Archive for the ‘entrepreneurship’ Category
Taxes are a bitch when you’re no longer on the PAYE system. This is one of the things that I did not foresee when I resigned from the NHS.
I freelance. Lots of companies don’t want the hassle of dealing with an individual, so they prefer you to bill as a limited company. I set one up.
I own a bunch of websites, mostly monetised through Google Adsense but partially through affiliate schemes. This is in the vain hope that one day, someone will click on an affiliate link and proceed all the way to purchase with my tracking cookie still enabled, or within my allotted 30 minutes, or whatever the restriction happens to be for that particular program. Unfortunately for me, I only signed up with affiliate program aggregating company SkimLinks this year. What I actually have is 7 separate accounts with 7 separate affiliate schemes, all offering slightly different things in slightly different currencies. I also do the occasional sponsored post through ebuzzing and post sponsored videos from UnrulyMedia.
My websites are hosted with 5 different hosting companies. Some of them are UK based, some are US based – this means I get charged in US dollars. I pay most of my hosting costs monthly but one of them offered a significant discount if I paid 2 years up-front, so I did that.
One of my websites covers food and nutrition advice so I decided that the websites should fall under the umbrella of my limited company, just in case some fool reads something I wrote, gets fat or has an allergic reaction and decides to sue me. I’m still figuring out how to make that transition official given that all the websites pre-date the company.
The tax people tell me that I have to convert all the non-UK payments into their UK equivalents at the time of payment. The bank people tell me that I can’t view an entire years’ worth of statements online. My accountant tells me that there’s no “official” way to transfer ownership of a website from me to my company.
For an information manager, I have managed this shockingly badly. In my defense, this particular system has grown organically around 5 years of blogging and I never thought I’d be doing this full-time.
Morals of the story:
- Don’t quit your day job in the middle of a tax year
- If you really must do 1., earn enough money to hire a damn accountant
I may need to sell my websites to myself. Wonder if I can charge VAT on that…
Interesting presentation on Slide Share showing how to make an elevator pitch for your new startup
(Start from slide 11 to skip the boring intro bit)
I won a ticket to London Startup Weekend. Squee! :) It’s a weekend-long event where people gather to pitch ideas, then break off into groups and build them over the weekend. I’m still not a coder, and I’m still crap and graphic design, so I’ve dug out an old notebook and will be carrying it around with me for the next two weeks, writing down business ideas. I might even pitch one or two of them. Depends on the vibe in the room. Failing that, I might focus on UI design and marketing the hell out of whatever it is we build. Having been bored out of my skull on every one of the social marketing seminars I attended at Internet World, I reckon I know quite a lot about this social media stuff.
It’s the same weekend as Launch48, which is rather unfortunate for somebody. However, Startup Weekend is in Southbank, where Launch48 is in Richmond. OTOH, the Richmond office is where GameCamp was held, and I know for a fact that they have FatBoy beanbags there. Startup Weekend makes no mention of creature comforts. I shall ask them if I need to bring a pillow.
As for me, I’m getting much more comfortable with this meatspace networking malarky over the past couple of years. Not only has my day job forced me to talk to lots of people all the time, I ran a session at GameCamp 2 (London), I chatted to random strangers this year at The Stylist Network and Internet World. I can totally do this.
I attended Internet World 2010 the other week. It’s sort-of inspiring to be in an environment where I can completely focus on my start-up idea. OTOH, I learned exactly nothing from any of the seminars I attended.
For a start, should I really have any respect for an internet-focused conference that doesn’t appear to support permalinks on its official website? I’m sure that in 9 months’ time that deeplink I’ve included above won’t be working any more.
Besides that, I think it’s probably more targeted towards successful businesses who don’t know anything about social media/internet behaviour. Pretty much everything was well out of the range of someone (like me) languishing in seed stage. I did manage to learn that a fully-featured content management system will likely cost about £25,000. So… I’ll be sticking with WordPress for a while.
Edit: Oh, forgot to mention the most important thing that I discovered; the one thing that made it all worthwhile. I learned about BrandBank, who distribute product photos and label information. Not much use to me at the moment, but once I develop the plain fruit and veg categories on One Serving, BrandBank will make it much easier to branch out into processed or packaged food.
