Best self development books I trashed last year

Why I had to stop reading personal development if I wanted to succeed as a freelance mum…

blog5.jpg

We have all at some point or another fell, stumbled or were pushed into the self development movement.

From around 2008 to 2017 I was a huge fan, and still am however as with anything in life, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

I will explain more after I take you through some of the best development books of all time and why I had to chuck them out!

The books on this list are not the extensive collection, in fact they really are only a few obvious golden oldies, maybe we can cover a few more in another post, but they are all books peers at one time or another screamed 'read this book' at me so it makes sense to start with the classics.

Think and grow rich, a great book by Napoleon Hill.

If you are reading this blog I am guessing you have a copy on your bookshelf?

First published in 1937, by the time of the authors death, Hill’s book had sold 20 million copies and for good reason!

Next, how can I not mention Tony Robbins?

Tony you were my main gateway into this self development journey with Awaken the Giant.

Read it!

Stephen Covey is up next with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I have teenagers, so do check out the edition aimed at teens also. If you are also a homeschooling mum with teens it’s worth grabbing a copy for your homeschool library.

How to win friends and influence people was the next obvious one to go, thank you Dale Carnegie.

*confession. I do still have this one on audio. Not sorry.

Lastly, Eckhart Tolle, isn't he great but I'm lost.

Enlightened but lost?! The power of now I must really embrace.

They are all men right? Notice that?

I will cover my favourite female authors soon.

So why toss them out?

My organic progression through self help exercises, mantras and journalling turned me into an over positive, quote regurgitating, often nauseating clone of the texts, audios and YouTube for breakfast videos, I played on repeat.

Les talked me through the funny side of bailiffs at my door, and Tony just had a knack for picking me off the ground when I was sick, exhausted or just plain defeated.

I was becoming a kick ass, no excuses, insanely productive machine and I had an insatiable appetite for any life and productivity hacks I stumbled upon.

As a mum to 6, 4 dogs and the stifled panic I was mid thirties and was still yet to make it, find my purpose and go ‘all in’ (enter eye rolls) I was on a mission.

I blame Brendon, damn you sweet, adorable Brendon.

As the months passed into 2018 my analytical brain would naturally find patterns and methods in what the underdog is told to do to succeed.

Except, with that label ‘success’, comes many different definitions and in an industry that is on repeat to what that looks like, the maverick in me wanted originality and variety.

Then the devil on my shoulder, or a self development audio on loop, I can’t remember which, would shout ‘but success leaves clues’, ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’, ‘copy the system!’.

Me and systems have never got along.

Tension bubbled below my positive affirmations and smiles in the mirror routine to trick my mind all was well (cringe).

Except my bank account, it was feeling poorly and I knew that despite all the positive affirmations and money meditations when you need to pay rent and feed your kids, you really gotta act.

So I stopped and focused on studying digital skills.

The emphasis being on content strategy, copywriting, user experience and SEO.

I had had enough of being promised marketing tips and funnel tutorials from social media gurus and wannabes that were just regurgitating what someone skimmed over on a webinar.

Had enough of piling my Amazon cart with the latest transformational treasures everyone else was reading.

FOMO is real apparently… Personally, I think it sounds like a feminine hygiene product…

The credit card crew who pose in front of fancy holiday destinations, splurge on a fluffy photo shoot and are very much self-centric, not reader-centric, despite telling their minions to give value and freebies and just sell sell sell without much data driven logic or knowledge, were switched off.

You do you ladies and gentlemen! *waves

Look, I ain’t bitter, everyone has a right to do as they please, but in the digital age, people really can do and sell what they please with the right imagery and some persuasive sales copy.

I just didn’t fit.

Not in a high and mighty kind of way, in a ‘single mum of 6 and I am not about that flashy consumerist life’.

Posts of mac books at airports, I car share to reduce my carbon footprint!

I just didn’t fit the avatar.

Womens’ circles didn’t work for me either, I am too hyperactive to sit for longer than 20 minutes, particularly in a circle full of strangers as I awkwardly try to hide the fact I have sweaty palms as we sway and chant, no offence but I don’t want to hold hands regardless.

The Universe is great, but it doesn’t walk the dog, I got to get home!

