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.

Nail your small business marketing with our experts’ top tips

The Freelance Mum family is full of amazingly talented ladies and this month we’ve asked some of our marketing experts to share their top tips for building your business. Enjoy!

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.

MARKETING

Karen Norman, Sensible Marketing

1) The answer is in the data. We all have questions about how we should move our businesses forward. The answers are in the data and advances in digital marketing mean that it is more accessible than ever. Use it, analyse it, find the answers and they will take you in the right direction.

 

2) The fundamentals of marketing are still the same. The digital world moves fast and throws up new opportunities but the fundamentals of marketing strategy and planning haven’t changed for decades, only the technology that we use.

 

3) Keep your website updated. Sounds simple? But many businesses build their site then leave it for months, sometimes years. It is important to keep it up-to-date, both technically so it is secure and performing well, and by adding new content and functionality that helps you to grow your business.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

Kirsty Northover, Kirsty Northover Photography

1) If your clients work with you because they know, like and trust YOU – i.e. you are your brand – step out of the shadows. Don’t hide behind a logo. Use yourself as the face of your brand.

 

2) Brand recognition in a crowded marketplace is hard. Have one killer headshot that epitomises you, your brand and will resonate with your target clients. Use it for everything! Website, social media profiles, byline for publications, media pack, business cards (so helpful for people to remember you from networking events), flyers… you get the drift!

 

3) Have a selection of images that tell your brand story. You can use them alone to highlight one aspect or combine groups of them to tell the story. They should be different enough to be strong as a stand alone but also cohesive so that they look good together. This aids brand identity, recognition and will help you stand out online and cut through the competition.

 

COPYWRITING

Rin Hamburgh, Rin Hamburgh & Co

 

1) If you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field you need to be sharing three types of content: original ‘how to’ posts, industry news and trends, and opinion and commentary. The best place to host the first of these is on a blog, where it will also boost your website’s SEO and both your organic and directed traffic.

 

2) Website copy need to stimulate both an emotional and a logical response. That’s why you need a combination of snappy, engaging headers, subheads, pull quotes etc as well as factual and valuable body copy.

 

3) Brand voice needs to take into account both who you are as a brand (your core offering, values and brand personality) and who you audience is (and therefore what they will most engage with). Once you understand the relationship between the two you can start building your messaging and getting specific about things like vocabulary, levels of formality and so on.

 

DESIGN

Emily Jones, Hullo Creative

In all design, less is more. Especially when it comes to things like flyers, which need to capture people’s attention quickly and not go on too much. Keep the number of words and images to a minimum and then direct people elsewhere for more information.

 

Don’t forget to update the design of your marketing materials as your brand evolves. Sometimes it’s ok to just update the dates of a workshop or swap out your old photos for new ones, but there will be times when you actually need a whole new look or things will start feeling a bit dated.

 

Give people enough blank space to digest what you’re saying. If you ram a design with content you risk overwhelming them, which means they’ll lose interest. White space might feel like a waste but it’s an essential element of good design.

Podcast: Zoe Whitman, But the Books

….”I got chatting to the guy behind the counter of a coffee shop, he told me he wanted to be a violin teacher, but he was afraid to get started with his business, because he didn’t want to do a tax return. It made me feel really sad that something as simple as that – well, as simple as that to me, was enough for him not to get started. It just got me thinking, there’s an idea here.”

Zoe Whitman, But the Books

When you’ve got your dream start up project, or you love running your business and you know how to do everything… but the books. Well, we have just the answer for that!

Faye Dicker, aka Freelance Mum, caught up with Zoe Whitman, the brains behind But the Books and some of her clients – to find out how bookkeeping can be made easy.

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Freelance Mum Meets Dr Chris

Dr Chris and Dr X and are firm favourites in our household, so when I had the chance to speak to Dr Chris when he visited Windmill Hill earlier this year, I jumped at it! He was a man on a mission, to clearly explain, some healthy alternatives, before opting for medicine ­ especially when it comes to our children.

