‘I feel like I’m everyone’s mum’: Sally Brownbill reflects on being an industry confidante

Creative consultant, founder of The Brownbill Effect, and 'people connector', Sally Brownbill, has long been a passionate member of the creative industry. Reflecting on her career, she speaks to Mumbrella’s Lauren McNamara on the good, the bad and the ugly.

A commercial photographer, working for a television and theatre producer, a club’s door girl, a pearl polisher – Sally Brownbill has really done it all. After various odd jobs over the years, and upon returning to Melbourne, she thought: “Shit, what am I going to do?”

“Then, I realised all these funny jobs taught me that I’m really good with people – I’m even better at making shit happen,” she says. 

“I had a really creative slant on how I did things but I was also practical, so it was time to act on that.”

So in 2002, she began The Brownbill Effect – an online creative resource featuring a creative directory, assistants register, recruitment and consultancy.

“People said to me, ‘I think people would pay to speak and listen to you’, and I’m sarcastically like ‘yeah, right’,” she continues. 

“But then I thought about it, and actually I do know a lot about the industry, and yeah I’ve met a lot of people… there’s not a lot that shocks me.”

Becoming a consultant, a listener, and a confidante for many throughout her 20 years of The Brownbill Effect, she has certainly heard the good and the bad. 

Said to be known for her honesty, many creatives would divulge in Brownbill for both professional, and sometimes personal, advice.

“I’m known for my truthful way of spinning sometimes quite awkward situations into solutions,” she says.

“You know, I’d tell people ‘that’s not working’ or ‘this is what you need to do’, or ‘hey your marriage is more important’, because too often, our work lives spill over into our private lives.

“In fact, I often feel like I’m everyone’s mum, offering advice. I’ve got this mother thing going – where I am nurturing, but also really honest. People aren’t going to pay money to come and see me, and be told that everything is okay when it’s not.”

But, upon reflecting on her own career, Brownbill faced her own challenges, both professionally and personally, and had to remind herself of her own advice.

Brownbill’s number one confidante, Lany the staffy

Going through the various odd jobs, having a 95-year-old father in a nursing home, helping to nurse her sick mother until she passed, having a child and trying again many times, struggling to find her professional purpose – she has learnt, in time, to listen to herself.

“It’s been hugely important,” she reflects.

“Everybody’s needs are so different, including my own.

“I learnt to listen to my own advice – take a step back and think about when I need to better balance work life and personal life.”

When you name your business after yourself, Brownbill says it’s so important to know and love what your business stands for – so taking that step back to reflect is pertinent.

With The Brownbill Effect’s purpose being about helping people be the best versions of themselves, she says she needed to ensure she did that for herself, too.

“I’ve been through a lot. A lot of good, a lot of interesting, a lot of ugly.

“But my business, it’s my purpose. It’s exciting, and I love it,” she continues.

“There isn’t a lot of support in this industry, and often you can’t go talk to your bosses, you can’t talk to your colleagues, because they might be part of the problem. So being that third-party confidante is such a special thing. 

“I love helping people, I love to make people’s lives feel easier. And I’ve spoken to so many people where, more often than not, the problems people come to me with are things I’ve heard before.”

Described as the “go-to person” for all things creative – jobs, advice or designing portfolios or websites – Brownbill hopes to share her wisdom with the industry, and continue the “mother thing” she’s got going on.

She has also written a couple of books based on her experiences, to help creatives fulfil their potential.


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