Now of course I am being tongue in cheek, and the majority of these movements are just sisters trying to make it in the world of laptop lifestyles and leadership ambitions, I get it.

Be that barefoot and selling manifestation programmes or high heels and even higher prices for some overused sales jargon and some Gary V thrown in for good measure!

I’ve tried both cloaks.

We can have it all right? We can do anything?

Then comes the conflict.

Plan A says do this.

Plan B do it this way, that way is so last season.

Book A states this works.

Book B clearly notes this works AND saves time.

So we go round and round listening to him, copying her, stopping, starting, changing, crying.

So I gathered all my books and donated them.

I loved them, well I liked them, but it was time to create, upskill and put my blinkers on.

Now as a book hoarder I didn’t stop buying books, my 2019 best reads is to follow.

For now though, take a moment…

Create, implement, reflect.

Observe your market and offer a solution.

Mostly, play to your strengths and digitally upskill, the new economy has so much opportunity for those willing to learn fast, stay current and carve out their own offerings.

Plus, everything is so accessible now.

I don’t see enough women embracing high tech skills.

To the mums in particular. who like me dream of a way to find a life and business on your terms, who want to embrace motherhood and a flexible work/lifestyle, we need to drown out the noise and focus on real skills in an oversaturated self development bubble.

Put the books down and take action.

Stand back.

Mums gone digital.

*please note this blog post contains some affiliate links surrounding books, do not buy them, instead go and carve out digital skills for a new economy! If however, you do choose to purchase via the links on this page, I earn a small commission as a result of your book obsession!

The ability to adapt as a freelance mum

Why us freelancers need to stop obsessing over our niche

Photo credits:  John Salzarulo

Photo credits: John Salzarulo

If you could choose one last meal, what would you eat?

I always did struggle with this question… 

Similar to picking my favourite colour despite having preferences, I could never just choose one.

Entrepreneurship holds similar tones, from a marketing perspective choosing your ‘soul mate client’ impacts your messaging, your positioning and your ability to sell your goods and services to the right people, and yet picking a niche can feel so rigid.

Do you really want to box yourself in? Most entrepreneurs left the system to avoid this very notion.

The creative has many arrows to her bow, and yet suddenly throwing out a new service can effect your user experience if you suddenly offer something slightly out of line to your usual demographic, thus jarring your brands associations and seeing your audience fall away at the hint of the next trendy new flavour because you got bored of your existing business model.

Still, I don’t want a certain type of client month after month, churning out the same result, I want diversity, challenges and refreshing projects.

Hence, I do resonate with the ‘free’ in freelancer, despite it not describing free to switch services, it feels more adaptive to my notions of a bohemian lifestyle and business practices.

There is a phrase I quote in my mind often from an old dog eared National Geographic magazine I keep with my few treasured possessions that contains the phrase, ‘adapt and thrive, leave or die’ depicting a non native plant species growing through the concrete in an urban environment between the metal stairwells of an overpopulated immigrant tenement in 1970’s U.S and I have applied this to my business endeavours.

Having learnt more from my failures, than any success or business manual ever taught me, the ability to adapt to the market and the customer has seen me ride different niches within my abilities as needed.

After all, freelancers gotta eat, and this freelance mum has many mouths to feed! 

Now clearly we cannot change our services and skill set like the weather, however here are 5 key points to keep in mind to ‘adapt and thrive’ as you grow your business and reputation.

Have a can do attitude

If there is a task or project you instinctively feel you can handle, step forward.

In my nurse training, I distinctly recall being the go to in times of pressure and stress.

Not because I knew more (I was still very much newly qualified) but purely on my attitude. I was all hands on deck in a crisis.

Any assignment you are relied upon, step into it with a ‘can do’ attitude and expect repeat requests for your assistance, the bonus being you can charge accordingly over time.

Since this year another key game changer in my attitude is the continuous commitment to upskill to meet the ever changing digital age.

From copywriting to SEO strategy, keeping up to date with digital skills allows you to stand out and bring fresh knowledge to your industry. We have never been so connected to knowledge and data driven information so stay fresh and find the time to learn key skills your clients and customers will benefit from.

