Saturday, 28 November 2009

I don't have time to scratch

Well, what an interesting few weeks it's been. So many people have advised setting up on Twitter etc, but who has the time to sit and twit?? I don't have time to scratch most days and hence the delay between blogging posts.

In the last few weeks I've taken a booking from a company for massive number of people on a bespoke walk as a Christmas function. It will be broken down into smaller groups leaving at staggered times. The tour numbers started much lower but once they heard what we were doing, the numbers went up by 50% almost overnight. So the idea of a London walk doing a Mystery Photography Tour is pretty popular and unique. If anyone is stuck for a last minute Christmas function, this is it! Anyway, doing the research, incorporating several pubs along the way, training 4 extra guides for the walk, running market stalls both in London and out in the boonies, holding night tours, and all the general non-stop running around like a Hairy Goat has kept me really flat out.. Oh, and don't forget the radio interview on Westminster University's station with a couple of lovely guys Darby and Ed on .

And I've eliminated a stalker. With a bit of luck and care, there won't be another..

Plus I've taken on my first commission job for taking photos for a lady's bathroom. Do you know how hard it is to find a reasonably priced rubber duck in London, that also doesn't have a brand across it's chest??

The photo of the London bus and taxi in the rain is still selling and I know that one of them is heading over to Australia as part of a present to an English lady who misses England dreadfully. Looking at that picture may help get her over the homesickness. Though it still stops people in their tracks when I display it at Leadenhall market. Everyone loves it.

When I started up Hairy Goat I thought that there would be tours 7 days a week, twice a day.. It hasn't worked out that way yet, but summer will bring an increase in tour numbers and dates again. By then maybe some of the tour guides will feature Hairy Goat, and it will be on the tourist websites . They are an extortionate price to join, but they do provide access to a phenomenal amount of visitors. But meantime, I'm expecting that over Christmas there won't be an abundance of people on tour so the last tour for 2009 will be on Sunday 20th Dec and the first tour for 2010 will be on 2nd January. If there is anyone out there wanting a tour in the middle of that time, the minimum number will be 3 adults and you need to get in conctact with me. Otherwise during that time I'll be making some major changes on the website, catching up on the mountains of paperwork that never seems to go away, and having a couple of sleep-ins! And giving my feet a well earned rest.

Am about to head out on a night tour and thankfully it's not raining. But it's going to be a nippy time.
Catch you later.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Searching for a unique present?

So, cold weather has certainly arrived and Christmas is on it's way. A London walk on a brisk day is great.
In the last few weeks I've sold a few copies of the photo of the London Bus and Taxis in the rain. A shop in Charing Cross has also taken some on to sell. Whenever anyone sees that photo, the standard reaction is "That's London". When I was telling a lady in Cass Art about it and I showed her a small version of the photo, she promptly bought a copy, and so did the lady in the line behind me! Ask me if I was excited?

Over the last few weeks, Gift Vouchers have been selling really well for both birthday and Christmas presents. It's an economical £20 for a day tour and £30 for a night tour, plus there are £5, £10 and £20 for anyone not sure whether to buy a photo or a tour as a present. So, it seems like I'm going to be busy in the New Year, which is great. I had expected numbers to completely drop or almost disappear since the end of summer but it's been a great relief to see that there are keen people out there.
I've started running some bespoke Night Tours and dates as well, so if you have an urge for doing something different in the evening, either come along or call me to arrange a tour. Otherwise the Night tours start mid afternoon on alternate Saturdays so we can still catch some sunset before all the lights come on.

What about a cheap Christmas work function? We still want them but naturally companies don't want to spend as much these days. A tour is a great way of socialising and talking about anything except work! And then you can have a drink or dinner afterwards.. and maybe run a competition on the best/worst/most interesting photo.

The feedback from recent clients has been great and I thank them for taking the time to write in. I'm in the process of registering Hairy Goat on Trip Advisor (sorting out a glitch at the moment) so hopefully that will bring in some extra feedback and clients too.
Thanks to everyone who is telling anyone about the tour. It's really appreciated and I can see that word of mouth is starting to work.

If you know of anyone that has an old brochure distributed in summer or has plans to come on a tour, could you please let them know that tour dates and times have changed (and will continue to do so over winter). Please check the website or call me to confirm times and days. It simply isn't possible to notify everyone of the changes except via the website and new brochures. So it has happened that someone turned up at the old time and wasn't impressed to find me not there.
This first year of operation for Hairy Goat is really turning out quite differently than I anticipated. It's still very much a struggle to get enough clients, access to the tourist market is not as simple as I expected, and maybe I should have researched some more before setting up the company.. But then if I had, I may have just gone travelling around the world instead! But then, I may not have had the intense challenges, met so many interesting and helpful people, (nor the people who seem to have an issue with the Hairy Goat name), or pushed myself so hard and learnt so much!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

There's always something happening!

Hello again.. Remember me?
When I looked at the date of the last post it made me realise just how busy I've been. 5 weeks is a long time between updates. In that time, BBC London website contacted me and came out on a London walk with the Hairy Goat London Photography Mystery Tour and gave a great review on the website. For some reason I can't add the links, but they are on my website if you want to read all about it. Group Travel Organiser are about to do a feature as well.

What else? Yep, Market days are now a feature, with a stall down at Greenwich Market on Saturdays, and Leadenhall Market on Wednesdays. The hardest thing to deal with is the 2km walks and 65kg of photos to wheel or carry up and down hills and train station steps. Thanks very much to those who have helped me along the way, but unfortunately there are very few of them! Where did "giving a helping hand" go? One day I'll get a car as a taxi fare is extortionate.

The compliments are flying thick and fast on the photos, but so far it's not paying the bills. Everyone else with stalls at the markets are saying the same thing, that no-one has any money. Personally I think that the money is there, but everyone is hanging onto it "just in case"..or waiting for the last minute Christmas Sales. I'll be at BP's Compass Point offices on Tuesday 2nd Nov and some of their other offices shortly.

However, I took some of my images into a shop on Charing Cross Road and they have bought one of them in postcard and poster formats. I was so excited that when I was in Cass Art buying some stock, that I told the cashier about it and showed her the image.. She promptly bought a copy on the spot, as did the lady in the line behind me. That made my day!

Tonight is the first Night Mystery Tour.. So far the weather is looking pretty good and I hope that it all works out well. Last night I did another walk around and it's amazing how much happens in a day.. Coverings are going up on Tower Bridge (again), lights have been turned on and off in various locations, so it's just as well it's a Mystery Tour so I can change it on the spot! The next tour is on 31st Oct.

The day tour frequency has been reduced for autumn and winter as most of the clients seem to be commuters who are now back at work, which leaves me time to run the stalls, plus pick up a bit of photography work for a previous employer. I had been dreading a possible return to part time work back inside a building, but their offer will keep us both happy and keep the bills paid.

Being outside all day, every day is something I really enjoy and from the looks on some people's faces when I'm handing out brochures, there's a bit of pity and curiosity that someone my age is giving out brochures for a living..Don't feel sorry for me, the freedom to run my day as I see fit is superb!
Anyone noticed the spectacular sunrises we've been getting over Tower Bridge lately?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Does anyone know where I can get an extra 6 hours into my day?

Hello and long time no type!
I can't believe how manic it has been. Tour numbers picked up for a while, and then the sales, back to school week, the Thames Festival and Nottinghill Carnival hit London and Hairy Goat became a low priority for anyone and everyone except for a couple of us. Even some of the tube lines weren't working properly so London was a difficult place for a week or so.

Over the last few weeks I've had terrific support from another Aussie girl, Axx, and a young English girl, Bxxxx who have helped hand out brochures every morning and afternoon. Bxxxx had been living on the streets for some time and I hoped I could give her enough work to help get her back on her feet. Axx is a complete boon and knowing that I can give her any job to do and it will be done properly would make me the envy of many a boss.
Unfortunately, a few lousy weeks makes all the difference and I can't afford 2 helpers, which is a complete shame as the confidence Bxxxx picked up after a couple of weeks work was really obvious. So if anyone has a need for someone to help with brochure distribution or odd jobs, I have the person for you.. Just get in touch with me.

Over the last couple of weeks, photos, mounts, tape, and copious amounts of paraphernalia has been filling my room. Tomorrow I launch my photos on Greenwich Market customers and hope they have cash to splash. I'm so excited at how well they have turned out as A3 or A2 size. So if you have any interest in seeing the actual photos, come along and say Hi. It's been an exceedingly time consuming process to set up mounts for 70 huge photos. And I must confess that the thought of spending most of my day in one spot and most likely sitting down, is pretty exciting. However, as falling asleep on a train within 2 mins is a standard occurrence for me these days, I'm sincerely hoping I don't get caught napping on the job if it's quieter than expected!
Have a lovely weekend and will provide another update soon.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A mixed week.

London Mystery Photography Tour

Just when I think I may have cracked the market, someone teaches me a lesson in humility. Saturday, Monday and Wednesday clients arrived, but then the other days were disappointingly empty. Though I still had more work to do than I can achieve, I'd much rather farm that out to someone one else and go for a meander around the city streets of London instead!

And hasn't the weather been sensational for quite a few days? Don't think about the occasional shower/storm, generally it's been great. Those of you who peer out the curtain and see a grey sky, and then crawl back into bed miss the fantastic opportunities of buildings with no shadows and reflections with no glaring light. And for those of you that decided a sleep-in was more important, you won't believe what the Thames looked like this morning, plus the shadows of the lamps on the PLA building were fantastic. Yesterday morning the Thames was like a glassy pond and the shine was intense. I can't help but stop and take photos.

And when the day is beautiful like today, well, what could be better than walking around for a few hours discovering the city of London in fine detail? On the weekend, there's hardly anyone else around and standing in the centre of the street isn't a hazard!

Someone turned up on my tour who kept me on my toes. This gentleman had been pretty much all over the city, more than once, so a quick revision of intended locations for the day was required..Fortunately I still managed to show him some sights/ sites, that he hadn't seen before.

A few clients recently have said that they are the "guinea pigs" for groups of friends and colleagues. If they like this tour, the others will all come. I can only say that if you wait too long to find out for yourself, I'll be broke and Hairy Goat will have closed down and you will have missed out on a great tour.

This week I had several gentlemen early in the week who intended to tell their international friends that "this is the tour you need to do when you visit London". All clients have wanted brochures to give to friends and colleagues. It's difficult to get people to write on a blog on my behalf and I have no intention of faking anything. So attached below are either comments that have been received either by email or verbally from some of my clients.

From Adam on 3rd Aug via email. Comments: Quick note to say thanks for the tour on Saturday. Very interesting and your knowledge of quirky London facts is impressive. Good luck for the future.
From Ian Riley on 26 July via email: I very much injoyed to tour last week. Thanks for your time and expertise
From Wajjid ( verbally) on 17 Aug: This is the tour I'm going to tell my friends to do when they visit London.
From David and Warren (verbally) on17 Aug: I've had the most wonderful afternoon and can you do a night photography tour?
From Kath and Tom (verbally) on 15 Aug: What your are offering is unique. There is nothing else like it. We're going to tell our friends that they need to do this tour and can we have some more brochures?
From Neil and Maurizio (verbally) 23 Aug: Keep it up as it's a great tour and in time it will be very successful and can you put our names down for a night time tour?

So, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, 15 August 2009

He who hesitates misses out!

Well, the day started out dull and cool but as usual it's changing by the minute. So if you are thinking of coming out on a tour and get deterred because the weather looks rubbish, pay no attention to it. Believe it or not, it's only rained once on a tour in the last 3 weeks. (Admittedly, some days no one turns up, so do I count those days?)

