Making your voice heard

Consumers make quick judgements about brands. We spend so much time online these days, we are constantly making snap decisions on who to follow. There can be different motivations as to why someone chooses to follow you, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on businesses who are trying to attract new customers, and retain existing ones. If you’re looking for some quick pointers to help you stay on track with your marketing strategy read on.

BE CONSISTENT

One of the biggest turn-offs for a lot of people is inconsistency. As a consumer if you aren’t sure what a brand represents it can be confusing and you are less likely to commit to following and engaging with them. If you are starting out and want to build a community (and ultimately attract customers) you need to set out a clear brand identity for your company. I’m not just talking about visuals, but knowing how to translate your brand’s personality into the written word is crucial too. Are you funny, informative, irreverent or serious? Try anthropomorphising your brand – for example if Social Butterflies was a person it would be a career driven mother who was a savvy consumer of lifestyle products and services. If you can define its personality and attributes you can begin to see its place in the market. Being confident about this information will help you stand out from the crowd and create a niche for your business.

STAY TRUE TO YOU

Don’t keep chopping and changing your offering. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” more than a company that regularly changes its image and business offering. Being consistent doesn’t mean you can’t evolve of course, but over time. If you’re overhauling your entire proposition within a matter of months from launching (or even every couple of months) then something is seriously wrong. You need to take time out, reassess what it is and have a clear business strategy before you start marketing your services. Particularly if you are offering any kind of marketing services – this could be the kiss of death for your business otherwise.

THINK LIKE A CONSUMER

The best way to get back to basics with your online business presence is to think about how you interact with social media as a consumer. Sometimes you can be so immersed in the day to day running of a business you forget to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Look at how other businesses project their image online – what works and what doesn’t.

BE A LEADER

But don’t follow a lazy business model by simply copying what other people are doing. Authenticity and originality are the attributes which will engage and retain your customers, so keep it real. You’ll find that customers in a niche audience will tend to follow the same people, so you will stand out as a copycat pretty quickly. If you’ve been inspired by someone else’s success then that’s great, but trying to keep up appearances and shadowing someone else’s online persona will only lead to feelings of disappointment. Concentrate on your own strengths, your company’s USP and carve out your own voice.

DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOURSELF

Don’t compare your business offering to others and simply try to match or exceed it. If you have a strong offering in one or two keys areas, then focus your energy on building those up and making them pay. Once you’ve honed those, then you can look to expand your services or product range. Spreading yourself too thin just to keep pace with competitors is not good business practice. Always remember what your key skill sets are, refine them and teach yourself new ones.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE

The message is pretty simple: know who you are and what you do. It’s not rocket science, but so often people get overwhelmed by the mass audiences online and start to panic. This is totally understandable; it can be an overcrowded marketplace. But all the more reason to take a step back and have a clear digital marketing strategy in place before you go live. Be confident in your offering and if in doubt seek advice from professionals.


If you’re interested in finding out more then visit my new digital marketing consultancy website: amywhitedigital.com.

<a href=”https://www.bloglovin.com/blog/18874577/?claim=nt8dse2scn2″>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Something for the weekend

Meet Claire Robinson, a travel blogger, digital trainer and consultant based in the Cotswolds. An established career as an advertising creative enabled Claire to go freelance as a creative copywriter seven years ago to work more flexibly around her daughter. As well as writing her travel blog Weekend Candy, running training courses and launching her digital consultancy, Claire has found time to share her story and her Spring weekend recommendations with us.

Tell us about yourself

By day I’m a freelance copywriter for digital and advertising agencies, then by night I’m the founder and owner of a travel blog about weekend breaks in the UK and Europe. I’m not quite sure how I ended up here, but I guess it had something to do with doing English at university, followed by a creative writing MA. I’d always wanted to write (particularly about travel) and kind of fell into my first writing gig with a small nutritional company after university. From there I went to a publishing house, then to advertising agencies where I worked in the creative department and came up with ideas for advertising and digital campaigns. I went freelance about seven years ago to help fit in with being a single parent to a beautiful girl. I didn’t know if freelance would work, but I’m a big believer in ‘leaping and building your wings on the way down’. Thankfully it worked (big yay) and I’m still freelance with a good base of clients. My blog Weekend Candy, started after I won Eurostar as my freelance client. I was writing travel destination content and it reignited my passion for this sort of writing. In the old days, to be a published travel writer you’d need to be featured by a magazine or newspaper but digital has changed all that (very big yay!). Knowing this, I gobbled up books about blogging and went on courses about starting and running a blog – then I just did it. I pressed publish on my first piece and have never looked back!

How has digital technology and social media has changed the way you work?

Digital technology has made it possible to live my dream: travel, write and share my stories with others. I think it’s incredible that people with a passion can now turn that into a viable online business, it’s so exciting, so liberating. It’s wonderful watching and sharing in others successes online.

I love the way digital has broken down traditional barriers: we’re no longer tied to 9/5 or an office desk. We can work from just about anywhere. One day I hope to be fully remote, working when I want, where I want – that’s the next part of the dream. I also love the instant gratification that comes with working in a digital medium as opposed to print. I can see immediately who’s read my posts, who likes my stuff, the affect my work has had (if any!).

Social media is my closest friend! It’s the lifeblood of my blog, driving traffic my way, but more importantly, allowing me to connect and reconnect with exceptional people, readers and long lost friends. I love that I’ve friends via social who I’ve never met but feel close to because I follow their online lives.

I’m a huge fan of live broadcasting and ‘stories’. Both are great for my brand because they give people real insights into me and my life. It also allows them to see behind the scenes of the work I do. I think that helps people feel connected to my brand and, hopefully, deepens their loyalty to me.

Social has also allowed me to co-found a group called Cotswolds Bloggers and Influencers – connecting brands with local bloggers for mutual benefit. We started it with a Facebook group and the group is growing rapidly. We host social events and will be launching training sessions and Insta-walks soon, too. All thanks to the power of social.

TOP WEEKEND CITY BREAKS FOR SPRING

BRISTOL: FOLLOW THE BANKSY TRAIL

DO THIS: Zip straight to Bristol’s gritty graffiti core with a Where the Wall Banksy Street Art Tour. Led by street art legend (and Banksy mentor) John Nation, it’s two hours of brilliance serving up works by Banksy, Inky, Stik and Nick Walker.

SEE THIS: Cruise around Stokes Croft for a while longer – the tour ends here – lapping up the eclectic vibe before heading to Bristol’s historic waterfront. Bristol Harbourside today is almost Parisian in its cosmopolitan style. Trendy bars, shops and galleries flag the dock where the city once traded with new colonies. Cross to the M-Shed where Bristol’s past and people are innovatively celebrated in three exhibit-filled floors. Don’t forget to check out the famous Banksy The Grim Reaper on the First Floor just outside the Bristol People Gallery.

EAT HERE: Fill your belly with a distinctly modern crust in Pieminister, Stokes Croft. Industrial in décor, inventive in design, it’s got enough hipster pies to satisfy the most fussy pie-lover.

STAY HERE: Retreat to the enchanting Boutique Arthouse B&B five minutes’ drive from Bristol’s city centre. Run by art lecturer Sadie Spikes and her husband, it’s a B&B that’ll leave your soul nourished and your spirits forever lifted. I can’t wait to return.

DISCOVER MORE: What to do in Bristol in 2 Days

EDINBURGH

DO THIS: Walk the The Royal Mile, said to be the oldest street in the city. It snakes through the old town from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood house flanked with shops selling tartan, whisky and shortbread; restaurants, bars and cafes; and historic monuments. Afterwards, pay a visit to Edinburgh Castle. It costs £16.50 to get in, but is worth the fee for the treasures inside.

SEE THIS: Take a tour of Greyfriars Kirkyard – the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk church near Grassmarket. It’s alive with history and character and is particularly famous for Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal police dog that wouldn’t leave his master’s grave for 13 years.

EAT AT: Scotland is synonymous with whiskey. So to mark the partnership, eat at the Whiski Rooms restaurant where they serve seasonal Scottish food. And if you want a dram of whiskey on the side, you’re in the right place: tastings are also on offer.

STAY HERE: Just a 10 minute stroll north of the hustle and bustle of famous Princes Street, you’ll find Nira Caledonia – a boutique, luxury hotel nestled quietly in a high-class, historic neighbourhood. (Romantic Getaway Packages start at £176.)


