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.

The authentic face of PR

Kelly Pike is an arts and culture PR Consultant based in Bristol, and owner of Folk Public Relations. The phenomenal rise of digital and social media has changed the landscape of public relations. With that in mind we asked Kelly to share her thoughts on the industry, the age of the social media influencer, and how best to promote your business online.

Tell us about yourself

A lot of things can lead a girl into PR and for me it was books and a love of talking to people. Non stop. I spent most of my career working in London publishing houses looking after household names and award winners of all kinds. I loved it. Big time. But children and London’s crazy property ladder saw a move to the south-west and Folk Public Relations was born. Slowly and on the back of very little sleep. I specialise in arts and culture PR but am excitingly branching out into some mama-brands such as This Mum Runs.

How has digital technology and social media changed the PR landscape?

Recently I’ve found myself thinking back to the start of my career, in the early noughties. Back then we used to joke about bloggers asking for review copies and how really they were for their nan or a present. Not for promotion. Publicity was very traditional then. It probably hadn’t changed for decades. Digital technology and the social media revolution have changed my industry more than many. It’s not enough to get great coverage in a women’s glossy or a TV show. Now a campaign needs to feel holistic and organic. And it needs to feel real.

Social media is a key part of this. We’ve seen the traditionally fairly separate disciplines of marketing and publicity merge so that quite often now publicity includes social media marketing and all my plans will include social media influencers now in the way they used to include celebrities.

It’s actually quite nice because I think it all feels a bit more authentic. Influencers are already your target demographic so what you end up with is publicity which feels much more authentic and real. And PR which feels like that is much more likely to end up creating the much courted and incredibly elusive word of mouth affect.

What are your top PR tips for women wanting to promote themselves and their businesses online?

What social media has also done, of course, is make promoting yourself much more accessible. Social media influencers should be the core part of anyone’s campaign; sometimes the only part of your campaign. And because you can usually contact them directly through Instagram or twitter, there’s no excuse.

Make it authentic
You need to get to know the influencers and treat them as people. Chat to them, make friends. It’s social media after all. Then they are much more likely to want to help you by featuring your product. And you gain some new friends. Win, win. It all makes sense really. Call it PR karma if you will.

Stories
If a career in book publishing has taught me anything it’s the power of the story. Stories sell; stories get under the skin; stories help people connect with a product. Everyone has a story and the key to a great PR campaign is finding its story. I will always ask my clients if there are any personal stories behind what they are selling. And there is always something – be it that eureka moment, a journey through adversity or a family member who inspired them.

Read the papers
Whilst social media adds depth and voice to your campaign and many great brands have started out there, you lose nothing by knowing the media. I keep a reference collection of newspapers to remind myself of columns and writers and headlines which work well. And I read as much as I can. You then start to get a sense of where your story will work best – life and style sections for example, or first person columns. Keep and eye on the news to see if you can use it as a launch pad for an opinion piece.

And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone
I’ve noticed that fewer people like to do this. It feels almost rude but it’s still the best way to make sure things happen. At least you know they’ve heard you when you speak to them.

Don’t give up. Keep being you. Making friends. You’ll get there in the end.


Kelly’s is following…

This Mum Runs: I recently started running. I never ran. Ever. I would stand in the cold and laugh in people’s faces weekly at the park run as I waited yet again at Park Run. I would never run. But then I came across This Mum Runs and it’s ethos has been a total game changer for me. Mel Bound is an incredibly inspiring woman who has made it her mission to empower women who felt like they had lost themselves, or felt lonely, isolated, depressed or just lacking in me-time and give them headspace through free social runs and a hugely supportive, welcoming and active Facebook community. She also runs a totally parent friendly business and she recently was picked as a figurehead for a huge Facebook campaign #SheMeansBusiness and was picked by the Sunday Times as one of their 100 disrupters.  They have done incredible things in the south-west but are expanding to London in April. I urge all mums everywhere to check her out.

Doing It For The Kids: One day when I was felling a bit worried about where my next project was coming from I came across Frankie and her blogline Doing It For The Kids. We got chatting and before I knew it I was writing for her. It has hugely increased my love and engagement with Instagram because the community of freelance parents there are so supportive. We’re all going through the same issues. It’s great to not feel alone. Plus I got some projects out of it


Kelly’s work

folkpublicrelations.co.uk
twitter.com/publicistkelly
instagram.com/bristol_mama

CV reality check

I work from home a couple of days a week, and like all women I end up doing chores in between work. Loading the washing machine, unloading the dishwasher (and reloading), checking the fridge for missing items before the inevitable ‘top-up’ shop to the supermarket later (I feel a sad sense of achievement if I can avoid going at least once a day). My ability to multi-task is second to none, as is my ability to procrastinate. The internet has been calling me today with its cheeky loveliness and I’ve been powerless to resist. However, and quite unbelievably, amid endless cups of tea, a quick power-up in the form of a few ‘Waitrose-mini-hot-cross-buns’, I have actually written my CV. I know, I’ve even impressed myself.

