Kerryn Pholi

I have a sideline as a media commentator, with pieces in The Australian, The Australian Review of Public Affairs, ABC The Drum, The Spectator Australia, Penthouse Australia and Quadrant, and essays in several collections published by Connor Court. My strengths lie in finding a unique angle, presenting a persuasive and logical case, and hitting the right notes for any given audience with judicious use of humour, facts, and storytelling.

That’s the writing I do for love, but I also love the writing I do for money.

As an in-demand contractor working in government agencies and community organisations, I produce board papers, statistical reports, corporate planning and policy documents, ministerial correspondence, technical documentation and user guides, training resources, and promotional and community education material in both online and printed formats.

Being a data-nerd (I started out in the Australian Bureau of Statistics, many moons ago), I am comfortable navigating complex datasets, analysing data to develop insights, and explaining the meaning of data in an accessible and engaging way.

Even more moons ago, I completed a Social Work degree and went on to work in several strange and interesting places. I’ve dipped in and out of social work over the years, both to keep my skills up and to keep myself grounded. My social work skills lend me a competitive edge as a communicator, as effective communication starts with listening to stakeholders and understanding their needs.

In summary, here’s what I’m good at and what I love to do:

• Taming complexity, by transforming a long and complicated story into an easily digestible message that still meets all the requirements.

• Getting to ‘Yes’, by reassuring gatekeepers that a proposal is viable and worthwhile, and persuading stakeholders that the client's offering is exactly what they’ve always wanted.

• Making clients happy, by turning out magical wordwork in record time and having them think I’m some sort of genius.

I should explain how I got here. Don’t tell anybody, but I was a high-school drop-out. At 19, I worked as an admin assistant for a business specialising in metal finishing for architectural applications. When the owners decided to license their IP rights over the technique, I offered to write their operations and training manuals for prospective licensees – because I was bored and thought it would be an interesting task. They soon sold some licenses (and now they’re huge!), and I was accepted into university on the strength of my documentation. From that time on, I was hooked on writing as a way to make things happen in the world.

my core skills

policy analysis

instructional design

data herding

bureaucracy wrangling

Q & A

Whats the best thing to happen to you in your career to date?

Working as a contractor in large bureaucracies was great for me as a writer. I quickly learned to manage my writerly ego, to stick to the brief and stay on-message, to take criticism on the chin, to perform under pressure, and to give the client precisely what they needed - as well as what they wanted - on time.

What does a typical work week look like for you?:

Several different projects on the boil, wrapped up in a semblance of normality.

Describe your working environment in a few sentences..

No, you don’t want to peek behind the curtain and ruin the magic. It's a mess back there. Just enjoy the show.

What sets you apart from other freelancers in your industry?

My broad experiences in policy and research, training and social work gives me the edge in understanding and communicating with clients, their key audiences and other stakeholders.

What are the tools of your trade?

Laptop, Style Manual, thesaurus, coffee.

Do you collaborate with others? If yes, how does that works?

I’m comfortable working independently or collaboratively - whatever gets the job done. Every organisation has its own way of doing things, and its own language, protocols and etiquette.

Whats been the biggest freelancing lesson to date?

Make sure you understand the brief. Don’t be afraid to ask a ‘dumb’ question… but first do your homework, because you might find the answer to your dumb question somewhere in the details.

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