Heading Up Marketing Teams
Back in 2011, I was heading up a Marketing & Comms team for a social investor when after years of ups and downs, trying to conceive, I fell pregnant with my eldest son, Henry. I was elated, terrified, elated. You know how it is.
When he was born, I was 31, and my whole outlook on the world changed. I was somebody’s mummy.
Whilst I was on maternity leave, my senior management team changed significantly, with the CEO and Comms Director both leaving at the same time, and a new management team put in place. When I went in to meet the new CEO and Director, it became quite clear that i’d not been considered as part of that new structure (out of sight, out of mind and all that). That exact same day, I also found out I was expecting baby number two, my little peachy girl. Oh, and we’d just moved to a new house to accommodate a family. Quite a monumental week in my life…
Luckily, I had a good relationship with the HR team, and after lots of discussion, we agreed I would take voluntary redundancy and so, for the first time in 16 years I found myself unemployed. It was a real shock and although I was focused on bringing up a one year old, as well as planning for baby number two, I was still reeling from the idea that for the first time in 15 years I didn’t have a job.
Erm, what now?
So, once I’d dusted myself off – my favourite ever boss, (or as I like to call her my career guardian angel) contacted me about some freelancing work, and I jumped at the chance. Fast forward nearly 8 years, (and another baby boy!) and I’ve been working freelance ever since (bar a few days to have baby #3 – my surprise baby boy) supporting charities and small businesses with their marketing. I also picked up some tutoring work along the way – teaching CIM students how to apply marketing strategy and plans to their businesses.
So far, so good? Well perhaps on the surface, but at some point the balance between work and family tipped over to the work side of things. My babies started to grow and develop so quickly, and I had to witness my baby girl’s first steps by video from my sister who was looking after her at the time, whilst I was working in London. I also took on a new contract which was very demanding, and I found myself being sucked in to work longer and longer hours (whilst still being paid for very few – my learning here was I DO NOT make a good contractor!).
Mum Guilt is a real thing
At this point, I also started to experience huge bouts of anxiety – and for a period of about two months I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t think about anything other than marketing and work, and I felt that I was letting everyone down (most of all my family). Have you ever been to that point when you don’t feel like you’re doing anything in your life that well? I’m sure we’ve all reached that at some point or another.
So, for a while (probably nearly a year) I juggled work, family, mum-guilt, anxiety and a heavy sense of failure. I started to doubt my abilities, my qualifications, whether I was in a position to actually help other people with their marketing. I realise now, that it was all symptomatic of the situation I was in – feeling helpless, and useless. Luckily there’s a lot of conversation happening in the media right now about these feelings of Mum-Guilt and Imposter Syndrome, but at the time it wasn’t really something people spoke that openly about.
I remember one particular afternoon, Henry requested we play Hot Wheels together. Before I could answer, my daughter replied “Not now, Mummy’s working.” He looked deflated, and went off to play Hot Wheels in his room, whilst I remained at my desk, glued to my laptop. That hurt, but the truth was that actually I was working, and working to a deadline (as usual) which meant it was work now, or sit my desk until 1 in the morning (which looking back, was actually quite a regular occurrence).
I was stuck in a rut of my own making, and I just couldn’t really see a way out.
The Wake Up Call
A bit of back-story for you – you should know that I have the best family, friends and colleagues in the world. I’m so lucky to have such a fantastic tribe of people around me, and they’ve picked me up and dusted me off time and time and time again. (Thank you, you know who you are).
It was a seemingly innocuous question from a friend which gave me the wake up call I needed at the beginning of this year. I’d driven up to London for a night off of mum-duty to have dinner with some old uni friends from my marketing course, and we having a long-overdue catch up over a few cocktails, and we were talking about our careers since we graduated (in 2003!).
Let’s call her ‘L’. She works in marketing, a straight-talking, no nonsense Oldham girl, and she put me right on the spot. She asked me “What do you really want?”
….what on earth did I really want? I mean actually, really, really want? (anyone else singing the Spice Girls now?)
