Mutterings and utterings of a budding novelist

Illustrating

Surviving – Year One as a Freelancer.

Every morning, without fail, my phone bleeps all manner of notifications – most annoyingly of course are the numerous alarms in place to get me out of my pit. But one particular chime is for that app ‘Timehop’ with the funny looking dinosaur. And before I get up, I usually have a quick scan through it – and it usually drags up memories of this time last year when I had just been made redundant and was frantically job searching.

And yes, that was a scary time. Applying for job after job and watching my bank balance slowly dwindle away. All my years of reinforcing my strong beliefs of Law of Attraction and Positivity was being put to the ultimate test, and my god was it a lifeline!

As I’ve said before I decided finally in February this year to give up looking for employment and employ myself. And why not! I had basically the same pc I had at my old work (modded slightly better) and people were already asking me for work.

So I threw the application forms and CVs from my sight and started putting together my own company. And Phoenix Designs was born! Named after a storyline I’d had outlined for years (19 books in total!!). I sat down and wrote out a plan for self-employment.

Year One was simple – ‘Survive.’
Somehow I knew I would be ok if I worked my ass to the bone and kept a positive outlook, and looking back now I can be proud of myself for getting this far. From working out Daily routines which constantly changed and evolved, to trying out new programs that would aid productivity, to enlisting the help of friends – old and new to get me through. There are far too many to list here who have helped me, but my family know how supportive they’ve been, and how grateful I am. My friends too – driving me around when I needed it (Kev), showing me the ropes (Dan), as well as countless others supporting me have been invaluable. Even my little flat mate Wendy has been amazing, not only for helping me out with rent on the odd occasion I wasn’t paid on time (and never complaining once!), to simply giving me the human interaction that is lacking from a job you do from home. I don’t think her or her boyfriend Steve know how much it means just to say hello to them and break the cabin fever.

Also my fantastic pal Annette – giving me personal coaching and calming my fears etc has been incredible. Reiki healing, EFT, meditation, hypnotism. as well as simply being an amazing friend has proven invaluable and I’m not sure I would have made it through the year without her help.

Those closest to me know how hard I’ve work this year, often easily putting in 20hr days across a week. But I never seem to have any problems sleeping from the second my head hits the pillow. I never seem to need much sleep which is always a bonus.

So I guess now, it’s time to figure out the journey from here for the next year. Obviously my own projects have taken a hit this year, I’ve barely written or illustrated anything. Even my reading has been completely pushed to almost nil (Sharon Van Orman! I promise I’m still on with your book!!! :D). So next year I’ll be dedicating a portion of each day to these tasks as they are still part of my dream and should be nurtured accordingly.

Could I go back to working in an office or studio? Probably not now. It used to take me two hours to get to work and another two home. Now my workplace is roughly three feet from my bed. I also love making up my own rules and systems, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and knowing full well that I have full responsibility when it comes to customer satisfaction.

And so, what can I tell you I’ve learned? What tips can I give to help anyone else starting out this way? I guess I should be careful what I say, as some veteran designers may disagree with me. But you know what? Screw them. This is my blog and I’ll tap out these tips as I see fit.

1. Think in terms of ‘Time’ not ‘Money’.
This is something that took me quite a while to figure out. Time is now your currency. So instead of thinking you’ll charge £x for a project, think how long it will take of (uninterrupted (I’ll get to this) work to complete and charge accordingly to a set (immovable) rate of something like £15 or £20 per hour. If you work for a company who pay a set amount for a piece of work, then make sure that this also fits into the time/pay system.
One other thing to be aware of too – now you work at home, many people will assume to do jack shit all day except watch Jeremy Kyle and thus are ok to pick them up, wait for a package, relieve their boredom on their day off etc. Now I’m not saying not to do these things; after all, you’re a freelancer and can work when you please! Just be aware that doing these things cost you time, and in essence money. Give your time with care.

2. Forget your website at the start, get work first.
This may sound like a catch-22, because you need people to know who are in order to get work. But this was advice I was given when I was starting out and it was true! You can spend forever perfecting and crafting the ultimate website to draw customers, only to wait…..and wait……for nothing. Even in today’s world of online dominated culture, nothing does more for advertising than word-of-mouth. Your freelance might cough and splutter for a while whilst you get started, but once you’re rolling then you can spend time on your online presence. If you must, a quick Twitter and Facebook account at the start will be just as effective. In fact! These are probably a must as you connect them to your personal profile letting all your friends and family know what you do. There’s an awesome book for mastering social media called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook which I insist you get! 😀

3. Find your own Routine and Systems,
To date now I have had three revised daily routines stuck to the side of my pc, which I continue to change as time goes by. An 8 hour day is a short amount of time to cram in emailing, ordering, calling, messaging, invoicing, eating, financing, and of course – actually working! So getting a routine sorted is paramount in succeeding.

