My desktop (non)essential

Why flowers help boost my productivity

I’m lucky that in my job all I really need is a laptop, decent wifi and a phone. Access to a printer is always beneficial but I do not really require any specialised equipment.

My office is our kitchen – I work from the kitchen table most days. It’s also the table that my daughter completes her homework, we eat all our meals on and where my husband reads the newspaper from. It is the hub of our home. This means that my working space has to be transient – it is my ‘workspace’ only during the 9 to 3 hours. Everything that I use must be removed from the table before and after those hours for our normal family life to exist.

My usual set up – flowers and mug my (non) essentials

My set up isn’t pretty – it is functional (please see my blog post – my new tech set up for further details) but I work in a creative area and actually need a bit of ‘pretty’ at my workplace to help inspire me.

Ten years ago I would have laughed at what I’m writing now – when I worked in a pretty ordinary office but now I find that if I have a small bunch of flowers above my eye-line when I work, really lifts my mood. Flowers seem like such a luxury to me and when finances are a little tight, it seems an extravagance too far but a 99p bunch of daffodils is just the ticket. I’m so happy when Spring rolls into town – daffs, tulips, blossom etc… I’m not fussy!

Blooms never fail to inspire.

I am waiting with bated breath on the influx of peonies and hydrangeas. They are very expensive but I grow peonies in my garden and I’m desperate to succeed with hydrangeas. Is there anything better then cut flowers from your garden?

What’s your (non) essential item that helps life you when working? I’m also rather fond of a cup of tea from my Emma Bridgewater mug.

Other recommended reads that may be of interest to you:

How I work: Lizzie Woodman

Lizzie Woodman – blogger and freelance writer

I first came across Lizzie Woodman from another Instagram account and was immediately taken by her effortless style, wit and calm nature. Based in the Cambridge area with two boys, she works from home and juggles life/work like the rest of us. I was delighted when she agreed to feature on my little blog! She takes gorgeous images and shares her thoughts on matters of the day with articulated thought. She works with numerous brands on her blog and never fails to inspire me. Please do have a read and go visit her blog and Instagram. You won’t be disappointed.

  1. Name : Lizzie Woodman

2. Name of Business: Lizziewoodman.co.uk

3. What do you do?

I’m a blogger and freelance writer. I also help businesses with their marketing and social media – taking photographs, writing captions and press releases. 

Lizzie works from home and her gorgeous cats are featured on her account

4. Where do you work?

I work from home. I have a big desk in our open plan kitchen space, but usually prefer to perch in an armchair with my laptop. My two tabby cats are usually close by!

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

I fell into freelance writing after starting a blog in 2014. I’d been a stay at home mother since 2009 and craved some creativity that didn’t involve glitter and PVA glue. Blogging taught me to be a better writer and photographer – plus it helped me believe in myself. My first paid work was for sponsored posts commissioned by brands for my blog. Over the last couple of years this has blossomed into writing for other people too – from ghost-written blog posts for big brands to writing product descriptions and helping at influencer events.

6. The best part of my job is?

The flexibility. I do all the school runs and can take time off to be with my children during the holidays. I also love meeting new people. I’ve met and interviewed so many people over the last couple of years and it’s been fascinating.

Her clients include brands such as Fat Face and Joy where she creates content for her blog and Instagram account.

7. The worst part of my job is? 

Getting lonely. I miss chatting to colleagues – which is probably why I spend too much time on social media. I also find it tough to motivate myself. When you’re a freelancer you have to be your own best cheerleader all the time. Picking yourself up after a disappointment can be tough and it’s not for everyone.

8. Favourite time-saving trick?

Ignoring the housework until the children get home. I don’t like wasting my work day putting on loads of washing and cleaning the shower. I tend to get my chores done when the boys are busy with their Lego after school. 

Lizzie’s Instagram is well worth a look!
@lizzie_woodman

9. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3?

