12 Jan 2011


Web Developers going AWOL is a surprisingly common problem

A company will have a site built, and perhaps a backend management system setup, and then they want some amends or tweaks but they cannot contact their web developer.  I think this happens because many developers are used to working through an agency and have an agency mentality – “job done, get paid, end of story” – and they don’t think of ongoing support for existing customers.

Reasonable enough if you’re a contractor, and you do work via an agency, but not so great if you are the sole technical support for a small company.  I’ve had work (and some nice work) from panicked customers who just cannot get in touch with their regular guy.  In one case the programmer had gone on a cruise to the Carribean and not told anyone, but my favourite missing-in-action is:

“Our web developer went to the Burning Man Festival and he never came back”

Yes, you are allowed holidays and breaks, but give your customers plenty of notice and at the very least setup an email responder so people know what’s going on – don’t disappear on them just as they’re trying to ramp up for Christmas.  And if you’re going off to live in a yurt, help them find a replacement developer.

Joys of working from home

1 Apr 2010


Recently I’ve been working on a project where I’ve had to commute to Birmingham Business Park and work in the client’s office.  Nice project, but it’s made me realise just how much I love working at home.

  1. I have a brilliant office.  Set of double monitors on an adjustable arm (I hate using visual studio on a laptop screen), desk and chair are at the right height, everything I need is to hand.  Also it’s just such a nice space.
  2. Great coffee.  I’m a coffee snob and I detest and despise instant coffee and vending machine coffee and starbucks coffee.
  3. No commute.  Every morning for the past few weeks I’ve been faced with the choice between roadworks and speed-cameras or the motorway.  At home my office is next door to bedroom and if I get dressed it’s because I want to, not because I have to.
  4. I’m the boss.  My hours.  My clients.  My projects.
  5. If I get bored I can just go and annoy the grumpy office cat.

My desk. There’s also a nice view from the window.
It’s obviously late ‘cos I’ve been drinking tea.

View from desk - rest of my office
And this is the rest of my office. The pictures on the wall are some really nice technical drawings of steam engine indicators, and a rivitting machine

And I’m just doing my end-of-year accounts (my company year ends in March) and I’ve realised that I’ve now been working for myself for four years. Unbelievable. I had to go check my old speadsheets to see if I’d counted the years right. But yep, first invoice sent March 2006.

Children, don’t try this at home

7 Jun 2007


Advice on personal productivity from Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape):

… don’t keep a schedule … By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day.

When someone emails or calls to say, “Let’s meet on Tuesday at 3”, the appropriate response is: “I’m not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can’t commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I’m available, I’ll meet with you.”

Of course, this advice comes with lots of caveats, and apparently it doesn’t work for everyone (you don’t say), although it does work for that well-known guru of business productivity, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I’m still boggling.

How to waste time when you’re setting up your own business

21 Feb 2006


Trying to decide on a business name is a an incredible distraction, especially when you’re looking for the accompanying domain name. There seem to be three general approaches:

  1. The acronym or the abbreviation. I could become WebAppDevelopers.com or WADCS.com (although I would have to invent a name to fit that last acronym).
  2. Names which can be pronounced but doesn’t mean anything (yet). I could become Beyaro.com, Tashlin.com or Noydart.com
  3. Names made by stringing several words together and hoping for the best. These can be vaguely business-like (e.g. knowledgesolutions.com), or have dubious techie ambitions (e.g. colourfreezone.com, validatedspace.com) or just be plain silly. HappyGreenFerret.com, RealTurtleSoup.com and GorgeousCat.com are all available.

For the moment I’ve knocked this on the head, I’m starting up as BronwenReid. Six months down the line I can revisit this, perhaps if I spend too much time spelling out my name to people on the phone.

Don’t try this at home

17 Feb 2006


At the moment I’m looking at every resource I can find on on freelancing. And Anil Dash has some wonderful advice for freelancers who are wondering how much they should charge for their time.

  1. Slap the client in face.
  2. Tell the client your hourly rate.

If the client was more shocked, horrified, offended, hurt, saddened, or wounded by the slap in the face than by the hourly rate, then you are still pricing yourself too low.