Top European holiday destinations

Meet Rebecca Berzins, a personal Travel Advisor with Travel Counsellors. She has worked in the travel industry for nearly 11 years, travelling extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia as well as parts of Africa, America and Europe. Using her knowledge and passion she is able to match clients with their perfect holiday destination. We asked Rebecca to share her career story and reveal her top European family holiday destinations.

How did you find a flexible, home-working travel job?

I happened across my first job in travel whilst out on my lunch break from my pub job when I first moved to London and saw a small, local travel agency advertising for travel consultants. That makes it sound like I stumbled into this career but it wasn’t an entirely unplanned move – I’d realised half way through studying for a degree in Photography at Bournemouth that travel was my real passion and I’d been searching for a way to get in to the industry ever since. Despite making a fool of myself in the interview when asked to mark on a blank map all of the major cities in Australia (I got it catastrophically wrong) I somehow still got the job! They flew me out to Australia for my initial training and there began it began. A nearly 11 year career in travel focused heavily on Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Firstly in creating, booking and selling holidays to my clients and then moving to brochure content, contracting and marketing.

The birth of my daughter in April 2015 saw my priorities shift somewhat and despite the fact that travel will always remain my passion there is a new love competing for my attentions. So, how to get the best of both worlds? After quitting my job at the end of my maternity leave I took some time to think about what I wanted and joined Travel Counsellors, a leading home-working franchise travel agency. They give me the tools I need to operate my own business from home and here I am – working on my own terms around my family, chasing the elusive work/life balance. It’s fun, hard work and unimaginably empowering.

My clientele is varied and I have the scope to sell the world, but because of the circles I now move in I do get a lot of enquiries from fellow parents looking to catch some sun in Europe with the kids. This is working really well because we work to the same timetable – phone calls during nap times and after bedtime are the norm, plus no one seems to mind if I have a screaming toddler in the background! Selling European family holidays has been a learning curve for me, but a fun one. One of the greatest things about working in the travel industry is that I am constantly learning. Meanwhile my own travel wish list grows and grows with each new destination I research, much to my husband’s dismay!

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

I cannot image working in the travel industry without technology – from the oracle that is Google: “Yes Sir, of course I know where Zanskar is…” (frantically types it in to Google). To connecting with the multitude of other independent agents out there to draw on each others’ knowledge, expertise and insider tips – I would be lost without the internet.

Since launching my business in December I have been blown away by the strength and power of social media to reach my audience, it has been an invaluable asset. A personal recommendation on Facebook has the power of more than 10,000 printed leaflets – to a small business with a non-existent marketing budget this is priceless.

Technology can also be my nemesis, a sucker of time and the ultimate tool for procrastination. But I know that used correctly it has the ability to enhance personal relationships, not diminish them. I treat my clients like friends, send them a quick text to check how they are or with a weather report to get them excited about their holiday, or reply to an email on the go with a quick thumbs up or smiley face. This is handy as a working Mum but also great for ensuring that I offer that personal service that my business will be built on and remain contactable whenever my clients need me.

Sharing personal posts on social media amongst travel and business related ones only seems to enhance that particular element of my business. People come to me because they want to speak to a human, not another cog in the wheel and they seen genuinely keen to support another mum in business, which is amazing to me.

Being a part of Travel Counsellors means that both my customers and I have access to award-winning technology too, such as the fantastic My TC app, giving my clients the opportunity to view, like and share their trip proposals and bookings all from the palm of their hand. Clients seem to love this mix of highly personal service backed up by first class technology.


TOP EUROPEAN FAMILY FRIENDLY HOLIDAYS

1) Sani Resort, Halkidiki, GREECE

With four separate and distinctly styled properties to choose from this all-encompassing resort is a destination in its own right and has been my top seller since launching in December. Having been there myself I completely know why. Laid back luxury, top-class service and food to die for, but where no one bats an eyelid at a wayward toddler. The unique Babe Watch service means that the Ofsted registered childcare team watch the little ones for half an hour on the beach so that parents can catch some rays in peace. All this means you’ll come back feeling (nearly) as relaxed if you hadn’t taken the kids!

2) Hotel Zafiro Palace Alcudia, MAJORCA

When I think of Mallorca, rightly or wrongly, I think of package holiday hell! Not so at, this genuine 5 star all-inclusive property refuses to sacrifice style for the kids happiness. With short flight times from the UK it’s accessible for families too. Set on a beautiful sandy beach and with a multitude of facilities to choose from, I defy a family not to be kept happy here.

3) Martinhal Sagres Resort, PORTUGAL

Oozing style and luxury this 5 star design hotel lives and breathes the moto “if the kids are happy the parents will be happy too”.  Situated just outside laid-back Sagres it has arguably one of the best spots in the Algarve. The property has a range of accommodation options from self-catering houses to all-inclusive luxe suites, great for larger families and family groups travelling together.

4) Almyra, CYPRUS

With their unique Baby-Go-Lightly service the modern, minimalist Almyra in Paphos represents great value and is the epitome of a stress free holiday. Parents can pre-request anything from baby baths and bottle warmers to baby bouncy chairs and potty’s before arriving saving precious baggage space and leaving behind the feeling that you’ve packed everything but the kitchen sink.

5) Grand Palladium White Island, IBIZA

Ideal for hip young parents not yet ready to forgo the glitz and glamour of their holidays of yesteryear, the Grand Palladium White Island is right on the beach and offers something for the whole family from toddlers through to teenagers. Guests can also use the all-inclusive facilities of the Grand Palladium Palace next door meaning the holiday can be as laid back or as busy as you like.

6) Princess Yaiza, LANZAROTE

The Canary Islands offer fantastic value right now compared to other areas in Europe, and with guaranteed sun outside of the peak summer holidays it’s the perfect destination for families with younger kids wanting to make the most of taking holidays before they get restricted to term times. The rooms at the Princess Yaiza Suite Hotel gives families plenty of space and a separate living space ideal for when the kids are tucked up in bed.

7) Domes of Elounda, CRETE

Overlooking UNESCO heritage listed Spinalonga island the 5 star Domes of Elounda is in an enviable position with the only sandy, private, natural beach in the area of Elounda, known for luxury within Crete. Their pre-bookable Ofsted registered crèche takes babies from as young as four months plus alongside a complimentary kids club for the older ones really giving the parents the opportunity to put their feet up and unwind.


Rebecca is following…

Sam Cleasby from sobadass.me was one of the first women who showed me that social media and blogging is not just a frivolous thing. It can have a meaningful, positive and deep impact on people’s lives. She works tirelessly and is a tower of strength and female awesomeness to many women suffering from similar health issues or body issues.

I live locally to Frankie from Doing It For The Kids, the online forum for freelance parents. She had a vision. She made it happen. To me that is powerful and I have learnt a lot about social media just by following what she does. I am excited to watch her project grow and know it will bring great things.


Rebecca’s work

travelcounsellors.co.uk/rebecca.berzins
instagram.com/rebeccaberzinstc
facebook.com/RebeccaBerzinsTC

Let’s get digital

Meet Claire Greville, a Digital Mums graduate who has since set up her own social media consultancy Greville Social in Bristol. Claire studied Accounting and Finance at university and had a successful career working in higher education, before making the difficult decision to take redundancy after they were unable to accommodate her flexible working request (sound familiar?). So with no idea of what she was going to do, but with a bit of time to reflect on what kind of job would suit her and her family, Claire stumbled across a Digital Mums Facebook advert, and the rest (as they say) is history.

Why did you choose Digital Mums and what was it like doing the course?

Funnily enough, I found Digital Mums through Facebook (I understand now that it was a cleverly targeted advert!). I was scrolling through my feed one afternoon in October 2015, when I spotted the details. It seemed almost too good to be true as it was exactly what I had been looking for – flexible, rewarding work which I could do from home. I immediately checked out their website and the course sounded really interesting, so I emailed for more information. I did lots of research about Digital Mums in the meantime, but I was getting more and more excited as I thought about it. I loved social media, and the prospect of being able to work for a business as part of the training was very appealing. I decided to apply, and a few weeks later, I was offered a video interview for a place on the course. I was quite nervous but I really needn’t have been. Nikki (one of the co-founders, pictured on the left below) was lovely, and before I knew it, I’d been offered a place on the Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme starting in January 2016.

