Staying motivated when you’re running business around motherhood

I know I say this all the time, but it can be hard when you’re running a business around motherhood – trying to fit all the things, into a truncated day.

It can be challenging at the best of times, being the accountant, the cleaner, the cook, the taxi driver, the social media manager, head of sales, the marketer – oh yes and doing the actual job!

With the best will in the world, it can be easy to lose your motivation. It’s called being human. Even the most positive, resilient, person, can have a ‘flat moment’. In the case of juggling motherhood around a small business, it can be even harder – as you’re typically the one to ‘pick up the slack’. And that can make you lose your stride.

So what can you do when you lose your motivation and how can you help find it again?

Here’s a few tips & ideas, to dig into, when you’re having one of those ‘why am I doing it’ moments.

 

Be kind to yourself

This might sounds obvious, but if you’re having the sort of day where you’re just feeling a bit rubbish, be kind to yourself. That’s not to say ‘chuck the duvet over your head and ignore the world’ but break things into smaller chunks. Have a comfy clothes kind of day, with a little splash of colour that makes you smile. Self-care is really important, when it comes to running your own business around motherhood.

At the end of every Freelance Mum Coffee Morning, I ask everyone to write down one thing that will bring them peace. Then remind them, it doesn’t matter what peace looks like – peace can be getting a tick on a to-do list, it can be going for a walk, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, the important thing is, to make time for you and bring a little bit of peace to your life.

After all, one of the perks of being a Freelance Mum, is being able to call the shots. So make sure you do the things that you need, to help get you through your day. And if that’s taking your foot off the gas a little, that’s fine. You can only do your best, but you’re not a robot. So ‘your best’ will look different every day. Be kind to yourself.

freelance mum coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus on smaller tasks

I always love the saying, ‘how do you eat an elephant? Chunk by chunk’. If you look at the whole thing, it can feel impossible, but if you break it into chunks – it’s a much more manageable and rewarding. There are so many different methods to approaching work, ‘start with eating your frog’ (in other words, start with the thing you least want to do). But in moments when you’re struggling with motivation, have a smaller, achievable list. Pick the easy jobs, that you can easily tick off and leave you feeling better. Chances are, by the time you’ve put a few ticks on the list, you’ll find yourself gathering momentum again.

 

Inspirational stories

Listen/watch/read inspirational stories – about people who’ve ‘done it’. There’s no clear route to success and great business leaders have also had to overcome several challenges along the way. Although not a ‘freelance mum’, I always find watching Joe Wicks story. Not least because he gets so emotional telling it, but because it always draws me in and he’s so relatable. He starts by sharing his story, of wanting to make a difference, handing out leaflets and not cutting through – but never giving up. He says it so much better than me. Have a watch.

 

 

Connect with the why

Which brings back to Simon Sinek and ‘Connect with the why’. I say brings me back, as I also reference him in the podcast –it’s such an excellent exercise (and so simple too) it’s really useful to keep referencing it and ‘Connect with the why’. Keep reminding yourself why you do what you do. Remember, connecting with the why and how you do it, are two different things. You can still connect with you why and do things differently (IF you want. But that’s a  much bigger exercise. If you’re lacking in motivation, just keep life simple and break things into chunks. Just connect with the why – that’s enough.

 

Do some exercise

It really doesn’t matter what – ideally something you enjoy, but just get your body moving. It’s well documented the feel-good feelings after exercise, then feed into the rest of the day. Put on a piece of your favourite music. Dance like no one is watching. Do a work out at home. Walk in the rain. Jump in cold water. It doesn’t matter what. Just do something. Better still, do it with a friend -once you’ve had a good ‘download’ and got your body moving, chances are, you’ll start to feel boosted again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practise Gratitude

Practising gratitude, is one of the most simple and yet boosting things we can do. Just take a moment to give thanks for three simple things. It doesn’t have to be business related. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to run through your mind, of 3 things you can give thanks for in your life. The task of scanning through your mind, is a really useful activity and proven to be a really useful took, for your brain to start scanning. Once to start looking for ‘glimmers’, you start to see even more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture success

Take a moment to step away from the grind of every day life, sit in your favourite chair, look out at your favourite view and just take a few moments to visualise success. If it helps, there are plenty of guided meditations along the way, that can help you. Really dig into the details, of that picture – imagine what it looks and feels like to live in that moment. Feel what it feels like, what you look like and take some beautiful deep breathes. Visualisation is a really useful way, to keep your mind focused.

