Wednesday, 9 December 2009

week eight: faulty time continuum

where does it go? i believe i may have entered an actual wormhole this week and surely i'm soon to pop back out at monday. i have 40 minutes before #1's nativity at which she stars as an angel. she has four lines and i've practised them a lot with her, feeling torn between the roles of supporting mother and pushy over-interested control-freak. i just don't want her to feel nervous so i've explored the meaning of the words and lines to give them a structure in her head and help her remember: control freak? she has to say "don't be scared" (because they've not seen something like you, have they? and you're all shiny in the sky... which will hopefully prompt....)"i'm an angel" (and why are you there, talking to those shepherds?....)"baby jesus has been born" (and so what've they got to do?...)"follow me".......yes. i can now see that perhaps i am focusing too much on this. what will presumably happen is a 5 minute shambolically hilarious mishmash of crying, waving and knicker-wetting followed by a lot of chocolate eating. all by me.

this week i had a speednetworking marathon; let's just say that it left me in a monging, unable to communicate, star trek (new generation) data-like mode for 48 hours. it started at 9.30am and until 1pm we networked face to face for 1 minute, alternating then moving on. 43 times. with one small coffee for sustenance. it would have been really really good if my business provided guidance on "how to network interestingly for 1 minute", or "how to keep your breath fresh and saliva in your mouth for short bursts of time", or if i'd been selling espressos. as it was i'm not sure my target audience was hugely represented. i think i quite scared the sole business bank contact with my huge enthusiasm and vigour and the way i leant back to continue talking to her once we'd moved on, and then sent my business cards her way on the back of small paper aeroplances once i was further down the long table of life-coaches or business-mentors. she, unlike quite a lot of others, hasn't thanked me for my interest in her product nor asked me to join her on linked in.

i did meet the operator of another networking group there and attended a session with her yesterday and, without making any slanderous comments, it was the least useful function to date. the harp (?) drowned out everyone's pitches; we'd been told to drop in whenever but then had to adhere to a matrix-like structure of pitching "and now is time for free talking" only to be interrupted with harpy-like yells across the table demanding we attend to a new entrant. lots of talking over people by the two hosts, usually about lattes, and a strange familial connection between them kept the dynamic that of a too intimate christmas gathering of in-laws. i tried to escape but was trapped in by a fund-manager, sadly recently redundant, who was trying to pitch for £500k investment tranches in his new fund....felt a strange empathy for a man caught in the middle of this downturn at a point in life where he was ready to start the last few years pre-retirement and was now floundering in a new field of networking which he hadn't fully grasped. that being said the jowls spoke of years of gout-inducing corporate functions so i don't feel he was totally adrift.

another eye-opener was the fact that someone presented their pitch and it was identical to my raison d'etre. somewhat un-nerving; will have to track down and eliminate the individual. if i then do eventually pop back out at monday then no one will be any the wiser and the market will be ALL MINE!!!!!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

week seven: handbags and gladrags

as the dust settles and i grab a coffee before a 10.30 meeting i feel that the week has been a networking haze of, dare i say it, a phase 2 stylee. still the twin twangs of children vs work are chiming as i sit here post the flurry of a morning when adam takes the 06.20 london flight.(no more loitering in the ba lounge for him, now on sleazyjet as dictated by the new boss.....soul destroying; surely early morning business travel should have an element of avoiding the great unwashed?....)

i call it a flurry but that sounds sort of snowy and festive with bells chiming as we all sit ruddy-cheeked in front of our porridge and giggle as daughter #2 smears it across her chin and pretends to be santa. it wasn't really like that. the lure of the newly discovered chocolate advent calendar proved too much for the youngest. the eldest (slightly puritan-quaker in her nature) savoured hers slowly, enjoying the pleasure of a restricted treat. not so for #2; she devoured hers and then, while i made the bed and did #1's "plait down the middle" (one of a number of morning hair options) i noticed a deathly silence had descended which is a positive indicator of doom. i ran towards the silence and found that a seek and destroy mission had been successfully completed on her sister's hello kitty calendar. the pink cardboard had been ripped in a grotesque, massacre like way, to reveal an entire sheet of foil which had been slashed aside releasing a smorgesbord of chocolate joy. these had been heavily gorged upon and #2 looked up, sugar glazing her eyes and snot forming a large triangle between nostrils and top lip which was caught in a nervous half smile. there used to be a set of books called "my naughty little sister" and i think it was a nostradamus description of what was to come to the holden household. #1 actually screamed in genuine horror, which turned into wailing sobs of absolute sadness and betrayal. the punishment of timeout in her room seemed to have little effect on #2 who played quietly, digesting like a snake, and when "released" and asked to tell us what she'd done she advised that she'd been posting some letters in her room. under duress she apologised for eating the "chocklat" but i wasn't truly convinced. and this was all before i'd even showered let alone approached breakfast.

