“Do as I say, not as I do” was something that my Granny said about smoking when my father was a child. It didn’t impress my father much. She did quit eventually (I think it was after the third heart attack) but died of smoking related cancer anyway. As a child when he relayed it to me it struck me as a bit daft. I was one of those vile children that believed respect needed to be earned. I think that was my parents’ fault. I remember the parents of friends saying “because I said so” and assuming they were too stupid to understand their own actions. Actually scrap that, I think it was my dad’s fault. He didn’t suffer fools at all. My mum is lovely and far more diplomatic.

To be honest I still believe all that but it’s somehow more acceptable in an adult. At any rate I’ve never given the answer “because I said so” to my stepsons and I never will.

This week I was chatting to someone I’ll call a friend (I’m never quite sure what the term is for someone I work with but who isn’t a client, “supplier” isn’t really accurate) and realised I essentially said “do as I say, not as I do” at work. Last week I was a guest speaker at a networking event on the topic of ‘Value added communication.’ One thing I covered was email signatures and how to utilise them.

Over the next few days I had several email conversations with people who had attended the event and they eagerly pointed me in the direction of their revamped signatures. They were great. They had taken the theory, had a great discussion as a group and gone away to create something useful thanks to me. It was a great feeling. It was a great feeling until I realised my own signature could use a bit more tweaking.

My friend also works in marketing and promotion and said she knew exactly what I meant. We pour our energies into providing the best we can for our clients but it’s so hard to do for ourselves. Partly it’s the old chestnut that while we can cheerlead for Britain when it comes to singing the praises of the people we work with, it’s really hard to do it for yourself. The best thing about running an agency is that I can brag about how good we are because I’m bragging about the amazing people in my team. The other factor is time. It’s hard to prioritise working on your own marketing when marketing for others is billable. What was it about butchers’ children going without meat?

Like me, my friend leaves meetings and conversations reflecting on the brilliant ideas and thinking she should really do more of that stuff for herself. Well my latest venture really hits home my do as I say, not as I do mentality. I’m selling blogs!

This blog does NOT fit the theory. I suppose because it has woolly objectives. I write it for my own benefit, I never give thought to the title or keywords. Hell, I don’t even bother tagging it. Oh and I regularly forget to even look at the analytics package!

Yet today I spoke as though I was the expert. What I’ve done is recruited an online article writer (/blogger) and created a rate card for clients interested in buying up blocks of blogs. I have created a template for campaign planning based on client objectives and am clarifying terms and conditions. You see, I know this stuff and how it works. I have the talent on my team and know I can provide effective inbound marketing solutions for my clients.

I just don’t do it for my own blog.

 
Crikey, it’s Thursday!

I don’t know how I forget. I have a very fluid week now I’m self employed and can often be found working on a Sunday afternoon then drinking coffee with a girlfriend on a Wednesday morning yet there is one regimented day in my week, Thursday.

For over two years I have been a stepmother and the one night the boys are always with us is Thursday. Since February I have attended a weekly business breakfast on a Thursday. Every week my alarm goes off at six am to start the one day that changes little in its routine.

It’s 7.20 and I have no topic. I used to talk about my week but that is now so full of work stuff and baby stuff that there isn’t time for much else. I’m happy the weather seems to finally be improving but that’s hardly the stuff of more than a sentence of small talk.

The husband and I have made pretty good progress through watching all the Bond films in release order. We recently watched Goldeneye. Wild times people, wild times.

There’s a saying... well... there was something concocted by a marketing bod that goes along the lines of those that don’t have time to spa are those that need it the most. I think the lack of material to inspire me is an indication of the need to go out and be inspired.

I actually have a project in the pipeline for the summer holidays. I’m taking care of my stepsons on Thursdays and the eldest on Fridays (later to be joined by the youngest who is serving his notice at playgroup) so there’s plenty of time to fill.

We’re going to make a time capsule.

Life is about to change dramatically for all of us when the bump becomes a baby and I want to capture our family as it is now. I’m also interested in the wider idea of what the future holds and want the boys to draw the cars they may one day drive. I found a video a while back of the youngest playing row-row (basically doing the actions to Row Row Row Your Boat) with the husband. I could hardly believe he’d been so little.

