Looking back at 2013

On the Eve of 2014, I thought I’d put down a few thoughts. It’s really more for myself, to consciously think about where I am, what I’m doing, and where I’d like to go in 2014. 2013 was the 5th year of working entirely for myself, and I feel now that I’m getting into the groove a little better with planning my work load. It’s been a steep learning curve, but it’s certainly been more rewarding than the previous 5 years working for a salary. This could be due to many factors, but I think the main one is that I’m working in an area that I’m really passionate about.

Work wise

2013 has been a rather full year. I’ve been doing a lot of consulting on e-learning projects, web development, travel and getting married. Keeping a balance when you work for yourself is tough. Beside cash flow, time management / work load is one of the main things that I’ve heard from other self-employed people that they struggle with. I’ve found myself saying ‘no’ more often in 2013, and I’m getting better at saying it. I find myself doing things that I really want to do rather than things that other people wanted me to do. I don’t know what it is with me, but I feel so bad saying no to people. It’s a bit of an ego boost when people say that they want to hire you, or have you join their startup, but it’s important not to let your big head get in the way of your decision. An important skill is also being able to quickly identify clients who will start to be a drain on your time.
I’m also working on more of my own projects, which will hopefully generate income on an ongoing basis rather than just getting paid once for a delivered project.

Is it better to work 8 hours on a project that will generate €1/day for the rest of the year or to get paid €365 for your day’s work ?

I started to quote how much I charge, which frightens away most tire kickers and also aims to be a bit transparent on how I work. I plan to stop offering SEO services (perhaps a topic for another post), in an effort to focus even more.

Start to charge (more)

Across the board I’ve started to increase my rates, and for 2014 I aim to make my sideline projects (like dogs.ie, which just had it’s 5,000th dog ad posted this week) more profitable. These sites generally start out with a little idea, and as they grow they can start to consume a lot of time, so at some stage there has to be some level of ROI.

Training goals

Another issue when working for yourself is that you should make sure you keep up to date with new technology and what’s going on in the industry. I’ve signed up for TeamTreehouse earlier this year, while I’ve not completed as much as I’d have liked, I think it’s a great way to keep on learning. [1]. I started one or two edX & Coursera courses, but sadly didn’t get to complete them. Some ideas I’ve had about increasing levels of user engagement in online courses will be rolled into EmailTrainer.com.

Attending conferences like the WebSummit or LeWeb was another great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening.

Getting fit

The other type of training… My on-going challenge of moving my ass off the computer chair is going well. I’ve done 4 x 10 kms this year, with personal best thrown in of 43:46. I’m not quite sure about doing longer distances, I’ve a 15km next weekend and a 20km in February. The problem with these longer runs is i) the time it takes to train for them and ii) they are just a bit boring after about an hour I find.


Overall I’m really excited with what direction 2014 will take me. The next steps are to launch a new version of jobsinireland.org and maybe kitten.ie tomorrow.

[1] – get 50% your first month at TeamTreehouse via http://referrals.trhou.se/paulsavage

Tracking & measuring

I’ve talked before about getting fit, getting healthy and measuring weight. As it’s been a while since I’ve updated, here’s a quick look at things. Thankfully everything is going nicely to plan, but I decided to put in a few tips one what I found worked for me.

After reading the 4-hour work week book, I was surprised that Tim Ferris had so much personal data about his workouts, and other body measurements. Perhaps it’s the Hawthorne effect in action here, that the very fact that you are measuring something leads to you somehow improving it. For Christmas Judy got me a Nike Fuel band, which tracks your daily activity, to encourage you to be more active, more consistently.
The fuel-band is a great conscious reminder of how lazy you can be, especially if you are like me and work on a computer for 8+ hours a day.

Eating & Training

Despite going to the gym a lot last year, 5-6 times a week most weeks, my weight & body wasn’t changing as fast I would have liked. I suspect that they issue was that I was still consuming too many calories per day, even with the exercise. Going to the gym to loose weight alone doesn’t seem to be the best method for shedding a few pounds. A smarter diet and regular training seems quite logical to me now, and once started doing it this year the stats seemed more dramatic (see charts below).

Now I don’t recommend going on a Soylent Diet, but measuring and controlling what you eat will certainly help weight loss. I’ve tweaked my breakfast plan a little, trying to get more into me in the morning, with the addition of breakfast burritos.

The fact that I was training often did lead me to be generally quite fit. This is when I started to get the idea of doing my first 10km.


Last year I had planned to do a race in June, but due to a silly accident 2 weeks before with a door saddle and flip-flops, I wasn’t able to partake. 10km is a great distance I find

  • it’s not too long, time wise, that my sports ADHD kicks in
  • you don’t have to do long training runs
  • recover time and it’s toll on the body
  • but still long enough that, with a bit of training, you can do a great time.

Running is also a a great way of doing some exercise when travelling, as you don’t need so much gear.

me-endLast weekend I finally did my first 10km, and came in with a time of 47:11. I’m planning on doing at least two more this year, so maybe I’ve been bitten by the bug.