dressed, fed, washed, brushed, we all rushed to nursery whereupon the ticket machine decided not to accept £1 coins. handfulls of change later on crossing the road blue-dolly was dropped. i stood on the pavement feeling vaguely distressed wondering how to get back to the middle of the road with a 1 and 4yr old to reclaim the favourite toy, when a lovely lady gauged the situation and ran to get it for me and i honestly welled up! so ridiculous but it's the little gestures of kindness that actually break the camel's back sometimes and they often come from fellow women who know oh-so-well how hard we all try to get it right. lordy; i'm going to weep into my keyboard and i have to go and meet a business angel head in 30 mins and once again assume the front of fully functioning commercial and strategic accountant financial advisor.

speaking of which, that sounds very blurry and ill-defined, and a very focused marketing head said to me last week "lose the flowers" on sight of my business card and website, so i'm thinking of re-branding. i need a capsule style: a logo to embed the facets and concepts and direction i embrace. i thought "japanese wood-print" when i selected my current style: zen, focus, calm, different etc. however it would seem that whilst women do like it (cappucino connections meeting last week had provoked a very positive response) the men look at it and simply see "flowers". and as the marketing head said to me "you're not a very flowery person really". so i think i probably need something a bit more dynamic and as i've met a graphic designer through networking i may invest in a bit of professional help.

so this week has seen two networking events that i was invited to rather than sourced myself: surely this is a development?! one was the cappucino morning which was great and i've made some excellent connections there. a virtual pa service, a graphic designer, a make-up artist, and many wanted some small business advice so this could be a sideline. the other was an evening at a big 4 accounting firm. on my drive there i felt the least focused i've felt in some time. i'd planned to think through my key networking lines in the car, but despite restricting my secret pleasure of radio 4 comedy programmes i found i couldn't get into work-mode. i kept thinking about my new high-heels. i love the word high-heels. we all use it but it makes me feel about 7, as if i'm talking about my mum's shoes. i was wondering whether it is just me that actually does use this word: has everyone else moved on and i'm totally out of touch? but i do love my new shoes and at the event one of the more unlikely of attendees gasped outloud and said how much she loved them. when i admitted they were from M&S (why can't i lie?) she breathed "crocodile trimming, platform stiletto and suede edging, all from M&S?" i felt positively entranced by her passion! and they're wine red: am i hip? it was an eclectic group of people and i added to my network and heard an excellent speaker on the role of women in business. as i sat there listening i did feel a sense of pleasure that pursuing this self-empoyment is throwing me into so many unexpected situations all of which are interesting and different to life as an employee. the other key change being the lack of a pay-cheque but it can't be far away...

i also met with a fellow accountant who'd set up on her own about five years ago and got some great tips: different sort of business but similar mindset. and a group of research and development tax credit advisors (circulating in similar business groups to my desired pool) who had the coolest office i've ever been in and i now aspire to having my own premises high up in a west-end tenement.

yesterday i had three meetings. how am i functioning in all these networking environment wardrobe-wise, the most attentive of you may be wondering? well the trousers i bought have come into their own, and i've decided to go with a sort of wraparound or jersey dress look, a couple of which i'd bought for work events over the past few years, but i think i need to start keeping a track of what i've worn to different do's so as not to start repeating key wear! today i'm in my suit, felt that a business angel maybe needed a slightly more formal touch. talking of which, i'm going to need to go and catch a bus to meet him......more later. i'm hoping he's buying: i did the honours yesterday and am doubtful as to how tax deductible multiple coffees are.....

back and one extremely toxic coffee poorer but it was definitely worth it: a great meeting with the outcome that i will be able to offer my services to companies wishing to bid for finance at the angels den, and also fortuitously i bumped into a fast growing business manager from the chamber. this is fantastic as will open up my offerings to new and rapidly-growing businesses. now i just need to do some practise for tomorrow's speednetworking marathon: crocodile shoes and over the shoulder bag methinks...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

week six: techie tuesday

i feel so with it. i can't describe the internal pride i have as words such as rss feed, blogger, feedburner, url, re-pointing, and monetise become more tangible to me, emerging as forms against the previous grey-mass that was online-social/business-networking. i can't use them all properly, and i'm sure my understanding is entirely superficial, but i do now GET the fact that there is more to the internet than or hotmail and that in itself has been something of a revelation. and i've somewhat ashamedly started twittering despite referring to this very activity with a rather clever vowel swap for the past 12 months. however i've been assured that this is the route to clients and to blog traffic growth so have now embraced the beast. the more web savvy amongst you may have noticed my new feed to your right; and my hugely exciting first few tweets!

this morning i spent three hours in starbucks: last week to my mortification they approached me brandishing a business card and asking if it was mine. each week i've been merrily sticking them on the community pinboard, blissfully unaware that this was for more knit-your-own-lentil groups rather than income-driven business-facing accountants. i'd happily been pinning them on top of requests for clothing donations and coffee mornings, congratulating myself on my ad-hoc multi-faceted approach to marketing. unfortunately it seems that the fast disappearance of these was more to do with moral outrage of the staff than a hugely interested potential client base as i'd optimistically assumed. this presumabley means jk rowling, my fellow starbucks driker, hasn't picked one up intrigued by my keen sense of business, and, frowning over her latte, wondered at her own accountant's lack of innovative direction. and wondered if perhaps she'd prefer to use me, a fellow female coffee lover, and she might want to be my best friend too. daydreams shattered. AND no free small coffee taster at 11am: i was a little disappointed as had used up all my cash on the now exhorbitant parking.

i particularly needed the caffeine this morning, partly because my entire three hours were spent setting up twitter, feeds and attempting to re-set my hit rate counter which has sadly expired, but also due to the fact that our weekend was marred by large amounts of sick from us all, joy. i think we've all recovered; i'd like to say i'd managed to lose weight due to the experience but as my recovering body demanded cheese i think not. for some reason it was all i could face, and it must be a symptom of the bug (i reassure myself) as daugher #2 who is only just talking thought for ages in her highchair last night until randomly shouting repeated "peasa" which i thought, happily, meant peas. however she threw these off the table in outrage, repeating her demand, until i realised she meant pizza which is not a word she's really ever used before of her own volition. rather bemusedly i fobbed her off with cheese on toast, calling it pizza, and she devoured it like a carniverous beast. good. who needs veg anyway; lions don't and they cope.

so the fruits of my networking labours are starting to show through, albeit buds rather than actual cash based activities to date. this week i featured on the scotmum website in an article on working mums ( and i have also been invited to a group called cappucino connections through the athena group. more excitingly i have been sent, via a networking contact, a job position advertised as a part-time CEO designate. this is very very very exciting but may be a step too far: we'll see, i'll definitely give it a go if they want to meet with me.

and last week i went to my first women's networking lunch through a linkedin group and it was such a welcome relief! informal networking with women is a totally different kettle of fish; time for business cards, time for chat, time for wine, time for networking anecdotes, time for wine, time for reason for networking, time for coffee, time to leave! all very fruitful but also a lot of fun and i'll definitley be doing it again!

tomorrow i have two meetings and a networking event, and then another networking event on thursday. all this has lead me to realise that my networking wardrobe isn't really up to all this activity: yet the dichotomy is that there is (as yet) no income with which to improve the situation. however, pre-sick bug this weekend i decided that needs must, you have to live the vision and portray the image you wish to eventually become. that being said i limited myself to m&s (and i can't resist their mushroom and emmenthal toastie followed by chocolate stirrer). i managed to buy some black trousers, some leggings (unsure but decided i need to look contemporary; long top will hopefully hide multitude of sins) and a nice plum satiny top and matching shoes. so all in all rather more positioned towards a christmas party than a networking event but they were very nice and individually very reasonable although the total spend was somewhat tear-jerking. i've heard that there is a networking event for the sad and lonely un-corporately attached so perhaps i'll seek it out.

back to the topic of technical stuff; i've now attached some links to other blogs, you can see these if you look at my account (on the rhs with my picture on). and i don't know if my email subscription link is working. if anyone has had an update on email could they post a comment just so i know? i've mailed the person who designed it for blogger but i've had no response and they're called "rockhunk" ... but that might be my own generational mindset coming out and he's probably very reliable and socially minded, and doesn't go around graffitting community notice boards with self-serving demands for revenue.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

week five: networking frenzy

i'm sitting in starbucks ("what is starbooks?" daughter #1 asked in the car today after chris moyles had mentioned it: i particularly enjoyed her non-understanding of the leeds accent as it mirrors my own issues. in the maternity ward after she was born adam became increasingly embarrassed by my inability to understand the scottish nurses in a "say again" little britain stylee; she's asking if you'd like a cup of tea, he'd hiss in translation after my fourth blank stare and desperate glances in his direction). the couple on the sofa in front of me will not stop snogging. it is distracting me from my own frenzy of networking, but mine is a lot less public and involves less saliva than theirs: and they're not young. probably early thirties. they carry about them that going-out-about-1-month look. i think they've come here straight from bed as they have that sort of "we've discovered that we're actually in love" haze. they've been sitting there for an hour now, sort of entwined, saying very little and my secret thought is that he's a tiny bit bored and she's in that girly love spin and keeps snuggling in. when he reached forward for his coffee her head fell off his chest onto the sofa and he had to sort of steady her, so floppy had she become. i think they might be skiving off work; when you're in those heady early days anything is justifiable! i remember falling asleep in the office after a night out with adam, suddenly opening my eyes to see someone had thrown my laptop keyboard at my head. except they hadn't, i was just nose diving towards it so deep was my stupor. and that was when i was actually paid to work, unlike now.

so this week has been an intense week of networking for me: my first two chamber events, both of which i had to pay real non-expenses money for, and a web-chat with the lovely editor of my vision was to make sure i made the most of the paid for events: quickly establishing true networking opportunities, moving on from no-win situations in a professional and courteous way, working the crowd in a focused and revenue driven style. the first one found me, twenty five minutes in, smiling interestedly at a politician while he told me about some things going on in south america. this is partly the problem of being a woman i think: it is hard not to empathise and respond, and he was very interesting, but probably not a huge portal for cash. i think i actually bored him because he then showed me how to politely disengage from a conversation with a "well this has been very interesting, i'll let you get on" leaving me to wonder what 25% of my time had earnt me so far. however i did manage to then speak to a banker, an architect and a voice coach which was varied but allowed me to focus my developing technique of 1)chat, 2) categorise, 3) abandon or woo. a photographer then told me that my "fragile porcelain" appearance was at odds with my target role as a business trouble-shooter, and that i really needed to be big and hairy and look a bit like alan sugar. i felt that this was less helpful and thankfully the event was coming to an end so i had an exit route ready.

i was glad it had gone relatively well though, as the previous day in an attempt to be pro-active i had selected some of the attendees from the chamber-provided list and mailed them, explaining a little about my business in advance of the event. about 2 mins later i had an indignant response advising me that my approach was "unprofessional" and accusing me of "spamming": i was truly mortified (remember, it was a grey week anyway) and immediately visualised arriving at my first event to find everyone in happy cohorts muttering about the girl who wasn't quite de rigeur with the whole thing. thankfully the individual was alone in his response; he deigned to respond to my immediate apology and explanation and despite looking i couldn't find him at the event to speak to more fully. several others commented on the mail and it proved a good talking point. not sure i'd do it in the same way again though: individual rather than group mail i think.

i've just been given a free toffee-nut latte! i noticed this happened last week at this time too: must be starbucks happy hour; the little things that make my day. unfortunately only three minutes left on the car though so am going to have to gulp and go.

home and still no responses to all my networking post-event emails this morning; perhaps the touchy-feely approach of the couple in starbucks simply delivers more results. so event number two was slightly more highbrow with a very financially orientated attendee list. it was good but in retrospect i wish i'd spoken to more people; it isn't as easy to chat, disengage, chat, disengage as you'd think! i may have hovered (hoovered..) too close to the canape table. i can't resist a good canape and my thinking was that perhaps i'd get a good traffic of similar minded attendees to ensnare with vivacious and financially astute conversation. however there's only so much you can say with a large piece of cranberry topped brie in your mouth. i noted that the more able amongst the networkers dashed to the table, looked the other way while stuffing three or four down in quick succession,had a quick wipe down and rub of the teeth to remove stray bits of spinach (and goats cheese roulade; rather nice but three would have probably been enough)then grabbed a glass of wine with which to continue their schmoozing. i had learnt from event one that a clutch bag was not a viable option; it is hard to grapple with a glass & bag while attempting to extract a business card without looking like a total numpty; this sort of malco effort does not encourage feelings of "here's a great and organised accountant; i'd like to entrust my entire direct cost review to her". so this time, all the wiser, i'd gone for an over the shoulder bag and it reaped dividends. definitely a networking winner. the only new learning is to ensure that the only thing in the business card section of the bag is business cards: not jo jingles stickers attached to john lewis receipts and small pieces of a squashed humzinger bar.

