My Small Rural Business: Natalie Dowling
According to the ABS, regional businesses account for over 800,000 businesses. As part of our Regional Heroes campaign, we're profiling some of these incredible small business owners, like Natalie Dowling, to see what makes them (and their towns) tick!
What is the name of your business?
Words on a Page
What is your website, Instagram and Facebook?
When did you start your small biz?
Why did you start it?
I’d taken a career break after a paid escape from the bureaucracy (aka redundancy). I’d moved back to the country and was managing chronic illness. I didn’t want to commute again. I couldn’t face another round of buzzword bingo meetings. I want words to have meaning; not to tick a box, gather dust on a shelf or become trite. Also, the universe gave me a nudge when in the same week that the local café where I’d been working was sold, two former bosses contacted me to write for them. One of them commented that I’d taken the ideas out of her head and put the words on a page. Seed planted. Business name available. I naively rolled the dice thinking that business would provide me with balance.
Is it the only biz of its kind in your area?
There are a few other copywriters around. Some have come and gone. I wonder if that’s because people who like to write perceive copywriting as an easy or logical work option. But running a business requires different skill and mind sets. Digital marketing companies continue to emerge and copywriting is often one of their services. But I think the way I pick people’s brains to tell a story and tailor the copy is a point of difference.
What do you love most about living where you live?
I lambasted Kyneton when I finished school and declared I’d never come back. The town has changed since I grew up here. It’s officially a destination. I too have changed. And there are others like me who have boomeranged back. I’ve been enjoying the fresh air, space and quiet for about ten years now. I couldn’t turn off in the city. There was always undercurrent tension hum. Whenever I head home from the big smoke these days I’ll hit the mountain ranges and palpably feel my body sink into relax mode. I guess that dual proximity to nature and the city is the bonus of living here.
How would you describe your client base?
I work across industries, which is great because I get to meet people and learn stuff. On my whiteboard this week I have everything from an education peak body to a hospital, photographer, business development guy, landscape designer, real estate sales copy and an industrial refrigeration company. They’ve all recognised the need to tell their story to tout their wares.
Who/what do you consider your biggest competitor?
I think there is plenty of copywriting work to go around. It’s something that benefits all businesses. One of the biggest threats though is average writers who are cheap. They devalue the profession and the craft. But I’ve become more comfortable being who I am, charging for what I do and finding the quality clients who appreciate my bespoke wordsmithing as an investment in their business.
How do most of your clients find you? Ie via website, word of mouth etc
Word of mouth referrals, newsletter, social media and print publications. The odd web enquiry. I am an infrequent and ambivalent user of social media. The platforms have benefits but I have an aversion to white noise.
Do you network with other small biz in your area?
I used to think networking was a dirty word. I don’t think I really understood what it meant and how it worked. A local networking group kicked off when I started my business. I hadn’t known such a thing existed. I researched and wondered if it wasn’t all a bit cultish… But I joined up and it was honestly the best thing I could have done starting out. I now have the skills, confidence and contacts to network informally. I also attend business events.
Who is your greatest support?
There are a few select people. I’ll get on the blower to bounce around ideas, get advice or vent my WTFs.
What’s your biggest goal for the next 5 years?
I want to reduce ‘at the desk’ time and to grow workshops and collaborative projects. I love facilitating and helping people to discover what they have not yet recognised in themselves or had the confidence to articulate. I’m currently studying sound healing and rewilding is also part of my life. Something is definitely brewing around a nature, storytelling and wellness combination – fresh air for fresh thinking. I’ve actually registered another business name but the ideas are embryonic. Also, I want to buy a bush block for my 50th birthday. I don’t yet know where that place in the world will be. So I need to go Leyland Brother adventuring and have my business better set-up for such rollicks.
What is your biggest challenge in terms of growing your business?
My reluctance to outsource or delegate. Something I continue to ponder…
If there was one thing you could do to make the biggest change to your business what would it be?
Just cash flow. But with the hindsight of five years in I am now hatching that plan with a little more wisdom.
What/where is your favourite place in your town and why?
I recharge at Black Hill, a nature reserve six km out of town. It’s a mystical place laden with granite boulders. There’s a perimeter track at the base which means you can wander all over and confidently get lost exploring, knowing that you will eventually get back on track. And yes, that’s a reassuring analogy for life in business.
Vote for Natalie in Kochie’s Business Builders Regional Heroes competition!
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