From Hollywood to Aylesbury (and UK freelancers)

When I dreamed about entering the movie business, I always assumed it would involve luxurious offices in Los Angeles or London, rather than a suburban semi-detached in Aylesbury. As it happens, I’m helping out the immensely talented Dalang Films, who are now releasing their own projects after working on many of the biggest films of the last decade.

Hollywood Sign

Chatting about their plans and introducing them to a few ideas around licensing, digital distribution and marketing, I couldn’t help thinking about the way business is changing every day in the UK, with more and more freelances, entrepreneurs and small businesses appearing every day.

A recent story on the Atlantic shared some relevant stats from the U.S.

  • In 2005 1/3 of the US workforce participated in the ‘freelance economy’, with data showing that number has increased ever since.
  • 2009 saw the highest level of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S in 14 years.
  • Online freelance job postings rockets in 2010, and companies are increasingly outsourcing various functions, along with increasing support for telecommuting.

I don’t have the equivalent UK figures, but I’d suspect we’re probably a bit behind due to cultural differences, but the same change is definitely happening. And despite the media fascination with ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in London, or even the ‘Silicon Fens’, there’s a huge amount of small business and individual endeavour that’s being missed.

For instance, the 40-50 people in Digital People in Peterborough are almost entirely comprised of small businesses and individial freelancers, with just a handful of exceptions. And I’d bet a similar picture is true of a huge number of geek meet-ups, or business networking events outside of London.

It’s not an easy life, and I wouldn’t romanticise the challenges of choosing between buying food or paying the bills when client invoices get missed and paid late. Or of working late into the night on something because there’s simply no-one else to help. But I do believe that there’s a cultural and business change happening which not only makes freelancing and telecommuting more acceptable, but will also enable it to become easier, with more support from the various necessary institutions.

And if you’ll excuse me, I have some client work to finish before I sit back with a beer and practice my Oscar acceptance speech. I know there’s not one for marketing, so I’ve offered to help out on various odd film jobs to make sure I get included in the nominations!

I’m still here…

It may not seem like it, but I’m still here! And I’m remembering why quick informal ‘Tumblelog’ style updates can be so useful when there’s not enough time for the epic style which suits WordPress better, because at the moment there are a number of plates spinning, and not a lot of time to write my own stuff.

Just some of the multiple dinner sets currently rotating at high rpm include:

  • 1 big client contract coming to an end – already had one team member say I’ve made their job much easier, which is nice.
  • 2 really interesting proposals for new business, including one which is right up my alley.
  • 2 Jodanma website builds either reaching client sign-off or completion. Which means we might be able to put some awesome plans into practice for the actual Jodanma site at last.
  • A couple of new writing assignments for clients.
  • A decent output on OnlineRaceDriver and FPSPrestige, plus the launch of a third niche gaming site with MMO News now up and running (Anyone who fancies volunteering any articles etc, PR people looking to send out info/review copies of games, or advertisers, please do get in touch!)
  • Some business admin stuff.
  • Talking to a number of very skilled people about bolstering both the marketing and design/development resources I can offer.
  • And the joy of having major car maintenance issues, and all the other accumulated stuff that goes on when I’m not glued to a laptop…

Plus there’s numerous other existing leads and clients, videogames to test and review, WordPress continuing to deliver interesting new bugs and problems, and a final potential longterm project to flesh out in the next couple of weeks. But it does mean that I’ve got a stockpile of things to write about when I get the chance to sit down and blog again, so it’s almost like a holiday in terms of recharging my creativity here. Except with less of a suntan.

The freelancer prayer…

I’d forgotten about this prayer until I happened to pick up Slaughterhouse 5 in a spare five minutes. Regardless of your views on religion, the sentiments seem pretty suitable for anyone freelancing. Apparently the ‘Serenity Prayer’ is the common name for an originally untitled work by theologian Rheinhold Niebuhr, and it was later adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, which probably makes it even more relevant for journalists and freelancers.

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Pretty appropriate whether you’re mid-proposal, mid-negotiation, or mid-contract. It’s a reminder to me that I’m hired to offer the best possible value for my clients, even if it means that sometimes I have to find different ways to accomplish the best possible results.

It’s also useful at the point when a client might decide that they might not need you any longer, or might be looking to cut costs etc. Sometimes it’s worth putting up a passionate defence of why they should continue your contract, or offering them a different solution to lower the cost. But sometimes it’s also worth accepting that the decision is a logical one from the client’s perspective ad it’s better to part graciously on good terms without fighting it.

