Category Archives: agencies

2011 in Retrospect

I am Repetitive
In my two previous end of year posts, the first sentence tells that I had a strange year. Mostly due to the transition to freelance and all that entails. This year I was fully prepared for how weird freelancing is and was ready to rock and roll the highs and lows. So suffice it to say, I embrace the “strange”. 2011 was an amazing year!

Witches! …no… sorry… Watches!
Scott Wilk of Wilk Watchworks approached me at the tail end of 2010 about collaborating on some watches. In 2011, the two watches I’d designed came to reality!

On the left is the Tron-inspired watch and on the right, the Rounders-inspired watch. Available from Scott’s Cargoh shop.

Scott’s just ordered cases for my next three watches and I am super excited.

Working in Rarified AIR
At the beginning of the year I was asked by the superb folk at Invivo to build a desktop AIR application that could take communication from an iPad as a sales tool. The answer, of course, was “sure!” To be fair, I’d never built an AIR application before, nor communicated with an iOS device, but whatever, right? With a little finagling and a socket server, we did just that.

Invivo seemed to like the work because shortly after they asked me to make another desktop app. This time, it was a quiz show with two states; one on one moderated and team-play. Once again the ask was to communicate with iOS devices. This time the devices would be 7 iPod touches and an iPad. Using a socket server, the communication was one-sided (the iPods only broadcasting, not listening) Anyway, this was another challenging, super-cool project.

Making a Movie… ?
I spoke at the 10-year FiTC in Toronto. (The Influxis Voodoo Lounge, to be specific). I was announcing my intention of making a documentary about the roots of inspiration in the digital industry. I’d called it, brazenly, Influential – The Age of Digital

Seems that, once again, I think HUGE while having small capabilities. Here’re some observations as I mosey along, slowly.

  • I don’t know how to make a movie/documentary
  • I don’t have money to make a movie/documentary
  • I seriously misjudged my ability to pull contributions
  • In the meantime, check out this awesome doc released recently. AND IT’S FREE! PressPausePlay It’s worth the watch. I promise.

    I am NOT an Activist
    On July 16th, my 4 yr-old son (4 at that time) asked me to write a letter to the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, to tell him:

    The response was so overwhelmingly positive, I told my pal, John Breton, to register the URL, Dear Mayor Ford and work up a little database and form for people to write letters to the mayor. It took off from there. The super cool Amber MacArthur mentioned us in a Globe and Mail post and John was interviewed on CBC’s Metro Morning! There’s a facebook page with some lively discussion and you can still write a letter to the mayor. It appears he won’t read them although we’ve offered him access to write responses to his taxpaying residents.

    Whatever, it’s been an interesting experience.

    Displacer’d

    My friend, Michael Morton, is a musician who goes by the name Displacer. He approached me about doing live visuals for his performances. I’ve already blogged about it, but man, it’s been a trip. I cannot wait to do this again with Mike.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay6nLicfErw

    A Ring for September

    I was approached by my good friend, Spencer Saunders, about helping his company, Juice Agency, out on a worthwhile cause: Septembering, an effort to raise funds for Trillium Childhood Cancer Support Center. The project is now offline, but it was a great project and allowed me to play with Box2D a little.

    AIRing out my differences

    My last major project for 2011 was an AIR application for MacLaren McCann and HP. An interactive screensaver that allowed users to get a pretty look at the new notebooks on offer from HP.

    I also renovated my kitchen this year (honestly it’s still in progress, embarrassingly, but it’s almost done.)

    Rhymes with Sleeve

    Most importantly, my wife, Libs gave birth to our beautiful daughter Niamh Ava on October 17th.

    There was a lot more work I did during the year, but I just have no energy to list it all. If you’re a client reading this, I love you. If you’re a potential client reading this, I want to love you. Wait… that sounded wrong… unless, you know, you’re into it… koff…

    The Freelance Series: Praycation

    Today I begin a month-long Praycation. What’s that? You’ve never heard of a Praycation? Maybe in some religious circles, a Praycation refers to something else entirely, but in freelance terms, a Praycation is what happens when you intentionally take time off. You spend that entire time worrying no work will follow it.

    I have been freelance for just over two years now. I take pretty much anything that crosses my desk. The first year was tough as I had extended periods of no work. As a freelancer, the term feast or famine is bandied about a lot. It refers to being extremely busy with a lot of work and then not being busy at all with no work whatsoever. My first year of freelancing was a lot like that. This year, however, I took a slightly different tack and prepared for famine better by saving more and budgeting more efficiently.

