How the EU ruined my November – and is killing microbusiness

What a month November has been.

View this post on Instagram

Supermodel cat is obliging, yet frowny. #sillykittens

A post shared by Carla Louise (@duckingfabulous) on

Starting off with an attempt at National Novel Writing Month, I had a wonderful time rediscovering my love for writing fiction (and Luna and Clover got starring roles in a story about how they became witch’s cats). Alongside that I spent some time working on Unfurling, which is beginning to take real shape, and is making me very happy.

I got a Ralph unexpectedly at the end of October…

View this post on Instagram

Ralph's first crochet lesson #essexralph

A post shared by Carla Louise (@duckingfabulous) on

… and spent a weekend wedding dress shopping with my best friend (for her, not me!). Which was glorious though I’m not allowed to share photos yet!

Completely differently but equally excitingly, on Sunday I appeared on my first live call, an interview by Vaska the Curious Cat, for Free Range Humans‘ storytelling tent. I am told I inspired people… and this is massive, as that’s all I ever really wanted to do. Show people that they too can live life their way, whatever that means to them.

There was a housewarming with wonderful friends from uni, and a christening with my closest friends at home in Essex – and the newest member of our group, baby Jessica (whose special day it was).

(more…)

{work happy} To blog or not to blog?

When I started blogging back in 2005, relatively few people were doing it, and I kept it very separate from my actual life. So separate, that it took me until 2009 to start blogging for business as well!

However,  nowadays it seems like everyone and his dog has a blog (no rhyme or pun intended).

So do you need one for your business?

laptop camera notebook

Well, I’d say it depends. In the social media & blogging workshops I used to run, I always emphasised the fact that just because a platform exists, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use it.

A blog can help to drive traffic to your website, but a blog alone won’t – you’ll need to promote your posts and perhaps guest post elsewhere to raise your profile in that way.

If you’re a prolific writer, you can add a sprinkling of keywords to your posts and you’re sharing valuable information with your target audience, then blogging could be a perfect way to get your name out.  It certainly adds a sense of you to your business, and people often love a behind-the-scenes look at how a business they like runs.

As with all marketing, the more a potential client gets to know you, the more they’ll know if you’re a good fit – and you’ll become the definitive and obvious choice when they have need of your type of product or service.

If, on the other hand, the idea of writing regularly makes you want to run far, far away, then perhaps you’d be better blogging just photos, or using one of the myriad other social media platforms out there.

glasses laptop mouse

Some require only short updates, and allow you add photos if that works for you. But for blogging and social media, the best combination of all is the one that works for you. If you hate a particular type of platform, or find updating it intimidating, it’s never going to reflect you in the right way.

So you don’t HAVE to have a blog. Look at all the options for promoting your fabulous biz on this wonderful thing called the internet, choose the ones which appeal to you most, and focus on those.

It’ll make your message stronger, more you and so much more compelling!

xoxo,

Carla

 

 

 

 

[A version of this post first appeared on sister site, The Website Beautician]

Don’t get lost in the big picture

What I’ve learned this week: remember the little details as well as the bigger plan, and don’t lose sight of your why.

I recently had something approaching a meltdown about my working life. When I started this job, it was a two year contract, which would have ended in November this year.

Though it was changed to a permanent contract shortly before I started, I don’t think I’ve ever lost the impression that it was fleeting, temporary, short lived. I’d used it as a springboard and a deadline – that by the end of 2014, I’d be fully, gainfully and profitably self employed.

entrepreneurship 100 hours quote

background photo credit: j-dub1980 via photopin cc

Yeah. It’s June, and while The Website Beautician and Ink Drops are thriving, realistically that’s not a goal I’m going to reach in five months. Not least because, inspired by some awesome friends of mine, I have closed my books for TWB until September to rethink and plan and rework my ideas and my goals and my dreams.

You see, though I love making websites, I’m not sure I want to carry on making them for clients. Or at least, I think I’d like to change the way in which I create websites for other people.

And in admitting that, and making the decision to give myself a couple of months to finish current projects and then *breathe*, it feels like a weight has lifted.

I’d got so bogged down in the *must quit by December” deadline (which was entirely in my head), and the how of such a massive task, that I’d forgotten why I wanted to be self employed in the first place, and indeed, why I left London and took this job.

There is a post in my archives (originally posted on Ducking Fabulous) about what I was looking forward to after quitting the City and I think that says it all.

Time and freedom and ease. Freedom to create, freedom from worry about finances, time to spend with loved ones and with my camera and in my studio. Ease in what I wear, what I do, how I live. Space to make healthy choices, to indulge, to enjoy every moment of my life, no matter what I’m doing – and space and time and freedom to grow my businesses with ease, free from the pressures of having to make a living wage from them from day one.

