3 July 2013

My new website

Hello. I’m sorry that I haven’t been here for a while, but a lot has been happening. I’ve been on holiday, been busy working on earning a living and I’ve created a new website for my business.

Here it is:

Please take a look.
Thank you.

14 June 2013

Free book! If you are a small business or freelancer this is essentialreading

Well, it’s been a while since I posted an entry. So to my reader I am sorry. I have been working on my website – more on which some other time.

Meanwhile, here is a great 70 page book about how you value the service you provide to clients. It’s good for you whatever  business you’re in

Click the link to download the pdf. Well worth an hour of your time. 


If you are not a freelancer or running a small business, but are in a position to hire professional services it is also a very useful book. Will help when deciding who’s services to use.

13 May 2013

Never mind the wealth. What about the health?

Just time for a quick one tonight.

I want to talk about health instead of wealth.

I am going to talk for a bit about my personal experience with health since leaving work.

When I had a job I was overweight by a large margin, there is a history of heart problems in my family and I was exhibiting a number of stress related symptoms. Not a good combination. Especially for someone who is quite lazy.

I am too lazy to exercise. I had a gym membership but spent my time there in the spa, steam room and sauna. Mostly trying to relax and bring my stress levels down. I hate gym-based exercise so joining was a bad and expensive idea based on an attempt to loose weight.

Anyway, enough about that. What about since leaving? I’ve started following an intermittent fasting diet. It’s working, I have lost over 2 stones in weight. As a lazy person I can do this because it means less cooking! But the point is that it is easier to do things such as loosing weight if you change your lifestyle. Changing the way I live my life has enabled me to do this. It is a lot harder to change things while you have a regular job.

How about stress? Surely running your own business is more stressful than having a job? Yes, if you don’t do it right. Or if you are in a job that doesn’t make you stressed. This wasn’t the case for me though. My job caused my stress. Not having a job has taken away the cause of a lot of my stress. After a few months the symptoms of stress that I was exhibiting went away. I had knots in my guts, bad sleep patterns, weight gain, nagging tension headaches most days, a feeling of dread (especially on Monday mornings) and anger.

All gone now. So I am not only loosing weight, I have got rid of some of the other classic causes of heart trouble. I think that having a job was shortening my life and I had to make a change. Something else I was doing while working was drinking half a bottle of wine most nights, sometimes more. I drink a lot less these days, and only because I like it, not because I feel I need it to unwind.

So, over to you. Is your job – indeed any job – worth shortening your life over? Is earning money more important than a longer, healthier life? Some people seem to manage it by spending an hour in the gym to work away their stress three times a week while living healthily. That’s great, but I could never have been one of those people. I’m too lazy you see. Sometimes a job simply takes too much from you. It is your responsibility to make a change. Nobody else will do it for you.

12 May 2013

If you could live somewhere else would you?

Hello, I would like to get you thinking about where you live and why. In particular I’m interested in whether you choose your location based upon where you work or where work is likely to be. Of course you must live within commuting distance of your job.

Would you re-locate for a job or a promotion? Would you rather live somewhere nice and commute to somewhere unpleasant or live somewhere unpleasant to save the commuting? Do you choose your location first and then try and get a job nearby?

What if you could live anywhere that you like (and can afford)? Where would you live?

Many nice places to live are cheaper than places near to where jobs are. So, if you can work at home (not for an employer) you are likely to be able to live where you choose to. Not only do you get to live in a splendid location, but it also costs you less to live there. What’s not to like?

I think that you will need a few examples before you see my point. So, first of all let me try to define what I mean by a ‘nice’ place to live. For me – and your idea could be different – a nice place to live is close to a large village or small town with far reaching views from a South facing living room. Preferably a sea view (personally I would never live anywhere where I can’t see the sea out of my windows) a bit of countryside nearby. So, access to amenities without using a car but away from too many people.

How about these two examples to start us off:
For a person who works in London and wants to live out of London but within easy reach I have picked Maidenhead in Berkshire and a £300,000 budget. Here is a two bed flat for sale at £274,950
Picture 1
£274,000 in Maidenhead
As an alternative you could live near to where I live in Hythe in a three bedroom flat with sea views 
Side Elevation
£200,000 in Hythe, Kent
and keep £75,000. Or how about Cornwall in a three bedroom semi-detached cottage with a sea view for £250,000?

