Redundancy is hard, but it can often lead to better things

Rose Cornford/Story Publishing

Are you facing the prospect of losing your job? Rupert Cornford reflects on his own experiences to share with others about finding the way forward

Two years ago, I was made redundant and put on garden leave. It was a first for me and it didn’t feel good. I remember going for long walks while the rest of my family were out at work and school. I needed to think about the future.

I’d made a big change in my career – stepping away from the media – and after two years it had come to a premature end. But I was in no-man’s land; I didn’t feel sure about the new industry and wasn’t clear how to use the experience I had developed. I had learned a lot about business and developed new skills, but I also missed working with words much more than I thought.

Perhaps it was just meant to be.

I remember a conversation with my wife Suzi, over a coffee, as the money in the bank ticked down and the need to earn it crept up. ‘Why don’t we start a business?’ I suggested. ‘I can start writing again and we can work together on audio projects and podcasts…’ Because that’s what began to feel right.

We had both worked in journalism for most of our careers. We met when I was working for a publisher between Kent and London and Suzi worked at BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat. Since then, we shared our years in Dubai and then Manchester, working with words, pictures, and audio.

We’d talked about working together one day, but necessity can be the mother of invention.

Story Publishing was born at the end of April 2018 when we registered it at Companies House. I started working in the middle of May that year, and I’ll never forget the first invoice dropping in July. That made it feel real and perhaps even possible. One of the first things we did was put a simple web page together with our name and contact details. I also thought about our purpose, too…

“Tell stories that educate, inspire and connect people.”

Let’s be honest, the first year was rocky. Cash flow was hard, and I was trying to work out what we were as a business. I did ghost writing, blog writing, feature writing and some public relations work – writing business stories for the media. I also started writing as a freelancer for the magazine I’d left two years previously.

I was obsessed with just keeping it going; finding creative ways to produce content for people and saying yes to things. After about ten months, Suzi came on board full time, as we ramped up the search for audio work. A series commissioned in the summer of 2019 helped to put us out there. Our former contacts and employers also supported us with new projects.

Year two felt very different. We were both working in the business. We created an office at home. We had more meetings. We pitched for more work. Leading up to the pandemic in March, we managed to hit the target we’d set ourselves for the second 12 months. Working on the website, the Instagram account, and some projects that continued through the summer, has helped keep us focused.

You can read more about our lockdown journey here. But I wanted to write this blog to offer support to people facing a similar situation to the one I found myself in two years ago. You might have been made redundant or feeling overwhelmed with your circumstances. Equally, you might be feeling inspired to do something else.

Here are five things I have learned from our experience of finding a new path. I hope these insights will help you to think about walking in a new direction.

Relationships help to develop a business. We largely work with people we know. In the case of work with new clients, it has often come from referrals, which have been a powerful connector. The website has also helped to demonstrate credibility and content to help people answer questions and make decisions. Who do you know who could help you start?

Ask for feedback. We’ve asked people to write things about the work we have done. This has helped us to understand how our work is helping and what the experience has been like for them. This is how we want to run the business and it also helps us to understand what we are providing. We want our content to inspire, engage and connect, so we would like to know if it does. We can also use this feedback alongside case studies on our website. How are clients describing the work you do?

Package things up for people. There are some projects when a day rate is the right approach, if we are working as part of a larger team, for example. But it’s been easier to try and work on a project basis. This wraps up the admin, consultancy, interviews, recording, writing, research, editing, and everything else. It also means we have time for a project to breathe and develop within agreed boundaries. Are you easy to buy from?

Work out what you offer. This is always evolving, as we both bring different backgrounds to the business, but I think people do buy from people. The way we approach interviews and stories, with empathy, care and seeking the human angle, means we work across a range of topics. We tell stories, through people, about people and with people. As journalists we learn what else we need to know. But clearly, we work best at the sweet spot of our professional experience, and creative drive. How do you approach your work in a way that only you can?

Try things. Action can bring motivation and the past six months have been a great example of that. Online platforms are a good place to share content ideas and themes. When you explore things you are passionate about, or you can interpret in a unique way, they can help your audiences. We would like everything we do to have value for people, but that can mean different things at different times. Applying a beginner’s mind isn’t easy, but it helps. What’s working, what’s not, what are you enjoying?

I hope some of this resonates for you.

We’re all in new territory now, so for everyone that has supported our business, thank you; and for everyone in need of some support, I’m always happy to talk. We can only do what we do because of everyone else and we are always learning.

So, the next time you are staring down into a cup of coffee, unsure what to do; or out on a long walk contemplating your future… just have a think about everything you can do, that you can offer, and importantly, that brings you joy.

Thanks for reading; please share this article with anyone it might help.