Do you have a talent for drawing, writing, designing, creating?
Do you dream of having a business from home as a mum?
A business you can do in school hours, so that you can enjoy your children on the evenings and weekends?
It is possible. All you need is a little courage to take the leap. Google how to start your dream job, you might be surprised at how easy it is.
If you missed last weeks interview with Mumpreneur Aby from You Baby Me Mummy, you can catch it here.
This weeks Mumpreneur Helen, from Ellie Illustrates, fell into her work organically. Her design business was born out of being in the right place at the right time with skills she already had.
Tell us a bit about your business? Why and when did you start it?
Ellie Illustrates was 3 years old at the start of this September! It kind of grew organically out of some initial blogger requests for bits and pieces of design. I wrote my own blog at that time and fellow blogger friends knew I was an illustrator and designer to trade.
The more freelance commissions I accepted I gradually started to think about what different illustration and design packages I could put together to make life easy for my clients.
My initial blog design package grew out of that and I now offer a whole host of illustration services. I work with authors on book illustration and also start up business on branding and design. From the very beginning I was part of a large twitter network of parent bloggers and I was well placed to promote my services. In many ways it felt like I was in the the right place at the right time.
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have 2 children – a boy almost 9 and a daughter almost 5.
Where do you like to work from?
I work from home in a gorgeous little cottage office in the garden. We moved home just over a year ago and spent the first few months renovating this outbuilding into my studio.
How do you balance both work and family life?
This is a continual challenge and is an occupational hazard of being self employed and working from home. Having the office space in the garden has helped me immensely – although it’s just on my doorstep it’s a separate building and physically removed from the house.
I find that once I turn off the computer and turn the key in the door at the end of my working day I’m far less tempted to drift back out there, out of sight is out of mind and I definitely find it easier to switch off than I did when I worked in the main house.
What is your vision/dream for your business?
I’d like to maintain the level that it’s currently at from a working volume point of view. I’d like to continue to work with the blogging community and also grow my number of book illustration commissions because these are such fun to work on.
I really enjoy branding work too and am continually inspired by fellow mums launching their own small businesses. My daughter has just started reception this year so I now have the full school day Monday to Friday. I tend to work mornings and then have some time to myself after lunch. I want to ensure that time for myself remains a key part of my week.
I may experiment with working 3 full school days and having 2 to myself. That’s the beauty of being your own boss, you can chop and change your routine around to suit.
What have been your biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
I think my biggest challenge has been learning that sometimes you have to say no. As a freelancer its very difficult and feels fundamentally wrong to walk away from any work, however I left my job in a busy design agency in order to have a more relaxed, creative environment which I could enjoy and be in control of.
I’ve learned that overburdening myself in terms of my workload leaves me feeling stressed, rushed and exhausted. I’ve now developed a strict advance booking system for new commissions which means that I only accept work for dates and timescales which I know I can manage and enjoy.
What has been the highlight of running your own business?
The positive feedback from clients has been amazing. I love taking an entire project through from conception to completion. Often in traditional agencies you are a cog in a wheel and only part of the overall process. But I have entire creative control over my work now.
Obviously I need to meet the needs of the client, and I always do my best to ensure they are fully happy with the outcome of the commission before it is signed off, but there is ultimately something very satisfying about seeing all aspects of a project through from start to finish.
How did you fund your business?
Ellie Illustrates had very low start up costs. All I needed to get going was some pencils, sketchbooks and a new apple mac. I invested in a new computer which I managed to pay off within a few months of taking commissions and really that was it – I’ve never looked back.
What advice would you give to other mums starting a business?
Start it. Today. Put your mind to it, start the ball rolling and get things done. We waste a lot of time talking and procrastinating about brilliant ideas when really we should simply be getting on with them. One of my favourite all-time quotes applies well to start up business – “don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel. Stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself“.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
My alarm goes off at 6.45am to get up and get the kids ready for school. The Primary school is only around the corner so I’m back at my desk for 9am. I work then till anywhere between 12 and 3pm, depending on my workload that week. I lock the studio at the end of the day and after that it’s family time.
Do you have any tips to banish the mum guilt we all feel?
I have a son and a daughter. I want to set a good example for them and I love that they are learning from me that women can be mothers and working professionals too. They’ve watched me build a business which I love from scratch and I think that’s a very positive example to have set.
Do you ever get the chance to have time off for yourself? If so, what do you like to do?
We live on the Northumberland Coast which is simply gorgeous. We relocated just over a year ago and are still exploring and discovering fabulous new places right on our doorstep. We spend a lot of time at the beach and its this time away that helps me come back to my desk refreshed for the next illustration. I feel very, very lucky in what I do and where I live. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.
Thank you so much Helen for this lovely insight into your gorgeous design business. We are so jealous of your outdoor office space and absolutely LOVE your designs. Be sure to check out Helens website here. She is the first person we’re running to for illustrations when we finally get around to finishing our childrens book.
If you liked this, be sure to check out our Mumpreneur section on Life Unexpected for more posts on being a mumboss.
What did you think about our interview with Mumpreneur Helen from Ellie Illustrates? Let us know in the comments below.