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Who’d be a business owning, Channel swimmer’s spouse?

Channel swimmer in action
Husband swimming the Channel – photo courtesy of James Spencer-Matthews

In case you’re reading that question and wondering what the answer is, well, it’s me. I would. You’ll hear lots of business gurus telling you that business success is all about you – how dedicated you are and how far you’re prepared to go outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. The truth is that it’s not always just about you. For me (and I’m guessing most of you) there are competing priorities. The people you love don’t revolve around you. They all have their own needs, ambitions and dreams that need to be recognised and included in your own plans.

Some of them are predictable, others not so much. Sometimes you have to shift things to let someone else live their dream. In my case, it came in the form of a Channel swimming husband.

The dream

My husband has been a swimmer all his life, but when I first met him, he mostly did it in nice warm swimming pools. Pre-kids I’d go along to some of the same training sessions, sticking to the slow lane while he zoomed along with the speedy people in the fast lane. I can’t say for certain when the Channel swimming dream was first mentioned, but his open water career started a long time ago. We used to travel to grand prix swims around the country at weekends. They were mostly good fun, apart from the Scarborough swim where it rained so heavily that the spectators got wetter than the swimmers did.

Somewhere along the way, the Channel started being mentioned. Then it got serious.

Channel swimmer training

It won’t surprise you to learn that Channel swimmers need lots of training, and not just on endurance and technique. You’re not allowed to wear a wetsuit, so you train to withstand the cold. You also need to sort your head out. Most people who pull out will do so because their brain told them they couldn’t do it.

Obviously, there’s lots of swimming in cold water. This is sometimes lovely – there’s a lake up the road from us where the whole family can go along. However, a swimmer’s need to train with other Channel swimmers means living with a man who disappears off to Dover for the weekend, or to a training camp in Croatia. I admire single parents generally, but never more so than during those weeks.

The stress

You might think that most of the stress of being a Channel swimmer’s wife is in the juggling. It isn’t really. He’s training for his third swim at the moment, so I’m mostly used to it. (Oh yes, did I mention that being a Channel swimmer is addictive? He keeps saying things like ‘five is a nice round number’.) The real stress comes when someone you love is swimming through a shipping lane. My logical brain knows that his support boat has a professional crew and two of his friends looking out for him. I reassure myself with the statistic that there have only been ten Channel swimming fatalities since 1926. Yet I still don’t breathe easily until he’s on dry land.

I know that most of you probably don’t have a Channel swimmer in the family. That’s not why I’m telling you this story. It’s because we all have things that we juggle and I wanted to you know that I get that. If you’d like to work with a writer who knows how life works for you and will help you tell that story to your own customers, get in touch and let’s have a chat.

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How I got bitten by the writing bug

Typewriter with writing saying 'something worth reading'
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood via Pexels

I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a writer, even if it wasn’t always the only thing I did. I’ve shared the story behind leaving my old career and starting a new one before, but I’ve never really talked about the reasons I started writing in the first place. It’s been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. Here’s how it all began.

Surrounded by books

My mum always jokes that I had a library before I was born. It’s pretty close to the truth. My grandpa worked for Brockhampton Press, which was the children’s book division of Hodder and Stoughton at the time. They published classics like Asterix and The Magic Roundabout, with Papa being responsible for book fairs. One of my favourite stories is the one where he got pulled over by the police pulling a Roman chariot up to Harrogate. He wasn’t in trouble, they just wanted to know why. His job meant that I grew up surrounded by books. What’s more, I knew from an early age that being a writer was something you could do for a living. It left a lasting impression.

Creating my own stories

I know that we all have to write stories at school, but I was the kid that just kept going. As a teenager I filled endless notebooks and devoured books to learn more about how to create a good plot. Whenever I had to wait somewhere or spent time on a train my notebook came out as a form of entertainment. I was once on a train, mid-story, when I ran out of paper and ended up finishing my tale on the back of a sandwich bag. Some of the stories were good – I was shortlisted for a prize for young radio playwrights a couple of times. Others were dreadful, simply because they were too simplistic. It was time for a change.

