My rules for attending networking groups

How I use networking groups to build my business.

Networking can be a great way to boost your business and your confidence

It is a horrible word, isn’t it? Networking. Sounds a bit cringey and slightly outdated in this world of social media where connections can be made instantly. But maybe I am old fashioned because I think there is a lot to gain from attending networking meetings. I’ve been attending groups for around five years and find it not only helpful to my business but also for my clients. I’ve been able to recommend people to my clients that I’ve met through networking and introduced my clients to certain groups that I thought would help them. What I have found most helpful is talking to people who are in a similar position as me – working short hours in the day whilst being the principal carer for my daughter. 

So here are my rules: 

  1. Always research the group before you attend. Speak to the person in charge – just sending an email won’t really give you much about the person. They should know their group well and will be able to tell you more about the members, how it works and also the dress code. 
  2. Decide if you want to go to a women only group. These have advantages as well as disadvantages. If you are new to networking, then I would suggest a women only group to start off with because to me, it feels more approachable. Mixed groups can be more intense and if you are new to networking then this might put you off.
  3. Practice a 1 minute presentation. Most groups do this where you introduce yourself, what you do and also what you are looking for. Hone your minute so that you sound natural and can look at the group when you speak. 
  4. Bring your business card or something that has your business details on it. Yes they are considered a little old hat now but they do still work.
  5. Remember that networking is a two way street – how can you help them? I find that by seeing how I can help someone first, they are always happy to reciprocate.
  6. Follow up – send thank you emails to everyone that you met, follow them on social media. This can be the next step in the conversation. 

You don’t need to keep attending the same group immediately. There are lots of different networking organisations out there – some that require a fee and others that require you to buy a coffee. I have found that the membership groups tend to be more organised and better focused. However groups like Ladies Who Latte are perfect to dipping your toe into the world of networking. I also think WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprises) has a lot to offer. Lastly, don’t forget that every social encounter could be networking – the Christmas parties you attend and Toddler mornings. Just be brave and be happy to discuss your business. You’ll be surprised at what comes your way. 

The weirdest work opportunity that came my way was when I went for my smear test…!

Hope this helps!  

How I Work: Jo O’Sullivan from Ta doodle dah

 

I love these blog posts! Finding out about the different ways we all cope with our 9 to 3 fascinates me. Like the lady I’m about to feature, I have a job that I love but needed a creative outlet to complete my happiness – hence this blog. Jo is an amazing, talented self-taught designer who runs her own company as well as being a teacher. I certainly feel exceedingly humble when looking at her achievements.

I came across Jo through my favourite social media platform, Instagram. Her designs are like a breath of fresh air that ping out from my phone.

Name of Business: Ta doodle dah (I create eye-catching eye-catching paper goods for children.)

Photo of Jo Sullivan of Tadoodledah
Jo O’Sullivan is a teacher and runs her own design paper product business.

What do you do?

I’m a part-time teacher in an Independent School and work on Ta doodle dah around my job and three children.

Where do you work?

I usually work with the laptop on my lap sitting on the sofa (great for my posture!) or at the kitchen table. I keep all my stock in boxes in a room in the dining room and pack orders on the table in there; not very glamorous at all!

How did you get to this point in your career?

I’ve been teaching for over 10 years and have only just launched Ta doodle dah this year. I’ve always been quite creative, but never really discovered my creative outlet until I started graphic designing at home for fun; I downloaded Adobe Creative as a trial and was instantly hooked! I’m completely self-taught, I love the freedom it gives me and I’m excited to see where this little business takes me.

The best part of my job is…

…Creating designs that people like and receiving lovely messages from them.

Just a hint of some of the designs from Ta doodle dah

The worst part is…

…Trying to find the time to do everything! I try not to be sitting with a laptop out when the kids are around, but it is really really hard.

Favourite time-saving trick?

I wish I had one! I think living near my parents helps me a lot as they do the odd school run for me and cook them dinner once a week; this is a lifesaver!

Best advice for anyone working the 9 to 3?

Working 9-3 feels like the shortest day sometimes but I always try and do the jobs that I really can’t do when the kids are around. For example, if the dishwasher needs emptying, I know I can do that when the kids are home, so I’ll leave it until later on. I try and prioritise the most urgent jobs that I really can’t do when the children are around. I can always think of a reason not to do the cleaning! Oh and I try not to fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and give myself a time limit on scrolling!