I couldn’t answer that question. It absolutely flawed me. What the hell did I want? Really?
I blathered out a cocktail-fuelled stock answer, but the next day, all I could think about was what did I want?
The Monday after, I was chatting with a lovely colleague and friend, who advised me “Take some time out. Find yourself again, and take some time to think about what you really want.”
Great advice from someone who was feeling the same way as me. She’d just taken the plunge back into employment, and was feeling like the scales were tipping back into her favour. If she could do it, then surely I could take the leap?
That sounds like a simple thing to do, but it’s actually really hard.
Get off the bus, and take stock
Accepting you need to just stop, get off the bus and take stock is really hard. You have to dig really, really deep. Accept that what you’re doing is maybe the wrong thing for your and your family, and that it’s not worth it. Because you’re not actually independent, or achieving any of your life goals. It’s tough. It’s a bit soul-destroying.
But once you’ve taken that decision and owned it – my word it’s liberating. I was going to do what I WANTED. I handed in my notice that day, agreed that things weren’t really progressing how either of us had wanted it to, and agreed an end-date. EEEK.
Almost immediately I started to panic about what it would mean. One salary coming in to the house meant we’d need to make some changes, but I knew deep down that it was worth it, that it was the right thing to do (for me and my family).
Turning the juggernaut around
The very first thing I did was to collaborate with my lovely friend, Carly to start a blog (Mums In real Life). We both felt that we weren’t living our fullest lives from a career point-of-view, so we started writing and sharing things in our everyday lives which matter to us – mostly family, food, fitness. We built our own website from nothing using Word Press (I’m fast becoming a bit of a dab-hand), created our content with stories, recipes and hacks, and started building our social following – now we’re working to monetise the website.
I love working with a great friend, I love sharing our lives, and I love the tribe we’re building of strong, intelligent and like-minded mums (and dads). It brings me joy to write and share a blog, and so we’ve become prolific writers and collaborators. Work doesn’t feel like work when you’re doing something you love. Now, we are working to make it pay…watch this space!!
Woman up and rediscover your superpower
The second thing I did, was to think about my skills, my experience, and what I was really good at. You know what, unsurprisingly it’s marketing. I get it. It’s my superpower.
I’ve got buckets of experience, marketing qualifications and an absolute drive to help others thrive with brilliant marketing – building things from the bottom up and creating plans which deliver on their objectives. That’s what makes me tick.
So that’s where Marketing Manager comes from. My absolute determination to help others thrive – small business owners (who are brilliant at their businesses, but need to understand and use marketing to grow) and charities, who face the same issues but with slightly different challenges. Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with a tonne of people – all who’ve faced a very similar set of issues.
It’s not been quite as simple as it sounds (but is anything?)
Starting a business with no funding, building my own customer base and putting myself out there is demanding. Creating content, building websites, learning new skills. I’ve been busy burying myself in social, digital funnels (ClickFunnels, anyone?) and digital strategy to make sure my skills are bang-up-to-date.
I practice what I preach, and I believe in the power of marketing. I’ve implemented it again, and again, and again. Does it always work first time? No – but that’s part of the process, keep learning, keep asking questions, keep testing. It drives me.
I’m actually remembering that I DO have the skills and the determination to make it work. I’m great at this stuff. I CAN DO IT. I’ve now got absolute clarity around my business and a renewed energy and drive to make this happen.
Right now, I’m speaking with old contacts, friend and colleagues to test my business model, work out the financials (not my forte) and to get things up and running. And guess what – it’s going down brilliantly.
I’ve also been running some free workshops to test my content, and I’m thrilled with the way things are going.
I’m also working on a beta training course to help charities and small businesses grasp marketing to help grow – interested? You can sign up to my newsletter to be the first to hear more when it’s ready to launch.
Most importantly in this story of mine, my son asked me last week
“Mummy, can you play HotWheels with me?”
“Yes darling, I can.”
Believe in yourselves, lovely people.