Working from home with kids

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.

 

Becky

 

Holidays. To work or not to work? That is the question

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.

What works for you?

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

 

I like big books and I cannot lie

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Books, books, books. As far back as I can remember I have always had a book on the go.  I absolutely love reading whether it be for escapism or personal and professional development.

As it is World Book Day I have put together a list of some of my favourite books.

Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman

The Crying Tree – Naseem Rakha

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

One Day – David Nicholls

We need to talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver

Non-Fiction

How to be a woman – Caitlin Moran

Brilliant Life – Michael Heppell

Change your life in seven days – Paul McKenna

The Freelance Mum – Annie Ridout

The Friendship Cure – Kate Leaver

Hot Feminist – Polly Vernon

Chase the rainbow – Poorna Bell

Like a Queen – Constance Hall

Things I wish I’d Known: Women tell the truth about motherhood – various authors

Shattered: Modern motherhood and the illusion of equality

 

What are your favourites?  Did any of them make my list?

 

 

 

 

How I became more productive

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I would list procrastination among one of my greatest skills although by no means very useful. Working for myself, from home I realised that procrastination was not the way forward and whilst it wasn’t leading to me not getting work done, it was leading to me doing work evenings and weekends more often than I would have liked and I wasn’t as productive as I could be. Since making a few changes to my working day I have now normally finished my working day by 3 or 4 pm, am still getting the same results for my clients and very rarely find myself working weekends, unless a client has an event or I want to.

So how did I do it? Here are the four things that I found worked best for me.
1. Ditch clients
I know, I know, this doesn’t seem to make any sense as we are in business to make money not throw it away but trust me on this. Over the past few months I have told a couple of long term clients that I think it is best for us to no longer work together. There was nothing wrong with these clients in fact they were lovely people running very successful businesses but they weren’t right for me.

One of them, large client, was very disorganised meaning that I spent lots of time waiting for further direction, trying to organise the client or having to reschedule all my other clients to fit in jobs that they hadn’t mentioned before, at the last minute, which was stressful and not fair on other clients. The other one wanted more work than they were willing to pay for, which was my fault for setting my rate too low when I started out and not charging what I was worth.

I also realised that doing this work I had become distracted from doing what I had set out to do which was to do more work with non-profits and SME’s. I was in the fortunate position that I had a large client that paid well and meant I could afford to get rid of the other clients who were taking up so much time. Do you know what happened? Once I freed up the time I had been dedicating to them I found I had more time and suddenly had a wave of requests from individuals and SME’s so was back to doing what I loved.
2. Write down everything you do
The second thing I started to do was to write down every task that I did throughout the day, not a to do list, a list of every call made, every email I replied to, each bit of research undertaken etc as and when I did it. For example as soon as I finish this I will add wrote blog to today’s list.

The result of this was that yes it probably took a few more minutes to do but at the end of each day I could see how productive I have really been, as often if I was just crossing off write press release off my list I would think “How did that take four hours” by writing down everything relating to that task it gave me focus and made me appreciate how much can go into what can at first seem a simple job.

3. Work out when you work best
When I first started out I was still in a 9-5 mind-set which after more than 20 years working in offices was no surprise. Unfortunately this meant that I would often be up at 7am or back from the gym at 8am and then be waiting to start work or some days find that I had completed all my jobs for the day by 3pm and be searching for stuff to do to keep me busy until 5 or 6pm (not really a productive use of time).

So, I decided that I would work when it suited me. I have one client who I work for every day between the hours of 10am and 230pm, but now if I am up and dressed by 7am I get started on my work for other clients then, meaning I can get in three hours of work before I start on my contract work. This also means I am working at a time when I am most productive and that if come 230pm I don’t have more to do I can finish the day feeling guilt free.
4. Use an app to monitor tasks
I have found using myhours tool extremely helpful. It allows me to log all my clients, what tasks I do for them and how much that client pays per hour. Not only does this enable me to see how my day has broken down, but also helps me know what I should be charging when I quote on jobs.

I initially found that I was under estimating how long things took as I wasn’t taking into account research, follow up calls, reports etc. Now when somebody asks for a press release I can look back over previous similar projects and see how much time the whole thing took, meaning I quote more accurately which is good for the client and also means I have a better idea of how much work I can actually add to my workload as well as reducing the risk of doing an extra three or four hours work on a project free due to my own poor estimates.

If you have any tips on how you became more productive please comment.

Rebecca Slater runs Beck and Call PR visit www.beckandcallpr.co.uk for more information or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

Top PR Quotes

Here I’ve put together some of the all-time best quotes about public relations. There are those that will make you laugh, some which are quite cynical and hopefully some that give you a better understanding of PR.

“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson

“If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.” – S. H. Simmons

“Without publicity there can be no public support, and without public support every nation must decay.” – Benjamin Disraeli

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde

“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.” – Unknown

“If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR!” – Bill Gates

“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.” – Bill Bernbach, advertising pioneer

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

“If the public thinks you have a problem, you have a problem.” – Anonymous

If you need help with your public relations visit my website www.beckandcallpr.co.uk or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

What’s the difference between PR and advertising?

Bill Gates allegedly said “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on Public Relations”, now I can’t say for sure whether he really did say this but what I do know is this is a man who knows about business and I am a person who knows about PR, so agree wholeheartedly.

Having worked in PR for the past 13 years and having now set up my own business the one problem I have found is that for many businesses they either don’t understand PR or they believe that advertising is the best route for promoting their company. 

As a PR professional I would say that for most businesses the best thing to do is to use their budget wisely and use the full marketing mix (in layman’s terms utilise marketing, advertising and PR).

Advertising is great, it gets you seen but it comes with its pitfalls.  Firstly the cost.  Adverts, even in a local paper can cost £100’s of pounds and you only get the space you pay for.  With PR, one campaign or one press release can be sent to numerous publications and lead to many of them publishing them at a fraction of the cost you would pay for the same amount of advertising space.

 

Another difference is who is saying it.  For example an advert is like going to a party and somebody telling you how great they are.  PR on the other hand is like going to a party and somebody else telling you how brilliant they think somebody is.  In short an advert is you stating your brilliance and PR is a third party (usually a journalist) saying you’re great.

On the other hand adverts will always portray you in a great light as you’ve controlled what they say and have paid for the space.  PR won’t always be a glowing testimonial but it can be used to raise awareness of your business and help you build a good reputation.

PR gives a voice to your business.  When you see an advert it is a faceless company, if you’re on the radio talking about your business or quoted in an article suddenly your business becomes like a real person that others can relate to and buy into.

Finally, when you place an advert you are probably targeting people who you think will want your product and are just making them more aware of it, but what about those people who just don’t know they want your product yet. 

For example, if you teach yoga you might advertise in a specific yoga or fitness publication where you know those who see it already have an interest.  With PR you can target those publications along with general interest publications, newspapers, radio stations and you never know how many people you will reach and inspire to take up yoga.

Just to clarify here at Beck and Call we believe that the most successful campaigns include both PR and advertising, but advertising alone is not nearly as effective or cost effective as PR.

 

To find out more about Beck and Call Public Relations visit www.beckandcallpr.co.uk