Falling Forward: A Girl & Her Lists

Holiday: Activate

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We’re off to Tunisia for two weeks – sans laptop! Crazy times. I’ve scheduled a couple of my regular posts, but for the majority of the time Falling Forward will be quiet until we get back to the UK.

I’m actually really looking forward to the digital detox – we’re not really going to have a lot of access to Wi-Fi so I’m going to spend my time reading, doing crosswords, swimming and hanging out with my beautiful husband, all of which sounds pretty awesome to me.

Adios, kids! :)

My First Year As A Freelancer

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My spiffy looking portfolio. Why yes, I do like yellow. How did you know?

2014 was my first proper year of freelancing. Booking clients, invoicing people, submitting a tax return – all fun stuff. I thought it’d be a fun exercise to share a little bit about what I learnt in my first year as a freelancer, in case any of you are considering taking the plunge! First up, some background.

How I ended up as a freelancer in the first place

I actually fell into it by accident, to be honest. A combination of being unable to find a permanent contract anywhere and a couple of friend’s with small businesses offering me some contract work and boom, there you go, I’m suddenly a freelancer. I’m pretty outgoing so I talk to people a lot, which is also handy for a freelance career. Most of my work comes through word of mouth!

I’ve been dabbling with coding for about 15 years now, and I’ve been online for a loooong time (I am 31, it happens), so even tho my general job skills were based in administration it didn’t feel like too much to transition what I was doing in my spare time (chatting on Twitter and building websites) to my actual job.

What I do, and how I do it

My lovely clients and their lovely logos. Lovely.

I mostly do marketing and social media, and WordPress dev altho I also create content and provide customer service support. Multi-faceted! I’ve always been interested in the internet and building websites, and I’m supremely chatty and people based, so they seemed like a good fit for me.

I don’t have a set in stone routine, but I usually start work at around 10 (altho I do wake up earlier than that, I swear! Ha). I usually work with certain clients on certain days, so I’ll either be doing some marketing stuff or I’ll be working on a website design depending on where in the week I am. I’m a completely paperless operation so everything is done via my laptop, which is pretty sweeet. It means I can work from anywhere in the world, essentially, which is a pretty nice feeling.

I normally stop for lunch at around 1pm and try to take a 45 minute break away from my laptop and my phone. Then it’s back to work until 5 or 6, depending on when Q gets home / how much work I have left.

Sometimes I work in the evenings, but I try not to because it doesn’t feel like a great use of my time and my brain is definitely more tired then.

What I learnt this year

I am good at talking to people and self-motivating but I’m bad at time-management and sticking to one task at a time. 2014 was an interesting year – I definitely made some mistakes (make backups, kids. Seriously), but overall it went well. I built a small core of happy clients who like to tell other people to hire me. They’re really the best.

Pros of being a freelancer

  • You set your own hours
  • You can work from home
  • You’re in charge of what you do (mostly!)
  • You can work for people who have the same ethos as you
  • You get to set your own prices

Cons of being a freelancer

  • The hours can be irregular
  • It can be pretty isolating
  • The fear that you don’t have anyone to fall back on
  • You have to motivate yourself, constantly, forever. No-one else will be around to do it for you
  • Some months you will have money, some months you won’t

The future

One of my favourite sites I did last year – Costa Sister Productions

I really want to move more towards WordPress dev (themes and bespoke stuff next!) and maybe an app or two? Who knows. The world is my proverbial oyster, really.

Tools for freelancers

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, these are some of the tools that I use on a daily basis that you might find useful.

  • Toggl – for time tracking
  • Trello – for organising your stuff
  • Debitoor – I use this for my invoicing and it works a treat
  • WeTransfer – for sending big files that are too large for email
  • Copy – like Dropbox, but with a way bigger allowance (if you sign up via my link we both get an extra 5GB! Nice.)

They’re all free tools (some have premium options), which is nice if you’re just starting out as you can see what works for you before you commit to anything.

I also use Treehouse to learn new coding languages and skills, and while it’s not free I do think it’s worth it!

Honestly, I would recommend freelancing if you’re sick of your job and want to try working for yourself. It’s an interesting process and it won’t suit everyone, but I really think that it suits me well :) Here’s to 2015!

