Twenty Nine.

Juggling kids and a multi-hyphen career.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from stylist, writer and blogger Hannah Bullivant. She says:

“I would love your thoughts on the perils/advantages of being a ‘multi-hyphen’ freelancer. Sometimes I think it’s really clever (have different income streams, keeps me interested and engaged) and sometimes I really regret it (such little time and stretched thin! Especially as only have 2 days of childcare!)”

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:

[00:00:47] – 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.

[00:00:58] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each week we take a different question from a member of Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, you know, be it about business or work or juggling the two. And then we ask for your comments to read out because they tend to be more sensical than what we’ve come up with, which means we have to go back to last week’s questions.

Last week’s question was…

[00:01:18] – Frankie
How to keep your social media updated when it’s the bane of your life.

[00:01:21] – Steve
Barry Steele.

[00:01:23] – Frankie
Barry Steele.

[00:01:23] – Steve
Good old Bazza. Wonder how his week was.

[00:01:25] – Frankie
Barry. Barry.

[00:01:27] – Steve
Katie McKay got in touch.

Katie says,

“Automate and then automate some more. Boringly try and put together a rough plan of what you want to say on which platform mapped out for the next twelve weeks. And I used to work in theatre, so I know the pain!”

[00:01:42] – Frankie
Lauren Tomes says,

“Agree with what you said about not following negative people or even celebrities or political figures. That’s all toxic stuff that you want to stay away from. But honestly, sometimes I also unfollow the people who seem to always have it together. It just makes me feel worse about how much of a mess my life feels. Just be careful what you’re consuming and how it affects you.”

[00:02:01] – Steve
And Juliet Raymond says…

I hope I said your surname, by the way. It sounded nice, however I said it, right?

Juliet says,

“Oh my goodness, this is me. I really think I need to get off social media for my own sanity and productivity, but I know I need to engage to some extent. And I just stupidly started a Facebook group, which I was sure would be amazing, but I’m regretting it already.”

[00:02:25] – Frankie
That comment made me laugh so hard. We’ve already exchanged, like, understanding gifs on the thread in the Facebook group because obviously I run a Facebook group. She’s just started one. You run one, Steve. They are HARD WORK.

[00:02:38] – Steve

[00:02:39] – Frankie
They’re amazing, but they are all consuming.

[00:02:42] – Steve
One thing I realised we didn’t recommend to Bazza from last week… Barry was saying how he couldn’t afford to outsource, how that wasn’t an option, right. But it did occur to me that maybe one thing that Barry could do is at least have one session with some sort of social media expert. You know, be it a Power Hour type thing or a half a day just chatting through what it is. I’m sure they’ll have lots of good ideas.

[00:03:08] – Frankie
Yeah. Get some help with the strategy, the bigger picture stuff, and then deliver it yourself. Yeah, that is a good idea.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:04:58] – Steve
Anyway, this week’s question comes from Hannah Bullivant — she is a stylist, writer and blogger. She has a successful blog called Seeds and Stitches. She does styling for interiors and events. She’s got a big following on Instagram, so she does influencer type work. She runs workshops, retreats, sells ebooks, online courses. You get the idea. Anyway,

Hannah asks,

“I would love your thoughts on the perils/advantages of being a multi-hyphen freelancer. Sometimes I think it’s really clever, I have different income streams, it keeps me interested and engaged, but sometimes I really regret it. I have such little time and I feel stretched thin, especially as I only have two days of childcare. What are your thoughts? Hannah.”

Okay, so this one isn’t really a question.

What are our thoughts? Oh, my God. Unleash your thoughts. Basically the pros and cons of a multi-hyphenate career.

[00:06:04] – Frankie
When you have very little time.

[00:06:05] – Steve

[00:06:06] – Frankie
Doing about six jobs in… what did she say? Two days’ childcare?

[00:06:09] – Steve
Yeah, I think she’s got like a seven and a two year old or something like that. Yeah. I mean, there are so many pros. The big one is flexibility, but as she said, income streams is a good one that can really protect you in a big way like, don’t underestimate how important that one is. The fact that it keeps you interested and engaged is also great. I think also, when you work on lots of different things, it’s a real chance to learn and keep developing and evolving and experiment. So as the world changes, and as your world changes, as your kids get older and so on and so forth, it becomes easier to sort of transform what the work is that you’re doing as you become interested in things, as technology changes.

[00:06:56] – Frankie
It allows you to be more of a chameleon.