No one just gets lucky, but with a proactive attitude you will be surprised how work seems to come into your lap. Pick something today you can learn, to compliment your existing services and bring your game face, people will notice your energy and enjoy working with you.

In fact, YOU might just become their lucky charm!

blogpost4luck.jpg

Combine forces 

If a task is bigger than you or you lack certain skills but possess some for the job, combining forces is the solution.

As an example, myself and a co-partner combine our skill set to offer a service that stand alone we could not deliver as individuals.

When we launched The Biz Lab we knew our markets and what we could bring to the industry. We now get to enjoy a diverse work load and bounce ideas off one another, plus gain insights into each others expertise.

Location is no issue when working as a team provided you have the workflow and systems in place to keep communications open and everyone clear on their designated roles within a collaborative project.

Be open minded 

Now, I am not saying desperately take on all and every opportunity but particularly if you are new and need to fill your diary with activities other than Netflix and walking the dog for the third time before 3 pm, think about what you can offer, suck it up, deliver and get paid.

What do people need?..

From branding, to copy, admin to accounts management, what can you assist with that you enjoy and the lay person does not?

Pitch them professionally, do a great job, expect them to suggest other opportunities as you build referrals and recommendations and watch less TV shows as a result.

Look for clues 

What do your network in business and life come to you for?

Are you ‘that one friend’? Can you monetise this?

Observe the market, join freelance groups on social media, and see if you can apply your strengths in a sales letter, break down your offerings based on what others say you are good at, and cash in.

What have you got to lose?

Turn into a niche gap detective, spend a day finding your potential clients weaknesses and politely offer to fill the gaping hole they are neglecting to nurture in their own business.

Just don’t send those desperate emails freelancers do about all that’s wrong with their website and business! No on likes a asshole just looking for a freelance gig!

Be original

Online noise and business development books tell us pick our niche, in fact I have even suggested to clients to ‘niche your niche’ and there is some truth in this.

However, having a solid service or mission and remaining static to demand are two very different entities.

To stand out, you must be original. How about including adaptive originality in scaling your business?

From a brand identity perspective no one wants to be beige, at the same time being flamboyant for the sake of it can leave you with egg on your face if people soon realise you are an attention grabber with no substance, so really unpeel your core messages and take some time to carve out your brand story.

After all, in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different. – Coco Chanel

Just don’t forget to walk the dog when you are in demand and bathing in the richness of many projects on the go…

blog4dog.jpg

*This blog was originally posted on Thrive Global in October 2018

5 household tips all work at home freelancing mums could use...

To minimise chores and prioritise your WAHM freelance week

blog2.jpg

Often I am asked how I keep on top of household chores as a work at home mum and honestly, I can’t say I do!

However, I have found MPD a sanity saver, that’s MINIMISE PRIORITISE DELEGATE, to focus on what’s important to us as a family and keep on track with my freelance work.

It is so easy to get sidetracked with housework when you work from home, but as busy freelance mums we need to make sure every working hour counts and be disciplined in time blocking to allow effective time management.

Something I am continuously trying to improve!

On that note, here’s 5 household tips that help prioritise the week…

Put away laundry only ONCE a week !

Here’s a quick video explaining why I only put away on Sunday’s.

Not to be confused with only wash and dry clothes once a week, just not possible as a mum of 6 but I find the never ending pile may as well be divided and delegated to each owner just once a week to save my legs and my sanity!

Ditch your iron!

I do still own an iron but I can truly say I cannot remember the last time I used it!

Tell a lie, the last time time was when my three teens had a wedding to attend, I blew the dust off it then, here they are looking smart.

older3.jpg

Other than that, if you fold and roll your clothes away there is rarely any need to iron and no one is the wiser!

Batch cook one pot wonders!

These were a life saver during maternity leave and to stop me working into the early hours because I'd spent all evening trying to cook at least semi healthy dinners , plus you can feed yourself the next day with the leftovers!

Our favourites are chickpea curry, chilli bowls and stews. I will try to post some recipe videos soon as they are so simple, yet well received by all!

It is so easy to forget to eat when you are pouring all your energy into your small business! Touch wood so far I am yet to forget to feed my kids, it's just us mums that are prone to self neglect. Unless it's biscuits, funny how we don't forget to eat biscuits!

