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.

Other posts that may interest you:

How I plan my long-term goals

Recently I mentioned on my Instagram account that I was going to set some time aside to plan long-term goals for my business. This was because after my declutter of office stuff, I came across my old folder and found the notes from the last time I set them – which was in 2016. Eek!

I find this quote oh so true…

I have started setting myself goals for my personal life and short term goals with the business but nothing too major. No scary aims and being honest with myself about my ambitions. I wrote a post awhile ago about how I had decided to take a step back from the amount of work I was doing because it was having a negative impact on my family life. I also think I wasn’t inspired by all the work either. And it is so true, if you love your job, then it won’t feel like work. I am lucky enough to say that 85% of the time I do love my job.

Taken during my ‘semi-retirement’ days

In 2016 things were a little different – we had moved from London in 2014 and I had basically taken a year of ‘semi-retirement’ to settle our daughter into our home life. I worked a bit but not that much. We had a shock when my husband was made redundant and suddenly I realised that I needed to step up my business. My business goals were quite simple – to earn money for our family whilst my husband job-hunted. We had a scary Autumn of that year but he was back in employment from January. In the meantime, I had refreshed my contacts and had work projects to do. My 9 to 3 really started.

Since then, I’ve been on a treadmill, accepting new projects when they come my way and I’ve since realised that not everything was really making my heart sing. So when I sat down in John Lewis Oxford Street cafe (it was half term), I started with a blank page in my notebook titled: Goals. Scary!

I decided to focus on 2 goals for the next 3-5 years:

  1. To earn more each year (I have set myself an annual income target for each year)
  2. To only work 9am – 3pm 5 days a week but allow for 1 evening work session

I then asked myself the following question:

  1. In an ideal world, I would like to…?

Swiftly followed by:

2. How am I going to do this?

These questions really gave me room to be honest with myself which was a bit scary because I realised that I wanted to work in areas that I haven’t for awhile and also gave me a steer on how I could achieve those wishes. I’ve learnt from Just a Girl and Her Blog website posts that if you break down a goal into smaller chunks, they don’t seem so terrifying. Whether that is a turnover ambition, saving for a car or learning a new language (hello coding!), if you break them down into bite size pieces, suddenly it isn’t too overwhelming.

I then broke down each goal further by setting myself time limits to action each intention. I’m really deadline driven and by setting myself targets, I know that I’ll do them. How can I be so sure? It worked for me in 2016 and it worked for me last Autumn when I told an ex-colleague that I wanted to start writing this blog by the October half-term. So another tip is to really know yourself – if deadlines aren’t your jam (as they say on Instagram) then find a way to tick those goals off that does work. It is all very individual.

What happens if I don’t achieve those goals? I’m not going to beat myself up because I know I’ll get there in the end. We can never be too sure of what’s round the corner but I hope by giving myself a bit of focus, I’ll be improving my chances of reaching those goals.

I’m not yet finished working on the how but I do have something that resembles a plan. Wish me luck!

Recommended reading/watching:

How I crush my goals – Abby Lawson- Just a Girl and her Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Goal Setting

An Edited Life by Anna Newton

Ted Talks on Goal Setting

How to find your 9 to 3

How I got to working the 9 to 3

One of the questions I get asked the most on Instagram Direct Message is how to start working 9 to 3. It is also one of the hardest to answer! For me, I decided that this was the only way I could work and be the parent that I wanted to be. I make no judgement on anyone that needs to work longer or actually prefers to work. I’m all for the idea of ‘do what feels good’ for you. (thank you Adriene Mishler for that great quote!)

My example was set by my Mum who worked as a playgroup supervisor when I was little, before coming a Teachers Assistant whilst studying part-time through the wonderful Open University and finally qualifying as a teacher when I was 14 years old. I always took her presence for granted – she was there for every assembly, sports event and after school group.

Open University

We weren’t loaded and I understand now why we weren’t taking foreign holidays or why I attended the local community college and not a private school. These things didn’t really matter to me – my mum was there when I wanted her.

So when Amy was born, I felt that if I could, I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps – minus the teaching bit. It took time though, I went back to work 3 days a week 3 months after she was born and that increased to 4 days a week for a bit before we moved to the countryside and I went fully freelance (i.e. I was the main childcarer). Do I regret any of it? Not at all.

“The courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco Chanel

Here is my biggest takeaway from my decision – it hits your financial outlook massively. I now earn less than half what I did when I was full-time but my income is growing year by year. It is scary and we should budget a lot more then we do – I am getting better with meal planning so not to waste food/money and we aren’t having meals out every week, let alone every month. We choose carefully where we spend our disposable income – which for us is travel. Our holidays and trips are very important to us as a family and therefore I can *just* about handle not having the wardrobe all my favourite Instagram accounts seem to have. (where do they put all their clothes?).

Don’t get me wrong, I would like more £££ but I’m playing the long game – time with my daughter will fly by so I’m willing to keep my business ticking over and then hopefully step it up as Amy gets older.

So… here are my initial questions when looking to go 9 to 3:

  1. Are you currently employed? Is there room for movement with hours?
  2. Are you qualified to work in a particular area?
  3. Did you LOVE your job/previous employment?
  4. Can you work from home?

Then my next set of questions would be:

  1. Do you want to still work in the same/previous industry?
  2. Are you able to take a refresher course/update your skill set?
  3. How much do you need to earn to keep you afloat?

Finally, I would ask:

  1. What is it that I really want to do with my time?
  2. What are my passions?
  3. What are my dislikes?

After that, I’d look through my answers and see what I could do. Look for examples of people doing the work that you want to do. With publicity, I’m able to work from home, yes, I do travel sometimes and I am trying to look for more local clients instead of travelling to London every 6 weeks. I love reading, admire all creatives and I know I’m good at selling their book/exhibitions to editors. I’m enthused by it. So when I was thinking about my 9 to 3, I knew that the job I already had, really was the best one for me.

If you are unsure or haven’t been working for awhile, I would recommend that after answering the questions above, that you consider:

I have a neighbour that trained as a beautician when her daughter was at pre-school to supplement her income as a personal trainer and another that trained as a Teachers Assistant and volunteered at a local school to get experience. It may be that that job you find yourself doing isn’t what you want in the long-term – that’s absolutely fine! My friend cleans houses 3 days a week but ultimately intends to be a Veterinary Assistant. The cleaning helps to pay her course fees AND gives her a bit of extra income too. I was considering setting up an Ironing business until I remembered that I hate ironing and I’m terrible at it.

It is a bitch but time really does make a huge difference. Plan what you want and then execute it with small steps and realistic expectations. You might not earn vast amounts but hopefully it will help to supplement your lifestyle and get you living the life that you want.

Resources to look at:

  • The Open University offer courses for you to do part-time.
  • I discussed in a previous blog post how I have used Future Learn to help update my skills. These are free online course. Read the post here.
  • 923 have a great blog which feature ideas on how to work 923. You’ll find my post here.
  • I’ve just come across The Early Hour which I’m really enjoying. The creator of the site, Annie Ridout has just published a book, The Freelance Mum that I’m hoping to read soon.