03 December 2007

Busy again

Another workload update - I'm currently busy until the New Year, but I'm happy to talk about any work which might come up in 2008. Give me a call or drop me a line - we're rapidly approaching the end of the financial year and it's time to use up budgets!

06 November 2007

Things to do before I am 30: a note

Here are some things I want to do before I'm 30.

  • Go south of the equator
  • Drive at over 100 miles per hour
  • Ride a motorbike
  • See the northern lights
  • Be on TV again
  • Meet someone famous
  • Drive to Scotland
  • Change my car
  • Pay off my credit cards
  • Get a pension
  • Get a six pack.
Please suggest more. I have just under 11 months at time of writing.

Edit: car died. Got new one. Not what I had in mind, but hey-ho - at least I've changed it.

Party hard!

Just a quick one to say that the party was a great success, and thanks to all who made it. Hopefully there will be many photos to come, but in the mean time you can find mine here.

01 November 2007

One today!

Yep, today's my first anniversary, officially - so how am I celebrating?

By doing my VAT return, sorting out my start of month accounts, and doing my normal work... what joy, eh?

Still, these things have to be done, and I actually enjoy my accounts - one of the real surprises in all this.

I've just read through the blog archives, having a look for anything I could write about the first year coming to an end. It's interesting seeing how things have changed, how I've taken up all sorts of things and never followed through (jogging, swimming... well, physical activity) and how every now I get very, very excited about how the business is doing, plan loads, and then things get quiet.

With that in mind I'm going to re-write my business plan, but first lunch, and then some work.

12 October 2007

Another award! Kind of

I'm afraid I can't take any credit for this, but the Strathclyde Pension Fund Office website - which I wrote the content for earlier in the year - has just won the Website Design Award (Public Sector) in the Professional Pensions Scheme of the Year Awards 2007.

It's great news because the team there are lovely, they work very hard, and they really care about their clients. Well done to them all!

10 October 2007

One year. What have I learnt?

I got an email today out of the blue asking for advice now that I'm a seasoned businessman. Stop laughing at the back. I am, honestly. I've been going a year.

This was my reply:

1. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Keep every contact you make and - as long as you have the time and it doesn't get in the way of earning - do them the odd favour now and then. You'll never know when you need to call in those favours. Dad taught me that.

2. A friend who'd started a business a while ago told me one thing when I started - "it always takes more money than you think it will". I dismissed him out of hand. What money could I need? I had my laptop, a big pad of paper and some felt pens. Then I hit a quiet period. If you can - or as soon as you can - build up a "war chest" of about 3 months' money, because when the work dries up (whether it's for seasonal reasons - you'll be busy at financial year end and quiet in summer in some sectors) you'll be stuck without it. So yes - it does always take more money than you'd think.

3. Never stop looking for work. When I started I got two really nice, big chunks of work. They paid the bills and let me have fun, and it was interesting work. There was travel and glamour and I got caught up in and sat back, thinking I had it made. And I stopped doing what I'd done to get that work in the first place - calling people, applying for work, trawling websites. After that things dried up and I had no work for a while - and got into money troubles.

4. Money moves at an odd pace. You have to get used to cashflow. I spent the whole of September working - only one day off all month - and I've not seen a penny of the money yet. I've not even invoiced for it. Remember it's never as simple as do job - get paid. It's find job, negotiate, do job, issue invoice with 30 day terms, wait, chase, eventually get money, so the bank balance is anything up to 60 days behind the workload, and certain people you want to give even longer terms to because they're nice people and they're as busy as you. You're either rushed off your feet and poor or quiet and rich - and when you're quiet and rich you have to hold on to that money because you won't know how long it's supposed to last for.

5. If you work for friends don't be afraid to charge them what you charge everyone else.

6. Your last employer may well be your first client. Be nice when you leave and keep in touch with them.

7. You never stop learning - so keep a log. I hadn't done this and my girlfriend got sick of me telling her about mistakes I was making over and over again - so she suggested I write a project diary. I have a blog hosted on my home PC now where I write - and rant - about projects I've done. When I undercharge, things I do wrong, things to note... keep it personal, for yourself alone, and keep it up to date.

