This week in freelance: Pandemic and business as usual

It’s been a strange year so far: Brexit, Australia on fire and now a global pandemic. While this is unheard of, life just goes on for most of us in a weird kind of way.

I’m working on new & existing website projects as normal, despite widespread concerns about Coronavirus and off-peak scavenging trips to Lidl.

Remote Working

Since starting the business, I’ve always had a ‘virtual office’ and worked from home or co-working spaces whether I’m in the UK or elsewhere. The freelancers that I work with often do the same. One of the benefits of remote working is that the risk of us picking up any bugs is lower as we’re not commuting or sharing an office. We’re all set up to be productive remotely, and easily able to self isolate if necessary too. So despite concerns about Coronavirus and people starting to work from home, we’re able to carry on with new and existing web design projects as normal.

I’m hearing about digital nomad friends coming/going back to their home countries as flights might be cut back and being isolated in a far flung country sucks. Being sick with fever and alone in Thailand was utterly horrible.

Self Isolating

As an introvert and working from home, self isolating isn’t too hard. I’ve been trying to go to the gym more, get out more and do more coworking. Covid-19 has pretty much stopped that in its tracks however. I’ve had a sore throat and headache so have largely kept myself to myself to avoid getting scowled at. To stop myself going nuts I’ve been playing co-op games online with friends (not abusive strangers…) and seeing friends one to one or in small groups. I’ve got a pile of books to read, some new skills to learn (VueJS, what a hot mess) and a knackered old bike to get some cardio.

Self Development

A friend gave me a talking to the other day and I’ve got some new books to read and am revisiting my morning routine to get the day started right. Exercise, reading, meditation and journalling set me up to be focused and productive. As mentioned I’m also learning some new Javascript skills to level up my WordPress development and keep up with the cool kids.

So What Next?

I’m doing a part time college course and I think that will be postponed soon. I’ll be getting food delivered and trying to make the most of the enforced downtime. Work wise, some clients in the online and information industries are carrying on as normal, but some that have face to face businesses are struggling already. It’s going to be an interesting year.

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Best VPN For Freelancers

A ‘virtual private network’ (VPN) is essential while working from home, coffee shops and when working remotely (Read more tech tips for freelancers). A VPN can stop the wifi owner snooping on what you’re doing and other people seeing what you’re up to online. While I’m sure none of us are up to no good, online security is increasingly vital and we need to keep all our work data and browsing private.

Choosing A VPN

Searching for the best VPN for freelancers is difficult when most VPN providers have affiliate websites recommending them because they get a kickback, not necessarily because the service is great.

A provider with lots of servers to choose from and that preferably don’t store browsing history logs is a good choice.

Danger Of Free VPNS

Using a free VPN is probably worse than not using one at all – remember if the thing is free, your data is the product. Do you want your VPN provider inserting ads, selling your browsing history to advertisers or watching what you are doing? You’re responsible for keeping not only your own data safe, but also that of your clients. £5 a month for a proper VPN is well worth the investment.

Mullvad has easy to use apps for Mac and PC, and runs on OpenVPN on mobile

So Which VPN To Use?

I used to use Private Internet Access until they were bought out by a company with a dubious history. For such a privacy focused app, I wasn’t comfortable with the new owners so moved to Mullvad. They Mac/PC apps, are much more privacy focused and don’t have affiliates. The app is quick and easy to set up and they have VPN servers all around the world to choose from.

The mobile app has a few steps to set up via OpenVPN, but still only takes a few minutes. Mullvad doesn’t seem to limit speeds, is pay monthly and hasn’t caused me any grief with mailservers or FTP like other providers have.

Summary

Security is important if you’re working remotely or from coffee shops, but choosing the best VPN for freelancers can be tricky. We recommend you swerve the free ones and use Mullvad.