Returning to work after having children? When my options seemed limited and childcare seemed hugely expensive, I set out to find a new career that would allow me to work from home AND build an income. The answer? Digital Mums
The pivotal moment I knew I had to return to work came at quite a bizarre time. It was at a New Year’s Eve ‘Eve’ party. Yep, that popular night with parents of small children. The night before New Year’s Eve when babysitters are still available and taxi costs don’t necessitate the need to remortgage your house.
I had been thinking about returning to work for a while. I had been lucky enough to be at home with the kids for three years already, but my mind was starting to wander. My brain was starting to need some extra stimulation. Cook, clean, wipe, repeat. Groundhog Day.
So, at this party, the drinks were flowing, there was polite chit-chat (it’s still early..) and the general round of handshake introductions and ‘what do you do’ type conversations. The type I dread. Err…I wipe baked beans off the floor? I have endless negotiations over the merits of batman versus spiderman? A successful day for me is when I find the bottom of the laundry basket.
That’s not to berate the skills of the stay-at-home parent. It’s a tough job — chef, cleaner, taxi, tooth fairy, doctor, peace keeper — I have many hats, and I wear them all with pride. But, from experience, trying to explain that at a party can be a tough sell.
The handshakes were getting closer. My husband was next to me explaining what he does to our new acquaintance. And then it was my turn. The inevitable question was asked…I opened my mouth to try to say something witty…and…and …and then his eyes glazed over…and he turned to talk to someone else…someone else…he didn’t even bother to hear my answer!
In reality, parties are noisy and the poor man probably just got interrupted. But to me, with my slightly champagne-fogged brain, that translated as rejection, that I’m boring, that no-one’s interested in ‘me’ anymore, an outcast. I felt invisible. I styled it out in the best way I knew…and headed for a refill.
That moment was the clincher
But what could I do? I had left a successful freelance career in print publishing, an industry that has seen huge change and decline. I needed something that I could combine with my existing skills, to essentially upskill, and that was compatible with the school runs, the inset days and the sudden onset of chicken pox/tummy bugs/minor injuries (delete as appropriate).
I had seen the ads for Digital Mums before, but with with my son still at home, trying to find 15–20 hours a week to study just wouldn’t be possible. With as much energy as a young puppy, and a concentration span to match, I knew I had to wait until he was on the treadmill of 9am-3pm.
I spent the next few months dipping in and out of the website, changing my mind, having endless thoughts about the ifs, buts and maybes (think two birds flirting in a bizarre mating ritual and you get the idea).
Until I finally had a word with myself.. And signed up
Then it’s October 2017 and there’s webinars, hangouts, Google Drive and all kinds of other ‘new’ terms I need to learn. My inner techy geek is tingling with excitement; my outerself is feeling a little overwhelmed. Things have moved on in four years — control, alt+delete no longer seems applicable in times of panic.
The first five weeks are quite straightforward. My cohort of fellow Digital Mums are amazing — there’s much camaraderie in realising you really are ‘all in the same boat’!
I’m also introduced to my programme partner, Flooglebinder.co.uk. Flooglebinder run educational trips for students with an emphasis on conservation and sustainability. I’m a country girl born and bred — and spent many years working for a travel newspaper. So this client was a great match for me. Flooglebinder wanted to gain more traction with schools, to get more of a foot in the door with schools interested in learning outside the classroom. Not too scary.
Then it was week six. And I hit the buffers…this is the week you start designing your client’s campaign. The week you actually have to put your learning into practice; the week someone else will actually READ your work. That’s a bit daunting for someone who’s sole writing career for the past four years has been school admission slips.
I designed my B2B campaign around the hashtag #beyondtheblackboard and started delving into Twitter and LinkedIn to root out potential teachers/schools that I could focus on.
The next few weeks fly by (enjoy the breaks, you will need them). Influencer week — that’s a tough week. A bit like clinging on to a cliff edge, not quite sure where to put your foot next. You go round the houses, and then back again. You spend more time doing this than anything else. It’s a tough assignment — but it is totally achievable — eventually!
This is followed by a fortnight creating content. Right up my street. My client gets huge brownie points for communication (every Friday 10am), giving me branding guidelines (with a background in print, guidance on fonts and colours is a ‘yes’ from me) and for answering my WhatsApps at really random times. I loved these weeks.
Then it’s week 16 — testing week. Also known as ‘testing times’. This is the week to nail scheduling, it’ll help you in the long run. Do this, and it frees your time to look at the analytics and see where your campaign is working, and where it isn’t. For me, I found that teachers were not on Twitter between 2–4pm, or on Saturdays, but they’re very active at lunchtimes and in the evenings, especially Sunday nights.
Week 18. The campaign ‘for real’ starts. Even though you’ve been working on the channels for a few weeks, this is the time where it feels a bit like ‘sink or swim’. Until you get a like, a retweet, or the holy grail, a comment. Yes — there really are other people looking at what you’re doing — and liking it. That’s a bit of a ‘wow’ moment.
The next few weeks pass in a blur of scheduling, adverts, analytics as well as doing the Digital Mums assignments and keeping in touch with your cohort (the best part of every week). And then it’s week 23 and you’re nearly there..sucker punch week. But as I was running a B2B campaign, with no competition, I couldn’t find a sucker punch. I was struggling. I had met some KPIs, but not others. Campaign fatigue set in.
The final countdown..
So I set about focusing on myself, and the imminent end of the course. I joined the DM Empower Women Facebook group, scored myself a ticket to a networking event with @wearethenewwork and a few days later put myself on a train repeating the mantra ‘I will not hide in the toilets, I will not hide in the toilets’.
It was a great event, nice to be out among ‘work’ people again, and I met several other Digital Mums — such a friendly bunch.
Then at 8pm..my phone started beeping with Twitter notifications, and it didn’t stop.
The winning post
For the past few Sundays I had entered Flooglebinder into Small Business Sundays, a competition on Twitter run by Theo Paphitis. Theo has more than 500k followers on Twitter, and hundreds enter his competition each week to ‘win’ a retweet from the man himself. (Chances of winning are 0.68%, apparently). I had entered for the previous few weeks, but never expected to get anywhere.
But I should have been more hopeful. Theo picked us, he gave us the retweet and the sucker punch I needed, and my analytics went through the roof. It was a real heart-stopping moment for me — and a confidence boost like no other. Social media really does work!
I now feel job ready, and able to confidently manage social channels — and I have Digital Mums to thank for that.
It’s been a rollercoaster few months — and you need to be ready for the ride. But as all your learning is online — from home, in your own time — at least you know it’ll be a comfy one.
Find out more about Digital Mums – click here