Every weekday I'm out and about near a train station handing out brochures for the Hairy Goat London Photography Mystery Tour. The positive reaction from people approaching me for a brochure is encouraging and everyone is "coming along in a couple of weeks".. But please don't wait too long to come on a tour, because my supply of baked beans is running out and shortly I'll seriously have to reconsider how to continue paying my rent!

I've also been asked about young children under 12 coming on the tour. I have said on the brochure it isn't suitable, but if you know that your child is developing an interest (pun intended) in photography or history and is happy to come along for 3 hours, then by all means bring them. For free!

Just yesterday, I was near Liverpool St Station, and a fellow recognised me. He was interested in coming along on the tour but found the £20 fee to be a deterrent. So while I was standing there, I asked if he'd seen the massive perfect reflection in the building right next to us. He admitted that he was on this street regularly and had never noticed it.. And what about the gold beaver weather vane on the building diagonally opposite, plus all the other building features? (The building had belonged to the Hudson Bay Company and the features were appropriate to their business.) But, nope, he'd never noticed them either. So, I said he can certainly walk the streets for free, but he'd been doing that regularly already and hadn't seen the two things I showed straight away. And every day I find something new. Yesterday I found a fantastic frieze/coat of arms of two upright camels tucked in an alley and set into a wall.

I missed the photo of the week yesterday. It would have been called the Three Speeds of Red. At the stoplights, pulled up a red Ducati (my favourite bikes), then a fit cyclist on a racing bicycle wearing a red t'shirt.. then alongside pulled up a red t'shirted very unfit cyclist on a fold up bike. It was a perfect shot. But I dithered, and lost it.

But carrying a camera does pay off. You know how you do a double take when you see someone but are surprised by it? I was pretty sure I'd seen him strolling along the day before in Trafalgar Square but while delivering brochures to hotels the next day, I saw him again. It was The Hof, David Hasselhof. And he had agreed to a photo with one of the hotel staff, who had nothing but a camera phone. Did I gain brownie points with the staff when I produced the camera?

I have to say, this new life is great. But it would be a lot better if I could afford to keep it up, and give someone else a job too.

Monday, 3 August 2009

News Flash

NEWS FLASH! - Monday 3 August 2009

Hairy Goat is investing in the future of the Arts.
Today I am proud to announce the decision to become a patron of young and upcoming musical theatre performer Brittany Field. After a series of gruelling auditions Brittany has been accepted into the renowned Guildford School of Acting’s BA (Hons) Musical Theatre course.
Find out about Brittany’s quest to become a performer on London’s West End on her website or if you see Brittany out and about promoting Hairy Goat’s London Photography Mystery Tours at a popular railway station say “hi” and ask her about it personally.
Brittany will be keeping us up to date with news about her progress and who knows one day Hairy Goat might be escorting tours to see her in a major London production.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

So here it is, another Saturday night spent with a hot printer.. And no, it's a device, not a real life one. I'm sure my social life would be the envy of no-one :-)

But it's all good. I have signed up to quite a few directories and websites etc. In the morning while I'm patiently holding my sign up for the unhappy hordes to read as they rush past, the Hairy Goat name brings a smile to a few faces and looks of puzzlement to others. But now people are getting used to seeing me and are now approaching for a brochure or some information on the London Photography Mystery Tour. Some people have been generous with their time and even giving tips on places to see. Thanks to Paul, Karen and Chris. Word of mouth may turn out to be the best form of advertising after all. A young guy was so taken with the Hairy Goat sign, he wanted a photo of it. I told him to take a photo of my t'shirt as well, so who knows where my picture will end up!

Even one of the ladies from a huge competitor today generously encouraged her group to step my way and some did, though only collecting brochures and information, so I hope to see them on a tour soon.

