Is It November Already?

Yes. Yes it is.

I have to get used to the fact that 2014 is fast drawing to a close. In a little over seven weeks time it will be 2015. The year in which I will complete my 30th year on the planet. To think of poor me, sitting alone writing furiously about a dull and depressing life, aged 19, is enough to bring a tear to my eye. I don’t like reading old posts from the past, but they are utterly precious.

There will be plenty of time for reflection this Christmas, particularly as it will be 10 years of blogging, which is a remarkable achievement. I’m so thrilled I have stuck with it.

And Christmas is almost all I think about at the moment. I have booked my tickets to go home, on exactly December 24, and I’m so incredibly looking forward to it. I love it, every single year, that I can feel like I’m 14, or 9, or 16, or 18, or 6, again, and be at home with the family, all together, all safe, all enjoying a successfully navigated year, all – hopefully – enjoying each other’s company, with no worries for two weeks (I like to drag it out…) about work, or school, or money, or depressingly mundane existences.

But that is then. This is now.

November is a sad month, primarily because it is the time by which my spirit and will is finally broken, and I must, at long last, switch the central heating on. I always try to make it into November, but this year was almost no challenge at all due to a remarkably good spell of weather in October. Indeed, I remember the very same a mere five years ago when I first moved here. It was great weather. It’s so much better than home, a mere 150 miles north.

The cold is everywhere. It feels more so at the moment as I am, as I have been for the last year “inbetween coats”. I have not owned a winter coat for about three years. I thought it was time I did so, and have spent a not unsubstantial amount of money trying to achieve it. I wait patiently for it to arrive. Maybe it will be here tomorrow? I hope so. It will be just in time, for the coldness is really setting in. Our first 0 degree night is upon us for the first time since early in the year.

This time of year also tends to lead to a lull. The main IT business carries on regardless, but the other one that I’m part of starts to wane. No one wants to start big projects in December, so the usual preceding weeks, in which projects are planned, are empty. It happened last year. It is happening this year. It worries me as our admin lady has almost nothing to do at the moment. All very disappointing, especially when only a couple of months ago things looked very promising. Suddenly the cupboard is bare.

I always, however, keep my eyes on the future. I have to make progress. The passing of a whole year without any change in my house situation is a strange one. But I may have a new sideline with my business partner. Plans are afoot for a property development fun and games. We shall see.

For now though, I have to plough onwards. I hope I can make it to the end of the year without too many more disappointments. We’ve had enough this year.

(This is post 555 on this blog, woo!)

The Glimpse

Today I am taking it easy. It’s Sunday after all. Sundays are meant for this. In the background plays a song by Sam Smith, very easy listening. It could be Lionel Richie. Easy like Sunday morning.

Except it’s the afternoon, and most of the day is over for me already.

Things are incredibly stressful in work at times. I have a lot of juggling to continue doing in the near future, but, broadly speaking, I think I am starting to see a better balance of life ahead of me. My new employee on my business, while taking up a lot of time, and 80% of the income that comes in, is starting to work. I think. This is freeing up my time during the day in the office to look after the things that can only be done during the day… reacting to my business customers, and also dealing with the other business I’m involved in.

So right now I’m getting a glimpse of what my life might become… where I might start to make advances in getting my free time back. Maybe within a few months I will be able to look forward to having Sundays entirely to myself every week. Instead of them being seen by me as a great opportunity to catch up on the work I haven’t completed during the week. Because then the work just never stops.

The irony is that I spent this morning doing exactly that. I still got up at 5:50am, which most people would think is a bit weird for a Sunday. But when I wake up, and I’ve had enough sleep, then I get up. Why waste any time when there’s so much to do? Plus when you get up at 5am during the week, why upset that rhythm too much?

In any event, I did well. So now I have an excuse for procrastinating a bit, which includes what I’m doing now.

But maybe in a few months time I’ll actually start to feel like I can do something sociable? Maybe I will also be more secure in my incomes than I am now. Maybe by then I’ll have had all of the money I’ve lent to my businesses and a colleague back. Who knows. Probably not, but I can dream.

A tantalising look at the future. To most people, what I describe is probably not even relateable. Most people are used to having every weekend off. Every evening off. To me, having spent the last couple of years with no weekends, no evenings, just the merest possibility of having some actual free time – and having something to do in it – is a real excitement.

What a life.

The Major Month

This month has disappeared in a blur, but it has also been somewhat slow. I’ve never quite fathomed why sometimes time feels so slow, and also so fast.