4. Using to-do lists and programs to aid productivity.
It took a while to find a program or combination of programs to feel right in helping to get things done. I’d say Evernote is great but I found myself barely using it. And the same story is with a lot of other programs. In the end I settled on using a combination of Asana for all my main to-do lists and Wunderlist for everything else (money owed, money earned, amends received etc). Asana is great and I have it running constantly on my laptop at the side. If a project comes in you can log it into the site and work out what day you can do it. Then when that day arrives it automatically populates the day’s tasks with the project. Simple yet awesome.

5. Exercise to maintain energy.
Again this comes as almost a paradox as how can you burn energy to get more of it? Bizarrely it’s true though. Now I’m no gym freak or anything like that, but I do have my kinect set up in the living room and do my best to do an hour’s exercise a day. I notice on days I don’t do any exercise I get lethargic a lot earlier. So get out of the chair and do a little exercise.

6. Get out.
Since my desk in my home it’s easy to be stuck in all day and not get some fresh air. I’m fortunate to live beside the sea and a lake which makes my lunchtime breaks a lot more peaceful. Of course if it’s hammering down with rain I won’t go out at all! Ha!

7. Clearing your mind.
This seems to be the biggest cause of procrastination ever, and it’s made even worse when such vast amounts of information is at our fingertips. All day your mind could be buzzing with a million thoughts – I wonder what I’ll have for tea? Who was the lead role in Flash Gordon? I wonder how Aunt Bertha’s 90th party went on. How were the pyramids built? Does Kim Kardashian’s arse have it’s own Twitter account? Before you know it, google is opened, searches are made, Facebook is delved into, 15 things you never knew about Made in Chelsea is read, leading into an endless line of humourous Youtube videos, and shit!! Four hours have passed! What the hell happened?! Even worse, you can barely remember a thing you’ve just looked at?!
Then of course you begin kicking yourself over it, promising tomorrow you’ll do better. Then the cycle repeats.
So the key is to remove this chatter from your mind so you can focus on more important things – like earning a living. But how do you do it?
Well personally I use the first hour of my day to quickly scan what I need to – get out my social network cravings before my brower locks out Facebook for the day (using a Firefox add-on called Leechblock). Then before I exercise I’ll do fifteen minutes of meditation. If you’ve never done it you’ll be surprised how just fifteen minutes of sitting in silence can calm the mind. Try to remove all distractions too. Having an xbox or tv in the room is just asking for trouble.
This is now where I’ll sound like a hypocrite! Sometimes if I’m doing a mundane piece of work, I’ll put on a film (one that I’ve either already seen, or one I don’t have to pay much attention to (so something action packed is out!) as I find the ‘moving wallpaper’ easier to work to.
Also something minimalistic to listen to works wonders too. Spotify has plenty of focus related playlists.

8. Communication.
I think this is one area I excelled at from the start. I guess in today’s society, online scamming and corporate cold-heartedness have made many customers wary. If you can talk to them as a real person and get your emails and phone calls clear and upbeat, then client’s will realise you’re an actual human being, rather than a faceless set of templated responses. I’ve realised that a informal email to a client works better than a stiff multi-syllable worded one. You’ll come across as far more trustworthy and have their interests rather than their payment as the main priority.
Obviously don’t go overboard with this as some clients will see you as a walkover. Keep a level of professionalism and dignity. It helps if you get across you’ve been doing this for years – subconsciously people believe if you’ve been around a while, you obviously know exactly what you’re doing and will be thus less likely to be played like a buffoon.

9. Get your finances in order.
It’s hard to get this right after a long time of having a set wage paid directly into your account. But you’re in the thick of it now. Invoices, chasing payments, dealing with clients who refuse to pay, working out taxes and self-assessments – it’s a complete pain in the arse, and also very rewarding. I’m no expert in this area so I can’t give out any real advice – except this. Log and note down absolutely everything. Receipts, invoices and expenditure. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

10……….you know……screw it! Ignore everything I said.
Take what you will from what I said above, but everyone’s situation is different. I think the best advice I can give is to dive in head first and make your own systems and way of working. If it doesn’t seem to work, then change it until it does. There will be a lot of trial and error but that’s how we grow and evolve. If you’re struggling for work, hammer everywhere you can online and offline. I was doing facebook cover photos on FiveSquids and contests on Freelancer. It all helps. And if you only put out work you’d be happy using yourself – you can’t fail to have clients drawn to you.

