"I didn’t want to sacrifice my time with my daughter for anything that wasn’t something that I was really excited about"
Red magazine's former digital editor Roanna Day tells us why now is the perfect time for her to go it alone
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Hello, how are you?
Sick of homeschooling, the cold weather, and living in a vacuum? Yes, me too. I know things are pretty tough right now, but I hope today’s newsletter brings you a virtual hug and a few minutes of much-needed respite.
So what do I have in store for you today? A whole lot of inspiration, I hope.
I always have my ear quite close to the ground for stories of parents making the leap into freelance life, so I was pretty excited when Roanna Day announced that she was doing exactly that last week and leaving her role as Red magazine’s digital editor to launch not one but two new businesses.
Roanna has so far enjoyed an enviable career as a journalist, starting out on local papers, before becoming a fashion copywriter for the Very group, and later joining Red magazine where she worked her way up to digital editor.
For those of you that follow Roanna on Instagram, you’ll also know that she recently had a baby daughter and swapped a busy life in London for the idyllic Monmouthshire countryside. (The view from her kitchen table is totally envy inducing).
So keen to find out more, Jessica Morris (TFP’s virtual editorial assistant) spoke to Roanna earlier this week. They had a good old chat about everything from motherhood, to being brave, changing priorities and why Roanna felt that now was the time to go it alone. At the time of our interview, Roanna was only able to talk about the first of her new ventures, ThinkSmall: a friendly, no-nonsense agency that she’s co-founded alongside her sister and friend which exists to champion, cheer on and support small businesses. The second project is still firmly under wraps but we can’t wait to hear what she’s got planned when she’s ready to announce it.
We wish you so much luck Roanna!
So without further ado, grab a cuppa, get comfy and I hope you enjoy the interview.
Until next time,
THE INTERVIEW: ROANNA DAY, CO-FOUNDER OF THINKSMALL
JESS: How has motherhood changed your views on work and your priorities? Was it motherhood that inspired you to make the shift into freelance?
ROANNA: “Well, it’s such a big shift isn’t it? I was woefully naive about the obvious things like how motherhood would change my body, my life and my finances - it changed me in a really deep, sort of pivotal way. I feel like a totally different woman, actually. My labour was not fun, the recovery was quite slow and my daughter has only just started doing anything close to a reasonable nights sleep (which I know is not unusual). But for some reason, I sort of thought, ‘oh maybe it’ll be six months of broken sleep and then it’ll be fine’. I I just wasn't prepared for 12, 13 months of absolute, complete exhaustion”.
“I think that completely threw into the air and re-settled all of my priorities really. We’ve also left London and moved to Monmouthshire, which is a huge change. I’ve had a bit of a difficult year family wise as well; my dads not been very well, so I think just absolutely everything got thrown into a mixer and I had to decide, again, where I wanted things to settle. I have been in my previous role at Red for so long, and while I absolutely loved it, it wasn’t a fresh challenge anymore. Everything’s very cyclical in magazines; you can look at the March issue of a magazine and then look at the one from the year before, and it is similar themed. That is absolutely not a discredit, it's just how that world of features works. I just thought, ‘gosh I don’t know if I want to do another couple of years of the same themes, the same going down the same road,’ because I’ve done it so often”.
“There were obviously some incredible things about my role at Red that were really fun, including some great perks like freebies, travel etc. But I just sort of stopped caring about them. I think that motherhood has definitely done that to me and eating at amazing restaurants, and all of that, has just totally lost its appeal. It's not what I’ve missed and it’s not what I get excited about anymore. I thought about the elements of the role that I really loved, such as when I’d meet with a brand founder and we’d have coffee and they’d tell me about this product that they had cooked up practically over their kitchen sink”.
“I’d get so excited because I could champion them, and I knew that I was in a position to feature and make a real difference to their business. I loved having conversations at Red events and getting the chance to meet the readers, and see the work that they were doing. I felt very privileged to get to tell their story. And it was those opportunities that I realised I wanted to continue having”.
