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.

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 survive working in the Christmas holidays

Getting ready for the festivities.

Nobody likes to work over any holiday do they? I find Christmas really hard to stay motivated and get those hours in. Do you? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one… 

I’m really fortunate because my husband has the days between Christmas and New Year off work so technically it means that I could be catching up with work then. But seriously? Who does that?! I’m going to enjoy my time with him and my daughter seeing family, friends and just being our little family unit. We normally have guests to stay over New Year and this year we haven’t. I’m looking forward to some serious quiet time with books, television and my two favourite people.  

So here is my guide to getting my s**t together over the festivities:

“If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin
  1. Plan. Plan and then plan some more. I look at my schedule over the coming week and see when I can work. Get my hours in. My business does tend to go quiet from about now until early January but this means that technically I should start looking for new business opportunities for 2019. 
  2. Follow the plan. I try and take myself away for a cup of tea each week away from my house and really get a grip on the ‘big picture.’ This really does help me and I think has benefitted my business. I do know where my strengths and weaknesses are (hello invoicing!) and next week I’ll use my time out of the house to see which clients will need hours over the Christmas period and where I can make up time once the school term starts. 
  3. Tell my plans to my husband and family. So that they know when I say, ‘I’ve really got to do this’ then they know I’m not trying to avoid a game of Monopoly but that I really do have a deadline.
  4. I’ll let my clients know when I’m not going to respond to messages unless they are super urgent. Again I find that communication really is the key. 
  5. I’ll use Hootsuite to schedule all social media activity for my clients
  6. Once my husband goes back to work (2nd January) I’ll be the full time parent which means waking up early to get an hours work in but my daughter will also be seeing my parents for one morning which will give me 3 hours to blitz anything urgent. Playdates, grandparents, god-parents are great ways to get a few hours for work and not feel like you are ditching your child. I’ll swap with a friend for a day – I’ll have her children for the morning and then she’ll have my daughter in the afternoon. It means we both get our work done AND the children have fun. 
  7. Give myself a break. I cannot tell you how freeing and inspiring it is to step away from the laptop. I’m a much better publicist when I’m reading other people’s books (that I’m not working on) or listening to a podcast that I’ve been recommended because it means I’m enjoying myself and not seeing it as a chore. I tend to beat myself up a bit about enjoying free time when I could be working/doing the chores/spending more time with Amy and this Christmas I’m determined to stop and just take a breath.  
I fully intend to be enjoying a few treats like this G&T over the Christmas period!

And that’s it really! My other motivation is to start away from my mobile phone for longer over the festivities. I want my daughter to know that Mummy is present and not half-looking at her phone when we are together. 

My favourite meeting places within Kings Cross/St Pancras Station

 

Image of St Pancras and Kings Cross
St.Pancras and Kings Cross stations are brilliant places to base yourself for a day of client meetings.

This is quite a specific post! I was sent a few emails from my last post asking me where I like to meet clients in the Kings Cross/St Pancras area and can I make any recommendations. Sure thing! As I mentioned, some days I literally spend the entire day in this area as a lot of my clients either go through the stations on their commutes or have offices close by.

There is of course the usual coffee shops and chains that you see everywhere so I’ve tried not to highlight them (except Leon) and instead offered up a few other places that you might like to try. Personally I prefer a location that I feel might help the meeting along and I don’t always get that vibe from a Starbucks or Pret. (both are plentiful in the area)

Formal breakfast

Granger & Co – I absolutely love this restaurant! It is fairly expensive but they cater for all allergy issues with style and their food is delicious. My

Image of Granger & Co
One of my favourite restaurants in the area. I’d stay all day if I could.

favourite is the Avocado on sourdough with a side of chorizo. Their Almond milk Chia seed pudding is wonderful whether it is for breakfast or as a dessert. They sell out of that one quickly though so I always have it for breakfast. You can feel quite hemmed in there as the tables are packed together so I wouldn’t recommend it if you have highly confidential stuff to discuss. Booking in advance is essential.

I also sometimes stay here after my Breakfast meeting has left and have a Coffee meeting with another client. You can sit up at the bar if you wish. It is more informal and a great way to check in with your client. I’d do this for a client that I know really well.

WARNING – their loos are the darkest place on earth. Not the place for touching up your make up.

Relaxed breakfast

Sourced Market (St Pancras Station) – order and pay at the counter service. They have the biggest pain au chocolats that you have ever seen. Plus Monmouth Coffee (which is my favourite coffee) and really interesting fruit salads, porridges and pastries. Grab a stool on one of the benches and away you go. It is a nice place to meet for a quick catch up.

Eleveneses

Yumchaa  (1 Granary Square)- this is up the road from Kings Cross at Granary Square and is housed in the same building as Central St Martins. You definitely get a strong hint of cool from this place and the people watching is superb. I like to meet new quirky clients here – often authors and artists. The tea selection is impressive and I can wholly recommend the Almond milk chai tea.

Drink, Shop & Do (9 Caledonian Road) –

Drink, Shop & Do – A fantastic awe-inspiring place to visit!

this is a fun spot for a catch up. Lots to look at and can provide inspiration for a creative meeting.

Formal Lunch

Caravan (1 Granary Square). This offers a range of lunch options and is another great spot for associating yourself with a bit of cool! You see journalists from The Guardian here occasionally and lots of media types. That may make you want to avoid it! The food is good, and booking is necessary.

Dishoom (5 Stable Street) I’ve not been here yet but my friend has and fully recommends it. The food is delicious and set very stylishly. Booking is preferred. You can literally stay here all day – they cater for all meals. Apparently their Chai Tea is not to be missed.