Cheer Up Monday

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Apropos of nothing, here are some cute photos from the internet, in case you need cheering up. (Click through for links to original sources)



 

2014 – A Year in Review

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2014 is done – whoo! It was an interesting year for me – my first full year of freelance, our first full year in the house. I made some new friends, lost touch with some old ones and cut some ties that had been weighing me down for a while. I feel like 2014 was the first year where I panicked less and enjoyed more, so that’s pretty awesome.

I read 171 books, watched 120 films, completed my colour 365, took two flights and built nine websites. I also shaved my head, got laser eye surgery and put on almost two stone. Oops.

Here’s a mini review of the year, via Instagram which is basically where I post all my photos now that I’ve quit Facebook. This will be quick, I promise (ish!).

January

We went paleo for a month in January, and it was pretty fun.

I got a new tattoo that I’ve wanted for ages – Marc John’s ‘seek out the joy’ print

We held the first Life List Party and it was amazing.

February

We had all the windows replaced, and added french doors to our dining room. Best decision ever!

#Chongcat smashed my favourite lamp. I was not amused.

March

Q & I took a quick trip to Gloucester. It was…small!

We hosted our first Team Chong Supperclub.

I started to crochet a blanket for my nephew.

I got to briefly meet the wonderful Amber Marlow. She was a doll!

I went on a roadrip with my Mum and Amy to Wells, Stonehenge and Salisbury.

April

First picnic of the year! :)

I finally got to go to the Harry Potter Studio tours, with Liz and Amy. They had owls, it was brilliant.

& we briefly considered putting #chongcat up for sale after he broke another lamp.

May

We did a bit of demolition and removed the fugly built in wardrobes.

We went to Italy for a week to hang out with Rob.

I acquired a sewing machine.

& we went to our first murder mystery party (I was the murderer!)

We went to the Boring Conference in London (which was way more fun than it sounds)

& we got to see Matilda, which was as magical as everyone promised it would be.

June

Remember that blanket I started? Here it is! The first thing I ever crocheted.

I turned 31! We went to play laserquest, to celebrate :)

I went horse riding with Liz, to help her complete her “21 new things in 2014″ challenge.

& Q and I went to our first rooftop cinema experience!

July

The owl jumper began.

My attempts at chocolate chip cookies were a fail, as always!

But my lovely mum did teach me how to make jam! (This was rhubarb and it was delicious).

Rainbow Rowell came to town – she gave a really interesting talk, signed my books and I met some really sweet people in the queue! :)

August

I FINALLY got to meet Dianne, who was as awesome as promised.

We went to Cornwall for the day to babysit my nephew. He likes trains, ha.

I had laser eye surgery. No more glasses!

I learnt how to french braid my hair!

& then I shaved my head, nbd ;) I raised over £3000 for charity in the process which was pretty amazing.

Life long dream to pet a tiny owl = complete.

September

We went to Bluestone for our two year wedding anniversary, which included a stop at the beach for ice-cream :)

I organised a conference for 160 attendees, which was an illuminating experience!

Jen had a unicorn party for her birthday, so I covered my head in glitter for the night. It was awesome.

We finally got our butts in gear to finish the office.

October

9 of our friends came to stay, and we went to visit Caerphilly Castle in the rain.

Fun new wall art for the price of a £4 pack of card. Score!

We bought a super cute lampshade and spent two hours trying to work out how to install it. No joke.

Buying a breadmachine = home made gluten free bread from now on.

We FINALLY got some wedding photos printed, two years after getting married. This one was our favourite ;)

November

We went to Devon for the weekend to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday. I took zero photos but did come back with homemade, wheat free scones. Love you, Mum.

I played squash for the first time! It was hard, but super fun.

I switched to the dark side and dropped my iPhone for an Android ;)

Wahaca opened in Cardiff – whoo!

& I managed to find a gluten free Christmas Sandwich, i.e. my most favourite time of the year ever.

December

We went with Liz and Luke to watch the ice hockey for the first time, which was simultaneously hilarious and surreal.

I attempted to not swear for a day. I made it until 6pm, ha.

I accidentally bought some beautiful, yellow Le Creuset saucepans.

My BFF bought me the best gift ever.

Christmas Day was wonderful, and culminated with a side splitting session of Cards Against Humanity.

& we saw in the New Year by toasting with a Ferrero Rocher at midnight! :)

Phew. 2014 was a good year for me, especially in terms of the amount of opportunities I was given to appreciate it. Here’s to another joyous 12 months!