Digital Mums co-founders: Nikki Cochrane and Kathryn Tyler.

The course itself was a fantastic but very intense experience. It was 20 weeks long, but run over six months, in order to accommodate some of the school holidays. The ‘live learning’ aspect was brilliant. I was paired with a business from the very first week of the course, and I was able to apply everything I learned each week straightaway, which meant that I retained all of the information I was taking in (and there was a lot!). It was also a great way to learn about managing clients and their expectations.

Every student is put into a peer group with five other mums, and my group ‘The Katherine Ryans’, was such a fantastic support. We spoke every week of the course, through Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, and I’m still in touch with them now. The course finished at the end of June and there was a scary final report to hand in, but I passed with flying colours. I took a few weeks off over the summer before starting work for a small digital agency based in London. I did that for a couple of months, but quickly realised that I would prefer to work for my own clients, so I set up my own social media consultancy, Greville Social.

I currently have three clients, all of whom I work for remotely. I still provide social media consultancy to the lovely business that I trained with: Cambridge Academic Performance. I’m just about to start running a new Facebook campaign for Green Ginger Design, a fantastic web designer based in East London. And I’m currently managing Facebook and Instagram for Eye Heroes, a small charity who are campaigning to prevent avoidable blindness in the UK. I’ve also recently been selected as a mentor for Digital Mums, working 1:1 to support another mum through the course and beyond.

My work/life balance is now exactly what I could only dream of two years ago. Gone are the ridiculously early morning starts, and the stressful commute. I now have time to walk my sons to school every day, before I settle down to work in my home office. I do most of my work during school hours, and all of my clients are happy for me to work remotely, keeping in touch with them via phone, video calls, and email. As my work is so flexible, I even have time to do a little bit of volunteering in the local area, helping out at my sons’ school, and also running a local community group’s Facebook page.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing a Digital Mums course?

Make sure you’re absolutely committed to doing the course. It will take over your life for six months and you need to be prepared to put the hours in every single week. It’s not something that you can do half-heartedly as you need to keep up with each week’s tasks and assignments. There isn’t time to fall behind, and the deadlines are strict.

I was fortunate that both my children were at school when I started the course so I studied during the day, but there were plenty of mums on the course with younger children. Just think about how you’ll manage to find the time to study as well as look after the kids. And don’t worry if you haven’t studied anything new for a long time – all the other mums will be equally as nervous as you are. But the support you will receive from your peers and Digital Mums both during the course and afterwards will increase your confidence ten-fold.

The support from the #DMCollective (Digital Mums graduates) continues to astound me every day, and I feel genuinely honoured to be part of such a talented and inspirational group of women. If you’re a mum looking to change your work/life balance, then I highly recommend the Digital Mums course. 

What are your top social media tips for small businesses?

  • Be selective: you don’t have to be on every platform. It’s far better to do two platforms well, than five poorly. Work out where your target audience is hanging out, and focus your time and efforts there.
  • Be consistent: establish a tone of voice and stick to it. Turn up every day – post at the same frequency, preferably at the same times, so that your followers know what to expect from you.
  • Be social: it is called social media after all! Don’t just promote yourself. Take an interest in others, join in conversations, and you’ll start to build relationships, which will pay off in the long run.

Claire is following… 

Mother Pukka: such an awesome inspiring lady who champions the Digital Mums #workthatworks movement. I love watching her Instagram stories.

Jools Oliver: is effortlessly stylish, and the sneak peeks into her life with Jamie and her five gorgeous children are fascinating.

Talented Ladies Club: I love their mixture of motivational quotes and practical advice, as well as inspirational stories about working mothers.


Claire’s work

grevillesocial.co.uk
facebook.com/grevillesocial
instagram.com/clairegreville
twitter.com/clairegreville

Solving the work puzzle

Meet Anna Ives, owner of HR Puzzle, an independent HR consultancy. Anna’s story is strangely similar to mine in many ways – she took redundancy from a career job whilst pregnant and then struggled to find flexible employment post-baby. The frustration we collectively feel as women in this regard seems to be having positive outcomes however. Firstly, women are campaigning harder than ever to achieve flexible working rights for all (not just mums and dads), and secondly it’s breeding a new generation of female entrepreneurs, surely something to be celebrated? Anna’s new company offers support, advice and assistance to those very women.