Informal Lunch

Leon (St Pancras Square) – you can’t go wrong with Leon. Okay the service

Visit Leon in St Pancras Square
I like to go to this Leon – not the one in Kings Cross.

is a little rushed and there is always a massive queue but I like to go to the one on St Pancras Square. Less hectic then the one in Kings Cross station by the platform entrances.

Yo Sushi (St Pancras Station) – noisy but you can either sit at a booth or by the conveyor belt. Fun, simple and never disappoints. You can have a great catch up here without fuss or waiting in a queue.

Afternoon Tea

Le Pain Quotidien (St Pancras Station) – admittedly another chain but its a

Le Pain Equotedien is a great catch up place.

small one and I like their long tables! Within the central hub of the station, it is always busy and humming with life. I get travel envy as I see people grabbing food before they head to the Eurostar. I love their jam and the simplicity of the menu. Great cake too.

AMT Coffee (Upper Level St Pancras station) – great for grabbing a coffee and finding a place to sit on the station concourse. It tends to be quieter up there in the afternoon before the commuters start turning up.

Evening Drink 

George’s Bar at The Gilbert Scott

George’s Bar – The Gilbert Scott (St Pancras Station) – a beautiful bar with amazing, classy cocktails! I wouldn’t advise you to have more than the one though. They are dangerous. This is a lovely setting and perfect for a quick ‘thank you’ drink with a client.

Searcys Champagne Bar  (Upper Level, St Pancras Station)- well I had to mention it! This is another ‘treat’ place for me but it is great and far less noisy than George’s. You can soak up the atmosphere of the station and network.

The Parcel Yard (Upper Level, Kings Cross) – this can be a little rough around the edges at times

The Parcel Yard is always busy but great when you have a seat!

but that’s simply because it is so busy. They can serve a mean Gin & Tonic though and I’ve had a few after work drinks here before catching the train home.

In general there are loads of places within this area that you can use but these are just a few of my favourites or ones that I have been recommended. Let me know if I’ve missed somewhere superb!

ps This is a great link to Central St Martins website that recommends places too.

How to look your best on LinkedIn

Linked In

Hello!

After my previous blog (how to be freelance), I thought I would just run through a few hints and tips that I have picked up along the way regarding LinkedIn. People who aren’t looking for a job should still put time and effort into their profile because you never know who is looking at it.

In my line of work, a lot of clients come through on a personal recommendation and although I have a business website, the majority of my new business comes from looking at my LinkedIn profile. I’m the first one to say that my profile isn’t perfect and does need a bit of work BUT it does have the following things that somehow enables me to get me client referrals:

  1. Complete the whole profile: Make sure that you have answered every single prompt – no need to waffle but add concise notes when required. Make sure to list any prestigious events, awards or voluntary work that you do/have done in the past. It all matters.
  2. Profile photo possibility
    Here is a profile photo that I could use but I feel it is too informal for LinkedIn

    A decent profile photo: This shouldn’t be the one that you use on Facebook or Instagram (unless both are business related accounts) but should show you looking professional and approachable. There are photographers that specialise in profile headshot – personally I like a colour image but I know a lot of people use black and white.

    Profile head shot alternative
    This is a more formal profile headshot

    You can use ‘action shots’ of yourself as well – such as giving a presentation or accepting an award. Personally I like to keep it simple and just show who I am.

  3. Background image: I like to use something that reflects my work and also my personality. Currently I have a beautiful vivid painting by one of the artists that I promote.

    Cutaway of a painting by Lucy Ash
    This is one of my preferred backgrounds
  4. A concise headline: That bit of text under your photo should be used to explain what you do. For me, I’m: Publicity and Marketing specialising in Arts and Publishing.  You can add in details – award winning sales director etc… instead. This is what future clients will be looking at.
  5. Examples of your work: I like to feature coverage of books or artists on my profile (although I’ve just noticed that these need refreshing!) or a project that you are particularly proud of that you think others may find interesting.
  6. LinkedIn recommendations
    Always ask for a Recommendation

    Recommendations: So important. Ask your clients or people that you have worked with in the past to endorse you in skills but also give a testimonial. You can give one back to them. This does help to solidify your profile.

  7. Add in the occasional update: I know people who use LinkedIn every day and add in a status update. This isn’t really my thing but I do comment on other people’s news or published articles. That way your name is seen by others and you are being supportive to your contacts.
  8. Contacts:  I believe in quality not quantity when it comes to contacts. I do know that in jobs such as Sales then being connected with as many people as possible is important but to me, I like to know my contacts or at least have someone/thing in common. I tend to have industry contacts only – not friends or neighbours unless it is really warranted. I do LinkIn with colleagues from the past a lot – they are my best referrals. They know how I work and my results. You never know when one of them might need a publicist…
  9. Get your personal LinkedIn URL
    Get your personal LinkedIn URL

    Get a custom URL: Really easy to do – just go through the prompts on your edit page. You can click here for help. That way you can use the link to direct clients straight away, on your emails and also it helps with Google. Everyone “googles” everyone before they meet or sometimes even talk so showing up on the first page is vital.

  10. Treat LinkedIn as your CV : Focus mostly on the work stuff. People are able to discover if you love running or cycling through their internet search of you. I would just use this platform to highlight your career.

Extra reading?

There are LOTS of articles out there that can help you with your LinkedIn profile. Videos and Instagram accounts that will show you how to add attachments, check the language you use and all sorts of things. I have found this article useful and this one has even more tips on getting your profile just right!