Interwebs archive

Anything and everything vaguely internet related. Blogging, industry, social media: if you can find it online, I've talked about it in here.

Making money with ‘comping’, win a weekend trip to Paris

Off the back of yesterday’s post about earning passive income (which in itself was a kick up the bum, and I feel a little more inclined to get some of my stuff done) I’ve been thinking about other ways to earn “on the side” and one that I know is successful for a few of my friends is “comping” — that is, entering competitions regularly as a deliberate way of earning cash and prizes.

The huge rise in social media use has seen comping explode as a viable method of earning a side income over the past couple of years, as entering is often as easy as clicking ‘Share’ or ‘RTing’ to your followers. The potential for winning in some of these competitions can be huge, with prizes ranging from clothes and food hampers to cash prizes and even holidays, which is not bad for a quick ‘share’.

Take for instance leisure and hospitality site Leisurejobs: currently running a competition for a weekend trip to Paris and a Michelin star meal (flights and hotel included) and entry is as simple as retweeting a pre-populated tweet with the hashtag #perfectparis2015, or sharing the hastagged post via facebook or linkedin. You don’t have to put any effort into this one!

weekend in paris

I’ve never won anything myself (mostly because I’m too lazy to enter) but one of my aforementioned comping friends had these top tips to share:

  1. Enter Facebook competitions run by small to medium-sized businesses as they’re easier to win (there’s less competition from other entrants because the business usually has less fans)
  2. If you’re a blogger, and use an affiliate marketing network (e.g. Affiliate Window) to monetise your blog, keep a look out for competitions run by the network or the individual brands. People rarely enter them so there’s good odds.
  3. Go the extra mile – don’t just write 200 words and put a picture in. Spend a little extra really putting in some effort into your entry and you’ll stand out. Check other entrants out too (e.g. in comments section or by viewing the hashtag) and try and out do the other participants!

In addition to that, it’s worth considering:

  • Joining a forum for compers to get access to new competitions before they hit social media
  • Set up a dedicated email address for your entries, so that you’re not spammed to death between competitions
  • Always check the competition close date so you’re not wasting effort on something that’s done and dusted

Worst case scenario, you don’t win. But they say nothing ventured, nothing gained. I might even enter the Paris one myself…

Earning ‘passive’ income

I talk about passive income every now and again on my blog, so I thought I’d talk about what it means to me.

What is passive income?

Passive income is money I ‘earn’ without the need to specifically do anything to get it. That is, income that just drops straight into my bank or PayPal account without having to intervene or work or any other unpleasant and/or boring activity.

Why do you need passive income?

As I’m now (mostly) self-employed again, I don’t have the stability of a guaranteed monthly salary to depend on. Passive income is important to me because it allows me to build an emergency pot — while I’m busy doing actual, billable work — to fall back on should I be unable to work for any reason, e.g. kids, health (physical or mental); it also means that if an unexpected bill or the like comes in I have something to draw from. Eventually when this ‘pot’ is big enough it will be used to pay a lump sum off my mortgage as part of my goal to be mortgage free in five years. At the moment, all passive income goes straight into this ‘pot’ (it’s an ISA, not a literal pot).

How do you earn passive income?

I have two sources of passive income at the moment:

  1. Income from my premium mail form sales
  2. Income from adsense advertising

(I earn dribs and drabs from affiliate marketing which many see as passive income too, but more often than not the effort required to get to this point far outweighs the pennies I get back.)

Of these two sources, advertising is obviously the easiest. I dropped the provided code from Google into my blog sidebar, mail form site, WAHMweb etc and watch the pennies trickle in. Making money from my mail form is rather different; although I generally don’t do anything month to month to drive those sales, obviously I had to write the form in the first place. I also occasionally have to drum up sales, which I’m not particularly great at (because of laziness, not necessarily lack of skill). The required initial effort and occasional shameless plug are not “passive” but in terms of overall work I don’t do a significant amount month on month.

How much do you get?

It’s taken me a year to earn £60.10 through adsense so it’s hardly lucrative, but £60 is better than nothing.


The mail form makes the most money out of the two (although still not making me rich): I’ve had 12 completed sales since it launched in February, totalling £228. After subtracting fees (£11.63) and ‘software’ costs (£107.32) there’s a total ‘profit’ of £109.05.

Clearly I’m not going to be retiring off the back of this passive income any time soon, but it’s income I otherwise wouldn’t get.

Are you going to do more?

My grand plan is to open up a member’s only section on my mail form site, which will give users more customisation options and the ability to generate custom forms and add more/better functionality. This requires effort and energy and at the minute I’m struggling to drum up either, because I’m about as low as the time I cried into my wine.

I also have a couple of other content-focused sites which I may or may not choose to work on over the course of the next year which should bring up my income from advertising.

In an ideal world, by the end of 2015 I’d like to be making at least £100 per month in passive income so that I can increase my mortgage overpayment by that amount. I have a lot of work to do to get there…

Rachael Hill: Britain’s Best Allotment

After blogging at the beginning of the month about my belief in autonomous parenting and independent play, a big part of which involves chucking the kids in the garden and letting them get on with it…

…I was really excited to read about the recent winner of ‘Britain’s Best Allotment Competition‘. (The competition ran from Feb until July 2015. Created by HIPPO, national waste management experts and inventor of the HIPPOBAG, to generate greater awareness of the many benefits of owning an allotment.)

Anyway, the winner was a lady called Rachael Hill, who keeps the allotment with her family. Geoff (dad) does the manual labour, and then 3 of Rachael’s children help out every day as well as having their own raised beds, which has encouraged them to play independently and learn by themselves, and given them responsibility for their own little patch (and produce!)

Rachael's boys on the allotment
Rachael’s boys on the allotment

But a family allotment is not what fascinated me about this story: it’s the fact that Rachael is an Ofsted registered childminder, and does a lot of her minding ON the allotment. This is awesome to me for two reasons:

1) Because I occasionally make an effort to grow veg etc — although the chaos of the past couple of years has seen my raised beds turned over to weeds and brambles! — I know how much hard work is involved in keeping just a small amount of land weed-free, watered and tidy. To do this with an entire allotment whilst juggling work and family etc is impressive.

2) Because despite encouraging my kids to get in the garden and get dirty, they mostly kill more plants than they grow. To be able to turn that around and grow your allotment to prize-winning status with the “help” of both your own kids and mindees is doubly impressive.

My two in their native habitat: Oliver, 16 months "helping" and Isabel this weekend surveying her jungle
My two in their native habitat: Oliver, 16 months “helping” and Isabel this weekend surveying her jungle

Rachael won £1000 of gardening vouchers and a HIPPO clear-up for the whole allotment site. The members of the allotment committee are working to tidy up an area with a high level of fly tipping on the site so that they can turn it into a community area for all members to enjoy, and a much safer environment for children.

I have to admit reading about Rachael’s win has inspired me to get off my bum and finally do something about my back garden, but it’s unlikely I’ll be winning any prizes any time soon…

How I got 20,000 hits a day (and lost them all again)

Once upon a time, in a period best described as responsibility-free and with plenty of disposable income (AKA before I had children), I had a “reasonably” popular blog. Yes, this one. As crazy as it sounds to those of you who’re new readers (i.e. started reading within the past few years), it’s true, and you only have to look at the triple-figure comments on some of my old posts to get an inkling of what that meant. This was in a time where Twitter and Facebook were in their infancy, not capable of making a post viral worldwide in the blink of an eye like today, but niche interest posts could pull in 20,000 or more unique hits through StumbleUpon, Digg and the like.

So how did I achieve 20,000 unique hits in one day?

I blogged regularly

I would often blog daily (without having to set myself daft challenges) and sometimes even more than once a day. Not just short pieces either, some of my older entries were thousands of words long. Frequent updates meant people regularly came back to read new posts because they knew I would have updated.

What went wrong: after having Isabel, when time at the keyboard was in short supply, I favoured quick bursts of social media posts over my blog. People stopped checking for new posts, Google’s bot popped in less regularly, and hits slowly dropped.

I was active on StumbleUpon

stumbleupon_logoI would easily spend hours several times a week clicking through page after page on StumbleUpon, leaving thumbs-ups and reviews. Because of this I gained authority and a small following, which meant that when I had something I knew would pique interest to share from my own blog I could easily have it distributed to hundreds of people very quickly. Because StumbleUpon works by finding pages based on user-submitted interests, it was almost guaranteed that the content you submit would end up in front of the audience it was aimed at. Targeted content meant happier visitors.


