For various reasons (all above board and legal) I’m no longer an official Bark Like a Big Dog employee. For the forseeable future I’m just their preferred freelance supplier is all things graphic (and WordPress). This arrangement keeps us both in close contact (no friendships were lost or marred during the transition) and keeps the door open to any future reinstatement of employer/employee status.
It also means I’m available to work for other people on other projects again 🙂
One of my repeat freelance contacts (who I originally met way back in my Gopher Systems days) offered me full-time employment. Personal circumstances at the time made this a very attractive offer, and I was happy to join her team at BLABD.
Easily the best company I’ve been with so far. I worked – entirely remotely – as part of a great team. I think I visited the Basingstoke office three times overall, and one of those was for the Christmas party!
In June 2023 circumstance, happenstance and a misalignment of stars caused our working relationship to end, hence me being here looking for a new job…
When my wife started child-minding at home it made sense for me to become a registered child-minding assistant. It means I can legally be left in charge of the children for up to two hours at a time and have the knowledge and training to be able to look after and care for them properly and safely.
For 10 years I worked from home as a freelance graphic designer. It gave me the freedom to work as and when I chose; something I still value greatly. Creativity can’t be switched on at 9 a.m and switched off at 5 p.m. Some days it just isn’t there til 1 or 2 in the afternoon (or at all) and, conversely, sometimes it’s still flowing beautifully at 9 or 10 at night.
A small company of 5 people with no offices; everyone worked from home and – apart from the odd client meeting I had to attend – I rarely ever met anyone but the managing director. As the hours weren’t set in stone and I could work from anywhere, and in 2010 spent a delightful couple of weeks just north of Cognac with a laptop and…a bottle of Cognac 🙂
As the only member of the team with any artistic/design flair at all, everything from logo design and business card layouts to full-colour brochures and entire website overhauls were down to me.
In 2011 (following a 2-week stay in hospital) I took Spiracle Dot Net/Hot Creative Media – and its managing director Chris Vass – to an industrial tribunal in order to claim back the £14,811.94 owed to me by the company for unpaid wages and holiday. I was quite reluctant to do this as it was the perfect job for me at the time. I’d spent many months being paid sporadically, in dribs and drabs, in half-measures and – on occasion – not at all. You can only take excuses and loyalty so far, especially when you’re getting behind on your bills. An industrial tribunal seemed the only way to address the issue. Although I won the tribunal and was awarded the money, I never saw a penny of it, as Mr.Vass had the legal convenience of Limited Liability on his side.
Having let it go for the sake of my mental health and blood pressure, I was delighted to find out that he’d been found guilty of VAT fraud in 2016 and sentenced to 12 months in jail 🙂
In retrospect, the only good thing about this job was my colleague (and now long-time friend) Paul Paradise. The rest of it didn’t really sit that well with me. We had a boss who’d constantly stand behind you and point at your screen over your shoulder. Sometimes he’d even poke the screen itself to make a point and leave his grubby, greasy fingermarks everywhere. Ugh.
We also had an utterly ghastly and eminently unlikeable project manager we dubbed “Shower-in-a-can Man” There’s a clue in the name there…
It was also a rigid 9 til 5.30 environment where working from home for any reason was severely frowned upon; if you arrived at 09:03 you were expected to stay until 17:33. This backfired on numerous occasions; when asked to stay on at the end of the day for 10 minutes to finish a job, the answer would invariably be “I’m only contracted til 5:30. I’ll do it tomorrow” Not a healthy or enjoyable working environment at all.
Whilst at Wowi Digital I worked on a vast number of disparate projects ranging from corporate intranets (for the likes of Mobil 1) through to credit-crunch-inspired house competitions and a Flash-based virtual march for Dr.Hadwen’s Trust (the celebrity marchers I designed for this were so good, apparently, that Ricky Gervais used his for a long time on his website, and word got back to me that Brian May was very impressed with his!)
