How I work: Louise Webster

Louise Webster Founder of Beyond the School Run

When I started this blog, I was keen to connect with other parents who were passionate about finding solutions to the parent/work juggle. I was thrilled when I became a follower of Beyond the School Run which is ran by Louise Webster. Working in publishing, I make it my business to be aware of books in an area that I am particularly passionate about and I’m looking forward to sharing a review of her book, A New Way for Mothers in another post. I was delighted when Louise agreed to be part of my How I Work series because she is so determined to help those who are looking to work but have children too – something you may notice I am a strong advocate of too!

  1. Name of your business?

Beyond the School Run (this is a Limited Company)

2. What do you do?

I am the Founder of the Beyondtheschoolrun.com platform, and author of the book,A New Way of Mothers.

I run the platform during school hours and in the windows available during school holidays.  My role involves, sharing content daily with our community, we have a weekly schedule ranging from Monday motivation, to wise words Wednesday and Fashion Friday.  I communicate via our FB pages, Twitter and instagram.  I also focus on preparing our fortnightly newsletter and making new connections, speaking with people in this space and potentially finding ways to work together.  The Beyondtheschoolrun website features links to various connections and opportunities and I am regularly engaging with those connections or identifying new ones.  I work on the PR of my book ‘A New Way for Mothers’ which often involves speaking events or working with the media. I am currently working on a program to support the workplace.  

3. Where do you work?

I have a small office at the top of our house. I love it.  It only has my work in there and items that inspire me. As soon as I walk in I feel like I could be anywhere.

4. How did you get to this point in your career?

Before children I worked in PR and ran a PR agency that I set up.  About a year after having my first child, I sold the company and took a year out- at which point we moved out of the London and had my daughter (my second child).  It was during this time that I started to see for myself and others the barriers for parents in working alongside caring and that’s when I started to develop Beyondtheschoolrun. 

 I have been growing it in the hours available to me – which is what Beyondtheschoolrun is all about. I have a deep passion for the collective potential of parents when utilising their skills in the hours available to them.

5. The best part of my job is…?

Louise Webster at No.10 Downing Street
Her job has taken Louise to No.10 Downing Street

I love hearing from people who have somehow benefitted or been inspired by my work in some way – whether that’s connecting with a flexible job role via the platform, an opportunity or reading my book.  Beyondtheschoolrun has also taken me to places I would never have imagined, No.10 Downing Street and has connected me with dreams I never imagined possible such as writing my book ‘A New Way for Mothers.’

A new Way for Mothers book
Louise has written a book about the parenting/work juggle

6. The worst part of my job is…?

Working out how to make the business model work.  I am working in this new way that I explore in my book ‘A New Way for Mothers’ and also growing a business in a new way. 

7. Favourite time-saving trick?

It may be contrary but taking time to exercise – the 30 minutes you put in can give you so much back.  I find so much clarity after I have exercised, whether that’s yoga, running etc.  It is not so much about the time that you have but what you achieve within that time and finding your flow is really important.  I write about this in more detail in my book.

8. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3?

Be kind to yourself.   It’s not a race we’ll all get to where we dream of just focus on your steps, don’t compare and try to collaborate. 

9. Favourite social media accounts/blogs?

Maria Forleo from her Facebook page
Louise is a fan of Maria Forleo

Arianna Huffington, Marie Forleo, Oprah Winfrey amongst others.

You can buy Louise’s book here. Do follow her on Instagram: @beyondtheschoolrun

How to manage the school holidays…

…and still have a good time!

I don’t know about you but the forthcoming school holidays always fill me with joy and dread. Joy that I get to spend time with my gorgeous girl but dread because I still need to find time to work.

Mum and Daughter

Full disclosure – I take a financial hit during the holidays. I’m not truly working – instead I reduce my hours massively and take on new projects that start in September. I posted about how I save before the holidays in this post and I’m currently beavering away to try and set up work from September.

I do this because I never want to feel torn between choosing work over time with my daughter. I am really LUCKY that I can do this because of my freelance lifestyle. My work tends to be on a project by project basis. I’m not forgetting this and we all know the benefits AND the negatives of a freelance gig but it is a choice I am currently choosing to make.

So during the holidays I do:

Working on the move
  1. Check my email – everyday and I answer anything pressing from my phone.
  2. Work for an hour every morning and in the evening.
  3. Check in with clients – wish them a happy summer or just remind them that I’m ready to start in September
  4. Network through meeting with ex-colleagues for a drink or coffee when I’m child-free.
  5. Plan a day every fortnight when I am child-free and can binge on work stuff/admin
  6. Revise any plans/goals for the Autumn
  7. Assess my financials – where am I in invoicing/earnings.

I can thoroughly recommend that you have a look at the article here by Skills you need website.

Falling into the freelance trap

…and how to avoid it

I recently read an article in the Telegraph by Maria Lally that was warning mothers to not ‘fall into the freelance trap.” It was published in March 2019 but I do feel that it is still very relevant.

In the article, Lally suggests that by being a stay at home working mum, you actually double your workload – you end up doing the household chores AND your work. Your days are longer and you get the joy of seeing your partner skip out the door each morning knowing that the pick ups, PE kit, swimming lesson taxi driving role is being handled by you.

It is all true – it really is. In the last few years, I have definitely ended up doing a lot more round the house, and I wrote about this in this blog post about ’emotional labour’. Lally only rescues herself from this role by taking an office job which takes her out of the house. Her partner works from home one day a week to help out.

