Freelancer – Five Months In

Avoid Freelancer. It’s a race to the bottom.

That’s the first bit of advice I received when I assumed the role of ‘definitely a copywriter’.

Actually, that was the second piece of advice. You know, after, “What the fuck are you doing? You don’t even know how to use commas?!

It was a valuable lesson from a real life writer. That’s why I ignored it.

Now five months in, and still experiencing professional freefall, I’ll happily admit he was right.

Yes. Freelancer is a race to the bottom.

Not because the money’s dreadful. That’s a given.

No, it’s a race to the bottom because most employers don’t want words, they want tripe. Or they want writers who are happy to transform their tripe into andouillette.

I guess that’s great if you’re developing a haggis-shaped, entry-level portfolio. But maybe it’s not so great if you aren’t.

As I’m going for more of a century egg vibe, I’ve been forced to trash a lot of blue collar, gourmet work.

So I thought I’d post what I’ve learned about Freelancer here. It’s expert advice. Yes, all $291.48 and €17 of it.

How’s Freelancer Different From Other Platforms?

It’s not.

Freelancer isn’t really that different from other online freelance marketplaces. Whether you’re comparing to Upwork, Fiverr, or Worksome. Sure one’s got a blue logo, one has a light green logo, another’s more bile-tinged, but the principles are the same.

The setup’s simple. Employers post projects, then freelancers submit proposals to secure them. In the case of copy writing, employers review the proposals then select a worthy butcher.

When bidding for a project, success depends on a range of factors. How willing the writer is to work for below minimum wage, how many times they’ve already whored themselves out (ironically, the more the better), and whether the person still has enough savings to pay for their proposal to appear first. 

However, while the other sites are largely the same, my experiences on Freelancer have been strange.

Freelancer Employers Love Sex and Erotica

First, I noticed that a lot of employers on Freelancer are perverts.

The first project I won was to rewrite the SEO title, meta description and footer for a premier adult tube, let’s call it Sleaze Miners.

This job was legit and quite fun.

I thought my work was particularly creative too. Here’s a sample:

Sleaze Miners dig deep down the shaft of depravity to bring you the hottest, wettest, nastiest free porn videos online. Cum penetrate our latest hardcore quarry.

Henry’s First Freelance Writing Project

It’s good, isn’t it?! I bet you would have taken the easy option and misinterpreted the ‘Miners’ bit.

Anyway, great. That’s a realistic, manageable project. But it’s definitely about sex.

A lot of the listings just are.

Last week I stumbled on a job listing to write an op-ed for Ian Cox.

Haven’t heard of him?

He’s a sexual-explorer-cum-inventor who discovered how to extend the duration of the male orgasm 14-fold. How? By tying cords around his testacles.

He wanted someone to pitch an article about his life’s work to Men’s Health. I would have helped, but his blog made me realise my complete sexually inadequacy. Seven minutes? Surely not.

Seperately, back in August I wrote a wonderful listicle for rather ameuturish erotic sex shop, Heated Erotica

Unfortunately, my work wasn’t accepted. Apparently ‘Premature Ejaculation Needn’t Be The End’ didn’t satisfy.

Lesson 1: Freelancers full of deviants who need help peddling their perversions. More evidence that sex sells.

You Can Specialise In Writing Fake Reviews

You know Alibaba?

It’s the online marketplace where you can order industrial quantities of crap from China. Westerners buy goods by the container, then sell them to their gluttonous neighbours through Amazon’s Fulfillment service.

So yeah, Alibaba is the Amazon FBA Seller’s Mecca.

A lot of would be Amazon FBA Sellers commission work on the platform. So, it seems funny that a lot of Chinese manufacturers regularly post listings offering $40 for a fake review on the platform

I guess it’s hard to police.

Lesson 2: Freelancer is the reason your Amazon FBA Business failed.

Coders Prefer Upwork To Freelancer

Why is this relevant? Well, Freelancer taught me that coders prefer Upwork.

How?

Chinese coders regularly offer me $200 a month to use my Upwork Account and IP Address

Don’t worry, you won’t be caught in the middle of price fixing scandal if you just say no. 

Lesson 3: Freelancer and Upwork appear to be in cahoots.

Native English Speakers Can Charge A Premium

A lot of freelancers claim to be expert English writers, but don’t speak the language. 

That’s why it’s so easy to make a killing on Freelancer in the copywriting competitions.

However, it’s a double edged sword. A lot of employers can’t speak English either. 

This can make it quite the challenge when you’ve been commissioned to write a tagline or come up with a new brand name. 

As a tip, I’ve found that they often like fancy Latin words and portmanteau name suggestions.

For instance, if they have a fitness brand and their core values are love, you’d be onto a winner if you suggested a name like LoNess, or Squit (love squeeze fitremember, the ‘love’ is silent).

Practically, it means that a lot of the briefs are pretty shit. 

But that’s a new skill for your CV, right?

Lesson 4: If the future is Freelancer, the future is broken English.

