Meet Sarah, Dominque, Keri, Steve and Hannah

Stories of freelance parenting success: Part Two

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As I sit putting together this week’s newsletter, I feel very inspired and to be honest, very cheered up. It’s a worrying time right now with the threat of a second lockdown looming over us and the announcement of new restrictions, so I hope today's stories will be a welcome dose of respite and positivity.

Courage is the main thread within each story you’ll read here today and I hope that Sarah, Liv, Dominque, Keri, Steve and Hannah will all help to make you feel motivated and positive about the future ahead - and maybe spark an idea or two.

If you want to talk to any of the other TFP subscribers, don't forget you can head to the Freelance group and are welcome to start a conversation any time and post about anything you want to discuss.

So without further ado, may I introduce this week’s Freelance Parent stories…

Sarah Hooley-Jones, founder of Stori PR and Copywriting

“I was coming to the end of my maternity leave in March after having my youngest daughter, and realised I didn't want to go back to my old job. A friend of mine who owns her own business asked if I'd thought about going freelance, and said she would hire me as she was looking for PR support. It was at this point that I suddenly started to think it could be possible. It felt like a little seed had been planted, and slowly it began to flower. For the first time in a long time, I was excited and a few weeks later I handed my notice in. It's the most 'un-me' thing I've ever done - and the timing definitely could have been better (I gave my resignation letter in a week before Coronavirus arrived) - but I also knew if the risk paid off, it could give me everything I wanted: flexibility, fulfilment and a family life. Prior to this, I'd spent 16 years working as a features writer, magazine editor, sub-editor, copywriter and in PR. 

“I named my business, Stori PR & Copywriting, after the Welsh word for story because that's what I aim to do; write powerful and captivating copy. Whether it's a blog post, website content, social media, a press release, a case study or marketing brochure, I love the power of great storytelling and I've seen first-hand the impact it can have. One of my favourite quotes is: ‘people don't buy goods and services, they buy relations, magic and stories’ and it's undoubtedly true. We buy into the personality of a brand, what they stand for, their people, their ethos and their values. I adore the challenge of this; of finding the right words and the best hooks to make a connection with an audience. It's what makes me tick. In terms of what I'm proudest of, I am incredibly proud to support some truly wonderful small businesses, and helping them get the attention that they deserve”.

“Becoming a parent absolutely made me more courageous. I am mum to two amazing girls, and when my eldest (who's three) was born I decided to start keeping a journal full of stories of our life together to give to her when she's older. One day I found myself writing an entry telling her how important it is to be brave, to embrace making mistakes and to try and not worry. As a chronic over-thinker and worrier, my concern (and I appreciate the irony in this sentence), is that she will take after me, and at times be so afraid to make a 'wrong' decision that she misses out on living life. So, I decided that something needed to change and that if I wanted my daughters to be brave, I needed to lead by example”.

“There are two things I love equally about being a freelance parent. The first is the balance it offers; being able to work around my family and to set my own load. The second is that it lets me work part-time, and do something that I'm proud of. We still have a long way to go on the road to female equality, and the number of job roles that are both fulfilling and compatible with family life are sadly in short supply”.

“My biggest challenges have mainly been myself. Imposter syndrome is the enemy of so many people, and women in particular, I think. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband, as well as family and friends on hand to give me a pep talk when I need it”.

“My advice for other parents thinking of going freelance would be to be brave and go for it (and I don't say that lightly). I am lucky in that I'm really enjoying it so far and steadily growing my client base, but even if the worst happens or I decide it's not for me, I know I won't ever regret giving it a go”.

Steve Folland, Video and Audio Producer

Photo credit: Sian Parker

“I was freelancing on the side of my full time job in radio for years. But there came a point where I had so much extra work that it was seriously eating into my sleep. Then, our second child came along (devouring the rest of that sleep ) and our eldest started to approach school age. My wife was about to go back to working in London, and we realised we’d need to seriously think about how the kids would be looked after. Did it have to be breakfast/after school clubs, or… if I worked for myself from home, could I do it? So that’s what I did from January 2014 and the business has grown at a similar pace to the kids ever since”.

