2016 And All That

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.So, that’s the Coffee Spot Awards done. As ever, it was fun and a chance to look back at 2015. However, it’s a new year and I want to look ahead to see what 2016 will bring. The simple answer to that, at least in the short term, is more of the same.

I’ve been writing the Coffee Spot for over three years and for the last 2½ years, I’ve supported it by working three days a week as a contractor. However, that came to an end in December. I’ve mixed feelings about this. On the plus side, I won’t miss the early starts or the 3½ hour round-trip commute (although a lot of Coffee Spot posts got written on the train ride to/from Waterloo). On the downside, the considerable drop in income may prove to be problematic…

For a long time, I’ve joked that the Coffee Spot is a five-day-a-week job, which, combined with a three-day-a-week job, didn’t leave me much time for anything else. There’s a lot more I’d like to do with the Coffee Spot, but that all takes time, time I don’t have if I’m also working. So, what am I going to do about it?

June 2016: Quick update (more details at the end of the post): I got another contracting job, so I’m back to the old 3+5 ≠ 7 conundrum.

You can find out what I had planned to do after the gallery, which is a brief review of 2015.

  • 2015 saw a series of firsts for me, starting in January when I roasted green beans at home!
  • It was also a year of 'and finally...'. In February, I finally visited Artisan in Putney.
  • In March I was back in the USA, visiting the likes of the wonderful Rival Bros in Philadelphia.
  • April saw another 'and finally...' as I returned to Brighton and visited Bond Street Coffee.
  • May also saw me making it to Ealing's Electric Coffee Company (at last!).
  • In June, I was back in the USA, with a first visit to Portland (Maine) and  Bard Coffee.
  • July saw me travelling in the UK again, this time in Birmingham with Quarter Horse Coffee.
  • Come August, I was in Nottingham for the first time & at Greenhood Coffee House.
  • Another month, another first. September took me to Swindon & Darkroom Espresso.
  • Closer to home and the Kioskafe opened around the corner from my office in October.
  • November was festival season and I was back in Manchester for Cup North.
  • December was a month of catching up, but I found time to pop into Notes at Canary Wharf.
2015 saw a series of firsts for me, starting in January when I roasted green beans at home!1 It was also a year of 'and finally...'. In February, I finally visited Artisan in Putney.2 In March I was back in the USA, visiting the likes of the wonderful Rival Bros in Philadelphia.3 April saw another 'and finally...' as I returned to Brighton and visited Bond Street Coffee.4 May also saw me making it to Ealing's Electric Coffee Company (at last!).5 In June, I was back in the USA, with a first visit to Portland (Maine) and  Bard Coffee.6 July saw me travelling in the UK again, this time in Birmingham with Quarter Horse Coffee.7 Come August, I was in Nottingham for the first time & at Greenhood Coffee House.8 Another month, another first. September took me to Swindon & Darkroom Espresso.9 Closer to home and the Kioskafe opened around the corner from my office in October.10 November was festival season and I was back in Manchester for Cup North.11 December was a month of catching up, but I found time to pop into Notes at Canary Wharf.12
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The simple solution to my problem is to get another contracting job, although that’s easier said than done (update: actually, it wasn’t), given that if I go back to the nine-to-five, five days a week, that will be the end of the Coffee Spot as we know it. Even if I can find another flexible job which will let me work three days a week (or ideally two), I’m still pretty much back to square one, trying to squeeze too much into too little time.

There’s a lot I want to do with the Coffee Spot, including publishing more often so that I can get through my back log (at the time of writing, I have 47 unpublished Coffee Spots, some dating back to my visit to the US in March). I’d also like to develop other aspects of the site, such as the Coffee Spot Guide To… series, but again, they take time, so currently for every guide I publish, that’s a Coffee Spot I don’t publish. Ideally I’d love to produce a Coffee Spot App (or more precisely, work with a developer to produce an App) since the Coffee Spot’s not ideal for finding places on the go (it works, but it could be better). And the list goes on…

However, all of these take time which is why I’ve decided, for the next six months, not to go back to contracting and instead to explore ways of generating additional income from the Coffee Spot. I already have some sources of income, the Coffee Spot Calendars for example, and a couple of paid coffee-related freelance writing assignments. However, these are nowhere near enough to support me full time.

One option would be to take advertising and/or sponsorship, but I ruled that out when I set up the Coffee Spot and have no intention of changing my mind. I think that one of the reasons for the Coffee Spot’s success is that I only write about places that I like. As soon as I start taking advertising/sponsorship, the danger of bias creeps in. Even if I don’t let it influence me, there will always be the perception that I’ve written about a place because I’ve been paid to or because it’s taken out advertising or sponsorship. So that’s a road I’m not keen to go down.

I’ll also explore whether I can generate more income from Coffee Spot related activities, such as more freelance writing assignments (drop me a line if you need a writer for hire), selling my photos online (any suggestions on this front gratefully received) and a couple of other things I don’t want to talk about openly just yet.

However, there is another source of potential income that I’ve not yet mentioned and that’s you, dear readers. If you have a look around the Coffee Spot, you might have noticed the Patreon button. If you’ve not come across Patreon before, it’s a bit like crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, except that it’s not designed to fund specific projects, rather its aim is to provide a regular income for people like me.

The idea is that you pledge a certain amount each time I publish a post. How much is up to you: Patreon works in dollars, with a minimum pledge of $1 per post, but whatever you pledge will be converted to your local currency. To give you an idea, I averaged 15 posts a month in 2015, up from 14 a month in 2014. If I get my act together for 2016, I might be able to get that up to 17 a month, so if you pledged $1 per post, you’d be paying me an average of $17 per month, of which I’ll get around £10 (once fees and exchange rates have been taken into account).

If that sounds too much, you can always cap the monthly amount you pledge (again, in dollars). I did think about allowing you to pledge a monthly amount instead, but since one of my aims is to publish more often, I thought I’d give myself more of an incentive!

So, where will this go? I honestly don’t know. It might lead to nothing, but on the other hand, I reckon if my regular readers all pledged $1 a post, that would keep me going indefinitely. What I do know is that if I don’t try, I’ll never know, so let’s see what 2016 brings…

Back the Coffee Spot on Patreon


June 2016: So, having said that finding another contracting job is easier said than done, I got a call towards the end of January offering me the possibility of another contracting job. To cut a long story short, it was far too good to turn down, although it took another three months to actually get the contract sorted out.

So, since the end of April, I’ve been back in the payments industry, but this time working from home, a nominal three days a week, so it’s much more flexible than before and (best of all) no more commuting! So far it’s going very well, but I’m back at square one, trying to fit five days of Coffee Spot and three days of (paid) work into a single week. Working from home helps immensely, since it gives me so much flexibility.

Knowing that I was very likely to get the job, I put a lot of my Coffee Spot developments on hold, concentrating instead on getting through my backlog of posts. The more observant of you will notice that I’ve been publishing four times a week this year, something which is unsustainable in the long term now that I’m back working, so I’m probably going to drop back to three times a week fairly soon.

However, the good news is that since I am only working three days a week, I can still carry on doing the Coffee Spot and I’m not going to run out of money any time soon!  Long term, though, I’d still like to be able to concentrate on the Coffee Spot full time, so I’m still keeping Patreon going. Many thanks to the five of you who have supported me so far. The developments/enhancements that I want to make to the Coffee Spot are still rumbling on (very slowly) in the background, so watch this space. In the meantime, it’s business as usual at the Coffee Spot.


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7 thoughts on “2016 And All That

  1. Brian knowing how hard it is to keep our simple blog going I can imagine the commitment required for what you have achieved. I hope you receive sufficient pledges to allow you to develop your work further. While you have dismissed advertising due to a potential conflict, what if it was related to coffee equipment for example? I wish you continued success for 2016 and look forward to reading more Coffee Spots.

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