Verity Harrison- The Remote Visual Storyteller
A catch up with one of our favourite, most energetic, and talented visual storytellers and remote work advocates around- Verity Harrison.
Having the opportunity to have a one-on-one with so many inspiring personalities during Nomad City or on this Blog is a priceless gift to ourselves and our whole community. Being able to give space to voices that are making a change in the working industry, one small (or big) step at a time, is truly a great privilege, and we hope to continue doing so for years to come.
For our newest feature, we met up with Verity Harrison, a visual storyteller and a remote work powerhouse of energy. Her illustrations at Think Doodly are unique creative endeavours, and we were lucky enough to have Verity do a few of them during her visit at Nomad City 2019 this year. We couldn’t help but ask her some of our burning questions about all things remote.
Hi Verity, let’s start with you introducing yourself to our readers.
Hi there.. So I’m a Brit from the North of England, currently living in Madrid where I’ve been for the last 20 years and about to start a new adventure in the Canary Islands early next year. I’m going to Nine in Tenerife first and then on to the Mansion in Las Palmas. (yayyyyyy)
Can you share with us your remote work journey?
This remote journey started about six years ago when I was fired from my last ‘real’ job. At that point I vowed that I was never going to work as a paid employee again. I had no idea about what I was going to do, all I knew was that I wanted to combine my creative training with all the business experience I had gained working in multinationals for 20 years (in both UK and Spain).
When and how did you start working remotely and how was the transition for you?
I started freelancing about nine months after losing my job. I was frustrated that all anybody saw on my CV was commercial experience, which was what had pigeonholed me whenever I started looking for a job. I always joke that I spent twenty years trying to get out of sales, but once you have sales on your CV it is sooooo difficult for anyone to see beyond that.
I decided to do a visual CV where I created an infographic of my experience.. And then I started to put everything into visuals. I started posting things on social media and soon people started to ask me to do bits of work here and there, and then I moved on to doing large scale graphic recordings and simple animations.. And things eventually started to snowball. Now I do all kinds of visual storytelling, usually for corporate clients. The fact that I understand how companies work is a big plus for me. It makes communication easier as clients don’t see me as a purely creative person.. I ‘get’ what they want to say.
If we rewind a little bit, how was your experience in a traditional work setting? What were the biggest negatives you felt working that way, and what were some of the benefits?
I absolutely HATE office politics, bureaucracy and wasting time in traffic jams!! I also found the 9-5 office hours very restrictive. When I’m working on projects I can often put in a 12-14 hour day, but then if I decide I want to get out on my bike on a Wednesday morning whilst waiting for a client to come back to me with feedback then I can. I always say that my working style is a bit like playing ‘Tetris’ and I fill the time slots how it best suits me and my energy levels. You can’t do that in a 9-5.
As for benefits, I guess working with other people and that human interaction. That said, when I first started as a sales rep in 1992 I worked from home – no mobile phone and only a fax to communicate with, so I was already pretty used to working remotely. I didn’t become office based until 2001 when I got my first sales job in Spain. I found it weird that we weren’t trusted with laptops and I had to go to the office first before visiting clients – even if it meant driving in the opposite direction just to ‘check in’
That’s perhaps another pet hate of office working – so much time is wasted.. So much inefficiency!!
Can you share with us how you work? Do you usually work with specific companies or are you always on the lookout for new clients? How does the process look for you?
It’s a bit of both. I have been working with some clients for five years now, other’s are newer, but I always have to be on the lookout. I have been quite lucky in that what I do is still quite unknown so there isn’t a huge amount of competition, and a lot of my work comes through word of mouth. But that is changing and there are a few new kids on the block.
What do you see as the biggest hindrance in more people becoming remote?
I think for many it’s fear of the unknown and if they are freelancers it’s knowing where your next job is going to come from. Isolation is a big issue too, which is why I’m now a big fan of the coliving and coworking concept.
Do you see a difference in the approach of companies and people towards remote work in various countries?
Yes! See my comment above about having to check into an office before going to see clients. OK so that’s with a fixed job, but its telling of attitudes here. I have one or two clients who still prefer face to face meetings here in Spain, and that is definitely a cultural thing. When you are working remotely you definitely have to work hard on the communication as you build up credibility… that first job for a client is always the hardest until trust is established.
You are a visual storyteller and an artist. Do you think the design field in general has potential to be remote first? What do you think would be some obstacles to designers working remotely, and what, on the other hand, do you view as a big plus?
I think definitely there is a lot of potential for creatives. I think the main obstacle is isolation, it’s certainly something that I’ve felt a lot over the last five years which is why I’m making a few changes. I think the big plus is the flexibility as I’ve stated above, being able to manage your workday to suit your own rhythm is definitely a plus.
Is there a message you would like to offer people striving to break out of the 9-5 office routine?
Go for it.. Simple as that.. If you don’t like it, at least you’ve tried, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. And go into it with an open mind… all sorts of unexpected doors open for you.
Make sure you find something that you love doing. Motivation is absolutely key when you’re working remotely, so if your not passionate about what youre doing then it makes the job ten times harder. It’s also much easier to sell yourself if you totally believe in what you’re doing.
You visited Nomad City this year. Any memorable takeaways?
Everything… I was blown away by all the people I met .. just being in a room with so many people who shared the same issues, who thought like me. Also everyone was so invested in helping each other. Usually at a conference you have the divas, the super egos, the politicos, but at NC there was just some tremendous positive energy and I made some really great connections, and I think, quite a few new friends… which is a good thing because I think I’ve bored my current friends to death talking about it since I came back. I found my tribe there!!
What also surprised me was that the average age of the attendees was higher than I imagined it would be. At 51 I thought I would be way older than everyone, but that wasn’t the case. Yes there were plenty of millennials, but there were also plenty of people of a similar age to me. That was pretty cool!!
What lies ahead for you? Are you planning any big things in the near future?
Yes, I’m moving to Las Palmas!!! I’ve been wanting to leave Madrid for several years now and the thing that has stopped me was the idea of starting from zero in a new city. I started looking into digital nomad communities earlier this year as I thought that would give me a ‘soft landing’ and I then saw that Gran Canaria was a big DN spot. I visited both Tenerife and GC in the summer and my time in Las Palmas at NC pretty much made the decision for me.
I am also transitioning my business too as I am starting to develop online courses for people who want to learn how to explain things with doodles. I’ve given a few masterclasses and I’m working on the content so that’s hopefully all going to start happening in the new year once I’ve moved. I got a lot of encouragement from people at NC which was fantastic! I’ve discovered that trying to move house and launch courses at the same time is probably a bit too much, so one thing at a time.
How and where can people find you or connect with you?
My website is www.thinkdoodly.com
Twitter its @ThinkDoodly
I have a woefully neglected Think Doodly facebook page too.
And on LinkedIn it’s Verity Harrison
A big thank you to Verity for her time, and to all the readers, keep following the blog for more remote work personalities and stories to come soon!