Category Archives: Pen to Paper

Crawling to the finish

I think I haven’t done much on my diploma, or this website, for pretty much a whole year. I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I was busy bringing a human being into the world. But now she’s here, and we’ve got our routines, I need to just finish this thing. Why is finishing something so hard? I have done more or less all the work, I just need to present it in a compelling way.

 I have never been much of a ‘finisher-completer.’ I am far better at having ideas and getting them going than I am at seeing them to completion. It’s probably one thing doing this diploma has driven home. It’s now a matter of pride to take bite-sized chunks and see them through to completion. I am doing well in other areas of my life, but finishing the diploma seems to elude me. I know why though. I haven’t given it full headlights-on focus. I need to think about it, and just it, for a period of time. And that’s the issue… I am doing plenty of other things (not least looking after a baby) and they seem (and frankly are) more important than what my brain now regards to be ‘admin.’ But, but… I have to finish this darn thing so I need to make time and space to do so. 

So, here’s what I am going to do… I am going to set myself two simple tasks… 

1. Read the diploma guidance manual in detail and check how I should be presenting my designs (and whether I have missed any steps). 

2. Contact a diploma tutor and ask them to look over my designs (I jettisoned mine a number of years ago). 

That shouldn’t be too hard! 

Now, where am I up to with my designs? I’m afraid not a lot has progressed but a few things have. 


Action Learning Pathway

Not redesigned. I need to be honest with this one. It’s less of a redesign and more of a historical document. I just need to write down what I did. I’m happy to be honest about this. Were I to do another diploma, I would be able to plan it in detail from the start, but when I started this one, I had not yet developed the skills to have that overview. So, it developed piecemeal, and designs chopped and changed though my focus was always on developing designs for livelihood. So, I think this design needs to be a sort of ‘how my diploma panned out’ précis to the whole thing. Suddenly it’s seeming more achievable 

Action: find my original ALP and work out how I got from there to here.  


Career Design

Written up! 


Scythe Teaching

Written up! 


Permaculture Teaching

Written up!

DVD

Yet to be written up. 

Action: write it up


The Seed Blog

In all honesty, I can’t remember where I am up to with this. Implementation of this has all but ground to a halt, because of the baby and because of the need to focus on other projects. I think it’s written up in draft form though. 


The Garden

As I am currently implementing this design, I have written up what I can. I need to revisit this and finish this write up. 

Action: finish this write up


The Larder Project

Yet to be written up

Action: write it up


Fat Hens

Designed and written up!


Baby

Designed and written up! 

End of the winter round up – Blog and permaculture teaching designs

BLOG (FORMERLY PEN TO PAPER)

Hopefully you will have seen by now that I have just launched my new blog.  That means that I am at the end of this phase of the implementation of this design.  I have written about it quite recently, so I won’t go into it again here, but I will say that this design as had some unexpected repercussions.

When I decided to change my focus from ‘green journalism’ to blogging, I spent a long time looking at other blogs (I still do).  I noticed that what I really loved about them (even though words are my thing) was the pictures.  I knew that if I was going to produce the kind of blog that I wanted to, then I would need to get much better at photography.  I have had an on/off affair with photography all my life, but to be honest, I had never quite got my head around the technical aspects.  I decided to go on a course (I actually ended up going on two) and suddenly everything just started to click into place.  I became completely fascinated.

At work at the University, my colleague Mike and I would spend hours and hours poring over photographs we liked, trying to work out what was going on.  Mike managed to convince the University to buy a DSLR so that he could work on photo and video content for the website.  After a bit, I joined in too.  We did a bit of turning up and shooting stuff, but then we started talking lots about why people watch video – why it’s interesting and meaningful – and storytelling came up and there, I was in my element.  With Mike as technical director and me as scriptwriter we made this video.

It was then decreed from on high that the University was ‘restructuring’ and my department would no longer exist.  My boss asked me if I had any ideas about what I would like to do next and I said that I would like to do video and photography stuff with Mike.  It was so odd.  It was just ‘ask and ye shall be given.’  My boss talked to the boss of marketing and comms (yes, I work for them now), we had a quick meeting and then Mike and I decamped to M&C as Digital Media Officers.  We are the first ever people in M&C to have responsibility for video and photography so consequently no one knows what we should be doing.  Thus, we have free rein to do what we think is best.  What we think is best is telling stories, setting the bar high so that we don’t get stuck in ‘talking head’ land.  It’s really really good.  My job finally reflects the things I am good at and it’s interesting every day.  Best of all, it has provided me with a photography mentor in the shape of Mike, so I get to learn new things every day too.  It is a two-way street though.  He gets to learn stuff too.  I spent a good two hours the other day delivering a lecture on the importance of detail and specificity to the believability of a story.

