Freelancing and the ‘sandwich years’.

Running a business around motherhood can be challenging enough, but what happens when you find yourself supporting a parent as well? As a freelancer, the flexibility can often be helpful to ‘pick up the pieces’, but what happens when the lines become blurred?

How can you look after yourself, without ‘shutting’ shop and still support others.

Lesley Waldron, shares how she managed her freelance life, as she supported her mother’s diagnosis of dementia.

“Being open about it and about the challenges of ageing, it takes the stigma away and it opens us to to support. I think being able to deal with dementia and other aspects of ageing, sometimes it’s like we should have be able to prevent it. It’s a disease, we don’t really understand the cause properly, nor how to treat it. So everyone is on an exploratory journey and doing it together makes it a lot better. And running our own business, supporting a family as well, the support network is really essential”.

To read the transcript in full, click here.

How Freelance Mum Supports Women in Business in Bristol

How Freelance Mum Supports Women in Business in Bristol

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly 10 years ago that Freelance Mum was first launched in Bristol. It feels part of the fabric of life now. Yet at the time, it felt revolutionary. One of those simple, yet winning ideas – to network and bring your children. Born of my own need, being a freelance voiceover artist, juggling motherhood around business.

Tired, time poor and feeling alone, I felt sure I wasn’t the only woman in Bristol, with the same set of needs. I couldn’t find a community to support me and if it didn’t exist then I’d just have to invent it.

So I launched Freelance Mum. In fact, I launched ‘Freelance Bristol Mum’, only to rebrand a few months down the line (first expensive mistake). Initially as a podcast, recording stories with fellow mums in business. I took to the streets of Bristol, with a microphone in one hand and a pushchair in the other – I was a woman on a mission to connect fellow mums in business.

And I did it. From those grass root connections, to building the community that we know and love today.

There was the pivot, as a result of Covid, which means we now how hubs across the UK. Each hub is run by ‘Freelance Mum Fairies’, so members can meet once a month and netwalk. It really is the ultimate network, in the truest sense of the word.

 

So what does Freelance Mum mean and how can it help you and your amazing business?

Freelance Mum is far more than a ‘typical networking event’. It’s fresh thinking, high quality networking events, with women in business. The fact they are also mothers, means you don’t need to ‘explain yourself’. You’re on the same page.

We meet in hubs around the city, once a month, for a netwalk. Then connect every Wednesday, on the weekly online Coffee Morning, with members across the hubs.

The in -person and online mix, is a great combination and means you can dip into whichever event works best for you.

Plus, if you want to visit a Freelance Mum hub in another part of the country, you can! All the netwalks follow the same template, so you know what to expect. The lovely thing is, they all have their own feel about them. It’s great to dip in and out of others and keep building connections.

Oh yes, and you can bring your children. Children are 100% welcome. The netwalks are carefully designed, so children can be part of the meetings. Likewise, if your children are school age, you can still come. There are hundreds of children in Bristol, who have all grown up, with Freelance Mum.

 

Supportive Community

At Freelance Mum, there’s no need to apologise if you’ve been up in the night/have a tired face/a sick child and deadline to meet – we get it! We’ve all been there and have got your back. There’s nothing like the support and camaraderie of a whole team of women, who are all supporting you every step of the way.

The netwalks give you the blast of fresh air that you need, so you leave with that ‘I can do anything’ feeling!

The weekly online Coffee Morning, is just 45 minutes long, so it doesn’t take too much time out of your day. And with features like ‘Business Show & Tell’ – it’s a great way to learn about other businesses and build connections with FM members.

It’s a great way to get connection and chance to network with the wider FM community.

Think of Freelance Mum like a community, that you can ‘plug yourself into’ and leave feeling recharged.

 

Business Opportunities

At Freelance Mum, we might be the most supportive bunch of women you’ll ever meet, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get work done! Not only do you get the ‘warm & fuzzies’ at the end of every meeting, but we get results too.

We’re all about supporting you and your amazing business. We encourage people to keep building relations, to get to know each, so we can really support each other.

