20 years & 4 lessons

Celebrating 20+ years of story telling

1996computerI’ve been working as a professional communicator for more than two decades now if you include my time as a student newspaper editor, community radio news director and ABC rural reporter.

For the past 20 years I’ve been self-employed – my clients are my bosses and I tell their stories.

On Monday, April 1, 1996 I sat in the spare room of my rental making lists of names and phone numbers, and re-arranging the pens on my desk.

After a couple of hours I took a break to put on a load of washing in my third-hand, twin-tub washing machine. Then the phone rang.Fax machine

With the hose filling up the washing machine, I raced to the office to take my first call as a “consultant”.

While I don’t remember who that call was from, I do remember returning to the laundry to see water flowing out of the door, along the dining room wall and out the front door.

#1: Don’t mix domestic chores with business unless your appliances are fully automated.

iphone-6.pngWhile the technology in the office and laundry has changed enormously since that day and I now enjoy a position of being able to choose what jobs I take on, and often where I do them from, the challenges of being self-employed remain.

About seven years in, I started to wonder what it would be like to work for someone else again – a seven-year itch.

Head-hunted to take on a part-time communications role, I jumped at it because it was in a sector that I’d been wanting to work in.

I lasted 18 months. It was a case of the grass not being as green as I’d thought, realising I was more effective working to my own rhythms rather than the dictates of an employer.

#2: Learn how and when you’re most effective – be it at 5am or 10pm. I’m a morning person and it’s important to me as a creative to tap into that energy.

Since 1996 I’ve worked for ostrich and alpaca breeders, rural departments and member-based farming organisations, natural resource managers, regional tourism bodies, regional development and arts boards, local government, registered training organisations, arts projects and more recently an electronic music festival…who would have thought that would happen?

The basic need of all these individuals, projects, businesses and organisations – be they public, private or not-for-profits – is to communicate with people.

#3: My job is to simply communicate with other people in the most engaging way possible. The fundamentals of doing this don’t change regardless of the subject matter, the channels or the technology used.

It’s been a ride. There have been moments of great despair and great elation.

There have been weeks at a time when I would wonder where the next job might come from, as well as periods when my inability to say ‘no’ or need for a job has meant working long, exhausting hours – sometimes greatly rewarding and sometimes not.

Joy comes from hearing a client’s story told far and wide and knowing I played a part in that. Elation comes from working with clients who value my creativity and knowledge gained over many years of trials, errors and success.

Today, while there’s still a need to work hard, the balance is great. The clients are interesting, the pace is varied, the projects are rewarding and I’m still in business.

#4: Be open to new ideas, never stop learning and know that saying no isn’t a limitation but an opportunity. Don’t stand still.

I’m always open to conversations about interesting projects. Give me a call.


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