When Lucy James, 38, from Hampshire realised that her full time job just wasn’t compatible with her new role as a mother she knew she needed a plan B. Lucy talks to Digital Mums about retraining as a social media manager and her new #workthatworks life after completing our Social Media Management Course.
At home during maternity leave with my second child Jessie, the need to find a solution to the work/parenting conundrum really hit me. I wanted to work but I also wanted to be at home with the girls, Alice now two and Jessie, one. At the time Jessie was only a few months old but I didn’t want the decision as to what to do next to feel forced upon me.
I’m a solicitor and worked in the West End in London before the kids. I went back after Alice was born but was told part time wasn’t an option. Added to that my husband Simon and I had moved from living in West London to Hampshire. The commute made it really difficult - not quite the same as when I used to hop on my bike and cycle through Hyde Park. And then I wasn't back for long anyway; I was already pregnant with Jessie.
The truth was I needed other options. Yes I enjoyed my work but just couldn’t see it being the right job for me as the children grew up. I didn't want to be full time and hated the idea of missing the fun stuff when they were babies. So I decided to see what was out there - I honestly had no idea it would lead to a career change.
From learning a new skill to a career change
I started looking at part time roles in the legal industry but nothing was the right fit. Then one night on yet another late night feed, Digital Mums popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. I didn’t really know much about social media - I used Facebook but wasn't on Twitter or Instagram, (seems crazy to say that now!) But as I read about social media management I became more and more interested. I liked the idea of doing something creative and it was flexible - a no brainer.
At the very least I thought I could do the training and learn a new skill. Maternity leave felt like a good time to do it as I could juggle it in the evenings and around nap times. The Digital Mums Social Media Management Course, which trains you to be a social media manager, required no previous marketing experience so it was considered the best course for me.
The course and a full on six months
And so when Jessie was just six months old I launched myself into the world of Digital Mums. I loved the learning model and especially the peer support with our regular hangouts. But it was definitely full on - I needed to dedicate 15 hours a week and those weeks when the kids were ill or not sleeping, I genuinely had no idea how I would fit it all in.
But fit it in I did. I launched a community campaign on Twitter and Facebook called Haslemere Happenings. I used it to give a behind the scenes approach to life in my area. There were some real highs; a tweet of a video I took of a local firefighter getting his kit ON, using the hashtag #FireKitChallenge, landed up going viral. It raised money for the firefighters and awareness for autism. It was even reported in the local papers and on the radio. From that first tweet there were suddenly firefighters in the USA doing the same thing! It really taught me the power of social media and how it's unpredictable - I love that..
Social media knowledge opens doors work wise
As my course came to an end, another Digital Mum asked me to run the campaign that she had planned for her client as she wasn't able to continue with them. I jumped at the chance and I honestly couldn't have asked for a better client. When the initial campaign ended they offered me a contract to keep working with them. I am now officially their social media manager covering Twitter and LinkedIn.
Turns out once you start telling people and contacts that you are trained in social media, doors open. In my case a friend who runs a nanny company, T4 Nanny, in the French Alps, approached me. I’m now also working for her running her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
And that’s not all! I've recently been approached on LinkedIn by a paradise island in Malaysia to do their social media. If it comes off I'm obviously going to have to visit the island … with the whole family.
My advice to others
There is no doubt that you really have to #DoTheHustle to get clients but if you’re prepared to do that then work will come your way.
These are my top tips:
Start with your own social media - Really work on your own social media profiles (mine are work in progress too!). Clients will look at your LinkedIn and Twitter and if they don’t look great then why would they want you in charge of their social media?
Try and find a niche - Something I’m still working on too but I definitely think that if you can specialise in an area and focus your efforts on that, it will really help you fine tune your sales pitch.
My new #workthatworks life
So I now do two days a week spread over the week. The kids are in nursery one day and then I just fit in the rest when I can. I am totally in charge of my hours. I actually used to hate the monotony of my old job so I love that I can do the work any time.
There are so many pluses to being a Digital Mum. I love the #DMCollective, our graduate community. It is a pool of seriously talented ladies so there is always an answer to the most simple or difficult question. In fact it's one of the best things about doing the course - you’re not ‘just’ a freelancer when you graduate but part of a community of social media experts. It's an amazing resource and clients are also effectively getting the knowledge of hundreds of social media experts which is invaluable.
In all if you're looking for work to fit around the kids, being a social media manager is definitely the job for you. There are so many companies out there that need help with social media so there is no shortage of jobs. It's also an exciting time to be in the industry as things are changing and developing all the time.
Working for myself is so much more flexible and interesting. I’ve also now launched my own business, Pure Social so I’ve plans to take on even more clients as the girls grow up and I have more time. I’ve already got more work than I intended and more in the pipeline too - there just aren't enough hours in the day!
If you're interested in learning more about our Social Media Management Course, go here to read more about what it entails and what you'll be learning.