The Perils of Co-Working Space

Today, I’m spending the whole day working in some shared office space. 

It’s a precursor to actually paying for some desk-space on a full-time basis. Like um, popping your cherry as a freelancer. Is it still ok to say ‘popping your cherry’?

Now, I’ve only been here for three hours, but already it’s been a nice change. 

The office is in an industrial estate, so I’m at complete liberty to pretend that I’m a mechanic. More importantly, my sister (my current flatmate) has absolutely no idea where I am. That means today, I do not have to pretend that I’m sorry about the state of the bathroom, or that I have to endure another discussion about the rapidly diminishing state of her mental health. I also don’t have to listen to her scream at the mirror, or lumber around the house like a barrel of laughs that had all the laughs taken out

If you’re wondering which sister, um, it’s the other one. Yeah, I have two sisters and it’s not the one you think it is. 

Anyway, I’m not saying this is going well just because my sister can’t scream at me.

No, I’m also being very productive. I mean, this is the first time I’ve posted anything on my blog since January. Who knows what I could achieve if I actually had some clients?!

However, while I’ve enjoyed my first three hours hours here, I’ve also found that having not worked in a proper office for over seven months, I’ve completely forgotten how to behave in a professional environment. 

Given this is probably a common post-working-from-home condition, and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, here’s some very well considered advice on surviving in an office. 

Remember these lessons when you’re next at work, or you’ll probably lose your job.

1. Etiquette Is Important

One of my potential co-workers brought in vegan cookies. 

It was a really sweet gesture, intended to welcome me to the co-working space. 

Now, these were big, round cookies. The sort of big round cookies that are definitely bigger than your face, unless your mother had an affair with Moonface from the Faraway Tree. 

A picture of Moonface explaining to your father just how many fucks he gives – thank god you didn’t inherit his apathetic demeanour

So yeah, BIG cookies. 

And what did I do? 

I waddled up to the table, stacked high with cookies and grabbed an entire cookie in my greasy hands.

As soon as I touched it, I knew I’d made a mistake.

Yes, I shouldn’t have taken the whole cookie. I should have broken a bit off and just eaten a quarter. But instead, I took an entire cookie and ate it all – and loudly at that. 

My consistent chomps reminding dearest, co-worker no. 1, that it was a mistake to give me something nice.

This incident happened at 10:45. Since then I’ve been feeling dreadful. Not because the cookie was bad. It was great. But because I feel like a selfish prick. 

I’ve even emailed apologies to my girlfriend, seeking absolution for what an ass I’ve been. This hasn’t really done anything to help the situation though. I mean, she didn’t buy the cookies, and as far as I can tell, she’s not part of the freelancing vanguard (unemployed wretches).

Maybe if they invite me back I’ll bring in a bag of baby spinach and we can all share it. I’ll even promise not to get mad when someone takes a really big handful, or accuses me of not washing it properly.

Rule 1: If someone brings really big cookies into your co-working space or office, don’t eat an entire cookie. Unless you hate the person who brought in the cookies or your co-workers. Then you should totally do it. Also, if you have a face bigger than a really big cookie, eat the cookie – everyone probably hates your father already, and that’s genetic. 

2. Chairs Will Squeak

This isn’t an issue for everyone, but the chair I’ve been allocated squeaks. It squeaks every time I move, and hell, I move a lot.

Right now I’m not sure if the squeak indicates pleasure or pain. Just one thing’s for sure, whenever I move, it happens. I mean, maybe the emotion can be slightly less one dimensional? I mean, swivel chairs operate on two planes, do they not?

But back to the topic.

So, I suffer from a pretty serious condition called Ants In My Pants.

That means it’s medically acknowledged that if a chair has wheels, I’m have every right, and need to spin in it, push it back, and just be a general nuisance. 

However, I’m afraid that my new workies (potential co-workers) won’t understand my condition, or might even be annoyed by it. That’s why I’ve been trying to keep my back as rigid as possible, while keeping rotations to a minimum for the last forty five minutes.

