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  • julia88828

A Day (Three and a Half Fiscal Quarters) in the Life

It's occurred to me that no one else in New Zealand is doing what I do: publishing small box games, eight to date, most of them designed by other people, and distributing these and additional titles throughout the country. It was validating when I shared some sales figures with an Australian colleague and he commented, "Those are some impressive numbers you have been moving, it does to (sic) show what a ‘home grown’ company with face-to-face contact can actually do."


With the important caveat that I am blessed with a partner who provides for us and is happy for us to invest some of my time growing Cheeky cautiously (not needing cash infusions from us or outside investment or loans) but as surely as I can, I do think being self-employed is as good as it gets for me. Before I got into the industry in 2011, I had what could be called a checkered employment history, but also a wealth of varied volunteer experiences and an excellent old fashioned liberal arts education: my uni transcript reveals coursework in two foreign languages, social sciences, hard science, math, and even music. (Admittedly light in humanities, as I've never especially enjoyed history or literature.) Fun fact: Jamey Stegmaier and I have the same alma mater, the venerable Washington University in St Louis. Anyway, I think this background has enabled me to learn and employ the skills I need to do what I do. But what is that exactly?


Two budgies sit atop a computer monitor showing the Cheeky Parrot Games Facebook pae
Nosy co-workers wondering just what's so interesting that I have no time to ply them with oats.

At the beginning of this fiscal year (for overseas readers, the New Zealand fiscal year begins on April 1), I thought it would be interesting to keep a log of hours spent on Cheeky Parrot business and what I did during those hours, so I have nearly a year's worth of data now, although the activities are aggregated over the recorded time periods, which is a liberal arts way of saying that for any given day, I recorded the total time spent alongside a non-itemised list of tasks accomplished. Much as I love record-keeping, I am, frankly, too scattered to apply myself to say, sales calls for 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of email, etc. especially given all the things that can interrupt you when you work from home (phone calls, budgies, social media, errands). Lawyers may disagree, but some tasks are so quickly done that I may not have remembered them at the end of the day or felt them worth recording (for example, quickly checking bank transactions.) Thanks to the timer on my watch, the total time spent figures are reasonably accurate.


My records reveal that Cheeky Parrot is a part time job that keeps me off the street about 62 hours a month. The busier months were those where I attended board game events, and I did not count down time when I was at an out-of-town event, although some of that time would represent an opportunity cost to my business or personal life. As for the activities, over the months, here are the main hats I wear as Director of my one-woman company. I have listed them in order corresponding to how frequently their associated activities were logged:


Hat #1: Communications Director (Social Media Manager): Social media eats up a lot of my time and on a quiet day, all I might do is spend 15 to 30 minutes creating and posting content. This past year I've been trying to shout out my retailers more, so this also involves scrolling (mostly) Facebook as Cheeky Parrot Games, looking for retailer posts I can share, like, or comment on. The Photographer and Photoshopper frequently answer to this person, as does the Video Creator on occasion and we can also count the Newsletter Creator and Website Manager as her underlings. I can understand why big corporates have staff dedicated exclusively to managing social media. This is one area my former lives couldn't have prepared me for and I do the best I can i.e. I have largely contained silly budgie videos to Tik Tok. I have become adept at Photoshop and iMovie, though probably not to the point of marketability should Cheeky Parrot fold and I need to get a real job.


Hat #2: Sales Person: Cheeky Parrot's games are sold exclusively via our retail network, which means looking for prospects, shmoozing with prospects and existing retailers, and contacting retailers to see if they need stock. Some retailers (bless them) contact me when they require stock; I can make more sales from most if I give them a friendly and timely nudge or two. My biggest retailer is Whitcoulls, next biggest are usually specialist toy and game stores, then there are bookshops of varying sizes, and a few harder to categorize outlets. This job also involves creating promotional materials including social media ads, catalogues, and e-newsletters; prospecting for games to distribute; managing inventory; and packing up orders for dispatch or delivery. I just counted that of my current catalogue of nineteen games, fourteen have unique dimensions. Some of the games I distribute are quite big and heavy, but I have a bigger pool of smaller boxes since that is what I actually publish. Fortunately, I enjoy the challenge of working out how best to box up a large, diverse order. The busiest quarters for sales have been the first and fourth.


Hat #3: Booth Babe: Just a cheeky way to label my functions at board gaming events, where I promote existing titles, participate in play testing games under development, and schmooze with retailers, organizers, game enthusiasts, and designers. Duties also include cajoling friends, family, and designers into helping set up and/or run the booth, bribing them with meals and fashionable Cheeky Parrot attire.



Hat #4: Bookkeeper: The main tasks here are invoicing and paying bills, but twice a year I prepare GST returns and quarterly I compile royalty reports for my published designers and check that Sales Person's Excel sales logs jive with Xero-generated sales reports. I conduct a yearly inventory, track my mileage, and compile my home office expenses so that my accountant can prepare company and personal taxes. Upon request from the Director, I can prepare budgets and sales projections. I enjoy these tasks that some might find onerous.


Hat #5: Producer: I'm stealing this word from the world of cinema as it sounds more active to me than Publisher. This job involves being on the lookout for games I might want to publish, entertaining pitches, playtesting and overseeing playtesting, suggesting changes, organizing blind testing, formatting rules, procuring artwork, writing up specs and getting quotes, and organizing with my manufacturer and logistics company to produce the game and land it in New Zealand. Depending on the game, I may pitch it to overseas distributors. I try to leave iterating actual physical prototypes to my designers, as that isn't a job I especially enjoy! This person also organizes reprints.


Hat #6: Layperson Lawyer: I am usually the one to draft agreements with the people I work with, items like distribution agreements and licensing agreements. Perhaps a bit risky to DIY it, with help from templates, but I endeavor to partner with reasonable people in good faith and generosity, and although dispute resolution gets a mention, these are primarily for laying out expectations, time frames, and financial arrangements.







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