Picture 1
£250,000 South Cornwall

 Perhaps you crave a life in a city? Why not? Cities are very inspiring places. Here’s a decent property in the centre of London at £550,000

Picture 1

It’s in a great location if you have over half a million Pounds. But if you don’t need to be in London for work how about this in Barcelona for £321,366?

Barcelona £321,366
Or maybe Venice would inspire you at £389,022?

Picture No. 08
Apartment in Venice for £321,366
So far so good? What if you want to be mortgage free? You can do pretty well in rural France. You can grow your own food and keep a few animals and have great weather all for a mere £73,576.

Picture 1
Southern France £73,576
Well, there’s a few options to get you thinking. If you read my previous entry about how technology can set us free you might think that any of these properties would be a good location for work. Providing you can get connected to the internet. All you need to do is generate the income you need for the lifestyle that you desire. Does it matter where you live if you are free? Have a look at properties like the one you live in, be it rented or owned. Then choose the location where you would prefer to live and have a look at properties there for a lower budget. If you choose a location based on factors other than the needs of your job you will hopefully be surprised at what you can find.

9 May 2013

Three considerations if starting a business

Hello, today I want to talk about some things that you could consider before starting up a new business.

In a nutshell these are:
  • outsourcing
  • automating
  • scaling
These words do not have much meaning for some businesses. But I would advise that you think about these topics before you go too far down the planning road.

So, what do I think these words mean? Let’s look at them in order.

Outsourcing. To me this means finding people to do work for you. It does not mean becoming an employer. Finding help externally can be a big step. You are handing a portion of trust over to someone else. You are buying their services while letting go of some of the systems that you have created. I suggest therefore that you plan ahead from the start so that any systems or ways of working that you create can easily be transferred to another party. It will make it easier to step over that threshold. Try to imagine that when you do hand some work over you will be handing it to a person who you may never actually meet. So create working practices that can be handed over relatively easily.

Automating. This is not about kitchen appliances. I know that you can buy items that automatically make bread, wash dishes and roast your dinner to perfection. We’re thinking about creating systems in your business that will allow it to run itself with very little input from you. This is not the same as outsourcing or getting staff. It is a technology thing, yes, but technology used intelligently. For example: you have a website – great – and on your website you sell items to people who could be anywhere. You have an off the shelf payment system that transfers the money to your account. Your website knows your stock levels and tells you when it’s getting low. The site also will send notifications of sales to a warehouse where your stock is kept. They will then fulfill your order with your branding and sales literature. Your bills are paid through direct debits. You might not necessarily start out with a system this automated, but you should be aware of the possibilities and you should plan and intend to lead your business towards this model.

Scaling. No, not climbing mountains – making things bigger. You should think very carefully about this. You should look for a business model that is scalable. That is a system, or product line that can grow to become as big as you wish. So, you should not create a business that depends upon your own unique skills, that has a very limited marketplace (niche is good so long as your niche is not tiny) and you should avoid sourcing products that can’t be sourced on a long term basis. You should have something that is repeatable on a larger scale without making major changes to the way your business is run or major changes to your product lines. Get automation right and scale should be a logical next step.

Now. You might be thinking that you are not really interested in any of this and that your business consists of making things with your hands and selling them in a small shop and displaying them on your website. There is nothing wrong with wanting that. If you are doing something that you love and it is bringing in enough money so that you do not need to work in a regular job that’s great. I am not addressing you here. Though I would say that it might be worth thinking about the above as well as doing what you love. Remember this. You could create an automated scalable business as well. It will enable you to do what you love doing. If that is making models of fairies and trying to sell them, great. But having a back-up is good sense. It means that you don’t need to turn your passion into something you depend upon to make money.

7 May 2013

We live in the best of times.

There has never been a better or more enabling time for living without a job while earning enough to live a comfortable life.

Today we can live pretty much anywhere we like and there are any number of ways to earn a living. There is a virtually limitless marketplace for anything that we produce be it actual physical products or intellectual content.