What led you to setup your HR consultancy?

Picture the scenario, you’ve just found out you are pregnant, you feel amazingly happy, scared, excited and in shock all at the same time. You’ve made the decision to only tell your family and a few close friends before your first scan and you’ll tell your employer after that. Then you get called into a meeting at work and are told the life changing news (at any time, let alone when pregnant) that you are being made redundant.

That’s precisely the situation I faced just over two years ago. I literally couldn’t believe it. I had worked at the insurance company in question for about two and a half years as a HR Business Partner. I had graduated with a BA in Business and HR and started my first role as a HR Assistant 10 years prior. I had experience in working in a number of different sectors such as the NHS, education and local government, as well as large national and multinational private companies across IT and communications, insurance and service provider consultancies. I even went back to university to gain a Masters in HR Management (studying part-time, while working full-time) and I’m a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD).

What was I going to do? I didn’t want to be out of work for the next six months of my pregnancy (although it would be lovely, and I wanted to have time off with the baby when she arrived).) So, I took a few short-term contracts and ended up working two days before my little girl Beatrix was born in November 2015.

Fast forward nine months and I felt I was ready to start looking to return to work, I was fully aware the redundancy money wouldn’t last forever and I was looking forward to finding a new flexible/part-time role. After about two months of searching I hit a wall, I just couldn’t find any flexible or part-time positions in HR. I knew I didn’t want a full-time role, and it had always been a dream to set up my own HR Consultancy, so why not now? So with the rest of my redundancy money I set up HR Puzzle. I specialise in helping mums and women with SMEs, for those who already have or want to take on an employee/s and all things HR related.

How is digital technology and social media enabling the way you work?

The whole process of setting up and running my own business was new to me. Digital technology has enabled the flexible working pattern I require. Not only does it allow me to work where I want, and when I want, but also allows me to serve clients who aren’t always local me to. I can send emails with a sleeping baby lying on me, or after we visit the park and she is napping on the way home in her buggy. In many cases HR can be dealt with remotely and digital technology enables this.

Social media has also taken on a whole new meaning. I have always had a love affair with Instagram and it was one of the things that inspired me to set up my own business. Lots of really inspirational women, some who are parents, and have great careers or have their own business – showing you can have it all.

I have found lots of great people to speak with and to also help share my journey with through social media. I also regularly use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It does take a long time but I can already see the rewards and it’s a great way to find new opportunities. After all I wouldn’t be writing this piece on here if it wasn’t for the power of social media.

What are your top tips for women starting a new business?

  1. Follow your passion. It may sound like a cliché but when you do, it doesn’t really feel like work. What I am really passionate about is helping others, especially those I can relate to – in this case women and mothers.
  2. Find a shared work place. I started off working at home to save on costs and a few months in was going stir crazy. I’m a people person and I am at my best when around others. I found a local hot desk via Wenta who offer loads of free business support including a three month free trial. This really helped with bouncing ideas off others in similar situations. I even joined a few Facebook groups who have meet-ups for those who work from home.
  3. Market your business. There are lots of free ways to do this out there, especially on social media, so make use of it. Join groups, follow others (even those with the same businesses) and comment on people’s posts. You never know where this will take you. Don’t get me wrong it’s a long and hard process but it will pay off. Why pay someone else when in the early stages you will have the time to do this yourself.

Anna is following…

Laura from @themodernnursery: she actually inspired me to set up my own business. Her blog post about how she started her business when she had her little girl inspired me to do the same.

Next is my new girl crush! The gorgeous @Eimearvarianbarry. I first heard her of her when I signed up to a Mothers Meeting session on “How to Get Social Media Savvy”. She is so down to earth and talks nineteen to the dozen but you can’t help but watch her. She has two little girls and works around them flexibly, another inspiration of mine.

Finally, it has to be @blossomingbirds not only do we share the same name but again she is an inspiration. She has a really good career and is a mother with two little girls, and has an amazing blog. I just don’t know where she gets her energy!


