Category Archives: planning

Interview with a Photographer

Last week, I told you about a photoshoot that I had been a part of, and how much it made me appreciate the incredibly difficult job that wedding photographers have in trying to get hundreds of beautiful photos without impacting too much on the couple’s day.  When planning my own wedding, we came across an advert for a photographer looking for experience of wedding photography.  Lionel agreed to photograph our wedding for us for free to add to his portfolio, and I think we were really lucky to catch him at this point in his career.  Here he tells us about how he got into wedding photography.

How did you get into photography, and when and how did your turn your hobby into a business?

I used to be in a band and we used to tour a lot round the UK and Europe, I only had a point and shoot camera then but tried to document my trips as much as possible. It wasn’t until a few years after the band finished, when I started shooting a few local gigs that I realised I wanted to take it more seriously. I started shooting for local venues and local publications and started to photograph more and more bands. I have been to many festivals and photographed some amazing musicians over my time.
What made you decide to start doing wedding photography?
I never considered doing weddings as I didn’t think I would enjoy it or be any good at it, so it wasn’t until a friend asked me to help out assisting on a wedding, and experiencing it first hand that I realised it wasn’t too dissimilar to photographing bands. Shooting bands live I tried to translate the intensity into each photo, and it’s the same with weddings, the intensity is capturing the crucial moments and documenting the energy emotions of the day.
How did you get started photographing weddings?
I tried to contact a few professional wedding photographers regarding assisting wedding with little success. Before I could take my wedding business off the ground I needed to build a strong portfolio. I couldn’t justify charging with my lack of experience so I decided to put an advert out offering my services for free in exchange for photos for my portfolio. Due to offering something for free, I in return wanted some special unique weddings that would look great in my portfolio.
Congratulations on your recent wedding!  Do you think that having had a wedding will affect your wedding photography at all?
Having a wedding definitely gives you first hand experience (and stresses) of the business. The moment you mention the word ‘weddings’ prices seem to inflate substantially. Some things more justified than others. We were lucky enough to source out the things for our wedding within our budget, it’s so easy to go overboard though.
I do more than ever think that wedding photos are really important not only from photographer’s view but from a groom’s point of view too, as they are probably one of the few things after the wedding you will still hold on to. Another thing I learnt from my own wedding is to make sure you make a list of shots you want such as family portraits. You don’t want to look back and think you have missed anyone from your photos.
How do you market your business?
The world of wedding photography is a huge minefield and getting your name out there is probably the hardest part of the job. Social media is a major marketing tool nowadays and I usually spend a lot of my time networking on Facebook, twitter, wedding sites, forums and anywhere else I think a bride will be looking. In the age we live in to succeed you have to embrace things like twitter and Facebook.
My initial price structure also dictated my marketing, I first started to offer my services for free to build up my portfolio, I now start from a reasonably low price. We all have to start from somewhere and at this point in time I can’t justify charging huge amounts as I have only been in the wedding business for under a year. The one thing starting in the budget end is sometimes potential clients pick you solely on price and not on your work which can demoralising. I don’t think it will be very long though as my experience in the wedding business is quickly growing and soon enough I will have to raise my prices to what I’m actually worth.
What has been the hardest thing so far about working for yourself?
Learning how to run a business, I would say 70% of my time now is now devoted to the business side, such as marketing, networking, bookkeeping and most importantly disciplining myself to actually sit down and work. Also being self employed you have to factor in the long hours without getting anything like sick or holiday pay.
What is the best thing about your job?
Getting to go to travel to different places (I recently went to Italy to shoot a wedding), meeting new people, photographing weddings which in themselves are amazing events, and doing something that I love.
What are your plans for the future?
More weddings! Carry on expanding and exploring through my wedding business. Hopefully meet some awesome people on the way.
Check out Lionel’s work on his website:

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Filed under creative, planning, self employment

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Advice.  When you become pregnant, you suddenly find that everyone wants to share their advice with you.  It could be your close friends and family, but more often than not it’s complete strangers giving you unwanted advice, usually whilst fondling your bump or baby without asking!  Most of this advice is well-meaning, from people who have been there and know how hard it is – they just want to try and make it easier for you, and feel involved with your little bundle of joy.  It’s down to you to decide which bits to take on board and which to ignore.

We asked Mums on Facebook to share the best piece of advice that they’ve been given.  Here are some of their responses:

Esther: Try and avoid directly comparing babies too much, particularly in terms of milestones.

Anne: Trust your instincts and spend time getting to know your baby, and don’t worry so much about what the books say! 

