INFOGRAPHIC – Pension Savings in the UK

When it comes to saving for your pension, your approach should indeed be as personalised as your unique financial situation is, but it does help to get a bit of perspective through comparison with the general, overall approach to pension Britons are taking. Get the complete regional pension fund contribution breakdown and also learn about which regions are contributing the most, which regions are contributing the least and which regions contribute nothing at all with this very informative infographic provided by True Potential Investor, personal pension provider: Continue reading

Getting Older? It May be Time to Make Some Important Decisions

Ten years ago, 20-year-old me would have met the term ‘life insurance’ with either a baleful glare or a full-throated laugh. That would’ve depended on whether I was at the end of that week’s paycheck – nutritional intake limited to microwave ramen and instant coffee – or if I had just received my salary, in which case I could be found smoking the finest imitation cigars and downing the best fake scotch I could acquire with my post-college grad budget. Presumably while dollar bills rained down from the heavens like manna. Long story short, I spent the vast majority of my 20s in a haze of self-delusion. I denied the possibility of sickness, the probability of bad luck, the sheer inevitable responsibility looming just around the corner. I was invincible! Or so I thought I was.

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Investment for your retirement – the benefits of property investment

Nowadays it can be hard to find a stable source of income when saving for your retirement fund. Yes there are retirement schemes for many businesses, but it is coming to light that it is becoming harder and harder to live on the funds left for retirement in today’s market. So what else can you do? Invest in your own retirement fund? Fill a large piggy bank full of coins on a rainy day? Or why not invest in in property for retirement?

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To what do you attribute your success — hard work or good fortune?

This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong.

Every now and then, I get an email from a fellow writer who’s just starting out and wondering where to begin. “How did you do it?” they ask. “How did you make freelance writing your career?”

It’s flattering, but what do I say? First of all, I’m still working to reach my own writing goals, so I’m not even sure I’d be the best person to ask. But also, any success that I may have had as a freelancer has at least a little to do with luck. True, it’s mostly hard work, but auspicious timing and lucky breaks have also helped my career along the way.

For example, when I started writing for MSN, it wasn’t because I worked hard to get their attention and relentlessly pursued their editors. It was also because I had an enormously talented and kind friend who landed a job there, and she happened to be hiring freelancers right as I decided to leave my job to become a freelance writer.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t have gotten that gig had I not worked hard. But it also helped that I knew someone whose department was hiring at the right time. As important a role as hard work plays in success, it’s also important to acknowledge good fortune. Here’s why.

Self-attribution bias

Disregarding the role of coincidence can make you believe a certain behavior is effective when it really isn’t — or worse, that behavior can actually work against you. Carl Richards of The Behavior Gap called it “lucky fool syndrome.”

“What sets off the lucky fool syndrome? Psychologists call it the self-attribution bias. It means we’re inclined to take all the credit for things going well, but we have no problem blaming outside forces when things go wrong. On top of our bias, we have a very difficult time separating skill from luck. As a result, we’re susceptible to the lucky fool syndrome and the problems that come with it.”

Investing is a perfect example. Richards cites a 2013 study, Self-Attribution Bias in Consumer Financial Decision-Making. In it, researchers studied the impact that investment returns had on how people perceived their own skills. When returns were good, subjects credited their awesome investing skills. When the market sucked, as it sometimes does, investors blamed it on bad luck.

This sounds harmless enough. What’s wrong with a little innocent self-delusion? The problem is, it can lead to costly mistakes.

Take my own example of self-attribution bias. When I decided to try my hand at active trading, I had huge returns within the first few months. I convinced myself I had a natural talent for it. (Embarrassingly, I believe I referred to myself as an investing genius, only in my head, of course.) I deluded myself into thinking that somehow I was able to accurately calculate the future, even though the most skilled and experienced investors can’t time the market.

So I repeated the “skills” I thought I possessed that helped me get those returns. The result? I lost $400 — more than half of my earnings. I should have cashed out when I got lucky. Instead, I learned the hard way that discounting the role of luck can come at a cost.

There is another problem with self-attribution bias. It limits our empathy and understanding. We think that, because one method or formula for success worked for us, that must be the magic formula for everyone. We think we have all the answers, so we stop considering any other possible problems or solutions. And sometimes we actually offer terrible insight. This article I wrote a year ago is like the case in point:

“I’ve found that it usually helps, when asking for something, to remind people that you’re human. When arguing for a raise, I reminded my boss that my financial situation was suffering due to inflation…”

I cringe reading my own words. Readers totally called me out on this, and rightfully so. This is the exact opposite of what most experts agree you should do. But because it happened to work for me, I figured, without giving it much additional thought, that it would work for everyone. Sure, my own good diligence helped me nab that raise, but I think it’s a good example of how self-attribution bias can limit your understanding.

