Hello 2018

I am often not very good at looking back and noticing what I have achieved. I get frustrated at not having done as much as I would have liked, or because I haven't moved forward as fast as I would have liked, but I have been reflecting back over the past year of my business and I am actually really proud of myself and what I have achieved. It isn't anything big or grand - but I actually did get a lot done whilst juggling looking after a small human, moving city, moving house twice and also having surgery. It wasn't the easiest year at all - but I did keep moving forward, and growing my business and as a result I am really excited about what 2018 has in store. 

Every year I try and share some of my business goals on the blog. You can see last year's here. I am not going to dwell on them to be honest - a few I achieved, and a few became less important and were not priorities. I like to set these goals but I always accept that things change during the year, and sometimes other things become more important to focus on. 

Anyway here are this year's goals: 

Get to 5k followers on Instagram:
I have absolutely loved Instagram this year. Algorithm issues aside, I have managed to improve and slowly grow my account. I have started to see real conversion from posting to sales, and enquiries - not huge amounts, but enough for me to fully realise the benefit of Instagram and investing in it as a place to share my work and post about my business. I have also done a couple of sponsored posts, which has been fun and challenging. I actually love working to a brief and spending more time pushing myself and being creative. I have really noticed that the more time I think through and invest in putting my images together the better they do. One of my sponsored posts ended up with the most likes of the year which I thought was interesting. I need to work out a way to carve out more time to really think through my account and what I share, and make sure that each of my images is really good quality. 

Batch creating content:
This has been recommended to me by various people and it is something that I really want to get into this year. It's something I have struggled with to be honest but I think it will really help me in terms of producing content consistently for my business. I want to be realistic about how much content that I can produce, but in an ideal word I would love to be posting on Instagram every day, a blog post once a week and a newsletter once a month. I often find that I have good intentions but then life gets in the way (sick child, busy period of client work, lack of motivation etc) and I lose momentum and then find it hard to get back to it again. I am hoping if I start batch creating content, then I will have some of the content scheduled in advance, so if one week I can't spend time on blog posts, it doesn't mean there won't be one the next week. 

New clients:
At the end of 2017 I started talking more on Instagram about my logo and branding work for clients (previously I had only really ever talked about my shop) - and I started getting enquiries from my dream sort of clients (small independent businesses or bloggers) which was so exciting. I am starting 2018 working on some lovely projects, and I am hoping that these will lead to finding more of my ideal clients out there. So my goal really is to find more clients to work with, and also to be creative in how I find and approach potential clients. 

New website:
In the next few months I am hoping to update my logo and my website. I have new product photographs for my shop and I feel like I want to refine my style and so it feels like it's time for a refresh of everything. I also want my website to have more information about my logo and branding work and some testimonials of people that I have worked with. 

Writing these goals out here has got me really excited about the year ahead. I am a bit of a dreamer and an ideas person, so I often have more ideas than I know what to do with so it can be a bit of a challenge to come up with realistic and achievable goals, but I am hoping these will be, and that I can take some big leaps forward with my business in 2018. Through it all though I am going to try and follow the advice of the print above and 'keep it simple'. I want to be clear about my goal and purpose for my business and also make sure that spending time with my son and my family is a priority. I am going to focus on saying no and not yet to more things this year so that things are simple but focused. 

Have you written out goals for your business this year? I would love to read them! 

Tips for freelancing mums: Be Flexible

So I feel like a totally fraud with the title of this post - because I am in no position to give tips on being flexible as it is something that I have really struggled with since becoming a mum. But I have identified that it is pretty important when there are kiddos around and for staying sane as a parent - so I thought I would share my experience and what I have learnt so far. 


Be Prepared

When you are working freelance you are usually having to juggle a whole lot of different balls in the air at any one time. There is invoicing, liaising with clients, responding to emails, sending out quotes, social media, updating your website, blogging (all of these things can be individual jobs in themselves in a bigger company but as a one woman band you have to do them all!) - so finding time to do them all involves being prepared, so that you can utilise pockets of time effectively. This might involve preparing instagram photos and captions in advance so that on the day you can post quickly and then get back to child wrangling. Or maybe it's a case of taking a day and batch writing a load of blog posts so that you have some back-ups for the weeks when you just don't have time/your child is sick etc. I haven't managed this yet but am working on it and dreaming of the day when I am months ahead with my blog posts!