Victoria: Take all the help that is offered, and don’t think people will think you are a failure if you ask for help.  They won’t.  They’ll just think you are sensible for recognising when you need a hand, like we all do.

Arabella: Buy a baby sling!

Louise: When things get rough, say to yourself…….it’s just a phase.

Charlotte: Get a good group of mum friends around you who are supportive and good fun.  They’re the ones who will get you through the bad times and enjoy the good times with you!

Charlotte: At work when I was pregnant I had an elderly man tell me he was going to give me the only two bits of advice I would ever need.  The first was – don’t encourage them to talk as once they do they never stop.  And the second was – don’t worry they eventually grow up and move out.  I’m not sure either would be in the attachment parenting handbook but it made me laugh at the time, and still does!

Justine: Books are just other people’s opinions written down. It made me realise that they are not the law to follow, but only what others THINK and I could take and leave advice as I so chose!

Sarah: If it’s not a problem for you, it’s not a problem.

Louise: Slow things down and enjoy it.  I finished work and was expecting a good couple of weeks of putting my feet up, reading, and preparing for the birth.  My little one had other ideas and turned up 12 hours later.  As a result I stayed in work mode for weeks, rushing around trying to be superwoman.  I eventually got the confidence to just chill out and enjoy the here and now and to stop willing him to be at the next stage.  It was my mother-in-law who said enjoy every moment as they don’t stay as babies for long.  And having watched Child of our Time over the past couple of nights, I realise just how quickly they can grow up, especially when I look at my little boy who resembles a toddler now much more than a baby.

What’s the best piece of advice YOU have been given?  Did you realise it at the time?

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Filed under children, Inspirational Women, planning, sleep, work-life balance

When to take a break

I like keeping busy, and definitely find that the more I do, the more I want to do.  As regular readers will know, I have two young (and very energetic) boys, a part time job, my own business, and have been planning my wedding over the last few months.  Last year I trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and was really enjoying volunteering at local Sure Start groups, but things were so hectic over the last few months that I decided to take a break from Peer Supporting to give myself some more time.  (Though I have met so many breastfeeding Mums through the Flexi-Mum project I’ve probably ended up doing just as much peer supporting!)

I am someone who wants to grab every opportunity I can, and I find it very difficult to say no, so making the choice to take a break was difficult for me, but it was so worth it.  I’d much rather do what I do well, than spread myself too thin and not manage anything as well as I’d like to.  Now that the wedding is over, and I’ve enjoyed a few quieter weeks, I’m looking forward to getting back into some more peer supporting, and spending some more time on my own business.

It can be difficult to make the decision to take a break, and sometimes it’s not possible.  But I think it’s really important to assess everything you are doing and cut back on things when and if you need to.  I’m lucky to have a very hands-on husband and we are surrounded by family members who can help us out with childcare when we need it – not everyone has so much help (hats off to anyone who manages to be a Mum living away from their own Mum!) and we do really appreciate it.  If you don’t have family close by, then try making arrangements with friends for childcare – even if it’s just so you can take a bath or get your hair cut, or catch up on housework.  It’s often easier to look after an extra child as they entertain each other.  Try setting up something like my “Team Tea” idea on a regular basis too.

It’s important to assess your life balance every now and then to see if you need to cut back on anything, or if you need to make more time to do something (it could be time with the kids, housework, reading, relaxing, seeing your friends that don’t have kids, having a date night with your partner) and then really make an effort to rearrange things so that you can fit everything in as best you can.  For me, one of the big things is seeing friends.  During maternity leave it was lovely catching up with friends most days, but now that we’re all back at work it can be ages between seeing friends and I have to remind myself that that is just the way it is when we all work!

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Filed under childcare, employment, food, Inspirational Women, planning, self employment, sleep, work-life balance

Direct Sales: Pampered Chef

Direct Sales is an excellent way to get into self employment with the backing of a larger brand behind you.  Many Mums choose to do Direct Sales either as their sole work, or alongside part or full time employment, as it offers such flexibility.  Pampered Chef is an example of a Direct Sales company.  Consultants come to your home (or workplace, school, youth club, day centre, etc) and do a cooking show where they showcase their products whilst creating lovely nibbles for your guests.

Caroline Cannon is Mum to Jack, 3, and became a Pampered Chef consultant in October 2011.  She also works part time in Customer Services.

Pampered chef is an American company that was founded in 1980. It offers high quality kitchenware and tools and is sold through the party plan (like Tupperware, Ann Summers).  It offers hosts amazing incentives for having a party; consultants (like myself) are incentivised and rewarded for selling the goods and people that buy the products are investing in amazing superior kitchenware that will not leave anyone disappointed.