Anna’s work

hr-puzzle.com
instagram.com/hr.puzzle

My HR services include contract writing, policy & processes, employment law advice, recruitment, training, company handbooks, performance issues and absence management.

I am also campaigning for more businesses to take on flexible roles and helping to support mums with getting back to work after maternity leave/applying for flexible working, just to name a few.

I have some great events coming up, but one that I am really excited about is the Mums Enterprise Roadshow, a child friendly work and business exhibition for mums on a mission (#shootforthemoon). I will be an exhibitor at the London show on Monday 25th September 2017.

Time for a positive change

Something occurred to me this week after I’d read some lovely emails from readers of Social Butterflies, there is a never-ending discussion online (and offline) about ‘honest parenting’, we can’t get enough of books like Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum. But how about some ‘honest career chat’? I’m not talking about flexible working – there are huge strides being made in that area, thanks to amazing ambassadors like Mother Pukka and Digital Mums. I’m talking about the identity crisis so many women feel when they put their careers on hold to have a family. So why does this issue still feel like a taboo subject?

For many women of my generation (born in the 70s/80s) we had established professional identities long before children came along (not forgetting spontaneous mini-breaks, oh how I miss you mini-breaks). But no-one, it seems, feels comfortable talking about the lows of career compromise in motherhood. The most obvious reason is because people don’t want to prejudice future job opportunities or damage their image. But I’m not talking about committing an act of career self-harm. It’s just about acknowledging those lows so you can refocus that energy on creating new highs. If you’ve taken time out, or your foot off the career accelerator, then your confidence needs building up. You’re not going to get that by feeling unable to talk about it. Knowing others feel the same way is both reassuring and empowering. When you feel part of a movement don’t you feel more energised to make a change?

So I would like to open up the conversation. But this isn’t a drowning your sorrows exercise. This is very much about focusing on the positives. It’s about recognising your worth, valuing your experience, honing your skills, retraining in some cases, pursuing a passion and giving each other a leg-up! (I’ve been there, so I should know). I took a three-year career break a few years ago (but I did have two children) so I never feel awkward about explaining that time off to prospective employers. Maybe if I hadn’t done that I might be earning more money, or have a more impressive job, but I don’t like to look back. I am where I am because of the choices I made – no regrets. I think one of the best things you can do if you are on a career plateau is to skill yourself up. Even now, with over 16 years’ experience behind me I still think it’s important to attend courses, workshops and industry events. You should never be complacent about your knowledge in the workplace. I work in digital marketing where innovations and trends move so fast I have to keep pace.

If you’re feeling out of touch with your career identity and looking to try something new, or maybe just want to enhance your existing skills, then take heart from all the amazing women we feature on Social Butterflies. So many of them have taken career breaks, or left behind stellar jobs to try something new that suits family life. You can achieve that too – all it requires is a positive attitude, determination, a healthy dose of confidence and a good support network. You too could feel like the lady in the photo (looks like a Bodyform advert, I know).

TOP TIPS

KEEP ON LEARNING
The best advice I can give anyone who is feeling out of touch with the work place is to continuing learning: take a course, attend a workshop, go to a talk. Find something that interests you and meet like-minded people. Taking courses purely for professional reasons is great too (I’m currently learning all about analytics…) but be clear about what you want to get out of it, particularly if you’re paying a lot of money for something.

RETHINK YOUR STORY
Even if you’re not currently looking for work, try writing your CV out as you would a diary-style story. It’s a great exercise to help order your career thoughts and reexamine what you have to offer in an informal way. Once you’ve got a clearer sense of what that story is, you can translate into a CV format (have a look at Pinterest for CV style inspiration). Set yourself up with a LinkedIn profile and connect with old colleagues – you never know where Barry from accounts is now working and how he could help (by the way, Barry is a fictional character, purely for illustrative purposes).

EXPERIENCE NOT AGE
With age comes wisdom. We should be proud of the experience we have gained, and not compare ourselves to twenty-somethings. Each generation has their own unique skill set  – ours is multitasking experience (in bucket loads!). Taking time out of work has reinvigorated your desire to work, not diminished it. I’m in my late-thirties and we’re not having any more children, so I represent a whole load of women who are not going to go on maternity leave and we’re less likely to flit from job to job. This is an advantage for a future employer. It’s all about changing negative perceptions and seeing the positives.

