13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routine

Written by Verne on February 27th, 2008

13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routineAfter challenging tradition and working at home for the past 6 months, I’ve gathered a great deal of new perspectives. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want to do with my life. I’ve learned that being your own boss is a dream come true. I’ve also learned that there can be bitter elements to even the sweetest treats. But more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about how to make the best out of this spectacular experience.

When I wrote about the downsides of working at home (which you should read before reading this), I was amazed at the responses from everyone that shared the same sentiments. Clearly, we’ve all had a taste of a good thing going bad when served in bulk. What really hit me was that, while everybody had their own version of their rants, the majority still whole-heartedly enjoyed working at home. Good – there is hope after all!

The key to livening up the work-at-home lifestyle is to minimize the things that can turn the experience sour, and to take advantage of all the new opportunities that the cube life just doesn’t offer. I’ve combined a few things that I’ve learned to do over the last 6 months and the responses that some of you offered to put together a list of 13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routine. I hope you enjoy it!

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5 downsides of working at home

Written by Verne on February 25th, 2008

5 downsides of working at homeIn the last 6 months, I’ve grown a new appreciation for office politics, 9-5′s, dress codes, and bad managers – at least to the extent that none of them apply to me. I have to admit, there is a pinch of joy in boasting about the flexible and autonomous lifestyle that has come with the entrepreneurial path I’ve chosen to follow. But like everything in this world, working from home has its downsides.

Here’s a list of caveats that I’ve come to discover and that you should expect to encounter if you’ve chosen to lead the work-at-home life as well.

1. You’re always at home

You’re always at homeThis may seem like an obvious observation but trust me, it’ll hit you after your first week of working at home. Consider this: your buddies wake up in the morning, get dressed, take a drive, get to the office, have some lunch, get back on the road, and then return home. Meanwhile, you’ve been there the whole time. This may seem like a sweet deal at first, but you may find yourself growing a bit tired of the environment - you are, after all, there 24/7.

No matter how great of a work environment you’ve set up for yourself, a static environment can sometimes suck the life out of you. This pain point hits home the hardest at the end of the day when you’re simply dying to get out. The problem is, your buddies are all relieved to finally be back home and don’t have the energy to head out to the bar with you. Suddenly a drive out to the gas station is a major treat.

2. You’re always at work

You’re always at workThe opposite and often eviler side of the coin. From the moment you wake up to the moment you hit the sack, you’re at work. When you literally live at work, it makes it nearly impossible to ever escape it. Add on to it the fact that you’re a workaholic anyway, then you’ll find yourself doing a lot of overtime.

I vaguely remember the comfort of leaving the office and returning home to my personal computer and simply browsing the internet liesurely or chatting the night away on IM. Now when I’m bored, I make websites. Or I organize my finances. Or I work on some other projects. The truth is, there is always an infinite amount of things to do, and without being able to physically detach yourself from them, you’ll just keep on working. You never quite leave the office, so you never quite know when to call it quits. Great for productivity, crappy for your spirit.

3. Is anybody there?

Is anybody there?The answer is no. Well, your mother could be home. As could your budgy named Snowy. But they’re not the people you were looking for or the people you may find you miss the most after working at home for some time. Who you’re looking for are the guys by the watercooler, the colleagues you pass in the hallways, the people you see in the cafeteria, and even the receptionist at the front desk. And unless your mother follows Lost as religiously as you do (or even if she does), you tend to miss out a bit on the personal interaction and comaraderie that comes with an office job.

4. Self-control sold separately

Self-control sold separatelyMy guitar is always within arm’s reach. I have a collection of How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy, and Lost episodes ready to be enjoyed. TVtropolis has made daytime television worth watching again (hoorah for reruns of classic sitcoms).

These are but a few distractions that make working from home slightly difficult sometimes. It can often be like working at a toy store (let’s ignore my action figures and pretend this is just a metaphor) - when you’re surrounded by toys, you can’t help but play with them a little. Counter-productive? Yes. But with nobody breathing down your neck, it makes it morally easy to write it off.

5. “While you’re home, can you…”

While you’re home, can you…This winter, Toronto has seen 3 big snow falls already. What’s become apparent from this is that working from home does not exempt me from shoveling the snow. It also doesn’t excuse me from doing laundry, cleaning, or occasional drives out to the grocery store.