Finding something else to do

The main problem with my teenage writing was the problem every teenager has – I just hadn’t lived long enough. I loved crime fiction and came up with plots that needed to be populated with believable characters. The best crime writing is born out of a solid grasp of human nature and the ways in which relationships can go wrong. I just didn’t have it. I realised that to become a good writer I needed to go out into the world and get some experience. That’s what eventually lead me into a legal career. Ironically, the thing that first attracted me to the law was the fact that there were so many good stories in it. Obviously, there was also crime, although that’s not where I ended up working.

Coming back to writing

As the years passed, I told myself that I wanted to write but I was spending less and less time actually writing. Then I heard an interview with P.D. James, who wrote her books around a full-time job and raising three children alone after her husband’s death. When asked why she had continued with her writing, she replied that if she had found herself telling her that ‘what I always wanted to do was write’, she would have felt that her life had failed in a very important way. Her answer has stayed with me because I feel the same. I realised that if I was going to write I just had to get on and do it. So that’s what I do now.

Can I help you to share your story in your marketing? Book your call here and let’s have a chat. Alternatively, you can sign up to my mailing list for blogging and marketing tips straight to your inbox every month.

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Are you getting back into work mode?

Getting back to work mode
Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

Like a lot of you, I’m a Mum who has had her kids at home for the last couple of months. The last period of home school (if you can really call it that) taught me a lot. It meant that I felt a bit more prepared for the day-to-day reality. I’m not going to say that it was easy, because it wasn’t. There were a whole lot of days where the kids cried and I joined in. Sometimes it was even the other way round. Or I cried and they wandered off to play because they hate handwriting practice and geography is some form of torture. We got through it. What’s surprised me is how much I’m struggling with the back to school bit. Not because I don’t think they should be there, I do. It’s just been different and that’s what’s inspired this blog. If any of this resonates (or if you’ve got any advice) please leave a comment and let me know.

The schedule shift

Home learning meant that my working day started at 3.30ish and had shrunk down to a couple of hours. I thought that shifting back to my previous work pattern would be easy. The start of the day was fine. I made a cup of tea and turned on my laptop as I always have. That wasn’t the issue. It was the afternoons. A full working day suddenly felt too much. It was as if my brain had turned into a sulky teenager. I couldn’t work out why it had been easy to readjust last time but not now. Then it clicked.

I’ve been thrown in at the deep end

Last time the kids went back to school it was much more gradual. The phased return that applied to younger kids first meant that my youngest was the only one who went back before the summer holidays. It wasn’t an all or nothing situation where everything had gone back to normal. Then the summer holidays started as usual. By the time that school fully reopened for the Autumn term, it felt more like normal school. Somehow it meant that I could get back to work more easily. It made the difference between then and now so much harder to understand.

Procrastination

The strange this about this return to school is the sense of anticipation that came with it. I kept hearing that this would be it. There was no way they’d close the schools again (although I heard plenty of muttering to the contrary). It was a sign that life was getting back to normal. I don’t know why, but I felt as if I’d be able to leap back into work and everything would be as it was before. It wasn’t. Having shorter day had focused my mind. A full day found me procrastinating, unable to decide what needed to happen first.

How I’m dealing with it

I wish I could tell you that I’m back to full strength and have turned into a goal hitting dynamo. I haven’t. As I write this, I’ve just completed a bit of planning that would normally have taken me an hour. My lack of focus turned it into three afternoons of dragging myself back to my notebook. I’m getting there though. There’s a plan and my priorities are putting themselves into order. I’m gradually building my work muscles back up (just in time for the Easter holidays!). Plus, if I need a break, I take one. Even if it means a two-hour lunch break.

Are you getting back into work mode? How’s it going? Let me know in the comments!

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Zoom can be murder

Zoom can be murder with a broken bauble.
Image by Freestocks on Unsplash

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes but I can’t see you, you need to turn your camera on.”

