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!

2 May 2013

Take the old road

Today I would like to write a small amount on the topic of why we buy ‘stuff’. In particular I want to focus my attention of expensive stuff that inevitably becomes obsolete.

First, some background. I grew up in Northern England, in a working class household. I was taught, but failed to learn, the value of money. When I eventually got a job I pretty much spent my first month’s salary before I had got it. You see, the salary sounded enormous to me. But after rent, tax, council tax, some food and an expensive camera I had nothing left. Did you notice the expensive camera part of that? Thought so.

Things didn’t get much better after that, just more expensive. Every next job I got gave me more money, that enabled me to buy newer and better ‘cameras’ (I hope, now, that you have noticed how I have turned camera into a metaphor for stuff). Always working my way up to the best that money could buy. Eventually I might get there, only to find that there was now a newer, bigger, lighter and faster version due out next month and only 25% more expensive. Whereas my new ‘camera’ was now fit only for propping up books as nobody would buy it off me for anything like the amount I needed for the next one.

Recently I wrote about making do and mending. Now I want to talk about an alternative to upgrading to the next new thing. I suggest downgrading to a vintage or classic item. These things do not become obsolete, they have character and usually look better than new stuff. Some even increase in value. This is difficult to apply to technology, I realise, so I will try and look at gadgets in a minute. There are, however, many things we have in our lives that are depreciating but that don’t really change fundamentally very often.

This brings us neatly to a personal passion of mine it is generally the second biggest expenditure after our home. I am, of course, talking about cars. I have had a lot of cars. They have cost me dearly both financially and emotionally. So, I feel I am qualified to use them as an example for making my point here.

It is well known that cars depreciate in value. Manufacturers are constantly trying to improve their design and functionality – sometimes with questionable results. This is how a business like theirs works, and nobody can blame them for wanting to keep up and compete.

18 Months ago I sold the car that I used for commuting as it was sitting outside my house doing nothing except losing £500 in value each month. I got rid of it for a classic car that would not loose value. In fact I hope that it will increase in value. Owning an old car (for classics are simply old cars) requires a more rigorous maintenance routine and therefore more on-going costs. But the upside is that there is zero depreciation. The maintenance will never amount to £500 a month that’s for sure. Another bonus is that classic cars remain desirable so you are less likely to become dis-satisfied with your car in the way you would with a newer car that has been superseded. Finally you can buy a classic car without spending much money, yet you will look cool (perhaps).

So, technology. Clearly a computer from 10 years ago is not much use today and the same applies to mobile phones, so how can we avoid this being so costly? Buy the right brand is one way to minimise costs. I only buy Apple products. I like them and understand how they work. Trouble is they cost a lot more than non-Apple verions. Well, yes they do but they are worth more when you have had your use out of them so instead of going to landfill they can be sold. I am typing this on an Apple laptop. The previous Apple laptop that I owned I bought for £1900 which is a lot, but after 10 years I sold it on eBay for over £200. The same goes for iPhones. I recently sold an old one of those that was faulty for over £100.

But I want you to consider how you will use an item that you buy. For instance: if all you do on your PC is use Microsoft Word to type letters and Excell to look at spreadsheets you could us an older even used PC and older versions of the software. Same with a mobile phone. If all you want to do is make phone calls and send the occasional text then any phone made in the past 10 years would do the job. Think about the reasons why you want to buy a new one. Is it to reward yourself for all your hard work?

If you spend less on cars, clothes and gadgets you won’t need to earn as much, so you won’t need to earn as much and you will have more free time to enjoy th cars, clothes and gadgets that you have which just might keep them out of the landfill a little longer.

My depreciation proof car

1 May 2013

There is life on Mars

After yesterday’s rather heavy post today, I thought I would try and lift your spirits a little.

So without further ado I present to you my idea of the king of inspiring places to go: Dungeness.

