This week marks the eighth week of running Grey Fox, and being a freelancer. And handily, it's the final week before the Capper family's yearly summer holiday.
And here's what I've loved about this last week.
1. Reflections and thanks
Alongside being really busy finishing some projects, continuing with others and having conversations about new opportunities, I've been doing a bit of reflection on the last few months this week.
I'll be away on holiday with the family next week, and, even though we booked the trip back in January (a long time before I decided to startup Grey Fox), it has come at a good time.
I started Grey Fox on 3rd July; and I can honestly say that it's been the most enjoyable, most fulfilling, most exciting seven weeks of my career so far.
I've loved all of the projects (big and small) I've worked on. It's been great to work with old colleagues again, and wonderful to meet new colleagues and friends on an almost weekly basis.
If I could boil down the real highlights of the past 7 weeks, it'd probably look at bit like this:
- Constant learning: Podcasting, SEO, understanding health research. Being a freelance creative professional keeps you constantly on top of trends, tech and your mind continually active. It can be sometimes exhausting. But it's constantly exhilarating.
- Re-connecting with old friends: Throughout your career, wherever it takes you; you meet people that you love working with, and that you miss when you or they move on. The past 7 weeks has been really made by meeting up and speaking again with colleagues from previous jobs that I've had over the years. Some of these relationships have led to paid work, joint proposals, and joint problem-solving. But they've all involved a lot of laughs, reminiscing, and coffee (more often than not).
- Making new friends: But running a business is all about getting out there and helping people to solve their creative problems. This has led to me meeting and forming new relationships with new friends and colleagues that I already hugely value. Some of these new friends have been new clients, and some have been other people doing similar things with a similar mindset, but whatever the situation, I've learned lots and had lots of really interesting conversations that have led to exciting opportunities or that have just helped me think about things in a different way. If we've met this last 7 weeks, thank you.
- Collaborations: One thing that has been really surprising (in the best possible way) is how open to collaboration and partnerships that other freelance comms professionals have been. Everyone doing this is in a very similar boat, and the ability to bounce ideas of others and support each other if the workload gets a bit too heavy has been a really unexpectedly brilliant part of the job.
- Coffee. Lots of coffee: I have drunk more coffee in more coffee outlets in this past 7 weeks than I have in the past 7 years. The great thing about doing work mostly in two big cities (i.e. Liverpool and Manchester, so far) is the range of independent coffee places to meet people and work. Every port in a storm and all that, but when you have an independent coffee place you really love, the big chains just don't cut it. Big mentions to 92 Degrees in Liverpool and Takk in Manchester for keeping me caffeinated and the Grey Fox wheels well oiled.
2. Blog post of the week
It's not a blog post as such, but a really interesting follow-up to the Mark Ritson piece on Brexit and illegal campaign funding that I talked about last week.
In this response piece in Marketing Week, a panel of experts come to the conclusion quite clearly that pinning the success of the Leave Campaign entirely on an extra £675k that they illegal used, is, at best, a long shot.
As someone who (to put it politely) is less-than-enthusiastic about Brexit, I have to say I have a lot of sympathy for the view expressed in this piece. When an initiative (such as the Remain campaign undoubtedly was) is a failure, whilst it's tempting to look around you for foul-play; I'm a big believer that you should always look closer to home first.
Did Leave break the rules? Yes. Did they push ethical boundaries to an unacceptable degree? In my opinion, absolutely. But did they also have a much smarter ground and online game? Also, yes. Did they have much stronger and emotive messaging? Indeed they did.
There's a lot to learn from this piece. So it should be required reading for all comms people with an interest in campaigning and how it impacts politics.
3. Podcast of the week
I'm a big fan of the RSA Events podcast feed, and the most recent one is the favourite thing I've listened to this week.
In it, the author and commentator Afua Hirsch discusses national identity and belonging; and her own experiences growing up in London with family originating from both Ghana and Germany.
It's a really fascinating, non-judgemental and constructive conversation about race, identity and the confused British sense of self - and comes in the wake of the release of her book Brit-ish.
It's a great listen on a human level. But I've always been interested in expressions of national identity and issues around societal belonging, from a comms perspective.
We all do work around organisational branding. We all want it to reflect our values and to reflect the needs and desires of our users. Many of us do a lot of internal comms and employee engagement, and have been given the brief to "create a sense of belonging" in a workforce of several thousand across multiple locations.
For me, these things we do are small microcosms of the much bigger challenge that countries have in defining their national character. There's a lot of talk of "British values" without any real shared sense of what they are, or how they should be interpreted. I think this is a problem for us as a country, and (though this is a much longer, future blog post, when I'm less busy) something that explains a lot of the turmoil the country is going through at the moment.
And it's something that Afua discusses in this fantastic podcast. Listen, enjoy and be inspired.
4. Episode 2 of "How to go freelance"
And finally this week, I'm proud to present Episode 2 of my podcast "How to go freelance: A guide for terrified". In this episode, Kate, Dan, Dave, Rich, Rebecca, Darren and Bridget talk about how they decided what to offer in their businesses, and how they position themselves (if at all!) to clients.
It's another great listen. And true to freelance form, I recorded my bit in a city centre coffee shop.
It's on iTunes and Stitcher as usual, but here's a special link for all readers of this blog post: