Laura contacted me via the site to tell me her story, something that happens with increasing frequency now, which is lovely, and provides a route to people I may never have met.
Laura's current role, as head of communications (and multiple other aspects) for Kid & Coe, effectively Air BNB for families, really chimed with everything I'm interested in creating for myself as a career, and that I believe careers are ultimately moving towards. The company operates on a totally flexible basis, its staff are all based in different countries, working remotely. They work flexible hours that suit their lifestyles. Laura takes full advantage of this to the effect that her and her family are able to travel regularly, and are looking to potentially move country as their base.
Added to this that Laura herself has an interesting and varied career background, she makes a perfect #masterofmany and #masteroftravel all in one, so you'll see a follow up piece to this on Laura's work and travel lifestyle. I hope you enjoy her story.
Tell us about what you’re doing now and your journey to date..
I spent over 10 years as a freelance journalist, working on some awesome projects, for different newspapers and magazines, and some in house stuff as well. It was really diverse, but I was always hoping that one of them would turn into a job I really wanted to do.
I was approached by Zoe, the founder of Kid & Coe, and now work 3 days a week from home with lots of extras on the side. I'm really passionate about what I do. I love the company, get to do exciting writing, and a little bit of management as part of the role.
Kid & Coe came about because Zoe was travelling the world with her husband (DJ Sacha) and their young children. She thought that there was a better solution then staying in 5 star hotels with kids. Hotels had limited menus, and other people who don't want kids there. Kid & Coe offers you other peoples private homes, select holiday lets and hotels, that you can stay in for the night or a week. They are all geared around children.
I have a six year old and a 2 year old and felt like I had experience and knowledge to add to the mix. Everyone in the company does. We all work from home, across Ibiza, London, LA, New Orleans, and NY. A lot of work is done on Skype. It's a throwback to my second ever job as a guidebook writer at Footprint Guide Books. I loved it as I worked with writers all over the world, perfecting their text and making it all look beautiful. I wrote a few books for them, so I have good depth of travel knowledge.
I'm 38 and I'm bringing together everything from my career so far, I was a branding consultant straight out of university at Interbrand. I had to make up words - company names, concepts etc. It wasn't always the most creative stuff, but some of it was interesting, creating names like Ocado, Hob Nobs, Premium Economy for BA. We worked with words every day, spending a lot of time in the dictionary, at the British Museum, anywhere you could be inspired and submit new ideas to companies.
It's not a job you want to do forever, so when I was given the option of voluntary redundancy, I retrained as a journalist. In my last month of training I was thinking about what I want to do next, and decided I wanted to go to Iceland. I wrote to footprint (the guide book company), which had been a client at Interbrand, to see if they wanted a writer in Iceland. I had to write a book proposal and ended up spending a summer (without speaking Icelandic). I did solid research every day, meeting people, and putting myself out there. It's still one of their best selling books and has been going for 15 years. I went to work for them as an editor and have worked for various magazines.
At Kid & Coe, I'm now Director of Communications. We have a team of 9 or 10 people. It sounds like a grand title, but belies the fact that I do a lot of admin each day, and a lot of writing. I work with every member of the team on different issues, make sure our social media is great, the marketing is great, and anything written on the site is great. It's quite a wide remit for a 3 day a week job.
What made you take the leap to do things differently?
I thought that freelancing would be a 3 year job, I was working for people like Stylist, The Guardian and The Independent, but nothing seemed to chime at the right time, and then suddenly I realised I'd been a freelancer for 10 years.
The right project then came up at the right time. I'd worked with iEscape, the luxury boutique hotel provider for years as a freelancer, but after doing a project on family travel for them I approached them to work for them properly. They didn't need anyone at my level, and to be honest I felt a bit bruised. That week I had an intro from Zoe talking about this project and it was just the right time to be approached.
It was a new concept, with someone who was going to be a great boss for me, which can be hard when you're freelance. I know the type of person that I work well with and its impossible to commit to the hilt with someone you don't respect and get on with. My boss is brilliant. She does amazing work, and if she doesn't know something she puts her all into learning about it. We all love working together and working for her, which makes you want to go the extra mile. I feel like my future is tied to the success of the company
How long did it take you to feel like you’d made progress in your new venture?
I worked for about 3 months as a consultant. My boss would send me over copy to write, brand work, and we would talk about what would work and what wouldn't. It was trial and error and then after a couple of months she offered me a proper job. It's hard to find a part time job that is stimulating and works for you with kids. We have flexibility that we wouldn't have if had to commute or work in a city.
How often did you feel like ‘it’ wasn’t going to work?
I think with a start up that happens at least once a year, where you feel like you've made mistakes. It's a very small business and little fluctuations can send us off course very easily and there have certainly been days where we've felt as a company that it's not going to work out. We've had enough of those days now though where we've learnt to deal with them, and to keep a measure of positivity. It's been 3 years and we haven't gone under yet so I feel like we're going to be alright. It's just start up life.
