Daniel Geen – Member profile
For this new series of WorkLife Member Profiles we are kicking off with our Local Legends edition. Not everyone has a tree or sea change story, but we want to get to know the why and how behind some of the mega talent that we have right here on the coast. Marketing, branding and web design — Dan is your guy if you are feeling bold and ready to take your business to the next level.
What’s your local life story? How long have you called the South Coast home?
We moved to the South Coast just before primary school, so I grew up in Kiama. After school I moved to Sydney, working for a few years until I went overseas. When I ran out of money I returned to Kiama where I bumped into Lexi (my now wife!) by chance. I was just riding bikes and playing X-Box at the time so I realised it was time to pull my socks up!
We bought our house in Shellharbour around 6 years ago, and we live there with our two kids, Ari (5) and Zoe (2) and Vader (dog).
How does your work/life balance look? Does it look much different to if you were working in the city?
When I was in the city I was just starting out so it was hard work but exciting. Long hours and getting paid bugger all… But I guess you have to pay your dues while you are learning. And it was awesome because I did learn a lot.
The work life balance is a lot better now and it’s so great living down here. It still gets tricky at times but having flexibility has helped.
Working for yourself. It’s a journey. When did you take the leap?
About 5 years ago when Ari was 6mths old, I was still working in Sydney and I had just had enough of driving up there at 4am. Enough was enough with a baby and sleep deprivation!
What was your greatest fear when you took the plunge and started working on your own/ (or remotely)?
Obviously money. Not having any idea what the heck I’m doing. But what I was doing was unsustainable so it had to change. I started working for myself when Ari was 6 months old and we had a fresh mortgage so it’s fair to say I was quite stressed.
What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
Cashflow! Understanding cash flow and business has been a big learning curve.
But putting myself out there is hard for me. Showing people my work is the hardest thing [note from ed. This is a classic humble creative characteristic — we’ve seen Dan’s work — it’s incredible!]
Five years down the track I’ve only just launched my OWN website! geen.com.au
How does it work for the rest of the family? What’s been the impact on them?
I guess generally it’s super helpful since we’ve had young kids. This has helped us out a lot over the past 5 years. Working for myself means I can be flexible and available to help out with the kids as needed.
But at the same time sometimes it can be more stressful. There is no buffer between being stressed upstairs in your office and going downstairs to the family. At least coming from Sydney you have the commute time to decompress.
Is there anything that’s been a surprise to you?
Definitely realising how difficult and time consuming business can be. But at the same time I realised working a job with set hours and a salary just wasn’t for me.
I have found working for yourself and growing your business was motivating and made me keen to work harder. Helping people has been the biggest kick! Sharing in others successes is a massive positive aspect of working closely with clients. I’ve really enjoyed seeing clients kick goals.
When it comes to money, how do you make it work?
The money stuff is tricky and I think that makes me work more hours than I should just to make sure. I’m getting more comfortable with it now about saying no to projects that I know aren’t a good fit — but that’s taken a long time to get to that point.
At the beginning of working for yourself when you are not sure where and when the next job will come along — this aspect was horrible until I started picking up more clients and also added retainer work. With that, I know how much is coming in each month and this reduced the pressure immensely.
I have a bit of a varied approach with my income. Steady retainer work, project based work like websites which can be broken down into chunks and then there are the bits and pieces jobs which are an hourly rate.
Not having a balance between all of those makes it really hard. I could never dream of booking a holiday for example.
I’m really lucky that I’ve met a lot of great people along the way and they have helped show me the light with business and how things can be done differently.
What’s your passion project/side gig? Is there anything that you’re hustling on?
Video work! That was the side hustle but has become a big part of the real hustle. It’s the thing that makes me happy now as there is so much to learn and so many gizmos to buy!
Picture your book shelf at home. What’s the one book on it that everyone should borrow?
Grid Systems in Graphic Design. “A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers and Three Dimensional Designers”
This book really helps explain why something is pleasing to the eye and why some stuff just doesn’t look right. Not a sexy choice but is a game changer!
What piece of furniture in your house makes you the happiest?
When we moved into our house we realised we could be grown ups and buy nice furniture that we can have forever. So we had all this great recycled timber furniture made by a local guy who unfortunately doesn’t make furniture anymore. So probably our dining table. Being recycled timber it’s already all beat up so we aren’t too worried if the kids or the dog abuse it as it still looks great!
When people come to the South Coast, what’s the one thing they should eat locally?
Penny Whistlers & Hungry Monkey. It’s nice to support people doing cool stuff.
What’s your go-to listen (music/podcast) for any trips up to Sydney?
I like to turn off in the car. If anything it’s relaxing tunes — maybe Mac Miller (his later stuff).
What’s your best productivity hack to get the most out of each workday?
Pick the thing that you are least looking forward to and get it done first ! [This early morning interview was excluded from that rule!]
What’s the best thing about your membership to WorkLife?
Definitely every day at WorkLife is worth two days at home. I really needed that when I first joined up as I was pretty stressed and in a horrible spot with my workload. I couldn’t see straight. Being at WorkLife means you get so much more out of your day and you structure your week better. I can think about my WorkLife days and what work I can cram into those days! I realised I like being around people too. It’s really great to be around a bunch of really nice people at WorkLife!
I’m definitely missing the structure of my week right now without WorkLife and not having that buffer between work and home. Of course I also miss the awesome people too!
Imagine tomorrow is a perfect snapshot of your Best Life. What are you doing?
Covid19 has really helped to show what we do and don’t like in our ‘normal’ lives — running around less and being less frantic has been amazing. I love my work at the moment but little less urgency would be nice sometimes.
Ideally it would mean, getting up really early, exercising & getting out of the house, then working and finally doing stuff in the arvo together as a family.
Dan says WorkLife is awesome and he can’t wait to get back to it! In the meantime he has just launched his own business website, after looking after everyone else’s needs first! Like a plumber with a leaky tap… geen.com.au