Top tips for creating the perfect home office space

Home Office

Many freelancers have the opportunity to work from home, which can be an exciting change of pace from the standard 9 to 5 office life. We know the desire to work from your sofa in your dressing gown can be strong, but it can pay dividends to dedicate some space in your home exclusively to work. That way you won’t have to associate your personal space with work matters.

We’ve compiled some top tips for creating a comfortable but practical space for productivity that will make your freelance career a success.

Think about: what work you’ll be doing

If you’re a freelance designer or engineer, it’s likely that the kind of work you’ll be doing in your home office will be dramatically different from that of a freelance writer or IT technician. Every office will vary so make sure you allow yourself adequate space to do what you need to without taking over the entirety of your home. You don’t need lots of space; you just need to be smart with it.

Think about: your light source

Natural light is the perfect way to brighten up your new work space and is the polar opposite from the strip lights and dusty corners of a typical office. If you have large windows in your home then creating your working space there provides the perfect space to make the most of the health benefits of natural light, but also to provide a constant source of inspiration! Don’t forget to invest in a good quality desk lamp for the winter months, though. Bad lighting can lead to headaches and eye strain.

Think about: your equipment

Do you require a desktop or a laptop? Do you need a separate phone line? Maybe even an illuminated drawing board? These are things that you have to consider when setting out on your own, as all equipment must suit your business needs and have to be invested in by you. And while we’re at it, don’t forget about investing in an ergonomically sound office chair. While it may be tempting to grab that spare dining table chair for the sake of ease, your back will not thank you for it after a week.

Think about: making it your own

While your home office is located in your own home, it still needs to be a distinct space away from where you relax, eat and socialise outside of working hours. However, personal touches will make your office space a tranquil and enjoyable space in which you can do some of your best work. Don’t be afraid to include pictures of loved ones, inspiring scenes and some desk plants to keep things looking fresh and inviting.

You home office, when planned right, should provide you with the perfect balance of inspiration and positivity that inspires productivity and gives you a connection to the work you love doing.

Do you have a home office? What changes have you made to your living space to ensure you can work more effectively? Tell us in the comments below.

Freelancer

Wednesday 19th November is the sixth annual National Freelancers Day; a day designed to put freelancing at the forefront of the political agenda and to discuss how the power of independent professionals can be unlocked to help drive the UK’s economy.

To celebrate a day in spotlight Kingsbridge are running a special competition on Twitter to show some love to freelancers across the UK.

Entering is easy. All you have to do is Tweet us directly at @KingsbridgeProf and finish this sentence, ‘I love freelancing because…’ using the hashtag #NFD2014.

From the best answers we’ll pick five runners up, who’ll each win £20 in Amazon vouchers, and the winner will be the proud recipient of a brand new iPad mini 2.

Winners will be announced on Twitter on Friday 21st November. So get thinking, get creative and send us your best efforts to be in with a chance of winning!

5 Questions to help you decide if freelancing is for you

Freelance Board

What could be better than a career as a freelancer? Choosing you own hours, not having a boss to answer to and taking all the credit for your own hard work. Brilliant! Freelancing can be the perfect solution for anyone who is feeling stifled by a 9 to 5 job.

That’s the good stuff. However, setting up as a freelancer is hard work and you need to make sure that you can make the varied and challenging career path work for you. Ahead of National Freelancers Day on Wednesday 19th November, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 questions you need to ask yourself before heading into life as an independent professional.

1.       Do you have self-discipline?

If being your own boss is an advantage to freelancing, then having supreme self-discipline is a skill that you need to carefully hone. Since you are responsible for setting your own hours it can be tempting to get up late and therefore work late into the night. This may sound great but it can tire you out and actually lead to longer working hours on balance. Set yourself reasonable office hours and stick to them. It’ll save you some serious time and effort!

2.       Can you network?

It takes serious energy to generate a stream of steady work for yourself as a freelancer. One of the most important steps is to build a reputation as a provider of quality services. Word of mouth is worth its weight in gold for a freelancer. Keeping in touch with contacts, and attending events to meet new ones, is a key way to stay on the radar of influential people.

3.       Are you flexible in your approach to work?

You may be approached by an important client who has a job that needs to be completed to a strict deadline. Are you confident that you can reprioritise your workload to meet client demands? You have to have a reactive and flexible approach to completing your work to keep your clients happy and to build your reputation.

4.       Are you assertive?

You need to build your business and that means duking it out against the competition for top jobs and being able to sell yourself. What’s more, with no fixed salary, you need to be able to negotiate a fair rate for yourself and call payments in when due. You can’t be shy when conducting your own business.

5.       Can you handle alone time?

If you’re working from a home office then the change in tone and pace from a busy office environment can be something that takes some getting used to. Even if you’re an engineer who has to relocate for different jobs, being away from your friends and family can mean that your own company is something you will have to get used to and learn to like.

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these five questions then you may well have what it takes to be a successful contractor. Life after 9 to 5 is a varied one, but with a strong work ethic and passion for what you do, there’s no doubt that you can make freelancing work for you.

Are you an experienced freelancer? What changes have you had to make in order to make your business work? Tell us in the comments below!

Freelance Plane

Wednesday 19th November is the sixth annual National Freelancers Day; a day designed to put freelancing at the forefront of the political agenda and to show how the power of independent professionals can be unlocked to help drive the UK’s economy.

To celebrate a day in spotlight Kingsbridge are running a special competition on Twitter to show some love to freelancers across the UK.

Entering is easy. All you have to do is Tweet us directly at @KingsbridgeProf and finish this sentence, ‘I love freelancing because…’ using the hashtag #NFD2014.

From the best answers we’ll pick five runners up, who’ll each win £20 in Amazon vouchers, and the winner will be the proud recipient of a brand new iPad mini 2.

Winners will be announced on Twitter on Friday 21st November. So, get thinking, get creative and send us your best efforts to be in with a chance of winning!

Reasons to celebrate being a freelancer

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Amidst the fast paced life of being a freelance contractor, it can be easy to forget that it’s actually a great way to work and earn your living. Wednesday 19th November sees the annual celebration of National Freelancers Day, an occasion that allows you not only to reflect on what makes freelancing a great career choice but also affords you the opportunity to look toward what the future might hold as the popularity of freelancing continues to rise.

With the 19th soon upon us, we’ve taken a look at some of the reasons to celebrate being able to strike out on your own. Here are a few points to savour:

1.       Flexibility

Being able to choose your own hours has its distinct benefits. Need to make a doctor’s appointment? No problem. Little one is ill and needs to stay at home? You can make that work. Not a morning person? You can work later in to the day. As a freelancer you get to set your own schedule (within reasonable limits) and that schedule can work around you and the realities of your life.

2.       Variety

As a freelancer you get to take on self-contained projects for a number of clients. Whether you are an engineer, or work in finance, or are a freelance writer, you will likely work across multiple industries. Variety is the spice of life, and boredom isn’t something you’ll often experience when you’re freelancing.

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3.       Escape from office politics

There are some distinct advantages to working in an office – warmth in the winter, a comfy chair, a constant supply of tea, and the prospect of enjoying a sociable alcoholic beverage at the end of the week. But how sweet it is to be set free from the fight for promotion, from playing favourites and from office gossip.  And if you have your own home office, you can decorate your desk however you like, or abandon desks altogether. Freedom!

4.       Travel

If you’re not an employee of a particular organisation then that means you’re not tied to the geographical location of their office. As a freelancer you can choose to work in a different town, city or even country. If you’re a digital nomad then all you need is a laptop and a broadband connection. If you need to be on site for all or part of your contracts then freelancing gives you the option to see a lot more of the world than a two week package holiday once a year would allow.

We know it isn’t always rosy and being a freelancer comes with many twists and turns, but we believe that freelancing is one of the most interesting ways to forge a career. To help celebrate your day in the spotlight, KPSol are going to be hosting a competition in aid of National Freelancers Day very shortly, so keep your eyes on your inbox over the next few days for more details.

In the meantime, we’d love to know what your favourite part of being a freelancer is – feel free to comment below.

Key players in the oil and gas industry

Key Players PDF Blog Image

There are few industries that wield more power than oil and gas. Not only does it dominate the financial pages and many a political agenda the world over, it also provides a vital resource to many other businesses as well as being responsible for millions and millions of jobs.

Industry growth shows little sign of abating, generating more jobs, more money, and more column inches than ever before. Here at Kingsbridge we’ve decided to take a closer look, delving into and breaking down some of the key players.

We’ve crunched the numbers on some of the biggest hitters – Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, and ExxonMobil, alongside a few of the industry’s key recruiters (namely Orion Group, Fircroft, and Primat Recruitment). Did you know, for example, that Aramco produces 12.7 million barrels of oil per day? Or that Gazprom represents an enormous 10% of Russia’s GDP? Fascinating stuff.

Click on the image above to take a closer look at our latest infographic.

