What a difference a year makes: 12 months at E4f

The following is a guest post, written by Gareth Evans, the Marketing Director at FlashSticks; the fast and effective way to improve your foreign language vocabulary, instantly. You can check out Flashsticks on Twitter too.

Writing the title alone scares me. I can’t believe that I’ve been calling E4f home for a year now, but, more importantly it’s hard to fathom how much my life has changed in the last 12 months.

And those changes are in no small part down to finally finding, after 6 years of looking, a work environment that I’m happy to call home.

The back story

For those of you that don’t know me, I’ve been a freelance writer for around 6 years now, in various guises. I’ve written about city and regional economic development for guys like the OECD, the World Bank and the Urban Land Institute; I’ve written about rugby for Sky Sports and Setanta; and I’ve done all sorts of bits and bobs for companies, independently owned blogs and digital advertising agencies.

If it involves words, I’ve probably written about it over the last 6 years.

Finding my way to E4f

Over the last few years, I’ve worked in other people’s offices (with their permission of course), in the British Library, in coffee shops, from random places in South America and, lastly, my kitchen.

The kitchen was the final straw.

After coming home from 8 months in South America, where I worked pretty much part-time, writing about economics, and travelled for the rest of the time, I made the decision to ditch economics.

The subject matter had run its course and I was bored.

Returning to my home city of Birmingham from South America was, however, far from a seamless transition. You see, I was convinced that I’d come home with a plan. But that didn’t exactly work out as, well, planned.

Dark days

Once the novelty of not really doing much had worn off, I began searching for things to do. I’ve always been a writer really, although I genuinely considered the idea of ditching that at one point, but didn’t know what to do with that skill and passion.

So I started where all great writers start: Elance (sarcasm).

I had a bit of a track record, so getting bits and pieces wasn’t hard, but that soon turned into me basically saying yes to every gig that I was offered. And that was the start of probably one of the most difficult periods of my life.

I was sat in my kitchen, writing around 20,000 words per week. To this day, I couldn’t tell you who I’ve written for; the list is too exhaustive and I can feel you beginning to glaze over.

Moving into E4f

You’ll probably think that the guys at E4f paid me to say this bit, but I assure you that they didn’t. This is a genuine sentiment.

Moving into E4f has had a pretty profound impact on my life and certainly my outlook on it. As I alluded to, I was in a pretty dark place about a year ago and today, I’m happy to say, I couldn’t have more clarity or be more pleased with where I am. And I owe E4f a big debt of gratitude for that.

I understand your scepticism. It’s just a bunch of desks and a kitchen: how could that possibly make a difference to your outlook on life?

But it’s not the physical make up of the place; it’s the people and the community that they’ve created here. There’s an energy here, a positive environment and it’s packed with people trying to do some pretty amazing things: it’s hard not to be inspired.

How the last 12 months has changed me

When I arrived at E4f, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. If I’m honest, I started renting desk space here simply to get out of my kitchen. What I came to realise was that much of my depressed mood was derived from isolation.

The environment here couldn’t be more different.

Admittedly, I wasn’t the most sociable person in the world when I first started, largely because I was insecure about what I was doing. The energy here was, however, infectious, almost from day one.

Despite my initial lack of confidence, I made a real effort to talk to as many people as I could. And the thing I think I found most comforting was that nobody else really seemed to be certain about what they were doing either. Where the people here differed, however, was that, despite their insecurity, they were trying things anyway.

So, since I’ve been here, I’ve almost started businesses with two different people, I’ve been on the incubator programme, I’ve helped out a majority of the people in here with the text side of their websites (some gigs paid, some favours) and I’ve had a bash at setting up a digital content agency.

It’s fair to say that I’ve been round the houses.

The big breakthrough

My biggest step forward over the last 12 months has actually come over the last 5 months, since I started working with the guys at FlashSticks, who are also based here in the Innovation Birmingham Campus.

After seeing Veejay, the FlashSticks CEO, speak at a Tech Wednesday event, I began meeting with him here and there to chat through ideas and such like. And after a few months, I ended up being the guy that runs their content marketing strategy. I absolutely love the product, I have a clean slate to work from and I’ve been throwing myself into it wholeheartedly.

And while I love being the marketing guy at FlashSticks, I also keep my mind occupied and fresh by working with some of the other start ups here at E4f, like QueryTree, who I’ve been working with to help redevelop their site.

Why am I telling you all this?

E4f has had a pretty profound impact on my life.

I’m finally, possibly for the first time in years, working on projects that I absolutely love and, perhaps more importantly, I’m, for the first time, working in an environment that’s positive, supportive and inspiring. And that has massively helped to restore my confidence. Add all that up and it makes E4f a pretty cool place to park my laptop each and every day.

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