When I got married, the greatest gift came from one of my oldest and bestest friends. It was a compilation of the outcome of many days sat in her room, typing laboriously on my old typewriter, and basically spewing forth with vitriol on the music of the time. Yes, it was our fanzine, Lugens. And yes, although I did, and still do, appreciate the beautiful glasses, ornaments and hand blender that we were given, nothing trumped that.
And as is the way with presents like The Best Present Ever, the fanzine got lost at the reception. It was utterly heartbreaking.
The old copies are still hanging around in the attic, so all is not lost. At one point I will probably be able to read it all without cringing, and even now I pick up some bits and pieces that have shaped the way I write now. Well, the way I write for myself now. Copywriting and blogwriting for businesses is of course very different.
There are the quotes, the overuse of brackets (what?) and hopefully the passion for words, music and general love. Although I seem to remember I spent a lot of time being very horrible to Oasis or some other Britpop band. We were pretty opinionated, in between moshing in my garage drinking stolen beer and throwing up.
Between me and Louisa (Lu & Jen, Lujen, LUGENS – get it?), we managed at least two editions. I think we still class the third as unfinished. I can remember us writing together, although I can’t remember our editing, design or layout options. I think our self-portraits were a hit, though, and I definitely remember the hours I stood at my cousin’s photocopier waiting for all the copies to filter through.
We actually sold some. I put adverts in the back of the music press and people wrote to us, with SAEs and £1 coins stuck on their letters with Sellotape. There may even be a copy in someone’s home somewhere. Stuck in a box of old magazines, like the copies of Select and NME I can’t bear to throw away. It’s a lovely feeling and even nicer now that I actually reflect that in some way with what I do everyday.
So from not-so-humble, hilarious, fun-filled beginnings writing about what you love with your bestie; to being able to sit and write about interesting topics for fantastic clients whilst being paid more than a slightly sticky pound coin.
It’s been really difficult to write my blog recently. I’ve decided to take off the weekends of the blogging challenge for while as we have been so busy with other things.
I also think I’m hitting a bit of a writing wall, especially as writing blogs for other people is part of my day job. I can’t sit staring at the screen for my work, when I should be sitting staring at the screen for theirs.
So, a complete juxtaposition of being very busy at home and very lazy in my writing. Not helpful at all. It’s a times like these where the disadvantages of working at home (no one to keep you motivated or bounce off of, having to keep yourself focused on the task) actually works well with the advantages. I’m my own boss, so I may well just go shopping and worry about it all tomorrow.
The other advantage/disadvantage of working from home is my inability to not get over excited about meetings. Not just the work aspect (natch) but I can dress up. No jeans for me!
This can cause a few problems. For one, when I nip into Tesco's to buy even more food for a boy that doesn't seem to want to stop eating, I have to explain to a lovely mum friend that I bumped into that, yes I did look glamorous, but no it wasn't for anything exciting. No film premiere or tough pitch for me. Just a quick catch up with my accountant (the wonderful Bobby Moore of Heslops)
People who have a normal attitude to meetings and clothes don’t have this intense need to dress up to meeting me to catch up on a project. They go to an office everyday, they need to look smart and presentable. It’s not a big deal. However, when you don’t normally need to look presentable, the thought of getting to look presentable for once takes a lot more importance. This is why I always look slightly overdressed. And tall, because I also need to wear heels.
This doesn’t always happen, and actually I don’t think anyone notices anyway. It’s a nice, smart, professional image and one I can have fun with. I love my clothes so to be able to get to wear things that are not going to be immediately covered in dog hair/mud/food/felt tip pen/snot is immensely rewarding to me.
Saying that, after a misjudged cuddle with Boo my lovely new dress (swishy, pleats, Carrie Bradshaw sort of vibe) is now covered in dog hair. I might go out and buy a new dress.
A chat with a fellow freelancer today ran into a couple familiar subjects for people who work on their own. As well as rates, networking opportunities and getting business, we also talked about how hard it is to get feedback.
Sometimes clients do get back to you with some great feedback (more of that in a later blog), but more often than not your marketing material, especially copywriting and social media work, is pinged off in an email never to be referred to again. In a way, as long as your invoice is paid and you keep writing for them, it’s fine. That should be all the feedback you need.
But I do like a pat on the head and a biscuit at times, and it is great to have some sort of response from your clients.
We talked about this problem of feedback briefly (I met up with the lovely Rachel of CopyThat), and I was glad that this is a problem that could be shared. All you want to do is create a great piece of work for your clients, and although you may be happy with it, how do you know if it is completely fulfilling their aims and getting results?
It’s a tricky notion to balance. You can’t delve too deep into their results, unless they ask you to, and you may not be present when clients make their decisions on topics, marketing plans and further strategies. However to do the best job you need to be party to your client’s aims and as marketing should be part of every strand of the business (the first thing you learn at marketing school) having that constant interaction makes everything you do work better and harder.
I am lucky to have many clients who do provide feedback when I work with them. Even a discussion on things you could change, or a structural rearrange, proves that you are working together for the benefit of the business. And of course, repeat business is the best feedback you should really ask for!
I’ve always been a feminist. Obviously. I like voting and earning my own money and running my own business and having the opportunity to do whatever I want to do. It’s very clear to me now that I’ll never be an astronaut or headline Glastonbury, but the option is the thing.
I just took the whole feminist thing as a given until I had Hector. All of a sudden, when you want to raise this little precious screaming thing as best you can, in the right way, the world is a scarier place. There’s just so much hate and fear, uncertainty and loss, and you simultaneously want to protect your tiny person from the horrible world and also enable them to create their place in it. They should be whoever they want to be.
So, when you start reading articles about the gender pay gap or the effects of sexting and porn on young people it increases your fear and frustration with the our culture. You might not think that I’d get that upset. After all, Hector is a boy and will grow up with all the privileges that go with it. But the patriarchy affects him too. What if he’s told he runs like a girl? That he can’t like Frozen or a princess dress? That he shouldn’t cry or express his feelings? Suicide rates for young men are high because this reason, as men struggle to seek help and support. There is an emphasis on men to be the strong ones, to bear the burden ‘for the women’. Gender still affects our decisions and how we are perceived in the world.
I don’t want Hector to dismiss a whole section of toys because they are in the pink section. As the campaign Let Toys be Toys promotes, the use of ‘real life’ or creative toys helps children understand caring for people or doing jobs around the home. Shouldn’t all men be able to cook now? To create a truly equal world, where women can go for the careers they want and make the best of their lives, responsibilities should be shared. Men can be capable of looking after their children and providing the emotional support that entails.
I know I’m not a shining example of this. I still struggle, using the wrong language or buying ‘girly’ toys for birthday parties. Being a woman affects how I feel in big meetings, my confidence, my reliance on a pretty dress to get me through those situations (I may dedicate another blog to all those times I have ridiculously over-dressed for meetings), and my inability to fully recognise the benefits I bring to businesses.
There’s a long way to go, for me, my son and the world. But I read a lot. I share articles and stories that affect me, I am a member of both the Fawcett Society and the Women’s Equality Party. I will talk about how I feel about feminism to any one that wants to ask me and if they think that we’re all equal now they are in for a lengthy discussion. I can wear my Feminist necklace with pride and deal with the bemused expressions. Just about.
As for Hector, he’s still very much a boy. It’s all Lego and Star Wars and superheroes for now. However much fake food I threw in front of him in his toddler years he was never one for playing house. Even now he only wants to cook with me because I let him hold a knife and chop things like a ninja. However, he is so overflowing with love for the world (he literally told this week, walking home from school “I love everyone in the whole world Mummy!”), and I think if you can keep that sort of feeling about you can cope with just about anything.
Sometimes the title comes first, or at least your husband referencing you as a motherblogger comes first. But this being a mum thing is the biggest part of my life.
We were talking in the kitchen about how hard it’s been for me to blog everyday, especially over half term. It’s always a struggle over the holidays to juggle my marketing work, looking after Hector and also my guilt too. As you know you should be doing creative stuff with papier mache, hiking though woods or baking elaborate cupcakes during the holidays, not trying to negotiate Hector to come off the iPad without the alternative being another trip to the toy shop.
I am the luckiest person with the job and the flexibility that I have. I am doubly lucky to have amazing, understanding clients that appreciate the job I do and don’t mind at all on the rare occasions that Hector is poorly. However, it’s not like I always work to deadline (I get things done pretty quickly) so that’s why the occasions are so rare.
I know a few other freelancing mums now, and we all recognise how fortunate we are to be able to do a job we love and spend time with the small people too. It does mean working in the evenings sometimes, taking advantage of grandparents for a bit of childcare and a tussle with the iPhone when you insist to your five year old that you’re checking emails but he thinks it’s time to play Lego Star Wars Microfighters instead.
But you focus more in the time you have, you work harder, and you really, really know how to negotiate tricky conversations.
Saying all this though, I feel icky about talking about being a mum and working. There are so many blogs, social media accounts and hashtags recognising and celebrating working mums. Most of them just add to the guilt that you feel. You’re doing it, but you’re not doing it well enough. You’re not taking that necessary 5 (10,15, 20…) minutes to do your make up before you do the school run, even though you have been told it will make you feel so much better about yourself. You’re not eating as well as you should, with all nutrients and good things that you need to be putting in your body (I ate a cold burger for lunch yesterday. A cold burger). I still don’t think I’m doing as well as I should, chasing new business as much as I should, charging as much as I should.
The whole thing is a massive headache already and being shown how other people do it so well just makes it worse (another blog on social media/reality coming soon too). So I feel I’m adding to it by going on about how lucky I am.
Gah. You can’t win. Or maybe you already are winning but you’re looking around too much to recognise it. Who knows. It may be time to watch Die Hard.
As a note, I finished Cherry Healey’s Letters to my Fanny this week and I loved it. It’s refreshing to read a book that encourages you to love all parts of yourself (not just body parts) but also is so honest about how Cherry is trying to change her perception of things but not always succeeding. Worth a read.
Freelance Marketing Consultant, especially that Social Media stuff.