The Day I Survived Without My Laptop

If you were ever a ‘Sex and the City’ fan, you’ll no doubt remember when Carrie’s computer went to heaven and she spectacularly lost everything. Those were pre-cloud days, and she lived life on the edge, without backing up. Now, that was a huge technological fail. So, mine? Not in this league, but still enough to throw a spanner in the works.

I didn’t need to log on to Xero on Tuesday last week and, thankfully, I’m not an accountant. Xero - my reliable, trusty accounting software - was down for the day. Eeep! But just the following day, I went into panic mode as I realised with horror that my laptop had gone into work with my husband. I had inadvertently left it in the boot while doing childcare pick up and general toddler wrangling. After letting out plenty of initial frustration, I took stock.

I had three precious work hours ahead of me, courtesy of my little one’s grandma and grandpa, and I was not going to waste them. Here’s what I did, and what I suggest you try if ever you find yourself in the same boat.

1. Go old-school!

I put pen to paper, the old-fashioned way. With a newsletter due in the next 24 hours, I had no choice but to go old school. What did I discover? How much I love the feeling of my pen running along the page. The break from staring at a screen was also pretty refreshing. Sure, I had to skip formatting, links and image placement for now. But, I quickly finished a draft that would take very little time to type up later. Dare I say, perhaps the copy flowed even quicker by hand?!

2. Prioritise

I went in to my Trello app via my phone and got my priorities in order. Yes, it meant juggling a few things around, but it also meant I used my time productively. Funnily enough, it also gave me time to focus on the tasks I’d been avoiding…

3. Go big

...Such as big picture dreaming. I’ve long had ideas brewing that I rarely make time to ‘work on’, such is the daily grind. Today, rather than see them as big day-long tasks, I spent some bite-size chunks on the big picture and goal stuff. And, you know what? It didn’t take long to get some serious clarity.

So, am I glad I left my laptop in the boot of the car? Would I do it again? Not purposefully of course, but it’s great to know there are ways I can be productive without it.

Obviously, I'm back online now! So, if you've been meaning to get in touch, you can do that here. I'd love to see if we're a good fit.

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Sophie Walker, podcaster, Australian Birth Stories

If you’re anything like me, perhaps podcasts have only recently come on to your radar. But now that I’ve discovered them, there’s no looking back. Goodbye dull commute or aimless walk, hello opportunity for learning, laughing, mindfulness or anything in between. Check back here in a couple of weeks, when I’ll let you in on my current faves. In the meantime, here’s an up-close-and-personal with Sophie Walker, the woman behind one of them. In case you missed it, Australian Birth Stories was one of the hottest podcasts to drop last year!

Sophie lives in Melbourne with her husband and their two young boys. Holding a Master of Public Health, she was interested in babies and birth from a young age. While pregnant with Niko (4), she immersed herself in all things birth, dreaming of a drug-free, birth centre experience. Despite her plans to the contrary, Sophie had a 36-hour labour, complete with hospital transfer, induction, epidural, episiotomy, forceps and then a postpartum haemorrhage. Second time around, she researched like crazy to prepare for another attempt at an unmedicated birth centre birth. Juggling a toddler and a part-time job, podcasts were a good option as they could be listened to ‘on the go’.

After achieving a beautiful birth with Louis (2), Sophie was inspired to create the Australian Birth Stories podcast. It is an important collection of varied women’s birth stories from right across Australia. I’ve known Sophie for many years and have been so excited to watch her rise up the podcast ranks. She’s a warm, friendly and determined woman. Enjoy the read, and then be sure to check out the podcast for yourself.

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In the work you do, how important are the right words?

In my current line of work, they’re essential. It can be so easy to offend people when it comes to birth. I try to steer clear of terms like ‘natural birth’ if I can. There are many negative connotations with other words in my field, such as epidural and induction. It’s so important that I’m always mindful of how I come across when interviewing women and discussing birth.

What gets you up in the morning?

My 4 year-old and way too early. We tend to start the day at 6am. On a professional note, the emails and messages I get daily from women saying I helped and inspired them to have a great birth. This is something I never really considered when I first started the show.

What led you to your current career choice?

I studied and worked in public health for many years, most recently in cancer research. I have a Master of Public Health and love working and talking to people. An obsession with birth, women’s health and podcasts led me to try my hand at starting my own podcast.

What are the most effective ways you market your podcast?

Without the finance for a marketing budget, I’m currently relying on word of mouth and Instagram.

What have you learnt about the world of podcasting since you began Australian Birth Stories?

Consistency is the key. Oh, and editing takes 10 times longer than I ever plan for. Although I know podcasts are available on a global scale, I never expected to have weekly listeners in countries such as Romania, Spain and Pakistan. It’s mind-blowing. I’ve also learn that while it’s great to be regularly ranking in the top 5, nothing beats getting a personal email from someone saying how they used something they learnt from the podcast in their own labour.

What is the best piece of advice you could give to other podcasters?

Only begin if you can keep up with the schedule you have set for yourself. If you say you’ll be releasing a weekly show, have four shows ready to be released before you launch. In the early days, I found myself ringing around friends the day before the show was due to air as I had nothing to release for that week. Thankfully, I now have around 150 people on the waiting list, so a shortage of stories is no longer an issue!

When you’re not listening back to ABS episodes, what podcasts are your faves?

I love This American Life, Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, and Ladies, We Need to Talk.

You can find Sophie and the Australian Birth Stories podcast here.

Need a hand generating content or communications for your creative business or side hustle? Let me help!

The magic of collaboration

If the idea of working jointly on a project or activity incites hellish flashbacks of uni group projects, stick with me. Collaboration is not a dirty word. Done right, it can open up some pretty awesome opportunities, bring new people and ideas into your world and play an integral part in the future success of your business. Whether you’re a product or service-based business, you can form connections with others, and grow your business by investing in and collaborating with these connections.

One of the best things about running my own business is the opportunity to collaborate with other people. I may work for myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss interaction in the workplace. So, now I simply create it. Through collaborating with others, I can experience a feeling of connectedness. Starting out in a brand new industry in my mid 30s, I found myself totally out of the networks and loops that I had built up over 12 years in the education sector. My career had changed, but so too had the nature of networking.

Here’s why you should consider collaboration for your small business.

For inspiration:

It’s easy to get stuck doing things a particular way. Need a new perspective? Online tools and blogs can inspire you, sure, but try human connection for the ability to discuss, share and communicate inspiration and information. Who knows? You may end up with a fresh technique, tool or new content idea. Someone to bounce ideas off can trigger creativity, and also provide an objective point of view.

To grow your network:

Nothing terrified me more than networking when I started working for myself. Going along to my first networking event felt like a torturous first day at school. Each time I approach new people, my stomach does a little flip, but I do it anyway. I didn’t leave my last career with a huge list of contacts or clients. I’ve built them up from scratch. And I truly believe in the power of human connection. So, if I don’t continue to put myself out there, chatting about why I believe in my business, how can I expect it to grow? An added bonus, of course, is that I’ve met such wonderful people whose services and products I can access. The reality of being in business is that you need to consistently make connections, to encourage referrals and new work. Every time you reach out to someone, you are expanding your network, whether or not it results in collaboration.

To learn:

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I’m driven by a desire for lifelong learning. I actually hanker for it. While sometimes the breadth of what I don’t know seems overwhelming, it’s also very motivational. Collaboration brings with it the opportunity to learn from someone with a different skill set, strengths and perspective.

To problem-solve:

There is definitely power in numbers, in terms of accomplishing something or solving a problem.

Here are some of my favourite collaborations to date:

Creative Darebin Networking Breakfasts - a weekly breakfast for creatives in my hood ticks all the boxes. Casual conversation over coffee with like-minded types? Yes, please.

She Will Shine Women’s Business Network - a totally unstuffy, supportive and inspiring girl gang offering networking nights, power groups, dinners and the rest!

Hood Mama Edit - a slick photo shoot collaboration masterminded by Holly at Motherhood Melbourne and shot by legend behind the lens, Jess Worrall.

Guest blogs on other sites (psst...did you catch me on Seriously Milestones last night?) and interviews with people I admire, like my chat with author Emily Brewin.

Opportunities that have come my way only because I had the courage to reach out. I’ve had some of my freelance articles published and generated new copywriting work this way.

So, what should I consider first?

Before you reach out, think carefully about who to partner with and why. Do your goals and values align? Do you have the same target audience? What can you each bring to the table? How will the collaboration idea work? On a practical level, you can use your combined leverage to connect with more people and spread your message. Social media campaigns don’t need heaps of money or followers, but they do need a genuinely engaged following to be successful. Other ideas are to feature one another, such as by guest blogging or promoting each other’s services. Photo shoots can work too. For the Hood Mama Edit, bloggers and writers wore the products supplied, then created content. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with your ‘so-called’ competitors either. There’s power in numbers, and clearly common interests. The question may be, why wouldn’t you?

How do I get started?

I’d encourage you to begin online, via Facebook groups or networking sites. I love connecting with fellow freelancers and copywriters this way. Search your local area for IRL networking options too, or chat to your friends. They may know someone they can put you in touch with. You don’t need to meet in person if that’s too tricky. There’s always Skype for chats, Google Drive for doc sharing and Trello for project management. Keep it easy! Just enjoy the process.

What collaborations have you been a part of? Let me know. Or if you've got a great idea about how we could work together, let's chat!

 

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Emily Brewin, author

Emily Brewin is a quiet achiever. Not only is she an accomplished English and Media secondary teacher, in the early mornings and late into the night she is an author. As a former colleague and longtime friend, I have watched Emily's rise with fascination, in admiration of her commitment to her goal - publication of her novel Hello, Goodbye in 2017.

Emily is fiercely determined, tenacious and incredibly patient. She penned her debut novel while raising two young children, working as a teacher, and studying writing. This is not a woman who does things by halves. Whether you're a freelancer, writer or reader, I know you'll be interested in Emily's processes and musings on her work. Enjoy!

