Setting up out on your own is no mean feat. In fact, the endless juggling balancing keeping everything afloat can be exhausting. But if you’re driven, focused and able to network easily then the freedom can be liberating - and the places and opportunities that come to you seem unbelievable.
Many people have wondered what an earth I’ve been up to over the last year. Why the heck would I leave my dream job at the BBC - a journalist on a staff contract - to go out into the unknown?!
The Big Question: Why?
Everyone is different I guess. In summer 2017, I’d realised I had worked in the BBC at a local level, in network channels and stations, both for tv and radio, live, pre-recorded, in news and current affairs, documentary making, radio drama, by producing, reporting, on air, news reading, digital, podcasting over the last 10 years. In short, I’d banked a considerable amount of experience as a jack of all trades.
Having stability in life and a regular income with a permanent job is great when you’re looking for a mortgage or maternity pay. But I found myself in my mid-thirties being single, without children, no ties, with minimal outgoings.
I questioned whether I was really doing work that matched my values and made me excited to get out of bed in the morning.
So I wiped the slate clean.
I walked away from stability, took a deep breath and a huge leap of faith into the unknown.
My initial aim in October 2017 was to be able to pay my rent and outgoings for the first 6 months, attend 15 networking events and get my first non-BBC client. In reality I actually smashed all these targets by mid-January!
Gradually I've balanced my books by freelancing at the BBC, whilst slowing building contacts, clients and understanding of the commercial world a little bit each week.
But the big picture has always been about seeing what else was out there. I've challenged myself to find a way I could work less, earn more AND utilise all my skills acquired from working at the BBC, in sales, finance and generally in life.
How Did I Do It?
The following blog post gives an overview of some of the jobs I’ve done, some of the training I’ve taken up, some of the amazing people I’ve connected with and places I’ve found myself over 2018.
There are so so many people I would love to thank for helping inspire me this year I wish I could - but I can't possibly name you all. *Sighs Sorry.
The next year for ASFB Productions will be about honing my skills when it comes to podcast coaching, building my profile as a go-to point of contact for podcasting whether you’re starting out or already up and running in need of some rocket fuel!
I’ve some big tenders underway for more complex series to produce, and I’m already booked to talk at BBC Digital Cities Manchester and Creative England workshops in February 2019 about how podcasts and branded content can help boost business profits within the creative industry.
Compared to this time last year, I’m excited. I can see my potential as an employer, not just an employee. I can picture the clients I want to work with and help grow. And I can see what’s ahead for my own development with continued hard work and optimism.
In short - the last 12 months have seen me earn more than I did working as staff at the BBC, yet I’ve worked far less hours and taken 11 weeks off unpaid. I’ve travelled extensively, worked at the highest level in my career to date and received countless testimonials from non-BBC clients who are already booking to work with me again in 2019! (*beaming proud smile from ear to ear!)
A Happy New Year to all - whether pondering podcasting, peering in from afar, or already head first in the deep end!
Places I’ve worked and travelled to during 2018:
Manchester Cardiff Stockholm Venice Verona London Bangor Sigtuna Turin Milan Coventry Caernarfon Bristol Genoa Lake Como Holmes Chapel Crewe Malpas Northwich Hartford Anglesey Birmingham Chiasso Kendal Hebden Bridge Bilbao Amsterdam Bakewell York San Sebastian Seville Dublin Buxton Nicosia Paphos Malvern Garstang Llanberis
Began news reading for BBC Radio 5 Live.
Released the first three episodes of The F**k It Moments Podcast - an ex-drug dealer, the husband left behind after cancer and a woman who hadn’t found mr right but became a mum anyway.
Commissioned top artist Chris Sumner to sketch scenes for audio/video clips for social media. Watch this one for Shaun Attwood's episode here.
FIM Pod logo designed by the top man that is Gareth Price, who also designed my company logos.
Recorded the next two FIM pod episodes - a former Nelson Mandela bodyguard (thanks to Peter Eavis and my bank manager Janine Jesse at Santander in Altrincham!) and an NHS nurse/humanitarian worker just back from Libya.
