Down On The Farm

Down On The Farm

After a week of everyone in our household being ill, a few days away over the half term break is just what we all needed. We went to stay with my husband’s aunt and uncle on a farm in south Wales. There was no phone signal as we drove through the village and I wondered how we would cope over the next few days with no contact with the outside world.

Food

We arrived at lunch time and Frances was busy making lunch. Not sandwiches or a salad, but a full on pie dinner followed by ice cream. We soon realised that food dominates heavily and over the course of the following days we were constantly being fed from cooked breakfasts in the morning, huge 3 course dinners for lunch, freshly baked cakes mid- afternoon then later on supper of pizza or cheese and biscuits. Cooking is more than just a way of being the perfect hostess, food is fuel and the work on farm is physical. At 73, Ken is still getting up at 6am and going straight out to do work on the farm. I can’t see him ever retiring, farming is simply a way of life.

Nostalgic

After our first heavy lunch, we set out to walk off our food. The kids were delighted that Meg, the 3 legged dog would be joining us. We walked through fields of cows and sheep down to the river. The beautiful views seemed to stretch on and on, Frances told us that they own almost 200 acres and it was breath-taking to look out over the valleys and fields and think about how little this place had changed over the last few hundred years.

My husband got quite nostalgic as he remembered long summer days playing with his cousins out in the woods and fields all days, only ever coming back to the farm to be fed. We did a huge circular walk which little legs Eva coped well with, and ended up by a lovely looking old house where my mother-in-law was born and grew up. It felt weird looking at this house to think that this is where the family all hailed from. The kids couldn’t quite believe that this was where Grandma lived when she was a little girl.

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The house where Grandma lived.

Male-Dominated

The next day the kids got a ride on the tractor and quad bike with Uncle Ken which they absolutely loved. Ken was going to the cattle market in the nearby village and we decided that we’d go with him. It was fascinating to watch the auctioneers sell the livestock even if we had no idea what was being said. I noticed there was hardly any women at the market and it brought it home to me that there is a really strong culture in the farming world in which men still dominate. Other than technology, not much has changed over the years. It seems to me to be a very lonely and insular way of life, you eat, sleep and work all in the same place and may not see much of other people. But one other hand, as I saw at the cattle market, there is a huge sense of community. The farmers all know and look out for each other and they have known each other for years; there was plenty of stories going around about the fun and antics they got up to whilst growing up.

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Stepping Back in Time

We only stayed on the farm for 2 nights but it really felt like a proper break. No texts or constant checking of the mobile phone felt like we were stepping back in time. It meant we only had to concentrate on the conversation, views and farm way of life and I loved it.

In Sickness and In Sickness……

In Sickness and In Sickness

We are all in recovery. This past week every member of our household has fallen ill. It started with Alice, she picked up one of the hundreds of germs doing the rounds at school and it rapidly turned into Tonsillitis. Our plans last Saturday for a much needed catch up with friends in Ealing was cancelled and the next day I woke up barely able to swallow. The doctor confirmed that I also had tonsillitis despite the fact that my tonsils had been removed 20 years ago. My youngest daughter came down with a virus and upset stomach and my husband had the worst of it all….a cold.

I always know when I’m ill when I can’t drink my beloved cups of tea or read a book. The days have blurred into one with most waking moments spent in front of children’s TV. It will never be too soon before I have to watch another episode of Mickey Mouse Club House or the ridiculous Grandpa in My Pocket. And because we have all been stuck indoors with severe cabin fever, quarantined from seeing any friends or visitors, the arguments and bickering started to escalate. Not just the kids but between the husband and I too.

Depressed

That’s the horrible thing about feeling ill, you start to get really down with it as well. Everything feels like a huge effort and you think that it will last forever. This past week I’ve been thinking constantly about all the things I should be doing whether it be working on my freelance business, writing a blog post or simply doing chores around the house, but I just didn’t have the energy to face any of it.

The lack of fresh air, different surroundings and interaction with other people all made me feel incredibly low. Annoyingly, this together with the constant lying around on the sofa only amplifies the little voice that you normally quash when you’re feeling stronger and more confident. You know those self-depreciating little questions like “What am I doing with my life?” “Should I even bother trying to continue freelancing?” and “I really should be trying to do something fun or educational with the kids rather than just watching another episode of Grandpa in My Pocket.” ETC. ETC.

