30 Aug Behind the SHE blog: Meet Prabs
In conversation with our very own content writer, Prabjit Chohan-Patel
Month after month we’ve been offering up some quality blog posts thanks to our very own content writer; Prabs.
Today, we turn the spotlight inwards to get to know the lady who lovingly and passionately crafts the perfect article for us time and time again, a valuable member of the SHE team.
Ladies and gents, meet Prabs – the lady behind our SHE blog since August 2022 …
Let’s start by painting a picture for our audience, who is Prabs?
I’m a second generation British Asian, born in West London to parents from the Punjab (North India) who moved from India to the UK in the 1960’s. I grew up and went to school in Wembley and Harrow and attended university in Surrey, also studying for a year in the beautiful French Alps region, a stage of life where I well and truly caught the travel bug. After graduating and starting working life in London, I moved to Paris to join Euro Disney (now Disneyland), going on to work for two further companies over five years; an unforgettable era that included some of the best and worst moments of my life.
After eight years back in London where I got married and had my first child, I left the UK again, this time for Malta due to my husband’s work. Sidebar: From an early age, I was captivated by the French language and for reasons that nobody (including myself!) can identify, I am still fluent in it but can hardly speak a word of my native Indian language.
What is your business background?
Although I did a brief Business French diploma during my university years, my actual degree was a joint honours in French and English, so languages and literature were my initial passion rather than business studies. After graduating, I pursued the relative safety and known quantity of permanent employment – rather than the riskier/scarier route of entrepreneurship – working for several multinationals including American Express, Deutsche Bank and Sky Television.
If somebody had told me then that I’d start my own writing business several years later, navigating the many highs, lows, risks and rewards involved in working for oneself, I wouldn’t have believed them. The funny thing is though, my commercial exposure had actually started at the tender age of seven, helping out over the years in my parents’ convenience store and flower shop. Witnessing them working incredibly hard throughout my childhood and adolescence to build successful businesses was an invaluable training ground and – what I didn’t realise until decades later – my introduction to developing a business mindset.
Can you name a favourite or most meaningful accomplishment?
I hesitated over how (or even whether, ahem) to answer this as I’d hate to be perceived as bragging or having an overinflated misguided view of my own achievements. But I won’t deny that winning an award and being shortlisted a few more times for my blog Absolutely Prabulous were incredible moments of validation for all sorts of reasons.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
A passionate, curious perfectionist.
Proudest moment since going solo?
I’m going to be a renegade and choose more than one if you don’t mind. The amazing response from my husband, a seasoned CMO whose opinion I really value, has meant the world to me partly as he’s a tough crowd who’s not easy to impress! Another boost was seeing a piece I wrote for SHE unexpectedly instigating a sponsorship alliance. Producing a SIGMA Magazine piece on a super tight deadline and limited brief was also a real highlight as it reminded me I can deliver quality work under pressure. (It may not be my comfort zone but I can definitely do it.)
But ultimately, my biggest source of pride is the work itself… From the content I’ve done so far, if I had to pick one that occupies a special place in my heart, it would have to be 10 Useful Lessons in Life and Business from the Queen that I wrote for SHE. Writing that was surprisingly moving but also quite challenging as I was very aware of the need to do the subject matter justice. I’ve been going through client feedback recently to build the testimonial section of my new website and smiled all over again rereading your feedback on that article actually Sass.
What is a typical day in the life of a freelance writer?
WelI I can describe what my ideal day is! Truthfully, I’m not yet consistently achieving this and it tends to go in peaks and troughs. When I do ‘get it right’ though, the day starts with a set of morning habits consisting of:
>wake up yoga
>self-development reading (currently The Rules of People by Richard Templar)
>exercise (walking, running, swimming, pilates depending on the season/schedule)
>back to the house to fetch the dog for her walk
>breakfast and getting ready.
If I’m up by 6.30 latest, this gets me to my desk at home by 10.30. It’s a work in progress.
Then, I put in a few hours of work before household duties late afternoon. Work varies according to the type of project I’m working on. Sometimes an entire week is taken up interviewing people, other times I’m carrying out research and of course, there are days when it’s write, write, write.
