Thursday, 20 December 2018

2018 - the year I achieved the work-life balance I was looking for

This year I entered my fourth year of being self-employed and blogging full-time. So much has changed over the past few years and my life now is very different to how it was back in 2015. I think it has taken a good three or four years but I have finally been able to achieve that elusive work-life balance 90% of the time. I would say that I very rarely work past 7pm these days or over the weekend (unless the kids are playing in their bedrooms or we're working with a brand) and it's lovely.

I thought it would be nice to end the year with a few things that have worked for me along my way.


2018 - the year I achieved the work-life balance I was looking for




Say no 

It's a cliché but it really does work. Blogging is a cool gig and you'll often be offered wonderful opportunities that just aren't right for you. In my experience, if you're going to find something a chore to write about or you have a feeling it's not going to be the best fit for you or your readers, it's just not worth it for both you and the brand and declining opportunities which aren't right is the best thing to do in the long run. It also means that you're only ever going to be writing about things you're passionate about and will never have that feeling of dread that you've got a task to carry out.

Pay for your own stuff

This is a controversial one but it is something that has really worked for me this past year and one of the main reasons I think I've achieved a better work-life balance. It might be a little tough for me to explain so please bear with me. When I first started my self-employed journey, I felt like I'd have loads of free time. Being invited to visit local attractions and not have to pay any entry is a real privilege and I am grateful I had these opportunities. But as the years have gone on and my blog has grown, it has meant that we're always SO busy and that I'd end up working on blog posts at home but then also working on days out with the kids. Sharing Instagram stories, Tweets, Facebook lives and making sure I capture photos which are good enough to use in a blog post whilst remembering all the details from our day out/things I want to mention in a blog post AND supervise three kids is quite a challenge and a lot of work. Although we always love going out and enjoying days out, it started to feel like life was one big job for me.

Also, as my blog/social media is my business and how I pay my bills, it started to make no sense that I could charge £500 for the type of blog post I can write sitting at home in half a day in front of the TV with a coffee ( eg a preview post for day out or a top tips type post featuring a brand) yet I wouldn't charge anything to feature a day out at an attraction. A blog post featuring a day out actually requires a lot more work (the 'live' bits, the taking of photos, the physical time it takes to visit.....) and it was getting a bit ridiculous that I was doing all of this work and advertising days out for the cost of admission (often around £30).

So in 2018, I had a new plan. If an attraction gets in touch and would like to work with me, I'll either charge them a fee to cover my time or decline and just visit in my own time and write without any pressures. There are still exceptions to this rule but I would say that this shift in asking for payment to feature days out has really made a huge difference to my blog this year.

The added bonus of all this is that I've had so much more free time as we're not booked in to visit here, there and everywhere every weekend. We can take things at our own pace and I get to enjoy days out again without any work pressures. I still love writing about days out but if I have paid for it all myself and haven't received 'free' tickets, the writing is all completely on my own terms. We visited Chester Zoo in October and I have written a post that's going to be published next March as I think it's better suited to Spring. If I was working with Chester Zoo on this post, I would have had to publish it within a few weeks. Not having so much brand input has definitely given me more control over my blog and schedule too. This logic is why there has been a huge decrease in restaurant reviews where we've been invited along too. Although it's lovely to be invited, it's comparatively A LOT of work for relatively little compensation. I now only say yes to working with restaurants I really, really want to visit.

Just because I can access 'free' stuff, doesn't mean I should. I guess 2018 is the year I FINALLY fully treated my blog as a business rather than something I earned money through with fantastic perks.


Never work for free

An obvious one but it works. It's frustrating when you see brands spending money on TV ads, billboards, magazines and sponsored newspaper articles claiming they don't have a budget for bloggers. If they want to advertise their business to your readers, they need to pay for this service. Simple! There's nothing more soul-destroying than having to write a brand advertisement and not being compensated for your time. Don't do it!

Know when to increase your fees 

When I think of how much I used to charge brands in my early days of self-employment, I could cry! I really wasn't charging enough. Through the years I've tried different methods and dabbled with a set rate card but what has worked for me is to price each job individually. I offer friends and family a discounted rate and would not charge a small charity the same as a global brand. It's always tricky to know what to charge and I've found having a good tribe of bloggers around you who you can ask always works really well and helps. I'm always open to messages if anyone ever wants to ask what I'd charge for a campaign. When pricing campaigns, I've found it best to price each element individually eg x amount for a blog post, an additional Instagram post will be this much, a set of three Instagram stories will be this much. Then brands can pick and choose the elements which are important to them and if they do have a limit to how much they can spend, you can reduce the work load required to match their budget by removing elements of the campaign to match their budget (I hope that makes sense!).

It makes more sense to write two sponsored blog posts and share one Instagram photo for £1000 rather than write 10 blog posts for £1000. Charging more means you can work smarter, can spend more time on brand campaigns and acheive great results AND it means your workload isn't too heavy.