And at the end of dreaming that beautiful, big picture, go back to thinking of one small step you can towards it.

Stay connected

Find people you can be honest with, you can take your ‘game face’ off and say ‘I’m feeling a bit (inset word, I was going to go for ‘meh’ – but maybe that isn’t it). Chances are, you won’t be alone and having someone else who ‘gets it’ can be really helpful. At Freelance Mum, it’s what we do every day. It’s the core of everything – being there, to support others and share the FM highs & lows. So make sure you have a network of people who surround you and can help share the murky days and your goals.

Freelance Mum netwalk

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!

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.

A look back at Freelance Mum Mega Meet Up 2023

Such a great day with lots of networking, chats and knowledge shared all around (and such an amazing venue with yummy food!) My cup is so full I think I’m going to be on a high all week cannot wait to return next year, my ticket has already been purchased.

Alicia, Cornflower Accountants

Last week Freelance Mum hosted their annual Mega Meet Up, at Tractors & Cream in Somerset. The event was sponsored by YTKO and the Financially Fearless Team from Hargreaves Lansdown. It attracted Freelance Mum members from hubs across the country, to meet in person, netwalk, listen to guest speakers and connect.

Freelance Mums arriving in events dome

Freelance Mum was first launched in 2012, by voiceover artist Faye Dicker, as a result of her own need juggling motherhood around business. Without a network of support to meet her needs a ‘freelance mum’, Faye launched child-friendly networking for mums in business. Initially the group ran in Bristol, but as result of the pandemic, Faye was able to pivot the model and launch hubs across the country.

Today there are eight hubs that all meet once a month for a netwalk, run by local mums in business known as ‘Freelance Mum Fairies’. The FM members are also able to connect once week, from across all the hubs, in a weekly online coffee morning. The model allows members to connect with their wider network, as well and build on relationships within their own hubs. The in-person and online events, culminate once a year at the Freelance Mum Mega Meet Up, their annual event which is ‘like Christmas Day for Freelance Mums’!

Location and format

Brilliant day networking with like minded fabulous women, listening to inspiring speakers in a gorgeous location. Abi Eva, Live Intuitively

Like all FM events, the day was child-friendly, information packed and relaxed, in the beautiful setting of Tractors & Cream glamping site. Guests were greeted with tea & coffee on arrival and set a simple ice-breaker, to show the connections between all the FMs in the hubs.

The day followed the ‘typical FM format’ with a netwalk around the site, punctuated with focus questions, to maximise conversations. For the added fun, there were also hand made soaps, donated by Bespoke + Local, hidden throughout the route, which acted as ‘raffle tickets’, for the prize draw at the end of the day.

 

 

 

Events Dome


The main speakers spoke in the events dome, which was decorated with Freelance Mum bunting, designed by FM members & sponsors. It proved to be both decorative and a great way to showcase the range of businesses across the hubs. All attendees received goody bags on arrival, plus there was a ‘gubbins table’ to display business cards and leaflets. Face painting by JoJo, took place at the back of the dome, while speakers gave their talks and added to the festival vibe.

 

 

Guest Speakers
Financially Fearless Ambassador, Sarah Coles, from Hargreaves Lansdown, opened the day with a commanding talk about the importance of taking control of your finances. She shared own story of freelancing around motherhood, and explained the ‘confidence threshold’ when it came to men and women making decisions about finances. She rounded off taking questions from members about pensions, which could have gone on for much longer! It was empowering session, which made a strong impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea & coffee was served next, by Vicki from Tractors & Cream, in the Horse Box bar and allowed FMs time to mingle and connect with other FMs from across the hubs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second guest speaker was Sally Marks from YTKO, who set a mini marketing workshop for everyone, so people could leave with a practical ‘take away’ from the day. It was designed for business owners at all stages in their journey, to take a few minutes to reconnect with their audience in a simple and effective marketing and task. Jen Macfarlane from the YTKO team, also explained about the YTKO upcoming Skills Boot Camps, for freelancers and small business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a short lunch break back in the studio, which allowed FMs to keep networking and enjoy eating together, before returning to the dome for the prize draw and final speaker. Two prize draws were made, the first was an artisan gift box from Bespoke + Local, worth £500.