If all that comes out of the blog is my new job, then it will have delivered more than I could have imagined, but I don’t think that’s all… The blog makes me feel a little funny when I think about it.  It’s so strange to have been thinking of something for so long, to have taken such care putting it together and then realise, when you send it out into the world, that it doesn’t really exist in other people’s heads yet.  It will be so interesting to see how it beds in, how it grows and changes.

I don’t consider this design finished yet.  I’m going to have to set a finish date for it, so I think this design will be done when the blog has been out in the world for a year and I have put my marketing plan into practice.  That means it’ll be done very close to the end of my diploma (which is scheduled for, but probably won’t be done by, April 2015).  I am so excited to find out what has happened to it by then.

PERMACULTURE TEACHING

…has been done and dusted for a while.  Hooray!

 

Four questions about The Seed

So, now that I have built The Seed website and am just about to launch it, I thought I would do the four questions about how it went.  Here goes:

What went well?

Virtually everything!  Or, virtually everything eventually…  I have a website that is basically what I said I would produce and it seems to have just clicked into place because of all of the planning and preparation that I did.  I am forgetting about the six months that I struggled to get the website up and running though.  One aspect of slow and small solutions is that you do get there eventually, meaning that ‘problems’ appear smaller at a distance…  I have basically done everything according to plan – the layout, the fonts, the illustrations, what’s in the sidebars etc.  I’ve built everything that I said I would.

One of the things that has gone particularly well about this project has been skill swapping.  I swapped half a days basic wordpress tuition with my friend Vicky for an illustration of an apple.  I asked my website designer friend Irene if she wanted to swap scything lessons with a few website pointers, and she said no, she wanted to swap my writing skills…  She reminded me that they were a swap-worthy thing!  When we did our skill swap day, neither of us could quite believe that we had done enough to justify what we were getting because what we had done for the other one seemed so easy compared to what they were doing for us, which seemed so impossible hard…  And so I learned a lesson here that can be summed up in the principle ‘use and value diversity.’  Partnering with people who have different but complimentary skills to you can SAVE YOUR LIFE.  I am doing it at work with Mike, and now Irene and I are doing it too.

I’ve changed a few things along the way.  At first I wanted to present myself as more of an expert than I am, but then I realised that it’s in the journey that you gather your audience (also, I wasn’t an expert in everything I wanted to write about…)  I wanted almost a magazine format like ABM, but I have realised that my strength lies in funny personal anecdotes, so I need it to be more personal than that (but not too personal).

Which leads me to…

What was challenging?

By far the most challenging things is that I have worked really hard to bring my photography together and I have done really really well in most areas, but my blog doesn’t really have a cohesive photographic style – and part of that is because I am taking pictures of so many different things.  I am trying to do still lives, landscapes, portraits, everything – and that’s hard!  I struggled to find my writing style, but I think that I am there now.  I will find my voice and I will find my photographic style.  I know that it’s just a matter of doing it, that you can’t expect something like this to appear fully formed from nothing, but it’s still frustrating to me…  But I know that I should value frustration, that it points the way.

Another present challenge is editing pictures.  I have in no way got the right software on my computer…  It’s really annoying.  I need to get Cameron, or someone at work to put Creative Suite and Lightroom on my desktop.  Then I will be completely sorted.

Realising that I should probably only consider myself able to post one post a month was another challenge.  I want to do more than that, but I will probably not be able to…

What’s my vision?

My vision is still the same as it was in my design – to turn the blog into a platform for selling my stuff – ecourses, books,  writing etc.  It’s a way of being financially independent when I have sproglets…  I plan to use twitter, instagram and pinterest to promote it, as well as doing guest posts of various types on other people’s blogs…  A clothing remake on A New Dress A Day and my house on A Beautiful Mess (and Country Living Magazine)

Next steps

Launch the damn thing!

Am I finished? How I know when a design is done.

At the beginning of my diploma, when I was looking at my big, sprawling, open-ended designs, I wondered how on earth I would know when they were finished.  It was a good question, and the lack of clarity was definitely a flaw in my design process.  Two years in, I find that the constant process of thinking about what I want to achieve has really developed my skills in defining project  boundaries and knowing when I am done.  I find that I can come up with an idea and not only know whether or not it is feasible (through experience of biting off more than I can chew), but also know how I will know when I have finished that particular design.  I have italicised the I, because I think that markers of success are very person-specific.  For example, in a design for a business, one person’s goal might be to earn a certain amount of money, but financial goals just don’t work for me, I am not motivated by them.  I would prefer to set goals along the lines of ‘run x amount of courses,’ or ‘raise prices to x amount’.  What I have realised is that being able to clearly define what you want out of a project means knowing yourself, your priorities and what is feasible for you really really well.  So, for me, the first step to knowing when a design is done is to know yourself well and set project boundaries that fit in with that.

The second way I have discovered of knowing when a design is done it to understand the lifecycle of how things are achieved.  I wrote about this idea in this post.  It’s the Hero’s Journey, the idea which suggests that all of the stories in the world are based on one story – the monomyth.  My friend Erica has just written a book on how you can use this idea in your own life.  The hero’s journey goes (a little) like this:

The call to adventure – “wouldn’t building a garden on this roof be cool?”

The refusal of the call – “nah, it would be too difficult and I couldn’t do it.”

The acceptance of the call (this is when you get cool stuff and people want to help you) – “ok, sod it, let’s have a go!  Wow, thanks for all of the plants, mum.  Yep, it’d be really great if you helped me out.”

The belly of the whale – “Aggh, it’s really hard to get stuff to grow up here because of the wind.  This isn’t as exciting as when I started out.”

The Supreme Ordeal  – “All my plants have died.  Ok, I’ll plant the whole lot again.”

Triumphant return – “I’ve done it!  I’ve grown all these plants through a whole season on this less than easy roof. Want me to teach you?”

When I think about all of my designs, I can plot them along a point on this journey.  I have come to realise though, that a greater ‘journey’ (e.g. making a living from scything) might be made up of several smaller journeys.  You might not get your big success all at once.  In fact you probably wont.  I think that every success (for example, I feel like I have done really well with scything courses this year), heralds a rethink and a new journey.  I have discovered that it is impossible to create a design that is too big, because each big design with naturally break itself down into several smaller ones.  A garden design will do this – e.g. a smaller design for a pizza oven, for planting for beneficial insects, for year-round produce.  This ‘breaking down’ is a pretty good example of designing from patterns to details – a principle that baffled me when I first started, but which I really really value now.

 

 

 

 

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We moved, goddamit, we moved!

Well, finally we have moved. Here it is, my new abode (the one with the white door and the yellow flowers outside of it). I am sure that I will get over the post-traumatic stress disorder in the next few months…

The house!

The house!

Now that I have moved house, quite a few of my designs can enter a new stage of implementation. It’s really interesting how having more (and different) space means that new and exciting things can happen. I thought I would use this post to map how my designs are affected by my new place – area by area.

The Shed

Well, we don’t have one yet, but Will assures me that he’s onto it… Once we do have a shed, I will be able to expand my scything empire by stocking more scythes to sell on courses and perhaps at other times too. Having all of my teaching equipment on the ground floor (and not up four flights of stairs) means that going off to teach courses is a much pleasanter experience. I honestly did not realise how much I dreaded emptying the car and dragging all my crap upstairs. It’s little things like this that make a big difference to how you feel about doing a particular job, and I am glad that I will have this sorted for next scything season.

The Garden

Long view of the garden

Long view of the garden

IMG_1081

The current growing area

Well, I have one! And it’s great! I have been doing some observation of light patterns and – in August at least – most of the garden gets sun at least some portions of the day. The soil looks really good and well looked after. There is a compost bin with a strong-looking colony of worms. There is corn and courgettes and beans to harvest.

I am going to spend a year observing and growing on a small-scale – in pots and annuals in the empty beds, and then do major changes next winter (i.e. winter 2014). I think what I’d like to do over this winter and next spring is move the compost heap closer to the house, research and get some chickens and establish a 365 day a year salad system. I’d like to work out my seedling system so that the whole house is not completely covered in pots all the time. We have south-facing windows which is very exciting.