Claire’s following…

Paris in Four Months
For her beauty, style and astronomical success I have to say Carin Olsson. I love her pictures and watching her Instagram Stories. She’s definitely my go-to Insta-Crush for inspiration and to stay on focus in that medium. She’s also my injection of Paris beauty when it’s a grey day in the muddy Cotswolds!

Melyssa Griffin
A true girl boss and entrepreneur. She went from designer to creative coach in a relatively short space of time. I love the in-depth, no-nonsense, smart-talking, free value she gives to women who want to rock their online business. I’ve bought a couple of her courses and find her a real inspiration.

The Blonde Abroad
Kiersten Rich was the first travel blogger I came across and had the sort of fizzy, feel-good blog that I aspired to. She’s always full of beans and her articles and pictures are so vibrant that you totally get sucked into her travels.


Claire’s work 

weekendcandy.com
instagram.com/weekendcandy
twitter.com/weekendcandy
facebook.com/helloweekendcandy

Workshops
I’m fortunate to be working on many exiting projects at the moment. The first is two workshops I’m running with Lucy from On the Luce. We’ve co-founded Cotswold Bloggers and Influencers and are now offering training to aspiring bloggers and businesses. Our first two sessions, Blogging for Business and Social Media Booster, are being held at Meggies in Stow on the World. Click here to book tickets: cotswoldsbloggers.co.uk/training

The Business Suite
Secondly, I’m also setting up a digital business suite for SMEs who want to start rocking their online presence, called The Business Suite. Once launched, it’ll have online courses, free downloads and bags of free advice about blogging, social media and websites. To sign up click here: weekendcandy.leadpages.co/weekend-candy-business-suite

Design with style

Gayle Mansfield lives in Worthing and runs her own company Gayle Mansfield Designs, which specialises in producing bold, typographic prints and cards. Having changed careers and taught herself design and typography she successfully setup her studio and was able to pursue her passion for design and interiors. Gayle now runs a growing business and is a great entrepreneurial example to other women looking to find a fulfilling career which fits around family life.

We asked Gayle to share her story and her interior styling tips – check out her dreamy Instagram accounts for beautifully curated photographs of her prints (see images below) and her magazine-worthy home (which will be featured in House Beautiful magazine later this year).

How and why did you set up your design business?

I’ve always loved design and interiors in particular but never had the confidence or opportunity to pursue a career in the industry, instead I worked as a project manager for a housing organisation and interiors stuff was a hobby. After I graduated (more years ago than I care to remember!) I started working for a local council and progressed from there. After about 15 years in that field I had the opportunity to quit and took a couple of years out, focusing on renovating our house and looking after our young daughter. I felt the time had come to set something up by myself. I’ve always had friends telling me I should be an interior designer and I do hope to end up doing some styling in the future.  My partner is a graphic designer and I kept having ideas for designs for wall art so he encouraged me to set up a small shop and see how it went. He has been instrumental in the whole process and I absolutely couldn’t do this without him. We bought a huge industrial printer from one of his clients as I was keen to do all our production in-house.  I had a business idea years ago when my daughter was a baby but due to personal reasons I couldn’t pursue it (someone else has since done it!) and that really spurred me on to come up with something else.

How has digital technology and social media helped grow your business?

There really is nothing else quite like Instagram for small businesses, particularly a visual one such as mine. I owe a lot of my success so far to Instagram. I tend to use the same content on Facebook but it’s not really so instrumental to my success (aside from nudging my friends to buy something!) and I feel my business is best placed on Instagram at the moment. Having said that I am a member on some Facebook groups set up for women in business and these are brilliant. I’m currently doing a course about how to use Pinterest effectively for business, which is really exciting.

How to style prints in your home

Try hanging pictures without a frame for a relaxed look

gayle mansfield

“In our daughter’s room I have styled one of our personalised prints with a Happy banner from This Modern Life and some ball lights from Tiger. I like to hang pictures with no frames for a relaxed look.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A simple picture ledge creates an effective display

sofa and picture by gayle mansfield designs

“Above our sofa we have an IKEA picture ledge with framed photos we sourced from Unsplash. I really like the thin profile frames from IKEA as shown here in black.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group prints together for a bold, contemporary look

pictures on wall by gayle mansfield

“We have an area at the end of our kitchen that needed to be pulled together and I have achieved this by hanging two prints above this upcycled (by me) dresser. I like the look of two different sized prints together but with the same colours (one on the left by Seventy Tree, one on the right by me).”