 

Competition and prizes
The second was an overnight stay to Tractors & Cream – entries were made, by anyone who bought a ticket to the Freelance Mum Mega Meet Up 2024. Rachel Ballantyne from the South Devon Hub won the Bespoke + Local prize, while Freelance Mum Fairy, from the Bath Hub, Jody Sparey won the overnight stay to Tractors & Cream.

 

Carly Cannings from the Happy Business School, concluded the day with her talk on the importance of prioritizing your own happiness. She shared tips and techniques that can be used in busy lives, to lead to personal and professional success. The talk ended with Carly invited Freelance Mums to share one thing they’d like to say ‘thank you’ for and resulted in members from across the hubs giving thanks to each other (and to Freelance Mum founder, Faye Dicker) for such a good day.

Members gently made their way home at the end of the packed day, buzzing with ideas, armed with practical tips and new connections. It was the ultimate day for Freelance Mums, who left feeling good, for having taken a day out of their busy freelance lives.

 

 

The mega meet up is a unique and fabulous opportunity to connect with an amazing group of like-minded mums from a huge range of industries. The key note speakers are expertly tailored to the needs of freelance mums. The food and setting is wonderful and there’s a buzz across the day that’s hard to beat. Roll on next year!
Jess: Broadcast Journalist, Musician & Voiceover Artist

Tickets are on sale now, for the Freelance Mum Mega Meet Up 2024, takes place in June 11th at Tractors & Cream and will be celebrating the Freelance Mum 10th business birthday. Click here to get in touch about sponsorship and speaking opportunities.

With huge thanks to Super Funky Penguin for photography.

 

The importance of working on the business rather than in it

It’s an exciting time at FM HQ, as we’ve finally announced Freelance Mum Micro Business Retreat 2020!

We know just how hard the juggling act can be and why it’s important to take a step back out of life and gain perspective again. We firmly believe there is no better place for it, than at Tractors & Cream and with The Freelance Mum Micro Business Retreat, there is something for the whole family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We take a look back over this brilliant blog from Rin Hamburgh as she looks at some of the best approaches, when it comes to working ON your business and how it can be of benefit all round.

The importance of working on the business rather than in it

If you had to break down your working week into hourly chunks, what proportion of them would be spent on working in the business versus working on the business. By that I mean, how much time do you spend doing the do – making your products, working with clients, sorting the admin – versus planning, strategising, clarifying your vision, setting goals.

Working on the business is vital but too often it gets pushed down the to do list as we frantically try to meet client deadlines and get orders shipped. All the while juggling the million and one other things we Freelance Mums have to do – the cooking, the washing, the cleaning, the ferrying of children to music and drama and football.

No wonder taking a break to plan where your business will be in five years feels like a luxury! But of course, it isn’t. In fact, without taking a step back and looking at the big picture, you’re likely to drift and either not achieve those goals you had back when you launched, or at the very least get there via a much longer and more complicated route than you need to.

 

How I learn to be more on and less in

Next month will be three years since I launched Rin Hamburgh & Co. Back when the first website went live in August 2016, I didn’t have a clue where it would all end up. I didn’t even call the business an agency, that’s how unsure I was of what I was doing!

The best thing that ever happened to me was chatting to the lovely Claire Stone, who I met at Freelance Mum, over a coffee one day and hearing all about the Entrepreneurial Spark programme. A business incubator with a focus on growing and developing the business leader not just the business itself. I applied that day.

It was the smartest business move I ever made. Previously I’d spent the majority of my time writing copy for my clients and editing the work of my small freelance team. Now suddenly I was being asked to explain my business model to my mentor. I was being challenged on whether I knew my numbers, not just now but for the future. I was pitching to a room full of strangers.

Why stepping back propels you forward

It was a huge challenge because it felt like a distraction when there was website copy to be written and blog posts to be proofread. But if I hadn’t stopped and looked at my numbers, for example, I wouldn’t have realised I could afford to bring on a part time assistant. If I hadn’t given some serious thought to my profit margins, I would still be underselling myself.

Today Rin Hamburgh & Co is a team of five with a six figure annual turn over. We’ve won a number of awards and been featured in Bristol 24-7 and the Bristol Post. We’ve worked with multinational clients and on five figure projects.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken time on a regular basis to stop, reflect on what we’ve been doing, look forward to where we’re going, adjust the vision, set goals, make plans and learn new skills to keep propelling us towards my dream business.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have to challenge myself pretty much daily to make space and time for working on rather than in the business. Thankfully we’re back on what is now called the NatWest Accelerator programme, so I’ve got a new mentor to be accountable to!