Other than that I shall be doing lots of research and getting some idea of what I would like the garden to contain and to look like. I still think that I would like to do a garden design course, so I will have to see if I am rich enough to be able to do that!

The Outbuilding

The larder to be...

The larder to be…

I started calling this ‘the larder’ until I realised that Will and I had not discussed how we would use various rooms. So anyway, this is the larder… 😉 Currently it’s housing much of the crap that will go in the shed, but when that’s moved, we’ll put a work surface over the top of the washing machine, and as many shelves as we can fit in there and it will become a larder of great joy! I am itching to get going at this one… I am going to attempt to emulate the store stump from Brambly Hedge or Bilbo’s larder from the recent Hobbit movie. I’m a bit obsessed.

The store stump

The store stump

Bilbo's larder - with hairy dwarf

Bilbo’s larder – with hairy dwarf

Having outside space and space to store stuff means that I will be able to get going on the dehydrating and canning that I want to do with ease (and with somewhere to store the equipment).

The Office

The office to be...

The office to be…

This was another room that I had started calling ‘the office’ in my head before I had really discussed it with Will… Ooops! Having an office means that I’ll be able to write more easily and I can do stuff like leave my sewing machine out so that I am more likely to use it. I have an online sewing course to finish after all! We’ll use this as a guest bedroom as well, as rooms have to have multiple uses in this house.

Finally, just knowing where I am going to be for the next few years means that I can get on with my coppicing design knowing that I will (hopefully) be in one place for the whole of a coppice cycle and I can design for succession after that. Also, being in the countryside (more or less) means that my foraging design – whatever it turns out to be – will be so much easier to implement. Even though I’ve put a lot of planning and thought into this move and what it would make possible, it’s still amazing to be here and realise that all those things really are possible and I can do them now!  Expect more from me soon…  Maybe even pictures of bits of the house without stuff all over it!

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End of winter round up: Part 2

The Cutting Edge – developing an income stream in scythe teaching and mowing

This was last year’s angst-ridden project.  This year, thanks to observing the fact that I was crap at marketing, getting some training and implementing some changes, I am rushed off my feet.   I feel like I have the beginnings of a vibrant business.

Some successes:

–  Half of my courses were sold out a month before the first one started

–  I am on course to reach my goal of making £5000 from scything this year

–  I am getting regular enquiries from people asking me to teach, mow or demonstrate for them.

There are some things I would like to work on though:

– Courses for individuals are hard work in terms of admin.  At the end of this year I’ll need to work out how many of them it is feasible to do.

– I’ll also need to work out ways of reducing this admin, e.g. better FAQs and automated responses

I think this design is probably ready to be written up, so that’s my next step.

Action:  Write up Cutting Edge

 

Pen to Paper – developing an income stream in ‘green journalism’

This project is providing the angst this year.  As you can see from my Christmas evaluation (I seem to be evaluating rather a lot, don’t I), I had some successes last year but I had come to a point where I didn’t know how to progress.  I took my own advice and, using the heroes journey as a model for life, found myself more collaborators and a mentor.  I’ve been running a very successful writing buddy relationship with Jo of A Girl and Her Thumb for the past year and a bit, but I decided I wanted more, so I started meeting up with my friend Loo who is doing a journalism course, and asked my friend Fliss to be my mentor.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this income stream and, frankly am still thinking, and that’s ok.  I suspect that this design might change out of all recognition very soon, but I haven’t wholly decided yet.  I realise that’s a refrain you’re hearing about a lot of the designs but that’s because I’m in a state of massive flux at the moment.  Will and I are buying a house, moving out of Brighton, thinking about the future and all that means.  Everything is up in the air, including decisions about projects and that’s kind of ok.  Right now I am just going to deal with moving house and keeping up with my hectic schedule of scythe courses.

Action: Redesign pen to paper when ready

 

Permaculture teaching – developing an income stream in teaching permaculture

I think this may be the first of my designs that I declare finished.  I have taken the BPT teacher training scheme as far as I can go with it and the next stage would be to strike out on my own and find opportunities to teach.  However, I find myself curiously unenthusiastic about doing that.  Part of it is having done a realistic observation of my time.  I already feel like I don’t have enough time, so fitting in a meaningful amount of permaculture teaching (and all the prep) would be quite difficult.  The other issue is that I just don’t think I want to teach permaculture.  I want to do permaculture, but I don’t think I want to teach it explicitly.  I consider deciding not to pursue this income stream a valid outcome of this design and I am glad that I did the design, but I think it’s time to put this one to bed for now.   Time to write up!

