Stupid Goals: Project Recurring Income

I’ve been stressed again lately. The ups and downs of hormones, the DOOM of summer holidays, the move, the kids, the usual shit. When I get stressed I start to ponder what I’m doing with my life and whether I should get a proper job.

Unfortunately, I’m basically unemployable; there’s no way I could go back to a 9—5 at this point and make it work. Sometimes though, the call of being able to switch off and walk away at the end of the day, of being able to take a day off sick without worrying about what’s piling up, of having an actual proper holiday… the call of all that is really bloody strong.

Of course the reality is that while a 9—5 job has those advantages it would also massively impact upon the flexibility in my schedule, my ability to work out while the kids are at school, would add wraparound childcare costs and all sorts of additional loads and problems.

So instead of being a moany arse (OK, as well as being a moany arse) I sat down and had a think about how I can achieve the two things I really need right now, those things being:

  1. Regular money (as freelance income is so unpredictable) to tide me over during times like e.g. summer holidays where my working hours are massively curtailed
  2. Time off (an actual holiday would be amazeballs) to de-stress

And how better to achieve than by setting some wildly unachievable, mostly stupid goals?! Something crazy like “raising 20k to buy my ex out” (which I mostly did with mortgage, but the hard work and kindness of strangers meant I could afford to go that route) or “paying off my mortgage in 5 years” (which I didn’t manage, but did eat enough into it to give myself enough equity to buy a new house!). So my track record isn’t great, but it HAS given me focus and achieved things that I wouldn’t have done had I not even tried.

Luckily, I can probably achieve the second “need” by tackling the first, which means “all” I have to do is find a way to raise enough money per month to cover my half of bills and regular expenses. This means that additional freelance income can then go in a) towards the tax bills, which regularly screw me up, b) towards my savings, whereby I might eventually have enough to go to the seaside or something. I reckon I need to get to the point where I have £750 per month guaranteed with usual more flexible work/income on top.

How am I going to raise a guaranteed fixed £750 per month? I’ve only got two things on my list so far:

  • Stop being scared of offering maintenance contracts to clients. One of the things I really struggle with, even after 6 years of working for myself, is feeling like I am ripping clients off. Although I value my time and experience and charge a decent amount for coding time, I don’t like hooking people into recurring fees as I don’t want them to feel I’m pocketing their hard earned cash and doing nothing. However, there’s a genuine need for some of my clients to have regular services — like back-ups and upgrades — that if I don’t do, won’t get done.
  • Work on my bloody “product”. I have a product, that ‘thing’ everyone talks about as a must-have for recurring income. I have a product that works, is good at what it does, and makes a handful of sales a month… but that I ignore for 90% of the year. I’m talking about my mail form, of course. I need to stop procrastinating, and put the effort into improving what’s there. The membership option and form builder aren’t used (because the form is mostly used by devs who can write their own forms) so I need to rip that out and then concentrate on moving into other markets using my strength: starting by creating a JMF-brand of spam protection add-ons for other form providers.

I have also considered working a fixed amount of hours in-office with a client or agency per month, but I’ve trialled this before and it didn’t work. I’m in a better place mentally now, but it’s very easy for these placements to feel same-y and stagnant so it would have to be for someone — or some project — I really care about. I need to think more about this one.

Plenty to be getting on with though. First step: reach out to clients who would benefit from a monthly maintenance package. Project recurring income is on! Watch this space…

Lead photo by rawpixel.

Moving Tales: Part 2

In my last post about our recent house move I expressed frustration about a series of relatively minor but annoying problems that we’d had so far. The two main issues were the lack of hot water, and a mystery leak.

Shortly after posting I started pulling out wood cladding in the downstairs bathroom (part of the garage conversion) and found that the reason we had a water leak was because the pipe that took waste water from the sink and downstairs shower was not actually attached to the piping that should have routed it out of the bathroom and through to what’s left of the garage. Water was literally pouring onto the floor every time the shower or sink was used. Annoyingly, this had obviously been a problem for some time, as there were clear water marks and residue of damp that had been painted over. I called a local plumber in and had it sorted for £50, job done.

The hot water issue was slightly more complicated. Gaz and I fiddled with the boiler, we replaced fuses in mystery switches in the garage, we tried the thermostat on the wall but all to no avail. In the end I called in my regular trusty gas engineer (Telford Gas & Heating, highly recommend) to take a look assuming — hoping — it’d be something as simple as the boiler needing a service.

