How Annie and Steph make work, work

Annie Ridout, Emma Victor-Smith, Steph Douglas.jpg

Hello - I don’t usually write up an event in such detail, however there were a few women who couldn’t make it so I asked Helen at @instrunctionaldesignbyhl to take notes - you’re amazing Helen!

Here goes:


Annie Ridout in Norwich, photo by    Emily Gray Photography

Annie Ridout in Norwich, photo by Emily Gray Photography

Annie was a self employed copy editor on a long term contract who expected to go back to work after the birth of her first baby. It didn’t work out, and she launched her digital magazine The Early Hour, making money through sponsored content. Annie used The Early Hour as her pitch when meeting people, and pitched a book idea to a friend she met through play group. She set up a column called The Freelance Mum - and the book deal came through that. Annie’s book features many of my favourite business women (Cherry Healy, Scummy Mummies, Steph, Zoë de Pass, Candice, Sarah Turner) as she wanted to include other peoples experience and include as much diversity as possible.

Steph Douglas in Norwich, photo by    Emily Gray Photography

Steph Douglas in Norwich, photo by Emily Gray Photography

Steph hadn’t thought about the reality of motherhood before it happened, and has really retained that feeling (it’s her secret talent) and the emotional side of what it’s like to have a baby - feeling lonely, isolated, angry. She started a blog as the more people she talked to about the shock of motherhood, the more she found people agreed, and she wanted to make sure others felt the same before she started her business.

Lots of people think Steph used her maternity leave to start a business - she said she didn’t - she may have had the idea but it’s taken four years to get to this point. 

So let’s dig into some of the big topics the audience were interested in:


Steph Douglas and Annie Ridout

Go easy on yourself. Steph said she didn’t with her first two babies, so she learnt to pull up the drawbridge with Frank, her third. You will lose your identity, but it will come back to you. It’s ok to concentrate on your baby. Annie’s advice is to find your tribe. Don’t be with people who make you feel rubbish, find honest friends.

Where do you start if you want to go freelance?

1. Try working part-time and building up freelance clients on the side. 2. Mat leave can be a good time if you’re able to, as legally you’re allowed to earn money from a new side hustle. 3. Have enough money coming in to pay the bills 4. Be laser focussed on the finance side, look at the margins if it’s a product business.


The Freelance Mum, 4th Estates, Annie Ridout

Confidence comes from experience. Confidence is like happiness, it needs to be worked at. The confidence session on the Clementine app was recommended by Annie. Annie also has a “Special” folder in her emails, where she puts all her good and nice emails so she can reflect on them. Steph said her confidence has also come from experience, and that things will go wrong but it’s how you deal with those things - try not to take everything persnonally. It’s really important to reflect on what you have achieved so you can acknowledge what you have done. Confidence can be knocked by looking at what others are doing - stay in your lane and do you. 

Time management

Hannah and Martine at  PX Success ,  photo by    Emily Gray Photography

Hannah and Martine at PX Success, photo by Emily Gray Photography

Be realistic about what is possible. Endless lists are overwhelming - take one step at a time. Steph said she does take on too much, and that means some things have to be culled. We can’t do everything we were doing, and start a business or go freelance. Delegate what you can afford to, and cull social lives, cleaning, cooking “you might have cereal for tea, and that’s ok.” 

Annie’s advice was to be really organised. Secure repeat work (this means you’re not always pitching). Try to get childcare if you can, and know what you’re doing in that time. Annie will get urgent last minute jobs, and will use the Bubble Babysitting app to help. We do have Bubble on a small scale in Norwich at the moment. 

Work doesn’t fit nicely into childcare hours all the time - how do you manage the overspill?

Steph said to start with, she worked all hours (which was fun and hard in equal measure), and had to get to a certain point before it got easier. Annie isn’t allowing the overspill at the moment as she’s pregnant, but advised to adjust it when you can. 

Do you switch off from work when you’re with your kids?

