IBS and the workplace

Today is World IBS Awareness Day 2023 . Therefore I am going to ‘awareness’ you all about IBS.

For those of you who don’t know what IBS is, I thought I’d ask chat GPT who actually gets it spot on:

“Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine, causing a range of symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and changes in bowel habits. However, there is no specific cause or cure for IBS, and the symptoms can vary widely from person to person. Therefore, treatment often focuses on managing symptoms through lifestyle changes, such as diet modification and stress reduction, as well as medications to alleviate specific symptoms.”

A few things to note:

There is is no cure

Everyone is different

…but what it doesn’t tell you is how much it can affect your life. Luckily, Wikipedia sums it up well:

“IBS can negatively affect quality of life and may result in missed school or work or reduced productivity at work. Disorders such as anxietymajor depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome are common among people with IBS”

Image courtesy of https://aboutibs.org/what-is-ibs/

I have suffered for around 20 years with IBS, it gradually got worse when I worked in London and got really bad leading up to my wedding (that was coincidentally 15 years today!). So I know that stress and worry can affect me, but I can also have a bad attack seemingly randomly. I’ve tried different diets and treatments which I won’t go into here as I’m happy to have, yesterday, got a letter saying I’m back up to the top to see an nhs dietician.

(As an aside, please don’t bombard me with ‘have you tried aloe vera juice’ (or similar MLM) messages… as this is not what this post is about!)

All of that is almost irrelevant as to why I’m sharing this. What I’d like to raise awareness of is how much this can affect me at both home and work. I moved back up to York from London after having my first child. That combined with finally admitting that I could no longer commute on the tube prompted the move. I had been so poorly every morning, I knew all the toilet stops on the Victoria & other lines and my journeys first thing were awful – I felt so sick, sweaty, hot & panicky. Luckily I had lovely workmates and bosses who let me come in a bit later and stay later if I had to (a bit of flexi working before it was ‘in’).

I have since, for the last 13 years, worked from home freelancing. I struggled on and off getting clients who didn’t mind me remote working. Until covid. Now people seem SO much more open to remote working. And this isn’t just a good thing for IBS – lots of people have reasons to WFH.

Annoyingly, I’ve had to turn down opportunities and maybe haven’t got as far in my career as I would otherwise have done, without having IBS.

I’m so jealous of people who can travel and commute without even thinking about it.

Or who can go out for a meal.

Just like that.

Without looking at menus.

Without looking for the loos before you’ve even got in the door.

Without taking and packing Imodium.

Without eating and being worried the whole way through a meal if you’re going to have to rush to the loo.

Or have pain.

Or wind.

Or all 3.

The latter of those happened to me on Saturday at the seaside after having some chips. So yes, it’s often at the most inconvenient times and with seemingly bland food.

A few things you may notice about ‘work’ me:

  • I don’t book in meetings early morning, as this is when I’m likely to be at my most poorly.
  • I don’t like travelling or commuting but can do it, especially if I can set off mid-morning onwards.
  • I generally avoid lunch meetings unless I know the menu will have food that will be ok (I’m also pescatarian to add to the mix – I’ve not eaten red meat or poltry for 30 years). I tend to eat very plain if I do have to eat. Sandwiches and jacket potatoes for instance.
  • This isn’t me being awkward or lazy, it’s just me trying my hardest not to be or feeling really poorly or embarrassed when I’m out or at inconvenient times. Plus you want me at my best, not worst.

Having IBS is literally shit. I have learned to live with it but sometimes it catches up with me. I know it’s not life threatening and I realise people have much harder things to deal with, but it’s something I don’t think a lot of people understand so hopefully by reading this you have learned something. And won’t invite me to breakfast meetings!

For more information on IBS take a look at The IBS Network

Lucy is a freelance designer based in York

Image courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/juulpuppy. I think! I’m a big Mr Man / Little Miss fan so thought it was an appropriate image.

#WorldIBSDay2023 #WorkingWithIBS #IBS #FODMAP #IrritableBowelSyndrome

“Could you please do a test bit of work for free before we hire you?” – my thoughts on this scenario as a freelancer

(disclosure – may contain swears – we are adults so I hope you don’t mind!).

Often in design, and I realise in other areas of the media especially, such as copywriting, potential clients ask freelancers to do test pieces of work for free. It could be the front page of a brochure, some social media graphics or a blog piece if you’re a writer.  

Here is a design I pitched for a potential client who were kind enough to feed back on my work – unfortunately I chose an image they’d used a lot already so bad luck on my behalf, but perhaps they could have sent across some images to use so all freelancers were on a level playing field rather us than playing a guessing game? Luckily it didn’t take long, so there wasn’t much time left and as they got back to me I was pleased, even if the feedback wasn’t what I wanted!

Do we, as freelancers mind doing this?

It depends on a few things, but generally no.

If there is a lot to be gained from the work – ie several days work / month or weeks / year then it could be worth the investment. For a day or 2 or if you aren’t clear on how much work you would get out of it, it rarely is.

Why do people want us, as freelancers, to do a test pieces for free?

I honestly don’t know! I would never dream of asking my plumber, electrician, mechanic, solicitor etc to do a test piece then hire them. I always pay them, and if I don’t like their work, I hire someone else – simple! I suspect, it’s often so they can compare styles of work and sometimes, people do actually just want some work for free, and have no intention of hiring you for the work at all. It can be an exercise they have to go through – for example, show they’ve got quotes and work from 3 different individuals / companies, but always intended to hire their usual person.

Can you imagine this scenario:

“Hey plumber, I have a leaky tap and loo – if you can just mend those for me for free, then I’ll hire you for future work and it’s ok, in return I’ll tell all my friends about you”.

