#girlboss, Charlotte Tilbury, Freelancing, Sponsored post

(Girl) Bossing It

Albert - I love my boss

Doesn’t time fly? On Friday, it will have been a whole year since I was made redundant from my old job and over nine months since I set up my little social media agency, Cattington. While it’s not for everyone, I’m adamant that making the move towards becoming my own boss is the best decision I’ve ever made. I love the freedom of being able to choose my own clients, make my own hours and work from bed as and when the situation requires (which I anticipate will be ‘every goddamn day’ now the temperature has dropped.) On a more practical level, working for myself has provided me with so much flexibility about when and where I can work – something which has proved to be incredibly useful considering all the curveballs life has thrown my way in 2017.

However, if there’s one thing I hate it’s invoicing. It is the bane of my life and, from speaking to other freelancers, I know I’m not alone here. It’s one of those necessary evils – after all, you can’t get paid if you don’t send an invoice. But the process of invoicing can be hugely time consuming. Time which you often don’t have if you’re focusing on growing your business. And that’s before we get to the soul crushing, stress inducing rigmarole of chasing late payments. It can be an exhausting and emotionally gruelling process which frequently distracts you from the important things, like pitching for work, doing the work and deciding which cafe you’re going to be working in has the best cake.

Which is where Albert comes in. Albert is a free invoicing app which has been developed for freelancers by freelancers. I’ve been using Albert for a few weeks now and I’ve been really impressed by how easy it is to use. It’s simple yet powerful, including all the functionality you need to look professional while providing you with easy access to your businesses finances. Best of all, it can all be done through your phone which is perfect if – like me – your phone is your most vital piece of business paraphernalia.

One of my favourite features is the functionality to send out branded Cattington invoices while on the go and preview them before they’re sent over to the client. As someone who is never in the same place (or even the same city) for very long and always trying to juggle 101 tasks at once, this is a lifesaver for me. The same applies to their status timeline which provides you with the flexibility to change dates and backdate invoices. Best of all, it allows you to include payment terms, such as payment due dates which is something which every freelancer should include in their invoices (if you don’t know what these are – and what your rights are regarding late payments and charging interest – this is a super useful guide) as well as a status timeline showing you when – and if – your invoice has been read by the client. Once you’ve invoiced the client, Albert also allows you to download everything into a handy .CSV spreadsheet which you can email to yourself, your accountant or even your Dad.

I could go on at great length about Albert, but I’d suggest that you do your own legwork, take a look at their website and read  some of their 5* reviews on the app store. It’s definitely one of the most intuitive freelance invoicing apps I’ve used and I feel like I’ve used practically all of them. Best of all, it’s totally free meaning that you don’t have to spend stupid amounts of money on getting your business’s finances into shape.

Girlboss

Obligatory picture of me looking all professional, like. Lipstick is Charlotte Tilbury’s K.I.S.S.I.N.G in ‘Velvet Underground’.

Loathe as I am to use the term #girlboss (particularly with the whole ‘being a 34 year old woman’ thing), I also don’t think that there’s anything cute in pretending that you’re too scatterbrained and creative to focus on your finances. Even if you think it’s boring, these are the things which will help your business – and yourself – thrive. Working for yourself can be hard, lonely and exhausting at times and anything which makes the process that little bit easier is always a win in my book. Apps like Albert help me stop fretting about money and start focusing on the things I’m good at. Now, if you excuse me, I have to get back to work…

Albert is currently available for iPhone and can be downloaded via the app store. This is a sponsored post, but all of my opinions are my own and 100% honest.

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Comfort food, Food, food bloggers, food blogging, Pasta, personal, Recipes

Eating Your Feelings

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A Spanish Chip Butty from The Pen Factory in Liverpool. Unquestionably, one of the best things I’ve eaten this year.

I haven’t felt much like writing recently. I started 2017 with so many great plans and amazing intentions. This, I told myself, would be my year. But so far, things haven’t been going according to plan. Work has been slow and my many (many) hustling emails have mostly been met with a ‘no’ or – even worse – no reply. Numerous opportunities have fallen through. The sink is blocked. I broke a nail. I pulled my favourite necklace out of its box last week to discover that it had snapped in two. Trump is president and seems to be on a mission to cause as much damage as possible. And my Dad had a heart attack.

