Keeping the work momentum going

How did we get to December? As my absence from this blog shows, I have been lucky to be working in October and November with some great PR projects. These wrapped up last Friday and now I’m back in the freelancers world of wondering where my next job will come from.

Laura White portrait

I’m not going to lie, this is the bit I find the most difficult and still after 10 years of working for myself, it hasn’t got any easier. However, I have set in place systems to help me get back on my feet and not worrying that I’ll never be employed again. I’ll need to add that with this horror of a year, freelance work has been thin on the ground and I have had a project in December cancelled due to the company reining in extra costs. (which I completely understand but I’m gutted because it looked like great fun!)

Here’s what I do initially:

Do my Accounts – this always makes me feel more on top of my finances and I can plan my spending for the next few months.

Contact clients that have mentioned they may have work for me and remind them that I’m keen to help when I can.

Tidy up my LinkedIn profile and add completed projects to my profile. Never under-estimate the power of LinkedIn

Start looking for work locally – is there something extra I can do to keep me busy and motivated such as consulting for a local business? I look through the local magazines that come through the letterbox each month and see who is advertising. Normally this means there might be a budget for marketing.

Chat to associates – even if this is through email or Twitter. By keeping myself visible, this has helped me secure work in the past.

Refresh my skills – I’ve set myself the target of updating my Microsoft Word skills this month. There are some great free courses offered by Microsoft and LinkedIn that I’ll be using.

I will also reacquaint myself with friends and neighbours (as much as Tier 3 will let me) by going on dog walks and not chaining myself to the laptop. Stepping away from the computer can actually help me work out my next pitch.

Have I missed anything? Do share with me on comments or pop me a DM – I’m on Instagram @Laura_the_9_to3.

Getting back into the swing of work…

Hello! Just thought I would pop on and finally write a quick post. These last few months have been a little strange and I’m afraid that this blog is the first thing that I stop paying attention to when work/life gets full on. I have really missed writing on here so I’ll endeavour to get back to it.

How are you? I’m fine. There have been many ups and downs along the way but basically after March my work really just disappeared which did enable me to homeschool my daughter but not to earn any money. Since she returned back to school, I’m delighted that things are picking up. It takes about a month for work to come in and although I’ve had a frustrating September, I’m really looking forward to October with exciting projects ahead.

What I’ve been doing to reconnect with clients:

  1. I’ve sent out brief emails to let clients know that I am back into my work routine.
  2. Updated LinkedIn and commented on other people’s posts.
  3. Invited new clients for a socially distant coffee
  4. Updated myself on new releases and sent suggestions to clients
  5. Followed up with calls – where necessary.

While I have been waiting for projects to start, I’ve kept myself busy with bits and pieces around the house including:

  1. A full declutter of toys and clothes (Yes, I watched Get Organised on Netflix)
  2. Painting the Sitting Room (added a colour wall – F&B’s Card Room Green)
  3. Adding ‘warm touches’ to Amy’s study room (I loved this cosy throw from Matalan)
  4. Getting the garden ready for winter (I’ve tried a ‘bulb lasagne‘ from Sarah Raven)
  5. Updating my financial accounts (it makes life less stressful!)

By having these projects, I’ve kept myself busy but also eased myself back into simple tasks, completing projects that didn’t involve my daughter. I missed my daughter hugely when she returned to school and it has taken me a few weeks to adjust to being by myself again. These projects really helped, gave me a sense of achievement and I feel ready for work now!

What have you been doing during the quiet work months?

A 24 hour trip to…

Cambridge and Ely

In August I reached two major milestones in my life. I celebrated 10 years of freelance working and 10 years of marriage! Both were achievements that I am very proud of and to celebrate my husband and I took a quick trip to Cambridge via Ely.

Getting there

Cambridge is about a 2 hour drive away from where we live but when we were in London, I used to visit the city a lot for work events. The railway station is a short walk into town and is very well connected. Once in Cambridge we walked everywhere but this is a cycle city and there are loads of great cycling options too.