#BuzzCutChong – Two Months On

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It’s been two months (and a few days) since I shaved my head for charity – can you believe that? Time. Flies. I thought people might like to see the progress that it’s making, so here are a few quick shots of it growing! Apologies if we follow each other on Instagram, you’ve already seen these my friends ;)

+ 0

Head shave day! It was shaved to a number 1, so it was pretty damn short. In fact, I think my eyebrows were longer than my hair which is a pretty weird thought, actually.

+ 4 days

On bald days we wear pink.

+ 1 week

There was a small triangular patch at the front that started to grow back in a different colour, which was pretty weird. Heh.

+ 3 weeks

Jen had a unicorn party so I sprayed my head with glitter and rocked it.

+ 1 month

At this point it was starting get fluffy, but I still couldn’t really point it in any direction and have it stay there.

+ 6 weeks

At six weeks you take gratuitous selfies, apparently, because you can barely see my hair in this, ha. The different coloured section turned into a strange cow-lick, because that’s always fun for everyone.

+ 2 months

& this is where I’m at now! :) It’s just starting to get to the stage where I can manipulate it, and if I move around a lot in my sleep then it sticks up like a fluffy baby bird in the morning. It looks kinda tall in this photo, I think I have a tendency to mohawk it with my fingers subconsciously, ha.

I’m excited to see how it moves on from here, it’s pretty much at the point now where it looks like a deliberate haircut choice, heh. Next stop, pixie cut!

#MiaLovesYellow – A Birthday Thank You

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On my birthday I asked my friends to take photos of yellow things with the hashtag #mialovesyellow, and this is the result! Just want to say a big thank you to everyone who took part – look how pretty all the photos look together! :)

I might start doing this every year, heh.

Life, An Update

Posted by in A Little Conversation, My Life In Lists

I’ve had this post open for so long and all I’ve managed to write is the title. The habit of writing lists has become so ingrained that it’s become a struggle to write anything in long form these days. Oops.

So, where were we last time I wrote something that wasn’t a list? It was a pretty long time ago, I know that!

Things over the last year (?) have been…interesting. My parents split up, subsequently divorced and my dad moved in with someone else and is now engaged to her. My job has evolved, we got a cat, friends have got married, had children – a whole wealth of change has occurred in our little corner and it’s been difficult at times to keep up.

The whole deal with my parents was especially troubling but not something I felt I could really write about because it’s not my life, you know? Navigating our new family dynamic is hard and not always particularly rewarding – maybe we’ll never get there, who knows. My relationship with my mum has strengthened exponentially tho, and I am beyond grateful for that, if nothing else.

I can’t/won’t write any more about it, so let’s focus on the good things, instead. The sunshine, the hours of book reading, the late nights with friends laughing about stupid things. There’s been a lot of Life List activity this year which always makes me happy. I haven’t always managed to make the most of every day, but I’ve damn well made a lot of those days count for something.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen these photos before – for those who don’t, here’s a treat!

Boring Conference IV

We finally made it to the Boring Conference and it was wonderful. So many interest talks and friendly people, I’m so glad that James decided to do another one!

We’ve taken walks around the lake and had picnics in new places. I visited four new cities this year – Gloucester & Swansea with Q, and Wells & Salisbury with Amy and my mum.

Roath Lake – so grateful to have this beautiful spot so close to our house.

Amy & I are the coolest. Obvs.

I also managed to fit in a whirlwind meet with beautiful Amber Marlow in London, so that was fun. FYI: Taking photos on the tube is harder than it looks…

We’ve had BBQs and many, many games of Cards Against Humanity. We started a fledgling supper club (and ran into a few, hrm, niggles) and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. (Cooking and eating, heh). I also shot a lot of 35mm film. Mmm. 35mm…

I still really love to read other people’s blogs, I am just terrible at writing my own, apparently. We’ve getting back into the DIY swing of things with the house now the days are lighter, so perhaps I’ll do a couple of ‘before & after’ posts about the changes we’ve made.

I am well, I am happy (mostly) and I am still here, I promise. I just really, really, really like writing lists.

