Freelancing – a business of learning….

So I’ve been super quiet on this blog for around 6 months, and it’s not because I decided to sell all of the children to the circus (tempting as that may be), but because I’ve been, sort of, gainfully employed.

My safe “forever” job, turned out to not be that safe, or indeed forever, and I took the plunge into freelancing. I initially wanted to pursue my writing and social media dreams more fully, but that didn’t quite work out either, and I found myself doing much the same work as before, albeit for a lot more money. Yes I succumbed to the filthy lucre and momentarily put my dreams aside to you know, feed my kids and stuff.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the work that currently pays the bills, (I work as a book keeper-cum-office manager-cum-social media manager-cum-office tea lady) but my brain is consistently demanding more creative outlets, and I have decided to bow down to the internal shouting a little.

This is not exactly a Damascene Conversion situation, I’ve been enjoying the benefits of freelancing, and this week I experienced one of the pitfalls. I will attempt to illustrate both of these sides to freelance work below:

All the good stuff

  • The Money – let us be completely honest here, many people (especially perhaps those with dependants) wouldn’t turn down double the money for similar work. I didn’t, and I’ve certainly enjoyed the summer of the grasshopper. I don’t have to share that money or profits with anyone else, unless you count small people who insist on outgrowing their clothes that is.
  • The Freedom – The ability to, within reason, choose your own working hours around family commitments, hair appointments, smear tests, or a shoe sale is a heady thing. I can choose my own productivity hours, and if I want to finish early on a Friday, I absolutely can.
  • Be Your Own Boss – Not in the way of the pyramid scheme nonsense you understand, but in that there is no one micro managing me, the responsibility for my work starts and ends with me, and that level of control is something I have really enjoyed. Of course the clients come first, and in a way are my boss, however……
  • I Can Choose My Clients – I have actually retained a client from my old job, and they are just the loveliest people to work for, always willing to be flexible (it helps that they also have a family of small people so are super understanding about sickness bugs, school assemblies etc), so I’m very lucky in the respect that I really enjoy working with them. However, if they were difficult to work with, or I didn’t agree with their business philosophies, the way they treated their staff or even that they were difficult payers, I would be able to part ways with them and wish them the best. This is something that I would not have the ability to do if I was working for them through another company that I was employed by. I’d just have to suck it up, and that would no doubt lead to discontent on all sides.
  • You Can Choose Your Workplace – To a certain extent. Two of my clients, with the nature of the work I do for them, need me to be in their offices, and it’s nice to dress like a functioning grown-up and get out of the house a few times a week. I can also do a lot of my freelance work from the comfort of my home, in my pyjamas, with a constant supply of tea and my own choice of music in the background. I even did some work whilst on a recent holiday, and I love the freedom that gives me, as well as making sure that my clients never feel I’ve abandoned them for my holiday completely!

And now the less so good stuff

  • No Employment Benefits – I’m certainly feeling this one right now after 2 weeks away, no holiday pay! Also I was floored by jet lag so there was no way I could make it into work for nearly a week afterwards! Every day I don’t work is another day that I don’t get paid for. Likewise with sickess, I have been known to dose myself on Immodium and fought a sickness bug back until the weekend just so that I could get work finished and get paid. Not the healthiest thing to do. This is also true for when the kids are sick, I want to be with them and care for them, but sometimes it’s just not viable and their grandmother has been with them instead (Mum Guilt!!).
  • Not always reliable – Unfortunately being a freelancer means that workloads are variable, and can change at the drop of a hat. I have been in the position of “oh we probably wont need you next week” which is understandable from the client’s point of view, but also see above ref: feeding kids and stuff. You cannot budget for your highest potential earnings for the day/week/month, and have to realistically look at maybe even one dropped day a week.
  • The Freedom – Yes I know I also put this in the benefits section but bear with me. The freedom to choose your hours and work them around other commitments has it’s downfalls, in that sometimes you work late, or longer hours to make the work fit. The 9-5 can look pretty great at 10pm on a Wednesday evening when you’re surrounded by paperwork! It can be hard to draw a line between personal and business time, and you have to be quite strict with yourself at times.
  • Payment Issues – You have to wear many hats when you’re running your own business, the least exciting of these is a debt collector. It can feel extremely hurtful when you’re having to chase for money that you rightfully worked hard for, and it’s hard not to take it so personally. You do have to realise that sometimes people just don’t prioritise certain things, it can slip their mind or they maybe have cashflow issues, it’s important to have clear discussions on your invoices and payment terms up front, so there can be no misunderstandings or poor communication, leading to professional difficulties.
  • It’s All On You – You are responsible for getting, and retaining your clients. You can  of course lose that security of a client at any time, even through no fault of your own, and that can lead to intense periods of self doubt and despair. But then you have to dust yourself off, put your sales hat on and go get yourself some more work! No one will hand that work to you anymore like in a previous employment, and you have to be prepared for putting yourself out there and making your own dreams happen.

