Moving over to

I am starting 2017 by moving from being self-hosted on Digital Ocean to a new life on The reasons being are:

  • My current server is vulnerable and I keep having security issues with it
  • I like the whole Calypso interface that WP.COM has here
  • I am moving more and more to a world of micro-services and APIs with a lot of the other sites that I am developing

Old blog posts bubbling to the surface

I really like it when someone comments on an old blog post of mine as someone did today. In 2007 which was nearly a decade ago now, I wrote about something I really care about, the spread of Red Kites. 

The Red Kite was reintroduced to the Chilterns about 20 years ago and their numbers have multiplied. Not only that, they have spread out pretty much across the South of England. 

Every now and again I get a comment against this old post that someone has spotted a nesting pair or some other useful nugget of information. I think this is brilliant. 

It makes blogging worthwhile. Now that woeful never happen in Facebook would it?!

The reason our site has been going down

I have just read the following article and I urge all WordPress owners to do likewise. Take a look at as this explains why we have frequently run out of memory…. I shall be putting this into practice and writing more about it later, as this is a critical issue for this site. I was originally blaming Digital Ocean for these issues but that would now seem not to be the case at all!

What are you working on at the moment?

I am a massive fan of WordPress and especially the app. I can use it to catch up on what other people have been writing, I can use it to write whilst on the go. I especially like the fact that I can see who follows this blog. So this post is all about you guys? I know you’ll reply!

I am curious, occasionally nosey even but I am intrigued to learn more about the people I follow and whom follow this blog via WordPress Reader.

I shall start off by telling you about what I’ve been up to….

Well apart from getting ready for Christmas. I’ve been busy at work with my current contract client, Premium Credit. We are building an admin app for insurance brokers. My part has involved learning about some new Javascript based technologies, not just React and Redux but also a certain amount of functional programming. That is a complex thing to get your head around, mainly because you have to unlearn what you know! One of these days when I understand it enough, I shall write about it here.

I must spare some more time for photography and other things, I do feel a bit like all work and no play right now…. Christmas break beckons!

Contracting and my business

I have been contracting now for a long time and thought that I should write more about my experiences in working this way, as I am sure that many people would perhaps find such information of use. It has it’s good and bad points as with many things in life. Thankfully I can say with confidence that most of the time, it is all good. However I can now say that contracting has become just part of what I do or I should say, what we do.

Nick Lewis Ltd is no longer a one-man band, in fact it never has been to be honest, as Tina my Wife plays a big part in it’s running. You may have read via an earlier blog post that we took on an apprentice back in September and he has been doing really well. He is picking things up quickly and doing a great job at writing up his college course notes along the way.

Since taking on Daniel, I have had to strike a balance between running the legacy side of the business and building up what is known as HeadForCode, our new trading name. I will ultimately be looking at doing less contract work in order to focus on more of a consultancy led business model.

How does contracting work?

I have been contracting since 2002, taking a break between 2007-2010 to become an employee for a company (mostly due to health issues) and then returned to contracting almost 7 years ago.

The best way to become a contractor is to setup a Limited Company. I know that you can do it in other ways, such as operating through an Umbrella Company but I can’t vouch for any of those routes. It is for this reason that Nick Lewis Ltd was formed. The next thing we recommend you do is to find yourself a good Accountant and in our case we opted for Crunch, who have been excellent over the last several years. You pay a set fee each month and in return for that you get your own Account Manager and a wealth of valuable services, including the very good web app for administering your accounts. Trust me, when it comes to VAT, Tax returns and Year Ends, you will be very pleased that you chose them.

Finding work is the next bit and we tend to rely on Agencies for this. There are times that I wish there were other ways. Don’t get me wrong, we work with some good agents but there are a hundred-fold bad ones. I do get quite frustrated with taking calls from some of them, expecting to learn of great opportunities but only to realise that they are just harvesting CVs.

Yes that is a “thing” I am afraid to say. I often remind myself that many of these companies are just agressively seeking to make as much money as possible out of placing people with blue chip companies up and down the country.

I have done contracts at a number of big and small firms, here is a list of the main ones:

  • Transport for London
  • The AA
  • Zurich Insurance
  • B&Q
  • Gladstone MRM
  • Save the Children
  • GiveSmart
  • Premium Credit (PCL)

I started at Premium Credit back in June on a 3 month gig, I was extended in September and this week have just accepted another extension that will keep me in gainful employment until the end of April 2017. I must say that Think IT have been brilliant and here are my main (loved) agencies!

  • Spectrum IT
  • Stott and May (Glenn got me 3 contracts back to back)
  • Think IT

If you aren’t on this list, then sorry, you just need to be a little more compassionate about your contractors, remember we are not commodities!

Getting Paid

Important, very important but I have heard horror stories of some people not being paid, at all. I have for the most part been very lucky. The only time I had an issue, was when I worked with a company who hadn’t issued me with an actual contract…. suffice to say never work without a contract. You must always agree to terms on how you will get paid, when and how much.

Most of the time I work to a day rate that is agreed with the agency at the start. You keep a timesheet along the way and at the end of the month, you raise an invoice to be submitted to the agency. They then invoice the client, the company that I’m working with. The end-client pay the agency, often with a margin added on top which then gets split between you and them.