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t have to attach pictures to a wall – try propping them up instead

shelf display of pictures and objects by gayle mansfield designs

“I like to prop prints up rather than commit to always putting them on the wall, as I am constantly moving things around! I have left the cat eyes print unframed as I like the relaxed look.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By placing simple, typographic prints on shelves you can create Instagram-worthy displays

shelf display of pictures and objects by gayle mansfield designs

“Again, I have propped up two prints here, on our shelving in our living room, so that I can move them around easily.  I am naturally drawn to prints that are typographic and simplistic.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gayle is following…

sarah akwiscombe

 

 

 

 

I find @sarahakwisombe‘s approach just so refreshing and real, she really inspires me so much.  She’s clearly very hard-working and knows what she wants and is very passionate about what she does.

blogga i bagis

 

 

 

 

I cannot get enough of @bloggaibagis interior styling.

selfish mother logo

 

 

 

 

I have a lot of respect for Molly Gunn @selfishmother.

Gayle’s work…

gaylemansfield.co.uk
instagram.com/gaylemansfielddesigns
Pinterest.com/gaylemansfield
hello@gaylemansfield.co.uk

Meet the London Mother

Meet Mads Panchoo, founder and editor of The London Mother (a lifestyle and parenting magazine for Londoners).

Mads started The London Mother (formerly The London Mummy Blog) back in 2014 and its continued popularity amongst parents led to a rebrand last year. It has become a destination website to discover top tips for families living in and visiting the capital. A place to get money-saving tips and read articles by a range of professional including doctors, teachers and authors. The next big project that Mads is working on is producing a TV series about social media and parenting – something we’re equally excited about!

the london mother logo

We asked Mads to tell us her story and share her digital tips for aspiring bloggers.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve worked in marketing and PR my whole career for brands as varied as Universal Pictures (which didn’t feel like work – we were paid to watch films and scripts – terrible pay but so much fun) to serious financial PR for a large multi-national FTSE 100 company. I’ve always loved writing so after the birth of kid 2, I decided to take the leap into freelancing. I set up the blog as a side-hustle when I was writing for HELLO! Magazine Online but never thought that it could lead to anything. Suddenly brands were wanting to work with me and a quick rebrand and relaunch later, I’m doing it full-time.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

I think coming from a PR/marketing background has really helped, lots of the companies I worked for were early adopters of digital technologies so I worked from home even before I was working for myself and used social media at work so it was easy to start using them to launch and market my own brand. Digital technology means I can and do work from anywhere in the world – my living room, the beach – you name it, I’ve probably worked from there. On the ‘downside’ it gets hard to ‘switch’ off when your phone equals your living!

What are your top tips for creating a successful blog

Don’t recreate the wheel
Look at the competition in your niche and who you want to be. Aim high. So if you want to be a fashion writer, look at the fashion bloggers with a similar audience to you. Then look at Anna Wintour. What do they do well, not so well? What was Anna’s journey? Be inspired, improve on what they offer and add your unique spin. The hardest part is knowing where to start. Start there.

You are your own PR
Unless you can afford to appoint someone (and if you can – yay) you have to be the PR department for your brand. Don’t spend all your time writing – do the PR. Guest blog, attend events with your business card, work with bloggers in your niche, know your niche inside and out.

Learn the business of blogging (or your online brand)
Everything you need to know is inside Google. Spend less time writing and more time learning sales and marketing.

Mads is following…

patricia bright

 

 

 

 

Patricia Bright: You Tube star who knows her business inside and out.

the inside edit

 

 

 

 

Leti from The Inside Edit (a fellow Londoner)

manrepeller

 

 

 

 

Man Repeller and Into the Gloss for how they’ve turned their blogs into global brands

into the gloss

 

 

 

 

Mads’s work…

thelondonmother.net
instagram.com/thelondonmother
twitter.com/thelondonmother
facebook.com/thelondonmother
pinterest.com/thelondonmother

Top tips if you are thinking about going freelance

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.

Freelance work laptop mobile phone notepad

Get support

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.

www.nationalenterprisenetwork.org/business-directory

www.enterprisenation.com

www.gov.uk/government/collections/growth-vouchers-programme

www.weliketowork.com

www.freelanceuk.com

www.freelancerclub.net

www.ipse.co.uk

www.smallbusiness.co.uk

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.