I was annoyed to have to cancel a girls’ night out and miss out on some meetings at Alice’s school. But mostly this week I was sad to miss out on her first ever parents’ evening. I’d really been looking forward to this not only to find out how Alice is progressing, but also to satisfy my constant curiosity to find out just what goes on at school every day!

 The Simple Pleasures

Just when I thought Alice would never gain any colour in her face or that I would ever feel like eating food again, the antibiotics suddenly started to kick in and little by little I began to feel human and I noticed some slight improvements with everyone else too. Yesterday was our first time out of the house in 8 days. We went to the park, fed the ducks and stopped at a café for tea. It’s funny how something so basic can seem so significant. I felt strange and a little wobbly at first to be outside again, but the simple pleasures of being in the fresh air on a mild autumn day watching the kids play and seeing the beautiful colours of the leaves on the trees all made me smile and think of the positives in life. Illnesses and negative thoughts are now banished. I’m on the mend and on the up!

Hope you keep well and avoid the germs out there!

When Hero-Worship Turns Sinister

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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?

My Name Is………

My Name Is.....

Over the years I’ve acquired many nicknames. Some of you will know me as Chez, others Meryl, Beryl, Cherry and weirdly Flo. This week however, I’ve been given a new name by my youngest daughter, Eva. That name is….Carmella.

Since starting pre-school 3 weeks ago, Eva has not only fallen in love with the place, but with her keyworker, the wonderful Carmella. Eva is obsessed with her. Every time I pick her up she talks about what Carmella did and what Carmella said and when she can see Carmella again. This clearly isn’t enough, because 4 days ago, Eva told me “You be Carmella” and “I be Eva.” I chuckled to myself and happily went along with this new role play. What I didn’t realise is that it would last all day and indeed all week. Over the past few days, whenever I’ve made the mistake of saying something like “Mummy needs to put the washing on,” she looks at me as if I’m stupid and says “You’re not mummy, you’re Carmella.”

Advantages of Being Someone Else

The upside of all this extensive role playing is that as Carmella I can get Eva’s attention more than when I’m being the real me. At the age of 2 we are going through a quite demanding phase. I have noticed this week that when she’s stamping her foot and screaming for chocolate buttons, I can get her to stop or listen to me by saying something like “Carmella doesn’t like that.”

A Bit Weird

Let’s face it, the disadvantages are that it’s just plain weird isn’t it? I find it weird that I’m having to pretend to be someone else all week, if anyone overhears me talking as Carmella or being called Carmella then that would be weird. And if Carmella ever found out how detailed this little crush has become I’m sure she would find it ever so slightly strange. I dropped Eva off at pre-school this morning and could barely look Carmella in the eye thinking how bizarre it is that I’ve been pretending to BE HER all week.

I hear about plenty of other children who have had pretend imaginary friends, but I’ve never heard of a child who has insisted on calling their mum after another real person ALL WEEK. Whilst I’m pleased that she’s settled into pre-school so well, I can’t help feeling a tiny bit freaked out by how obsessed Eva has become with this other woman.

It Can’t Last Forever

Surely this phase won’t last forever. We finally had a break through last night when Eva tiredly murmured to me “You be Mummy now.” I’m hoping that will be the end of it. As much as I have nothing against the real Carmella, I’d quite like to go back to being me again. But who knows what will happen later when I go and pick her up today. If Eva’s had another enjoyable day, I may end up being Carmella for a while longer yet.

I’d love to know if anyone else been given an unusual name by their child or is it just me?

6 Things You Don’t Expect When Your Child Starts Primary School

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Two weeks ago my eldest daughter started primary school. It’s been a fairly fraught summer, we didn’t get into any of our 4 choice of primary schools and we lost our appeal. On top of that Alice’s birthday is at the end of August so she had only just turned 4 when we waved her off Big School. Despite these initial concerns, she seems to be settling in well. There are some things however that we did not expect from her starting school:

1) Tiredness – I was prepared for tiredness, especially being a summer born baby, but I was unprepared for just how much. Almost daily we have a complete melt down about 6.15pm. What starts with a bit of whinging, quickly escalates to full on tantrum followed by face down on the carpet howling and screaming. I have been putting her into bed earlier as she obviously needs and has even been asking for it. Someone advised me that the trick is to move everything including dinner and bed earlier. So I seem to now start dinner as soon as we get home especially if I dare attempt to get her in the bath!

2) Reality Dawns – The first few days of starting school were a definite novelty. They were short days, there was lots of new and exciting things to do and see. Now reality has hit that school is happening EVERY DAY! I get asked the same questions every morning “Do I have to go AGAIN?” “When is it the weekend?” and the incessant “But I don’t want to go.” Despite the protests she does thankfully seem to enjoy it once she’s there.

3) Missing Her! – It is only been 2 weeks, but I really miss having Alice around. My youngest daughter also regularly asks where she is. Alice used to go to pre-school but somehow this seems to be a leap up from that. I was used to having her around for a couple of days with me, so it’s bizarre and a little sad now. I’m sure we will get used to it, but at the moment, it feels strange and I find myself constantly wondering what she’s up to.

4) New Routine – All of us have had to adapt to a new routine and this is still something we are getting used to. We need to leave the house earlier and this results in a regimental routine with me shouting “Breakfast!” “Get Dressed!” “Teeth!” “Toilet!” and finally “Shoes!” and “Car!” at varying intervals between 7am and 8am. I feel like a sergeant major, but with little room for error in the morning, it can, and has already gone horribly wrong for example when Alice one day refused to put her shoes on or our youngest daughter wouldn’t get off the potty. Mornings suddenly feel a lot more stressful!

5) Odd Behaviour – Along with many other new mums, we are seeing some “challenging” behaviour when Alice gets home from school as she seems to suddenly transform into a stroppy teenager. Shouting and door slamming are becoming the norm especially when I ask her to do something. Another mum said she thinks this is because they are having to be “good” all day that they let rip when they get home! I was also amazed to discover that Alice had wet herself at school which hasn’t happened since she was 2!

6) You Have No Idea What They Get Up To – Despite asking on a regular basis “What did you do at school today?” I always seem to get a similar response “Not sure” or “Can’t Remember.” Little bits of information gradually drip through to me but they might involve the most random things like the process at dinner time or what colour coat another girl was wearing. It’s infuriating as I long to be a fly on the wall and know what on earth is going on, but all you can do is be patient and wait for them to open up. I’ve also found that more general questions provoke a response like “What did you enjoy doing?” or “What did your teacher say today?”

Starting primary school is a huge event for any child. There’s a big change to the daily routine as well as being in a new environment every day and meeting new people. It’s bound to be overwhelming and this is bound to translate into odd behaviour. It can be a bit of a shock to the system for the parents as well as the kids! I suppose the key is to keep going, give them some time and (hopefully) things will soon settle into a new routine for everyone.

Has your child recently started at primary school? How are they getting on? Please let me know if you’re experiencing any of the same behaviour, or do you have any other points to add to my list? I’d love to hear your comments!

THAT Beach Body Advertising Campaign Hits New York

Beach Ready

Many of you will have seen the uproar in the press about this controversial advertising campaign by Protein World promoting a dietary supplement, asking if Women are “Beach Body Ready.”

My first reaction on seeing this poster on the London Underground a few weeks ago was one of incredulity. As a marketer and woman I find this kind of advertising offensive, ridiculous and just plain lazy. I naively believed that advertising which focuses on women having perfect, glamorous bodies was a thing of the distant past.

The reaction in London was instant: hundreds of thousands of people protested on Twitter. Over 70,000 people signed a petition to get the posters removed which eventually proved successful but not before many of them were vandalised with alternative messages such as “Stop Guilt Tripping Women!” “Love Your Body” and “F*ck Off”.

New York

Now, just this week, the same poster campaign has arrived in New York. The brand’s marketing executive has proclaimed:

“It’s a big middle finger to everybody who bothered to sign that stupid petition in the UK.”

This reaction just absolutely amazes me. The comment tops off a murky campaign, selling in my opinion a dodgy product, with staff reacting bizarrely.

Reversing the Trend for Real Women

With recent advertising campaigns by the likes of Dove beauty and clothing company Simply Be, it felt like we were making great strides in being able to celebrate that we are all unique, we all have imperfect bodies but who cares!  So that’s why the advertising campaign by Protein World feels like a complete reverse in this trend and is so thoroughly depressing.

