Practical Advice for Working Mums
Have a plan
Even if you’re not looking for investment, you need a plan. Having a well-considered business strategy will define what it is you’re trying to achieve and prevent you from swerving any tricky decisions.
In addition, it will help you benchmark your success every couple of months and identify what needs tweaking. It will also give you a clear picture of where your time is being best spent and flag up any vanity projects that are holding you back.
If the thought of a full-blown business plan is too much, start by writing down some ideas to help clarify your goals and how you will achieve them. Think about who your target audience is and define what makes you stand out from the competition. If that’s still too daunting, do a simple SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Once you’ve written it, USE IT! Don’t stick in in a virtual drawer and forget all about it.
Take full advantage of any local schemes or awards on offer for small business owners. Decide which trade bodies, unions or more informal groups you could get in touch with to grow your network.
If you’re not sure where to start, have a look at the National Enterprise Network website for details of organisations in your area. If you want to cast your net wider, think about joining a national body like Enterprise Nation.
This is a brilliant organisation offering practical support for start-ups and more established businesses looking for opportunities to promote their services. Members benefit from practical online advice across a wide range of subjects plus PR and marketing support and the opportunity to participate in international trade missions. If you’re not quite ready to go global, there are plenty of regional events, master classes and webinars offering practical support and useful tips.
Find out whether you’re eligible for grants such as the Government Growth Voucher Scheme. It’s easy to apply online and designed to help small business owners develop skills across any one of five key areas where they might be lacking in expertise. The scheme will match fund your contribution up to a certain amount and put you in touch with a local business adviser who will help you pull together a plan and determine which area would benefit your business the most. These include raising finance, marketing and making the most of digital technology.
If your business is already established, you can apply to be an approved service provider and get yourself in front of a whole raft of potential clients. Don’t be put off by the amount of form filling – it’s all very self-explanatory once you get started and there’s a helpline to call if you need more information
There are lots more organisations offering practical advice for freelancers. We’ve listed some below to get you started.
Do the hustle
Now you have a clear plan, it’s time to share your vision. Make sure your website or LinkedIn profile is up to date so any prospective clients can see you mean business. If you’re new to web design there are plenty of free website builders like Wix, SquareSpace and WordPress that have templates for every type of business. Keep it simple and make sure your branding and tone of voice is consistent across all your social media feeds or print materials so people can find you easily.
Use social media to grow your business for free. Engage with potential clients and influencers on Twitter, start a conversation on Facebook. Research local tweet hours to share ideas and pick up tips. If you’re not sure where to start, have a look at what your competitors are up to and plunder their follower lists.
Leave no stone unturned when it comes to networking. If you have the budget, it’s worth considering joining your local Chamber of Commerce to see what opportunities they offer to get amongst the local business community. It can be tricky to decide which networking groups are most relevant to you so ask to attend an event for free before signing up to an expensive membership plan. That way you can get a feel for which ones are the best fit and avoid any that are over-subscribed.
Your elevator pitch may have morphed into a playground pitch but don’t underestimate the power of a quick chat at the school gate, you never know what may come of it. Remember to be a generous networker – always listen to see if there are ways you can add value rather than trying to do a hard sell.
Now you’re ready to go, make sure you get yourself into a good routine. This doesn’t have to mean regular 9-to-5 hours but it’s important to set aside pockets of time that work for you.
Working mums tend to be naturals at time management because they’re used to getting the maximum out of every kid-free minute. If you do find yourself getting side-tracked, be disciplined and write a daily ‘to-do’ list so you can check your progress and give some structure to your week.
For example, if you need to make lots of new business calls, do them at the start of the week when you’re feeling energised and motivated. Save the end of the week to update your website, send out invoices and tidy up your inbox.
Get into the habit of blocking out time for work, family and yourself and make sure you’re clear about when you’re available. If you’re not comfortable taking business calls outside your working day, lay down the ground rules early and train clients to respect your hours. Likewise, if you have clients who often email you in the evenings, check if it’s urgent and save your response in drafts so it’s ready to send in the morning. This is a great tool for working mums who need to be on message even if they’re in the middle of a school run.