POSITIVITY PEOPLE
It’s therefore crucial to surround yourself with positive people. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but the doomsayers can quite frankly f**ck off! If you’re trying to lift yourself up you need people with a glass half full attitude. I always think if you project positivity you will attract it (you can have that as a motivational fridge magnet, you’re welcome).

I’m really hoping by getting this topic out in the open it will help other women out there, who felt like I once did. I’d love to hear from anyone who has felt like this and has made positive changes in their career. Please email hellosocialbutterflies@gmail.com. I’d love to feature your story and inspire other women to do the same.

Coach your way to success

Ruth Kudzi had a successful career in recruitment before moving into education, where she was a senior manager for 10 years. It was during the selection and coaching process for a fast-track head teacher program, that she became interested in retraining as a business coach. Ruth realised her skills and natural aptitude could lead to a successful career. Finding a job which fitted around family life, utilised her expertise, and that she felt passionately about, has proved a winning formula. Ruth now specialises in supporting mums who want to achieve in business. If anyone knows how to do it she does, so we asked Ruth to share her career story and top tips for aspiring businesswomen.

Tell us about yourself

I am Ruth, I started my career in recruitment and executive search before moving into education. I spent 12 years working in education, the last nine as a senior leader and consultant. In 2011 I was selected to be part of a fast track program for aspiring head teachers. Through the program I got a coach and I found the impact transformational. I started to become really interested in coaching and I began to coach on a voluntary basis as well as through work, completing various courses and training.

When I became pregnant with my first daughter I started more coaching training and set up my own blog, I worked on this and a couple of other ventures during my first maternity leave but didn’t put much effort into making them work. When I returned to work full time I found juggling my career and my home life really hard, I knew I wanted to start up on my own. So, I completed more training, got myself a coach and started coaching. It took me about six months to settle on my niche working with mums and it wasn’t until Autumn 2016 that I decided to focus on the business element. By this stage I was an experienced and qualified coach and I realised that my passion lay with helping mums create the work/life balance that I had been able to create.

I love working with mums on their businesses and it is very satisfying seeing other mums build the lives that they want and develop successful businesses.

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

It means that I can be a lot more flexible in where I work and how I work. I have clients from all over the world so I can communicate with them easily which I would never have been able to do before.

I have really used social media to build my brand which was invaluable when I had my youngest with me full time, it meant that people could find out about me without meeting me.

I have built up a strong group in Facebook and on Instagram and have met so many brilliant women – women who I am working with, collaborating with and who are working for me in various roles. It has been amazing to hook up with all of these women and help each other.

What are your top tips for mums who want to start their own businesses?

Money matters
I think planning is key and I know it is boring but financials, work out exactly how much money you need and then add 20% to that. So many businesses fail as they haven’t got their head around the financials, if these really aren’t your thing get an accountant or a book keeper to help you.

Support network
Getting support and building a network around you is key. It can be really lonely so finding others doing a similar thing is a great way of having the team aspect without working in an office. If you don’t know how to do something or you lack confidence then get someone to help you. I work with lots of women who have tried to do everything on their own and they find themselves becoming burnt out and demotivated, there are people who can help you so use them.

Devote time to yourself
Spend time on you every day. You are your business and you need to value yourself and nuture yourself for your business to be a success. When you focus on you and being the best version of you it will have a massive impact on your business (and your life).


Ruth is following…

Mother Pukka is bloody brilliant for her flex appeal campaign, she speaks to so many women as we do still want to work but just more flexibly.

Rachel McMichael

Rachel McMichael (aka the techspert) is a lady I have worked with on tech and she is really inspiring, she is the person to go to for tech presented in a really user friendly way (and is a whizz on Facebook ads).

marie forleo

I love Marie Forleo and my coach Emily Williams is awesome. They are both really authentic to themselves and show how you can create mega businesses online.