I am, of course, talking about technology. Technology sets you free. However, for anyone in an office based job this might not make any sense, as you might feel enslaved by your Blackberry or by emails and the needs of clients. Though in some ways Blackberrys and other mobile technologies have revolutionised how many people work, but not necessarily in a good way.

Perhaps at this point I should define what I mean by technology. I am talking about any combination of portable electronic devices that can access the internet and be used for communications. So, mobile (cell) phones, iPads, tablets and laptops.

Technology should not be our master, it should be our enabler. Use it properly and it can provide you with the freedom you crave instead of an extension of misery that reaches from your work to your home and can even overshadow holidays. How many of you have looked at work emails while on holiday? 

How, then, can we turn this around and use technology to give us freedom? Well if you were to think about what you want to do and apply what you know about the internet to it, how can it increase your reach and your sales? Here are some channels to think about. Social media, ebay and other virtual marketplaces, or a website.

If you were to make a product that people want to buy you have a couple of routes that you can take to sell it. The first is to open a physical shop, put your products in it and hope people who are walking past agree with you about how much your item is worth and come in to buy. This route has a number of disadvantages:
  • cost of set-up will eat away at your capital
  • you’ll need to produce enough products to stock your shop which will take away from the time you can spend marketing it
  • you will probably need to offer some other items for sale that you are buying in
  • there is an on-going cost with the rental and bills for the premises
  • you will need to be there every day
  • your shop needs to be located in a large town so that you can build a decent customer base.
The other route is to make your product and choose an online marketplace for it. Etsi is generally regarded as a good place to sell craft products. You can also sell your products through ebay and your own website. Here’s a few advantages of this route:
  • negligible set-up costs (unless you have your own website)
  • not location specific – you can live anywhere and your stock can be kept in any safe place you choose so no need for premises
  • very small on-going costs (a basic ebay store is £14.99 a month and you pay a percentage of your sales)
  • you can sell across multiple platforms instead of just one shop
  • your business is open all hours every day without requiring your presence
  • you produce items for sale as they sell rather than all of them up front. 
You could also follow both of these routes. But why would you? The second offers an international marketplace without any real risk while the first (conventional route) gives a very limited market for a relatively large upfront cost. You must be sure that your items will sell in large enough quantities to cover your costs. So you would need to make a number of saleable items just to break even.

Of course if you want to open a restaurant you won’t make much money if it’s virtual! But what if, instead, you were a chef? Why couldn’t you produce a menu for people to download with videos of you making these items explaining to people how they can make them at home in 45 minutes? You can sell access to these and sell other cooking related items on your website which you can drive traffic to via social media and Google searches. It would take a while to get noticed but you would find some success. Call it something like virtual restaurant at home or something like that except choose a better name! Hopefully you see my point. Which is: whatever your endeavor technology, when used well, can help set you free.

The real bonus though is that laptops etc. give you the freedom to work where you want and when you want. Before the invention of these items and the internet this was not possible. The areas you could trade in were largely limited to where your business was based. Or where the telephone was plugged in.

Unfortunately when you have a job these mobile devices can be an added burden. But if you are using them as I think they were intended they can set you free.

6 May 2013

You don’t deserve a day off – you need one

She said to him “I am just thinking aloud my suggestions to best manage your time off today because you have work tomorrow. But now I will keep my thoughts to myself then”.

As a day out destination, the seaside is hard to beat
I heard these words today whist out and about on a splendid bank holiday Monday. It made me a little bit sad, however don’t worry I soon got over it. But it did add to what I was already thinking about writing for today’s blog entry. But first we need to go back to the beginning and what set me going.

We live in Hythe, Kent. My work does not require me to live near a motorway or railway station or in a city. So we were free to choose where we wanted to live instead of where the job is. The bottom of our road lets out onto the main road into Hythe from the nearest motorway. Normally, even in rush hour, this road is not particularly busy, but as today was pretty much the first nice sunny day that we have had this year coupled with the bank holiday it means that a lot of people have decided that they want a nice day out at the seaside. And who can blame them? If you work all year with a paltry 20-25 days holiday and a few bank holidays you deserve to have a nice day out once in a while. Therefore the road was a solid snake of cars all the way down to Hythe and all the way back as far as we could see. We changed our plans and turned left out of Hythe.

