Posted on June 12, 2018
Going freelance is a decision I took in Italy, seven years ago. I started working as a freelance SEO Consultant in 2011, after my second daughter was born and my employers couldn’t afford to pay salaries any more.
Freelancing in Italy is difficult, though, and running our family web agency became impossible. We had to close it and we decided we had enough. We wanted a fresh start in a new Country and the whole family packed up and flew to London. It took me nearly one year to feel tempted to going freelance again. At that time, I had absolutely no idea about how to work freelance in the UK. I knew my job, though, and I thought that if I nearly made it in Massa, being an SEO consultant in London could be worth trying. “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere...”, I was thinking, humming the tune of Frank Sinatra.
It is so much easier here. If you’re interested, I might be sharing a bit of the difference between freelancing in the Uk and in Italy in a future post. One of the things that never stop making me fall in love with the UK is the support I keep receiving. I’ve been kindly adopted me and supported so much! In Italy, the economic scarcity is so strong, that I’ve experienced a fierce competition ruling over cooperation, in every aspect of the business. Thinking about going freelance in a new Country, I was worried how to create a new network around me. I joined the Athena Network for real-life meetings, then I discovered the wealth of online communities existing here, in which freelancers support each other a lot.
Doing It for The Kids – the Community
Doing It For The Kids has been one of the first I joined as I rebranded my freelance business. It is an online community for freelance and self-employed parents to connect. As a mum, I decided I wanted to be in, as soon as I read the description:
Life as a freelancer is tough and unpredictable without children, throw kids into the mix and it’s potential chaos. Whether you’ve been self-employed for decades or jumped ship post-kiddos — there’s no doubt about it, working for yourself as a parent is HARD.
Let’s make life a little easier.
I want you to ask questions.
I want you to share your experience, skills and know-how.
I want you to help other freelance parents out.
I want you to feel you can be honest and open.
I want you to make genuine connections and friends.
Frankie Tortora launched this free online community by and for freelance parents in November 2016. She’s a very talented graphic designer (I just adore the motivational stationery, prints and gifts in their Shop!) and mum to a lovely boy. Through the blog, Instagram page and Facebook Group, DIFTK is a place we can get and give each other support, on the rollercoaster experience of going freelance.
Due to a lack of time, energy or inclination, none of us is actually stopping to recognise all that we were managing to achieve every single day; in those precious 30 minute nap times; in those golden hours in between the school run. As both parents and freelancers we had no appraisals, no formal feedback (maybe the odd “love you mum!” if we’re lucky!) and it was so easy for all of us to feel unmotivated and totally lacking in confidence.
Besides being virtually in touch, Frankie organised a real-life meetup in December, which I couldn’t attend. This time, but I didn’t want to miss this one, and it was a splendid decision! Even if I knew only a couple of the participants in the beginning, I took my courage and went back to the lovely Huckletree West in Hammersmith, where I had attended my beloved coding lessons with June Angelides’ Mums in Tech.
June Angelides’ business and life experience:
June has been one of the first people I met at the DIFTK meeting. I was so glad to meet her newborn daughter Iris, who was with her. They were both so bright in colours and energy, so warm and happy to be together.
Answering Frankie’s questions, June explained why she created Mums in Tech. Her project focuses on parents, too, who have great business ideas but no coding skills (or minimal) to develop it. June told us about her business experience, how she launched Mums in Tech, how she decided to build this business, how she could run it and how she recently decided to take a break, to spend time with her family, now that the lovely Iris was arriving!
Seeing them both together made me think back to the days when she was so busy working before she was born. This new aspect of her, connected to her family values and her needs as a mum, once more showed me how we all share the same feelings, and how we are driven by so many passions and such a powerful energy!