i managed to talk to another banker: the way forward i'm thinking; an accountant (i know, hard to resist the natural magnetic pull of a fellow thinker, mock all you like) an engineer, a security company director and some compliance consultants. i also managed to hook up with a colleague of old, and last but not least a coach. now i happy to be proven wrong but my gut feeling is that people that who become business coaches have possibly run out of options. he was slightly sweaty and after a few minutes of conversation suggested that we meet for coffee to discuss business overlap. like a cornered animal i looked for escape and absurdly found myself drawing on the old "don't call me, i'll call you": i only just managed to actually stop myself from saying that very phrase, opting for the more acceptable (?) "well i've got your card so perhaps i'll give you a call in the next few months"...... my colleague cackled in the background and said somewhat disparagingly "he looks even more desperate than you"...

the web-chat with the scotmum website went surprisingly well and i could now be a convert to this new meejah form of communication. i'm featuring on her site as a working mum of the week: hmm, apologies to those mums actually doing some paid for work: i feel a bit of a fraud. must keep reminding myself that this is a true job; the revenue is just a bit delayed.

so this afternoon i have a meeting with an accounting firm, and tomorrow will be attending my first women-in-business event which is a lunch. i also have another banking meeting fixed for early next week so lots of opportunities to hone my silky skills and network my way to the top of the pile and the cash prize: a client!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

week four: grey days

sometimes it feels as if all elements of the day are "goal congruent", to steal an accountancy training word, and today's goal is to work towards ultimate greyness in order to match my mood. i knew that this would be a journey, and i armed myself in advance with a backpack full of good intentions: positivity, riding the ups with the downs and pushing forward despite any fallbacks but today i feel flat. and as such daughter #2, the stoic one, wept on nursery drop off, the rain slanted into me as i ran to starbucks, and as i sat down i could only smile ironically and self-awareingly self-pityingly (too much?) as my kitchen companion of the late 90s started wailing that "ooooooh laba, there's no enemeeeeeeee" song. david grey; king of the weepers. i don't think i ever knew the words but could croon it emotionally while cooking. he wasn't actually in my kitchen; no cool london pre-fame friends for me, but he did feel like a close companion as did dido and norah jones: the dinner party years of balham's heyday! ahhh, halcyon times when all seemed possible and achievable and we were all young and in retrospect physically beautiful: pre-baby tummys, bagless eyes, and no mid-life insecurities and oh lordy they've put on sting, not only sting but an acoustic version of the hounds of winter: you couldn't write this. i'll weep into my americano, the only vestige of my diet that remains. i wiped thick sweeps of butter onto my toast in defiance this morning, and yesterday put parmesan AND marscapone into a pasta sauce.

so rather than feeling emancipated and free and like a business owner, i feel like a bit of a fraud, pretending to be a business woman but actually one with no clients as yet. and i know this is only week four but i'm starting to lose confidence in what i think i'm bringing to the market: i need a client in order to remember what i'm good at which is dynamic business thinking. static contemplation isn't really me.

on the agenda today i have more sales pitches to do, i'm going to work on a report pro-forma so that when i do get a client i don't spend 18 hours trying to import images and tables onto word which appears to be incredibly user-unfriendly for that sort of thing,and i have a web-chat scheduled. i'm not sure exactly how a web-chat works and why a phone chat wouldn't be better but i'm happy to learn new skills and to be technically savvy; talking of which have you noticed my new "hit rate" counter?! i'm very excited! this is a light point in my grey period; i've had about 1,600 hits on this blog! i thought i'd had about 25! also i've added a little thing which will allow you to subscribe for this blog on email rather than having to remember to view it. that being said; i quite like counting the hits.

tomorrow i have my first formal networking event at the botanic gardens; i'm apprehensive but excited too. as long as i can pluck up enough courage and small talk to approach people, and enough toughness to move on if they prove to be an unlikely client, then it could be really good. i have also registered with a few agencies to see if any small pieces of work come through that i can then use for networking and learning and testimonial growth. oh, and income...

and the council has increased parking costs this week; it used to be 20p for 17 mins and is now 50p for 30 mins which is an increase from 1.176p per minute to 1.666667p per minute which is a 42% uplift. shocking. and see how good at maths i am? gimme a job, lighten my day.....

