My little girl was four months old in August, 2013, when I got a phone call from my chief of staff. As a first-time mum, I had taken to motherhood like a duck to water and was relishing every day of my maternity leave. The thought of work was far from my mind. At first, I thought my chief of staff was going to ask me to come back to work earlier than my planned return. But when he started with, “Lauren, I have some bad news”, my heart sank. Our whole office was being made redundant, effective in October.
For 11 years, I have worked in the media industry as a journalist, sub-editor and page designer. I’ve worked in the exciting, deadline-driven news rooms of The Courier Mail, Northern Territory News and Bundaberg NewsMail, and witnessed their collapse. With the demand for news 24/7, newspapers have swiftly lost their relevance. I have watched helplessly as fantastic people with years of experience have had their careers ended. Somehow, I had managed to escape that tap on the shoulder. Until last year, with my baby girl in my arms, when I got that dreaded phone call.
I was upset, but mostly I was angry. Angry that what was meant to be the most precious time in my life – getting to know my baby girl – had been taken away from me, replaced with constant anxiety over finding another job. Terrified I had no work to return to, I scoured job websites on my phone while breastfeeding my daughter. At night, I applied for jobs online. I only ever got one interview, and wasn’t successful. There were no jobs for sub-editors like me, not in Brisbane, and I wasn’t ready to take on a full-time job when my daughter was still so little.
With so many rejections, I started to feel like I had nothing to offer any more. I had to turn this around. I thought about my professional skills – page design, writing and editing – and how I could find them a place of relevance. I started thinking about my ideal job – something flexible that would fit around my family, and something creative. I began toying with the idea of starting my own small desktop publishing business – something I had only ever briefly considered before. I could design, edit and write print and web-based promotional material, such as flyers, brochures and booklets, for other businesses. My overheads would be small, as I could conduct all business in my home office and correspond with clients via email and phone. All I needed was access to design software (I now subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud) and a computer upgrade. Most importantly, I could fit this work around my little girl – working during her naps, in the evenings and on weekends. I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who was only too happy to help me in any way he could. It was scary, but I felt like I had nothing to lose.
I spent a lot of time researching – I had no idea how to set up a small business! Thankfully, there are many online resources. My biggest source of help was the Queensland Government Business website. I used its business plan template and worked out the nuts and bolts of my business. I decided on a name – Full Stop Design, Editing, Publishing – and registered it. I talked to my accountant about tax and GST issues, applied for an ABN, organised a website, created a Facebook page, and joined Ausmumpreneur for ongoing advice and support.
I am now five months into running my own business. I have learnt an incredible amount in that short space of time, and feel a sense of pride that I have been able to turn my redundancy into an opportunity to work for myself, continue to utilise my skills and provide myself with a flexible work situation. I am the first to admit things haven’t been easy. Building an entirely new client base is something I continue to work on. I go through phases of wavering self-confidence. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am too preoccupied with trying to improve my business, when, as a mother, I feel all my energies should be focused on my daughter. But I have to remind myself that she is loved, and she knows she is loved. I see it in that cheeky smile always plastered on her face. And I remind myself I am embarking on this small-business adventure for her future. Journalism and sub-editing as we know it may be dying art forms, but the skills I have acquired through my media career – professional and creative design, writing and editing – are still relevant. I’ve just given them a new home.
Guest article by Lauren Shay of www.fullstoppublishing.com.au