“Diane, you’re on mute.” Emma watched as Chris gesticulated wildly trying to send a signal to Diane.

“Wow, Zoe, is that your new house? It’s lush!”

“Thanks. We’re starting to feel settled now.”

“Well, you’ll certainly have had time to do it up since we’ve all been ‘working from home’.”

Emma sighed and saw Zoe roll her eyes. She had never met anyone who did quote marks with their fingers until she started working for Chris’ team. It was ironic that his hand signals were so irritating, given that he tied himself in linguistic knots trying not to offend anyone. She watched as more of her colleagues appeared on the screen. The wine expert was sitting quietly, looking slightly awkward. He looked younger than she’d expected. Most of the wine buffs she knew were well over 40 with a slightly florid complexion. He wasn’t that much older than her. She looked over her shoulder as Tom appeared from Cara’s bedroom and gave her a thumbs up. That was a relief. If she was sparked out already that meant she wouldn’t appear wanting milk in the background of the Zoom call.

Matt’s face appeared on the screen. “You alright Matt? You look a bit groggy babe.” That was how Sophie talked to everyone. Even the chief executive was ‘babe’.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Had a disco nap on the sofa and woke up with a bit of a headache.”

Sophie screeched with laughter. “You’re a proper party animal, aren’t you?” Matt just smirked. Emma could see that the image was a bit fuzzy, but he did look bad.

“Right then, have we got everyone?” Chris had adopted the manner that he used to bring team meetings to attention. Emma could see Zoe’s eyebrows heading upwards again. “Thank you all for coming tonight. I know that we’d much rather be having a team do in person, but I think a Zoom version will make an excellent substitute. I’m sure we’ll be back to a Christmas party with everyone from the office this time next year. Sorry, did someone say something?”

Emma was fairly sure she’d heard a snort of derision from Diane. She’d be retired this time next year and would be spared the annual meal with interminable speeches from everyone in senior management.

“Anyway,” Chris continued, “I’ll hand you over to Adam, our wine expert.”

“Thank you. As Chris said, I’m Adam. I’m a certified sommelier and in normal times I run parties like these in person. Zoom is a new innovation for us but it’s been great to bring people together. Can I just check that everyone has had their catering box delivered?”

A mixture of nods and thumbs up filled the screen.

“Great. Please open them up if you haven’t already.”

Emma had never been to an organised virtual party before. She didn’t feel that drinking gin with her sister-in-law over FaceTime really counted. Earlier that afternoon a delivery driver had turned up bearing a large cardboard box with a clear window in the top. She’d been able to see a selection of cheeses, but as she opened it up she discovered that there were a series of miniature bottles underneath, each with a different variety of wine. Everything was labelled so they could match up the two. She opened the first bottle and poured it into her glass.

Emma was having more fun than she’d expected to. Adam knew his stuff. He was also better at audience participation than his non-COVID job suggested he would be.

“Soph, you’ve frozen again.”

“I don’t think she can hear you Chris.” Sophie was a still image, paused with a glass of wine fixed to her lips.

“You were all statues then” she laughed, “sorry about this, my internet connection’s rubbish.”

“Matt, are you having any crackers with that?” It was the first time Zoe had spoken. Emma thought it was an interesting choice of words to break the silence.

“Nah. Not a fan. No carbs before Marbs and all that.”

“Yeah, because we’ll all be jetting off any time now.”

“Let’s hope, hey?” Emma felt that Zoe’s sarcasm often flew entirely above Chris’ head.

“Right then, let’s move on to the next pairing. This is a Californian Pinot Noir. It’s a lovely light red wine and goes beautifully with – Matt, are you OK?”

Matt was clutching his head. Emma had the distinct impression that he was trying to dig his brain out with his fingers. He groaned, then disappeared as he fell off the sofa.

Sophie made a sound then her camera froze again. Everyone else was silent.

“Matt? Matt, can you hear me?” Chris was trying to sound authoritative but his voice was pure panic.

Zoe spoke next. “Either his screen’s frozen or he’s not moving.”

Emma looked at the faces of her colleagues. Everyone seemed to be frozen and they couldn’t all have a dodgy internet connection. “Well, we need to do something. He lives on his own, doesn’t he? Does anyone live nearby?”

Adam had gone pale but appeared to be taking action. “I’m just trying to get hold of the boss. What if it’s the food?”

“Yes, that’s exactly the response we need.” Zoe was back to her usual self.

“Chris.”

“Yes Diane?”

“Do you have an address for him?”

“There might be one on the system, but am I allowed? I mean – GDPR…”

Emma wanted to throttle him. He’d been obsessing over GDPR for the last two years. “I can’t remember the details but I’m sure getting him medical attention counts as a legitimate reason.”

Sophie’s screen came back to life. “I’ve called an ambulance. I went to his for pre-drinks before the summer party.”

“Do you think that could be the cause?” Diane asked. “Too much to drink beforehand combined with not enough food?”

“If he’d had some crackers it would have soaked it up a bit.” Chris agreed.

“I don’t know,” Emma replied. “He didn’t seem drunk. He seemed drowsy, said he had a headache and it looked like he was sweating. Those symptoms ring a bell but I can’t think why.” She had a dim and distant memory of having read about them somewhere in case she needed to recognise them. Why would she have done that?

Adam had lowered his phone. “Can I just check? Did everyone receive a sealed box?” They all nodded and he lifted the phone again. “Yes, they were.” Down the phone went. “Do we need an address for him or is that sorted?” Emma told him an ambulance was on its’ way and he spoke briefly into the phone before hanging up. “It should be obvious if a box has been tampered with. Apparently the delivery driver couldn’t get an answer at Adam’s so he left it with one of his neighbours. He obviously got it OK though.”

“I’ve got it!” Emma cried as the pieces of her memory organised themselves. She registered a uniform row of startled expressions on the screen. “He’s got the symptoms of hypoglycaemia. My granny had type 2 diabetes. I remember looking up the symptoms in case she ever had an attack when I was with her. Zoe, you’re type 1 aren’t you, do you think it could be that?”

“Well maybe, but he isn’t diabetic. If he was he’d know how important it is to dose his carbs properly, especially when we’re having a drink. And let’s face it, if he was we’d all know about it.”

Something in her voice made Emma look at Zoe more closely. She was always heavy with irony but there was something else. It almost sounded like bitterness. She minimised her Zoom screen and opened Facebook. She was friends with Zoe but had muted her early on in lockdown. Editing whose posts she saw had been an essential tool for managing her mental health. If anyone whinged too much she removed them, at least temporarily. She found Zoe’s account and scrolled through. It was relentless. If a post wasn’t something about the NHS it was a complaint about her neighbour and the incessant noise, the state of his garden or the endless procession of delivery drivers.

Sophie had unfrozen again. “Finally! Can anyone hear sirens? Zoe, you live near him now don’t you? Since you moved? He’s in a terrace on Stubbs Road, one of those ones with the stone fan thingy over the door?”

Emma had expected Zoe to scoff at Sophie’s lack of architectural knowledge, but her face was a mask. It reminded Emma of the scene at the end of Psycho where Norman Bates stares silently at the camera. What had she done? Emma returned to Facebook and carried on scrolling until she found a photo of Zoe with the caption ‘our new home!’ It was a terrace with a fan thingy over the door. Emma could hear the sirens sounding somewhere through the speakers.

“Does he leave the back door unlocked Zoe?”

“What?”

“Matt. He’s your noisy neighbour, isn’t he? They left the box with you and you went round to deliver it. I’d guess that you found him asleep on the sofa and took the opportunity to go and fetch your insulin. Is that how it went?”

Zoe laughed as the sirens got closer and Emma realised she could hear them from two different computers at slightly different times.

“Zoe, what did you do?”

“Nothing you’ll ever be able to prove.”

Her screen went black.

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How I learned to be honest with my clients

How I learned to speak out and be honest.
Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

Starting out in business is a huge adventure. I was so excited that I’d finally get to work on my own terms and write for a living. After a while I realised that, while things were going well, I felt as if I was wearing a mask that didn’t fit. When I was a lawyer I started working part time after my children were born and I did the same in my business. But somehow, the way I talked about my boundaries had changed. As a paid employee I had no issue with saying “I don’t work on Fridays” but somehow I couldn’t be that honest as a business owner. It was as if I had to deny that my children had any impact on my working life. I felt as if I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I was a part-timer. Here’s what changed things.

Realising that my clients were parents too

When I started my business I expected to work with people who’d appreciate the expertise I’d developed in my legal career. I understood how lawyers and insurers think and knew how to translate that into language their clients would understand. As it turned out, that isn’t what my clients have in common. I certainly work with people who work in insurance and law, as well as loads of other types of business. A lot of them are sole traders. Even more are parents and that’s how the penny dropped. They chose to work with me because I understand the juggle. My client calls typically start with a chat about the family before we get down to business. If a wheel falls off somewhere we both know we can be open and honest about it. It makes for much better relationships all round.

Needing to practice what I preach

The next thing I realised was that I was writing content telling people that they needed to be themselves in their marketing. Sometimes the thing that makes a new client choose you over someone else offering the same thing is, well, you. I once asked a client for some feedback to help me understand what they valued and what they thought my strengths were. In response to the strengths question they put “your personality – show more of it!”  That was ages ago but it’s stayed with me. I realised that while I’d relaxed a lot I was still afraid to show my full, slightly geeky, personality. It’s still a work in progress but I think I’m getting there. The main thing I learned was that I couldn’t ask my clients to come out of their shell if I didn’t do it myself.

Making honest connections

One of my favourite things about this job is learning new stuff. I’ve thought about focusing on one sector a few times but it never lasts. If you get a gathering of copywriters the conversation will often turn to the weirdest thing you’ve ever written about, or the most boring, or just the things you never expected to learn about.

Of course, when it comes to finding the right clients, that’s not the only important thing. I’ve wondered whether I needed to actively like my clients, but I don’t think I do. (Although it would be a problem if I really couldn’t stand them.) If I’m going to write in your voice, we need to have a rapport. That’s definitely not going to happen if we can’t be honest with each other about who we are and what’s happening in our lives.

Do you need some help telling an honest story in your marketing? Book a no-obligation call and let’s have a chat. Alternatively, you can sign up to my mailing list for hints and tips to your inbox every month.

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Why I’m thrilled we’re going back to school

A thrilled mum whose kids have gone back to school.

Lockdown has brought challenges for all of us. It’s made us more aware of what we actually need in our lives. Everyone’s experience is different. You might have struggled with isolation, or you could have the opposite problem. One of the strangest things for me, as someone who’s used to working at home on my own, was the sudden invasion of the rest of my family. In fact, I’m still sharing the office with my husband. The biggest challenge of all was home schooling. I’m not sure I can actually call it that if I’m being totally honest. I don’t know if my kids learned anything from me. It’s been a tough time and I’m absolutely thrilled that my two have gone back to school. This is why.

Mental health

The thought of schools closing sent me into a blind panic. My work relies on peace and quiet, especially when I’m getting into a new project. I made a plan of things I could do at the kitchen table while the kids got on with some work, thinking I could organise my way out of it.

I couldn’t.

The one thing I didn’t take into account was how much time I would spend supporting my anxious children. Sometimes they’d cry. Other times they’d just hide in their bedrooms or spend an hour and a half procrastinating over a five minute task. The truth is, they were sinking. Home and school don’t normally overlap this much. Home is a safe place where they get to play. It isn’t me handing out handwriting practice. My youngest went back to school for three weeks at the end of term and he was like a different child. Even though school was different, he thrived on regaining some sense of normality.

Mum guilt

Guilt is a familiar concept to pretty much any working mum. Everyone’s coped (or not) in their own way. I’ve spoken to plenty of business owners who have basically ignored their kids. School work generally depends on the child accessing what school have sent without much supervision. I felt as if I was doing a half-arsed job on everything.

Some of my friends talked about what a privilege it was having their children at home so they can teach them. That made me feel even worse. There have been some silver linings, but mainly I just wanted my happy, clever kids back. I couldn’t deal with my own thoughts and stresses about the situation. How do you support the people you love the most if you can’t even function yourself?

A functioning business

I’ve been lucky. We’re a self-employed household but my husband’s work has continued from home. We’ve had to make decisions based on finances but we’ve never been at risk of homelessness. There’s also the fact that lots of my clients went quiet just when I needed them to. The projects that they might have called me about were put on hold. It might have been a struggle financially, but at least it’s given me the time to focus on the things that really needed my attention.

Now the country’s opening up, I’ve started to get busier. There have been a few mornings where I’ve abandoned the kids to the TV. It’s been the only way to keep things going. Cue more mum guilt. Going back to school means that they’re spending the day with people who are there to take care of them. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling massively relieved about that.

I’m telling you this story because I know I’m not alone in having these struggles. My clients have them too. Talking about the things you share with your customers helps you to build trust. If I can help you find the right story, please get in touch. I speak your customers’ language.  

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Why I’m not buying into hustle culture

Hustle culture causes stress
Photo from energepic.com via Pexels

I used to follow lots of business gurus who talked about ‘hustle’. They’d mention their families but the main thrust of their advice was that you needed to work, work then work some more until you’d ‘made it’. I never really saw much about what life would look like when you’d made it, or indeed whether there was an actual definition. The overall idea seemed to be that you shouldn’t take a holiday or even a day off until you’d got to the top. Hustle culture was everywhere. Even the people who had kids talked about the importance of balance but seemed to spend their evenings and weekends working. Of course, I don’t know what was happening behind the scenes. Everything I saw about these people was based on what they put on social media. All the same, it played on my mind. Did I really need to subscribe to hustle culture to have a successful business?

What’s my problem?

When I say I’m not buying into the hustle, that doesn’t mean I believe in slacking. Working hard is part of building a successful business. I think my issue is that hustle seems to go beyond that. It’s not just hard work. I’ve seen people talk about not sleeping or never taking a day off. As someone with two small children I know that not getting enough sleep is a form of slow torture. There’s no way I’m doing it voluntarily. There might be times that you need to work silly hours to get something done, but it’s not sustainable long term.

I knew that I needed to create my own definition of success and mark my own boundaries if I was going to get anywhere.

Defining success

I see a lot of people online talking about earning 6 or 7 figures. That might be meaningful to some, but not me. Not that I’m longing to live in a cave or anything. I’d just rather make enough to have a nice life, quality time with the family and a few decent holidays. If that means I don’t get to be a millionaire that’s OK.

When it comes to role models I take social media posts with a pinch of salt and talk to people I actually know. The main thing I discovered is that everyone has different boundaries. The important thing is to look at how you want to spend your time and how that translates to reaching your goals.

Accountability

I sometimes wonder whether ‘hustle’ is some people’s method of keeping themselves accountable. If you haven’t worked an 18 hour day you haven’t done enough. The truth is, you don’t have to hustle to set goals and get results. If I don’t take time off I get exhausted and make bad decisions. My holidays don’t just give me family time, they provide brain space too. Looking at the world from a different angle gives me new ideas for normal life.

I also have an amazing coaching group where we commit to take action and report back. That action can even include identifying times when we need to rest so we live to fight another day. That’s the kind of accountability that gets you where you need to go.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know that a lot of you struggle with it. My business isn’t just about writing. It’s about sharing the stories that mean something to you. If you need help speaking your customers’ language and finding the stories that are important to them, just get in touch.

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Networking: The business resource that keeps on giving

Networking - you are not alone

I’ve been thinking about the resources I use in my business a lot recently, trying to work out what’s working and what isn’t. I keep coming back to networking, mainly because business is often about who you know and partly because there are so many options. As I mentioned in this blog I’ve found that paid networking events have given me more solid relationships than free ones. But then I talk to other business owners and realise that not all networking is created equal. It got me wondering about the kind of networking I do and why it works for me.

Timing

There are so many networking event that you could feasibly spend all your time going to them, but you wouldn’t get much work done. The demands of family life rule out both breakfast and evening networking events for me which helps me narrow them down.

It means that I only go to daytime events, which has a massive impact on the kind of people I meet. They’re often senior employees of larger businesses, which usually means they have money to spend. (Yes, I’m totally capable of being mercenary.) I’ve also met people who’ve built up their side hustle or who threw themselves in at the deep end like me.

Connecting with people

Building a business is about creating relationships. Some of the people I’ve met networking have become customers, but others have become my unofficial ambassadors in their own networks.

My main networking group is women only and hugely supportive in lots of different ways. There’s always a listening ear and great advice. While approaches differ between business owners and employees, there’s still one common thread. We all promote each other, even though that’s not a requirement of membership. My network has widened because we mention each other on social media and attend each other’s events.

Follow up

My favourite networking groups have become my favourites because they make it easy to build relationships. I’ve no problem with making the time to follow up with new contacts individually, but it’s easy for your email (or theirs) to get lost in the midst of a heaving inbox.

While social media can be equally busy, the memberships with Facebook groups have brought more lasting relationships. Other members ask questions or share their content and the hive mind gets to work. People don’t just learn what you’re about in a chat over lunch, they see reminders all the time.

Other networking groups

I often turn down events because they don’t fit with my schedule or my budget. But I’ve also said no without really understanding why. I look at some of the people I’ve met over the years and marvel at the connections they have and the events they’re invited to. Often the only difference between us is that they’ve been in business for longer and have more contacts.

Yet sometimes I think I hold myself back through fear. What if they’re just better than me? Maybe they’re ‘proper’ business owners and I’m just someone who’s going to be found out one day? I think it’s something I need to address.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s to look at the events you’re going to (or not going to). Are they the right ones for you? Is avoiding some holding you back? The reason I tell you this story is not because I have a networking event to sell (I don’t), but because I hope it’ll help. It’s also because being honest and sharing my story has helped me to build my business and meet some amazing people along the way.

If you want some help sharing your story in the right way, just get in touch.

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Are we really pivoting?

Are we pivoting? White arrow on purple background.
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I know, I know, I’m sorry – I’m sorry if you’ve heard the word ‘pivot’ far too many times in the last couple of months. I’m definitely tired of it (along with ‘unprecedented’) but if I’m going to face the thing I have to use the word. So. Are you pivoting? I keep getting it mixed up with pirouetting. That may actually be a better choice. If you feel as if you haven’t stopped spinning you’re not alone.

Pivoting has become a key term because a lot of us have had to consider it. Whole industries have come to a standstill overnight. Some are eligible for Government support but others aren’t. We’ve all got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I started pondering the actions I’ve taken since lockdown and what I’ve seen other businesses do. What’s been happening for you?

Are we pivoting or just readjusting?

To a word geek like me, pivoting means turning in a completely new direction. This has clearly been necessary for a lot of people. I’ve seen friends whose work has disappeared overnight apply for all kinds of jobs. Delivery drivers and grocery shop workers are in higher demand than ever before.

For the rest of us, it’s possible that we’ve just changed the way we do things. Your business might be able to continue online rather than in person. I’ve done online networking and a friend’s yoga class is now taking place over Zoom. My eight year old’s guitar lesson and football sessions have gone virtual as well. Virtual football coaching with a kid hurtling around the garden is quite an experience! The great thing is, we’re able to continue even if some bits have changed.

Getting creative

For some of us, adapting has meant getting creative. Pubs have started offering takeaways – I’ve even had a socially distanced gin delivery! My personal favourite was the lady who is painting rainbows on people’s windows. She’d normally be creating beautiful hand painted signs and chalkboards for shops and events, now she’s cheering people up at home.