Decide which projects can overlap into your multitasking zone and which require your undivided attention. A lot of working mums have a tendency to confuse multitasking with efficiency so you need to be realistic. You cannot proofread documents or pitch for new business whilst juggling small children. You will just end up doing both jobs really badly which is bad time management and could end up costing you business.
Separate tasks into those that can be handled whilst supervising a play date or waiting for the dentist and those that can’t. This is all dead time that cannot be billed to clients so use it to respond to routine queries, manage your diary and update social media feeds.
If you’re still struggling there are plenty of online tools to help you manage your time more effectively and keep track of your tasks. Here are some useful links to get you started.
As a freelancer it’s vital to keep learning so you can stay ahead of the competition and exploit any opportunities that come your way. Make sure you’re aware of new technology that could add value to your clients and remember, the fact that you’re a one-man band means you can be nimble and react to changes much more quickly than a larger organisation. There is no lengthy decision making process or hierarchy so if you see an opportunity, weigh up the pros and cons and go for it!
And finally…dress the part!
Even if you’re working from home, make sure you dress like you mean business. There is nothing more demoralising than slaving over your laptop wearing baggy leggings and old Ugg boots. You don’t need to give it the full Joan Collins every day but you do need to feel confident and professional so you can project that image to the outside world, especially if you’re hustling for new business.
Not only will it help you to get into work mode, it will also ensure people take you more seriously and stop you feeling overdressed when you do head out for that important client meeting. It will also lift your mood if things aren’t going well, or as somebody once put it: “Never underestimate the power of a good outfit on a bad day”.
Author Imogen Bowen is a 44-year-old freelance Social Media Manager living in Wimbledon, London with her two children Orla (10) and Phoebe (8). She runs social media marketing business Word Works Media.
Imogen is following…
“I’m all over social media for my job and spend a lot of time searching for engaging content, connecting with influencers and making sure my own channels look good. Having recently graduated from the Digital Mums social media programme, I always check their feed for useful updates.”
“I also like to see what tech whizz and the brains behind saving Bletchley Park Dr Sue Black OBE is tweeting about.”
“I go to the Savvy Mums Facebook page for advice on self-employment”
“Outside of work I can’t resist a bit of fashion advice from Zoe de Pass aka Dress Like A Mum which is a brilliant source for freelance mums who are stuck in a fashion rut somewhere between Top Shop and Boden.”
With over 15 years experience in marketing and communications, Imogen has worked on a wide range of projects from big budget ad campaigns to product launches and live events. Imogen started out at Nick TV soon after its launch and was lucky enough to have a brilliant female boss who inspired her to work hard and build a career in marketing. After honing her skills she moved to Nick’s sister channel, Comedy Central which meant a shift from meetings about Peppa Pig to late nights watching stand-up gigs at the Edinburgh Festival.
After having children, Imogen went freelance and set up an agency working with broadcasters and creatives who needed reliable translators, foreign voiceovers and subtitle editors to reversion their content. This worked really well around having young children as her studio partners were often in multiple time zones, so sending emails and editing scripts at odd hours of the day and night meant she could juggle family time around running a business.
In 2016, Imogen decided to stop wearing so many hats and get back into full-time marketing. With things having moved on apace, she spent 6 months brushing up on her social media skills thanks to the Digital Mums Associate Programme which helps mums get back into flexible work.
Since then, she has been running freelance projects for small businesses looking for support with their social media marketing. This includes day-to-day account management, bespoke campaigns, training and marketing audits to help business owners work out which channels are the best fit for their brand.
Imogen is interested in helping start ups get the most of the free marketing opportunities presented by social media and the changing landscape means she is always up for learning new skills and sharing ideas with clients on how to make their social media work harder.
Tel: 020 8543 9432