It’s time for a Small Business Chat update, and I’m thrilled to be interviewing the lovely Tone Hitchcock of Anthony Hitchcock Art & Design for the fourth time (his sister and cousin also feature in this series, coming soon!). Tone is a model-maker extraordinaire, and it’s lovely to see him being able to forge and strengthen his career in this creative corner of the self-employment world. first interviewed Tone in May 2012 and then we did an update in June 2013. The last update was in July 2014, at which point, when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he repeated his reply from last time: “This time next year, Rodders…” Let’s see how he’s been getting on, and he’s treated us to some fab photos of some of his work again, too!
Hello again, Tone! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Things appear to be going nicely to plan (still not quite a millionaire, but hey), and I’ve made some fantastic contacts. I’m in a position now where I have a few very exciting potential projects lining up; this time next year, I shall hopefully be able to talk about them. Either that, or be weeping into my beard…
Sounds exciting! What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I’m still doing props and models, with the occasional bout of doodling, but this year I’ve completed some work for Bristol Museum, in conjunction with Cheltenham Science Festival. I sculpted a lifesize Pliosaurus skull for them, working from the actual fossil, which is not yet on display at the museum, which meant that I got to poke around ‘backstage’ there, which for a massive nerd like me was a real thrill. The fossil itself was found in Westbury, about 8 miles from my house, and represents a new species (P carpenter), so it is a properly West Country beastie. So far, the feedback I’ve had on it from Paleontologists has been very complimentary.
After tightening up my paperwork, and client-vetting bureaucracy, this year seems to be running more smoothly, too. I’ve been able to head off the nutters fairly early for a change!
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
There were a couple of slow patches this year, so I guess the important thing I’ve learnt is perseverance. You can’t just sit around and wait for things to fall into your lap, you need to get out and find opportunity. I hate to use the phrase ‘networking’, as it sounds so cheesy and calculating, but it is a very necessary thing.
I’m probably quite lucky in that a lot of my more useful contacts have grown about quite organically, through mutual interest and friendship, rather than being approached from a business point of view. A case in point is Ben Garrod (Evolutionary biologist, one of only a handful of people in the world who re-articulates skeletons for museums, presenter of the BBC 4 series ‘The Secrets of Bones,’ and all round good egg), who I met on Facebook a couple of years ago. What started as bonding and banter over our skull collections led to Ben putting my name forward when Bristol Museum mentioned to him that they were looking for a sculptor.
Any more hints and tips for people?
The usual tips: keep going! And also, make the most of every opportunity you can, as you never know where it could lead. I recently appeared as an extra in a Hollywood production being filmed in Wells (they were looking for long-haired beardy men, and it’s only down the road, so it seemed silly not to apply for it), and as well as being a laugh, it afforded me the chance to give out my card to a few industry types, and also to make a pair of signet rings for my similarly hirsute cousin and me to wear on the day of shooting.
I very much doubt that you’ll be able to see them on screen, but I couldn’t resist the chance to sneak some of my props onto set alongside Charlize Theron & Emily Blunt. 😊
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
More film prop work would be nice, more museum stuff… and of course, I’ll be writing the next update from my yacht in the Bahamas…
It’s brilliant to see how well Tone’s doing and we can all pull good business advice out of his tales, too. I completely agree with the need to remain open to new experiences: I would never have written five books if I hadn’t done the first blog about my life as a freelancer, and I wouldn’t be having great fun working as a transcriber if I hadn’t taken the plunge and tweeted to a prospective client five years ago! I can’t wait to find out what Tone will get up to next year …
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.