There was no prior warning, no prep time. Just an unexpected phone call from my brother one Friday night informing me that my Dad was in surgery. It’s not my Dad’s first medical emergency, or even his first heart attack, but no matter how many times you find yourself in this position, it still comes as a shock. As I write this, he’s recovering from a heart bypass and growing increasingly weary of being stuck in hospital. I can’t say I blame him. Thankfully, he’s recovering well. Hopefully, he’ll be discharged by the end of this week, but in the interim, I spend my time flitting between Liverpool and Manchester. The house I live in, the house I grew up in and the hospital adjacent to where both of my siblings were born.

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It would be a lot to deal with even if it wasn’t all happening during January, that long dark Monday of the soul. So, I cope with it in my own way. I switch Twitter off. I read. I go on long bike rides around the wild, ragged coastline near my house. I watch an unhealthy amount of ‘America’s Next Top Model’ (while simultaneously praising and cursing Amazon Prime). And I cook.

I read this Bon Appetit piece yesterday about the joy that can be found in cooking for others. One paragraph in particular really leapt out at me. Mincing onions, making stock, kneading dough, and setting a table with care shouldn’t, and can’t, replace volunteering, protesting, and other forms of activism. But building and caring for community is absolutely vital right now. My hope is that this kind of nourishment—real food, made with love, for myself and for my friends—will better equip me to engage in the long fight ahead.’

I tell myself that I am cooking for the people I love – lunch for my husband to take to work with him, dinner for my Mum so she has something warm and nutritious to eat when she comes home late from the hospital. But I am also cooking to heal myself. I cook because cooking is an all consuming process. You follow these steps and (usually) something delicious will result in the end. I cook because cookbook writing is an art, and because a good cookbook can be read in the bath like a novel and transports you to places you never even knew existed. I cook because butter always makes things better. And I cook because in the hardest of times, we need to look after ourselves and others. We need to nourish our bodies and minds for the struggles ahead, to provide ourselves with comfort and strength when the obstacles feel almost insurmountable.

It is easy to dismiss thinking and writing about food as being a frivolous act when huge events are taking place in the world. But I place just as much importance in ensuring the people around me are well fed as I do in other radical activities. We still need full bellies and comfort food in dark times, whether that be brownies warm from the oven, an enormous plateful of Shepherd’s Pie, or just a giant bag of Doritos and hummus to munch on while watching your favourite film. Today, I will be heading over to Manchester and making a pot of bolognese sauce for myself and my Mum – some for tonight, and some to freeze for later when the thought of cooking from scratch seems like an impossible task. Food is good. Food is important. Sometimes it’s OK to eat your feelings.

Some Comfort Food recipes I’ve been cooking recently:

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Anxiety, Eczema, It me, mental health, personal, tattoos

New Year, New You, New Danger

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I’m a bit of a sucker for a new start. I love the idea of each year being a tabula rasa filled to the brim with potential. I buzz off the excitement of new projects, the crisp lines of a new notebook, the opportunity contained within the pages of an empty diary. But, I’m also acutely aware that writing about new year’s resolutions is one of the worst lifestyle blogging cliches. And, before you say anything, I also know that reading about other people’s new year’s resolutions – many of which they’ll have broken by the second week of the year – is pretty boring. So, I’m (going to do my best) not to write about them here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reinvention recently. I read this piece by Deborah Orr in the Guardian and was shocked by how much I related to her experiences of living with difficult mental health. Like too many people I know, last year wasn’t the easiest one for me. I was stuck in a job I hated (and was eventually made redundant from), experiencing some pretty nasty health issues, saw too many bad things happen to the people I love and – the cherry on top of this cake of shit – the return of the crippling anxiety and depression that has plagued me since my teenage years. At one particularly low point, I deactivated all of my social media accounts and almost deleted this blog because I was just so tired of seeing everyone else leading brighter, better, happier lives than mine. I hated the way I looked, I hated the way I felt and I hated logging on to discover everyone living it up while I was stagnating.

