I have the amazing honour and privilege to work for myself, in a job that I adore.
I have a passion for what I do, I am my own boss, and the work I do fits in and around me, my children, our family needs and is non-location specific.
One of the biggest learning curves I have been on recently is around honing how I work and how I plan my goals and career to keep check of whether it is what I really want. We spend a lot our our lives at the thing we call work, and it may as well be something we enjoy, right?
There are so many publications out blogs out there about getting the job you want, making sure you are on the right path, and how to work out what you really want. This is simply my personal guide of how I have managed to do what I love and how I make it work.
Let me begin by recapping what I currently do, and how I earn a living. In essence, I am a designer, writer and blogger, being the easiest way to sum it up. I am the founder and Director of Cherry Sorbet Creative, a design, editorial and social media agency for the beauty and lifestyle sectors, I write, I design, I blog and I also sometimes teach.
My income streams currently come from: ❤ Copy writing and designing for Cherry Sorbet clients ❤ Social Media management ❤ Workshops and masterclasses ❤ Blogging for clients and other sites ❤ Advertising and revenue from my blog Dexterous Diva (this one!) ❤ All these trickle into the company and I take a wage.
Now, my parameters that I have set myself for the way I want to work may be different from yours, but they are related to my specific personal circumstances, wants and needs.In summary they are:
Flexible working hours flexible working hours ☆ Being free from constant demands and distractions ☆ Being non-location and time specific ☆ Staying focused ☆ Keep learning
I am a mum to the beautiful Mini Divas and, like most working mums, I want to be able to combine building my business, earning an income and being “me” with lots of time playing, baking, going to parks and being mummy. I am also a person with a chronic pain condition, endometriosis, which needs management and can affect my ability to function as well as usual on some days. Being a mum means you need to build in flexibility with work and a schedule, have a condition means the same, so the two together needs a whole new way of looking at things. Here is how I have dealt with those two factors:
Mini me’s and co-workers: I have a wonderful team of key Cherry Sorbet people who I work with so that my clients can always have a point of contact and work can always get actioned whether I am at a toddler group, playing on the swings or taking an endo duvet day. Building a team of ‘mini me’s” takes trust and some management but it is a great way to run a cohort business to enable work to get done on time, clients to be happy, and me to be able to oversee stuff without letting clients down if one of the kids are unwell or I am needing some time off. Obviously the profit margin of the business isn’t as high as if I were doing everything myself, but it absolutely works, and means I am able to build a business more than firefighting. This also leaves me able to do flexible stuff like writing and blogging and business development.
Being honest and not apologising: Having children is wonderful and a privilege and not something I need to say sorry for. If I can’t make an event or meeting because one of them is unwell and needs me at home I don’t feel terrible and berate myself profusely. I do of course make sure no one is inconvenienced as much as I can and apologise for the change of plans but most people understand. It’s life. If they give me a hard time they aren’t people I wish t work with anyway….
Being honest with endo is also something I am open with. If there is a chance my treatment or pain may hold me back from doing something I will be open about it and people can then make the choice about working with me. If I can’t make something I make sure a mini me does, or I just re-assess if it matters.
Not taking on too much and letting go: there are only so many hours in the day to work, play with children, keep a house, exercise, socialise and sleep. It can’t all be done to perfection and it can’t all be done NOW, something I have had a natural resistance to accepting for most of my adult life. However, going easy on myself reaps rewards for me, my work, my family and all around me. It’s just nicer to be nice to yourself. Also, nothing gets done very well if I am frazzled.
Conventional office work means being near a phone and always at the desk during key hours, but the way technology is moving we don’t need to be restricted. I have designed a workflow to ensure I am not always having to check things for fear or letting a client down. I set up filters for my emails to be filed intuitively, and when key people email I get an immediate alert on my phone so I can access the message and make sure things are being actioned either by me or my wonderful mini me’s. Have a peep at my working less workflow post if you fancy. My business number diverts to a voicemail which texts me the message if I have been unable to answer, and I set up auto responders to keep people informed of where I am, how they can reach me and who else to contact. At the moment of writing this I am on a plane to New York it is a working day and I am not in the least bit concerned that my clients won’t be happy. That is so liberating.
I love to travel and want to be able to incorporate my work from wherever I happen to be.. I also work with international clients and don’t want to be sat eat my computer 24/7. I deal with this by not creating an expectation to have “an office”. I do have co working lounges I use in London and Cambridge for somewhere inspiring to work and places to meet clients. Having a fixed office is an extra overhead, it would mean my rates would have to be much higher, and I don’t want to be associated with any particular town or city. Cherry Sorbet has London, Cambridge and Brighton presences but it could also be Barcelona, Cornwall and Seattle. Working remotely also means that I don’t alienate business my not begin local to them…we can work with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
I encourage Skype calls often, as it is a way to have face to face the without losing out on productivity with travelling 3 hours of my day for a 1 hour meeting. I am working on limited time anyway being a mum, so to maximise what I do, using technology is just brilliant.
Using cloud based systems like Gmail and the associated apps, Dropbox and, soon to be Adobe Creative Cloud, I can access my work emails, documents and files from anywhere. Whilst this system works for me to be out and about locally and on UK based trips, it also lends itself to be abroad for longer periods of time without business suffering. This is something I am thrilled about, as I love the idea of making mini breaks a change of scene to stay fresh and creative is important to my personality and aims from life.
With time begin a limited resource and my hyper creative brain constantly in the background I need to reign in my projects. I do this by setting up a simple spreadsheet (on Google docs, of course) and dividing my year into quarters. I then work out what I want to achieve in different sections of life, Cherry Sorbet, personal development, fitness, family time etc, and work backwards to each section to see what I need to do to get there. It’s a really, really simple trick that keeps me on track so when I start being tempted to go off and start a new project that sounds exciting I check in with my aims and see if it is relevant for right now, or whether it can wait while I do other things first. It leo ensures I feel like I am achieving, developing and moving forward. Simple planning really, but it is powerful.
For me, the fact that my career is a varied and portfolio one what encompasses blogging, writing and design means I need to be up to date with social media trends, consumer culture insights, the fashion and beauty industry and niche blogs. I make sure I do this as part of my ongoing information gathering, and I keep on top of news and updates by subscribing to news feeds, emails and magazines which I can easily access for whichever sector I need. I also make sure I am aware which skills I need to develop to make sure I can stay fresh, and booking myself on to e courses, reading books and getting out there to learn what I need to in this changing environment.
So, my tops tips for creating a career that fits my life..how can you make yours do the same for you? Let me know, we can all learn from our experiences!