Training wise I did a lot of 5 / 6km runs in the gym, and started to increase this to 7/8/9km runs about a month before the race. Then finally I did 1 x 10km the week before the race, and went back to 5/6km runs but at a faster pace. As these 5/6km runs were around 30 minutes on the treadmill it’s not too long to be bored I find.

Weight Stats

Looking at last year it seemed that in the summer I tend to get lazy about maintaining weight levels. This is probably due to the number of times I hit beer garden or on holidays :(. I have recorded a similar trend for 2011 as well. Once challenge will be to see if the same thing happens this year.
This year I had about 2kgs less at the start of the year than last year. And progress wise I didn’t go under 76kgs until the end of April 2011, compared with getting there mid March this year.

Since I’ve started measuring my weight in 2011 I’ve lost over 8kgs or 18lbs. But still the elusive recommended weight for my height of around 74kgs is a bit off.

What next ?

The next steps are to see about getting my body fat under 12%. This seems like a little harder to do, as it’s not always so clear that doing X will result in Y% change in fat. I think I need to do a bit more reading on this. At the start of the year I was at over 20%, and currently it’s at 16.9% so there is still a bit to go.

Crew Ale – Munich Micro beer

A lot can be said about the quality of Munich beer, but sadly not a lot can be said about the local diversity. The main breweries :

  • Augustiner
  • Späten
  • Paulaner
  • Löwenbräu
  • Hacker-Pschorr
  • Hofbräu

all brew similar enough beer, especially when it comes to their Helles. Over time many of the smaller Munich establishments that had breweries, like the Drei Groschen Keller, ended up going out of business or being sold to the larger breweries.

Munich’s newest brewery

I’m always excited about new local businesses or startups, be they selling cupcakes, french food, proxies, mexican food or dropbox managers. I like to get to know something about these local small businesses, and I’ve made some great connections with some of them.

Today I wanted to write about a new brewery, by 2 guys Mario Hanel & Timm Schnigula, Crew AleWerkstatt (www.crewale.de). I first discovered them in one of my favourite local bars that serves a diverse selection of beer, namely Vivo (www.vivo-muenchen.de). Right now they sell two types of beer, a pale ale and an IPA. I hope in the future these guys will branch out to other sorts like seasonal beers, I guess only time will tell.

Munich Crew Ale

Crewale is different

One great thing I like about these guys is that they will deliver to your door, via the postal system for free if you order 20 bottles and are in Germany, check out their shop online. My only criticism is that you can’t order 10 pale alse and 10 IPAs (get on it lads !).

The price for beer is more expensive than that of the main-stream breweries, but that’s more than likely to do with economies of scale. A beer, delivered to your door will cost about €1.30 for 33cl, where as in a shop you can buy 50cl for about €0.85. In my mind it’s worth it, and I recommend that you check these lads out.

Check them out at www.crewale.de.

What 7kgs of books looks like

I’ve blogged on and off about the fitness regime this year, and so far it’s basically going to target. After watching the scales for the last 6 months, I have become accustomed to my new weight, but I wanted a comparison to compare it to my weight at the of the year. So what better thing to use that some of my heavy reference manuals, to see what the difference in books would be.

15.5lbs or 7.1 kgs of books

It’s hard for me to think that I carried that weight unnecessarily around with me every day. These 6 books represent what I’ve lost in the last 25 weeks by being a little bit healthier and a lot more active. Visualising weight accurately is harder than you think. Like how many laptops do you weight ? How many books does your chair weigh ? How many chairs would weight the same as a table. It’s interesting to do these conversions as it helps us understand these numbers in more tangible everyday terms.

The next challenge ? Is to do the Munich Stadtlauf 10km in under an hour, it’s on June 24th.

Slaves.ie – my thoughts

On Thursday, 4/8/2011, www.slaves.ie went live, thanks to the nice design work of James from Forbairt.ie. The idea to bring some attention to the increasing numbers of requests for unpaid interns in Ireland. Here are my thoughts on this project.

Myself, Michele & James, over an online discussion thought it would be a good idea to have a website to bring attention to the increasing trend of companies requesting people to do, what seems on paper at least, a job you would expect someone of experience/skill to perform. These jobs are often pitched as an opportunity to get experience or a start in an industry, but the employer is not willing to pay these people for their time.

Some employers even say that they’ve hired many people after these types of intern postions. But this carrot dangling really doesn’t justify someone receiving at least €8.65 per hour, the current minimum wage in Ireland. If you perform a task, that potentially someone else is paying for, i.e. a client of your employer , and you just get ‘experience’, there does seem to be some level of exploitation here.

Collins Dictionary, via thefreedictionary.com, defines the word slave as

slave [sleɪv] n
1. (Law) a person legally owned by another and having no freedom of action or right to property
2. (Business / Industrial Relations & HR Terms) a person who is forced to work for another against his will
3. a person under the domination of another person or some habit or influence a slave to television
4. (Business / Industrial Relations & HR Terms) a person who works in harsh conditions for low pay
5. (Engineering / Mechanical Engineering)
a. a device that is controlled by or that duplicates the action of another similar device (the master device)
b. (as modifier) slave cylinder

Because of #4 I feel that the word slave is an appropriate word to use. The harsh condition being the fact that you don’t receive any wages for the work performed.

