Anne Wizorek has actually managed to make a living from her passion for communication while at the same time applying her skills to the things she believes in. Here she explains how:
Anne is a freelance consultant for social media, online strategy/project manager for mainly online projects. Her studies have nothing to do with any of that, she dropped out of university, although getting the diploma is still very important in her native Germany. Anne was always working, even when studying and realised that to finish her studies she would have to stop working, which would mean a student loan – something she didn’t want to do. She wanted to do something real, get something done and a degree in German literature wasn’t about that.
She became an online editor for one of the most popular German blogs and as part of that job became a curator/co-organiser at one of the most important social media conferences in Germany, Re:publica. She really enjoyed that job and it enabled her to explore what had started out as a hobby, a passion – blogging, using social media networks, and eventually she did an art project called PaperGirl Berlin – doing the event management as well as the blog and online communication. Anne had always done this stuff because she loved it but figured out, “OK, this is something that not everyone can do, it’s a very special way of communicating and not everyone can do it, although the tools are really accessible,” so decided to make a profession of it.
After those gigs finished she was working as a freelancer but was still craving the security of being employed. She says she was lucky because at that time she learnt a lot about communication and PR through being part of the team that organised SlutWalk in Berlin, doing the online communications and a lot of public relations which helped her a lot although she didn’t get any money for it – but gained experience which was much more valuable, even in terms of self confidence. After SlutWalk she got a job at an agency but realised it wasn’t how she wanted to bring her skills to people or help clients. She quit and luckily just after that was offered a big contract as a freelancer, a project she is currently working on.
Right now she is trying to decide if she wants to found her own company, apply for funding, look for an agency which is closer to what she wants to do or maybe team up with friends who have great skills. Anne was surprised to find out that there are people who need the things she was enjoying doing as a hobby. She doesn’t feel there is a way to educate people to do what she is doing so she realised she had a skill with which to help clients.
Personal networking has become very essential in getting jobs, and being recommended by people has been important too. She couldn’t make a living without both online and offline networking. She has found that networks are distinct in different places – she has just returned from New York where, as a feminist activist, she met many of the people whose books and blogs she reads and she had the feeling that the community there is closer and more supportive than in Germany. This made her think that she could change the situation as she thinks there are probably more people here who feel the same way. She wants to initiate an event and forge a community to get this kind of environment going in Berlin as well.
Taking to the streets
I asked her to tell me more about SlutWalk. It started in Toronto, Canada because at a security training session on the campus a police officer said women would be less likely to be raped if they didn’t dress like sluts. Students were so appalled that they initiated the SlutWalk – they wanted to provoke with the name but wanted to make visible that they are the victims and that society should, finally, be blaming the perpetrators. The event spread all over the world, to around 80 cities. It was a huge topic in blogs and finally Anne realised it was something that was missing: people spend a lot of time talking about things that are problematic but never take action, never “take it to the streets”. She did some research and found a few people in Berlin who wanted to start it, so she got in touch with them and a few weeks later was in complete SlutWalk mode. She says it was very intense but she learned a lot, also about herself and considers it a really great experience.
Anne feels that the Internet means that anyone, anywhere will always be able to find some sort of information about these issues and in the best case can make you more comfortable with whatever problem you have – you see there are other people who feel the same way. Before you feel completely alone and it is now easier to get in touch with people and give each other support. For her this development is one of the most important things that has evolved during her time online.
She feels that most of the policy makers and institutions are really far away from understanding the experience of people who have grown up with the Internet as a normal part of their lives. She sees a generational clash around some things like privacy – with warnings about not sharing too much information, for example, although she feels sharing can be very valuable, even if it’s painful, because then you can reach out to people who feel the same way. “We have to make sure, especially with all this paranoia going on in the newspapers and the media that by sharing information you are doomed, you’ll never get a job…..actually this is more about making visible what makes us human,” she says. It’s labeled as being a failure, she continues, so we need to make sure that people are not curating their online personas so much that only the positive things are shown. Anne gives the example of people whose Facebook timeline makes you think they must be really happy but when you talk to them you discover they’re having a bad time, even though they are posting about happy moments.
She still finds it incredible that she can just get in touch with people all over the world and have both global and local networks and points out the importance of “this way of bonding and empowering people is eventually always the reason for change”