Life update

Life has been pretty busy of late, particularly on the business side of things. I’ve been fully-booked since the beginning of March and this looks set to continue until at least the end of May. The fact that I am selling my time means that my business doesn’t scale, which has led a few people to ask if I’ve considered employing someone to take on the overflow. The answer is ‘yes, but…’

  1. At the moment I’m not sure how long this amount of work will last. When it’s just me I can be fairly laid-back because I can cut expenditure and work on side projects during quiet periods. If I employ someone else there’s continual pressure to bring in enough work to pay one flexible salary (mine) and one fixed salary (theirs).
  2. I’ve never managed anyone before, at least not in the employer/employee sense. I’ve been in charge of volunteers but that’s a different kettle of fish, and whilst I’ve held senior positions they’ve rarely come with much in the way of line management.
  3. I’m terrified of screwing up and causing someone else to lose their job, struggle with rent/mortgage payments etc.
  4. I’ve no idea how I would find an employee, and I definitely don’t want to hire someone I know already.

Outside of work I’ve identified two possibilities I want to pursue—a political position (a long shot) and a part-time PhD (also a long shot due to the fact that most places demand a first and I ‘only’ got a 2:1) or some other additional qualification (law still appeals).

posted by Paul at 9:48pm on Sunday 30th April 2017 | 1 Comment »

Goals for 2017

Posted here mainly so that I have a reference:

  • Improve photography skills to the point where I can take half-decent photos of trains.
  • Start selling licences for KAM Tools (software startup with a colleague from a previous job).
  • Finish and deliver training courses on Configuration Management with Ansible and Version Control with Git.
  • Read The Wheel of Time and Discworld (I’ve started both several times but never completed them).
  • Restart development on Filing Reminders and Pub Gateway, using both as a chance to learn Laravel.
  • Learn to drive (I don’t really need to but it’s a useful skill to have).
  • Finish at least one of the fiction book ideas I’ve been writing notes on for the last couple of years.
  • Roll out TLS to all my websites and client sites.

I’m sure there’s a few things I’ve forgotten, but if I can achieve the above I’ll be happy.

posted by Paul at 9:50pm on Sunday 1st January 2017 | Comments Off on Goals for 2017

Winter clearout

Over the years I’ve accumulated lots of books, maps and DVDs which I’ve rarely used. I don’t have enough space to store them all so I’m looking to sell them on at a significant discount. All items are in very good or excellent condition and most have only been read/watched a couple of times at most.

Since most of the items are low value I’d prefer to sell them to people who can take them off my hands in person, otherwise postage will probably increase the cost by 50-100%. If you’d like anything, please comment below or email me.


Box sets:

  • Star Trek: Next Generation: All 7 seasons as slimline DVD box sets. £30 for the set.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: All 7 seasons as a single box set. £25.

James Bond (£2.50 each):

  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • The World is not Enough
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Goldfinger
  • Casino Royale
  • Tomorrow Never Dies
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • From Russia with Love
  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Live and Let Die
  • Thunderball
  • Dr No
  • Licence to Kill


  • Doctor Who: Paradise Towers: £4. Still in shrink-wrap as Amazon didn’t remove it from my wishlist so two people bought me a copy.
  • Inspector Gadget: Walt Disney film with Matthew Broderick and Rupert Everett. £3.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 2 disc special edition. £5.

Ordnance Survey maps

These are the orange 1:25000 scale maps. RRP is £8.99 but I’ll accept £4 per map (or £25 for all of them). The map number is in brackets. I bought most of these for Geek Walks but as we tend to do urban walks they’re not very useful.

  • Manchester and Salford (277)
  • Liverpool (275)
  • Lancaster, Morecambe and Fleetwood (296)
  • Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Congleton (268)
  • The Peak District – Dark Peak area (OL1)
  • Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale (OL41)
  • West Pennine Moors (287)
  • Southport and Chorley (285)

I’ll update the post as items are claimed, and there might be some more things coming.

posted by Paul at 12:32pm on Sunday 27th November 2016 | Comments Off on Winter clearout

Where to from here?

Today marks the one year anniversary of me leaving full time employment and starting my own business—something I’ve wanted to do since high school (in primary school I had slightly unrealistic ambitions, including World President). So far things are going well, I am ahead of my conservative forecasts, have regular work from several clients, and my average monthly invoices are about the same as my University salary.

I am not sure where to go from here though. Life is ticking along in general but not in any particular direction. There are things I want to achieve (e.g. chairmanship of a quoted company) but I have no idea how.

The result of the EU referendum has made me consider getting back involved in party politics, but there are two things opposing that. One is that I’ve been there before, and I got increasingly frustrated by the lack of moderates—perhaps unsurprisingly, party activists tend to have less flexible and fluid views and opinions. The other is that there are one or two voluntary positions coming up which I would like to apply for, but they require me to be politically independent.

I’ve considered doing another qualification, as I enjoy learning (and, if I’m honest, acquiring shiny bits of paper with my name and postnominals). The Open University offers a graduate entry law degree, where you effectively do the course in two years (four years part time) instead of three, which I suspect would interest and challenge me. Law was probably my favourite subject at college, and certain areas—particularly contracts and intellectual property—impact on the organisations I’ve involved with.

posted by Paul at 1:05pm on Friday 1st July 2016 | Comments Off on Where to from here?

