When freelance mums work from home, childcare hours are often limited; meaning the work that pays is always the priority. So how do we learn new skills? By signing up to online courses…
After giving birth to my second baby, I wanted to write a novel. I didn’t have much time as I was also looking after my two-year-old daughter all but two days a week so I decided to do a novel-writing course, which would force me to commit to this challenge.
However, I couldn’t see how it would work commuting into central London one day or evening a week. I didn’t have the childcare, and the travel felt like wasted hours. So instead, I signed up to the Curtis Brown Starting to Write Your Novel online course.
It started just after my son’s first birthday and would span six weeks. This particular course ran through the basics of writing a novel and by the end, you were expected to submit the first 3000 words. There were creative writing exercises set each week and peer-to-peer feedback.
Each week, when I logged in and found the new course materials and exercises, I felt really excited. I was doing something for myself but without having to leave the house. I worked on it in the evenings, once the kids had gone to bed.
More recently, I became pregnant with my third baby. I started thinking about the birth, and how different I wanted it to be to the first two, which were very medicalised. I decided I’d like to try hypnotherapy to adjust my mindset from one of fear to one of empowerment.
I was given access to Hollie de Cruz’s – aka The Yes Mum – online hypnobirthing course and I’ve been downloading and listening to one session a day. There’s a combination of the science of birth, interviews with other women and hypnotherapy sessions.
I’ve built these online recordings into my daily routine; I listen while doing a 20-minute walk in the morning. Again, it’s the flexibility I like. And the fact that I’m learning without having to be at a particular place, working to someone else’s schedule.
Why I launched my own online courses
A few months after the novel-writing course, I was offered a book deal for a non-fiction book: The Freelance Mum. I spent six months writing it, a few months preparing for publication and in January 2019, it was published by 4th Estate.
It’s a guide to setting up as a freelancer, after having kids. There are the steps for getting started, including: choosing a name for your freelance business, building a website, branding and spreading the word. And then chapters on setting your daily routine, PR, childcare, networking, confidence, blogging and SEO, social media.
Off the back of the book, women started coming to me for more in-depth advice about their specific work and situation. They wanted to know how to write a PR story so that they could secure coverage, or how to grow an online profile without appearing too salesy.
I offer consultation but I was finding that freelance mums – including me – are often so busy. Between school or nursery drops, existing work commitments and everything else that being a mum/worker entails, it was tricky to find a date to meet.
So I had this idea to launch online courses that would answer all these questions in one go. They would be truly flexible so that people could sign up to the course knowing that they wouldn’t have to be at a specific place – in real-life or online – at a particular time each week.
The plan was to publish the course materials on a Monday, to be accessed whenever the course participants were ready – nap-time, evenings, early mornings – and the exercises could be completed in their own time. If they wanted feedback, they’d need to submit their homework by Friday morning.
I launched a ‘How to secure your own press coverage‘ course – and it sold out in two days. It covers finding your PR story, the art of pitching (who, how, when, where), growing an online profile and becoming an expert – in the eyes of the media – in your field.
As a freelancer or business owner, you can spend thousands on PR but the best person to pitch your story is definitely you. I’m a journalist and editor, and I know that I’m always more interested in a first-person story from the actual business owner than a pitch from a PR agency.
There was clearly an appetite for this course. So I launched month two and then month three.
The women on my course started writing me emails saying…
“This has been a super useful exercise and so great to know how to approach the publishers. It’s always felt far too daunting although with some insider knowledge, suddenly it feels easier and more reachable. It’s also made me realise how many places there are where I can tell my story.”
“I sent off my pitch to Metro this morning and just got a response. Obviously it’s still in the early stages, but I’m excited to even have a response from him!”
“Courier Mag got back to me… this has given me a big boost!”
“Thank you so much Annie! I love that idea about the angle on my personal story!”
“I have loved this course and I really don’t want it to end.”
I concluded that what freelance mums need is…
2. Help in a specific area
3. Good value
That’s what I’m able to offer with this ‘DIY’ PR course. And that’s what all good online courses should offer.
Have you done any online courses? What was the focus? How did you find it?
If you’d like to sign up to my ‘How to secure your own press coverage course‘, there are just a few spaces left; I have to keep it very limited so that I can give detailed individual feedback for each exercise. The next one starts 3rd June.