I also think a bit of preparation can help with being flexible. For example, there are lots of apps that can help you get work done on your phone so that you can make the most of pockets of time that you might not know that you will have during the day (i.e. an unexpected nap).


Get Creative

So how can you maximise time you can work by being flexible? With some creativity and help from others you can definitely find pockets of time throughout the day to get bits of work done.  My husband gets Reuben up and gives him breakfast in the morning before he goes to work - and as well as get ready I use that time to post on instagram and respond to comments.

If you are out and about and your baby falls asleep in the buggy - dive into a coffee shop and do a bit of work. It could be responding to emails, writing a blog post, sketching out ideas for some photographs, engaging with people on social media. Obviously, you can’t lug all the tools you need for work around with you everywhere - but there is a lot you can get done with just a smart phone in your pocket and some coffee shop wifi. 

Another thing to consider is how you can do some work by including your child in the process. This won’t work for everything, but, for example, I am hoping that one day when Reuben is a bit older he might enjoy painting, so that we can get the paints out and I can be working on my lettering and he can work on whatever he fancies, it can be something fun and productive we can do together. Also, photography for blog posts could be another way of including kids. I have started to try and think how I can use him in shots or go places to photograph that he finds fun. These are just a few ideas, and as I mentioned they won’t always work or for some people just won’t be appropriate due to the type of work you do. Also, I want to clarify that I think it is really important to spend quality time with your children, and not be constantly distracted by work and your phone - but every now and then with a bit of creativity and flexibility you can make use of pockets of time in your day.

I think one of the biggest lessons to be learnt to be honest is how to work in short bursts. It can be hard, because often it takes a while to get into a particular task or project and somethings can’t be done in a quick 20 minute nap. But eventually you will start to get the hang of tasks that you can fit in in short bursts and then the jobs that take longer and might be saved for an evening or weekend when you might have some help. 

Most of this blog post is written from the perspective of not having childcare and fitting in freelance work around looking after a child full time. Obviously if your child goes to nursery or is looked after by grandparents or a child minder then you might have more scope for longer stretches of time. Even so the suggestions above can still be useful for maximising pockets of time at other points in your week. 


Give yourself a break

One thing that it is important to remember that even with all the flexibility and forward planning in the world some days (umm maybe most of them) just won't go to plan. Naps don't happen, bed times go awry, evenings full of cuddles and calpol and that can be really tough when you know there is a long to-do list of work with your name on them. But I think part of being flexible and being a freelance mum is accepting that some times some of the balls will have to be dropped when your child needs you, and actually people are very forgiving and understanding.

This week is a case in point for this. I have committed to posting blog posts on a Wednesday morning, and this post was supposed to go out yesterday. But with everything going on I didn't have time to edit the post and get it to a point I was happy with, so it will be posted on a Thursday instead. I was annoyed with myself and gave myself a hard time for a few minutes, and then decided to give myself a break. Probably no one will notice, and if they do, I am pretty sure they won't mind. Yes it's good to be consistent, but it's also ok to just be honest when things don't go to plan. Something I am really learning running an online business, is that people like to hear the story behind the brand. They like to hear about you hustling, learning and not always getting things right. It makes you more relatable, and it often makes people even more committed to your brand. Some of the small businesses that I love the most, are the ones that are very open about the ups and downs and the behind the scenes. Let's be honest, we are all a bit nosey, and we like to know how other people do things. Don't be afraid to share that. 

One thing I am going to try to do going forward, is to plan ahead as much as possible for the weeks when things don't go to plan. I am going to allow extra time for jobs, make sure my deadlines are longer and generous. I am going to try and not take on jobs with very short and urgent deadlines unless I know that you definitely have help with childcare if something comes up. 

I have realised that part of the hard work of freelancing and parenting is that it is a constant balancing act, that sometimes I will get right and that will make me feel on top of the world, and sometimes will be a total disaster with balls being dropped all over the place. That is part of the journey and the process and learning how to make it all work. 

Do you think you can learn to be better at being flexible? What are your top tips for being flexible in life? 

