I recently wrote a guest blog for The Resilient Mama about my experience of working from home with kids. When I wrote it I wasn’t relating it to being at home working with kids whilst living through a pandemic but I think the tips are still relevant. Let me know your thoughts.
I have just come back from the holiday of a lifetime, white sands, lots of greenery, sunshine all day and numerous rum based cocktails. One question that I always ask myself when I go away is should I work or should I just pack up totally? I have found that there is no one size fits all solution.
Some people are able to switch off and leave their work knowing that things will be fine and they can deal with any queries on their return (this was me when I was an employee with other people to cover for me whilst I was away). Others work throughout their holiday (this was me pre-child) but I find that for me what works form me now is finding a middle ground. In this case it meant ensuring that I sent out one press release for a client whilst I was away and checked my emails daily. I made it clear in my out of office that I would only be checking emails twice and day and only replying to those where it was totally necessary for me to do so.
This was just the right balance for me as it meant I just spent about an hour a day working for the first couple of days and then only about 15 to 30 minutes on the other days checking and responding to emails and media enquiries. Some people may say that that meant I didn’t really switch off but for me it made the holiday more relaxing as I knew I wasn’t coming back to an overflowing inbox (I am definitely in the camp of getting pleasure from seeing a big fat zero in the unread emails section). It also meant that other than the times I had designated to work and checking emails I was able to totally engage with my son and husband and enjoy the break, plus they weren’t affected by these brief work periods as I would do them when they were in the pool or after my son had gone to bed.
Finally the biggest benefit for me was knowing that when I got back into work mode yesterday, I could just crack on with the tasks I needed to do instead of spending half the day wading through emails.
Being self employed and having a kid is great, but it can be hard. Yesterday my son was unexpectedly ill nothing serious but enough that he couldn’t go to nursery. A day that should have had six working hours in it, minimum, suddenly turned into one where I managed about two hours and that was only because of the babysitting services of Peter Pan and Bing.
Whilst I was trying to work through the shouts of Captain Hook I got to thinking about the pros and cons of self-employed life.
• Working when you want to work. The 9 to 5 never really suited me. I am productive in the morning and at night but in the afternoon my brain seems to need a little down time. Fine when you manage your own hours not so cool when you have a boss breathing down your neck.
• I can work with people I like. I am lucky I am in a position where I only work with people I like and get on with. This wasn’t the case when I first became self-employed but seven years on and it is one of my favourite luxuries of self-employment.
• No office politics. I don’t have to listen to who said what about who because to be honest I never really cared.
• Sports day, school plays, mopping poorly brows I can do them all. It might mean I have to use the TV to babysit or work late into the night, but I can be there.
• Social life and holidays. If a friend is off work and fancies lunch if my client work is up to date I can go, I can go for an hour, three hours or all day and nobody will question it. If I fancy a holiday I don’t have to check with HR or make sure that Janet in accounts isn’t off at the same time.
• Having babies, you can have all the time and all the cuddles with them if you choose to.
• People don’t think I have a job (well not a serious one). Some people talk to me as if it is a little hobby (yes that’ll be my mum). There seems to be far more status attached to jobs I have had previously with titles and company cars, even though I work much harder being self-employed I have to get the work, do the work, keep the client, manage my time, sort my accounts etc.
• Not secure even when you feel secure (could lose a client). Even when things are good and you’re full to capacity there is always that niggling feeling that things could change, that a client could have a change of heart or worse all your clients.
• Money, money, money (or not). I have most of my clients on retainer so have a good idea of my monthly income but there are always often clients that delay paying or struggle with cash flow which in turn affects my cash flow.
• Working holidays. I never really switch off, even when on holiday I check my emails and respond to journalists and enquiries. I keep reminding myself it is PR not ER.
• Having babies can be tricky. You get all the perks of the time with them but you either have to start back working for clients quite quickly and fit work round naps and often ad-hoc childcare or take some time out and go back to what seems like the beginning when they are a bit bigger.
What do you love and hate about working for yourself?
When I was growing up, I didn’t dream having a career in PR, if I am honest, I didn’t even know such a thing existed other than in the world of Absolutely Fabulous. When I was small, I had several dreams of what I would be which included:
Becoming a nun (I was about 8) – not because I was particularly religious but because I had a kid crush on Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music. I don’t think wanting to marry a handsome man is reason to become a nun.
A heart and a lung surgeon (I was 11) – turns out I was ok at science (not great but ok) and biology was my best science but given I couldn’t really deal with any of the dissection stuff I doubt I would have been a success.
A lawyer – Not sure what prompted this desire.
I am sure if I spoke to my mum, she would have a full list of careers I had dreamt of. In the end I decided that I wanted to be a journalist and between the ages of 16 and 18 did quite a bit of work experience on local newspapers before heading to university to study a journalism degree.
I loved journalism until the point that I graduated and got a job as a journalist (well editorial assistant) at which point I realised that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the intrusiveness, the fact you were expected to knock on people’s doors at bad times in their lives and I didn’t enjoy the newsroom atmosphere (shouty with a lot of testosterone). After only a year I had a rethink and decided I still wanted to write, and I wanted to speak to people and hear their stories and that led me to the world of PR.
20 years later and I still love it. I love hearing what makes people tick, how they got to where they are, why they need help and helping them share that story. Whether it is working with a charity, getting a small business seen, helping people promote the work they are doing I enjoy it. I still get the same buzz when an event goes well, or I see a client in print or hear them on the radio as I did when I started out. In fact I maybe feel it even more now since I started working for myself and have my own clients, because I really enjoy working with all the businesses, I do PR for.