As a writer and a worker for Kid & Coe, I haven't questioned it at all. The only thing I have found is that occasionally I don't feel like I've got enough creative space, or that I'm not doing enough creative or unusual work. I don't expect that any job is going to give me everything, so I have various projects on the side.
I started some work with Wide Eyed editions, which is an amazing children's publisher that I've loved for a long time. I'm writing a book about children's lives around the world. I love thinking about 'what are kids eating for breakfast in Zanzibar?' or 'what does it look like to wake up in Greenland?' It's timely right now. The last time I met my editor, Brexit had just happened, and we were in pieces, wondering what kind of world we're creating for our children and why you wouldn't want diversity in life and schools for our kids. The book showcases how we're enriched by knowing people that are different to us, experiencing different cultures, and by being a global citizen. Kids need to have an awareness of the world around them.
You're obviously doing a number of projects at the same time. What do you find difficult about managing multiple roles?
It's really hard to do, and there's no perfect way of doing it. I went to a yoga class recently, and they talked about the fact that there is no such thing as balancing on one foot and just being still, balance is about a series of adjustments. That's what work life balance is for me, and it's what balance at work is like. If I have to work late into the night (which I try not to do), then I do it.
It also sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but exercise is the key to everything for me. I only realised this in the last couple of years. If I've got a stressful day, and I have a lot of difficult things to manage, it makes it a lot easier to do if I take an hour out of the day and go and do a class at the gym, even though I think I don't have that hour to do it. It's much more productive, less stressful, and keeps everything clearer.
What do you do to spur yourself on when you get the fear?
I love my job so wholeheartedly, it could have been created for me, as it's all of the things I know and enjoy, so I don't have the fear at all. I put that down to the team I work with. I work 3 days a week, for set hours and although I'm working from home, it still feels like I'm working in an office set up. I'm focused and take it really seriously.
What or who do you find intimidating?
I talk to lots of big businesses, like Google, who want to work with us, and I used to find that intimidating in terms of talking to a massive company that clearly knows more about technology than I do. I'm learning about technology as I go along, and there's no harm in saying that you don't understand something, so I'm not intimidated by it anymore. We're a fairly small fish in a big world, but we know what we want and have a crystalized notion of what we represent and what we're trying to achieve. Having that is a powerful thing behind you. To know where you belong, and not be intimidated by others.
What makes you feel good / powerful?
I'm a good collaborative person, and I like working in a team. I had a terrific meeting last week with the marketing team who are based out of LA. I'm not a boss type person who comes in and tells people that it's going to be done in a certain way. I tend to approach it as 'what do we need to achieve', 'how are we going to get there' and 'what do you think?'. We had a great discussion, and I really felt like I drew the best out of the two girls I work with, reached new solutions, including one to a problem that's been hanging around for a while. Everyone felt good about it, no one felt frustrated, everyone felt like they had an equal stake in it and we're moving forward. That's a really powerful thing.
What drives you, your legacy, or enjoying the moment?
I'd love to thing of a legacy and that I've left something behind, and that someone says 'Laura did that', but I don't know how realistic that is really, I'm just trying to do a good job on a daily basis. I like living in the moment. I have kids, and they live in the moment all of the time!
My two year old learned to jump yesterday, which is a big deal because it's taken some time to get there, and now everywhere she goes she wants to jump! That's so cute! It's totally about living in the moment and it's brilliant. I always thought that I was a legacy person, when you write books, it's about writing something that sits on people's shelves. It's physical and you can see it. When you work online, you can change anything at any minute, so nothing is finished and done and set, so it's more fluid and can be frustrating.
How do you define success now?
The book I'm doing is looking like it will be great, and that will be a huge personal success when it's done. That will be a collaboration between the editor, who is incredible, and the illustrator who is also amazing. It's got my name on it, but it's not mine, it's ours. When I was a freelance writer success was my name in a magazine, and a friend saying they'd seen it. When you're working by yourself at home, it's amazing to get a bit of recognition, because you don't get anyone saying well done to you. However, I realise now that I'm much more motivated by team work and team goals.
How do you come up with new ideas?
I do have a process, which stems back to working at Interbrand. I switch off all media so that everything is quiet, and spend an hour with a blank piece of paper. The other thing that really helps is going for a run.
I don't think that you need to be in the same workspace each time to come up with ideas. Some people think that you have to have a room of your own to write, with everything set up perfectly. That's not true, you just need to start. It doesn't matter where you are.
What will you tell your kids about working out what they want to do in life?
Follow your passion is a big one. I really think about that for my eldest and try to encourage anything that he's into. I just want them to do stuff that they're good at and enjoy. In hindsight, I'm not sure I'd encourage them to be a writer, as it doesn't pay that well! Every writer I know that has a book out also has another job, that's the reality of it.
What's the single best piece of advice you’ve been given along your journey?
I have two actually. The first one is work hard and be nice to people, especially those who aren't on the same level as you. People move up and down and you never know who you'll work with again. The second is 'just keep swimming'. It's particularly important if you work for a start up or work on your own, things always get better, so just keep swimming.
To find out more about Laura's business, go to www.kidandcoe.com