I was recruited at a Pampered Chef party hosted by a friend. It’s not something I would ever have dreamed of doing but I love it. I love the flexibility, meeting new people, my new cooking skills and newly acquired confidence.

When my director (who was the consultant at the party I attended) talked about extra money and ‘how £50 was a lot of money you could earn instead of watching the TV instead of an evening’ I realised this was a real opportunity I should grab.

It instantly appealed to me and I haven’t looked back since. It’s an excellent way of meeting new people and will give you a confidence you probably never knew you had!

There are monthly meetings and these introduce to you all the other consultants in the area and there is always a cooking show. It’s a great way to see how others might do a cooking show and everyone is always very friendly.  My experience in going to these meetings is finding out about everyone else and their story about getting into Pampered chef. There are many who used it as a stepping stone to get back into work after having children. And this is massively successful. Having children seems to lower women’s confidence and it can take a while to build this back up. I can honestly say that the women I meet now are so confident and love what they do.

How much you want to work is entirely up to you. You can choose to pursue it as career, and indeed a very successful one at that.  Or you could do what I do and hold one or two parties a month.

I am more than happy to talk to anyone about Pampered Chef, and if you want to discuss anything please don’t hesitate to call me on 07810 501385 or you can email at

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Filed under childcare, creative, employment, food, Inspirational Women, lone parent, online business, planning, retail, retraining, self employment, work-life balance

Babies About Town

Babies About Town is the “brain baby” of Emma and Kathryn. We had always wanted to develop an independent business and maternity leave provided us with the perfect opportunity; especially when we both had little girls just days apart. Set up in September 2012, Babies About Town is still very much in its infancy but is growing fast. The inspiration for the concept came from the desire to get out and about with our little girls but there were no resources that seemed to be able to tell us what we could do. From personal searching we found a wealth of great small businesses offering baby activities and services with a personal touch. We also met some wonderful and interesting people.

Our business – Babies about Town aims to provide parents with babies access to information about local services, shops and activities in and around Warwickshire. Warwickshire is a beautiful and vibrant county, with good schools and transport networks it is easy to understand why so many people choose to bring up their families here. Finding out where to go as a parent with limited free time, which shops cater for little ones and the range of activities on offer can be difficult. Babies About Town works to provide all of this information in one place.

With a popular blog, sharing our experiences of being a new parent, and a website which lists the places to shop, things to do and places to eat with a new baby we hope we have filled the gap! It is free for businesses to list their company with Babies About Town and we offer paid for advertising opportunities as well, which offers a cost effective marketing tool for small, local businesses. Each month we select one Warwickshire business to work with as our brand of the month; we are always on the lookout for something unique which we want to share. Babies About Town have a strong online profile so come and find us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about what is on in and around Warwickshire.

We are currently in the process of organising our first baby show, which will be a fun and interactive afternoon where parents can come and meet the people who provide brilliant baby products and services in the local area. There will be an opportunity to sign up to classes and get more information about what is on. This will be the first of many baby shows, and whilst it will be a great day for parents it will also provide a platform for the many small independent businesses in the local area that provide fantastic services for parents. Especially in the current climate the Babies About Town philosophy is all about supporting local independent businesses and championing those who work hard to provide unique and quality goods and services.

Babies About Town is at the start of an exciting journey and there are exciting and busy times ahead. We are looking forward to providing a fantastic set of services that benefits new parents and independent local businesses. For anyone reading this and thinking of starting a up a business the best piece of advice we were given was that “If you don’t work towards your own dream, you will only end up employed pursuing someone else’s.”

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Filed under childcare, children, creative, Inspirational Women, online business, planning, self employment, work-life balance

Direct Sales

Many Mums start doing some Direct Sales as a way of earning a bit of extra money in a sociable role that they really love.  Direct Sales means getting a group of people together and showing and selling them your products.  It’s a way for a group of friends to have a nice evening in and do a bit of shopping from the comfort of their own home, but with the opportunity to try before they buy.   It’s perfect for Mums as it’s so flexible, you set your own hours and targets.  It’s also great for Mums as becoming a Mum has likely introduced them to a whole new social circle who are likely to be in their target market.

There are so many companies now offering these positions (Pampered Chef, Neal’s Yard Organics, Craft Superstore, Avon, Kleeneze, Usborne Books, Body Shop to name a few), you are bound to find one that sells products that you are passionate about and can enjoy selling.  You can choose to sell at evening parties at a host’s home, daytime groups (playgroups etc), a party in your own home, at events like school fetes, or door-to-door.  With most of these companies you now also get a personal website so you can do some online sales as well, and customers can buy your products again and again without coming to more parties.

