Career journey: Lydia Mansi

Meet Lydia Mansi, a digital marketing consultant and mother of two young boys, on a journey to make a career out of her love of writing. Lydia started out working as a magazine editor and now runs her own consultancy business.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve always been single-minded (bar a brief flirtation with wanting to be fashion designer, aged 14) I have always wanted to be a writer. Age eight, growing up by the sea in Devon, I asked my head teacher to borrow the school photocopier and proceeded to create a ‘school magazine’. I drew all my own pictures (and made up most of my own stories) and sold each weekly edition in the playgroup for 20p. And so the obsession was born.

Fast-forward 10 years and I was still hell-bent on a media career. I did an intern stint at Glamour (shadowing the beauty editor and fashion team) although I spent most of my time sorting coat hangers in the fashion cupboard and fact checking the shopping pages, it just cemented for me how magical print media is.

So, with sights now set on not only media but London too, I solely applied to Goldsmiths College to do a Media and Communications degree. Call it teenage arrogance, or simply that I was driven, but my parents and teachers desperately tried to suggest a ‘Plan B’. Thankfully, due to my bloody mindedness and genuine fear of being told ‘I told you so,’ I got in.

The Goldsmith years

Early Noughties was pre-gentrification of Goldsmiths College, there were no minor Royals, no Curzon cinema – just a lot of asymmetrical hair cuts and a fair bit of pretentious art-student fashion. Those black and white chequered halls literally vibrated with creativity. Just being a part of it made me feel like anything I wanted to be was in my grasp. I wrote, studied photography, painted – it was the most expressive and creative I have ever been. It’s weird when I think I studied media at a time when there was no social media, no smartphones or apps. I had to trek to the library if I wanted to check my emails – now my whole livelihood is built on digital media.

So, my single-mindedness took a little kink in the road age 21. I had graduated, wanted to stay in London and needed a job. I was heartbroken and despondent so, for a reason that is still unclear to me now, I applied to be a recruitment consultant at an investment-banking agency in the city. I was hilariously hopeless. I knew nothing about the industry but I had a blast – drinking champagne at the top of the gherkin and flouncing about in power suits and a bold lippie. I remember walking across London Bridge every morning amidst a sea of grey suits in my emerald green coat and thinking ‘I really don’t fit in here’.

Move into publishing

Thankfully, just as I could feel my soul (and creativity) slowly dying a uni friend mentioned she might be able to get me a role in the publishing house she was working at. Bingo. I started off on the ad-sales desk but was soon making myself indispensable to the editorial team – as my mother always reassured me at the time ‘be helpful, polite and eager, it will pay off’. I remember sourcing ice tongs on the King’s Road one winter’s night at 7pm for one editor and thinking ‘it better pay off soon’. One editorial assistant opening later and I was in. My first genuine editorial, paid role. I still feel really fortunate that my editor, Kate Crockett was incredible. Forget The Devil Wears Prada, I have worked with some of the most empowering, supportive, inspiring women in my media career – she took time to make me a better writer, gave me interesting, meaty commissions (not just the shopping pages) and really nurtured my career.

Over five years I gradually worked my way up through the ranks to assistant editor, health and beauty editor and then magazine editor at 26. I launched a new title in a recession and went on to relaunch a failing title in the publishing house’s stable. Although a challenging time, I think it made me more business savvy and rather than being ‘all about the art’, I now really love getting my teeth into the budgets, pagination and the business end of the industry, which has surprised me.

The future is digital

With marriage and motherhood came a move back to Devon, I had no immediate plans to carve out a media career back in the south-west but after 18 months I got the itch and began working for a digital health brand start-up in Bristol as their content director.

Digital was a whole new game for me. I was overseeing marketing and editorial content for both the corporate and consumer sides of the brand and it was a steep learning curve, as was juggling motherhood and a challenging new career. I’m not sure we can ever get the balance right as working mums (or feel like we have!). But I am immensely proud of the fact that I am raising my two boys with the example of a strong, working mother who does something she is passionate about to provide for them.

Starting my own consultancy this year has been my biggest learning curve yet. It finally felt like the right time, after 15 years in the media industry. I felt comfortable that I had something to offer and that what I do is of value. This was a massive milestone for me, to feel confident enough to go it alone and be a one-woman brand. In marketing, especially digital, there are a lot of people using a lot of technical terms to try and hoodwink businesses and brands into thinking they need to pay big bucks to ‘make their mark online’. They don’t. I want to simplify digital marketing and work with independent brands to help them build their customer relationships in a natural, authentic way and stand out in a crowded marketplace, creatively.

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.

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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

How to boost your brand online

If you’re thinking about starting a business or have a business that needs more strategic direction, then you could benefit from branding knowledge and expertise. One thing is clear though – success will not come overnight. “Building an online brand can take years” says Janet Murray, PR consultant and business owner.

It’s always prudent to speak to experts if you want to impartial advice. With that in mind I spoke to Janet Murray owner of Soulful PR – she specialises in teaching and empowering people to take control of their own PR. By sharing her expertise, individuals and businesses can raise awareness of their brands and attract more customers without hiring an expensive PR company or writing numerous press releases. With a proven track record in pitching, writing and editing, Janet has had countless stories published in national newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Times, Sun and Daily Mail. Having worked as a journalist for over 15 years she knows what other journalists are looking for in a story “and, crucially, what they’re not”.

