Category Archives: Office

Count Up timer

Marking Time

How do you keep time?

Count Up timer
A Count Up Timer is a must!!

I had a very interesting interaction with a client this week that had me thinking:

  • What?! My time is worth SOMETHING!!!
  • I need a new gig!!!

This particular interaction was all about time with a subtle inference that I was not accurately billing the client.


But this was the third time in about two months where I was pulled into explaining how I keep time. I have been at this long enough that I no longer DEFEND how I keep time. It is what it is. But now I am tired EXPLAINING  it.

So this blog post and the accompanying contract addendum are going to help me NEVER to have to visit this again.

Hope springs eternal.

I have two types of projects – fixed price and hourly.  No surprises there. Du jour for freelancing.

I am not going to talk about how I set fixed prices. I am going to explain how I track time for my hourly projects.

For hourly project :

  • I print off the email containing the task that is to be done. Yes, the task must come to me in written form. This is my proof that the task was requested. If the task originated as a phone call I will send a follow up email to the client who must reply giving permission to start. This is a CYA – Cover Your Assets.  If you are a new freelancer, this is a REALLY good practice.
  • When I retrieve the print out, I sit at my desk and turn on a timer.
    (Ahem – Don’t laugh) This is a humble kitchen timer. You know the Kitchen Aid count up/count down/keep time timer your Mother probably has in her kitchen? Yeah. That.
    I have used ALL kinds of timer, from apps on my phones, online timers  to programs on my p.c. One that I even customized (it was in php) for myself.  After a while I just decided I liked the kitchen timers better. I have several – right now I have three on my desk. I like them. You don’t? That’s fine. Just figure it out for yourself.
  • I have a “work sheet’. This sheet is a form on which  I make notes about EVERYTHING I do or see. It becomes a permanent part of my client’s file. I have these going back 10 years or more for some projects. I also, usually, start a NotePad++ text file for copying text from the screen (error codes etc).
  • On the worksheet I also put the  current date, time began, time end, and total time. And sometimes doodles condemning stupid javascripting!
  • When I finish, I write the time and highlight it so it is OBVIOUS how much time I was at the job.
  • I bill time in 15 minute increments.  Time is round up to the nearest 15 minute – so 2 hours and 6 minutes is 2 hours 15 minutes.  Without exception. Because the application I use does it for me.
  • I do not bill for answering emails.
  • I do not bill for composing and sending emails.
  • I do bill for ALL  meetings, phone calls and Skype calls.
  • I do bill for time spent doing research, trouble shooting and any sort of
    maintenance or preparation work related to the project being executed.
  • I try to get my invoices out at the beginning of the month for the previous month. This is where I fail. But I have gotten better. I usually get them out by the 15th.


Other questions I get:

Do I do free work?


Do I comp time?

What’s that?

How accurate are my timers and time keeping?

The timers are new and newish. They are all running on Costco’s Kirkland Brand batteries.  So they are as accurate as they can be.  As for my accuracy – habit serves me well. It’s an old habit.

What no one has ever asked me is , do  I care about my clients?

YES! Without them I would have NO JOB. Besides that, most of them are just like me;  we watch our budgets and finances.  So I am always mindful of their goals when it comes to budgets!

And almost all of them are really good people.

However, I have to earn a living also. Clients pay for my time  which when I am expending it on their projects,  I use my expertise to help them reach what ever goals they have. I bill for my time. I respect my time. I don’t like wasting it. Because when it is gone it will never be recovered.

Hopefully this blog post helps both you and me not waste time being anxious about how I track  what I do for you!



proposal cover sheet

Proposal Writing

I started writing this and thought, “Whiner!” But really I a noodlin’ and leaving this here in the hopes some enterprising person will drop some information in the comments (would beat all the stupid spam…)

Proposal writing is hard.

  • It has to look professional
  • It has to cover what the client asks for
  • It has to say enough without giving away the farm
  • Legalese (it’s the devil!)
proposal cover sheet
The Cover!

I am writing a lot of proposals lately. And realize that it is hard – perhaps harder than it should be because

  1. The clients NEVER give me the info I ask for. This is really bad since MOST of these clients are web developers or designers who run really nice shops.
  2. The format I am currently using is clunky (WORD!) Though the design is beautiful and the layout is really professional looking and easy to read. Well… I hope so. No one has complained.

So I think I should find a  more efficient solution.

What I like about my proposal and contract documents:

  • They are mine! They live on my machine.
  • The layout, the colour scheme and the font choices. I love having the granular level of control in the design and the ability to affect change on a whim.
  • They are free… HAHAHAHAHA…

What I really need is to create a php script that takes a bunch of fields, builds some pages and spits out an HTML page which I can them save as a PDF…

(Sounds like work to me…)

I searched for Proposal and Contract generators. Nothing looks promising.

Still the idea of fields appeals… Hmmmm. Maybe EXCEL?

Maybe Excel. I’m off to play with it.

But, I’m open to any useful ideas!

Canon Pixma MG5220

How to clean a Canon Printer Printhead

I own a Canon Pixima MG5220. It’s a decent all in one printer. I bought it from Fry’s, on sale and have been paying through the nose ever since for ink. Last year I tried some off brand ink from Fry’s. It was okay. Then this year I stated buying Office Depot’s brand ink. Office Depot’s ink is a genuine Canon cartridge that has been refilled. They are pretty good. I get good print quality and decent output from them. The price is good.

