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Nov 2010: What I’ve Been Up To

By John Clarke

Thought I’d write a quick update about what I’ve been up to recently.


So it turns out the best thing about running your own proper business is not only do you have to shell out shitloads for an accountant, but your workload also increases by loads with all the day to day bookkeeping! Ugh. Not only am I now busier than ever, but my work enjoyment density, or average enjoyment per arbitrary amount of work I have to do, has declined. And! This month is when our first year’s accounts have to be completed, as we’ve been a limited company since last October.

(The one benefit to running a limited company is that I have a “company seal” – a little rubber squeezy stamp type thing that imprints “John & Jo’s Coffeesh0p Limited” in any piece of paper that’s had the misfortune to cross my path. Fuck knows what it’s actually for, but it does offer some small comfort at least.)

So today, I’ve been hacking together various scripts and queries to try and automate the drudgery somewhat.

Stock photo of some accountants.
Their apparent dynamism & relaxed attitude are but a thin veneer disguising unparalleled boredom, resentment for their boss, colleagues & clients alike, and a cold, black, lonely heart.


I mentioned it on Twitter, but we went to Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago. I suppose that’s another perk, since the business kindly agreed to pay for it. Hopefully, the Mrs will write up at least some of the trip eventually, but she’s busier than me! I’ll also talk about a related competition-type thing soon…

Anyway, as you’d expect, going away for a week results in mountains and mountains of…


So many emails! I’m still catching up on the work-related ones, and I haven’t had time to reply to anyone that’s emailed me here for literally months. Really sorry if you’ve been in touch and I’ve not had the chance to reply yet. Unless you’ve sent me some kind of hate mail. Then I’m not sorry in the slightest!

Bagging Stuff

The problem with selling more and more stuff is that more and more stuff needs packaging, which often means my fingers are raw from labelling up bags or I’m elbow-deep in kilogram sacks of miscellaneous entheogen; tissue rammed up my nose as a pre-emptive strike against the inevitable green snot or uncontrollable sneezing. On the upside, we’ve recently had our first few wholesale orders of Meen Green, which is doing way better than we ever could have expected.

New Products

Not only have I got a boxful of products not yet on Coffeesh0p, but we’re also just about to release a new solid, crumbly incense. It’s seriously amazing, and it’s good to go, I just haven’t had enough time in the day to finally get it on the site!

The thing with new products is, it’s not just uploading data from the supplier into a database; it’s quite a bit more effort. There’s the usual stuff like pricing and other boring data like what category they’ll reside in, where abouts in the category they should go or what other products to recommend, but the biggest tasks are writing descriptions that are both interesting and, most importantly, honest, without straying into hyped-up marketing bullshit talk, and sorting out the images. I’ve seen loads of sites in this industry just robbing crappy lo-res pics off other competing sites, or using the same stock photo from the supplier as everyone else, but where’s the fun in that?! To get a decent pic up along side the product description, the first step is trying to take a decent photo of it. This usually involves me running madly between rooms on a quest to achieve the perfect lighting (impossible in this house), commandeering the tiny bathroom mirror to capture the maximum amount of photons, laying down sheets of white paper to make a plain background and fudging together little supports to keep it in all place. When  I’ve finally taken a half decent picture, then I have to photoshop the crap out of it.

Before your feathers get all ruffled and you start declaring shenanigans, my goal is to make the digital image actually look like the product in real life. That’s it. I don’t have a proper studio or mega expensive camera – as I said, I take all the product pictures round the house, using printer paper for a backdrop in dim light. Most pictures start out looking dull, covered in a murky orange haze, so I mainly tinker with the levels,  contrast, saturation – that sort of thing – and then try and cut out the background so it’s completely white. For products with actual packaging, I might straighten them up, as if I’d taken the picture precisely above it, or I might get rid of the natural, terrible shadow and replace it with something slightly more uniform. I also like having a couple of images for each product, so that process needs repeating for each image, then, finally, I need to cut out a suitable thumbnail to display on category pages and search results.

I might actually write a full post about doing product pics, like a step by step guide, so you can see the improvements and how little mischief I’m really up to. Which brings me to my final point…


My last post already talked about all the behind-the-scenes stuff I’ve been up to, but I’ve also got a few half finished posts I’ve been meaning to get done, as well as ideas for a million more.

So, yeah, don’t start to think I’ve lost interest, or can’t be arsed replying to you. We’re both in this for the long haul!.

One Response to Nov 2010: What I’ve Been Up To

  1. Tim says:

    I took my first trip to Dam this year for my stag do.. good times 😉
    keep up the posting !

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