What went wrong: I stopped using StumbleUpon (again, time was the issue) which meant I lost my following, and this meant that there was no ‘power’ behind my shares when I tried to boost my own content.

I read (and commented on) a lot of blogs

Commenting was the number one way to get a blogger’s attention, and there was a big “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” attitude to commenting. Generally if you left a comment on a blog, that blogger would make an effort to comment back on one of your posts. That’s not to say it was perfect, and when I was receiving 50-100 comments on a post returning all comments was virtually impossible, but you could expect around a 50% return rate for your efforts.

What went wrong: although I’ve never stopped reading blogs, I simply don’t prioritise time for commenting any more. That, combined with a general decrease in blog-commenting as a method of communicating, meant that I wasn’t getting the same click-through from potential new eyes and other bloggers. Hence including commenting in Septemblog

I used multiple online forums

I was active in multiple niches all relevant to the topics I would cover on my blog (I have never, and will never stick to just one topic) which meant that no matter what I posted, I could potentially draw eyes from forums on to my posts with a bit of shameless promo. Of course this privilege came at a cost, having built up a reputation on the boards in question: nobody would have clicked my links if I’d joined, posted twice and then spammed the crap out of the forum with links to my website.


What went wrong: as the growth of Facebook and its groups increased, a lot of forums stopped being relevant or necessary leading to their closure. Although I use several that remain, I don’t do so as actively as I used to and rarely publish something I feel worth sharing on those I do use.

I provided something of use

Because I had free time, and a genuine interest in furthering my knowledge, I invested time in learning new code and creating useful tools and scripts for other bloggers and webmasters. This meant that not only did people visit my blog to find these tools and scripts, but it earned me a reputation for knowing my stuff which enabled me to release trusted tutorials to teach others how to do the same thing, which in turn also got shared and so on and so forth. I have been approached at web conferences by people who used my stuff to get started 10 years ago, and that is incredibly fulfilling.

What went wrong: the Internet and website-creation as a hobby grew and changed, rendering a lot of my early scripts redundant. My primary blog audience also changed, and those that do still read don’t know or care what my scripts do, let alone want to use and share them. I haven’t bothered to invest time in my scripts to increase their relevancy and so their usefulness — and as such the amount of traffic I get for them — decreases day by day.

I wasn’t afraid to have an opinion

jem-turner-logoI’ve always been a gobby know-it-all cow and once upon a time that reflected quite clearly in my blog. My tagline for years — “Ultimately better than you” — which now is, in part, the strapline for my business was a tongue-in-cheek reference to it. I talked about anything and everything that took my fancy, courting controversy and even attracting the odd hate letter and death threat. People love to disagree, and in particular people love to write reaaally long comments telling you exactly how much they disagree.

What went wrong: after Isabel I didn’t really have time to deal with the throwback from my more controversial pieces, and after Oliver I had to focus on my professional presence online which meant toning down the more er… outrageous opinion pieces. I still have opinions of course, I just keep them to myself unless otherwise asked!

Nowadays 20,000 hits in one day should be easier to achieve: you have a greater number of people online, a much bigger pool of bloggers to collaborate and communciate with, and a huuuuuuge array of social networking sites to create a following and gain authority on. What’s stopping you?

“Septemblog”: Day 1 (Attempt 1)

I recently mentioned that I needed to hurry up if I was going to squeeze in the “blog every day” challenge, just in case I mess up and need to start afresh. As it’s now September, this is one of only four months I have left to try this, so here I am. Project Septemblog: aka blog every day in September. Catchy name, I know.

(Seriously. FOUR MONTHS til I turn thirty!)