Annie said definitely not - she will finish an email, or a phone call but tries to do the thoughtful stuff without the kids. She said she tried to do a podcast but that didn’t work too well! She doesn’t think it’s a bad thing as she is with her kids - if they need her, she is there. She said her dad was home a lot when she was young, and he was always thinking about the next thing at work, and it didn’t bother her - he was there.  Steph thinks it is easy to beat ourselves up and she leaves her phone downstairs at night to charge. Also, Steph is so right - none of us have it right, because we don’t really know what ‘right’ is - this is all new! Which is why we are gathering on a Weds Feb night to see how others do it.

How do you avoid burn out?

Steph, of course believes in the 30 min nap. Sleep is major - when you haven’t got time to stop, is when you need to stop. Sometimes she disappears for a bit, comes down and Doug is like “did you just have a nap?” - didn’t even notice. Like a stealth nap. 

It would be difficult to work in any capacity without the support of your partner - are you specific about what help you need at home? 

Steph - the mental load is half the work. Big recommendation to ask our partners to listen to Dear Sugars podcast on Emotional Labor: The Invisible Work (Most) Women Do. In the nicest possible way, back off a bit and let your partner figure stuff out - it doesn’t need to be done your way. Annie even tried a reward chart for jobs round the home and it turned out her partner did more than she thought.


Social media - how important is it really?

For freelancers, assuming a Linkedin profile is already in use - instagram is good for community and building a platform, but not great to referring people to your website. Twitter and Facebook are better for referrals. 

Bill’s Norwich - it’s pretty up there - photo by    Emily Gray Photography

Bill’s Norwich - it’s pretty up there - photo by Emily Gray Photography

For product based businesses, instagram is essential - make sure to build your story around your brand, not just product. For example, Steph has a separate brand account, and has various themes such as motherhood, which she has a social media manager working on (the excellent Nicola). 

Tips for building an audience:

We Got This Sometimes.jpg

Annie: Create a good feed, have a viewpoint, by creating good content you have more chance of someone sharing it. Annie thinks the best way of growing your audience is by other people sharing your account. Don’t do the follow, unfollow thing. Create good enough content so people want to mention you. 

Steph: Be consistent, don’t over think it. Don’t become so focused on the numbers - if you need 50 regular customers, and you have 70 engaged people following you - that’s perfect. Like Vickie at @inpolife said - imagine all those people lined up in your house ready to listen to you, or buy from you. It really changes your perspective. 

What boundaries do you have in place to protect you from the dark side of social media?

Both Annie and Steph take a different approach to showing their children on social media - I wanted to touch on this as many of us have kids and it’s a big topic that’s fairly new:

Steph speed mentoring

Steph speed mentoring

Annie - started off blogging about parenting, so used to use photos of her children. Her husband didn’t want her to, and she decided to stop showing their faces. She thinks she definitely saw a drop off in followers and engagement, as people do want to see the family. However she’s now talking about freelancing and from a mum’s perspective so feels ok about that. 

Steph’s space is about motherhood, she is in it with Frank and feels it would be strange not to show her reality when she’s known for honesty and support. 

Basically - it’s up to you. I read a really good article by Mother Pukka about this last year, it is here

Creative process in a product business

Annie’s book signing with    Jarrolds

Annie’s book signing with Jarrolds

Gemma at Mutha.Hood came to Norwich last year, and shared her approach, which is that she views her range in seasons, plans the products so she has these kinds of waves of concentration - similar to a fashion business (she used to be a fashion buyer). I think Emma at Little Hotdog Watson has a similar approach, as she has just launched Spring. 

Steph said the beauty of being digital is that she is much more off the cuff - she has an idea by talking and listening to customers, and can turn round a new product very, very quickly. She starts with the customer, and how she wants them to feel. Then it’s about product selection - the products have to be good quality and British. Her biggest advice is start small, and start focussed. 


Q&A We Got This Sometimes Book Event.jpg

Both Annie and Steph have secured incredible PR. Annie did a Princes Trust Business Course (which is for under 30 year olds, the link is here) and the biggest tip from her mentor was to ‘find your story’.

