Winter blues

October is well underway, and my instincts are telling me that something very serious is brewing within our economy, and in society in general - my turnover for Sep/Oct is down on the usual numbers by almost 80%, with only one small job in my diary for the forthcoming month. September saw 17 jobs completed, compared to 43 last September, and it looks like this month will definitely be in low single figures as opposed to the 49 undertaken last October. That's bankruptcy territory with the quietest months of the year about to hit, and with the burden of huge overheads bleeding me dry, it's going to be a nail-biting few months with little chance of paying myself regularly without raiding the tax cash I've set-aside. Clearly, the property market "boom" is at an abrupt end, with average prices way, way beyond most people's means. The "government" continuously bombard the population with bullshit rhetoric about how we're "building back better", while openly encouraging social division in order to detract from the fact that every policy the overprivileged, wet-lipped crew come up with is designed to maintain the status-quo in which the most comfortable (generally tory-voters) are insulated from any significant material changes to their lifestyle, and the poorest are forced to scramble & fight for their survival in an increasingly hostile environment that continually squeezes them ever-further into servile submission. Regular soundbytes about illegal  immigrants, largely fictional sports-days without winners, and Winston Churchill luckily manage to keep voters happy though, so it's all good.

The effects of the end of the furlough scheme, massive increases in fuel prices, the elimination of the extra universal credit payments, increases in NI payments, huge increases in the cost of living across the board, and mass shortages in staff haven't really started to hit home yet, but when they do, it could lead to the start of millions of regular people being plunged into misery and poverty, while the middle classes simply bemoan the couple of hundred quid a month in extra costs while pouring their third glass of £7.99 red wine.

So....enough of all the autumnal cheer. How do I personally prepare for a potential winter of discontent? As a freelancer, I have the ability to quickly cut and paste the best practices of others in order to avert any immediate disaster, and survive another winter.

First step - generally the easiest, and what should be done as part of any business at any time - is to cut costs. Any non-vital cost has to be eliminated from my day to day business and home-life. That means getting rid of any kit I no longer use, cutting down on travelling, stopping non-essential software subscriptions, cancelling insurances, doing without any refreshments on-the-go, or allowing the electric car to run short of power while out and about in order to avoid the expensive public charging points. Not an exhaustive list, but definitely a start.

Next - attempt to increase revenue. As my business costs have increased by 50% over the last twelve months, it's becoming obvious that I need to increase prices by a small amount like everyone else in order to keep going. For 6 years i've basically absorbed every single cost increase, while keeping my prices the same - resulting in my monthly wage decreasing constantly during that time - imagine yourself having a job with a guaranteed pay-drop of 8-10% a year! There's a risk that clients might dump me off in order to find someone cheaper, but as I'm tentatively the best real-estate photographer in the region, and also one of the cheapest, a £10 per-job increase shouldn't be something they can bemoan.

With the substantial increase in the numbers of Northumberland coastal properties being bought by private investors as holiday-lets, there's definitely an opportunity to offer comprehensive shoots to the owners for their marketing on the portals such as Air BnB etc. My marketing budget is zero however, so I need to find some way of making myself visible to the masses for this push. It's quite enjoyable work, close-to-home, and could snowball if it takes off at all.

Back to the push then. See you on the other side.

Brian Young (that's me) shoots all aspects of the built environment for a range of clients throughout Northern England and the Borders.


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