Highs and Lows of 2009
January 11th 2010
I spent the latter part of 2009 thinking what a stinker of a year it had been. Mistakes I’d made to do with estimating the timing on some jobs meant that the summer months were an incredibly stressful time. But in thinking about writing this blog post (and reading yours) I’ve realised there were lots of good things that happened last year too. Let’s start with the positive.
ExpressionEngine: workshop, development and meetups
It’s been a big year for me and ExpressionEngine, the CMS platform which I started using in 2008 and on which I have now developed over 10 websites. Here are some of the reasons why:
- I attended Jamie Pittock’s ExpressionEngine workshop at FOWD where I learnt a whole bunch of useful tips and had some major light bulb moments. But I was also reassured that, on the whole, I had been approaching EE development the right way.
- We launched 5 websites developed in ExpressionEngine. Three of these were designed by us, the other 2 were development-only projects involving other designers/agencies.
- I started the London ExpressionEngine meetup. We had our first meetup in September when there were about 9 of us. The attendance more than doubled at our 2nd meetup in November. So far it has been a really nice bunch of people – they’re friendly, easy-going and keen to share their knowledge.
Socialising both online and offline
I was fortunate enough to go to both the FOWD and @media conferences this year when I met lots of new people, some of whom I’ve admired for a long time and had even seen at conferences before but I hadn’t yet dared to introduce myself. Andy, Elliot and Simon (to name but a few) – I salute you.
It feels like Twitter has really been happening for me this year, probably thanks to all the new people I’ve connected to after meeting them at conferences. I don’t know how I would survive without Twitter somedays, so to all of you who entertain me and especially to those who reply, I am extremely grateful.
I went to the first Erskine Social up in Nottingham in November and was surprised at how many familiar faces were there. It was great fun and useful too, I only wish I had thought to book some accommodation for the night so I didn’t have to cut the evening short in order to catch the last train home.
I also have to give a heads up to my local Hackney tweetup which just celebrated it’s first birthday in December. I didn’t go half as much as I would have liked this year due mostly to late night working and stress. Whenever I do go though I’m touched by the lovely, welcoming crowd of geeks assembled there at the Pembury Tavern.
Gradualism was finally born
After 2 years in-utero I finally launched this blog. I haven’t posted as much as I had hoped and there’s still development to be done but at least I have somewhere to share my longer-than-140-characters thoughts.
I spent a few months around last summer feeling incredibly stressed and unhappy. I even found myself questioning whether running my own business was what I wanted to be doing. I certainly wasn’t enjoying it one bit. It was a coincidence of events, which effected both my personal and working life, that led to this state of mind.
I felt I had seriously under-estimated my development time on one EE job and under-estimated the project management time required on another job, which we work with a PHP developer on. We also over-estimated how much time (my partner) North (aka Christian Kuras) would have to spend working on our projects while he was in Banff on his 6 week artist residency. This residency turned out to be much more demanding on North’s time than he had anticipated.
Personal: living and working alone
North is my partner in both business and life, so his trip to Canada impacted both our work and our personal lives. I had been quite looking forward to having some time on my own to chill out and I had great plans to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while. But managing this very busy and stressful time at work, alone, and the financial worries that came with it left me struggling to get anything done. Seeing friends was suddenly the last thing I felt like doing.
Recovery and lessons learned
Ultimately none of the work problems had a terrible outcome. We had an accommodating and understanding client who’s deadline was not immovable so we simply adjusted that project’s schedule to allow for our slower pace. We lost revenue by under-estimating our time but we still got the jobs done and our clients were happy.
I realised that it wasn’t simply that I under-estimated how much time was required. There was actually a lot of scope creep going on, but it was all these small little things which, in isolation, seemed so minor that I wouldn’t call them. But when I look back and add them all up, I realise what an impact they have – partly because it isn’t necessarily the thing that needs changing/amending that amounts to much, but its the time spent discussing the detail in the first place (hence the project management time) that adds on so much time.
So I seem to have come out the other side of this difficult time relatively unscathed. I have already put into practice the lessons we learned from this: when quoting I am allowing time for contingencies (scope creep) and making sure the development time is bulky enough in the first place. I’m also quoting more time for project management, though this is less of an issue when we’re not subcontracting the development out.
Since the summer I have quoted for and delivered on a complete project which (pretty much) came in on budget and this has been a real boost. I’m also feeling confident about the new projects we’re starting – this all contributes to me feeling happy about working for myself again and excited about the year ahead.
Project 52 stats: Week 1*, post # 2
Time spent on this post: TOO LONG! (I spent most of my Saturday evening-night dipping in and out of drafting this post)
*I’m counting Week 1 as beginning on Monday the 4th of January