November 13th 2017 was my first official day of self-employment. Whether I can refer to myself as a bona fide business person or entrepreneur only time, motivation and effort will tell.
I remain, however, a writer, reader and professional in the construction industry. Three months since making the leap seemed like a good time to take stock and share some of what has interested me lately.
Recommending an article from a national newspaper these days is a dangerous business, with polarised allegiances to different publications more likely to result in drawn battle lines rather than exploration of common ground. Regardless of political persuasion, however, I felt this piece on the challenges facing British housing was fair, comprehensive, and centred on the valid observation that no single solution exists.
If a long read is not your thing, the same newspaper produced an eight-part series of mini documentaries aiming to get under the skin of Stoke-on-Trent, the city in and around which I live and work. On the subject of housing solutions, the local council's scheme to sell renovated properties for £1 generates a lot of media attention (such as this BBC News article), and one of the videos shows the challenges that many neighbourhoods face beyond the fundamental quality of housing.
Keeping to the theme but venturing a little further afield, this conference event in Sheffield next month boasts an interesting premise and I am tempted to head across to South Yorkshire if time and work allows.
Since starting my journey of self-employment, I've enjoyed the freedom to think about wider sustainability issues and explore more of what interests me personally. As a result, I'm happy to say I'm now a member of the Association of Environment Conscious Building (AECB), and part of my current workload includes undertaking the CarbonLite Retrofit training course throughout 2018.
I'm excited to get stuck in to the programme and meet others who have signed up for it this year, learn from some experienced and knowledgeable construction industry professionals, help spread the message through my writing and - most importantly! - one day put it into practice on my own deep retrofit project.
Thinking about retrofit, the aims of the CarbonLite programme, and how to use knowledge about retrofit to make a positive contribution, only served to make this website for a Bristol-based initiative called Neighbourhood Construction all the more fascinating.
In particular, this blog post by a 76-year old homeowner who wrote her own summary of what she had learned about improving her home shows it is possible to make the topic accessible to people outside the industry. I'm rarely in the Bristol area, but I'd like to attend one of Neighbourhood's Construction's events in future if they run more.
A slightly left-field one to end on, but something that resonates with me. I'm gratified that self-employment has brought with it a degree of unexpected self-confidence, as well as the hoped-for chance to meet a host of new and interesting people - but slick social skills remain somewhat elusive! Nevertheless, whatever your level of comfort around other people, awkward introductions can befall the best of us, and I enjoyed this run down of interesting suggestions to help get conversation flowing.
If you get some value from any of these links, or come across something you think might interest me, let me know! Contact details are at the front of the site, and social media links are at the foot of every page. Here's to the next three months!