There was really a load of energy in the colourful room of Huckletree West. So many mums and dads brought their kids and newborns with them. Some spent time playing with the crèche, many others were walking around us that morning. They made the atmosphere even more joyous and vibrant. The workspace was so bright and a colourful, that you could see their eyes sparkling with the excitement to explore it all. A mum told me her husband was walking outside with their son in the backpack while making a business phone call. That all made it clear: we are really Doing It For The Kids. Going freelance to have more time to spend with them.
Working on your own is not always that easy, though. For this reason, I was so happy to hear the talks. We had the chance to listen to tips so precious I couldn’t help writing notes and taking pictures (sorry for the low quality of them, I hope you can get the feeling – and the content – anyway).
Steve Folland’s tips on going freelance:
Steve Folland is a “producer, presenter, writer, father, cake eater”. He runs the inspiring podcast “Being Freelance” where since 2015 more than 100 freelancers have shared their tips, experiences and advice.
He had prepared slides with tips: at each and every one of them I nodded, so much they resonated with me!
Here are some of the tips Steve Folland gave us, that I really would like to share:
- He started suggesting “Don’t freak out!“. I can only agree: there are so many opportunities to freak out when you’re freelancing…
- “You’re running a business… and if you don’t have that mindset, you’re not going to succeed”. Steve remarked how getting yourself a business account, a website, an email, generally treating yourself like a business, thinking about doing best things in it will set you in the right direction.
- “Know your finances and understand them”. We should really be doing it, from the very basics, figuring out your base rate, the childcare, if it’s actually worth taking on a particular project.
- “Nice guys get paid last”. In Italy, you might not be paid at all, and got no chance to sue people for it. Here you had some actual civil rights, but still, the person who is going to be paid first is the one who chases their credits the most.
- “You have to value yourself. If you don’t – why would your client?“
- “Only put out examples of work that you want to keep doing in the future”. If we keep something in our portfolio, showing that this is a skill we have, people could actually want to hire us to do what they see we are doing. Instead, if there’s something we’d like to do but none pays us to do it yet, we could maybe create a side project for it or do it for charity, and we’ll have that work to show.
- “I don’t do marketing. I make friends“. True, true, true!
- I was relieved hearing that I was not the only one to struggle with a lack of confidence in myself, particularly when we start going freelance. Steve told us to keep in mind, though, that the reason why people remember about us might not necessarily be what we do as a job, but what makes us unique as a person! Be it mountain climbing or veganism, that’s what we are and we shouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves!
- As parents and freelancers, we seem to be chronically time-deprived. So, working smart is all. We work better when we have deadlines. If we know we’re going to spend 2 hours on a Wednesday morning in West London with lovely people (and lovely biscuits!), we focus so much better on a project because we know we need to finish our work on Monday and Tuesday. We should “embrace the constraints and work smarter”, figuring out systems and processes which can make our work easier. And, as parents, we become very experienced in this!
- “Time tracking, always”. It’s not about charging per hour. You need to know how much time you spend on a task because you will know better how much to charge for it to quote for it, the next time. Steve suggested we could keep track of your lifetime too, with an app like Toggl, to realise better where our time is going.
- “Stop being so available. You don’t have to pick up every call, you don’t have to reply every email immediately. When you do that, clients tend to expect that. And it’s not just people demanding your time but computers as well, so turn down those notifications if possible”. You’re so right.
- “Realise that not every opportunity is a good opportunity”. I do agree! There is a lot of power in saying “No”, also because “Saying “Yes” to one thing means saying “No” to something else” and vice versa. It might be an opportunity, time spent with the kids, taking time for ourselves. Setting out clear priorities and goals is the key to this, in my opinion.
- I’m glad I’m not the only one who sometimes realises taking care of my kids, my husband, definitely my clients, and such a small time for myself. Steve said a precious sentence: “Take care of yourself: you are your business”.
- He added that someone does this by “scheduling time for themselves first“. Scheduling time for a coffee or coming to networking events like this or an evening out with our friends is definitely worth it.
- We really shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. We should stop giving us names, stop comparing ourselves to the others and relax: it is actually ok not to be ok. sometimes.
