2014: Reflections on a terrible year

If you're among my closest friends, you may have noticed I've been pretty stressed this year. HSBC can take the blame for most of that - when, in January, they offered me a mortgage unprompted over the counter, and then told me being self-employed wouldn't be a problem, I stupidly thought I might end up with a mortgage from them.

Ten months later and with the help of the excellent Contractor Financials, I finally managed to buy my first house, too late to get properly moved in before Christmas, with the result that I've spent the past six weeks basically living on a bed and no other furniture.

I'm not totally miserable, by any means - I'm happy to have a place of my own and all that, it's just unfortunate that it took at least six months longer than it should have done, and all the time spent chasing the bank(s) for a decision left me with a backlog of work that I still haven't quite caught up on (sorry, clients).

So that brings me to 2015 and my promises to myself and to my clients for the new year.

Regular clients get priority - no more delaying regular delivery of work in order to fit in short-notice one-off orders.

No more huge, repetitive orders that eat into my very soul. If more than about 25-30 pages are needed with basically the same long-tail keyword phrase, I'm not going to do it anymore, it physically hurts me every time I take something on like that.

And I think basically, those two things should get me back to working at my best. It's been a tough few months but I'm already making amends, and now I have my new place (and will finally get the last of the furniture I need in January) I'm in a much better position for getting the work done.

Small businesses in particular, I want to help you - whatever your budget is, I'm sure I can help you use it in a way that will have real results.

Get in touch and let's work together to make 2015 a much better year for all concerned.

Poundland's NYE prize draw might be the best ever

There's nothing quite like a good competition - and Poundland's newly launched social media prize draw is undoubtedly a fine example of how a great prize doesn't have to eat into your business's bottom line.

It's a simple enough retweet-based prize draw:

...and if you follow the link to the Terms & Conditions, you can see exactly what's in the hamper. It's brilliant.
  • one pack of 30 half pint plastic tumblers
  • one pack of 20 large tumblers
  • one 50g colour hair spray
  • one pack of 8 plastic cocktail glasses
  • one pack of 80 white napkins
  • one pack of 30 white paper party plates
  • one pack of 18 silver paper party plates
  • one pack of 250 straws
  • one pack of 40 colourful disposable shot glasses
  • one pack of 40 clear disposable shot glasses
  • one inflatable guitar
  • one inflatable microphone
  • one pack of 50 balloons
  • one pack of 18 silver plastic cutlery set
  • one pack of 80 white disposable cutlery set
  • 6 packs of 100 cocktail sticks
  • one curly wig
  • one straight wig
I'm not too sure who would need 600 cocktail sticks, but I suppose it depends how many pickled onions you plan to put on sticks.

The thing is, assuming all of these are Poundland products, that's a total prize value of £23. At retail price, not cost price.

I'm not dissing the competition at all, I've retweeted and followed Poundland and I'll be delighted if I win - I just think it's a genius prize.

The tweet cost them nothing (well, assuming they didn't hire a social media exec especially for this) and the prize can't have cost much more than £10 max at cost price.

As I write this - less than 15 minutes after they tweeted it - it's been RT'd 50 times and favorited by 8 people too, and at least some of those (including me) will have followed Poundland on Twitter as a result of the tweet.

No doubt the retweets and follows will continue to grow - how many would you need to make it worth £10 for a tweet?

Wish me luck, I really want those wigs.