Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Rise of the Freelance Creatives

Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Yet think back just a decade or two. Computers were clunky; the internet was in its infancy; there was no Facebook, no Google, no YouTube, no Wikipedia. If you wanted to find out where a place was, or the definition of a word, you had to walk to the bookshelf and look it up in a physical A to Z or dictionary. And now the internet is mobile, available on your Smartphone wherever you happen to be.

The internet has reshaped virtually every industry, transformed the way business is done and even changed our social behaviour. It is not a passing trend; this is a fundamental shift that affects every area of our lives. And it is just the beginning.

This rapid ongoing transformation is ultimately a good one – for those who embrace it and are willing to adapt.

We are enjoying the benefits but mostly still underestimate the impact it will have, both in business and on our lives. The music industry was one of the first casualties of a failure to adapt. The digital world changed the way we acquire, store and enjoy music, and the established corporations resisted as hard as they could. They have been battling to stay relevant ever since.

The publishing industry is going through a similar transformation with the rise of e-book readers like the Kindle and the iPad. These devices are brand new and they are already shaking the industry – who knows what will be available just one decade from now? Analysts predict the collapse of the traditional publishing model within 2 to 5 years.

The general effect of the internet change is one of empowering individuals. Hulking industries have long been the gate-keepers between creatives and their potential audience; by holding the key to distribution they held the power to choose who emerged as an artist in any field. But the internet is rapidly smashing these traditional structures, and making the once all-powerful middle man obsolete. Now a musician or an author or a film maker can put his work onto the internet and find an audience directly.

Thus begins the Age of the Creatives. Technology has made it easier than ever to take a great photo, make a video, write a book or record a song. And we no longer need an agent or a record deal.

Yes, a lot of rubbish will be released. The dying gate-keeper industries used to provide a filtering function, sorting the wheat from the chaff. But the social web will replace that; through user reviews, ‘likes’ and similar rating mechanisms, we will learn to quickly determine whether someone’s creation is worth our time. Word of mouth will become increasingly important. That can only encourage great content – the things that ‘go viral’ and become wildly popular will be those that are the most interesting and impressive. So to achieve success in the Age of the Creatives, people will have to produce work of real value.

Artists of all types now also need to be internet savvy and learn the art of self-promotion. They need to market themselves and win their own fans. They need to build themselves up as a personal brand and become a leading figure in their field, which requires a solid understanding of social networking tools and constant innovation. They have to be their own manager, their own business partner. But that is incredibly liberating.

All this is wonderful news for the individual, and for creativity in general.

If you aren’t building a personal brand and active internet following for whatever your passion is, you risk being left behind. Get creating and get out there!

Be part of the rise of freelance creatives.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

How to Add Meaning to Your Life... With Only a Moderate Chance of Injury or Death


Perhaps you can relate. In 2003 I was sitting at work in a boring office job, realising the years were starting to slip by, and wondered, “Is this it?”

I was in my late twenties, when photography was just a hobby for me. I had a university degree, a comfortable job, an attractive girlfriend, enough income to get by. I should be happy. Yet I couldn’t get away from the nagging feeling that something was missing.

All this stuff had just kind of happened to me. I hadn’t planned it. And now that I was comfortable, I was coasting. I realised that unless I did something to break the routines, the rest of my life would be exactly the same. I needed to inject some meaning. I needed to feel alive. I made a decision to do something about it.


Two weeks later I was sitting in the open doorway of a plane thousands of feet in the air, hearing the wind blasting past, seeing the ground far below. I had trained all weekend for this moment, yet when the instructor yelled “In the door!” all I could do was stare at him in disbelief. Surely this was all an elaborate, surreal joke and I wasn’t actually expected to go through with it. Then in a daze I found myself sliding across the floor of the plane and dangling my legs out of the door until I was sitting right on the edge.

“Jump!” Before I knew it I was falling through the skies above Cambridgeshire. Soon after I felt the jolt and found myself looking up breathless at the parachute canopy above me. I was free, I was flying.

A few minutes later, walking on shaky legs back across the field towards the hangar with a bundle of parachute cloth in my arms, I smiled the biggest grin of my life.


Fast forward to 2011. I am a professional fashion photographer and living my dream lifestyle. The journey from frustrated nerdy office worker to adventurer and free spirit hasn't been easy, but now I travel the world, hang out with models and do what I love for a living.

You can do this too. With whatever you're passionate about.

Skydiving is not the answer. The insane stunts my characters in The Dare Ring do definitely aren’t the answer. The way to add meaning to your life and feel more alive (without risking injury or death!) is a subtle shift of attitude, a decision to seek out adventure and the unwillingness to settle for a life that is merely ‘okay’.

What can you do to make today count?

When you find yourself doing something outside your routines, something that is adventurous for you, I’d love to hear from you. You can message me via the contact button here:

For anyone curious about The Dare Ring, see my next blog post, which is a short, exciting excerpt from the novel.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Short excerpt from 'The Dare Ring' by Titus Powell

(Contains swearing and irresponsible behaviour.)

