2012: stopping to look around

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

2012 was a pretty busy year and flew past at alarming speed. It was our first full year in Frome, having moved down from Scotland in October 2011, and marked the forging of new friendships, new opportunities and new experiences.

Our two children are growing up fast and whilst not without their troubles are becoming two kind, caring and inquisitive young individuals. We moved house late in 2012 and am looking forward to the chance to make this house our home over the coming year.

Work

2012 marked my first full year of freelancing. It has been an extremely busy year and whilst I have had the good fortune to be busy with work throughout the year, I have found it hard to be more defined in the work I do. In the past year I have done UX work, front-end development, web app and website design, CMS builds and discovered my limits at JavaScript. It has been great to have a range of skills to fall back on but I do increasingly feel that as a jack of all trades I cannot excel at any one thing.

Saying that I have been able to massively refine my work processes and methodology over the last year. I have started to use Sass to speed up my work with CSS, and Git to version my work and ease working in collaboration with others. I’ve also worked much more with Responsive Web Design, something that had only really aspired to in late 2011.

Giving back

2012 saw my first experiences of speaking at web events beyond local events in Edinburgh. I volunteered to give a talk on progressive enhancement at the fantastic Port 80 conference in May, and then I was delighted to be invited to give a twenty minute brain dump at #MKGN in September. The latter brought about a chance encounter with the lovely Prisca, striking up a conversation that led to an invitation to become a visiting lecturer on the MA in Web Design at the University of Greenwich.
Something these experiences together have taught me is that everyone has something to give in our industry, and that there are always folk who can learn from our experiences and expertise.

In 2011 I probably attended too many conferences. The networking benefits was great but this took a toll through costs and time spent away from family. So I vowed early in 2012 to cut back to just a few events, focussing on the New Adventures and Build conferences – without doubt the best events I had attended in 2011. However I was also extremely lucky to be selected to attend the Brooklyn Beta conference in October. I took this as an opportunity to have a long overdue and deserved holiday with my wife, Peta, and spent a week staying with family and enjoying the dizzying delights of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

2012 also saw me revisit the Survey on Freelance rates I carried out in 2011. The number of responses was improved and I was able to capture a more varied picture on how we as a discipline work and charge. Hopefully the resource and resulting tools will continue to be of use to freelancers across the UK.

Sadly late 2012 saw a decline in my health and confidence and the surfacing of some personal demons. I need to spend more time and energy early in 2013 on tackling these and devoting more time to my friendships, family, health and activities away from the glare of pixels.

Looking forward

So what lies ahead for 2013? If I could sum up my single take away from 2012 it was trying to give something back to our industry and I am hoping to do this even more in 2013. I am looking forward to more teaching and was extremely humbled to have been invited to contribute to the Pastry Box project over the next twelve months.

I want to try and focus my work a bit more – I have worked on a dizzying range of projects over the last twelve months but this has not been without its problems. I feel that I am often reinventing my processes and practices, and jumping between different skillsets can be exhausting and time consuming.

If anything I would really like to try and cement working in collaboration/partnership with other folk over the coming year. I’ve loved the freedom, flexibility and control of working freelance but I’m a sociable animal and have not enjoyed working in isolation on projects for much of the year.

Oh, and I need to take a holiday. It is almost seven years since we had our first child, Gethin and we have never had a family holiday (beyond the occasional weekend away). I have so many happy memories of my childhood from family holidays and travels abroad so I hope that I can forge some time to go away together.

So, it is already shaping up to be a busy and rewarding year. See you in twelve months to see how it all pans out!

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