Freelancer Forever

Perhaps I should stop staring into my screen, but scarily, I think Freelancer represents the future. 

How can you justify hiring, let’s say an illustrator full-time at £25k pa, when you can commission a logo that’s 80% there for £5?

Maybe the road towards meritocracy is acceptance that right now, employers might be overvaluing output and skills.

Lesson 5: Perhaps the future is writing about sex and letting other people use your IP address.

Inspired By Freelancer

On a less dour note, Freelancer has been a great inspiration for Secret Santa presents. 

If I get a job by December, I’m getting my secret santa these testicle tighteners.

REVIEW: All Points East – Victoria Park, Saturday & Sunday – 25 & 26 May 2019

or how Henry learned that day festivals suck (AGAIN)

Thanks to my own initiative (a competition on Dice), I’d bagged entry to All Points East: London’s premier-early-summertime-day-festival in Victoria Park

I was now able to attend performances on both Saturday AND Sunday, which meant I had the chance to see at least two headliners: the Strokes AND Christine and the Queens.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know who Christine and the Queens were (probably a French Queens of the Stone Age cover band). I’d finally won tickets to something and two at that!

Like a toddler that hadn’t been changed all day, I felt the urge to roll around and share the glory of my own majesty with everyone.

And what was the easiest way to do that? Reminiscing, stupid!

So I thought back to last year’s All Points East. Oh yeah, I went to that one too and what a time we had!

There was that duet between Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. It was magical.

Then I remembered feeling totally inspired by Patti Smith’s wail to action. It was also magical.

And as I made sure that the memory was spread evenly across the carpet of my mind, I remembered that everyone had sung in a field of roses, roses without thorns and it was absolute bliss.

Why you should always think a little harder than you actually do

As the memory hit its climax, I remembered Patti Smith calling out to the audience:

Rise up, oh rise up my young flowers, if we all sing together we’ll break the machine and be free to love each other forever. It’s the sixties all over again. Yeah, we changed the world and it’s great now because of us.

Wait, the world isn’t great now, is it?

I then learned that everyone else had won tickets on Dice too.

Then my girlfriend said she didn’t want to come on Sunday.

Then I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to rub anyone’s face in the fact that I’d finally won something.

And then I started to remember that no, last year’s All Points East hadn’t been that good, had it?

I looked on the internet to confirm my suspicions. Reading this review on Resident Adviser just confirmed that people who write for RA take too much ecstasy (it really damages your brain).

Yep, it was confirmed. Last year had definitely been awful.

But I tried to not get myself down. I mean, it was going to be sunny. Maybe I could still drink too much and have a fun time?

Turns out I was wrong. Just like I had been wrong last year.

Having definitely experienced this before and now having absolutely no desire to experience it again, I decided to write down exactly why All Points East was an awful experience (AGAIN) and why I never want to go back, EVER AGAIN.

Henry’s list of things that you should definitely read before accepting tickets to go to All Points East

1. The people often suck

Why do a lot of the people at day festivals suck?

Because they’re the types who think the best place to see Foo Fighters is from the seated bit at the back of Greenwich O2.

It’s not. The best way to see Foo Fighters is sticking your head down a u-bend screaming Monkey Wrench.

I don’t need to labour this further. No, someone provided me with the perfect example while I was queuing on Saturday.

Get comfortable and I’ll set the scene:

To the left there was a poster boasting that Mumford & Sons’ latest LP was the Daily Telegraph’s 2018 Album of the Year. Even though I don’t think it was?

Ahead, there were swathes of white people and despite the overpowering scent of sun block, the back of everyone’s necks and ears were piglet pink.

All Points East - Entrance
I think Instagram invented ‘English people filters’ that help mask all the pink – All Points East: the queue

And get ready, because behind there stood the most disingenuous couple I have ever had the pleasure of eavesdropping on, EVER.

The mysterious couple’s All Points East queue conversation

The girl, “Oh, you know that babe that I’m totally obsessed with on Instagram? Yeah? Well she’s in Majorca and it looks so LUSH. She just looks so LUSH. She’s SO beefed right now. It’s really inspiring me. You know what? I’m gonna go beefer.”  

The guy, “Ah, babe this is why I love you so much. It would be my absolute pleasure to go beefer with you.

The girl then responded, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH [BEEF] BABE.

Lucky for them, everyone’s cattle prods were confiscated at the entrance.

2. The bands don’t have a very good incentive to play well  

If someone wrote you a check for £50,000 and then said all you had to do was jump around the stage at the petting zoo, would you put on your best performance?

Probably not.

This year, it’s already been reported that the Strokes sounded like underwater karaoke. Look, it’s in the Independent.  

For some reason though, the Independent didn’t get in touch with me for a quote.

It’s a shame because I actually spent most of the Strokes’ performance standing to the right of the main stage – exactly where it sounded bad. I’m afraid that I need to testify that while the Strokes were hard to hear (and there was one hell of a lot of booing), it did not sound like underwater karaoke.

