7 Reasons to Freelance

I never set out to freelance. Prior to having children I had a job I loved as an Online Marketing Manager working for a clothing company in Central London.

After the birth of my first daughter almost 6 years ago, I assumed that I would be going back when my maternity leave finished. Things didn’t work out the way I planned. I had hoped to work 3 days a week and would have considered 4 if it had come to it. But my company didn’t agree. I suggested working from home for part of the week or working some form of condensed hours, but after several meetings I was told that the business could not offer me any form of flexibility. At all.  I was utterly amazed that there was zero room for negotiation especially as I’d had such good relationships with my bosses and colleagues. One of the first posts I wrote when I set up this blog was about the lack of flexibility in the work place and even now, two years on, I still feel passionately that not enough businesses offer working flexibility for parents. In this digital age, there should be far more options.

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Writing Goals for 2017

The day before New Year’s Eve, I sat down and started writing out my resolutions for 2017. I came up with a list of 16 (yes sixteen!) goals which included everything from running, reading and writing more to less shouting at the kids, drinking less wine and spending less time on my phone. After a good five minutes, I decided to scrap the lot and save myself from the depression of never being able to live up to such high expectations.

2017-writing-goals

But I did decide to set myself some writing goals for both my freelance work and for my blog which I hope are a little bit more achievable.

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How to Get Started as A Freelance Copywriter

Freelance copywriting is perhaps the best job I’ve ever had. I love being my own boss, choosing my own hours and deciding which projects to work on. Perhaps the biggest advantage for me is that I get to work around my children. During the normal working week  (school holidays are a bit more problematic!) I can work around the school run and pre-school run and I’ve been known to work late into the night to get things done.

How to Start Freelance Copywriting

But freelancing does have it’s downsides too. As recently as a couple of months ago, I was stuck in a rut with no sign of work and I accepted that I’d be a stay at home mum for a bit longer. I also wrote another post about the downsides of freelancing when I had the horrible task of amongst other things, chasing a client down for payment. I’m extremely lucky in that my husband is the main breadwinner in our family and so we can get by if I don’t get any work for months on end.

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Stay at Home Mum. Is It Enough?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have asked me “When are you going back to work?”

Sometimes I’m amused by this question. Other times I’m irritated and other times, it depresses the hell out of me.

Being a Full Time Mum

My Old Job

Five years ago I was an Online Marketing Manager for a clothing company in London. I had hoped to go back to work after the birth of my eldest, Alice. When the time came for the inevitable back to work discussions. It all went a bit wrong. I was told there was no scope for flexibility. I couldn’t work from home at all and it wasn’t possible to reduce my hours. At all.

I couldn’t bear the thought of dropping my 1 year old baby off to nursery at 7am and not collecting her until 6pm 5 days a week. The commute into and out of London somehow seemed to be so much longer and fraught with potential for more problems and delays than ever before. And so, with some reluctance, I quit.

I was lucky to find some freelance marketing and copywriting work not long after with 1 major client. And this gradually expanded so that I was working with several different clients.

Freelance Work

When It’s Good…. It’s Very Very Good…..

On the good days, when I’ve got work on the go and I can cope with juggling everything in around the children then freelancing is great. I enjoy the flexibility it gives me. I love the fact that I can work the hours that suit me.

…..But When It’s Bad It is Horrid

The are several downsides of freelancing but the biggest is the unpredictability. I’m often quiet with little or no work on. Which makes money unreliable. I frequently lose heart. I wonder what the hell I’m doing. Whether I’ll ever have work again or do anything more meaningful than referee my kids’ arguments and try and placate the toddler’s list of meltdowns. 

Can Being a Mum Ever Be Enough?

At the school gates, I’m well aware that along with 1 other mum, we are completely in the minority. I don’t work in the conventional sense. I don’t keep the usual office hours.  And when all the other mums ask me what I do, I feel the need to justify myself and talk up my freelance business. Why do I find it so hard to answer “I’m primarily a stay at home mum for now and juggling some writing work when I can.”

It’s strange isn’t it, but when did simply “Being a mum” become such a bad thing? Why is there always so much pressure to do something else?

I appreciate I’m lucky. Many other women don’t have a choice and have to go back to work for their family to survive. We can live on my husband’s wage, but during the slow times, I feel increasingly frustrated and weird about not being financially independent. I get frustrated that despite it being 2016, the “flexible” work options still aren’t really that flexible in most jobs. I’m frustrated that unless they choose to be the primary carer, most men don’t seem to have this issue.

Some of my good friends and my family remind me that actually being a full time mum is a big enough job in itself. The nursery down the road from me charges £55 a day. If I could charge that every day for looking after my two, I’d be happy enough! Plus there’s the issue of being on call non stop 24/7 and covering every role from teacher, supervisor, cook, cleaner, entertainer and referee.

Why Do We Want More?

There’s no doubt about it. Being a mum can be frustrating,monotonous and exasperating. I can understand why many mums choose to go back to work; to use their brain, to enjoy some adult conversation, to retain their financial independence or even just to have a lunch hour in peace.

My freelance work and this blog are my way of trying to gain some sense of balance. The blog is my creative outlet and to keep up my love of writing.  The dream is to increase the freelance work to make it more consistent.  But I need to learn to have some patience and not to get upset about it when things slow down.

And I know that next September when my youngest starts school, I will have suddenly more time on my hands to concentrate on driving this. I don’t want to wish this time away. Our children are small only for a little while and I don’t want to regret missing out on them. I need to keep reminding myself about this whenever I next feel exasperated. I need to remind myself that for now, this is enough.

 

Mummascribbles

Cuddle Fairy

The Downside of Freelancing

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I’ve always known about the advantages and disadvantages of freelancing. I love that you can work flexibly and for me the biggest bonus is that I can work around my children. I can work when they’re at school / pre-school and I can work in the evenings when they’re in bed. I enjoy being my own boss and not having to answer to anyone else. I can decide which projects to take on and when I want to work.

Prior to this week the biggest downside I’d experienced with freelancing was in finding regular work. A bit like blogging, it takes determination, self-motivation and a lot of self-promotion.

But this past week, I’ve experienced a few new downsides of freelancing:

 

  • No Payment

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For the first time since freelancing, I’ve had a problem in being paid by a client. I’ve sent a couple of emails chasing payment but with no response. This week I finally got to speak to the client on the phone and was dismayed when they said they’d had to make amends to my work. I mentioned that they’d previously sent an email saying they were pleased with the work and also pointed out that I’d had an original brief which had consisted of two lines. They quickly back-tracked and said they’d chase the money up.

When you’re working for an organisation and something like this happens, you know that someone will back you up. If a client doesn’t pay when you’re working for a company, you know that a manager or finance manager will help you. It can feel quite daunting when this happens and you’re on your own, because you realise that everything is down to you. I didn’t know what to do next. I turned to Twitter and asked the advice of some people I’ve met on there who have previously given me some good advice.

Luckily, as of this week, I haven’t had to spend any more time on it. The client finally paid up, but it has left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

 

  • Free Work

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This past month I’ve spent a fair amount of time writing up quotes and proposals for potential clients. And annoyingly not one of those jobs has come off.

I ended up submitting a 6 page proposal for one client and heard nothing back. It might be that the client is still considering my pages of work, perhaps they are still grappling with budget cuts, or they could have stolen all of my ideas and implemented themselves. This is a valuable lesson learnt for the future; that I must not give too much away upfront! Whilst I want the work, I need to tempt clients in rather than giving it all to them on a plate.

Similarly another client asked me for a quote and a proposal. They then decided to think about it for months before asking me write a free page of copy for their website so that they could work out which freelancer’s style they liked the best. I dithered about whether to do this, but went for it, thinking it would be a big job, only to find out 2 months later that although they “really liked my proposal and style”, they preferred to use a freelancer that was located closer to their business in Dorset.

Again, if I was working for a business, I’d be paid for putting in all those hours for proposals and quotations regardless of whether the work does come off or not, but with freelancing, doing work for free is simply part of what it’s all about.

 

  • Uncertainty

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Whilst I was sending off all these proposals and quotes to new clients, I began to panic about childcare. I have enough to cover the basic work that I already have, but if all these new jobs were to come off,  I knew I’d struggle. So I started speaking to friends and family about whether they could help out with my 2 year old and also asked at my daughter’s pre-school if she could do more sessions.

So when none of that new work came off, it all felt a bit ridiculous, not to mention embarrassing and a bit well…. Rubbish! I know that this is the part of freelancing, it’s just it can be very frustrating to run around like a loony trying to organise yourself only to find out that it’s all for nothing! The uncertainty of whether work will happen or not is a definite downside to freelancing.

