In the latest in our Digital Mums What Happened Next series, we meet Clare McDonald, 40, mum to Hannah, 11 and James eight from South West London. She graduated from the Associate Programme last July and here she shares the #WorkThatWorks life she has been living ever since...
My work life was fairly typical before my children were born. I commuted from my home in Croydon to Teddington every day where I worked for Haymarket Publishing. At the time I was the Classified Advertising Manager of Autocar magazine which meant weekly deadlines, targets and plenty of client entertaining.
Then you become a Mum and your priorities change, just like that. When Hannah arrived I realised that the hour and a half commute to work meant I would never see her. I was honestly quite happy to resign and stay at home for those first couple of years. I felt lucky I could as we could cope on my husband Jim's teaching salary.
Then when she started nursery, I began working part-time for a dad from our NCT class. It was a real mix of admin/marketing and sales and the work suited me really well. I also got into copywriting and then later SEO. I loved the variety! I took a break when James was born eight years ago but I always worked on an off for him. In fact I still work for him now on various projects when he needs help.
As James grew up I started to find other clients and built a successful freelance career in copywriting and sales. But then in October 2014 one of my main clients closed his business.
My lightbulb moment
This really was the turning point in my freelance career. Up to then I had ticked over from month to month relatively comfortably but there was no longer any work on the horizon and finding a suitable part-time job was almost impossible. Then in November 2014 my cousin, Katy told me about Digital Mums. She worked for Nesta and had come across them through ‘Britain’s New Radicals’. She also knew of Kathryn Tyler professionally and told me lots of people spoke very highly of her!
The timing could not have been more perfect and I knew that I had to do something proactive if I wanted to be able to stay working from home. After a bit of dithering and pestering Kathryn with questions I joined the January 2015 cohort.
Digital Mums Life
I used my own business as a Program Partner on the Associate Programme. I was really into genealogy and a website that I had started as a hobby was really taking off so I decided to focus on that. It had got to the stage where I was getting regular paid projects out of it and I wanted to take it to the next level. So I redesigned the website (something else I did on the side - I know I do a lot of different things!) and got to work building my Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as writing blogs and curating interesting content. The best part of the course was my brilliant Digital Mum peer group; Claire, Corinna and Faye were just so supportive.
Graduation and beyond
This is probably the point where my Digital Mums experience differs from everyone else. I graduated in July 2015 and decided to take the summer off. We are lucky to be able to spend the summer holidays at my parents’ house in south west France. My intention was to find my first paying social media client in the autumn and I had a couple of leads lined up.
However, one of the meetings I had led to a web design rather than a social media job and then after that another web design job cropped up. By December this was all I was doing after Digital Mums asked if I could help a client with a new site. This turned into the biggest job I’ve ever undertaken and was for Mountain Adventure Guides.
My web experience goes back to 1998 when I worked on the two-man advertising team for the launch of Whatcar.com. While I couldn’t build a site back then I knew the difference between a hit and an impression as well as the best design principles. My first attempt at a website was in about 2004 when I made one for my husband for Christmas (odd I know!) and I've tinkered ever since.
Building a business
It’s now a year since I graduated and I’m sitting in South West France at my laptop and listening to the children charge around the field. I have 11 web design projects on the go as well as a business with my best friend who is a graphic designer. We launched 30nine in March after joking for years we should start our own digital design agency.
The launch of 30nine coincided with my 40th birthday so I really feel I am proof that it’s never too late to start a new career. Even though I’m not working as a social media manager I could not have done this without the Digital Mums training and the amazing support ever since. My confidence has grown so much over the last couple of years and I’m constantly learning new things.
My small way of repaying the opportunity Digital Mums gave me is to offer all graduates their own website package so they can promote themselves and build their own business. These are my favourite websites to build and it’s great to see their ideas come to life.
Why I have #WorkThatWorks
I love my post Digital Mums life. I’m unbelievably lucky to be able to take my children to school every day and spend all the holidays with them. I also have enough work to keep me busy almost full time but in the hours that work for us as a family.
I've always had a card on my desk with a quote from George Eliot on it, 'It's never too late to be what you might have been'. My career has been incredibly eclectic but since studying with Digital Mums I honestly feel like in the past 12 months I've finally lived up to that card.
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