The 4-day week

At the start of this year I made the decision to cut-back my work at DHHS to four days a week so that I could spend one day a week focusing on my creative endeavors and my video and photography business.  After nearly pulling the pin on it in July…I’m sticking with taking the Wednesdays off for at least the rest of the year, here are a few things I’ve learnt.

The upsides

There has been roughly a 500% increase in the number of mid-week roast dinners. KPI’s around the cleanliness of the kitchen, and laundry that needs to be done have been smashed, and being able to do a mid-week market shop makes meal planning a lot easier.
It has also been fantastic spending more time with Xavier as he watches me clean the kitchen, hang out clothes and do the market shop. It’s both every 40yo man’s and every 5yo boy’s dream!

I have been able to work on three projects that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

I won’t lie, there is something intrinsically wonderful about only working in 2 day stints. It means that every day is either a Monday or Friday…unless it’s a Wednesday, in which case, it’s a weekend!!!

The downsides

While my domestic duties KPI’s may be being smashed…the scoreboard for creative endeavors is less impressive:
Number of blog posts written = 0
Number of portraits done = 0
Number of podcasts recorded = 0

As for the business, while it has been awesome to be able to do the few photo jobs and one video job…thus far they have paid about 20% of the money I would have made if I had just worked the Wednesdays at my normal job.
On the positive side to this I currently have outstanding invoices (from jobs I have done on my weekends) that will take me to well over 50% of what I would have earned at my normal job…but an unpaid invoice, while providing some level of comfort, is of absolutely no use when you need to pay for petty little things like food. In fact, on the day before my last payday by my 4-day  week employer, the money I had in the bank was 0.03% of what I had in outstanding invoices. They’re the sorts of numbers that would make an accountant or financial planner weep. *On this, I do have a few clients who pay me the day after I invoice them, and I love those people from the bottom of my heart. But the rest of them…WTF?! You have your videos…pay your invoices!!!*

On top of that, running the business as an actual business means you have to do boring things like pay for business insurance. But as I’ve discovered, this is not in fact boring, as you get to enter a bizarro world where people come up with elaborate reasons as to why they can’t take your money.
I decided to get in contact with the insurance company that looks after our home insurance as I thought I might be able to swing a discount (I won’t say the company’s name…but let’s just say you’re “lucky” to be with them…and their name sounds the same as a girls name…and it’s AAMI…shit, this discretion thing is hard!) Here is how the conversation went:

AAMI: AAMI business insurance how can I help?
Me: I’d like to insure my business so that if any of my gear gets stolen then it’s covered. I’ve got my home and contents insurance with you, but I understand that if I’m using my gear for any sort of business then it’s not covered.
AAMI: That’s correct. What sort of work do you do.
Me: Photography…
Me: and video.
AAMI: Oh…do you do any directing with your video?
Me: Well I have to tell people where to sit or stand, and sometimes I have to get them to do things like walk into a room or do whatever it is that the video is about.
AAMI: Well I’m afraid we can’t cover you.
Me: What?
AAMI: I’m sorry but if you do any directing then we can’t cover you.
Me: But I tell people what to do with the photography as well, is that a problem?
AAMI: No…but we can’t cover you if you do it for video.
Me: But that’s insane…I mean-
AAMI: I’m sorry but that is our policy.
Me: It’s just that-
AAMI: but we do have a subsidiary company that will cover you, would you like me to put you through to them?
Me: Um…sure.

CGU: Hello, how can I help?
Me: I’d like to get some business insurance?
CGU: Is there a reason you’re calling about this?
Me: I’d like to get insurance to cover my equipment.
CGU: But nothing’s happened that makes you want to have to do it suddenly?
Me: No…I just…I called AAMI and they put me through to you.
CGU: What sort of business do you do?
Me: Photography and video
CGU: OK, I’ll put you through to a consultant.
CGU: Hello, how can I help?
Me: I want to insure my photography and video business.
CGU: Do you do any directing with the video?
Me: Yes, but..
CGU: Well I’m afraid we can’t cover you.
Me: But I was put through to you by AAMI because you could cover me. Besides the only direction I do is filming what people do in their day-to-day lives…there’s nothing dangerous.
CGU: Sorry, but we don’t cover that.
Me: This sounds insane…
CGU: I’ll just check with my supervisor.
*Hold music*
CGU: Yep, we can’t cover you. I mean if your client asked you to hang off a cliff or jump out of a plane, then you would have to.
Me: What?! No I wouldn’t.
CGU: Well, you would.
CGU: I can give you the name of an insurance broker who might be able to help.
Me: *sigh*

Honest to God…it was like being a 5 year old and being yelled at by a parent/teacher for doing something your friend told you to do and being asked ‘If Marcus told you to jump off a cliff, would you?!’…except in this case the assumption seems to be that an additional 35 years of life experience has lead me to a place where the assumption is that I would in fact jump off the cliff!