I hadn’t really thought about setting any rules for the challenge, which would give me the flexibility to ‘cheat’ and post a picture or something if I run out of words, but I don’t know whether that’s just too easy. I mean, I could schedule a post a day with a picture or a motivational quote or similar right now and have nothing to worry about. I can’t help but feel that defeats the point though. So here’s some rules I’m going to try and abide by:

  • Each post must contain at least 150 words
  • Posts shouldn’t be scheduled more than 3 days in advance
  • No more than 5 list posts over the month

As well as blogging every day — because why keep things simple and easy for myself? — I think that to truly involve myself in the spirit of blogging and the blogging community again, I will also:

  • Comment on 5 blog posts per day
  • Retweet or share one other blogger’s post per day
  • Follow on bloglovin, facebook, twitter or instagram one new blogger per day

It’d be awesome if I had some moral support in this, so if you want to take part in Septemblog (you don’t have to call it that ;)) please just join in, and drop me a note in the comments or via email with your blog URL and I’ll do a little round-up of links later on. Alternatively you can show your support by sending me blog post ideas, nagging me to post via twitter or by letting me know which of my daily posts you enjoy / which you find a bit “meh”.


On blogging, and how I’m probably doing it wrong

As we rapidly approach the 13th anniversary of me owning and my 15th year of blogging, I can’t help but think about how blogging (both my own, and on a wider scale) has changed over the years.

15 years ago it wasn’t uncommon for people to write blog posts thousands of words long. Blogs were in effect journals, diaries, a real look into people’s lives. And people read those entries, and replied: tons of comments per entry.

old blog 2005
My blog, as captured by the way back machine, Dec 2005

Slowly, slowly that changed. Blogs became less about the personal and more a collection of quick thoughts, pics, memes, links, quotes – truly the “web log” – and this in turn became tumblr, which is a vast and scary beast I’ve never been able to get to grips with.

Circa April 2006; shame the WBM didn't capture the header image
Circa April 2006; shame the WBM didn’t capture the header image

Those who didn’t adopt tumblr have seen the blogging landscape change in other ways. From paragraph upon paragraph of text (some of us still take this approach, cough cough) to lists and clickbait titles; sparse photography — in part because of bandwidth issues and slow connections — to blogs that feature more pictures in one entry than I feature in a year; “vlogging” seems to have hit a new high; beauty and “lifestyle” (what even is this?) bloggers dominate blog link lists. Comments became “likes”, “shares”, “thumbs up” – a lot less effort and easier to do en masse.

August 2006 (one of my favourite old layouts)
August 2006 (one of my favourite old layouts)

I have always defended my “blogging for myself” position and remained firmly stuck in my ways but it’s no secret that my once vast audience and “e-fame” buggered off ooooh… about 5 years ago when I stopped blogging about interesting things and started blogging about children. I miss the days of variety, controversy, geeking-outtery (I think I just made that word up) and not just blogging about myself and my mental health. I want to start taking more pictures, talking more about the things I like and the places I go, not just how heavy I lifted or how much cake I ate this week.

Layout before this one, 2010
Layout before this one, 2010

Of course… I say this, but it’s likely nothing will change long term: I’ll probably be a bit more enthusiastic with photos for a week or two, wax lyrical about something that sounds vaguely lifestyle-y, but the reality is I’ll always be that boring blogger with the 800 word blog posts and 1 photo every 6 months.

I think I’m ok with that.

Mail Form Updates

I officially released the premium version of my PHP mail form last night. Partly because it’s been on the cards for a while, and partly because I wanted to get started on my plan to be mortgage free in five years. I can’t hang about if I need to be paying in £1,633.09 per month.

If you’re using the free version and want a bit more from it, you should definitely check out the features of the premium version :)

Next step is to release access to the members area which will include a drag and drop form generator and priority support. If you’re interested in getting access to these features, subscribe and you’ll get an e-mail when it’s released.

HostPapa? More like HostCrapper*

hostpapa-logo* sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Yesterday I opened my work inbox first thing to a panicked email from a client (Sutton Community Farm) labelled “URGENT” – their website had gone down (again) with a Resource Limit Reached error. I quickly shot off a reply to let them know that this was usually caused by hitting a resource limit (e.g. server CPU usage) imposed by their host — HostPapa — and then I began investigating.

It only took a few moments to narrow it down to a massive stream of traffic to /wp-login.php which clearly indicated an attempted brute force attack on the WordPress login system. Common, but annoying. Coincidentally at the same time I noticed my own site (this one) was being hit by a similar attack though with less force – enough to slow the site down but not enough to push it beyond allowed resource usage levels like my client.