Real women are not stick thin with huge boobs. Real women have cellulite, wobbly tummies, stretch marks and flabby bottoms. Our bodies, including all of our imperfections tell a story about who we are and where we’ve come from, whether they are stretch marks from pregnancy, scars from an operation, birthmarks we are born with or meaningful tattoos. Real women have not been air brushed to an inch of their life and are being plastered all over London and New York as a form of something that we should aspire to. Why should we be made to feel that this is our main aim in life?

Who Doesn’t Feel Bikini Nervous?

Most women feel nervous about going on a beach holiday in the equivalent of what is really just bra and knickers. When else do we ever get so near naked in front of so many other people? Just 2 months ago, I went abroad with my family and remember having the same nervous thought of stripping off most of my clothing in full view of the beach to show bits of my pale, nowhere near “Beach Body Ready” body.

This poster campaign is irresponsible because it is tapping into those niggling insecurities that all of us have. The difference is that I would never look at using a “supplement” to replace a meal, but a 16 year old girl who is far less confident about her body might. How many women would this advertising campaign affect negatively? Many may have seen these posters and felt despondent about their own bodies but how many would have felt driven to do something drastic like stop eating?

As a mum to two small girls, I’m grateful that they are still young enough to not be affected by this campaign, or to have seen the uproar on social media. But if I was a mum to teenagers, I’d be worried, fuming and also signing that petition.

No Such Thing as Bad PR?

Protein World has garnered so much coverage albeit mostly negative publicity that I have wondered if all of this controversy has been deliberately set up. There’s no such thing as bad publicity – right? But I’m not so sure that I’d want my business to be surrounded by such bad feeling or bad opinion about its product.

Something seems so inherently wrong when a company can manage to piss off so many of its key target audience and then strike fear and anxiety as a way of making a sale from the rest of its target market.

The reaction of the marketing executive about the London campaign was bad enough, but apparently the CEO  has devoted much of his time and energy into retweeting his supposed supporters with tweets such as “I don’t care if he believes what he says, pissing so many feminists off at one go is brilliant.”  How nice.

What Next?

The world will be watching for New York’s reaction. I only hope they are as loud, outspoken and so united in their vehement disapproval as London. Maybe only then will Protein World and their delightful staff realise that they may just have to change their approach.

Do you think this is all a storm over nothing? Believe it’s a huge PR stunt or do agree that it was right to have this advertising campaign banned from the London Underground? I’d love to know your views, please leave a comment below.

Busy Busy Bee

Busy Bees in Work and Social Life

I’ve just looked at my calendar today and realised that I don’t have a free weekend spare now until the middle of August! How can it be possible that I have something booked in every weekend for practically a quarter of the year? It feels ridiculous, but yet somehow fairly easy to achieve when you consider there’s always friends and family to see, holidays, kids’ parties and two milestone birthdays in the next few months ahead of us.

I know some people like having a busy social life, but I’m not a fan of always having something planned and my husband absolutely hates it; you begin to almost feel like you’re constrained by the diary and can’t do anything spontaneous.

Never Enough Time

Many of us are now busier than ever. Busy juggling work, children, the daily commute, school pick-ups and drop offs not to mention the inane household chores, time really does become the most precious of commodities. Yes, it’s important to stay in touch with friends and catch up with the family, but I really do believe that sometimes it’s just as important to stop, take stock and breathe. Time to just chill out, think and do whatever it is that YOU want to do.

Too many of us are concerned about trying to please other people or minimise offending others, so we rush around chaotically trying to do everything to please other people, to fit everything in and often neglect ourselves.

Work

It’s not just family and social life that this all applies too, but work too. I know people who always seem to be absolutely manic. As a freelancer, I’m fortunate enough right now to be busy but not swamped, but I know other freelancers who are fraught, trying to juggle their life around work because they don’t want to turn projects down. Like our social lives, it’s just as important to take stock and look at the situation. I wrote recently about how I’ve just gained the confidence to turn work down that I don’t think is of value either financially or in terms of the type of work I want to focus on. Whatever the nature of your work, whether it’s full time, part time or freelancing, I think it’s always really worthwhile to stop every now and then and look at what we’re doing. Are there some projects or some bits of work that can be delegated to someone else or delayed or abandoned all together? All too often we run around like headless chickens being busy that sometimes a bit of time out to re-assess can really help us get back on track and be more productive.