Do a great job but don't over-deliver too much 

It is so important to do a good job. Building relationships is super important in this industry and as a person, I always want to do my best. However it's also important not to over-deliver too much as you end up running yourself ragged. If you didn't agree to Instagram stories, don't do them. Know your worth.

Delegate 

For the past three years we've had a cleaner which has been bliss. I am not a natural housekeeper at all and having someone do this for me has been a game changer and freed up so much of my time and guilt. I also delegate some tasks to Steve (mostly photography with his lovely iPhone X) and he has helped me out with blog work a little more this year. I outsourced my branding this year to the lovely Hollie Ellis and I also outsource my tax return. In 2019, I'll probably look to outsource more if I can. It reduces stress and gives you the gift of time.

Leave your phone at home 

If I have access to my phone, I'm going to scroll Insta, FB or Twitter and to me, this feels like work (although enjoyable work). I will openly say I use my phone A LOT. It's not a healthy relationship and the only way I've been able to break it is to leave my phone at home sometimes. I now leave my phone at home during every school run - it takes me around 20-25 minutes to walk to school at a brisk pace and the same back again so that's a good 45 minutes of screen-free time in the middle of my day each day. It was getting to the point where I was replying to 'urgent' emails walking home from school with the kids rather than listening to them talk about their day and being 'present'. These 45 minutes are absolute bliss and I've grown to love them. I really enjoy the 25 minute walk to school with no distractions, it's such a good way to clear my head and then walking home with the kids with no distractions is always precious too. I only have 1.5 years of school runs left now so I want to make the most of it.

Add time with your friends and partner into your diary as a priority

Sometimes as somebody who works from home, it can feel like people expect you to be always available. At first, this used to frustrate me (don't you know I've got work to do) but now I've learned to embrace this flexibility. If a friend is working night shifts, I'll happily meet them for a morning coffee BECAUSE I CAN. If my mam needs a lift somewhere, I'll do it. Making your actual life a priority over your work is a good thing. We only get one life and need to live it. Obviously, there are times I can't be flexible but when I can be, I will be.

Steve and I also put date days into our diary. When the kids are at school we'll often go out for the day ourselves, normally somewhere outdoors and there's generally always good food involved too. We have the flexibility to do this and I think it's important to make the most of it and actually do it rather than just sitting at home in front of our laptops all day, every day.

Enforce time off 

For the past few years, Christmas has been such a manic and stressful time for me. It's a busy time of year for bloggers and I remember frantically working round the clock and crying with the pressure in years gone by. It's really hard turning down ££ at this time of year. This year though, I've been super selective in the Christmas campaigns I've worked on and chosen to work on just a couple of campaigns and take time off instead. I've deferred a lot of work to January next year and just paid for our own Christmas days out instead this year and it's been lush. I don't feel stressed at all and I've even managed to get ahead and write some evergreen posts for January and February.

In 2019 I'm definitely going to stick with these tactics as 2018 has been the best year for me in terms of blogging and for us as a family.

Thanks for reading and here's to a happy and prosperous 2019. Don't forget to check out my main blog www.northeastfamilyfun.co.uk
 xxx 

11 comments

  1. Some fantastic advice Sam, I've just started charging for everything with the odd exception and although it's meant less reviews and days out I know it will work out better for me in the long run. I would rather spend two hours working on a post I want to write than a review and advertising for very little return. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and all the best for 2019 x

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  2. This is so interesting to read. Thank you for sharing. I feel like I’ve watched you grow through this - and encouraged you to up your fees and vice versa. I remember encouraging you to get a cleaner too. Game changer! I totally agree re days out/restaurant reviews. They are getting SUCH a bargain. Honestly, it’s easier to just pay yourself and write about what you want to write about, when you want to write it! You already know you are my blogging inspiration, I look forward to seeing your 2019! Thanks for all the help this year, as always, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

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  3. This is such good advice and you are a brilliant role model. I am reading this more in relation to my day job (doctoral student and lecturer) than blogging as I am just doing that as a little creative outlet really. It shows how relevant your post is to different types of people! I especially resonated with the part about everyone expecting you to be available. My friends want to do things during the day and don’t seem to understand when I say no as I need to spend the full day working at home, whilst it’s a great luxury as you say to be able to have that morning coffee, I will definitely try and have more boundaries in 2019 between work time and socialising time. Thanks so much for this post it was really helpful! Melis

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    1. Yes - it's difficult when you're always the one who has to be flexible x

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  4. Really great advice and it's definitely worked for you! Can't wait to see what you've got up your sleeve for 2019!

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  5. Love this post Sam its great to see how much has changed for you in such a positive way :)

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  6. Wow Sam - this is proper fab!!! I love all of the know your worth stuff and this often comes up with my clients... the standing back and noticing how you were feeling about a family fun day is so sharp and has obviously been great insight for you to feel more balanced as a parent - love it and love your posts like this as well as the family fun ones! You are a beautiful writer!!

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