All Points East - the Strokes
Proof that I definitely saw the Strokes. Actually, it does look a little like underwater love – All Points East on Saturday

But I can tell you that it’s a shame it wasn’t underwater karaoke. If it had been, all the people who were singing, “nah-na-nahh-na-nah-nahhhh-nahhhhh,” to that guitar bit that everyone knows in 12:41 would have probably swallowed a little too much water.

3. The blatant commercialism

Is there anything more rock and roll than new tires, credit cards, electronic cigarettes and an inability to seduce someone in person (Tinder, I’m looking at you)?

Apparently not.

All Points East’s website describes the companies that sell all of these great things as partners not sponsors.

You know that’s the corporate way of saying ‘I’m with the band’.

And I hate to labour the point, but the adverts are so hard to ignore.

Here were my favourites:

  1. The Logic Vape tent (how is it ok to advertise vapes but it’s not ok to advertise cigarettes? All those vape adverts just remind everyone that they used to smoke real cigarettes. I mean, if I was working in Marlboro’s advertising department right now I’d just invent a vape that looks like a pack of Marlboro Reds and plaster that everywhere)
  2. The Huawei spying platform (yes, Huawei had a platform directly opposite the main stage, where else would it be?), and
  3. The totally Radical American Express card holders wristband that granted an ever so exclusive set of people access to an ever so exclusive tent at the side, filled with other people who also had American Express cards.

Can you imagine a tent full of people who only have two things in common: an Amex card and a desire to only hang out with other people who have Amex cards?

I bet the Amex tent’s great.

Who doesn’t love spending time at concerts comparing their Experian credit rating (by the way, it’s 300 (that means good 😉 ). How about you send me some money in the post?).

4. No one seems to be angry that it’s blatant commercialism

Let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time, at All Points East there was a Tinder Van.

Everyone walked past the Tinder Van and said, “Oh, sweet, it’s really useful that there’s a Tinder Van at All Points East. You know, somewhere you’re able to change partners when you fall out of love for forty minutes and both no longer want to see the same band. It’s just great that you’ll still have someone else’s back pocket to keep your hand warm in.

Then, when Interpol started playing Henry’s girlfriend went up to the Tinder Van and said, “Oh please Tinder Van, can I exchange this Henry for someone who doesn’t want to see Interpol?

And then the Tinder Van lady said “Oh no Henry’s girlfriend, I’m afraid not, this van is just for beer, but if you pull your top down a bit I’ll set you up with a new profile.

And in the end poor little Henry got abandoned at the carousel that looked like it was dancing to the end of the world.

Have you worked out what’s strange about that story yet? You guessed it, no one’s angry that I was abandoned.

All Points East - Tinder Van
The usual suspects at the Tinder Van @ All Points East

Want to hear something else people weren’t angry about?

There was this All Points East app that was meant to tell you when and where your favourite acts were playing. But it’s like they made sure it was completely web-based on purpose.

Of course it wasn’t going to work.

When have you ever had mobile data at a festival?!

The organisers clearly knew it wasn’t going to work. That’s why they hired a bunch of people to stand around with physical guides on really cool lanyards that cost £5 each.

My point here is that no one seemed to care that they were being ripped off. Or angry about anything. It was just kind of like everyone there wanted vanilla icecream and everyone got vanilla icecream.

5. The hypocrisy

I really wanted to see Parquet Courts on Saturday and I did. It was great. I think Parquet Courts are ace.

But, despite a solid performance of Tenderness, no one seemed to take the lyrics to heart.

All Points East - the Apocalypse
#plasticfree @ All Points East. It really looks like the apocalypse, doesn’t it? Were Parquet Courts not just singing about the end of the world?!

And like that magnificent band from New York City, this weekend, I too was left without a fix of a little tenderness.

Excerpt from Parquet Courts’ Tenderness

Nothing reminds the mind of power

Like the cheap odor of plastic

Leaking fumes we crave, consume, the rush it feels fantastic

But like power turns to mold, like a junkie going cold

I need the fix of a little tenderness

Redemption

But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any good bits.

I mean Jarvis Cocker somehow managed to convince the Hamburglar to join his band.

All Points East - Jarvis Cocker and the Hamburglar
That is definitely Jarvis Cocker and that figure circled in red is definitely the Hamburglar. You believe me right? @ All Points East

Heat up the branding iron

or how Henry misinterpreted lukewarm as cool

A crucial step in my seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER involved making sure that everyone in London knew I was the coolest kid in Hackney.

Out of 32 London boroughs, Hackney was definitely the coolest (how isn’t being 98% over the European legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions a middle finger straight up at the man?) and if I managed to become the coolest kid in Hackney, I’d probably be the coolest kid in London.

Easy.

Actually, it wasn’t.

I didn’t appreciate the challenge I’d set myself until I took a long look in the mirror.

Standing in my mirror staring spot I said, “mirror mirror, oh what do I see?

Knowing the answer, I gave it, “a 28 year old with great hair.

