Dear Diary – reflections from my visit to FM South Devon

Dear Diary,

I’m writing this as I remember my trip to the South Devon Hub last week – it was a wonderful day. Not least, because it’s journey I’ve been making for 30 years, since leaving home at 18 and going to Dartington College of Arts. It still makes me smile, that 30 years on and we now have a Freelance Mum hub, right in the heart of where I spent my student years, studying theatre. Isn’t it funny how life goes 360?

It was a bitterly cold January morning, when I caught the train from Bristol Temple Meads – predictably (and understandably) the trains ran late. Note to self, it might make more sense to visit FM hubs, outside of the winter months, when there’s less disruption. Not that I minded, in fact the chaos even added to it. There was a moment where I found myself talking to two under graduates, who didn’t know each other and were both trying to travel to Exeter. There we all were, making connections, asking each other what we all do and why were travelling. I couldn’t but help thinking, even being delayed at the train station, turned into a networking opportunity!

 

 

And when the train did arrive, even that felt like a leap of faith. In came a train, which was about to be split into two. One half was going to Edinburgh and the other half was going to Devon – only they hadn’t changed the ‘labels’ on the train, so both halves said ‘Edinburgh’! I asked the man carrying all the sandwiches onto the buffet cart, which way he was heading – he said Devon and half smiled to myself. I decided to get on the same half of the train as him. If in doubt, get on the train with the sandwiches!

 

I think the Devon- Totnes train journey, is always my most favourite one. There’s something quite amazing, about that stretch through Dawlish and Dawlish Warren – going through the cliffside tunnels and looking out at the sea. It feels like ‘Famous Five’ territory and brings back so many happy memories. In fact, I make no attempt now to take my laptop with me, when I do this journey – it’s my time to look out the window and daydream. Take my head to that ‘happy place’ and let the nice thoughts drift in. Well, at least attempt to!

 

It was Ingrid, one of the Freelance Mum Fairies, who picked me up from Totnes station – complete with FM Coffee Cup in her car! With more time, I’d have happily walked along the cycle path and up Dartington Drive to meet in for the netwalk – it’s a well-trodden route I often did as a student. The winding drive, looking down at the River Dart and the beautiful shaped trees, takes some beating. We parked up in the carpark and head to Montreal Style Bagel Café, our meeting point, before heading off to the netwalk.

We’ve always said that at the netwalks ‘we walk at the pace of the slowest toddler’ and we were true to our words, as Jess (the second FM Fairy) lead the way with her youngest, Juno. Juno looked fantastic, all bundled up in her ski-suit, snug and warm, in the chilly, crisp air. And with the cold temperatures, came beautiful blue skies – the type that make you pleased to be alive! It was such a joy to be outside, connecting both with nature and with each other – catching up and sharing ideas.

I’ve always said, one of things I love about walking and talking, it’s almost a way of ‘throwing ideas in the air and seeing what comes down again’. When you just sit and have coffee, it feels more stagnant. Walking and talking, quite literally keeps everything moving. In fact, within minutes of arriving at the netwalk, I had already learnt from one FM member, that really the year should begin in the spring. The calendar we use is a patriarchal calendar, if instead we based it on a 28 day month, we would have 13 months in a year and start the year spring. No wonder so many of us are still in hibernation!

 

In true Freelance Mum style, we talked about freelancing and what makes us a freelancer? If you take on a part time job, does that make you less a freelancer? It was a great conversation to have and definitely one which will be discussed later (maybe in next weeks podcast). The netwalk took us to the Deer Park – such a lovely route. It was Jess & Ingrid who plotted the route, when they launched the hub. They sensibly decided it would be fun to head to the covered wooded area, where you can see if you can leap as far as a deer. Turns out I can’t, but had great fun trying.

The rainbow umbrella was put to good use, capturing photos of Jess & Ingrid which looked just fab. It all tied in with the ‘rainbow rule’ – if there’s a rainbow when you’re on an FM netwalk, then we’ll buy the coffees. I wonder how that will go in with April showers?

As ever, the focus questions, were great conversation starters – sometimes they were used, sometimes listened to and ignored, but always great thinking points. In fact, it was one focus question (and I forget which now) which led to a great chat that we must read more fiction! Business books/learning all has a place in this world, but we need to escape too. It’s always good to lose yourself in a book. I couldn’t agree more, it feels like the ‘book equivalent’ to my train journey and enjoying just daydreaming, whilst looking out the window.