Unfortunately, life is never that simple. I knew that the problem was a little more complicated when, during the initial consult & having opened the airing cupboard to see the pipework to and from the hot water tank, my engineer uttered the fatal words “what on earth is that”. We were quoted circa £850 to fix the massive piping cock-ups that had been made previously, which we managed to scrape together, and the work was scheduled for this morning (9th July)

In the mean time, to keep us on our toes, the house decided to throw a little electrics issue at us. One evening after school, Izzy turned her bedroom light on and the upstairs electrics & downstairs bathroom lights went out. At first I panicked and thought the leak had reoccurred and was seeping into a light socket or something, but couldn’t find any evidence of that. Attempts to reset the RCD on the fuseboard wouldn’t work, and it’d immediately trip again. After 3 days of ignoring the issue like the nice responsible homeowners that we are, Gaz suggested it might be related to a switch in the loft that appeared to not do anything that he’d fiddled with when he was hiding some of our junk. Lo and behold, after climbing back up there and switching it off, the electrics came back on. Tada!

Anyway, back to the hot water. The gas engineer and his colleague turned up this morning and immediately started trying to make sense of the pipes while I cracked on with work. Just before 10am I emailed Gaz to tell him I was hearing a lot of perplexed “jesus, this is a mess” type noises coming from upstairs which didn’t sound great. 20 minutes later and I was called upstairs to the landing, where the floorboards had been removed to expose further pipework that I can only describe as akin to a game of Snake.

I’m not an expert on central heating installation or plumbing etc but it definitely didn’t require expert skills to see that there were Big Issues afoot. With that, on top of the work that was scheduled to be done this morning, and the reality of the state of the system, our best option (short of bumbling along with what we have for the foreseeable) is to replace the whole central heating system: pipework, hot water cylinder, radiators, possibly even the boiler at an estimated cost £5,000-£6,000. This is before we factor in the problems likely to be caused by lifting floorboards (i.e. removal of the laminate in the bedroom for access).

To say I’m furious is an understatement. That someone would knowingly misrepresent their house to get an artificially inflated sale price fully in the knowledge that we have two young children for whom hot water, reasonable plumbing and working electrics are, y’know, somewhat important; to look those kids in the eye and reel off the story of her husband’s sudden death to engender sympathy; to lie to the solicitors about “not being able to find the boiler certificate” knowing full well there isn’t one because the system was installed by an unqualified fucknugget; and, finally, leaving a “new home” card behind wishing “happy memories” when you know you’ve screwed over your buyer to the tune of several thousand pounds? Fuck, furious doesn’t even come close to how I feel.

Still, life lesson learned. Don’t be a dick and skimp to move faster (like we did), get the most in depth survey even if it costs you a small fortune in the short term. Ultimately, it may save you you a fuck ton more later on.

Lead photo by Joel Barwick.

I do freelancing wrong (and I’m still successful)

Search for how to be a successful freelancer in your favourite search engine, and there’s no end to the list of tips and tricks people have. Some of them are useful and actionable, but most are generic; regurgitated from someone else’s “how to be a great freelancer” list. Always willing to buck the trend, I thought I’d tell you all of the things I don’t do as a freelancer (and still consider myself successful):

I never wrote a business plan

Business plans are supposed to be a roadmap for your ideas. Used properly they can help you lay out all the variables to help you build a business: examine the purpose of the business, research and analyse both your target market and the competition, assess the feasibility and future of your ideas and so on. I didn’t write one. Why?

  • I wasn’t looking for funding
  • I didn’t have a big idea that needed fleshing out, I just knew I wanted to code
  • My target market was “anyone who wanted a website”, which seemed too broad to detail
  • I wasn’t worried about the competition – web developers have been in high demand for as long as I can remember

Nearly 6 years on I’m finally getting to the point where I’m considering writing a plan for the future, but when I first started it was far more important to me to spend what little time I had a) working and b) getting the word out that I was available.

Professional business person working on their business plan. Maybe. Definitely not me. (Photo by Olu Eletu)

I quit my day job before testing the waters

A lot of people wiser than I am recommend launching your new business, or project, while at your existing job. My circumstances were complicated slightly by maternity leave, but I handed in my notice before I did anything else. Why?