Suddenly an evil voice emanated from the frame, “look closer. What do you see?

A little confused, I replied, “unwavering determination?

The same voice hissed, “look closer and up a bit.

Then I saw it. I must have missed it because it wasn’t there – a hairline about to sink from mild recession into a deep and tragic depression. And this time the economy definitely wasn’t going to pick up – I didn’t have a job.

The priorities had changed. I needed a Turkish hair transplant stat. But before I could do that, I needed money.

Ah, money. For money I needed a job.

Damn.

Ok, the plan was back on. The parameters had just changed a bit.

I was going to have to become cool but without any hair.

Was that even possible?

Who’s the coolest bald guy?

I racked my brains.

Stumped, I put my favourite thinking record on, Sonic Youth’s Kill Yr Idols.

The title track roared:

I don’t know why,

You want to impress Christgau,

Ah let that shit die,

And find out a new goal.

Then it hit me.

The coolest guy in the world without any hair was Robert Christgau. You know, that guy who wrote all of those mean album reviews for Village Voice and publicly admitted that he knew nothing about music.

I didn’t know anything about music either! I was already qualified. PERFECT!

Robert Christgau almost bald
The self-ordained ‘Dean of American Rock Critics’ – ok, he’s got more hair than I let on. Maybe I wasn’t balding that much. (Photo by Joe Mabel – I found it on wikipedia)

And if I’d interpreted Sonic Youth’s lyrics correctly, he was so cool that even they hadn’t been able to impress him. I mean, he gave Confusion is Sex a C+ and that album’s radical.

I was going to emulate Robert Christgau. But how?

Becoming the dunce of British rock critics

To become the British Robert Christgau, I’d have to write music reviews.

But I didn’t know who any of the cool new bands were and had no desire to spend weekends scrolling through SoundCloud

Then it hit me.

I lived in London and there were loads of free gigs that only friends of the bands and weird groupies went to.

I could write reviews for those gigs!

It was a brilliant plan:

  1. Assuming I didn’t drink anything, it wouldn’t cost any money.
  2. It’d provide a ton of content for my great blog that’d make me look very, very cool.
  3. I’d be able to take pictures of grimy venues and put them on my Instagram account.
  4. Rolling Stone would probably give me a job and I’d be like that kid in the movie about the band who were in that aeroplane that falls out of the sky then the drummer tells everyone he’s gay (you guessed it, Almost Famous).

So I found three free gigs on Dice and went to them.

I then wrote about it here: Gig on Tuesday, Gig on Wednesday and Gig on Thursday.

I was becoming so cool already.

Then my father called.

Parents are made to inspire doubt

RING RING.

After picking up, my father just shouted at me.

Father Henry, “You need to stop doing those bloody music reviews Henry. They’re shit. It’s like you’re writing for Melody Maker.

I didn’t know what the Melody Maker was, but when he said that it was worse than NME I felt awful.

Why? Because NME’s a pile of shit and definitely not cool. I was worse than NME?! Surely not.

I took a look at NME’s best article ever, you know the one, their list of best 90’s EMO songs.

Jimmy Eat World before Jawbreaker?

I was reassured. Whoever wrote for NME was clearly an imbecile and I definitely wasn’t.

I still didn’t know what Melody Maker was though so I googled it.

Yes, Melody Maker was the Daily Telegraph of the music rags. I’m not even making this up, the editor actually wanted it to emulate the Daily Telegraph.

But, I mean, my music reviews weren’t overly long or complicated. I had an inkling that my father was acting out.

I was about to challenge him on it when my sister and mother said exactly the same thing: “Henry, you need to stop writing those music reviews. They’re just not very good.

Damn, all three of my readers had told me that half the content on my site wasn’t any good.

I took a moment to reflect. Looking over the reviews I just didn’t get what was wrong with them.

The exercise had even shown me how to publish threads on my new Twitter account.

What was going on?

Then I thought back to my copywriter training.

What did my readers have in common?

Understanding (and disregarding) your audience

Ohhh, yes! My father, my mother and my sister had never, ever been to a gig EVER and their favourite musicians were QT and Billy Bragg.

It was confirmed: their opinions didn’t matter!

I’d be damned if I was going to stop going to free gigs, drinking too much beer on a daily basis and writing bad music reviews about the bands I saw. 

Redemption sometimes comes in SMS (the joke doesn’t work if you don’t pronounce SMS as smeees. Get it? It sounds like threes)

And just as I realised that I was well on my way to becoming even cooler, I received a text from Dice.

I’d won tickets to All Points East.

Dice Tickets
I was sad. I really wanted to see the Courtneys.

The gods had spoken and they clearly wanted to read my review of everything that happened at All Points East.

I mean, it was clearly a sign and I couldn’t disappoint the gods now, could I?

Seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER

It was settled. I was going to become the greatest copywriter EVER.

How it started

Easy. I needed to lay some sturdy foundations and figure out exactly what copywriting was.

To the foundations!

And where do you learn about laying foundations? Wikipedia!

I looked up the definition of copywriting:

Copywriting is the act of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.

Copywriters help create billboards, brochures, catalogs, jingle lyrics, magazine and newspaper advertisements, sales letters and other direct mail, scripts for television or radio commercials, taglines, white papers, social media posts, and other marketing communications.

That was definitely manageable.

With an in depth understanding of copywriting I started looking for a new job.

Looking for that first copywriting job

I went straight onto LinkedIn (actually my girlfriend sent me some links. Impressed aren’t you? I’m getting pretty good at twisting the truth, aka advertising).

One position came out with a swift kick to the teeth: Junior Copywriter at Dr Martens.

Before I’d even read the ad I knew getting the job must be a piece of cake. Why?

  • People call those boots Doc Martens not Doctor Martens, hence it’s safe to assume that their head of advertising department can’t read and is highly incompetent.
  • They are probably desperate for a cool new, left-leaning junior with a lot of hair (yours truly) to help them shake off the image of skinheads and neo-nazis.

As my first potential position I knew I’d be more than happy to put in some extra work and help Dr Martens completely reinvent their brand for 2019.

Feeling confident, I looked at the job spec.

It was the first time I realised that copywriters are a pretentious as hell.

Getting my first ‘gig’ might prove difficult than I’d initially thought.

Take a look for yourself:

Doc Martens, Junior Copywriter

To be our Junior Copywriter, you will also possess the following:

  • Experience in a full-time copywriting role. Preferably in the retail, fashion or music industry
  • A love of music, DM’s, fashion and footwear
  • A track record of managing tight deadlines and multiple projects simultaneously
  • A passion for language and a flair for writing original, unexpected copy
  • Strong commercial awareness and knowledge of key copy KPIs
  • Enthusiasm and an inexhaustible supply of ideas
  • The confidence to tackle all forms of copywriting: from click-worthy captions to scroll-enticing articles
  • A degree-level qualification in a relevant subject such as English or Creative Writing

Damn the requirements were high and this was only for a junior role!

It presented a real problem.

I had no experience in a full-time copywriting role, I thought DMs (dungeon masters) were totally uncool, I was bemused by how words could have key performance indicators (‘boot’ needs to get at least 4,000 views today) and definitely did not have a degree in creative writing. Who does have a degree in creative writing anyway?

How the hell was I going to get a job like that?

I needed to tear down my soft, non-copywriting self and to begin rebuilding immediately. It was daunting but exciting – I was about to become the slickest creative machine in Hackney and I knew it would probably involve stickers.

So I decided to systematically strip myself down. The best way to do this: a foolproof seven point plan (to do list):

Henry’s seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER

1. Do way more research

I needed to become fluent in the language of copy. Yes, I had to develop an understanding of advertising, marketing and all of the associated acronyms (CPM, CTA, IAB, SOV, SEO and more). I also needed to know something about psychology. Why? How else was I going to trick someone into giving me a job?

2. Get good at writing

I wasn’t immediately convinced that this was necessary but I knew that I needed to sell myself as more qualified to write than anyone else. To do that, I had to at least trick myself into believing that I’d got super good at writing. The first step was probably to write and read more. Decent outcome.

3. Develop a kickass portfolio

For a profession that spends all day playing with words it’s surprising that it can’t just take me on mine, but life’s confusing. I needed to develop a killer portfolio with a shed load of original and creative copy. It had to have the best adverts selling bubble mixture, jingles explaining the dangers of not eating enough carrots, all potentially topped off with a radio advert for the mayor on today’s most biting issue: public urination.

4. Get some experience (and references)

Just a portfolio wouldn’t cut it. I had to get some real experience so I had references. References would mean that other people would suddenly become accountable for my eventual employment. The easiest way to do that would probably be to do some writing for free. I needed to do some copywriting volunteering.

5. Find a special subject and stick to it

All the advice that I’ve read online says that generalist copywriters fail and copywriters with a special subject succeed. The problem was I didn’t know or really care about anything. The options were limited too. What subject can you specialise in as a copywriter? Trains, video games, legal regulations and hatred of men? I didn’t want to write about any of that. Then it struck me. I could write about technology or digital or ‘the internet‘. It seemed like a safe bet, as it could cover anything from sex dolls to how to talk to your toaster! Perfect.

6. Build a professional network

To secure work employers need to think you’re the real deal. Humans are social creatures so association with other humans is important. I was going to have to meet other copywriters and make friends with them. Maybe I could meet them at Westfield Shopping Centre? There are lots of things that need copy there.

7. Rebrand myself as the coolest kid in Hackney

The Doc Marten advert said it all: creatives need to be cool. I was already super cool, but deep down I knew that not everyone knew this. I was going to sacrifice some of my current cool to make sure that everyone found out (unfortunately self-promotion is not cool). I’d begin by developing a social media presence (here’s my instagram), take pictures of myself doing cool things and buy more thrash metal t-shirts.

It was settled. I should probably start.

What better place than Homerton Library?

I had a shower and set off.

Six realities of quitting your job without a plan

I quit my job on Monday with immediate effect.

Now it’s Friday and in hindsight I admit that it was a brash decision.

My exit could have been a lot smoother.

Instead of inspiring memories, like a lover fallen out of love, I slipped out silently leaving a handwritten letter sealed atop my manager’s desk. Hopefully the blow was softened by the return of my work things: a laptop, a phone with a cracked screen and an adaptor that I liberated from being cable-tied to a desk on the floor below.

There wasn’t any applause. I didn’t get to say those two fateful words [take your pick], or see their pupils dilate. They probably wouldn’t have anyway.

But now it’s Friday and while the whole episode felt like a reenactment of Jack’s smirking revenge (that scene in Fight Club when the unnamed protagonist beats himself up in front of his manager), it wasn’t. It definitely wasn’t.

Instead I’m sitting in what I am now keenly aware is an extremely expensive room, in an extremely expensive flat and I’m at a loss.

Maybe living out your resignation fantasies will never be any good unless you have your own Project Mayhem or the warm reassurances of a barrel of space monkeys (yes, more Fight Club references).

So, for everyone’s benefit, I’ve listed six realities I’ve encountered since quitting my job.

1. Money comes before dreams

This one’s obvious. Money, or lack of it, is one of the most painful consequences of quitting your job.

It’s only day five, but I’m already considering throwing out everything in my fridge and replacing it with cheaper items from Lidl. Grim.

But, as a warning, while money was one of my biggest concerns ahead of quitting, concerns are not the same as realities. No, concerns are imaginary and that’s a great life lesson.

I’ll try and rationalise why I didn’t realise that this would be such an issue with an extremely clear analogy:

Having a job is like brushing your teeth, but the benefits are less immediate.

For example, if you don’t brush your teeth for a day or two, if they’re honest, your [girlfriend / boyfriend / other] will tell you that you stink. But I’ve not had a job for a whole five days and I don’t think my flatmates have even noticed.

So, in conclusion, the consequences of not having a job take longer to materialise than the consequences of not brushing your teeth. And who hasn’t forgotten to brush their teeth at least once this week?

(Yes, that analogy didn’t make any sense. That’s the point.)

2. Some people will have an opinion and it’s hard not to let it affect yours

Since leaving a lot of very kind people have checked to see if I’m ok.

Thanks everyone. YES, I’M OK. I know you all read my blog. YES, I’M OK. LEAVE ME ALONE.

Most people have given me space, good advice and occasionally unwarranted commendations for having the ‘balls’ to do it (thanks, you really shouldn’t commend me).

But some have let me know that they disagree with or are bemused by my decision and I wasn’t prepared for how that would make me question myself.

I guess that’s the point. Quitting a job in large organisation where you’re reasonably well paid, regularly praised for your work and have a good relationship with your colleagues could be interpreted as an assault on other’s fundamental beliefs about life. Maybe part of it is.

Facing even limited conflict can erode the certainty of your decision. I’m certain that I understood my reasons for quitting on Monday better than I do today.

3. You develop the ‘unemployed mentality’ and your confidence starts to disappear

Now that I’m liberated, I’ve taken to swimming at London Fields Lido in the morning.

I only mention this, because yesterday when I went to the pool, something strange happened.

When I exited the pool, changed and proceeded to walk barefoot from the changing rooms to foyer, which is the only area that the dictators of London Fields Pool allow you to put your shoes back on, I was accosted by the woman at the desk.

Why? I didn’t immediately know. She explained by pointing at some yellow signs reading ‘DANGER, WET FLOOR’. She then asked me why I’d ignored them and hadn’t taken another route. I hadn’t got this, but the floor had just been cleaned and my feet were messing it up.

I promptly apologised.

I knew straight away that I shouldn’t have apologised. Those yellow signs are always littered about pool and I wasn’t even wearing my shoes. I realised then that to maintain my extremely attractive and confrontational attitude to life, I was going to have to put in some effort.

Unemployment hits you hard and fast.

4. A lot of your social life is work

After I quit, I messaged all of my friends gleefully:

Hi [insert name], it’s me, Henry! I know I haven’t been in touch for about six months because I’ve been having so much fun at work, but I quit this morning and we should go out tonight to celebrate.

It turns out that spending excessive amount of time at work and using that as an excuse not to make time for your friends is a pretty shit thing to do. It’s a shock that any of them are still talking to me.

So with no-one else to go out with I had to settle with my girlfriend. She took it well and bought me chow mein at New Noodle Bar, Hackney.

But over the course of the meal, I realised that her way of dealing with the situation (more time with me) might be slightly sinister.

I mean, what sort of restaurant proudly displays a print out of their Hygiene Certificate Level 2 on the wall when they only got 60%? Yes, I think she knew that the dish she ordered was too spicy for her palate. She wanted me to be the only person eating there. And for it to be my last meal.

As I ate, I realised that the saddest part of no longer having a job was that I no longer had any work colleagues to tip off to the fact that my girlfriend’s a psychopath (and that I’m getting paranoid).