Anita started working as an Usborne organiser in Exeter in 2012.  She is a mum of 2 and already worked part time, but needed to find a way to boost her income.  Direct sales was a good option for her, as it had such flexible hours to fit around her part time work and children.  You can even take your kids along with you when you are hosting book parties so this saves on childcare.

I love their children’s books and also meeting other people so the work is enjoyable.  It doesn’t always feel like work because parties can take the form of coffee mornings, playdates or even an evening with wine and nibbles! I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for people trying to get back into employment, especially parents with young children.

Caroline is Mum to Jack, 3, and works part time in Customer Services.  She became a Pampered Chef consultant in October 2011.  Pampered Chef sell high quality kitchenware, and during their parties consultants use the products to cook some goodies for all the guests!

I was recruited at a Pampered Chef party hosted by a friend. It’s not something I would ever have dreamed of doing but I love it. I love the flexibility, meeting new people, my new cooking skills and newly acquired confidence.

As well as the social aspect of hosting parties, most of these companies bring their consultants together on a monthly basis, so there are additional networking opportunities.  Caroline has met many other Mums at these meetings who have also used Direct Sales as a steeping stone into work after having children:

Having children seems to lower women’s confidence and it can take a while to build this back up. I can honestly say that the women I meet now are so confident and love what they do.

If you make and/or sell any sort of product you could consider taking this approach to selling your products in addition to online or shop sales.  Give us a call if you’d like to discuss starting up a direct sales arm to your business.

Have you considered Direct Sales?  Have you been to any parties like those described above?  If you’d like to discuss some of the options for getting started, give us a call on 0800 043 2440.

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Filed under childcare, employment, food, online business, planning, retail, work-life balance

Starting School

Tomorrow is the deadline for applying for primary schools.  My little boy is due to start school this September so we have already applied for our places and are now anxiously waiting for the end of April when we will hear where he’s going.

I’m really looking forward to him starting school, I think he will absolutely love it being with his friends all day and learning about the world.  However, I just cannot get my head around the logistics of getting one child to school, another to nursery, and getting myself to work on time!  Not to mention having to pick him up again in the afternoon!  I know that Mums manage this every day, and that once we get into the swing of things it will become easy, but right now I just can’t bear to think about it!!

The other big issue with starting school is of course sorting out childcare during the school holidays.  At the moment both my boys carry on at nursery throughout the holidays, so it has only just occurred to me that I will need to arrange alternative childcare during the holidays!  Luckily my Mum is a teacher and lives down the road, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for us.  But with so many of us living away from our families, and with our Mums continuing to work full time for longer, relying on family support isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Are your children already at school?  How do you manage the school drop off and school holidays?  Please comment with your tips/experience.


Filed under childcare, children, planning, school, work-life balance

Happy New Year!

So, Christmas is over, we’ve found homes for all the new toys (a good haul this year!) and it’s time to get back to reality.  I’ve got a busy few months ahead – the Flexi-Mum project is starting off in January, I’m getting married in April, and we’re braving our first flight with two kids in May, then my eldest boy (Oscar) starts school in September.

I was chatting with a friend about new year’s resolutions, and she said hers was simple: try to get her work-life balance right.  Easier said than done when she works full time and has a young child, but not impossible.  It made me realise just how much a project like this is needed.

After my first child, I returned to work part time.  I was so worried about it that I went for a meeting with my manager, and started looking round nurseries SIX MONTHS before I went back – I should have been using that time to enjoy my time with my baby, not worrying about work!  I had been confident at work before, but I lost all of my confidence and didn’t have the belief that I would still be able to do the job after a year’s break.  I would really have loved some support at that point to help me build that confidence back up.

Second time round was totally different as I had been made redundant.  I knew I couldn’t afford not to work, but there’s no support in finding work when your baby is young and your partner is in work.  I did have my own business as well by this point, and this served really well to maintain my self confidence.  If you start a micro-business even for that reason alone I think it’s worth it.  I also trained and started volunteering as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter, which I really enjoyed and gave me new confidence and skills.

Running my own business and volunteering helped boost my confidence, and gave me some purpose in life other than being “Mummy”.  Without having done these, I would never have landed my job with Opportunity Plus.

Through Flexi-Mum, we want to provide you with the support that I wish I’d had.  I’ve been there, so I know how hard it can be, even when on paper everything is place for an easy transition back to work.  Please get in touch if you think we can help, or if you want to share your story on this blog.

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Filed under children, employment, online business, planning, self employment, work-life balance