It’s absolute torture.

I also want to remove my shoes, crack my toes, neck and fingers, take off my shirt and push this chair’s lumbar support back so hard that it snaps.

It’s a real issue. That’s why I’ve decided that as soon as everyone vacates this room, I’m going to swap this chair with somebody else’s.

Assuming that they invite me back, I will also invest in some socks that look like shoes.

Rule 2: If you end up with a squeaky chair, swap it with someone else’s when they least expect it. Also, it’s 2020, we really need better professional support for those who suffer from Ants In Their Pants.

3. You Must Look Busy

When I work at home there’s absolutely no need for me to look busy. 

As my own supervisor, I know it’s totally fine if I spend entire afternoons standing in the garden thinking (no, not smoking, who the hell do you think I am?!).

However, right now, I feel compelled to impress the three people in the room, that I totally do not know, but I’m temporarily sharing this space with. I’m doing this by typing as furiously as possible. That’s right, I’m currently smashing my keyboard so hard that the succulent next to me is quivering. Finally, a living organism is impressed by my might.

I’m not actually doing anything useful though. 

That’s because my desk is positioned at a great angle and no one can see my screen – so the joke’s totally on them

It’s a strange situation, because I actually do have work to do. However, it’s been three hours and I really don’t have any intention of doing it. 

Why? Because I know that if I start doing something useful, there is no way that I can maintain writing over 120 words per minute, and all three of the people around me won’t continue to be as impressed. 

So yeah, that’s why I’m writing this stupid blog post and working on the script for a brilliant new film called Drag Snails – as ever, great job Henry, great fucking job.

Rule 3: People’s opinion of how good you are at working is much more important than whether you’re actually working (who didn’t know this one already?!)

4. People Will Do Anything To Make You Feel Less Important Than You Truly Are

As I’m typing this, it’s slowly dawning on me that I really haven’t achieved anything over the last three months.

Sure, I released 2019’s bestselling zine, Watch Out! Your Dad’s A Tory, and developed some economic models for calculating the cost of policing in England (yawn), but I haven’t really done anything else.

Wait, maybe if I include writing and recording a very, very good song dedicated to my girlfriend’s best friend for her thirtieth birthday, I can convince myself that I’ve actually done a lot. If anything, I’ve done way too much.

I mean, this list is probably very intimidating for most people.

F#
Bones a’ creakin’

B
Mortgage lending

A
Hungover for days but

G#
You ain’t even been a drinkin’

F#
Stronger lenses

B
Friends a’ married

A
Breeding conversations

G#
Ain’t no longer bein’ parried

Excerpt from Thirty Candles, Hungry Hungry Henry

Until I remembered this great song, sitting in a co-working space for three hours had started to damage my perspective of myself.

Despite achieving more than most people probably achieve in a lifetime in the space of three months (becoming a bestselling author, legendary songwriter and arguably a revolutionary), the co-working space was making me feel like I hadn’t achieved anything at all.

It was a strangely humbling experience, as I’m sure you can tell.

Rule 4: Try not to let other people’s less important achievements diminish your super important and impressive achievements. If you do, they won’t let you work with them any more.

5. Never, Ever, Avoid Invitations

I just turned down an invitation to lunch. 

Why the hell did I just say that I didn’t want to have lunch? 

Everyone’s going to think that despite my intimidating muscles (ballooning paunch), that I either cannot afford lunch, or am desperately trying to cover up that I can’t eat conventional food and only gain nourishment from broken hearts.

Damn. Who knew?

Rule 5: Always accept invitations to eat and make sure you always eat the same type of food as your co-workers. Declined invitations make people really suspicious of you and may lead them to believe that they’re better than you are.

Amalgamated

However, yeah, working in an actual office is great. 

I mean, I haven’t spent all day pretending to be busy by re-washing my clean clothes and watching YouTube videos about John Romero to ‘be inspired’.

So I guess I’d like to commit to it.

Assuming they accept me, all I need now is a full-time intern to act as my receptionist and for the next four hours to be more successful than the last three.

Oh yeah, and for my potential co-workers not to catch on to how actually, they probably don’t want to work with the type of bastard who would spend their first day in their co-working space writing about how they’re not really the type of person anyone would want to work with.

WANTED: Joseph Onyango – The Kenyan Freelance Writer Who Kidnapped My Children (words)

This is embarrassing.

I was scammed into writing 36,000 words by a Kenyan called Joseph Onyango.

Before you ask, no he wasn’t Nigerian. Africa’s an entire continent and home to a myriad of internet scams. It’s not cool to stereotype.

So anyway, I half confirmed Joseph Onyango lives in Lavington, Kenya. How? His verified Upwork account says so.

Take a look.

Joseph Onyango can and will kidnap words for ‘fun’ or ‘professional’ purposes. What a sicko.

His scams are much more sinister than the standard Nigerian Prince Scam. Sinister AND sophisticated (it wasn’t sophisticated, I’m just trying to make myself feel better about it).

How?

Well, Joseph didn’t steal any money from me.

He stole defenceless words.

Words that were young and poorly formed. Words that definitely shouldn’t be roaming the internet without a responsible guardian.

You’re thinking that I shouldn’t have left them unsupervised with a monster like Joseph Onyango, aren’t you?

Resentfully, I’ll accept that you’re right.

Why Joseph Onyango Is A Child Trafficker (of words)

Hear me out.

I know this claim’s extreme, but it’s true.

Joseph Onyango is a Child Trafficker (of words).

If I’d known this from the off, I wouldn’t have consented to let them swim in his pool (sent them to him via Skype for a playdate).

I’d agreed to conceive and nurture these words for Joseph because he promised that he’d find a good home for them and reimburse my expenses.

Now, I’m not that worried that he neglected to reimburse my expenses.

I’m more concerned about what he did with the words after he kidnapped them.

After discovering the scam on Thursday, I hoped that he would adopt the words himself. You know, give all 36,000 words the attention and love they deserve.

Maybe raise them as his own in Kenya.

All wishful thinking.

Instead of caring for these delicate words, Joseph Onyango sold them.

Yes, Joseph Onyango, Freelance Writer, sold those adolescents into slavery. I’ve visited the sites where they’re now housed. The conditions are shameful.

Some of my words are now being forced to drop their trousers to sell dog beds to middle aged women. Others have been left outside on farmhouse porches to find new male clients.

Now I think you’ll agree with me that this incident constitutes child trafficking (of words).

That’s why Joseph Onyango is a Kenyan Child Trafficker (of words).

You’re now probably worried that he’s going to kidnap and traffic your adolescents (words) too.

Well don’t worry, here’s another picture of him from Joseph’s LinkedIn account.

Joseph Okinyi Onyango the Kenyan Freelance Writer and Child Trafficker (of words)

You think he looks evil, don’t you?

I disagree.

That brooding smile’s not cruel, it’s just misunderstood.

How Did It Happen?

Can we skip this part? No?

Fine. Do you want the long, or the short answer?

I’ll start with the short one.

I was stupid.

How? Well here’s the long answer.

I was looking for more opportunities to write about sex on Freelancer.

Bidding on various competitions, an account posing as Jillian Milner awarded a project to me, then invited me to have a chat on Skype.

Jillian was then magically transformed into Scott Foster, owner of the content mill, Need An Article. I was surprised, but I thought hell, if Scott gets off by cross dressing on Freelaner, who am I to judge?

I should say now that Need An Article is actually a legitimate business and not affiliated with Joseph Onyango. I learned this later on their Facebook page.

However, at the time I didn’t know that I wasn’t talking to Jillian Milner or Scott Foster.

Over the course of the conversation, I agreed to write ten 2,000 word articles about Project Management.