Monthly Goals for April & May

Posted by in A Little Conversation, Monthly Goals

5 Goals for April [5/5]

  1. Have a picnic in a new Cardiff park
  2. Leave 10 lovely notes [10/10]
  3. Crochet 3 stripes on Arthur’s blanket [3/3]
  4. Plant some seeds for the garden
  5. Finish the “Build a Simple PHP Application” stage on Treehouse

I completed my April goals, hurrah! Admittedly, we planted out the seeds and tidied up the garden on April 30th, but you know, it still counts. We actually managed to have a picnic on April 1st and then the day after it rained and rained and rained, so I felt quite smug about that. Take that, weather.

Elsewhere the “Simple PHP Application” didn’t seem so simple to me but maybe it’s me who’s simple, who knows, eh? Still, it got done which means I can move onto the next stage – whoop!

5 Goals for May [0/5]

  1. Finish “A Fraction of the Whole” [22%/100%]
  2. No phone browsing before bed (9:30pm cut off) [1/31]
  3. Finish Arthur’s blanket [0/7]
  4. Make two dishes from the Yo! Sushi cookbook [0/2]
  5. Make something with the sewing machine

So, onto May! Two of these are 30 for 30 related (book reading and blanket making), and the rest are just things that I want to be doing, really. I spend so much time on my phone and it’d be nice to step back from it in the evenings and get back into some other hobbies that have fallen by the way side.

We’re off to Italy for a week on Wednesday (it’s a work trip but I’m sure they’ll be some relaxing times). I’m going to take the blanket with me so hopefully they’ll be some progress to report by the time we get back!

Ciao ;)

Vocabulary; Growth Of

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New words – ah. I love them, truly. I highlight them on my Kindle whenever I spot them, and one of my best friends introduces me to a new word or two on an almost daily basis, which is fun. (In a “how do you know all these damn words?” kind of way. I need to read more Wikipedia and less Cyanide and Happiness, clearly).

I also have a ton of words that I can spell and use in context but couldn’t give a definition of if pressed, so I’ve started to collect them. I’m hoping that by writing them out and reading the definitions it might help them to stick. Enjoy!

(There are so many that I’ve actually started a page for them. Here’s a selection of my favourites tho..)

Ascetically n.

A person who renounces material comforts and leads a life of austere self-discipline, especially as an act of religious devotion.

“She lived ascetically in a small house all by herself.”

(Not to be confused with Aesthetically.)

Delineation n.
The action of describing or portraying something precisely.

“The artist’s exquisite delineation of costume and jewellery.”

Denouement n.
The final part of a play, film, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.

“The film’s denouement was unsatisfying and ambiguous.”

Egregious adj.
Outstandingly bad; shocking.

“Egregious abuses of copyright”
Gregarious adj.

(Of a person) fond of company; sociable.

“He was a popular and gregarious man”

Inimitable adj.
So good or unusual as to be impossible to copy; unique.

“They took the charts by storm with their inimitable style.”

Loquacious adj.
Tending to talk a great deal; talkative.

“Never loquacious, Sarah was now totally lost for words.”

Onerous adj.
(Of a task or responsibility) involving a great deal of effort, trouble, or difficulty.

“He found his duties increasingly onerous.”
Polyglot n.

A person having a speaking, reading, or writing knowledge of several languages.

“Rob was a polyglot.”

Sardonic adj.
Grimly mocking or cynical.

“Starkey attempted a sardonic smile.”

Sartorial adj.
Relating to tailoring, clothes, or style of dress.

“Sartorial elegance.”
Subjugate v.

Bring under domination or control, especially by conquest.

“The invaders had soon subjugated most of the population.”
I’m not the only person who keeps a list of new words – right?

2013 Review + 2014 Resolutions

Posted by in A Little Conversation, My Life In Lists

It’s the end of 2013, whoop! This year has been so up and down for so many people I know – we bought a house but lost a friend to cancer, my parents got a divorce but then #ChongCat entered our lives… a real swings and roundabouts year for us. I for one am not sorry to see the back of 2013 to be honest. I think I’m taking more positives from it than negatives (phew) and with that in mind, here’s a quick list of some of my favourite moments from this year :)

Favourite moments of 2013

  • Turning 30 (and the amazing day that Q planned for me)

  • Learning to crochet

  • Writing so many more letters
  • Breakfast at Wally’s Coffee Haus
  • Seeing a new European country when we went to Greece (and going on my first holiday with friends!)