So it’s really equal parts of positive and negative, I personally have gained so much knowledge and self belief from going freelance. I’ve grown in my professional and personal life, and whilst it’s not all a walk in the park, I really feel that it’s the best option for me.

There is always the potential risks of going freelance failing, and each person will have to weigh that up for themselves.

 

N.b – One of the downfalls as previously mentioned is putting yourself out there and finding new clients. I currently have availability for 2 days a week for social media management, ghost writing, blogging and tea making.

Is it odd to feel sorry for Kate Middleton?

No one seems to have missed (aside from my husband, who apparently lives under a rock) the news that The Duchess of Cambridge, or as she’s still referred to by the media, Kate Middleton has just given birth to her third child.

I know a lot of folk are all “who cares, tax payers money blah blah blah” but personally I think it’s lovely. It’s a new life and that is nothing to be mardy about.

Now, here’s the part where I feel sorry for the super rich, glossy haired, well spoken and frankly Disney Princess loveliness that is K-Middy.

Firstly, I have only ejected two of my little bundles of terror from my womb. The idea of doing it a third time is enough to make me reach for the gin with a shaking hand and a green face. Giving birth is not a pleasant experience for anyone involved really (add to this another apology from me for yelling at the ever amazing QMC staff to “get me some effing drugs you effing bastards!”), it’s lots and lots of liquid, just gushing from everywhere, lots of waiting around, enough blood and gore to satisfy even the most hardened horror fan and then a fair bit of pain as your little bambino tears it’s way forcefully into the world. Lovely stuff.

So three times? I’ll pass thanks very much.

Secondly, she has to shag Prince William.

Finally, most new mums exiting hospital do it wearing their comfy joggers, distended stomachs encased in the fuzzy warmth of an oversized hoody, zero make up and hair that looks like it’s spent a week immersed in a deep fat fryer. There are rarely any pictures of the actual exit from the hospital, and if there were on mine I would like them to be immediately incinerated upon pain of death.

The Duchess’ stylist was seen leaving the hospital earlier in the day, she had a full face of expertly applied make up, her hair was perfect and she was wearing heels. Her outfit echoed that of Princess Diana’s when she left the hospital with His Royal Hotness Prince Harry, and you can bet that that was no happy coincidence. The idea of the meticulous planning that has to go into her outfit, the baby seat, the childrens outfits upon arrival at the hospital etc etc is enough to make me tired, and I’ve  not just pushed an 8lb 7oz baby out.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the worlds media was avidly watching for the sight of this new baby, almost like he belongs to them, and not to the new parents. The pressure this must put on William and Catherine (is that what we call them? I’ve lost track of the names to be honest) must be absolutely immense, but not by a flicker of her perfectly tended eyebrows did she show it.

So yes, whilst she may seem to live a charmed life of wealth and privilege, it’s important to remember that whilst she has to put on the Big Show for the world, hours after giving birth, we got to shuffle out to the car park, in our comfies with a delicious smelling baby and an undercarriage like it’d been attacked by a juggernaut. And I wouldn’t swap places with her in that moment for the Crown Jewels themselves.

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Looking 30 in the eye and sh**ting myself……

Not literally shitting myself yet, I’m sort of in the lower-middle of the age spectrum when it comes to that. Hopefully.

I am however, far nearer to thirty than I’d ever imagined I would be, surely I would never reach the dizzy heights of an actual adult’s age? Apparently time waits for no (wo)man though, so it appears to be true, I’m getting old.

In a mild(ly hysterical) panic I started a little checklist in my head of things I’ve done with my life, and it went something like this……

Travelled (if you can call a season in Ibiza surviving on spaghetti hoops and questionable shots travelling) √

Had wonderful children and didn’t leave any of them in the supermarket (for long) √

Got married to a rather wonderful chap who appreciates my love of handbags and makes a decent brew √

Aaaaannd that’s about what I’ve got. Literally all that sprang to mind of my life’s fulfilled ambitions. Admittedly the last two are bloody good things to have achieved, particularly the supermarket thing, but still, nearly 3 decades on this god forsaken planet and this is what I’ve done with the time allotted to me.

I have never met (or had sexual relations with) Liam Neeson, I never went to Thailand and ate insects, I never learned how to hotwire a car (don’t judge, it’d be a handy talent), I can’t play any instruments and I never wrote a world changing novel to rival To Kill A Mockingbird.

I’m not saying I’m a failure, much, but I don’t think I’ve set the world on it’s heels or made my mark, not even a scratch. With that in mind (and with a little help of a kick up the arse from my wonderful girlfriends) I decided to do something about this. Tonight I had a wardrobe clear out, so cathartic. I made a wholesome, filling meal and didn’t bitch about elbows on the table, knives held like pens and other insignificant things that would normally boil my blood, and I wrote a CV.

I am not actually in the market for a new job, as such. Hours at work have been reduced and I put a little bit of my sad state down to this. I love spending time with the kids, and getting on with stuff in the house, but I also love having money. So I’m looking at ways to do something I love (writing), and being paid for it, alongside my current work commitments. For that however, I needed to dust off and brush up the written account of my working life.

The easy part was my (distinct lack of any useful) qualifications and job history. Writing about my weaknesses was a damn sight easier than my strengths but I had to be brutally honest with myself and I actually came away feeling a lot better than going into it. Acknowledging my flaws and comparing them against my strengths made me realise that I’m not as altogether shit as I had previously thought.

Writing about previous jobs and the roles I had made me realise that there’s such a variety of things I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in, that perhaps I’ve not sucked at life quite so much at all. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the grey, that seeing things in black and white brings a whole new perspective.

So I’m not that shit, I’m not that much of a failure, spaghetti hoops on toast is the foodstuff of champions, and I’m not “nearly thirty”……I’m 29.

Plenty of time to set the world alight.

 

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That’s it guys, it’s Christmas………….

Now that Halloween is done (and you’re desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the kids sweet collection), can we all just accept that it’s now Christmas?

Not that it hasn’t been Christmas on the telly and in the shops since approximately August 3rd, but now that it’s “nearly December” and we’ve had the first frost, I can start getting excited yeah?

I absolutely adore Christmas now I’ve got children, two of them have birthdays in Christmas week, so it’s a pretty long celebration in our house. It also means that I do have to be much more organised than I usually am so that it goes without tooooo much of a hitch.

The lists have already been compiled, I lost last years super organised, colour coded and formula linked spreadsheet to office hackers, so I’ll have to start again ( If only I put as much effort into my writing or my actual job!). The husband’s presents are done, aside from his lump of coal for the stocking, and I’ve been trying to talk him into letting the dogs have Christmas jumpers. (It’s a big fat NO HO HO at the minute)

dog christmas jumper

Photo source: Pets at Home.

 

I’ve made the chutney and ordered the brown wrapping paper, in my head I’ve completely redesigned the tree and Aldi are already stocking Gluwhein. It’s happening folks!!!!

I suspect that a lot of you may be thinking “oh piss off, it’s still 2 months away!” – Just remember how quickly that last series of Game of Thrones went. And now panic.

I used to hate Christmas, and I do still hate the Americanised nonsense we get (Black Friday anyone?), but there’s just something so brilliant about Nativity shows, kids’ excitement, endless Christmas movies and 2 weeks off work (if you’re lucky) that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. That might be the mulled wine though.

This year will also be the first in a while where I’m not hosting, so whilst I love doing the dinner, I’m usually too exhausted to eat it by the time it’s finished. I’m looking forward to wearing my fat pants (with reindeer on, natch), eating my body weight in Pigs in Blankets, playing Cards against Humanity and watching the Sound of Music for the 876th time.

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So that’s me fully invested in the Christmas spirit, and for those of you who aren’t quite there yet, let’s see how you feel next Monday once the Pope burning is out of the way.

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Barking mad?

We are now the proud doggy parents of two French Bulldog puppies. They are the most beautiful little guys, and we’ve named them Arlo and Beau, although Jude was hoping for Ryan and Axel (kids on YouTube, absolutely not a chance!).


We kept it reasonably quiet as the elder two girls were still in school until yesterday and we wanted to surprise them. The people we did tell were wonderfully supportive and excited for us, and they knew this was something we had wanted for a while. 

Upon surprising the (human) girls after school, we decided to unleash the (canine) boys upon social media, and that’s where the fun really started.

“Oh god you must be mad! Do you know how much work that will be?”

Well I’ve got four kids, so I’ve a pretty good idea. 

“How on earth will you cope?!”

Please see above ref: loads of bloody kids that I’m not doing an altogether shitty job of raising, so I think I’ll be sound thanks.

“Make sure you hide all of Jude’s Lego!”

Oh you know what? I’m so glad you said that, I had thought that Arlo might want to help me build the Millenium Falcon, but you’re probably right, he’s just not got the dexterity in his paws. 

“Oh Frenchies have *this* problem and their personalities are like *this*”

Yeah, because I didn’t research the animals that we are forking our huge sums of money for. Just totally winging it. Didn’t get health checks and papers and look at the parents and the home they came from before making a decision. What kind of idiot do you take me for?

There was a few more along this vein and it was actually a bit depressing. Are people genuinely so eager to put others down or show off their knowledge that they can’t just say “congratulations”? 

If I’d unexpectedly brought a baby home, would the comments have been the same? “Oh you’ll never cope with that, are you mad?!” So why is it acceptable for those comments in this situation?

I think of friends who maybe can’t have babies for whatever reason, maybe it’s just not worked out that way, or personal choice. I would never question them on their ability to look after their pets. Just as I’d hope no one would doubt my ability to parent, and come out with it on social media.

I’m not an idiot, I’m fully aware that they’ll add to my workload, but I’m equally as aware that I’m not the only person in this house capable of getting stuck in.

I think it’s important for children to grow up with pets, and to see the looks on my kids faces when they met the boys yesterday was worth all the social media digs in the world.

Beau

 

Arlo

*Some folks were genuinely helpful with their comments, and at least saved them until after the “Congratulations”. I like those guys, the rest I got rid of, because those Debbie Downers have no place on my page. 

The crippling cost of half term?

Half term, like Christmas, always seems to come around too quickly. Pretty sure they only went back last Wednesday! You can guarantee that before 10am on the first day (if they’ve managed to drag themselves out of bed that is!) you’ll hear those dreaded words…”I’m bored!”

With two teens and two younger ones at home, it can be difficult to keep everyone entertained without either losing all of my money or my sanity. With this in mind I have been researching ways to get everybody out of the house on the cheap (Scottish blood, tight as hell) or things to do on a rainy day that doesn’t include filling the bath with green slime.

Here are a few ideas if you’re in the same boat, or if you’re just a really, really bored adult.

Baking. Get the worst out of the way first. It’s messy and personally I have never understood how Katie from “I Can Cook” doesn’t lose her shit with those kids cracking eggs ENTIRELY the wrong way. Everyone seems to enjoy it though and an added bonus is you get to eat it all later, and pretend it’s not entirely inedible.

The BBC website (https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/kids-cooking) alone has over 40 kid friendly recipes to keep the lot of them entertained. If you really hate yourself and want your kitchen to be destroyed, let them do one recipe each AT THE SAME TIME.

Bowl them over. Many bowling alleys do discounted family tickets during half term, and it’s a fantastic way to get everyone a little exercise and a LOT competitive. Help them work on their team skills by splitting up, if there’s enough of you. Coming up with the team names is always, erm, entertaining!

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Go to the library. Public libraries often offer workshops for children, free reading programmes and other amusements. They really are a godsend and an often under used resource. Kids also seem to love getting their own library account, something about choosing their own book to read makes them act more responsibly toward them (Looking at the child who dropped my Tolkien in the bath).                                                                                                                                                 Another idea would be to get each child to take out a Craft or How To book, and you can all make something or learn a new skill. Wonderful stuff.

Pumpkin picking. Perfect for the October half term, although in summer fruit picking is a family favourite, this past time is fun for younger and older children alike.                                                                                                                                                                               Wrap everyone up warm, dig the wellington boots out and enjoy a fun morning in the fresh air picking the perfect pumpkin for you Jack O’ Lantern. Don’t forget that the flesh of the pumpkin can be used for many delicious recipes, although probably not on the day you’ve picked it, you’ll have earned yourselves a pub lunch! Find a local patch at http://www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk/                                                                                                      

Local Museums. Whether your kids are into science, art, sports or history, there’s so many museums with interactive exhibits and activities aimed at younger visitors, you’ll be spoiled for choice. A quick Google will probably bring up a surprising amount of museums within a reasonable distance. Whilst these aren’t always free, they are usually run by Trusts and relatively cheap, just stay away from the gift shops, those places will have your eyes out!

Get a National Trust membership. The moment I realised I was an adult was when I started researching the benefits of a National Trust Membership, and I was pleasantly surprised at them. You get free entry to over 500 attractions, and free parking at most of these. When you factor in non-members would usually pay over £30 for a family of 6, a yearly family membership at just less than £10 per month seems an absolute bargain.

You also get a handy National Trust handbook when you sign up which can help you plan for future visits, and most importantly, if you sign up for Direct Debit you get a pair of FREE BINOCULARS (I love free stuff)!!

Belton

Get the bikes out. Ok so if your kids don’t already have bikes, this won’t exactly be free but it COULD still be quite cheap. Get on your local social media selling pages, or auction sites for local pick ups (remember to have the bike looked over for safety concerns before purchasing or using).

Cycling is a great way for the family to get some fresh air, exercise and quality time together. Getting out into the local area will also give you a different perspective than you may get in a car, and you may find a new park, picnic area or activity centre that you didn’t know about previously.

 

Bath time. Ok so I said don’t fill it with slime, and with good reason, but it doesn’t mean bath time can’t be fun.Bubbles are always a winner, and if you’re feeling flush, get to Lush for their AMAZING range of coloured bath bombs. A cheap winner for us this week will be getting to the pound shop and buying a bunch of glowsticks to put under the bubbles. We’ll dim the lights, put some terrible music on and let them have a little disco (Just be careful they don’t leak as the liquid can be pretty nasty!).

My littlest ones love a bath, mainly because it’s frickin’ hilarious (for them) to hear my screech as the water starts pouring through the ceiling, so it’s always nice to make it more enjoyable for them.

Treat yo self. The best thing you could probably do this half term is print this list, and hand it to the grandparents as you deliver the kids to them. Then hot tail it to a spa for a couple of days break, using all of the lovely money that you’ve saved.

Getting back into the world…..

Ah the summer holidays, the extra time with your precious little moppets, the sunshine, days out and hopefully a long week somewhere with a cocktail in hand, making delightful memories…….

Or, in reality, it rains constantly, the kids hate each other, they eat all of the food on the day it is bought, and you don’t go anywhere because frankly, it’s too much sodding hassle!

You dream of the return to school (whilst silently acknowledging how awful that sounds), but if this September is your child’s first time at school, you’re also dreading it.

How did that little cherub grow up so quickly? It’s only been five minutes, where’s it all gone? Why must they leave, WHHHHHHYYYYY?

It may also mean a return to work for many parents who have taken a career break to raise the little mites, and that is terrifying for most. You may feel completely out of your depth and far behind all those other candidates, you wonder if you could sell Aloe gels, make up or some other pyramid shite instead? The cost of out of school childcare makes the blood drain from your face as quickly as the money will drain from your account. But mainly, you may feel insignificant and unqualified for anything.

Well, listen up, as I’m about to be positive and shit. (It’s fleeting, don’t worry)

If you have ever convinced a toddler to wear both socks on their feet for an entire hour, without bribery, but just because they know you want them to, you have management skills and show strong leadership qualities

If you have successfully argued for the benefits of eating the various vegetables in an evening meal, you could be a burgeoning super salesperson.

If you have managed to get four children washed, dressed, fed and out of the house by 9 am without anyone yelling or crying, you have excellent time management skills.

What I’m trying to say is that whilst you may have been out of a workplace environment for a few years, you’ve retained and probably gained some seriously useful traits. Transferring these to an office environment (where, lets face it, some people do display child like behaviour from time to time) should be piece of cake.

Plus you wont have to convince Carole from Accounting to eat her carrots.

 

 

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