Be a Little Selfish

It’s important to every now and then, be a little bit selfish. Think about what you want to do. That and learn to say no to people more often. The other thing that I need to do more often is to plan free weekends into the diary. Free from making commitments, free from seeing other people and free to do what we as a family want to do. I used to work with a girl who every couple of months would plan with her husband to have a weekend spent “pulling up the drawbridge”, they wouldn’t go out and no one else would come in, and they would spend that weekend how they pleased together.

We’re all busy, but I hope this post at least makes you stop and think awhile. As John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Are you a busy bee?  Do you like having lots to do and being on the go? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

School, Admissions, Appeal and Upset

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Last week parents across the UK woke up early in a state of nerves and anticipation to find out where their little darlings will be starting primary school in September. At 5.30am, we were among them. I’ll be honest. I was 95% certain that our daughter would be going to the local catchment school 0.3 miles away. But no, we were astounded to discover that we didn’t get any of our 4 choices. I’ve read in the paper today that apparently this only happens to 2.5% of parents, so I guess we are one of the unlucky ones. To say I was shocked was an understatement. It took a while for the complete dismay and disappointment to register before I dissolved into tears. We have been allocated to a school which I’ve barely heard of and never even given a passing thought to which is almost 2 miles away.

I spent the rest of the day in a complete daze. I spoke to some friends, most of whom were pleased with their places, but a few have been left as distraught as me.

How Could This Happen?

A week on from discovering the news and I still can’t understand how this has happened. Apparently this year has had a high sibling rate. The school gives preference to children with older siblings who are already at the school before then taking children on a distance basis using a straight line calculation for how close homes are to school. This bizarre calculation means that children who, on a walking basis, actually live further away from us have managed to secure a place despite the fact they will probably still need to drive to the school gate. A new housing estate has been built last year and yet no provision has been given for accommodating those extra children into already oversubscribed schools.

So when I read in the paper today that the head of “Commissioning Education” at our local County Council is “delighted with the result” and “…how this demonstrates a further investment in creating additional primary school places…” I practically threw the paper across the room. A year ago it would have been inconceivable for someone in walking distance to not get into their local school. Government and local councils need to wake up to the fact that they cannot continue to build new homes at such a speed without building the infrastructure and support that is desperately needed to go with it.

I suppose we are incredibly unlucky, but it doesn’t do anything to make the anger, sadness or stress subside. Since when did the entire process become so difficult and so distressing to parents? In October last year we were told to visit schools and make choices for the following year. But what is the point of that if you don’t get allocated to any of those choices?

Not What We Envisaged

Your child’s start in education is supposed to be exciting, daunting and scary. It’s THE big step and a huge milestone in their life as well as for you as a parent. It’s a vision that I’ve had in my mind for a while; we even bought the house thinking that the local school was on the doorstep. As an August baby, I know my daughter will be emotional, I know she will find the transition hard, but I envisaged being there to support her along with the friends and peers that she knows already. The vision has changed somewhat in my mind already. If we don’t get into our preferred school via the waiting list or appeal, we will have to be excited and jolly for her, but inside I’ll be livid and upset on her behalf that she will be going to a school in a strange place, miles away where she won’t know anyone.

Legal Appeal

Launching a school appeal is tough. I’ve been quoted various statistics but the bottom line is that very few people win. Preparing for the case is in itself like having a full-time job. The amount of research and reading I’ve done in just this past week is unbelievable. It’s completely consuming and I’m only now just managing to control it so that schools, appeals and the admissions process doesn’t dominate my every waking thought. The appeal document has to challenge in a legal way using certain legal criteria set out by the council. Ultimately it can’t just be an emotional heart-felt letter imploring for common sense to prevail. The stress of having to cope with this on our own with no real advice from anyone in authority is incredible. In just this week alone, I can already feel it affecting my health and causing a strain with my husband. All of this with just a 20 day deadline in which to lodge the appeal.

What Next?

Tomorrow will be interesting. We find out where we are on the waiting list for all 4 of our preferred schools. That may give me some hope or it could be just as disappointing as receiving news as last week. It’s almost too much to bear. After that, we continue to build a case for appeal. Continue to read, research and hope to find some loopholes on which to challenge this strange decision.

If I make it to September with a good outcome it will be a miracle.

Have you been affected by the schools application this year? Did you not get into your chosen school or were you, like me one of the 2.5% of parents that didn’t get any of their 4 choices? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

Family Holiday, Memory Maker

Family Holiday

This time tomorrow I will be off on a flight to Lanzarote! I can’t wait for a bit of sunshine and a break from the usual routine. This holiday is unusual because there will be 14 of us. Yes you did read that right – 14! My mum and dad are very kindly treating my 2 sisters and I plus all of our respective families to a week in the sun.

