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How a $600 baby sheepdog delivery changed Aussie filmmaker's life

Lucy Dean
·6-min read
Tania and one of her charges. Image: Supplied.
Tania and one of her charges. Image: Supplied.

"PET DELIVERY – LONG HAUL."

For video producer Tania Verbeeck, these four words – and an adorable English sheepdog puppy – were the key to surviving COVID-19, and a 10-month stand-down.

It was the perfect gig: pick up the puppy, transport it from Sydney to Tweed Heads, and collect $600 for her troubles.

For the stood-down video producer, it was the “ultimate task”, and the income stream that has carried her through the downturn and into the future.

Stood-down, anxious but determined

After working in the aviation industry for 12 years as a project manager, Verbeeck had landed a job in an Australian airline’s marketing team as a video producer.

One week later, COVID-19 turned her life upside down.

“At first, I was extremely sad and anxious as we weren't sure if we would lose our jobs permanently,” she told Yahoo Finance.

“We were given some notice regarding our stand down, so I had a couple of weeks to figure out how I was going to pay the bills. With a lot of people around the country practically being stood down from their companies, there was no other work available which meant it was time for me to hustle.”

She knew freelancing was an option but was short of a few things, namely a website, lights and previous clients. All she had was her camera.

“I'd hit a dead end and JobKeeper wasn't going to keep me afloat. So, I had to think outside the box.”

Stuck, she turned to side hustles.

She’d previously planned to film her own documentary at Everest Base camp and needed the extra cash to make it happen, so had used gig platform Airtasker before to land small jobs and some extra money.

“When we were stood down, I always knew that Airtasker would save me if I couldn't find work. I just needed to do a few tasks to earn enough money to buy the rest of the filming equipment I needed, then once I'd bought my equipment, I could go for the bigger jobs on Airtasker that would earn me up to $1000 a job,” she said.

The hard part was finding her first ‘task’. She set about uploading her best corporate profile picture, a winning biography explaining her current situation and began putting in offers.

“It took a couple of days, and then I saw the ultimate task in bold writing, saying ‘PET DELIVERY – LONG HAUL’. One English sheepdog puppy needed to be delivered to Tweed Heads for $600,” she said.

“Not only was it going to pay my rent, but it would also lift my spirits from what had been a stressful couple of weeks. So, I picked up Wilbur from Sydney and started the 9-hour drive to Tweed Heads.”

Once she arrived at Tweed Heads, she heard from the owner that she had found it difficult to get transport for the dog due to airline closure and pet transporters being over-booked. 

"That’s when I knew this was going to be my choice of task for the next few months and that's what it became.”

Dog on board leads to corporate jobs

Tania said it's often with heartbreak that she has to say goodbye to the dog. Image: Supplied.
Tania said it's often with heartbreak that she has to say goodbye to the dog. Image: Supplied.

That first delivery taught her one massive lesson: the puppy’s wellbeing was the most important thing, so if she could market herself as the best person for the job, she’d be streaks ahead.

And she had a huge advantage there: her video prowess.

“I started filming the journey and our trips and shared it on social media. I would let them know that if anyone required the service, they could find me on Airtasker. It was a safer option for both Poster and Tasker as we were both insured,” she said.

The night before a pickup, she would pull down the back seats of her car, lay out a foam mattress and a doona, a couple of toys and a small crate, a water bowl and a couple of mats for the not-yet toilet trained dogs.

Then, she would head to bed at 6pm to prepare for a 3:30am wake up. In the morning, she’d collect the puppy and the paperwork before beginning the trek. They’d stop a few times for a break and send a video update to the new owners.

Hours later, she and the dog would arrive at the destination where she would hand over the pup.

“Soon enough I was getting a transport once a week. After the sixth transport I had enough money saved up to buy the equipment I required to start taking on filming tasks as well.”

She launched her second side hustle: video production work.

Before long, she was creating content for podcasters, charities and investment companies. By May 2020, she had launched her video production business.

That month, she was invited to film a breast cancer awareness piece.

“This was special for me as I had just found out my mum had breast cancer.

“I couldn't visit her in Adelaide, so to have the opportunity to film this organisation and have a chance to ask questions gave me peace of mind during this uncertain time.”

The lesson: Dive straight in

Verbeeck was invited back to her full-time job at the beginning of March this year. While she’s relieved to be back, she admits to missing her days behind the wheel with a dog in the backseat.

“It brought me so much joy and I don't know how I would have got through last year if it wasn't for Airtasker and the adventures I had with all the pet transports,” she said.

She still hops online every morning to look for pet jobs for the weekend.

Today, Verbeeck’s best advice for others forced to reskill or change jobs is to understand that they are more capable than they think.

“Put yourself in the deep end and see what other talents come to the surface,” she said.

“I see this opportunity as this metaphor: 'If I was asked to swim 3km out to sea I'd believe I wasn't capable, but if I was dropped 3km from shore into the ocean and asked to swim back to land that I can see, I'd believe that I was capable.’

“I was put into a situation where I had to swim. Realise that your skill set is transferable, that you are capable of learning new things [and] that starting something new could be the best thing you've done in a long time.”

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Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance