[ photo courtesy ]
Following other notes-ers, I think I’m going to switch from Weeknotes to Monthnotes as it’s what I seem to be ending up with mostly anyway. That said in the interests of keeping up the same numbering, because I’m a pedant, I’ll still be tracking time in weeks, just aiming to write up every month. Nothing like a cop-out, eh?
January ended up being not quite the month it was originally shaping up to be, as the digital strategy consulting project that was due to kick off at the start of the month ended up being delayed due to the joys of admin that needs to be processed to consult for a big multinational corporation based in another EU country. Although all the work is being done in the UK so no tax liability abroad, to tick the compliance box they require all contractors to go via a 3rd party – though being big global brand they also have big global brand standard payment terms of 90 days, so whilst the 3rd party contractor solution is necessary from their end, being able to operate under standard 30 days payment terms is invaluable from the standalone consultant point of view.
As wise sage Phil Gyford pointed out in his ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Freelancing‘ blog post (from a few years back but still v. much true today and exceptionally useful for anyone starting out), as a freelancer you are your own account manager, finance department, new business department, HR department and so on – and managing your cashflow is obviously hugely important. You definitely learn a lot, fast, but as it’s all for your own benefit I actually find it all pretty satisfying. Being an anal-retentive sort who is slightly obsessed with organisation, I really don’t find the book-keeping and general paperwork side of things too much of a chore, I’m actually quite enjoying learning the ins and outs of running my own business, especially as I made things official and set myself up as a Ltd company, and very recently needed to become a VAT registered business as well. The whole process is made infinitely smoother as a result of using the terrific FreeAgent for bookkeeping – it’s absolutely fantastic for the freelancer who’s after an accounting package that just works. Xero was recommended by several people but seems to be suited more to people running small businesses, and as FreeAgent is designed specifically for freelancers, it seemed to fit the bill exactly, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. The UI is simple and elegant, it’s UK-native, it’s got really great time-tracking integration, the support (so far) has been clear and helpful – the only niggle is that unlike Xero, it doesn’t (yet) have direct bank account integration so you have to export your statements and upload them manually, but not a huge dealbreaker.
On the business side of things things are feeling even more ‘official’ with the development of a visual identity on the site, my business cards, invoices, letterhead and so on. All credit must go to the wonderfully talented David Lowbridge who developed a look and feel that I absolutely love, and which far exceeds anything I could have hoped for. My favourite part is the little logo which you can see in the footer of this page, the little ‘Seemingly Unconnected’ smiley: the name of the business (and this blog) comes from one of my favourite quotes, a William Plomer quote which I think is a lovely encapsulation of what we try to do as planners:
Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected
I adore ‘Faces in Places‘ (or charmingly, ‘little fellas‘) – joining together seemingly unconnected elements to spot faces in everyday objects – and the logo is very obviously inspired by these pictures, only in this case it’s the initials of the company that when you connect them together form a little fella. This site’s undergone a little bit of a fresh paint job to reflect the new colours, logos and so on, and I’m rather enjoying feeling like a ‘proper’ company with my beautifully designed (I can say this, as I didn’t design it!) matching branded bits and bobs.
So, admin aside, on the work front, the slightly late kickoff of aforementioned big global brand project was actually a blessing in disguise, as I’d also taken on a couple of other bits and pieces and had a horrible realisation that I thought I’d made a slight cock-up by over-committing myself. One of those was the development of a one-day course on ‘Understanding Social Media’ for the IPA with my co-pilot and partner in crime Jamie Coomber. It was intended as a basic primer to help account directors respond confidently with the right questions when clients do the ‘I want a Facebook / Twitter / insert latest shiny thing’ thing. We ran it on 9th Feb and the feedback from the attendees was really positive, so looks like we’ll be running it again later in the year, Rather gratifyingly, so the IPA tell us, the following day there was a request from an HR director who’d sent one of her flock on the course, asking when it would be run again as she wanted to send more people on it as the feedback had been so good. W00t!
Other ‘other thing’ was a rather nice little project helping out the very lovely folks from Addidi – a wealth management / financial services boutique who specialise in helping women create, invest and enjoy their money – with some brand strategy work to help them refine their proposition, to help inform the overhaul of their comms and marketing materials. Short and sweet, but a lovely brand to work on, run by very smart and inspirational people. Happy days.
Also on the plate as of this coming week, in addition to aforementioned strategy project, I’m going to be doing 2 days a week with the brilliant guys at Friday, doing some experience planning work on a really juice big financial services brand. One of my aims of going freelance was to broaden my experience by getting stuck into a wider variety of projects, learning new & different skills and being a bit of a planning magpie, so I’m really excited about getting my teeth into a more service-design orientated project.
In other news:
- This Friday it’s the return of The Story (yes, another Conway Hall conference), which promises to be fantastic
- I can’t believe it but it’s now less than a month to SXSWi. Judging by how quickly accommodation got snapped up, it sounds like it’s going to be even bigger than last year, which is nuts, as it was massive last year, even overtaking the music festival in terms of attendance numbers. An awful lot to do before then, but really looking forward to the Austin pilgramage, followed by a visit to San Francisco for a few days of chilling out and seeing friends.
- Joined Playlist Club, a fab new initiative from Greg Povey and Marie Foulston – which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s open to all, so check it out and do sign up as a contributor if lovingly choosing and sharing a delightful selection of music is your bag. It’s my turn to curate a playlist in a few weeks time, and already getting playlist anxiety, especially as I’m in such esteemed company….