Something on the side

I’ve always had a little something on the side.

And before you start clutching your pearls—I mean I’ve never had just one job.

Even in high school, working part time for the local news weekly, the Iroquois Post, I wrote reviews and roundup pieces for a radical librarian’s magazine in Toronto (It was the 70s). I would on occasion, on the way to my first post-university job in publishing, stop in at Fran’s to eat waffles doused in raspberry syrup with a friend who was an editor with a women’s magazine in Winnipeg—and walk away with paying assignments.

When I worked in advertising and was morally bound not to work for competitors, I did magazine pieces. And while working client side, I’d pick up freelance copywriting gigs from former colleagues who liked my style and knew my reputation for getting things done well and on time.

When I’m at my day job, it gets my full attention. But the rest of my hours belong to me—as is how I choose to use them.

Side gigs are now seen as a collection of part-time jobs that millennials have to string together to survive. I’ve viewed mine as a continuum, modular components that formed the building blocks of a more varied and interesting (and yes, more lucrative) career. My work “on the side” is also my “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” insurance against the whims of the job market and it’s been a good way to stay connected to the broader communications industry while I’ve spent years enjoying a regular paycheque writing for a very niche sector.

I’m not the only one. Variety makes one stretch, ultimately making talent shine brighter. Kurt Vonnegut did PR for General Electric and wrote for Sports Illustrated. Toni Morrison spent her daylight hours as a textbook editor. And my personal hero, Jane Trahey, ran her own successful Madison Avenue ad agency while designing greeting cards for a major retailer, writing a bushel of books and getting her plays produced on Broadway.

Clearly I’m in good company. And I feel lucky to have a naturally mobile ability. Isn’t that a prime component of the “new” economy? Job security in the form of transferable skills?

I guess I was just ahead of my time.

 

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Case study: greenmelon inc. product site

Fictional storytelling: A “novel” approach to branded content

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When greenmelon inc. was first established, its primary focus was on product design, mainly lighting fixtures, furniture and household hard goods. Thing is, when small firms design products, they seldom have the financial support to actually produce the product—it’s generally easier, less risky and more lucrative to simply sell the design to a manufacturer or large chain, and let them take over the production and distribution.

Greenmelon creative director Robert Smith’s background lay in graphic design—and he had won many packaging gigs—so the company offered a holistic approach to product design—not just the product itself, but also the positioning, communications and packaging that went along with it.

Since the product didn’t exist beyond Robert’s imagination, the wonder of Photoshop and some technical drawings—there was only one way to get the product ideas across. Tell a good story. That’s exactly what Joy Parks, owner, senior writer and creative director of seed, did.

There was a simplicity and great deal of wit to the products developed by greenmelon—and that tone was central to the content on the website. Beginning with the understated “we’re greenmelon and we design things” tagline (which continues to appear on www.greenmeloninc.com, also written in large part by seed president Joy Parks), the site not only featured brief descriptions of the products—but also fictional stories of end-user customers who had bought the product. The short stories explained who the potential customer was, why they bought the product and how they were using it. These fictions not only outlined details about the product but also allowed potential licensees to glimpse their potential market. And they did so with wit, humour and down-to-earth simplicity.

According to President and Creative Director of greenmelon Inc., “I always infuse an element of wit and whimsy into my product design so it was imperative that the website articulate that. I chose to work with Joy from the very beginning of the project because the site required more than just words. It needed personality. It needed to tell a story. There was no one else that I would trust with a project of this scope. The results were simply, poetic. Joy was much more than a writer, she was a collaborator and the site would not have been the overwhelming success it was without her involvement.”

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The site got rave reviews from just about everyone who visited it and was, quite frankly, like catnip for young designers looking for a place to work. While greenmelon later shifted its focus to graphic design, this initial website showcased both the company’s innovative designs and creative approach to marketing them, established their “fresh” brand and proved the power of storytelling.

For more examples of greenmelon’s website, please go to:

http://seedcreativecontent.com/entries/retail/greenmelon-product-website

http://seedcreativecontent.com/entries/corporate-non-profit/greenmelon-inc-website

Download a PDF of this case study Greenmelon Inc

 

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