    I digress. I have been pummelled by work since May and have reached a breaking point psychologically. In that time, I also renovated my kitchen (with much help) and my wife had a baby! I took one day off (the birth of my daughter) and went right back to work. Needless to say, I am ready for time off. I even took my laptop to the cottage so I could work for the second year in a row.

    So I began not accepting any new work that extended into December. “I’m not available.” became my mantra. Lingering in the back of my head, every time I turned down a project is “Was that the last offer I get?”

    Now I am off, intentionally clearing my horizon. I can recharge, I can invest in my skills by learning some new stuff. I can work on a personal project or two and I can spend time with my family.

    Now I pray. I pray that after the countdown on New Year’s and I start extending the feelers for work that work can be found.

    Wish me luck.

    The Freelance Series: Do Your Work. Pay Your Taxes.

    Whenever I speak to someone with a full-time job and they get that wistful look on their face and say “I might try working from home”, I kind of smile.

    If they notice, I’m generally asked “What’s so funny?” I’ll respond with “Do your work. Pay your taxes.” Mostly they’ll wave their hand and give me a “pfffft.”

    Here are the two big problems* with working from home as opposed to being employed full-time:

    1. No-one tells you to go to work. Sure you get emails or phone calls from your client and their team, but you can successfully ignore them for days on end. I know this for a fact. When you’re in a crap mood and just want to play video games, watch movies, eat ice cream out of the container, there is literally no way anybody can cause you to do otherwise. However, this doesn’t get your job done and is remarkably harmful to your career. You become the unreliable guy.

    What’s the answer? Freelancing is your job. You find a location where you will work and that’s your office. Your work day needs to be just like when you go to an office. Wake up, make coffee, eat breakfast, wash up, go to work. Sit down at your desk and get your work day started. That’s what you do in an office. That’s what you do in your office. Do that all day. Stop for however many breaks you would take in an office environment. Smoker? Take your smoke break. Take a lunch break. Stand up, walk away, have lunch. But spend your work day as you would spend your work day in the presence of your coworkers. Do your job.

    2. Pay your taxes. When you work for a company full-time, they do your deductions for you. You get paid and that money is yours. You never have to think “Hmmm, I need to take one third of this money and set it aside for income tax. I need to take the HST off this and set it aside for my quarterly payout.”

    When you’re freelance, you look at a cheque and start immediately doing mental deductions. If you don’t, I’ll tell you what happens; You’ll do your taxes at the end of the year with your accountant, he’ll raise an eyebrow when you say, “Yeah, I didn’t pay any taxes yet.” Then he’ll (or she’ll) say “Ok, so you owe *insert amount anywhere between 15,000 and 30,000*” Now when that happened to me the first time, it was the last time. I had to work with the government and took a long time paying it off. In one of the conversations I had with a Revenue Canada employee, I asked “Can’t I set you up as a payee in online banking?” And he got quiet and said “Yes, possibly.” I was looking at my account online at the time and found Revenue Canada, added them and said “Can I just pay my income tax as it comes in?” and he replied, “I wish all self-employed individuals would.”

    Now, when I get paid, I deposit the cheque and immediately transfer my income tax payment. Maybe at the end of the year, I’ll owe a little money, possibly even get some back, but I know for a fact I have been paying my taxes.

    *There are plenty of problems and advantages to working from home, but these two? HUGE.

    The Problem with Freelance

    While the opportunity to work for a variety of companies is awesome, sometimes freelancing is a slightly harrowing experience. For instance, in one week I went from being booked on multiple projects until mid-july (awesome) to having each project pull out one at a time (harrowing). It’s not much fun, but I am spending some time on tattoocapture. We’ll see how far I can get with that.

    In the meantime, hello? Bueller? Gimme some work, yo!

    Creative, Technology and Flash

    If you’re not familiar with the standard agency model, you won’t know that Flash development falls under either of the two silos of development; Creative and Technology (sometimes referred to as Engineering).

    Now that you are familiar, understand something, I have been in either of those two silos for the entirety of my professional career. Even when I had my own corporation, I was titled “Technical Director” and my partner “Creative Director”.

    Why do we not recognize Flash as a separate entity? It’s been around for over ten years. With the addition of widespread broadband, it’s more prevalent than ever before. It has effectively knocked out all competitors in the online motion graphics realm. We have entire companies now that specialize in only flash dev and are contracting themselves out to agencies to execute their work.

    It’s my opinion, such as it is, that agencies need to revisit their office model and alter their thinking. Flash Developers and Designers have been honing their craft since the invention of the software. There need to be advocates for the craft at agencies, not developers speaking to Creative Directors or Technical Directors, giving their opinions. A new person at the agency table is needed.

    An equal voice in the form of a Flash department. Equal to Technology, equal to Creative.

    It’s long overdue.