What the frack? The story of fracking in the UK

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There has been a slow-burning but very real concern rising in the UK due to the impending energy crisis. The threat of power cuts has been highlighted due to falling electricity margins, along with the need for the UK to pursue more renewable energy strategies. This has led to much ink being spilled in the British press on the issue of hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is the process of harvesting shale gas, deposits of which are found trapped in shale rock deep underground. A high pressure mix of water and chemicals is shot down specially drilled wells with the aim of releasing the gas.

There have been a great number of discussions about the safety of fracking; with some saying it poses a threat to the purity of drinking water, while others highlight fracking as the only real, actionable solution to Britain’s fuel shortage. Whatever the case, it’s fair to say that fracking has divided the opinion of the British public and is set to dominate the discussion around energy production for a significant amount of time.

We have decided to take a look at the story of fracking, and the pros and cons it offers the British energy industry by producing a scrolling infographic, taking in the past, present and future of fracking in the UK.

http://www.kpsol.co.uk/infographics/fracking/

The Best Food To Power Contractors Through A 12 Hour Shift

Can you hear that? It’s like, a low rumbling sound, it’s a bit off-putting. I wonder what it is…

That’s right! It’s the sound of your stomach, grumbling in hunger after a long, hard shift. Most contractors will have had experience, at one point or another in their careers, of working unsociable, long hours. Whether it’s pushing a tight deadline to the limit, or working a 12-hour day on a rig, one thing that unites us all is the almighty hunger that accompanies that long-awaited home time.

We wanted to reach out to you, the contractors, to ask what your favourite food is to power you through long shifts. Take a look at some of our suggestions below or let us know what your favourite dishes are in the comments below!

1.       The Anything and Everything

You get in, kick off your boots and reach for whatever edible substance is nearest. That may be 15 biscuits straight out of the packet, a handful of dry cereal or a delicious bowl of instant noodles – who needs to cook when you have a kettle?

2.       The Fast Food Warrior

You’re wiped out and require the most bang for your buck – that’s right, high calories and fast! Be that a burger and chips or a takeaway pizza, you need something hot in your belly and fast food is your favourite way to do it.

3.       The Home Cook

For you, there’s nothing better than a home cooked meal to get you through your day. Leftover cottage pie for lunch and coming home to a slow cooked casserole is your style; delicious, simple food, cooked with love that gives you a taste of home.

 4.       The Green Machine

Your body is a temple and you treat it as such, especially when you’re working unsociable hours and you need lasting fuel and mountains of energy. Colourful salads with the perfect amount of protein, green juices for a quick shot of vitamins and plenty of whole grains for slow-release energy is the perfect way to keep you pepped up for challenging shifts. You’re not afraid of a bit of kale and you don’t care who knows it!

So, which one are you? Are you the noble fast food warrior? Or maybe you’re more of a green machine? Do you think we’ve missed anything out – if you have a favourite food that gets you through the tougher shifts that we’ve left off the list then let us know in the comments below!

Four Things Every Contractor Knows To Be True

Life as an engineering contractor comes with its ups and downs. For every stretch away from your family there is a degree of flexibility and a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, all combining to make the life of a contractor particularly unique. It’s a rocky terrain, with many peaks and troughs that only fellow contractors can really understand.

In honour of that most special of bonds, we’ve compiled a list of the 4 things every contractor knows to be true

1.       Everyone thinks you have just LOADS of free time

Okay, so you may not necessarily work 9 to 5 and maybe you get two weeks of rest time if you’re working on a rig, and that certainly has its bonuses.  That’s what the majority of non-contractors focus on all the time, but it isn’t where the story ends.

Anyone who has worked on an oil and gas rig or on a major construction site knows what a 12 hour shift feels like, or the tedium of not seeing your friends and family for a number of weeks at a time. So yeah, a longer run of time off has its distinct benefits, but hard work and long hours pay for that flexibility.

2.       Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

And what do people imagine you’re doing with all that fictional free time you have on your hands? Relaxing with a spot of gardening? Cracking in to that book you’ve been dying to read? Yeah, maybe not. Try a stack of paperwork instead!

If you’re a freelancer you’ll know that there is always paperwork in which significant time must be invested. Whether it’s at the start of a new project, or some nice tax forms to sift through, there are always contracts to be reviewed and assessed.  Who would have thought the difference between ‘of services’ and ‘for services’ would become such a key preoccupation?

3.       Friends are the family you choose

The experience of freelancing or working as a contractor has the benefit of being able to meet and work with lots of people. The bonus of project based work is the camaraderie that is often established when a group of different personalities are thrown together with one common goal.

