School’s Out: Tips for Self-employed Parents

One of the best parts of being a self-employed parent is having greater flexibility for family time. One of the hardest is scheduling childcare, particularly when workloads can vary drastically from week to week.

This can make the school summer holidays tricky time for the self-employed. Those eight am networking meetings that are so handy when the school breakfast club is running are out the window during holidays. As is pretty much any daytime work more challenging than a few emails or social media posts.

But don’t worry, we’ve brought four North Wales businesswomen who are their own bosses as well as mums together to share their tips for being self-employed in the school holidays:

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Nicola Moore, Director of marketing and communications company MarketMoore, said:

“I’ve found that I don’t need to work as much as I think if I get organised and plan my time – this is key! It’s amazing how much you can achieve if you put your mind to it.  I switch off my emails and social media to limit the distractions and only check these once I have finished my list.  By following this plan, it allows me to spend time with my daughter every day.

“I also make sure that I contact all of my clients well in advance to let them know of my plans.  I’ve found that as long as you are open and honest and have set realistic expectations then they are more than happy to work with you on timescales.  After all, they too take time off over the summer holidays.

“It’s important to remind ourselves why we chose self-employment in the first place and for me one of the main reasons was so that I can spend more time with my daughter – whilst she still wants to know me and before I become the highly embarrassing mum. So don’t feel guilty; enjoy it and have a great summer making memories!”

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Sheena Corry, Owner at The Forge, Corwen, added:

“Summer holidays are our busiest time of year at The Forge as we welcome families from all over the country to our glamping site. This obviously also coincides with the school holidays for my two daughters, aged six and four. As my husband and I are both integral to the running of our business and because we live on site, balancing childcare arrangements can be tricky, to say the least!

“Luckily our children are very sociable and don’t mind mucking in with changing sheets and getting involved with meeting and greeting our guests. They are also more than happy to show our younger glampers around the site, sharing all the secret den spots and best locations to find different wildlife.

“But of course, there is a lot of work that is not really conducive to having two little ones running around – our bush craft experiences for example introduce fire lighting and knife skills! There is also a lot of office work behind the scenes to keep the bookings coming in and I also work three days a week in HR for a global management consultancy.

“To try to find a balance we put the girls into holiday club two days a week and call upon the grandparents for a day or so a week to help out. I think it’s fair to say that it is a balancing act that we are constantly adjusting as we go – no two weeks are ever the same, especially when you get thrown unexpected curve balls like a rogue tummy bug, a car breaking down or glamping guests who run out of logs, just as you’ve managed to get the kids to sleep!”

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Anna Burke, Director at Animated Technologies, said:

I have two boys aged four and two and I work three days a week in the office. It’s a juggling act and I find it difficult to switch from mum mode to work mode.

“If I didn’t have my phone I would be really stuck. My main tips are:

  • always make sure your phone is charged so when you do get 30 minutes ‘spare’ then you can flag what needs to be flagged to deal with later.
  • make sure you have Wi-Fi or data on your phone for uploading to social media.
  • when the kids get a natural low in the afternoon it’s usually cartoon or film time. Sit down with them and catch up on stuff on your phone.

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Laura Edwards, Director, Datgan PR, added:

“I take advantage of my children’s much-needed lazy mornings or afternoons. They’re tired after a long term and just want to lounge in their pyjamas and watch a bit of telly. So let them. Take the time to schedule some meetings, send some emails or catch up with some admin. I either let them have a lazy morning and take them out for the afternoon or tire them out in the morning somewhere and then do a couple of hours on the computer after getting back.

“I use evenings to apply for tenders, write blogs, catch up on emails. On days where multitasking is essential there are things you can do while you’re at the park with them like scheduling meetings from your phone, but compartmentalising works well for me. A day for the kids is a day for the kids, and I block book a day or afternoon of meetings for when the kids have a party or play date.

My most important tip is just don’t worry. Use your smartphone, read your emails, stay up to date on social media and just add anything that needs looking into further onto a master to do list. The list may seem dauntingly long, but August is a quiet business month anyway, so you’ll soon zip through that list come September. Enjoy it. They’re only young once.”

Things to Think About Before Writing a Press Release

I’ve already shared my Dos and Don’ts When Sending a Press Release, now I’m going to let you in on even more insider knowledge in the first of a series of blogs on this rather hefty topic. This blog covers things to think about before writing a press release, a companion guide to June’s blog: How to Write a Press Release.

What and who?

Before you start writing, think about what the story you want to get across is, and who your target readers are.

While all positive publicity is good, seeing a press release through its writing, placement and monitoring takes time – so think about who your target market is and prioritise. Write for your target market first and if you have more time you can always target other markets later.

For some publications, for example Saga, the magazine for the over 50s, the demographic of its readership is obvious. For others this information may be available on its website or by asking for a media pack.