“For most people, most of the sources of ill health in our lives are better dealt with through other means and means that will leave you feeling well, joyful, empowered, happy ­and medicine can¹t do that in a way that a good diet, decent exercise, some good friends ­ all those things, will make you feel much better”

Dr Chris

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Podcast: The Importance Of Putting Your Prices Up

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It’s been four years since Freelance Mum launched. The initial pilot session was free, then we started charging a nominal fee of £5. Over the years there has been a slight increase but nothing that really reflected the level of input that actually goes into running an event.

The Business Surgery - How to capture the right image for your business

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Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker - takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to our in-house expert. In this month's Business Surgery, we speak to photography expert, Nicola Proctor, taking your questions on 'How to capture the right image for your business’.

The Business Surgery – How to set up an eccommerce business

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Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker, takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to this month guest, Julie Cox. As the woman behind the successful online business, Luke Drew This, Julie gives her insights when it comes to setting up an ecommerce business.

Podcast: Business Choir

The landscape of networking is changing – in a fun and focused way! This year a Business Choir launched attracting business owners across the South West to meet, sing and do business once a week. I caught up with the brains behind the choir, vocal coach, Amy Box. She explained the benefits of singing and networking and exactly how it works.

“For the business owner, what happens when we sing, is we take in extra oxygen, that’s fuelling your brain, so it makes you more productive, it makes you more focused, it makes you more awake – we all need that sometimes as entrepreneurs. It gives you more confidence, which is really important as a business owner.”

Amy Box, Business Choir

More podcasts you might like

Podcast: The Importance Of Putting Your Prices Up

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It’s been four years since Freelance Mum launched. The initial pilot session was free, then we started charging a nominal fee of £5. Over the years there has been a slight increase but nothing that really reflected the level of input that actually goes into running an event.

The Business Surgery - How to capture the right image for your business

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Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker - takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to our in-house expert. In this month's Business Surgery, we speak to photography expert, Nicola Proctor, taking your questions on 'How to capture the right image for your business’.

The Business Surgery – How to set up an eccommerce business

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Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker, takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to this month guest, Julie Cox. As the woman behind the successful online business, Luke Drew This, Julie gives her insights when it comes to setting up an ecommerce business.

Podcast: The Importance Of Putting Your Prices Up

“It’s been four years since Freelance Mum launched. The initial pilot session was free, then we started charging a nominal fee of £5. Over the years there has been a slight increase but nothing that really reflected the level of input that actually goes into running an event. And believe me, quite literally hours go into every one – far more than you could probably imagine.”

Faye Dicker, Founder, Freelance Mum

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It’s been four years since Freelance Mum launched. The initial pilot session was free, then we started charging a nominal fee of £5. Over the years there has been a slight increase but nothing that really reflected the level of input that actually goes into running an event.

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Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker - takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to our in-house expert. In this month's Business Surgery, we speak to photography expert, Nicola Proctor, taking your questions on 'How to capture the right image for your business’.

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“Have a decluttered background, things that don’t distract, always find good light… having a consistent look and planning. Planning ahead is a major thing – you definitely need to plan.”

Nicola Proctor, Nicola Jane Photography

Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker – takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to our in-house expert. In this month’s Business Surgery, we speak to photography expert, Nicola Proctor, taking your questions on ‘How to capture the right image for your business’.

 

Exhibitions – how to make your stall stand out

Make your business stand out from the crowd

A friend of mine recently posted a shout out on social media, asking whether anyone had any experience of having a stand at an exhibition and whether it was worth it. It was really interesting to see the responses. For some, it just wasn’t worth the time, money and effort. But others had stories of how it had gained them some great new business as well as exposure.

The truth is that there are many different factors that might influence your decision as to whether or not having a stall is worthwhile. How much will it cost? Are your target clients or customers going to be there? Do you have the time or capacity to man the stall for a whole day, bearing in mind that it’s a day away from your desk and your client work?

Personally I’m still wavering on some of the big events where I’d need to spend several hundred pounds on the space alone. But when I found out about the Freelance Mum National Freelancers Day event on 28 June – where stalls are just £25, or £20 for FM members – I jumped at the chance. Not only am I certain it will be loads of fun (how can in not be with Faye in charge?!) but at that price it’s the ideal opportunity to practice ‘stall craft’ and test out ideas that I may go on to use at future events.

