Staying visible over the summer holidays.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Ben O’Brien. Ben is an illustrator, he says:

“HOLIDAYS! Have you got any tips on how to get work done through the school holidays. I work from home and my wife (although self-employed) works elsewhere so it comes down to me more often to be with our son.

2 years ago I just couldn’t get through the summer holiday, I managed to work on commissions I had, but I had no time for self-promotion, maintaining client relationships, updating my portfolio etc so by the end of the holidays commissions were drying up. It felt like I ran my business into the ground a bit and it’s been uphill ever since.

Every school holiday or half-term means another dip in my business. There’s always a few playdates and summer camp days, plus my wife tries to take days off when possible, but it’s never quite enough.

So, with the next Summer holiday coming up, do you have any tips at all on how to eek out as much time at my desk as possible?

By the way, I’m not trying to get away from my son! I love him to bits and have always been proud to spend so much time with him, but I just need to work and build my business to a more sustainable level.”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:28] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:00:37] – Steve
Yes, hello! Here we go with another one then — we answer a question put to us by the Doing It For The Kids community, you guys then give us your answers and experiences, we share that on the following episode.

We’ve all got the agenda by now, Steve! You don’t need to tell us.

So, last week’s question…

[00:01:00] – Frankie
… it was what to do when you’ve got nothing to do. So when you’ve got those days where you’ve got actual downtime from kids and work.

[00:01:08] – Steve
That’s right. And Lindsey was paralysed with possibility. Thank you so much for all of your comments as ever.

Lisa’s been in touch, Lisa Clavering. Thank you, Lisa. Hello!

Lisa says:

“Love this week’s podcast. I’m actually in a quiet week at the moment. My aim on days like this, when I have less actual work and no deadlines, is to achieve something small in each of the three areas of my life — work, self, home. So maybe draft a blog post — that’s work. Paint my nails — self. And hoover the house — home.”

I love this.

[00:01:47] – Frankie
It’s good, isn’t it? I did love it on Facebook, the love emoji, whatever, the love button. That sounds weird. Yeah, I think it’s genius.

Jessica Fernley says:

“I honestly think that sometimes we just need a bit of space to faff around, especially if you’ve been working really intensely for a while. So I would say re-label that guilt as gratitude and enjoy a bit of downtime.”

That is some more killer advice. These first two comments are good…

[00:02:13] – Steve
Do you know what I’m thinking? These people should have a podcast.

[00:02:15] – Frankie
I know, right?

[00:02:18] – Steve
Penny says:

“My favorite fun-but-still-business activity is watching Ted Talks or reading business books, preferable somewhere scenic (maybe a cheeky beer if it’s a socially acceptable time). To be honest, I do spend a lot of time faffing then feeling guilty, though. Maybe if we put free time in our diary, like a client appointment, i.e with a start and an end, we would feel less drifty and crap. We spend so long working to a schedule, it’s no wonder we can’t just stop all of a sudden without going over the handlebars.”

Okay, add Penny to the podcast list with Jessica and Lisa.

I mean, that’s kind of what I was saying, wasn’t it? Scheduling in our Lindsey time.

[00:03:01] – Frankie

[00:03:02] – Steve
But it’s true, especially if you’ve been working in a work environment where everything is so calendarised. Some people go freelance or self employed right off the back of really having their day in pots.

[00:03:17] – Frankie

[00:03:18] – Steve
So making one of those pots about yourself is a good idea.

Okay, let’s do one more.

Charles Commins. Hey, Charles. Charles says:

“I only went self-employed back in September and I’m doing something completely different to my previous job, so I’m still building up my business and that means a lot of my days are spent with little to do. I tend to work on my website and showreels, but it can feel frustrating.”

[00:03:38] – Frankie
We need a whole episode on how to get going as a freelancer.

[00:03:41] – Steve
Charles, turn that into a question!

[00:03:43] – Frankie
Yeah, email us.

[00:03:44] – Steve
There you go. We’re just giving Charles something to do as well.

Obviously, this podcast goes out on a Thursday, but we tend to record it on a Tuesday or Wednesday. I hate to break the magic, but it’s not happening live in your ears right now, which means we just had a long bank holiday weekend. Did you do a long bank holiday weekend-y thing?

[00:04:03] – Frankie
No. I literally have nothing to say this week. Nothing to say.