But imagine if you’ve just driven an hour (or more) with everyone else down the motorway and sat in a long queue of traffic just to get to the beach. You wouldn’t be about to change your mind and go the other way would you? This is a sacred day, one of the precious few week days a year when you aren’t at work and you can be with your family doing something that you all enjoy. This, of course, creates it’s own tensions. This need to maximise the day or to make the most of your free time creates pressure. There is a lot of expectation, which if it goes unmet causes unhappiness. Imagine if it had been raining? Or if, because of the heightened atmosphere of expectation, you have been arguing with your partner while in the back the kids are bored and getting more restless (are we there yet?). The pressure mounts up and can conspire to ruin the day for everyone. All the time behind this is the knowledge that tomorrow it’s back to work – business as usual.

Walking around today I got to thinking that I really couldn’t face even the possibility of going to work tomorrow (particularly in an office). You see I have been free for two years now. I know what life is like both when you have a job and when you don’t have one and there is no way that I could go back to having a job. But that’s okay because I don’t need to worry about that anymore. It has been two years and everything has gone pretty well. I’m not rich, in fact I earn less than I did in my last job, but I don’t need as much money. I don’t spend £7500 a year on commuting for one thing. I don’t have that gnawing desire to reward myself with expensive holidays and expensive ‘stuff’ any more either.

I believe that there is a choice in life between having a job versus finding a way to earn your own living. I do not believe in job security, so I think that you are responsible for yourself. I also think that you have a choice about self determination. What? I mean that you can choose to rely on an employer to supply your needs or you can choose to rely on your own self. Who do you trust, You? Or your employer?

And so, we come back to the start of this entry which now you’ve read this far you will see that the quote at the top has a lot more to it than the words themselves would at first suggest. It sums up all of the expectations and the pressures that we put on ourselves to have all the good time we possibly can in the small amount of time off allowed to us. There is a choice, and if you choose to have a job, a career even, then you not only deserve a nice day out once in a while, you need it. But if you choose to make your own way and do it right, then you can have a day out when you choose without the pressure to make the most of it I think you will enjoy these a lot more.

If you have a job then as well as an occasional nice day out you will require a holiday, some nice clothes and a decent car to park on the drive of the house in the suburbs that costs you a lot of money. The problem for many is that the amount of money earned from working at a job never seems quite enough to compensate for the amount that an employee seems obliged to give. The wage is not quite enough to fulfill the needs of days out, holidays, cars and size of house. What you really want often seems out of reach, and when we earn more money we, perhaps rightly, want even more and nicer things in our lives to make it worthwhile. This keeps people hungry for more so they will stay on the proverbial career treadmill.

The point here, is that you don’t have to stay on the treadmill. You can get off. The desire to acquire fades. The need to earn more to match your expanding lifestyle goes away. It isn’t that I have forced myself to become happier with less, it is that I no longer desire more.

But perhaps best of all (on a flippant level) when you don’t have a job you can decide to have a day out at anytime you like. So, go when everyone else is at work. This removes the pressures and you won’t get stuck in a traffic jam again. Today’s was a novelty!

I would recommend this book:

4 May 2013

Take it easy ideas will turn up

Hello reader. Sorry, but I’m not going to write a big entry today. Instead I’m having a curry and watching Dr Who, possibly a new episode of The Simpsons and a few other things on the Sky Box.

It’s good not to let what you do take over and put pressure on you to do more. I say: do less. If you are going to be free, then be free. Don’t commit to too many things.

Also I want you to re-read (or read) yesterday’s entry and come up with an idea that will generate an income.

Oh, one more thing if/when you have an idea I’d be very glad if you put it in the comments section below. If you are struggling to have an idea, then perhaps you might want to put that as a comment. If that’s you then have a read of my first entry here.