November is Will Aid month

If you’ve been thinking of getting a will, November is a good month to do something about it. Will Aid is an annual scheme whereby participating solicitors have agreed to write basic wills for no fee, on the understanding that you make a donation to charity (£95-150). A basic will covers the vast majority of people, unless you have over £375,000 in net assets or want to do something complicated such as setting up a trust.

If you die without a will, there are various rules which decide who receives your assets. These defaults may not be what you want, and in any case can be changed by successive governments. In particular, if you have a partner to whom you are not married or in a civil partnership, by default they will receive nothing.

posted by Paul at 11:53am on Thursday 19th November 2015 | Comments Off on November is Will Aid month

Life update

Four months in and freelancing is going slowly, though I’ve picked up another regular contract and received a few more enquiries now that the quiet summer holiday season is over. I’m also in the process of getting a custom design for my PHP Developer site, as I don’t think it sells me as well as it could – hopefully this will be in place by the end of November.

I got a low mark in my coursework for the financial adviser qualification, which was disappointing, especially as I did well on the first exam. According to the Chief Examiner’s report I wasn’t alone – I’m not sure if this is an indication of the people taking the course or the coursework itself. The main question was certainly confusing, requiring you to write a magazine article but also prepare a bibliography according to scholarly convention – a sort of academic paper/magazine hybrid. Anyway, I’m currently waiting for the results of the final exam which should be released in mid-November, with the worst case scenario being a resit (or rethink) and having to put back my plans for financial advice by a few months.

Voluntary work is going well though, and pending election at the AGM in December I’ll be joining a local branch of Citizens Advice as a trustee. I’m still looking for one or two more opportunities but nothing has come up yet.

The University has also re-advertised my old position at a higher grade, which wasn’t unexpected but still a bit annoying. The application deadline has passed but I don’t think they’ve shortlisted yet – despite not being involved I’m still interested in knowing who has taken on the role…

posted by Paul at 8:23pm on Thursday 29th October 2015 | Comments Off on Life update

CV feedback request

As I’ve recently picked up a few new technical skills (e.g. configuration management with Ansible) and started freelancing, I’ve updated my CV again and would be grateful for any feedback, either via the comments or email. HTML and PDF versions can be found at and the Markdown source on GitHub.

The CV is intentionally generic as it’s hosted on my website, although I do tailor it slightly if I’m applying for a specific role. I leave references off for the same reason. I’m still unsure about bullet points vs paragraphs – I feel the former gets key points over quickly and is easy to scan, but some people seem to prefer a style with more prose.

posted by Paul at 10:22am on Saturday 19th September 2015 | Comments Off on CV feedback request

Freelancing so far

I’m now half-way into my first month of freelancing and I think things are going reasonably well. I have regular work for at least one day a week, plus a few other potential projects lined up, which is more than my initial pessimistic forecast.

I also have dates for my two financial adviser exams, at the beginning of August (regulation and ethics) and start of October (tax and protection). There will be a few more hoops to jump through before I can start trading, but I’m hoping to be up and running by the end of the year.

The biggest challenge I’m finding at the moment is striking the right balance between advertising and controlling the amount of work coming in. I don’t know what my conversion rate (for want of a better phrase) will be, so it’s hard to tell whether meeting ten clients will result in overwork or no work.

All things considered though, I’m much happier doing this than I was at the University, even though I miss having colleagues to talk to.

posted by Paul at 6:24pm on Thursday 23rd July 2015 | Comments Off on Freelancing so far

The long road to freelancing

I’m roughly half-way through my notice period at my current employer, which feels like it is going very slowly. I’ve got one big project to finish before I leave—processing, registering and labelling the Raspberry Pies which we give out to new undergraduates—but other than that things are fairly quiet. Officially my final day is 30th June, but I have some annual leave to take so I’ll actually be finishing on or around 19th June.

Preparations for freelancing are going well though, I’ve spoken to a few people already and have a few other potential leads to chase up in the coming weeks. I’m still looking for more work though, so if you know someone who wants a PHP developer, system administrator or non-executive director, please point them at or (I’m currently trying to find a designer to tart up both sites).

posted by Paul at 9:07pm on Saturday 9th May 2015 | Comments Off on The long road to freelancing

Full time freelancing

Most people will have seen this news already on social media: earlier this week I handed in my notice at the University of Manchester and will be leaving at the end of June. I enjoy working there, but sadly there isn’t enough work to keep me busy, and whilst the department I work in does value highly skilled technical people, the University does not, and this is reflected in the lack of promotional prospects and salaries.

So, as of 1st July I will be going freelance on a full time basis. There are a number of business ideas I want to try, but initially I’ll be concentrating on PHP development and system administration to pay the bills. If you know anyone who might be interested in these services, please do point them at my PHP developer site, which contains all my contact details.

posted by Paul at 10:12am on Friday 3rd April 2015 | Comments Off on Full time freelancing