How to be more on and less in

As I’ve already mentioned, having a mentor or an accountability partner can be hugely beneficial. That might be a coach like our very own Karen Cook, it could be a fellow Freelance Mum who you meet up with regularly or someone else in your industry. There are also accountability or mastermind groups, where small groups of business owners come together to help and encourage each other on a regular basis.

Carving out ‘on the business’ time in your diary and guarding it ferociously is important too. I have two hours on a Friday that I call my reflection time, and I really notice the difference if I don’t do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also set aside a special day every now and then – perhaps once a quarter – where you can really focus on all of that big picture stuff. Because sometimes it takes a while before you can relax and get into the right headspace where you’re not worrying about what to cook the kids for dinner.

But don’t forget the value of working on your business with others, which can be incredibly encouraging and inspiring. And if you’re looking for an opportunity, check out the Freelance Mum Micro Retreat. What a perfect chance to reflect, learn, chat and have fun with a bunch of other mums in a similar position to you. Not to mention being surrounded by beautiful countryside like you will be at Tractors & Cream!

Whatever time you can squeeze out of your schedule to work on rather than in the business, you won’t regret it. Yes, you might not be earning money directly by working on your vision, your financial forecasts or your customer journeys. But you’ll be laying the foundation on which you can build a business that serves you and brings you exactly the kind of success you’re looking for.

How the school run can be good for your business

Voiceover Artist and Freelance Mum founder, Faye Dicker, on how the school run can be good for your business.

The chances are if you’re a ‘freelance parent’, the school run will fall to you. I know it does in my house. And although my husband is good at stepping in, as a ‘freelance mum’, the lion’s share falls to me.

Not that I begrudge it, I hasten to add – I want to make sure my girls are dropped off safe and sound. Once we have managed the almighty task, of actually leaving the house, I enjoy cycling them in.

Yet the reality is, when you’re doing the school run twice a day – it can bite a chunk into your day. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a window of time available from 9.15am – 3pm, to crack on with some work. More likely, it’s smaller.

And that can be hard. Especially when you’re trying to shoehorn work into every available working minute and maximize your productivity. It’s easy to feel resentful of the school bell ringing, meaning ‘pencils down’ for your business.

But doing the school run, can be good for your business – if you make it work for you.

 

Growing your network

We hear the term ‘networking’ all the time, I often think it gets overused and as a consequence forgotten it’s about your ‘network’ of people. It’s not just about ‘networking a room’. It’s unlikely (and probably not very appropriate) you’re going to start handing out your business cards, in the school playground.

But it doesn’t take much to get chatting to the mum you’re standing next to, find out a bit more about them and so on. Without even thinking about it, you’re naturally making connections, finding out a little about them and no doubt, you’ll start asking about you. With very little effort, you’re making connections and growing your network.

 

Wearing your brand

This one is a doddle. In fact, I see it more frequently in the playground all the time and think it looks ace – especially when little ones are proudly wearing a hoody with their parents business name on. I love how it’s very much a ‘family affair’ when it comes to branded hoodies at GemSec!

Children playing outside, wearing branded GemSec hoodies.

Even if your business doesn’t need a ‘uniform’, it’s very easy these days to have hoody or a T-shirt with your brand name on. The Freelance Mum bright pink T-shirts have become synonymous with Freelance Mum. On the days where I pick up the girls straight after Freelance Mum, wearing the bright pink FM top, I often get stopped and asked ‘are you the person who runs Freelance Mum’? Even if they don’t stop and ask, it’s your brand name they’re going to see and puts your business on their radar.

In fact, I even took it one step further and had the Freelance Mum logo put on my cargo bike, which resulted in gaining a new member! Don’t be shy. It’s your brand, tell the world, be proud.

 

Treat it as an opportunity to learn

Most freelance mums are time poor and juggling an ever-increasing to-do list. It can be hard, when at best we are just working in our business and not working on our business, to carve out time to actually stop and learn. Using the school run can be a great window of opportunity to download some podcasts, or audio books and take that time to stop and listen. I know it’s the approach Lucie Gray of Paper Aeroplane Creative has taken, she decided that if she was going to walk to school and back every day, that was a great opportunity to take the time to actually listen to some podcasts. Make your ‘commute’ work for you!

