About Michelle Sullivan @ Web Matters

My story and how I became a web designer.

Welcome to my story

Like many people my age, I trained and qualified in another field, and only discovered the internet in the 1990's. It was quite simply love at first byte! It wasn't always that way.

As a teenager in the 1980s, computers were far from my mind. They were something only the geeks used in the computer club.

Little did I know, that in just a few years' time, I'd out-geek them all.

mystory
The day I was admitted to the bar

A very young me on the day I was admitted to the bar.

Studying for a law degree

As someone who has always enjoyed English and talking, I decided at the age of 17 that becoming a lawyer was probably an excellent career move. My high school career guidance "counsellor" however, wasn't so sure about this plan of mine, and thought it was too competitive and I'd be disappointed. She even made me look at the intake for second-year law students and asked me what I thought about it. I told her quite bluntly, that I'd make the cut. Ah, the confidence of youth eh!

At 18, I packed my bags for Otago University and after settling into the routine of lectures and hall life, I soon realised that I would be competing against students with very expensive private educations. But, it turns out that many of those first-year students didn't cope with a lack of structure and the freedom that the University gave them.

After a year of intense study and determination, I was accepted into Otago Law School. There followed years of reading case law and hours in the law library poring over statutes. I then graduated with my law degree, completed my legal professional qualification and was admitted to the bar as a Barrister and Solicitor. I was on my way! Or so I thought...

Job hunting in a recession

The early 1990s was a bad time for New Zealand graduates, but it was especially bad for law grads. Not only was New Zealand in a recession but law firms had to top up the fidelity fund after a major case of legal fraud. Law firms were tightening their belts and getting a foot in the door was proving extremely difficult. I joke now about being able to paper a wall with my rejection letters, but at the time, it felt like a catastrophe and a huge rejection. I was even told by some older lawyers (during an interview), that I was too young-looking and too vibrant, and surely I'd be married in a few years, and where would that leave them?

Looking-for-a-law-job-in-a-recession
Early-1990's--What's-this-Internet-stuff-all-about

Discovering the Internet

Early 1990's I was only vaguely aware of the Internet. No one really had emails back then, unless you worked for a very large company.

One day I found myself at Science Alive (when it was on Moorhouse Avenue). They had an exhibit about the Internet and you could sit down and actually go onto the internet. My friend who was with me realised she was going to have a lot of trouble getting me off the internet and out of the building. I was hooked.

Not long after this, while still searching for full-time legal work I took a temporary job as a telemarketer at a company called Talking Pages - a business that had the goal of replacing the Yellow Pages with a human directory service. One day, the owner asked if anyone could in the sales team was a touch typist.  My hand shot up, and long story short, I was off the phones and doing admin work and marketing copy. That business morphed into a local ISP - this is even before Telecom offered internet. I got more and more involved in the internet side of the business and quickly discovered I had a real passion and calling for the work - loving every minute of exploring this brand new internet thing.

A resignation brings an opportunity

In many ways, I owe my career to some incredibly geeky people who convinced me I had an aptitude for this kind of work. When they moved on, they encouraged me to take over their responsibilities. The legal career was put on permanent hold.

Early 2000's building internet and web businesses with others

The dot.com era - when anything felt possible.

  • I became the webmaster of a national tourism website.
  • I helped establish a brand new web development company
  • Took the web company through a business incubator and became one of its directors as well as its studio manager.
  • I sold my shares in the company and took a well-earned break to see the world
  • My next role was a job doing mostly search engine optimisation and I specialised in that area before moving into marketing and content generation and then back into studio management.

2006 - Time for Self Employment

By 2006, I was ready to go into business for myself. I took a giant leap of faith and started Web Matters. My client base grew very quickly due to word of mouth and some excellent search engine rankings. My original idea for the business was to be more of a consultant and find designers and developers for my clients. But I kept getting clients telling me, they just wanted to work with me. And so I dusted off my HTML and Photoshop skills and started making websites again. I did think to grow the business with staff but decided I much preferred going solo.

Time for some more study...

I've always been interested in human behaviour, so I enrolled in two level 1 Psychology papers at Massey. It was a big year and let's just say I wouldn't recommend launching a new business and doing extramural study. However, I have found the basic psychology I learned very useful in website marketing and discovered that I can do stats.

2007 - I start Blogging

In 2007, and very much on impulse, I started a photoblog about Christchurch - Christchurch Daily Photo. The blog has grown in popularity and has a following on Facebook. It has also taught me a lot about social media marketing and the benefits of blogging. I'm not always consistent in my posting, as work now keeps me pretty busy.

Today

I spend my days helping my clients to engage with their clients and tell their stories and reach their personal and professional goals. I also spend a lot of time networking online with other WordPress freelancers and keeping up with the industry changes.

Time-for-more-study-01

When I'm not working...

You'll probably find me in the garden, tending to my roses, dahlias and wildflowers.

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