8. Listen to people. Everyone has ideas and opinions and you don't have to use them but you'd be surprised where good ideas can come from - and who might know someone who might know someone else who needs you.

9. Don't pay for something if you can get it for free with a little work. There are services to get government contract alerts sent to you and they cost a fortune - but if you actively look you can get the same info for free. If someone has an old desk, printer, keyboard, whatever you need - take them. Be smart and professional for your clients by all means - but everything else just needs to work.

10. Get a good accountant - someone recommended by a friend - and pay them to do your tax return. They'll save you more than you'll pay them.

11. Put at least 30% of everything you earn into an ISA or other high interest savings account. Never spend it. Never be tempted to use it to bail yourself out of a quiet period. This is your income tax. You pay it in one big chunk at the end of the year, not as you earn, and it's easy to forget this. If you save more than you need, put that to the next year's bill. When you stop working for yourself, take the excess, buy yourself a Mars Bar or something. Don't touch it before that.

12. Approach your local business support organisation (www.businesslink.gov.uk should be your first port of call) and do whatever courses they offer. I did book-keeping, marketing, and legal and admin day-long courses for £30 a pop and it was the best money I ever spent. For the business, I mean - going to Florence was the best money I *ever* spent. Or my MG. Or that meal in Paris. Or something.

13. Be anal about keeping records. Receipts, invoices you issue, invoices you receive. The more accounting you can do yourself, the cheaper it will be for an accountant to do your tax return. Learn the basics of double-entry book-keeping at the very least.

14. Be prepared to sacrifice your social life some months - and to sit at home, alone, bored for others. Build your portfolio with charity and club work when you're quiet.

15. Any attempt to do cash-in-hand work for a friend *will* get more complicated than it needs to because you'll need to pay tax on it - and avoiding paying that tax will lead to massive worries about being found out, which really *is* a bad thing. It is possible, but make sure it's worthwhile, and certainly don't go public (like on a blog or something) and say that it happened. Of course, this point is purely hypothetical.

16. Stop thinking of other agencies and freelancers as competition and think of them as friends and colleagues. If you're too busy to do work, recommend someone good (remember your reputation can be tarnished by a bad recommendation) and make sure they know you were involved. They might return the favour, give you work themselves, or otherwise owe you.

17. Enjoy it. And enjoy the benefits. Eat a decent lunch. Listen to the radio when you work. Work in your pants. When you've got 3 months' money as a safety net and you know your income tax is covered, treat yourself a little. Put what you can through the business (a good accountant will tell you what you can and can't get away with). Every now and then sit back and smile. I celebrated (quietly) my 6 months - and I'm having a party for my first year.

18. Things will go wrong. It'll be hard. You'll want to jack it all in at least once a month. You need to remember why you started working for yourself and keep going. It is incredibly rewarding but also depressing at times. Remember that whatever happens now you've made a big, positive change in your life - you're more employable as a failed freelancer than as someone who's never tried. You've given yourself infinite flexibility. If I wanted to leave the country tomorrow and start a new life somewhere I could, very easily, and that's an incredibly liberating feeling. I really do feel that I'm capable of anything now.


19. Don't spend your VAT. I just remembered this one. I did it once, got my VAT bill, and watched everything from my next invoice just dissapear into the VAT man's pockets. Always assume (if you're a low expenditure company like me) that everything you collect in terms of VAT is just "sitting in your account" (like Father Ted used to say) before going on to the VAT man. Anything you do get back is then a bonus. Put it in your ISA with your other tax money.

20. Get a pension and - if you can afford it - income protection insurance. If I break all my fingers in a freak piano accident I can't earn, and then I'm in trouble. That's why I avoid pianos.

25 September 2007


I took a little time off from the busy schedule this weekend to get shot in the bottom, leg, arm and back. Thoroughly good fun:


13 September 2007

Like a bee. A busy, busy bee.

I'm utterly, utterly snowed under at the moment, so just a quick one: I am currently working at full capacity but happy to talk about work which can take place from 8 October onwards, when things slow down a little, hopefully. If you've got anything you want to discuss, please call or email and I'll fit it in where I can.

06 September 2007

Mandatory iPod post

Yep, new iPods out now, so as a blogger I'm legally obliged to write about them.