I forgot to mention I had my first paying customer during the week and it was gratifying to see enjoyment and satisfaction in progress. Thank you Ian, and I think I'll frame the first £20 earnt.

And so, tomorrow while most of the UK has a sleep in, I'll be heading into London waiting patiently for the adventurous explorers to come for a walk with me. The sun is going to shine, so come along!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

I'm getting a tan!

The last month has been a huge improvement on the summer's of the last 3 years. Admittedly over the last week, there has been random rainbursts but the sun is often out and it's warm enough to wear shorts! Who would have believed it? It's a good year to start working outside. The sunscreen and hat are on for most of the day, and I'm still acquiring a tan.

I've started to sign up for as many online business directories as possible and looked at other forms of advertising besides brochures. My first choices, with free magazines and papers cost more than I can afford at the moment, so I'm still reliant on whatever I can get for free, or as little as possible. Having said that, I'm still likely to buy an ad in TimeOut over the next week or so and my friend Shadan of ididjeridoo sent me a long list of online directories. Very helpful, so thanks!

The photo printer has been going non-stop for 6 hours and the continual noise is enough to drive anyone a little potty. My eyes are falling out of my head and it's time for bed.
Catch you another day.

Friday, 17 July 2009

My kingdom for some toner!

Hello again
I've learnt a valuable lesson over the last few days. Have as much back up stock as possible because not everything goes to plan. My brand new laser printer for brochure production is sitting gathering cobwebs because the manufacturer has completely sold out of toner. Nationwide!! With no shipment due for two weeks. I'm sure I'm not the only unhappy Lexmark owner in the UK. So, unless I want to take out another mortgage to pay for the work to be contracted out, I'm now producing the brochures on my photo printer at a much higher price, and taking 5 times as long. Live and learn.

Thanks to everyone for spreading the word about Hairy Goat around. The website is having hits from Portugal, USA, Netherlands, Australia, UAE, Algeria, South Africa and obviously the UK. It's great to see that many are return visitors to the site and I really would like to hear from you if you have any suggestions or comments. I'm certainly no expert on setting up a business or a website and there are many constructive comments out there!

Handing out brochures and business cards is an interesting experience. First thing in the morning, commuters want nothing, unless it looks like a gift. It gives a more positive impression by just holding a sign which is easily read as people rush past. Those who are interested come and ask about it. Tourists are the most polite, invariably using thank you whether they take a brochure or decline it.

Every day is interesting and there have been very few negative experiences, apart from Lexmark and their faulty logistic operations.

Hope your day is interesting too.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

A huge learning process

Ever since I decided to go ahead with establishing Hairy Goat, it's been a non-stop process of learning, decision making, spending and continual work. I have to say that being in control of my future is a wonderful situation as I'm not scared of hard work and have a lot of faith in the Hairy Goat business.
Ever since the launch of Hairy Goat last week, I have received so many encouraging emails from friends and colleagues, along with the contructive comments I had asked for. When setting up a website, it's easy to forget the simplest things, and one of those for me was putting a note saying that payments for photos are made via Paypal. So, please, if you have any ideas, please let me know.
I realise now that I have too many photos and will have to do some serious culling as the galleries are too unwieldy.
Thanks to those of you who have forwarded my website to friends over the world and would ask you to keep it up. Apart from direct marketing with brochures and business cards to hotels and hostels, hopefully an article in a couple of relevant magazines, standing outside Tower Hill Tube Station today with a sign, and becoming friends with at least 10 Concierges at upmarket hotels in London, this is how I will get the support to make Hairy Goat viable.

An 8 hour sleep at night is long gone, and I don't mind!


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Hairy Goat Inaugural Blog!

Hello and welcome to the Hairy Goat Limited blogsite!

Please use this blog to give me any feedback on my website, my photos, tours or tips on interesting places to see or photo opportunities.

I hope you enjoy the website and even more, I'd love to have you running around like a Hairy Goat on a London Mystery Photography Tour.