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

week three: still fishing

i'm writing this in starbucks; desperately sucking back americano (another nod in the diet direction) in an attempt to undeaden my head and make me alert and bright for a meeting with a "decision maker" this afternoon (the new and correct term for "potential", thank you blog readers!). unfortunately this is the same decision maker meeting as i prepared for last week as it transpired we'd had a diary mix up and i laughingly, somewhat gritted-teethly, said to the frowning secretary "men and their diaries, ha ha", only to come home and realise that this was probably my error....

sadly it is not a drunken binge which has left me in this state. at risk of this becoming a web-rant about motherhood rather than just the challenges of balancing it with business, i will share last night. it really begins last week. adam "reminded me" on thursday night that he'd be in London all of this week. so i found myself somewhat taken aback when on sunday at a children's party he really enthusistically started asking people around for a bonfire party at ours on saturday; glancing at me he did have the grace to add "oh yes, errm, i'm actually away all this week, and my parents arrive on friday, but i'll arrange it from london"..............

this is so profoundly wrong and impossible to conceive of given that these periodic london trips involve them all tying themselves to their laptops, flagellating themselves with ever-changing schedules of incomprehensibly large numbers, in an office where they are provided with food so they can work until 1am and have to get a pass to wee. i just feel, forgive me for being sceptical, that the finer details of the bonfire party may get forgotten. like the food. and the fireworks. and the party.

so, given that his parents will also require food i looked in the fridge and found a big bag of leeks. feeling frugally minded and at that point, quite energetic, i decided to look for a recipe that used leeks. it turns out that salmon and leek lasagne is nice so i opted for that, subsituting trout as it has also been in the freezer for a long time. little did i know that bedtime would be one of those truly awful bedtimes; with daughter #1 being given the ultimate punishment, never before followed through on, of NO STORY NUMBER TWO. once i'd said the words i couldn't take them back and this resulted in a tantrum of truly historic proportions, writhing, frothing, screaming, jumping. daughter #2 giggled a bit and did go to sleep however my efforts to placate #1 whilst maintaining the punishment were not hugely successful resulting in #2 re-awakening and requiring adelweiss to be sung on at least three different occasions (don't ask). for #1 i resorted to a huge hug while outlining why punishment was being stuck too: too harsh? so hard to know. at one point i was wondering who to call for advice on the next step but knew that my choice of callee would represent my desired outcome. mum would ask if it was really worth it at bedtime; fellow mums would say we need to follow through, gina would probably say it shouldn't have happened in the first place but if i follow her routine for the next three weeks i'd get back on track.

anyway, by 8pm there was silence. #2 was smelling a bit trouty due to her songs being interspersed with me rushing down to attempt to remove skin and a billion small bones from economy trout. (does non-economy trout have less bones?) by 9 there was a lasagne made, ready for saturday after the party, and a sainsburys on-line done involving a lot of chippolatas. i then made the odd decision to read until midnight, but #2 woke with a cough and a bit of a temperature at 2am and moved into my bed, sicked a bit of cattargh (had to type that into google for spelling) onto my side, slept horizontally across adam's side and woke shouting at 5.45am and turned all the lights on. joyous joyous joy.

so here i am. and my americano has gone cold and apparently it is not policy to renew it but having checked bank balance i'm refraining from buying another one. i need to fill that sales funnel.

and on that front there's been plenty of fishing but no catches yet: this week i blended another mix of gatekeepers and decision makers. my chamber of commerce membership came through so i've now mailed a group of charitable institutions, as one pull for not-for-profit organisations will be the non-permanent, flexible relationship that i can offer. i have also mailed a group of accounting firms to look for spill-over work. in the meantime i've chased my favoured client list. from this work i've arranged a meeting in two weeks; it's slow going. to bolster the networking efforts i'm going to two chamber networking dos; speed-networking being one of them! i never did speed-dating as by the time that took off i was with adam so this gives me a chance to give it a go. networking that is, not dating.. enthusiastically i attended a free networking event on friday, dressed in pink. as requested. it transpired it was more "buy our products" than a forum for business chat. the pink should have warned me really. but you network and you learn....

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

week two: funnel filling

i've just logged on to google in order to write this and adwords has shocked me. i'm now quite au fait with adwords due to using it for my website. basically you pay, via a very easy to use but complicated to understand mechanism, for your ad to appear when someone searches for a specific thing. you actually only pay if someone then clicks on your ad to see your site. when i say i'm au fait with it, i mean i know what it is meant to do, but i'm using it very, very badly. so far i've managed to elicit only three clicks from over 400 ads/impressions (note the new web-wise vocab i embrace). in fact when i last looked google advised me that i was no longer going to be included in some searches due to "negligable usage" or some such frippery. and to add insult to injury none of those three clicks have resulted in an "i'm interested in your business" email. my gut feeling is that my stated marketing budget of £30 per month may be limiting the heights to which google prioritises me when someone types in "edinburgh accountant": a wide group, granted. and probably a group with a little bit more marketing spend available. and so far i've only used 40p of that budget, step it up google!

anyway, i drift from the point. when i logged on google decided that the best advert to show me, right up there in pole position, RHS, top of the page, was one entitled "Be Naughty". it was followed up with the byline "real people, real photos, real fun. They want to be naughty tonight". well this interests me on a number of levels; none of them the level hoped for before you ask.

i) why did my search for "google" elicit that advertisment for me? what do the little cookies or other such spy vehicles watching my every finger stroke say about me to google? that i might be naughty too? that after bundling my two girls through the various 5pm - 7.30pm routine (nursery pick up, dinner, discussion on edibility (or lack thereof) of dinner, pudding bribery, gigglebiz (little britain for children), speed-bath, debate over exit of speed-bath, tears over coldness post-bath, rediscovery of toys in bedroom making pyjama wearing undesirable, tears over pyjama choice, indifference over story choice, tears over mummy's story choice, argument over milk temperature, discussion of every line of story, argument over need for wee, adherence of rigid protocol of blowing kisses and confirmation of kisses caught, CLICK of stair gate shutting, and start of evening household administration tasks) I might declare gleefully, "now i feel really naughty. where did i see that list of people who feel really naughty too? with real fun?" oh, but wait, darn. i'd forgotten that i have to do a few things first. after i've made dinner, put away the on-line shop (which i'd forgotten about and arrived just as i'd put my own pyjamas on resulting in slightly awkward backward stance so he couldn't see my peanut smuggling exercise through the t-shirt; see, maybe i am naughty: has google registered me typing that and next time adwords will pull up something even more explicit?) re-arranged the cleaning day, wrapped a pressie, written a cheque for a nursery related activity, made up the spare bed for my mum's visit, put some photos into a frame which have been waiting for 3 months for a 5 min window of opportunity, well maybe after those things i'll feel a bit naughty? or maybe i'll put on my really big dressing gown and watch an hour of tv until adam is spat out from work, chewed and regurgitated, and asking "so what did you do this evening?". if i told him i'd been a bit naughty he'd think i'd forgotten to unload the dishwasher.

ii) sorry, have gone on a bit for i) but have now come to ii) which is how??? how did that particular advertiser manage to get their advert up their on its own when my search was simply "google"? i want their slick adwords skills. that way people would type google and my website would pop up. now that would be worth £30 per month.

so, i seem to have written a lot about google and very little about the business this week. well i've had a meeting this morning and have another one this afternoon! the one this morning was with a "gate-keeper". i've decided to categorise my marketing into two types: "gate-keepers" will not use me directly but may have contact with potential clients, whereas others are just potential clients.. i haven't come up with a name for them yet. hmmm. need to focus on that; i like my groups to have headings, makes me very happy. this afternoon i'm meeting with one of the second group, maybe i'll call them "potentials". so i really need to type up my morning notes, have some lunch and prepare for the 3pm but i seem to have now typed for longer than planned and only have about half an hour so quick sarnie while re-reading their website me thinks. is hummus too garlicy pre meeting? clearly need to put back on "executive business woman" image so will stop thinking through logistics of tomorrow's pre-school/john lewis/sainsburys/glasgow activities and FOCUS. bring it on.