[00:04:06] – Steve
I actually decided that off the back of the Easter holidays and with the May holiday actually only three weeks away, that I couldn’t afford, in quotation marks, to have Monday off. But because we were going to have Monday doing family things, I said to my wife I wanted to work Sunday and I did.

Oh, my God. Don’t regret it. It was amazing. And I didn’t start Tuesday feeling behind.

[00:04:30] – Frankie
Yeah, that’s a bit how I feel this morning.

[00:04:32] – Steve
And then Monday, my wife took our son to see Avengers Endgame. You see, we’re at that point with a nine and a six year old where they can’t necessarily see the same movies all the time. So he went to see Endgame and me and her went to see Dumbo. The most unbelievable thing about the live action of Disney’s Dumbo, somebody decided to give Colin Farrell the gig!

[00:04:57] – Frankie
I missed that memo.

[00:04:58] – Steve
Most of the time, that elephant is like, actually a person in a green suit that they’ve superimposed a CGI elephant on top of. Could they not have CGI’d somebody else on top of it? Colin Farrell made it just all a little bit more believable.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:05:13] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Ben O’Brien who is an Illustrator, otherwise known as Ben the Illustrator.

[00:05:18] – Steve
He has one of the best brand names ever.

[00:05:21] – Frankie
I concur.

Ben says:

“HOLIDAYS. Have you got any tips on how to get work done through the school holidays? I work from home and my wife, although self-employed, works elsewhere, so it comes down to me more often to be with our son.

Two years ago, I just couldn’t get through the summer holiday. I managed to work on commissions I had, but I had no time for self promotion, maintaining client relationships, updating my portfolio, et cetera. So by the end of the holidays, commissions were drying up. It felt like I ran my business into the ground a bit, and it’s been uphill ever since. Every school holiday or half term means another dip in my business.

There’s always a few playdates and summer camp days — plus my wife tries to take days off when possible — but it’s never quite enough. So with the next summer holiday coming up, do you have any tips on how to seek out as much time at my desk as possible?

By the way, I’m not trying to get away from my son. I love him to bits, and have always been proud to spend so much time with him. I just need to work and build my business to a more sustainable level.”

Everybody nods in agreement.

[00:06:18] – Steve
That’s the interesting thing about school… They are always off. Always off!

[00:06:24] – Frankie
They’re only there, what, like 30 weeks of the year or something?

[00:06:27] – Steve
I don’t know. I did an article for The Doing It For The Kids website, didn’t I? A post, and for that I did the maths and it was something like 25% of the year that they are not actually at school. It’s remarkable.

Okay, how to approach this question, because I think it’s not helpful for us to say, “Oh, just take the holidays off” because that’s not really the advice that Ben’s asking for. He’s asking for how to keep his business sustainable so that it doesn’t dip, or that maybe he gets back over the dip quicker.

I think maybe one way is to look at how you keep your business visible during those breaks — particularly that long summer holiday. How are you marketing your business?

So, for Ben, for example, I get the feeling that Instagram is very important. So how can you do that? Either by using some form of scheduling tool… although one of the great things is the way Ben replies to stuff on Twitter as well. He’s great. Using some sort of scheduling tool or thinking about what you’re creating… I mean, is there something Ben that you can create in those holiday months in order to get on social media more?

[00:07:42] – Frankie
Is there maybe a personal project he could do? So something that’s realistic, given that he’s got limited time, but it’s a little sketch or it’s a little sound bite or something that he can upload every day that keeps him relevant, keeps the conversation going. People don’t forget about him.

[00:07:57] – Steve
Yes, because you said sketch, right? And sometimes we feel like the only thing that we can share online is like, a finished product but actually, sharing a sketch of something, a sound bite of something…

[00:08:08] – Frankie
People love the process. They love to see behind the scenes about what’s going on and how that’s done, particularly if they’re looking to hire an illustrator. It’s a bit of a dark art to people that aren’t illustrators. So, he’ll know the stuff already, but showing your process and work in progress stuff is really appealing to people.

[00:08:23] – Steve
And that could even be something that you do with your son if they’re into art. Don’t know, but maybe it’s something you could do together, like some sort of project?

There’s an illustrator I follow called Mel Chadwick. Now, she doesn’t have kids, but I remember her doing something… maybe it was her nephew or something like that. They made a brilliant video together where they made art, and then were encouraging other people to do art. And the thing is, your clients might well have kids and so enjoy these sort of videos as well.

[00:08:50] – Frankie
One of the things I actually wrote down… Steve — I prepped this week! Sort of.