(I should mention that if you are looking for a great Cambridge and Ely guide, then do head to Lizzie Woodman’s blog and Instagram account as she has been working with a lot of the store owners in Ely. )

We drove to Ely and parked in St Mary’s Street car park where it is free for 2 hours.

Where to stay

My husband has often stayed at Poets House Hotel in Ely. Its opposite the cathedral and has wonderful views at night.

I’d seen the University Arms in Cambridge on Doesmybumlook40 Instagram account last year when she was there for a Jaeger press trip and just knew my husband would love the interiors. We also loved the upgrade to a suite. Thank you! The room was great and we had a lovely view over the park, plus I was able to have a cup of tea, looking out the window. Happy days. Lovely decor and fantastic staff.

What to see

In Ely, it really is all about the Cathedral. It is utterly gorgeous – stands out from any part of the town and we spent a happy moment walking round its perimeter before venturing inside. Have to admit that we didn’t pay to go in because we definitely want to return with our daughter, and we would save that visit to do with her. There is also a High Street and a small market square to venture round. A good mix of chain stores and independents.

In Cambridge there is too much to see and do for this post! We walked everywhere, people-watched the punts and soaked up the atmosphere. In the past I have visited the colleges and would recommend a trip to Kings Chapel. Top tip – visit when Evensong is on and you get in for free. Other highlights include the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Botanical Gardens. There is a decent amount of chain stores and independents too and I would always recommend a visit to Heffers – the bookshop in Cambridge.

Heading out of Cambridge, I would suggest a visit to National Trust sites Wimpole and/or, Anglesey Abbey. You could happily spend a full day at each.

Where to eat

Ely – Walking down past the cathedral we ended up in an AMAZING Turkish restaurant for lunch: Ely Turkish Restaurant and Meze Bar (33 Fore Hill). You know when you walk by a restaurant at lunch and you see that it is packed? Yep, that’s the one we headed too. They have this incredible lunch offer where you get two courses for £8.95 per person. It was delicious with generous portions.

Being allergic to dairy has got a lot easier in the last few years because there are so many vegan cafes and restaurants out there. We popped next door from the Turkish restaurant to Truly Scrumptious vegan cafe for the best almond milk cappuccino and chocolate cake I’ve had in a long time. Bliss!

Cambridge – We ate in the hotel’s restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, that night, which was lovely – lots of options and great opportunities for people watching. It felt a bit like The Wolsey. Plus their cocktail menu is very tempting. I ate a beetroot tartare which was so yummy that I still think about it.

The next day it was really all about food – where we live there isn’t many dairy free options, so I was determined to track down as many great places to eat as possible – and keep my meat eating husband happy. We succeeded in The Old Bicycle Shop for breakfast (chia seed porridge for me, chorizo and avocado for him), followed by Novi for lunch (try the pork crackling with burnt apple puree) and then headed to Tom’s Cakes for pudding. All had lots of options to choose from and the coffee at Tom’s was particularly good.

Please note that nothing on this post was sponsored or an advert. We paid for the entire trip and had a ball!

Photo credits include:

How I manage the stress…

…of working as a freelancer when the work isn’t there.

At the beginning of the year I decided that I had taken on too much work in 2018 and that I would slow down a bit because I felt my work-life balance wasn’t right. (see post here) It is now September and I’m reviewing some of my decisions – was I too hasty in January? Should I have been networking a bit more in March?

I like to plan my workload and know when I have projects coming to me, that way I can work out my finances and project my income over the coming months. However I’m now wobbling because although I have a lot of work on at the moment, I need to look ahead to November – January and hope that the work starts coming in.

My clients have also been having tricky times and that does effect when they can hire me. This has meant that projects have been delayed, cancelled out they’ve chosen a different path to launch. All of this I completely understand but it has meant that I feel like I’m lurching from one project to the next without a strategy for my business. Something that can, at times make me anxious.

