“When people say I can’t do something, for me it’s like a red rag to a bull,” says Vivienne. “It just gets me going. I can’t help but think, you just watch me.”
Resilience and patience are important
It’s this resilience and persistence that got Vivienne through one of the toughest periods of her life. It took her from homelessness and illness through to writing freelance articles for a paltry sum. Then ultimately to running her own digital agency. And it’s these qualities that stand her in good stead within the fast-paced, ever-changing world of digital marketing.
After becoming disillusioned working within the world of academia, Vivienne resigned and took herself off to Portugal. Here she designed and built a home and planned to spend her sunny days writing full time.
“I soon realised I’m the kind of writer who likes to write within interstices,” she says. “If you give me a whole day to write, I won’t do anything. But if you give me three or four things to do, in between those things I’ll manage to scribble something. It’s like guerrilla writing.”
And so Vivienne returned to the UK in search of a new career.
After a stint as a radio DJ, she found herself working in administration and communications within the construction industry, only to be unceremoniously retrenched the day before job security legislation was due to kick in.
“That happened on the Friday,” says Vivienne. “And on the Monday I was going into hospital for a major operation.” It took Vivienne six weeks to recover. In the meantime she lost her flat, she had no money coming in, no savings to fall back on. Thankfully two friends came to the rescue, offering her a place to stay and some valuable time to think about her next step.
My first sale was £6 but I had started and that was what was important
“That’s when I joined a freelancing site, People Per Hour. I sold my first article for £6. Initially I found myself thinking, who would want to pay for anything I could do? We don’t often give ourselves enough praise or acknowledgement for the skills that we possess.” Vivienne was surprised at how quickly things took off for her on the site. “At first, I pitched myself incredibly low in terms of price and people bit my arm off basically, because I was a good writer.”
Would you employ a 50 year old with no direct experience? Probably not!
Back in 2011 Vivienne had absolutely no experience of working in digital marketing, but knew that that was the direction in which she wanted to travel. “If I’d gone knocking on doors asking for a job as a 50-year-old woman with no experience, nobody would have taken me seriously. It would have been easy to give up and write it off as an ambition that would go unfulfilled.” She knew the only way to make it happen would be to create the opportunities herself. “If there isn’t a door, knock the wall out and create one – that’s very much been my philosophy. And after each job, people were writing the most incredible testimonials for the work I was doing, so that gave me heart.”
And so after gaining a Google Squared qualification in Digital Marketing, Vivienne worked on several digital projects, making sure she put the writing first.
“Underneath everything, I’m a writer.”
Wherever text is required, it has to be good quality, even if you’re spraying it on a wall. It has to be the right message for the right audience at the right time. And if you know that and if you have the creativity to develop that, then you are going to be welcomed by many businesses. And really, that is what underpins VKN Digital right now.”
While many agencies outsource their writing, or design websites using placeholder text, Vivienne’s approach has always been to write alongside the designer.
“It’s important that the right messages appear in the right places. And what looks great on a word document can sometimes be a disaster when you put it into a website design. I think that’s what really sets us apart from our competitors, as well as our capacity to work incredibly quickly and effectively. People don’t have to wait long for anything they want from us.”
So what does Vivienne love most about her current working life? “I really enjoy the break-neck pace and the need to be incredibly agile, I find that really exciting. You almost never know what the next day is going to bring – I love that uncertainty. I think I’m quite addicted to the fear. There are times when I think, I’m not going to be able to do this, but of course I always do. And there’s something about that adrenaline rush that is quite attractive.”
Vivienne likens her work to being a bit like a midwife. “You are helping with the birth of someone’s business idea – it’s like a child to them. You have to handle it with great care.”
Want to work with Vivienne? Drop her a line.