Maybe it’s a balancing act

None of this is to say that hard work isn’t absolutely necessary. With most things, if you want to succeed, it takes a great deal of effort. Take my mom’s savings story. Despite being poor, she did whatever she could, sacrificing quite a bit just to save a few bucks a week. That’s the hard work.

But she acknowledges a few things out of her control actually worked in her favor: interest rates, overtime availability, and a part-time job opening. She told me:

“Not everyone sees overtime as lucky. Everybody gets lucky breaks, but it depends on you seeing it as a lucky break.”

Maybe the key to success is taking advantage of both — seizing those lucky breaks by being willing to do the work when they happen. Maybe it’s about recognizing the opportunities and taking advantage of them in the right way. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to make it on our good fortune alone. In fact, without effort, any luck that does come your way could easily be squandered. For example, if you are an over-spender, you might blow through a windfall. But if you’ve been working hard to get control of your finances, you may be more inclined to use that windfall to reach your financial goals.

Luck alone probably won’t get us far. But it seems that recognizing it can work in our favor. It helps us take advantage of those auspicious opportunities and, plus, it gives us a better understanding of our skills and exactly how our hard work pays off. It seems to me that understanding this balance is a little more realistic anyway.

Do you attribute your success to hard work or good fortune? Have you seen self-attribution bias backfire before? Have you changed how you view working hard versus being lucky?

11 Lucrative Freelance Jobs That Are Still Growing

working-laptop-600x4251[1]Building wealth boils down to a pretty simple equation: Either spend less money, or earn more of it. We offer plenty of ways to tighten up your spending and keep more money in your pocket, but at some point, there are no cuts left to make.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent looking for work you can fit in during naps, or you’re hungry for a side job and the extra cash it can provide, it’s hard to beat the convenience — and, sometimes, the pay — of work-from-home freelance jobs. The good news is, there really are legitimate ways to make extra money online, if you have (or are willing to learn) the right skill set.

We looked at freelance marketplace Elance.com to find 11 business niches where demand for freelance services is on the rise.

Doodle Video Creation

Over the past few years, the concept of doodling — yes, that same aimless scribbling you did in high school history class — has grown in popularity, and more companies are beginning to employ it. The practice of doodling is being lauded as a way to better spark creativity, retain information, and to share complex concepts in an easily understood way.

“Infodoodling,” a term coined by Austin, Texas-based consultant and author Sunni Brown, helps companies tell their (probably boring) stories in a more interesting and engaging manner. And with researchers saying that doodle videos can be 800% more engaging, and can help people retain information 29% better than they could otherwise, you can expect this industry to see significant growth. Therefore, if you are creative with images and visual organization, you might consider offering this service.

To become a doodle video creator, you’d need to learn video animation skills. Successful freelance creators on sites like Elance and Odesk are fluent in skills such as Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Camtasia, Adobe Photoshop, jQuery, whiteboard animation, motion graphics, illustration and graphic design, Flash animation, and cartooning. In general, a doodle video that’s less than two minutes long can pay up to few hundred dollars, and it can take several hours or more to produce.

Scriptwriting

You might frown at anything involving writing, because you probably know plenty of writers out there who are looking for a paid gig. On Elance, however, the demand for scriptwriting services grew 43% over the last quarter, and there are now roughly 21,000 posted jobs in this category.

The demand for scriptwriters may continue to grow, and it has nothing to do with Hollywood. Here’s why: Companies are finding that video is more engaging than text, which means they are producing more video content for their websites, internal communications, social media, and advertisements. And for every video, they need a script – which is where scriptwriters come in.

To make yourself marketable, take a course or certificate program in scriptwriting or screenwriting. Familiarize yourself with the format by reading plays or popular scripts; reading how-to books and studying successful scriptwriters and their work will also help. Fundamentally, you will need to have a strong imagination, and be able to convey your ideas (or the business client’s strategy) in a clear, simple, and creative manner — sometimes, as in radio ads, using only dialogue and sound effects. Pay ranges from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars per script, depending on your experience and the complexity and length of the project.

Translation

As the Internet connects more people around the world every day, it’s a given that language translation skills will be in demand, since we don’t all share the same first language. So it’s not surprising to learn that translation services was one of the fastest-growing industries in 2013, with revenues now topping $3 billion.

Obviously, to offer translation services, you have to be fluent in a second language. But if you have a knack for languages, it could even be worth your time to learn one of the most sought-after languages, as the translation market will only keep growing as long as the Internet exists (or until Google Translate gets more sophisticated and nuanced).

Translators Café is a good place to find more information on industry trends and the language combinations that are most in demand. The site even analyzes supply and demand trends within the industry. Hourly rates average about $25.

Copywriting

Copywriting is another skill that’s growing in demand. On Elance, demand for freelancers with copywriting skills grew by 40% over the last quarter, rising up to 105,000 posted jobs.

What’s driving the growth in demand for copywriting services? As the economy grows, more businesses are expanding or starting up, especially online, and they constantly need new Web and ad copy to sell their products and services.