I run this magazine alongside my day job, and I’m currently trying to find time to launch my freelance business (digital marketer and editor). During this process I’ve been going through my CV for the first time in a long while, and oh my lord it’s been an uphill struggle. Does anyone else find writing in a self-promotional style buttock-clenchingly awkward? I’m happy to write about other people and tell their story, but when it comes to listing my own experience and achievements I feel out of my comfort zone, much like Nigel Farage at a Eurovision party.

Writing down your professional story is an exhausting process, but once you’ve written it you can spend an infinite amount of time refining it, or as I like to call it, disappearing down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest (goddamn you Pinterest). There are so many styles and designs these days for CV writing that I find it all a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to stick to my guns and opted for simplicity. A clean design coupled with riveting lists of experience and achievements *should* speak for themselves.

Part of the reason I’ve done this, is so I have a clear vision of what I can offer, what I know and how much that is worth to a business (and I don’t just mean financially, don’t underestimate sparkling wit and personality). If you’re thinking of returning to work, looking for a new job or perhaps starting a business, writing a CV can be a cathartic process – think AA meets NCT (but with jobs) – the first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, and remember, it’ll be worth the pain! It’s a good idea to get other people to check for errors obviously, but most importantly, writing about yourself in the third person (always a bit weird, but necessary in this context) helps you think objectively about what it is you have to offer. Which, I can guarantee will always be more than you think – age for once is a distinct advantage!

Desk reality: clearly need to buy A LOT more wine by the way

I’ve used two photos to illustrate visually what I mean about having a ‘CV reality check’. The main image is obviously not mine but an idealised, Instagram composition (credit to desk of dreams creator: Emma Highfield). The second one is the reality of my home working situation (it’s my kitchen table surrounded by crap). My point is that you need to think of a CV as you would the picture perfect desk – it’s a contrived version of reality. We recognise the same concept in the real picture, i.e. there is a table and a computer, the similarities end there sadly. So don’t stress about how to present yourself on paper – just write it down and tidy it up later.

We all have bundles of experience to offer future employers, particularly once you’re over the hump of, ahem…35 (ish). We should learn to celebrate our achievements for what they are, not compare ourselves to Instagram perfection (that gorgeous desk can bloody well piss off with all its neatness). Being a mum unofficially qualifies you as a PRINCE2 practitioner, referee, chauffeur, wine taster extraordinaire, UN diplomat (I could go on). Basically you’re awesome, even if at first glance your CV needs sprucing up.

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

We are all Social Butterflies

So often in the conversations I’ve had with women about careers post-children there is a reoccurring theme: dissatisfaction with the inflexibility of the workplace.

It’s a universal problem and it’s one which a lot of women are turning to their advantage. The personal experiences amongst working women may be diverse but the feelings are generally the same. There is a guilt attached to motherhood that only women can relate to – it’s an overwhelming, sometimes suffocating mix of duty and ambition. The two don’t always correlate and it’s this desire of wanting a career and needing to be the best possible mum which can often lead to disappointment and feelings of resentment.

The modern workplace should be able to accommodate this new breed of women who are having children later with a career firmly under their belts. But it seems that so many talented, uber-multi-tasking women feel locked out of a workplace which still retains a presenteeism and traditional working structure popular in the 1950s. It’s not all doom and gloom however, plenty of forward thinking companies are tapping into this amazing pool of talent and embracing flexible working.

Working it

But not all of us work in industries which think creatively and sensibly about employment. For a lot of women who have had children and taken time out of a career the only feasible option is to start working for themselves. What might have started out as a necessity for some women has clearly been a major game changer and in some cases they have finally found the courage to pursue their passion. Turning an apparent disadvantage into an advantage is what women have been doing for hundreds of years – in fact I think you’ll all agree we’re pretty damn good at it!

I’m talking about the women who are ‘winging-it with style’ (no panty-liner references intended). And I don’t mean that women are playing at being businesswomen: there are some amazing women out there whose professional confidence has taken a few knocks since having children but they are still having a go. I count myself in this category – someone who despite having been on the equivalent of a confidence rollercoaster finally feels able to say “f**ck it – if I don’t give it a try now, I never will”. So this year I will be starting to work for myself – and hopefully for you too.

Women who are succeeding in business, bringing up children and maintaining relationships (in whatever form that may be) are what truly inspires me and makes me want to achieve. I didn’t realise when I started this magazine that the outcome would be such a positive one but I’ve decided to “stop talking and start doing” as my Dad would say. That’s why I spent so long deciding on a name for the magazine. I wanted it to be feminine (but not label us as mums), reference how digital-savvy we all are (or aspire to be), and quite simply I just love a good pun (it’s the sub-editor in me). But best of all I wanted to create a sense of community and by using the hashtag #wearesocialbutterflies create a positive label for women working online in business.

Getting digi-with-it

So, with that in mind I’m going to start offering my digital marketing services to women in business like you. It will be a unique package of services to compliment the magazine and its ethos (I even have plans to expand the concept offline). I want to create a collaborative community of like-minded women who are embracing digital (you might even call it a club).

