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Meet Max & Sarah from Offshoot Creative

March 7, 2014 by Curtin CEL Team

Offshoot Creative is a Content Creation Studio. The studio focuses on defining stories at the heart of brands, communities and organisations – bringing them to life by creating content that speaks with authentic voice. Stories with soul. Offshoot Creative create strategy, video, words, photography, sound, design, events and social media interactions. Founders Max Brearley and Sarah Hewer, have fantastic stories behind themselves as well.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Max: I wanted to work in Film and Television but got steered at school away from this. “It’s a difficult industry to get into”, “oh you want to Steven Spielberg do you?!” were a few things I heard. Needless to say I got pushed in a different direction.

Sarah: I loved the arts, making stuff, pushing myself creatively to translate what was going on in my head into the real world. But I found it tricky to work out what I could ’be’ when I grew up. It’s an odd question really (besides we never stop growing). I just wanted to keep doing stuff that I loved. Looking back I think it all centered around telling stories but I certainly didn’t have much clarity. Eventually I found that filmmaking was the path I wanted to follow.

Can you briefly describe your study/career journey leading up to starting Offshoot Creative?

Max: I studied Law at university but decided to take some time after graduation before committing to a law career. I found myself in financial services, spending 6 years in Insurance as a Sales Manager and later a Project Manager before moving into Corporate Banking. I worked as a Project Manger with international clients on everything from IT Integration to Anti Fraud projects. While I enjoyed the challenge of my corporate career I had a creative itch. Writing in my spare time became the scratch to that itch. Leaving the Bank and moving to Australia I had an opportunity to take a bold step. Having developed a good body of work here and in the UK, in print and online I absconded from corporate life.

Sarah: A lot of well meaning adults told me I should study something secure. At the very least pair my ‘creative’ degree with something more ‘reliable’. I wasn’t interested. As far as I was concerned if I didn’t have something to fall back on I wouldn’t fall. I was and still am pretty stubborn. I completed a BA in English studying film and creative writing at Curtin University. Documentary had become my passion so I headed to London. I started on the bottom rung as a Soho runner. After learning the ropes, building contacts and having had my fill of living on minimum wage, I went freelance as a documentary editor. Working for both the UK and North American market I was lucky to get a series of great opportunities and create a solid body of documentary work. Everything from observational documentaries, current affairs, science, history and sport. I loved it and still love it – sitting down with a pile of rushes and finding the stories and how to articulate them in an honest and compelling way. But … I was craving the opportunity to work without the constraints of a single format, and also broadcast medium.

What made you decide to start your own business?

Max: After 12 years working for a corporate employer it was time to try it my own way. I craved the freedom of self employment and the opportunities it can give you.

Sarah: Max and I realised there was a chance to combine our skills and past experience which combined allowed us to go in a completely new direction. I’d worked freelance for over ten years but starting a business gave a whole new sense of freedom and chance for creativity and challenges. Very early on we decided we wanted to create a business where we could create work that we love. Also a business that would allow us to work for others but also for ourselves.

How valuable have you found your respective career experiences in terms of how you operate within your business now? How has it impacted your business choices?

Max: My corporate experience has been invaluable. I know how corporates think, I know how to deal with clients at all levels of a business. My management skills: project, process and people are a strength in providing our services to clients. Equally important is my writing experience. Our business is based around storytelling and both Sarah and I bring different strengths to that. Our clients respond well to the fact that I’m both bean counter and a creative.

Sarah: Massively. Although the medium has changed my work continues to be based around stories. Although I am not physically spending my days cutting stories together I am creating stories in different ways. Working with teams, projects and workflows is also experience that has carried through.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced while running your own business?

Max: In an employed role you can have an off day now and again, you have slow periods and know that you’ll be getting paid at the end of the month. Self employment doesn’t give you that safety net. You have to motivate yourself every day to work, find new business and develop existing relationships. It can be challenging to keep constant momentum.

Sarah: The balance between the operational sides of the business and the creative sides of the business. They don’t always complement each other.

What do you love about having your own business?

Max: The freedom to work with who you want to and how you want to. That your direction is decided by you and not a boss, or bosses boss…. it’s liberating.

Sarah: Freedom. Ability to work with people that inspire me. Ability to set my own challenges. That moment where hard work, lack of sleep, fear of failure suddenly kicks into a feel-good adrenaline rush when you have a success.

What advice would you give students who aim to work in creative industries?

Max: Hone your skills and be multi-disciplinary. Flexibility, lateral thinking and transferrable skills may build your career and also help you develop entrepreneurial independence.

Sarah: Push yourself creatively but also build your entrepreneurial skills. They are interdependent.

What do think have been the most integral traits/skills in terms of being successful in creative industries and finding your feet in a new environment/industry?

Max: A willingness to try new things and not being hemmed in by other peoples ideas of which box you fit in. Not being afraid to try and fail.

Sarah: Being scared, sometimes petrified but going for it regardless. Also a willingness to knock self doubt out when it rears it’s destructive head.

What advice would you give to students who are beginning to work with clients (freelance etc)?

Max: Always maintain the highest levels of professionalism, integrity and confidentiality. Working relationships can become very friendly but remember there’s a job to do, on time, on budget and to the quality expected. You are only as good as the last job you did. Also, word of mouth can be the biggest source of new business.

Sarah: Number 1 – Listen. Don’t go into a meeting with a client we a preconception of what they’ll say. Listen, observe, read between the lines and ask questions. The worst thing to do is pretend you understand if you don’t. Number 2 – Always be honest and keep hold of your integrity. Faking it and telling people what you think they want to hear is never good. Number 3 – Respect the client. Remember who you’re creating work for, why you’re getting the chance to do it before you get on a high horse.

If you’d like to know more, visit Offshoot Creative

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