Friday, March 6, 2009

Lisa’s Mum’s Birthday
Last week was Lisa’s Mum’s 70th and we had a house full. Sally came up (without Colin or the kids because their dog was having its leg amputated due to a tumour). Lucinda, Giancarlo and Livia came over from Switzerland, and Lisa’s parents, of course, joined us.

Friday night was a bit frantic – but luckily we also had Jane’s Son, Nathan round as we were babysitting him, so he was able to help me make dinner.

Saturday, we went out for Wendy’s birthday to Beauberry house - in Dulwich for dinner. It’s a great place which serves a strange fusion of Japanese and European cooking – you can have a sushi starter, a pork hock main course and a sticky toffee pudding for afters.

They were also offering everything half price, which was nice. A small problem with Lisa’s Uncle didn’t dampen the evening too much, but we were both ready to sleep when the weekend was over…

It was also my mum's birthday this week. Her leg seems to be improving and she's getting out a bit more. I'm looking forward to seeing her in a couple of weeks when she comes up to London...

The recession has hit

Ok – there’s no getting around it. The recession has well and truly hit me. Having decided at the beginning of the year to plough money and effort into advertising my work in an attempt to grow my business, I find myself at the beginning of March with little to show for it.

By putting a huge amount (£40 per day) into advertising on google (my best source of business so far), I’ve got one job, and a few positive enquiries from January, but nothing at all of any use in February.

I can’t keep up that level of spending, so I’ve taken the decision cut it right back. Which in turn means no chance of getting the work that is out there.

The other strands of my advertising are more positive, but not any more promising. I’ve now had two email mailing lists compiled:

One of 2,000 museums to which I’ve sent a note letting them know I’ve written a guide to commissioning animation. This is a very “soft sell” – I’ve offered them a feature they might find interesting along with a note that they can contact me if they need any animation done for future displays. From this, I’ve got lots of people saying how much they like my work, and that they’ll keep my details for the future – but no actual work right now.

The other, of 500 aquariums to which I’ve offered a very specific animation idea – to create a “virtual fishtank” containing animations of extinct, or un-exhibitable sea creatures. It’s a much more direct offer (albeit one at quite a high value), but the response was pretty similar “love your work, but haven’t got any money” was the overwhelming view.

Although the responses I’ve received have all thanked me for sending my email - I also did a little checking, and am worried by the legalities of sending out mail unsolicited – (something I hate doing – but running I’m a little short on ways to make people aware of my work). It turns out that generally, you can send out emails to companies as long as you give them a valid email address to respond to and tell you if they don’t want your emails. You also have to not disguise who you are.

The one problem is that you can’t send emails to named individuals. Only there’s no way of knowing whether you’re talking to a company or one individual trading as a company, so it’s all a bit confused.

Anyway, this means I have to worry about the legal side of emailing, but it doesn’t mean I can practically do anything about it.

In addition, the company I’ve employed to build up my website traffic by writing a couple of articles about my work and putting them on sites which link to mine have come back to me with the articles to check – and they’re awful! They’re really badly written and say absolutely nothing of any value. I wouldn’t be happy having my work associated with them at all, so it doesn’t look as though that avenue is going to work either.

To make matters worse, my website stopped working this week – somehow it’s code became corrupted (possibly as a result of someone hacking into it), and it’s taken 3 days to get it working again and I’ve changed all my passwords.

All in all, I’ve been a bit despondent - there’s not a lot of work out there. By the looks of it, there isn’t going to be for a while, and I have to re-think my strategy. And this is not going to be a cheap year – either professionally or personally…

I’ve worked out that if I finish the documentary project I’m on now, and manage to keep the monthly newsletter I write for Pinnacle (there seems no likelihood of that going under – in fact it may expand) and I get a few more pieces from magazine articles, then as long as the images I’ve got on stock libraries keep generating income, I’ll make enough to survive.

This also depends on the tenant in my property in Manchester starting to pay his rent again (he hasn’t been able to pay for 6 months now and the council are being scandalously slow in processing his benefit claim. I may have to evict him.

So what else can I do? –well, my new plan is to develop a series of emails making different offers every month to different sets of people… the next one will be a very low-cost offer (just a few dollars for giving video footage a certain “look”). It’s not something I can make a lot of money at – more of a “loss leader” but my thought is if people aren’t buying high-cost projects, might they go for something much lower cost initially?

There are a few other low cost, small projects I can pursue – like writing articles and doing one off illustrations… but I still need to get the work.

Relentlessly optimistic
Ok, so to be optimistic about it. The good thing about having no paid work is that it means I should have the time to work on some of my own projects that nobody’s going to pay me for anyway. Having no other work means working on personal projects isn’t taking time away from paying ones, so if I’m organised, I should be able to do some of the things I’ve really wanted to do:

A feature film documentary idea about something I think is really important… and a children’s animated series. Both, huge undertakings, but if other work is short… I’ll do a breakdown of just what it would take to get these projects off the ground…


New drive
We started work on our new driveway this morning… or more specifically somebody else started work on it at 1am this morning.

George, the guy from across the road who I picked up the other week when he fell over outside his house and broke his ribs, has been getting more unsteady on his feet over the last couple of weeks. The ambulance has been outside his house a few times, and he’s been put on medication.

He still spends a lot of his time standing outside his house, chatting to passers by during the day and feeding the foxes at night. In fact, he’s out there almost constantly.

He’s never been a particularly careful driver – bumping various cars on the way into our out of his driveway in the past few years. He hit Lisa’s car a couple of years ago, as well as running into a big yellow skp a few weeks later.

However, since his falls, he’s been on heavy medication, and last night at about 1am, he decided to go for a drive. I was woken by a crash and rushed to the window to see his car had skidded across the road in reverse, knocked over two walls and ended up in our garden. As I watched, he revved the engine, screamed off over the wall, smashed into our neighbour’s mini opposite, and accelerated into someone’s garden three doors down…

Some of the neighbours came out, and by the time I got there, he’d decided (against most people’s advice) to climb out of his car.

I always find, at the scene of road accidents that there are a few common responses:

The victims always want to get out of their cars – despite the danger of injuries being made worse if they do. They then invariably decide they need to go somewhere else or do something they clearly can’t do.

Anyone peripherally involved but not central tends to initially try to start an argument – but pretty soon realises it’s going to do more harm than good…

And most people tend to assume, having watched lots of movies, that the biggest danger is of the car exploding into a fireball (in reality, cars – even ones packed with explosives – rarely explode).

On this occasion, I managed to stop George from wandering off in shock, and tried to focus people on sorting out the mess rather than arguing about it (which as a polite middle class bunch, they seemed to do pretty easily). George seemed pretty un-harmed, but there’s a lot of damage in the street.

I made a cup of tea for his wife (who wasn’t in the car, but was mortified by it all), took his keys, and pointed the ambulance men and police in the right direction.

Hopefully, this will stop George from driving (I’m sure the police, his doctors and the lack of a car will also help), because it could have been a lot more serious. As it was, we had been wondering over the past week how we were going to get the wall taken down to make way for our new drive. It seems, that’s not going to be a problem.

He’s done us a favour.

Our neighbours, Jo and James were not in when the car ploughed through their wall as well as ours. They’ll be quite glad too – because if they had been at home, their brand new Porsche would have been parked directly in George’s path…

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