Tuesday, October 16, 2012
How my free time has gone to the dogs... And why you should try it too

As Drew B quite rightly states in his obscenely self-promotional Huffington Post article, side projects are a good thing nowadays. They let you explore personal interests, teach you new things, and give you the opportunity to make mistakes that won't lose you your day job. Sometimes, as Drew notes, side projects become your day job.

One of my (many) side projects recently has been helping with the launch of Chilli-Dogs Boutique & Salon, my sister-in-law's posh designer dog clothes shop in Bournemouth. To help get their web presence sorted, I wrote all the content for the website (including the copy for approximately 400 dog accessories - including how this particular designer dog outfit, featuring Facebook legend Mocha modelling the outfit, "keeps your four-legged friend as snug as a bug"), sourced suppliers for the front- and backend builds, and project managed the website to launch.

As a digital consultant, this was all good practice for me. Not only did I get to play around with e-commerce systems and user-centred design, I also nearly ended up in court when a dodgy supplier turned nasty. It was all a huge learning experience - I found that, even with the best people and planning, trying to launch a small business is hard. Really hard. I have new perspectives now - on everything from web technology to business management - and this is knowledge that regularly helps me in my day job (even though that has nothing to do with dogs).

'So what's next for Chilli-Dogs?', I hear you ask. Good question.

Firstly, I'm helping them with external promotion. The picture above, from the high-end fashion site NET-A-PORTER, features stuff supplied by Chilli-Dogs.

Secondly, I'm helping them with their SEO. Thanks to my friends at the rather excellent search consultancy 3WhiteHats, the site is already indexing for some of our important keyphrases.

But every little helps, right?