 

Fitness

Sticking with the theme of maximizing your time, fitness is often something that can easily fall away. Yet we all know the physical AND mental benefits from exercising. You only have to speak to Lesely Waldron at Wild Country Woman, to hear about the benefits of exercising outdoors. I love the way my head always seems to work things out, after I’ve come back from a run.

The school run might not be quite the same as an hour of yoga, but it is getting you (and your kids) outdoors. And if you make a point of putting your trainers on, you can extend your school run, to an actual run, after you’ve dropped them off. You and your business will benefit, from that extra bit of fresh air and fitness.

 

Take a break

Whether you like it or not, the school run forces you to take a break. Although it can be frustrating having to stop, when you’re mid flow, it means you take a step back and take a break from things. Otherwise, time can run away with you and you don’t remember to stop! It’s far better to take a break from your work and come back fresh, than to keep going and grind to a halt.

 

Power Hour

I often look up at the clock and can’t believe how fast the day is going by. There are days, that despite the best intentions, you can feel as though nothing has been done. On those days, when there are more jobs than time, I give myself a ‘power hour’ between 2pm and 3pm, when I leave the house. One final hour to power through some jobs and work without stopping. It’s funny how a deadline, can actually make things happen!

 

Structure

It might not have been the structure you’d have chosen for yourself, but there’s nothing like the school run to enforce a bit of structure. I love the days when I step in, after drop off, make myself a hot drink and sit down to catch up with social media. It’s a window of time that’s for me and my business and gives real pleasure. With structure, it gives us something to work with, without it can be harder to be disciplined and create rules/ways of working.

The school run can be an interruption and it’s easy to think of it as a pain, but part of the joy of being a freelancer is actually being able to pick up your kids from school. The trick is, making the school run work for your business.

 

At Freelance Mum, we know how tricky it can be, juggling children around business – which is why we created child-friendly networking for mums in business. Why not try it for FREE and find out for yourself?

 

How to make the most of networking

From making sure you’re in the right group to working out your 60 second pitch, Rin Hamburgh looks at what she’s learned about making the most of networking since she first started doing it seven years ago.

Networking is something every business owner or self-employed person is likely to do at some point. And rightly so – it’s a great way to meet people, to get support and generate referrals and new business. But it can also take up a fair amount of time and money. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most value out of it?

 

Pick the right group

I started networking when I set up my first business in 2012. The first group I joined was a very supportive group of women who met monthly for lunch. This was exactly what I needed – non-threatening, encouraging, no suits and lots of self-employed people working as sole traders.

As I gained in confidence I started going to a fortnightly breakfast meeting where there were business owners – both men and women – with staff and budgets who were able to introduce me into bigger companies and help me grow.

When the twins arrived, these groups became either too expensive or difficult to get to. Freelance Mum was – and still is – an absolute godsend and I’ve now added BS5 Business, Babies and Booze to my networking mix because, well, doesn’t that just sound like the best idea?

The key is to choose groups that work for you in terms of cost, location, mix of people and so on. Ask yourself what you want to gain from it. Do you want to get support from other business owners like you? Or are you looking for introductions, in which case you need to check how well connected the other members are.

 

Bring the right marketing materials

A business card is an absolute must for networking (although I have to admit, I frequently forget mine!). This is especially important if you’ve got an unusual name that people might struggle to remember or might spell wrong and therefore not be able to look you up.

But you might also want to invest in flyers, brochures or other printed materials in order to give people you meet an instant insight into what you do. For a product based or visual business like photography, pictures really can be worth a thousand words.

And I love the 121 packs that my friends at Hullo Creative make; little folders containing a flyer, a logo sticker, one of their beautiful greetings cards, and a selection of business cards from other freelancers in their collective.

 

 

 

 

Prepare a pitch

Most networking groups will require you to do some sort of 60 second ‘elevator pitch’ where you tell people who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for. Even at Freelance Mum, which has a much more relaxed format, there’s an opportunity to introduce yourself during the Business Exchange segment at the end.

There are lots of different ways to structure a pitch. I’m currently on the Natwest Accelerator Programme and regularly have to pitch during our workshop and other events. The structure we’ve been taught there is Hook, Problem, Solution, Traction, Ask – there’s more about that in our blog post, How to write a 60 second elevator pitch.

But essentially you want to make sure that you summarise not only what you do but what that actually means for your customers or clients. For example, I don’t just say that we do copywriting. Instead I say that we “harness the power of words to drive significant business results.”

