The mumpreneur conference 2011- creating a business instead of a job

September 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

The final seminar in the suite is by Elizabeth Graney, Hampshire Business coach and she wants to know whether your business is letting you live the dream?

  • loads of income
  • flexible/reduced hours
  • impressive work/life balance
  • greater status
  • better job security
  • more days off

No? Many business owners find the exact opposite and that is because they have fallen into the trap of exchanging hours for income, and that’s the difference between a job and a business.

A business is “a growing commercial enterprise that is profitable and independent of any one individual- even you!”

So, have you fallen in the trap? Typically you will be a skilled tradesperson who is too busy doing the business to run the business

Dos and don’ts

Do

  • create passive income streams
  • constant marketing
  • delegate tasks
  • plan for progression and growth
  • write everything down
  • automate procedures
  • work strategically on the business more often
  • develop and train your team

Don’t

  • be your own slave
  • exchange hours income
  • forget to plan
  • only ever work in the business (not on it)
  • do tasks you’re not good at
  • forget to take a break

If you have fallen into the trap, at least you now know, and you can take steps to get out of it!

The Mumpreneur Conference 2011- Dress to Impress

September 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

What conference filled with (mostly) women would be complete without a seminar about clothes? Dress to Impress with Beth Goodrham was all about dressing to impress yourself.

Beth (who looked absolutely stunning by the way) is no Trinny or Susannah. No one had to get naked and stare at themselves in a mirror, there was no prodding, poking or pointing out problem areas.  Beth as simply offering hints and tips aimed at inspiring you to try new things.

There are three key issues to think about when thinking about your wardrobe-Figure, Lifestyle and Budget. Whatever your clothing wants or requirements, they have to be practical for your life, and your style needs to take account of your body shape and your personality.

Mums particularly are apt to neglect themselves, or their wardrobes- too concerned with packed lunches, reading diaries and after-school clubs. Many mums feel that they have lost their way, in a purely sartorial sense of course.

So some tips, for dressing to impress- yourself:

Know your body shape- hourglass, apple, pear, column, inverted triangle, and take account of this when shopping.

The fit of your clothes is very important. Including underwear. The top three size sins are wearing clothes that are too small, wearing clothes that are too big and just buying the same size in every shop and for twenty years. Sies in most shops are now larger than they used to be and can vary significantly between different stores.

Play to your strengths. If you have great legs, wear a skirt. If you have a tiny waist- wear a belt instead of that voluminous top.

Take note of the length of  your clothes. Don’t highlight your worst bit. If you have a big bum, don’t wear a jacket that finishes on your widest part. Same goes for wobbly upper arms and cap sleeves or chunky calves and midi skirts or cropped trousers.

Distract people (including yourself) draw the eye somewhere else. Wear a bright necklace or sparkly shoes to take emphasis away from a mummy tummy for example.

Arm yourself with a capsule wardrobe and some key on-trend pieces per season. And Be Yourself!

The mumpreneur conference- Business Branding with Louise Lloyd (@BabySigningMum)

September 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

Welcome to the MumpreneurUK live blogging of the 2011 mumpreneur conference.

After a fantastic introductory ‘getting to know you’ round (we had a Cambridge boat race rower and belly button-free person on our table) the first seminar I am attending is about Business Branding by Louise Lloyd, better known to most as the branded Baby Signing Mummy.

A good place to start is what IS a brand, and do we need one? Branding helps customers and potential customers identify and recognise your brand. Louise had her brand name @babysigningmummy and wanted to develop her brand, as advised by Dragons in the Den to many uninvestables.

Louise explained that her logo grew out of the sign for mummy. It is a small child’s hand (Baby Signing Bella) on a daddy’s (Baby Signing Daddy) hand. She has traditional pink and blue baby colours and white background, and these colours are consistent across her website, promotional materials and information to reinforce the brand.  After already establishing a strong brand and strong brand identity, Louise then developed her actual real-live mascot (and daughter) Baby Signing Bella into an illustrated mascot to complement her brand and brand identity.

Louise also talked about the values behind her brand. Friendly, approachable, tailored to children, flexible, and the other complementary images and names that she has developed into a strong brand. She is now in the process of trademarking all her Baby Signing Mummy brand and is franchising/licensing her business. This makes it even more important to have concrete (written down!) brand values to ensure the integrity of the brand is protected.

So how do *you* build a brand? Ask yourself some questions first.

  • What do you want your brand to show or achieve? What are the values you want to be reflected in your brand?
  • Is your message clear? If people come to your website do they know what you are about?
  • Do your customers understand your brand? Existing customers are the best ambassadors for your business and most likely to get you new customers.
  • Do you have a recognisable feature? This could be a logo, a method, a mascot, a name, anything that is recognisably you and your business over any other.
  • Are you consistent in your approach/colours/message? If you are continuing your branding outside your website, particularly in social media, try to make sure you stay on-brand. If you send follow up messages, for example, and your brand style is friendly, make sure your follow up isn’t cold and impersonal.

To sum up, Louise says that a brand is not just one thing, it is a combination of process and product and should fundamentally represent you and your business.

How long does it take you to write a blog post?

June 22, 2011 § 7 Comments

Blogging is a funny old thing. It can be cathartic, it can be controversial, it can even be lucrative if you build up a good blog that people want to read and be seen on. Like this one, *obviously*…

However, some people are not great at blogging (my own struggle is not for things to say, but for the time to say it) and they would rather pay someone else to do it- I have personally offered this service for a long time as part of my copywriting business.

I think paying people to blog for you is a great idea- everyone has skills, and things they aren’t so great at, and if I could swap blogging for someone cleaning my house, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but I do have this poser- how long does it take you to write a blog post?

My initial thought is that the answer is going to be that it takes as long as it takes, which is fine if you are blogging for yourself- some posts are easier and quicker to write than others. But what about when you are charging people? Or if someone is paying you to blog for them?

I recently saw a ‘job’ advert, aimed at mums wanting to work from home that was paying £7.50 an hour to write 2 blog posts an hour. And I’m not sure if this is a reasonable expectation and rate- I guess some people would think a £7.50 an hour job would be OK, but I doubt you could turn out good quality blogs at a rate of 2 an hour consistently. So the potential employers are either after low standard work, or (if a blog post takes an hour) they are expecting you to work for £3.75 an hour.

But perhaps it’s just me. I would appreciate your thoughts…

(photo by Michaelaw )

Do you ever turn down work?

May 19, 2011 § 6 Comments

Working for yourself is a funny old thing, and probably more so if you are the main breadwinner. If someone offers you work, you do it, right? Not only because you want to deliver a great service to your clients, but also because, quite frankly, you might be in need of that money next month.

I am pretty busy writing at the moment, but I also have some University work and marking to do, not to mention the fact that I have tried to cut down on work for the past two weeks while recovering from a tonsillectomy. So when I received an email today asking me to do a small piece of work I should have said no. I didn’t.

I should have said no because the reason I work for myself and from home is so I get to spend time with my family. The only way I am going to be able to fit this work in is to do it over the weekend. So surely accepting this work is going against the reason for my current choice of career?

But on the other hand, it should only take me an hour, if I don’t do it, I probably won’t get any more work from this guy for a while and I get some pennies in my bank account.

So what would you have done? I’m not interested in anyone being judgmental (hey, I’ve said I’ll do it now, making me feel bad about it won’t achieve anything) just in how other people approach this kind of mini-conundrum.

Business Shenanigans

June 18, 2010 § 6 Comments

Blimey. I have had a funny old week.

As you may know, I am a fantastic copywriter and also lecture on tax, but this week both enterprises gave me a big kick in the teeth and I nearly didn’t survive. What I mean by that is that I became so discouraged that I was within a whisker of throwing in the towel and getting myself a ‘proper’ job.

The two things that threw me off balance were:

1) a substantial job was cancelled with three weeks notice. Quite definitely substantial, the payment for which I was relying on to see us through the summer (my husband teaches part-time but has a temporary contract so does not get paid for his 6 week holiday). Worse, I had deliberately confirmed this with them about 6 weeks ago to doubly underline the sure thing this job was intended to be. Hah. Of course, from their point of view its all very regrettable and they will reschedule for later in the year. I wonder if I can still fulfil the job when living in a cardboard box…

2) I was also (actually quite unrelatedly) trying to catch up on my invoices, due to family illness I had managed to get a bit behind. Unfortunately one invoice I sent out (for a huge sum. Not.) was returned to me stating it was not going to be paid as it was unsuitable. I questioned this statement given that the writing work provided to this customer was actually currently showing on a website, and I was again told the invoice would not be paid. I discussed the issue on Twitter (anonymously of course) and received some sound advice from the helpful community, and was then threatened with slander.

Now, the point of this post isn’t to make you all feel desperately sorry for me (although I am taking all offerings of sympathy going) but to highlight the mistakes I made, so you can avoid them and thereby avoid my rubbish week.

So here we are, my top tips for protecting yourself from nasty surprises.

1. Contract

We all like to think that everyone is as lovely as we are, but in business this can be a dangerous fantasy. Earlier in the year I was bitten by having signed a contract (with a large professional body) which agreed that they could cancel a lecture at any point and would not pay me a cancellation fee. Guess how I found this out? That’s right, they cancelled.

Since that point I have been more careful, but this latest cancellation (or postponement) was arranged a year ago, when I was greener and less worldly wise. I also used to work with the people involved and considered them more than just colleagues, though perhaps not actual *friends*. Made no difference when cancelling the course.

2. Invoice promptly

Although I can excuse my tardiness in invoicing, I really shouldn’t. Keeping on top of invoicing is the best way to keep on top of cashflow, and also makes situations like the one I now find myself in less likely to happen. If it’s easier, make a diary note (or phone beeping alarm) to invoice once a week or month, and MAKE SURE YOU DO IT

3. Know your rights

I was so shocked by someone using my work and refusing to pay for it, but I knew this could not be right. Fortunately my Twitter friends confirmed my own opinion, and I had some great advice from Sally Whittle and Milly Bee, the latter advising me to take a screenshot of where my work was being used as evidence.

As I felt I was in the right, I have now taken this customer to Small Claims Court, and I am glad I took that screen shot, because the work has now mysteriously disappeared. Funnily enough, just after I lodged the claim, the customer did offer me a paltry third of the invoice in recognition that they had actually used it. This makes me feel it was all an exercise in trying it on to get work for cheaper, but as I had already filed the claim I was unable to accept it. Regrettably.

Anyway, I am feeling a bit better now, and I know that by Monday I will have bounced back. I am good at what I do, and I am not going to let two rubbish customers deprive the world of my talent! A few kind words from Karen Pine helped too.

Oh, and if there are any lovely customers who like paying and not cancelling out there who need to get some fabulous words or tax analysis, I have a window over the summer…

This post was included in the June Business Mum’s Carnival . July’s carnival will be hosted HERE so get all your lovely posts to me (sam at samthewlis.co.uk) by Friday 16th July for revealing on Monday 19th…

Networking works!

March 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am lucky enough to work from home, which means I can drop the children off at school (but not go to Tescos) in my jim jams. I am kidding, I have never done that. Yet.

Anyway, I know it’s a cliché but despite all the brilliantness of being a mumpreneur, it can get lonely with only your computer for company, and that, as well as being a prescient businesswoman (!), is what led me to seek out some networking opportunities.

There are a number of online venues for networking, besides the obvious, including some specifically aimed at mums in business, like mumsclub. I have ‘met’ loads of people in a similar postion there, and there is always someone about to offer advice or support. Similar groups around the country actually get to meet in person, and besides the mums business clubs, which offer networking in Wacky Warehouses, I wish I lived in Bedfordshire or Dorset so I could be a member of MumsTheBoss or Networking Mummies Dorset, with the fantabulous events they put on.

Which gives me a seamless link to the most obvious online networking venue, Twitter. Through Twitter I have not only made some great ‘proper’ friends, like @Claire_Snugbaby and @CharlieMoos, both of whom I have actually met, even though they have the inconvenienceof living at opposite ends of the country (seriously, we are talking Scottish borders and the South coast). I have also made some great virtual friends, who I may have never *actually* met, but whom I *talk* to more than any actual live people, I’m thinking of you in particular @mumstheboss @seriouslykooky @nickicawood. I have also made some fantastic business contacts, like @duncanbannatyne @emmawimhurst @karenpine and actually gained some really good work directly from Twitter or Twitter recommendations. Who says it’s a waste of time? People who don’t give anything aren’t going to get anything out of it!

And so now, partly through Twitter again, I am tentatively dipping my toe into a vast new community, far bigger than I had imagined, of bloggers. The massive success of @erica ‘s #guestpostday on littlemummy last Friday just showed how many fantastic bloggers there are out there to get to know. Clearly you will all have read my guest @sandycalico ’s post right here, but I highly recommend you check out the rest.

So now, from my computer I am not alone, I can contact hundreds of people in seconds. Thanks guys 🙂

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