While not being able to escape household responsibilities is more likely a result of living with your parents, it is certainly magnified when you work from home. This can have a toll on your work, even if it means just taking a moment to explain that you’ll do it after you’re done work. If your parents are like mine, you’ll have to explain it again in 5 minutes. Then again, you probably don’t live with your parents.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working at home!

From this post alone, working at home probably seems like a torturous, painful, and tiresome form of entrepreneurial hell. To be honest, it can be sometimes. But these feelings are far and few in between, and there are definitely easy remedies to cure some of these blues. I just wanted to give those considering the work-at-home lifestyle the heads up that it’s not all fun and games (or that sometimes it is, and that’s not good either).

My next post will focus on how to fend off these downers and make the most of your freedom from the corporate world. Stay tuned!

Read the follow-up: 13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routine

How to use Photoshop to make notepad sketches

Written by Verne on February 22nd, 2008

A few days ago, I wrote about the making of Creative Briefing and touched briefly on how the notepad sketches that you see on the top left of this site came to be. I’ll now go more in depth and offer a quick and easy tutorial on how I produced the image using Adobe Photoshop.

It should be noted that much of the work in this tutorial can be replaced by simply purchasing stock photos of notepads. However, if you’re not into spending money or aren’t able to find a stock photo that suits your needs, then this tutorial is for you.

The Goal

Here’s what this tutorial will help you achieve:

The final product!

Let’s get started!

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Write and win cool free stuff

Written by Verne on February 21st, 2008

Freelancers and entrepreneurs love free stuff. It’s in our blood to be frugle and get as much as we can while paying the least we can. Asians have been known to share this same nature. So fortunately or unfortunately for me, my love for free stuff is multiplied.

That’s why when I found out about the Graphic Design Group Writing Project, I got a bit excited. Jacob Cass of Just Creative Design recently launched an initiative to get design geeks like me to write on the topic of graphic design with hopes of bringing the community a little closer through exposure and link love. As we write more articles, Jacob adds links to our articles from his site to share it with everyone else.

And to add some extra incentive, he’s giving away $5000 worth of prizes through random draw. What does the $5000 include, you ask? Some pretty kick-ass stuff. For example:

  • A Squier Strat by Fender electic guitar and a crap load of accessories is being donated by mohdrafie.co.uk.
  • Go Media Vector Packs and an Adobe Photoshop Brush Pack. PLUS 55 iStockPhoto credits from PJ of Premium WordPress Theme showcase.
  • Everyone’s favorite logo designer and blogger David Airey is offering his brain to help improve your identity and its integration into your site.
  • Jacob Cass himself is going to pimp your logo or your blog.
  • Advertising space on Estetica Design Forums (donated by Toon) and on Just Creative Design.

And those are just some of the prizes that are up for grabs. Tons of sponsors have already signed on to help this initiative out so big props to them as well: Vivien of InspirationBit, Daniel Scocco of Daily Blog Tips, Audee from Graphic Identity, Bloggeries, JasMate from Digital Point Forums, Freelance Folder, Jillian of The Minty Ferret, Lauren of Creative Curio, Ruchir of Technomoney, Meryl, and Design Sojourn. Wooo. That’s a lot of link love.

So how to you win some of these bad boys? It’s simple, you write a graphic design-related post and you send it in. Jacob also has a handful of other easy things that you can do right away that will immediately get you some free entires. All the contest details can be found here. The contest ends March 4th.

If you know me, you know I have my eyes set on the Fender guitar. I’ll try to control the drooling while I work on my entries for the contest.

I hope some of you will take some time and get some entries in yourself. But if you don’t, I’ll forgive you. :)Икони

The making of Creative Briefing

Written by Verne on February 19th, 2008

Over the Christmas holidays is when it first struck me that maybe it was about time that Creative Briefing got a little bit of a face lift. It took me awhile to really set this thought into motion but when I finally did, the ideas started flowing. I made sketches and mock-ups, and finally after one long and cold December night’s work at the Photoshop factory, I had a new masterpiece. One week later, I hated it. So I scrapped it and started all over again.

Fast forward a month and we’re at last week when I finally launched the new face of this site, which fortunately has been met with a lot of positive feedback thus far. But let’s rewind the tape a bit, and let me fill you in on some of the process that’s led me here.

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