By the time we’re near the front of the queue, we know exactly what we’re going to do. The timing for this has to be exact. There are eleven seconds from the time they check the harnesses to the time the cars round the first bend. Can we cut through both straps in that time, while restrained by them? I don’t know. I feel like Houdini back stage before a new escape act. Will it work?

I watch the attendants, zombies in red shirts. They’re on autopilot, going through the same pattern each time a car pulls up, a minute and a half apart. They usher people into the newly empty seats, strap them in, give each strap a tug, and move on.

It’s our turn next. We’re the next batch of four. I finger the knife lovingly through my shirt.

Don’t do it, my common sense tells me. It’s a bad idea. Bad bad bad.

The train of cars slams into place ahead of us beyond the barrier. The electronic release mechanism on the harnesses release them all at once, and four excited teenagers pull off the straps and vacate what will soon be our front row seats. As they skitter off, clutching at each other and enthusing about their safe little ride, the row of empty seats beckons like a lighthouse above the rocks.

“Party time!” Owen says.

“You okay, Sébastien?” I ask, grinning.

“No,” Sébastien says. I look at him and he manages a smile.

The spotty teenage attendant opens the gate with a bored look on his face. I lead the way through, and climb into the furthest seat. Sébastien sits next to me, then Lorelei, then Owen.

“Remember guys,” Owen hisses from the opposite end of the seats, “we’re going to have to run as soon as it’s over. Just split up and make your own way back to the car. Make sure no one follows you.”

We all nod, grin, whoop.

I get my first chance to examine the harness, which has not yet been fastened. The material is reassuringly like a car seat belt, and arranged in an ‘X’ just as Sébastien and Lorelei described. We never got to practice on anything in the end, but after visualising it carefully, I reckon I will be able to cut through each strap in under four seconds.

Bad idea, my mind says again.

“This is a great idea,” I say out loud, to counter it.

“Damn right,” Owen says. “Everyone ready?”

The attendant passes in front of us, just as we anticipated. He plugs in Owen’s harness, tugs it, and moves on to do Lorelei’s, Sébastien’s and mine. As soon as he has locked and checked mine, he moves out of sight to the car behind us. This is it.

“Go!” I say, and grab the knife out from under my shirt. I flick out the blade and start sawing through the harness. It is tougher than I expected, but the knife is sharp and I am making progress. A couple of seconds later, the top strap gives way, sending shivers through my body. I go to work on the lower one. As I’d anticipated, the angle makes it harder to apply pressure. But it’s still possible. I cut upwards, which is more difficult, but I don’t want to accidentally plunge the blade into my thigh. I clench my teeth and focus intently on the sawing motion and the ever widening slit.

I finish cutting the second strap just as the cars jolt into motion. Our roller coaster shudders around a corner and starts to climb towards the first big peak. My strap flops open and the central disc swings down behind my left elbow. I am free, loose in the seat sans safety harness. With relief, I retract the blade and push it into my jeans front pocket. The half twist I have to do to get it in gives me a minor rush as I feel my bum slide free on the seat.

I’m not strapped in! I tell myself, to maximise the effect. We’re moving and I’m not strapped in!

“Finished!” shouts Sébastien in the seat next to me. He turns to look at me and waggles the longer half of one of his severed straps. I jiggle two ends of my ruined harness back at him, grinning stupidly and kicking my feet in the air. I look past Sébastien to the others. Lorelei is still sawing on the lower strap, the concentration on her face almost comical. Owen has already cut both of his, and is holding his hands up in the air with his eyes shut, a tranquil look on his face. I smile to myself. This is what it’s all about.

Fuck!” Lorelei shouts. I look, in time to see her knife twisting down through the air. It clatters to the overgrown gravel far below. “Quick,” she cries as we climb higher, “give me a knife!”

Sébastien scrabbles to retrieve his from his shirt pocket, and in the rush almost slips from his seat. He finds it, slides out the blade and thrusts it handle-first at Lorelei. It’s too late; the first big drop is moments away.

Lorelei bellows in frustration that she’s not going to be able to do it in time, and hurls the knife away with a snarl.

I feel for her, but I can see over the drop now and everything else goes right out of my head. Still reminding myself that I’m not strapped in, I try to drink in the out-of-control feeling as much as possible. As we go over the peak and start to accelerate down, I let my arms raise up, and for a moment I’m weightless. Then the G-force is pinning me back in the seat as the wind rushes in my face and we plummet down. I hear the screams of all the punters behind us, the punters who all have safety harnesses holding them in.

We slam down in an arc and then whip up and around to the right. Is this dangerous? I wonder, body rattling. I don’t know. That’s what makes it good.


If you enjoyed this sample, the following link will show you where to order the full book. It's available worldwide both in paperback and e-book form, the latter for only £1.49. Thank you!