When it comes to copywriting, a solid portfolio is everything. If you have little or no experience writing Web or ad copy, take a class or two in the subject and develop some sample works you could use as a portfolio. Or, offer to take on some small jobs for free or at a steep discount — write all the descriptions for your cousin’s new Etsy shop, or compose copy for the flyers advertising your town’s annual fair. And remember, the key to good copywriting is to make it convincing and concise.

Sports Writing

Many consider writing about sports a dream job, and as such it’s a fairly competitive industry. But it’s also another fast-growing area of freelance writing. Demand for freelancers with sports writing skills grew 19% over the last quarter, a that trend could continue due to the ongoing shift from print to online-based sports content. This shift is driving many sports publications to cut their staff writers in favor of less costly freelancers.

If you want to be a sports writer, it’s helpful if you love — and have an in-depth knowledge of — a particular sport. Sports writers may get to cover the sport they’re most passionate about, but often they’re also required to cover high school games and other athletic events.

This is another industry where it’s essential to have some clips, or published works, to show prospective clients. To get started, offer to write for a local sports blog for free until you have a respectable amount of quality posts to show for it; the practice will make you a better, faster writer, too. You could also take a course in sports journalism to help you understand how the profession works and to develop contacts in the industry.

Voice Acting

Essentially, voice acting is the art of audio performance, such as recording voice-over narration or performing voices for animated characters in a wide array of works like feature films, corporate training videos, foreign language films, commercials, and so on.

Online video and audio content are bound to continue growing because they foster better audience engagement. This means the demand for voice talent should grow along with it. So if you’re good or creative with your voice, you might want to consider auditioning as a voice actor. If you’re interested, but you’re not sure about your voice, don’t worry: This sort of skill can be learned and honed.

Voices.com, a leading marketplace of vocal talent, says that voice actors have earned over $39 million from its platform alone, averaging about $250 per job. The company also said in its 2013 industry report that “the average fee per job has increased by 10% in the last two years.”

Transcription

Simply put, transcription is the conversion of speech to a written text document. The transcription market has seen impressive growth in recent years, and demand for freelancers with transcription skills rose 7% over the last quarter on Elance.

The opportunity in this industry has always been impressive, but the Internet only magnifies it. And if you’re fluent in other high-demand languages, there’s even more demand for your services. The rise of digital boardrooms, webinars, and video conferencing means the demand for transcriptionists should keep growing.

To be successful in this industry, set up a professional website, adding positive references as you get them, so interested organizations know you are a professional in the field. Hourly rates range between $12 and $17, but there are higher paying markets as well.

Product Descriptions

The almighty Google is the biggest reason for the growth in demand for product description writing services. You may already know that Google frequently changes its algorithm to reward websites that have good content. As reported by Wall Street Journal in 2011, online businesses that didn’t have what Google considers useful content lost significant traffic, which led to a decline in sales.

This, in turn, led more retail companies to stop using the standard product descriptions provided by manufacturers and to hire freelancers to create new, unique product descriptions. And the growing array of online products — and even the companies that sell them, like Wayfair, Woot, and Overstock.com — means that the demand for this service will likely keep growing.

Being a product description writer requires you to be a good researcher, with the ability to convert sometimes dry and technical specifications into something an average person will want to read.

Press Release Writing

This is another job being helped by the growing economy. When a company does something it wants people to know about — such as opening a new store location, launching a new product, or putting on an event — it sends out a press release in hopes that reporters will write a story about it.

The press release itself is often written like a news story — but with an insufferably positive spin — peppered with quotes from the CEO or other company spokespeople. A background in either journalism or marketing would give you a leg up on the competition, since writing a press release may require conducting interviews and more or less boils down to a narrative marketing pitch.

The demand for freelancers with press release writing skills grew 17% over the past quarter on Elance.

Social Game Development

According to a 2013 report from IBISWorld, social gaming was the hottest niche in 2013. The report said the social gaming niche saw explosive growth of over 180% between 2008 and 2013. And it will keep growing as long as social networks exist, which creates opportunities for game developers.

You’ll need to have or learn skills such as computer programming and game design to have a chance in this niche. But while these skills are in high demand, there are more options than ever when it comes to learning them as developer boot camps and online programming courses are available everywhere.

Information Technology Security Consulting

Recent high-profile data breaches at major companies like Home Depot and Target have helped spur demand for IT security services. IBISWorld ranked it as the fifth hottest business in 2013, estimating that the industry will see a 5-year compound annual growth rate of 10% as companies invest in more technology — and hire more IT professionals to keep those systems secure.

To become a freelance IT security consultant, you’ll need to possess a thorough knowledge of networks, databases, and computer viruses, and know how to evaluate computer systems for weaknesses. Certifications such as Microsoft (MCSE) and Cisco (CCIE) will also increase your chances of securing a gig. And as with any freelance or consulting role, a professional website will help establish your credibility and market your brand.