But for now I’d like to use this opportunity to do some important research. What do you need help with when it comes to digital marketing? I think most people reading this will have one or two areas they excel in and a few they don’t enjoy doing or simply don’t understand. That’s where I plan to help you in the future – plugging those gaps of knowledge and supporting you along the way. I would love to know which areas you struggle with so I can use this information to design packages that work for you. I’d also love to connect with a graphic designer and someone with expertise running events.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in my business idea: hellosocialbutterflies@gmail.com

Amy White, Social Butterflies editor

Ten minutes with designer Laura Heeks

Laura Heeks is a 34-year-old graphic designer and illustrator. She has an eight-month-old baby boy and lives in Liverpool.

How did you become a designer?
After studying English Literature I started working in the marketing department at the Guardian, but quickly realised I wanted a more visually creative career than that. I retrained as a designer at the London College of Communication on a highly practical and intensive course before throwing myself full throttle into a series of internships and low-paid positions at high profile design studios to build my experience up, these included Pentagram and Brighten the Corners. Since then I have steadily worked my way up in permanent positions at design studios to where I am now. I am currently on maternity leave with my 8-month-old baby boy, but when I’m working I divide myself between working as a designer for a university and as an independent freelance creative.

Laura Heeks designer
A selection of Laura’s design work

Why did you become a designer?
To live a creatively fulfilled life! I don’t think I could do a dull office job anymore. I love the variety and detective/researcher/nosey parker nature of design – you have to really understand a brand, company or project before you find the right visual solution for a design, so no two days are the same and you never get bored. Plus, I enjoy making things look beautiful – and that’s pretty important in my line of work too!

Illustration by Laura Heeks
Illustration by Laura

What inspires you creatively and what do you aspire to?
I am in a passionate love affair with all things visual – all things aesthetic make my world go round. My interests are diverse within the arts though – from fine art to fashion, design (of course) to photography and architecture. My ambitions change day to day! I have a strong interest in perhaps teaching graphic design one day in the future. In the short term I would just like to get through each day happily with my baby – small achievements like doing the washing up, getting out and about in the fresh air and playing with rainmakers are about where it’s at right now. Once I’ve become a pro at the juggling act that is being a mum I’d like to throw my freelancing back into the mix and up the pace beyond the few tiny bits of works I’m doing at the moment – exciting times!

Child at computer desk
Trying to work around kids isn’t easy…

My inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. The natural world, architecture, fine art, photography, my environment, travel, things I see on TV and the web, the shape of a cup handle or a paving stone, anything really. It’s funny how things strike you like a bolt out of the blue sometimes, you can be looking everywhere for inspiration for a logo design and find the key to it in the pattern and repetition of holes on a manhole cover!

Does digital technology and social media influence the way you work?
I’ve got to admit, I am not the most tech-forward person. I have embraced Instagram because it suits me – in fact I love it. But my Twitter account is severely neglected. Unless it feels useful or fun to me on a personal level I struggle to use it, even for work. Instagram and Pinterest are my top apps and I use them heavily, Instagram to record my ‘visual journey’ through life and work and Pinterest for project research. Both are incredibly good tools for design. I guess I use these platforms for tapping into what’s going on in the industry as well, in addition to various blogs and websites.

How has your working life changed now you’re a mum?
At the moment I’m only working on tiny, little easy projects or pieces of design for very understanding clients!

Laura’s work…

lauraheeks.com
instagram.com/lauraheeks
linkedin.com/in/lauraheeks

twitter.com/lauraheeks

lauraheeks.blogspot.co.uk
arts.ac.uk/lcc/people/students-alumni/pgcert-design-for-visual-communication/laura-heeks/


Laura is following…

jessica hische

Jessica HischeA fellow graphic designer, Jessica Hische is a typographer extraordinaire. She’s very well known for her letter art and has worked for lots of big brands – she’s currently commanding 110k followers on Instagram and raising a sweet little girl as well.

mamalina

Mamalina: Emma AKA Mamalina is a lifestyle blogger and mum with hippy tendencies – she lives life on a very loose schedule which appeals to me, as I’ve never been great with routine. She’s into travel, food, the gentle raising of little ones, nature and mess – what a lady!

jet set mama

Jetsetmama: If I need a laugh, this is my go to account. Claire Alexander-Johnston is hilarious. She’s a mother of three who lives a seemingly perfect and enviably stylish life raising her kids in Bali/Australia. She is however a dab hand at self deprecation and VERY forthright. Good for a chuckle and to feel better on one of ‘those’ days.

mere soeur

Mere Soeur: Carrie Anne has used a bit of creativity and her passion for mothering to make herself a successful little business to earn a living whilst raising her son. The ‘mamamerch’ products she comes up with appeal to the trendy mother/sisterhood around the world.

flower girl los angeles

Flower Girl Los Angeles: I’ve been following Kelsey Harper Parker ever since starting to use Instagram. She is a super cool LA florist with on point taste and a beautiful Californian life spent arranging flowers and raising her two boys. Aspirational inspiration taken to the extreme.

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”

 

 

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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.

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www.wordworksmedia.com

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Tel: 020 8543 9432

Email: imogen@wordworksmedia.com