I think it’ll be amazing to have a box full of captured memories to enjoy one day in the future.

I also think it’ll help me slow down and reflect on where we are instead of rushing forward. Because I am a little impatient. I’m not great at being pregnant. In fact I find it really hard work. I felt the baby move pretty early for a first pregnancy and it’s like River Dance on my bladder. It can be tough to enjoy something that you find challenging but it is a special time and I must. Similarly, taking care of the boys while juggling work needs to be appreciated. I have the opportunity to spend time with them in a way their dad can’t, I need to enjoy it and remember how lucky I am.

It’s all too easy to forget to live in the present but our time capsule will focus that.

And on that note I’m retiring at only half a column through. I’m tired and I have another busy day tomorrow so I’m going to go and talk to the husband because if Riverdancer is anywhere near as vocal as he (yes, it’s a boy) is active, I doubt I’ll get a word in in a few months time!

 
It’s not often I face a dilemma I consider to be one of an ethical nature. After all, my lack of arms dealing or trade in fur means that the Co-op was happy to grant me a business bank account with them. I don’t find it a challenge not to hit my stepkids or be faithful to my husband and well, I suppose my life is pretty ordinary. The biggest decision that has touched on ethics in the last few years was choosing not to screen for Downs Syndrome for my unborn child. The Nuchal translucency test merely identifies you as high or low risk (fairly unhelpful) and the subsequent amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling carry a miscarriage risk of up to 1%. Risk killing my baby when I’d never abort on the grounds of it having Downs anyway seemed mad. It was an easy one to call.

I do believe that all is fair in love and war however. I don’t so much have a vendetta list as an awareness that people who have crossed me in the past have something coming to them. Still, I’m pretty passive. Even my ex husband who was pretty rotten to me is, I think getting his due. When I last saw him his career was laughable and he seemed pretty pathetic. I believe in karma to that extent, I believe that if you are nice and assume niceness in others you’ll go further than if you are sceptical and selfish. My ex husband upon reflection is a paranoid narcissist. That doesn’t make for a good partner but nor does it make for a happy life. Sure he did badly by me but for his entire life he’s been doing badly by himself! Frankly I wish him luck when faced with that.

Business is the warzone of the average person and there are a few who have crossed me in that arena as well. But again I see unhappiness and risk. An individual who screwed me on an invoice is undoubtedly doing it to others. I’m the kind of person who after failing to find resolution through legal options had a bit of a rant and a big glass of wine then chalked it up to experience. I’ll let someone else slash her tyres.

My focus tends to be on putting good stuff out there in the hope of getting returns. As someone of zero religious faith it does raise the question of whether I’m making Pascal’s Wager. I hope not given that I think Terry Pratchett beautifully covered the idea in The Hogfather  where a philosopher suggesting it’s worth believing in the gods just in case finds himself upon his death encircled by gods ready to share their views on such existential gambling.

My defence is that I do genuinely believe in karma (inasmuch as I don’t believe in rebirth). Instead I think that we live one life and that our actions endlessly rebound back onto us, after all it is a small world. I believe that each of us is infinitely powerful and largely have the life we deserve.

In reminding myself of this, I’ve talked myself out of doing something potentially good for business but bad for karmic retribution.

What happened was that I saw a copywriter slating a client on a forum. It was very easy to identify the client. Furthermore, the copywriter is someone local to me; my direct competition for business. It would be very easy to direct the (small) business owner to the forum and let them see what their trusted contractor is saying about them.

I feel bad for the copywriters client but not much harm is really being done (although I feel what the copywriter is doing is deeply unprofessional). Clearly this copywriter is a somewhat nasty piece of work (and I’m glad I’ve identified her and can watch my own back around her) but while it was briefly tempting to sink to her level, rat her out and try to steal her client it’s not the person I want to be.

And it could only be bad for karma.

Plenty of people in my professional circle know I’ve had trouble with a local business regarding an unpaid invoice but only two (my accountant and someone who helped my try and chase it) know who it was with. It’s something people know about me, I’m discrete about my negative experiences and focus on the clients, friends and connections I can sing and dance about. Nobody likes those that complain.