ps have just remember another trigger for google sending me that link. i speed-texted a new mum at nursery yesterday and as i clicked "send" i noticed i'd managed to sign it off "latex" rather than "kate x" perhaps google picked that up through the ether and nodded knowingly to its virtual self, chuckling and thinking "i know what sort of ad THIS girl will like"...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

week one: making the break

it's the end of week one; my last day of paid work is now seven days past but despite my best (and possibly rather optimistic) efforts i don't yet have a plethora of excited and keen-to-be-paying clients for my new go-it-alone venture. adam has suggested that i keep a blog of my efforts; i've added it to the list of many suggestions that he's made and i've briskly dealt with in an efficient "i've thought of that" or "there's only so much i can achieve in week one" sort of way but this one kept buzzing around in my brain and as i feel a desperate need to do-do-do to justify the two days of nursery that we're still paying for i thought i'd give it a go. secretly. i think i will use this blog to share, probably just with myself in an external-internal sort of way, the journey of breaking the shackles of employment and starting my own business. while continuing to be a good mum, probably quite a difficult (if efficient and sometimes a bit nice) wife and all the other roles that us women in our thirties are faced with succeeding at.

i feel a bit like i've entered one of those rivers on a nature programme, where the salmon (or possibly trout?) swim upstream through seemingly unbroachable waterfalls in order to get to the ideal breeding ground. clearly i'm not looking for a breeding ground, not in the pro-creation sense of the word anyway. but i am looking for a breeding ground of clients where they all gabble excitedly about this great new concept in the business world, brought to edinburgh only recently and how it is absolutely essential to get on board now. i'd like to see myself as queen salmon, gracefully executing one of those arcing, water-glistening, leaps to the top. realistically i'm still trying to work out the route, i've got my nose up another fish's arse and am flapping around trying to find a foothold while adapting to the fact i now have fins, not feet. it's all very new and today i found myself justifying my sales activity as "filling the funnel" which felt very novel as i've never been in sales before. i was justifying it to adam. he'd called just to see what i'd been up to on this, day three of unpaid childfree working from home. i admitted i'd just got back from the hairdresser but this was a RARE treat! it had been about 4 months and as i might have a meeting next week i need to look a bit of a business laydeee and not like the mum of a four year-old and a 20 monther.

daughter #1 did say today "are you working at home today mummy, or going to the coffee shop?" she's very interested in the change; why am i no longer at the building with the blue lamp posts? where DO i work? (i fib a bit and say i work at other peoples' offices: surely this will eventually be true..) i was mildly afronted, however as i logged on from starbucks had to accept she was right. well jk rowling does her best work in there, infact i've often seen her in that very one, so as i loaded up my loyalty card in return for free wi-fi i felt it was justified.(and tax deductable?) i was a bit embarrassed about how dusty my laptop looked, and glanced furtively around wondering how all the students could afford i-books and vaios and why everything in my life looks a bit dusty and child-impacted. it really needed a good go with a wet wipe but being childfree this was sadly lacking from my bag. anyway, the coffee shop is also very close to the hairdresser so from a time management perspective it was the right way to go about the day. so now i'm blonder, have had some baked beans and forgot to not put butter on my bread (diet week three; very poor results so far), and have done my first blog entry.

from a work perspective i have also mailed the zoo, the nhs, historic scotland, edinburgh world heritage, the national galleries, scottish parliament, bonhams, lyon and turnbull, rbs: an eclectic group but a group nevertheless. linked by a) my desire to work with them b) my contacts (tenuous but there) and c) my thoughts on their available spend. so the funnel is full of possibles, but only one tenuous meeting so far. i have been granted a free annual membership to the chamber of commerce so when that is duly processed i intend to network wildly with my new executive hair.

i'm ignoring the washing up and washing machine and un-integrated integrated dishwasher sitting next to me; this is a WORK day and as such all domestics get left until the end of the day. i actually find this quite hard but realistically those things are do-able with children round (well, i can't integrate the dishwasher and despite his assurances i'm pretty sure adam can't either so that will have to wait a bit longer) so while the children have tea and refuse to eat delicious omelettes ("tastes yucky mummy" from daughter #2 yesterday) i'll slot back into speed-multitasking-mummy and do all the jobs until adam's slavemasterish employees release him from their grasp and he staggers home grey-eyed and tousle-haired at 8ish. tonight however he has leftover roast (sunday to weds, surely still ok?) and i go out on my work leaving do and probably fib a bit about my funnel.

so i'd better crack on, NOT go shopping for a chair for my new desk, not look at the cost of vaios and i-books and instead work on that graceful arc to the happy breeding lands.