There's going to be lots of debate about the iTouch (the stripped-down iPhone) and costs - but, being shallow, I'm going to skip over that and just drool a lot. God, it looks incredible. What an interface! I'd like one, but it's just far too expensive at the moment and I think a 30GB iPod would be a better deal.

The new nano and "classic" both look really nice too - the metal enclosure is a lot more resistant to damage than the plastic, and from my shuffle I know that any little knocks and nicks they get add to the character somewhat. I'm not sure about the new colours for the nano - the old ones were pretty good as they were.

The new nano is a nice size - looks quite squat but not ugly.

So... I want one. A "classic" as my first choice. Please give me work so I can get one... :D

23 August 2007

Tacheback again...

It's nearly September, and September is Tacheback time.

Tacheback runs every year and basically involves being sponsored vast (well, some) sums of money to grow a moustache. The money raised goes towards male cancer charities and you can find out more here:

I'm doing it for the third year now and hoping to achieve something which actually looks OK and not - as one teenager once told me on a train - a "poo-tache". Regardless of that, I need your money, and I need it now. Right now.

You can donate online at https://www.bmycharity.com/maltpress2007 - I'd appreciate as much money as possible because I think it's a great charity. And because I'm going to look very, very stupid and I think that's worth cash.

Come on - stump up.

16 August 2007

More about diary software

Following yesterday's post - and today's comment suggesting a Wiki - I've got a bit of a follow-up.

I've installed a local version of Wordpress, which is running very nicely and will do some of what I want. Coffeelover's comment, however, suggested a personal Wiki, and this is also something worth thinking about - and something I might also try out.

Wordpress seems a good solution at the moment - I can tag all my posts with their project code and keep them all together like that. I can also look at my learnings chronologially, which might be handy.

I've got a couple of problems with the way Apache is configured on my local system at the moment, though, I think - which means I can't directly link to files on the local system. Once I get that sorted I should be OK - except because I use Thunderbird and IMAP email it's difficult to link to emails unless I re-save them in project folders, which is a bit of a stress. They're nicely organised in Thunderbird anyway, though.

Above all, it's resulted in me having a local instance of Apache and MySQL which means I can learn a lot more about PHP and database-driven apps - and, if I try a wiki too (something I've never done) I'll be learning loads from this experience. It also means I have a great local system to test blogs on before launching them.

15 August 2007

Diary software

I'm still learning loads about working for myself - and what's involved in each project. It's been suggested that I keep a diary of my projects - writing notes on each one and what's involved, what I've learnt, how I feel about them etc.

I was all for doing this in a hard-backed A4 notebook I've got - it's just sitting there waiting for something to be written in it, and after hearing an investment fund manager proudly talking about getting through his 50th notebook on the radio the other day there's some kind of romanticism about the idea. Problem is, most of the information I have is stored electronically - and ideally I'd like to link to documents, emails and so on.

If I was a big company with a server and all that sort of stuff it would be easier - I'd have a web-style intranet using a content management system and set up a kind of blog on it. As it is, I have a PC, and a mac, although most important bits are on the PC - or at least final documents can be moved over to it easily enough.

So - any ideas for a cheap (free if possible) blog-type bit of software to keep all my project notes in one organised place?

06 August 2007

Getting my money thoughts in order.

So - I've been reading the Motley Fool, looking at my bank balance and thinking about finances - again. A scare with the car (which turned out to be nothing, thankfully) brought it home to me that at the end of quite a quiet period I've not really got enough put aside at the moment to cover myself for emergencies.

I also found out today that if I start putting money aside for a pension when I'm 30, I'll need to save over £400 a month... which I don't have.

So what to do? Well, one of the first things is to stop reading websites and get on with getting more work in. I really need to have a couple of nice busy months to earn a decent amount and save up for the next quiet period. That, of course, is quite difficult to do when I'm actually fairly busy - so it looks like it's going to be a month or two of not going out.

Which, in itself, will be a good thing. The less I go out, the better off I'll be. Perhaps it's time to live like a monk again? The current situation makes that pretty difficult - I'm doing masses of driving and I have stuff all over the place, and not having my own room makes things very awkward and expensive. But I really, really must stop spending.

And I really, really, must keep working.

03 August 2007

Email back!