 Emily Brewin, author (Photo: Harriet Tarbuck)

Emily Brewin, author (Photo: Harriet Tarbuck)

In the work you do, how important are the right words?

In the published form, the words can make or break a novel. You may have a fantastic story, but if the words fail to bring it to life, it won’t keep readers reading. Saying that, I think the right words are less important in those initial drafts. First and second drafts for me are mainly about getting the story down, rather than crafting sentences. The end product is a bit of a dog’s breakfast but it gives me something to work with and to shape into something more palatable.

What gets you up in the morning?

Usually the alarm clock on my phone, which rings at an ungodly hour. I tend to write early in the morning or late at night when my children are in bed. Apart from that, I’m driven by a desire to create something that belongs just to me, that I can disappear into and take pride from. Writing is exhausting, thankless work at times, but there’s also no better feeling than seeing a story that’s lived in my head coming to life on the page.

What led you to your current career choice?

I am a secondary school teacher as well as an author. I went into teaching because I don’t think there is a greater gift to give than education. And, there’s a certain type of magic that happens when a young person becomes engaged in a topic or begins to see the world from a new perspective.

Writing is similar in that it has the power to transport us to another time and place. I love that it allows me to stand in a character’s shoes and to see through their eyes. I tend to write as a way of understanding people, issues and the world around me. I believe that fiction in particular encourages empathy, and that society as a whole could do with a bit more of that.

What are the most effective ways you market your book and, indeed, yourself?

Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways to sell books, although a major literary prize never goes astray. I didn’t think seriously about the business side of writing until my first novel, Hello, Goodbye, was published and I witnessed the power of publicity. I’ve since learnt that social media is a great way to build a profile, although, it does take time and commitment to do properly.

How has the landscape of your industry changed since you began?

I think that people, especially young people, are much more media savvy. There is an expectation these days that authors will have and maintain a social media presence, which publishers can tap into to sell books.

What is the best piece of advice you could give to other writers/freelancers?

Talent will only get you so far. Determination, discipline and a willingness to learn from your mistakes is just as important, as is connecting with other writers. In terms of being an author, being able to survive on very little sleep so that you can write at either end of your day job is also a must.

To learn more about Emily and her debut novel Hello, Goodbye, visit her website.

For assistance with marketing your creative work, generating a social presence or other communications bits and pieces, holla at a copywriter!

 

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How I Saved My Sanity in January

School goes back next week.

Although, I’m no longer a teacher so I don’t live by the term, die by the term. And, my little rascal is still a few years off school (and his daycare largely stayed open in January - thank goodness!).

So why does it matter to me at all?

I don’t know about you, but it always feels like there’s a different energy around the place in January. Even for those of us continuing to go to work, we’re conscious of so many other people either away on holidays (sigh) or navigating the work/kids on school holidays juggle. But more than that, I’m a little bit of a (whispered) control freak. Honestly, I can’t remember what came first. The teaching term or routine addict. The chicken or the egg. But that’s how I roll.

And January is a month where routines tend to slip a little. There are occasional later bedtimes, both for adults and little ones, pushed back or skipped naps, or unusually busy days. While that allowed our family more social flexibility, we certainly paid the price some days. Okay, okay so we also have an almost-two-year-old on our hands, which probably accounts for plenty. At any rate, it’s become abundantly clear that both he and I are natural sticklers for routine (much to the chagrin of my spontaneous husband - we’re still working on finding that middle ground).

So, how did I find some structure amongst the free-fall of January to keep my inner (sometimes outer) control freak happy? And, to feel like I was having a bit of a holiday in my own city some days?

We chose activities for the whole family. By that I mean, we selected either kid activities that we were happy to do, like visit the new Ground Up exhibition at Scienceworks. Or adult activities where toddlers would be welcome, like hanging at the super-relaxed bar and eatery Tallboy and Moose in Thornbury.

We used babysitters. With parent babysitters temporarily out of action, we were happy to pay our fabulous local babysitters for the privilege of dining out for our wedding anniversary and to just have some adult time.

We took naps or had down time. Some weekends were really full, so we made sure to take the opportunity if ever the toddler slept to sleep too, or simply rest in front of the cricket. To reset, and to find some more energy for when he woke.

We socialised with other families. This gave the little ones some instant friends to play with, and made ‘another trip to the park’ loads more enjoyable.

We tried new experiences. We went for pho and pizza, mastered the art of the babycino, explored Scienceworks, found a new water play park. We mixed it up.

In a funny way, I think I need January to reset myself, to reinvigorate and re-energise, to exercise my spontaneous muscle and to just free-fall. Knowing full well that, by February, everything will be back in its place, just as it should be.

Happy end of January everyone (and to my fellow control freaks, we’re nearly there!).

P.S. If there was anything on your Jan to-do list that you didn’t get to and I can possibly help - just sing out! Copywriting, editing, proofreading, hit me up! Piles of washing, cooking, bill paying, I will politely decline.

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