5. More time doesn’t equal time better spent

Ahead of resigning, my main work gripe was that I didn’t have enough time. Now that I have a lot of time it’s overwhelming.

So I’ve found that I need to develop a plan. Having spent the last year in project management, the most obvious solution is to make a spreadsheet.

Even outside of work I’m still trying to find new ways to use excel. That’s shit.

6. It’s still the best thing that I’ve done in a very long time

I spent six years working in jobs that I found to be absolute drudgery.

Quitting was the first conscious decision about my future that I’ve made in a very long time.

It’s only day five so I really can’t predict how this will turn out, but despite the five unexpected realities that I’ve listed above, this still feels like the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

It could have been prettier, but as Jeff Goldblum probably says to his dog, “Life always finds a way.

I mean, there must be opportunities to earn money some other way. And maybe eating rats won’t be so bad.

 

My Very First Guide to Urinal Etiquette

Going to the men’s room is scary,” thus spake the foremost urinal expert.

Don’t feel ashamed. He’s an expert and it is.

So, as one of the foremost pillars of the community, today, I’m going to deconstruct one enormous restroom mystery, specifically, how you, yes you, can enjoy the fluid freedom of that porcelain wall: the urinal.

I_HAVE_THE_POWER_SHEWEE
Shewees were invented to help men improve their aim when using urinals however as evidenced by most bathrooms, they are yet to saturate the market.

What’s a Urinal?

Apparently, the urinal is ‘a trough used to collect chewing gum, beer cans, urine and other assorted debris. The universal bastion of freedom.

They’ve been liberating men for centuries.

How?

By allowing them to stand tall and proud while evacuating their bladders. You’ve always thought that it wouldn’t be possible to use one and be a proud specimen too.

Well, today I”m going to prove that you’re wrong and an idiot!

So let’s get to it! Here’s how to use a urinal.

1. Starting Out

In England, urinals are almost exclusively located in men’s restrooms. To find a urinal, you’ll have to venture into one.

My method of teaching is vocational, so for this to work you’re going to need to follow everything that I say, exactly.

If you’re not there already, get to your local pub, library, or place of work and find the men’s restroom.

Do it now.

Ok, so you’ve now found a restroom.

Stand in front of the door.

This bit can be intimidating, so before entering, I recommend that you do the following:

  • Take a deep breath, breathing freedom often involves pungent aromas
  • Imagine your father, mother, the state, or parental unit number four, looking down at you from heaven, brimming with pride
  • Celebrate your pioneer status. You’re about to set out into unchartered lands. If you succeed, academics of the future will probably upload videos about this great human feat

Now, with a tissue in hand for effect, kick open that restroom door and take your first step into the bathroom.

2. Locating the Urinal

Inside?! Great!

Now you need to identify the urinal.

It’s probably at the back.

There are different varieties so don’t be alarmed if it’s not what you expected.

I found some diagrams in a book which you may wish to reference during your expedition. If you’re on a road trip with children, it also doubles up as a great lure to help you abandon them at a service station.

I_Spy_In_the_Bathroom
pg. 15 of the AA, Lonely Truck Driver’s ‘Chronicles of the Road’

If you can’t immediately see the urinals, it could be because there are too many people in front of them. If this is the case, go over and check. Take a good look at what everyone’s doing; it’s a good way to assert your dominance.

Now that you’ve found the urinals, it’s time to find yours.

3. Finding the Urinal that’s Right for You

Everyone is different, so take some time to decide exactly which urinal is right for you.

When making the choice, you’ll want to consider this helpful advice.

When NOT to use that urinal:

  • You are not friends with the current user
  • The neighbouring urinal is occupied by someone bigger (taller and/or cooler) than you
  • The urinal is actually a person in disguise (arms and legs are the giveaway)

Beware_Arms_Legs
Dressing as a urinal is a traditional past-time for bankers. It seems to happen most frequently ahead of industry mandated drug tests. This is a picture of the Barclays’ CEO showing a group of interns how to do it properly!

When YOU CAN use that urinal:

  • The user is your friend (cross that stream now)
  • It’s vacant and decorated with an ‘Out of Order’ sign
  • The urinal block is free, or the other users are weedy and look like they’d be intimidated by your substantial might

4. Building Your Confidence / Getting Ready

Now you’ve found the urinal that’s right for you, you’ll want to start urinating!

But, be warned, this can be the most challenging part of the experience, so let’s cover an important issue.

Dealing with Avoidant Paruresis, or Shy Bladder

Avoidant Paruresis is a condition (that I definitely don’t suffer from) in which individuals find themselves unable to urinate in the real or imaginary presence of others. It’s particularly malignant in the public restrooms.