Okay, don’t let the name put you off. This really is a unique and interesting place, though it is an acquired taste I will admit. Here are a few facts to whet your appetite:
Dungeness is one of the largest expanses of shingle in the world
It contains a nature reserve
Is an area of special scientific interest
There are 600 species of plants
Many rare insects and animails
There are two lighthouses
There’s a nuclear power station.

Journey to the edge of the world
The absolute best way to approach Dungeness is on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway This is a miniature steam railway that starts down the road from my house in Hythe and goes all the way to the lighthouse near the nuclear power station. The trip takes just over an hour and is a journey from the 1950s civilisation of Hythe to the wilderness of Dungeness. Think of it as a benign version of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness but that lasts an hour. That might be dramatic, but the journey does feel as though you are heading away from your comfort zone and into the unknown. The further along the journey you are the more remote it feels until near the end the houses finally vanish and you are in the open shingle semi-wilderness of Dungeness. It is a splendid journey, if a little camp.

Arriving at Dungeness Station
Once you are there, if it’s a clear day – and don’t go unless it is – you can start by climbing the steps of the black lighthouse next to the station. This gives amazing views of the Romney Marsh, Camber Sands, the sea and the power station. Did I mention the nuclear power station? It is ever present. I can see it now from Hythe while I am typing this. After the lighthouse just go and explore by walking about. It doesn’t really matter which way you go it is all simply amazing. You can find places to sit on the shingle and just stare. If thinking is your aim on the trip then may I suggest you walk away from the station toward the power station – you can’t miss it – when you get closer to the station the road heads left along the power station perimeter and goes to the sea. At the end of the road climb a shingle dune and sit on the seaward side of it. You could stay here for hours just looking at the blue sea. There might be a few fisherman on the shoreline in front of you and probably some people with cameras. The walk to here takes 10 minutes.
Wooden walkway from the sea
After that head left with the sea on your right. Have a look at some of the houses and buildings as you walk along. The houses are mostly built around a central core that consists of an old railway carriage. After a while head back inland. There is a wooden walkway if you get far enough which leads to a pub called the Britannia – never been. If you are feeling particularly energetic instead of the Britannia head right away from the power station – which you should just be able to make out as it is the largest structure within about 50 miles. Eventually you will see a cottage on the left side of the road which is matte black with yellow painted window frames. this is the former home of Derek Jarman. If you are in doubt that you are looking at the right cottage take a look at the garden. Jarman made a unique garden here, there might be a few tourists crawling about the place. I believe that you are welcome to look around, but please respect the privacy of the people who live in the house.

After looking at this amazing garden for a while continue away from the power station until you reach a pub called The Pilot where they serve what is claimed to be the best fish and chips in the UK. They are certainly amongst the largest portions of fish and chips I have seen.

A lot of sky is visible at the Pilot
Once you are replete with pub grub you can amble back to the railway station to find that you have missed the last train back to Hythe and that you are, in fact, stranded on what could pass as the surface of Mars. They don’t call Dungeness the Fifth Quarter for nothing. There is a cafe at the station, though, so if it isn’t closed you can console yourself with a weak coffee.

The surface of Mars?
So, why do I like it so much? It is difficult to verbalise. But I must try, I suppose. The place has a stillness to it. It is weird, yes, but also beautiful and, of course, unique. It is a very special place. You can spend a day here in stillness with a notebook. You can take good photographs even if you have zero creative skill with a camera. It is the opposite of London (though London is amazing too) and the opposite of consumerism. It is the opposite of the things that distract one from being creative. Have a look at this gallery of photographs of the place and book your ticket.

Did I mention the Nuclear Power Station yet?
Oh and while you are in the area and in the mood for inspiration, might I also suggest you go to Camber Sands the day after you’ve visited Dungeness? It is basically a massive sandy beach just along the other side of the peninsular that Dungeness sits on.
Camber Sands. Unlike Dungeness, but adjacent to it

30 April 2013

Is it all worth it?

I took a friend to Heathrow this morning. It meant a drive through Kent and round the southern part of the M25.