OK - for the time being, email is back up, with most of the bounce-backs being automatically deleted. A few are slipping through the net but for the most part things are running.

Over the weekend things may be lost, however, so please copy maltpress@gmail.com into vital emails just to make sure it gets through.

I've got my patience back now - it was wearing a little thin earlier...

Email is down

My email - and the form on this site, which sends to my email address - are currently down, and if you try them it'll bounce back.

This is due to what's known as a "joe jobbing" attack - a spam-bot, somewhere, has started sending out thousands of emails spoofing addresses from my domain. Lots of them are bouncing back - I received over 2000 emails yesterday - and it's brought my mail server to its knees.

There's nothing I can do but wait it out - I've scanned all my systems and they're all clean, so I know it's not got anything to do with me. I'd suggest all my (Windows-based) contacts do the same - there are a couple of decent online system scans available such as www.kapersky.com or you should really have your own - Panda (www.pandasecurity) is the one I use.

Anyway, the upshot is my email will bounce back at the moment, so please try maltpress@gmail.com - it's my spam-trap but I'll be carefully checking it today.

16 July 2007

All over the place

Well, apologies if service isn't exactly normal at the moment (whatever that is). I'm between houses for various reasons, and it's been pretty hard work with computer at one house and the internet at another. Invariably the stuff I need is never on the laptop when I need it, so there's lots of driving back and forth and confusion over what I'm supposed to be doing.

I'm pretty busy at the moment, though, which is very nice and it marks the end of my horrid quiet period. Of course, I could do with another quiet week or so to get addresses changed and internet sorted - but never mind.

My new project (for myself) should be up and running soon - designs, which I have a go at whenever I get five minutes to spare (not very often) are coming along quite nicely. Expect something in a couple of weeks.

Until then, cheerio....

10 July 2007

Moving house

Just a quick post to let you know I've moved house. Once our internet connection is up and running again (early next week) I'll be able to get the address on my website updated. In the mean time, my postal address is:

Adam Maltpress
69 High Street

25 June 2007

Site launches

Some nice news - a couple of sites I've been working on have launched, so I can update my portfolio a little.

First up is the Strathclyde Pension Fund Office, www.spfo.org.uk - I wrote the content for this site back in February. Reading Room, from Manchester, did all the technical stuff and got the content into the site, and it's recently gone live. It's looking really good - and I can still vaguely remember some of what I learnt while up there (mainly that the Scots are lovely and Glasgow is a beautiful city and well worth a visit).

Secondly a site I designed and built - not my core work, but a nice little project nonetheless - has gone live. Old school friend and most excellent singer/songwriter Clara Kousah's website was a labour of love with many man-hours (and much swearing) involved, but I think the final result is quite nice. I'm pretty proud of some of the technology I used, if not the design... you can find out more on my past work pages.

Now - onward and upwards!

14 June 2007

More for the new project

New site designs have started, which is very nice. It should look good - at least to non-designer me.

More content keeps cropping up, too, and I'll be moving these posts over to the new site when I can, but here's today's "gnnnh!" moment...

Questions, which should not be asked.
Gnnnh! I think there should be a tax on superfluous punctuation. That'd nip the problem in the bud.

A good rule; read text out loud and treat punctuation as a breathing exercise. A comma is a short pause. A full stop is just that - stop and start again, with a longer pause.

Now read the above sentence again.

Of course, it's far more complex than that - the above sentence with a question mark on the end would be possible, and it almost seems that the writer is introducing the topic of questions and then introducing a sub-clause - which ones shouldn't be asked?

Beyond all that - and a grammaticist (if such a thing exists) would give a better explanation of the faults of the above sentence - the comma just means the sentence reads wrong. And that's frustrating.

12 June 2007


I'm thinking of starting a new project to publicise my writing - get a bit of a face and name on the internet for my writing. It's going to involve examples of good and bad web copy - of which there are plenty.

I've just stumbled on this little gem, about how membership of an organisation might be able to help people:

By keeping a finger on the pulse so you can keep both hands on the wheel.
Erm... what? Not only is that pretty meaningless - and as such there's no purpose to it at all (there's a far better explanation of why to join further down the page), it's mixing metaphors fairly, too. The issue of whose finger is actually on the pulse is the most interesting - does the organisation keep a finger on the pulse? How does that help? Do they keep telling you how you are all the time, or only tell you when you're dead?