11. Never Give Up!
This goes without saying. Some days you may be riding the highest clouds, the next you may be wondering if you’ll even make it through the day. Nobody said it’d be easy, but once you’ve made it you’ll be so happy you did. Just remember, bad times come and go. And if in that particular moment of strife you’re still alive, then you’re able to change the future. Just focus on the present, and do what you need to. Be the inspiration to others and show the haters you won’t ever back down.

And so, on that note, I’ll get back to my day’s task at hand. 😀
Here’s to 2015!
And if you’re still reading this, thank you so much. It’s very much appreciated. Have a fantastic New Year!

Much love!

 

Ken xx

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A Year Later & Life Coaching

It’s almost one year since I got that phone call on holiday telling me that I was one of several people up for redundancy for a job I’d held for ten years. Back then it came as a massive shock – especially after I’d just been made ‘Employee of the Year’ several months previously.

Initially terrified at not knowing what the hell I was gonna do (as evident from my previous posts) I can now say it was the best things that has ever happened to me. One thing I am proud about myself is that I have a sickening work ethic and unshakable self-discipline. I can quite happily work my ass for 20+ hours straight and be happy for it. So I guess if I’m gonna work as hard as possible, I might as well do it chasing my own dreams. 

One year later, and I like to think I’ve finally made a success of things. My little companies are finding their feet. When you see work piling up, whilst debts start coming down, then I like to think all the ridiculously long work days and moments of sheer “huge bill coming out tomorrow – no money in bank” panic and terror have been worth it.

I’ve always been a big believer in not sending out any work that I myself wouldn’t use, and that being friendly and informal with every client helps build rapport. Anyone that’s had an email off me with usually find it littered with smileys. I believe this has been a key in getting to where I want to be. Being friendly and kind has helped build up so many opportunities and I’m grateful for everything that has come my way.

The other key I think, is belief. Belief in my own work, my own self-worth, and belief that the client will love what I send. And I’ll admit in the past year I’ve struggled with all three. During the months following my redundancy and sending my CV and portfolio to various agencies I received a bit of feedback that actually halted my applications for a few days. One recruitment agency told me they’d sent my portfolio to one Manchester design studio, Their reply – ‘”Is this some sort of joke?” Yep, that sort of comment will batter anyone’s confidence!

Thankfully though, things have gotten better, much better since then.

I owe a massive amount of thanks to a wonderful life coach who got my beliefs back on track, whilst providing me with all sorts of helpful affirmations, exercises, visualisations and even hypnotherapy. I can say I’ve never felt so happy in myself in all my life. I’ve been doing visualisations for years, but the first time I did one with Annette my mind was actually blown. Within one week, all manner of synchronicities began occuring and I had the most profitable week of this year! And now things just keep getting better and better!

An amazing life coach and an even better person you can find her here. http://youniquetransformation.co.uk/

She’s also has book coming out very soon so keep an eye out for that. 🙂

Final Digital Logo

So if I could speak to myself a year ago I think I’d utter my favourite phrase repeatedly. 🙂

“Never Give Up” 😀

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The Wings are Built, it’s now Time to Fly – 2014 So Far.

I always knew I’d be a published writer.

I always knew I’d be a published illustrator.

I always knew one day I’d be my own boss.

Looking back now I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished all three. Even if I reach the end of my days without achieving anything else I’ll still be proud I chased these dreams tenaciously. My close friends and family have watched me work my ass off to reach my goals.

And now I’ve done reached my sixth month running Phoenix Designs and Creative Covers in self-employment. Has it been hard? Shit yea. Has it been scary? Too bloody right it has. There have been some terrifying moments of wondering whether I could actually afford my bills, and then times when I’ve earned two or three times what I did in my previous job.

It’s something I’m still getting used to, taking the rough with the smooth and the hard times with the easy times. I’ve noticed that as I go on, systems and procedures seem to have set themselves up. From organising my work load to corresponding with clients. It’s a learning curve, and I’ve had to fend for myself (apart from the helpful words of friends who have walked this road before me) to get things ticking along.

