Today we have a second update interview with Tone Hitchcock, brother of a friend, who I’ve known since he was knee-high to a grasshopper (OK, already taller than me) and I was a dodgy undergraduate goth. Tone makes the most amazing models, and I know readers have enjoyed seeing pictures of them in the past, and popping through to his website, so I’ve added some of his latest makes to the bottom of this interview.
I first interviewed Tone in May 2012 and then we did an update in June 2013. When I asked him where he hoped to be in a year’s time, this is what he said: “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.” As you can see, Tone has been experiencing an interesting (to outsiders) and common (to artists and other creatives) struggle between his artistic self and the admin and organisation that you need to face up to in order to succeed in self-employment: by his own admission he’s still chipping away at it, but he’s learning and working hard on this every year, and that’s the main thing. Let’s see what Tone’s been up to this year …
Hello again, Tone! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I am pretty much where I’d hoped to be a year ago; I’m getting more work in, and seem to be picking up more regular freelancing work from Cod Steaks workshop in Bristol, which is brilliantly varied. I’ve made parts of an oil rig, a life-sized elephant, two oak trees, a pile of gold ingots and a couple of sacks of beans (amongst other things!) there, all of which is brilliant for my portfolio, and incredible fun, too.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I am still doing much the same sort of work, but I’ve also done a fairly big stint of illustrating, which is what I did before I started sculpting. It was quite nice to go back. I’m also definitely getting better at spotting time-wasters, and the inevitable client who wants “a ‘wow’ piece that will blow everyone away and take up an entire wall” but hasn’t actually thought about how much something like that will cost. I guess I’m getting a little blunter; it does actually take a while for most freelancers to get to the point of properly valuing their time, rather than taking anything that comes along out of fear. Sadly, a lot of people know how precarious freelancing can be, and try and use that to get something for nothing…
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’m still working on getting the admin side of things sewn up. Having a well-thought out form that describes exactly what the client can expect, and what charges are involved, is invaluable; I’m probably 80% efficient in this respect at the moment, but I’m aiming to get better! There is probably always going to be a certain amount of tension between the artist side of things and the business side of things, but you can reduce that by having rules and sticking to them.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Don’t give up, ever. Talent will only get you so far; you need to work at your chosen profession, and persevere.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
This time next year, Rodders…
There’s a bit of a theme here, isn’t there, if you look back over the last few interviews – that common fear that tempts us to underprice our services and products in order to get work … any work. It’s a temptation we must resist: we must have faith and confidence in our own abilities and charge what we are actually worth! I can’t wait to see what Tone gets up to in the next year, and I’m sure you’re all looking forward to his next update (and pics) … here are some below to keep you going. Find out what Tone was up to in 2015 here.
Here’s an important copyright notice on the images below: all images copyright Cod Steaks for a museum in Portugal called World of Discoveries that details their colonial past.
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 (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.