5 Things You Didn’t Know the British Museum Would Make a Video About

Sometimes – often – my day job isn’t the most mentally stimulating or lighthearted. It frequently involves spreadsheets, social media scheduling apps and twelve tabs, one of which is my bank account. On these occasions I find my own entertainment in the form of podcasts, YouTube playlists and throwing pencils.

Sometimes the entertainment finds me.

I came across this while researching the British Museum for a blog.

And now we’ve all learnt something. You’re welcome.

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Behind the Scenes, Friday 13th Edition

So it was on this very day, sort of, that I released my Ghost Stories zines last year. If you haven’t read them – and you should – they’re full of short stories, advice columns, quirky advertisements and art all pertaining to death, the afterlife and magic. And I hadn’t even heard of Maggie Stiefvater then. Anyway, I don’t have a Volume IV to share with you all, but I have made even more ridiculous death/the afterlife/magic work since, so I thought I would take today to share a bit about how and why I ended up with so many macabre-ish, funny-ish arty-ish things in my portfolio.

Ghost Stories

A couple of years ago I wrote a (very) little story for The Story Shack about something that in retrospect sounds suspiciously like the church watch on St Mark’s Eve. It was sitting by itselfie on the internet and last January I noticed that 2015 contained three Friday 13ths. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and it’s useful to have solid deadlines, so I thought I could do a project to practise my Photoshop, actually write and maybe have a laugh. My friend Ruby, who proofread, had less of a laugh. By 13th November I had three relatively well-formed zines, a more thorough understanding of the YouTube playlist format and a healthy respect for the black and white filters on Photoshop. I kind of love Ghost Stories – I mean, I also hate it because I read it back and think ‘ew’ – but it’s the first thing I made after I finished school for the hell (ha) of it, and it reminded me why the term ‘black humour’ warms my soul. Now go warm your soul.

Ghost Stories Volume I by Francesca Burke

 

Hell’s Belles

You know that feeling when you’ve recently quit a job, rediscovered supernatural YA novels and decided to dye your hair pink and commit to being a full time eccentric? Last autumn I tried to supplement my income with waitressing, which to cut a long story short was not the career for me. When I rejiggled my freelancing so I could afford-ish to go back to marketing full time, I realised how much I valued being my own boss, muttering swearwords, blasting Fall Out Boy and making ridiculous things because I could. There’s a stall in Southend high street selling home accessories that say things like ‘eat glitter for breakfast and shine all day’, ‘life’s a journey’, etc.; I always wanted to paint them black and ad lib… so I did.

I even made stickers. Hell’s Belles – which was also influenced heavily by the pastel goth tag, 9 years of listening to My Chemical Romance and the exact colour I wanted my hair – is one of my favourite lines on my Etsy. It’s weird, either offensive or funny depending on your sense of humour and made of everything I’ve been interested in over the last couple of years: magic, cynicism, cursing, cynical cursing and inspirational Instagram posts.

I have a suspicion I’ll make more of one or more of the above. Look out around Halloween.

A Retrospective of the Fiscal Year and Dubious Freelancing/Artist Advice

Who’s excited for the end of the financial year? Who wants it to be 6th April already so they can relish a clean slate and make 2016/17 the year they go up an income threshold? Who sometimes wishes they had someone else to make tough decisions regarding business card expenditure?

Yep.

Since we are nearly at the end of this fiscal calendar, I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learnt since 6th April 2015, as a writer, shopkeeper and digital marketing freelancer and share some of my pearls of wisdom.

  • It’s genuinely really hard to invest in necessities like business cards and packaging when you have no capital. Use some savings (or visit one of those bank things or find some investors) to get you off the ground. It will cause less stomachaches.
  • Speaking of packaging, it’s completely okay to reuse bubble envelopes if they aren’t scummy.
  • You might think you can predict what will sell, but you can’t. You just learn to guess what your customer wants, and even then they will probably surprise you.
  • If a product isn’t working, photograph it better. Or replace it with a better product.
  • Photographs.
  • Photographs.
  • Photographs.
  • 80% of your time is spent marketing and organising, 10% is spent corresponding, 5% researching and developing and perfecting, and 5% making the art you sell.
  • Look after yourself, mentally, physically and financially, because freelancers don’t get sick pay, holiday pay, pension schemes or sympathy when they’re ill.
  • Always try to correspond with clients or customers in the same way your teachers wrote home to your parents: politely, firmly and with the spellchecker on.
  • As a freelancer, you make your own motivation and set your own timetable. I’ve learnt that my motivation is my desire to spite the people who think I should get a ‘real’ job, and nothing sets a timetable like knowing you have 8 hours to complete 12 hours worth of work.
  • If you’re not busy, clean your desk and do your accounts because when you are busy, you will come downstairs and realise you work in a pigsty with no recollection of where your money went. Oh and if you’re not busy, you probably need to improve your marketing.
  • Taking a step back from this blog last summer was one of the best decisions I made all year.
  • My readers and my customers are the strangest, most eccentric and most generous people. (I already knew that. You’re welcome for the reminder.)
  • Social media marketing is about being social. Not copy and pasting the high five/praying emoji onto  twelve Instagram posts alongside the phrase ‘keep up the good work!’.
  • Marketing.
  • Marketing.
  • Marketing. Work out who your customer is. Work out where they are and what they want. Go to them with the thing(s) they want.
Artemis was right, Greek mythology poster postcard by Francesca Burke
In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was a hit with the asexual and aromantic bloggers of Tumblr.
  • #GIRLBOSS the shit out of your life, because no one else will do it for you.
  • Read #GIRLBOSS. Even if you are a guy, non-binary or allergic to hashtags.
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, girlboss.com
from girlboss.com
  • Nothing is more isolating than being the only person you know who does what you do and working from home while you do it. Find other people who do something similar and meet for coffee, follow their blogs and write your own, or join an Etsy team. Or all of those things.
  • A wise man in a World War II film I saw recently said something along the lines of ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person. People with all the time in the world never get anything done’. TL;DR: if you really want to make art or write a book or start a business, you will make the time to do it.
  • Paying yourself with meagre wages, knowing you can account for earning every single pound, makes up for being perceived as unemployed by your nearest and dearest, explaining that you post to the Internet for a living but no, you can’t wire up a wifi connection, and working on a Saturday night because you can’t afford to go out, move out or use up the bubble bath.