Ruth’s work

ruthkudzicoaching.com
instagram.com/ruthkudzicoach
facebook.com/groups/careerchangemums
twitter.com/ruthkudzicoach

The designer creating a freelance community

Francesca Tortora is a graphic designer and founder of Doing It For The Kids (a collaborative blog for freelance parents). A creative soul who pursued her passion for design after a well-timed redundancy offer enabled her to leave a career in project management. Francesca clearly has her head screwed on about the realities of being a working parent and her common sense approach resonates with lots of other people through her blog. With ambitions to grow the online community while still developing her graphic design business, Francesca is one busy lady.

Tell us about yourself

I’m a 30-something, born and bred Londoner, mum to a feisty toddler and freelance graphic designer (see examples of her artwork below). I used to work in project management/arts administration but retrained as a designer in 2011. I realised that I was essentially working to facilitate lots of other people’s creativity, and that I’d much rather earn money being creative myself. So I started working part-time in my then job, went to night school where I undertook a portfolio course in graphic design and was very ‘lucky’ to be offered redundancy pretty much as I finished my year of training. That small pot of money allowed me to take a financial risk and give freelancing a shot. I said I’d give it 6 months max and if it didn’t work out, I’d apply for a PAYE job — nearly six years later I’m still self-employed and genuinely wouldn’t have it any other way.

Francesca Tortora artworkFrancesca Tortora artwork

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

I’m in the kind of job where I’m basically tied to my iMac. Digital technology is an inherent part of what I do – as much as I try to sketch and start projects on paper, every piece of work I produce will be processed digitally – to the point where all of my software now (Adobe CC and Office 365) is installed and managed via ‘the cloud’. But the biggest thing for me, is that digital technology allows me to work flexibly and totally free of the traditional office setup. This has always been my aim but is particularly important to me now as a parent. A lot of freelance designers will still be asked to go into their client’s studios for instance, but I have never needed or wanted to do that. If I’m working on a job full-time for a few weeks, I can speak to my clients whenever they need me via Skype, they can send me marked up PDFs and I can screen share, showing them updates and amends in real time. Digital technology – (and a damn good Wi-Fi connection!) allows me to work exactly where and how I want, and means that the client also doesn’t have the hassle of finding me a desk, a machine and a clean mug! From a marketing perspective, social media has obviously completely revolutionised how sole traders like myself get their work seen. Having said that, how much work I personally get directly through social is questionable. In my experience, the majority of my work still comes through good, old fashioned word of mouth.

And both digital technology and social media have been instrumental in allowing me to launch my passion project: a new site for freelance parents, Doing It For The Kids. In its current form DIFTK is essentially a blog, but the site is almost secondary to the stuff I’m trying to do on social (particularly Instagram) where my aim is to create a community of like-minded people who are all tackling the mad unpredictabilities, sense of isolation and endlessly unique challenges that come from being a parent and working freelance.

DIFTK logo

What are your top tips for freelancers juggling family life?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I really do think we’re going through a difficult transition at the moment where women are under a lot of pressure to work and earn money, as well as cook, clean, look after the kids, all while somehow stringing a coherent sentence or two together and looking amazing (!!). We’re essentially being asked to do everything but often with very little support. So many of us now live in another city, country or continent from the traditional ‘village’ of extended family who would, in previous generations, have been nearby to help us out. The expectations on our shoulders can be daunting. So just be kind to yourself. If you have to put CBeebies on all day to allow you to work – so be it. If fish fingers are on the menu for the third day in a row – so what. Your family will not suffer as a result. You’re doing an amazing job. Trust me.


Francesca follows…

joy choI’m an absolute fiend for colour and a bit of fun in my work and Joy Cho of Oh Joy! has the stuff in absolute bucket loads.

 

 

 

small print booksSince having a kid, my love of children’s books and illustrators has become a bit of an addiction and Jenny Thomas of Small Print Books is forever introducing me to an amazing piece of print that I don’t yet know about.

 

 

Holly Tucker of Not On The High Street is forever posting interesting tips and discussion points around being creative and running your own business.

 

 


Francesca’s work…

francescatortora.com
doingitforthekids.net
instagram.com/doingitforthekids
facebook.com/DoingItForTheKids
twitter.com/DIFTK

Bring colour into your home

Vickie Nickolls is an interior decorator from Buckinghamshire who is embracing social media to grow her business online. A career change after the birth of her daughter (due to lack of flexible working provision) led to the launch of her business Interior Therapy. Taking the plunge and following her passion for design, interiors and colour has proven to be the right decision.