The best explanation I can put on it is that when you are working non-stop like I am lately, every day feels the same. Weekends are no different. Out of hours doesn’t exist, except as a fleeting window of time during which I can knuckle down and get things done without worrying about the phone ringing.

So consequently, when I look back and think “How come it’s only Tuesday, this week has been so long!” – it’s just because my “week” probably started about four months ago.

The main reason why this is the Major Month is that, finally, the bullet has been bitten. The die has been cast. And all manner of other horrible clichés.

I have been saying all year that I really must do something. Well, the confluence of two events has finally forced my hand.

First, I am now the director of a friend’s business. This was not a decision taken lightly, and has involved a huge amount of personal and financial sacrifice in the very short term. But, frankly, the numbers add up, and it was a proposition I’d be stupid to miss.

Secondly, one night I just snapped. I was lying in bed (at 10:00pm, as is my new routine…) and thought – why on Earth am I working 12-14 hours every day of the week? I could cut my hours down to a third of this, and pay someone else to do everything else, and I’d still make a profit.

It was only a hunch. But the timing was perfect. I have been feeling this for a while, but the sudden realisation that I could time this with the rise of the other business – which needs an office to function properly – was just perfect in every way.

So now the office is in progress. There is a potential employee waiting in the wings. I feel like I am seeing the path towards a more strategic/corporate role… the one that I’ve always thought I’m good enough to be able to achieve. The one where I am overseeing operations, driving the business forward, rather than constantly dealing with the day-to-day tactical battle of fixing things and getting stressed by the occasional customer asking the occasional irritating question…

The target date is in two weeks time. It could be the best birthday present in a long while.

A part of me is nervous. But another part of me is completely philosophical about it. If I cannot support an employee and an office on the current and projected workloads, then I will never be able to do so. And if I am not here to expand this business, to make it into something bigger, then I might as well just give up now. I do not like standing still. I do not like the thought that I could be doing the same thing for the next 10 years without anything different ever happening.

I have always been an ambitious person. I have written it many times. I always want to know there is something ahead, something worth fighting for. Something worth living for. A new challenge.

This is it.

Half Way Through June, Nearly Half Way Through The Year

Last night I went out for a meal with some neighbours. This was really enjoyable, particularly because they owed me for it, after I helped them shift a load of stuff on eBay. Their company is pretty good as well, which is more than can be said for life around here at the moment.

Yes, it’s back to the usual moaning, sadly. The past week me and my housemate have barely exchanged a word. Yes, there’s the usual pleasantries, but the way things are now you wouldn’t have thought we’ve known each other for over 10 years.

It’s all gone wrong, unfortunately. The worst of it is when he tells me things like he’s applying for a job that will only need him to go in two days a week, working from home the other three. That would be an utter disaster as far as I’m concerned, and if that came to fruition I would be out of here as soon as possible.

It’s the little things in life that give me so much annoyance though. For example, it doesn’t appear that he has any knowledge of the mess he creates when he has a bowl of rice Krispies. I guarantee that each time I will find at least 10 of the damn things all over the kitchen floor. And don’t get me started on the state of the microwave after curry has been in it.

I just live with it now though. It is easier than cause trouble by complaining. And I’m sure I have my own irritations too…

I just want to be out of here so that all of this becomes academic, but it’s not happening. It’s not happening because, when I look at the financial reality, it’s not really possible. I may well have been busy lately, but profits are definitely down compared to this time last year. If I could see they were stable, I would definitely be able to afford my own place. Right now, I don’t have the security.

Therein lies the perennial problem of self-employment. Or at least, the situation when it comes to me anyway. Years on, and still nothing I can say with categorical certainty will keep coming in every month.

The year wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’m afraid to say it, but this year is already nearly half over and nothing is any different. None of the early promise has come through, and it has no prospect of doing so. Yes, six months isn’t that long really, but life is actually pretty short. Productive life even less so, and the part of the life you can be truly active in is even shorter still.

Last night I had kind of made up my mind. One more month before I take the plunge on something. I cannot wait much longer. It will either be moving house or moving business premises. Somewhere. Anywhere. I just can’t accept this stagnation any more. It’s not working, it’s getting me down, and I need to feel like I am in control and doing something about it. That has always been my preferred form of operation…

Got a meeting tomorrow, on Sunday of all days, to discuss with my so-called business partner in waiting. Not holding my breath.

And this is my 500th post. Hmm. Well done, me. I reckon they’re all the same these days now though!

Bumping Along

It says a lot that I haven’t had to write much about business in quite a while. I remember writing a good several months ago that, since business was developing nicely, I would no longer write about it, because I felt like I was just saying the same thing over and over again.

But perhaps now I can break that vow. The past few weeks have been… disappointing at best. I sort of hinted at it last time, when I was writing about a leafletting anecdote, but business has been poor.

Of course, poor is a relative term. In comparison to when I first started and ran this business back in my home city, it’s still a success. Back then it really was a disaster. Lucky if I got one job a week. Now one job a week would be a tragedy: largely because success requires a much higher amount of work, and also because of the far more immediate pressures I have in terms of bills to pay.

It’s hard to pin it down. And that makes it even more frustrating. At least in the past when business was poor I could make up an excuse. Back home it was because I did almost no promotional work. Here when it was quiet it was because I hadn’t done enough to establish myself.

But now? I have had hundreds of customers. Word of mouth generation is excellent. My name is out there. My site ranks well in Google. I have an advert in a shop window on a high street. I have an advert in a local newspaper. How could it all suddenly dry up?

So you start thinking more obscure. Maybe all that good weather lately has made people stop using their computers?! Maybe they’re all out gardening. Or perhaps the anti-virus program makers are winning the war at the moment…

It does make me think how sustainable this can be in the long run though. When people are increasingly moving onto platforms that are non-fixable. Smartphones can’t be fixed in any meaningful or cheap way. Laptops are designed to fail, and when they do they go pop and cost a small fortune to fix, so much so that you might as well put that towards a new one.

And then there’s the other side of the coin. The better I do my job, in terms of providing people with the tools and tuition to help themselves, the less they need me. I suppose it’s true in any service industry, though it is counteracted if the market is wide enough to bring in enough customers through wear-and-tear, entropy faults…

So – a little depressing right now. Maybe it’ll all go away, and I’ll be happy again.

But still:  I can’t do this forever. I want to do so much more…

2011

As is tradition around these parts, on December 31 we look back, and on January 1 we forward. So this is the complementary post to yesterday, which did the reflection. Now, it’s time for the projection.

Like I said yesterday, I was so depressed at the start of last year that I made hardly any predictions, or wish lists, at all. But then again, my life is so different now that, with no formal structure to it, there almost seems to be no point in making dreams. It was different when I was in school, college and university, because I was wrapped within that system, and knew exactly what was coming this year.

No more. The year is a mystery to me. But less so than last year. Last year I genuinely didn’t have a clue which way it was going to go.

Now I know. It went quite decisively for my business interests. And so, the hope for 2011 is that it continues. I don’t mind too much at this point, just as long as at least the current levels are sustained, that is, being busy over 50% of the time. It provides something to look forward to, something to fall back on, and a reassurance that I’m heading in the right direction.

It will need to continue. It probably will as long as I keep working hard, and my luck holds out. But I know I’ve developed a loyal customer base, who will keep coming back to me. That does indeed provide some security.

But I still will long for more. I know 2011 will frustrate me too. I know I’ll want to make deeper and wider progress. I know I’ll want to do something else.

And I know I will keep searching for that “something else”. Because the point of all this has not always be in order to run a computer business. I want to run a business. It doesn’t have to be in computer repair. I have some thoughts about what I’d like to do, but how to do it is rather difficult to establish. But now I have a bit more cash, I feel more willing to take some risks.

So maybe 2011 will include at least a modicum of risk-taking. Some attempt to try and make a big leap in either what I’m doing now or something else. Some way in which I can increase the development of profitability. And future potential. And just the idea that continuing to be self-employed is not only sustainable, but going to make me feel like I’m using my talents as much I can.

Big hopes, really.

The only thing that will ruin everything is if my housemate buggers off without me working out a suitable alternative strategy. I could feasibly try and operate without his assistance, but it will make things twenty times more difficult. It could also limit my earning potential. But that is definitely coming down the track, perhaps in the next few months. I’ll have to keep thinking up a plan to deal with it.

On other levels, I want to try and get involved in some community work this year. Perhaps being a school governor is not right. It seems a bit too dry. Perhaps I should play to my strengths. Something in the field of computing. Politics would also be a strength, and perhaps some sort of political campaign would be good. I just find the whole thing so depressing right now.

No other personal predictions are worthwhile. What happens will happen and I’ll just have to accept it. I just hope my family all do well this year. They deserve it. Though I wish my parents in particular would learn to be less dismissive of my business achievements.

Oh, I don’t know. Either way, this year should reveal a lot about where the hell I’m going with life.