Favourite social media accounts/blogs?

Just a peek from the Instagram account of Ta doodle Dah!
Just a peek from the Instagram account of Ta doodle dah!

I love so many accounts and small businesses on Instagram but my favourites are probably @meandorla, @velveteenbabies, @wonderandrah, @little_jagger_, @emilybrooksuk and @susiejverrill.

Follow Jo on Instagram @tadoodledah

Please do visit her website: https://tadoodledah.com

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!

How to be freelance

 

Freelance life

Hello! I’ve had a few messages asking me about how to become freelance whilst working limited hours. (I love how 9 to 3 is consider ‘limited’ btw…) So if you are thinking of taking the leap into freelancing, then here are a few practical thoughts:

Photo of Laura working from homeKnow yourself – are you a highly motivated person? Can you work to self-imposed deadlines? Working freelance often means working by yourself with little company most days. You need to be able to motivate yourself to open that laptop every day and not get distracted by daytime television or my achilles heel – social media. My… that is a wormhole I often find myself in! If you can, great – that is half the battle. Sticking to regular working hours and putting in good practice measures straight away is vital.

Can you afford it – get financially savvy. Do you know what your outgoings are each month? My husband has a basic spreadsheet budget that he has used for decades and this tells him how much is due to go out each month. We know how much we need every month plus the extras such as car insurance, holidays and Christmas. Before I went fully freelance, I worked 3 days a week for a company to really find my feet – I used my other days to network and gradually build up potential new clients.

Laptop ready
Are you tech ready?

Location and tech – are you planning on working from home? Is your wifi up to it? When we moved, we didn’t have super-fast broadband (it wasn’t available) so it meant that I had to visit my parents every time I needed to send a large file. This wasn’t ideal but it made me more organised and I started working at their house 1 day a week.

Lifestyle – being freelance can mean working odd hours and juggling your normal ‘life’ as you get the business going. Do you have help with childcare? Are you able to attend meetings after school? Make sure that you have plans set up just in case. An example would be that I tend to visit clients in London every month – I choose a day that Amy doesn’t have any after school activities and my neighbour is happy to have her until I get back. Or I ask my parents. I’m lucky but I have this in place in case I suddenly have to attend an urgent appointment.

Choose your sector – are you planning on continuing within the same area as your current job? I have always working in PR and this is a sector that is very friendly to freelancers. I would make sure that you can still work as a freelancer before you take the leap. Chat to others who have already made the change to double check that it is a possibility.

Linked In
Is your LinkedIn profile updated?

Network and LinkedIn – keep in contact with people and companies that you would like to work with. The occasional coffee and quick email is a great way to keep in touch.  Highlight a product or a project that you loved. One of my best sources of income is through LinkedIn – I have had referrals from colleagues that I worked with over 12 years ago (that makes me feel old) via the site. Keep your profile fresh and remember to add an update each time you finish or win a new project. I’ll be running a separate blog post on LinkedIn soon.

Accounts – do you know how to keep up with your taxes? I’ll admit that this area terrifies me and I had a meeting with an accountant who guided me through everything. Now I do my own books but she processes my tax return. I also save at least 25% of my income to put into savings, National Insurance and my taxes. To read more about taxes when freelancing, I’d recommend this article.

Honesty – be honest with yourself AND your clients. Tell them the hours that you work and the reasons why. Since having Amy I know that I’m more motivated and efficient with my time – mainly because I have no choice. This, in my opinion makes me a better worker as I’m focused, deadline ready and prepared.

Get yourself a contract
Have a few draft contracts ready

Contracts – get something in place that suits you and your client. There are lots of templates available online that you can amend. This can help with payment processes and also defines the time you will spend on the project.

 

Love what you do! This is the most important aspect  – love what you do and it will never feel like work! I’m passionate about brilliant books and beautiful art. This makes me want to work with artists and authors – I’m enthused by their art. Everyday is different and this is what I love about freelancing.

Still not sure? I really like The Crunch for their articles on self-employment. Have a look here for other articles that may help you.