So my printer isn’t anything I would laud, but it is paid for so a few weeks when it started giving me troubles I wasn’t happy. The print quality was so bad that ‘C’ looked like a lego ‘8’ and no line was readable.

I went through all the normal maintenance checks –

  1. Clean – as many as 10 times!
  2. Automatic print head alignment – this had a 50% fail rate!
  3. Deep clean – too many times! I went through two tanks of  the 225 PGBK ink!
  4. Manual Printhead alignment – all the blocks of test colors looked exactly the same – horizontal and vertical stripes everywhere.

By the end of it the page was smeared in a lovely rainbow like prism of color. Googling told me that the print head might be damaged or the motor or the carriage or the –

Google didn’t really know what was wrong with the machine. But I reasoned that since I could not align the printheads, the print head was the culprit.

A new printhead, IF I could find one was $90. At least. That was more than I paid for the printer. I could get another printer for that price.

I was truly upset. I did not want to buy another printer.  And I didn’t want to shell out $$$ for a printhead which may or may not be broken.

I was just about to give up when I stumbled onto this YouTube video. (Thank you, God! No really! Thank you Lord. This was a minor miracle. I have lots of other stresses! I didn’t need this one! )

What did I have to lose I thought. If I broke the thing more, it was, as far as I was concerned, already trashed. I wasn’t going to pay to have it repaired! Besides, I’d learn something (and possibly make a mess 😀 ) I was game to try it.

On with the circus!!

(This is not a technical article. I’m just sharing what I did. )


  1. One dirty printhead
  2. Warm water (or room temperature). Do not use tap water because it may contain sediment. Distilled water is best. I used Costco drinking water.
  3. Some sort of pipette, straw or small spoon.
  4. At least one container that you don’t mind getting stained with the ink. I used two containers – a gelato container (YUM!!) and a Hillshire farm smoked turkey container.
  5. Soft cloth or tissue. I used an old cloth diaper. I was leery of the tissue because of fuzz/lint. I suspect eyeglasses cleaning cloth would be good too.

Step one:
Turn on the machine and open the cover to see the ink tanks. The carriage assembly will slide into center and stop.

The carriage assembly is the carriage that slides on the bar, a locking arm that keeps the prinhead locked into the assembly, the ink tanks and the printheads.

Canon Pixma MG5220 Printhead and carriage assembly
My printhead in the carriage with the arm locked. Ink tanks removed.

Step two:
Pull the electrical cord from the power source. This will allow the carriage assembly to remain in the center position.

Step three:
Remove all the inks and then raise the locking arm.

Printhead in carriage assebly with locking arm raised.
Printhead in carriage assembly with locking arm raised.

This process can take a long time depending on how dirty your printheads are. So take some precautions to prevent the ink tanks from drying. I put the caps back on my ink tanks to prevent them from drying out.

Like so:

Ink tanks with tightly sealed caps
Ink tanks with tightly sealed caps

Step four:
Remove the printhead. In my machine it is the black structure. The carriage itself is white/grey. Be VERY VERY careful!!! You can damage the brown contact area on the bottom OR the green and gold circuit board on the front face!!

Printhead circuit board
Printhead circuit board. DO NOT WET!
Brown contact area of the printhead. This is the only part that should sit in the water.
Brown contact area of the printhead. This is the only part that should sit in the water.

When I removed my printhead the brown area was cover in a layer of thick, almost plastic like ink. The structures that look like nail heads  that you see in following images, were ‘painted’ in their respective ink colors. The spillage was very bad and the ink had harden.

Step five:
Soak the print heads in water


I placed the printhead assembly in enough water to just cover the brown part. I used a plastic drinking straw to pipette water into the assembly where the ‘nail head’ like structures are. (I am sure there is a technical term for those. If you know please leave it in the comments. Thanks.)

It is important NOT TO SCRATCH the brown surface, so do not drag it across the bottom of the container you are using. Swish it gently in the water. The ink will eventually wash away.


Step six:
Change the water until it is clear. It took many changes. The water was at first very black, then an odd blue black, then a dark pink black before it was clear. I changed the water as often as I thought it needed. I would come by and put new water on the nail heads frequently as this water would over flow.

Printhead assembly unit sitting in water
Printhead in almost clean water. Old water next to it
Printhead with water in the channels
Printhead with water in the channels where the ‘nail head’ structures are


Step seven:
Dry the printheads by gently patting with a soft cloth.


He used tissue paper. I used an old cloth diaper. I set the assembly in front of a fan with the nail heads towards the air flow. This helped to dry it. I did have to shake out some excess water that got trapped in the little areas of the assembly.

Make sure it is completely dry before loading it into the carriage.

Step eight:
Load in the printhead into the carriage and close the arm. Then load all the inks.

Step nine:
Run the automatic printhead alignment. I did this using the control panel on the printer itself. But you can do it from the Printer area in Windoze.

Step ten:
Thank God because you just save $90.

All in all this whole thing took almost 24 hours. I took my time.

For those of us with little kids – this is not a project to do with, near, by or on little people! Little people include cats and dogs and hamsters in their rolly balls! It cannot be stressed enough that you should NOT get the little circuit board wet.

Hope this helps someone!


P.S. Deep Cleaning Cycles should only be run TWO TIMES.  Period. Every cleaning cycle deposits a considerable amount of ink, further clogging the heads. If after the second cycle your print quality is still poor, you need to do this manual cleaning!