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.

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?