If you’re working away on a project, it’s likely you’re going to spend the best part of 24 hours a day, every day, for 2-3 weeks at a time with the same group of people. Meal times, time spent working and leisure time – you’re going to get to know the people around you pretty fast.  Sometimes this can highlight annoying habits, but it can also lead to a bond of shared experience that’s hard to break.

4.       There’s nothing like a pint at the end of a tough shift

When it comes to the crunch and there’s a looming deadline, a tight turnaround or an emergency task, noses get to the grindstone and the work gets done. That’s what contractors are hired for, to bring their expert skills and specialist knowledge to tough and demanding work.

But one thing all contractors know is that a crisp, cool pint after the hard work is over, whether you’re coming back onshore or you’ve put the finishing touches to a construction job, is a fine reward. There really is nothing like a pint at the end of a tough shift.

Do you agree with our list of list of contracting truths? What parts of your life as a contractor do you absolutely love? And what do you find is often misunderstood? Tell us in the comments below!

One thing you don’t have to worry about as a contractor is having a fully comprehensive, freelance insurance policy that includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers Liability cover. We have designed our core insurance product exclusively for the potential risks of freelance contracting. Five different covers are all combined in to one policy and covered by our price promise. Call our friendly, professional team at KPSol on 0124 236 2149 and we will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, apply online to get cover instantly.

Five Dangerous Places to Work In The Oil and Gas Industry

Without a doubt, the oil and gas industry is one of the most important and lucrative industries in the world. It is a commodity we all rely on, and securing the production and global transportation of oil is never far from the top of the international diplomatic agenda.

It is precisely the level of importance that we place on gas and oil that makes the industry one fraught with tension and inherent risk. From unstable political environments, declining economies and kidnap risks, we took a look at five of the most dangerous places to work in oil and gas.

1.       Iraq

Oil rich and politically volatile, even over ten years since the US invasion Iraq presents danger to oil and gas industry workers. Kidnapping is a real threat in Iraq, with the country’s own Deputy Oil Minister having been kidnapped in 2007. With the rise of jihadist group ISIS in recent months, there seems to be little indication that tensions in the region are dissipating.

2.       Colombia

Colombia became an oil exporter in the 1980s, but has been subject to right-wing paramilitary group abuses for a number of decades. Controlling most of the illegal cocaine trade throughout the country, paramilitary forces are reported to be responsible for massacres, rapes and kidnappings throughout the country.

3.       Tanzania

The east African nation has significantly developed its oil and gas exploration efforts in the natural reserves off the country’s south coast. However, piracy has become a significant issue in the area, with Somali pirate activity on the increase in the country’s waters over the last five years, some of which has directly targeted petroleum exploration efforts.

4.       Venezuela

Venezuela has one of largest proven oil reserves in the world and is one of the major exporters of oil, travelling as far and wide as China and India.  Violence is rife in Venezuela, with carjacking, kidnapping and armed robberies occurring with alarming regularity. Venezuela also sees a high amount of drug trafficking activity, with much of neighbouring Colombia’s illegal cocaine trade passing through the country.

5.       Libya

Having the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya is an attractive proposition due to its proximity to Europe. However, escalating violence throughout the country following the 2011 civil war that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, including the attack on the US embassy in 2012 and the recent unrest that saw armed groups try to seize control of the country’s airports; Libya appears to be rife with conflict.

Do you have any experience as a contractor travelling to any of these, or other, high risk locations?  How do you prepare and do you have any advice or tips for other contractors who may be considering taking on contracts in dangerous locations?

Tell us about your experiences via the comments box.

 

If an engineer ruled the world…

Humans. We’re logical creatures, aren’t we? Think of how far we have advanced past our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. We’ve built sprawling metropolises, plunged to the depths of the ocean, and we’ve even put a man on the moon.

But that’s only half the story, isn’t it? We’re not the rational, logical beings we often believe ourselves to be. How do we account for butter that won’t spread, toast that burns on one side and the ends of sellotape sticking together? So much of the world is irrationally thought out, rushed and well, mildly irritating. This got us wondering exactly what kind of utopia of efficiency and design we would live in if an engineer was running the show.

1.       If you’re not part of the solution…

From engineering tube trains to space stations, from wireless communication to sleek smart phones that house a whole building’s worth of capabilities, engineers are solution-focused individuals. Finding elegance in the mix of design and functionality, an engineer who ruled the world would never settle for ‘good enough’.