 

I think I’ve been unlucky to have experienced all of these points in such a short space of time. I know that in order to experience the fabulous benefits that freelancing brings of flexibility and working from home, there has to be some downsides. I’d just prefer it not to be all in the space of one month please!

Onwards and upwards, here’s to more productive times ahead.

 

 

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Vices – Why We all Need Them

Tea and Wine Vices 2

Back in the mid-1990s my vice of choice was Bacardi and Coke I used to drink a lot of it before going out clubbing with my friends. Then one night I got so sick on it that still to this day, I can’t bear the smell of Bacardi.

I’ve dabbled a bit with the vice of smoking over the years, I’m lucky in that I was never addicted, it was more a casual flirtation with Marlborough Lights which I pursued whenever I had a drink in hand.

After the Bacardi episode, I moved on to drinking white wine but I soon discovered that had its own issues; it used to make me emotional or worse, aggressive so I ditched that and began my love affair with red wine.

It has been my vice of choice ever since. I have been known on particularly stressful days to have a glass or two at the kids’ tea time, sometimes out of a mug if I’m feeling guilty about drinking in front of the children, I mostly manage to hold off until the kids are in bed before cracking open a bottle.

My 2 Main Vices

Red Wine

Tea is my daytime saviour I drink a lot and it helps to power me through especially as our daily wake up time now seems to be inexplicably set at 5.30am. I wish I drank coffee as it sounds so much more glamorous and I’m sure it’s a lot stronger!

So these two vices – red wine and strong tea I look upon as dear friends of mine. Without meaning to sound like an absolute nutter, I treasure them, they absolutely help me in coping on a regular basis to get through the stress and strains of the day. Anything from trying to placate a raging, foot-stamping 2 year old about why she can’t wear a sundress in February, to wrestling the 4 year old into the car to make her go to school, to chasing down a payment from a freelance client.

These 2 vices are so dear to me that I named my blog after them.

Other Mum Vices

I know other mums have vices which include regular massages, manicures, chocolate binges, cinema nights and frequent gorging on cakes.

Along with tea and red wine, my other vices are: writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing whether it’s scribbling the random musings as part of this blog, or writing for clients as part of my freelancing work. I love the creative process of getting things out of my head and on to paper. It can be very cathartic!

My only real other vice is spending a bit too much time on social media which I think everyone does.

Lincoln Vices

Guilt and Vices

Most vices carry a set amount of guilt don’t they?

Whilst I don’t have any problem with my tea drinking, I am aware that my love of red wine is a bit of a bad habit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s in check, but I don’t ever want it to become a complete crutch. I make a conscious effort to have a few nights off a week (which can be tough!)

My writing can at times cause me some level of guilt, mostly because outside of my few childfree hours during the day, I’m trying to snatch bits of time here and there whilst juggling the kids before doing more once they’re in bed. I regularly have guilty moments where I worry that I’ve just plonked the kids in front of the TV for an hour or so whilst I try and get scribbling.

But what I’m realising is that unless you have a hard core drug or drink vice, or a vice that is so out of control that it becomes all consuming, we really need to ease up on the guilt.

It’s OK to have vices. In fact, it’s positively necessary to have our vices in order to get through the day.

We are all doing our best. Whether we’re a stay-at-home mum battling with a feisty toddler, working mums that are juggling the demands of trying to fit everything into the day or a part-time mum like me who is trying to fit my working life in around the children.

I’m realising that letting the kids sit in front of the TV for an hour or so is not going to kill them, they have enough stimulation from me during the rest of the day. And more than that, if I’m happier at having snatched a bit of “me” time, then the kids are happier too.

Most of us seem to have worries or general anxieties about something in our life. Most of us are openly or secretly dealing with some kind of problem, some kind of pain, fear, or self-confidence crisis. Is it really so bad that we get through it by having a little bit of what makes us happy?

I don’t think so.

Unless it’s Bacardi.

Do you have any vices? I’d love to hear what they are and if you have any intention of giving them up!

Vices Bacardi

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What’s The Point? Losing My Mojo

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I’m having a low week. I’ve had a few things that have brought me down a bit and as a result, I know seem to be finding the other things; the things I normally do without question, a bit of an effort. Because I’m feeling low, I can’t be bothered to do anything. I’ve lost my Mo-Jo and I seem to keep asking myself “What’s the Point?” a fair bit this week.

  • Funeral. I knew that my Nan’s funeral on Tuesday would be tough. I was reading a tribute to her and so I was really nervous about it beforehand. I wanted to do a good job for her and for my family. I’d been so focused on getting through doing the speech that it wasn’t until it was all over, later on that day that the sadness of losing and missing my Nan really hit me. I’ve felt a bit weird since then.
  • Freelancing Work. My self-confidence has taken a bit of a knock with my freelancing work these last couple of weeks. I’ve had a few different issues going on that has set me back. I seem to have put in a lot of work and effort for several different prospective clients recently, and it all appears to have been for nothing. I know that this is part of what being a freelancer is all about, and perhaps normally I’d take it all in my stride, but I’ve struggled with it this week and really questioned whether I should bother to keep going with it at all.
  • Blogging. I mostly really enjoy blogging. I like the process of writing and sharing it with others. I enjoy meeting other bloggers and reading other people’s blogs. But sometimes, like this week, I’ve really started to wonder “What’s the Point?” My stats are staying relatively flat, and I’m not really sure where I’m going with it in the long term. Should I even bother to keep going with it all? Blogging takes a lot of time and effort and I’ve found it hard to keep the momentum going this week. I’ve really been questioning whether it’s all worth it this week.
  • Mum. My mum’s got to go through some horrible tests at the hospital at the end of this week and I suppose no matter how much she tells me not to worry, I do!

 

I’m reading this back and realise that I sound like an incredibly miserable, grumpy old cow. I promise, I’m not normally wallowing quite so much in my own issues!

I realise that there are definitely far worse problems out there than these, but I think sometimes when one issue gets you down, any other little problem that you might normally deal with, suddenly seems to magnify so that you think you can’t handle it. All of a sudden, it becomes harder to buck yourself up and keep going.

I seem to have asked myself “What’s The Point?” many times this week.  But I’m not going to do anything drastic, I’m going to have to accept that this week is a bit of write off and I’ll make a huge effort to get back on track next week.

Does anyone else have weeks like this? Any suggestions to help get you through would be gratefully received!

 

 

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Why 2016 Has Got to Be Better Than 2015

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At the start of 2016 I love the feeling that anything is possible, that anything might happen this year. I have a few goals and hopefully won’t fail at the first hurdle. The main thing is that I feel extra positive about 2016. As a family we had such a traumatic 2015, things surely can only get better this year.

In July we lost my father-in-law after a horrible year-long illness. The summer was a horrendous time, and things didn’t really improve for the rest of the year. For the majority of 2015 we all had a range of illnesses from minor coughs and colds through to tonsillitis and with me suffering from pneumonia. When your defences are down and you feel low, you tend to pick up any germ and bug going, this was certainly the case with us. On top of all this, we had to deal with the shock of our eldest daughter not gaining a primary school place at any of our 4 choice of schools. The upset, intense preparation and failure to win the school appeal was incredibly wearing and emotional.

The Only Way is Up

On a more positive note, we had a lovely Christmas break. It was fantastic to spend some quality family time together again without having to worry or stress about anything. I really noticed a positive change in my eldest daughter’s behaviour as a result.

I don’t really like setting New Year’s resolutions as I think it only sets you up for a fall, but I have a few goals that I’m aiming for this year:

  • Less Booze. I love my red wine, it helps me unwind and relax especially after particularly stressful days. I can’t give it up completely, but I am aware that our relationship last year got completely out of hand. I was drinking most, if not every night and more than one glass. I kept telling myself that this was understandable given our awful year, but it’s time to stop now. I want to cut back and aim to have more nights off than on the wine.
  • More Writing. I want to get back into doing more writing in all capacities. More blogging, more freelance writing for clients and I want to get more articles out into publications if I can.
  • Less Time on the Phone. I say this a lot, but I am determined to spend less time on the phone when I’m with my kids. I often catch myself looking at meaningless rubbish on Facebook or checking emails and berate myself about it, but still continue to do it! I am determined to put my phone out of sight when I’m with the girls so that I can’t be tempted to look at nonsense or check emails; that can all wait. I want to appreciate the time spent with my children more.
  • More Running. This is probably the hardest one for me. In a bid to try and get fitter and healthier, I started running at the end of 2015. Unlike gym or yoga classes, running fits flexibly into my day and I can go at my own pace (extremely slow with lots of walking). The bad thing is that it feels like it might kill me. I hope to keep it up. I hope that I begin to enjoy it or at least be able to breathe and cope with it better!

