A good few years ago, when I was still in the Netherlands and lived in Rotterdam while studying Journalism & Communications in Tilburg (that’s about an hour by train, just over 80km away), I had two part time jobs plus a little side hustle to pay for it all. Life was hectic but so much fun in the big city. In your early twenties, you can do it all.

As I walked home from the train station, or at night after working behind the bar at a popular jazz café in the city, I always passed this thought-provoking billboard on the corner of the Boomgaardstraat and the Witte de Withstraat.

It was nothing shocking, really. Just an image of a woman in a cramped office, looking at the camera with a faint smile. It wasn’t the photo that got me. It was the text. Melly Shum hates her job. It made me cringe each time I saw it and more than 20 years later, it still does.

I soon discovered that this wasn’t a billboard at all. It’s an artwork. That’s no wonder, as art is created to leave an impression, make you think, and make you feel something. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that is the purpose of art. Art can make you feel happy, sad, excited, calm, amazed, mesmerised, confused, or a little uneasy – as this one did to me.  

Choose what fills your cup

I’m not sure if it’s thanks to Melly Shum and her creator Ken Lum, but quite early on in life I made a pact with myself to not settle for a job I hated, or work with people that have a completely different set of values than my own. I’d do everything in my power to avoid that and, apart from a few uncomfortable learning curves, I’ve stuck by it.

There have been plenty of jobs since I graduated. I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, court reporter, communications advisor, marketing coordinator, website manager, feature writer, columnist, business writer, online editor, and studio manager. B2B, B2C, and not-for profit, I’ve done a lot and it’s been a fantastic journey.

Looking back, I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. #lovewhatyoudo and #dowhatyoulove are my go-to hashtags for a reason. I love nothing more than creating content and writing stories that help people and businesses grow and achieve their goals.

When I came to New Zealand in November 2004, with a 1-year old in tow and another baby on the way just 3 months later, I was lucky to score a great job as a photojournalist with a company that specialised in tourism marketing. What I did was write about accommodation providers and adventure activities, put it online, and see their business grow. It was the most fun I’ve had while working (thus far). 

I’ve jumped from the Sky Tower, went rock climbing underground in the Waitomo caves, explored Christchurch before the devastating earthquakes, stayed at one of the most exclusive and quirky B&B’s in Remuera, swam with sharks and manta rays in French Polynesia, and was 2 inches away from a water dunk in the Waikato River at Taupo Bungy (see how close it was in the video from 2006)

That’s just a taste of it. It was amazing.

After a few years, all the travelling became too hard to combine with raising two small children, so I had to give it up. That was tough, but it was the right decision. Not long after, I got another lucky break and started working for the regional paper and other NZME (then APN) titles, looking after things online.

Being back in the newsroom was interesting. The pace was fast and I was on call 24/7. Breaking The Story was expected from me at all times. Thanks to being alert early in the morning and typing fast, we were the first on October 5 in 2011 to report that the cargo vessel Rena had struck Astrolabe Reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga and grounded. It was a huge disaster, and big news.

Beating the competition was what measured my success and although I did that a lot, I didn’t enjoy it. Being a journalist is what I am trained to do and I did it well, but here in New Zealand, it was not the work environment I found joy in.

Delivering quality content was, and still is, much more important to me than being first.

All that work experience was a great base to launch Sweet Orange from and hit the ground running, which is what I did in 2013. To genuinely love what I do, and do what I love, I realised I had to take the reins and take another plunge. Starting my own writing business was another great decision.

Reflection, then full steam ahead  

Running Sweet Orange has been rewarding, all challenges aside. Now the world finds itself in turmoil with Covid-19 and the looming recession as a result, so I’ve taken some time to explore new strategies that I know will help strengthen my business’ place in the market. Where before I offered a range of different services (content creation & PR), I now present Sweet Orange as a Writing Agency.

In reality, that doesn’t change a thing. I still do what I do best, writing and telling stories that make a difference, and I love it more than ever.

Fun fact is that I’m no longer doing it alone. I am in the process of bringing a fantastic team of highly experienced copywriters together – more about that soon – and as the demand for content marketing is increasing, we’ll continue creating content for businesses and brands that stands out, and we’ll keep on inspiring audiences with stories that are worth (re)telling.

I’d like to share with you the values that Sweet Orange brings to the table:

•             Ethical – the truth is held high and we never overpromise and underdeliver 
•             Responsible – when we say “yes” to something, we come to the party
•             Passionate – we love what we do and who we do it for
•             Timely – we deliver fast and deadlines are respected
•             Transparent – we communicate clearly and are never MIA 

As a team, Sweet Orange is set to continue writing well-researched content for decision makers in business, and we’re more than happy to help start-ups we believe in, as well as not-for profits, with content that converts. 

We blend strategic expertise with creative flair, and we look forward to working with many more awesome clients and write copy that helps drive their business forward. It’s what we call Word Power, and that… is what we love. 

I can’t wait to see where this journey goes next!

~ by Martine Pierhagen, content creator and founder of Sweet Orange Ltd

If you need unique, fresh, shareable and easy to read content for your business or not-for-profit and if you could do with a regular dose of Word Power, call Martine on (+64) 021 492040 or email Sweet Orange today.

Melly Shum Hates Her Job (1989) is a photo-text work by Chinese Canadian artist Ken Lum.

Find more about Ken and Melly on the artist’s website.

Artist Ken Lum
This is Ken Lum. Thanks for everything Ken!