  1. Find the right person at the publication - research the actual person, don’t send to a generic email address

  2. Follow the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter and be fast to respond

  3. Make relationships with journalists - they are real people. Send an email pitch, not an attachment.

  4. Make sure you proof read. 


I asked Steph what was the biggest thing that she can remember that drove sales, given that she has been featured in blogs, podcasts, the press, magazines. She said yes, there was one big thing early on. She started by blogging, and at that time, there were only a few big blogs about honest parenting, like Katie (Hurrah for Gin), Sarah (The Unmumsy Mum), and Steph had written a post that had gone viral. She got chatting to Sarah on Twitter and asked if she’d like to send a gift package to her friend. She did, her friend cried with gratitude (there is something wonderful about being sent one of Steph’s packages) and Sarah shared that on her Facebook page. Steph was on holiday at the time, and was happily overwhelmed with orders, getting back to her spare room as soon as she was home to dispatch. 

Thank you to our co-sponsors    Minivino Wines

Thank you to our co-sponsors Minivino Wines

So the key learning is that if you have a product or service, you need to really think about a personal pull through - you can’t just ask many many “influencers” ‘can I gift you a product in exchange for a post’. It’s really not as robotic or transactional as that, you need to have invested in that person in an authentic way. They are very busy just like you. Pick three people, build a relationship, like their posts, comment on their posts. See the cost of sending samples as a marketing cost - sometimes it will work, and sometimes it won’t.

Same, same but different - most of the guests I have asked to come to Norwich I’ve been following since Will was born, and genuinely want to meet in real life. I have to wait for the right time / moment / topic but I’d feel disingenuous if I didn’t love them, as how can I expect you to! So when I ask, it doesn’t feel cheesy to me, as I know in my gut it will help other women (and some men). 

Most interesting person you’ve met?

Steph - Ben James, owner of Graze (he just sold Graze this week for a tidy sum) - very determined and interesting

Speed mentor Liz Cobbold, Minivino Wines

Annie - remembered a mum when she was younger who she used to babysit for. The mum would DJ was super cool  - it made Annie realise she could be a cool mum

Most used apps:


  • Clementine app - helps with fear and confidence

  • Barclays app - staying on the money

  • Google calendar - for synching with husband (who doesn’t check it. Similar theme to the FOD event)

  • Slack - for linking with colleagues on workload, instead of What’s app (avoids awkward knowledge that the person has seen it but has not replied yet)

  • Social media apps 

  • Hootsuite for scheduling

  • Guardian app

Top tips

Thanks to co-sponsor  Ginger Fashion  on Timber Hill

Thanks to co-sponsor Ginger Fashion on Timber Hill

Steph - the business has made her more employable so she has less fear about if it does all go wrong!

Annie  - Think big, Start small

Steph - You don’t need lots of cash to start with.

We then invited questions from the audience:

Q1) From Muddy Norfolk - Around the topic of confidence - she reminded us that having our children is a huge achievement, and that it does get easier and better. Steph agreed saying you’re never more efficient. Annie agreed saying its very empowering.

Q2) From Sophie at The Night Feed - Any tips for managing parent rage with your partner? 

Wired Mama    wire art - she can make any word, in a range of fonts, most sizes

Wired Mama wire art - she can make any word, in a range of fonts, most sizes

Steph advised to spend time together when you can. Although it’s an ongoing thing. Remember they feel pressure too, and it’s good to understand each other. She said she counselling before their third baby, which was useful. And her mums advice - remember to be kind.

Q3) Any big business disasters - Steph said at the start she over ordered stock and didn’t sell it, and didn’t understand cash flow at the start and now it’s king. Molly at Selfish Mother launches a product for pre-order, and then orders stock based on pre-order numbers, which minimises risk. I’ve seen Gemma at Mutha.Hood do this too. 

Q4) Podcast recommendations

And then looking in Steph’s insta highlight:

Scummy Mummies, Emma Gannon, Alison Perry, Bowel Baby, Nicky Raby, Bryony Gordon, Life Coaching by Anna, Cherry Healey, Emma Guns, The High Low, Katie Piper, Dear Sugars, Power of Mum, Holly Tucker MBE, Freaking the F*ck Out, Griefcast, Cheltenham Maman

You can search people you like, like Annie and Steph and work your way through. 


