Spend your time wisely

With the recent announcement over on my professional blog that I’m now celebrating 5 years of working for myself as a freelance developer, it feels somewhat bittersweet that I am also announcing the closure of one of my side projects: WAHMweb.

It has been a labour of love over the past 5+ years. Designed originally as an outlet for my own work at home rants, discoveries and so on, it has evolved into a decent resource for parents (and in particular, mums) who are looking to either move into working at home from a full time position, or simply just want to earn a few extra quid while they stay at home with young children.

Unfortunately the project has never been close to profitable, and while that was never the key aim, I can no longer afford to push money into hosting and content development to not even get close to breaking even.

As my notoriety(!) in the WordPress space increases, and demand for my services is reaching new highs every week now, I have to spend my time wisely: choosing to continue with projects which are self-supporting, self-financing, and concentrating the rest of my energies in best serving my clients (and my kids).

I have moved the most popular of the WAHMweb content pieces to this blog, and will transfer and other bits I feel are important in due course. While this is a sad announcement, it does mean that I will be able to focus more time and energy on sharing the things that have helped with my personal success as a work at home mum right here where it belongs.

Thank you to all those who’ve supported WAHMweb over the years.

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…

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.

New project: maths, emails, and an empty ISA

What do you do when you try and find a site that allows the re-sale of preloved cloth nappies but the only one that did exist has closed down operations?

You buy the site of course.

used nappies-02As briefly alluded to in the last post, I’ve bought into a new project which I’m hoping will give me an increase in passive income in the long term, but in the short term is a great way of shifting several hundred pounds worth of cloth nappies: UsedNappies.co.uk

The purchase/takeover has not been without issues. The software the site was running on was massively out of date with a ton of potential security issues. The upgrade to the latest version was both a) expensive and b) complicated by poor documentation. Seriously, PHPProBid is one of the worst documented things I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. That said, version 7 is worlds apart from version 6 and it’s growing on me, so there is hope.

I took the decision to restart the site from scratch after I bodged the upgrade and I didn’t want to waste too much time on a rebuild when the site data was a few years old anyway. In the world of nappies, a few years is enough time for someone to finish with and get rid of their stash, rendering the user data useless.

Once the new version of the site was up and running, I created an email to advise the 15,000+ existing users that they needed to re-register. I send my mass mails with Campaign Monitor (because they’re awesome) but the 15k emails went over my limit with them, so I had to get approval on this. I explained the bodged site upgrade situation but they said that the data was too old to be marketed to as-is and I needed to run my list through a 3rd party verification service (more expense). That done, and 12k approved emails back in the system, I actually sent the mail (++expense).

At this point I begin to wonder how email marketeers make any money, because out of over 12,000 emails I had a 43.94% open rate with 3.84% unsubscribing — despite me clearly stating in the mail it was strictly one off to notify them their account was gone — and only 1.61% clicked the bloody website link.

ONE POINT SIX ONE PERCENT.

A third of that 1.61% have since re-registered on the site, giving me a current cost per user (adding up purchase price, software, add-ons, branding, etc) at approximately £23.43.

My ISA is currently barely above empty and I’m shitting bricks in case any big expenses come my way, but I’m crossing my fingers that the risk will pay off in the long term. Of course, you can help a girl out and give me some like / follow / share love if you like:

And if you know someone who uses, or is thinking about using cloth nappies? Tell them about the site of course :)

Now that’s out of the way…

So now the introspective waffle is out of the way, let’s talk about the small matter of me turning 30 in a few days.

Not because of the turning 30 part, there’s nowt I can do about that (and I’m looking forward to being FABULOUS at thirty … or something) but the part where I set myself a list of things to do before I was 30 and have utterly failed to complete the list.

It’s not like I didn’t try. I did some pretty radical (for me) things in 2015, things that I never thought I’d cross off the list but managed anyway. I also have some list items “in progress”: Gaz and I are booked on a hot air balloon flight early this year, I did *cough2cough* random acts of kindness, I registered to give blood but had to cancel my appointment because of a bad flu-like illness, and I have sort of worked with other developers on a couple of things.

But… there are definitely items on that list that were doomed from the start. Read 100 books? I’m lucky if I read 10 books in a year these days. Earn £5000 in passive income? Take off a zero, pal. And how do you even define a pay rise when your employment situation does a complete 180. I might earn four grand in one month and sod all in the next.

I still want to learn to swim. I want to volunteer because I think it’ll be good for me to get out of my little bubble. But mostly I just want to continue taking risks and doing cool stuff, and I don’t think I need a list for that.

The eeeeeend!

It’s here! September 30th! The last day of Septemblog! I can now proudly say that for the first time in around 15 years of blogging I have successfully completed a blog-a-day challenge.

I completely failed my supplementary challenge to leave 5 comments / follow someone new every day, and it’s probably best you don’t look at my ‘official’ septemblog page, but if I’d made that compulsory I’d have definitely failed weeks ago.

That said, if you’re trying to increase your comments, hits or overall engagement, setting yourself the X comments on blogs per day goal is a must. It shot my hits up, which just goes to show that when bloggers say “commenting is dead”, what they actually mean is “I can’t be arsed to comment any more”.

Engagement has also gone up on my blog Facebook page, with more likes and more posts reaching a greater number of people. I’m not sure if that’s Facebook being clever with some sort of frequency == relevancy algorithm, or whether it’s just the inevitable more posts == more likely to post something someone will want to read.

I did write another blog post today, one that is less ‘meta’ and less cheaty, but I’m keeping that to myself for the time being as I’m not sure my idea will take off yet. You’ll just have to wait and see for that one. In the mean time, yay septemblog!