Researching this blog post has been a fascinating experience. Because another thing I’ve realised is that the value you get out of exhibiting is as much about how much effort you put in as anything else. So here are some ways you can maximise your experience should decide to come along to Freelance Mum’s National Freelancers Day extravaganza or any other event.

Be strategic

What do you want to get out of the event? Do you want sign ups to your newsletter? Make sure you have a sign up sheet or a laptop where people can fill out their details. Are you hoping to make a splash on social media? Consider investing in an Instaframe (you’ve all seen the brilliant FM one!) and get everyone who visits your stall to use it and tag you in the post. By knowing in advance what you want to achieve from the day, you’ll also be better able to track how successful you’ve been rather than just guessing from how it ‘felt’.

Be visible

In a room full of businesses all hoping to gain people’s attention it’s important that your brand is instantly recognisable. Whether you go for a simple roller banner or invest a decent sized budget in kitting out your stand with the whole works, it’s definitely something you need to think carefully about. If at all possible, do use a graphic designer who can help you get the professional finish – we’ve got lots of lovely people in the Freelance Mum gang who can help!

Be inventive

The more outside the box your thinking, the more memorable you will be. You’ll also attract more people to your stand in the first place. I went to an event where local tech company Black Star had hired an ice cream machine and were giving away pitch black ice cream! And Faye was telling me about an accountancy firm who hired a beautician to give people mini manicures while they were chatting about their business finances. It’s worth noting that both of these companies are service based, proving you don’t need to be selling beautiful products to make getting a stall worth it!

Be memorable

Attracting people to your stand isn’t the end of the story. You want them to remember you when they walk away too. This might be because you had a really engaging video or animation playing, or everyone manning the stall was dressed head to toe in gold (well, you would remember that wouldn’t you?!). Also be sure that you have printed marketing material they can take away, whether that’s a brochure, flyer or even just a business card (you’ll need more than you think!) – something that will jog their memory when they’re clearing out their bag later and hopefully prompt them to get in touch.

Be proactive

You don’t have to wait for people to contact you after an event. If you’ve planned properly and made sure to collect contact details, you can get in touch with them. The key is to ensure you have their permission so you meet GDPR requirements (Cat Ainsworth from The Dot Project did a fab talk on this at FM this month, so she’s the person to ask for more details). Following up to say thank you for visiting the stall or perhaps offering a special discount is a great way to put yourself back in their mind and hopefully develop a relationship that will lead them to buy from or work with you in the future.

If your head is buzzing with ideas now (mine certainly is!) then why not put them into practice at the Freelance Mum National Freelancers Day event on Thursday 28 June from 10am to 4pm. You never know, you might just get the exhibiting bug!

Download the booking form, to book your stall.Stall Application Freelancers Day

This fab post has been written by Rin Hamburgh.

The Business Surgery – How to set up an eccommerce business

“I think you have to grow slowly and organically, the most important to think about, when you’re selling your product on line, is to think, who your customer is. How would they find you? If you were them, where would you go?”

Julie Cox, Founder, Luke Drew This

Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker, takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to this month guest, Julie Cox. As the woman behind the successful online business, Luke Drew This, Julie gives her insights when it comes to setting up an ecommerce business.

More podcasts you might like

Podcast: The Importance Of Putting Your Prices Up

/
It’s been four years since Freelance Mum launched. The initial pilot session was free, then we started charging a nominal fee of £5. Over the years there has been a slight increase but nothing that really reflected the level of input that actually goes into running an event.

The Business Surgery - How to capture the right image for your business

/
Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker - takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to our in-house expert. In this month's Business Surgery, we speak to photography expert, Nicola Proctor, taking your questions on 'How to capture the right image for your business’.

The Business Surgery – How to set up an eccommerce business

/
Freelance Mum, Faye Dicker, takes questions from The Mothership and puts them to this month guest, Julie Cox. As the woman behind the successful online business, Luke Drew This, Julie gives her insights when it comes to setting up an ecommerce business.