The timing of my friend’s flight meant that we caught the tail end of the morning rush hour seeing all these people driving to work and to meetings got me thinking. Is it worth it? We passed a junction which had a queue of traffic about two miles long. We saw a near miss between two cars, other people were pulling in front of each other where there wasn’t a safe space. All this at 50+ mph. It’s a risky business going to work!

It used to be me too. In my last job I spent 2 hours a day in the car covering 50 miles there and 50 more back. There were road accidents on a regular basis. Once I was in one of my own.

This entry is not about road accidents and risk. I am more interested in the personal sacrifices people are prepared to make for their jobs. Also why people don’t divert some or all of the energy they put into building a career into finding an alternative? Can it be true that commuting, meetings and long, probably often, dull and stressful hours building a career is what many people really desire in life? What is it that hooks us in? I know that some make a lot of money so that they can buy a lot of things. Others spend their career hoping that the ends will meet and that there’s enough for the holiday they deserve. Perhaps it is that when we start on this path it doesn’t seem so bad. After all isn’t it just what all that education was for? Then as time goes on people are looking for the next promotion or pay rise when things will get a bit better. So much time is invested and so many ‘rewards’ are purchased (car, house, another house designer this and that) that after a while the risk of stopping working is just too great as there is so much to loose. But really is there so much to loose? Is it worth it for all that stress and all that commuting and sacrifices made? Never seeing the kids or the other half. Loosing the person that you once were to make a better life. Isn’t a better life one where you have more time for family? Even if that means a bit less money, it would certainly mean there is less need for more money and I would like you to think that a life could be really improved by a different kind of working and having just enough money for your needs while having as much free time as you want.

I made one other observation on my trip this morning. I stopped at a motorway service station to answer the call of nature. These days you can’t get to the conveniences without walking past as many of their tempting offerings as they can manage to tempt you with. On the way in I saw several people actually working in the service station cafe area on their laptops. Using Blackberrys and phoning people up. There were a lot of very large paper cups full of weak coffee and frothy milk. Nasty suits and a general impression of hopelessness. Perhaps it’s the financial climate.

On the way out I saw the pièce de résistance: a man eating what vaguely passed as a full English breakfast out of a takeaway polystyrene tray with a plastic knife and fork on a table that was barely wiped clean. It was the worst parody of a full English breakfast that I have seen. Surely mankind was made for greater than this?

Now, I don’t want you thinking that when I was talking about finding an inspiring place to work on a previous post I meant a place like this. When I wrote about finding a cafe I meant café!


28 April 2013

Make do and mend

Did I say that I have a lazy tendency? If you read Friday’s entry you will know the answer. But if you are too lazy to look I will tell you. Yes, I am a tad lazy.

But based on the information that I might be lazy the idea behind this blog entry might surprise you. Here, then, is the kernel of thought that I want to dress up with some waffle today:

In my opinion it is easier, where possible, to fix things rather than buy a replacement.

How so? Well, let’s think about the process for each scenario.
1. Fix it. Get out tools and have a look at the thing that’s not working. See if it’s fixable and fix it. Don’t know how? Google it. Need spares? Order any spares you need online.
2. Buy another. Spend ages looking for a replacement. Doing the research you put into buying the one that’s now not working. Going out to the shops talking to salesmen, finding the best deal and then arranging to have the old one taken away and waiting for a new one to be delivered. Or chucking the old one away and fetching the new item. Before all that, and more crucially you have to get up early and go to work to earn the money you’ll need to buy a replacement.

So, do you see? It’s easier to make do and mend than throw away and replace. Also there’s a satisfaction gained from fixing it.

Let’s also not forget the waste generated by replacing a thing.

So, here’s my contribution: I mended my watch today. It was so easy that it’s ridiculous to think that I might have got rid of it. My watch stopped working a few weeks back. I like this watch, so I want to keep it. I’ve never tried mending one before.