Where Is It Going?

The question on my mind the past week has been where the hell my life is going.

This week has probably been one of my best weeks since I started business. Several hundreds of pounds of profit, all from doing not very much at all. Laid end to end, you’re not talking more than three days of the week. But that’s never the way the cookie crumbles, so I suppose that’s not relevant.

And yet it feels like it’s been quiet. It feels like I haven’t had enough work, and that at any moment the whole thing is going to stop dead. And it probably will.

When it does, I’ll go out leafleting once more. And that in turn will, hopefully, get things moving again.

Unsurprisingly, this vision of my future has left me feeling a little… underwhelmed.

The real reason why I’m starting to worry is that the past couple of weeks have, despite profit, been a considerable disappointment. Several major leads in quick succession have failed. On all of those I had pinned many hopes that the business was going to start evolving into one that had important contracts with other businesses, thus providing me with a stable income, a solid platform to build from, and, with success more success will follow.

But none of that will now happen.

I’m sort of back to the drawing board. Until I get something like that, I will not feel like progress is being made. Doing odd jobs for home customers is all well and good, and earns me cash, but it is not secure, and it makes me feel like a bit of a spare part, who can do a few tricks with Windows. My work is valued, my customers like the service, but I don’t feel “valued” in a professional sense. Only other businesses can truly appreciate that.

I am ambitious for the future, but don’t want to wait. I feel like I’ve spent enough of my life waiting around for things to happen. But what can I do? I want the rate of progress to increase, but it is so slow it’s unbearable. I worry that I’ll still be in this exact position in a year’s time. That will be another year of my life gone, and still waiting for things to improve.

Maybe this is what life is like. Maybe I’m one of these people who will never be satisfied. That whatever happens, it’s happened too late, too slowly and not in a way that makes me feel like I’m heading somewhere.

A part of me says I should quit whinging and be grateful. But that would be succuming to fatalism, something I don’t believe in. I am in control of my destiny.

Except I’m not fully. I can do my part to get the word out, but whether people respond is another matter…

Still, it beats working nights in a petrol station.

Departure

This one is going to be a little different.

This time, I’m going, while my parents are staying here.

On all previous occasions, they have taken me to my new place of living, helped me get setup, and then left, leaving the final goodbye on the doorstep of the new place.

But now… today… I’m being picked up by my soon-to-be new housemate. He’s arriving in a van, which will be loaded up over an agonising period of a couple of hours, and then we’ll be off.

I like travel. To me, as much a part of a holiday or any adventure is the journey to it (though the journey back is depressing). So I’m bizarrely looking forward to the many hours drive to my new house.

Note the use of the word house. I don’t know whether it will become my home yet. The jury will be out for some weeks, depending on whether I feel comfortable there.

But this is it. This is the genuine end of an era. Not like the many false dawns that came with other “leaving home” moments, when I’d move to Hull or London for university purposes. No. They were always done with the idea that, one day, I would be back… whether it would be for the holidays or permanently, as has been the case since June last year.

This time, though, I am moving out properly. Though there will remain some of my stuff here, because I don’t have the boxes to shift it, mostly I am going. My life is currently sitting in my old bedroom, waiting to be shipped out. And never to return.

Of course, material possessions are one thing. I know for a fact that I will be returning here. In fact, the ridiculous thing is that I will be back here next weekend. I have agreed to try to keep up one of the regular contract jobs I have here in the hope that it will lead to more work. Which is bizarre if I’m moving 200 miles away, I know… but if I can organise it properly, I will be able to come home fortnightly to work which pays for the journey, and maybe a little bit more. Making a profit from coming to see my family will be a beautiful double whammy!

That’s the plan. If it becomes inconvenient, it will be ditched. And on that point, I will sever all remaining reasons to travel home for anything other than Christmas.

So while I’m not fully leaving here forever, there is a very decent prospect that it will become that. Especially if, as I hope, the new business down in my new location takes off.

Before that, though, will be at least a month of settling down. I don’t really know what living with this person is truly going to be like either. It’s all a gamble on many fronts. I only hope I’m making the right choice.

But it’s too late now. Gotta roll with it. Gotta actually try and be a Real Adult, rather than sponging off my parents. That will be a big relief to me, and to them as well, I’m sure. Though I do more than my fair share around here. I wonder how they’re going to cope. The rest of the family are going to have to chip in a lot more than they normally do.

Anyway, it is time to sign off. Lots of things still to do till the move this afternoon.

Here goes nothing.