 

The netwalk was rounded off with a coffee at the Montreal Style Bagel Café – where they really do sell a bagel with everything! I took the opportunity to put a new FM flyer onto their beautiful kept notice board and have a look at what else was going on in the area. We all grabbed hot drinks, before gathering and going through this months activity. The thing I love about FM (well, one of the many things I love about FM) is that every hub has the same activities– yet we all come at them in different ways. In fact, it much like all the different hubs and netwalks. They all have the same ‘footprint’ or template, but they all have their own signature and look and feel. Whether it’s the rural paths of South Devon, to the urban landscape in inner Bristol, they all have their beauty.

 

This months activity has been a really useful one – looking at international growth. It’s provided some really good conversations and a different way looking at running our businesses. It’s even prompted some members to look at working in different time zones, to fit in with their available working hours. It’s amazing what happens when FM minds come together – as FM member Rachel Mason always says, between us, we really can do anything. I think she’s right there, we really are amazing forces when we all come together.

 

The great thing about visiting the hubs, is it’s ‘a day out of life’ but you pick up so much on grass roots level. Nothing beats actually ‘walking the (net)walk’ and catching up with the FMs in the hub. Hearing what’s going on/finding out the challenges and talking points. In fact, it was only after visiting, I decided to form a plan and do a South Devon Summer Social – you can’t beat a lovely long summers evening and there’s no better setting.

I travelled home, weary, but fulfilled, after a long day – my cup over flowing with ideas and love for the FM community. Can’t wait to visit again next time.

 

Faye

 

PS My takeaway points from the day were:

  • Networking can happen anywhere, even on a cold platform. Just striking up conversation is widening your network.
  • Day dreaming is good for the soul, it feeds ideas and takes you to a happy place….
  • …..As is reading fiction. We all need to down tools.
  • We can start the new year in spring.
  • Being outdoors makes us all feel better.
  • Reading local notice boards, is a great way of getting a feel for a local area.
  • International growth can start on your doorstep. You never know who is connected to who in your community.
  • And finally, if in doubt when getting on a train– follow the man with the sandwiches!

Building Confidence: Strategies for Mums Facing Business Challenges

In this week’s Freelance Mum podcast, we’re talking about confidence – because, let’s face it, you need it in abundance when it comes to running your own business.

But we’re all human and it’s normal it’s normal to waver.

So, in this week’s episode, we’re looking at confidence building strategies, that can help grow your business. We include our top ten techniques and would love to hear yours.

“Continuous learning. I think it’s really important to always be open to learning, and it doesn’t matter what that looks like. You can embark on picking up a book or a free online learning course, but learning is really important because it helps you develop different skills in your particular field, as well as inquiring new knowledge that you in turn, of course, can pass on to fellow self employed people.

And it will make you stand out, and it will help you build confidence”.

 

To read the full transcript, click here.

Balancing Act: Navigating Freelancing and Motherhood

In this week’s Freelance Mum podcast, we’re talking about the essence of ‘Freelance Mum life’.

It’s one of the hot topics as a Freelance Mom, as it’s one of the biggest challenges. So we’re going to be touching on the following points, time management.

Self care, building a support system, flexible work arrangements, and overcoming challenges. These are the main points for today’s podcast, so keep listening as we start chatting.

 

“As the old saying goes, work smart and not work hard. It’s really important that you carve out the right amount of time and allocate it to the right amount of tasks. Come up with a strategy and a way to manage your workload. For a start, look at how many available working days there are actually in each term”. 

 

 

 

 

To read the full transcript, click here.

Networking Gems: Connecting with like-minded mums in business

In June this year, I’ll be celebrating a decade of running Freelance Mum. That’s 10 years of supporting fellow mums in business. 10 years of building a business community. And what a privilege it has been for the last 10 years, to share the journey with so many amazing women in business (who just happen to be mums).

So why is it so important to connect with like-minded mums in business. And what does motherhood have to do with it anyway?

Here’s some networking gems I’ve learnt along the way and why they can help you and your business.

1. The Power of Community

Never underestimate the power of a community. As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, well that can be applied tenfold, when it comes to running your business.