It had sat in a drawer for a few weeks, silently nagging me to do something I finally took it with me on a trip to town and visited a jeweller’s shop and asked them to quote me for a service: £90.00 plus. Or about double the value of the watch!

Now most would give up at this point and get another. But not I. Instead I popped the back off and took a look. The small wheel that oscillates wasn’t moving, so I shook the watch and it started again before stopping a few moments later. I thought about this and decided that I couldn’t do much unless, perhaps, there was a bit of dust in the mechanism. I got my camera blower out and set to work squirting air into the watch which promptly came back to life! I had to go back to the jeweller’s to get the back put on again. How much did that cost? Nothing, gratis, zero, free!

Splendid. Oh, and the watch is still working.

26 April 2013

Laziness is a great motivator

A nice way to spend the day
I talk to a lot of people about what I'm doing. I make my living selling products online, I work about 4 hours a day for 5 days a week. I am a fairly lazy person, which gives me a lot of motivation to find ways of avoiding work. In fact, you could say that I work hard at avoiding work! I am seen, though, as a person in the do category. This is because I found a way of leaving my job and making a living (although modest) independently. My ambition is not to make a lot of money, instead I view free time as more valuable than money and luxuries. If I make a lot of money doing what I do, then great. But I count excess earnings as a byproduct not the goal.

Many people I talk to are very interested in what I do. Most simply don’t believe it could work for them. A number of others will object that it is too much work. Until I point out that I work for 4 hours a day and that they do 7 to 8 hours. They have to go to work and I stay at home or, if I want to, I go out.

I think it mainly comes down to two factors. The first is what do you want? The second is how averse to risk are you?

There is no denying that there is some risk involved in running your own business, but I believe that if you do your groundwork and research properly you can reduce your exposure. I also believe that no job is secure, especially in the current climate. So I would say that you can’t actually rely on your job. I would suggest that in fact you can only really rely upon yourself for your future. Which brings us to the first factor.

So, what do you want? If you truly desire a career and are working your way up the ladder to your goal then nothing that I say will change your mind. That’s OK with me. Ask yourself, though, if when you arrive at your goal it will actually be what you want. Perhaps talk to people who are there already and see if the amount of effort and time they put in is worth it. Still happy to carry on? Great, enjoy it. If you change your mind there’s always another way.

If you are like me though (and I don’t just mean lazy) you will have a different agenda. A job and a career is just not a satisfactory life choice. There must be another way. That has gnawed at me pretty much from my first job right up to the last one I had. I don’t feel that I am cut out to be an employee. Also I am not a workaholic, or in fact keen on hard work at all. So I spent a lot of time thinking about a way out that would give me control over my time and would let me earn as much money as I need while not overdoing it on the hard work front.

So, what do you want? A career or enough to live on and free time? Either option is valid. But for me there can only be one choice.

Below is a link to a book that helped me on my journey.

25 April 2013

Find inspiration when ‘freedom thinking’

The sea near where I live.
In yesterday’s blog I talked about some of the dos and don’ts when it comes to expressing ideas. Today I would like, if I may, to offer some basic practical tips for when you need to nurture your ideas in their early stages.

First you need to get your idea. That’s a whole other story, but some of the following might help with generating an idea too. What do I mean by idea? In the context of this blog it is something which will help you to generate an independent income so that you can leave your job. 

So, let’s assume that you already have an idea of sorts, and that if you have read yesterday’s missive you haven’t told anyone about it yet. Here are some things that I did when thinking my way out of my old job. I’m going to try a few scenarios on you and hopefully one will be a possibility. 

Scenario one: work – ‘the lunch break’

This is probably the most difficult as work tends to take everything you have to offer. But start by taking regular lunch breaks. Get out of the office/place of work for an hour. Stop eating a sandwich at your desk. In fact, stop that at once, immediately, cease and desist from this awful habit (rant over).

