My Early Hour: Katie Beardsworth, Polyphony Arts music management

“I have a home office in the box room at the back of the house, overlooking the garden. It’s free of toddler clutter and I’ve invested in some nice things like a rug, bookcase and pictures.” Katie Beardsworth on mornings, motherhood and business…

Katie Beardsworth, 33, lives with her husband, their son Sam (two years, nine months) and their cat, Keith.

What’s your home like?
We live in a small but lovely house which we strive to keep tidy and under control, and sometimes succeed!

What time are you up in the morning?
Usually between 6 and 7am.

What wakes you up?

How do you feel?
Blurry, generally, as I have no control over when I wake up. But I am also grateful if it’s past 6am and I’ve not been awake in the night.

What do you do first thing?
Sam comes into our bed and I breastfeed him while my husband makes coffee. We then have coffee in bed with Sam, employing various games such as hide and seek under the duvet and looking out of the window to keep him entertained until we’re ready to get up.

For context, though, this has only been the routine for a couple of months; up until then my son was still waking frequently at night and our mornings were a blurry mess of my husband taking him downstairs while I tried to catch up on sleep. So, the new mornings are heaven.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Family, cuddly, routine

Tea or coffee?

How might the rest of your day pan out?
I work three or four days a week so on these days I play with Sam until my husband takes him to childcare, then I start a combination of work and exercise. Some days I go for a run first thing, and some days I start work earlier and do yoga or swimming mid morning.

What’s your workspace like?
I have a home office in the box room at the back of the house, overlooking the garden. It is free of toddler clutter and I’ve invested in some nice things like a rug, bookcase and pictures. I used to work from my kitchen table (or sofa!) and I find having this separate space very important. The most important things about it for me are that I feel as though I have made it my own, and also that it (usually) stays how I left it when I last worked – I used to find clearing home-related clutter off my ‘desk’ very frustrating before.

Where is Sam when you’re working?
He goes to a local nursery three days a week and is with his grandparents usually one day a week. If Sam’s grandparents are away, my husband takes flexi time/holiday from his (employed) job so that we split the extra childcare as close to 50/50 as we can. This is also something we have had to work on as it was important to me that, as the self-employed parent, I was not the default person for extra childcare.

Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
My business is a classical music agency called Polyphony Arts. I started it very gradually in early 2018, and launched it publicly in January 2019. It came about because I did not have a good experience of returning to work after maternity leave and strongly felt that I wanted to do something that was more flexible in terms of time but also more fulfilling; time spent away from Sam had to be worth it.

So, having been a classical music producer for 10 years, I took on a couple of freelance clients to test the waters, and over the past 18 months the business has grown quickly – at the time of writing this I have 10 exciting clients and two wonderful assistants, who work with me on a freelance basis. Having assistants is extremely important for me, as it has allowed me to grow my business without compromising my work/family balance.

My clients are a combination of leading classical music artists, who I work for as a manager/agent, and projects such as music festivals and concert series. I am also a singing teacher, and a volunteer doula and breastfeeding peer supporter. It is a diverse and interesting workload and I absolutely love it!

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
The greatest challenge I have experienced is overcoming personal doubts – it took me a long time to see the full potential of my business, because I generally worked alone and all of the energy and ideas had to come from me. However, I was lucky enough to find a great support network, through an organisation called Pregnant Then Screwed – I went to their live event in January 2019, and found a whole wealth of advice, support and inspiration there, much of which I have continued to access via Facebook and Instagram. This has made me feel part of a community of freelance parents, able to share challenges and solutions, and has been integral to my ability to confidently grow and promote my business.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Feeling as though I have autonomy over the quality, nature and structure of my work, and therefore feeling fulfilled in work. For me, that makes me a better parent, wife and friend.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
I set the creative and strategic direction, and delegate the routine admin and implementation. I could really delegate more, but I really enjoy working in detail. I enjoy doing my accounts as it makes me take stock and keeps me considering all aspects of the business constantly. I particularly love reaching new clients, securing new business and delivering a range of exciting creative projects.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I have mixed feelings about this – I generally work alone, but I do often miss a shared workspace. I also often work at events which involve talking to people non-stop for hours, so it can be a bit all or nothing. Working from home is very productive for simultaneously dealing with house things (such as putting the washing on at lunchtime) and it definitely allows me to respond to my own energy more in terms of work/exercise, so I think I’m happy with the balance, overall. But there are definitely times when I crave a chat over a cuppa!

What’s the secret to career success?
Stay absolutely focused on yourself and what makes you happy. If something doesn’t feel right, reflect on why not. Perhaps the idea sounded better than reality. Find a support network that works for you. I think we all need one. If in doubt, go for a swim – I solve most of my problems whilst swimming.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
I do find this difficult although I think I now have a lot of things in place to make it easier. I’m now comfortable with the work/parenting balance, but making time for friends and relationship is difficult. Me-time is something I’ve had no choice but to prioritise because of how little sleep I’ve had over the last two years – I was really very unhappy if I couldn’t unwind somehow. I generally find I have the following balls to juggle: work, time with Sam, exercise, volunteering (as doula and breastfeeding peer supporter), social life/relationship/me time (sometimes these are the same thing!), and there is usually one ball that gets dropped. So, perhaps it’s just about alternating which that is?!

Describe an ideal weekend?
Sam sleeps in until after 7am both days… (hahaha). Lazy morning in the garden, picnic lunch, afternoon with friends, perhaps a barbecue… heaven. Then Sunday lunch with Sam’s grandparents.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
As a one-off… in a spa hotel with my husband, knowing that Sam was happily looked after. But, generally, I’m very happy to wake up in the usual way at home. Ideally after 7am. | |