I Want Your Job: Iolanthe Gabrie, Commercial Blogger
By Kate Iselin
Iolanthe Gabrie conquered the seemingly impossible task of making a living from writing, blogging, and being a social media maven. We spoke to her about The Wizard of Oz, sending thank-you cards, and the one time you can't call yourself a creative.
Hi Iolanthe! Tell me about your job!
I am a writer, commercial blogger, and the Director of Ruby Slipper Consultants, a business which provides unique ‘voice’ to businesses nation-wide – supporting their social media and community outreach, blog content and all copywriting collateral. Ruby Slipper is also the name of our popular arts and culture blog, documenting the style and attitude of Melbourne whilst collaborating with festivals, arts institutions, creative individuals and businesses. It’s a hoot and a privilege!
How did you get started in the industry of writing?
I always knew that my professional life would on some level be based around my innate creativity with written expression – but the path to owning my own business has been a circuitous one. I expected to love university, being a chronic over-achieving bookish type throughout my precocious youth, but found it to be rather monkish, prescribed and isolating. That bell curve crushed my spirits! I better enjoyed my tertiary studies while at University College Dublin – their attitude to higher education was much more student-led: if you didn’t attend class and take notes, you couldn’t find your resources – you simply couldn’t come up with quality essays or arguments. This ‘out in the wild’ aspect of ‘catching and killing’ your own information really appeals to my hunter spirit – I excelled whilst there, focussing on nothing but Chaucer for a year.
After finishing my degree, I decided to remain in Europe – living in Edinburgh, I managed to nab a job managing Penhaligon’s on their High Street. It was a ‘right time, right place’ moment, as I was only twenty-one and was given huge responsibility over merchandising, stock, staffing and hiring, but I didn’t mind the trips to London HQ, either! After about a year, I knew retail wasn’t for me – but I did learn that business certainly was, and that my decision-making capabilities were as sound as anyone else’s. I came home and became a real estate agent – deciding that if I was going to sell something, it had to be something very, very important. This seemed counterintuitive to my academic friends and family, but it was a wonderful trial-by-fire in small business. You had a phone, a desk – you did the rest. I did very well in real estate, developing rich networks, a strong bullshit detector, the capacity to talk about money effectively and the stomach for being self-employed.
After six years of auctioning, negotiating and being a general bad-ass, I burned out. I wanted to work out how to monetize my skills as an intelligent, well-written, well-spoken human in a way that improved my quality of life and offered a valuable service to the communities I knew. I began Ruby Slipper in the few weeks after I had quit real estate, watching the Wizard of Oz, seeing Dorothy’s sparkling tappers come together as she chanted ‘there’s no place like home’. Ruby Slipper as an icon representing home and magic swiftly solidified in my psyche, and I began prospecting real estate connections offering to create their social media content, build their newsletters and write their copy. That’s how I came to run Ruby Slipper – an agency which works for a diversity of business categories.
When you first got in to the industry, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do?
When I first began Ruby Slipper, selling social media content creation wasn’t even a thing. I just began offering it, leap-frogging from enthusiastic client to enthusiastic client via referral and prospecting. It has been very serendipitous – I see all aspects of my career as integral to the success of Ruby Slipper. Our service schedule has grown as digital media offerings become more in-demand, responding to market needs.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see Ruby Slipper as handling increasingly larger client accounts, working in-studio with our Ruby Slipper sistas (aka fellow writers who contract to my business) and creating rich, vibrant content stories for the brands we represent. Blog storytelling will grow in regard, with a premium on pairing quality editorial photography to video and considered reportage. This is the space that we enjoy most, and feel certain that brands will continue to invest in this medium to differentiate themselves.
How do you make yourself stand out in your industry?
Turning up, being courteous, being purposeful and producing quality content before anyone else. It’s very well to say you’re a creative: you’re not if you are not producing a damn thing. You’ll be surprised by how few people are meaningfully contributing to the conversation.
What's the best thing about your job?
The ability to be myself. I have a bright, loving, magical and hard-nosed attitude to life and business. Ruby Slipper is in itself a self-sorting mechanism: clients are attracted to our services because of their connection to my values and identity in the real world and online space.
What's the worst thing about your job?
Dealing with tax and quarterly accounting. I’ve learned a great deal about accounting and can do so efficiently – but managing tax obligations as a small business whilst trying to grow a business, grow a family and offer employment to contractors can feel like a real uphill battle. The only time I really get upset in relation to my business is when dealing with tax matters. Or when I see brands producing absolute rubbish content. That is also upsetting.
What advice would you give to people wanting to take the same career path as you?
Turn up on time, participate meaningfully, honour and acknowledge people you are drawn to, send thank you cards, write regularly and prospect like a trojan. Ain’t no shame!
What advice would you give to yourself, five years ago?
Expectations can be either a self-imposed gaol or a grand motivator. Choose your expectations wisely.