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Taking the plunge – Social Sorted co-founder Francesca Muscroft on juggling family and starting up a digital business

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The fact I’m sat writing a blog for you on how I make my digital business work is frankly making my mind boggle. I frequently feel I am barely keeping my head above water. But I’m learning a lot and I wanted to share my story. Maybe my experience can help you?

This time last year I’d taken the plunge and signed up for a social media course with Digital Mums. I’d been inspired by a friend who had graduated from the DM course earlier and had been working steadily since. And by my great friend, Natalie, who self-taught, had paying clients.

I’d had a varied career up ‘til then. PR in London, teaching English in Japan, running my own ladieswear shop and more recently managing rental properties.

This did not make me an obvious candidate for the digital transformation for which I was signing up.

Turns out there are few obvious candidates. Sure, there were some marketeers upskilling but on the whole we were all newbies… accountants, make-up artists, an artist and a carer made up my cohort, we came in all shapes and sizes. We had one thing in common, that we had all taken the inevitable break to have our families.

I felt scared, excited and had no idea how I was going to shoehorn into my week the 15-20 hours the course required.

Three daughters, two cats, a dog and a loving partner who was able to support us financially and emotionally but who’s job required him to be in London much of the week and who’s depression required him to sleep much of the weekend meant I was going to have to do this whilst 90% of the hard labour of family life still fell to me.

Keeping the house faintly tidy (cleaning went out of the window), the washing turned around (we don’t iron) and producing a home cooked meal in the evening (can’t rely on fish fingers every night) as well as runs to the stables (did I mention we have to loan ponies?), extra-curricular classes, playdates, homework, times tables, reading and supporting my girls with their friendship ups and downs were jobs I was not able nor wanted to ship out.

I pulled all-nighters to meet course deadlines. I googled things 14 times before I remembered how to do them (turns out at 46 it’s hard to remember new shizzle). I lent tremendously on my cohort WhatsApp group and a wonderful friend who signed up at the same time as me for similar reasons.

In January, we graduated. What to do next? Natalie and I decided to join forces.

We’re both good talkers and have never been backward coming forward so quickly there were opportunities.

We were immediately sprinting before we could walk. We wanted a website, a blog, great social of our own. We were doing audits, writing strategies and starting to work on live campaigns, everything the course had taught me and prepared me for – except we were overwhelmed, it was all too much.

There was so very much to do in what feasibly was a five hour working day.

Six months on and we have realised that in order to make the most of the opportunities we have, we need to slow the whole process down. We were initially so excited by this whole new world that we became the proverbial busy fools. Trying to do it ALL ourselves and setting ourselves on a path to stress and burn out (more than once I’ve wanted to throw the towel in and walk away…)

Things I’ve learnt

You don’t need a website

Prospective clients can learn all about you from your FB, Insta, Twitter or LinkedIn – it’s not a deal breaker, in the early stages especially.

You do need business cards – I assumed these were null and void in the digital age, (didn’t we airdrop our deets to each other at the tap of a screen when we met someone new and interesting?!) but no, in any social or business situation there’s an opportunity to network and EVERYONE expects you to have a card.

Keep a Trello board or other organised jobs list that you can add to at any moment –but only aim to complete three jobs a day

You can always go back after a break but achieving three goals in a day – an audit, an important phone call, some strategic work on the biz makes me feel productive but not frazzled and fed up. You can work on your never ending list and feel like you’re getting nowhere. Setting realistic, achievable targets helps you feel productive and keeps you motivated.

It’s hard to concentrate for more than 45 mins

After that, do another totally different task that requires different skills before going back to the original job if it’s not finished.

Write things down

This sounds so simple but taking notes in meetings and then re-reading them later in the day and then again later in the week/month often brings things to the surface that you initially miss. Really listening to your clients and the language they use is incredibly helpful when you later communicate with them. Absolutely understanding what success looks like to them so you are able to give them that rather than maybe what they initially asked for is so helpful.

Writing things down and sticking them on the wall helps

If it’s on the wall you don’t have to hold it in your head. This is not you being dopey. Anything that helps you to hold this information while you go back to being a present mum after school pick up is useful.

You just have to make sure the wall you stick everything to isn’t visible when you make a video call. I realised quickly it’s really distracting for the person you’re speaking to, to have all your thoughts, diagrams and pictures on the wall behind you ;D

This list is the stuff that works for me. Different stuff might work better for you. Be flexible and open to trying new ways of doing things and if it doesn’t work, drop it.

Take a moment, step back, breathe and remember it will all still be here tomorrow, nothing is worth getting your knickers in too much of a twist. Prolonged stress helped no one, ever.

Francesca Muscroft co-founded Social Sorted with Natalie Hoole in January of this year. They find the right social media trained mum to service clients’ social needs.

They are aiming to get 10,000 in work in the next 10 years.

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