The juggle is real

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.

juggling

Pros
• 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.

Cons
• 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?

 

Rebecca Slater runs Beck and Call Public Relations http://www.beckandcallpr.co.uk

 

How did I get here?

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.

What do you love about your work?

Going off plan

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.

Aerial yoga

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.

Let me know how you are getting on.

A time for reflection

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.self reflection
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?

Let me know what works for you.

PR Tips 3: Crisis comms

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.

 

 

PR Tips 2: What do you want to achieve?

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.

Why I love PR

When I first embarked on my career, I envisioned myself as a Carrie from Sex and the City type. I had visions of floating round in beautiful clothes and then writing a column full of my musings that women across the country would love.

After three years doing a journalism degree, I got a job working for a news agency and very quickly realised that maybe journalism wasn’t for me. So I started to think what could I do which would allow me to write, talk to people and get out and about and I decided PR was the career for me and I haven’t looked back.

So, why do I love PR:

• I love finding out about people and their stories. When I first work with a client, I have a big in-depth chat with them so I can find out more, establish what the story is and look for any hidden gems there might be.

• Writing, this has always been a passion and PR gives me the chance to write in various styles, to date I have written general press releases, a thought leadership piece as the voice of large company, a piece on behalf of a 15 year old girl for a teen magazine, a regular first aid column and an article as a meat packaging expert to name a few.
• Helping businesses be seen and heard. I work mainly with SME’s, not for profits and social enterprises and a lot of them think they don’t have a story, won’t be heard amongst everybody else or that they can’t afford PR and I like helping them realise they do, they will and they can.

• Organising events. In my non-work life I love a party and PR gives me plenty of opportunities to come up with ideas for client events whether it is a ball or and in-store event to thank loyal customers I enjoy the whole process, coming up with the idea, the planning, getting everything organised and seeing it all come together.

What do you love most about your job?

www.beckandcallpr.co.uk

Working from home & self-employment – My top tips

When I tell people that I work for myself from home lots of them say they wouldn’t have the motivation (believe me when you know you won’t get paid unless the clients work is done, you have motivation). Other people assume that I sit around in PJ’s all day watching Jeremy Kyle and not actually working, as great as that sounds I don’t think anybody would pay me for that
Like any work, of course there are days when my motivation is greater than others and I power through my to do list like a machine. Other days I am sat at my desk and at the end of the day I still feel I have achieved very little. To help me on my way I have certain things I do.
1. Exercise
This won’t be for everybody but I start each day with a gym session, not only does it keep me fit but it also clears my head and wakes me up before my working day starts, it also gives me a chance to see people (working from home means seeing other people is not always a daily occurrence). I would suggest everybody tries to fit a bit of exercise into their day whether it’s the gym, a run, doing some stretches when you get up or getting out for a walk when you take a break. It really clears your head.

2. Get dressed for work
I don’t sit at my desk in a suit but I don’t work in my pyjamas. I feel that by getting dressed, doing my hair and make-up I get into a work frame of mind. Also I’m not sure how keen my husband would be on returning home each day to me in PJ’s with my crazy bed hair.

3. Try and keep normal working hours
I generally try and keep to normal working hours this ensures that work time and social time are kept separate and obviously most of my clients work normal hours so I need to be available for them.

4. Take a break
I always take a lunch break, something I rarely did as an office based employee. Nowadays lunch might be at 3pm but I still take some time out to eat, read the paper or just chill. I have quickly realised that not taking a break doesn’t add to my productivity or creativity in fact the opposite happens.

5. Don’t over promise
When you’re self-employed work can be feast or famine. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by how busy you are and other times you may panic you’ll never get work again, during these famine times don’t over promise. You may need the work/new client/customer but make sure you only promise what you can deliver as otherwise they won’t be using your services for long.

6. Network
Even in your busy times try and make time for networking. You may have as much work as you can cope with but there will always come a time where client relationships end and you’ll need to replace that work. If you’ve already built relationships with those in your networking groups there is a chance that you may have already met your next client but, people buy from people and relationships and trust take time to build so it is no good starting networking when you have no work and expecting after your first meeting that you are going to leave with loads of work. It takes time. The other good thing about networking aside from the business benefits is the chance to get out, meet new people and speak to them face to face (working from home means a lot of phone calls and emails)

7. Market yourself
When you’re busy it can be easy to focus solely on your work and forget about your business. Try and set aside some time at least once a week (I do this daily) to market yourself and your business whether this is writing your blog, updating your social media, contacting prospects, creating newsletters, it’s really important to keep engaging with people and letting them know you’re there. You never know where the next bit of work might come from.

8. Go the extra mile
Your client has asked you to do x,y,z and you’ve agreed. Don’t let your work end there, if you come up with an idea or see or hear something that you think could be useful to them, let them know. Your clients probably don’t see you that often but want to know that you do consider them and it’s not a case of out of sight out of mind. Sometimes the client may not like your idea but at least they know you’re always looking for ways to help them, which will make them more confident in using a self-employed homeworker.

9. Get organised
I have a hand written to do list which I put together at the end of every Friday. This means I can relax and enjoy my weekends as I have already planned what I have to do the following week so don’t need to think about it, it also means that come Monday morning I can just crack straight on with work as I have already done my planning. My to do list always ends up getting added to on a daily basis but at least I have a base to start from and can prioritise my workload. By prioritising I can take advantage of one of the biggest benefits of working for myself, I can schedule in a cheeky afternoon off for lunch with friends or head off early for a weekend break.

10. Be patient
Going from a regular income and having a manager advising on what needs to be done, to becoming solely responsible for generating your own clients, setting your own rates and having no set time to start and finish work can be scary. There have been times when I have thought I am not going to make any money at all but it all works out in the end. If you’re new to this way of working the one thing I would say is be patient, use the quite times to market yourself, research businesses you want to work with and to get out and meet people.

If any of you have any suggestions on things you do to make working from home for yourself work for you let me know.

You can find out more about Beck & Call PR visit www.beckandcallpr.co.uk or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

Benefits of using a home worker

Since becoming a self-employed homeworker I have pitched for lots of work, some of which are advertised as home-based and others where they have been looking for an in-house employee.

As you would expect some of those looking for somebody office based can be sceptical about using somebody who is self-employed and works from home. Often worried that if they can’t see a person in the office then work isn’t happening, but there are numerous reasons why companies big and small would be wise to consider the self-employed home worker as an asset rather than a liability to their business and luckily for me many do.
If you are looking to recruit here are some reasons to consider the self-employed home worker.
Flexibility for you
With some self-employed people like me you may have the opportunity to pay in a way that suits you whether that be a monthly retainer, an hourly rate or by the project. This can work out cheaper for your company than paying a monthly salary when there may be times when work is lean. So you only pay for the work you need when you need it.
• Paid to get the work done
Rather than paying a salary you are paying to get the work done, so the person working for you may not be in the office and they may be doing work on a Friday night instead of during the 9-5 but they will be getting the work done to meet your deadlines as their livelihood depends on it. So there is less “I’m not getting paid so I’m not doing it” or “it has gone five so I’m going home”. So, whilst a self- employed home worker may have a more flexible lifestyle in that when things are quiet they might take a few hours off when the work needs to be done they are likely to be doing it until whatever time it takes to get the work completed.

• No time chatting to colleagues
Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you view it us home-workers don’t have any colleagues to chat to. Having been an employee myself it is amazing how much of the day people spend chatting to colleagues, sending emails and checking social media, all of which the employee is paying for. I’m not saying these things don’t happen with the self-employed but as mentioned before there can be more impetus from the self-employed to get their heads down and get the work done.

• Technology means it isn’t necessary
I make a point of visiting all my clients as and when they need it for some who are local this can be weekly or monthly and for those further away like my client in Devon we meet as and when needed but with all the technology we have at our disposal the mobile phone, email and of course Skype I can be contacted at any-time and am able to take part in meetings from wherever I am.

• Higher productivity
Studies have shown that people who are allowed to work from home are more productive due to less distractions, no stressful commute and their gratefulness at being allowed to work at home. This can only be a positive for your business.

• No hassle of Tax, N.I, holiday and sick pay
The final advantage is less paper work and less outgoings for you. If you use a self-employed worker they are responsible for sorting out their national insurance and tax. As for holidays and sick pay the self-employed person is responsible for these.
Using a self-employed homeworker may not work for some businesses but I would advise any business not to rule it out.

I run Beck and Call Public Relations, you can find out more at www.beckandcallpr.co.uk