“There’s two sides to my business. One is making video and audio for businesses. A lot of that is making corporate training videos people actually want to watch. I’m most proud of a video we made for a major manufacturer that tackled the issue of potential modern slavery in their business. It was like a mini documentary with a powerful animated true story in there as well. It was great to feel like something I was working on could make a real positive impact to someone somewhere in a real time of need”.

“The other accidental side to my business is creating the Being Freelance podcast for freelancers which has also spawned its own community. I’m so proud of the various self-employed creatives from around the world who get in touch to tell me the difference it's made to them in their careers. I also co-host the Doing It For The Kids podcast, for self-employed parents - and definitely most proud of wining bronze in the Best Business Podcast category at the 2020 British Podcast Awards. We put so much effort into it. It was amazing to have our independent production recognised alongside really industry big players like The Times and The Economist. See, something good happened this year!”

“I’m not sure I had courage when I quit my job. But becoming a parent had given me the reason. There’s nothing like the fact you have a family and house to help support to make you knuckle down. It definitely made me force myself out of my comfort zone to make it work”.

“I love that I’m able to be here for them every day in a way that most parents, particularly dads, just normally aren’t. I remember seeing a poster in town saying ‘Dads! Come and play with your kids this Saturday morning - free bacon buttie!”. And I thought, why? (besides the bacon sarnie) -  I see them all the time? And it hit home that many don’t have that opportunity. For that matter, my wife didn’t get to until the pandemic. So I try not to take it for granted. I love the thought of them looking back at their childhoods and always feeling like we were around”.

“My biggest challenge is the school holidays. It took me a while to realise I had to have things planned. I either needed childcare (like day camps) so I could work or I needed to make sure I’d cleared my work schedule so I could hang out with them. This actually prepped me well for when the schools closed in March 2020. I knew full well that it wasn’t possible to really work from home and have the kids there. So I pretty much paused my work schedule and took care of them instead”.

“My advice for other parents thinking about going freelance…Frankie (who I co-host the Doing It For The Kids podcast with) and I always say… don’t wait until you’re ready. You’ll never feel ‘ready' to start a family and you’ll never feel ready to go freelance. But hey, you managed the kids thing, so you can do this too. 

The other thing is to build ‘wiggle’ room into your day and week so it’s not KIDS-WORKWORKWORK-KIDS-WORKWORK… give time for yourself, don’t pack that day full. Things always come up when you’re running a business and have children. One or the other will come needing you unexpectedly for sure”.

Dominique Woolf, founder of The Woolf’s Kitchen

“I actually first went freelance about 13 years ago to concentrate on singing/songwriting. I quit my job in recruitment and did freelance market research so I could focus on music. I eventually fell out of love with it, had three kids then had my lightbulb moment and realised I wanted a career with food”.

“The Woolf's Kitchen sells a range of spicy sauces, inspired by my Thai roots. I launched three months ago in lockdown and am really proud of what I have achieved in such a small space of time. Despite having my three young children at home (then aged 3, 4 and 5) I have already managed to get them stocked in nearly 30 independents and have won a three month mentoring programme with a drinks brand”.

“I must admit, I initially felt like I lost my identity a bit when I had children. I didn't have a career to fall back on and I didn't know what I wanted to do. With such young kids, I felt like I didn't want to go back to an office job working for someone else, so it definitely shaped my choices. I realised I had to follow a passion, but one that had flexibility to work around the family”.

“What do I love the most about becoming a freelance parent? The flexibility and the fact I'm my own boss and make my own hours. There are definitely pros and cons as you're always 'on' with your own business but doing something I love is so important. Having a purpose has made me a happier person. My biggest challenge however is always a lack of childcare”.

