Two years on!

I just thought I’d post another entry to this blog, seeing as it’s over a year since the last one. This does not mean I’ve been idle during this time; far from it. In fact the fact I’ve been so busy is the reason I don’t write more blogs here.

In October 2014, while on holiday in Lanzarote, I marked the two-year anniversary of taking over the publishing of H&E naturist magazine. So, two years down the line, how is it all going?

Well, some people might be surprised it’s still going at all, as they might have wondered how I would possibly continue to manage on my own where a company with quite a few more employees, and an accounts department, left off. Streamlining a lot of areas of the business has helped enormously; for example, outsourcing the subscriptions department to Warners has meant I’m not answering the phone every minute. I also work with Steve Tiernan, a consultant who runs Magazine Workshop, and he helps on organising the printing/distribution side of things, as well as managing social media updates. And if I can use time-saving gadgets (my Dymo label-maker is a particular godsend), then I absolutely will. Every minute counts when you’re on your own.

So I’m still doing pretty much everything there is to do. The magazine that hits the shelves each month has been edited, designed and produced entirely by me – but again, I am reliant and very, very grateful to the small army of regular and occasional contributors who provide the actual content with which to work. If I had to write it all as well, that would be nigh-on impossible.

I’ve tried to gradually improve the magazine, and I think – I hope – it shows. When I took it on, it was a slim, thin volume of 76 pages. Now, it is a much heavier, glossy publication of 92 pages (occasionally 100). I fervently believe that if you’re paying nearly £4 for a magazine it should feel and look good-quality. There should be enough in there for you to keep dipping in and out of for a number of days, not just flick through and toss aside. This has obviously cost me more in printing and postage, but I feel it’s worth it.

I’ve tried to be more inventive and creative with marketing – offering exclusive spin-off products such as calendars, mugs, mouse mats and Christmas cards based on the incredible wealth of nostalgia I have in my archive of magazines that goes back to 1921. I figured it would be crazy not to exploit such a unique resource, and I haven’t finished yet. I am digitising as much of my archive as I have time to, and am currently looking at how best to market that. Setting up a something like the British Newspaper Archive would be brilliant, but such a service would need considerable time and investment.

And I’ve also worked to put H&E out there a bit more in terms of social media and the digital world. People can subscribe to a page-turning edition which is compatible with smartphones and tablets, and there is also an app for Apple and Android. This, regrettably, has to be censored, owing to Apple and Google’s ridiculous double-standards, but I feel it’s better to be out there than not. We have more than 5,000 followers on Facebook and over 3,500 on Twitter.

There is loads, loads more to do, and that’s where being on your own proves to be a bit of a hindrance. I don’t want to reach a situation where I’m at a hiatus; where I get bored and stagnate because I can expand no further. But I am the sort of person who believes that if you want something doing, do it yourself. I am not very good at handing over responsibility for things, simply because I know I am good at what I’m doing. Why pay for someone else to do an inferior job? And even the companies that I do have to pay to do certain essential things have let me down on occasion, which is frustrating as I strive never to let anyone down, ever. And it’s worth mentioning that in all my years editing H&E, even before I took it over, I have never missed a print deadline. Missing deadlines isn’t something I’m in the business of doing, especially now doing so could seriously hit my cashflow due to less time on the newsstand.

I was recently inspired by fellow Hull creative Rebecca Shipham, who won the Freelancer of the Year award, to join the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE). This offers loads of benefits, including significant compensation for time lost if you are ill, or if you face any expensive confrontations with the taxman.

If I have any resolutions for the coming year, then, they would be to network more, locally and nationally, and to explore what resources are out there for small businesses like me. I would love to be able to expand and invest more in areas such as distribution and advertising, but I can’t do this without some sort of cash injection. Speculate to accumulate, and all that stuff. I know that investment will pay off, even in such a niche market. I’m convinced there is room for expansion. To this end, Barclays say they are able to help by offering me a dedicated business adviser; he has already given me some pointers which I intend to follow up during a quiet week (ha!). It’s natural to be suspicious of banks’ motives so I’ll see how that goes; all I would say is, for a bank, I’ve been pretty happy with Barclays overall.

And since I reached the £15,000 net annual spend threshold with the Royal Mail, I have now gone legit and, instead of running after the postman and hoping he’ll spot me in the street, he now comes to my door to collect all my bags. No longer do I have to hump 10 kilos of post half a mile down the street! Yes, I do all that too…