Point to note, #1: put the content at the top of the page. Leave the bizarre marketing speak for the bottom - if at all.

07 June 2007

Long time since updating

It's been pretty busy here - mostly trying to get new business. This week in particular has been extremely hectic, and it's only starting to slow down a little as I wait for other people to get back to me with things. It's a shame the bank balance doesn't reflect the amount of work I've been doing, but it should pay dividends in the future.

It's actually been pretty stressful this week, but also enjoyable - I've been working on a rare design/build job for a change, and it's nice to get to play with a bit of PHP. I've also been playing with a bit of Flash/ActionScript, which isn't something I'm very familiar with, but which has turned out to be very interesting. I've built - using examples online and a bit of tweaking - a Flash MP3 player. I'm quite proud of it. My grasp of PHP XML parsing and regular expressions is improving greatly too, and my GIMPing skills are getting a lot better - it's just the visual creativity I think I lack. Any more work like this and I think I'll outsource the design side of things.

Before I sign off, I thought I would post the following YouTube video made by a friend - it's a great little vid and it's got a good message. I'm planning on 10% less living beyond my means. And possibly 10% less wasting time on the internet.

01 May 2007

Six whole months!

That's right - from an invoicing and tax point of view (which I suppose is good enough) I've been running now for six whole months. It's still scary and exciting - which is why I started, I suppose - and I still love it.

In that time I've driven many hundreds of miles; typed many many thousands of words; met lots of lovely new people and spent an inordinate amount of time going to, or at least trying to go to, Ikea. I've learnt how to do my accounts; I've started to learn how to sell myself. But not like that.

And now for the next six months. I'm planning to get some more big clients all on my own - which is a nice feeling, especially when I can develop a relationship with them (and because I get all the money, hurrah!). I'd like to travel a bit more, too, and I have six months to clear my debts - something which I don't really think is going to happen, but I have to keep trying.

Anyway, it's quite a milestone for me - so please, charge your coffee mugs and join me in a toast - to six happy and successful months!

19 April 2007

*clonk* *whirr* *sob*

Yes, car woe once again. I was actually physically stranded as I started to write this - stuck in a (very nice) office owned by some very nice friends and colleagues who do excellent work and who let me sob there quietly while I awaited rescue.

My clutch has gone. Where, I'm not sure, but it's gone - it was certainly there when I left in the morning, ha ha ha. I'm not sure if going to Swansea finished it off completely, but it must have been on the way out for a while, which is a shame. Oh well - these things are sent to try us, and it's certainly trying me at the moment. I need to arrange meetings many miles away, which is a bit annoying, but I have to earn.

I never even got to go to Ikea to get my new chair. Humph. Looks like it's a Staples special - I've got a money off voucher, so that's OK. I might start a business account with them.

*edit* - whoops, I didn't edit the draft properly. resulting in some bizarre present/past tense-confusion.

17 April 2007


I'm very aware that this blog is slowly becoming me whinging about how ill or in pain I'm in, but I think that's probably something to do with me getting older. Not old (yet), but certainly older.

Anyway, my back and shoulders are utterly messed up at the moment and no amount of ibuprofen seems to help. I'm having rather odd spasms in my lower back at the moment, which aren't painful, but do feel very strange.

I think it's all to do with my posture and the fact I've been working a lot in the kitchen - using my laptop more and more now I'm having real PC troubles. There's no technical support here - I have to do it all myself or ask my brother to do it - and to frank I don't have the time at the moment. It's very tempting to just go out and get a Mac, to be honest.

Rather than that I think I might go out and get a decent soft wheely chair at some point. Perhaps a trip to Ikea is in order...

12 April 2007

Bleurgh. Working while ill.

It's funny how illness strikes when you've got deadlines to meet and loads to do. All those months of not having enough to do - and wondering if I could pay the bills - and now I'm snowed under I'm unwell. Ah well.

So that's why I've not blogged for a while - very, very busy at the moment and having huge amounts of fun. Late nights and lots of learning - can't get better than that. And it'll be over this weekend, when I'm off to Swansea to see some old uni friends, and then I've got a quiet week next week to recover. Unless, of course, anyone would like to give me some work. Just nothing which requires me to breathe through my nose or shout a lot.

