Meet the creative duo who have nailed the work life balance
For those wanting to escape hecticness of Sydney; is making the move north a realistic option?
If you chat to Ben Forrest, of Hunter Capture and Kat Stanley, of Kat Stanley Photography, the answer to that question is an overwhelming yes!
We caught up with Ben and Kat at DaSH Cowork, a vibrant and contemporary coworking space located in Charlestown, to chat about their work, making the move north and what, if anything, they miss about Sydney.
Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about your line of work?
Ben: I was originally an electrician in the mines. I was working away a lot and I wanted to come back home. It was at this same time that Kat’s photography business was expanding. Kat had been established for about six years, and needed some help. She started getting a lot of requests for videography which I had been doing as a hobby for a while, so I decided to jump into it.
Since then I've built up my own business independently, but we still work on a lot of joint projects.
Kat: Given our businesses are complementary Ben and I often work together. Our work can be anything from corporate and commercial to events and weddings. It’s pretty varied and it’s quite seasonal, particularly the weddings, and spread throughout the year which keeps us busy most days and weekends. The good news is we have the flexibility to take time off through the week and enjoy the down time.
Where were you based before moving to Lake Macquarie?
Ben: We both grew up in Sydney. Kat and I were actually high school sweethearts and have been pretty much inseparable for the past 18 years.
Kat: We moved to Lake Macquarie three years ago. When we got here we didn't know anyone - we left all of our friends and family in Sydney. But thanks to the slower pace and great lifestyle our Sydney mates regularly drop in, just to hang out and relax.
Ben: It’s everyone's little getaway up the coast.
Kat: I think we've landed on our feet up here, it didn't take long - within the first few weeks we had a really good close-knit circle of friends around where we live which has just expanded.
What initiated the move out of Sydney?
Ben: Anything to get out of Sydney [laughs].
Kat: Value for money, lifestyle, we want to start a family, get a dog and we wanted a house that was close to the beach. Now we’ve got all those things but with half the mortgage that our friends do, and we still get to go on holidays.
Ben: A lot of our friends in Sydney feel trapped and don’t feel like there’s a way out, but with us making the move and continuing to work just as well outside of Sydney it’s shed a light on the fact that it is possible. Working out of DaSH has made it easier for us to explain how they can do it, how they can make that jump and leave Sydney. It’s so overpriced down there now and there’s no real quality of life.
And what made you choose Lake Macquarie over another city?
Ben: I was posted to Newcastle for 12 months in my previous work and fell in love with the place, so once I finished up in mining and when we were looking at moving up or down the coast it was a no-brainer. There is so much on offer up here, the lifestyle is great, it pretty much has everything that we need.
Where is most of your work based now?
Kat: Around 90% of our work still comes out of Sydney. But moving to Lake Macquarie and working from a cowork office has really helped us to expand our network.
We’re at the south end of the lake so it’s only a 90 minute drive to Sydney. Comparatively, when we were living in Sydney, it was an hour commute for us anyway so the travel time is similar and keeping our Sydney clients hasn't been an issue.
Ben: We are definitely keen to grow the business locally. Newcastle and Lake Macquarie are rapidly transforming and those changes are bringing interesting opportunities. A big part of the move was to get a better understanding of what’s going on in the area and what opportunities are here.
What has been the biggest change you’ve noticed since leaving Sydney?
Ben: We feel like we have a lot more time now to do our own things.
Kat: It feels like people in general, have more time to sit and have a chat - they're not so frantic and busy. Getting around in Sydney was hard work. It was pretty common to be completely flustered by the traffic even before you start work. Just the other day we were rocking up to see some friends in Bondi and just finding a park was the biggest mission. Up here you just don't need to think about that.
Ben: We do laugh a lot now when we go down there now, we don't know how we used to do it, day to day. Now we go down there once or twice a week and that's enough for us.
When you need office time you base yourself out of DaSH, how often do you work from here?
Ben: For me it’s usually about 3 days a week.
Kat: It changes for me and is dependent on our work load, but it's usually between 1 to 3 days per week. One of the main reasons we come in here is for the internet, it’s just so quick. Before we found DaSH we were driving to Sydney to do all of our uploading.
Ben: For me to upload a video file from home would take about 4 days, because the internet is so slow, now we can do a 2gb file in 2 minutes or less, it’s faster than any internet we could find - even in Sydney. Currently at DaSH we get about 400mb down and 400mb up which is massive.
I can come in here, do a job, upload it within in a minute and shoot it straight off to a client for feedback. I can then make the changes and within an hour I can send it back to them. Even with two or three amendments I can still have the job out to them on the same day when previously it would take me two weeks.
Before we started working out of DaSH I used to have to race down to Sydney to upload the file - four hours worth of driving - just so I could get the job uploaded on the same day.
Kat: Even when the NBN comes in I don’t think that’s going to change anything for us. Working at DaSH really has changed the way we work.
Why did you base your business from DaSH Cowork?
Ben: Apart from the internet, which is fantastic, it’s been a good space for us being new to the area. It’s been really good for our business as well. It's a great community here, everyone helps each other out - not only with business development but also best practice.
Kat: There’s a lot of in-house activities, like the Lunch and Learns, which help you to meet other DaSH members and get a better understanding of their business. There are some really cool people here, doing some amazing things. A couple of weeks ago we sat around having pizzas and heard from Tim Black from Creative Pipeline, a Virtual Reality Interfacing business. Tim explained the interesting work he’s doing with VR and how it can be used in business.
Ben: If you don’t have time to participate, that’s completely fine and everyone is really respectful of that.
Kat: We join into most things, especially the beer and pizza night [laughs].
Have there been any challenges in moving the business?
Ben: Working out what to do with the dog when we work in Sydney [laughs] seriously it really has been our biggest challenge.
Having lived here for a while now how do Newcastle and Lake Macquarie compare to Sydney?
Ben: Pretty well actually. We love the food and bar scene, the markets, it really is getting that Sydney sort of vibe. Plus there are much nicer personalities on the other side of the bar than what you get in Sydney. Mainly because people just don’t have the time to talk to you in Sydney.
Kat: It also seems more dog-friendly which is a big thing for us too.