Balancing the Grind with Niamh Sullivan, Founder & CEO at INFIX Creative Studio

Meet Niamh Sullivan, the powerhouse behind INFIX Creative Studio, who has woven a remarkable tapestry of experiences from a nomadic childhood and overcoming cancer to launching a storytelling haven that’s making waves in the tech world.

From her early days as Channel 7’s Cash Cow to her impactful role at Google and beyond, Niamh’s journey is nothing short of inspiring. With INFIX, she’s now on a mission to distil complex information into compelling narratives, while balancing her bustling career with personal passions like running, reading, and continuous learning. 

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I moved around a lot as a kid. In fact, I’d live in 22 houses by the time I turned 22. The constant change really taught me how to take notice of my surroundings, value relationships and prioritise understanding other people. 

The only other constant in my childhood was travel. My parents prioritised travel from a very early age and we often spent our summers backpacking through Europe or South-East Asia. The only rule on these trips was: If you want it, you carry it. We did everything from stay in $5/night hostels to travel overland through Indonesia on motorbikes. 

There was a short hiatus in our travel for a few years when I was diagnosed with cancer at 11. I spent two years living in the hospital, was in a coma, had rehab to learn how to walk and talk again, and went through 2 years of chemo. While in hospital, I met so many other kids going through their own challenges from completely different walks of life and watched the different ways families coped with the always confronting situation. 

I’d say my love of stories – telling them and sharing them – was born and really evolved in this blend of change, adversity and travel. I just didn’t realise at the time that storytelling could be a real job! 

My first experience in the working world was as the Channel 7 Cash Cow – anything to get a foot in the door!! But my career really got started when I became a TV reporter and journalist for Channel 7, working across regional NSW and Gold Coast. This kicked off while at Bond University, where I studied a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Journalism.

This meant I worked part-time and studied full time (sometimes remotely) until graduating. During my time with Channel 7, I covered everything from bushfires, floods and droughts through to the William Tyrell inquest, armed hold ups and many fatal car accidents.  

I loved having a platform to tell powerful stories and create opportunities for others in the community to share their stories at Channel 7, but I knew that the work I was doing wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. So, I started exploring some freelance writing opportunities and very quickly attracted a (more than) full-time roster of freelance writing clients.

One of my first projects was as a writer for Facebook, where I wrote scripts, interviews, articles and other collateral. This then snowballed into work with Google, Amazon, YouTube, WhatsApp and many other tech-backed companies. 

My experience working with international tech companies helped me identify a clear gap: Conveying complex information simply, consistently and efficiently. I used this insight as the foundation of launching INFIX – a storytelling studio. Our team works with founders, decision-makers and business leaders to identify the brand story and establish the strategy needed to bring it to life. It’s an approach that brings together strategists, writers, designers and developers across our Sydney and Gold Coast offices. 

On top of INFIX, I am also a keynote speaker (currently represented by Startup Speakers) and the national ambassador for Make-A-Wish Australia. Plus, I’m also readying to launch a new startup-focused product and a storytelling-centric podcast in 2024. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I’m really big on routine and I have a few non-negotiables for every day. When I’m at home and in the swing of things, I start my day with a group fitness class at the gym, breakfast at home and homemade coffee with my fiance. Given I’m a morning person, I like to start work by 7 – 7.30am so that I have the opportunity to get my head into it before the rest of the team logs in. 

Throughout my work day, I focus on our business growth, quality control for the work delivered by our team and media opportunities for our brand and my personal brand. This means any one day can include everything from sales meetings and onboarding brand strategy workshops through to reviewing work, managing our partnerships and checking in on everyone in the team.

When the day wraps up, I like to head to the gym (only if I didn’t go that morning), go for a walk along the beach and cook dinner at home. I enjoy switching off by reading (light and easy books only!) or watching a show with my partner (usually something equally as light and easy!). My partner runs his own business too, so we usually take some time over dinner to exchange notes on the day, offer advice and listen to the other. But we have a no-work-talk rule after we finish dinner. 

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

I don’t believe it’s possible for me to have a true work-life balance where everything is in equal measure. Instead, it’s more of a flow that respects both sides of the equation and understands that there will be fluctuations throughout every week and month.

Sometimes, I switch off at 3pm on a Wednesday and other times I work on a Sunday morning – it really just depends on what we have happening, when INFIX needs me and when ideas come to me. 

The one consistent factor for me is having a trip to look forward to. Given how much travel was valued in my childhood, it’s probably no surprise that experiencing new cultures and visiting new countries is still a core component of my adult life. My partner and I have two goals: 

  1. Visit a new place every year 
  2. Always have a trip to look forward to 

I find it easiest to switch off and recharge when I’m in a new environment, so ensuring I always have something new booked in – whether it’s an overseas holiday or a camping trip 1 hour down the road – forces me to maintain balance. I find these regular breaks allow me to fill up my cup and ensure I always have enough to give to all the areas of my life at any one time. 

A more simple way I bring balance to everyday life is by ensuring I find time in each day to do something for myself. Whether it’s going to the gym, walking on the beach, reading a book or trying a new recipe, these little moments that are completely unrelated to work bring me plenty of joy! I particularly love spending time in nature – I’m very lucky to have the southern Gold Coast as my backyard. 

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I’m always looking for opportunities to purposely introduce change into my life – it’s how I thrive. I’ve recently started running and I’m currently training for a half-marathon (alongside the rest of Australia!). Running allows me to enjoy the beauty in my Gold Coast backyard, completely disconnect from work and find clarity in the often crowded space of my mind. 

Last year, I set myself the goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks. While I’m an avid reader and love completely immersing myself in new stories, I found I wasn’t naturally reaching for a book at night after reading so much during the day. I’d fallen out of the habit and didn’t realise how much I missed it!

Setting myself this goal was the motivation I needed to get back into reading and opt for a book over my laptop after-hours. The most surprising benefit that’s come from this is the community of reading! I’m always swapping booking recommendations and reviews with new people, so it’s a great way to extend my network beyond purely business connections. 

This year, I’m also prioritising passion projects. While I absolutely love the work we do at INFIX, I realise it’s important to consistently give my mind different challenges and focuses. This not only gives me new skills and perspectives to bring into my everyday role, but also brings me plenty of satisfaction and allows me to connect with new people. Some of the projects I’m working on include a podcast, a startup series and speaking. 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I find I am the most balanced when engaging with books, podcasts and newsletters that are completely separate from my role at INFIX. I’ve been reading light and easy books (family drama and romance usually!) for as long as I can remember and this remains a big part of my routine. I find it such a great way to calm my mind down after work and maintain perspective when life feels chaotic or rushed. 

On a more professional note, I also love listening to other people’s stories on podcasts. Diary of a CEO is always popular on my rotation as I find the podcast guests are always so diverse and bring inherently unique insights.  

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers? 

When I was a kid, my Dad’s motto was “A day without laughter is a day wasted”. I still think he was pretty on the money. No matter what you’re doing, what phase of life you’re in or what you’re working towards, remember to enjoy the process. Carve out time for fun and remember to embrace the silliness. You’ll enjoy the journey a whole lot more and have more people to share it with too. 

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.