2011: what a year

There’s still 10 days to go but it’s pretty safe to say that 2011 has been a pretty crazy year for yours truly. So some thoughts follow on the last twelve months …


At the start of this year I was working for a small web agency in Edinburgh. I’d moved there from a government job in 2009 and it had been a really mixed experience. I’d learnt a lot but was growing unhappy with the lack of control I had in the work I was producing. Cash flow had obviously been tight in the company for a while but getting 4 days notice of redundancy in late February was completely out-of–the-blue.

Amazingly, through the support of people on twitter I was able to get up and running with freelance work almost straight away doing a mix of front-end development, CMS builds and design work.

I’d been doing bits of freelance work for a few years on the side of a day job so had a good grasp of accounts, etc (thanks to Freeagent) and I carried out a survey to help me figure out what I should charge.

Overall, the transition has been surprisingly smooth but I’ve definitely made mistakes.

  1. The first mistake I made was taking on too much work. Not having a steady income anymore I found it hard to turn stuff down and the workload built up and up
  2. The second mistake I made was not insisting on contracts – it’s not something I’ve been bitten badly with but I’ve had a few late paying clients and really suffered from not having something with a signature on to wave at them
  3. The final mistake I’ve made was not insisting on money up front for work, something that has definitely affected cash flow

One unexpected thing that turned up in 2011 was getting the opportunity to do a design for the .net magazine build off series. This was great fun and gave me a chance to get back into some illustration work – it was also amazingly the first ever web design I’ve created in Photoshop.


As part of the shift to freelancing I’ve spent a lot of time doing good old-fashioned networking. I’ve always been a bit of a self-confessed conference junky so launched into a swathe of various web events throughout the year.

It’s a fair outlay but meeting some of the folk I’ve met along the way has been invaluable – I’ve got work out of it but also made some great friends. Special thanks to those kind folk who put me up on my travels: Neil, Maykel, Cennydd, Ben, Niklas and Ben

The two stand-out conferences for me this year were New Adventures and Build. The passion and focus with which these two events were curated by their respective organisers – Simon and Andy – was both palpable and infectious.

At each I rediscovered a love for my craft and a renewed vigour to take pride and enjoyment from the work that I produce. So to Simon and Andy I extend my warmest thanks.

A move

2011 also saw a pretty life-changing relocation for the Henley family, selling our small, semi-rural cottage outside Edinburgh and moving 9 hours away to the small Somerset town of Frome.
We had been talking about a move south for a year or so – we’d not had a decent summer in Scotland since 2006 and we were missing family. We’d had some great times and experiences in Scotland, made some amazing friends, got married and had two children. But above all we didn’t truly feel at home.

Losing my agency job actually made thinking about a move much easier so we put the house on the market in late July and amazingly it sold in two days. By mid-October Peta had given up her job in Edinburgh libraries, we were packed up in 1.5 vans and moved 400 miles south.

I can safely say we are thoroughly enjoying our new life in Perfidious Albion – although it has not been without some adjustment, particularly for our eldest who has had to settle in to a new school and meet new friends. Frome has some lovely pubs and shops, and a great population of like-minded folk who appreciate local craft and produce.

Have also managed to find a great co-working space at the Old Church School which has enabled me to get out the house and try and drive a clearer separation between work and home life. Something I desparately struggled with since going freelance.

Keeping it real

The last few weeks have also seen a personal aspiration come to fruition when I commissioning a series of prints of some Keep Calm parodies I designed back in 2009. They were printed by the amazing folk at Get a Grip and are available to buy at artsfacere.bigcartel.com

So, it has been a pretty mental year.
A new career, a new location and some great experiences along the way. Stay tuned for 2012 …


Really pleased to see a good end of year for you after the job stuff earlier in the year.

Glad to hear it’s all working out :)

Merry xmas!


Indeed, a year characterised by change. I’m glad it all turned out well in the end :-)

I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you more in Scotland after you left RC. However, I am starting to line up a little UK tour for May/June and Frome is on my list :-)

All the best to you and your family Cole. Keep on keeping on and here’s to another exciting spin around the Sun.