The Roost often helps Newcastle feel like home for our international members. For English-born graphic designer Lisa Halliwell, the strong community feel in the co-working space was a huge draw.
Lisa said, “Prior to COVID, I was already going a bit crazy working alone at home. I’ve got a whole office set up, but the one thing missing was the social aspect. I’d go for three or four days without leaving my house; get up, go to my desk, work, eat my dinner, go to bed. I’d just moved to Newcastle, so I didn’t know anybody either.”
“Everyone here’s really nice. Just being able to be social if you want to be social and also be studious if you want to be studious. The social aspect of doing stuff sometimes, like we go to life drawing, and sometimes go to the pub on a Friday and the Roosty Christmas Party is always fun.”
Lisa’s career began in Birmingham more than 20 years ago. After completing a BA in Graphic Design, she cut her teeth at an agency that did a lot of design work in the hospitality space. She worked with international brands such as Chicago Rock Café, Crown Plaza and Hilton Hotel, focusing on branding and print communication. She quickly learned that professional life moved a lot more quickly than student projects. Where she was once given six weeks to complete a project, she now had two days.
In 2009, Lisa swapped England’s cloudy skies for Sydney’s sunny shores and quickly got sponsored. She found herself niched in food advertising and worked with some global fast food outlets but, when she could, she left the corporate world to become her own boss.
Such was the quality of her design that, even today, Lisa’s still in demand from her previous workplaces. She continues to contract for these agencies from Newcastle while adding her own selection of clients, including some local councils, the Australian Association of National Advertisers, Global Colours Paint and a handful of local food and beverage businesses like Lulu’s Gelato Company.
In the future, she hopes to find more work with people who are making a positive impact on the planet. She said, “I want to transform myself into selling better things, things that are better for the world. ”
“I did some branding and packaging for some eco-friendly stuff, bamboo toothbrushes and toothpicks. Recently I’ve done some stuff for an environmentally friendly paint and I’ve previously been involved in Planet Pledge through the AANA. I get a good feeling doing that.”
One of the most enjoyable aspects of self-employment is the feeling of freedom it brings. Not only do you get to work on a wide variety of tasks, there’s also no need to beg your manager for a few hours off and you get to choose what you work on and when. However, like with any new role, there’s a learning curve when you start your own business.
For Lisa, the biggest struggle was with setting boundaries. She said, “When someone says ‘I need this tomorrow morning’ and being able to say ‘I can’t do that by tomorrow morning’. I would sit up all night doing it purely because I was afraid of losing the client if I didn’t jump when they said jump rather than managing their expectations better.”
“It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to do that and tell people ‘I can’t do that for two weeks, but then you’ve got me and I’ll do it then’ rather than going ‘Oh god, I’ve got to do it right now’ and then being swamped.”
“When you’re working in a full-time job, you just get a day’s worth of work allocated to you, do that then you go home and forget about it. Working for yourself you have to learn to juggle and manage expectations yourself rather than relying on a project manager to keep the wolves at bay.”
Now firmly established in her role as business owner, Lisa is beginning the process of being more selective with the work she accepts. Rather than taking on projects “selling shit to people”, she wants to get more involved with work that’s better for the world. She said, “I want to use my design powers for good not evil.”
Part of being able to do that is not only chasing down those clients but also involves upskilling to suit their needs, something that The Roost’s community is helping with in lieu of formal workmates. Initially introduced to the space by photographer Lee Illfield, Lisa has found that the talented designers in the workspace can help with her professional development as well.
She said, “When you’re in a full-time job, you have other colleagues to say ‘Hey, can you show me how to do this?’ and I can learn on the job. There’s not that opportunity when you work for yourself alone in your spare bedroom unless you teach yourself. But when you’re surrounded by people who are doing that you can go ‘Hey, how do I do this?’
“Being in The Roost it’s comforting to know that, if I am learning it on the go, I can ask other people questions and they’ll help.”