21 March 2007

Always at work...

Today I decided to have a change of scenery and do some work in Cambridge. There's a lovely cafe called Ta Bouche, which does good food, plays decent music, and has free wireless. I think I've plugged them mercilessly before. Anyway, it's a great place to go to get out of the house and approach a subject fresh if I need to.

While I was working, a girl sat at the table next to me and I overheard her talking about the business she's starting up... "great", thought I, "an opportunity to make a contact, maybe get some work, and spread my opinions far and wide". Details were exchanged (well, given, by me) and I felt very stupid for not having any business cards with me.

And then I got home and looked in the mirror and felt even more stupid. My god, I look a state - unshaven, in desperate need of a haircut, and not exactly dressed like a professional. It's a much needed reminder that I should always be thinking of the next client - and that I might bump into them anywhere. Something new for the to-do list: get a haircut.

12 March 2007

Back with a vengeance

Yup - I've got my concentration back. I've been working hard again now and things are going nicely - just won a new contract, which I might be able to give some details of when the project's finished. It's given me a real boost and it's a lovely bit of work with some very nice people, so I'm really looking forward to getting my teeth into it.

I'm about to nip into Cambridge to sort out a new phone which will help solve two problems at once - getting lost and keeping up with emails on the go. T-mobile are the only carrier I can find to offer an unlimited data plan, and the cost is fantastic too. I don't make hundreds of mobile calls at the moment, but I think that might be as much because I'm on pay as you go as any other reason. I'll be keeping the same business numbers, so that won't change - but hopefully I'll be getting a fancy phone with GPS on it too so I can find places a lot easier....

05 March 2007

The concentration drought continues...

...and I don't know why, or what to do about it. I'm going to try working somewhere completely different tomorrow to see if that helps.

Thing is, I've got some really interesting work to do. It's something I can really get my teeth into and I want to make a really good job of it. But inspiration just won't strike at the moment. I've made a start - so I'm not staring at a blank bit of paper any more - and I even know what I want to say... it's just saying it which is causing problems.

I think what I might do is continue the reading and research now, play a little bit with sIFR and have an early night. That might help. And I just have to hope I get it back tomorrow.

02 March 2007


For some reason I'm having real trouble concentrating at home at the moment. I know I have loads of work to do, but I just can't do it. It's not even as if I'm being distracted by anything in particular - I'm just not able to work at home very well. One solution - although it's going to end up very expensive - is that Ta Bouche, a coffee place/restaurant/bar in Cambridge has free wifi, good food and attractive passers-by. I'm thinking of becoming a regular there so I can cheekily ask to plug my laptop in and not be limited to three and a half hours' work.

I have loads on at the moment - writing proposals, doing work for existing clients, the usual month-end admin stuff, and concentration just isn't happening. I think I might hop on the bus soon. Especially because Clare Grogan is standing in for Nemone on 6 Music and I don't really like her.

My whiteboard is working out well - it's always full and I update it every day as things happen. Very reassuring to know I've got enough work to be able to do that. More work would always be appreciated though...

Oh, and I'm thinking of going limited before the end of the year. If I can maintain my levels of work for another couple of months and build up a bit of capital - and if I can get through my tax self-assessment...

26 February 2007

Email issues and doing digital

Hello! If you've tried emailing me today, I might not have received your mail. I'm in the middle of changing hosts and I'm not sure I'm getting all emails. I'm relying on an ancient Hotmail account which all my emails are automatically forwarded to at the moment... things should be back up and running tomorrow, with luck. In the mean time, phone is the best option for getting in touch.

I've treated myself today - I went out and bought a Pure DAB radio. It's fantastic - BBC 6 Music in stereo without dropping bitrate every five minutes, lots of buttons to press, and great reception even without the arial up! How ace is that - I'm listening to Lammo at the moment and it's never sounded better.

Plus I get XFM now. How cool is that?

15 February 2007

New toys, and organising myself

I discovered the other day that while managing an individual project is fine - and, to be honest, swapping between several projects is OK too - I wasn't very good at keeping track of them, especially the issue of giving things project codes. I reached a critical mass of projects where they just stopped being easy to keep track of in my head.