You are less productive in your job and less able to find your final escape from it if you allow it to totally absorb you during the standard 9 to 5 hours and beyond. You need a break. Read this article from my least favourite daily. It shows that you could end up doing 16 extra days a year for free just by halving your lunch breaks. That is not fair.

Once you have established a pattern of taking a lunch break find somewhere to go. This could be a park bench or at the very least a cafe. Sometimes it’s good to have a few places, depending on the nature of what you’re doing. Park bench for calm thought with a notebook, cafe for internet access allowing you to do some research. My ideal is a place that has an interesting view and a comfy chair but not all work places are located near inspiring locations for a spot of thinking. In this case you will just have to do your best.

Scenario two: after work – ‘the pub’
Sometimes you don’t need to get straight home after work. Sometimes it’s good to go with some friends for a pint. But for the ‘freedom thinker’ a trip to the pub after work needs to be solo. Buy a pint and sit in a corner where you can look across the pub. Get your notebook or laptop out and collate your thoughts. Write some notes on what you think about. Do some research into your idea and let it grow. Do a bit of day dreaming. Then after a slow pint go home and see your kids.

Scenario three: weekend – ‘the beach’
It’s the weekend, so don’t go shopping. Go somewhere nice instead. I like to go to the sea (I live by the sea). Find a peaceful spot, this might be in a cafe or a cliff top, or better, both. Otherwise go to the countryside or a historic town. Then – as above get yourself to a spot where you can think things out for a bit.

These are just a few ideas for locations where you can think about stuff in an environment other than home or office. I found that it helped me to formulate some plans, make some phone calls and do some research.

Now that we’ve found our places for thinking we can get down to working out how we can gain our freedom.

24 April 2013

Only listen to people who support you – at first

I'm more Francophile than ‘Yankophile’. I like France and the French culture. But there are many things to recommend our friends in the good old US of A. Here’s one for starters: I like the way that they get behind ideas. In the UK the tendency is to find fault in an idea. To point out how it might fail, whereas in America they are more inclined to be enthusiastic about new ideas. I’m generalising of course, but I need to in order to make my point here.
What an idea needs is support, especially early on, otherwise it will die.
Don’t listen to naysayers.
Do test your ideas and exercise due caution.
Do be careful who you talk to. In fact it might be better not to tell anyone at first.

An idea is a fragile thing when it first appears in your mind. It needs feeding and growing before it can survive outside of your head. Now, let’s be clear about one thing here, you do need to have decent ideas in the first place. A bad idea is always a bad idea, but often a good idea can die before it has a chance to grow to fruition. This is what I am talking about. How can you tell the difference? Tricky. You won’t know until it is tested, but don’t test it straight away. Think it through for yourself. Then test it.
Start testing it by talking to someone. Who? This brings us back to the start.
Don’t talk to people who have a negative slant on everything.
Don’t talk to people who never do anything about their own ideas.
Don’t put your idea where it can get stolen.
Do talk to people who have made something from their own ideas.
Do talk to people that you trust.

If all else fails, find an American to talk to. They are generally enthusiastic about ideas. One word of caution when talking to Americans though, and it is that they can be just as enthusiastic about a bad idea as a good one!

If all you have is a French person to talk to you might just get one of those superb shrugs that they seem to be able to use to express so much without a single syllable being uttered. This is good because I don’t speak much French! Bad, though, because it doesn’t, if I’m honest, help my idea to grow.