I cannot create from a place of desperation – worrying about money is one of the things that saps my imagination, ability and desire to create faster than anything else. With the run of bad news relating to people I love recently, perspective has shot through my life in a blaze of colour – giving me clarity, and sanity, and a renewed vision of my WHY.

rainbow

photo credit: Ava-forever catching up.. via photopin cc

And so I have pulled my head and shoulders out of that dark, panicky, suffocating tunnel of a deadline. I saw the doctor on Wednesday and am going for blood tests which will hopefully help pull the rest of my body out of that tunnel as well.

I have made my peace with my day job, which I actually rather like, but was beginning to resent with all the other commitments that have been necessary in recent weeks. I have started an art journal, begun to blog regularly again, and picked up my camera to create rather than to capture snapshots for the first time in months, if not years.

Though I miss lots of my lovely friends, for now I am saying no to social things so I can get my head together, and hopefully by late summer will be in a better place emotionally and financially so I can catch up with them all again.

I feel better already for just making the decisions – and it means I can get on with creating for my amazing existing clients without worrying about how to fit in future ones for now.

And already an opportunity to collaborate and create custom themes has presented itself, and I’ve bumped into an old acquaintance who I suspect is going to be a really good friend. Cheers, Universe – you do know what you’re doing really, don’t you?

It’s a good place to be, if not what I expected or planned for. But the best things are often unexpected. I’m excited to see what the next few months brings!

Have you had a massive rethink of your plans (entrepreneurial or otherwise)? How did you manage it? I’d love to hear your stories!

Four ways to transform Monday into your favourite day

Ah, Monday. In the working world, it gets such a bad rap for being the start of the working week, that I thought I’d share some ways to make it better.

1. If you’re able to work flexi-time, go in later or finish earlier on Mondays. I changed my hours so I have Monday afternoons off and work longer days Tuesday to Friday and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

bloggingfromgarden

Blogging from the garden on a Monday afternoon in June.

2. Arrange regular Monday treats with colleagues or other self-employed people. A few of us at my day job meet regularly on Mondays for anything from full blown afternoon tea to a quick cuppa between meetings, and knowing I’m going to see these lovely sparkly ladies makes my whole week better!

3. Make Monday evening a night for dates or catch ups – so you can either spend quality time with your significant other, or catch up with friends (in person is brilliant, over Skype is perfectly acceptable – Contrariety Rose’s Louise and I often have wine nights over Skype!). The day goes faster if you’re looking forward to something in the evening, and you can plan your outfit in those really boring meetings.

4. Trying to escape the day job? Make Monday your Great Escape Plan day – commit to spending an amount of time each Monday working on the broader plan or picture. If you’ve not started something on the side yet, use the time for planning, self-development or training, and taking concrete baby steps towards your vision. If you have already started, promise yourself you’ll use that time solely for planning your next moves, not for doing client work or admin.

Four quick ways to turn Monday from blah to woohoo!

What’s your favourite? Do you have any other tips for making the start of the week better?

What do you want to be able to say about yourself in a year?

I spent some of my lunch hour today listening to this video interview.   As I’ve also been reading The Creative Habit and the Happiness Project, it’s all clunking into place rather nicely.

The video sparked me into thinking – what do I want to be able to say about myself a year from now? What do I want my daily life to look like, what do I want my habits and routines to be, what kind of a person do I want to have become in that time?

every-day-matters

To become a pro at anything is as much about mindset change and daily routines as anything else, and the gist of the interview is that in order to do this, you need to change your existing and new habits from amateur ones into professional ones. Keep going through adversity and crap. Don’t let life get in the way of your goals.

Twyla Tharp advocates morning rituals to get you going for the day, among other things, and as I find mornings the hardest part of the day, I’ve been pondering what I could do to make them better, more joyful and to set me up better for the day.

Now I find my thoughts going further than just the morning. Without taking on so many commitments that I get overwhelmed and give up, what can I commit to changing? Writing every day? A photograph every day? Getting up by a certain time so I can accomplish these things and better self-care (like actually eating breakfast)?

It’s certainly made me consider what I do every day in a new light. I shall continue to ponder and blog my specific changes when they’re a little clearer in my mind. Right now they’re a confused blur of DO ALL THE THINGS BUT BETTER…

What do you want to be able to say about yourself in a year’s time?

Further reading:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Image credit – Ducking Fabulous / Letters from my Twenties

Freedom, adventure and location independence

Freedom. It’s a very loaded word, particularly for me as a twentysomething single female. With total freedom, in theory I can do anything, go anywhere, be anyone I want – something that is less accessible to those with responsibilities like houses, children, mortgages.

And yet my definition of freedom in business isn’t necessarily what people expect. Sure, I love to travel (particularly if horses are involved)– but what I want is freedom in terms of time and schedule, and where I am isn’t overly relevant.

horse galloping on beachphoto credit: Gastev via photopin cc

To me, it looks like this:

… dictating my own hours and planning my own day. So if I want to work till 4am then sleep in till 11 the next day, I can, without having to phone someone to explain or call in sick

… a steady passive income, so I can develop the next projects and stages of my work without stressing about money

… time and space to pursue my non-business interests, both those that already exist and those that I fancy trying on a whim

… complete autonomy on decision making for my business, with other entrepreneurial friends around if I need to consult them, but without having to defer to someone else for a final decision (this is one of the things that makes me happiest about Ink Drops – Annastasia and I are so much on the same wavelength that we often don’t need to consult each other about decisions, we just make them)

How I see location independence is also different from the standard view, I think. For me it’s all about freedom (there’s that word again!) of choice.