Time management

Freelance work notepad to-do list

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.

www.trello.com

www.evernote.com

www.rememberthemilk.com

Keep learning

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!

Freelance work Digital Mums Imogen Bowen Word Works Media

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.

Freelance work Digital Mums Imogen Bowen Word Works Media

 

 

 

 

Imogen is following…

Freelance work Digital MumsDigital Mums

“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.”

dr sue black #techmumsDr Sue Black

“I also like to see what tech whizz and the brains behind saving Bletchley Park Dr Sue Black OBE is tweeting about.”

 

 

savvy mums freelance workSavvy Mums

“I go to the Savvy Mums Facebook page for advice on self-employment”

 

 

15623690_1039454849516914_2758248377111019520_a

Dress Like a Mum

“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.”

 

Imogen’s work…

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.

like-twitter-1

www.wordworksmedia.com

www.twitter.com/WordWorksMedia

www.facebook.com/wordworksmedia/

www.linkedin.com/in/imogenbowen

Tel: 020 8543 9432

Email: imogen@wordworksmedia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn off, tune in and don’t burn out

It’s 7am your alarm goes off, you fumble for your phone and through squinted, sleepy eyes you check your Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest accounts! Maybe even before you say ‘good morning’ to your partner! Sound familiar?

If ever there was a time we need to get better at switching off it’s now, the age of digital media is amazing but our #fomo (fear of missing out) has become obsessive possibly even affecting relationships with friends, family and colleagues. So what can we do? Do we need to change and let’s be honest – do we really want to? We live in a fast moving society that allows us to have instant access to pretty much anything. That is definitely progress, isn’t it?

Today, life should be so much easier, with just one click we can get all our shopping done (and have it delivered), get news from around the world as it happens, check the weather and do our kids homework without having to trek to a library. So why do we often feel so overwhelmed? After all, we don’t have to brave the supermarket, the shops, the banks, we can even meet friends online. So why do we never have enough time these days? Welcome to the world of the working mum where you run at 100 miles an hour, 100% of the time yet still feel like you haven’t done enough. For digitally savvy mums it is often harder as we are constantly bombarded with people posting pictures of beautiful cakes, elaborate home-made dresses and dolls their little one has had for their birthday, not to mention the sickly sweet family photos of the perfect family and the amazing holiday photos taken by professionals. God forbid you put up an image of your family arguing in the UK on a cold, wet and quite frankly dull campsite (made worse as there is no internet connection!).

Anne Lamott quote

Stress levels run high, energy levels are often low, juggling kids, relationships, family and work isn’t easy and quite possibly many of us are running on empty. But our mental & physical well being is vital to keep everything running smoothly. I absolutely love this quote by Anne Lamott: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you”. She is so right  – our brains need a break too.

My 12-year-old suffers from anxiety and I’ve put this image on her bedroom wall to remind her to ignore Snapchat just for a few minutes every morning. No doubt you’ve heard some friends, colleagues or celebrities rave about the wonders of mindfulness and how it helps them but what exactly is ‘mindfulness’ and what are the benefits for working mums in today’s digital world?

The ancient practice of mindfulness

Mindfulness originated as a spiritual practice involving rhythmical chants, mantras and meditation to transcend emotions and live in a calm present state. Today in the West mindfulness is practiced to reduce stress and improve our health and wellbeing. It is done by focusing on ‘being in the present moment’ as opposed to worrying about our future, or being consumed by our past. Just as Lao Tzu father of Taoism famously said: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present”.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation, where you bring your full attention to an object such as your breath, a candle, a flower a cup of tea, anything you chose which you can really focus on. It is a fantastic way to find inner peace in your busy life, it calms your frenzied mind allowing you to function better and with more clarity of thought. All sound a bit airy-fairy, a bit too good to be true? I completely understand, when do we have time for more activities in our day? But mindfulness is simply awareness, it doesn’t have to take time as you can be mindful anywhere, anytime without changing your daily routine. Being mindful of your breath is a common form of mindfulness used during meditation and yoga. Try the breath awareness exercise below to help calm any anxiety, initially try for just one minute and see how you feel, maybe build it up to two minutes tomorrow.

