Hello, my name is Sara, and I don’t go to bed until 1:30 am.
It didn’t always used to be like this: up until two weeks ago, I had a 9-5 day job, plus a 2-hour daily commute. I’m mama to 2-year-old Orla, and was running my creative business, blogging and taking photographs, in my spare time. I was lucky if I could keep my eyes open past 9pm!
Then a fortnight ago, I left that day job – a position in Pediatric speech therapy I’d had for almost ten years – and took the leap into full time ‘content creation’. I’m still ridiculously busy – the backlog in my inbox will take weeks alone – but I’m no longer frazzled, feeling myself pulled in too many different directions.
It’s the dream for a lot of us, I think; before I had my daughter, I’d never really had any interest in being self employed or working from home. Even in those early months of maternity leave, I was itching to get back to work – to surround myself with adult company and hot cups of coffee.
While I was at home with her, I began posting to Instagram for a creative outlet and to connect with other people; I’d always dabbled in photography as a hobby, but since becoming pregnant, I found there was no time to pick up my proper DSLR. I began sharing one iPhone photograph a day to my 90-something followers.
Orla was born in February; by April that year, I had 35k followers, and that number has continued to grow. From there, the readership of my blog began to develop, and I started to receive offers for photography projects, blogging events, sponsored content and advertising.
Becoming a mother broke down so many of my preconceptions and prejudices, and it was really the first time in my life where anything felt possible. Orla was, and still is, demanding a lot of my time (& rightly so), so the time spent away from her became precious and important. When it came down to a choice between spending it sitting in traffic & filling in paperwork, or pouring that energy into my creative adventures online, it was really an easy decision.
“When it came down to a choice between spending it sitting in traffic & filling in paperwork, or pouring that energy into my creative adventures online, it was really an easy decision.”
It’s still early days, but so far things look good. Apart from my foolish new nocturnal sleep-pattern, I’ve got no regrets at all, and feel more optimistic and excited for the future than ever before.
Since taking the leap, and sharing a bit about it on my Instagram
, I’ve been amazed by the response from so many awesome mamas with similar ambitions. Many are asking the exact same questions I had before, so I thought I’d share some of them here with what answers I can give from my personal experience.
How do you know when you’re ready?
For me, this was a financial decision; I was ready when I knew I could match my NHS wage in a good month. I’m a realist, and am prepared for quiet times – I have a head full of contingency plans and new ventures to hopefully keep myself financially stable.
What advice would you give to other mama bloggers?
To try your best to ignore what everyone else is doing, and just be you. In such an over saturated market, it can be so hard to stand out, but your one unique selling point is yourself and the way you see the world. Be totally authentic to that and stick at it.
“your one unique selling point is yourself and the way you see the world…..Be totally authentic to that and stick at it.”
How do you balance your day/time?
Orla still goes to childcare for three days a week, and these are my ‘desk’ days where I do all my writing, photo editing, emailing and scheduled posting. I work from cafes for this time – partly because it’s easier than driving home and back again to collect Orla, and partly because I’m just a lot more disciplined when I’m around other people.
My actual photography happens outside of this time – in the mornings and evenings, at weekends, on our days as a family together. My style is very natural and journalistic, and I still snap all my Instagrams on my iPhone, so this mostly just happens incidentally while I’m living the rest of my life.
“My style is very natural and journalistic, and I still snap all my Instagrams on my iPhone, so this mostly just happens incidentally while I’m living the rest of my life.”
Where and when do you feel your most creative?
In my kitchen, at the table – it’s featured in a lot of my photographs, because it’s where I sit down to work or think or play around. I have a desk upstairs but there’s something about the light and warmth in the kitchen that always calls me back down.
I also find my brain starts buzzing with ideas at the most inopportune times – when I’m driving at 70mph, in the shower, or cooking a meal. It’s frustrating, as there’s no way I can make notes on my thoughts, and I’ve resorted to dictating things to the audio notes on my phone before just to get it down. Now that I’ve got some more time, I’m realizing that those moments were the only times I was ever alone, and so my only opportunities to think. With a fiancee and a clingy toddler it isn’t easy to make time out alone, so I’m fortunate that I now have my work days to devote to this.
What’s your biggest challenge?
For me, it’s my inner critic – and fear of other people’s criticism. I’d probably have tried this a long time ago were it not for the voice in my head saying ‘who do you think you are?‘. There were people in my life who I knew just didn’t ‘get’ my online work, so I deleted them all from my social media channels to save myself the negativity. It’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity – I’ve lived all of my life afraid of what other people will think of me, and now I’m finally tackling those fears and chasing my dreams.
“I’ve lived all of my life afraid of what other people will think of me, and now I’m finally tackling those fears and chasing my dreams.”
What do you love writing about most of all?
I feel most at ease when I am writing for Orla as I imagine her in twenty-something years time – or for myself at a similar age. I remember feeling so much was missing, and looking for answers in books and magazines, which sent me spiralling down the wrong paths and making a lot of bad decisions. So I often try to write about the things I’ve learned since then – whether that’s why your leg hair doesn’t make you ugly
, or just a really great recipe for bread
How was the experience of ending your job and how does it feel knowing you’re taking this leap?
The best analogy I have is that it was like breaking up with your boyfriend, then sharing the house for another month. Once the terrifying line of actually resigning had been crossed, working my notice out became an awkward and painful process that I just wanted over with. My NHS team felt like a bit of a family to me, and I miss many of them dearly, but I’m no good at long goodbyes.
The hardest day was my last – my heart was seriously pounding as I walked out of the health centre for the last time. The easiest though, was the very next day – it felt like a weight had been lifted, and I immediately knew I’d made the right decision.
“The best analogy I have is that it was like breaking up with your boyfriend, then sharing the house for another month.”
Other working mamas, I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any pointers for me at the start of my ‘self employment’ journey? Any tips on how to reign in that crazy bedtime trend? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.
To learn more about Sara, check out her Instagram here, her blog here, and her heymama profile here.