And it’s proven. Freelance Mum members have enjoyed success, through collaborations, referring work, sharing advice and helping each other out. That’s just what we do. Last year a whole team of Freelance Mums were finalist in the IPSE National Freelancer Awards, for best collaborative project. It couldn’t be any more ‘Freelance Mum’! We support, we inspire and we get the work done to a blooming high standard!

 

Personal Development

And it’s not just about business growth, it’s about personal growth too We love finding out about each other and honing new skills. With member-led sessions like ‘Lunch & Learn’ there are opportunities for FMs to share presentations, so you can get a deeper dive into other business and pick up some amazing tips along the way.

These sessions are carefully designed, so you can come and join over lunch – either switch the camera off and tuck in. Or if you prefer to keep your camera on and stay accountable – do it that way. We don’t judge. It’s not in our nature. It’s all about supporting you and your amazing business.

 

Work-Life Balance

There’s a lot to be said about ‘work-life balance’ – it’s an ever changing thing! And we get that at Freelance Mum. Really we do.

We understand that the nap time/school run can dictate the working day, but actually that’s part when we choose to run our own businesses, so we can be there. There’s lots of conversations in our online community, The Mothership, about flexible working and how we can make it work.

We encourage each other to take time in the micro-moments, whatever that looks like. We’re realistic and we’re kind to each other too.

 

Community Engagement

We might have hubs across the country, but we love getting to know and support the communities with the city and encourage community engagement. It’s about being part of the ‘bigger picture’ and how we fit into it.

We have great relationships with the team at YTKO, who provide business support to SMEs and freelancers. We enjoy building partnerships, with big companies in Bristol – like the Financially Fearless team at Hargreaves Lansdown, who share our values and goals. Not to mention we’re finalists in The Bristol Life Awards, for Best People Services – it’s great to have recognition, for what we do, alongside some big names in Bristol.

But it’s not all about awards. It’s about connection and plugging into communities. A lot of thought goes into considering venues to meet to netwalk and then stop for a coffee. We have three hubs in Bristol and they all have such beauty. From the open space in Ashton Court. To the city landscape in the Central Bristol hub and ambience in St George’s Bristol, Music Cafe. Then the friendly, community, vibe in The Ardagh Centre in North Bristol. We love meeting in all of these spaces – each them brings its own unique vibe.

 

Future Plans

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, Freelance Mum turns 10 this year – the same age as my youngest daughter. I’m not sure that I had a ’10 year plan’ when I launched that first netwalk! What I do know, children and business are ‘ages & stages’ – it all constantly evolves. You think you’ll have more time, as they get older, but it just becomes a different set of needs. You still need the strength of a community to support you.

And that’s what makes Freelance Mum unique. We’re there to support you, every step of the way, where ever you are in business. From ‘baby steps’ to firmly established, we love watching ideas evolve, businesses launch and see successes. Supporting women in business is just what we do.

We plan to keep doing that. To keep growing and building on existing, firm foundations. The growth has been organic, but we have some brilliant plans. We’ve secured funding from Creative Growth South West and BrisBES, which allows us to keep building on our success and keep championing amazing women.

 

Building a community, around the kitchen table

This is the third episode of the Freelance Mum podcast, in our mini series and run up to International Women’s day. Faye Dicker continues to explore the themes of Inspire & Inclusion, with this weeks guest, Katie Evans from Good Evans Kitchen.

Together they continued to discuss this years themes of Inspire and Inclusion, looking at motherhood and business – which are both deeply intertwined for Katie.

 

For a long time, and it was hard to feel empowered and as a leader, when you’re feeling broken because you’ve had no sleep.

I think community for me is always the answer. If you can build community around you, that empowers you. If you can build trust within the community, that empowers you. And if you can build confidence within your community and really lean on that, then that builds presence that you can lean into when you don’t have it.

And I think for me, I learned that you can’t do this on your own. And it takes a village to raise a child, and it absolutely does. Katie Evans, Good Evans Kitchen

 

 

To read the transcript in full, click here.

