We know that trying to find a healthy work/life balance when returning to work after having a baby isn’t always the easiest thing. Gail, one of our incredible Digital Mums, signed up to our Associate Programme, after wanting to have more control of her workload and find #WorkthatWorks for her. She now has an amazing flexible freelance career - you can read how it all started below.
Do you remember that feeling when you had a lovely squishy newborn baby in your hands and you were about to leave hospital for the first time? That unique mixture of emotion: exhaustion, relief, excitement and nervousness at the prospect of venturing out of the security of the hospital, away from the attentive care of midwives and taking on the responsibility of that little bundle all on your own? That is exactly how I felt but instead of a new baby, my emotions were bubbling all over the place because I was venturing out on my own into the world of freelance.
I’ve loved social media and was lucky to bring social media into my work as a well-paid communications manager in the NHS. It evolved from only a small amount of my time to about 75% of what I did- and over that time I evolved too. I had a little boy and took 10 months off for maternity leave. I returned to work with some flexible working arrangements in place (thanks NHS) but soon enough took a full year of maternity leave for my little girl and after that returned to reduced hours.
But even with these flexible arrangements, it just wasn’t enough. It wasn't #WorkthatWorks for me. Sure I was well paid, I had a great childminder, I had flexible working arrangements, I had a great boss - I had stability. But I felt stuck in a job where I wasn’t in control of my workload, my own progression and after 8 years of negotiating NHS bureaucracy I’d had enough.
I’ve never been someone keen to jump at the chance of change. In fact for many years the prospect of any difference to my life would bring me out in a cold sweat (I remember one instance when my brand of bread was out of stock and had a mini-breakdown in the shop – a tad over the top I know, I know). I dreamed of the world of freelance but it seemed way out of my grasp. When I had my little girl I spent a lot of time on Instagram during night feeds and that’s when I came across the marvellous Mother Pukka. I owe her a massive squashy hug (or the less creepy option of a large glass of wine) because it was one of her posts that introduced me to Digital Mums. This idea of an online course that hones your social media skills, essentially turns you into a Digital Supermum and gives you the know-how to hustle as a freelancer struck a chord with me. This. Was. It!
So I ditched the job, the childminder, the stability and started the course. I didn’t really think too much about what the course would involve and immediately thought I’d made a mistake in the first week when they mentioned a ‘peer group’. But true to form Digital Mums were right – this peer group, a collection of 5 random mums stuck together and forced to talk to each other every week for 6 months was the best support and motivation to help me get through the course. They were funny, honest, inspiring and so generous with their time. Our WhatsApp group was flat out often from 6am until after midnight. These women are brilliant and will take the freelance world by storm. I don’t see them as competition now, they are friends, people I want to do well and will help in any way that I can.
There were frequent moments of sheer panic during the course, looking at all the lessons and assignments to complete each week. Juggling parenthood with two kids felt hard enough without this added pressure and there were moments when I doubted whether this was going to give me the flexibility I wanted. The course was rammed packed with so much social media expertise and was perfectly paired with practical real-life application. My Programme Partner, Mamazou, an online community dedicated to supporting parents, has been an absolute dream to work with. I was nervous to take over their channels, especially because they were already established but I can honestly say I haven’t had any difficulties with them or their wonderful community. It’s amazing how attached I’ve become to the brand in such a short space of time. I’ve loved working on the parenting campaign, biggin’ up the #PerfectlyImperfectCrew. Maybe their honesty and passion for supportive positive parenting has rubbed off on me?
There have been a few memorable moments of the campaign: I had a surge of utter pride when I’ve checked my phone to see a few big influencers share content. I had a blissful time on the beach with kids happily playing while I caught up with emails and scheduling. Instead of being resentful for working on a Saturday, I thought, this is what it’s all about. And at the end, I had a little running-man dance celebration in the kitchen with my kids when I realised I’d stormed my KPIs and I could officially say my campaign was a huge success.
I was thrilled to continue working with Mamazou following the Digital Mums course, and after almost a year of weekly chats, I finally met my lovely PP Jenny face-to-face at a Mamazou parenting event in London. Using my new found social media expertise and a bit of hustle I have facilitated social media confidence workshops for social workers and have another scheduled for other health professionals. I’ve also been supporting a local mum to establish her own online retail business as well as developing my own website. With another potential client on the horizon, the freelance world isn’t as scary as I anticipated. Of course it’s made all the easier thanks to the DM Collective, the Digital Mums alumni community for graduates. It’s amazing to be part of a group of women who support each other through every step of freelance life.
Thank you Digital Mums – for letting me live out the dream of my version of #WorkthatWorks.
If you are interested in our Associate Programme get in touch by the 5th November to secure a place in our final cohort this year. There are also places available for our new adapted version of our Social Media Management Course specifically for mums working full-time (or those of you that don't have the time to fit in 15 hours of intense learning per week) which also starts in November. The deadline to apply is this Sunday 29th October.