The 52 Project: January

February 14, 2019

NURTURE

A portrait of my child every week for a year.

After just a few posts, I failed entirely to keep up with last year’s 52 project (although I’m pretty set on catching up and backdating the posts when I have a moment, just so I can look back on the year – any other bloggers do that?!) Anyway, I’m starting this year how I mean to go on with a shiny new camera to boot. All these were shot on my Fuji X-T2 with a 35mm lens. I’m very much learning as I go with the new kit, having mainly been snapping on my iPhone for the last few years. I’m doing my best to shoot a little every day and keeping my camera handy to capture these precious little moments.

Week 1 // Post nap play time. Just look at that tousled bed head.

Week 2 // Teaching Casper Bowie about his namesake on the anniversary of the starman’s death. (It’s only now looking at this shot on my Mac that I can see how it’s really quite blurred, I was tempted to swap it out but I love the capture and this process is a creative learning exercise for me – so it’s staying!)

Week 3 // Baby + box = classic mamma photo op.

Week 4 // Always finding a spot to perch.

The lovely Sarah Furguson at Brass Buttons and Confidence has started a new hashtag to share her 52 project and it’s nice to see lots of people sharing their kids’ portraits on Instagram. Are you joining in this year?

 

Living a Simple Creative Life

February 5, 2019

INTENTION

creative plant photography living pilea peperomioides cutting in hand

What does living a creative life mean to you? Is it turning your passion into a living and running your own creative business? Or pursuing a career in a creative industry perhaps?  Or maybe for you, it’s more about finding time for creative activities and hobbies outside of what you do for work. Creativity is such a personal thing and I’m sure creative fulfilment looks and feels different for everyone. However, I think we can find common ground in our shared craving for creative expression, and the fact that a large majority of us wish we had more time to dedicate to our creativity.

In a recent episode of my podcast Friends With Business Benefits, my cohost Franky and I discussed creativity – specifically ‘How do you make time for creativity when you’re so busy being creative for clients?’Getting paid to be creative (for clients or customers), is, of course, a dream for many but I don’t think it’s uncommon to still feel the need to pursue your creativity outside of your day job.

And obviously, it isn’t just work commitments that lead to us feeling creatively bereft. Something else we delve into in the episode is how becoming a parent has changed the way I can indulge my creative inclinations.

On a number of occasions over the last year, I’ve received the question of *how* I’ve managed to still find time for creative activities alongside being a new mum. I’ve found myself initially baulking at this comment because as with so many things in parenthood I feel that there are two contrasting sides to how motherhood has impacted my creativity…

On one hand, being a mother (and I guess specifically being a stay at home mum) feels inherently creative to me. Our days are filled with play and curiosity, music and dancing, books and silly voices. I’m constantly thinking on my feet, making games out of household chores in order to get anything done, coming up with ways to delight and distract my little shadow. Along with the practical side, parenthood has also sparked a more emotionally expressive creative side of me – basically, becoming a mamma has turned me into a wannabe poet. I scribble love notes to my son and fill journal pages trying to find the words to capture how immensely wonderful/inspiring/exhausting/frustrating (delete as required given the time of day) motherhood feels.

On the flipside, there’s just so little time to really get stuck into a project or creative activity the way I would have done pre-baby. Which of course can be very frustrating. Especially as I’m the sort of person that needs time to get into my groove creatively – I’m just not able to bash out blog posts quickly or shoot photos I’m happy with straight away. But instead of feeling constantly frustrated feelings over the last year I’ve found it helpful to reframe what creativity looks like and means at this stage of life.

I’ve realised that to me living a creative life is as much about cultivating a particular mindset than any actions. It’s about noticing the little moments that add up to me feeling that I am honouring and making time for creativity. All this reframing and readjusting has led me to uncover somewhat of a personal philosophy – one of simple creative living.  What that means is that I’m prioritising creativity alongside striving for a simpler slower way of life. And what that looks like is some simple habits and ways I bring creativity into my everyday.

simple creative living pilea peperomioides cutting in hand

Here are some of the shifts which have been so helpful to me. Maybe they’ll help you also think about how to cultivate your own simple creative life…

// Notice and appreciate the smaller moments of creativity in your everyday. From creating a meal from scratch to foraging something to decorate your home, creativity probably already shows up in your days more often than you realise.

// Shift the focus from the output to the process. I think we can get hung up on our creativity having to have a (sharable) end product rather than creating for the joy of it.

// Tune into your cycle. You may well find that your creative energy ebbs and flows depending on what your hormones are up to. Likewise, it’s thought that the lunar cycle can have an impact.

// Follow your joy. There may be a time and a place to dig deep and do the hard work to see your creative projects realised, but when your time is limited I feel like creating for enjoyment should be paramount.

// Meditate on creativity.  A search on Insight or YouTube will bring up a number of guided meditations and visualisations that focus on creativity. Depending on what you’re needing you could choose a meditation for inspiration or motivation.

// Use the tools you have to hand. And I mean literally *in* your hand – take photos with your phone, use the notes app to write. Or whatever it is you are creating don’t let waiting until you have fancy equipment stop you!

// Be mindful of what you consume. Often listening to a podcast or reading blogs can be great for motivation and inspiration, but sometimes I find they can have the opposite effect. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed by the noise try taking a break from consuming altogether.

I feel I should state that my life doesn’t always feel simple or creative by any means – sometimes far from it. But I do find making these intentional choices and shifting my mindset help to move me out of frustration towards creative fulfilment. I hope you may also find this helpful or inspiring. Creativity is a topic I never tire of chatting about so if you have a question or something to share come and let me know!

Introducing ‘Friends With Business Benefits’: A podcast for creatives

December 3, 2018

LISTEN / WORK

Friends With Business Benefits Logo

I’ve launched a podcast!!! If you follow me on Instagram you *may* have heard me talking about it. 😉 Friends With Business Benefits is live and available to download on your podcast app now.

I’m co-hosting the show alongside my business bestie Franky (also known as Love Audrey). Franky and I have been having regular co-mentoring sessions for almost two years. Working for yourself can be lonely at times but through our monthly co-mentoring meetups we’ve found the support and accountability we were craving in our working lives. You can hear all about what co-mentoring is and how we do it in our very first episode. Also, Franky’s blog post on five things she’s gained from co-mentoring is a great read if you want to know more.

Our podcast will be an extension of our co-mentoring sessions, as we share our conversations and delve into the type of topics that have come up for us again and again as we navigate self-employed life. We’ll be chatting about money and pricing, habits and productivity, social media and marketing and everything in between. We’re hoping our fellow freelancers and creative business owners will find the show enjoyable, useful and relatable and we absolutely want to hear your opinion on these topics too. Share with us using the hashtag #friendswithbizbenefits and tag us in your posts @_charlieswift and @loveaudrey83.

Subscribe here

I’m ridiculously happy to be ending 2018 finally being able to call myself a podcaster and I’m so excited to share these conversations with you.

Four struggles I faced in my first year of business

October 14, 2018

WORK

Woman working in cafeWith my maternity benefit pay recently coming to an end, thoughts of returning to work have been occupying my mind. Before having our baby in December, I had spent just over a year working for myself. I’ve been reflecting on my first year of business and especially how I can try my best not to repeat some of the struggles I faced.

I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder, nearly completed, for a few weeks now but, for some reason, I’ve not quite been able to finish up and hit publish. It would be understandable to perhaps be feeling vulnerable in sharing about difficulties I’ve faced since becoming self-employed -but I could tell it wasn’t that which was getting to me. My problem was actually with what I had originally titled this post – ‘Five mistakes I made in my first year of business’.

Of course, it’s not as though I haven’t made mistakes whilst running my business.

When I set out as a fledgeling freelancer, having been made redundant autumn 2016, I dived headfirst into self-employed life without a whole lot of forethought and with no business plan to speak of…I think it was pretty inevitable that I’d make mistakes along the way!

But that’s just it – mistake making is such an intrinsic, and even integral, part of running your own business that I’m not sure it’s helpful to use that word at all. It just feels too judgey and I want this to be a judgement free zone. Whilst it’s good to be able to reflect on how things are going in your business it’s important not to beat yourself up for past decisions. Running your own business is a constant learning curve.

Anyhow, now that’s cleared up, on to these struggles (not mistakes) that I encountered in my first year of business. There are some that I have an inkling of how to overcome and others that I am very much still working through. I think they are all pretty common struggles for those who are self-employed or running their own business – maybe you can relate?

Cafe interior with wooden furniture and big cactus plant

Five struggles I faced in my first year of business

One // Not having a set offering

I think it’s a common tendency when you’re starting out freelancing to want to be all things to all clients. I know I worried that someone might not want to work with me if I didn’t offer a particular service they were looking to outsource. I took the attitude of doing any and all work clients wanted to pay me for. Never really stopping to think about what I specifically wanted to be doing and, more importantly, if there was any type of work I did not. This meant I ended up doing work that didn’t always play to my strengths and some that I downright didn’t enjoy.

I found that another issue with not having a clear offering is that, of course, everyone wants something slightly different. And whilst tailoring your service to a client’s specific needs may be important, having a different package for every individual is pretty unsustainable. I realise now that through trying to people please I was actually diluting my output.

Moving forward… I know there’s always going to be trial and error in business when it comes to offering. I think the key is to keep it as simple as possible, constantly honing in on what works best and not being afraid to change things up if I recognise that something isn’t working.

Two // Undercharging and over-committing

I think you’d be hard pressed to find any self-employed folk who haven’t struggled at some point with how to price their products or services. In that first year, I had some clients on an hourly rate and others on a set monthly price; honestly,  my pricing structure was all over the shop! As with my offering, I pretty much let my first few clients dictate how much I charged based on what they were looking to pay. This inevitably led to undercharging. And along with that comes overcommitting, because reducing a service and rate to meet a client’s budget often doesn’t actually reduce the work-load.

Moving forward… I think it’s important to start by getting really clear on your numbers. How much do you need to charge to cover your costs and time? How much do you want to make? Then there’s the mindset work needed to feel able (and confident) to charge your worth. This is all very much a work in progress for me!

Cafe interior with wicker furniture and house plants

Three // Not having faith in my experience

One of the (many) ways my self-doubt likes to show up is to give me bouts of amnesia when it came to trusting my previous experience. Sure, I might have been working as part of a team in the past, but that shouldn’t negate the years spent working on some pretty awesome creative campaigns and managing clients accounts day in day out should it? Nevertheless, working for just ‘little ole me’ really rocked my confidence in my ability at times. Why was I suddenly so anxious about even replying to email enquiries?!? Going it alone can be downright scary, that’s why.

Moving forward… Things to do to help to build confidence – gather client testimonials and customer feedback, talking things through with a coach or co-mentor, doing guided meditations to cultivate a positive mindset. Also, remember that even the most badass lady bosses you admire have days when they feel like they don’t know what the f⚡️ck they’re doing.

Four // Lack of self-promotion

Ironically, even if you work in marketing it still feels really hard to market yourself. I wasn’t totally awful at putting myself out there but the fact that the majority of my clients came through already established relationships or word-of-mouth connections tell me there was a lot more I could’ve been doing in terms of outreach.

Moving forward... Ultimately I want to create content that will resonate with my dream clients and establish relationships that will lead to people wanting to work with me. I will be doing this by showing up consistently on Instagram and sharing my story and learnings here on the blog. The consistent part is definitely something I need to work on. I also have podcast and newsletter launches in the works too!

***

Do these struggles resonate with you and your business? Or perhaps there’s something else that you struggle with even more? Goodness knows I’m about to encounter a whole new set of struggles as I navigate being a working mum. Come, share your struggles with me on Instagram and let’s figure this shit out together!

Nest, Nourish, Nurture: preparing to welcome autumn

September 26, 2018

NEST / NOURISH / NURTURE

Nest, Nourish, Nurture: A list for the beginning of Autumn With the Autumn Equinox on Sunday, this week marks the true beginning of the new season. When I woke up on Monday morning  I swear I could sense the change in the air. Sure, that might have had something to do with the cool 15 degrees the temperature in our bedroom had dropped to, but whilst my husband grumbled about the cold I couldn’t help but feel a flutter of excitement about the seasonal shift.

Along with an undeniable love for the autumnal aesthetic, there’s something about the season which genuinely lifts my spirits. I find myself with a renewed energy as the weather gets cooler. I can’t wait for crisp days, gorgeous early golden hours and cosy nights.

Sat in bed with a warm cup of tea and my baby playing next to me I began to write my to-do list for the week but it quickly turned into more of a list of tasks and plans for the coming few weeks. So here are some of my ideas for welcoming autumn; things to do and prepare around the home, in the kitchen and beyond.

Autumnal walk

NEST

// Bleed radiators.
// Wash blankets and sheepskins and (preferably) dry in the sun.
// Pack away summer clothes for another year and replace with winter wardrobe items – bring on the woollies and tweeds.
// Have a little wardrobe clear out while I’m at it, do a charity shop drop and consider what items I need in my closet for the cooler months.
// Prep the house for colder weather. I’ve got floorboards gaps to fill and some very drafty drafts to exclude!
// Get the windows cleaned.
// Switch up fragrances in the oil burner. Out with citrus and florals in with wood and spice.
// Stock up on candles and tea lights.
// Treat yourself to some deliciously scented new products for the bathroom.

NOURISH

// Clear out the freezer and turn those scraps you’ve been saving into stock and bone broth. And on that note…
// Dust off the slow cooker.
// Fill your larder with immune boosters – echinacea, manuka, turmeric, ginger and lemons. I plan on staving off those sniffles before the begin.
// Eat all the figs! I forget just how much I love fig season.
// Stock up on oats and porridge toppings for a warming start on cold days.
// Bake – especially on Tuesday to accompany GBB.
// Plan brunch with friends.
// Fill your home with pumpkins!

NURTURE

// Set some manageable business goals for Q4 that will set you up well to head into a new year.
// Do some autumn hashtag research. There are so many lovely Instagram challenges and hashtag to join in with at this time of year (including my own #squashwatch).
// Start a new habit for the last quarter of the year – why wait till January?
// Go for a walk at golden hour and collect leaves for Instagram for a garland
// Dig out your favourite autumn playlist.
// Keep a journal.
// Borrow some autumnal reads from the library.

 

The 52 Project: Spring ’18

September 7, 2018

NURTURE

Considering we’re swiftly heading towards the end of summer, I’m so far behind on keeping up with my 52 Project. It’s so lovely to look back on these little snapshots though so I hope you enjoy this little bomb of Casper cuteness.

8 weeks is a long time in baby days and you can really see the change in this set. He goes from barely wanting to hold himself up to being able to sit up unaided! 💔

project 52 baby tummy time at 4 months

Week 15 // Still not sure about tummy time. 

baby froggy legs at 4 months

Week 16 // Those little froggy legs.

Week 17 // My little dribble monster (shot by Kasia Kiliszek)

baby on sheep skin at 4 months

Week 18 // Recreating a snap of Daddy around the same age.

baby on sheep skin in the sun at 4 months

Week 19 // His first taste of warmer weather.

baby sat on sofa at 5 months

Week 20 // B is for Baby and Bowie.

baby in Ergo carrier in the park at 5 months

Week 21 // Discovering the world strapped to daddy’s chest.

baby in the park at 4 months

Week 22 // Park life.

Discoveries | 01

August 7, 2018

INSPIRE

Cocorrina & Co

Cocorrina & Co

These images to leave you awe-inspired…

I’m just so into these gorgeous creations by Corina Nika. I discovered her magical Instagram the same week as the lunar eclipse which seemed pretty perfect to me. I’ve got wonderfully lost delving into her feed and the design work on her site. It’s safe to say I’m obsessed.

These cards to send to a friend in need…

I love the ethos of The Paper Elephant Project “Whilst the sending of cards for a physical health problem is entirely commonplace in society, research has shown that those experiencing mental health problems very rarely receive a card at all.” Their cards include phrases like ‘I am so proud of your courage’ and ‘You’re not alone in this’. Such simple but powerful sentiments to send to someone going through a tough time.

This podcast which will make you long for a pen pal…

A new find for me last week and I’ve already binged my way through most of the back catalogue. ‘Dispatch to a Friend’ is a podcast sharing the correspondence between two friends. In their letters, they discuss recipes, gardening, books and share little everyday moments from their lives. It’s the most delightful listen.

These words to lift your spirits…

I came across the following passage a few weeks ago and it spoke deeply to my soul. I wasn’t aware of Morgan Harper Nichols previously but I’m so glad I have found her beautiful writing.

“Perhaps, even here, I am growing.
When the days are long and I do not feel as strong and when the hours go by slower than they ever have before,
and the sun is shining and I am lost indoors,
perhaps even here I am growing…”

A few things I’m grateful for right now.

July 11, 2018

INTENTION

Photography. Feet in the morning light

How are you handling the heat? I’ve found that this weather, although glorious, can be a little challenging to manage with a baby. Restless nights have been followed by early starts and sticky and sweaty days that have involved a lot of hiding in the shade. That said, in trying to avoid being hot and bothered, there’s been so much to enjoy over the last few weeks. I’ve been embracing a slow holiday-vibe pace of life and really noticing and enjoying life’s little pleasures.

Here are a few things that I’ve been grateful for and which have brought me joy recently…

☾ Diffusing summery scents in the morning whilst the early light dances around the room.
☾ Creating a shady nest in our garden for snoozy outdoor feeds with my babe.
☾ Clean washing drying on the line and the satisfaction of getting to the bottom of the laundry pile – thank you heatwave 🙏🏻.
☾ The euphoric feeling of swimming in deep, cool salt water.
☾ Dancing like only the baby is watching!
☾ Fresh veg delivered to our door (our Able & Cole delivery makes me so happy each week).
☾ A messy little yoghurt covered face.
☾ Beautiful sunshiny weekends spent with friends.
☾ Salad days for days.
☾ Football.
☾ Deliveroo *finally* serving our postcode!
☾ An electric fan in the bedroom at night.
☾ Sharing homemade ice lollies with my little buddy.
☾ Dinners in the garden.
☾ The vibrancy of the city in the summer.
☾ Escaping the city at weekends for fresh air.

What’s been bringing a little extra sunshine to your life on these warm days?

The 52 Project: A Catch Up

May 30, 2018

NURTURE

A portrait of my baby every week for a year.

I guess it was pretty inevitable that I’d fall behind on the 52 Project. Despite there being no shortage of photos of this little bub, blogging has undoubtedly taken a back seat whilst the weeks and months have continued to fly on by. So here’s a little catch up on Casper’s portraits from early in the year. It already seems like such a long time ago – the weather and the baby are almost unrecognisable!

You can see my previous 52 Project post here.

(Above) Week 5 // Everything is so exciting when you’re 10 weeks old!

Baby photography 2 months old

Week 6 // Watching him learn to play and figure things out is such a joy.

Baby photography 2 months old

Week 8 // Mummy’s little pumpkin!

Baby photography in the snow 3 months old

Week 9 // All wrapped up in the snow. I wonder how long it’ll be until he sees another snowfall like the one we had this winter.

Baby photography 3 months old

Week 11 // My little bandit’s first trip to see family in Devon.

Baby photography 3 months old

Week 12 // My little spotty baby. It’s funny looking back on pictures that show his baby acne

As this has only taken us up to week 12 I’ve still got another couple post planned to catch up on – hope you don’t mind the baby spam!😉

Intentions for May

May 1, 2018

INTENTION

Tea with flowers

The thing about wanting to live more intentionally, mindfully, gently or slowly is that it’s a constant work in progress. For me, it’s a balance between cultivating the habits that help me feel more aligned in my day-to-day but also learning to let go of internal expectations that cause frustration and stress. So often it’s much more about a mindset rather than anything practical. My intentions this month are all about working on that mindset shift and reminding myself that it’s ok to prioritise the things that fill me up.

I’ve purposely steered away from goal-setting so far this year during the first part of my maternity leave, but inspired by Jen Carrington’s weekly letter I decided to add some goals to go along with my intentions for May. Aligning with my intentions, these are gentle goals and things that will make me happy to achieve.

My intentions for May

Let go of the of-do list stress – House chores, life admin, Instagram posts…all the things that “need” to be done will be there whether I stress over them or not. I’m always coming back to trying to accept the fact that I can’t do ALL of the things and if I don’t prioritise the stuff that fills me up and feels good then I’ll never find time for it.

Practice presence – It might not always be the easiest thing but I know I’m always happier on the days I spent living a little more in the moment and not with half a mind on that aforementioned to-do list.

Make time for creativity – For their May ‘slow experiment’ the hosts of The Slow Home Podcast are doing something creative every day this month, with the point being that it’s about enjoying the process rather than creating something to share. This week’s episode made me want to crack out my sewing machine and material box, but I think I’ll have to find something that fits in a bit better with the baby.

More reading (less scrolling) – I recently joined our lovely local library. I would like to use some of that time I’m spending stuck underneath a feeding baby to slowly but surely make it through a paperback!

My goals for May

Write my birth story –  I’m heading into the sixth month since Casper arrived and I’d love to write up the story of how he joined us in the world in time for his half-birthday.

Make a start on a new project – My friend Franky and I have been hatching plans to launch a new creative project together (you can probably guess what!). This month I’d like to flesh out our plans and set a schedule for launch.

Back up and print some photos – Always a job I say I’ll stay on top of but it gets out of hand so quickly! I’d be heartbroken if I lost all the baby snaps so it’s definitely time to back up those memories.

Plan and book our holidays – Over the years we’ve been pretty ‘last minute’ when it comes to booking time away. It’s always worked out fine for us but I’m certain that now we’ve got a baby in the mix we can’t really continue with such a laid-back attitude. We’d like to get away for a mini-break soon and plan a longer trip in the summer using the remainder of my husband’s generous paternity leave.

Pump it up! – I’m yet to pump a drop of milk or try Casper on a bottle. While this has been fine for us so far it would definitely be nice to let Dad do the odd feed here and there!

Do you have any goals or intentions for this month? I’d love to hear about them. Let me know on Instagram and use #MyIntentionalYear for any posts.

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