March 1st, 1999.

Show me the money.

You know what I hate most about being in business? Money.

Well, perhaps not the actual money, but more the process of getting the fee. You see for all my skills with people, I am still utterly hopeless at negotiating a price for anything. And sometimes I end up getting trampled on by clients who seize the opportunity to save their currency by making me feel uncomfortable about the whole fee situation. "So how much is this going to cost?" That is my worst nightmare sentence. I am not kidding, I hate it when people say that because I am petrified that I'll quote a price and they will then launch into some tirade of abuse because they feel I am not worth it.

Perhaps I am insecure, yes maybe that's it. I have found the one bit of my character that is not comfortable with itself, and it's the bit that has to get the rest of me paid. Darn!

Why could I not be insecure about my body in some way, or perhaps about my hairstyle (or lack thereof)? Why could I not be insecure about being a Mac User or even having an apartment above hairdressers? Why is the only major thing I am not happy about the breadwinning part of the deal?

Perhaps I need to go on an assertiveness course at the local Business link? Yes in fact I think that's a good idea. No more hesitation for me. Now when confronted with some snarling company purse holder I can reflect on the teachings of the course and hammer home my rate with confidence.

I guess maybe that it comes down to the fact that deep down I sometimes have huge moments of self-doubt about what I do. Sometimes I go surfing on the web and come across a website that makes me sit back in my chair and want to throw the towel in. I look at some amazing sites using technology that I have access to but doing things I could not have perceived. It's at moments like that when the value of what I churn out takes a serious sideswipe in my opinion.

But the flip side, that I need to concentrate on, is that as yet, no one has ever been unhappy with any work I have produced. Indeed my former employers have used my services as a Limited company not once but twice so far. That means they liked what I did enough to come back to me.

There's a new agency in Birmingham that have subbed work out to me, and they have been very pleased. Again pleased enough to come back for more... lots more! So this has to boost my confidence a little. After all, let's be fair, these people wouldn't think "well he's cheap so I can put up with the crap he produces" would they.

MELT is proving to be a success. And if things continue in the same way as they are now, then I feel sure it'll establish itself as a reputable web design agency in the region. But in truth, I have to say that perhaps the bigger worry for me is the underlying concern that the web, and everything related to it, is growing faster than anyone could possibly hope to keep up with.

My field of expertise and the one in which I would feel most confident to quote for is one of a consultancy role. I have been lucky enough to be a demonstrator at a local internet training centre, teaching and observing people use the internet. That experience gave me a rare insight into how 'real people' use the web, and how they use the wonderfully designed award-winning websites.

I have watched people arrive at sites that have made me feel completely deflated as a designer. Then I watched the person move onto another website because they can't be bothered waiting for some clever animation to load. That site is then, no matter how well designed, a failure. And that is an area in which I want to get out there and do some serious consulting.

Maybe I am in the best position. Merseyside as a region is surprisingly open and aware of the internet thanks in main to the hard work of local organizations who have been actively promoting the web to local people and businesses. However, nine out of ten of the websites that local businesses have are very poor quality. So there's a ready-made opportunity, right? "I notice you have a website, how much business do you estimate that has bought you since it went online?" Now who's having to answer difficult questions?

So in a space of a few paragraphs, we have managed to turn my insecurity around into opportunity! Fabulous! Let's see if I can do this in the real world.