One main room per designated day!

Instead of spending your working week pottering about room to room, fire fighting the mess and wondering why no one has booked the freelance mum, shut the bloody doors and focus on one room a day!

Trust me, it's like shovelling snow while it's still snowing, trying to keep the whole home tidy, so just give up now!

Once your freelance business takes off maybe you can find a cleaner so you can sit back with a cuppa and listen to a scummy mummies podcast instead of guilt tripping yourself about all you are not getting done!

kyle-glenn-686341-unsplash.jpg

Get outside!

Yes, exactly that!

Get out in nature!

You will feel calmer, happier and the kids will make less mess if you are outside lots!

There is no such thing as true work life balance, but taking time out will stop you going stir crazy cooped up indoors.

We love hanging out in the woods, and as the saying goes…

There’s no such thing as bad weather!

Just make sure you have some overalls and quality footwear and you are good to go!

I do not want to register my home educated children but...

I am curious, do they need ‘safe guarding’?

Photo credit:  pan xiaozhen

Photo credit: pan xiaozhen

Plans for a new register in England for children learning at home has me twitching and I know I am not the only home educating parent that is full of angst at the prospect right now.

Supposedly a register will help local authorities intervene surrounding at risk children and poor standards of education.

How do we define poor standards of education, particularly for those of us seeking an ‘alternative education’?

Using myself as an example, I would not say I was particularly ‘out there’ with my educational philosophies but needing permission to go to the toilet as an infant and minimal outdoor play sitting down for long periods of time is certainly the opposite of my personal views on the way childhood years should be spent.

My guess is text book standards will be used to score home educating families on a cut and dry sliding scale and yet education is not cut and dry and cannot be measured in a way that removes the culture, demographic, beliefs, circumstances and liberty of each individual family, each individual child.

The complexities are too vast to fully cover, from the SEN child to the bullied de-registered teen how can such a register effectively monitor variable standards without generalising the criteria?

Even more of a concern, who is qualified to sign us off as outstanding (highly unlikely in my case!), good, requires improvement or inadequate to quote Ofsted.

Three of my children went to school and the youngest three have never enrolled.

My teen son was a great example of how school does not serve every child with an education to suit them and was very much better home educated despite being told that children have to suffer school despite their incompatibility to a system that is grade based and conformity (not to be confused with decent human behaviour) is rewarded or ignored depending on the individual teachers competency, personality and personal views within the school setting framework.

Yet if all children were ‘in school’ you are assuming a teacher can effectively and consistently monitor approximately 30 children for any safe guarding ‘red flags’. In that case I sincerely feel for the heavy burden on a teachers shoulders, I was under the impression they are there to teach.

In fact my son, in school, did not flag up and yet academically and emotionally was falling through the cracks, a term used to justify said proposed home education register.

The phrase concentrate closer to home springs to mind, just looking at the increasing amounts of children embracing home education and thriving points to the benefits, whilst also indicating a possible issue with educational standards within schools, not out.

Of course safeguarding children is a priority.

Photo credit:  Jen Evelyn-Ann

Photo credit: Jen Evelyn-Ann

Which leads me to question, who’s job is it anyway?

When my children were born, the healthcare service was involved and we were in fact ‘signed off’ by a satisfied midwife thanks to no safeguarding issues. I am assuming this is the standard procedure for most mothers post partum.

When my toddler was admitted to A&E two consecutive nights IN A ROW recently we were thankfully discharged once her condition improved, as a former nurse I am also assuming with no concerns surrounding safeguarding issues.

My children visited a family member yesterday, someone who has a very traditional view on reading, writing and numbers and yet despite my girls not reading yet, made no comment about any concerns arising surrounding their wellbeing AKA no safeguarding issues or poor educational standards.

My neighbours, despite my children diving and squealing during ‘school hours’ on the trampoline or during various activities in the house and garden at odd hours, have yet to report me for child negligence, so far!

I am hoping this is due to no safeguarding issues or educational standards concerns…

So what would a register and monitoring actually look like?

How will it be implemented?

I am going to take a guess you, home education register official, will want to visit us at home so I am going to make some confessions in advance.