So, how are your plans and resolutions going? I know we are only two weeks into the year but I thought I would ask. In my last blog I wrote all about how instead of making resolutions I have just created a whole list of things I want to do in 2020. These things fit into the three categories family/home, business and personal and so far let me say it is a mixed bag.
One of my goals was to blog more, as you have probably guessed I am already slightly behind with that mainly because of…..life. I often find I am so focused on making sure I hit the goals that I have said I will reach for my clients (they are the ones who make sure I can eat so it is only fair) that I fall behind on my own.
On the plus side I have used my business Instagram more. Thanks mainly to The Self-Employed club and their daily prompts (check them out on Instagram @selfemployedclub). Their calendar of topics for the month as helped me some up with daily content ideas which takes a lot of the hassle and thought out of posting and I have found in the past with Instagram that followers do appreciate more personal content than solely business.
On a personal level I have achieved one of my goals as last Friday I tried aerial yoga for the first time and man it was hard, but it was really good fun. I ached before I finished the glass but am heading back tomorrow to give it a go again.
So, all in all it is swings and roundabouts on the goals front but the year is young and I only have about 50 things on the list so if I achieve one a week I will be on track.
I don’t do resolutions in business or personally but at the end of each year or start of a new year I do like to plan. All the personal development books, bloggers etc will say planning is important for success, but after reading a blog post from Jenny Proctor at Bondfield Marketing I decided to give something else a try, which was reflecting.
Whilst I agree planning is imperative, I found that taking the time to reflect was eye opening and made the planning part easier. By looking back it gave me the opportunity to remind myself how far I have come and all I achieved in the previous year. It can be easy to get lost in focusing on the things that went wrong such as the business you didn’t win, the stupid thing you said at a party, the new followers you never got, the presentation you felt you messed up but a lot harder to look at your wins.
So I wrote a list of everything I had achieved which included winning some new retained clients, juggling business and a small child, running a PR workshop, drinking more water, attending a writers retreat, getting away with friends, exercising regularly, starting to networking again, making new friends and doing some personal development. Whilst to some none of this is earth shattering it gave me a buzz just taking a moment to look at all the things I had achieved. The list totalled 48 things on completion.
After doing the reflection Jenny suggested writing a list of things you want to do in the coming year and then categorise them into three sectors home/family, business and personal. When I wrote the first list of things I wanted to achieve in the coming year it looked a bit overwhelming but when I broke the list down into the three sectors (I used various coloured pens and images – I am a list and colour coding geek) it felt more do-able and exciting. I did find my shortest list was business, but I guess the lists will vary year on year. Here are some of my goals for 2020 which came out in the planning:
• Have more nights out with my husband
• Do #150hoursoutside project with my son
• Try and get away with my mum
• Grow my client base
• Run more 1-2-1 PR workshops
• Blog for business more (hence why you are reading this)
• Have a night away alone
• Start running again
• Write more for pleasure
• Try aerial yoga
I am going to keep referring back to my plans throughout the year and hopefully I manage to complete all the things I want to do.
How do you plan for the year? Do you just plan for business or for life in general? Do you reflect beforehand?
Having a crisis communications plan is a little like taking out insurance, everybody hopes they never need it but you could regret it if you don’t have it.
Many small businesses think they don’t need a crisis plan but, it is important to have one in place. The key things I would advise SME’s to have in place are the following:
A spokesperson should a crisis occur. It is best to have only one of two people involved with this as everybody trying to comment could be a disaster.
Think about how you deal with complaints on social media. I would suggest, never delete the complaint, respond to the complaint you want followers to see that you are dealing with the issue, have a specific person who deals with online complaints and don’t get into arguments with the customer/client on social.
If the crisis looks like it is going to spread make sure you communicate with stakeholders and customers (where relevant)
Devise a media statement as soon as possible
Respond to any media enquiries in a timely fashion
Advise the team that any queries regarding the crisis must be directed straight to the spokesperson. What you don’t want to happen is the first staff hear about it is when the press call and they respond without thinking.
In advance and depending on your business think about key messages and how you would respond to any of the following incidents (where relevant)
accidents that injure employees or others
property damage to company facilities
liability associated injury to or damage sustained by others
production or service interruptions
chemical spills or releases with potential off-site consequences, including environmental
product quality issues
This is just a very brief overview and crisis comms can be a very in-depth and tricky area. If in doubt hire a professional.
When a new client comes to me very often they start the conversation by saying something along the lines of “I need PR help.” or “I want a press release writing”. Both are reasonable requests. I then asking them “What do you want to achieve?” Very often they respond that they want people to know about x, y or z.
But the question what do you want to achieve? Is bigger than it may first appear. As a business tackling PR think about what you want any PR or marketing activity to result in. Do you want:
To increase footfall to a venue
Increase sales of a product or service
Get more enquiries about the service/product you offer
To convert viewers to buyers
Drive more people to your website
Just generally raise awareness of what you offer
Your answer to this question will determine how the PR strategy is executed and what calls to action are made in any releases, marketing and/or social media.
I have been thinking about the most common things that come up when people first speak to me about working with them on a PR campaign. With that in mind I thought that I would create some short blogs outlining my top PR tips.
When people get in touch they usually want me to spread the word about their product or service, which is great as that is what I am here to do but quite often unless the product or service is totally unique it will be hard to get coverage.
All is not lost though, there is always another angle and this is where your story comes into play. Most people have a story but very often, as it is just part of their life they don’t realise that the story would be of interest to others.
This is why when I first start working with a client I sit down with them and have an in-depth chat not just about their business but their background and how they got to where they are now.