation to the owners of these websites instead.

You can also do this completely independently, as I did, by perusing the free information on the Money Saving Expert forum. All you need to start off is a bit of time to read through the instructions, and if you are feeling a bit nervous there is a questions thread for newbies here. When you have learnt the basics you can find a lot of the more complex methods in the forum. There is also Ultimatcher, a free spreadsheet which I have found invaluable in order to calculate my bets and to keep track of where my cash is.

There is a lot of money to be made in matched betting and I would definitely recommend investing some time in learning it. I completed all the sign up offers many moons ago and still bring in a minimum of £250 a month from not much effort at all. I know from reading others’ experiences that it is possible to make a lot more than this if you have the spare time to commit to it!

Thanks for reading!

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Volunteering in a charity shop

As some of you may already know, about 18 months ago I became a volunteer at a local charity shop. My reason for doing this is that I work from home and, although I love what I do, I miss the day to day contact with other people and the comradery that comes naturally with being part of a workforce. I have found the job very enjoyable and have learnt a lot from it so thought this insight might be helpful to anyone who is thinking of volunteering or is simply interested in the inner workings of a charity shop.

When I started working there my main tasks were to tidy the shop, make sure that all the clothes were hung correctly and were colour coordinated, bag items up for customers, etc. After a few shifts, I was given access to the till and became a fully-fledged member of staff.

There are many different tasks that need to be done in order to maintain the smooth running of the shop, so it never gets boring. Aside from serving customers and keeping the shop tidy, behind the scenes we sort through the donations, price items, clean stock if necessary, organise window displays, complete our paperwork and so on… there is always something to do!

It never ceases to amaze me what people will donate. We are located in a very affluent area and get our fair share of brand new items from designers such as Louis Vuitton, Diane von Furstenberg or Prada. Some of these brands donate their seconds, or clothes that have been used for modelling shoots directly to us.

Occasionally we get fake items which we cannot sell; these are relegated to a textile recycling company, a representative of which visits us once a week to take away our unwanted items. These also include items that are unsaleable, such as stained clothing, dirty cuddly toys or odd socks. As we are in an affluent area, we don’t sell very many ‘high street’ brands unless they are in new condition and from the more expensive end of the high street. Absolutely no ‘New Look’ or ‘Next’ items are kept – we transfer these items to other branches.

We also get items that we have to dispose of which can be a little bit frustrating as it costs the shop money (roughly £2.50 per full bin liner). People mean well when they donate these items, but we really can’t do anything with broken mugs or used dish draining racks, for example.

The volunteers in our shop come from a variety of backgrounds and bring different skills with them. Some are very artistic, which is brilliant for displays and dressing mannequins. Others are great with people which makes for increased sales figures. Whilst we have a few long term volunteers, the majority work for a few weeks until they find paid employment. Most people work 1-2 days a week, but some do 2 hours, others 5 days – it just depends on the individual’s circumstances.

Are you a volunteer? Do have any experience working for a charity shop or any other kind of volunteering? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences – leave a comment below!

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Top tips for working from home

For the last few years, I have been working from home as a freelance translator. I am often asked if it is possible to work from home effectively without getting too distracted by the running of the household. Whilst it is true that there are distractions in the home – the boiler breaking down for example or courier deliveries – these things would happen anyway, whether you are based at home or not. In my experience these things have not really affected my productivity. Over the years I have fine-tuned my routine and adopted habits which I believe enable to me to get the most out of working from home. Here are my top tips which I hope you find useful.

Get dressed! Whilst the morning coffee is brewing, make use of those spare minutes to get dressed. It doesn’t need to be anything too smart; something casual like jeans and a shirt or a jumper dress is enough to look ‘put together’ and give yourself and others the impression that you mean business. When I first started working from home, I just stayed in my pyjamas all day but stopped doing this as it started to get embarrassing to answer the door looking like that at 3pm – and it wasn’t a great look when my partner returned home from work. Also, when I do change into my pyjamas in the evening it signifies that my work day is officially over and helps me towards defining a work/life boundary.

Eat healthily. When you are at home all day, it’s all too easy to snack on anything and everything in sight. If, like me, you find this prospect irresistible, it pays to stock the kitchen with healthy snacks such as grapes, sunflower seeds or even some chopped up raw carrot. It is also worthwhile to eat decent breakfasts and lunches to minimise those hunger pangs.

Designate a work area. Our dining table only gets used as a dining table when we have friends over. The rest of the time it is my desk and is where the printer, stationary and work documents live. Whether it is the end of your dining table or a proper desk, it is probably a good idea to create a proper work space at home. This way, you can train yourself and others to think that when you are in that ‘work space’ it’s time to work undisturbed so that you are more likely to be productive.

Get out! A little walk everyday certainly helps to clear the mind as well as getting those muscles moving. Just getting out for half an hour a day works wonders for my productivity. It is also possible to earn some extra money by venturing out for a short while; you could take part in a postal survey, for example, or complete tasks on a money-making app such as Roamler or Field Agent – or even just pick up an item or two from the pound shop to resell on Ebay.

Volunteer. If you miss having regular face to face contact with people and can spare some time, seek out a volunteering position in a local charity shop – most of them will let you be flexible with your hours provided you call ahead and tell them when you can work. In my role I have some quiet times, when I don’t have any projects for days at a time and this fills the time perfectly. It is also a great way to get to know and immerse yourself in the local community.

Keep on to top of the housework.  We keep our home tidy by putting things away as we use them and avoiding hoarding. A recent read of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – really helped me reinforce my beliefs and has given me some new ideas. The method of leaving everything in place when we have finished with a room works very well in this household. Every night before the last person goes to bed, for example, the curtains are opened ready for the next day, cushions plumped, cups put into the kitchen and so on.  Whilst we don’t have a set in stone housework rota, I do dedicate half an hour a day to housework and find that as long as the place is kept tidy, this enough and I don’t get distracted by chores.

So, there we have it! If you work from home, what would be your top tip?

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Ipsos UNEX international postal survey

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about the TNS Postal Survey which generated a lot of interest, so today I have decided to share my experience of the Ipsos UNEX postal survey with you.

I signed up for this survey last November and completed a training period of 4 weeks before joining the live panel. I have found that it is very similar to the TNS Postal Survey in the sense that it involves sending, receiving and recording mail; it differs, however, in other respects which I will highlight in this post.

UNEX is an international postal survey and involves sending parcels rather than letters. Every week panelists receive a posting pack in the form of a large cardboard box which contains: a posting schedule; pre-stamped parcels to send to other panelists (in my case one for each day of the working week) and a pre-stamped envelope to return any transponders to UNEX. Transponders are small electronic devices that track parcels as they move through the system.

Ipsos UNEX international postal survey

The pre-stamped parcels to send to other panelists include a transponder, a scrunched up sheet of brown paper and a short generic letter explaining that the parcel is a test item. As a panelist you will also receive these parcels and they have to be logged onto UNEX’s website upon receipt. I find it quite exciting to receive these just to look at the foreign stamps – some of them are very unusual! The website is extremely efficient and user friendly, it takes about 10 seconds to log a sent or received parcel.

UNEX operate a points based rewards system whereby each letter earns you 10 points for each logged parcel and good performance is rewarded with an extra 30 points per month. The points can be redeemed for gifts or gift cards in a dedicated online shop. I usually wait until I have accumulated 260 points and claim a 20 Euro Amazon gift card.

Whilst I doubt that the rewards are sufficient to cover the costs/hassle if you have to go out of your way to post/receive the parcels, I am sure that anyone who visits (or at least passes by) the Post Office daily and is in a position where parcels can be left in a safe place if necessary, would benefit from this survey. Join here. You can also visit their Facebook page here. If you are a member of this panel already, I would love to hear your experiences of it.

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Earn some extra income with online surveys

Whilst you are unlikely to make a fortune out of completing online surveys, there is still the potential to earn some extra income each month with very little effort. You may have heard that survey websites pay you pennies for a lot of work – and even screen you out after you have answered most of the questions; this is certainly true of some of them but there are still good ones out there. The following websites are those that I have found worth doing:

Prolific Academic – This is one of the highest paying survey websites. The surveys pay a minimum of £5 per hour and you are provided with an estimated completion time. The surveys are compiled by academics, cover a wide variety of topics and are usually interesting to complete. The only downside is that you don’t get any notifications and have to log on frequently to check for available surveys. They pay via Paypal or Circle. The minimum payment threshold is £5 but beware, you will be charged a fee if you withdraw less than £20. Join here.

Pinecone Research – This is my second favourite paid survey website. All the surveys pay £3 and take 10 – 15 minutes to complete. Occasionally they will also send out a product to trial and you will receive another £3 for filling in the follow up survey. From time to time you will receive an unpaid survey entitled ‘household questions’ – this is a pre-screening survey that usually takes less than a minute to complete. Recruitment is done through banner advertisements that appear sporadically on websites and occasionally through a referral link. Payment is made via PayPal or Prepaid Virtual Visa. See here for more information.

Global Test Market – These surveys pay an average of £1.20 and usually take about 20 minutes to complete. The payment threshold is approximately £30 and is paid via PayPal or in high street vouchers. By completing these surveys you are also automatically entered into their quarterly sweepstakes draw. Join here.

New Vista Live – The typical payment per survey is £1 and each survey takes around 15 minutes to complete. Payment is made by cheque and the payment threshold is £50. You are credited with £5 for signing up. Join here.

Populus Live – These surveys pay at least £1 each, the amount you receive at the end depending on how long you have spent completing it. The rate of pay is typically £1 for every 5 minutes spent. The payment threshold is £50 and payment is made by cheque, posted to you automatically. Join here.

One Poll – These surveys are short and sweet, typically paying between £0.10 to £0.30 each and taking 1-2 minutes to complete; you rarely get screened out. They credit you with £2.50 when you open an account and the payment threshold is £40 which is paid via BACS or PayPal. Join here.

Valued Opinions – reward you with up to £5 per survey. Occasionally there is an opportunity to join a focus group or trial a product. The payment threshold is £8 and you are paid in gift cards for Amazon or selected high street retailers. Join here.

Panelbase – pays between £0.25 to £10 per survey, each taking around 10 minutes. The payment threshold is £10 and you are paid via bank transfer or Love2Shop/Capital Bonds vouchers. You are credited with £3 when you sign up and occasionally there is an opportunity to join a focus group. Join here.

Ipsos – These surveys pay between 5p and £1.80, the higher paying ones taking around 15 minutes to complete. They pay via high street vouchers and the payment threshold is £10.  Join here.

Swagbucks – The surveys on this website tend to be quite low paying (approximately 40p for a 10 minute survey), so I don’t spend much time on them. However I find that it is worth logging in everyday to complete the daily poll, watch videos and earn points for using their search engines. Join here.

Branded Surveys – Like Swagbucks’ these surveys are very low paying, and not really worth doing, however it is worth having an account just to complete the daily poll and you can also earn points for clicking some of the links. Payout is 1,000 points ($10) and is done via PayPal. Join here.

All of these survey websites are free to join and the questions are usually very easy to answer – most of them can be completed whilst watching television or even whilst working in a role that permits personal internet access. The surveys come in handy to top up your cash and, whether you dedicate 20 minutes or 2 hours a day, you will soon see your earnings adding up. Many of the sites also reward you for referring a friend. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that these earnings are taxable.

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L’Occitane Classic Beauty Advent Calendar

I know that it is perhaps a little late in the year to be posting about my L’Occitane Classic Beauty Advent Calendar, but I am so pleased with it that I am telling anyone who will listen…

I received it in the post on Friday 1st and it was a complete surprise – sent to me by my lovely mother who knows that I am a huge L’Occitane fan.

The advent calendar depicts a Christmassy scene of a town square in Provence, illustrated by Kanako – a well-known artist in France. There are 24 windows to open and each contains a miniature L’Occitane product.

So far, I have received:

Day 1 – 35ml Cherry Blossom Shower Gel

Day 2 – 10ml 20% Shea Butter Dry Skin Hand Cream

Day 3 – 50g Almond Delicious Soap

Day 4 – 30ml Verbena Body Lotion

Day 5 – 10ml Pivoine Flora Hand Cream

Day 6 – 35ml 5 Essential Oils Conditioner

Day 7 – 30ml Ultra Rich Body Lotion

Day 8 – 5ml Light Comforting Cream

Day 9 – 35ml 5 Essential Oils Shampoo

Day 10 – 25g Soap with Verbena Leaves

Day 11 – 30ml Ultra Rich Shower Cream

Day 12 -10ml Almond Delicious Hand Cream

Day 13 – 33g Effervescent Revitalizing Sugar Cube for Bath

Day 14 – 30ml Citrus Verbena Shower Gel

Day 15 – 3ml Ultra Rich Lip Balm

Day 16 – 50g Arlesienne Perfumed Soap

Day 17 – 35ml Relaxing Shower Gel

Day 18 – 20ml Almond Milk Concentrate for body

Day 19 – 25g Extra-Gentle Milk Soap

Day 20 – 35ml Cherry Blossom Shimmering Lotion

Day 21 – 10ml Verveine Cooling Hand Cream Gel

Day 22 – 35ml Almond Shower Oil

Day 23 – 10ml Dry Skin Foot Cream

Day 24 – 7.5ml Arlesienne Eau de Toilette

My family tradition has always been to open gifts of any kind after the evening meal, (yes, I know this is unusual, but I can’t break with tradition!). I will, therefore, be updating this post in due course.

If you are interested in getting one, it is definitely not too late – it is available for purchase here.

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