Soloist stories

The day a violent hail storm turned my life and home-based business upside down

- August 21, 2020 4 MIN READ

A few days before Christmas in 2018, a huge hailstorm hit most parts of Sydney. Some parts were hit harder than others, and unfortunately my suburb was one of them. During the storm, hailstones the size of tennis balls pelted our house at speeds of up to 112kph, downwards and sideways. Our windows shattered and rain literally poured in from everywhere, including through light fittings, beams, exhaust fans and down all walls. My sons’ backyard toys and play equipment became missile targets. Later, our bedroom ceiling collapsed.

Our home suddenly felt like a small boat in rough seas, and we had no choice but to huddle in a corner hoping we’d stay afloat. By ‘we’, I mean my baby son and I, while my husband and our other son were out.

When the storm passed, my husband rushed home. We walked through our soggy home, salvaging anything dry. We packed our bags in the dark, not knowing when we’d return again.

The insurance company declared our suburb a catastrophe zone, while the locals fondly renamed it, Tarpaulin Heights.

As a result of the damage, our home had to be gutted and almost completely rebuilt on the inside, and this happened over the next 11 months. Meanwhile, we were put up in a rental property by the insurance company.

Throughout the near year-long repairs, although there were moments of happiness, overall, I often felt stressed and overwhelmed. I was mentally and physically exhausted as I managed my new pregnancy, kept up with the domestic day-to-day, juggled my home-based graphic design business and fought with our insurer over the repairs.

But thankfully the 11 months passed, and we eventually moved back to our beloved home. It was Christmas again, so a great festive gift, thankfully without the hailstones this time! 

Still, a LOT happened in the fortnight of the move. 

I had our third baby, packed up our rental, entertained my other two preschool-aged sons, unpacked the basics of our home, negotiated with builders as I breastfed, kept an eye on work emails, all the while nursing a fresh caesarean.

It was busy. It was stressful. But at least we were finally home.

Another upheaval was around the corner

Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to be a catalyst for change. 

At the time I had been in business for nearly 10 years as a graphic designer, and I had a regular stable of loyal, joyful clients, as well as a steady stream of wonderful new ones. But during the upheaval, I had to refer many of my clients to colleagues, and then put the entire business on hold while I was on maternity leave.

When I eventually hit the un-pause button, so much in life had changed, and my business no longer seemed congruent with those changes. 

An upheaval of a different kind was afoot, this time of my own making.

Why and how my business changed

A lack of time meant I needed to rethink my services 

The type of work I’d been doing no longer fit with my new lifestyle of raising three boys under five years old.

All of a sudden, I was faced with even less time than before, but needed to earn the same amount of money.

 While I enjoyed the smaller graphic design and web design projects, they were no longer financially viable. I needed to offer different projects, charged at an increased rate that reflected my experience.

A quest for happiness meant a quest for dream clients 

It wasn’t just about money, it was about reducing whatever stress was within my control, and working on projects that completely excited me.

I went through a complete analysis of myself and my business, and I partnered with a life coach who helped me discover and clarify many insights.

I realised, rather than being purely a graphic designer all those years, I had actually been a reliable coach for those running brands, because I’d always offered so much more than just straight designs. So I confidently rebranded myself as a Brand Strategist and started creating all my new business work processes and service packages, now glowing with a more mature look.

It was a good move! I still work with many of my existing clients, but my new solopreneur and micro business clients are people who are well established and know I can solve their graphic design and brand problems efficiently and effectively. As a result, they value my time and view my services as an investment rather than a cost. 

So basically, I am doing my dream work, with dream clients. 

Refurbishing my home inspired a revitalisation of my website 

Years ago, our home served as a first abode for the young couple we were, which over time, didn’t reflect our growth and transformation.

 So our home went through its own unique rebrand, so to speak. The old asbestos roof is a hazard no more. The refurbished interiors included modern light fittings, fresh carpet, a bespoke walk-in robe (to replace the cheaper cupboards), contemporary curtains and blinds, and a new lick of luscious paint.

My home office burst with new life! But my business didn’t sparkle in the same way, which is why I rebranded. Added to this, I walked through the slightly dusty corridors of my website, looking at it with new eyes, realising that it too needed some refurbishing and content changes. So a rejuvenation of my website started in earnest too.

All this happened right around my 10 year business anniversary. The timing was perfect and symbolic. 

A ‘brand’ new home & business

If I had my time over, would I have wished my home was damaged? Let’s just say it was the most stressful time of my life. But it forced me to make changes that I’m now incredibly happy about and proud of.

The experience taught me many things, one of them being that I don’t have to wait for a disaster to make changes to my business. I can transform, rebrand and flourish at any time. 

This post was written by Shona Maitland.  Shona is a brand strategist and designer at Shona Creative. She has further expertise in ethical and socially-responsible businesses and charities at Brands of Change, her second business. 

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