Sometimes amazing ideas are so simple they leap out at you. We spoke to Jack Anderson, founder of No Extra Source, who had an amazing idea and followed it through.
Jack, tell us about No Extra Source.
No Extra Source is a unique organisation which aims to provide opportunities for entry-level workers to gain useful, valuable work experience to help bolster their portfolios by offering them a platform to host written content on a topic of their choice. There are opportunities available across the organisation, including editors, business consultants and design consultants. It is also a modern online media outlet, where the two channels complement each other.
What sparked the amazing idea behind No Extra Source?
When looking for a placement job, I faced a lot of rejections from jobs because of my lack of experience in content writing. When I was advised to start my own personal blog, I found that employers latched on to this feat in interviews, and it became an attractive, employable feature on my applications. I had to set up my own website and designs, however, before I could simply post my written work.
I started No Extra Source – a digital media hub and education platform designed for entry-level workers to get valuable work experience in content writing. I am also a full-time student at the University of Leeds studying English Language and Linguistics.
How long have you been doing this, and how did you get started in this role?
I launched an early draft of the No Extra Source website in September 2021, after initially using the site to host my own private blog where I posted articles on self-growth to build my digital portfolio. The idea developed in my head after I experienced (first-hand) the difficulties of getting work experience and the adjacent importance of having work experience when trying to enter an industry – there weren't any companies solely committed to this cause, so I thought I’d create one and fill the gap.
Why did you want to give writers an online platform?
I realised that having work experience is so valuable after my own encounters with rejection - getting work experience is comically hard without work experience. I wanted to help others have a platform to explore their passions in their writing as it can be a really fun and creative thing to do.
What makes you passionate about home/remote working?
Remote working is very convenient, especially in a student house. If I have last minute plans to go out, I don’t have a strict time period to stick to which impedes on other aspects of my life, making balancing work and a social life easier. This does mean I have to be disciplined and keep to my own schedule which I build around this, which can be tricky of course. But the lack of commute and the overall flexibility in remote working are significant benefits.
What has been the biggest challenge your company has faced as a digital hub so far?
I think the biggest challenge so far has been trying to get the word out and build an audience as an early start-up. With this early stage comes a lack of following, status, and credibility that people look for in a company. This means that for a lot of people, regardless of how good the idea is and its intentions, they might not give the company page a second look if it doesn’t have over 100,000 followers. This will come with time though!
How does No Extra Source try and foster community as a remote/hybrid based company?
One important thing I’ve tried to foster is the combination of ‘professional identity’ and my ‘social identity’ – so often they’re separated and quite contrasting because there’s a certain way we think we should act in business, but I don’t think it should matter whether I act ‘corporate’ or as my normal self, especially when the end product is the same. That’s why the language used in all output on No Extra Source tries to tailor to a younger audience more, with a less formal vibe.
What does your workspace look like?
I work mainly from home at my bedroom desk in my university student house. As a student, my environment can often get cluttered and messy if I don’t keep on top of it – since working from home, I have made a concerted effort to maintain a higher level of tidiness and cleanliness. I think this helps with getting into a good working mindset. SPARK, a business start-up support company within the university, have also recently allocated me office space within the Nexus building on the university campus which is my alternate workspace. This is much more representative of the ‘real-life’ work space that one might expect an office job to take place in.
Do you have a work uniform/wardrobe?
There is no real dress code for the Nexus building, and I definitely don’t impose one on myself in the comfort of my own home! I do think, however, that looking the part can go a long way to ‘feeling the part.’ With this in mind, I try to look smart and clean when I am working – it's great for self-confidence, if nothing else!
How has your practice/workspace/job in general changed over time?
When I started this venture, I was working full-time as a marketing intern as part of a placement scheme between my second and third year of study. I have since left this job to focus on No Extra Source full-time before I begin my third year of study and juggle both of these tasks. From doing bits on the train to and from work, to staying up late working on the website, to where I can commit all my time and energy into the start-up today, there has been a lot of change. My work with SPARK and the addition of an occasional alternative work space has also changed my work dynamic significantly.
What’s your greatest remote working challenge?
Living in a student house with my best friends is often distracting – it’s far too easy to wander off to annoy one of my housemates as opposed to working – a feat I’m sure all students have experienced. Staying focused and motivated while not in an office space surrounded by people doing similar things can sometimes be difficult.
What’s your favourite aspect of being a home/remote worker?
The flexibility of being able to work whenever I want, shifting work around my social life, and the absence of a commute are all brilliant aspects of WFH. I try not to take these aspects for granted after not having had these perks whilst working a full-time job. The ability to roll over, pick up my laptop, and work under the comfort of my own duvet without leaving my bed is a privilege, especially if I’ve been out the night before!
What is your least favourite part of being a home/remote worker?
With no separation from work and the rest of life, the lines can sometimes get blurred as they blend into each other. For example, it can be hard to fully relax and enjoy myself on a break when I can see my workspace and laptop and have a racking sense of guilt that I should be working. On a similar note, working surrounded by my Xbox, TV, and other fun activities can be distracting while I’m trying to get things done.
What’s your top tip for effective remote working?
I find that I’m most productive when I don’t have my phone at hand. It is hard to separate ourselves from the joys of scrolling endlessly through social media or constantly checking our notifications to see if we’ve got that reply we’ve been waiting on, but these activities are productivity and focus killers. If I had to give a tip, it would be to allow yourself to reply to messages, have a quick check on social media, and then throw your phone out of reach and don’t pick it up again until you have completed the tasks you set yourself.
Another thing that I need to get better at is maintaining a tidy workspace all the time! I often will do a clean once a week, but within that week it turns from pristine to pigsty (as my mum would say). Having a tidy workspace can help to clear the clutter in your head too, and lead to more focused work getting done.
Is there a device/object/bit of furniture/piece of tech that improved your remote working station or practice?
I jazzed up my pretty basic desk with a stand and mouse for my laptop, and an IKEA lamp. These help functionally but also aesthetically. Having a posture strap while I’m working helps too, as I find my posture tends to be poor while I’m working.
What aspect of remote working in your role might people not know about or understand?
I think just about everyone has experienced some form of remote working during the COVID pandemic, so most people got to know the secret yet universal ‘Zoom outfit’ - wearing the top half of a suit, with shorts. As for my role specifically, the fact that I’m working in the environment of a student house might be weird to imagine, going straight from working to pre-drinking just a flight of stairs away.
Your remote working soundtrack: do you have a favourite playlist/podcast/radio station to keep you motivated, or is silence preferable to you?
I have to work with music on personally - I hate working in silence. I love and listen to quite a broad range of music. Currently artists like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Dave are getting me through the working day.
What’s your fondest memory and/or greatest achievement in your career so far?
I think my favourite memory was actually conceiving the idea of the business and coming up with the name. The moment the name came to me, it was like the floodgates opened and I had so many different ideas at once I had to pick up my laptop and just start typing - I was excited like a kid on Christmas.
Where do you see you and your business going in the future?
I don’t know exactly where me and the business will end up, but I’d love to see how far it could go. I’d love to be able to diversify the service and products to reach more people and provide more opportunities, so the sky is the limit! I don’t plan to give up anytime soon and will keep working to see the business reach its full potential.
Do you have any advice for people wishing to follow in your footsteps?
I’m not sure I’m the best model to take advice from as a currently broke student, but a mentality that’s helped me throughout the early stages of my career is that just about anything is possible if you believe you can do it, and pair that with the hard work needed to achieve it. It’s that belief that will help you through the hard work. My advice would also be to not buy a car and then write it off 3 months later, turns out this can be pretty damaging to your bank account – that golden nugget of advice is free.
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