I e-mailed the client to let them know the cause of their issues so that they could update their support ticket with HostPapa, and a short time later emailed my host (Clook Internet) to notify them of the issue I was having.

Within 4 minutes Clook had not only dealt with my issue but had responded to my support ticket to let me know. Problem solved, top notch service as always.

HostPapa on the other hand, despite having been told exactly what the issue was, took hours to reply before finally suggesting:

Enable Gzip compression form cPanel:
login to Cpanel and then go to Software/Services.Click “Optimize Website”. For the best results,select “Compress the specified MIME types”, ascompressing all of your content can sometimescause problems in your hosting configuration. Makesure all MIME types on your website are compressedto get the most benefits out of the compression

Seriously! GZIP compression, while nifty for optimising page load times by serving compressed versions of files to your browser, is not going to mitigate a massive brute force attack.

I provided my client with an excerpt of the visitor logs so that they could show HostPapa exactly what was going on (because at this point I assumed HostPapa were too incompetent to do this themselves) and set about trying to find a way to attempt to block the traffic myself with the limited tools available through the basic HostPapa shared hosting cpanel. This was not only necessary but urgent – Sutton Farm’s veg box system hinges upon an export generated by the website on a Monday which they could not get to while the website was down.

By early afternoon I was able to curb the effects of the massive traffic load using the deny all directive to throw up an error 403 for all IPs except for my own:

<Files ~ "^wp-login.php">
Order deny,allow
Deny from all
Allow from 82.##.##.##

Satisfy All
ErrorDocument 403 "Not acceptable"

which allowed me to download the export and get the farm the data they needed to process their customer’s orders for the week.

At 16:53 yesterday, a full working day since the issue was initially noticed, the wp-login.php page was still being absolutely pelted by malicious traffic attempting to brute force a login to WordPress, and HostPapa had still made absolutely no attempt to help sort the issue which not only affected the uptime and stability of Sutton Farm’s site (potentially causing them to lose business) but, as is the very nature of shared hosting, will have affected other users on the server their site is on.

HostPapa finally responded again late last night (far too late to actually achieve anything) pointing out that the site was now back up but we’d probably want to install a WordPress security plugin. Oh, and they suggested optimising the site again.

HostPapa’s response to my client’s urgent enquiry was absolutely terrible. Not only did they take far too long to respond (ironic, given the tagline on their site Real help – from real people – is here when you need it) to a business critical issue, but had absolutely no solutions to the actual problem even when they were directly informed of the issue and provided with proof of what was happening.

I’ll be migrating my client to an alternative hosting provider this week and in no uncertain terms recommend against using HostPapa’s web hosting services.

My Internet History

I’ve been trawling the Way Back Machine lately for links & images for my recently re-added geek t-shirts collection page (work in progress), and happened upon a link to a page I used to have: “My Internet History”. I don’t have this page any more, it was one of the things I dropped when I tried to make my site more “professional” (ha) but as my audience now and my audience 6 years ago are fairly different I thought it’d make an interesting blog post & give a little insight into where “this” all began. Here goes (written in 2008)…

I first started venturing online in 1999 when my Mum showed me ICQ and said that I could use it to talk to my Grandad. I’d hold conversations for with him and with Mum’s friends for hours, simply because I didn’t understand the scope of this great network of pages that we call the Internet. ICQ was the beginning and the end, as far as I knew.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that there was much more to the Internet than the flowery chat client, and began exploring the likes of Neopets. I had a Jubjub, and a small shop, moved on to run a successful guild, co-own another and then staff at one of the largest in Neopia. I could waste hours on there, without a care for my exams that were approaching. It was on Neopets I first got introduced to HTML, and that’s where this all began.

A simple sign-up at Geocities found me the space I was looking for, and I began creating pages using my limited HTML knowledge and Geocities’ pagebuilder. I created a successful poetry site for teens and kids to read and submit poetry; the site is still associated with me since my move to hosting and a domain of my very own (Google took about 3 years to figure out I don’t offer poetry anymore.)

It took me several months to get any content up on to my shiny new website, and even longer to learn HTML. I kept at it, snatching up any opportunity to practise and hanging on to every piece of good code I ever wrote. It took me over a year to even begin to grasp the basics of CSS (because there weren’t as many tutorial sites back then) and another before I knew the rest. I grabbed standards with both hands in 2003, and have been researching into accessibility and usability since.