One of the things I wrote down was exactly that. So, setting your kid their own projects. I hadn’t thought about collaborating with your kids, that could be even better. But setting them their own job for the summer, whatever that is.

I remember when we went to Israel over Easter when I was like six, and my parents set me this scrapbook challenge where I had to draw stuff when we went to places and collect postcards and write down things that I’d learnt about the places we went to. All that kind of stuff. Like making it into your own summer camp type project but at home.

[00:09:23] – Steve
That’s cool, isn’t it? It all depends on the kids and their interests, but whether it’s something they do independently or something that you’re doing together — yeah, that’s a good idea.

[00:09:31] – Frankie
Your son wants a YouTube account or whatever, right? You can set him like a make a film project?

[00:09:36] – Steve
Mine really does, yeah. If I set my son a stop motion project, then he’d be there all day. Yeah, 3 hours. And then we get to put it on YouTube at the end and on Twitter. So it keeps them busy and also gives me something to share. But it’s also sharing a part of my life.

Yeah, that’s great. That’s giving us activities and keeping us visible at the same time. And actually, there’s something that I know Ben did in the past — he got people to send him photos of them on their travels and then created his own style illustrations of their photos.

[00:10:17] – Frankie

[00:10:18] – Steve
And that was amazing on Instagram. But what’s to say, Ben, for example, that you couldn’t do something like that in advance of the summer holidays? So you start now where we are in May. And you build up a little stock of something like that, and then you’ve got a drip feed of material to publish. So you don’t necessarily have to be creating it in the summer, but it will get the reaction and be getting shared and you can just jump in and respond to people and stuff.

[00:10:45] – Frankie
It’s a bit like going on maternity leave. The prep you might do for taking that time out. I know it’s only like six weeks, but let’s be honest, some of us are only taking six weeks maternity leave so that’s not actually that different!

If you can do the prep in advance and have content and stuff to be pumping out, that’s great.

[00:11:00] – Steve
If we’re talking about marketing ideas as to how we stay visible as well, what if halfway through or three quarters of the way through those summer holidays, you send a postcard and a little gift to your clients? Because he talks about staying in touch with clients, right?

Now, obviously, in Ben’s case, he could design the postcard, but for us less talented freelancers, we can buy a postcard and a little typical holiday souvenir type thing. Yeah, how about that? Sending that to key clients so that you’re top of mind just a few weeks before you need them to think about hiring you.

[00:11:40] – Frankie
And to be fair, that also applies to most of the school holidays in that they tie in with big social occasions like Christmas, Easter, et cetera. Christmas cards, obviously, is an obvious one at Christmas time. Easter, you could send chocolate with your face on it or whatever. Yeah, I like that idea! Nice.

[00:11:56] – Steve
Actually, yeah. One of the people in the Being Freelance community the other day was chatting about whether or not you give a gift when you’re welcoming a client. He does — he created and designed a year planner. Something that would end up being on the client’s wall.

[00:12:16] – Frankie
Yeah, nice. But that’s the sort of thing I imagine Ben could do because he’s got so many characters and stuff already that he’s produced. You could knock them out across the months or days or whatever. I say knock them out, Ben’s like, “ha ha ha”.

But I’d like to think he’s got a lot of stuff that he hasn’t used or he could repurpose in some way. And a year planner — that’s genius. If you’re literally in front of them at their desk every day — in terms of visibility, you can’t beat it, can you?

[00:12:57] – Steve
Then, of course — especially because Ben’s calendar would look awesome — you could sell that in your shop.

[00:13:10] – Frankie
Double whammy.

[00:13:11] – Steve
Which leads us on to creating some sort of income, which is in quotation marks…

[00:13:19] – Frankie
Don’t say it.

[00:13:23] – Steve
“Passive income”.

Ben, I’ve noticed, has been putting a lot more effort, for example, into his online shop, where he’s creating amazing prints. So anyway, creating something like that, and actually, for someone like Ben, maybe you could be creating a course?

[00:13:38] – Frankie
How to keep your kids entertained on a summer holiday — a five part course.

[00:13:42] – Steve
I might sign up.

[00:13:43] – Frankie
I’d buy that.

[00:13:44] – Steve
If there was a creative idea everyday course that I could subscribe to that came from Ben… Hello, I think I probably would!