“I didn’t want to sacrifice my time with my daughter for anything that wasn’t something that I was really excited about. She kind of just forced me to make quite a cut-throat decision of ‘I only want to work if it's something that I feel is making a real difference and is something that I'm desperate to do’. There’s a sort of complication due to my dad being unwell so we can’t actually put her in nursery because his immune system is compromised”.
“So, even if I did want to put her in a nursery, I couldn’t. So this has forced me to really think about how to make this work, because I can't work anywhere full-time anymore. I’ve had to rethink how I work alongside being a mum. I suppose it definitely was motherhood that inspired me to make the leap, as well as lots of other things. This last year has been crazy, so I think I’ve just almost had to look at how we live our lives afresh and start again really”.
JESS: Have you been thinking about going freelance for a while, or was it purely a recent decision dependent on recent circumstances?
ROANNA: “I think because I started off as a freelancer, I was under no illusions about quite how hard it is. Being an editor for so long, I also know the incredible volume of freelancers pitching for work. It has been quite a hard decision to think, ‘flip, I'm joining the ranks of so many talented freelancers’ ”.
“The thing is that we (ThinkSmall) are really not out there to promote ourselves but to champion other small businesses and freelancers. It was this that that made me think, ‘I think this is worth the risk, because if we pull this off, I think it could be really exciting and really important’ ”.
“But I dithered a bit. I suppose the other deciding factor was that there wasn't anywhere up to go from my role as digital editor. It’s sort of the top, and from there you end up making sideways moves. You either end up going into a very strategic commercial role and end up not writing, or you go sideways and just go and edit another brand. Neither of those routes really appealed to me so it forced the decision in a way”.
JESS: Do you think ThinkSmall will open up new doors for you, and do you think working with your sister and friend will help you feel more supported?
ROANNA: “Yeah, I think so. It is much nicer doing things with a partner. It’s so much less terrifying and lonely doing this brave leap with my sister as well. I suppose it just gives us more hands on deck. We have some calls this week and stuff to be getting on with, and it’s just so nice to know that it’s not all on me. If my daughter has a particular teethy day or a bad night, then there is someone to say ‘oh my goodness I need you to pick up the slack today because I’m not coping’”.
“We worked together years ago and launched an ethical fashion brand (we even won a competition and showed at London fashion week). Looking back we realise how young we were, so it does feel different now and we both have a lot more notches on our belt. It’s lovely to work with someone who I trust and who’s career I really respect, and who also fills lots of my skills gaps. So, together, along with our friend who is a graphic designer and photographer, we have so much to offer in a way in terms of skills to support small businesses. It’s lovely knowing they won’t just benefit from my skills set but the other girls as well”.
JESS: What are your goals for 2021?
ROANNA: “I have a lot of goals so it’s tricky to narrow them down. However, with ThinkSmall, my goal is to help small businesses grow and expand in some way. I want to help them to steal some of the market share and sales from big companies who won’t even notice it, but it will make a massive difference to the entrepreneurs and small businesses who we’re talking to. I want to finish the year off with some case studies of how some of the small brands we’ve worked with have met some of their own goals while feeling supported the whole way. I want to see it make a tangible impact on people’s livelihoods. That would really fill me with joy”.
“I’ve got another couple of things in the pipeline, so I am ambitiously launching another business which I can’t go into detail about yet. In a way this feels a lot scarier as this is me creating a product”.
JESS: Because your work is so multi-faceted, how do you juggle your time and do you have any advice for other freelance parents?
ROANNA: “Gosh I wish I had the solution to this. I have always been a quick worker and quite efficient in decision making. I have worked with people who really agonise and struggle over their decisions; they really dissect everything, and sometimes that is a strength, but it definitely does slow you down. I think when you have kids, a freelance career to sustain, a house to clean and homeschooling to do, it is like there is no time for phaffing basically”.
“With ThinkSmall, I didn’t have time to sit and think about it too much or worry about whether it could even work. We just launched it. And it is the same with the other projects we are doing, I don’t have time to agonise over them. I just sit down and do them”.
“If you are on the cusp of just starting something, my advice is just to do it. You can launch it, set sail and figure it out on the water. I think that is often the way it has to be for parents who are really busy. You don’t have the time to perfect something - you have just got to go with it”.