Most of the time.

Now bring it, 2016/17, I want to win at this game.

Summer Buzzin’

This is one of those weeks where I’m glad I’m a freelancer. I go to work in short shorts, I have lunch in my garden and I start the day watching my dogs lollop around the field with the canine equivalent of beaming smiles before flopping down inside all day like sleepy cherubs.

pinterest.com/pin/6896205649449915
pinterest.com/pin/6896205649449915

It’s also one of those weeks where Instagram stops working, I realise that I’ve got a lot of birthday and holiday-related expenses coming up and I just splashed frappe all over myself and the kitchen.

Still, maybe by the time I get to Zante the euro will have been replaced by a skills-based economy in which my particular brand of cute sarcasm will be gold dust… and maybe Brussels will have cancelled the debt, handed out icecream to every Greek citizen and worked out a solution to the refugee crisis.

Actually, while I’m thinking about it: I shall be offline from 26th July- 6th August, mostly because I need to retrain my brain not to assume every second sound is an email. My Etsy will be on ‘vacation mode’ – it’s going to Tahiti with its girlfriend – and I might schedule some posts for here/Tumblr/wherever to remind you all I exists… hopefully on a beach or clifftop with some nice music and some decent Fanta.

Okay I have to stop typing now because I’m having this paradoxical experience of daydreaming about my holiday while quashing suffocating terror that I can’t really afford one. If this were a Tweet, #freelancelife would be apt.

Enjoy the weather while we have it and drink lots of water!

In Which You Can Drink at School and Not Get Kicked Out

Is it raining where you are right now? Unless you are in Australia I think you are completely justified in saying ‘f u weather bye’.

I’ve been on Tumblr too much. But seriously if this is summer then I want to be a theist just so I know where to lodge a complaint.

Yesterday some friends and I went back to our old school to collect our certificates of 13 years of unpaid slave labour education and it was pretty weird because a) I left a year ago but it felt like 15 years and five minutes, and b) they let us drink wine which was disconcerting to say the least, not to mention you could speak to teachers almost like they were real people

I just skim-read the post I did last year about going to school when you don’t really want to, and it reminds me of how bitter I was about my school experience. In retrospect I should have seized the day and all that shit, and appreciated how lucky I was to have free education until I was 18, but at the time all I wanted to do was leave, become a writer and set my own hours.

Now I have in fact done that for a year, and to be perfectly honest I don’t feel like I’ve magically got everything together. ‘Becoming a writer’ was a great plan, but that was all I had. I didn’t really know about personal finance or budgeting or product research or good rates for copywriting or the importance of self discipline, and all those other little things that you learn as you go but wish someone had warned you about. I didn’t appreciate that consistent income is something you only miss when you don’t have it any more, or that building a portfolio career means sticking with projects for months on end even if they pay absolutely nothing… and it’s only been a year. In another year, if I’m still doing this, I’ll have (hopefully) learnt a lot more. Maybe I’ll even have a consistent, national-average income, although I looked up the living wage versus the minimum wage yesterday and nearly fell over, so I’m not holding out too much hope.

screw jackets sunshinethekatt.tumblr

I do hope I’m still doing this in a year, though, and not just because a lot of people I saw yesterday for the first time in a year thought my job was cool. (These are people who are studying mechanical engineering and foreign languages and medicine full time for a £40k debt holy shit they are the ones with steely determination.) As hard as it is to make sure I’m doing copy and freelancing and trying to improve my Etsy sales – hint: you can help with that one – and blogging and not ready to pack it in and move to Tibet, I know in my gut that I made the right choice between this, a ‘regular’ job and uni.

Or I think I did. Let’s see in another year.