What do you think they’d say to me – I suspect there would be some well chosen 4 letter words headed my way!

I have done free pieces of work for companies and not even had an email back to thank me for my time! Now this is just plain rude!

Time is as precious as money and should be treated that way.

So now I do not do work for free, or do test pieces of work unless they’re paid for. I also don’t do work in exchange for ‘part of the business’ (another bug bearer of mine) or ‘exposure’.

Sod off – if you really believe in your business put your money where your mouth is!

If you would like to hire me for design work please contact me at lucy@transparentdesign.co.uk and take a look at my portfolio www.lucyrigley.co.uk

Top tips when contacting freelance web designers for a web design quote

Are you looking for a new website and wanting some quotes from freelance web designers? Lucy, our freelance senior designer has a few tips which she hopes you’ll find useful.

Do a little bit of research beforehand – I love it when someone comes to me and says ‘I want a website with (list of pages they want), something along the lines of (a similar sized website)’. This will mean looking at what your competitors, or similar businesses offer – yes I’m asking you to Google!

Have a budget in mind – I know it’s hard but there is a huge difference between what you can get for £500 and £5000. I always say it’s a bit like a house – think of the rooms as the content and the more rooms, the more content / pages there are. I can always work to a budget and can tell you what you’d get for it, and also tell you if your budget is more than what I’d normally charge. I like to be honest.

Mention where you found out about the designer – was it through LinkedIn? A recommendation? Google? This is so useful for us – we need to know how people find our websites and work and if our SEO is working.

It’s nice to know why you’ve contacted us – what drew you to getting a quote from us – was it a particular piece of work, a personal recommendation or location? I often get people contacting me close to York as I live in York and people want an initial meeting face to face, or like to think they’re keeping their money locally.

Have a think about your content – you may want some professional photography, or maybe you’re on a budget so stock images will be fine, you will need some copy – images will be fine. You will need some words – and a copywriter who specialises in SEO and websites could be worth their weight in gold. However, SEO friendly copy isn’t as necessary if your website is somewhere you point people to, rather than want people to find.

If you already have a website think about what you want to change. What isn’t working well and what is working well? What is missing or which sections don’t you use? For example maybe you have a blog but never update it or maybe you want a social media feed. Is the lack of a CMS annoying you and you want to update the site yourself?

The more information we get as freelancers, the easier it is to quote! This list isn’t exhaustive – I will definitely want more information for you, but it makes my life so much easier if you’ve done a bit of research and work beforehand and I’m also not bombarding you with lots of questions which can sometimes be a big daunting!

Don’t ghost us! We get that you don’t always choose us for your new website – that is fine but a quick email to say ‘thanks for your time but we’ve decided to go with someone else’ really helps. Often quotes take a few hours so it’s just nice to awknowledge that!

If you’d like to know more about how I can help you with your website needs please get in touch at lucy@transparentdesign.co.uk. Please also take a look at Lucy’s freelance design portfolio website at lucyrigley.co.uk and her linked in linkedin.com/in/lucyharding.

Stepping out of my comfort zone – designing interactive pdfs

Recently, I was asked by a London PR firm if I could design and create interactive pdfs for a pharmaceutical client of theirs. I obviously am used to creating pdfs but when it comes to interactive ones, I hadn’t really got a clue! I thought about it for all of about 5 second and said yes I could do it – I knew I’d be able to for a few reasons:

Mike (a full stack developer) can build anything from websites and apps to interactive games and bespoke SaaS systems – I had good backup if I got stuck – he would find interactive pdfs a doddle.

I know Adobe products really well – I’ve been using PhotoShop for over a decade – I find them easy to use and don’t take me too long to learn (I learned InDesign in a similar way a few years ago).

It was a well paid job – even if it took longer to do than I anticipated it still didn’t matter.

I like a challenge.

The design of the interactive pdfs was simple – I had been presented with the content in a non-designed interactive way – this was brilliant as quite often the client doesn’t quite know what they needed. It did mean I didn’t have to do the UI for once but it meant the tight deadline would get met. I listened to the brief and created simple designs for each type of page for the interactive pdf – for example menu and content pages. As predicted, Mike did need to help me a bit with the interactivity and there were a few hiccups along the way – for instance a couple of things the client wanted just wasn’t possible (or may have been if we’d had another week to figure it out!). I met the tight deadline and I was pleased I had another thing to add to ‘design products I can create’.

Unfortunately, the pharamaceutical interactive pdf is under strict NDA so I cannot show the work, but if you are looking for a uk based freelance designer to create some interactive pdfs, you know who to ask!




What does Ólafur Arnalds look like?

Office radio has consisted of tracks by Ólafur Arnalds for a long time now. Today it occurred to me “what sort of videos would go with this type of sound?”

…luckily YouTube has been invented already and I could go and find out…

Animation! of course. Although reasonably melancholy and somewhat dark, the animation is beautifully under-stated, everything at the minimum, everything has to justify its place. Just like music and animation should work together. Great work by Lam Ho Tak at Paperbox creations Hong Kong.

Who are Transparent Design?

Transparent Design are a York based Web Desgn and Development agency based just outside of York. We are Digital Designer Lucy and Digital Developer Mike and we work with other lovely people such as copyrighters to create websites and other digitial media such as apps, touchscreens, print work, games, animations and more.
Because we are small, we are cheaper than a lot of other agencies but with the same experience as we have fewer overheads. We both graduated with first class degrees in Interactive Design in 2000 and have worked ever since. Lucy loves Photoshop and Mike loves creating easy to use things that last.

We work with all sorts of people – from sole traders who want a helping hand to get a logo, website and business cards, to huge multinationals who want an interactive touchscreen or app for their latest product.