Community Wisdom: A Training Budget of Zero

I recently wrote a post about what to do when your training budget is zero, and included a poll for what advice others would give. It got 42 votes, which I thought was an indication that I should share the results! Here it is:

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Speaking at DayCamp for Developers

I am delighted to announce that I'm speaking at the upcoming DayCamp for Developers in early March. The idea behind the daycamps is to bring important but non-technical skills to developers everywhere - so the sessions are virtual and so are the speakers! This time around the topic is Business, so we have a series of speakers to give you advice from a practical, developer-centric point of view - on everything you need to know!

My own talk is "Time and Money"; both are pretty important concepts to have a handle on when you are in business, either as a freelancer or when starting or helping to start a bigger business. Even as an employee, these are really important concepts to understand; most of what I learned about business I learned working with business people in the jobs I had beforehand.

Time is important because we need to figure out how much we have and how to share it around. Money is important because we all like to get paid. I'll be sharing my own tactics for keeping both of them under control so I hope you'll join us!

Which Basket Should A Developer Put Their Eggs In?

The situation goes like this. Lots of excellent, capable people have great ideas for new software products. They are bootstrapping their venture, so they look for a developer who wants to give some time up front and receive a fair (let's assume fair) share of the rewards once the product becomes successful.

The question is: as a developer, how do you know which of these products (I get about one tempting enquiry a month from what sounds like a real person who isn't building a social network) is a good bet?

Celebrating One Year in Business

A year ago, I left my job at Ibuildings and went freelance. At the time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do next, and I was excited about the opportunity to try out a few different things. I blogged about my new (ad)venture when I launched it, but I haven't written much since and people keep asking me for updates - the anniversary seems like a good time to reflect.

Well, I still don't know what I want to do next, but that seems like less of a problem these days. I'm busy but in a planned-in-advance, only wearing myself down because there was something so exciting I couldn't say no, kind of a way. I am not a great fan of travel, and have always tried to avoid it, but in fact so many interesting things came up this year that I ended up on the road more than ever. It turns out that there is a world of difference between being sent somewhere on short notice, and planning a series of interesting professional engagements that just happen to involve being away from home a lot all at once. And if I don't want to go: I don't go. It's amazing how many people will wait til next month if you ask them!

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A Book Burndown Chart

You might have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here lately ... that's because I'm writing a book and doing a lot of editing at the moment. I love doing both of these as part of my work, but it turns out that when you're already writing/editing 3k words a day, it's hard to find more words to blog with (well, and I usually blog whatever code I'm writing which isn't a whole lot right now). I did however want to share with you the news that I'm working on a book (about PHP, for the lovely Sitepoint).

I'm completely new to book-writing and it felt like a mountain to climb. I have five chapters of around 8 thousand words each to write for the book (I have co-authors, who are also lovely), and the general advice I got was to just take it all one step at a time. This sounds a lot like the way I teach project management and time management to developers, so I used those same skills and created a burndown chart (I blogged about creating these before):

As you can see, there have been some great days, and some quieter days. The flat lines are mostly weekends or days where I was out of the office with other clients. Although I feel slightly overwhelmed (and this doesn't show the edits that come back after I submit each chapter), the graph is at least going in the right direction!

360 Degree Feedback

I mentioned the 360 Degree Feedback Technique during my keynote at PHPNW10 and had many comments and questions about it since, so I thought I'd post about it in more detail

Introduction to 360 Degree Feedback

The basic premise of 360 degree feedback is that rather than being given performance feedback at work solely by your superior, the feedback comes from people all around you. This would include your manager and your peers, but could also include your direct reports, and people that you work closely with from other areas of the business. For example a developer might receive feedback from the rest of the development team, the design lead, and the project manager.

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Business Strategies: Office Day

I'm now self-employed, which means that I have to do my own administration, invoicing, accounts, correspondence, sales, marketing and maintenance (not to mention running the household, a sports team, and whatever else I've volunteered to get involved with lately). I am pretty organised as a person, which is a real gift now I have all this going on! I have some coping strategies and I thought I'd share one that has helped hugely - the office day.

The idea of the office day is that I block out a whole day every month or so where I'm not going anywhere, not on site with clients, not speaking, not delivering anything, just in the office, doing whatever needs doing. I tend to put these days in either day before or after runs of days away - either with clients or at events, just to give me time to catch my breath. Working this way means that when I'm working on something, I can just work on it, and know that there is time set aside for all the little things. Also the days where I'm just back from somewhere and the inbox is so full, it is ready to bite, then it gives time to get things straightened out and right, without feeling stressed because there is other work to do. Although it does mean that I'm not doing billable work that day, I find that splitting the work up like this works really well for me, and I thought I'd share - perhaps this suggestion will help someone else, and I'm always interested to hear how others fit in all the business bits and pieces around their "real" work.

Three Months In: The (Ad)Venture Continues

It's three months since I gave up the day job and so many people have asked me how it's going, that I thought I'd give a quick round up!

I am a statistics nut so it will surprise nobody that I track my time religiously (using harvest, which I'll post about some day soon). From this I can tell you that I spend about 40% of my time working for other people, and the rest doing things like writing, preparing talks, accounts, meetings, or whatever. I've also taken 14 days off, which has been absolutely fabulous after a decidedly work-heavy first half of 2010. The biggest change is that I've only worked one weekend day. One.

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