Building Makelight Together - one year on

A year ago this week Stef joined me full-time at Makelight. At the time we didn't really know what that would mean. How long would he stay? Was he building something for me or for both of us? Would people take him seriously if he was working on his wife's passion project? What would the Makelight community think of him? Was he going to stay behind the scenes or join me in teaching and building the community? And of course, could we work together full-time and spend all day, every day together? 

A year on I don't think either of us can quite believe what we've managed to achieve and at the same time we feel like we've literally just started. It has been an amazing year, even if it's been the most risky thing we've ever done. And if you know anything about the things we've done in the past, we've taken plenty of risks! 

It's been an amazing year but I think we both know that we've got an even bigger, better one starting right now. 

Last month we started a regularly Lecture series for the Makelight Members. We invite Members to suggest topics for us to talk about. This week I gave a talk about how I started Makelight and some big things that I have learnt over the past five years, so I thought I would share these with you too as they might inspire you. 

Just Start

I started Makelight with a notebook of ideas and a Typepad blog. I had a plan about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to achieve but I didn't wait until everything was in place. I just started. 

It would have been really easy for me to plan and plan and fill notebook after notebook for at least a couple of years. But starting my blog, trying things out and starting with just one workshop that I mentioned on Twitter and my blog meant that I was building something right from the word go. And I was building an audience around this too. 

Start small. Find something in all that you want to do and start doing it. Even if it feels like the smallest of steps, you are moving. These small steps and mini launches can start to tell you so much about what you enjoy, what you find hard and easy, and what your current audience respond to. 

Just starting and small launches have to be one of my favourite things. And I love how the world we live in now works so well for this. You can literally put something out onto the internet within minutes. And there is nothing wrong with trying something out and leaving it if it doesn't work. 

Quit What Doesn't Work

Which leads me onto the next big thing I have learnt. Let go of what isn't working. The faster you can pivot, the better you will react and grow. Working with Stef has helped us both so much with this. Working with someone you trust 100% is so good for making decisions together that sometimes feel crazy or scary. And we both know that there will be no blame if we make the wrong decision. We'll both learn from it and move on. 

Last year we took on a bigger studio, only to realise just a couple of months later that we were moving so quickly from physical workshops to online ones that we just didn't need the studio. It felt kind of crazy to let go of something that had been so central to my early plans and a place that had really helped Makelight to grow. But it just didn't make sense anymore. Yes, I'm sure we'll have a space again in the future but right now we're enjoying working from home and supporting people all over the world. 

Focus

I used to worry that I would run out of ideas or run out of time to make my ideas happen. But I soon realised that if you are open to having ideas, the ideas don't run out. You get new ones! That is particularly cool and handy when someone copies something you've done. They don't have your next idea! 

But a constant flow of ideas can also be really draining and cause you to feel like you're all over the place. Ideas are important and it's a good idea to keep open to ideas but it's important to put these ideas somewhere and focus, focus, focus on the main thing you are doing right now. 

Choose one thing and make that your thing. There will be time for other things but only if you make this one work! Or prove it doesn't work and move onto a different one. But focus is super important. 

Over the past year we've spread ourselves way to thin at times. We knew it was happening and had some seriously crazy mind map moments trying to get our heads around it! At times there wasn't much we could do about it. We've bootstrapped Makelight so far, so sometimes we've had to try and do too many things simply to make it work. 

But we've been working really hard over the past few months to focus on the Membership, so we could get to the point (last month...hooray!) where we could turn Makelight into a subscription business with everything in the Makelight Membership. 

And breathe! 

I cannot wait to work on all that we have planned over the next year. Working with my best friend, on something that we both really love is a wonderful thing indeed. xo

Beating the school holiday guilt trap

I spend 7 weeks counting down to the school holidays, spend them in a muddled twist of guilt that I'm not spending enough time with my children or enough time on my work, get super sad when they come to an end and then the whole cycle begins again. 

Right now I've got an hour's slot to do some work but before I can even think straight to do that I have decided to write this little post that has been whizzing around in my head for the past few days because I know that I'm not the only parent feeling all sorts of guilt this week. And it also might help to calm down my busy mind too, so that I can get the important piece of work done! 

Be in the now

I think the most important thing for me is to be in the moment during the holidays. I cannot magically turn 24 hour days in 48 hour ones. I have the time that I have. If it's a working part or a hanging out with my children part I want to enjoy it, without spending the whole holiday panicking that at any given time I should be doing the exact opposite of what I am doing. 

So, I'm doing my very best to follow the lead of my children and be right there in the moment and enjoy it. 

Get a balance that works for everyone

When I am happy the rest of the family are usually happy too. I think a happy mummy really does make my family a happy one. If I'm spending the whole of the holiday stressed out and full of guilt, that's not going to be any fun for anyone. 

I have been studying the art of work/life balance for our family in the school holidays for a few years now. I've been paying close attention to what my children want from the holidays and how much quality time with them do I need to feel happy about also working. And I think I get better at it with each holiday that we have. 

I know that I actually put pressure on myself to organise more days out during the holidays than my children really want. Yes, they love to have some adventure days but they also love staying in their pyjamas all day and playing together at home. They need down time after the busy school terms, so I have got better at being realistic about how many trips out we all actually need in the holidays. 

I have also learnt how much work time I need each holiday to stop me spinning into a stressed out mess and how many days of mummy working that my children can manage during the holidays. It needs to be a careful balance between the two. And sometimes it just doesn't quite work because of childcare or work commitments but Stef and I are as careful as we can be about planning things in the school holidays. 

Letting go of superwoman 

It is so easy to put so much pressure on yourself to work as normal during the holidays. To stay up all night to try and answer all the emails and act like nothing is happening at home. 

As a society I think we should totally understand that school holidays mean that people who are working for themselves, especially if they are working on their own or only have a small team, are totally allowed to say 'sorry, things are going to be a little slower for the next couple of weeks because I am looking after my children.' 

We are not all parents but all parents are bringing up the next generation. Children who will grow up to be important for the future of our world. Children of the world are precious, so let's help parents to look after them when they need to.

I know that if I'm able to enjoy the school holidays with my children without feeling guilty that I will be back fully refreshed and bursting with new ideas and energy. And that is good news for everyone! 

Stef and I are actually designing Makelight to fit into the rhythm of school life. If we can make it happen we will be shouting about how and why in as many places as we can. Watch this space!

If you are struggling to make it all work this week, know that you are not alone. Here is a big hug for you. You are doing brilliantly. Celebrate that with some mini eggs! xo 

Blogging for business growth and a better life

I will always remember sitting in a cafe in Waterstones while Stef talked to a friend about setting up a blog with him. Everything about it excited me. I wanted one. I wanted blogging to be a part of my life. 

This was years ago and blogging has been an important part of my life ever since. My blogging has been amazing for growing my business but it has also been wonderful for my life too. This week's Makelight YouTube video is all about my blogging journey. 

Stef blogs too and you can find his writing over on Medium, where I occasionally appear too

Next month the main focus of Makelight will be all about blogging. If you would like to join us, you can find out more here.