Spend time really honing your pitch and get comfortable with delivering it – make your other half listen to you or practice in the mirror. Because, whether you’re at a networking group or not, you never know when someone important is going to ask what you do. The right words might open the door to your next big thing.

 

Remember to ‘sell through the room’

Once you arrive at your chosen networking group, it might be tempting to try and sell your products and services to as many people as possible. But let’s face it, no one likes a pushy salesperson, do they?

Remember that networking is a long game – it’s about building relationships, letting people get to know you and starting to understand what their challenges and needs are too. It may be that your product or service is right for them but let that emerge naturally.

In fact, if you just sold to people within your group you really wouldn’t be making the most of your network. The trick is to ’sell through the room, not to the room’ – in other words, build those networking contacts into advocates who can speak about you to their networks and thereby widen your reach.

As an example, the lovely Zoe Whitman of But The Books, who I met at Freelance Mum, passed my details to her husband, who works at a big marketing agency. We ended up doing huge amounts of work with them, opening up a whole new market for us.

 

Remember to follow up

The majority of the value you’ll get from networking won’t actually happen in the meeting itself but afterwards. That’s why it’s important to follow up. If you’ve taken business cards, connect with those people on LinkedIn, follow their account on Instagram or like their business page on Facebook.

You may have identified people who you think will be a good fit for you, perhaps because you have complimentary businesses with the same target audience. For me as a copywriter this may be a graphic designer, web designer, even photographer. In this case, arrange a 121 so you can get to know each other better.

A lot of networking groups have online groups too, for example Freelance Mum’s Facebook group, The Mothership. Being active on these channels is an excellent way to keep in touch with people, especially if your group only meets monthly or if you struggle to make every meeting.

If you’re going to spend time and money on networking then make sure you get as much out of it as you can. That might take a little bit more time or money – for example to write that pitch or get flyers printed – but the return on your investment will make it well worth the effort.

If you want to brush up on your networking skills in a warm, family friendly environment, why not come along to Freelance Mum? Your first meeting is free! Find out when the next event is here.

What to look for in a workshop venue

Rin Hamburgh looks at the importance of finding the right setting when it comes to booking a workshop venue and some of the considerations for getting it right.

What to look for in a workshop venue

Where do you usually work? As a freelance mum, the chances are the your “office” is a dining room table, a patch of kitchen work surface, a lap tray on the sofa or even the front passenger seat of your car (just me??!).

Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated study or even rent some space in a studio or co-working location so your desk doesn’t get cluttered with utility bills and Year 8 homework. But if your job involves running workshops then it’s unlikely you’ve got enough space. Which means you’re on the look out for the perfect venue.

So what makes the ideal workshop venue? Obviously we’re all going to have different requirements to suit our personal style and the type of event we’re running. But these are some of the factors you should be thinking about.

 Size

How many people are you expecting at your workshop? You want to make sure there’s plenty of room for all the activities you’re planning, especially if you’re going to have lots of resources or need people to break out into separate groups. But too big is no good either – you want to get a balance so that the room feels cosy and intimate and encourages good group dynamics.

Location

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to location. You might want a city centre venue that’s easy to reach by public transport or a beautiful countryside space that helps people feel like they’re escaping the rat race for a few hours. Think about what your attendees will be looking for. Is there parking available on site or nearby? Is the venue easy to find or will you need to provide detailed instructions?

 Amenities

The basics of good heating, lighting and bathroom facilities should come as standard but what else might you need? A data projector and blank wall or whiteboard are often useful, or even an interactive whiteboard. If you’re going to be relying heavily on internet-based resources then it’s worth checking that there’s strong, reliable wifi. Depending on the length of your workshop you’ll want to provide refreshments – even if it is just tea and biscuits – so are there facilities for making these?

Cost

Everyone wants a freebie, right? Well, possibly. If you can secure your ideal venue with no cost attached then brilliant. But don’t be tempted to scrimp on the quality of a venue in order to save a few pounds. No one is going to recommend your workshop if they spend the morning freezing in a badly heated venue or couldn’t concentrate because of the bad smell drifting in from the fish shop next door!

Atmosphere

This one is a bit harder to define and almost impossible to judge without a site visit. No matter how good a venue looks on paper, it’s only when you visit that you get a sense of the people running the place, of whether the quality matches the photos you’ve seen and so on. The right atmosphere is only partly made by you and your attendees – the venue has a part to play too.

