Freelancers / Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind With Bec Sands, Senior Freelance PR & Communications Consultant

Bec Sands is a Senior Freelance PR Consultant and Business Coach, where she works with clients across multiple sectors, including commercial and residential property and other professional services, consumer, and technology.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week. Save 40% off your first HelloFresh box with Balance The Grind.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

I started my PR career while studying a Bachelor of Media in Writing at Macquarie Uni over a decade ago. I’d just done a couple of internships at magazines including FilmInk and Vogue Living, and was recommended to a start-up PR agency.

I landed a part-time role there while I was studying, which turned into a full-time job offer once I’d graduated. I worked there for a couple of years with the founder to help build the business into a fully-fledged agency.

This sparked my interest in entrepreneurship, which (12 years later) I’m now doing personally and also helping others with!

I worked agency-side in PR for five years. My clients included big tech and consumer brands such as Westfield, Sony Australia, Philips Consumer Lifestyle, Intel, NETGEAR, Toyota and Google.

After that I wanted a change, so I switched in-house into property PR. I worked in a national PR role supporting the head of comms at JLL for three years before being approached to lead the comms at another property agency, Knight Frank.

As the head of PR for Australia I led the function for four years, building a small national PR team and developing and overseeing a brand PR strategy for the firm. While there, my team won the 2018 PRIA Golden Target Award (GTA) in the Corporate In-House PR Team of the Year category for NSW.

During my time at Knight Frank I also studied a coaching certification, helping people to start businesses they’re passionate about on the side of their full-time roles.

I now work for myself as a freelance PR consultant and business coach. Both businesses allow me to work directly with business owners which is what I really love to do.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

I am a senior freelance PR consultant and business coach for start-up entrepreneurs and solopreneurs.

These businesses are currently still separate but there’s a lot of cross-over – particularly when it comes to brand and profile building!

From a freelance PR perspective, I work with clients to develop and execute multi-platform PR strategies that communicate their key messages and raise awareness amongst their target audiences. A lot of it is generating media coverage for brands – with the right messages.

From a coaching perspective, I work with clients to help them refine their ideas, overcome any resistance or fear holding them back, and I help them test and launch profitable businesses – on the side first.

Day-to-day my work looks completely different these days. Each day and week is different and I plan around the priorities and client workload that I have at the time, balancing this out with development of creative materials and new business activity.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

At the moment it’s winter so I am struggling to get up super early! I generally wake up between 6.30 and 7.30am.

Whether it’s in the morning, afternoon or evening, I always try to schedule a work out at some stage during the day depending on what I’ve got on. I love yoga – vinyasa and yin – and balance it out with personal training at the gym, cross training and I’ve just started running again as well.

I meditate at least once a day, pretty much every day, for 10 minutes because it helps me to manage stress levels and keep a clearer, focused mind. I also find that it balances the time I spend using my phone and laptop.

During the work week, every day is completely different, but I generally try to balance meetings and phone calls with client work and mix things up every day.

For example, I might spend a morning working on a new business presentation then the afternoon, I’ll allocate to existing client work.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Absolutely – I’ve tried so many things and really, it’s about figuring out what works for you and this will evolve and change depending on your responsibilities and schedule.

Some of the tricks that I personally use are:

  • I schedule my weeks in advance on a Sunday, blocking out the time in my diary where I need to do deep, focused work; scheduling any client meetings that need to happen for either of my businesses; locking in time for social or personal appointments; and diarising work out sessions in advance. (If it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t happen).
  • I always aim to do the hardest task of the day first, because I’m most productive in the mornings. This takes a lot of discipline because I find email can be very distracting. I like to be available for clients and media as-it-happens so it’s tricky for me to leave email until late in the day, for example.
  • I aim to do blocks of focused work – usually 40 to 60 minutes – without checking my phone, email or social media. This enables me to be super productive and get major tasks done, then take water/tea/stretch breaks in between where I’ll usually check my phone, reply to messages and emails, and – let’s face it – scroll through Insta!

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

Really, it’s all about prioritising and getting support where I can. None of us can do everything so I find it’s useful to prioritise and focus on major thing at a time in each area of life and business.

When I have the right priorities and support in place (whether that’s working with my business coach, or getting a cleaner in once a fortnight, or training with a group rather than trying to motivate myself) I find that there’s enough time and energy left over to take a bit of time out for myself.

I also prioritise the relationships in my life, because these are what bring me the most meaning and sense of connection.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

To me, it’s doing something that I enjoy career-wise and also having enough time to exercise, meditate, spend time with friends and family and basically not feeling rushed 24/7.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

I think I’ve already mentioned many of these – exercise, yoga, meditation, spending time with friends and family and having a bit of time left over for myself. I think it’s also important to know what you’re striving for – if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing at least most of the time, a few changes may be in order.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

So many! One of my favourite books is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about creative bravery and how we’re all creative in some way – we just need to give ourselves permission to express it.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Focus on the biggest, hardest task first! Then, even if other unexpected priorities come up during the day (which is generally the case), the most important thing is done.

I’ve also turned all social media notifications off on my phone. I did this at the start of this year and it was the best thing ever. I used to get hammered with notifications all day long and would constantly check them, creating an inadvertent state of anxiety.

By turning off notifications you’ll save yourself from needing the self-discipline to avoid checking (never works) and instead, you’ll simply check social media when you’re ready at a time of your own choosing.

10) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Regular exercise and meditation are two of the biggest non-negotiables for me. Even if I can only squeeze in a two-minute meditation it helps me to gain clarity and focus. I highly recommend it if you don’t already have an existing practice!

I use the Calm app personally, but I know there’s heaps of other good apps out there such as Headspace – or simply sitting in stillness works wonders.

If you’d like to support Balance the Grind’s mission to promote health work-life balance to a global audience, you can join our Patreon membership for as little as $1 a month.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.