Yogi Mums yoga mums bristol catherine bicknall

Mindful meditation

  1. Where to meditate: anywhere quiet and relaxing (bottom of your bed, if early morning is good so you don’t wake anyone up).
  2. What to wear: wear warm and comfortable clothes.
  3. How to sit: sit up straight so you are ‘actively’ sitting rather than slumping but use a wall if sitting up unaided is uncomfortable.
  4. Soft focus: or close your eyes.
  5. How is your body feeling? Take awareness to your sitting bones and then move your awareness up through your spine. How does your back feel? Now move your awareness to the rest of the body. Once you have done a full body scan take awareness to your mind. How settled is your mind? Is it busy, anxious, tired, relaxed?
  6. Breath: notice your breath, breathing in and out through the nose. Feel what’s happening within your body as you inhale and exhale. Which parts of your body move, and which parts feel stiff? What is the temperature of the air you inhale, hot or cold? Notice your breath moving in and out of your nostrils. Pick up on the subtleties of the sensation.
  7. Be aware of your breath: as you breathe more deeply you will feel calmer and more relaxed. Notice your shoulders dropping in the exhalations. Slow the breath down but don’t force it.
  8. Wandering mind: your mind will wander from time to time, try not to get frustrated with yourself but just notice when it happens, smile at yourself and gently bring your attention back towards your breath.
  9. Perfect technique: don’t worry that you’re doing it wrong. There is no perfect way of doing it – just do it regularly.
  10. Regularity: try and practice each day, even if just for a few minutes and build it up to longer.

Mindful walking

Try this anytime, anywhere (even better if you’re barefoot). Pay attention to the sensation as you walk. Take awareness to your whole foot, feel your heel touch the ground, then the ball of the foot. Notice if you put more weight on the insides or outsides of your feet? Try to feel and engage all your toes. Take note of how the ground feels beneath each foot: is it wet, dry, bumpy, smooth, warm or cold? Notice all the sensations and try not to worry what you are walking on. I did once step on a bee whilst mindfully walking across the Downs! (it certainly made me mindfully aware of the sting!).

Mindful eating

Being mindful of your food is an amazing technique to have, it makes your food taste even better. Try bringing your awareness to the taste in your mouth, the smell, the temperature, the texture and weight of your food and drinks, truly tasting it, and when your mind starts to drift off, don’t get angry with yourself simply return to the awareness of tasting your food. I like to completely focusing on drinking my morning coffee, taking awareness to its scent, warmth, and taste and how it warms my whole body. I try not to focus on the day ahead until after my coffee as then I feel calmer and ready to work, before that I am rather scatty! Challenge yourself to eat without looking at your phone, TV or computer. This is an important rule in our house (there aren’t many so the kids know this one!).

Hopefully these mindfulness techniques will help you connect with yourself and heighten your senses. By learning to become present, letting go of our past and not worrying about our future we start to find a little space between our thoughts, and a little more stillness in our lives. Learning to just be (especially now in our digital world) without constant stimulation from our devices allows us to be more present for ourselves and those around us. This I believe is vitally important not just for our health and wellbeing but also for our children. They need to see life and genuinely experience living their lives and not just through Insta-filters or Snapchat stories!


Author Catherine Bicknell is a Yoga teacher, personal trainer and lecturer. She owns Yogi Mums and runs online yoga courses for beginners, busy mums, pregnant and postnatal mums.

Yogi Mums yoga mums bristol catherine bicknall

Yogi Mums
facebook.com/theyogimums
yogimums
@yogimums


When not practising mindfulness Catherine follows…

Laura Kasperzak / Instagram: @LauraSykora

Laura Sykora yoga mum

“One of my favourite women to follow on social media. An Instagram yoga ‘celebrity’ with over one million followers. She uses Instagram brilliantly to showcase her skills in creating the most amazing yoga postures. However, what makes her so special, I believe, are the beautiful images of her with her young daughter, which are truly amazing. The stunning backdrops and the gorgeous matching outfits mum and daughter wear really help too! Most of her images are a bit unrealistic for the average mum however something definitely to aspire to.

Beta Mummy

beta mummy blog

“Another mum I enjoy following on Facebook is Beta Mummy, her doodles about the reality of parenting are so funny because they are so true!”.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/betamum/