An NHS day job means that I’m completely out of with other entrepeneurs, would-be entrepeneurs and gamers. I’m making an effort this year to meet more people through London Girl Geek Dinners, Girl Geek Coffee, I went to GameCamp two weekends ago and I have BarCamp London 4 coming up at the end of May.
I have no freaking idea what to talk about at BarCamp. The abysmal portrayal of women in games? The crushing lack of IT literacy in the NHS? How Bully: Scholarship Edition is so much more fun than GTA4? Everything seems either too wide or too narrow.
As I said in the last post, OneServing got a bit of traffic coming through from WordPress.org. Most of those visitors did have a quick browse round the rest of the site so there’s a little bit of interest.
Looking through my visitor patterns showed that one poor soul had been searching repeatedly to find out just what one serving of fruit was. Unfortunately for them, I wasn’t completely happy with the post explaining how I chose the amounts I did, so it wasn’t available. With any luck, they had a look through a few fruit pages and realised that one serving of fruit is always 80 grams or 2.8 ounces. Still, I’ve posted the explanation for the fruit and veg and nuts and seeds categories. I’m sure future visitors will want to know the same thing. Better to have visitors leave the site happy and successful than frustrated and unfavourable.
Posted another 5-odd fruit and vegetables, bringing us up to 21 in total. I’ve also given in and plundered my savings to buy a couple of proper studio lights. My current equipment so far has been:
- 80cm photo cube/light tent from eBay (£14.50)
- Table lamp with 100W equivalent CF light bulb from ASDA (£12)
- Boyfriend’s halogen bulb table lamp (free)
Yeah, not the greatest of macro lighting setups. OTOH, £26.50 is pretty good for a low-cost startup. Problem is, I spend way too much time processing the shadows out of photos and fiddling with contrast. Even devoting an entire day to the task only gets me about 6 usable pictures. The photo on One Serving of Whole Peeled Banana is pretty borderline.
The new lights cost me just under £85 so I shall expect a four-fold increase in productivity ;) They arrived yesterday and I have an exciting hour of almond, grapefruit and sunflower seed photography planned before my Pilates class tonight. Hope the lights will prove their worth!
I wonder if I can claim them as a business expense, since I’m now registered as self-employed…
I have lost my way. Again.
So far there are 8 items of food published on OneServing. I have about 5 decent photos sitting on my laptop, which makes 13 when I post them. My launch target is 50, so there’s quite a way to go.
I have set myself some milestones. I can’t be bothered with full-on project planning at this stage, so they’re on Ta-Da Lists. One Serving: Getting the First 50 Items
Why I am so far behind
- Laziness – It’s easier to just hang out at my boyfriend’s or play games than do work.
- Inexperience – I’m not an experience graphics manipulator by means, so taking and processing the photos is incredibly hard work for me.
- Lack of info – I buy whatever fruit, vegetables or seeds I see in the supermarket that appeal to me. Then I find out that there doesn’t seem to be an official Glycaemic Index for them. Not too sure what to do about that. Will probably use substitutes (disclosed, of course) and wait for someone to correct me.
I took the day off work on Tuesday, to attend the expo at FOWA London, conveniently held in Docklands. It was much smaller than the last web-related expo I went to, InternetWorld (hereafter known as IW) but, imo, much higher quality. At FOWA, everyone I spoke to was incredibly enthusiastic about showing me how their system would help solve a pressing problem of the current web. At InternetWorld… I dunno. People seemed enthusiastic but at the same time there was this general feeling of… corporate-ness? I’m not sure. The only thing I got out of it was that Pizza Hut now take online orders but hey, that’s a pretty valuable bit of knowledge in itself.
Maybe it was me – I was just exploring IW back then. This week I was actively looking for a CMS/social media solution (sort of – more on that in my next post). OTOH, I actually attended some of the talks back at IW and found them disappointing. I’m a fairly normal Internet user (I think) and they were pitching far below my level – most other attendees didn’t appear to know what blogging was and the general atmosphere reflected as much. Even the presentation from SixApart could be summarised as ‘People trust “blogs” more than press releases. Your company should have a “blog”. “Blogs” are good. The End.’
But back to FOWA – being a lowly public sector worker, I wasn’t willing to risk £245 of my own money. The website, while pretty, simply didn’t provide enough information on what would be available. Sure, there were big names up there like Matt Mullenweg, Kevin Rose, Michael Arrington, etc. But… with only the talk names available (and sometimes not even that) it just wasn’t worth risking two or three days off work and £240 that might be better spent paying off my credit card bills. If I’m going to be spending the equivalent of a new premium Xbox 360, I want to know the actual thrust of the talk, not just the trendy sales-pitch title. So, I opted for the considerably cheaper £5+VAT expo pass and single day off work.
And it was money well-spent. Met loads of keen people, saw a bunch of exciting things and got some positive feedback from the few people that I told about OneServing. FOWA’s a great place to meet people if you’re at all interested in the web.
From what I gathered, there are two movements within the web at the moment. The first is social media sites – this has been growing for a while and (unfortunately for the companies involved) is rapidly becoming saturated. There’s too much choice and it’s all getting very confusing for us poor consumers. Too many passwords and logins and places to whore out our homegrown product. I think niche topics are definitely the way to go but at the moment, the software seems more focused around the users and not enough around content management. ICBW.
The second is aggregating existing product. I thought Favourit looked pretty cool but they’re currently suffering from a major flaw – I binned my promo card and have no idea what their address was. It was something like fa.vour.it or fav.our.it.
Edit: After 20 minutes of searching, it’s fav.or.it.
It’s a more sophisticated (i.e. user-friendly) version of a feedreader. Think of it as a better-designed Technorati that also allows you to read the whole posts, rank the post or site, post and read comments from within your reader, track your conversations (I hope) and find similar posts or topics, all from the same place. I signed up at the stand so hopefully I’ll hear from them soon.
The other exciting thing is in very early stages at the moment. Remember that I had issues with Gravatar? MeeCards might be a viable alternative. While Favourit are allowing you to view and respond to everyone else’s stuff from one place, MeeCard are letting you show off all your own stuff in one place. They weren’t the only people to show something like this but they were very friendy and keen and we had a good chat, so I’m slightly more favourable towards them than Second Brain.
Finally… everyone is going blue. Stop it with the blue websites already!
Early this summer I had a website idea, inspired by utter failure to find something I was looking for. I’m not going to share the details until we launch, in case one of you buggers is more experienced at web development and launches it before I can.
(Hehe… I say “we”. That’s “me” and “my website”)
It’s pretty simple and I think that it provides a good service. A useful service, in fact. Not like bloody Twitter which is becoming just another (less convenient) way to IM. I’m not building the next Web 2.0 fad – I’m simply collecting a bunch of useful information and presenting it in a practical way. I hope.
In order to launch, I need a bunch of things:
- Web hosting – easy
- Photos – time consuming but cheap
- Photo subjects – easy
- Photo info – lots of research needed
- Web design – tricky but doable at a basic level
- A brand – I’m no good at this. I’ll get someone else to do it
- Content management – turning out to be fucking nigh-impossible
I’ve also toyed with the idea of incorporating straight away but have discarded that in favour of getting the website up and running. If the website does take I’m going to have to set it up as a business. Parts of my plan require people with more specialised expertise. I’m sure I could blag it, but it would be a) far too much hard work and b) possibly unethical. In that order.
So far I have 1, 3 and 4. I’m slowly working on 2 but all that pales in comparison to 6. My content management system (CMS) requirements aren’t that complex but as it turns out, it’s very difficult to find something that fits.
- Multiple categories and subcategories per article
- The ability to display different groups of articles depending on the main article category
- Custom fields for each “post”
- Well-documented customisation processes (i.e. How To Write A Theme)
- Ongoing support
- Stores certain user’s posts in a moderation queue
- Nice user-friendly backend
So far I’ve seriously evaluated four leading CMSs and none of them are up to scratch. Joomla and Movable Type have appalling documentation. WordPress has a crappy backend and no post moderation. Xoops can’t really support multiple categories. Only Movable Type has a user-friendly backend and since I’m aiming for non-geeks, that criterion is rather important.
I do really like the look of MT4 but until someone produces an in-depth guide for the structure of a theme/template, I simply can’t use it. Also, the custom fields module from Movalog is Out of my non-existent budget for the moment. I may use MT4 after all, but it’s in reserve at the moment.