Read the publications you’ve identified

Read the titles you want to be featured in to learn their house styles and individual reporters’ interests and contact details. Research national and trade titles online. Take note of deadlines.

What’s your story?

Don’t just write a press release because business is slow and you want some general coverage. Decide in advance on your story.

How strong the story needs to be depends on the publication. For a local newspaper if you live or work in their catchment area and you are doing something interesting, that is usually enough. A business opening, tick. A successful apprenticeship scheme, tick. Staff doing a parachute jump, tick.

For a regional or national business section or trade publication it needs to be bigger – taking on a significant number of new staff, reaching an important milestone, doing something innovative, offering useful advice to other businesses, commenting as an expert on a topical and relevant issue.

What’s your angle?

Find your angle. In a simple story, there will be one obvious angle. If you have a lot of information to get across or there are a few things happening, think about what is most newsworthy and start with that.

A picture tells a thousand words

It’s always good to supply a high-quality photo to accompany your press release, as it increases the chances of your piece securing a prominent place in your target publication.

If your story is about something that has already happened, send a good photo of the event with your release. If the release is not time sensitive, pay a photographer or get a creative on your staff to take an interesting, good quality photo to accompany it.

If you do all this groundwork you’ll be ready to get stuck in to writing, so please come back in June for How to Write a Press Release.

How to Create Content Even When You’ve No Ideas

To get the most out of your website and your social media marketing, you need to be sharing valuable and engaging content regularly. But how do you come up with content when the ideas just aren’t flowing? Here are four top tips:

Write about what you know

One of the hurdles of marketing your business to get over can be the inner critic telling you that no one is interested, or that you’re teaching grandma to suck eggs. But not everyone has your skills, experience and knowledge, and even if some do they will value your take on a subject they’re also interested in. So share and shine!

Planning ahead really helps

Time is in short supply, but setting some aside to plan your next month’s content can be so useful. It forces you to find something to say when you thought you had nothing. If you prepare as much as you can in advance and schedule accompanying social media posts, you can be raising your profile even while you’re run off your feet elsewhere. Like a squirrel storing nuts, when the Christmas season is in full flow you’ll be glad you wrote that blog on decorating on a budget in August.

The calendar is your friend

There are seasonal events and awareness campaigns that you can join in with as an opportunity to share some of your content. Not every event will be relevant to your business but there will be plenty that are. For instance a vet may share tips on soothing your pet on Bonfire Night, a decorator or florist can write a blog for Tree Dressing Day, an office may want to share why they’re taking part in Movember, and any self-employed parent can share advice on juggling the summer holidays with business. This is a really useful website for helping you plan your content, but don’t forget the seasonal events that everyone knows about, like Easter and August bank holiday.

Collaborate

When you really don’t have an idea or really don’t have time, why not offer one of your partners or associates a guest slot on your blog and ask for one in return? Doing this will expand your audience and strengthen your networks, as well as directing new traffic to your site.

And there we have it, four top tips for creating content…now get writing!

Datgan can provide you with weekly, fortnightly or monthly content depending on your needs. Get in touch to find out more.

 

 

Is Your Money Saving Really a False Economy? It Can Pay to Splash Out!

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This beauty, pictured chilling in my garden yesterday, is a Comma butterfly named because of the white ‘comma’ on its underside.
Commas, along with apostrophes, are commonly used incorrectly in writing. Do you know how to use them?
Every time you write a business communication you are saying something about yourself and your brand. Rightly or wrongly, if you have bad spelling or misuse punctuation some potential customers will think less of you for it and maybe move on to the next brand.
So what can you do? You could spend hours swotting up on grammar and spelling, or you could hire someone who already knows all about it to help. Startups and small businesses often think this extravagant, but the latest thinking on entrepreneurship maintains that you should spend as much time as possible doing what you do best. This is getting new customers and maintaining your current ones. Not checking emails and voicemails, ordering stationery, tidying your desk, fixing a leaking tap, or cleaning. Neither is it spending hours learning how to do something someone else could have been paid to do in an hour, just to save money.
Let’s say you spend six hours swotting up on grammar, writing and rewriting a letter or press release when it really isn’t in your skill set to do it. Not only is the letter or press release likely to be pretty ineffective, you’ve lost six hours where you could have made hundreds or thousands of pounds’ worth of business had you focused on what you do best.
You may be surprised at what you can get for even a modest budget. Your budget may not stretch to a copywriter to write all your communications, but it may stretch to having them proofread and edit things for you before they go out. It may pay for them to tweet and post to Facebook on your behalf, write a killer marketing letter, or just share some great advice.
Sending a clear, consistent message to your current and target customers is vital. If you struggle with writing, consider bringing in some help. Please do call me for a no obligation chat if you think I could help. Datgan – let us tell your story.