It’s just two weeks to go until the end of term, which means our youngest, Eva would have completed her first year at school.
There was a mixture of feelings for me last September. I was happy to see Eva excited to be joining her sister, pleased that they would at last be in the same place making drop offs and pick ups easier, and a little bit happy to be getting large chunks of my days to myself. I was also a little bit emotional about this new chapter, I worried that I would miss our days at home together and I was excited and worried about what the future held for me! Here’s what I’ve been up to (so far) this first year of having both kids at school.
I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog for a while now, it has felt more than just a common blip of lacking inspiration. Perhaps it’s the changing of the seasons, but I suspect the main reason for feeling a bit strange is due to our youngest, Eva having started school in September. All through the summer I knew it was coming and felt emotional about not having my little side-kick around anymore. My husband watched me like a hawk during early September in case, I might have a bit of a slump.
The truth is that I was busy. I had a sudden rush of freelance work on and lots going on with project kitchen extension. So I relished the new found freedom of “getting stuff done” without the constraints of having to constantly think about Eva. And then in October it all came to an abrupt halt. The work dried up, the kitchen was finished and I felt lost. I had a delayed reaction to missing Eva; the pang of not having her around anymore suddenly kicked in. I missed having my little person with me again. I’d go shopping and the sight of other mums out with their little girls almost sent me wailing.
It occurred to me that whilst I missed having HER, I also missed having a sense of purpose. What was my role now?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Last week it was my blog birthday. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging off and on for a whole year! Inspired by a new blogging friend Dr Juliet who shares the same blogging birthday as me, I thought I’d jot down a few things that I’ve learnt along the way.
1) Finding My Voice: I initially started the blog as a way of showcasing my work as a freelance copywriter from my freelance copywriting website. Initially I started blogging purely about marketing and copywriting trying to target businesses and potential clients. That didn’t last long as I felt the need to inject some personality and talk more about things that relate to me. Even now, whilst my blog is much more personal, I’m still finding that I can strike a different tone of voice with different posts. I’ve quite a dry humour so I enjoy writing the humorous posts, but I still write some serious ones too.
2)There’s still so much to learn: Even thought I set up my blog a year ago, I dipped in and out and pretty much abandoned it over the summer due to personal family reasons. So it’s really only been in the last few months that I’ve dedicated a lot more time to it. I’ve been posting more regularly but that’s just the beginning. I started getting involved with linkys and through this and interacting a lot with other bloggers I can see that I’ve still got a long way to go with regards to promoting it, design, images, community, affiliates, self-hosted site, plug-ins, SEO and ultimately working with brands or making money. After a year, I’m very much still a newbie!
3) It Takes Dedication: It’s not just a case of posting up a blog and hoping that everyone will go and find it. You have to work at growing the blog. You need to post regularly and then promote it. And then engage with others to get them to come and read. Commenting on other blogs alone takes a lot of time but is rewarding and means you learn more. Ultimately, the more you put in, the more you get out.
4) It’s Addictive: I’ve found that the more I post, the more I want to blog. It’s a bit consuming, I keep seeing possible blog topics everywhere and I have to struggle to remember them all to write them down! But essentially, I love doing it. I’ve always had this desire to write, whether in a diary, a monthly magazine column, for work or just lists, but with blogging, I feel like it’s easier to do, it’s mine and I enjoy writing about whatever is going on in my head. I love the buzz of having other people commenting on my blog, whether they agree with me or not, it’s a good feeling to be engaging with others about something I’ve written.
5) Design Matters: I’m not a designer but I want my blog to look good. It’s a constant work in process. When I first started out my blog was very basic. It contained just the posts with very little visuals. Any images I incorporated were small thumbnails, I had no idea about which dimensions I should use. I look at some of the other blogs out there and fall in love with how sleek or quirky and professional they look. I’ve still got work to do on this!
6) You Have to Promote Yourself: Again, another thing I’m not particularly good at. I tend to post my blogs fairly regularly on Twitter, but not on Facebook as I’m very aware that I might be annoying the hell out of a lot of people, many of whom are my friends. I think I need to take the plunge and set up a separate Facebook page really. I’m not really involved in Pinterest or Google+ too much either.
7) I’m Hoping for More: I enjoy writing blogs and interacting with others but I’d be a fool if I said I didn’t want more. I’d love to be one of those people that make money out of their blogging and working with some favourite brands. I see some of the giddy heights that other people have got to and it’s truly inspiring. I know it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hours. Only time will tell, I guess!
8) The Community is Vast, Scary and Friendly: There are so many blogs out there, it really can be quite overwhelming and on my down days I think, “What’s the point?” “Why is anyone going to bother with little old me?!” I guess the answer to that question lies in point number 4! Reading and engaging with some of the well-known and established blogs can at times feel completely intimidating. But that’s purely my problem because I stupidly compare myself to them. I know that I have to keep on doing my own thing and going down my own road. The truth is that most people I’ve met through blogging have been nothing but lovely, kind and helpful.
So happy birthday to my blog! There’s been ups and downs over this past year. I’ve learnt a fair bit already and I’m looking to see what happens in the next 12 months.
Are you a newbie or an old timer blogger? Anything I’ve missed out or that you would add? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any advice for this “baby” blog, always welcome!
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).
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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!