Don’t try and do it all. It’s easy to think you can move mountains while your kids are at school, but in reality, it’s a very short day. Prioritise the things you really need to get done and try not to feel guilty about everything else!

10. Favourite social media accounts/blogs?

I’m addicted to Instagram and it also forms a big part of my work. Creating a beautifully curated feed is like my shop window and helps put me in touch with people. I try and write about three posts a week for my own blog, Lizzie Woodman. I find Hannah Gale’s blog very inspiring. 

Other posts you may like to read:

How I work: Jenna Bissell from That Mum Moment

My Freelance Story: Lizzie Woodman

The joy of freelance: How to be Freelance

Why I reject work potential projects

Be a voice not an echo
As soon as I saw this quote, I realised that saying ‘No’ is very important. It might not be what others want to hear though.

This has to be one of the hardest lessons I have learnt, and one that still makes me cringe and feel terrible. Why? Because as a freelancer, I am reliant on clients asking me to work for them and saying ‘No’ to them feels as if I am turning down cash that quite frankly, I need.

It stays with me as well – that ‘No’; it lingers for at least a couple of days because I am a people pleaser – I want to say ‘Yes’ to everything but I am learning that it is best for my business (and sanity) if I work on projects where:

  1. I like the clients. This is really important. Are they polite? Will working for them make my day go better? I’ve spent too long working with people that are rude, demanding and ungrateful which always ends with me hating my work and sometimes myself.
  2. Does the project excite me? I work in PR and although I’d like to think that I can promote everything, if I get excited about the book, author, artist, gallery or publisher then that really helps me.
  3. Do I have the time? Yes I mainly work 9am – 3pm but also how long is the project? Does it fit into my schedule? I tend to like having a 4 week and a 2 week project running simultaneously as it means that I’m speaking with contacts about more than one topic.
  4. Will I be paid on time? Last year was the first time that I wasn’t paid for a project for almost 8 months. It was stressful and I felt embarrassed chasing my fee which was foolish (that is a blog post I should write!). I had done a great job but wasn’t a payment priority. I now ask for at least part payment upfront.

If any of these questions is a ‘No’ then I can’t take on the work. I have spent time working on projects that didn’t excite me but I found the client really inspiring and I learnt a lot. Great! When I work where time is an issue then that flows into my family life and it can get tricky…

Photo of Laura@the9to3
I have worked hard to learn to say no to potential projects that won’t make me smile!

How I work around this guilt is I spend time looking for work that is a big YES to all of those requirements and more often then not, it comes through eventually. I’m always on the look out for new clients and by pushing me out of my comfort zone by attending say a new networking group or cold calling an author whose book I love, then that NO gives me that extra push I needed.

How do you deal with saying “No’ to potential work?

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 I Work: Jenna Bissell from That Mum Moment

That Mum Moment
Jenna designs amazing cards for parents

I am so pleased to be featuring Jenna from That Mum Moment on the blog today! The more time I spend on Instagram, the more I love it. I came across Jenna’s brilliant account during a scrolling session and was instantly hit by the colour, wit and okay, the leopard print of her designs.

She also must be super-human, launching That Mum Moment when her daughter was barely a year old and she has a regular job as well. I struggle to blog more than once a week whilst working on my business so kudos to Jenna. She also has great taste in podcasts. See below for Jenna’s How I Work!

  1. Name of Business?

I decided to name my brand after those times I really felt like a proper mum and “had That Mum Moment”. You know the times, you’re kicking off about someone else parking in a mother and baby space or you’re eating leftover fish fingers from a plastic plate. From those moments came my collection of brightly coloured cards, all inspired by the reality of parenting along with fashion and Instagram. Like me, they like to tell it how it is with a little humour and a *some* bad language thrown in, but please don’t tell my dad!

