Natalie Austin’s Journey in Copywriting, Community Building, and Authentic Storytelling

Meet Natalie Austin, a passionate storyteller who found her calling in copywriting and community building. Her journey from the diverse landscapes of the San Francisco Bay Area to the vibrant culture of South Africa shaped her love for narratives and human connections. With a background in journalism, anthropology, and a knack for digital marketing, Natalie embarked on a freelance career and launched the “Do It Together” Instagram Live series, showcasing inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs. Through her platform, Natalie not only shares captivating stories but also fosters a supportive community eager to learn and connect. Her dedication to diversity, inclusivity, and authentic storytelling shines through as she navigates the challenges and triumphs of her entrepreneurial path.

Can you share a bit about your personal journey and how you found your passion for copywriting and community building?

I love stories. I love the people behind them, their perspectives and how they think. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was exposed to a world of cultures and ethnicities in a small space, with some of the best programmes available on television and printed publications during the ‘90s-2000s. While in high school, I moved with my mum back to her homeland in South Africa following her divorce. Moving from California to Durban was nothing short of a culture shock.

Over time, I realised I wanted to cover wildlife and human interest stories through journalism. Originally, I studied to be a journalist, having studied Film & Media and Anthropology at Rhodes University in South Africa. I joined and led some student media clubs and even later landed a contract with WildEarth in the Kruger National Park. But then COVID-19 hit, and the sustainability of the programme was being questioned.

I got into copywriting just as COVID-19 was calming down in 2020. I applied to be a copywriter in a digital marketing agency where I learned more about writing for different needs and platforms. 

After two years, I decided to start freelancing and have worked with several small and large companies, as well as creative individuals. The need to foster reliable connections is essential when freelancing… and I was starting to feel disconnected from what was outside my home office. I needed to do something about it.

What inspired you to start the “Do It Together” Instagram Live series, and how has it evolved since its inception?

It was during my time in freelancing I realised that these self-starting creatives I knew (from my childhood, the various countries and my international jobs) – each had incredible stories. The entrepreneurial spirit post COVID-19 has soared in recent years, especially in South Africa.

I decided what better way to combine my love of storytelling, connection building and showcasing great stories than with a platform like ‘Do It Together’, a weekly Instagram Live show hosted on my copywriting portfolio page

While hosting the segments, I get to learn about the guests’ industries and they get a little moment to share and connect with others. The support has been great and the community of viewers is slowly growing. It’s great to see people genuinely interested in what they are doing and how they do it. And it’s just wholesome.

Could you highlight a particularly inspiring or memorable story from one of your guests that left a lasting impact on you?

A lot of the stories behind these creatives are founded deeply in their identity, upbringing and the risk they decided to take in building something they believe in – whether it was a business, an organisation, a project or a community. 

My guests have seen a gap and wanted to improve it – like Anthea and her NPO for library and literacy projects in Durban, South Africa. Or there is Welcome, who grew up in the shadow of his mother’s death and learned to live his truth as a gay man in a township and share his story in his transparent memoir.

Each of their stories is so important to the foundation and core of why they do what they do. And it is only just beginning, with many more guest applicants now signing up.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your journey as a freelance copywriter and community curator, and how did you overcome them?

We experience loadshedding where I live (scheduled electrical blackout to mitigate infrastructure problems) and recent municipality strikes left us 10 days without power. Having basics like power, lights and internet (and water) can at times be unpredictable. And then there are oceanic internet cable faults and the Instagram platform issues that occurred recently. It is a lot to keep me on my toes. 

Apart from that, I am about to interview my younger brother this week. And it’s a very personal story about to be shared with the world.

Can you share a specific lesson or piece of advice you’ve learned through your experiences that you believe would be valuable for aspiring creatives and entrepreneurs?

So many of them, with whatever you are going through, say – JUST DO IT. Each of their journeys came with a dose of risk. But, all we can do in our precious time on Earth is live our authentic selves by pursuing what we feel driven to do.

How do you balance your creative pursuits with the demands of running a successful Instagram Live series and managing your freelance work?

Setting up a system and schedule to process the applicants is crucial, plus a good sense of organisation and communication with the guests. Media templates and an organised Google Drive are essential. I am organising forms, media, and guest schedules.

Thankfully, with freelancing, there is a good deal of flexibility. I do struggle with a bit of a busy mind in terms of my to-do list, but I am forever making notes – on my phone, sticky notes, diary, and in my folder. Keeping a notepad next to my bedside helps.

What strategies do you use to ensure diversity and inclusivity in the stories and voices you feature on your platform?

This question is at the back of my mind. Always. 

While I am striving to represent various genders, ages, sexual identities, nationalities, countries, and races – it all comes down to who gets back to me with a completed application and confirms their schedules on time. Everyone is busy and not everyone is available. I have some guests who need to wait at least 6 months before they can even consider an interview. So, it is up to me to stay persistent and remind them, making sure they know I want them on my show. Each story deserves to be shared with a community and supportive audience.

Have there been moments where you’ve felt discouraged or doubted your path, and if so, how did you regain your motivation and confidence?

As a person with a background in journalism, anthropology and copywriting, I am acutely aware of how a narrative is received and perceived. I am determined to ensure the angle is approved by the guest. With sensitive personal stories and other details, I worry if I make a mistake – it’s live after all!

But the most encouraging moment was an email of thanks from a guest who had received leads from the show for their NPO literacy and library project. It was wonderful. In a time with a failing education system and a government that cannot provide basic resources, knowing that individuals are stepping forward to support deserving children and build their future, it feels like there is still hope for South Africa during these hardships.

Looking ahead, what are some of your goals and aspirations for your business and creative projects in the coming years?

As this project is still quite fresh, I am being encouraged by friends, viewers, and guests alike to continue the series. We will see where it goes! Plus, I still need to track down more guests as time goes on… 

by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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