More raw recording of Discover Brightlife podcast in Cheshire about loneliness which included me meeting Tim, who had only been out of his house three times in the last 6 months.
Recorded with nurse Karen O’Neill for PRI The World, a US public radio news magazine. Her interview was part of Richard Hall's story of how one of the workers aboard the Save The Children rescue boat wasn't who they said they were - they were actually an Italian spy.
Produced, scripted and recorded four episodes of The Secrets of Storytelling with fab storyteller Sharon Richards.
Producing dayside at BBC Breakfast TV, and news reading for BBC 5 Live.
Approved as a BBC Academy Open Media trainer by the legend that is Ian Moss.
Attended Simple Networking and SUBS Networking events in and around the Manchester area for small business owners.
Recorded another F**k It Moments Podcast episode with the Naz and Matt Foundation discussing suicide, homophobia and international refugee rescue missions.
More recording for the Discover Brightlife series including a 75 year-old trans woman devoted to caring for her wife of 50+ years (who has Alzheimers) until death do them part and the 90 year old woman who discovered a knack for writing poetry in her late 80s!
Released Discover Brightlife Podcast capturing stories of overcoming loneliness on behalf of Age UK Cheshire and the Big Lottery Fund. Narrated, produced, recorded and edited by me - phew! Many lessons learnt on this one! Even had a publicity appearance on my old station with my even older former presenter Mike Sweeney and BBC Radio Manchester! Check out the Brightlife team’s fab testimonial:
“Many thanks ASFB Productions for a wonderful job on our podcast series - and for the compassion and respect you’ve shown participants throughout all the interviews. You’ve really gone the extra mile to understand people’s situations and taken the time to listen to their stories. Your passion for our project - and the fact you genuinely want to help people out of loneliness - shines through. Thank you for all your hard work, we’ve really enjoyed working with you!”
*beams a little bit more :)
If you've not heard it yet, then here's Discover Brightlife's podcast trailer:
Produced the live web streams with Natalie Silverman of The Fertility Podcast at Fertility Festival in Bush Theatre, as well as gathering all the raw audio later used for their own podcast series.
Met and first stayed with my London 'housemate' aka Tina-Turner-loving, macaroon-eating, coffee-training-Frenchie that is Pierre - who was a god send to stay with in September and October!
Recorded with Katie Davidson, a 34 year old living with breast cancer for The F**k It Moments Podcast. She found out she was terminal 9 days before she married...but was nothing short of inspiring and hilarious throughout our chat.
Scripted and reworked one of the Brightlife stories with the legend that is Stephanie Hirst voicing up the words of a carer who at 70 years old discovered how they were a woman trapped in a man's body. At some point in 2019 - we WILL find a place to host this story as it's heartbreaking, inspiring and tearjerking all at the same time!
Completed five weeks over May and June working with the BBC Academy rolling out the Open Media training in Bristol - classroom training, one-to-ones, dry runs and floor walking for regional TV and radio. See a few photos on a previous blog post here. Even got to voice up a Sunday Politics BBC One ident because I was the ‘poshest voice in the TV gallery’!
Attended SUBS networking events in Altrincham, more training on social media wins.
Created ASFB’s Podcast MOT templates first rolled out for new client, The Network Hub - a marketing agency based in central London.
Finally had some time off!
Travelled to Holland to coach the team at Islamitische Studentenvreeniging Amsterdam Podcast. They were already up and running but wanted specific training and feedback on where they were winning and how they could grow. Great chance to spend a few days seeing the sights in Amsterdam too!
Released all episodes of The Secrets of Storytelling Podcast. Here’s the awesome Sharon Richard’s testimonial:
“Like millions of people, I love to listen to podcasts and always thought how brilliant it would be to do one about a subject I know and love, the artform of oral storytelling. It’s so important nowadays to use podcasts to reach a wide range of people but I had no clue how to go about it.
Then came Clare.
Her approach is friendly and down to earth, efficient and supremely professional. From the initial meeting she listened closely to what I was trying to achieve and was an endless source of both creative and technical ideas.