23 April 2013

Go to the pub

Been for a pint tonight with a friend. So no time to write a post today. Sorry

22 April 2013

The more you put in

So, how was it for you? Monday that is. Mine was pretty good. I got up when I wanted, did a few hours work, talked to the neighbor took an hour over lunch and then stopped at 4.30.
Why am I telling you this? To make you jealous? Well, perhaps a tiny bit, but I do have a point to make. Otherwise I’d be wasting my time and yours.
Why do we work? Why do most people go to a job to earn their living? That’s two different questions.
The first is easier to answer. We work because it produces an income that we use to maintain our way of life (essentials, bills, mortgage/rent and so on). We swap time and abilities for money.
The second question is a little more difficult. There are a number of reasons why people choose to have a job. Here are a few, but you may think of more: convenience, the security of a regular income, status, camaraderie, work ethic, because that’s what you must do, the career path.
I want to break down what I think a job in essence is. It’s simple really. We swap our time for money. There are perks etc. to help make work easier to swallow but if you didn’t actually need money would you go to the office or place of employment for the perks or would you find something else to do instead? I would do the latter. But I need the money so what now?
A job doesn’t work for me so I needed to find something else. If that’s you then I suggest that you use your energy and intelligence to find an alternative way of generating the money you need so that you don’t have to go to work.
One of the beauties of not having a job is that the work you put in to whatever it is that you do makes a difference to the amount of money you get out, whereas in most jobs you are expected to put in more time than you would like for less money than you think your time is worth.
So to take an old adage:
The more you put in the more you get out. If you work for yourself it’s true.
But when you have a job it would say: the more you put in the same you get out.
I will leave you with this final thought. I don’t want to spend all of my time putting in and getting out, I like to have the luxury of free time, so I will re-write the adage thus: the right amount in, the right amount out.

21 April 2013

Break the cycle

Let’s say that today marks the 2 year anniversary of my resignation. It’s not exactly 2 years but it is within a week either side, so I’m going with today.
Resigning is great. It gives you the control over when you leave work. It is a luxury that you don’t get to indulge very often. The strange thing about working your notice period (well for me at least) is that you do your best work.
I used to be a graphic designer. When I was freelance I produced some decent work and working my notice period was the same. Because I was under notice I had a freedom that I didn’t have before. I could try anything and not care about negative reactions, this, strangely, elicited positive responses. Prior to my resignation all the sparkle and joy had gone out of the job. I was struggling to find any outlet of creativity and was producing work that I thought people wanted but that I didn’t like. Eventually and sadly inevitably this grinds a person down. When I started in the job I had sparkle but due to a number of factors this wore off over the years. It is a cycle that all employees go through and is a reason why people feel the need to move on and employers feel the need for fresh blood. The days of a job for life are gone. Great!
So, what to do? How does a person avoid this cycle? By breaking it, of course. Breaking it is not about changing jobs it is about changing the whole idea of a job or a career. There are a number of reasons why an individual might move jobs. Often it is a promotion – another rung up the ladder of career. Sometimes it is a push or a redundancy and sometimes they are fleeing their job for a greener pasture. None of these will ever provide a lasting cure for the cycle. To really break it one must step out of the cycle. Go and do something else.
That’s what I did 2 years ago and now I can never go back to having a job. Being freelance won’t do it for me either. I visit my old office every once in a while to see old colleagues and friends. On one of these visits I was asked if I get bored not having a job. I paused for a moment and replied in the negative. I thought about this some more later. I remember just how bored I was in my job. I was bored nearly every day towards the end. Desperate for the hours to go so I could go home. Since I left I can honestly and truthfully say that I have not been bored once. Yes, that’s right not once. I plan never to be bored again either.

20 April 2013

Flunk It!

Why do we feel that we have to succeed in everything that we do? Western society is geared to favour the driven and the successful. Coming second is the same as coming last. Well I don’t agree. You can choose to not compete. Or to be involved but not just for the hoped for outcome. This sounds like loser talk I know. But ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you it is better to fail than to do nothing. Some might even say that it is better to fail at first so you have the experience.
If at first you don’t succeed, try something else. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about success. Who really cares what others think about you? Most people are worrying about what people think of them more than they are thinking about whether or not you’re a success.
Anyhoo how do we measure success? The man with the VW looks at the man with the Porsche who, in turn, looks at the man in a Ferrari and so on. The man with the beat up old Nissan who doesn’t care is better off in many ways. Change the way you think of success and don’t look for the win in everything. Take the stress out of life. Relax, you’ll live longer. And that my friends is probably a greater success!
Fail and be happy.