Breaking down barriers for mothers in business

This is the third episode of the Freelance Mum podcast, in our mini series and run up to International Women’s day. Faye Dicker continues to explore the themes of Inspire & Inclusion, with this weeks guest, Nadine Campbell from ACE Entrepreneurs.

As fearless entrepreneur and community leader, Nadine has spearheaded the way for many – with new ideas often born in adversity. Nadine speaks openly about journey and what it means to support others, as well as breaking down barriers, when it comes to motherhood and business.

There are some really small changes we can make in terms of this apologetic way of living in order to just accommodate this, accommodate mothers.

We are holding up and bringing up the people of tomorrow. So really what we’re doing is prioritizing, ensuring that they’re getting what they need and then putting our next hat on when we get into work and giving our workplace or our business what they need. And as we know, when we, we clock off at 5.30pm/6pm.

That mum hat goes back on. Um, so really we shouldn’t apologise because we’re doing amazing. We just need to give ourselves some grace.

 

To read the full transcript click here.

From stand up comedy, to running a business around children – why motherhood is a feminist matter

This episode of the Freelance Mum podcast, is the second in a mini-series countdown to International Women’s Day.

The themes for IWD this year are #InspireInclusion. So on the FM podcast, we’re looking at ways we can both inspire and create a more inclusive space for women.

Faye Dicker, is joined by Jo Millett, from Lean Content. Jo shares her journey, from teaching to stand up comedy, to running her business and how motherhood makes feminism hit home.

“I think, a bit of a lag around motherhood, and I felt, for me, when I went into motherhood, being hit full force in the face by the patriarchy, and I skipped through my twenties as a feminist, and when I became a mum, I was like, oh, this is where it kicks in.

You know, my husband goes back to work after three weeks and gets a promotion and a slap on the back. Meanwhile, I’m doing breastfeeds through the night. I’ve got no energy and I’m expected not to work for a year. And when I go back to work, I’m going to get paid less. I’m going to get less respect.”

To read the full transcript, click here.

A more inclusive world for women with ADHD

This episode of the Freelance Mum podcast, is the first in a mini-series countdown to International Women’s Day.

The themes for IWD this year are #InspireInclusion. So on the FM podcast, we’re looking at ways we can both inspire and create a more inclusive space for women.

Faye Dicker, is joined by Louise Tayler, from Understanding ADHD. Lou shares her own journey and diagnoses later in life. And how she is on a mission to support others, navigate their world with ADHD.

 

If it is something that’s that keeps niggling you, and you keep coming back to it, do look into it, do take it seriously. Because I know there is an issue, we have an issue with getting diagnosed, and we have an issue with doctors and all of that kind of stuff. But there is actually a huge amount you can do. While you’re waiting for a diagnosis, even if that’s what you want to do, you can learn a lot about the condition, you can learn a lot about supporting yourself, and you don’t need a diagnosis for that.

 

 

To read the full transcript, click here.

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

Ways to grow your business that don’t cost the earth

In this episode of the Freelance Mum podcast, Faye Dicker looks at low cost ways that you can grow a business, that don’t break the bank. There’s practical advice and ideas, that you can take away and instantly apply. Let’s face it, growing a business can be hard, so here’s a range of low cost ideas that don’t cost the earth.

It can be a lonely old time when it comes to being a freelancer and being self employed. So this is why this is another great opportunity to grow your business in a way that doesn’t cost the earth.

Have a look at how you could collaborate or work with others. Um, is there something that the two of you, are your businesses aligned in some way? Is there like a natural synergy between you? Could you come up with a really lovely promotion? I mean, it happens All the time, in fact, a freelance when we readily see people working together.

But an example that comes to mind was Totsup reward bus collaborating with Little Dreams Sleep Consulting. And it just was such a great partnership and a really, you know, a really obvious one helping the commons to get to sleep and then. with tots like reward bus, rewarding them with passengers. So you can just see what great collaborations there are.

 

To read the full transcript, click here.

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.