There has been some debate over the last 3 days about this topic, it even trended on twitter at one stage. It’s great to see that in some way slaves.ie has aided this debate. Some people were offended by word slave, to that I am sorry, that was not the intention. Others seem to have used it to pull some punches at companies, this was also not the intention of the website.

Irish Unemployment

With the rate of Irish unemployment hitting 14%, there are lots of capable people out there looking for work. It’s sad to see that people feel like they have to take these positions, as that’s what it’s now come down to.

Recently the Irish government launched an initiative to get people on the dole, into jobs. JobBridge allows employers to advertise these internship positions. The employers only have to pay their workers €50 per week, but they will continue to receive their unemployment benefit. People seem to be happy to apply for these positions, and I think it can be a win-win situation for both the intern and the employer. Where things could get dodgy is when these intern positions should in fact be full time positions. JobBridge define an internship as :

The aim of the National Internship Scheme is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills.

I hope they don’t have too hard of a time policing these jobs. JobBridge is a great idea, and I would love to see it succeed.

Internships are great

Personally I’ve only good things to say about my experience with internships. But they were all paid, I was able to learn and earn at the same time. It showed me that the employer valued an intern enough to give them a wage. I was given responsibility, but I was also given the opportunity to learn something new. If I wasn’t paid I don’t think I would have been able to do one for 5 months while living in Germany for example.

I do wonder about these employers who don’t offer wages in return for work, I mean we all have to survive, pay rent, bills and eat every now and again. Expecting someone to work for free won’t help them in any of these tasks. Some even say they are creating jobs, but without an employers PRSI contribution I don’t think this qualifies as ‘a job’.

Both Michele & James have also expanded on their thoughts on this and are worth reading.

Hitting goals

After talking about loosing some weight at the start of 2009 and again in early 2010, I can now report things are going a little bit better in 2011. Similar to 2009, I came back from a month long visit to the US with a few extra pounds. In fact I was about 83.5 kgs, and for someone my size it was really too much. I was helped along with a few friends to get me started with swimming & going to the gym. And then after a while increasing the frequency of excerise from 1 to up to 3 times a week. I try to get at least one session in, whether it’s a run or a swim, or some Gaelic Football. The main idea was to do something physical to bring myself to a sweat.


Before starting with the exercise myself & lauren did a 3 week detox. This was pretty hardcore, no coffee, no alcohol, certain fruits that were high in sugar (like bananas) and lots of organic vegetables & chicken. This was particularly good for removing that extra water weight, as diet low in salt and other foods that people can have allergic reactions to. If you are interested in reading the plan drop me an email.

2011 Results

The gray dots are some of the measured points, and the blue line is the average weight and predicted time I shall hit my goal. My current goal is 75kgs, which I should hit in the next few months. Right now I’ve lost a total of 7.78% of my initial body weight.

The other day I carried a 5kg bag of coins that I was hoping to bring to the bank, and I was amazed after caring just how heavy an extra 5kg’s was. Try it yourself ! I was able to clearly imagine the extra stress and strain a few Kgs can put on your joints.

Some motivation

This post isn’t meant for me to say how great I am, rather to be more of a motivational post. The hardest part of anything is starting. Once you get going, and start to see the results, you’ll find that your body will start to crave the adrenaline rush that you get from a tough workout. You just have to stick with it enough to create the habit.

For more motivation I suggest you have a look at this video about a kid learning to cycle a bike for the first time.

Hat tip to one other great lad who’s progress I’ve been tracking this year.

Revenue.ie : Phishing attempt

Just a quick warning to people who might see the following email in their inbox titled “Recalculation fiscal activity for 2011” supposedly from Revenue.ie.

The email appears to be sent from confidential@revenue.ie, but this is just spoofed (email spoofing is just too easy). The text of the email says

Dear Applicant:

Please note that you can apply for tax refund, today we have sent your tax file number (TFN): 2 7 9 0 2 1 6 8 1 5
(See the tax privacy note in the Taxpayer’s declaration on page 8 of your tax refund) and is valid only 24 hours for security reasons.
Please take a few minutes of your time to complete the form, for your safety please do not reveal your TFN number to others.
In order to complete, please follow this link:


The contents of this email and any attachments are confidential and as applicable, copyright in these is reserved to Irish Tax and Customs.
Unless expressly authorised by us, any further dissemination or distribution of this email or its attachments is prohibited.

Irish Tax and Customs

and it has a link to
and not the official http://www.revenue.ie/refunds website. If you have received such an email, according to their security advice, you should forward the email to them.

The idea of such an email is to trick companies to fill out their personal details, such as credit card details, which will probably be used against them. The phishing site is very, very poorly done.

If you have filled this out, you should call your credit card company and cancel your card, and contact the revenue commissioners.