…not being tied to a desk, a physical meeting schedule or someone else’s timetable, but free to choose when and where I work from. After all, there’s no place like home!

…more often than not, I believe my perfect choice of workspace would be my studio at home, filled with all the things that make me happy, or a couple of local haunts with wifi where I love to work when I have the time.

… to be able to travel around the UK and also the world in short bursts, without having to leave my business behind or hand it over to someone else while I’m away

In short, to work from anywhere I choose even if that choice is my own living room… that’s what location independence means to me.

Part of the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge.

a weekend of blogging, connecting and ideas

Just a speedy one as it’s somehow half past eleven on a Sunday night as I type, and I have work tomorrow – eeek! More on all of this when it’s less late…

DSC_1508

Sneaky snap of my glorious neon pink Cybher satchel from the Leather Satchel Company 🙂

Short version: Saturday: Cybher, fabulous people, fizzing with ideas, squeee. Sunday: amazing brunch, the visual feast that is the Beth Chatto gardens and a blissful sunshine-filled afternoon with Mum & Dad, using the bbq for the first time.

Long version:

(more…)

Snapshot moments

Bluebell at the fish and chip shop Bluebell outside the award winning fish and chip shop in my village, on one of the few sunny evenings we’ve had.

Dad painting shedDad giving my shed a coat of creosote – it looks so much better now!

duck visiting london

Because no trip anywhere is complete without a Ducking Fabulous duck, and a really cheesy grin from yours truly…

Hyde Park break

Living the self-employed dream with Annastasia, the other half of Ink Drops – tea in Hyde Park after a trade show in the morning and a meeting in Green Park, accompanied by cupcakes

shoes in progress

Peeling leather off shoes is surprisingly enjoyable – these ones were finally knackered and unsuitable for continued wear (they did pretty well, they were a 21st birthday present from an ex). I’m now in the process of taking off the straps and reworking the heels with words cut from Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy. (a copy that would otherwise have been pulped, and was already beyond repair. This way, it continues to live…).

It would appear you really can take the girl out of the library, but not the library out of the girl…

A little business housekeeping

2013-04-04 23.22.37

This evening I have mostly been doing a stock take for Ducking Fabulous – I have two fairs coming up and will shortly be reopening the Etsy shop… and I have plans to also open shops on Folksy and ASOS. Exciting times!

Having worked out what I have, I’m now on a mission to find new suppliers for chains, and I’m also experimenting with metal stamping…

Coming up on the blog in the next few weeks…

2013-04-02 15.44.03

Incredible chocolates from the very talented Fran at B Chocolates |  Essie nail polish and buyapowa review (hint – it’s a good one!) | chicken, tarragon & nutmeg pie recipe | adventures in aromatherapy | experiments in crafting | a super secret project 🙂

PS The photos are in black and white because the light in here is appalling!

It’s not just me! Fitting a blog and business into real life…

Flicking through my emails and Google reader feeds this morning, one quote stood out to me –

“As many of you who have your own baby blog will know, there are days when on top of your day job, your family, your social life, paying the bills and dealing with life’s other unexpected twists and turns, keeping up your true passion seems all a little bit overwhelming and a tad tricky.”

(http://normalityandme.com/2012/05/29/ifabbo-uk-conference-2012-inspiration-breeds-inspiration/)

I work full time in London, I spend 3-4 hours a day commuting and I also run a business, two blogs and have numerous interests I pursue while also trying to keep up with a wonderful but sometimes overwhelming network of friends & family. While it’s all my choice and I wouldn’t have it any other way, it does occasionally all get on top of me and I wonder what the hell I’m doing. However, every time I’ve tried to drop something I do regularly out of my schedule, I’ve just found myself miserable without it. I’m not designed for sitting around doing nothing – I need to be doing, planning, achieving, socialising, building – but it’s unutterably lovely to see, written down in black and white, that I’m not alone in sometimes feeling a bit “eek!” about it.

Despite the occasional terrified feeling, I do feel like I’m making some progress  – I  am in the process of booking my attendance at some fairs later this year, have plans in place for expansion of my range and am booked onto the Cybher bloggers’ conference next year. I regard this blog as its own entity, not simply a way of promoting my shop (though it does that too sometimes!) and I often look back at my pre-blogging days and wonder what I did with my time. And what moments I’ve missed recording!

Hope you all have a fabulous Wednesday – I’m off to burlesque class tonight, and will be working extra hard as I missed last week. We’re learning to take our gloves off with our feet…