Ben Taylor of HomeWorkingClub.com tells us about helping other people who wanted to take control of their working lives and sort out their work/life balance.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ben Taylor: Well, a lot has changed in the past week because the latest lockdown has just started to ease here in the UK. Our two young children are finally back at school and nursery.
It’s been challenging in many ways, not least the fact that both my wife and I run businesses, so have been juggling full-time work with homeschooling.
It’s had its ups and downs, but with time I think I will actually look back on all of this with a certain amount of nostalgia. Our children (six and three) have developed an incredibly strong bond, and we’ve all supported each other as a family.
We’re doing pretty well, all things considered.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded HomeWorkingClub.com.
Ben Taylor: I’m a techie by trade and used to run an IT consultancy business. In 2009 I moved to Portugal and started from scratch as a freelance writer.
My business, HomeWorkingClub.com, evolved from all my years of freelancing. I set it up to help other people who wanted to take control of their working lives and sort out their work/life balance.
We set up in 2017 and now provide advice to tens of thousands of readers every month. We are known for honest and down-to-earth advice. Setting up as a freelancer is hard, challenging work, and unlike many similar sites, we don’t sugar-coat that reality to try to sell courses and membership schemes.
How does HomeWorkingClub.com innovate?
Ben Taylor: Online publishing is quite a fast-moving environment. Innovation is often as much about keeping track of Google’s ever-moving goalposts as coming up with new ideas!
We do work hard to provide information in different ways so as to give people different ways to consume it. Last year we started a home working podcast, and we’ve begun to branch out into more video content this year.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Ben Taylor: Something that often surprises people is that coronavirus made things much harder for HomeWorkingClub.
Everyone assumes that the huge and sudden boom in home working would have sent the site stratospheric. In reality, it meant that the subject we write about was suddenly front and center for every big-name newspaper and media site.
When Forbes and the New York Times suddenly start producing regular content on the same subjects as you, everything gets a lot harder!
We didn’t do as well financially in 2020 as we had in 2019. We hope that once everyone else stops fixating on home working, we might get our niche back!
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Ben Taylor: Thankfully, we didn’t. Our small team is entirely composed of freelancers, so we’re always able to ramp up or down when needed.
There’s certainly a lesson here for other businesses: Freelancers can be a risk-free alternative to hiring full-time staff!
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Ben Taylor: This is a bit of a sore point. Due to our company structure, we didn’t qualify for any kind of grant assistance. We were allowed a “bounce back loan.” This is at a very low-interest rate but is still debt rather than genuine support.
Your final thoughts?
Ben Taylor: I guess the main thing I’ve learned from the pandemic is that you can never predict how world events can turn your business on its head. While it’s been challenging for us, we’re very much aware that other businesses have had a much tougher time.
It seems likely that things will switch around completely in a “post-pandemic” age. People are going to want to travel, relax and party. That lifts completely different businesses and could also see things go flat for firms that have thrived during Covid.