Today we’re saying hello again to Tone Hitchcock, brother of an old University friend, who I’ve known since he was about 16. I originally interviewed Tone on 5 May 2012, and his plan for the next year? “This time next year, Rodders, we’ll be miwionaires … or at least, doing model and prop work more consistently so that Bryony, my wife, can lessen the amount of hours she works”.
So, how’s it all gone? Is Tone a millionaire yet? Has he met any millionaires? (Maybe) and what has he learned along the way?
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I’m pretty much where I thought I would be a year from the last interview. Not a millionaire yet, but things are progressing well, and, despite last year being much more challenging than I though it was going to be, I’ve made some amazing contacts, and worked on some amazing projects. Bryony hasn’t managed to cut down on her hours yet, but she does have a shiny new job that allows her to be a bit more flexible, so we can work around the boys together really well. Also, I certainly feel more professional than I did a year ago!
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
My working methods have changed a little in that I now am much happier to farm work out if I need to, rather than trying to do all of it myself. I think, just because you CAN do everything on a project, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. For instance, I enlisted the help of an amazing joiner, and an astounding automaton designer for the Victorian Donation Box I recently completed for Oxford Town Council. I wouldn’t have produced nearly such a good final piece without them, and the time, stress and effort they saved me were well worth the money. I’m still pretty much a one-man band, it’s just that these days (to stretch the image a tad…) I hire in extra session musicians when I need to.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
The thing that I wish I’d known a year ago is this: Do Not Get Involved With Massively Wealthy, Bonkers And Demanding Clients: They Will Comprehensively Make Your Life A Misery. To provide a bit of background on this, I was contacted by an internationally renowned fashion photographer who also does design work to create some sculptures for a client’s garden in Ibiza. The clients were very exacting, but consistently failed to provide information in a timely way, kept changing their minds, insisted on ridiculous things, and generally had no concept of how a project like this should have gone. I actually lost money on it after all the to-ing and fro-ing, but it is all complete now, and has (at least) provided me with some lovely images for my portfolio.
I will also think long and hard before ever working through a third party again, as it made the whole design process somewhat akin to Chinese Whispers. I do now have an excellent relationship with the photographer, though, and we are planning further projects together. Neither of us will work with those particular clients again.
I’ve also, as a direct result of this debacle, substantially tightened up the small print in my contract, and am going to join BECTU, the media and entertainent union. They provided me with sterling advice during the worst of this situation, despite me not being a member at the time. I would definitely recommend them to anyone else in my line of work.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I think another important thing that I’ve learnt is to rely on my gut instincts. It sounds a bit hippy-dippy, but I really do think that it’s important to trust your own feelings on a job: if something feels amiss, that’s probably because it is. Even though, on the surface, the Ibiza project was a peach, something didn’t feel right from the word go, and had I listened to that feeling and backed out when I had the chance to, I would have saved myself a load of money and 6 months of stress. On the other hand, I would also have missed out on some amazing contacts, learning new techniques, and 3 weeks working in a millionaire’s garden in Ibiza, so it’s swings and roundabouts really…
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
So… this time next year, Rodders, we’ll DEFINITELY be miwionaires… Well, maybe not, but I will definitely be doing more prop and model work. This last year was testing, but it has also provided a really good foundation to build on. Moreover, it’s also toughened me up a bit professionally, which is a good thing: in common with most artists, the business side of things is not something that comes naturally to me, but it is a massively important part of my work, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. If the paperwork is up to scratch, I can get on with making random bits of weirdness (the fun part) without worrying.
Whew – that was some year for Tone, wasn’t it! But he’s learned a lot, and tightening up your business procedures and terms & conditions is always a good thing – I learned that lesson myself a few months ago! It’s particularly hard for artists and other creative people to address these issues, as they want to be out there creating, but as we’ve seen from Tone’s story, vitally important. Here’s how he was getting on in 2014 …
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.