  • I didn’t want the potential conflict of interest between my old job and my new freelance business
  • I knew that if everything went tits up, I had enough experience (and there was enough demand) that I wouldn’t have a problem getting a new job
  • I wanted to be able to dedicate 100% of my mental energy to my business (and a newborn baby!)

I did, however, have a small amount of savings which I could rely on for a few months if it took a while for work to pick up traction (and an incredibly frugal household budget).

I didn’t network (in person)

Well, OK, I did: I went to a few “mum business” networking meetings. However, I felt like they were a waste of my time. The other attendees were not likely to be able to afford my services (most being in the process of launching their own small businesses) or were unlikely to last long enough in business to need a website (harsh but true). I did, however, do these things:

  • I emailed a few old colleagues to let them know I was freelancing — this led to several early leads
  • I mentioned on social media that I was now freelancing — I won my first job via twitter

From there, word of mouth did the rest.

People networking. Or just having coffee? It’s basically the same thing. (Photo by Daria Shevtsova)

I didn’t sign up to freelancing sites

And, to be honest, I don’t know why people recommend them.

Freelancing sites like PeoplePerHour encourage what I consider to be a race to the bottom – that is, they encourage people to pitch lower and lower in the hope of winning a job. My time, my experience, my talent… it all has a value. By undermining that in an attempt to cut under other freelancers, I might as will stick a sign on my head saying “will work for scraps”.

Position yourself as able to service the end of the market that is going to pay your bills, and you will find work that pays your bills. Compromising on my rates has never turned out well for me.

I never created an “elevator pitch”

And to this day, if someone asks me what I do, my stock response is “I build websites”.

Turn the question around and listen: it’s far easier to win a client by listening to what their needs are than by talking about yourself. If you know what a potential customer needs, you can best figure out where you fit in to solve it. If they don’t have a problem that you can solve? Well, there’s no point pitching to them anyway.

This empty elevator / stairwell represents my lack of a decent pitch. It’s metaphorical, innit. (Photo by Andrew Welch)

I don’t blog (professionally)

After nearly 6 years in business my portfolio contains 9 blog posts and only one of those is what I would consider vaguely relevant or demonstrates that I know what I’m talking about. In my experience, clients are far more interested in demonstrations of actual working websites than whether or not I can write 600 words about something tech related. Unless you’re freelancing as a blog content creator, a blog isn’t the be all and end all.

And on that note… I also don’t maintain a professional social media presence. I tried, it was exhausting. I gave it up as a bad idea. In fact, I went one better and pushed my brand as laid back and all “me”: crazy cat lady, swears on the Internet and gives no shits. I’ve not lost a job for it yet. I think.

Despite all of these things I’m doing “wrong”, I still have the ability to turn down work that doesn’t fit or suit me. I have clients that I’ve been working with the entire duration of my freelance career. I very rarely have work droughts and when I do they don’t last long. This isn’t a brag: I’m not saying my way is the right way. On the contrary, I share my “failings” only to offer you encouragement that there is no right way to be a freelancer. It doesn’t have to be suits and plans and networking meetings.

The beauty of being a freelancer is that you can make it work for you, your way, and only you know how to do that.

Personal Bests and Personal Worsts

I started this week on a fantastic high. After having cracked squatting my bodyweight earlier this year (roughly 72kg give or take) I had been struggling with improving my squats further. Marred by dodgy knees, skipped gym sessions thanks to a chaotic schedule and over-indulgence on food & drink, it’s my own fault. Still, this didn’t stop me on Monday when I smashed out squats at both 80kg and 85kg with a set of 2 for each. Strong strong legs.

Not content on just PBing there, I went on to pull 50kg doing close-grip front lat pulldowns having been stuck at 45kg forEVER. To say I was buzzing after that was an understatement.

(I am currently using Myprotein Impact Whey Protein to support my workouts but I’m looking to potentially improve on this in the new year. If you supplement protein, I’d be interested to know what you take. Drop me a comment/email.)

This strength-related high was short lived as I got home to yet another round of work related emails (boo) and the ever present threat of the taxman knocking at my door.

Every single year I forget about HMRC’s payments on account, leaving me ill-prepared to meet their demands for large sums of cash at a time of year where things are tight as it is. My kids want Christmas presents and I’m sat watching the balance of my overdraft grow hoping my clients pull their fingers out before December 25th; this doesn’t leave me much leeway to pay the taxman money for a tax year that isn’t even over yet (don’t even get me started).

