Wednesday, 5 February 2014

How to remain optimistic

By and large I think we're lucky that we've been self-employed for more than twenty years.  In that time we've re-invented ourselves more times than I care to remember.  We have had to immerse ourselves in new technology several times but kept our standards high.  We have never advertised as such, although we do have a website which still (inexplicably) we get queries through, but most of them are people who can't find our actual e-mail address but can remember our company name, which is quite distinctive.  But there are still some from complete strangers (fortunately genuine).

Over the last four years we have diversified, we have been a bit more aggressive in following up potential leads that we have never had to do before.  Previously all our work came through word of mouth.  We are now quite adept at ringing people and giving a lot of very good advice, obviously in the hope of getting some work but without any overt pressure.  We still have loyal customers.  But times are a-changing yet again. 

Again and again, budgets are being cut.  Technology is moving ahead of itself.  Some things become so unrealistically expensive that the costs just don't add up.   So I need to e-mail all our previous contacts and tell them the truth as it is now.  It's not really a problem, it's more getting people to be able to deliver in an acceptable format whilst they still can, before the main production team move onto another project.

It's okay.  January has always been a pretty lean month.  One year we only turned over  £75 (including VAT).

I have two other jobs - one regular, one irregular. 

I invigilate exams at my youngest's school which is irregular.  Obviously this depends on there being exams, although now there are a lot of mocks because official exams have been condensed (!) into virtually the whole of May and June.  And there is the opportunity of helping out in other ways, such as being a scribe/reader, and I also help out with filming the drama controlled assessments.  And along the way, I realise that even at a pretty pukka school there are students who are quite needy (I find these more interesting, by the way).

My regular job is for two mornings a week (by and large, my choice of which days).  I'm in charge of the archive for a charitable foundation which gives out big money (over a million a year).  I'm conserving the records because the trustees think this is worthwhile and one day people will want to know more about the man who, at one point, gave away a million pounds a week.  The foundation gives money to three main areas - health, education and the elderly.  I may post at some future point more about this.  Suffice to say, it is a good thing.

The fact is, last week I rang the building society to say that I couldn't afford to pay the whole mortgage this month - although I did in fact pay nearly half of it. 

But in the last week I have spoken at length to two of the grandchildren of said foundation man, who have flown in from America and New Zealand (mostly because they are concerned about their parents' health), but who have been more than happy to have their memories recorded.  They've never wanted for money.  They went to private schools.  And perfectly lovely, both of them were. 

And today I heard (purely as a random memory) that in the early '70s their grandfather had taken out insurance to pay the ransom in case they were kidnapped.  (This is the era of Paul Getty III kidnapping - with the cut-off ear sent back - and Patty Hearst.)

I'm living in two completely different worlds here.  It's lucky I walk home so I have time to re-adjust (although I spend most of that time trying to work out what to cook for lunch/tea).

But at the end of the day, however bad it seems to be, however much I'm going round scraping up odd £1 coins, 50ps, whatever that have been put aside, I have to consider that if I/we had had a "permanent job" and I/we had been made redundant (having worked there for x years) we wouldn't have a chance of re-inventing ourselves.  At least we've had the practice.


  1. At least free prescriptions still start at 60, even if pensions and bus passes don't. But I hope you remain well.

  2. And neither does free dental care.

  3. You REALLY should find someone to revamp your web page and tweak it for search optimization as it's the only way 95% of people find service businesses these days. Sorry to sound a bit pompous and I haven't actually seen your web site so it could be perfect already!