My business has always been online, so it’s mostly business as usual. (Apart from the fact that I’m currently home schooling two under 10s.) The trouble is, some of the businesses I work with are struggling. It’s made me look at creating new products that will help without breaking the bank. What’s more, they’ll still be there when we go back to whatever the new normal turns out to be.

Is this a pivot?

Even though I’m creating new things and have adjusted my working week to fit around the kids, I’m not actually pivoting. I’m doing the same thing I was doing before, writing words and trying to help other business owners. All the same, things have changed. It’s not that long ago that I swore blind I was never going to create any kind of digital product. It all seemed like far too much work. Creating something I could sell wasn’t too much of a stretch. I just had to get over my horror of generic content by creating something semi-generic.

The real challenge was the techy bit. How on earth was I going to set up an online shop that would actually take money without me being involved? Well, I’ve done it. Turns out that the people who make shop software want small businesses to be able to use it so they make it easy. I know, who would have thought it?

Are you pivoting or just adjusting? Whatever your experience I’d love to hear about it so please share in the comments.

Further reading

This is my third dispatch from the realms of self-isolation. Here’s the first. And the second.

Also, if you’re in the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire area and would like your windows painted with rainbows here’s the lady to talk to.

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My isolation silver linings

Isolation silver linings and smiles.

I’m delighted to have been challenged by the fabulous Steve at https://thediaryofdad.com/ to write about the positives that have come out of isolation. I have to confess, when all of this started I was panicking. As a business owner, the possibility of not being able to work for an extended period was scary. At least I don’t have employees to worry about. I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly get anything done with the kids at home. Thankfully, there have been plenty of positives. Here are just a few.

I have an amazing business community

I’m used to spending time on my own, working at home while my sons are at school. I’m also an introvert so I thought that the hardest thing about isolation would actually be having the entire family under one roof, all of the time. It actually turns out that I miss talking to other adults, whether it’s at networking events or the school gate.

Thankfully, I’m part of an awesome small business community that quickly mobilised to take events online. It’s not quite the same as hugging your friends in person, but it’s great to keep in touch. Whilst social media isn’t always good for my mental health just now, spending time in the right places has been a real bonus.

Flexibility is key

One of our biggest isolation challenges has been the change in routine. It’s also created one of the biggest positives. My kids love routine, so we’ve created our own. School have sent suggested activities home but it’s up to us how we structure them. We’ve also introduced stuff that they wouldn’t learn at school, like how to do their own laundry, as well as new takes on fun activities. Who knew you could get IT, music appreciation and cookery into organising a kitchen disco?

I’m also thankful that we’ve created a balance when it comes to working at home. My husband and I are both self-employed, but while his workload is steady, mine fluctuates. With good communication and flexibility we’ve been able to settle into a pattern that works for both of us.

Work is still happening in isolation

The fact that my business is already online so can mostly carry on going (kids permitting) was a real silver lining. However, I had no idea whether my clients had any money to spend. Thankfully, some of them do. Some are using the enforced down time to get on with projects that they hadn’t had time for before. Others just need some help communicating with their customers without sounding like they’re trying to profit from a crisis.

The thing is, we’re all just trying to get through this as best we can. It’s been really heartening to see how many people are supporting their community, including other small business, when times are tough.

My kids are mostly great

There are days when I can’t face another conversation about Pokémon. Or Minecraft. But mostly I’m really glad that we’ve got the time to listen. I feel as if I’ve got to know them better. It’s also been great to discover that they’re actually pretty resilient. My youngest turned six in isolation. The fact that this year’s party was a cake and the extended family on FaceTime didn’t faze him at all.

I always knew I was pretty patient, but it goes further than I ever imagined. It has to when your children’s insecurity about the situation comes out two hours after bedtime when you just want to flop in front of the TV. Being able to take the time to administer hugs when they’re needed has been the biggest silver lining of all.

Thanks to Steve for the nomination. I’m nominating Rona Myatt to pick up the baton and talk about her isolation silver linings.

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