Why is balancing the ebbs and flows of freelance, and planning sufficiently ahead, such a personal weakness? It’s been over 5 years since I started working for myself and barring a break in the middle where I briefly returned to my old agency, I have had to put money away all this time. And I fail, time and time again.

2018 has to be the year where I nail this shit.

The future of shopping: offline vs online

Last week I had a conversation with Gaz’s colleagues about my budget Monday shops, off the back of a one-off trip to Tesco for a single meal which Gaz did at a cost of over £40. Forty pounds for one meal! This is in comparison to my weekly shop, which I’m quite pleased to have recently got back down under £50 per week, averaging around £35 per week. However my smugness was short-lived, as I was challenged on the fact that some of this shop comes from online providers.

It’s true, I use Amazon’s subscribe & save to do a big chunk of my regular shopping. The ability to set frequencies, quantities etc on items that I use a predictable amount of: cat food, guinea pig food, cat litter and so on… this is invaluable both to my budgeting and planning ahead. Especially with a billion cats at home (slight exaggeration). Not only that, because Amazon’s service gives you incremental discounts on the items in your regular shop once you buy a certain quantity per time period, I currently get 15% off my pet foods, litter, and coffee… yes, we get through a lot of coffee.

This of course got me thinking about how shopping on the whole has changed over the past 10 years. One of the things I mention on my professional site is that I’m a busy mum, and use the Internet for the bulk of my shopping: it’s this frequent use in the role of “consumer” that gives me an important insight into how websites can best provide to their customers, and this makes me a better developer. If I understand the habits of people who buy, I can develop websites that make the most of those habits. Or that’s my thinking anyway.

Online shopping has radically improved over the past decade and as a result is generally my go-to for spending money, be that clothes and shoes or bigger stuff like electronic items, white goods etc. 99% of the time I research and compare a product online, and complete via a cashback or deal website to make the most of my purchase.

Surprisingly though, swiftmoney.com have recently surveyed 1000 members of the British public to see how people like to spend and a whopping 54% of people still prefer to buy in store (taken from the infographic below). In my opinion, shopping in a store — especially for ‘big’ purchases — lacks the flexibility and bargain-hunt-ability of price comparison and specification research. Not only that but with voucher sites, newsletter subscription benefits and aforementioned cashback (which has earned be back over £700 in just a few years, money I’d have not seen again shopping in-store), and the vast amount of online retailers offering comprehensive returns policies, detailed size information, an increase in the amount of media (photographs, videos, 3D views etc) that give you a full picture of what you’re buying… I really do struggle to see where the benefits of buying offline lie.

With ease of access on the mobile these days, my personal habits (aside from regular predictable purchases) are leaning towards bigger, bolder (and more impulsive) purchases on the go. With over half of purchases made on mobile as of 2016 and Google pushing a ‘mobile-first’ index to prioritise sites with a good mobile presence as of this year, I can see this kind of purchasing is only going to grow in popularity as we head into 2018 too. In my professional opinion, if you have an online store that isn’t mobile friendly 2018 will see your online purchases shrink as market share on mobile continuously increases.

Still, for all my waxing lyrical about buying online, this wouldn’t have happened in a store:

Maybe those 54% of people have a point.


Click to see full size infographic.

I bought a Dell XPS 15

I’ve been trying to justify buying a new laptop for nearly 2 years. Despite it being the only thing that allows me to earn an income, I have been stuck in this “the old one still works” mindset: even though it’s slower, heavier, and has approximately 6 minutes battery life these days. Given the Acer’s approx value at purchase was circa £400 and that’s my daily rate, I’d paid for it through work several hundred times over; I was holding on to it because I’m a miserable scrooge.

So, after convincing myself that it was a sensible business decision to invest in some faster / better tech at some point, I had to decide what to buy. I read review after review for lots of top spec laptops: HP Spectre series, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4s, and various Dells including the Dell XPS 15. The only problem was the price tag: the build I wanted was £1500. My car is worth less than that.

Towards the end of June, on a whim I checked out the Dell website again and noticed that they had a series of offers on: £100 off certain laptops over £1000, £150 cashback on laptops over £1299 bought before 5th July AND Dell are on topcashback, which I knew would recover about £75 which would bring the final price down to just under £1200. Probably still worth more than my car, but enough of a saving that — combined with my recent celebration of 5 years in business — sealed the deal. One Dell laptop, in the bag.


(Not my photo, soz.)

It is a fucking beast of a laptop, with tech specs as follows:

  • 7th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor
  • 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge display
  • 16GB, DDR4, 2400MHz; with support for up to 32GB should I feel insane enough to upgrade
  • 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive
  • 97WHr battery with estimated 19hr use
  • NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 1050 with 4GB GDDR5(!!!)

First off, I have to state that the 19hr estimated use on the battery is optimistic at best. That said, I can do a full working day of heavy dev running XAMPP, Photoshop, PDF reader, Microsoft Word etc and only just start to worry about charging at the end of it. I can get a good 12 hours out of casual web browsing.

It’s a surprisingly lightweight laptop for the spec (I was expecting it to weigh half a ton) at approx 2kg, albeit heavier than some of its competitors, but 100% looks the business for it. With a smooth aluminium chassis and massive screen filling virtually every bit of space available, it looks every bit as expensive as the price tag it carries. Unfortunately the palm rest and internal casing let it down a little as it picks up grease from my fingertips like woah.

Visuals aside, the laptop hasn’t faltered yet. I’ve thrown a heavy workload at it from the get go (things are busy right now) and it’s hit the ground running. On Friday I was running Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator simultaneously while working on a CSS3 heavy website with multiple instances of Chrome open, as well as the various dev tools in the background. To top it all off, it wasn’t plugged in so running on a reduced power mode and I hadn’t noticed: there was not even a stutter from the processor. I honestly think I have outdone my personal needs here, and would love to see what this thing can truly handle.

It’s the quietest laptop I’ve ever owned, although that’s not necessarily hard given the old acer sounded like a plane taking off if it got in the slightest bit stressed.

I’ve previously expressed my concern about laptops shipping without e.g. CD drives (admittedly, back in 2008!) and the XPS 15 is one of them but I’m prepared to eat humble pie: I can’t remember the last time I used the CD/DVD drive on my Acer & I’ve yet to miss it on the Dell. Admittedly, growing USB drive capacity and “cloud” back-up services are the main reason behind that, with media streaming being my main source of music consumption a close second.

Aside from the case marks I touched upon earlier, my only other complaint is that I sometimes struggle to open the lid. It sounds silly but if I don’t have my fingers in a very specific placement, I find it difficult to get enough grip on it to get it open. Nobody mentioned this in any of the reviews I read prior to purchase, so that might just be me being a total bellend.

I’m also led to believe that the built in webcam is not positioned particularly well, which could lead to some interesting chats with my clients, but if I ever double up as a cam girl might produce some interesting chest shots ;)

All in I’m really pleased I finally took the plunge in buying some new hardware and I like that the Dell has offered me so far. I only hope it’s more reliable than my bloody car.

Oh, hello February

Alright me duckies, how are we all?

You may notice that things look a bit different. I’ve gone a bit old skool, drawing inspiration from some seriously old layouts of mine. Kudos if you have been around long enough to remember the originals. I’ve not finished faffing with it but it’ll do for now. Or until I get bored. Anyway…

Been so busy plodding along in Jem-World that I’ve not thought to blog. January went by in such a blur, mostly as I hid from reality trying to forget about the massive tax bill. Getting that paid was a weight off my shoulders and I’ve been bumbling along ever since.

Some ongoing small wins though:

Having realised early on in January that I’d put on 20lbs over the past 6 months or so I decided to cut the crap and sort myself out. I immediately cut out all drinking at home except for 1) a pre-arranged wine tasting and 2) sharing a bottle of bubbly on valentine’s day. On top of that I even managed a night out complete with crappy dancing completely sober. This nicely ticks the “drink less” goal for the year (for now). Funny how telling myself to drink less achieved sod all but the minute there’s a reason to give up and I don’t even notice not drinking.

Some tweaks to my mail form site saw my rankings pick up early in January and pushing new content in that direction has seen an increase in premium sales over the past few weeks. I also released a new version of the premium form with some extra protection (CSRF specifically) and switched out the XHTML to HTML5. It’s not paying my mortgage yet, but if I can maintain this I might actually be able to stop working weekends again!