Snorkelling

  • Hanging out with Sami K not once but twice!
  • Celebrating our anniversary in Paris

The Lourve

  • Hanging out with #TeamHubbard & #TeamGodfrey again
  • Lots of walks around the lake

Envy

  • Trips to London to see Mark, Dani, Anna, Tess, Leo, Aaron, Owen, Jess & Amy in one weekend. Phew!
  • Publishing two beautiful issues of Télégramme
  • Trying pole dancing & not sucking that badly ;)

  • Spending time with my BFF for the first time in forever
  • Teaching Amy to play the ukulele and then helping her to complete her 30 songs challenge

  • Getting my first ever freelance clients
  • Sitting with our feet in the paddling pool, reading a book in the sunshine

    • Having so much fun working my way through my 30 for 30 list :)
    • Learning to swim underwater
    • An impromptu trip to Bristol to eat PORKS with Hayley
    • Bringing #ChongCat home

  • Getting given 30 or so avocados for my birthday, ha
  • Playing Cards Against Humanity with my mum and dying with laughter
  • Ice-skating for Q’s birthday
  • #Chongmas

See. So many good things! Putting this post together has made me remember so many fun things and spurred me on to make 2014 even better. Fun! In true Sarah spirit I also made some resolutions at the end of last year, and here’s how I got on with them.

2013 resolutions!

Face my fears

I totally did this! I faced my fear of heights by taking a trapeze class. I faced my fear of looking like an idiot (and thus never doing things in case I look like an idiot) by uploading a solo ukulele cover, and by taking a pole dancing class (which was awesome). I faced my fear of flying by getting on another 4 flights (even tho I did freak out a bit when they put us near the emergency exit. Oops).

I did try to push myself to try new things this year, and to push through when I felt like I wanted to turn around and hide under the duvet. I think it’ll always be a work in progress but I’m definitely better :)

No alcohol for a year

I did this too! Every person I told, without exception, made a skeptical face like giving up alcohol was completely unthinkable, but I personally didn’t find it hard at all. I don’t drink a lot anyway so that’s probably part of it (and I don’t enjoy beer or wine), but this was probably the easiest goal of the four to complete.

That being said – I am looking forward to cracking this bad boy open in 2014.

More joy!

I definitely did this. I’m much more in tune with the things I know will make me happy now (lists, yellow things, avocados, reading) and also happier to tell people if I don’t like doing something. You like bowling? Great! I’m genuinely glad for you but I’m not going to come with you because I really, really hate it.

I tried hard not to put myself in situations where I knew going in that I probably wouldn’t like it, even when there was social pressure to attend. I’m hoping that I managed to pull this off without offending any of my friends but they’d be more qualified to confirm that statement than I am, heh.

Plus, look at that giant list up there! FULL. OF. JOY.

Less gossip

I failed at this. Boo. I did okay for a little while but mostly I was a gossipy gossipy gossip. Oops! Why is this so hard? I feel like gossip is used as social currency almost and that’s definitely something I want to work towards removing from my life. Oh well, you can but try, right?

-

So. 2013 was (mostly) full of win in my opinion. So what about 2014? Well…

2014 resolutions!

Year of code

I have a subscription to Treehouse but I haven’t used it for a while. Oops. I’d love to be more confident with coding in a couple of different languages by the end of the year – I might as well get on it since I have the subscription, right? :)

Colour 365

I last completed a 365 in 2008/2009 (although I attempted one in 2006/2007 and 2007/2008, too…). I barely pick up my digital camera any more, so I’ve decided to do a 365 in 2014, with a broader subject matter than the last one, which was a self-portrait 365. Brutal. This time around I’m going to pick a different colour every month and every photo must feature that colour. I think it’ll look awesome at the end of the year! :)

Wheat free – all year

I need to make a change with my diet. I’m forever eating things even tho I know they’re bad for me and then regretting it afterwards, so in 2014 I’m cutting out all wheat related items. Bye bye, pizza! I’ll miss you!

Paleo in January

Since I’m already going to be wheat free I figure it’s not going to be too much more of a step to go Paleo for a while. I’d love to do Paleo for the whole year but I know it’s going to be difficult so I’m going to take it month by month and see how I get on!

Less phone more face

I spend way more time than I’d like glued to my phone, so in 2014 I’d like to spend more time interacting with people face to face. Putting my phone away during dinner, trying to quit Facebook, no browsing the internet in bed.

PHEW. Who’s excited for 2014? Because I totally, totally am! :D Yay!