So, after much asking of advice, I've got a new filing system, involving job bags, a new project (and quote and invoice) numbering system, and a new toy - a whiteboard. It's all gridded out and different colours. I feel like I'm in CSI, which I've always wanted. Ideally one day I'll work in an office with a big glass wall I can write on, but until that day my little whiteboard will do.

I've also got my iPod shuffle - my leaving present from my last job. It's a coloured one, and it's utterly, utterly fantastic. I can't believe the sound quality from such a small thing. I need to do some iTunes organisation - I've got loads of Pet Sounds session tracks on there and they don't quite work on shuffle...

12 February 2007

Of guilt and money

I'm a naturally guilty person. I feel guilty about lots of things. I feel guilty writing about this, because I'm using charity to promote my business, but then again charity is benefiting as well, so not completely and utterly guilty.

Because I've got such an ace job, which I love, and because of other things, I feel guilty more than ever at the moment. So I decided to spread a bit of the joy I have by making a donation to Comic Relief. I'd heartily recommend you all do the same; the money goes to some very, very worthwhile causes, and while it's not made me feel exactly guilt free, it's gone a little way to helping.

My £50 is apparently enough to help 15 African farmers. That's not necessarily where my money's gone, though; about 40% of Comic Relief money helps out with projects in the UK. You can find out more on their (excellently designed) website.

And, if I've managed to make you feel guilty for not doing your bit too - which I hope I have - you can donate quickly and easily online.

11 February 2007

Brrrm brrrrrm!

I've got a car! It's a nice little Citroen AX. It has five whole gears, a working fuel gauge, and thanks to dad a CD player.

It also has a nasty knock from the CV joint at the moment, but that'll soon be fixed. I'm generally very excited by it. Soon I will have the embarrassment of filling it with petrol and probably not being able to get the cap off, but there you go.

This of course means I'm properly back on the road and ready for more work... which is a very good feeling.

Now for a nap in front of the rugby.

08 February 2007

Snow joke, etc etc.

Yes... I know. Insert snow pun here.

It's funny how I missed all the snow (well, the tiny bit) in Cambridge the other week when I was in Glasgow. I really wanted some. Now I've learned to be careful what I wish for, because "road chaos" has meant the cancellation of a meeting I was looking forward to going to and a day spent at home, snuggled up in two jumpers (and I'm trying to encourage the cat to sit on my feet) doing other work instead.

It's lucky I'm able to work from home like this - it must be a nightmare for other small businesses who rely more on being able to get out and about. I realise now how critical a single day's work can be - if that's the only day's paid work you get for a month, you're in trouble...

Time allowing, I may venture out with my camera later and take a couple of snapshots of the Dissenter's Cemetary in the village. It looks incredible in the frost, so I can only hope it looks as good in the snow. I have to nip to the post office anyway.

Tomorrow I'm helping some friends move house - let's hope it's a bit nicer.

Oh, and I've just found out fencing tonight is canceled. Damn! It'll be four weeks off in total... I think my legs are turning to jelly rather than the chiseled oak I thought they were.

OK, so they've never been that good. But they ain't getting any better.

05 February 2007

Sad farewell

It's with great sadness I announce the departing of a much loved Rover Metro at the ripe old age of 89,000 miles.

Head gaskets. Damn them. It's not an expense I need now - a new car - but I suppose these things happen. And it means something shiny and new(ish) to play with - hurrah! That's always fun.

In other news... I'm back from my trip, which was fun and interesting and I got to see Glasgow, which is a very nice city. I'd like to go back. I'm glad to be home and able to eat in my own house, though. There's not much else to report - a few ideas on the go for some promotional stuff, several meetings coming up for other work, and all in all I feel very settled into the self employment thing. It's been nearly three months!

Oh, and I'm now properly VAT registered and completed my first return this weekend. It made my brain proper hurt. It's got to be the hardest maths ever.

29 January 2007

*Very* out of the office

Well... it turns out I'm very, very out of the office at the moment. Email access is flaky at best, so the best way to get in touch is to phone or text me. My landline number will go through to voicemail, which I'll pick up when I'm home at the weekend, or I'm available on my mobile pretty much all the time.