In 2004 I started looking at this ‘thing’ called PHP — I started using a popular skinning script and even installed a toplist ‘program’ (which, incidentally, was complete crap and led to the defacement of my domain and deletion of hundreds of files). I started dabbling with Content Management Systems such as WordPress and in 2004 wrote my very first script. That script was a massive failure but eventually became what you know as BellaBook today.

2005 was a big year for me — I took several tumbles, coding-wise, but managed to pick myself up and in August 2005 wrote my own weblog with integrated article commenting management system. Although the backend went through many changes over a few years, it was eventually retired when my website outgrew the scope of the script. I have also developed CMS for a handful of my other websites and developed Intranet ‘packages’ for Telford College of Arts and Technology as part of work experience and my first job.

Besides jemjabella, I own and run several separate sites — tutorialtastic being a key point of concentration for me. I took over the running of the quilting bee in May 2006 after having provided programming and technical support for over a year. I maintain the pages, deal with the copious amounts of e-mail as well as processing new members. When I’m not working on my own sites, this is where my time goes.

BellaBook is still going, and used on millions of websites worldwide. Tutorialtastic went on to become Girls Who Geek. I still have the quilting bee although my role in the site is purely to keep the forum up to date at the minute. My time ‘goes’ on much more than the Internet and my websites now though, but that’s what having kids does for ya!


Of course it’s a brilliant idea to decide to revive your neglected blog by taking part in National Blog Posting Month despite having absolutely craploads of work to do, 2 personal projects to launch, your portfolio site to do-over and countless other things including cleaning the manky house and getting the garden prepped for winter (said nobody ever).

And yet here I am….

Given past experience I know for a fact I’ll probably run out of blog post ideas by about week two and start spamming my blog with cat pictures, so if you’ve any burning desire to see me write about a specific topic or possibly a follow-up to any previous posts please feel free to make requests.

Does the Taxman know about your Blog?

The rise of the professional blogger and those who monetise their personal blogs has crept up slowly and now, everyone’s doing it. For some people it’s a genuine source of income, for some it’s their business and others simply do it for a bit of extra cash. In every instance you earn tangible money from your blog – you need to be in discussion with the HMRC. In fact, even if you’re only thinking about earning money from your blog you should consider registering with them too.

Earning money from blogging takes you into the realm of self-employment and tax. The HMRC offer NO minimum limit on the amount you have to declare as extra income. This means as soon as the cash received from your blog exceeds the costs of running it then you need to make a declaration to the HMRC. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

Many self-employed mums and dads run blogs as a side line and this income should be recorded too. If you’re not self-employed and have an employer but run a profit-making blog then you can simply ring the HMRC and they’ll adjust your tax code to ensure you’re paying the right amount of tax. This rule applies if you pay tax through PAYE and your earnings don’t exceed £2,500. Once you reach that milestone you’ll have to register for Self-Assessment and your blog income will also need to be declared if you’re a tax credits claimant, provided they exceed £300.

Tax Matters

Everybody in the UK is entitled to a ‘tax free’ personal allowance from their earnings which is currently £9,440 for 2013 for everyone aged 75 or younger. If your profits and any other taxable income fall below this threshold then you wouldn’t need to pay tax but you still must declare your earnings and profit.

Blogging for Business or Pleasure?

The tax regulations differ slightly dependent on the purpose of your blog. If you’re a WAHM who blogs as part of their business then it is slightly different than if you started blogging for something to do as a past time and it became slowly more popular and you decided to monetize.

If your blog is simply a hobby then you will be able to offset the running expenses (shown in more depth below) against the income. However, you are not able to carry any losses you make forward to offset against other income.

Blogs that are run as a business allow losses to be carried forward or used on the self-assessment form to offset other income. You do need to convince the HMRC that your blog is an effective business and not simply a hobby that costs too much if you consistently make loss upon loss.

If your blog is your business and you have no other income you must register as self-employed within three months of starting up.

