Ever wondered just how to leave the rat race and go freelance? In our new series we talk to people who’ve done it and are enjoying every minute…
Becca Johns is a marketing and social media consultant, and a course tutor for Digital Mums. She’s 41 and lives in Winchester. Her children are 9 and 5. You can contact her @enthusiastcomms
1. Why did you want a more flexible career?
I have two primary-age children and I’ve actually found it harder to work since they’ve been at school as it’s a relatively short day and requires much more input from me than pre-school childcare did. For the last nine years I’d been working part-time, but it was a running joke in our house that although the hours were part-time, the expectations were still full-time. I’d constantly feel on the back foot at work because I wasn’t there all week and I only really kept up with school’s ever-changing list of fancy dress requirements, resources and events as I have some lovely Mum friends who would text me reminders the night before!
2. What were you doing before you had children?
I’ve worked in marketing for more than 20 years, mostly for international software firms and specialising for a while in digital marketing. I’ve set up and run several marketing teams and departments for different organisations and my last role pre-children was as head of marketing for a global B2B software firm.
3. What was the trigger point that made you switch?
A lot changed with my last employer whilst I was on maternity leave with my second child and it was just a bad fit for me from that point forward. I spent some time looking for other part-time roles but they were very few and far between and too junior to justify the hassle of the commute, the suit and the politics that goes with a corporate job. Last year I did the Strategic Social Media Manager Program and as well as up-skilling me on social media marketing, that gave me the confidence to take the plunge and go freelance, as I could see the demand was there for my skills and experience.
I was also really lucky in that Digital Mums themselves had a role going as a course tutor on one of their programmes, it’s a terrific organisation to be part of and I love working for a purpose as well as a profit. I’ve always enjoyed getting to know a business and working out what’s going to be the right approach for them and I get to do that a lot in my work now.
4. What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day is top and tailed with the school run, but there’s no such thing as a typical day in my working life now. Some days I might meet a client to do some bespoke training or consultancy on their platforms, some days I’m in my home office working on client channels on their behalf and I also work the occasional evening when I’m doing Google Hangouts with the Digital Mums students. It’s really varied, which I love. I try and make sure I do some exercise each day too – that’s the first thing to suffer if I get very busy but it makes a big difference to how productive I am. I work every day during term time, five ‘short’ days, but it varies in school holidays depending on my workload and our childcare options.
5. What’s it like being freelance?
You could find yourself feeling quite isolated if you’re used to a buzzy office environment – I think I would were I not part of a large network of Digital Mums, who I talk to daily on social media. If you work remotely from colleagues or clients, tools like Slack are amazing for making you feel like you’re in the ‘virtual office’ with everyone else. You also have to be super-disciplined – I’ve been working from home for 12 years, so I’d already got past working in my pyjamas, trying to work outside on sunny days or ever trying to work in front of the TV, so I didn’t have to go through that learning curve when I changed my work but it can still be a challenge to stay focused, especially when you’re on social media all day.
6. How do your earnings compare?
As a freelancer, I don’t think I’ll ever earn exactly what I could do in a corporate job, but I always felt the higher salary came at quite a cost for me. Once the bills are paid, there’s food on the table and a little fun money, anything on top of that isn’t as important to me as doing work I really love, in a way that doesn’t compromise time with my family.
7. What’s the biggest challenge for working parents?
Not getting burnt out – it’s too easy to be either working or with the children and not make any time for yourself, which is one-way ticket to a nervous breakdown. I think it’s also tough balancing work and domestic responsibilities between working couples. My husband has a very flexible full-time role and he works from home a lot which has always enabled me to work, but we can only both work because we share the domestic work and childcare too.
8. If you weren’t doing this job, what else would you be looking in to?
If I wasn’t freelance, I’d probably be working full time – there’s a real skill shortage in digital marketing and the full time roles are definitely there, but I’d be really loathe to give up my more flexible working life now.
Have you quit the 9-5 for a more flexible lifestyle? Tell us how you did it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org