3 May 2013

Just one egg in one basket. At first

Well, here it is: the weekend. Not just any weekend either but a Bank Holiday Weekend! Most workers in the UK get to have Monday off as well this weekend. Imagine the possibilities. Now, I don’t know about you but I used to live for the weekends. They were my time. I could almost forget about my job for a bit. Bank holidays were, of course, even more exciting.

So, what are you going to do with your extra day? Shopping? A day out somewhere with the family? Stay at home and watch James Bond again? Well, I’m sorry to report that there is no James Bond on telly this weekend. So, instead, why don’t you spend your extra free time trying to think up an idea for a way to make you enough money to enable you to leave your job and gain your freedom?

Scary eh? Well it might be if you actually take it seriously. So, let’s pretend that you are going to take my suggestion seriously and are actually going – this weekend – to think of something. Even if it turns out to be a rubbish idea it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you have started on a new path. You will have begun to constructively think of a way out of your job and a way to have the life that you actually want instead of the one you have ended up with.

Before we go any further I want you to reign in your expectations of the life that you want. You see we are not aiming for the fantasy celebrity lifestyle of millionaires, we are aiming for a way for you to leave work and not feel financially worse off. Or if you are worse off then to find other benefits of not having a job that more than compensate you for having less money.

One more thing here. If you are convinced that your job is what you want from your life and that you are more than content with it I suggest you stop reading this blog, bugger off and start enjoying your weekend without further ado.

For my other reader I would like to see if I can help you to think of some ideas. and present you with a few tests to help you decide if your ideas are any good.

So, to get started you need to think about what you would prefer to do with your time instead of having a job. How much free time you would like have. Where you want to live might also be a consideration. Your idea will define how you spend your days.

So, if you didn’t have a job but you were making a living how would you spend your days? How would you like to spend your days? Would you like to replace your job with work? Perhaps running a small business would work for you? Maybe a B&B in the countryside. Or you could open a shop, perhaps a cafe? Do you want a lot of free time to do other things instead? Thinking about this now will help you to find an idea. Or at least will prevent you from having a bad one.

Let’s say that your new venture will be your hobby, a thing that you enjoy doing. Or it is a way to help you move to a new location. You are probably thinking of service industry. If you’re creative you could start a photography business. I have a friend who wants to leave work and become a gardener. Starting a B&B or some kind of holiday business is a popular route for people. You will need to do your research with these types of business. Find your costs and be realistic about them. Then be pessimistic about your earnings. If you want a B&B look at some that are for sale in the area where you want to open. The estate agent details will usually tell you the turnover of the business. This will help you to get an idea of how much you are likely to earn. Take a long hard look at the costs involved. Mortgage, supplies needed, insurance etc. Try not to miss anything. There are books on this subject that will help. I’ve put a link to two below. The French one is there because I wanted to do this for a while.

For me though none of these are what I want. I am looking for something that does not require my presence for a set amount of hours, as it is too much like having a job. I want my time to be mine. If you fall in to this category you should look at your ideas against these criteria:
1. Does the idea require my presence?
2. Does the idea require that I live in a certain location?
3. Will the idea take up a lot of my time once it is set-up?
4. Is it scalable? (ie is it possible to expand the business? A B&B doesn’t qualify but a courier business does)
5. Is there a way that I can hand almost all of it over to another party and still make money?
6. Can some or all of the day to day work be outsourced?

If you answer no to all of these then it’s time for another idea. But never mind that for now. I want you to look at them while you think of an idea. Use them to aid your thinking.

What we want to achieve is an idea that can earn enough money to enable you to leave your job, or if you don’t have a job you can divert your energies away from looking for a job and start thinking about what else you could do. At the same time the thing you think of should not be all consuming. It should look after itself a bit.

My ideal is to have the income automated. If not at the start then later on. This is good, and to me at least, better than monetising my hobby because I can still pursue my hobby while the income is taken care of. Another advantage to an automated income is that it gives you time to create another automated income and so on. Perhaps for your second automated income you could write a book? I wouldn’t start here as it is very difficult to make a living from books. Not impossible though. Can you guess what my book is going to be about?

Finally you should aim to create multiple income streams, so that you are not dependent upon any one. Then, if one fails, you can still stay away from having to go back to a job. Simples!