Struggles as a freelance writer?
I guess the struggles of being a freelance writer are the same as the struggles of freelancers in any line of work: the all important regular stream of income: achieving it and maintaining it.
Isolation is another one. I do love my work environment setup, alternating between my dedicated home office space, outdoor sofa and even being able to pop to local cafes for a change of scene. What’s not to like when you can ‘go to’ work without commuting or parking issues? However, the lack of interaction is a less appealing aspect. I sometimes miss the days of having a quick chat by the coffee machine with a colleague and general office banter (on that note, am eagerly awaiting the return of SHE’s coworking Wednesdays…).
The biggest freelance challenge for me though is ‘productivity mindset’. I’m reassessing my thought processes and approach, namely the hours required for truly effective output. I’ve been so locked into believing that the daily standard of eight hours – from my previous career years – is the only ‘proper’ way to work, so much so that if I’m not doing that, I feel like I’m not working ‘enough’. In fact, I’ve had conversations with fellow SHE members and have several books on my reading list about this issue of what constitutes the optimum successful day. Finding the right way and balance can be very tricky when you have to factor in personal obligations of household management, parenting teens at critical stages of education, having a partner who’s away a lot for work etc. So I’m trying to shed my ingrained attitudes, be kinder to myself and embrace the ideology that putting in four focussed hours of work a day can be more constructive than sitting at a desk for eight hours – just because that’s the way it’s always been done – only to achieve the same (or even fewer) results. In other words it’s more about deep work rather than long work; quality of output rather than quantity of hours.
What does SHE mean to you?
Immediate response? Everything! More than I’m fully able to put into words (even though I should be able to as a writer). It’s camaraderie and unexpected friendship with genuine, intelligent and approachable women in business. It’s inspiring commercial stories (that I wouldn’t necessarily have known about without SHE). It’s eye-opening exposure to the drive, determination and sheer guts of the female entrepreneurs I’ve met or written about.
For me, the SHE motto of ‘collaboration over competition’ is not a fashionable mantra that is simply trotted out insincerely. It’s the real deal. I feel it simply walking through the door to a SHE member event or conducting interviews for articles.
How has your experience been, writing for SHE so far?
Even though writing has always been a huge part of my career and I’d done a bit of freelancing a while back plus built a successful blog, I guess a part of me was nervous officially launching a freelance writing business. (It feels strange saying that now I’m further down the line.) It’s definitely been confidence-boosting and educational writing for SHE. It doesn’t matter if a client is your first, fifth or fiftieth. You want to deliver the best for them. From the very first piece I did for SHE, it proved to me that I CAN do this.
How has SHE helped you on your business journey?
It’s raised my profile and certainly helped me build my portfolio. Although I don’t want to jinx things by naming clients and companies here, I’m fairly sure my work with SHE has helped open the door to another project starting in the Autumn.
Any inspirational moments within the community that have really stuck with you?
I was super impressed by Becky Kamsky’s detailed presentation entitled “Clarity & Direction for an Effective Digital Strategy” that included so many digital marketing tips and tools. And Vanessa Camenzuli’s personal branding workshop was not only thought-provoking and educational but what particularly struck me was how poised and just plain brilliant at presenting she was.
What can we expect to see in your future articles for SHE?
I’m thinking of looking at emerging trends and stories in the business sector for inspiration. I’d also like to get the community more involved in topic suggestion and selection, particularly as SHE’s past Instagram polling initiatives have been rather successful. They’re a good way to get the conversation started.
Future plans for your business?
Funnily enough, when I had to think of my five year goals and plan last year, I surprised myself a bit on this front. Potentially, I am interested in running my own agency of carefully selected, quality writers allowing me to assume more of an editorial lead and – hopefully – leave me time to fulfil my dream of writing my own regular column in a major publication.
Any top tips for anyone thinking of venturing out alone?
I keep coming back to the famous philosophy: find your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life. (Ok, we all know it’s not quite that simple. Every job involves the stuff we don’t particularly enjoy and clearly we are working but the basic message makes sense.)
However, being the realist that I am, I have to say, once you’ve identified your passion, do your research!
And after that, off you go…believe, believe, believe.