Getting the venue right can be the difference between your workshop running smoothly and being a mess of intermittent internet, bad coffee and cramped conditions. Put in the time to do your research now and you won’t regret it when you’re getting glowing feedback from all your happy attendees.

 

 

What’s your theme for 2019?

Rin Hamburgh tells the story of how she discovered theming, why it’s a revolutionary practice for business owners, and how you can apply its principles in your own work and life to make sure the new year is your best yet!

Back in November 2014, a word popped into my head. The word was Hope. It kept coming back to me in all sorts of ways – in things I was reading, in conversations I was having. As we headed towards Christmas, I decided that perhaps the following year would be filled with hopes and dreams come true. It was a nice thought.

Sure enough, in 2015 my partner finally passed his driving test and got a promotion. We sold our flat and had an offer accepted on a house. And, most importantly, I fell pregnant and gave birth to two beautiful baby girls. I also tested out a little idea I’d had about using junior freelance writers to help me increase my capacity at work.

As I sat in the hospital with my newborn twins in November 2015, another word popped into my head: Peace. Crazy! How would 2016 be peaceful with not one but two babies around?? Not to mention a house move. I didn’t know then that I’d also be a single mum before January was out, and that I’d launch my new business in the August of that year.

And yet despite 2016 being an absolute whirlwind – with an awful lot of challenges, I’ll admit – somehow a sense of peace did seem to cover the whole year. I held onto that word like a mantra during those sleepless nights, endless hours of breastfeeding, and difficult conversations with lawyers about maintenance and visitation rights.

Knowing how the previous year really had been filled with hope somehow allowed me to believe that peace could maintain me through this one.

The power of theming

I won’t bore you with all the details of the subsequent years – though I can tell you that 2017 was a year of Opportunity and 2018 has had two words, Growth and Balance – but I will tell you why this isn’t an example of me losing it from lack of sleep or too many G&Ts!

In fact, although I honestly had no idea at the time, theming your year is something of a recent trend.

It’s a technique that Mike Vardy, productivity strategist, speaker and author of The Productivityist Playbook talked about in an interview in Forbes last year. Vardy has three words, which he picks in August because he likes to start his year in September.

He says: “It’s nice to have that consistency throughout the year, that you just have to think about these three words as opposed to some massive resolution, or vision statement, or mission statement…

“It keeps me on track, and it allows me to make a quick gut check and look back at the Mike Vardy – who in August decided on those three words – as opposed to trusting what Mike Vardy in the moment might want to do, because Mike Vardy in the moment sometimes isn’t the smartest guy.”

How to pick and use theme words

While Vardy picks his theme words, mine just seem to arrive one day out of the blue. I’ve started to look out for them now but I try not to direct them because, though I don’t quite understand how, they seem to come from outside of me and be almost predictive in their nature. But you could also be very deliberate about choosing and setting your words.

You might want to take yourself off one day and spend some time quietly reflecting on next year and what you want to change or achieve. Do some journaling or free writing, without too much of a focus in mind other than the upcoming year in general.

Perhaps take some magazines along and tear out images or phrases that jump out at you. If you’re someone who enjoys meditation, yoga or some other form of mental, physical or emotional relaxation then by all means, bring that into your reflection time.

The point is to find something that resonates with you. And there are no rules! It surprised me that I got two words for 2018 but it felt completely right that as I focused on growing my business I should put as much energy into maintaining balance in my life – investing in my children, my relationships, my health and so on. Sure enough, I’ve doubled my team and my turnover but I’ve also started taking weekends off and been on three holidays!

As for how you use your words, again I don’t think there should be any rules. Mine have often been a comfort that I’ve held onto when things have been tough. In 2017 the word Opportunity came with a real sense that I needed to be active in taking hold of those opportunities, which gave me courage to apply for the Entrepreneurial Spark programme and to hire my first employee.

This is what Mike Vardy had to say in his Forbes interviews:

“When I’m choosing the projects that I want to pursue, when I’m deciding what conferences I’m going to attend, when I look at what is going to take my attention away from my intentions that I already have or what things are going to fuel my intentions going forward, I can look at these three words. If it doesn’t hit two of those three words, if my goals or my projects or any new idea, I just cast it aside.”

 What does 2019 have in store for you?

This year, things have happened a little differently for me. In October a picture popped into my head, instead of a word. A picture of a bean seedling just poking it’s head above the soil, all fresh and green and bursting with life. I wondered what it might mean, but pushed it to the back of my mind. After all, I don’t get my theme word until November and I’m something of a traditionalist!

