A writer, photographer and also someone fascinated with digital marketing and the transformations that are a happening all around us.
The blog is for you if:
- You want to learn more about writing and you’re wondering if you can do it too.
- You’d like to become better at shooting photography, whether you wish to make a living from it or simply because you’re inspired by it.
- You’ve read one of my stories or features somewhere online or in print and kind of liked it and wanted to find more.
- You want to learn more about how to do digital marketing for yourself or your organisation
- You need someone who can create a digital marketing strategy for you and work with your team to achieve it. And you feel like we may be a good fit to work together.
You’ve got two ways of reading this About Me page.
Either you can see it as one of those cutesy sales pages of “How I quit my job and now I live the laptop lifestyle in a French farmhouse’. Hey, Buy My Course!!”
Yeah, it’s done to death these days.
Or you can read it as I hope you will.
How I did indeed quit my job wearing a suit and now finally live some kind of laptop life.
Except that I didn’t plan it that way and it took a lot longer than the Gurus will tell you.
The good thing is I’ve spared you from me writing it in the condescending third person. You know it’s me doing the writing, not my publicist.
So, here’s my story. It’s as brief as I can get it and still get over the points that I hope will help you. Two points in particular.
Point 1. – I’m not special. I’m not unique. Plenty of people are successful at living this way and there’s no reason why you should not do it too, should you wish to.
Point 2. If you wish to, you can do it. With planning, some changes to your belief system and above all, taking action, you can achieve the things you want.
However, don’t do what I did. At least have some kind of a plan.
Secondary School – It sucks. I hate football, which doesn’t help when your school is one of those all-in sports type places where your ability to be good in at least one team sport is a significant marker of your success. Then I go to the careers day and in the school hall are all of the big industries of my home town. Steel, petro-chemicals plus all the leading suppliers of apprenticeships. Gas, Electricity, telecoms. A bit of armed forces too.
The idea of serving an apprenticeship and a 30 year ‘job for life’ just didn’t make any sense. I didn’t know why, but I had an urge to turn around and run out of the room. It’s only now, years later, that I realise that actually, I was right all along.
I swerve that and sign up for two more years at college, studying to be a draftsman. I love the huge A-Zero sized drawing boards and the act of creating something technical on paper. This could be me.
Then someone invents CadCam computerised draughting. The idea of sitting before a huge glass monitor all day doesn’t appeal.
Time to pivot – the first of many.
1984 – 2000
Car sales. Not so much a pivot, more a complete departure. I was a shy kid who was rubbish at chatting up girls, couldn’t play football and hated team sports. I was pretty quiet and introverted. People raised eyebrows and even laughed at my new job. “You don’t have ‘the gift of the gab’, how can you be a salesman?”
I was lucky. My first boss saw something in me that he liked and gave me a chance. I’ll be forever grateful to him. He also mentored me on the ways of selling things that enabled long term relationships with customers and was an equitable, ethical way to sell.
It turned out that I was pretty good at it, because I didn’t have that ‘chat’ that everyone thought was needed. I had some great times, met some great people and we had a lot of fun. Little by little the industry changed. And so did I. I was slow to realise that I had done the things I wanted to do.
I realised that I was done with this, I needed to find another way. Yet it’s easy to stay in your ‘comfort zone’ and become ‘institutionalised’ into thinking that you can’t do anything else.
I spend the next five years selling my soul for money again and again as I looked at the alternatives, then turned away and took the money and the secure showroom job.
Eventually, I decided to jump.
Quite a big pivot.
I work for someone who has a great idea of setting up an independent car dealership, with me working to buy into my share. That turned out to be a spectacularly bad idea.
However I did learn how to build websites at a time when we all had 56k dial up boxes that plugged into the phone line and chirped away as the page slowly rolled down the screen of the giant monitor that was bigger than a microwave..
I then spend a brief spell in motorsport management where I learn a lot of things really, really quickly. Things like motorsport is a cut throat business and people’s default setting is to lie first then reflect later whether they should tell the truth.
Brutal but true.
I learned that my passion for photography was worth something. Magazine editors liked my work, asked me to shoot more, paid me real money. A business plan was hatched and some really expensive Canon full frame digital kit was bought.
I shot editorial work for a range of automotive magazines. Alongside that I also continued to build websites for clients. The photography element really gave me an added tool to enable me to work with clients to realise their style and objectives. I’m also writing the words that go along with the images and I’m finding that it’s actually really satisfying and that editors reckon I’m pretty good at it.
I’m shooting for some of the big image libraries too. Libraries such as Alamy, Corbis and also licensing stock images direct.
Then someone goes and invents the iPhone. Stock image income drops off a cliff.
It’s obvious that the stock photography industry is going to collapse. Those still clinging to the remaining floating bits of wreckage really need to strike out for a new shoreline and start again. I probably spent too long in denial and also listening to the old grey beards and roll neck sweater wearers who declared with indignation how unfair it all was.
Actually, I loved my iPhone and began to use it more and more. I also realised that the photography industry was undergoing a disruption, just like the music industry. You can try and stand on the shoreline like King Canute, but it ain’t happening.
I’m given a chance opportunity to get into track driver instructing, a skill that I didn’t know I had but which Andy at Ice Driver spotted in me. He mentored and taught me how to instil performance driving skills into people at high speed from the passenger seat and stay alive in the process. It wasn’t a full time job, however it was a significant part of my life and I learned an awful lot over that period.
Meanwhile, I’m still shooting photography, still writing, still creating websites for people.
I realised that while I loved photography, writing, even track driver coaching, I also loved the basic principles of ethically selling things. And I loved writing just as much, if not more.
Gradually, I knew that if I took my experiences of face to face selling things to people, added in an ability to write, ranging from sales copy to stories and features, then mixed in photography too, you arrived at a combination that made a powerful digital marketing tool.
Then the track driving experience industry is decimated by a similar disruption created by outside forces that we see very often today and I decide I need to make a plan to gradually leave it behind.
I leave behind the days of sitting in the passenger seat of a Ferrari talking really quickly while breathing in through my ears and concentrate on my core skills – writing, producing content, marketing – and more and more on what had become a strong belief.
That belief is that I can use this diverse range of skills and experiences to help others, to teach you how to do the things that I do and also build a sustainable business for myself around it.
I look back now and reflect upon the events and experiences that have brought me to where I am. And when I tell people some of these things, they are surprised to hear it and declare that I really should be using the experiences to help others do the same thing.
The thing is, as I said earlier, I’m not special or exceptional. And as you may have realised if you’ve read this far, I didn’t have a plan either.
So that’s the About Neill page, now there’s a few choices for you:
- If you want to learn more about how to do some of the things that I’ve been lucky enough to do, then the Start Here page, as you will guess, is a good place to go.
- If you’re a business, brand, person, publisher or organisation who needs help and you think we may be a good for for each other, then take a look at the page that says Work With Neill.
- I have an email newsletter that you might like. Each week, I send out a short email with some useful information that I think will help. Sometimes it’s one of my blog posts, other times it’s some of the more uplifting things that are happening in the world. I’m not talking pictures of cats, I mean things that some truly inspirational people are working on that’s of real value to the world in the future. If you’d like it, sign up below.
- Finally, you could just call me. Yeah, I know sounds freaky, right? Funny thing is, if you think we can work together, we can cover a lot of ground in a telephone call or a Skype session. Try it, it’s amazing. +44 7812 766760
Neill Watson, August 2020.