Lizzie is a 36-year-old freelance graphic designer who runs Elle dee Pea Design. Originally from Wiltshire now living in rural Gloucestershire with her husband Tom and her two girls Amelie (7) and Anya (4).
A self-confessed “closet creative” who came to her current career as a graphic designer after having children. Before this Lizzie worked in commercial marketing and charity fundraising. But despite a wistful glance back to perhaps starting a design career earlier in life she managed to find creative outlets in other ways. “Before I changed my career, I found lots of opportunity to create in other ways – designing my girls party invitations, making gifts for friends and family, even cake decorating (although sadly the cake decorating has fallen by the wayside somewhat – thanks for your help Betty Crocker – it’s appreciated).”
Whilst working part time for a charity Lizzie was able to work flexibly around the children, but a life altering decision to up-sticks from the city to the country meant things were about to change. Sometimes in order to make radical decisions and take the plunge an imposed change of circumstances can give you the motivation to try something new. Lizzie and her husband Tom agreed “if I was ever going to give design a go then there was no better time than now”. Making the decision to choose a creative job which inspired her happened over two years ago now and “so far it’s been a success”. Being her own boss means Lizzie has been able to make parents evenings, the nativity play and school assemblies. Another benefit has been renting an office in Wotton Under Edge which she shares with three other freelancers. “This really helped me overcome the isolation I previously felt working from home. I definitely took for granted how much I enjoyed going into an office space with other people.”
Aside from work Lizzie also finds time to indulge in her new found passion of singing in a local choir and running, although she admits she’s not going to “complete a marathon anytime soon”. The pace of life seems to be more balanced now too and apart from the usual chores, work and school runs she stills aspires to “try and slow down, drink in the time with the kids while they are little and say ‘yes’ more when they want me to sit down with them”.
But it’s by no means perfect working freelance even with flexible benefits. “It’s great when you get switch your computer off at 3pm and go and get the kids because no one is insisting you sit at your desk until 5pm, the converse it sitting on the M5 on your way to Cornwall for a week and getting a brief from a client and not wanting to lose that work.” So it’s swings and roundabouts working for yourself but in terms of being an employee I agree with Lizzie that “many companies have a way to go”. Perhaps the best bosses are parents themselves as born out by Lizzie’s experience: “I used to work for a wonderful man, a father of four. His priority was and always has been his family. He made sure my job could be part time after my first child and I know he encourages his team now to go their children’s nativity plays. Surely that’s the right approach, accept people have priorities outside of work, give them the flexibility they need and in return you’ll have happy, loyal and motivated staff”.
One theme that keeps coming up in this series of interviews is ‘self-doubt’. My word, ladies don’t we excel in this area. This series of articles aims to champion and promote women (who happen to be mothers) achieving personal or professional success on their own terms. I think Lizzie is a great ambassador for this idea. She’s come a long way in the past two years: she has a host of regular clients, a growing portfolio and an office on the high street. Despite being slightly addicted to digital technology and social media (don’t worry we all are!) she has a healthy dose of cynicism and aspires to spend more time face to face than screen to screen (both personally and professionally). Finding a job that you love and that can “bring you back to yourself” is clearly something Lizzie has achieved.
Lizzie on digital media…
“This has definitely helped me, most of my communications are via email and all document sharing is done online. It does mean that I don’t get out and about as much as I’d like, but when I need to be reasonably local to the school it’s a real positive. Saying that I’m actually pleased when a client wants to meet face to face, you can learn a lot by meeting someone, not to mention the ability to build more of a relationship. I think we’re all guilty of forgetting that sometimes. I don’t tend to use social media professionally, occasionally I’ll share some of my projects but this is mainly through LinkedIn. I’ve not fully explored whether social media would be the right way to go for me yet.”
Lizzie’s daily digital routine…
“I worry I’m slightly addicted to my phone! I check them all in the morning Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, news and my work and personal emails. It’s often the last thing I do at night too. I find myself increasing feeling fed up though, witnessing snap shots of what is an unreal world. Facebook particularly seems to be bad at wasting time, I find myself scrolling through someone’s News Years Eve party pictures for five minutes before realising I have no idea who those people are. I complain I don’t have enough time to do everything, I think its time I put my phone down!”
“I follow quite a few ‘mumtrepreneurs’, women who are good at reality checks (happily showing their child having a tantrum) but who have also managed to create businesses since becoming parents, and because they are parents. I find they have a positive influence on me, both aspirationally and also in a supportive ‘we’re all in it together’ type way. I do need to filter who I follow a bit too though, as I can get lost in a world of perfect families, crafting, baking and interiors that makes me quiver in a corner with shame…”
Steph Douglas: founder of online shop Don’t Buy Her Flowers which sells unique, thoughtful gift packages.
Sarah Turner: The Unmumsy Mum writer of successful blog and subsequent Sunday Times no. 1 bestseller author.
Katie Kirby: blogger and published author of Hurrah for Gin.
The Selfish Mother: a blogzine for brilliant women edited by Molly Gunn.
Interview with Amy White