It’s a very personal issue, but I’ve found some great tips to help you overcome the condition:

  1. Drink more. The point of inebriation is normally a good time to enter the restroom.
  2. Seek moral support from strangers. Tell everyone around you that you suffer from shy bladder. Ask them to clap and cheer loudly when you start urinating.
  3. Practice with friends. Bumble Friends is a great way to meet new people who also suffer from Avoidant Paruresis. I think they’re the main people who use the app. Consider starting your own dedicated, collective restroom outing group. If not, go on Reddit or something.

Great!

Now that you no longer have shy bladder you’re almost ready to begin. However, before you break loose, to make the most of the experience, take a moment to consider some advanced techniques:

  • Are other people’s shoes within a splashable range? More importantly, are they wearing suede shoes? If you’ve found a pair standing next to you, you’re onto a winner! Don’t even aim for the urinal.
  • If other people are standing near you, are you fully appreciating their stream? When using the urinal, most people like to be watched. Make sure you bend down close and stare at the other user’s implement as much as possible.
  • Are people staring at you enough? If not, why not perform your very own rendition of Jawbreaker’s pop-punk classic, Fireman?

Finally, some tips for experts:

Would an imaginary or real targets elevate your experience?

With the help of a local school, I’ve developed some exciting targets that you’re more than welcome to use, free of charge to help make urinating more fun.

When using them, be sure to use the PCP method: Print, Cut & Position!

Target_Practice
Targets can help you progress onto actual, living and breathing targets. How exciting! 

Now you’re ready to go!

Release the gates and realise your potential!

5. Finishing Up

Wow! You’ve now successfully used a urinal. Give yourself and your restroom comrades a pat on the back.

Now get the hell out of there.

When exiting don’t:

  • Wash your hands. Sinks in men’s restrooms are dirty and the magic of urinals means that you no longer need to wash your hands after urinating, ever again!
  • Look down at your bespeckled jeans. If you don’t draw attention to it, no one else will notice that you’ve got yourself wet.

If you have found this guide useful, please, send me a quick message.

I’d love to know where all the best urinals in London actually are and find them with you!

MUSIC REVIEW: The Dirty Nil @ Boston Music Room, London

The Dirty Nil played Boston Music Room on Friday, 28 September 2018. 

I went along. Here’s how it was:

The Dirty Nil, Winter Passing & Weatherstate @ Boston Music Room, London

Friday, 28 September 2019

Guitars, sequin, sparkles and a whole lot of men.

For those who don’t care enough to look them up, the Dirty Nil are a three piece ‘rock’n’roll’ band from Ontario, Canada. They won a Juno last year (2017) which I presume is the Canadian equivalent to America’s loftiest honour: the MTV Award. I think the recognition was for their exceptional cover of B. A. Johnston’s ‘My Heart is Broken like an Old Nintendo’.

Why did I go? I don’t know.

To the gig: 

The venue was at half capacity, awash with Less than Jake t-shirts, chequered sweatbands and fringes that weren’t even cool when the Black Parade was playing on Kerrang!. Very male.

Weatherstate were the first support. They put in a good performance but somehow managed to come across as a more English looking but American sounding version of Feeder. I’m sure they’ve tried covering Buck Rogers by replacing all references to Jaguars with Corvettes. Cliche choruses ranging from ‘Smell the Coffee’ and ‘Lately you’ve been lying low’. 

Second support The Winter Passing were folky and correspondingly lacklustre. Tried and failed at getting the crowd going. Might have worked in a different context, but wasn’t right for the night. Sadly PA system received more applause when Code Orange’s, Bleeding the blur came on.

The Dirty Nil announced their arrival with a type of (I don’t say certain) style. Front man, Luke Bentham was attired in a racy black cowboy shirt peppered with sequins and set off with a snarl. Real dandy.

The band were competent and played well to the crowd. For a three-piece in a small venue the show was surprisingly bombastic, verging on crazy theatrical. Exactly what displays of ‘rock’n’roll’ should be.

Distilled: it was eighty percent power chords, fifteen percent self-aware curls of the upper lip with a remaining five percent ‘feeling of loss at the worryingly social-misfit-esque vibe of the crowd’.

They delivered an impressively meaty set focused on their latest LP Master Volume – so more pop punk than the abrasive outbursts of Higher Power, but the crowd were into it. Managed to keep up momentum despite the intensity of the first forty minutes.

Highlights included a high octane delivery of Bathed in light, a return to 2011’s Fuckin’ up young, a not so harrowing Evil side and a good closer with Bury me at the rodeo.

The Dirty Nil play a certain type of rock music. In this context rock and pomp managed to go comfortably hand-in-hand without inspiring winces. But it’s a fine line. Whether you like their current direction or not there’s no doubt that they play well and deliver more than their records ever could live.

Solid gig.

Set list: That’s what heaven feels like, Bathed in light, Pain of infinity, Cinnamon, No weaknesses, Zombie eyed, Always high, Fuckin’ up young, Auf weidersehen, Smoking is magic, Friends in sky, I don’t want that phone call, Know your rodent, Big Star’s – September Gurls, Wrestle yü to Hüsker Dü, Evil side, Metallica’s – Hit the lights and Bury me at the rodeo