Who else ‘gets it’ when your child gets sick AND you have a deadline (that only you can deliver). Both are important. Both need you. Or what about when you win a new client and you’re bursting to share the news? Or quite simply, you can’t fathom how to add a new ‘thingie’ to a reel?

 

 

Being part of a supportive community, with people who ‘get it’ – fellow mums in business, is important. Sharing those experiences, understanding those challenges creates a unique bond. These are the people who are there when you need them. You can be unapologetically you. And it’s by building those relationships, fostering a sense of understanding and encouraging each other, that you build each other up.

 

2. Strategies for Effective Networking

Networking is far more than turning up to an event and passing business cards. It’s moved on a lot in the last 10 years (and I’d like to think Freelance Mum has been a part of that). It’s about finding the events that work for you.

 

I like to think of the word ‘network’, rather than ‘networking’ – I can visualise a web which is interconnected and supporting a system. It’s there when you need it, with the members being the structure providing the support. The web being the bit between them – the relationships.

It’s only by turning up at the events and building those relationships, that you start gain the real value of your network. So it’s important you invest your time and money wisely and find the right one for you.

There’s a brilliant saying, ‘It’s not who is in the room, but through the room’ – in other words, who people are connected to and can introduce you to. Having a good solid relationship with people, makes them far more likely to recommend you to others.

 

Think of networking as part of your overarching marketing strategy, rather than expecting a direct sale.

At Freelance Mum, we focus on community and really building those relationships, to keep supporting you and your business. We want to see all aspects thrive – after all, you’re a ‘whole person’, not just the face of your business.

3. Follow Up Meetings

Really this is just a natural follow on from attending the networking event itself, at more formal networking, it might be called ‘booking your 1:1’. Call it what you like, in essence, it all boils down to the same thing – get to know and support other attendees, regardless of what networking event you have attended. Grabbed their business card? Great – drop them a line and say how good it was to connect. Strike while the iron is hot, as chances are, you’ll be looking at a business card a few weeks down the line and wondering who it belonged to!

 

 

Some networking events will be one offs, others are memberships. The joy of going to membership events, such as Freelance Mum, you know you know already have shared values. These are your people. Get to know them. Have a coffee, or just ping them a quick message. It doesn’t matter what it looks like to you, it’s about making it work.

 

4. Attending child-friendly networking events

If you’ve not been to a child-friendly networking event, you’re probably wondering what it actually looks like. And does it matter if your child is older or at school? If you’re coming with your child, you don’t want to be distracted by their needs, while trying to have a conversation. Likewise, if you don’t have little people with you, you don’t want to feel like you’re ‘in the wrong place’ if you’re surrounded by babies.

 

At Freelance Mum we get that. Children are 100% welcome, but you don’t have to ‘borrow a baby’ to legitimise attending! Children are just part of the mix. Simple. Mums without children, often help out and netwalks go at the speed of the slowest toddler. Sometimes there are no children at all. Sometimes there are just one or two. Either way, it’s no major biggie.

 

All netwalks are designed with babies in mind, terrain and safety is always taken into consideration and there’s always a ‘pitstop’ for a cuppa.

 

Why am I telling you this? Because experience tells me, it’s important to create events in space that has family-friendly venues, flexible schedules, and activities that accommodate both networking and childcare. And to do it in such a ‘seemingly effortless way’ that it feels relaxed, effective and natural.

 

And if you’re not sure – ask. Email ahead of a meeting, so you know what to expect. To be fair, that goes for any networking event, not just child-friendly ones. Having an idea of the format and what to expect, is always helpful when preparing.

5. Digital Networking for Busy Mums

Nothing beats in person events and seeing people in actual real life. We knew it already, then Covid served us a belter and reminded us. But what Covid also did, was reinforce digital networking. It was there already, but it wasn’t enforced yet.

Connecting on line is great way to keep building relationships – especially if you’re juggling business around motherhood. Every minute is vital! It’s a great way to network in a smart and effective way. No need to worry about travel/parking/directions. It’s smart and effective.

Geography has no boundaries, when it comes to going online – it’s a great way to expand your network (and build your empire!).

So if you’re looking to find a network, that works well for you and your business, having a balance between online and in person, provides a really nice mix and solution.

 

Finally, if you’re running your own business, it’s far more than ‘just paying the bills’ – but about connecting with your passion and purpose. So make sure you find the network that works for you. You know the ones, the ones you find yourself thinking about, long after you leave the room.