As well as the more usual web projects (of which there were lots) I also did a bit of basic video editing, a lot of corporate branding, some designs for large advertising hoardings and designed brochures, logos, letterheads, business cards and posters. Over the course of one weekend, I decorated the office from top to bottom and was also the company first aider, indoor gardener and health and safety officer.
In 2009 I was abruptly made redundant. I was given 10 minutes’ notice and a further 10 minutes to clear my desk of all personal items and leave the building. Paul Paradise – who was the head of the coding section – was given his marching orders on the same day. Apparently the boss thought he could do without us and do our jobs himself, thus saving him a fair bit of money each month. Turns out he couldn’t, and the company went bust 3 months later 🙂
In 2001, Gopher Systems was a one-man operation, responsible for a small number of small websites, all of which desperately needed some TLC (to be polite!) I almost didn’t contact the owner, Neil, as I presumed he wouldn’t be in a position to hire anyone. However, I did and, to my pleasant surprise, he took me on almost instantly, and on a fairly decent wage too.
For a while it was just the two of us: The owner/MD/salesman/account manager/project manager/accountant/chief cook and bottle-washer Neil, and me. By 2003 we’d grown, more people had joined the company and we’d moved to a proper office. Our client base had expanded, as had the services we could offer now we had specialists in place and Neil wasn’t juggling a hundred hats every day.
Whilst at Gopher Systems I worked on hundreds of website development and print projects. I not only worked on graphic design projects for our clients, but I was contracted out to work on website design projects for a large number of marketing & PR agencies, as well as other website design companies who had the skill to do the coding in-house, but no in-house graphic designer. The design budgets on all these projects ranged from just a few hours or days work, to spanning several years of ongoing development.
Bad luck, unforeseen events, cashflow problems and various other stumbling blocks caused Gopher Systems to go into liquidation in 2007. Neil could quite easily have written everything off whilst hiding behind Limited Liability, but he didn’t. He’s a decent and honourable man. He took it upon himself to gradually pay all of Gopher’s creditors out of his own pocket, even when not legally obliged to do so. It took him many years. These days he’s the owner and chief photographer at Moore Photographics. Check him out. His work’s very good!
One of our old clients ended up using my freelance services many times between 2011 and 2021, and ended up offering me a full-time job in 2021. I guess I must have done something right 🙂
Following my departure from the top secret military establishment on Salisbury Plain, I invested half of my redundancy money in starting up a web design company with a friend of mine. We didn’t really know what we were doing when we blagged our way into the newly opened “Internet Shop” in town and asked if they needed a “web design team”. Mike had some very basic knowledge of html and I’d just graduated from DPaint on an Amiga 500 to a cracked copy of Corel Draw 4 on Windows 3.1. I suppose we were pioneers of the budding Internet age!
To cut a long story short, in 6 years we’d grown the company to include Mike’s father and older brother as equal-share directors along with 30+ employees spread over four separate offices in Marlborough.
As Artistic Director at Shift-F7 my role primarily involved managing my team of designers and working on our larger corporate clients; a few of whom you may be familiar with:
Thanks to two rather large corporations not paying their rather large invoices on time, we were unable to pay everyone and ended up going into liquidation in 2001.
Whilst very upsetting at the time (informing people you know and love they’re being made redundant is a truly horrible experience; I wouldn’t recommend it) Shift-F7’s liquidation was – on a personal and selfish level – a welcome release. It had grown far too big for my liking, was far too faceless and corporate, and I’d long since lost any joy in it.
I spent about 10 years at a secret military establishment on Salisbury Plain. I can’t tell you where exactly, not that it’d do you any good if I did as it’s not marked on any maps and you can’t see it from any roads. I can’t tell you what I did there either; if I did I’d have to kill you…and then myself.
Anyway, suffice it to say that this top secret job at this top secret establishment had absolutely nothing to do with graphic design of any sort 🙂
However, I can tell you that I have a small shrapnel scar, courtesy of The Royal Artillery and The Royal Logistics Corps very nearly blew my Morris Minor up. Twice.