2. What do you do?

Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal is an inspiration

Nowadays I’m striving to become a ‘Multi-Hyphen Mum’. I’m obsessed with Emma Gannon’s book,  ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ and I’m just about to read it for the second time around. Similarly to Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal it taps into the idea that we can design a career that works for us rather than a standard 9-5 at a desk Monday to Friday.

I now work at home 4 days a week as a marketing manager, with some travel. Working at home is super flexible and I have the stability of a monthly income. I have one day with my daughter in the week and fit That Mum Moment and Etsy shop around her afternoon nap and some evenings.

3. Where do you work?

Jenna works from home in her spare room

The day I actually started the brand I was sat in a coffee shop overlooking the beach, listening to one of my favourite podcasts by Not Another Mummy’s Alison Perry. From there I went on to take over our dining room/playroom, until earlier this year when I discovered Marie Kondo and organised the hell out of our spare room. I now have a really inspiring space that ‘sparks joy’ and my cards are super organised and easy to pick and pack.

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

I studied journalism way, way back, before Facebook or Instagram existed. I vaguely remember the course helping me with my writing but more than anything I loved the design modules. Playing around with Macs was so alien to someone who had been brought up with PCs and floppy disks (man, I sound old). While my shorthand was fairly sh*t, I adored the combination of writing and design. From there I worked in marketing and freelance writing for nearly 15 years which has given me all the skills I needed to set up That Mum Moment.

I created That Mum Moment in 2018 after having my daughter a year earlier. Motherhood hit me like a tonne of bricks (hands up if you’re a control freak?!) and I was trying to navigate the ‘new’ me. The cards are inspired by those moments when you need someone to tell you you’re smashing it. While it’s a bit old school, nothing is better than receiving a card in the post, knowing how much effort your mate has gone to, to choose a card, buy a stamp and remember your address. I want the brand to empower parents (mainly frazzled mums), champion self-care and encourage others to pass on those good vibes.

5. The best part of my job is…?

A design from Jenn'a range of greetings cards
One of That Mum Moment cards

Imagining the smile on people’s faces when they receive one of my cards gives me all the feels. I’m a bit of a softie at heart and adore the thought that something as simple as a card will bring two friends closer together and make such a difference to someone’s day.

6. The worst part of my job is…?

I love working on That Mum Moment but it can be tough finding the motivation to carry on in the evenings or when my daughter has a nap. Sometimes I’d much rather sit on the sofa with a biscuit and cuppa or glass of wine. I combat that by committing to projects that put me in my discomfort zone but also excite me. Last year I designed, printed and sold a christmas card collection within two weeks. This never would have happened if I hadn’t said yes to a collaboration with Jane from The Mama Social.

7. Favourite time-saving trick?

The myth is true. Having a child makes you more productive. There’s less time for procrastination when you need to get sh*t done. I like to set myself time slots to complete work rather than wasting hours jumping in and out of tasks or getting distracted by an Instagram rabbit hole.

8. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3?

Create boundaries and don’t be afraid to say no. If someone requests a meeting, unless you really need to go, set up a call. Something that can be discussed on the phone for 15 minutes could eat up half of your day if you organise a meeting. More recently I’ve started ‘no phone Friday’ with my husband. We put our phones in a different room from 7pm and it’s the ultimate in boundary setting for those who treat their phone like their third hand. While I realise it makes me sound like a massive w*nker who’s possibly addicted to social media, it works for me. It’s so good for my mental health and I love the feeling of detaching from the outside world once our little one goes to bed on a Friday.

9. Favourite social media accounts/blogs:

I hate watching Instagram stories with the sound on. I much prefer accounts like Hannah Gale who shares her witty account of motherhood, fashion, tasty food and TV recommendations via text. I also have a thing for podcasts, they’re an amazing way to get in some self-care when I’m driving alone. My current faves are Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon, The Emma Guns Show and How to Curate your Life.

Please go and see Jenna’s account here: www.instagram.com/thatmummoment

Her shop can be found here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThatMumMoment