International Women’s Day 2022: This is what I can do ….

For International Women's Day, IPSE is shining a light on women in the self-employment sector. Today, we have a blog from Alison Grade, Author of The Freelance Bible, career freelancer and serial entrepreneur.

International Women's Day 2022

Being a working mum is one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face and manage. It’s easy to think that the main challenge for a working mum is balancing spending time at home with being present for work as well as making sure the practicalities of life run smoothly, but there is so much more to being a working mum. And for me, the hardest challenge when I first returned to work was finding a way to make work, work for me.

When my first son was born, there wasn’t an option to return to my previous role, so I had to go back to the drawing board. My situation pushed me to define a new career pathway, one that would work for me, but I was stuck on a series of challenges that were seemingly unresolvable.

Challenge 1: I wanted to work locally. This was 2007, remote working was not the option it is in 2022, so I directed my focus on my local area, Birmingham. However, I was relatively new to the city, so my networks weren’t very established.

Challenge 2: I knew I wanted to work part-time. I was 37 and just had my first child, I hadn’t waited this long to be virtually invisible Monday to Friday.

Challenge 3: I was expensive! As a senior media professional, with an MBA, I was looking for a good rate when I returned to the workplace.

When I tried to plot all this on a Venn diagram the three circles didn’t overlap. I could get two to overlap easily – local and part-time, but low pay; local and good pay, but full-time; part-time and good pay, but distant.

How on earth was I going to make work, work for me?

All I could see were the negatives – the roles I couldn’t do, the roles that wouldn’t work for me. I even tried applying for roles that I reasoned could be done part-time, only to get offered them and be told no, part-time is not an option. I began to feel like every door was closed to me, that there wasn’t a place for me.

But I hadn’t worked this hard in my career to give up this easily, plus whilst I loved being a mum, I was never going to be good at being a full-time stay-at-home mum – it’s not in my DNA - so something had to change, but what?

I changed what was in my control to change, my approach. Instead of looking at all the negatives, all the things that weren’t going to work for me, I wrote a list of all the positives, the things I could do, and could offer to companies with a particular focus on what I thought they would value and would enhance their business.

This is what I can do…..

  1. Senior media professional – Head of Production taking programmes from idea to screen
  2. Business Development Executive - high-level strategic thinker and manager in a large media company
  3. Entrepreneur – founder of Girls Angels, a motorbike training school specialising in training women
  4. Senior media professional - Commercial Affairs with a focus on commercial exploitation of IP

As I analysed this list, I looked for common themes and broader opportunities. I asked myself is there a common theme to my career? And I realised that there was …. Everything I had done centred around transforming creative ideas into a business reality.

It was where I started in TV as a production manager, working out how a programme idea on a piece of paper will be made into a TV show (costs, people, schedules etc). It was how I developed and executed strategies in my work as a Business Development Executive, and it was what I did when I set up Girls Angels.

Each of these used my skills at transforming creative ideas into a business reality within the context of the work I was doing.

Now I had something positive to work with and a clear vision of the value I could deliver. It was time to start reaching out to my, admittedly small, local networks and talk to people. Slowly the pieces started to come together, and potential clients and introductions were made.

I learned that universities would value my skills both as a guest lecturer on the entrepreneurship courses as well as on business support programmes, because they had students who were looking to transform their business ideas into a reality.

Slowly, I built my own career and journey, client by client, project by project and my freelance working mum career was born. It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but now 15 years on I can look back and say it has been a rewarding one and I wouldn’t change a bit of it.

If you're interested in hearing more from Alison, then you can see her today on IPSE's International Women's Day panel. See more about the event below:

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Meet the author

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IPSE is the leading association for contractors, consultants, interims, freelancers and the self-employed. We strive to bring our members the most comprehensive and useful range of information and services and all the latest news about what affects your business.