Nicky Raby: realising how much we bring to the table and what we really want
Nicky Raby’s sweet face has been the first I’ve met two days ago and was one of the few ones I would have recognised. We never met in real life before, but I had the privilege of being a guest of Episode Six of her podcast. It was my first “interview” and I was worried everyone would have laughed at my Italian accent. Yet, I thought I had to push me out of my “comfort zone” and I truly enjoyed every second of it! Nicky made me feel relaxed, as if it was just the two of us, chatting!
Nicky releases a podcast episode every Monday and Thursday. She asks her guests about their business journey and she always tries to give business tools to elevate your personal brand, doing more of what you love and less of what you don’t.
That’s the way Nicky is. Bright, positive, so full of energy and truly willing to help!
Nicky Raby is a podcaster, but she’s also an actor, a writer, and a coach. She writes on her site:
“We no longer have to make a decision at sixteen that will define us for the rest of our life. We can chop and change.
We can make life work on our terms. We can create our own version of success across home, life and ourselves.
As a 36-year-old woman, mother of one, I thought (or so the press the told me) I may be in a limited position at this time; fewer options, less money, fewer opportunities and recognition. I am thrilled to say, I haven’t found this to be the case. In fact the opposite, there is a wonderful rise of personal brands and creatives flourishing online and you can do the same. But you need a plan (that’s where I come in)”.
At our DIFTK meeting, Nicky highlighted how, sometimes, doing what we do is really hard. Nobody taught us how to do most of the things that we are all doing now. Not only working and trying to do what we love, but also raising children, and putting ourselves out there. We had to figure it all out as we went. But she wanted us all to realise that, even if we never did it before, we are bringing so much to the table already.
Nicky helped us understand how much this is, through an exercise called The Success Timeline:
- To begin, she suggested us to do a very basic plot: this is when I was born, this is when I went to school, this is me now.
- Then, to start adding things that we’ve done: the time we went to school, when we finally felt great with someone who acknowledged us: all those moments of our life that changed things.
- Then, we go even a layer deeper and write the things that we have done that are part of our identity, that allowed us to be on our own and do things. What did those moments do to us in your life?
Fleshing that all out, we can realise we are not starting from scratch.
Then, Nicky asked us then to try and ask ourselves what we really want.
What are we absolutely keen in terms of making us happy with ourselves? If the big things people use to describe the joys of going freelance don’t resonate with us, we should figure out what truly does and go really into detail about that.
We stay up late at night working, we e-mail people before going to meetings, we don’t know how to squeeze any more things to do into our days. We work too hard just to pay bills. We need to find the moments that make it worth. And we should always find time for the things that make us feel most of our life.
Penny Wincer: messy is normal and it can be fine!
Penny Wincer is a freelancer photographer, specialised in photographing children, lifestyle and interiors. Now based in London, she grew up in Melbourne, Australia and one of her parents was a freelancer, too.
Penny told us about her intense experience of being the single mum to two children, one of which has special needs, and a successful photographer, working with and for the most important publishers. People are generally used to controlled, stable lives, Penny said. When they start going freelance, then, their lives become a little messy, but “messy is absolutely fine“, she added. Thinking of my constant efforts to keep entropy in my life under control, it was such a relief to hear so. I guess it’s true if you embrace the idea. We should stop aiming for perfection because we will never be able to reach it. We should better aim for happiness and satisfaction, I’d say.
Penny’s photography job is seasonal, and she has learnt to check her life’s balance over a very long period of time. She thinks that when you run your own business, you need sometimes to embrace that kind of look, taking a step back. It gets easier with time when you can compare the year with a previous one.
She also highly recommended, as soon as you can, to get yourself a workspace out of the house. I sighed, thinking back to the one we used to have in Italy. It was always full of energy, young professionals, hopes and projects. It was the right place to focus on the tasks to do and meet clients.
Now it’s the time to rebuild the business, and it seems easier, having all this support around.