So, just thinking about whether that’s an option, whether there’s work that can be done now in the earlier part of the year that then helps sustain us income-wise during those summer months. That doesn’t answer the whole marketing type thing and staying visible, but well, actually, no… it kind of does, because people will be seeing your course, right? Or doing your course! Or seeing you putting out automated messages about your course. I reckon that’s worth a go.

What else?

[00:14:30] – Frankie
Well, there’s the obvious things on there. Do you want to talk about the obvious things?

[00:14:34] – Steve

[00:14:37] – Frankie
You know, the old epic playdates of joy? So arranging opportunities to work outside of paid-for childcare?

[00:14:45] – Steve
Yeah. You arrange play dates so that you’ve got the kids at your house and then you kind of swap back. It’s the beauty of school play dates. But also, do you know what I did once? I kind of like, did a sort of timeshare, play share thing with another self-employed mum. So I had the kids in the morning and she worked, and then we kind of did a handover at lunchtime. It’s almost like a hostage exchange.

[00:15:11] – Frankie
Did you all have lunch together?

[00:15:14] – Steve
No, actually, I gave the kids lunch. But when we met — me and her sat down and had a cup of tea like adults and then I worked in the afternoon and she had the kids and gave them dinner. It worked really well! Sadly, she has since gone very selfishly and got a ‘proper’ job.

[00:15:33] – Frankie
How dare she?

[00:15:37] – Steve
It’s worth keeping your eyes open to the opportunity of spotting a fellow freelance parent. And yes, it helps if your kids get on and stuff, but, yeah, spotting a fellow freelancing parent, who you could do with that.

Ben also mentioned summer camps, doesn’t he? I do that as well. Maybe like two days a week but when you’ve got two kids to put in… over Easter I think I spent about 400 quid and so that means you really have to justify what the work is that you’re going to be doing. I don’t think we should feel bad about putting our kids in those camps either, because it gives them a chance to go and be social.

[00:16:19] – Frankie
I was sent off on a musical theatre camp two-week thing when I was school-aged and I absolutely loved it. It was like the highlight of my summer! So, there you go, another obvious option is potentially paying people to do stuff you don’t have the time to do while your kids are off school.

Obviously, if you’re an illustrator, you can’t outsource your illustration because it’s such a specific style. But if we’re talking about marketing, you can potentially pay somebody to do that if it means you can concentrate on the actual commission work but still have people interested in what you’re doing. So by the time you go back to work, maybe you’ve got stuff lined up.

[00:16:56] – Steve
That is a very good point. It might be worth talking to a virtual assistant. VA’s come in many different shapes and forms, as in they tend to have many skills up their sleeves depending on where they’ve come from, industry wise, career wise. There will be some VA’s who are amazing at social media image creation, editing videos… Yeah, it goes way beyond a personal assistant type role.

[00:17:20] – Frankie
Or at the other end, like finance and bookkeeping and that kind of stuff.

[00:17:24] – Steve
And if you’re sitting there thinking, “Oh, I can’t afford to!” The child care that we talked about with the summer camps — that’s outsourcing. Just outsourcing responsibility of your children. And so outsourcing those other tasks, if it means that your marketing is getting done, like sending out those postcards and stuff… maybe that is a job that you could give to somebody else.

I mean, I’d get the kid to stuff the envelopes!

[00:17:46] – Frankie
Yes. Now we’re talking! Outsourcing to the kids. How have we not thought of that?

[00:17:51] – Steve
But also, like with scheduling social media.

[00:17:54] – Frankie
Not to the kids though, surely… do you think? Scheduling social media?

[00:18:00] – Steve
Depending on the age of your children… you could get them to craft tweets and schedule instagram things?

[00:18:09] – Frankie
That feels quite high risk to me Steve!

I’m not giving it to a seven-year-old, but what if your kid’s 13?

[00:18:24] – Steve
I think they would really appreciate that. Maybe this is why your parents sent you away on that camp?

[00:18:31] – Frankie
Can never be trusted.

[00:18:35] – Steve
Another thing from a business perspective to maybe throw in here is looking at your pricing if we’re looking at ways to stay sustainable…

[00:18:46] – Frankie
Having recently put my prices up, I can highly recommend it. Nobody has complained at all. And I’ve got more money in the bank and I can do less work as a result, or I can do more work and earn more money. Great! It’s like a win-win situation.

[00:18:57] – Steve

[00:18:58] – Frankie
Do it. I think we’ve actually might have answered it this week. What do you think? Episode nine. Nailed it.


What would your advice be?

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