This is a link to all the articles Annie has written on

This is a link to all the articles Annie has written on Guardian

This is a link to Steph’s blog posts

There were surveys on your chairs for Liza, a student who is planning a Wellness event for mums - a digital version is here if you missed it:


All photos by Emily Gray Photography

Home-Start Norfolk – supporting Mums and Dads through the early years

Becoming a new parent is an experience like no other. Throughout those early years, it can be a rewarding time but also incredibly challenging. 

Left to right: Dr Sarah Taigal - a lady who has received Home-Start support in the past, Chrissie Jackson - patron of the charity, Ray McCune and Fiona Hall, Tanya - volunteer, Helen Brown - fundraising manager.

Left to right: Dr Sarah Taigal - a lady who has received Home-Start support in the past, Chrissie Jackson - patron of the charity, Ray McCune and Fiona Hall, Tanya - volunteer, Helen Brown - fundraising manager.

Many of us rely on the support of fantastic friends and family when we’re having a bad day parenting young children.  But what if you have nobody around to offer that vital support?  Perhaps relatives live far away or have their own challenges to deal with. What if you simply can’t talk to your family about your parenting worries? Where do you turn?

Home-Start Norfolk is an amazing charity, and the only one of its kind to provide regular, one-to-one support for parents, with children aged 0-5 years, in their own homes.  The charity aims to give young children, age 0-5 years, the very best start in life by supporting their parents. 

Through a network of brilliant volunteers, themselves parents or grandparents, Home-Start Norfolk provides regular, practical and essential support to hundreds of Mums, Dads and carers throughout the county. Weekly visits from a Home-Start volunteer give parents and carers someone to talk to, go out with and lean on; with volunteers helping families to get through particularly tough times.

“Some days, as a parent, you simply need to see a friendly face and share a coffee with someone who just gets it! And that’s where our volunteers can step in: providing a listening ear and some practical support and advice to help parents get back on their feet,” says Helen Brown, Home-Start Norfolk’s fundraising manager. 

A lifeline for so many Norfolk parents; while raising young families, it’s a service that’s in demand. 

Last summer, the charity conducted a survey of more than 200 Norfolk parents. With the results clearly demonstrating that many parents are struggling to cope with the demands of bringing up a young family and are in need of this vital support.  

Home-Start Norfolk’s survey found:

  • 88% of Norfolk parents said that coping with a new baby or young family was an overwhelming experience.

  •  65% said they were not prepared for the challenges they would face as the parent of a young child. 

  • 65% said they chose not ask for help from friends and family as it feels like admitting they have failed.  

  • More than 66% of parents said that simply having someone to talk to and listen to them would offer the biggest source of support.  

Ray McCune is a Trustee and says; “There’s an African proverb which says ‘it takes a village to raise a child’; placing importance on the extended family, friends and wider community to support parents of young children and help them learn and develop in a safe environment.  But in today’s world, many people are lacking that vital community support.  Our survey highlighted a real and serious issue facing parents here in Norfolk: one of isolation and loneliness. We want to tackle that and be there for more families in the county.”

“Even if parents have a wide support network of friends and family, it can be hard to ask for help.  You can’t do it all by yourself, but it’s very common for parents to feel that they have failed if they ask for support.”

Home-Start supports families throughout Norfolk, helping them through a wide range of issues including poor post-natal mental health, lone parenting, coping with multiple births, getting back into work or dealing with a life-changing event such as a death, illness or accident in the family.

By spending just two hours a week with families in their own homes, the Home-Start volunteers make a huge difference. 

But the service is in demand. And the charity needs additional funding to train, co-ordinate and support more volunteers, so it can reach out to even more families who need their help. 

That’s why, last year, Home-Start Norfolk launched the 5% for the under 5’s fundraising campaign

If only 5% of the Norfolk population donated just £1, Home-Start Norfolk could raise £44,650 – money which would translate into support for an additional 60 families and offer many more young children a better start in life by helping their parents.  

If you would like to support Home-Start Norfolk, please text or donate online:  

By text: 

·      £1  - text HSNO15£1 to 70070

·      £5  - text HSNO15£5 to 70070

·      £10 - text HSNO15£10 to 70070

Online = donate here

Connect with Home-Start Norfolk on social media 

Website            \\     Facebook           \\ Twitter          


Fancy a sky dive?

