Over the past three months, like everyone, we have been riding the ‘corona coaster’ of highs and lows. With children at home and a business to run, our experience has included a long list of challenges, but also opportunities. This is the story of what it has been like and what we have learned – about the business and ourselves
Lockdown started with a poorly young boy. Our son had been at school in the middle week of March, but alongside growing unease in the UK about Covid symptoms in the population, he had developed a temperature.
As a family, we then spent 14 days inside, from Thursday 19 March, a matter of days before the whole country was advised to stay at home and avoid going out, apart from errands for essential supplies.
The past three months have been a bizarre and blurry mix of work, teaching, parenting – and survival. Some days have felt good, productive, and positive; and others are like walking through glue. There are a lot of grey, foggy periods, where things just don’t quite add up.
As a business, we rolled into lockdown on the back of some interesting projects.
Two podcast series we’d produced had been recorded, and over the following few weeks, we were able to work remotely and start the editing process, before launch. Some of our editorial work dried up, along with one audio project we had lined up, but we had enough to steady the ship in the short term.
What we realised very quickly is how challenging it is to focus on work and teach two children at the same time. While our daughter is turning ten and quite self-sufficient, our son is six, and needs – quite rightly – a lot of support.
This created conflict between schoolwork and the business, or at least the feeling of conflict, in our heads. We knew that both mattered, but like so many parents working, it was difficult to give anything full attention.
We had long days, and long nights, teaching and then working – going through the process of fine editing audio is just not possible with an audience of children needing attention.
There were also afternoons of pacing the house with headphones on, listening to the final versions of podcasts, while worksheets and maths problems competed for attention with toys and the TV.
Running a business during lockdown has been an exercise in patient persistence. Patient with ourselves and our children, patient with clients and their project horizons, but persistent in keeping our hands on the tiller and the show on the road.
There has been time to look at the things that had fallen to the bottom of the list. We’ve worked on finishing our website, which went live in May, and contains examples of the projects we have been involved with since the company started.
We’ve also started publishing regular content on our Instagram feed, learning from the skills and expertise of Helen Perry, and coming up with a weekly formula for content. One of our favourite things to do is #weekendwords, which is a selection of things we recommend reading, watching, and listening to, at the end of each week.
We’ve also published several blogs, which have explored relevant themes to lockdown, including remote recording of audio.
All these things have been creative and important for our brand and reputation.
With the website live and the social media following beginning to grow, we have been able to share resources, case studies and testimonials with people that we have been talking to about our work.
Some of the relationship building we had been doing prior to March hasn’t stopped, but having something to show people, has been a great way to demonstrate credibility to clients we don’t know. This has been very useful when lockdown has taken away the chance to meet face to face.
It’s also been a time to embrace online learning. Alongside Instagram classes, we have taken part in courses about infographics, non-fiction writing, and launching magazines. Media outlets and other companies have been hosting regular webinar discussions and bringing together hundreds of people from around the world in one place.
The events industry has been turned on its head and online delivery has created opportunities for the sharing of ideas, business development, and keeping in touch with stories and trends that are shaping the world of business and life.
Like many businesses, things have been quieter for us, but we have tried our best to follow the advice of working on the business when we could, and working in the business, when it was needed. Striking a balance of being patient and persistent has resulted in new opportunities for the business, including editorial, audio, and online event hosting projects.
It’s early July now.
Our youngest child is back to school, and the other will return in September. That has created space in our days, but we also know that our resilience has been tested and our tanks are running lower than we realised. This isn’t because of anything specific, but the sustained demands on our time have been a challenge.
It’s also clear from the people we speak to – and from the webinars we listen to – that many people are feeling the same. The enforced changes to our way of working, and the associated stress of life becoming even more unpredictable, impact all of us in different ways.
When we started Story, we experienced our fair share of uncertainty, and still do – it comes with the territory of running a business and being involved with every aspect of it. But underneath we have had to get very good at self-care and restoring our energy reserves. There’s no magic bullet to this, but taking time out to exercise, think, talk, and reflect helps improve the quality of the time spent producing stories.
Because at heart, we are creative people, who really enjoy what we do for a living. The process of writing a piece, or producing a podcast, is to create something more than words on a page or a story in our ears. It takes thought, reflection, energy, passion, curiosity – patience and persistence.
We’ve been very grateful to everyone we have worked with, learnt from, and been in touch with over the past three months. Life aboard the ‘corona coaster’ is real – and we wish you a more relaxed summer, as we all begin to emerge, blinking, into whatever comes next.
Thankfully, we are now all healthy, and we hope your loved ones are too.
If you are interested in some of the work we have been doing, check out the ‘projects’ page; and you can follow @story_publishing on Instagram.