More than anything, I hope that 2016 brings us more joy, health and happiness. After such a stressful, insular time last year, I want to spend more quality time together with friends and family. I’m feeling positive. I think this will be a good year. I hope it will be for you too!

 

You Baby Me Mummy

 

13 Questions Freelance Writers Need to ask New Clients

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I love working as a freelancer. My job is varied and I get to work with lots of different people from a range of industries. I’ve worked with property developers, plumbers, beauticians, marketing agencies and most recently a groundwater company. I inevitably end up learning quite a bit about the most random things.

I sometimes get asked how I can write about so many different types of industries when I don’t specialise in any of them (with the exception of marketing).

Research

I’m naturally inquisitive (OK nosey) and this helps me. Before I even attempt to write copy for a client, I do a lot of research. I immerse myself in the subject and find out as much as I can.

I also ask a lot of questions. In order to write copy that really helps to sell and market a business, I always try to find out the answers to these vital questions:

Background Info. This information helps me to really get to grips with what the business does on a day to day basis and essentially, understand the main points of difference from competitors.

1. How old is the business?

2. Who formed the company and why?

3.  How many people work for you?

4.  Do you have other offices / sites? Where?

5.  In plain English – What does your company actually do?

6.  Who are your major competitors and how are you different?

7.  What are your Unique Selling Points?

Customers and Target Audience. The main job of a marketing copywriter is to appeal to customers and get them to take action. So it is essential to understand who the customers are and how to appeal to them. This will help me understand the tone I should be using in the copy too.

8. Who exactly are your customers? What are their demographics? Are there different markets e.g. business and end user? Contractors and commercial?

9.What would you say are the biggest problems facing your audience?

10. How does your company help your customers’ problems I.E What benefit does your company bring them?

11. What are your core values that you want me to convey about your business? E.G. Professional? Friendly? Quirky?

Goals for The Project

12. What action do you want your customer to take? I.E. Do you want them to buy? Sign up to an email?

13. What are your core metrics for measuring a success of a project? E.G. Increase in sales? Increase in visitors to a website? Increase in customer interaction?

I could go on! There are more questions that I could add that freelancers need to ask that relate to payment and working conditions but ultimately these 13 questions all really help me to get under the skin of the client and help me to understand and ultimately write for their customers better.

Are you a copywriter? Are there any other vital questions that I’ve missed from my list?

When Hero-Worship Turns Sinister

Hero-Worship
Can hero-worship ever be healthy?

We all have people in the public eye that we admire and damn it, perhaps even want to BE. Over the years the objects of my admiration have ranged from Wonder Woman to Kate Bush to more recently authors Maggie O’Farrell and Kate Atkinson. But what happens when the object of our admiration turns into something a bit darker? Something verging on obsession?

Other Freelancers

As a freelance copywriter, I turned to Twitter about a year ago to find some other like-minded people. It has been good to find so many women in similar situations that are mums like me trying to juggle parenting with work. I was immediately entranced by one of these ladies. She had a range of high profile clients, an inspiring and well-written blog and in short seemed to be successful at everything she turned her hand to. I started following her on all forms of social media and got a unique insight into her life. I thought about her a lot. I was happy for her success and ever so slightly envious. I wanted what she had and, yes, I suppose at times, I even wanted to be her.

I asked her some questions about her business and was delighted when she replied. It wasn’t quite like receiving a reply from Kate Bush, but it wasn’t too far from it. When I found myself commenting on a post that she’d shared about her lunch, I realised that things had gone a bit too far. I was turning into a stalker and I needed to get my own life back. I unfollowed her on a few social media streams and took a step back.

I still keep an eye on her and what she’s up to (a new book deal beckons!) but my hero-worship is more in check now.

Not So Bad Being Me

I’ve learnt that no matter what you do in terms of work or personal life, there will always be people who are better. Whilst it’s healthy to have ambition and aspire to them, it’s important to not lose focus on who you are and what you are doing. We are all unique and we need to do whatever it is we do in our own individual style.

Whilst I know it’s natural to assume that the grass is always greener, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing a job I love that fits in very well around my family life and it’s growing. Maybe one day I’ll get to the giddy heights of similar successes to my girl crush, but in the meantime, it’s not so bad being me. Any success I have now will be all the sweeter for doing it my way.

I’d love to know if you admire or hero-worship anybody and if it’s a healthy admiration or bordering on obsession?