2.       The light bulb that never breaks

Let’s face it, no engineer on the face of the planet would design and create something so necessary to modern life that breaks every few months. The urge to create and perfect would lead to a revolution in how we see everyday commodities. Rather than creating goods that break in order to increase demand, an engineer would focus on creating the perfect, elegantly designed version of – well, pretty much anything.

3.       ROBOTS!

You can’t look me in the eye and say that robots wouldn’t be advancing in every corner of this earth if an engineer was in charge. The World Cup? Forget about it, International Robot Wars would be what we tune in to every four years… and how much more exciting would that be?!?

4.       Lots of bridges – just because!

If you could build a bridge, you would, right? From the Romans and their aqueducts right through to the sleek modernity of The Millennium Bridge, everyone loves a good bridge and nobody more so that the people with the ability to create them – engineers!

5.       Curiosity thrilled the cat

The world is still so full of mystery, with so much left still to discover, if an engineer ran the world we’re sure that curiosity would be the highest praised quality anyone could have – the desire to continuously learn, push limits and expand horizons would be a cultural norm. Smart really would be the new sexy! Let’s be honest, if Steve Wozniak hadn’t been a little curious about this computer fad in a California garage in the mid-70’s, Apples would just be another fruit.

Don’t let worries about having the right level of freelance contractor insurance get in the way of your engineering prowess help make the world a better place! Here at KPSol we have created a unique, comprehensive freelance contractor insurance policy that contains five key elements of cover, including Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and Employers’ Liability cover.

If you want access to one of the most comprehensive, single policy contractor insurance then apply online now to purchase cover immediately. If you wish to speak with one of our highly trained team to further discuss your requirements then do not hesitate to call us on 01242 362 149 where one of our customer advisors will be on hand to help.

Mind the Gap – does engineering have female trouble?

Sir James Dyson, of the eponymous vacuum empire and all-round British engineering national treasure, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Telegraph about the engineering skills crisis the UK is currently facing. In it he deals specifically with the fact that the country’s young women are still not entering the science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) industries to the same degree young men are.

Summer is the time that both the A-Level and GCSE results are released; whereby thousands of 16 to 18 year olds find out in which direction their future is headed. It’s an exciting and tense time where careers and lives are forged in the furnace of our current education system and much ink has been spilled on the fact that young women, when choosing their post-secondary school education, are less inclined toward STEM subjects.

But why is this? If we are seeing a dramatic shortage in engineers, putting our economy, and our ability to create, in jeopardy then why is such a large portion of our workforce not motivated to join the weird and wonderful world of engineering?

In Dyson’s article he cites recent comments made by University of Glasgow psychology reader Dr Gijsbert Stoet. Stoet believes that the push toward generating more female engineers, physicists and computer scientists is a futile pursuit due to insurmountable, ‘innate differences’ between the genders. He contends that women are natural carers and are drawn to careers in the arts, while boys are better suited to the sciences and mathematics.

Isn’t Stoet just reinforcing unhelpful gender stereotypes? If we keep saying that women are ‘naturally’ less interested in scientific subjects and subsequent careers, then surely this is destined to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why would we choose to ignore this untapped wealth of potential?

There have been a number of studies conducted, including the Through Both Eyes report by grassroots organisation Science Grrl in 2013, that suggest that there is a long-standing cultural perception that the world of science and engineering is the domain of men and there are simply no places for women. This extends to attitudes in the home, at school and from wider society in general.

The report cites the long held and factually inaccurate idea that women’s brains are somehow unable to process factual, scientific information in the same way as men factors as a particularly damaging stereotype. There is also some concern that accurate, gender-aware but gender-neutral career guidance is not widely available on the vocational pathways down which STEM subjects can lead.

It is clear from recent reports that British engineering is under threat and the country is at risk of losing a generation of creative, technical and innovative minds. It would seem that deeply embedded societal messages about the ‘traditional’ roles that women are expected to fulfil is seriously damaging the attempt to engage intelligent young women in education to reach their full potential in the STEM industries.

If the reported figures, that the percentage of female A-Level physics students has remained a consistently low 20% for the last 20 years, then we are doing a huge disservice to young women, and the great tradition of British engineering, by allowing culturally engrained stereotypes to keep women distanced from careers in science, engineering and technology. It is clear that if we want to win the battle against outmoded thinking, quell our fear about the growing skills shortage and boost our economy then we must start to empower young women and provide them with a real choice, before it’s too late.

Are you a woman in engineering? Have you faced any blocks, culturally or institutionally, to your career in your chosen industry? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below!