30 things before I’m thirty: so far

As I said yesterday, because of the big time difference between me starting my “30 things before I’m thirty” list and actually publishing it, I’ve already completed two of the things on my list… albeit with some confusion and/or not quite in the way I’d originally anticipated!

First to be completed: Go on a proper date

Last month I went on a not-a-date date. With a guy. Not with Karl (as I’d originally anticipated) :O It was apparently too early for me to be dating post-split, so we made it a not-a-date that was actually a lot like an actual date. And has since been followed with other dates that definitely were dates. (Currently now wondering if I can cram the word ‘date’ in one more time for good measure…) ‘He‘ is a local web developer, and has a cat. Clearly perfectly matched based on that alone :p

I was going to use meeting Gaz as an excuse to strike a 2nd item off the list: Make a new friend (offline) except there’s a slight problem… I couldn’t remember the original intent of this list item. Was I saying I needed to make a new friend who I could be friends with offline, or was I saying I needed to make a new friend offline without a screen to help hide the first interaction nerves, etc? As I met Gaz online initially, he strictly speaking wouldn’t qualify under the terms of the latter. Gaz has since pointed out that through him I’ve met his friend/colleague, although I’m not sure spending half a day with someone counts as friends.

However, having involved myself in the local running group I have made a few new friends through that based on entirely offline interaction so I’m checking that off as a success.

I am starting on another one of my ‘things’ this afternoon — Visit each of my UK based online friends — with a trip down south to visit Ben. Which brings me nicely to a request… if you’re based in the UK, and have ‘known’ me (by which I mean interacted on a semi regular basis) for more than a year, and would like to pop your name down on the list of friends I need to visit to meet this milestone, let me know in the comments / on twitter / whatever. I’ll only be taking requests til the end of the month so get a move on :)

30 things before I’m thirty

I started writing this “30 things before I’m thirty” list in a draft in January, but what with one thing and another never got round to finishing it. Here’s my original list…

  1. Learn to swim
  2. Actually complete a parkrun (that should probably be “actually take part in a parkrun”)
  3. Volunteer … somewhere, anywhere, just volunteer!
  4. Make a new friend (offline)
  5. Visit my Dad
  6. Finish one of my projects so that I have a regular source of passive income
  7. Earn £5000 in passive income
  8. Try a new food (I’ve never had proper sushi, never had venison, never had lots of things!)
  9. Send a letter in a bottle
  10. Post a blog entry every day for a month
  11. Work with another developer to improve my colab skills
  12. Actually read the JavaScript book I bought
  13. Complete 5 random acts of kindness
  14. Go on a proper date (Karl and I have never dated)

And here’s the other 16 random things I’ve thought of off the top of my head:

  1. Go somewhere, anywhere on a spur of the moment weekend away
  2. Go to the cinema on my own
  3. Visit each of my UK based online friends
  4. Finish my rainbow ripple blanket
  5. Fly somewhere in a plane
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Drive across the country and back without a map / sat nav
  8. Get dressed up in a ball gown (I’ll settle for just trying one on in a shop)
  9. Go to a festival
  10. Climb a mountain
  11. Participate in a race (I’m thinking of doing a 10k)
  12. Read the 100 Best Novels
  13. Give blood
  14. Wear a bikini on the beach
  15. Get a pay rise
  16. Replace coffee with water for a month

I turn 30 on January 7th, 2016 so I think I’ve got PLENTY of time to achieve all these. In fact, as it happens, in the time between starting this list and actually getting it published, I’ve done a couple of things already and I’m working on a couple of others. More on that in another post, though ;)

(ETA: The full list and most recent updates can be found on my 30 things before I’m thirty page.)

Live Dev: So far…

Despite the fact that you’re all sat watching — refreshing regularly — to monitor the progress of my blog’s live development (you are, right?) I thought I’d give a run down of what’s happened so far, and what’s yet to come…

  • New search bar across the top so you can easily search from anywhere (and follow me on twitter etc ;))
  • New logo, which was originally designed for my pro site, which I’ll be using as my personal ‘brand’ from now on
  • The Projects and WordPress sections are in – although yet to be populated
  • New (unfinished) About page
  • The background kitty is in… poor squished background kitty
  • Everything is responsive — figured it was about time (although tweaks need to be made)

Next on my list to fix…

  • Finish About, Projects and WordPress pages
  • Check & style archives / search page
  • Properly style up drop-down menus
  • Sidebars in general.. they’re a bit meh at the minute
  • Footer
  • Revamp Scripts section (release new version of BellaBook)

After that I need to start populating with content, start linking my pages together properly, related posts plugin etc. I’m thinking about starting a regular(ish) newsletter but I’m not sure what the demand for that would be?

Anyway, there we go. Feel free to share your thoughts so far (and any bugs – although I probably know about them)

Cat run & the all weather drying solution

Last year we built a cat run. The original plan was to have one built for us by a guy who specialises in bespoke wooden runs but after 2 visits he went quiet and despite numerous calls and emails we’ve never heard anything back.

Anyway, we did some searching and found some metal run panels designed for commercial kennels etc on doghealth.co.uk & and figured they’d be the perfect self-assembly solution. Not quite as attractive as a wooden run but some outside space for the cats at last.

Crumble cat in outdoor run
Crumble surveying ‘her’ space

(more…)

Rainbows

I’ve been working on this during every spare moment since my Scrap or Save post

Unfortunately, what with Oliver’s ridiculous sleep habits of late and an abundance of work, spare moments have been few and far between. I’ve been snatching time which would otherwise be wasted: journeys in the car (when I’m a passenger!) and as 10 minutes downtime before I sleep at night (to ‘switch off’ after having spent all evening at the screen).

Still, I’m really quite pleased with it. It was a bit of an on-a-whim project; & I’ve only made a few mistakes which is nice :) It’s going to be for my bed, which is a super king, so quite a way to go before it’s finished…