And I don’t think there’s ever a time when you don’t wish for a little more courage, serenity and wisdom…

One of the most popular Twitter clients adds new features

One of the most popular Twitter clients, Tweetdeck, has added new features in the latest release,  version 0.31. It’s pushing forward as one of only two Twitter clients with a share of over 10%, as measured by Twitstats.

Included in the latest release is a new notification system which can be applied to certain groups. Plus it also has inline reply, retweets and direct messages inside the notification menu.

A major feature you might not notice is that Tweetdeck has now been optimised to consume less memory, which is good for everyone – plus there’s also the time-saving option of keyboard shortcuts, and a Heads-Up Display.

And depending on how popular you are, you might find the feature to view your newest 100 followers comes in useful as you can directly follow, block or add to a group.

Check oout the video below for the official walk-through:

East vs West approaches to using Twitter

Interesting contrast between the attitudes of China and the U.S to Twitter at the moment.

In China, access has been stopped to Twitter (and new Microsoft search engine Bing). The likely reason is the anniversay of Tiananmen Square protest. However, like a lot of people analysing usage figures for Twitter, the Chinese authorities seem to have forgotten about Twitter clients, such as Seesmic Desktop, for the moment.

Compare that to the U.S – with the military unveiling a social media strategy for news from Afghanistan which includes Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. There’s an official Twitter account at www.twitter.com/usfora which currently has 2985 followers. There’s some more detail in a Wired article.

How many clients do you use for Twitter?

One thing I’ve when people compare Tweetdeck versus Seesmic Desktop, or when there are discussions around the top Twitter clients is the assumption that people only ever pick one client at a time.

At the same time, I’ve started to wonder if the arms race between Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop means that people assume users only ever want more features – rather than perhaps using a comprehensive client for work and a lightweight client for commenting whilst watching television for example.

So before I write my own assumptions I wanted to throw out the question:

The top Twitter clients – more people tweeting via mobile than desktop clients

I didn’t realise that Twitstat has a list of the clients which post most frequently to Twitter (that are tracked by @twitstat), until I saw the recent list published by Mashable.

The web interface tops the list at 29.57%, then it’s

  • Tweetdeck 10.58% (Uber client for Twittering and monitoring)
  • Twitterfeed 5.54% (Automated website and blog feeds)
  • Twhirl 4.92% (Effective Twitter client)
  • Twitteriffic 3.79% (Twitter client for mobile).

And the next four places are all mobile clients, with Twitpic in tenth.

Warren at Twittermaven took things a little further by aggregating the mobile, desktop and utility categories, and pointing out more people use mobile to post than desktop clients. One of his posters has also pointed out that the data could be misleading as people might post through the full web page on mobile internet.

But I’d expect the trend to be fairly close to reality. A mobile-optimised experience is likely to be an easier ‘sell’ than moving from the web interface to a client. And although early adopters and corporate Tweeters can find huge value from tools like Tweetdeck,  that’s not the average Twitter user.

The top 10 applications account for 70% of usage, which conforms to The Long Tail. Friends of 140char on the list include MrTweet at #40 and disapointly Cesare’s great Posty client is down the list at #211.

Twitter’s SMS service loses Canada. Now just U.S and India

It seems that Canada has joined the rest of the world in losing the ability to receive Twitter updates via SMS, as revealed on the Twitter Status Blog. As with the rest of the world, the blame is placed squarely at Mobile carriers:

‘We can’t afford to support this service given our current arrangement with our providers (where costs have been doubling for the past several months.)’

The post continues:

‘The ability to update Twitter over SMS will still be supported over 21212. But we know that this is only part of the experience and we want to make Twitter work in the way folks want … regardless of where they live.

There is a realistic, scalable SMS solution for Canada (and the rest of the world.) We’re working on that and will post more details on the Twitter blog as we make progress.’

It seems a little strange this appeared on the Status Blog, and not the Official Company Blog, which is what happened when we lost Twitter updates via SMS in the UK. And at the time, there was the promise of several new local SMS services across Europe – but I don’t think anything has been arranged yet, and to be fair, if you’re not being monetised or bought by Facebook, then the costs do start to add up:

‘Even with a limit of 250 messages received per week, it could cost Twitter about $1,000 per user, per year to send SMS outside of Canada, India, or the US.’

SMS is obviously a hugely profitable enterprise for mobile providers currently. And I doubt much will change on that front for some time – but hypothetically, with the rise of smart phones and access to social networks (and fortunately, Twitter and clients), could this a cause for even the start of a decline in SMS usage? Any mobile phone experts got any idea of the figures, and whether smart phone usage means less SMS?