Action:  Write up Permaculture teaching design

Part three coming soon.  Hope you’re looking forward to it! 😉

 

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End of winter round up: Part 1

Welcome to my six-monthly round up of how my projects are going.  Please overlook the fact that it’s nearly the end of May and cannot really be described as the end of winter any more.  On the surface of things I have hardly done anything for my diploma this winter – no blog posts for four months etc – but actually I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my designs, about my motivations for doing them, about how to make them work individually and all together as a group.  What follows is fairly dense, apologies for that now.

ACTION LEARNING PATHWAY

I am using my diploma to effect major change in my life.  I have chosen to do it over four years to give myself the time to make these changes happen.  This long period of time has also meant that I can observe and redesign the more complex designs.  I’ve also used it as an opportunity to do ‘practice‘ designs in some cases.  I’m working on a redesign of my Action Learning Pathway as I have refined my ideas a lot since I used Hedvig’s as a jump off point.

One of the ways in which I have refined my ideas is working out just how big or small a project should be.  In my head, the optimum size for a single design is the size of Hedvig’s clean air plant design (which I can’t seem to find a link to right now, but I am sure Hedvig will supply in the comments).  I’ll admit that when I first saw it I thought that it was quite unambitious in its scope, but that’s before I learnt how much observation and analysis it takes to actually make a design work properly.  Now I think it’s just about the right size to be interesting without being so big that it needs to be broken down into smaller designs.  This realisation has actually made a big difference to my designs as it as given me a scale at which I feel comfortable doing observation and analysis.  I feel like I have ‘got real.’

I have also realised that there is a different between a project which is large in ‘area’ (i.e. happens over a large piece of land) and a project which is large in complexity (i.e. has lots of different facets and therefore requires lots of different mini-designs).  A design could be large in size but not complex (i.e. the coppicing design I am working on – more soon), or be complex but not obviously large and important (such as the marketing designs I have been doing).  What I realised is that it’s really hard to work out the size and scope of a project without either quite deep analysis or without doing it.

As I know that I naturally tend towards massive overblown projects that will change the whole world (and which I haven’t got a hope in hell’s chance of pulling off), this has been the biggest win of the diploma so far.  Using the design cycle has made me slow down, observe, analyse and really think about how a design will fit into my life because for me (and I suspect for most people), it’s self observation rather than external observation that makes the difference between the success and failure of a project.

So, in redesigning my ALP I have decided to include a ‘non land based design starter kit’ which can function as my jumping off place for all non-land-based designs, as well as the basic roadmap towards my goals.  I’ll include the checklist in this starter kit obviously as I am already finding it immensely useful.  I’m so glad that I managed to write those ideas down because where the hell you start a non-land based design has always baffled me completely.  There’s so much help with land based design and almost none at all with non-land-based design.

ACTION: Write up redesigned ALP and ‘design starter kit.’  

 

TIME AND MONEY

The design is a basic overview of the ways in which I make/hope to make my livelihood, how much each strand will contribute to my finances and how much time it will take.  With this design as with a few of the others, I hit the issue that it was impossible to do real observation and analysis without actually implementing it.  I found that without actually launching my scythe teaching business I could not estimate how much time it would take up nor how much money I would make from it.  My first design was based on a series of guesses.  This is because almost no one (with a few exceptions) are teaching scything at the scale that I want to do it.  Even if I could have done, I think I would have struggled to estimate how much time it would take me to get up to speed with running a micro-business (a long time).  I really feel like I had to learn by doing in this case.

Despite ostensibly being about ‘time and money,’ this design is really about me – what motivates me, what I want to spend my precious time doing.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this recently and when I have finally come to some conclusions (I’m 90% of the way there), I’ll need to do a redesign of this.  One of the biggest changes I’ll need to make is to take account of how many different income streams one person can really deal with.  I am still in favour of the poly-income (a portfolio career) – spreading out your income over a number of different streams so that it is resilient to crisis – but I have come to realise that the number of different subject areas that one person can keep in their head at the same time is limited.  Changing gears, e.g. from thinking about marketing scythe courses to writing, is an activity that takes time in itself.  Working out which strands to keep and which to drop is hard though and I have not quite come to the end of that process so I don’t feel like I am in the right place quite yet to do a redesign of this project quite yet.

