Article by Charlie Wright
So there I was at the weekend, in a pub in the Scottish Highlands, being harangued by an old ginger guy in a kilt.
His name was Bill, and he was the local “gillie”.
(To city folks like you and me, that’s the “bloke who disembowels dead deer in a hunt”.)
Sarah and I were there for a pre-wedding drink, so most people wore kilts or tweed. But I was feeling shifty in a cheap black moleskin suit I recently imported from Vietnam.
Sarah didn’t know anyone and tried to sit quietly. But Bill was – to use the Scottish phrase – ‘totally blootered’.
He made a grab for the tiny stud in her nose.
“We don’t have the likes of THAT here in the glen!” he slurred.
“Oh aye?” said another Scotsman, turning around to show us two enormous studs in the back of his neck.
Bill ignored him and turned to the bar to pay for his whisky. There was a crumbled tenner in his sporran, but he was spilling coins everywhere trying to get it out.
Ten minutes later, we walked into the tiny church to witness my old mate Fred’s wedding. The best man was Jason, another old friend.
We’d once shared a flat in North London in the late 90s. But here we were, on a rainy day in a church in Scotland, Bill drunk and trying to set fire to the hat of the lady in front of him.
A lot changes in 8 years…
The story of a biz opp disaster
Back in 1998, I had just taught myself the skills of copywriting. I knew how to sell already, so I thought I could just start typing into my computer and make money!
The plan was to set up my own little business writing made-to-order classified ads, local radio ads and scripts… anything that sold really.
It was chaotic, unplanned and utterly the WRONG way to run a home business. In a way, it was like starting a company called ‘I Am Great At Stuff’ and then just waiting for the money to roll in.
I had no internet in those days. No email. Just a beaten up fax machine the size of a television. I also had a pay- as-you-go mobile phone that was rarely ever topped up.
I’d have been a better communicator with a couple of carrier pigeons and a coop on the roof.
That said, it wasn’t a complete disaster.
I got a few local ads onto radio stations in the South West and one on Jazz FM in London! I even got a script bought by BBC Radio Wales.
There were moments when I thought, “YES, I can be a freelance writer, please send me loose women and fast cash NOW!”
Ah well, a young man can dream
Within 6 months I realised I was losing money hand- over-fist. My start-up cash had gone, my back-up cash had gone, and my emergency loan was pouring down the pub urinal.
Here were my mistakes in order. Learn from them!
*** I wasn’t specialising in one area that I knew 100%.
*** I didn’t have enough clients. Neither could I check if I was being paid for all the ads and ideas taken by the few clients I did have, as they were being used in parts of the country where I didn’t even live.
*** I had caveman technology so I couldn’t answer all my calls or take orders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
*** I had no history as a freelancer. I couldn’t work out a way to get across my skills. I should have written myself a sales piece and worked out an advertising plan.
*** I simply hadn’t done enough ad writing. They say you need to do something 1,000 times repeatedly to get competent. I was on about 200.
*** I was an idiot, chased women, and had fun with my mates too much.
But then again, at least I wasn’t a wage slave like my flatmate.
Jason was an accountant. Every day he’d wake with a hangover from one of our late night “let’s change the world” blathering sessions.
He’s put on a suit, grab a suitcase and march out of the door looking miserable. At 5:30pm he’d leave on the dot and come home, looking miserable.
Meanwhile Fred was at the other end of the scale. He had no job and neither was he trying to make money. All he did was leap from menial job to job and play the fiddle like a madman in his spare hours.
Eventually, he decided to go and volunteer to teach in China for a year. We stumbled across him, 3 months later, living in the back room of a slot machine arcade in Crouch End.
He’d only lasted a week in China. Came back and couldn’t face our jibes, so decided to live in an arcade.
Luckily, they both made big decisions that would change their lives…
The vow you’ve probably made, too
While I vowed to stay in London and MASTER the art of a successful home business or DIE trying… Jason and Fred simply left.
Jason got married and moved to the Highlands with his wife. She part-owned some property in Glenlyon, so they decided to turn it into a business.
Six years on, they run a beautiful little guesthouse and holiday home. They’re not rich, but they grow vegetables, rear pigs and chickens, and get an income from renting out holiday accommodation.
Jason even started up his own “soup ‘n’ cake” business for a café in a local town. He’s a million times happier than he ever was in the rat race.
Encouraged, Fred moved up there, too, and survived on labouring jobs and goodwill until he found his niche. He now plays the fiddle in pubs, hotels and wedding parties throughout the glen.
Happy, happy! Joy, joy!
But as for old muggins, here. Well, I battled on. Country life was not for me. I wanted to stay and try and find the Holy Grail of biz opps.
And I’m still trying…
But the world of rural Scotland and urban England are not so far apart. Now that Jason and his wife have had a baby, they want to find ways of buying their property outright and making some extra money.
“You’ve got to sign up to my newsletter” I told Jason as we nipped out before Fred’s wedding reception for a crafty fag and a chat.
“You need to find a good biz opp. You’ve got broadband, time, and a smart brain. What more do you need?”
And that’s when we hit upon an idea for a book…
Spinning an ordinary idea into something else
One way of making money is to come up with a unique spin on a good idea. Talk about something you know about and care about PERSONALLY. Do it in an original way that can BENEFIT others.
Then market it to the right people.
In Jason’s case, he and his wife used alternative therapies and hypnosis to have a completely natural, drug-free childbirth.
They reckon they could create a book that shows other people all the choices and angles open to them when they have a baby.
Now, although this sounds like something you could get in any old bookshop… we’ve come up with a unique spin on the subject that could make it sell. And sell really well.
But I’m not going to tell you this spin until Jason gets off his backside and writes it. Otherwise you might nick the idea.
And you wouldn’t want to bankrupt a new daddy now, WOULD YOU?
PS: When Jason and I had discussed our master plan outside, I returned to the reception to see that I’d abandoned Sarah on the table with a bloke from the navy and a policeman from Croydon. The glare she gave
me could have started a forest fire.
PPS: Lucky it was raining, really.