Hope you're all well - I am.

21 January 2007

Out of the office

I'm out of the office for the next couple of weeks - I'll be available by email, or leave a message on my voicemail - I'll be able to check it lunchtimes and evenings. I'll tell you all about it when I get back...

12 January 2007

Asimo, ticking things off, and scrabble

First up - Asimo. Now, I love the Honda advert with this little robotty fella. So when I saw this on The Register, I was very - well, somewhat - excited to see him in action some more. It was a little disappointing:

  • What's with the human-like, girly voice? He should sound like a proper robot, all electronic and synthesised.
  • They missed a trick with him dancing - why's he not doing "the robot"? That's just foolish.
  • He looks constipated when he runs.
Still, it's quite an achievement - he's a clever little bit of kit.

Secondly, ticking things off. Despite many distractions, I've managed to get mostly caught up with my to-do list and I've ticked loads of things off. Opportunity-hunting continues apace - this is the one part of business I'm doing a lot more of than I thought I would. Paperwork - far less than I thought. Still, it gives me a chance to get in touch with some old friends and contacts, which is always nice.

Thirdly, Scrabble. I'm realising how incredibly bad I am, having bought myself a Scrabble-themed desk calendar with a different challenge every day. I've managed one, so far. Oh dear.

11 January 2007

Obligatory iPhone post

Ah, the iPhone. Is it just me who thinks it's nothing more than a fairly bog-standard smart phone, but with incredibly sexy design job and thoroughly beautiful looking user interface?

Don't get me wrong - I'm completely caught up by the hype and I'd like one. I like some of the clever features, too - the SMS "conversation" idea is brilliant, as is the voicemail you can listen to in any order regardless of when you get them. But that's just an improvement on standard phone OS stuff, surely? Likewise the music and video - plenty of smart phones can do that, but perhaps not in such a slick way.

So, iPhone - exciting, sexy, cool - but hardly ground-breaking.

Procrastination - an art form

I'm discovering a talent for putting things off. Which is not a good talent to have. My methods for procrastination are many and varied, but some notable examples include:

  • Writing to-do lists - it's certainly not the case that I don't really have enough to do. It's just trying to motivate myself to do things once I've finished writing them down.
  • Cleaning the toilet - when we moved into this house several years ago the upstairs toilet was a little limescale-encrusted... let's just say it's not got any better. It's suddenly turned into an obsession. I am trying many, many chemicals, elbow-grease, and other techniques.
  • Shopping - I need to get food today, for...
  • Cooking - I'm cooking from scratch more. Today it will be mushroom burgers from the Crank's cookbook. I'm not a vegetarian; I like mushrooms.
Still, things are going OK at the moment. Live like a monk - extreme! is going pretty well (apart from all the chemicals I've bought to clean the toilet). I even went into Cambridge on Monday for a meeting, had a wander around town for 45 minutes, and managed not to spend anything. I was extremely tempted yesterday to go into Cambridge and drink tea somewhere with a wireless internet connection... but I avoided it. Plus I've not been out socially all year. I'm quite pleased with that.

03 January 2007

Marketing hard!

Yes, just like I said I would in my "year ahead" post below, I'm really pushing my marketing at the moment. My target is to find at least two opportunities per day; yesterday and today it's been people I know and agencies I respect. There's a few of them, too, so that should continue for a while.

I've also joined EMMA today - the East of England Multimedia Alliance. Having worked at the East of England Development Agency, I have something of an unfair advantage in knowing about networking organisations like this... and I intend to join as many as possible. EMMA is free, so even if I don't get any leads from it, I've lost nothing. The benefits, of course, include better search engine listing because there are more incoming links; better links with other EMMA members; and a central place to find tendering opportunities. They also run events, so I'm going to try to get along to one or more of those and meet some more people.

Other marketing activity has included updating Maltpress.co.uk to include my new contact details (thanks to Skype, I have my own land-line number now) and - at long last - working on JuicyFly.com a bit more. It's about half done now, and I hope to get it finished tonight. Then work begins on a new toy - some PHP image manipulation - before I re-do Cambridge.IsHome again. Then the empire will be up-to-date, which will be very, very nice.