How brave are you feeling? You can fundraise for Home-Start Norfolk by completing a skydive this May, all the details are here

Information provided by Home-Start Norfolk

Resources for working motherhood, January 2019

motherhood resources.jpg

I had a few women contact me who are considering their next moves post relocation to Norfolk or post maternity leave. I don’t feel 100% confident to advise as I’m in it right now, and some might say I have good days and bad days (!).

For the past couple of months I’ve been learning to integrate new clients into our lives, with less childcare than normal. It’s been “interesting” (meltdowns, late nights) yet now we’re in a sweet spot as it feels, fingers crossed, that as long as I “keep going” and as long as the system isn’t rocked by illness etc we can muddle along. These are some resources below that might help.

I see three options for working: freelance, business owner and being employed. As a career minded mum of two small children, I’ve found it impossible to find employed work at the level (and corresponding salary) I’d be happy with. I think it’s due to a lack of advertised senior Job Shares in this area. I am trying to talk to people about that.

I already own a business, which is my third baby, this one, We Got This (Sometimes!) which is a passion project. If I hadn’t started this business, I wouldn’t have the skills that have led me to my current freelance clients, which is lucky, as I love doing it.

I’ve been a freelancer for ten years, I act as a marketing manager for clients and sometimes as an agency account director. It’s incredibly rewarding having control over my time (although, at the end of day, if there’s a meeting, I need to go.) It’s interesting, and varied and actually taps into my skills really well. What is difficult is shoe-horning it in to childcare slots, as life doesn’t work like that. And all the other non chargeable things that are not paying the nursery bills, like finding clients, pitching to clients, chasing invoices, etc. Also the ‘personal branding’ element, which is new vs ten years ago. Am I meant to have an instagram for my work? How can I fit that in!

I also struggle with sharing the “load” aspect. My husband works more than full time, and is often away. He has stepped up and now does the food shop and meal plan which I LOVE, and does the washing if it needs doing, however he doesn’t see the blocks of our kids lives that are constantly shifting like I do. The party invites, the swimming lessons, the childcare juggling, the bill paying, the family visiting, homework, school admin. And I’m not really saying he should as he’s flipping busy BUT because I freelance, I am the flexible one who does the running around. One way we’ve recently found is if I work from 6 til 1 or 2pm on a Saturday, I feel better. Rock and roll.

Resources I have come across:

Returning to work after maternity:

1 - Guilty Mothers Club - Rock your Return online courses

Setting up a business:

2 - Selfish Mother - online courses

Finding out what you want to do:

3 - All Bright Academy - I’ve just been accepted into an online course

4 - Step Up Club

How to do it:

5 - The Little Black Book and The Multi-Hyphen Method have helped me. Podcasts: The Janet Murray, She Means Business, Show Me the Way, Nicky Raby, The One Girl Band Podcast


6. AND NOW also The Freelance Mum by Annie Ridout (totally spotted that a few months back!)

7 - Doing it for the Kids Facebook Community

Mind soothing

8 - Sam James Coach - she’s a mum, she’s a coach and she’s ace.

The February event to me shines a spotlight on why I set this business up (admittedly Steph has been a huge influence on me!) in that I want to find my groove and ultimately not be stressed, be a good mum and a nice person. Hopefully it will do the same for you!

Click here to see ‘Making work, work’ event details

If you’d like to blog for this website, please email me

#wegotthiswednesday - Steph Douglas, founder of thoughtful gift packages company Don't Buy Her Flowers

Every so often, on a Wednesday, we ask a mum how they manage their work and family. This week, Steph Douglas, founder of thoughtful gift packages company Don't Buy Her Flowers, gives us her approach to feeling like she’s ‘got this’. (Sometimes.)

Steph Douglas.jpg

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your business.

I'm Steph, I'm married to Doug and we have three kids - Buster, Mabel and Frank. I started Don't Buy Her Flowers in 2014 selling thoughtful gift packages. The idea came when I had my first baby and received 8 bunches of flowers - they were lovely but I was so overwhelmed and exhausted and it struck me as bizarre that the go-to gift was another thing to care for.