She takes away all the mystery over the process and, more importantly for the guests appearing in the podcasts, all the anxiety about performing for the microphone.
Her editing skills are amazing and the results she produces are world class.
I count myself lucky to have been able to work with her on the podcasts and can’t recommend her highly enough. I’m looking forward to working with her again but know her work is becoming very sought after very quickly so book her now (but only after me!!!).”
Continued to produce at BBC Breakfast TV (dayside and overnights) and news read for BBC Radio 5 Live.
Met the awesome exec producer that is Rebecca Papworth of Can Can Productions, with plans of how we can collaborate for big scale podcast series in the future.
Reported for BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today on rural broadband set backs for SMEs in Cheshire.
Back to back overnight news reading shifts with BBC Radio 5 Live and producing at Breakfast TV. One of the assistant editors sent me a thank you note to say: “Can't you stay forever? Seriously - we could do with more of your quality…”
Met with drama and comedy producers over in Hebden Bridge on a future podcast collaboration.
Signed up to coaching with Sharon Amesu for her 8 week Career Advancement Programme. What a fab bunch of women to work with and get to 'know' via zoom every Thursday - utterly inspiring!
Began working with life coach Gary Bridgeman, via connections with the team at One Year No Beer.
Continued working for the BBC Academy Open Media team, including classroom training several Radio 4 PM presenters. I was sent an email a few days later which said “apparently your handling of the presenters yesterday has been complemented on by the editor she thinks you are wonderful and wants you cloned…” !
After a chance meeting on a nightshift, the man who never sits still and fellow Toronto Maple Leafs nutter that is Jolon Kemp Walker and I began our NHL Fans From Afar podcast, a weekly magazine sports programme.
Also, I became a year older and somehow squeezed another holiday in.
Worked out of Cardiff and Bangor bases for the BBC Academy Open Media team. A few photos on another blog post are here.
Approached by a subsidiary of the Welsh Government to produce two 10 part podcast series in both English and Welsh for the health sector.
Booked for the BBC Digital Cities Manchester event in February as a public speaker for my talk on ‘How to start a podcast in 10 days for less than £50’.
Attended the UK Audio Network Manchester Meet Up to collaborate with other podcast producers in the North West.
Filmed telling my story of going alcohol free for a TV documentary maker in Birmingham.
Met with the top inspiring fella that is BBC's Podcast Commissioning Editor Jason Phipps on potential collaborations for BBC Sounds and podcast in-house training. We first worked together when I attempted to co-present The Guardian's Science Podcast in 2012! *cringes
Researched, arranged and recorded for the European Investment Bank’s Future Europe Podcast in Cyprus, thanks to our pals at Earshot Strategies.
Made a 'Shreds' version of Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas with writer Emma Wright for a giggle. It might make you cry with laughter or just catch flies when you listen to it here!
Rebranded ASFB Productions products to a ‘Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum’ service package - to be rolled out in 2019.
Began building an online course module to be held monthly on how to ‘Start Podcasting Now’.
Edited and released the European Investment Bank’s podcast episode on the Cyprus case study - complete with a written blog and photos.
Produced with BBC Breakfast TV overnights team.
Continued training journalists in Bangor and London for the Open Media roll out.
Recorded, edited and launched a new Slimming World Food For Thought Podcast in collaboration with Anna Mangan - consultant extraordinaire and all round nice egg.
Attended the talented lady that is Emma-Victoria Houlton of The Art of Podcast's meet up event 'PodThat' with panel Q&A and chance to meet others freelancing in the podcast bubble based in Greater Manchester.
Mike Shaft tells me I can be heard on Manchester Cathedral Radio reading bits of the bible, some clips I voiced up for him last year!
Met and booked by Creative England to lead a ‘how to podcast’ workshop in their Birmingham events in February.
Booked coaching sessions with Sonya O’Sullivan to grow my public speaking business in 2019.
Ended the year having bought my first car in 8 years, lost 4 stone, ditched alcohol, reignited my writing spark and got back to playing music on my uke and bass.
Phew! What a year! Here's to another productive 12 months!
Want to work with me, for me, book me? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Or see more about what I do here.