creative living employee entrepreneur flexibility fuck off fund values walkout work redesign Nov 17, 2020

How is your mental health? Did you know regenerative farming takes carbon out the sky?


My guest today is Jim A. Barker. He moved to Sydney a decade ago to start a career in public relations, but after several years of successfully working on some of the biggest names in tech and gaming found himself quite bummed at the idea of pushing words around for someone else.

Thankfully, he'd picked up a camera a few years beforehand and was learning more about himself behind the lens than he'd ever learned behind a keyboard. So, after a couple of years languishing in agency land, wondering how to make it work, he just...made the jump, starting a photography business: Twelve Points Photography. But it's not just portraits Jim enjoys, he's also a passionate gardener and is taking steps to learn how he can reverse climate change [big call!] through farming. Nowadays Jim keeps himself busy with a variety of jobs, constantly pushing to learn new things to make himself, and the world around him, better. 


Today we chatted openly about his mental health, his Doortraits projects and how he is creating a full work life evolution:

  • [04.50] How he splits his time between photography, publicity and farming. How he couldn’t jump out of PR 100%, although the end goal was 100% of income from photography. Farming was the antidote to PR.

  • [07.10] Photography and farming is what he love’s. When Jim picked up a camera few years ago, it gave him the impetus to explore his creative side. He always used to take photos and his Dad was a photographer, picking it up again as an adult it clicked. The moment he said “hashtag blessed”(!)

  • [09.08] The trigger to leave? Simple: mental health. “The hours are long but at least the pay is shit.” Lots of hustling, burn out and I didn’t want to push words around on a screen for someone else. Then he discovered he could make money out of photography.

  • [11.00] Twilight years in PR: stressed, shuffling his feet, moving and talking slowly, walk home and cry behind his sunglasses. He knew he needed a change. He was seeing a therapist, going to the gym, eating well. But had to accept the place he was spending more than a third of his time was the issue.

  • [12.33] The financials – comfortable when he left PR. Crap I’m going to have to start from the bottom again. Made contacts in PR for photography. Ripped the band aid off and he left PR.  “Do you want to keep working here? No, I really don’t!” Lived off his final pay check and got as many eyeballs on his photography business Twelve Points Photography.

  • [15.09] Back to university for the third time. “My HECS debt is screaming at me.” He is starting Graduate Diploma in Agriculture. He has a Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in PR.  

  • [16.43] The system we have of education is great at choking creativity out of us. Learn better by doing and making mistakes. Each time we study we get closer to what we really want.

  • [18.39] Twelve Points Photography and Jim’s Doortraits project. During the pandemic, photographing Sydneysiders outside their homes. The idea came to him before lock down. He could work on his portraits at a time of great calamity and fear. 15-20 people a week, 69 in total. It was not just taking photos, but talking, checking in and finding out how they were feeling.

  • [22.55] Jim pitched his photos to news organisations: The Guardian Australia ran a massive gallery, Channel 7 News ,Australian Photographer Magazine and ABC all covered it. A perfect confluence of Photo and PR. See his Doortraits here:

  • [24.28] Lifeline saw the initial push from media and they came onboard and knowing lockdown was a challenge for mental health, Lifeline and Jim cobranded the initiative and Jim photographed Lifeline staff. The online gallery was Jim’s first exhibition of his work, albeit online. You can still donate here:  

  • [27.14] Jim’s work evolution is really a life evolution – it’s all about nature. How Jim is curating his life. In PR he felt he wasn’t creating anything of value to society as a whole. First and foremost, he developed an issue with materialism. So they move out of the city, now grow vegetable and raise chickens (Ben, Fluffy Pants, Chicken and Red).

  • [29.29] Jim’s in love with the idea of regenerate farming: a method of farming where you make the soil better. Documentary 2040 speaks to how you can pull carbon out of the sky and put it in the soil. Jim believes in make the most of the power you have as an individual. 

  • [31.07] Most happy staring at a big gum tree.

  • [31.18] Moving faster towards ways that you can positively contribute.

  • [32.04] The highlight: the chickens started laying eggs. Growing organic produce south west of Sydney. And Doortraits: achieving a positive end when you’re not sure you can do it. A year of very good vibes!

  • [33.30] Working for someone else to working for myself and the difference is chalk and cheese. The motivation has changed. I used to go to work to make money to enable the rest of my life to happen, and now I make money from a number of channels and I am able to structure my life in a way that gives me a great work life balance and my mental health is the best it’s ever been.

  • [34.55] It’s cliché but “kicking myself for not doing it sooner.” Just do it.

Follow Jim and his chicken’s adventures on instagram

Want to learn how to build your Fuck Off Fund? Pre-register for my FREE Masterclass in January 2021 here.

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