We started as gifts for new mums but very quickly our customers were asking to send packages for other reasons - there are so many occasions when someone could do with some TLC and people want to create something more personal that shows someone they've really thought about them. The idea is that our gifts encourage the recipient to have a sit down and take a bit of time for themselves, whether that's with a good book and a G&T, enjoying a hot cup of tea or locking themselves in the bathroom for a full head to toe recovery session.

Little Cheltenham_DBHF_In Box_Bespoke Care Package_2.jpg
Dont Buy Her FlowersIMG_5526.jpg

We're about to launch a new package that is all about unwinding - whether someone is sending a package to a new mum, a birthday, someone who has been bereaved or someone who is just having a bad week, we're all pretty overwhelmed and someone saying 'here, look after yourself' is so powerful. That person is acknowledging you might need some looking after and I had totally underestimated how powerful that is. I ran the business from home for two years, and now we have a warehouse in Gloucestershire, where I'm from, and a growing team. Which feels bloody great. I'm really excited about our next phase. 

2. What is your most embarrassing parenting moment?
Three kids in, I don't think I get that embarrassed anymore! I'm more likely to feel flustered - I had one of those moments the other day where I'd loaded the pram like Buckeroo and when I took a crying Frank out his foot got stuck and it tipped up and stuff was rolling across the floor... those moments would have killed me with my first but now I'm generally ok. I like to look for the pair of knowing eyes who will give you a 'yeah, we've all been there' look. Some days I can handle it, sometimes an accidental kick in the shins from one of the kids will leave me in tears but that's more down to feeling overwhelmed than embarrassed!

3.  How do you juggle your business with being a Mum to three? 
Hmm... sometimes I feel on top of it and sometimes - a lot of the time - I don't! Frank is in nursery three days a week and I feel that is the right balance for us at this moment in time, except I can't actually do all that I need to do with the business in three days a week so there's a bit of a gap. He usually sleeps in the afternoons he's home, and with evenings and a bit of weekends I can manage, but I had reached a point where I had more days covered and I was doing less in the evenings and weekends before Frank arrived.

I think the grass is always greener so I need to remind myself that this was a choice, I'm very lucky that I have that choice, and also this is a phase. When Frank is a bit bigger he'll probably go up to four days and I'll generally be less sleep-deprived so that'll help!

The first couple of years in business were incredibly tough - it takes a lot to get something going - and it feels much calmer than it did then. The business has grown month on month since we launched and we're at a level I couldn't have imagined two or three years ago, so it's important to stop and reflect on that as if you're always just focused on pushing forward it's exhausting. And I have Doug and three amazing kids. We're doing ok. 

You can follow Steph here @steph_dontbuyherflowers, browse for Mother’s Day (end of March) and all other thoughtful gifts here. Steph has also been on loads of podcasts, and inspired me when I set up We Got This (Sometimes!) - just search for her in the podcast library. I think the Scummy Mummies episodes with her are ace.

#wegotthiswednesday - Annie Ridout, author of The Freelance Mum

Every so often, on a Wednesday, we ask a mum how they manage their work and family. This week, Annie Ridout gives us her approach to feeling like she’s ‘got this’. (Sometimes.)

TW: Zoë de Pass aka Dress Like a Mum and Annie Ridout visit Twickenham

Tw Annie Zoe.jpg

So many women find their careers and sense of style change when they become a mother. 

In the last decade, 70% more mums have chosen to go freelance. Journalist and founder of The Early Hour Annie Ridout, who has written for the likes of The Guardian, Stylist, Red Magazine and Metro was one of them. In her new book, she shares the tips and tricks that helped her build a better working life for her and her family alongside advice from other Mums who make it work including Cherry Healey, The Scummy Mummies, Sali Hughes, Steph Douglas, Zoë de Pass and Holly Tucker MBE.  

Thousands of us have followed Zoë de Pass as 'Dress Like A Mum' on Instagram, on her mission to prove there is no such thing as 'dressing like a mum'. With over eight years experience working within trend, branding, digital and creative agencies, Zoë set up the Dress Like A Mum campaign and has worked with brands such as Elizabeth Arden, H&M, M&S, ITV and Topshop along the way. 

Come and join us as Annie and Zoë discuss all things freelancing, work, childcare, fashion and confidence.