“From a practical perspective, if you’re thinking of going freelance, I’d say research your area thoroughly and make sure you have a viable proposition. Immerse yourself in your industry and learn everything you can. Think about how you can improve your skills. Network like crazy - Facebook and LinkedIn are great places for this. If possible, get advice from people already doing it. But above all - go for it!”

Keri Jarvis, founder of Do It Like A Mother 

“I started a self employed business at the end of 2013, training to be a Hypnobirthing teacher when my eldest was about six months old. Before that, I sold sprouts and knickers. Ok, I worked in Store Management for M&S”.

“My original business was called HypnoBirthdays, even thinking about the name makes me cringe for three solid days, but at the time I thought it was so clever... It was eventually to become Do It Like A Mother. I started out teaching couples in their homes, and opened my first, small studio space in 2017, then upgraded in 2018”.

“I gradually built a team around me, and we provided education and support to new and expectant parents - it was everything I felt was missing from my life when I had my first baby. That’s what I was most proud of - lessening loneliness and cluelessness in other new mothers’ lives”.

“I wouldn’t say having a baby made me more courageous, it just completely shifted my experience of what I could be interested in or excited about. I felt a massive sense of injustice as a new mum; the maternity system, the lack of the village, the invisible labour, THE PATRIARCHY basically. And before then, I thought we didn’t need feminism because I earned more money than my husband... I know, I know. I guess becoming a parent changed me so thoroughly that I could not have tried to slot back into my old life. I just would not have been able to fit”.

“I love that all the work I do is in alignment with my values. I never have to compromise on how I treat people, and I rarely need to engage with people I don’t connect with. I love that my sons see me being excited to work. I want that to seem normal to them, and for them to be genuinely perplexed by the idea that they’d do a job they disliked”.

“My biggest challenge is finding the elusive BALANCE. The fact is that there are significant pinch points - times when we seem to be contradicting ourselves. We start these businesses for more time with our families, then miss family time to build these businesses. It gets harder before it gets easier, and holding the vision can be really challenging when the reality is very different”.

“I need to keep my privilege in check here, but I work with lots of women who would be full time stay at home mothers if it weren’t for their businesses, because returning to employment has proved impractical for them. If you don’t urgently NEED the money to survive, and even if you do, I’d love to remind you that money is not the ONLY valuable output from time spent on your biz. If it’s not making money YET, but it supports your emotional wellbeing to be using that part of your brain, and building something for the future, it’s still worthwhile”.

Hannah Ashwell-Dickinson, Professional Organiser and Coach

“I was a self-employed theatre Stage Manager for 10 years before having my daughter. I worked consistently and on long contracts in theatres across London. The hours were very long but I absolutely loved what I did. Starting a family however, made it very difficult to keep all the balls in the air and after having my second daughter I decided I wanted more ownership over my time. So I set up my business as a Professional Organiser”.

“As a Professional Organiser, I help people to declutter and organise the spaces in their home. I work with a whole range of clients across London, empowering them to get rid of the things that no longer serve them and implementing systems to create calm, functional homes. I am so proud of the relationships I have built with my clients and to have a business that has a consistent flow of bookings month to month”.

“Becoming a parent has given me clarity on how I want to live my life. Knowing that I am a role model to my daughters helps me stay focussed and forces me to keep stepping out of my comfort zone. I appreciate the flexibility of how I structure my time but mostly I love being my own boss!”

“It takes courage to be freelance, I've had to stretch myself in lots of ways and stick with it when times are tough. Having to face my flaws head-on to get to the next level of business has been hard, but there’s such a sense of achievement to it too”.

“My advice for parents considering going freelance is to find a good support network - either real or online - being able to ask for help from other freelancers is invaluable”.

Still in need of some extra motivation? Watch Pregnant Then Screwed’s latest video showing the vital work they’ve been doing over the last six months - keeping the voices of pregnant women and mothers echoing through Westminster and beyond. Sending you a virtual high five! Until next time.

Cat x