Action: Time and Money redesign when ready

Two projects down… more coming up in the next posts!

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Designing information: Organising my RSS reader

bloggery pokery crop

 

I spent a few hours today reorganising my RSS reader.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and an RSS reader, like Google Reader (which I use) means that you are informed when blogs are updated and don’t have to visit them individually to find out.

I follow a lot of blogs  (yes, including interior design blogs, I am entering into ‘that’ stage of my life…)  I’m unapologetic about the number of blogs that I follow.  I do spend a reasonable amount of time looking at them which used to set up a frisson of guilt in me (Am I wasting time?  Should I be doing something ‘more useful?’).  In the end I just concluded that I was interested in certain subjects which other people wrote about so why feel guilty about garnering inspiration, information, advice and ideas.  Actually, why feel guilty about being interested in someone’s life?

I am a ruthless culler of blogs too.  I only keep the blogs that I look forward to reading, otherwise looking at my RSS reader turns into work.  I also cull blogs that I enjoy, but which give me the feeling that my life is rubbish.  These tend to be American blogs written by women whose children are perfect, husbands are perfect, houses are perfect, Christmases and birthdays were perfect…  Likewise blogs that rejig the same tired ideas.

I signed up for a few more gardening blogs today because I am looking for places to write guest posts about scything for and by the time I had added them, the list of blogs that I follow was enough to give you a migraine.  No more!  I decided to put them into really simple folders according to their subject.  Previously my folder titles had been things like ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Green Thinkers.’  They date from a time when I had many few blogs to follow, but even then they were a bit vague.  Inspiration for what?  Thinking about what?

Putting these blogs into categories was really interesting because when I was done I looked at it and thought, yep, those are my life interests.  I thought through my diploma projects and considered whether I followed blogs about all of those subjects.  The answer was, almost all of them – coppicing, preserving and scything didn’t get a folder of their own but they fit in under rural skills and food.  One area that I did notice was missing was general life design, livelihood design and blogs about money.  These are all things that I am working on very hard in my diploma and yet they weren’t represented in my blog-roll.  I think this is because I still find the idea of talking about, thinking about or designing for financial rewards a bit gross – the way I felt about marketing before I discover Marketing for Hippies.  I’ve signed up for finance/entrepreneurial blogs in the past and always unsubscribed because I didn’t read them because it made me feel icky.  I need to find someone who is talking about these things in a way that I am willing to listen to.  Any ideas?  They need to be funny and directed towards money-phobes.  I’m also looking for some life-coaching/life-organisation blogs that don’t make me want to be sick.  Help gratefully received…

After I had taken the picture above, I went and looked at these folders and put the ones with some connection to each other next to each other.  Really, they all have connections to each other in my head, but I wanted to draw out the most important ones.   Gardening, foraging and permaculture went next t each other and also next to food.  Photography and graphic design went next to each other and were also linked to lifestyle.

I have decided to read them in a different way too.  Instead of clicking on the feed for the individual blog and seeing a stream of posts just from that blog, I have decided to click on the category – e.g.  Food.  This will show me posts from all of the blogs in that category in the order that they were updated.  Doing it this way means that it’s much harder to discern immediately which blog you are reading.  This is useful because it means that I can see which blogs broadcast their individuality immediately.   For example, I predict that in the ‘food’ category I will be able to recognise Smitten Kitchen immediately because while the pictures are good but not amazing, the writing is hilarious (which is, I have to say, unusual for a lot of the blogs that I read).  I also predict that I will be able to recognise What Katie Ate immediately because of her distinctive photographic style.  This sort of observation is really useful for developing my writing and photographic style.

 

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End of the summer round up: part two

Project three:  The Cutting Edge (scythe courses)

Well gosh, where to start with this one…  One thing that’s going well is that I have learnt more about running a business this year than in the previous 31 years of my life.  I have learnt a lot.  Alas though, this new and exciting knowledge has not speedily turned into business success.  In fact, this year has been a complete write-off in terms of scythe courses which is mostly why I felt compelled to delve so deeply into learning business (and especially marketing) skills.  I took a Marketing for Hippies course and have since formed a group to work through some of the material that I got during the course.  Giving myself time for the knowledge to sink in has been really instrumental, as has the support of other people in the group.  I really feel like I am starting to understand how to present what I do to people in a way that they want to hear.  I should say, present what I do to the people that I want to hear from in a way that they want to hear…  It’s made me stop feeling icky about selling and think that there are actually loads of cool people out there who want to know what I know (in this instance, scything) and I just need to make it easy for them to find me and to connect with me in their own time.

What’s been challenging?  [Shakes head and sobs]  Everything…  Everything…  To start off with I made an erroneous decision to stop contacting ‘groups’ such as National Trust groups or groups who managed a wild flower meadow because I thought to myself ‘I can only teach these people once, I should try to establish something with a bit more longevity,’ so I tried to establish courses – i.e. something that happens in the same place every year that individuals book onto.  Mistake.  What I didn’t take into account was that it would create eight times the admin, and eight times the marketing…  Where do all those people come from if not established groups?  Thus, my marketing problem was created which I feel like I am only just getting to grips with.  I think that ‘what I have learnt about marketing’ is a whole other blog post which I will endeavour to write soon, but I hope that the systems that I have put in place will stand me in good stead for courses next year…

My vision is still 20 courses and £5000 a year, but I think it’ll take me a few years to achieve that.  And I want to achieve it in a fun way – sending out humourous newsletters to people who I know are already interested rather than writing emails on spec to people who just ignore me…  I think that next year I will try to limit the amount of courses where I have to deal directly with individuals to around 6 so that I reduce the admin load and am able to treat everyone properly.  I’ll try and teach groups on top of that also.

Next steps:  I need to make a video and post it on the front page of my website.  I need to create some free stuff for my website.  I need to rewrite the front page of my website.  I need to send out a few funny newsletters to the 50 people already on my mailing list.  I need to set up course venues and have thought through an efficient system of payment and answering people’s questions.  I need to map that stages of interaction that people will have with me and make sure that they are good for both me and the client.  I need to line up some guest post opportunities on gardening blogs to go out just as scything season gets going.  Only a few things to do then…  I shall have a busy winter!

 

Project four: Pen to paper (Journalism)

Now here’s a project that seems to be going smoothly!  I’m getting commissioned fairly regularly – most recently in the Guardian gardening blog.  I’m earning money from writing, not always enough money, but money all the same.  My strategy of writing about subjects that I want to know about is working really well because I get an extra yield of knowledge and that keeps me motivated.  I’m also making other beneficial connections – like writing about scything and getting publicity from it.  I’m getting through the tough bits, like phoning editors, by treating it a bit like a computer game where the editor represents the end-of-level baddie that I have to defeat before I get to move onto the next level.  I’m really really enjoying it and frankly, I’m getting a kick out of doing something that I am good at!

One thing that I am finding a bit challenging is underselling myself.  I’ve had a lot of work from one particular magazine who pay me less than half the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) going rate (it’s probably time to join the NUJ actually).  I was happy to do that this year as they commissioned me regularly and I needed the clips, but next year I need to focus on magazine that pay me properly.  Also, I still feel ‘outside’ of this world and I don’t always know what decisions to make for the best.  I need to find a mentor, but before I do that I need to work out exactly what I want from a mentor.

Next steps:  Join the NUJ, write down exactly what I want from a mentor.

 

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Writing partner

I have a writing partner!  She’s called Jo and she blogs at A girl and her thumb.  She’s also starting to do some freelance journalism, as I am.  There are different ways of running a writing partnership.  We do it by checking in by email every monday and setting goals for the week.  Jo is a world traveller so a meet up over a coffee is rare.

I haven’t quite hit my stride with this work rhythm yet. We started at a bad time for me as I have been cooking at the homeless day centre in the mornings for the last three weeks and then working in the University in the afternoons (and then, as if that wasn’t a good enough excuse for not posting anything on the blog for ages, I’ve been doing things in the evenings and weekends too, like organise and attend marketing workshops and teach beekeeping courses.  I know, I know.  I don’t know how I do it, either…)  Jo is setting a much better example.  She’s got a list of goals as long as your arm, and isn’t allowing herself to be interrupted by things like having to fry off fatty mince at 8 o’clock in the morning.  Ho hum.  I’ll get there…

I have two articles coming out in the next few months in Home Farmer.  One on edible flowers and one on scything.  Keep your eyes peeled!

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