Category: Development Diary

Blog, Development Diary

A Weekend In The Wild

From time to time, its good to get some distance from Somerset.

I may have escaped London to return to the country, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get a little bit tired of the same old landscape everyday.

Although there are some truly spectacular views to take in around the area, if you’ve lived here for the majority of your life the novelty starts to wear off, especially after you’ve done the same forest circuit for the 30th time. I’d like to say that my collie feels the same way, but I’m afraid that would be affording him a mite too much intelligence and memory.

Every time we set off on our usual morning walk across the fields, opposite to the cottage, I’m always amazed at the boundless enthusiasm and excitement with which he runs through each and every gate. Its as if each walk he takes is his very first and each field he dives into is an unexplored world of endless possibilities. Sometimes I wish I could adopt my dog’s mental stance on the world, but it can be difficult to do so when you wake up to the same view every day.

Whenever I find myself getting into a morose mood, much like the one that I found myself in a few days ago.

I try and get the upper hand on it straight away and take myself off to a distant land. Last time this happened, I spent 6 hours driving up to the Lake District – this time around, I thought I’d do a little less driving.

The Snowdonia National Park in Wales is just a 3 hour drive away from my home in Somerset, close enough to make a day trip out of and epic enough to feel like I’ve travelled further than the 130 or so miles I’ve actually driven. With the forecast warning of cold, windy weather I thought it best to pack two things: 1) My brand new Amelia Jane Black Fur Gilet, to keep me snug under my waterproof , and 2) A friend with an IQ higher than a toddlers, so that I could avoid any kind of accidental injury that usually comes along with my participation in any kind of physical activity.

The Gilet went straight on before I even packed any food, there’s nothing quite like cracking out a new piece of clothing that’s been lying in wait for some time.

This beauty was a Christmas present from my Mum; trust her to give me something so comfy yet practical. As I’ve mentioned before, it can be extremely challenging coaxing freelance creatives out of their comfortable caves, especially in the midst of Winter. Thankfully, I’ve developed a few tricks to help with the process, one of which involves baking goods and essentially using them as payment for a companionship. I’m not proud, but I’m not ashamed either – sometimes you’ve just got to do what you have got to do.

After setting out early in the morning, the dog (he doesn’t have a name, I know it’s weird but there you go) and I picked up James, a programmer, from his place in Street and we set out on our merry way to Snowdonia.

It was a long day of unbroken silences and thoughtful cake-eating sessions. James won’t mind me saying that he’s one of the quieter members of our clan, however he balances that out by being an exceptionally well prepared hiker. I may have brought cake by the kilo, but I overlooked bringing any kind of water, map or compass. Three things that are apparently kind of essential when it comes to hiking in the wilderness.

Losing ourselves in Snowdonia might have been fun, but I was glad to be able to navigate us safely back to the car. James seemed pleased with his payment of cake. Dog seemed as happy as if we’d walked across the field, but I guess it was my well being that we were really making the trip for anyway. When we returned back to the folding hills of Somerset, everything appeared much as we had left it and I was surprised to notice that I was OK with that.

Here’s to being OK!

Blog, Development Diary, Productivity Pointers

Taxes Can Take A Hike

There’s nothing worse than doing your own taxes.

Any self-employed person will tell you that crunching your own numbers is simply one of the most galling processes in being a freelancer.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plasterer, a programmer or a part-time baker (yes, I couldn’t think of any more jobs beginning with ‘p’) if you are your own boss then you need to account for every single expense, cost and incoming for the entire tax year. Of course, sensible business owners keep track of their financials as the days, weeks and months go by. Graphic Designers in their twenties, however, are not all that sensible.

The months leading up to April are always busy ones for me. Thanks to a tonne of advertising, I’ve managed to rake in a few one-off jobs, as well as some more regular work, so I’ve got plenty to keep myself busy with. Socially though, I find myself drifting into a slightly disconcerting dead zone, leaving me with very little to do to distract myself from my taxes. My fellow designers and freelancers are a curious bunch. Mostly living in the neighbouring towns of my village, they’re not far away, but during the winter months they can be hard to rouse from their cave-like homes.

With the dreaded threat of unfinished tax returns looming over all our heads, you’d think that this would be a perfect time for us all to start seeing a lot more of each other – but you would be wrong.

The modern self-employed person has an endless amount of distractions to draw them away from their purpose. Perhaps there’s a new Netflix series that simply everyone is talking about – there goes 13 hours of your life. Maybe you’ve just remembered that there was that book you were given by your Aunt for Christmas that’s still sitting on the dining room table, you could struggle through that for another 30 hours. Then, of course, there’s always video games. Lovely video games. Time sucking video games that steal your evenings, weekends and your sleep. Whatever you choose to do, when attempting to erase the thought of doing any kind of Tax-based work, you must ensure that you never leave the house.

The house, to the self-employed person is both the work-house and the holiday lodge. As long as you’re inside the house, there’s always the possibility of you doing some kind of work. You may just stay in reading comics, but there’s still a chance of some work getting done. As soon as you step outside the front door that possibility dive bombs to an absolute zero. The game of Procrastination is a delicate one, it involves walking a fine mental tight rope that could snap at any moment, leaving you hanging by one hand staring down at the bottomless pit of despair that you have been pretending does exist for the past 10 weeks.

Come April things will be different though. Our tax returns will be handed in, we’ll know where we stand financially and the sun will have returned to England, banishing the grey rain clouds of Winter.

Then, and only then, will we freelancers think of leaving the house and rejoining society once more.

Blog, Development Diary

One Month Down: Making Marketing Plans

We’re one month into the New Year already.

It’s always the way isn’t it?

You come back from the Christmas break, still feeling a little groggy after the New Years’ celebrations, and you stumble back into the working week, bleary eyed and confused. If you’re a self-employed monkey like me, then this can be a dangerous position to be in. Working by yourself means that you can’t rely on anyone else to pick up the slack – it’s all on you. Every day matters and if you drift through a fortnight of work (like I did at the start of this year) then you’ll be in a sorry state come the end of the month (like I am now).

Thankfully, if the only standing engagement you have at the weekend is with your dog, there’s always time to catch up with work at the weekend.

As we slide out of the first month of 2017 and into the next one, I’m looking forward to an action-packed week followed by an even busier weekend.

Yes I am thoroughly guilty of having over-indulged over the holiday season. However, I was also in the rather worrying position of not having any new projects on the horizon (hence, my previous post on What To Do When You Can’t Find Any Design Work). Thanks to a couple of quick leaflet jobs, I can’t say that I’m completely out of work still, but I have got significantly more time on my hands than I’m used to. So throughout this next week, I’m going to be following through on some of my own advice and getting proactive.

The first thing on my agenda is to start aggressively marketing this website. We’re well and truly in the 21st Century now and lone professionals like myself can’t afford to not have a decent online presence. So the time’s come for me to enlist some outside help.

Starting next week, I’m going to be having the assistance of an SEO company to help boost my ‘rankings’.

In one conversation I had with the team there, I was blasted with more technical terms than I knew how to deal with, but luckily the basics of how they work are relatively simple to grasp. By pushing my website through social media feeds and reaching out to other websites, they are going to raise the profile of my site and hopefully increase traffic to my site, which should (theoretically) increase the amount of enquiries that I get.

This is the first time I’ve had other people working to help me out and I must admit that the thought of it is somewhat comforting. It feels good to know that I’m not completely on my own in the battle for custom and that I’ve got a few other people working on my side of the war.

For now though, I’m just going to focus on designing the heck out of this leaflet and hope I’m going to have enough time to walk the dog on the weekend.