If you’re looking for some straightforward, easy to implement advice then follow the simple rules outlined below and you can start to measure success in the short term.

Janet Murray Soulful PR
Discover how to get media coverage in national newspapers and glossy magazines by visiting Soulful PR (image credit: Janet Murray)

Regular content

The key to successfully promoting yourself or your business depends on ensuring your customers are receiving useful, valuable content alongside the product or service you are offering. With so many businesses embracing online marketing you need to stand out from the crowd and offer something extra. Janet strongly suggests “posting regular content: blogs, vlogs, podcasts, newsletters, at least once a week”. By adding value to your business offering you can create a community of people who engage with you and share your content amongst their colleagues and friends. People are increasingly media savvy and will spot a hard-sell so by providing genuinely useful content in the form of an article (you might be a food company providing recipes), or video content (a yoga instructor providing YouTube video exercises), you can start to build subject-related content.

Janet Murray Soulful PR podcast
Janet regularly posts free, useful content such as Podcasts

Be consistent

Building a successful brand means being consistent across all media channels. In simple terms this means ensuring your brand identity is distinct and recognisable so you can start to build a strong presence across all your social media platforms. Creating graphic elements with a strong aesthetic, colour palette and photographic style have helped Soulful PR build a beautiful Instagram account (see images below). Janet’s top tip in this area is to “hone your skills on one particular social media platform” and once you have established a look and feel and built an engaged audience then you can focus your efforts on replicating this success on other platforms. Rather than spreading yourself too thin over multiple platforms, this way you can experiment with one and when you feel you’ve nailed it (this will be measurable by analysing your insights, comments and follower numbers) apply this winning formula for continued success to other platforms.

Janet Murray Soulful PR

Janet Murray Soulful PR

Data capture

Often overlooked when starting out – collecting email addresses from people visiting your site is an important way of gathering data and reaching out to your customers. “Too often successful businesses discover too late that they’ve missed an opportunity to collect customer data”. Set up an account with an email marketing platform such as MailChimp from the very start and begin to capture email addresses by offering useful, exclusive content. Use this information to talk directly with your customers in the form of a newsletter and offer discounts. By creating a special ‘club’ for people who subscribe you can entice them in – but don’t forget people don’t give away their details freely (do you?) so offer something they don’t get on the website as a casual browser.

Collaborate

Don’t be afraid to “work with your competitors” says Janet. The internet has democratised information in such a way that users have become arbiters of consumer choice. Just look at the plethora of comparison sites like moneysupermarket.com and Google Shopping etc. Use this to your advantage by working with and linking to your competitors. It might seem like an odd thing to do but by creating a niche for yourself as the “go-to business to discover what’s happening in your particular industry” you can make competition into a positive attribute of your business identity. Also by keeping an eye on what your competitors are up to you can be quick to offer alternatives.

Invest wisely

When starting out in business it’s difficult to know how and when to invest in your brand. One piece of advice Janet feels strongly about is your brand identity (unique logo, website, marketing collateral, product design). We all have such short attention spans these days and the internet is a visual medium so investing in a strong brand which is aligned with your company values can really help make you stand out from the crowd. Websites which hark back “to the 90s” won’t help you either. These things needn’t cost a lot of money particularly if you can’t afford a graphic designer or a web designer. There are plenty of free online tools now that can help you create artwork and logos, such as Canva and website building sites such as WordPress and Wix. The important thing is to keep it clean and simple if you go down this route – you can always add photographs and illustration to liven up content – sites which offer free photos such as Pixabay are a good place to start if you don’t have a budget. If you are using your phone camera to take photographs then try using apps such as ColorStory and Snapsneed – both excellent photo editing tools which enable you to add filters, crop images, overlay text etc.

Janet Murray Soulful PR
Keep your messages simple and clear. Complicated and confused communications could alienate your customers (image credit: Janet Murray)

More top tips

If you’re starting out and have limited funds you can access free information from Janet to help you with PR matters: blog posts, online training programmesFacebook communitypodcasts.

If you are a bit further along your business journey and want to take things to the next level then Janet offers in-depth training and services: Soulful PR Studio (£42 p/m, or £378 per year); book coaching or consultancy (£300 – £2300 +VAT); sign up for the Done-with-you PR service £5000 (&VAT).


Janet is following…

me and orla Sarah Tasker

 

 

 

 

Sara Tasker: Me and Orla

Me and Orla is a highly successful lifestyle blog by Sara Tasker. With a focus on beautiful, ethereal photography and styling, Sara documents her life in rural Yorkshire with her daughter Orla. Her success on Instagram has created a demand for courses teaching others how to take better photographs and grow an online brand. Janet has learnt a great from Sarah about how to improve and grow her Instagram account and is a big fan of her work.


Janet’s work…

Janet Murray Soulful PR

www.janetmurray.co.uk

twitter.com/jan_murray

instagram.com/janmurrayuk

Email: janet@janetmurray.co.uk


By Amy White

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.

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