A year of adaptation
It’s become a tradition that I write a little review of my year as an English Female Voiceover artist. I like to reflect on my challenges and achievements and hold myself to account against the plans or aims I had at the start of the year. So far it’s been working pretty well for me. A simple motivational post-it note stuck on the studio wall keeps my mind on track and has produced some great results as you can read in my previous annual blogs.
2019 was a bumper year with awards, new demo reels, working in new fields and with great new clients and, of course, finally completing my family with the arrival of baby Ada.
So, how did 2020 work out?
Challenges, successes, adaptation and a global pandemic!
Life in January 2020 seems unrecognisable to me now. There were whisperings about a virus, but no effects here in the UK. My second child was 2 months old so I was just emerging from those crazy new-born weeks and recovering well from the c-section. I was looking forward to spring, getting out, getting fit and enjoying a blissful maternity break with the little one at home and my big girl at school.
What do they say? If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!
Only a few weeks into 2020 I think we all realised it was going to be a VERY different year. But I already knew that. The addition of Ada meant we were already expecting to be home more and working less. When you run your own business and have kids you have to be adaptable. And you never really get a break. I knew I needed to find a plan that would enable me to juggle work and childcare. So, me being me, I still wrote that post-it note and pinned it to the studio wall. Here’s what it said:
- Somehow maintain my full-time income level despite maternity leave and coming back part time!
- Work more in commercials (high value and minimal studio time – works around the baby)
- Promote my new demo reels
- Get new clients
- Get fit after the C-section and lose some weight
Simple right? Earn more but do less. What a lovely dream.
Reader, I did it.
I’ve exceeded my income target, done some amazing commercial work that I’m so proud of and grateful for, won new clients and I can now run 5k! Ok, the weight hasn’t come off, but I’m fit and strong and that’s more important.
We’re all in the same storm, but we all have different boats.
2020 was a year of adaptation. When the pandemic first hit I felt grateful. I was already expecting to take an economic hit this year as we’d had a new baby. My husband and I planned to use the shared parental leave scheme so we knew one or other of us would have to be home, so adding our older daughter into the mix didn’t shock the family dynamics as much as other people. We already worked from home and have dedicated office and studio space. Having a garden and live in a semi-rural area meant we could get out easily. It was hard, but I was grateful for what we did have.
The ‘keep in touch day’ maternity system meant I could do the essential business work (VAT returns, admin and doing essential voiceover work) but I had to request a break from some long-standing regular clients. And huge thanks to them for pausing work and letting me come back. It’s not like you can get maternity cover for your own voice so I was frightened they’d move on to a new VO in my absence.
But as the pandemic dragged on things shifted and changes had to be made. Home-schooling a resistant 5 year old whilst exclusively breastfeeding a teething baby who doesn’t sleep at night nearly broke me. My husband’s business was reduced to about 30% of his usual income and we didn’t qualify for support (in the early stages) and we couldn’t form a bubble to help us with the kids.
The blissful maternity I dreamed of vanished. I was home with the kids and now frantically looking for work as well to make up the shortfall in the family income. It meant I had to work every second of those keep in touch days in any hours I could find and my husband did more of the home schooling. I missed my baby and grieved for the maternity I should have had, but was grateful I could press GO again on my business and earn while others couldn’t.
Lucky for me, the post-it plan paid off. People really responded well to the new reels, the SEO work on my website paid off and a few new key clients meant I got some amazing commercial work that saved us. Thank you Sainsbury and thank you Amazon!
What have I learned?
All those years of hard work have paid off.
- My website and SEO is working brilliantly and I regularly win work by clients coming direct to me. At the time it felt like time consuming tinkering, but now I get loads of enquiries from google searches and I’m regularly on page 1.
- Being nice and easy to work with pays off. Clients are regularly recommending me to their contacts – the best way to win more work.
- People I’ve worked with move on and then bring me into new companies. I’m finally gaining traction in high-end commercials, overseas work, gaming and other sectors.
- Setting targets really does work. It keeps me focussed.
It aint all plain sailing
But it’s been challenging beyond measure trying to juggle it all.
The main thing I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to do it all. I constantly feel like I’m failing and there is always a consequence. Work is good; kids get ignored…kids get attention; I drop balls at work. There is a reason why we have schools and nursery! I couldn’t have survived the year without my husband being here to play an equal role in the childcare and housework.
There’s been a relief this year too. I finally feel ‘seen’. Other parents have talked openly about how hard it is to work from home. How the work/life lines get blurred, how you always feel ‘on’ and how your focus is constantly split; you’re neither parenting nor working, you’re just managing both. It’s an impossible task which leaves you sometimes feeling that you’re failing at everything and it’s so dispiriting. This is how it’s always been for me. I don’t have ‘work’ days and ‘childcare’ days like some parents who return to conventional work. I run my own business. The emails constantly ping and the phone calls come in any time. Voiceoer is fast paced. Fail to reply and you miss a job or are too late for an audition. So, Monday to Friday I’m at work, but I’m home too. It’s been nice to see that other people find it hard. And it’s no wonder I’ve struggled over the years to find a balance.
So, having said that I felt I was set-up and ready for this, I think it’s made me realise that I’ve been stressed and living under crazy conditions for years. Which brings me to…
What are my hopes for 2021?
GET THE KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL!
Do simple things like take the kids to a restaurant, get my toddler to a petting zoo, go on a camping holiday, see my parents and maybe, just maybe find a way to have a break from the kids and just sleep for 2 days!
And as for work? Anything after 2020 will feel easy. With Tilly at school and Ada at nursery life will feel like a holiday. I don’t think I have grand plans for 2021 like I’ve made before. I don’t want awards, or to blast income targets. I don’t want to get into new areas of work. I just want the kids to be happy and to rest to be honest. So, so long as I’m earning enough to meet our needs, I’ll gladly take some time off to heal from the most brutal year.
So the post-it note may look different this year, but the targets will be just as important;
- Meet financial needs, but don’t forget to meet my needs while I’m doing it.
- Rest, play and enjoy the simple pleasures of a normal life seeing friends and family and watching the kids grow.
Come on 2021 – you can do this!