Catch the Sun – around the world, around the clock

Marketing agencies and marketing departments have changed considerably over the past decade. They now operate in a connected world where technology is ubiquitous, and the customer’s use of multiple devices demands a constant supply of fresh and engaging content. These changes have required new skills from marketers and specialisation in constantly changing technologies and processes. This fast-paced, always-on world demands quick turnaround times from the modern marketing agency and Catch the Sun Communications (CTS) is a Canberra-based virtual freelance communications hub that is uniquely positioned to service this market.

CTS provides high-quality editorial experience and expertise, including proofreading, editing and copywriting, to clients around the world. According to Maddie Sinclair, Founder and Director of Catch the Sun Communications, the name is inspired by the ‘follow the sun’ global business workflow model where support is passed between offices in different time zones in order to provide 24/7 support.

“Advertising and marketing agencies work on fast turnaround times with immovable, tight deadlines,” says Maddie.

“Our business model uses the time zone differences between Europe and Australia to their advantage, allowing agencies to make the most of production and delivery times.”

Using Australian-based freelancers to provide services to clients in Europe ‘overnight’, optimises production times in a way that European-based editing firms, freelance proofreaders or agency copywriters can’t.

The journey

Maddie completed her communications degree at the University of Canberra and worked in advertising agencies in Canberra and Sydney until she moved to the UK in 1999.

“I worked as an Account Director in the advertising industry in the UK, which is very fast-paced, stressful and non-family friendly. When I had my first child, the agency offered me four days a week. I knew what that really meant – that I would be getting paid for four days a week, but probably actually working five days anyway and still expected to answer emails and be available to the client,” says Maddie.

“So, I decided to try something new and that’s when I started freelancing. I did freelance proofreading and editing and then added freelance copywriting as well.

“I liked the flexibility of freelancing, as I could work around my family and children but still have the satisfaction of being in business.”

In 2016, the family decided to move back to Canberra.

“Because I worked virtually with my clients anyway, it made no difference to them. The majority of the work was done over email or occasionally, if they needed to meet, on a FaceTime call or Skype.

“I told them I was moving to the other side of the world but actually the time zone difference between the UK and Australia has a lot of benefits for them. I knew from experience that advertising agencies always send work out at the end of the day. So, I said I could pick that work up first thing in the morning and work on it all day while they slept. Then, I could have it back to them before they sat down to breakfast.

“That’s why we’re called ‘Catch the Sun’ rather than ‘Follow the Sun’; because ‘follow’ sounds very passive and we actively harness the power of the time zones for our clients’ advantage.”

Freelancers are society’s invisible workers

Maddie quickly built up a team of freelancers, providing an avenue for them to access work.

“A lot of the freelancers I hire are professionals in the advertising or marketing industry and want to freelance for the same reason I did, namely that it offers the flexibility they want.”

Maddie explains that it can be really hard to find part-time jobs in the marketing and advertising industry.

“I’ve got a bank of really talented people who have been very successful in their marketing careers, but they couldn’t find anything that was flexible. They also just want to do the job and not have to worry about finding business, so they’re very happy to jump on board with us and do the work while I find the clients.”

Maddie explains that while freelancers enjoy a flexible lifestyle, they also have no job security, sick leave, holiday leave or guaranteed superannuation. During the coronavirus pandemic this group has been especially vulnerable.

The impact of COVID-19

Maddie said that COVID-19 had a big impact on the business.

When the lockdown was announced in late March 2020, the impact on the European economy was immediate. As most of CTS’s business comes from the UK and Europe, the company felt the effects straight away.

“Client jobs were put on hold, marketing budgets were frozen and pretty much everything just stopped,” says Maddie.

“We had just won a big project for a UK-based luxury villa holiday company creating customer welcome books for their new villas in Italy, France, Turkey, Greece, Mallorca and Corsica.

“Literally, the week before I had received an email saying ‘great news, we can go ahead with this project’. Then, two days later, I received an email saying ‘can you just hold fire’. And then, sure enough, on the 23rd of March I received another one saying ‘look, really sorry but everything’s been frozen and we can’t take this project on at the moment’.”

Maddie says they went from being a busy agency using multiple freelancers, to only having enough work for one person.

“Many of the freelancers used by CTS have come to rely on us as a major source of work, with regular hours each week or month and we could no longer guarantee this amount of work.”

Pivot to a local focus and a diversified product offering

Maddie decided to take the opportunity to step back and look at the business model. She also decided to focus her energy into growing the Australian client base.

“We managed to get an exciting contract with the University of Canberra. They needed a ready-made editorial team for a big website project they were doing. I put a proposal together to supply them with an entire team and they jumped at the chance.

“What this allowed them to do was increase their resources in a short amount of time. It gave them access to seven freelancers who could perform a range of different roles. There are some that are strict proofreaders, others are copywriters, others are editors and proofreaders, and some are copywriters and editors.

“This provided a real mix and match option where they could use as much or as little of a resource or skill set as the job required. They could max out on copywriting at the start of the project and then use proofreading and editing towards the end before the website went live.”

Maddie says it was a new way of looking at things.

“Now I almost see myself more as a recruiter. We’re able to provide ready-made multi-person copywriting, editing and proofreading freelancer teams to companies in need of urgent editorial or content expertise for major projects.

“If we have requests for a specific kind of skill set, such as academic proofreading or government reports, then we have a large bank of expertise to tap into.”

This new paradigm shift has seen CTS take on new clients and provide increased employment opportunities for freelancers.

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