I started my business when Erica was 8 months old, and Ethan was homeschooling because of the pandemic.
As it often does for mothers I’ve discovered, my copywriting journey began by starting my own blog about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. In my case, I started this blog to talk about the weirdness of my situation: widowed with a 2-year-old son at 31, now remarried and expecting another child. A friend reached out and asked if I’d like to write some blogs for her sustainable fitness brand about keeping fit and being a mum. She paid me £40 and I was pretty chuffed that someone else wanted to read what I’d written.
Before Erica was born I was balancing 10 hours a week of bookkeeping from home (that I was terrible at) with the part-time position of Chief Exam Invigilator at a local secondary school (which I was awesome at, but wasn’t exactly inspiring). Neither of these were going to work once Erica was born, especially when Covid hit and finding childcare was an impossibility. I was going to have to think of something else.
Nick was listening to a business podcast and heard about this website called Upwork, where freelancers could find paid writing opportunities. It suddenly dawned on me that I could actually get paid to write things.
This is a pretty familiar story on the copywriting podcasts. People who have always found writing easy, through school, college, and work. People who get asked by their friends all the time to “just take a look over my CV”, or “what do you think of the wording in this essay paragraph”, don’t necessarily think this is a skill that others will pay for. Surely everyone finds writing fairly easy?
It seems not. It seems that I had a marketable skill just sitting there, only pulled out for heartfelt messages in birthday cards and wedding speeches. So in I jumped, going from zero in September 2020 to July 2021 and my first $2k month. I’m incredibly proud of my progress so far, but I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy.
I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. When I decide to do something new I want to find out everything I can about it. I’ll read all the books and scour all the websites until I know all there is to know. These days it’s all about the podcasts. Partly because they’re so very in right now, and partly because I haven’t had the time to crack a book since January 2020 (can’t think why).
There are about a million (at a conservative estimate) podcasts about running a business, and a million more about copywriting and digital marketing. I’ve been binging them all on the school run and in my earbuds while I feed the baby to sleep, clean the kitchen, make dinner and sort the washing.
As you’d expect, among the common topics of conversation, time management features quite heavily. For a lot of freelancers, or solopreneurs, their business starts of as a “side hustle” that they fit in to their evenings and weekends, once they’ve got home from their regular jobs. So time is a factor.
But not all busyness is fixable.
I was listening to one particular podcast the other day, where a time management guru asked the listeners whether they valued entertainment or learning more. And challenged them to look at whether the way they spent their time reflected this. Basically, if you say you value learning, but you spend 3 hours every evening watching Netflix instead of working through the digital marketing course you bought or starting your novel, then you’re kidding yourself.
As I drove along the road from school I realized why this particular podcast episode was making me cross. It was because I’d consistently heard from business guru after business guru that we all have time to do the things we want to do (workout, learn a skill, start a business); we’re just not looking hard enough.
Trust me. I’m looking pretty hard. And, unless you want me to stage my client calls at 3 in the morning while I’m breastfeeding a baby, I’m a little confused as to where all these magic pockets of time in my day are. Because I do actually value learning. But the last time i sat down to look through the digital marketing course I bought I realized that there were two loads of washing to put away, one to put in the machine, and the breakfast things still hadn’t made it to the dishwasher.
2 weeks ago I downloaded a 14 day bootcamp from a very well-known copywriting business that rhymes with snottypackers. Now I appreciate a no-nonsense tone as much as the next impatient person. But Day 1 focused on setting up your workspace, and argued that unless you had a specific area that was just for you to work in, with a door you could close, and scheduled times that you coud go and do that work with no distractions, then basically you were playing at this whole business thing and no-one would take you seriously.
Life doesn’t work like that if you have kids, especially small ones.
This blog post for example. I was meant to write it after Erica went down for her afternoon nap. But she didn’t. After I’d spent 45 minutes trying to get her to drift off. So it was written in 3 minute blasts between getting her food, getting her to eat the food and not throw it all over the dining room, changing her nappy, explaining to her that eating chalk was not sensible, and finally giving in and finishing it off later in the evening.
But I am a freelance copywriter. I have regular clients who pay me for work and give me glowing testimonials. My earnings pay bills. And I’m serious about growing my business. So where does that leave me in this story?
Maybe there are a whole bunch of people sat on their bottoms watching Schitt’s Creek who just need to be told to get up and work towards their goal. But I reckon that (especially during the pandemic) there are even more people who are trying to follow their dream of a small business or a freelance career whilst teaching their daughter long division, battling zoom parents evenings, and bouncing toddlers who suddenly decide sleep is for losers at 18 months old.
I want time management and business tips from people who are making it work while balancing a baby on one hip. I want to hear their top tips for how to deal with a pile of client work when they were up every hour the night before.
I really don’t want to hear fresh-faced and groomed women on Instagram lives talking about how getting up an hour before their children has been the best thing they could ever do for their business, as now they can get their workout/meditation/journalling/scheduling of social posts done before they embrace their cherubs over breakfast.
I want to hear from the parents typing blogs one-handed (not that I’m doing that right now, obviously….) whilst holding a poorly preschooler, hoping little hands don’t lean over and delete the last paragraph. I want to hear from the business owners who arrive at school 15 minutes early for pick up so they can answer emails while the baby is contained in the car seat.
And most of all, I want to hear from them because I’ve spent the last year struggling with my brand voice and communications. I didn’t want to post about the realities of running a business as a Stay at Home Mum, because I was worried clients (and potential clients) would think I wasn’t a professional. I didn’t want them to think I was half-assing my work.
But, if anything, I work harder because of my limitations. Just because a blog post might be concepted while I cook spaghetti bolognese doesn’t mean it’s any less of an effective marketing tool. Just because I might be answering their email at 2am while I’m feeding Erica doesn’t mean I’m “phoning it in”. Just because I’m not at my desk (or in a hipster coffee shop) from 10 till 4 doesn’t mean I’m not a credible business woman. I’m just slightly more covered in humus than business women tend to be.
So, podcast hosts: bring on the mess and the honesty, and lead me to the women (and men) who I know are knocking it out of the park while literally holding the baby!
And, if you’re looking for a copywriter to polish your website, or inject new blood into your blog, you can find me here: www.wordsbypeta.wordpress.com