My house is messy, between juggling more than one business from home, so that I can home educate AND pay my bills and ensuring my children are fed, exercised and ‘educated’ I have to be honest, you may disapprove of the toys, books and various household pets strewn left, right and centre.

I often look dishevelled, as a freelance mum and trying to at least survive motherhood, let alone thrive, I will probably tick your ‘damn hippies’ checkbox.

We do not follow the National Curriculum, which was kind of the point for me personally, but hey ho I can appreciate your disapproval seeing as you will be monitoring me within a static framework of what consists of a ‘good education’.

I am an ex teenage mother, in fact at a time when the local authorities may have done a better job in offering support and resources, again I did not draw up any safeguarding issues.

Now of course I get the logic, I believe every child should be safe.

It is everyone’s duty to make sure our children are protected.

The answer does not rely on a register, it lies in something that already exists.

Community.

We are all responsible for ensuring the safety of ALL children.

Your neighbour, your shop keeper, your youth worker, your family, your friends, your GP, your place of worship, your dentist, your gym.

My children are not registered but they are not invisible.

From the local health club for swimming and a class on a Monday we are SEEN, to home education opportunities with other children most days and regular family visits we are HEARD.

We are not under the radar.

My children are not falling through the cracks.

All children should have a right to a safe, happy, educational childhood.

My argument is, how can a register define what this should look like?

Please like, share and comment surrounding your views on the proposed home education monitoring below, I would appreciate your thoughts and input to make this blog post more concise.

Please also follow our brand new YouTube channel here.

On home education and being a freelance mum

The honest guide to getting your work from home business going alongside home educating

Photo credit: @simonrae

Photo credit: @simonrae

My name is Angie.

I am a mum to 6.

I home educate.

I am also a work at home mum.

I sometimes question my sanity but I digress…

I’m not sure at what point I home grew this life around the home.

My kids used to go to school and I used to go to work.

We plodded through the weeks and lived for the weekend and school holidays.

Well, unless I was on 12 hour night shifts, but I’m not here for sympathy

Now our days roll into weeks and we haphazardly make it work.

If my kids don’t need school then I figured I don’t need a job.

Well a regular job that is, and so I was determined to have an online business, but let’s rewind a little…

In 2013 I found myself facing the decision that home education would be my only option for my second child.

I was working full time, long shifts including night shifts and was also pregnant with my 5th child.

For various reasons, my on/off relationship with my children’s father was as strained as ever and once I went on maternity leave, I started to explore home education in the UK and despite being pushed into giving a different school ‘a try’ for my teen son, I had soon deregistered him and have never looked back.

What became one of the most strained years of my life so far, became the pivoting moment of the progression to a life AND business on my terms.

Fast forward to now and I have 3 daughters that I have no intention of ever entering the traditional school system as we currently know it.

So why home education for my youngest three children?

As someone who had had three children at a very young age and facing the associations of being a teen mum, I had ensured they were signed up to the best nursery in my catchment area as a way to counteract societies assumptions and as my children quickly progressed into the primary years I went on to University as a mature student, doing ‘the right thing’ so I could work full time and meet societies expectations of women, modern women that is.

Career and motherhood.

Having it all they call it.

Plus trying to rectify the teenage mum label I had carried around for so long, I felt I was finally making it in the big wide world.

In reality, I was sleep deprived, depressed, harassed and struggling to keep in control of all the roles I was expected to thrive in, whilst taking home a disappointingly sparse pay packet as an entry level nurse.

All the hours I had studied and left my children to train on the job, to be struggling to pay the rent and cover our basic living costs left me in rent arrears and a bout of depression I am still processing.

So when my son would call me to refuse to go to school, I going into another 12 hour shift which would leave me physically drained and helpless to defuse the situation surrounding his anxiety, I didn’t make an empowered decision to sack my job and the educational system, there was no light bulb moment, no ‘we got this’ fist pumps.

It was more a tail between my legs defeat that I was failing as a mother and an employed member of society.

This is the part where I tell you I launched a business and never looked back.


Well I’d be lying!