I should have known something was wrong.

The conversation was filled with red flags:

  • He complimented my writing. lol
  • He promised to pay me $60 for every 2,000 word article (way too much for writing absolute crap)
  • The meta data of every briefing document he sent me listed ‘Joseph Onyango the Child Trafficker (of words)’ as the creator. Not legitimate businessman Scott Foster.
Joseph Onyango the Child Trafficker (of words) expertly covering his tracks.

Where To Now?

Well, I’m pretty powerless.

I suggested to Upwork that they should delete his account, because others may be less forgiving than I. But they haven’t.

Maybe that’s because he works for them? It’s what his LinkedIn suggests.

I also did my utmost to make the best out of a bad situation.

I did it by financially empowering those who bought my child trafficked words to achieve redemption.

It was as simple as emailing every site admin hosting my work, and letting them know that they could use my material for free. There was no longer a need to pay Joseph Onyango for his Child Trafficking services. It worked in at least three instances.

I hope the gesture’s enabled them to love and care for my words properly.

And I also hope that they don’t believe Joseph Onyango when he suggests that I flew out to Kenya and stole his notebook to sabotage his life.

Really, I have better things to do. Like um, writing stupid things on my various blogs.

Joseph Onyango – We Should Be Friends

Finally, Joseph Onyango, if you’re reading this, I’d love it if you got in touch.

I’ve emailed you already.

By that I mean I’ve emailed seven of your accounts, including completedwork0@gmail.com.

Now I’m afraid that the email isn’t very exciting.

No, it’s not that picture of my genitals that you requested last week.

Instead it’s an offer.

I’ve read your blog and understand the difficulties of trying to become a freelance writer when you’re a talentless hack.

We should get together to discuss strategies on how to make our dreams of writing professionally a reality.

Also, if you stop coming onto me, we could probably be friends.

Silver Linings

There’s at least one silver lining.

I’m pretty sure this entitles me to write $2,000 off on my first tax return. Wow, maybe I could even make it $3,500. I mean, with a face like mine I must be worth at least $500 a day.

Oh yeah, I also learned that it’s easy to write 10,000 words about Project Management in a day.

Go figure.

NB: If you’re Joseph Onyango and your identity was stolen by this guy, like um, let me know and I’ll change the name to Jack Onyango.

Freelancer – Five Months In

Avoid Freelancer. It’s a race to the bottom.

That’s the first bit of advice I received when I assumed the role of ‘definitely a copywriter’.

Actually, that was the second piece of advice. You know, after, “What the fuck are you doing? You don’t even know how to use commas?!

It was a valuable lesson from a real life writer. That’s why I ignored it.

Now five months in, and still experiencing professional freefall, I’ll happily admit he was right.

Yes. Freelancer is a race to the bottom.

Not because the money’s dreadful. That’s a given.

No, it’s a race to the bottom because most employers don’t want words, they want tripe. Or they want writers who are happy to transform their tripe into andouillette.

I guess that’s great if you’re developing a haggis-shaped, entry-level portfolio. But maybe it’s not so great if you aren’t.

As I’m going for more of a century egg vibe, I’ve been forced to trash a lot of blue collar, gourmet work.

So I thought I’d post what I’ve learned about Freelancer here. It’s expert advice. Yes, all $291.48 and €17 of it.

How’s Freelancer Different From Other Platforms?

It’s not.

Freelancer isn’t really that different from other online freelance marketplaces. Whether you’re comparing to Upwork, Fiverr, or Worksome. Sure one’s got a blue logo, one has a light green logo, another’s more bile-tinged, but the principles are the same.

The setup’s simple. Employers post projects, then freelancers submit proposals to secure them. In the case of copy writing, employers review the proposals then select a worthy butcher.

When bidding for a project, success depends on a range of factors. How willing the writer is to work for below minimum wage, how many times they’ve already whored themselves out (ironically, the more the better), and whether the person still has enough savings to pay for their proposal to appear first. 