Me and Maggie at work

This is the bit that sticks with me – why should you have to change your job or get an office job to be able to work and live happily? Working from home is no picnic even if I know that I’m envied by my office job friends. There is the inevitable distractions and I do a lot of the housework but I have spent a few years now honing my day structure and this has really helped me.

Here is what I do:

  • From the hours of 9am to 3pm, I prioritise work. It is that simple.
  • Before 9am, I set up the household chores – washing machine is put on, dishwasher emptied , clothes put away, beds made.
  • I take natural work breaks – hang the washing out, or prep the dinner but nothing that takes longer than a work break in the office.
  • After 3pm, I down tools, go pick up my daughter and then parenting stuff.
  • After bedtime, I may get my laptop out and run through a few emails but otherwise, I’ll wait until 9am the next day.

How I am able to do this?

  • I am really honest about my working hours to my clients
  • My husband is aware of the work that I do every day – we have a shared calendar so he can see what I have lined up
  • There is nothing like a deadline to focus you! I work smarter and harder on my chosen limited hours than I was when I worked longer hours in an office
  • I try and not take on too many clients. Does this mean that I am losing potential income? Absolutely but it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make at this stage in my life.
  • It is a juggle and I’m always re-addressing it but so far, this seems to be the best way of working for me.

Suggested reading:

Ms I Can Do It All blog post

Mothers beware of the freelance trap

Why Wheatgrass has changed my life

It really isn’t as bad as it looks…

Nothing too dramatic about that statement! Hand on heart I can say that a daily ‘shot’ of wheatgrass has made a massive difference to my energy levels and my health.

It all started in January when I saw Caro Greenwood (@SpikeyMama) talking about the wheatgrass shots that she was given at Christmas. I honestly thought that you could only have wheatgrass anything from health shops and well, anywhere slightly metropolitan. I’d seen smoothies in Pret, Eat and others and always though they looked a bit ‘off’ and really expensive. So I did a little bit of internet research and discovered that you could purchase packs of frozen wheatgrass shots in bulk.

A wheatgrass shot mixed with apple juice.
The finished shot!

Just a little bit after this revelation, my neighbour invited me to a health talk that she was hosting. This was a talk by a Wheatgrass specialist who was not only able to talk about the benefits of taking a daily dose, but also had women there who could vouch for it too. Most importantly, I got to try it. I was DELIGHTED when I was told that I could mix the shot with a juice – to make it more palatable. It works – I have a frozen shot every morning with a bit of juice, bunged into my blender. It doesn’t taste terrible at all. In fact, I’ve managed to get my husband onto it as well. It costs around £1.70 a shot, which as I no longer live in a city and drink coffees everyday is an expense I can manage. I order a bag that gives me 30 shots at a time and just leave them in the freezer until I’m ready!

How do I know the power of wheatgrass? I took a month off having my ‘shot’ whilst I was on holiday and also I did get out of the routine (oops) and I noticed that my energy levels were not as high, I got tired quicker in the evening and I seemed to get every cold going in the vicinity. I’ve been taking a regular dose now for about a month and can already feel the benefits. My skin is looking brighter, I’m still tired but not as much and I’m not craving sugary foods. Win for me!

I use an organic wheatgrass shot because it was about the same price and I thought it would be better for me.

I use Britt’s Superfoods to get mine and I couldn’t recommend the service enough. This isn’t sponsored at all – I’m just a fan.

To learn more about wheatgrass, I suggest reading this article.

Working when on the move

How I get work done whilst completing chores…

As I work from home, I tend to be the person that also does the errands – take the car for its service, take back library books and take the dog to the vet. It does help that I do these things during my working hours – it is always easier to get chores done without a reluctant 8 year old following me. But I, of course still need to get my work done too! I live in the middle of nowhere so just popping to the shops for milk is a round trip of 40 minutes – and I do not usually have a lunch break! So here is what I do:

  1. Preferably the day before, I would have written a list of the chores that need doing. I’m not perfect and this doesn’t always happen!

2. Being freelance means that I do choose my hours and I am an advocate of leaving the house once a week to work somewhere else so it makes sense to make chore day, the time that I also work off site!

3. I try and place the chores in groups – by location. This means that I can work out the best way to get everything done. I check library times, Vet opening times and also if there are nearby cafes that I can work in. It may seem a bit over the top, but by planning in advance, it really does save me time!

Notebook and tea

4. Check that my laptop and phone has enough battery. I carry a mobile charger (check that is fully charged too) that I can use as well.

5. If I can, I like to do an hour of work before I leave the house – running through emails and downloading files that I may need. I save everything else on a memory stick that I travel with.

6. I then head out! Making sure that I have my notebook with me too. I’ll use my phone to answer any urgent emails that come through between chores but I will wait until I find somewhere with free wifi before I use my laptop.

Dropbox logo
I rely on Dropbox when I am on the move.

7. The hours can go by quite quickly but if I can get 60-90minutes on the laptop whilst also completing my chores then I am a happy person!

If Wifi isn’t an option, I’ll either work offline or connect my laptop to my phone – this has saved me many times! I’m also a fan of Dropbox for retrieving files (really handy when I’m just using my phone) and iBooks for reading pdfs.

Essential equipment:

  1. Laptop and phone
  2. Battery charger
  3. Noise cancelling headphones
  4. Dropbox app