My Early Hour: Sophie Bradshaw, writing consultant

The secret to career success? “Not trying too hard,” says writing consultant Sophie Bradshaw. “When I stopped ‘hustling’ I found that everything just fell into place.” Here, we talk mornings, motherhood and freelancing…

Sophie Bradshaw, 38, lives near Stroud in the Cotswolds with her three children: Tabitha, 12, Viola, nine, and Rufus, six. She runs a writing consultancy business.

What’s your home like?
I live in a 200-year-old cottage, so it’s pretty cosy at times. But we’re on the edge of a lovely, vibrant village and minutes away from fields, so we love it.

What time are you up in the morning?
On school days we’re up at 7am.

What wakes you up?
Officially, my alarm (Radio 2), but in reality I’m usually already awake from about 5 or 6am.

How do you feel?
I usually feel like I haven’t had enough sleep! But I’m trying to get rid of that negative thought and start my day with more positive ones.

What do you do first thing?
My two youngest children come and get into bed with me for five minutes for a cuddle, then I go downstairs and make a cup of tea and the school lunches.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Busy, chatty and cosy.

Tea or coffee?
Always builders tea with a bit of almond milk.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
After school drop-off I’ll usually start work straight away. That will be whatever project I’m working on at the time, usually development editing or a book proposal for someone, but sometimes an index for a publisher. At the moment I’m finishing a big ghostwriting project. I’ll also catch up with material from my book coaching authors, giving them detailed feedback on what they’ve written that week. I meet with coaching clients in person twice a month too, so I’ll often do a Zoom call.

What’s your workspace like?
At home I just work from the kitchen table. It’s a warm, bright room, but usually a bit messy. Or I go to my co-working office a few miles down the road, which is a lovely modern space shared by other creatives.

Where are the kids when you’re working?
They’re all at school now, so I work until 3pm and then go and fetch them.

Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
I launched exactly two years ago, after a restructure at the top end of the publishing company where I worked. I was offered redundancy or a much more junior role, so I took the redundancy. I didn’t want to go and get another senior role in London, so I started my own non-fiction writing consultancy instead. I help first-time authors and small business owners who want to write a book but need professional advice. That might be one-to-one coaching, book planning, editing or rewriting/ghostwriting.

Then a year ago I launched another business, an online writing and content marketing magazine for small business owners called GoWrite. It was just a side project, but it’s become quite successful.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Time and loneliness. I have to fit a lot into part-time hours, so I’m always struggling to get everything done by 3pm. Working on my own is hard sometimes, especially as a single parent. Sometimes I miss working as part of a team.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Fitting it around my children. I couldn’t bear to put them in breakfast clubs and after-school care, so working for myself was the perfect solution. Always being there for sports day and after school means a huge amount to me.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
I do pretty much everything myself. I’m a terrible control freak! I do have a freelance proofreader as I don’t enjoy that particularly, but other than that it’s just me.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I like both, but using a co-working office has been a lifesaver. Even if I don’t chat to people much it’s nice to be around them and feel part of something.

What’s the secret to career success?
Not trying too hard. When I stopped ‘hustling’ I found that everything just fell into place. I think we put far too much pressure on ourselves and end up doing things we hate. I decided early on that if I didn’t like doing something I wouldn’t do it, so I only work on what I love. I don’t push and I’m not salesy. It just isn’t me, and I think my authors appreciate that. Most of my clients come from word of mouth.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yes! Sometimes I’m so tired at the end of the day I feel like I haven’t got anything left. But at the same time I know that if I want to stop work and have coffee with a friend I can do it, as long as I catch up later.

Describe an ideal weekend?
Swimming at the outdoor pool with the children, lunch and running around in the meadow at our local farm shop, then popcorn and a movie later on.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Probably Tenby, as long it was sunny. I grew up in Pembrokeshire and I take the children back there for holidays. We always have a great time and I miss the beach so much.