If this were a world where money wasn’t a concern…then the decision to go to 4 days was a masterstroke. But unfortunately, we are not. So the questions become, ‘What is the value of all the non-financial benefits that taking the day off-brings?’, and ‘Is it enough to balance everything out?’ At this stage I would say that it’s a line-ball decision, but probably sustainable…so long as we don’t get offered free accommodation in France and start planning a family jaunt to Europe…I mean, that’d be pretty stupid.

Two out of three ain’t bad

One of my favourite photographers, Zack Arias, was discussing a philosophy for whether to take a job. The philosophy wasn’t one that he came up with, but it’s one that he likes.
There are three values; Good money, good people and good work…every job has to hit two of these values before it’s worth doing. The last two months have seen a really big increase in the amount of work I’m doing through my own business, and so suddenly I’ve had to look at my philosophy for doing work, if I can’t do it all, I need to know what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to.
About a month ago I was approached to do a job with a family friend, Don Palmer. The job was not as a photographer or editor or anything that I was working towards…but more as a location scout and general gopher for the shoot. We were going to be shooting for his organisation Malpa, there was a DOP (cameraman) on the job called Mark Tipple and the talent for the job would be Uncle Jack Charles. The money would be exactly $0.
So I put the philosophy into action:

Good money – Negative…but then again they may simply be getting what they pay for.

Good people – I’ve know Don for nearly 20 years…and Katie has known him her whole life. He’s just a thoroughly decent person who I would happily donate my time to whenever he asks. The DOP (Mark Tipple) is insanely good with both stills and video, and Uncle Jack Charles is well…Uncle Jack Charles.

Good work – The video we were shooting was for indigenous kids who had been chosen to be taught traditional and western medical practices that they could take back to their communities. Which is a pretty amazing cause.
I haven’t worked on a video shoot where people who actually know what they’re doing are in charge for a long time…and I haven’t worked with an actual actor for even longer. Plus, if I bring along my camera there is every chance I’ll be able to get a few photos in between takes.

So no money, but brilliant people and amazing work…I said ‘yes’ to the job.


Heart vs wallet

Working in a creative field is always a bit weird when it comes to getting paid. I can’t imagine many people would say to their electrician ‘I’ve got this great idea for a house…but I haven’t got any money for it…could you do the electrical work for me, and then everyone will see how great you are as an electrician and so you will get lots of work from referrals?’ But if you do something creative people tend to think that seeing as you’re enjoying yourself, then you probably don’t really need to get paid. After all, they hate their job…that’s why they get paid.

At the same time, a lot of really great projects will simply never get off the ground unless people chip in to help out. So where do you draw the line? If you only go where the money is you will be creatively suffocated…if you only go where the lovely ideas are…you will be out of business within 6-months.

I’m sure you’ve seen this…but it applies nicely to photography and video work as well

So with the beauty of hindsight, did I make the right call?


I got to watch a really good DOP in action which was a bit like getting a two hour masterclass for free.

Mark Tipple in camera smelled like smoke for a week, so I shudder to think what his smelled like!
Mark Tipple in action…my camera smelled like smoke for a week, so I shudder to think what his smelled like!

I got to watch a world class actor in action. Speaking as someone who spends most of his time filming either politicians or people who are not used to being in front of a camera. It was a revelation to watch someone who can nail a script time and time again, who can read with the pacing, inflection and timing that makes you feel as though they are speaking to you, rather than reading someone else’s words, and who brought so much energy to what he was doing.


I got to introduce Josh to the world of being on a film-set. There is a weird alchemy that occurs on a film set when the cast and crew are happily working towards the same goal, and Josh got to live that first hand…and meet Uncle Jack Charles who had seen in ‘Pan‘ just the week before.

Not quite sure who is more excited to meet who.
Not quite sure who is more excited to meet who.

I got to take advantage of someone else’s lighting set up and take photos of someone as engaging and enigmatic as Uncle Jack Charles.

Am I devastated that I missed the focus on his eyes...yes, yes I am.
Am I devastated that I missed the focus on his eyes…yes, yes I am.
Watching Uncle Jack was like witnessing a force of nature. He was relentlessly engaging.

uncle-jack-charles-12 uncle-jack-charles-10


I missed swim squad…and suffered like a dog the next week.


The Gillian Welch song ‘Everything is Free‘ (a song about artists giving away their work because “we’re gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn’t pay”) rebounds in my head every time I’m asked to do a job for nothing. But I would hate to become the sort of person who passes up the opportunity to work on an amazing project like this…and with people like Don, Mark and Uncle Jack.
Some experiences are priceless.

A moment of contemplation
A moment of contemplation