For five years, I’ve freelanced out of my home office. It’s great. I get to spend more time with my family, and my tomatoes, and I’ll always be grateful that I can prioritize those things. But I miss the spirit of collaboration. Of having someone in the room I can share ideas with, create things with. Someone who’s willing to take a risk and try something, just for the sake of doing it, of moving things forward—even if it’s just one step.
That’s not to say I live in a vacuum. I’ve always had collaborators that were just a call away on Skype or cell. Always had a network of creative and analytically-minded friends and colleagues I could call on when I got stuck. But there’s no ideation, no chatting about what we could do, about how we can flip things on their head.
I’ve tried, but Nanaimo is a competitive place, and standing on the cutting edge doesn’t pay the bills, and it’s not everyone you can tell your ideas to. Plus, there are only so many websites to be built, and it’s mostly a race to see who gets to build them. Everyone has a different idea of what the best way is—sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. But we don’t sit in a room together to talk about what’s hot, what’s progressive, and how we can help each other be better. I wish we did, frankly, I think the city would be better for it.
That said, sometimes you get lucky, and you get to sit in a room with someone that shares the same values as you and views as you.
I specialize, and so do the people I tend to work with. I think that’s important. My wheelhouse, for example, is using existing technical solutions to solve sales and marketing problems, and to help brands connect with their customer. So, I like to say that I don’t sell websites or SEO, I sell solutions to problems.
For example, I might say to someone who was asking me for help, “What’s going on? What’s not happening for you that you think should be happening?” and they’ll say “The phone’s not ringing,” or “Nobody can find us on Google,” or “Our social media is really stale.”
And I’ll say something like “Should people be able to find you? I mean, do you deserve a first page ranking?” or “Are you interesting on social media? Like, really interesting?” And they’ll say “Hmm. Well, we think so. We’ve been doing this for a long time.” Or “Well, yes, we deserve it, because we built this business with blood, sweat, and tears.” And I’ll say “That’s great. Tell me about that.”
And for me, that’s where it gets interesting. Because SEO and marketing and social media aren’t about keywords or likes or busywork, they’re about storytelling. There are technical parts to it: page speed and compression and using CDNs and some image and content editing, but those are really just about making sure that your story is easily accessible to everyone. So when I run into that person that has a unique or an old or an interesting story, I want to tell that story.
That’s what I specialize in. I’ll tell a brand’s story in a way that has meaning to the people reading it, in a way that inspires them to take some sort of measurable action, in a way that’s linkable. Or I’ll show them how to.
How I do it changes with every month, every week. With every emerging platform and Google update, there are new opportunities, new obstacles, and new ways to solve old problems, and it’s pretty great. And sometimes, people ask me if they should do this thing or that, but I don’t think it matters. It just matters that you do it authentically and honestly, and with purpose. That’s who I want to work with, those are people who are already doing those things—they just need help to tell their stories.
Partnerships in kind
I don’t enter into partnerships lightly. Working with someone new means a lot of trust. It’s more than complementary services—it’s shared values and goals.
I’d been aware of Awarewolf Creative for some time. Young and hip, the brand of the wolf struck me as bold, the conversations about creative direction and design thinking piqued my interest. But like often happens, what starts as a thought and something interesting quickly gets displaced by the need to rack up billable hours
Time went by. I met with another designer in town, Lisa Hemingway of Backyard Creative. We talked about our shared values: Lisa’s been working for a long time in the sustainability sector, they were ideas that interested me after I’d spent the last year talking about the local food movement on a radio show I produced called The Farmer’s Table. We decided to start a project together that would explore ideas about sustainability here in Nanaimo, we called it SIMBY.
Through working with Lisa, I got introduced to the Design Nerds. We started talking, and I ended up writing on their website. I met with Jackie Duys-Kelly, Mark Ashby, and Monica Shore to talk about what they wanted to say. It was refreshing to see so many passionate, creative people who felt compelled to transform our city into a creative cultural space.
For years, I’d been working with Annika Lavigne of Fusion Creative. Then in the summer of 2014, Annika decided to take a position as art director for Eclipse Creative, a fantastic agency based out of Victoria. We’d worked together on so many things, she’d always designed my websites, I’d always helped her with writing and SEO. It wasn’t so much a partnership as it was symbiosis.
I found myself, quite suddenly, without that designer’s brain, and I needed help. I thought about the people I’d met recently, about conversations we’d had.
I thought about Awarewolf Creative. Here was a smart, progressive boutique agency that was interested in promoting progressive ideas about design and culture. They were involved in the city and its design. I’d worked with Jackie already through my writing for the Design Nerds; it had been a great experience for me.
So I reached out to Jackie. I was looking for a designer in my life. Someone who could help me solve design problems. I was a good writer—a problem solver in my own right. I wanted to start building something with an agency in town.
We met for tea at The Vault. We talked about her website, about mine, about how we could work together and help each other. I make good words. Jackie makes the words look good. We’re both interested in a better Nanaimo: a culturally exciting place with interestingly designed spaces that encourages progressive ideas and initiatives.
So, that’s it—in a nutshell—there’s a wolf (Jackie) and a robot (that’s me), and we both come at problems from different ways, but between us, there’s nothing we can’t do. I’m inspired, I’m honoured, and I’m excited to see what comes next. Stay tuned, we’re going to transform this city.
Our story begins here >> (www.harbourcityseo.com/awarewolf)