I now can feel the tide shifting once more. Things are feeling easier, more settled. I worry less about where fate is taking me, and completely trust what the universe has in store for me. I’ve never been busier in my life, and sometimes work 20 hour days – every day of the week. But I know I can cope with these things, and feel empowered with each completed project. Receiving great feedback from elated customers makes me so happy.

Over the past six months I’ve made some truly amazing friends and contacts, and the long time pals of mine have supported me no end.

I know things will continue to grow and strengthen. I’ll set bigger and more ambitious goals and hunt them down relentlessly.

To anyone who feels they can’t make their own dreams come true – quit the worry, quit the negativeness, and have faith in yourself. You’re amazing, and amazing people accomplish great things.

😀 x

Let the good times continue.

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Tapestry of Fates – Kickstarter Project

So the time has finally come. I have to admit I need help driving this project forward.
This set of books that has consumed most of my life (probably even more so than Phoenix!) is progressing at a complete snail pace. Maybe it was a mistake illustrating them (as some have told me in the past) and because I’m not the fastest artist, so much time has now passed since the first book was released, that the artwork from that one is now looking dated and shabby.

I did make a pledge to spend an hour a day on illustrating the second and third book, but other commitments have increasingly encroached on this precious time.

So I’ve decided that maybe a Kickstarter project may be the way to go. Offering pledgers artwork and characters dedicated to them if they aid me seems like an attractive path to take. The story is so vast, with it being spread over many millenia and worlds that adding important people into the mix without spoiling the narrative would be so easy. Secret chapters (many of which have already been written for other characters) is another way I’d hope to gain favour. There’s even the offer of one character that was instrumental in defeating Eclipse thousands of years previously. I’ve always planned on mentioning this legendary heroic character many times in the third book but thankfully never actually named him or her (or both – there were actually two).

Now I know many other authors will be thinking – “Cheeky shit! We all write books without funding, just get it done!” But the fact is, is that the books are almost pretty much completely written. It’s the fifty plus illustrations that require the massive amount of time to complete. And with the first book having already been out for a few years, it’s becoming frustrating that I cannot find time to devote to my labour of love. Funding would help free up time from my freelance work in order to get these pics painted, as well as pay for editing, typesetting, and publishing.

Even finding time at the moment to get the actual kickstarter page sorted is proving hard work! Haha!

But of course, it’s a risk. I may not get the funding at all, and may look a bit foolish for trying. But should that happen, what the hell eh? I gave it my best shot! More publicity for the work will be achieved and I’ll just find another way to get it done.

So watch this space.

Hope you all have a great Easter! 😀 x

 

Ken Dawson Kickstarter

 

Promo One Tap of Fates

 


Never Giving Up

So it’s now been ten weeks since I declared myself self-employed and went full freelance….and somehow…I’ve survived.

I’ll admit, it’s been hard so far, very hard in fact. Some weeks I’ve been terrified I’m not going to be able to keep up with paying my bills and avoid slipping into tremendous debt. I’ve worked every single day, almost every hour I’m awake, pouring my soul into every project that comes my way, cherishing each one with the upmost gratitude as I receive and work through it. I can honestly say I’ve loved every single moment so far. Knowing that I myself am responsible for my own work, as well as my professional ethics and reputation, and being in full control of what I earn is unbelievably satisfying. Likewise, being aware that I’m not being paid a weekly set amount is both frightening and encouraging.

I had to convince myself that getting full time employment was not secure anymore (as I found out whilst on holiday last year), and working for myself is just as risky as working for someone else. For years I took a two hour bus journey every morning to work, and used the time wisely – reading and listening to personal development. I got through so many books and audio files it was untrue. People like Tony Robbins, Bob Proctor, Zig Ziglar, Bob Doyle, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, J.B. Glossinger and countless others became my heroes. And now I can see all that time devoted to hearing them was actually preparing me to confront this change of direction.

All my life I’ve wanted to be a full time Author and Illustrator and now I feel I’m getting closer than ever to it. Of course Graphics will probably always play a part in my life as it’s my trade and couldn’t survive without it. I’ll always study it just so I’ve something to fall back on if times get hard.

Also since becoming freelance, some amazing people have entered my life and lifted me up when I needed help. Those people know who they are, and I’ll forever be grateful. Similarly, those closest to me have proven to me why I keep them so close, for without them I would have folded at the first hurdle.

I feel the end of these ten weeks is a milestone –  a test that proved I can do this. Yes I’ve spent it completely skint, and unable to buy anything of luxury, but I also know that these times won’t last, and that more prosperous times are heading my way.

The company that made me redundant – I will always appreciate. Because without that push I believe I would have never jumped. It’s through their actions that I learned to build my wings whilst plummeting to the ground. I think I missed the floor by mere inches.

I do not know what the next ten weeks will bring, but I know that I’ll follow the motto that stares at me every day.

I’ll never give up.

And I’ll be happy. 🙂

Dreams

 


The End of 2013, and the Future on the Flip of a Coin

Well I can honestly say it’s been a turbulant yet welcome end to the year in which big changes in my life have occured. I think now more than ever I’ve gained greater faith in my future and allowed myself to ‘let go’ of things which no longer serve me. Time to step into 2014 with my head held high and a wonderful sense of fresh hope.

But enough of that, and more about the work! I’m underway with the character designs for Bloodline Saga, with Sammy’s characters sketched and ready to be done. Also I’ve got lots more planned for Fallen Tears, with new twisted enemies and situations to throw at our determined and vengeful Dancescu twins.  I am even in the process of illustrating a large painting with most of the main characters on it. Once this book is finished I’ll be releasing it for free digitally aswell as print a few copies for whomever wants one.

Kens Characters 4

I’m still planning the massive amount of images for Spirit’s Pain. The book itself is just about to be edited. Because this is my most cherished piece of work I don’t want to rush it and screw it up. The last book Spirit’s Fury will be fully penned soon too, leading the way for the next three installments – The Shadoed Brethren.

Along with this, the planned nineteen books for Phoenix await my attention patiently. This could take many many years to write. I’m just glad I won’t be illustrating them ha!

So nobody can say I’ve got no work to be getting on with.

Which brings me to a great little story I was told a couple of weeks ago.

Whilst searching for design jobs, a pal of mine got me a job at her work, as a hotel porter. Obviously this means doing the usual stuff entailed with this role, carrying bags around, moving furniture around and helping guests etc. It’s a far cry from sitting at a desk calmly ploughing through design work, but the change of pace has been great. I’ve enjoyed the experience so far, and all the staff are awesome.

One of the staff, the head porter called David, who is an awesome jovial man and has been showing me the ropes, told me a story of how he came to work at the hotel, and stay in the position for over thirty-seven years. I liked it so much I thought I’d share it on my blog.

For those who know or have been to Blackpool – most will be aware that on the Southern edge of the resort, situated amongst the sand-dunes was a Pontins holiday camp (now sadly bulldozed to the ground). Many years ago David and a pal of his would venture to Blackpool from Liverpool in search of Summer work. One particular Summer landed the pair working at Pontins. Whilst checking in, David enquired where his room key was. He was politely informed that there was no need for a key, as the door was hanging off. Not a great start as you can imagine. So now David and his friend found themselves residing in the staff quarters – affectionately referred to as ‘the jungle’. Apparantly fights between the staff (mainly women David tells me!) happened constantly in the jungle, and the relentless rowdiness caused the pair to leave Pontins in search of alternative work.

As they stepped out onto the road outside Pontins they looked around, debating what to do next. The obvious choice would be to head into the bright lights of Blackpool, as the other direction seemed to be an empty road, with a quiet looking town in the distance (St. Annes! My town if you didn’t know!) But the two decided to flip a coin instead. Heads they turn right and head into Blackpool, where work is pretty much guaranteed. Or Tails, turn left and head down the long sandy road towards St. Annes (they didn’t even know its name at this point).

It was Tails.

To cut a long story short, after trekking into St. Annes David ended up working at the hotel I am now, and his friend started working at the town’s Conservative club.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a great believer in quantum physics and this implies that another David landed Heads and went into Blackpool, thus taking his life in a completely different direction and changing his world as well as the lives of everyone at the hotel. I wonder if he found a job as a porter in Blackpool and stayed there for as long as he has in St. Annes.

It just shows that sometimes you need to place your destiny in the hands of fate.


The Last Sister of Vyse – Vixen

This is the last of the portraits of my female droids, but certainly not the least important for she is based upon my best friend Victoria.

Like my sister ‘Lil-Vix’ has a number of characters in my books and given her wacky, awesome personality in real life she is a fantastic person to write about.

Saying this, very little is written about the robot Vixen; like Dominion she doesn’t even show up until ‘The Shadowed Brethren’ books set after ‘Tapestry of Fates’. But I do have a great idea for her, and I’ve already decided she’ll be full of rage and mania similar to Eclipse-2.

Vicki and her boyfriend James (another awesome friend of mine!) are still travelling around Australia – as I stated in a previous post.

I miss them both.

Vixen

Vixen