People’s reactions to the trip tend to fall into one of two categories: laughter or horror. Many can’t understand why on earth I’d travel abroad with my entire immediate family complete with 6 small children aged 5 or under. Yes, I guess there is a potential for arguments and yes, I hope we can all have a fabulous time and manage to return back to the UK still talking.

Of course with so many children mostly of toddler age, it is hardly going to be a quiet affair. There will probably be at least 1 child having a meltdown about something at any one given time.

So Why?

So why on earth are we doing this? Other than the sunshine, I truly believe this holiday will be a real memory maker for my 3 year old daughter. For one thing she’s never been on an aeroplane before. I can’t wait to see how she’s going to react to being up in the air. Secondly she absolutely adores her 4 cousins, 2 of whom are older or younger than her by just a few weeks. These 3 girls always get on well together but they’ve never been with each other for longer than a morning or afternoon. So to be spending a full week in each other’s company is going to be really exciting for them. No doubt they’ll be the odd spat, but I really believe that this holiday will cement an already beautiful friendship. At 3, I’m hoping that this holiday will be a strong memory that my eldest daughter will treasure forever.

My 21 month old daughter will probably not remember this trip, but she will undoubtedly love spending time with all of her favourite people. If the weather is kind, our water baby will also love the outdoor pool that we have at our villa.

I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with the kids but also the adults too. It will be great to catch up properly with my sisters, their husbands, my parents and my own husband too! Sometimes everyday life churns on so quickly that you don’t get the real chance to sit, take stock, relax and talk properly.

I’ll report back in a week or so and let you know all about our family holiday.

Never Knowingly Undersold

Don't undervalue yourself as a freelancer

About a week ago, I lost out on a fair sized freelancing job because I undersold myself.  I was talking to a prospective client on the phone and when the subject of my costs came up, I gave an approximate figure. There was a silence from the other end. This I’ve come to learn is the first rule of valuing yourself: Hold firm! Don’t fill the silence! But as the seconds ticked on, I felt the need to impress and show my efficiency so I uttered the fateful words “Of course, I may even be able to do the work in less time and therefore my price would be X.”

Stupidly, I’d gone lower when the client was in fact expecting a higher price! The client in this case was fortunately completely honest and told me the price he would usually look to pay. It’s perhaps no coincidence that I didn’t win that work. By undervaluing myself I probably didn’t install much confidence that I could do the job to a decent standard. Luckily for me, he has taken me on for another project.

Turning Work Down

On a similar note, I was recently offered two regular freelancing jobs. Both blog writing for two very different clients. I thought long and hard about them before turning them both down. Why? Because it would have been a fair amount of work, commitment and in one of the cases – research into a subject matter that I didn’t know about, for not very much pay. If it was a one off job, I probably would have done it, but I didn’t want to be tied into work that takes up a lot of time for when other projects hopefully start to come in.

It’s all about getting the balance right and this is yet another tricky element of the freelancing world; weighing up whether you can afford to take on the work or afford to turn it down. There’s a risk of not knowing what’s around the next corner, but I believe you’ve got to give yourself a certain value. You’ve got to place a value on yourself and your time.

A Life Lesson

Surely the principle of valuing yourself isn’t just a rule for freelancing, but life in general too? Whether you’re thinking about finding a new full-time job, or even when meeting a new friend, a new partner or buying a new house. The notion still applies even if we aren’t fully aware of it. How much do we want this? How much time and effort are we prepared to put in with it? What will you get from it in the long term? How much do you value yourself?

The Moral of The Story

There are several lessons and I’m still getting to grips with them:

  • Know your self-worth. In terms of freelancing this means having a clear understanding in your head of your rate of pay. Whether it’s an hourly, daily or project rate.
  • There is probably more to a project than meets the eye. A brief chat with a client on the phone will only convey so much. Once you get going with a task there is likely to be more work to do such as research, admin and meetings. You need to think about these extra tasks before committing yourself and a price to a client.
  •  Think about the long term and what you want. A regular freelancing gig may initially seem great, but if it’s not paying well it may later become a burden and a cross to bear.

What do you think? Freelancers do you agree with me? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!