When I graduated in 2013 I have to admit at first, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with myself career wise. The three years I’d spent at LSFM were so intense when it came to both student work and throwing myself into external projects, like co-founding the student radio station Brayford Radio, that it was weird for everything to suddenly just stop. I’d also faced a very clear dividing line in my interests during third year, choosing to focus on radio (my passion) but at the same time marrying it with digital media (where I thought my skills were best placed career wise). In the end the first thing I decided to do was take a break from everything and visit friends in Latvia that I’d made during a trip to Finland for the MC2020 project in my final year, and on my return I applied for an internship at the University.
Applying for the internship seemed to make perfect sense for me at the time because the one stipulation I had set myself when I graduated was to stay in Lincoln.
I’d seen a lot of friends who’d previously graduated, move home and return to their life before University, stuck in jobs that had nothing to do with media – a situation I knew it would be hard to work your way back from. So I decided to say, I’d become independent moving away from home in 2010 and wasn’t about to go back. Besides, I had too many friends in the city outside of my studies and was involved in a number of organisations locally, so for me the decision was a no brainer. Luckily, a fellow graduate had pointed me towards the internships being offered at the University and as it was only the second year of the programme I thought, perhaps stubbornly, that it would be something good for my CV and if I got the job it would at least cover my rent meaning I could stay in the city for another year.
At the time I applied for the internship in the HR department, focusing on social media, I was also a member of the BBC Production Talent Pool (there’s that radio vs. digital media thing again). While my year in the PTP was a wonderful experience and I learnt a lot about the inner workings of the BBC, including a placement at the World Service, it became clear early on that there were very few opportunities in radio as opposed to TV and that to be a presenter (my dream) nowadays relied more on a background in journalism than media production. It was at this point that I decided, with some reluctance, to throw myself lock stock and barrel behind building a career in digital media.
I’m pleased to say it worked out and I completed my internship in June 2014 and found it to be a very rewarding experience. It gave me time to transition from being a student to working in the real world and greatly improved my confidence as I was making daily telephone calls, communicating with the Senior Leadership Team on a regular basis, giving presentations and running workshops. I was more or less solely in charge of bringing social media into the department for the first time and had the opportunity to use my skills in digital media to build websites and marketing materials. It was as my internship was coming to an end in early June 2014 that I was first approached to see if I would stay on in the position on a consultancy basis. This would mean working part time in the new role of Digital Media Officer, which would be expanded to include the development of other digital media platforms for the department such as mobile apps. My boss at the time suggested I might set up my own business, which I had previously expressed an interest in doing during my initial interview for the internship when asked about future plans. She also pointed me towards funding for an MA in Digital Media, which I could, in theory, study for during the five days when I was not working as a consultant for the department. I had to admit, I liked the idea as it meant I could further specialise my skills in the area of digital media through both work and study, which seemed to back the career decision I’d made a year previously.
I began studying for my MA in Digital Media in September 2015 and during that summer went through the process of setting up Tall Lime as a self-employed sole trader. I get asked a lot where I got the name from and I always say it was my brother who came up with it although I remember thinking a media business needs to have a quirky name, just look at Electric Egg. The next twelve months were spent studying for my MA and working part-time through Tall Lime as a consultant in the HR dept. making just enough to cover my overheads and working all the hours I could. I was lucky at this time to also get some experience as an hourly paid lecturer taking a first year Media Production class through their Digital Media module, further experience in the field for which I’m very grateful.
Make no doubt about it; running your own business is hard. Really, I went into it having little to no actual business experience except a GCSE in the subject I’d scraped through in 2008. The past two and a bit years since I started have been a steep learning curve and I’ve had to really cut back in terms of my own income to make it work. I’m sure any graduate who has started their own business will tell you the same. It takes time and a lot of hard work to make it a success. But throughout, however much it gets you down, and there have been some dark times, you always come back to the realisation that you’re working for yourself, you can call the shots and once you remember that it pushes you to strive on. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has run his or her own business or been self employed says the same thing, once you’ve done it you’ll never go back to being employed again. I think they’re probably right!
I’m pleased to say that Tall Lime is now, after two years, starting to make a success of itself. I recently registered the business as a limited company, I’ll be moving into an office at Sparkhouse Studios (on 18th July) and hope to take on my first member of staff later this year. Sometimes I think I should have made these choices earlier in the process, when first starting out, but then I realise that my experiences between graduating in 2013 and summer 2016 have been almost like an apprenticeship in how to run a business, learning as I went along.
I’m very proud of the fact that Tall Lime was nominated for Best Digital Startup at the recent Lincs Digital Awards, alongside some other great businesses run by LSFM graduates. And as for my struggle between a focus on radio and digital media, I’m really starting to think I made the right decision. Plus, in my spare time I still get to present my weekly country music radio programme which began in 2008, before I even knew about the Media Production course at Lincoln, and which will soon mark its 10th anniversary, so it’s not all bad.