And sure enough, on the first Monday in November as I was driving the girls to nursery and contemplating that very inspiring picture of a bean seedling, it arrived. Breakthrough! That would be my word for 2019.

Already I can see how it is going to play out – we’ve just won our biggest ever project, which will be kicking off in the new year, I’ve invested in a coaching programme to help me navigate the changes in my life and career, and we’re applying to go back into the Natwest Accelerator Programme.

I know that having a positive word doesn’t guarantee that everything will go the way I want it to. But given how important mindset is to success, I’m glad that I have such an exciting word to hold on to.

What about you? Have you got a word for next year? If not, it’s time to do some digging!

How to Balance Business and Babies

How to balance business and babies

This fab blog was written by writer, sponsor and fellow ‘Freelance Mum’ Rin Hamburgh (who writes from the heart and is a big fan of being freelance). Thank you for your brilliant blog Rin.

No one can prepare you for the realities of being a parent, can they? No matter how much research you’ve done, no matter how many friends you’ve watched go through the sleepless nights and the teething terrors, it just doesn’t hit home properly until you get there for yourself. And when you’re trying to run a business at the same time, it’s even more intense.

I was a freelance journalist and copywriter when the twins were born and didn’t really take much in the way of maternity leave. In fact, I remember taking a call from a client while I was in hospital, and writing a feature for the Guardian while balancing my laptop on a Pampers box and expressing for the girls’ next feed!

That’s the great thing about us freelance mums – we’re pretty hard core. But there’s no doubt that balancing business and babies (of any age) is a real challenge. So are there any tips and tricks that can make the process easier? Definitely. Here’s what I’ve learned in my freelance mum journey.

Set realistic expectations

Both with your clients and with yourself. It’s no good promising the earth and then stressing yourself out or doing a poor job because you’ve overestimated how much you can actually achieve. It could be that you need to take on fewer clients or give longer lead time for when the work will be delivered. Remember to build in time for disasters and emergencies – trips to A&E or unexpected vomiting bugs will happen and will definitely disrupt your schedule.

Call in the troops

If you’re going to successfully balance motherhood and maintaining your business – even at a lower intensity than before the kids came along – you’ll need help. There are plenty of different paid childcare option from au pairs to nannies, nurseries and childminders. I got a nanny in for just four hours a week to start with, when the girls were 3-months-old. I felt comfortable knowing they were just in the other room if they needed me, but I could still crack on with work.

And then of course there’s family and friends. Why not try doing a swap with another mum in business, with you looking after all the kids one day and her taking over on another day? Or look at a combined childcare and co-working space like Caboodle. You may find that a combination of all of these works best for you. My two are almost three now and we do two full days at nursery and one full day with a nanny, which suits us all really well.

Delegate what you can

No one can do everything, it’s just not possible. And when you have little people to look after then it’s even more of a challenge. Think about the things you find most difficult, stressful or time consuming. Work out how much your time is worth and then see if it might be cheaper to get someone else to do one or two tasks.

This could be getting a cleaner so you can crack on with your admin instead of scrubbing floors, or outsourcing your admin to a VA so you can get more client hours in. Do the maths before you automatically dismiss the idea as too expensive. Just because you do something yourself, doesn’t mean it’s free. Time is money!

Find support and solidarity

Ok, so this is possibly a bit biased but honestly, the support you can find at something like Freelance Mum will be invaluable as you try and balance parenthood and business. Just knowing that you’re not alone will lift a huge weight from your shoulders and you’ll find a fresh sense of motivation and passion as you listen to other mums sharing the ups and downs of their journey. You’ll also get plenty of tips, referrals and even actual work from the other members, which will all help to boost your wellbeing as well as your business.

Do what works for you

When the twins were tiny, my mum was always berating me for not napping when they did. But for me, the process of getting a bit of work done was actually more of a draw for me. It gave me a sense of control over my life that was otherwise sorely lacking and was, I honestly believe, one of the things that kept me sane during those first few difficult months. It also boosted my self esteem no end.

That said, if napping is what will make you feel good – or cleaning, or binge-watching Netflix – then do it! Especially in the early stages, keeping sane should be your primary goal, for yourself, your children and your business (in that order).

Do you have any tips you’d add? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on social – we’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And why not come along to one of our Bristol meetings?

With huge thanks to Super Funky Penguin for the photo.