[00:06:57] – Steve
Yeah, I really do think that being multi-hyphenate can make you more resilient to change. And part of that is your skills and the people you meet, because you tend to meet a lot more people as well. And all of that helps. But it also helps protect your income because you have multiple revenues. So if one of them gets switched off, then you can rely on the other ones. Or if you notice that one thing is doing particularly well, you can sort of start to focus on that if you’re enjoying it.

[00:07:29] – Frankie
I think that’s a really good point, because if she’s only got two days a week, her life is like an exercise in how to prioritise, isn’t it? When you’ve got all those things going on. She talks a lot about seasons, literal seasons, in her work. And I wonder if she has seasons during her working year, where — because I know she does events and stuff — where she can concentrate on three, four events for certain parts of the year? I know she does a big New Year thing, which is a big ebook about planning out your year and stuff. I imagine the end of the year, she’s building up to that quite a lot.

I guess it’s just trying — and she must do this — but trying not to do all of those things all of the time, but concentrating on which parts of the year, which projects are more successful and produce more money for you, and concentrating on those at those times.

I guess the fear is of over-committing, isn’t it? Particularly with like… she does some influencer work on sponsored posts and stuff on Instagram. That must be so easy to just say yes to everything and then suddenly you’ve got all this other stuff going on and you’re overwhelmed and you can’t keep up. And the fear is you’ll have that horrible feeling of doing all the things but not feeling like you’re doing any of them particularly well, particularly when they’re client based projects and work. Because if it’s just your own thing and it doesn’t sell that well, obviously that’s disappointing. But you don’t have that same niggly like… “I didn’t do a good job for my client” feeling, which is so horrible.

[00:08:57] – Steve
Yeah, you just said about saying yes to lots of things. And maybe that’s key to this, is the fact that if you are going to have a multi-hyphen career, then you need to really get used to saying NO, which really is an exercise in figuring out which opportunities are actually worth you taking.

[00:09:17] – Frankie

[00:09:17] – Steve
Or learning how to schedule them if you’re going to push them further down the line. So look at each opportunity with different questions in your head like — how will it affect your income? How will it affect your energy? How will it use up your precious time since you don’t have much of it? Will it get you more of the things that you want to do? Yeah, it can definitely be very tempting to say yes to all the things because you never know when the next thing is going to come along.

[00:09:46] – Frankie
Like Dave Smyth was saying the other week — “feed the hungry freelance gremlin!”

[00:09:51] – Steve
I think there’s a danger sometimes, though of, you know, the whole grass is greener on the other side thing? It sounds to me Hannah, like you do have a successful multi-hyphen career. I don’t think, on the other side of fence, the thought of just niching and picking one thing to work on for example, would actually be better. It might make you more anxious because you don’t know when the income might dry up or that you might become reliant on one client who then disappears and stuff like that.

So, I think, the answer is how best to pick the right opportunities and how best to manage your time. And actually, working on your own things like your courses and stuff like that is a really smart thing to do because it makes you the client, right? It makes you in control, you’re not waiting on somebody else to come your way.

[00:10:47] – Frankie
Yeah. And also it’s great to have so many things. Obviously you have multiple income streams, but the other great thing about that is because she’s got such different, really different things like face-to-face workshops and retreats, she styles other people’s events and does like magazine shoots and stuff and then she does her influencer work. All of those things are really different but all of them are yes, showing different skills that she has but ultimately promoting herself to different people. It’s like cross platform marketing within your own business? Rather than like, “I sell a product, I need to get PR in magazines to sell that product”. It’s like she is selling herself by doing work for a magazine. It’s like all part of the same ecosystem or whatever, which is actually really clever.

I also suspect that well… we all have this. Everybody has that necessary evil in their work that they need to do to pay the bills. There’s always one type of job, a client project that you do that you really don’t want to, but you do it anyway because it makes life easier and less stressful for you. I’m sure she has a coach or whatever, but is she talking about letting go of some things? Of those necessary evils, the stuff that doesn’t light her up? Is she at a point in her career where she can do that? Yes, she can still have lots of multi-hyphen things that she’s doing, but maybe pare that down slightly and feel less stressed, overwhelmed? Maybe use that time she has in a more efficient way?

[00:12:24] – Steve
Yeah, it’s interesting. Just last week I was recording an episode of Being Freelance with this person who has client work but then has built her own audience and is like an educator and does courses and so on and so forth. And she said to me, she put it in these words which I’d not heard before. She was saying that when she works on a client project, it can leave her “drained of energy”. Like, she enjoys it, but it drains her. Whereas actually, when she works on projects with her own community and teaching them and masterminds and all of that yes, it’s still hard work, but…

[00:13:02] – Frankie
It lights her up!

[00:13:03] – Steve
Yeah, exactly. It gives her energy. It’s so true. Some things drain us and some things give us energy. So I think it’s worth doing some self-reflection. From reading some of your blog posts, it sounds like you’re very good at that anyway.

[00:13:20] – Frankie
Definitely. Yeah.

[00:13:21] – Steve
But you do need to analyse everything all the time — what is working, what isn’t, what is bringing you money (which is essential), but also what is bringing you energy? And then re-evaluate what to do and what not to do. I don’t know whether Hannah outsources anything. I know a lot of people who start to build, you know, courses and communities and things like that get to a point where they kind of need to bring on some other help.

[00:13:53] – Frankie
Quite a few people I know now have hired a VA. They talk about it like, “I should have done it ages ago. Now I’ve done it, I feel great. And it’s actually changed how I run my business and ultimately how I feel about my business and my life. And I should have done it a long time ago”. I don’t know if Hannah has an assistant or not, something to think about. And again, it’s like one of those things you don’t want to pay for, but everybody I’ve spoken to has not regretted that decision. Quite the opposite.

Also worth saying… And I know, I feel like we say this every episode, but she is currently in a very specific period of her life. And I don’t know when her kid’s birthday is, but they’re soon going to be three and she’s going to get 30 free hours. And yes, she doesn’t have to use those, but feeling that squeezed is not a permanent way to be. I imagine in a year’s time, Hannah’s going to be like, “BOOM, I can do all these things. It’s amazing! I suddenly don’t have this financial drain”. I mean, childcare is just so much money. So feeling like she needs to do all of those amazing things in two days is not a permanent thing. She knows this. She’s going to be like, yes, “Frankie, I know”.

[00:15:07] – Steve
Sometimes it’s good to have that reminder.

[00:15:09] – Frankie

[00:15:10] – Steve
And with that comes the importance of realising that yes, you might have lots of plans both client-wise and also with your own audience-wise, but some of that can just wait.

[00:15:20] – Frankie
You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. But on the other end of that… I’ve got a four year old who’s at school, and then I’ve got an 18 month. And I know that when people have said that to me, “it’s just a phase, enjoy being with your children while they’re small, in three years time, your business will be thriving”. I understand all of that, I’ve literally just said it to Hannah, but, oh, my God, part of me is just like, “F*ck off. I want to do the things. They light me up, they make me happy!”

I’ve talked about this before, I’m sure, but since having children, I’m a thousand times more ambitious than I was before I had kids, even despite having about a third of the time available to me to do my job. And it’s such a frustrating situation to be in. But I do think over the last five years, since my son was born, I have learned to come to terms with the fact that, yeah, I can’t do all the things. I can’t. I’ve burnt out enough Steve, to know that I cannot do all the things all the time. And, yeah, in Hannah’s case, she has the luxury of doing some really amazing things. And maybe she needs to just cherry pick which things she concentrates on, either generally or for certain points in the year. And, yeah, only for this period, until either her kid has more nursery hours or inevitably goes to school. Are there other forms of childcare? Or maybe she doesn’t want to have more childcare. Maybe she’s happy with two days a week, I don’t know. This is the issue with the podcast. You can’t ask Hannah all the questions.

[00:16:51] – Steve
Being “multi-hyphen” in quotation marks can feel really flexible. But actually, if you take a lot on, your time and mind ends up being pulled in different directions and then that can become overwhelming. So I think, in the main, I would fully advocate the whole idea of being multi-hyphen.

Most of us don’t even choose it, it just happens. We end up picking bits and pieces of work and then suddenly we find ourselves doing lots of different things since we’ve had kids and we’ve decided to become freelance. That is the case for a lot of people. But you can be multi-hyphen but still streamline. You can narrow down different things, you can strip away different things, you can figure out your processes. You know, boring as they are, they can really help you make the most of that time planning as well.

[00:17:44] – Frankie
Yeah, it almost feels like Hannah needs to plan her year from the start. Now, I’m not that person and I don’t think I need to do that necessarily but given what she does that might make sense?

[00:17:54] – Steve
Yeah. I say stick with it and that it’s great. But also just constantly self-reflect and plan and bring on help if you need to.

[00:18:02] – Frankie
And don’t be afraid to, as you say, pause some elements, if only for this period in your life. But like I say, if somebody said that to me, I’d be livid so…! But also, it’s true!

[00:18:1370] – Steve
Okay, if you’ve got a comment on this week’s question, then get in touch, be it on Twitter or Instagram.

What would your advice be?

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