Looking back, I realise that except for last year, this happens most years in September. I’ve looked at my finances over the past 3 years and seen that I experience this wobble and every time this is what I do:

  • Network! I run through my list of contacts and say hello – gently reminding people that I exist and if they’d like to meet for a coffee/chat.
  • Look back at previous clients and get in touch. Do they have a new project that I can help with?
  • Update my LinkedIn profile with recent successes and projects I’m proud of.
  • Search for new clients – I get on the internet and search for businesses that I know that I can help. Making cold call approaches isn’t ideal but I have found some of my most productive projects through this.
  • Take myself off for a walk, get my heart going and start thinking about other ways that I can boost my income.
  • Tell friends and family that I’m looking for new clients in the coming months. I speak to parents at the playground as well, just in case. This is a tricky one because I never want to seem pushy or desperate (its a fine line…) but it can open up new avenues of work that I would never have expected.

I also know that I have to have a little faith in my abilities and my work ethic – because I work exceedingly hard for my clients and my enthusiasm for the work is always appreciated. Sometimes that can be hard when the diary is looking a little bare.

Early morning walk with Maggie
Go for a walk when I’m feeling stuck. (with my dog, she always helps!)

Other tricks that I *ought* to do include:

  • saving more of my income when the good times are rolling, that way I can stretch my income further. I do this in a fashion but I’m now making attempts to do this properly by creating a new account where I stash my “rainy day funds” so that this can be a comfort blanket to me when I’m stressing about money!
  • Keep a tighter rein on my spending – check my subscriptions (I just realised I was paying £9.99 a month for Dropbox still) and see where I can make budget cuts throughout the year.
  • Start to plan my business more – I’m considering starting to Bullet Journal as I can see how the techniques used there do help keep you focused on your ambitions and you can track your days.
  • Take one working day a quarter and plan the following 3 months work. Start making the contacts then, so that I can feel in control of my work flow or at least know that I am working towards it.

I’d be really curious to know how you plan your finances and/workload because I think that I need to step this up a bit!

Back from the school hols…

…catch up and planning post

Hello! I’m a bit out of practice with writing a blog post because I realise that it has been ages since I last posted one. I have been on “Mummy mode” for the past 6 weeks and finding time to blog as well as everything else was something I just couldn’t manage. I have missed it though and I’m back with new ideas and feeling revitalised.

How was your summer? As I type, the weather in the UK is deliciously warm after a pretty on-off summer. My daughter goes back to school on Thursday (29th August) and I’m slightly dreading it as I know that all the routines that I have been ignoring in August will now need to kick in. That means, work, house cleaning, meal planning – the lot. Everything to make my life and our household just that little more efficient and financially afloat!

10
August was the month when I had been self-employed for 10 years!

I hit a pretty big anniversary this month, it has been 10 years (10 YEARS!!!) since I started freelancing and created my PR company. I didn’t even realise until the LinkedIn messages started coming through. I have let that sink in because in my head, I’ve not been self-employed for that long – but actually a decade, more than a quarter (just) of my life has been spent working for myself. Yay!

We have also lived in the countryside for 5 years now and I’m only just beginning to want to decorate the house in a significant way. It needs a bit of a refresh and I have been thinking about how I work and how important the environment around me is to working happily.

So, as with most times I have at least 24 hours to ponder on something, I’ve made a few short-term goals that I want to share with you. Nothing major, but something to get me focused. They are:

Ikea dressed set
My current decor inspiration – from Ikea!
  1. To decorate the room next to the kitchen where I work. This is Amy’s playroom and our dining room but from where I sit, I can look down the room and out into the garden. Currently it is a dirty white and I’d like to freshen it up with a more striking colour. Plus, I think it is time to declutter some of her toys as we make the slow transition from needing lots of toys around to creating space for her new interests.
  2. Search for a new client. Ideally I would like to work with another client on a longterm basis – this not only helps to give me more financial stability but I find the work more rewarding – I get to see over a longer period how I have helped the client.
  3. Get back to Yoga everyday. This makes such a difference to my health and happiness but in August, I’ve definitely not kept this up. I use the Yoga with Adriene Monthly calendar which is great. I print it out and pop it on my fridge – holding me accountable everyday.
My work environment really makes a difference to my productivity.

And that’s about it! I’ll write about how I intend to start my search for a new client on another post later but I think these are all do-able. I just need a bit of determination and focus!

What are you focusing on once the children are back in school? I’d love to know – it really helps to keep me on track.

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