In this case the unethical thing to do appealed because it would have been easy. Building a good reputation takes time and it can be tough when you’re up against established figures. But cutting someone else down is the lazy approach. I know I’m nicer and more professional than this individual and by focusing on putting good stuff out there I’m certain that I’ll rise while she’ll undoubtedly be ultimately discredited.

Meanwhile I’ll sleep as well as my baby will let me and look my stepsons in the eye with a clear conscience as I tell them to be nice and assume niceness in others.

 
There is something that has begun to irritate me when people talk about the recession and our economy. There seems to be a focus on the idea of a job as the be all and end all. I don’t have a “job” and I know loads of people that don’t. Formal employment has its place and suits many (and the vast majority of people I know do have jobs) but self employment often gets missed. Not everyone is an entrepreneur (a term I’m particularly drawn to and like to use to describe myself) but plenty of people are perfectly capable of providing services or products on a freelance basis. I should know, I work closely with freelancers in the running of my own business. Then there are those individuals who probably don’t consider themselves business people yet by being self-employed run businesses. Here I’m thinking of my decorator and other service providers I’ve used.

Whilst eschewing it myself, I fully appreciate why many people want a job. A salary is (relatively) predictable and really helps with budgeting. Doing a tax return is also very daunting. But struggling to find a job surely isn’t the same as struggling to find work. I largely define myself as a writer and such a thing as a writing job is very rare. However, there is plenty of writing work to be had. I’m not and doubt I’ll ever be in a position to hire employees but I send work to several individuals and am still in search of a window cleaner. There are loads of things I’d like to pay someone to do; our guttering needs cleaning, we need a cat sitter, we’re increasingly talking about getting a cleaner. I scour the local papers and Gumtree but the gutters breed, my sister-in-law does her best to attend our felines and as my pregnancy progresses household cleanliness starts to slide.

I have an accountant (self-employed), a web developer (self-employed who has outsourced the graphic design and IT support to other self-employed individuals) and a mentor (yup, self-employed as well). My company team consists of four writers/editors and we’re all self-employed. Perhaps that affects my view that jobs are simply one way of doing work and bringing in an income.

I am in favour of jobseekers losing their benefits for refusing to attend employment program or turning down jobs. I have only once turned down work from a potential client and it was a hugely difficult decision to make. Generally I’m appreciative of each opportunity; I have to be. There are lots of valid reasons to want to turn down salaried jobs (childcare and transport difficulties seem to rank highly) but as a self-employed person I share those reasons. Last week I was in a car accident and am currently without transport. The taxi costs of the next month could make working an expensive exercise but that’s life.

I’d like to see more support and advice for individuals setting up their own businesses. Banks can be confusing with their advice and crucially they are not your friend! But Business Link is an invaluable resource for anyone looking at starting up a business and there are loads of community based organisations offering help and advice. It just needs pushing as an option and it’d be great if a national program could be established whereby individuals could demonstrate that they were “working” and still receive their benefits for a set period. Unsympathetic as I am to those that don’t want to work, new businesses need time to grow and if Cameron wants a more responsible Britain then I think he needs a wake-up call in how we encourage people to take responsibility for their futures!

The Workfare Scheme is a great idea and despite there being some clear flaws I think it’s a step in the right direction. It does, however, need to sit within a wider set of solutions.

I think the world is changing. One of my favourite things is TED and Carole Cadwalladr’s article Build a satellite in the shed: it’s the new DIY revolution in Sunday’s Observer covered June’s TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh nicely. I’ve long been a fan of the DIY approach, having discovered James Lovelock as a teenager and reading about his home laboratory. While this is but one movement, it demonstrates the view I hold that the way things are done will continue to evolve.

When I left high school there was a speech in which we were told that during our lives we’d have many careers and an estimated 12 jobs. I remember some of the parents feeling this was a negative thing to tell impressionable young people. I’m 30 this year and if I count everything with a distinct job description I passed that number several years back. I’m not sure what I’ll tell my children. For now (my eldest stepson being just seven) we’re going with the jobs approach as they discuss the roles they understand (policeman, fireman and most recently, rocket scientist) but while they’ll need to do something, a job is merely a single option.

Will they grow up to find jobs? Maybe or maybe not, but there are a variety of options and as long as they can afford to live and are able to take joy from life, I’ll be happy. I certainly plan to raise them to take a creative approach to earning a living!