Blogging Income

There are several ways work at home mums and dads may make money from their blogs including:

  • Selling advertising space on a monthly fee basis
  • Utilising Google Adwords
  • Cash payments for writing reviews or other blog posts
  • Writing sponsored posts to include links to the buyer’s client website
  • Affiliate sales
  • Certain payments in kind
  • Any money received to compensate for travel expenses to events

Certain things which are not taxable include any goody bags you may receive at a conference as this is considered a gift and also being bought lunch by a company you’re working with is non-taxable as long as you aren’t doing anything specifically in return for that lunch.

Review products are an issue of contention. As a rule if you plan to use the item in your own home with your family personally than you shouldn’t need to declare it however if you plan to sell the item then you should be paying tax on it.

Blogging Expenditure

There are some expenses that you can offset against any income you make as a blogger. These include:

  • Your web hosting fees
  • Your domain registration
  • Any marketing costs you incur including business cards, paying for advertising elsewhere and any software you may use for marketing
  • Attending conferences and events in the name of blog promotion
  • A calculated percentage of your broadband costs which you need to work out to separate business from private use
  • Assets necessary to maintain your blog such as laptops, hard drives and even printer ink – this point is only relevant if you are classed as a business and you will need to discuss these types of expenditure with an expert as they are treated differently to regular expenses.

It could be that you’ve only been blogging a short time and have received a few small opportunities so you don’t think it matters about declaring it. It does. Every £1 needs to be accounted for and the HMRC are aware of the growing blogging network and want to ensure everything is being carried out above board.

Your employer doesn’t need to know if you don’t want them to but you do need to ensure you are paying tax on all that you earn, even if you have only monetised your blog recently.

Thoughts on #revolutionconf

I went to my first ever web conference today.

I know, working on/with the web for over 10 years and it’s taking me this long to get out and meet people!

I met some fantastic, funny and smart people, not to mention some friends who I’ve been talking to online for as long as I can remember. I got to meet the utterly wonderful @missrachilli who introduced me to everyone she knew (which was basically everybody); I briefly spoke to @KirstyBurgoine who I’ve known of for as long as I can remember but never met despite living about half an hour away from(!); chatted with @snookca who is a bit of a hero of mine and whose blog I’ve been reading since 2006, possibly even earlier; @laurakalbag who is as pretty in real life as she looks on t’interwebs and just as smart too; @dafyddbach who deserves a medal just for associating himself with anything government ;) and who’s work with and on has changed some of the ways in which I approach projects … the list goes on.

Two things I really took away from today’s conference though:

1. It’s impossible to maintain any anonymity when you attend a web conference – if you’ve ever wondered what I look like, prepare to see my face in about a zillion of the conference pics in the upcoming days.

2. That there doesn’t need to be two of ‘me’.

One thing I’ve always really struggled with, especially as a long-time blogger and earlier adopter of social networking (compared to some anyway) is how to keep my professional and personal lives separate. It was important to me as an employer that I didn’t do or say anything to affect the reputation of my boss, his company and the people I worked with, and as someone with no shortage of opinions the easiest way to do that has been to a) never mention work in any detail and b) keep who I work(ed) for private for quite a long time.

After going freelance, I continued to struggle with that balance between personal and professional, and having lost so-called “friends” and followers because I dared talk about boobs or poo or any number of unsanitary child-related things (which aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and I’m fine with that) I decided to reinstate my “professional” account @JemTurner

Except, @RobertMills‘ talk on ‘tone of voice’ today and how you present yourself and your business through your tone made me realise that I try and be uber-professional through @JemTurner and that’s actually really hard to maintain, doesn’t come off well because it’s not who I am, and ultimately that makes me NOT tweet at all.

This was further underlined by the talk later on by @Joel_Hughes, who was discussing the mistakes he’s made since he started freelancing and that journey onwards from that. One of his slides, talked about how your business IS personal. Long story short, in which I would just massively stroke Joel’s ego anyway, I’ve come to realise that actually… I can be the mum who wipes butts in the morning and creates awesome websites after 2pm. I can be a great web developer without undermining the fact that I am a parent. I don’t have to hide either one of ‘me’ because those who don’t like it, those who vocally object? They’re probably just assholes anyway.

I don’t know how I will go about merging my two separate identities & no doubt it will start with some sort of re-retirement of @JemTurner, but I do know that I built my reputation on being just ME and nothing can or should change that. Even if I do talk about poo occasionally.