Vickie shares her career story and interiors tips. Read on to discover simple and effective ways you can add personality to your home.

Vickie Nickolls owner of Interior Therapy

Tell us about yourself

I live in Buckinghamshire with my husband, daughter Grace and dog Geoffrey. I have always had a really passion for interiors, fashion and all things design related. With a background in fashion retail, I have been a buyer and also a wholesale agent, which lead me into a job as Trend Researcher for an international footwear brand. I was lucky enough to travel the world focusing on new trends in footwear, material and colour – working alongside a large design team.

Unfortunately, after having my daughter the company were unable to accommodate a part-time position – therefore forcing the hard decision to leave.

I had always been told I had an eye for interior design, so I decided to build up my portfolio and take the leap by starting Interior Therapy. I wanted to make the most of people’s homes and make them personal to them and a space that they loved living in. This doesn’t have to be huge changes – but even the smallest item such as a rug, new cushions and some artwork can totally transform a room.

Interior Therapy by Vickie Nickolls
Adding pops of colour into a neutral scheme lifts the look

I have never looked back, I work around my daughter being at nursery three times a week (so I get a nice mix) although now that the company has grown I am finding it hard to get a balance between family and work life which is frustrating. My daughter will start school in September, so I am hoping to be able to increase the business.

I help clients save time searching for items (a lot of my clients are mums and just simply don’t have the time). I take the stress away by giving them multiple choices for each item.

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

Social media has played a huge part in building my new business. Not only as a huge source of inspiration, including sites such as Pinterest and Houzz, but also being able to network with others who share the same passion.

Houzz has been by far the best social media platform for me with one of my images being saved over 220k times, which has led to press such as the Mail Online. I’m also being featured in a book which comes out in April, this has helped raise my profile and I have received lots of work via the site.

Instagram has been an important factor (I’m building a following slowly!), mainly for inspiration and also for finding new products, especially for independent brands. I really like to support the independents and often find great pieces via Instagram to use in my clients’ homes. It’s also a great way to showcase my style and current projects.

VICKIE SHARES HER INTERIORS TIPS…

Interior Therapy by Vickie Nickolls

Create a feature wall of prints

Interior Therapy by Vickie Nickolls

Be creative, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive artwork to give your living room a boost. Simply display an eclectic mix of framed photographs, quotes and prints or anything that is important to you to create a wow factor feature wall.  Behind a sofa always works well and frames the area, and also you are not directly looking at it whilst relaxing! Mix up the frames, or even co-ordinate your sofa and cushions for a dramatic look!

Interior Therapy by Vickie Nickolls

Add character to your bathroom

Adding a personal touch, a private ensuite bathroom warrants the use of more personal decor. Have something framed that is personal to you, whether that would be a wedding invite, favourite place to visit, picture? Hanging this up will add instant character that is special to you and only you will see it!

Interior Therapy by Vickie Nickolls

Be bold: mix and match

Don’t be afraid to mix and match prints and patterns. You can use a variety of scales large and small when doing this just ensure that you stick with the same colour palette. Or choose a dominate print from either artwork or wallpaper then select a smaller scale print for something such as a cushion or rug.

Here I have used a contrasting print on the cushions and pillows to add interest, but have kept to the same colour palate and also introduced plain bold colour pops.


Vickie is following… 

Sarah Akwisombe

Sarah Akwiscombe: I love her honesty, style and straight forward talking. Her blog has totally inspired me and helped me along the way in improving my business.

The Unmumsy Mum

The Unmumsy Mum: I literally love her, every post makes me laugh out loud, its nice to know your not alone as a mum and her honesty is refreshing!

Kitty McCall

Kitty McCallI love her style and use of colour, prints are to die for and also so are the cushions!

Vickie’s work…

Interior therapy logo

interior therapy.co.uk
instagram.com/interior.therapy
pinterest.com/vickienickolls
houzz.co.uk/pro/vickienickolls/interior-therapy
facebook.com/interiortherapyuk
vickie@interiortherapy.co.uk