Tips for freelancing mums: Keeping expectations low

Over the last few months and even the last year, working out how to continue my graphic design work whilst being a mum has been a tricky challenge and quite a learning curve. I know there are lots of other mums out there who are running a business whilst raising kids and trying to get the balance right and are always doing the juggle. Frankly I am in awe of them all! I want to share a bit of my experience so far in case it's helpful to others in the same boat and so I am starting a little blog series called 'Tips for freelancing mums'. There will be five posts which I will publish once a month and I will share some of what I have learnt so far (pretty sure there is still so much to learn!).

So let's dive into the first post. As you can see from the title it is about keeping expectations low, and although that sounds negative I don’t think it is - it's one of the most helpful lessons I have learnt, and am still having to learn since becoming a mother. 

Pre having a baby I was in control of my days and how things panned out. Yes, someone or something might throw the odd curve ball into the mix which meant things didn’t go to plan, but usually I could plan out my days and they were fairly predictable. I knew how much time I had to get things done and I could make plans accordingly. When you have a baby it is a whole different story. When you wake up in the morning you have no idea how your day is going to pan out. Yes you can make plans to do things - but that doesn’t mean your little human is going to be on board with those plans. He/she might have other ideas. Also, just when you think you have got the hang of a routine he/she seems to have fallen into (this usually lasts for about 2 weeks) they have a growth spurt or something happens and it all changes again!

I guess napping is a big area that has been a struggle for me, since realistically that is the time when I get to work on my business. When he was younger and not moving around, if he was chilled and happy I could maybe get some stuff done while he was awake, but now that he is moving and so engaged with the world around him that is impossible. So yeah, nap times are a big deal to me. 

Reuben hasn’t always been a good napper, but I guess things change as they get older. When he was younger (maybe 4-7 months) he would only do half an hour naps which I found so frustrating, because it wasn’t really long enough to get your teeth into anything, by the time you have rushed round the house tidying things up, made yourself a drink, sat on the sofa for a few minutes to relax - that was it, the nap was over! So annoying. Every now and then he would do a longer hour nap or maybe even longer and that would be amazing, but could sometimes also be frustrating because I assumed it was going to be 30 minutes and so hadn’t necessarily planned to use my time very well or effectively. As he got older though he did start to do more regular, longer naps. For a couple of weeks (it was a dream!) he was doing two naps of an hour and a half each, everyday and I was able to get a lot done. Recently he has been in the process of dropping down to one nap and seems to be starting to do one longer nap in the middle of the day. 

What I have started to do is to break up my work into very small tasks. Things that can be done in 15-20 minute amounts of time. It is a different way of working for sure, but it means that if he wakes up after half an hour, hopefully I have crossed off one thing from my list and although it's frustrating it feels like I am moving forward. If he wakes up after 2 hours, well then I have enough time to get 4 things done on my list with a bit of time for tidying, snacking and instagram scrolling too. 

I have realised for me that the battle is a mental one - and this is why I called this post 'keeping expectations low'. On the days when I had a long list of things to get done, and I only managed to get one done - I would feel disheartened, frustrated, annoyed that I didn't have more time to spend on my business - instead of enjoying the precious time I was having with my baby. On the days that I had in my head just one small thing to get done (but a back up of other things to do if I found that I did have time) then I would feel more content. I moved forward with my business, I took a small step in the right direction - yes it wasn't moving forward at the speed I hoped but at least it was in the right direction. And sometimes it's just a case of letting go and living in the moment. I really wanted to make sure I enjoyed the time I had with Reuben as I knew it would go quickly and that I would never have this time with him again. I definitely didn't get this right all the time, but there were plenty of days with him asleep on me on the sofa where I did nothing but lie there and soak it all in. 

One last thing to say, please don't put too much pressure on yourself especially in the early days. In the early days I definitely aimed for a no pressure approached and just did bits of work on my shop here and there because I enjoyed it, and found it nice to have something non-baby related to think about. It was only when Reuben got to about 9 or 10 months that I started thinking about taking on clients again. 

I hope you have found this helpful. Everyone's experiences and journeys are different and I would love to know how you have found juggling motherhood and freelance, and if you have any questions or any topics that you would like me to cover in future posts just let me know!