However, while the other sites are largely the same, my experiences on Freelancer have been strange.

Freelancer Employers Love Sex and Erotica

First, I noticed that a lot of employers on Freelancer are perverts.

The first project I won was to rewrite the SEO title, meta description and footer for a premier adult tube, let’s call it Sleaze Miners.

This job was legit and quite fun.

I thought my work was particularly creative too. Here’s a sample:

Sleaze Miners dig deep down the shaft of depravity to bring you the hottest, wettest, nastiest free porn videos online. Cum penetrate our latest hardcore quarry.

Henry’s First Freelance Writing Project

It’s good, isn’t it?! I bet you would have taken the easy option and misinterpreted the ‘Miners’ bit.

Anyway, great. That’s a realistic, manageable project. But it’s definitely about sex.

A lot of the listings just are.

Last week I stumbled on a job listing to write an op-ed for Ian Cox.

Haven’t heard of him?

He’s a sexual-explorer-cum-inventor who discovered how to extend the duration of the male orgasm 14-fold. How? By tying cords around his testacles.

He wanted someone to pitch an article about his life’s work to Men’s Health. I would have helped, but his blog made me realise my complete sexually inadequacy. Seven minutes? Surely not.

Seperately, back in August I wrote a wonderful listicle for rather ameuturish erotic sex shop, Heated Erotica

Unfortunately, my work wasn’t accepted. Apparently ‘Premature Ejaculation Needn’t Be The End’ didn’t satisfy.

Lesson 1: Freelancers full of deviants who need help peddling their perversions. More evidence that sex sells.

You Can Specialise In Writing Fake Reviews

You know Alibaba?

It’s the online marketplace where you can order industrial quantities of crap from China. Westerners buy goods by the container, then sell them to their gluttonous neighbours through Amazon’s Fulfillment service.

So yeah, Alibaba is the Amazon FBA Seller’s Mecca.

A lot of would be Amazon FBA Sellers commission work on the platform. So, it seems funny that a lot of Chinese manufacturers regularly post listings offering $40 for a fake review on the platform

I guess it’s hard to police.

Lesson 2: Freelancer is the reason your Amazon FBA Business failed.

Coders Prefer Upwork To Freelancer

Why is this relevant? Well, Freelancer taught me that coders prefer Upwork.

How?

Chinese coders regularly offer me $200 a month to use my Upwork Account and IP Address

Don’t worry, you won’t be caught in the middle of price fixing scandal if you just say no. 

Lesson 3: Freelancer and Upwork appear to be in cahoots.

Native English Speakers Can Charge A Premium

A lot of freelancers claim to be expert English writers, but don’t speak the language. 

That’s why it’s so easy to make a killing on Freelancer in the copywriting competitions.

However, it’s a double edged sword. A lot of employers can’t speak English either. 

This can make it quite the challenge when you’ve been commissioned to write a tagline or come up with a new brand name. 

As a tip, I’ve found that they often like fancy Latin words and portmanteau name suggestions.

For instance, if they have a fitness brand and their core values are love, you’d be onto a winner if you suggested a name like LoNess, or Squit (love squeeze fitremember, the ‘love’ is silent).

Practically, it means that a lot of the briefs are pretty shit. 

But that’s a new skill for your CV, right?

Lesson 4: If the future is Freelancer, the future is broken English.

Freelancer Forever

Perhaps I should stop staring into my screen, but scarily, I think Freelancer represents the future. 

How can you justify hiring, let’s say an illustrator full-time at £25k pa, when you can commission a logo that’s 80% there for £5?

Maybe the road towards meritocracy is acceptance that right now, employers might be overvaluing output and skills.

Lesson 5: Perhaps the future is writing about sex and letting other people use your IP address.

Inspired By Freelancer

On a less dour note, Freelancer has been a great inspiration for Secret Santa presents. 

If I get a job by December, I’m getting my secret santa these testicle tighteners.