I had an idea for a new blog and this turned into the foundations of a business, all within two weeks. This article summarises the process, from initial idea to being setup and ready to work with clients.
I'll start a blog, I thought. I had time on my hands and it was a welcome chance to revisit some older articles and write new ones. The focus would be on my personal interests of film analysis, narrative theories, storytelling and audiences. These are all topics I've written about through my studies and on various personal blogs.
Looking backwards to help with moving forward
I started to trawl the Internet Archive - Wayback Machine to find older articles on my blogs that I had let lapse. I soon had a small collection of posts that covered the topics for my new blog. It was also nice to look back on the sites that once were. Here's my blog from 2012:
I then redesigned this (with help) in 2013 and it then looked like this:
Taking this trip down memory lane reminded me of an article I wrote in 2013 for a digital magazine called Inside the Story, which is no longer online. I wrote about narrative codes and storytelling in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. I've republished the article on the Fourth Wall Content blog.
In that article I mention the fourth wall and straight away I realised that would be the name of the new blog. I've written about what the fourth wall means and why it's related to content services.
It summarised everything I wanted to focus on in my republished and new articles:
media codes and conventions
narrative, semiotics and storytelling
In that moment, Fourth Wall Content was created and I moved fast to secure the domain name, commit to a web platform and hosting and collecting my previous articles whilst listing new ideas to write about too.
Embracing opportunities and getting focused
Whilst working on the blog I was also having catch-ups with some of my content pals and peers. I've built an incredible network of contacts in content strategy and UX and it was nice to have time to chat about what they were all working on and more generally about life. As the conversations happened, opportunities started to present themselves. People learnt that I was between jobs and started to suggest projects I may be able to help them with.
I found myself wanting to say yes to everything but this presented two challenges:
a big change of plan from what I had in mind that would affect professional and personal circumstances
it would be impossible to say yes to everything
Then I realised I could say yes to it all if I worked for myself and also have the work life balance I was seeking. I never thought twice after that and committed to setting up as an independent content specialist. It all fell into place very quickly. I decided Fourth Wall Content would be the business name and set to work on creating a small website to get me started. The very site you're reading this article on.
Strategic content services
The biggest challenge was deciding what to offer as a service or services. The most important part for me was to be able to do work that allowed me to stay active in the content and UX community. I always found so much enjoyment and satisfaction in the educational side of my previous work - connecting people, publishing useful resources, being able to elevate new voices and share knowledge from seasoned practitioners. The trouble was, how is that summarised as a skill or offering?
I also wanted to ensure I was able to flex my strategic muscle more and I wanted to do more writing. I had become more of an editor recently and really missed writing about my own experiences as well as writing about the things I just enjoy (hence wanting to start a new blog in the first place).
I settled on my services being:
They are broad terms but that was a conscious decision as I'm keen to have variety in my work ranging from content audits to copywriting to social media distribution tactics. All with a strategy at its core and breaking the fourth wall to target the audience(s).
Getting setup and having a baseline to iterate from
It felt like there was so much to do but when I broke it down, it became a manageable list that I was able to quickly work through. Within 48 hours I had taken care of, or started the process, for all of admin side of being self employed.
Creating a website
I'm no web designer but I wanted to be able to manage the entire process myself for getting a website live, still with the blog component that was the original intention. I opted to use a service called Wix.com which provides templates to get started - a helping hand I needed.
I've customised it a lot and there is now a long list of things to change and add. The key for me was to get something live, knowing it wouldn't be perfect. That was uncomfortable but now I can iterate and improve as needed. Getting started is usually the hardest part and that's done. Now I have a place to progress from.
The visual identity
I've always struggled with this on my past blogs. If photography is going to be a key part of a brand identity, it really has to be high quality. I definitely didn't want to rely solely on standard stock photography but I also wanted consistency in the visual elements including social images, article images and colours throughout the website.
I've settled on a combination of my own photos and a carefully selected batch from Unsplash. In order to gain the consistency in the images I am using an online tool called Duotone where every image will be turned into the same two tone tint. Here's one example of a photo of my desk that was edited using Duotone:
Is that the most amazing approach to design? Absolutely not. But it does give me full control and ability to have consistent imagery without too much effort, allowing me to give time to more important aspects of the business.
Writing for yourself is the hardest gig of all
The part I've found most difficult is writing about myself. I've never found it easy and it's a long time since I've had to write more than just a bio. It brought lots of insecurities to the surface:
am I doing myself justice?
will it make people want to work with me?
can I even do what I'm saying?
if these words are bad what will it say about my quality of work?
And the list went on. Then I realised, again, it's a start. I expect I will tweak this website non-stop. And that's ok. I'll rewrite sections, edit, add, remove. I really want to work on establishing my own style for Fourth Wall Content and documenting that. I believe that even as a solo strategist, I can and should still outline content principles and standards to adhere to. The site in its current form will change. A lot. But for a few days work, I'm pleased with how it is right now and I'm learning a lot about not fretting and just moving forward.
Finding clients and getting started with the work
I feel fortunate that my relationships with others in the content community have led to some great opportunities. In fact, the opportunities came before the idea of working for myself and actually spurred that whole plan on. In the coming weeks I'll be sharing more about what work I'm about to kick-off. I'll also be writing the articles I listed when I decided to start the blog and I want to continue to be a part of community events too. If anything, a challenge is going to be what I need to say no to and not taking on too much, as a key driver for setting up the business is to have a balance with work and family life that I can dictate and change as needed.
It's nerve wracking even thinking about publishing this article and letting people know about my new venture. It's new and scary but also exciting. There is a lot of work to do and a lot of uncertainty to navigate but if there's one thing I've learnt, it's that we should trust what feels right. Starting Fourth Wall Content not only feels right, but it feels like it brings together my interests, experience and knowledge and all of that has been leading to this moment and this business. I can't wait to see what happens next.
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Article attributions and references:
Website built with Wix.com
Images edited with Duotone
Typewriter on desk photograph by Robert Mills
Other images on site curated from Unsplash
Old blog images sourced from Wayback Machine