My budgeting is staying mostly on track, having a) cut down on the booze and b) cut down on eating out, takeaways etc of late. Desperately trying to maintain this as we head rapidly towards March.

In less ‘winning’ and more ‘failing’ news:

I’ve completely failed to do any training for my upcoming May marathon, which is going to leave me in a sticky situation if I don’t get my arse into gear. I’ve entered a few races between now and then to FORCE me to run (including a half marathon in just a few weeks!) but if I don’t step up my game, that marathon is going to be a long and painful walk.

My car has got another bloody coolant leak and its MOT has expired, so not only am I not able to get to the cat rescue but I can’t run errands or basically anything that isn’t within a couple of miles of home. This is leaving me feeling VERY penned in right now.

My upstairs plumbing (not a euphemism) has sprung a leak and needs fixing.

Usual life shit really – still, it could be worse. And so I continue to plod along.

Budgeting: The Great Big Tax Bill and Recurring Payment Hell

After the touch of reality reflected in the last post — how my over-spending and wastefulness was contributing to an unsteady financial future w/r/t buying a new house — I was already feeling a touch the poorer. So as you can imagine, when my accountant (well worth the spend) did my tax return for the ’15-16 tax year a couple of weeks ago, you could say that the paperwork hit me like a ton of bricks.

I knew the tax bill was incoming, but I’d been ignoring the potential size of it (especially since I blew my savings on a website) and holy shit was that a mistake. With tax owed, tax on account for the ’16-17 financial year and accountant fees I suddenly had just over two weeks to find £3,000. And here I am, a couple of days from the dreaded tax deadline, and I’m only able to pay off the back of a loan from my husband and a big credit card bill. (I am a responsible adult, honestly.)

So… up shit creek without a paddle I sat down and thought to myself: my ‘half’ of monthly expenditure (household bills, mortgage etc) is about £750. I make plenty more than that each month — certainly enough to live comfortably and be putting money aside for tax bills! — so why am I sat here in such a terrifying position? Where the hell is all my money going that I constantly in my overdraft and only have £9 in my ISA to pay my tax bill?

Wine and eating out and frivolities, yes… but that doesn’t eat through hundreds of pounds a month in income, surely? (Even with my wine consumption levels?!) To Excel!

I started adding up all of the yearly expenses that aren’t on my basic month-to-month budget. Hosting bills, domains (again!), WordPress plugins, memberships, magazines, software and SAAS ‘apps’. I’ve not finished logging and I’ve already totted up over £3,600 worth of yearly expenditure which totals over £300 per month. Start adding wine and eating out and frivolities to that and it’s not too hard to see where my income is going.

It’s an easy trap to fall into: pay off an expense in one lump sum, and forget it exists until next year. But it does exist, and it is chipping away at the money I could be using to pay off debt and my mortgage. It’s no wonder I’m up shit creek when I’m easily spending nearly £4k a year on things I don’t give a second thought to.

Am I the only one this disorganised? How many people actually have a handle on their irregular / yearly expenses? It’s probably about time I started using YNAB again…

Back to Budgeting Basics

Feels like ages since I’ve talked about budgeting, and for a reason… with excess spend on frivolities, a loan to pay off two credit cards one of which I didn’t close and am steadily filling back up, an expensive honeymoon (which I barely contributed towards) back in October 2016 and the increased cost of US-based services since the Brexit vote, it’s obvious I’ve had my head firmly planted in the sand. Or up my arse, if you like.

But I have a problem. And not just the problem of big scary debt which I promised myself I’d never get hooked into: the problem of a mortgage deal that ends in just over 12 months time and only self-employment income to prove my ability to buy or re-negotiate. If I have extra debt when it comes to sorting out a new deal, nobody is going to touch me. All of my mortgage over-payments will have been for nothing.

So I have a year. A year to do all the things I’ve blogged about doing a million times: reducing outgoings, making my projects successful (or closing them down) and putting any ‘side’ income straight into debt reduction.

And as that won’t be enough on its own, I have no choice but to go back to full scale frugality as per maternity leave income levels: meal planning, £20 a week shops, turning the heating down to 19 degrees and putting on an extra jumper… the kind of money saving stuff I used to do as par for the course.

I know I can do this, I’ve done it before. So why does it seem the most daunting of all my plans and goals for the year?

Working in my pants and other tales from self employment

I’ve been working for myself (either fully, or alongside employment) for over four years now. I like to think that I’ve got to grips with what it entails to work for yourself, be your own boss, rock the entrepeneur lifestyle etc etc.

My "desk" yesterday. Note the remnants of the kid's breakfast to the right of my diary.
My “desk” yesterday. Note the remnants of the kid’s breakfast to the right of my diary.

Of course, I’m talking out of my bum.

It’s not all ‘pant suits and heels’, working 4 hour weeks and jetting off around the world to luxurious locations every month. It’s more like working in your underpants til noon to save time getting dressed and regularly clocking in at 11pm to meet a deadline the following day. (But I took the kids to Wales in August if that counts as luxurious.)

Don’t get me wrong, working in my pants is a pretty big advantage to self-employment, and I like being able to work on what I want with people I want to work with (within reason), but it’s not all unicorn farts and glitter.

One of the biggest cons to being my own boss is not having any back-up if something goes wrong. And that “something” is usually mental health related: because if I’m having a bad-PMDD month and can’t drag my butt out of bed to even put pants on, what do I do?

It sometimes means I let clients down, and I’ve lost projects AND even clients because of it. And I’m not sure how to say to a client “sorry, I couldn’t work on your thing because I was in bed” without sounding like a lazy arse.

I’m learning to juggle. It’s taken a long time but I’m getting there. If my anxiety keeps me bedridden one day, I let the client know I’m otherwise engaged and I get up at 5am the next day to catch up. If the thought of a phone call induces a panic attack I e-mail and rearrange. If the brain fog descends and I can’t think straight, I adjust timescales with clients and then power through some basic admin or schedule social media posts.

The important thing through all of this (and I’ve learned this the hard way) is always to keep the client up to date. I don’t have to tell them I’m basically insane, I just need to manage their expectations and communicate my intentions. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned — both working for myself and for others — is that a client who knows what’s going on is MUCH more flexible than a client left in the dark. Sometimes I just have to accept that I’m not working at my best and accept the bollocking that comes along with it.

At the end of the day though… you can’t beat working in your pants.

17th September

Creative blog post title, huh?

I’ve just come back from Gloucester, where I ran the Great Highnam Court 10km with Katy (again); slightly slower this year with 01:07:23 but I managed to not twist my ankle this time. It has made me realise that if I can run an injured 10km faster than I can right now, I probably need to get off my arse and log some more miles on my feet. I haven’t run more than a handful of times this year and it shows (both speed, and the fact that I’m a fatty fatso at the minute)

In non-running news, I have very recently overhauled both my mail form site and my professional portfolio (which I’m particularly pleased with):

Jem’sMailForm.com
jemsmailform-com

JemTurner.co.uk
jemturner.co.uk

I like the consistent branding/styling and the use of ‘my’ colours from my old logo/branding which I’m hoping to replicate over here in due course replacing this temporary grey theme which I had to throw up to get round some issues with Google. On the flip side, I now actually rank for my own name again which is nice (albeit making no difference to traffic levels, sigh).

Anyway, that’s all my exciting stuff out of the way. Best crack on with some work, my overdraft isn’t going to pay itself off.

What a day.

Gaz is away til late tonight so I have 3 options:

  • Catch up on some more work, which I need to do.
  • Catch up on some housework, which I should do.
  • Have a bath and go to bed with a bottle of wine and a book, which I want to do.

Unfortunately after today the odds are looking likely on #1.

In the unlikely event that you’ve not already heard, today we – the UK – voted to leave the European Union. In my humble opinion this is a terrible idea for the country, for the economy and for people as a whole and so I voted to remain. However, little did I know – until this morning – it would also be terrible for me: thanks to the pound crashing to a 31 year low, a lot of the online services I rely on to do business (everything from hosting to Github, my accounts package, etc) have skyrocketed in price.

Unless the pound recovers quickly, it will become financially infeasible for me to continue using some of these services: I’m now faced with the prospect of moving half of my websites to UK based servers. (They’re not abroad because of an “indian call centre” money saving thing, sometimes it is better for a site to be hosted in the same location as its target audience.)

This means that in a month where my work output is already low because of my assault and ill health I may have to spend hours working on admin and migrations rather than ‘real’ work and projects which are already overdue.

Suffice to say I’m a bit pissed off about this whole bloody mess.