Instead, post baby I sat with a toddler at my feet, a baby on the breast, my son recovering still at home and a Job Centre employee telling me in a matter of fact way I was over qualified for the part time caring jobs I was interested in and I should just drop my babies at childcare before a nursing shift (7am start) and pick them up after my 12 hour shift.


I tried to explain I was now home educating my teenager and she gave me a funny look and said put him in school.


I had by this time, read MANY homeschool mum blogs and even imagined blog name ideas, blog topics I could cover about our journey and looked into getting a blog planner to make things really official!

I decided I would blog about home education uk and even craft ideas to sell as was a keen crocheter, honestly, I was so naive and believed it wouldn't be that difficult to get paid to blog almost immediately!

I mean how hard could it be to sell online?

Other homeschool moms in the US seemed to be the niche to follow, from mason jar DIY crafts to tutorials for bath bombs, I made lists for blog post ideas to earn money.

Social media makes money blogging look so accessible to all and I had tried blogging in the past, I'd watched do it yourself web design videos, and had various creative hobbies so why not me right?!

It was now or never, I had a teen child at home, one that needed my support and my job could not give me flexible working hours.

What came next was a messy trial and error in no particular order of Etsy products to DIY website builds to network marketing to Amazon affiliates.

I say this period was a mess but it was no waste of time.

Little did I know I was pushing myself through a crash course in marketing, networking, blogging, copywriting, admin, accounts, profit and loss, selling and generally dabbling in every possible business model until I found my unique skill set I could pitch to prospective clients.

I became a freelance mum.

There was no badge of honour.

No ceremony.

No recognition.

Just a laptop, a PayPal link and a shit ton of content.

I cried, I swore, I invested my time, money and energy and I can safely say I regret little.

Other than the time I didn’t pay the rent and instead paid a supposed expert to teach me how to blog and she then froze at the mention of keywords and had no clue as to what the hell I was on about, but that’s a whole other story.

And so why freelance ?

I won’t use the ol’ time/freedom chestnut as regardless of when I do my work it still requires committed time, within a timeline whether I have an emergency or illness, or not.


Like the time the whole household had a vomiting bug and a client demanded in the evening that the website copy due next week needed to be submitted by 9am the next day as they had made an error with their website builder.


Or the time my baby was admitted to A&E in the early hours of the morning and I had to submit a final draft for a new website the same very day. I managed to submit it with zero sleep and the help of my teenage daughters’ baby holding skills.


Yet, it’s still my work, my schedule, my priorities.


My pride when I get great feedback or an associate tells me I did a great job on a client project.


It’s all me.


Oh shit, it’s all ME!


On a serious note, we all know you don't need to read another 'how to make money on the internet' article.

I know so many freelancers struggle.

I know there are so many ups and downs.

I’m in the online groups and forums.

It’s sink or swim out there.


So the question is, how do we juggle the challenges of freelancing?


Particularly those of us with children.


Even more so the crazies who too home educate alongside.

I mean, don’t get me wrong.

I love that I don't commute.

I don't miss the horrendous school runs.

I also enjoy changing up our schedule week to week.

But make no mistake, it’s not all calm and rosy, check out this video...


...but it is very much us, riding the highs and lows.

Here’s a few factors that have kept me going when I have doubted being a home educating freelance mom!...

Collaboration is key.

Get yourself out there, be it in online groups or physical events, you need to get known, even in just a few small circles both home educating AND business groups.

Learn or pair up with a skill set that compliments your offerings and see what you can offer your market.

For freelancing, an agency or two you are on great terms with allows the referrals to begin to trickle in until they are at a steady flow, so do reach out with some examples of your work or offer a small job on the house in exchange for a testimonial.

Talk to other work at home mum’s. We get it, behind the scenes we are losing our shit from time to time too!

Look at your children. Are they clothed, fed (reasonably) well, are smiling and laughing often? Then you are good! Keep going!

We’ve got this though, we have so got this (I think?!).

Having come to the conclusion that the National Curriculum was not for us, I soon came round to the acceptance that working out of the house for full time hours plus travel most days would not be for us either.

So yes, I'm a home educating freelance mum.

I didn't choose this life, it chose me, but I'm kind of glad it did and other than yearning for some solitary bathroom trips I regret nothing.

Mostly…