Of course, this is not a particularly rational way of thinking. Particularly for someone who works in social media and so should be totally aware of the glitter and artifice people sprinkle over their lives when discussing them online. Being alone with my thoughts only made them worse. I found it increasingly difficult to get out of bed and had to start working from home more to accommodate this. I was having panic attacks in my sleep and drinking too much. When I was at my office, I would repeatedly find myself bursting into tears and having to go and hide in the toilets. I had to finally face up to the fact that I needed help.

I went back onto antidepressants and discovered one that worked for me (I had been wary of them since a terrible experience with Citalopram in my late 20s.) I started seeing a therapist who helped me to unpick some of my ways of thinking and examine them in a new light. Being made redundant helped me to realise that one of the reasons I was so depressed was because I was in a job which wasn’t right for me and it provided me with the impetus (and money) I needed to finally go it alone.

I’m saying all of this not out of a desire to make people feel sorry for me, but more because I’m proud of managing to come out on the other side. I did some amazing work in 2016 – both professionally and personally. I’m entering 2017 happier, stronger and with much better hair. I’ve also acquired some awesome tattoos, but that’s by-the-by.

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My noble steed

Like many people, I have big plans for 2017. I want to write more, both for myself and for others. I want to make my freelance career a success. I want to be more careful with my money, not just because I am acutely aware of the precariousness of freelance life but also because I want to find methods of self care which don’t just involve purchasing things that I don’t really need.

My friend James came to visit me over the Christmas break and was kind enough to fix up the old Raleigh Shopper bike which had been gathering dust in my hallway for a number of years. Last week, I found myself going on a 13 mile bike ride alongside the River Mersey, enjoying the feel of the wind through my hair and feeling so incredibly lucky to live in such a scenic part of England. I don’t know what will happen to me this year. But I know that if I continue to take pleasure in the little things, I’ll be OK.

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Uncategorized

Take good care of yourself: some thoughts on mental health & self care

This is fineI’m not very comfortable with publicly discussing my mental health. So, the irony of writing a whole blog post about it is not lost on me. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was 14, but – bar a nervous breakdown when I was 21, and a rather bad episode when I was 25 – I’ve managed to deal with it relatively well. I have a good job. I have a great relationship. I earn enough money to do all the things I want to do with my life. Moaning about my own experiences of anxiety just feels a bit privileged when there are others out there with real issues to worry about.

However, I’ve had a few blips recently. Blame it on the changing seasons, my new job and the sheer exhaustion born out of a daily cross city commute, but I feel as though I haven’t been thriving as hard as I could be. I’ve spent days worrying that everyone I know and love hates me, or that I’ve made some catastrophic fuck up at work which means everyone thinks I’m useless. There’s been a lot of paranoia and breathing exercises in disabled toilets. It hasn’t been much fun.

One of my favourite podcasts is Another Round. I love it because it’s funny, it’s honest and provides so much excellent life advice (not least ‘drink more water’ and ‘call your mum’.) The two hosts – Heben and Tracey – are open about their depression and anxiety issues, and how they deal with these. Most importantly, the advice they give is never patronising. It just is what it is, two good friends exchanging coping strategies on how to navigate the world when your brain doesn’t want to play ball.

A topic they frequently discuss is ‘self care,’ which is something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Self care is, simply, the things you do to take care of yourself when you’re tired, or feeling low. They are the strategies you put in place to protect yourself. I practice it so I have the strength to keep doing all the things which I know I’m good at, and which make me feel better about myself, my abilities and my place in the world. Some days, it will be something like attending a yoga class after work, and on others it will be something as simple as remembering to perform my cleansing routine and brush my teeth before bed (which is a big deal when I’m so tired I can barely remember my own name.)

A glamorous work selfie. Because this blog post would be pointless without a gratuitous picture of my face.

A glamorous work selfie. Because this blog post would be pointless without a gratuitous picture of my face.

I think that there’s a lot of misapprehension about self care. It can sometimes be misread as being all about vanity or consumption. (And there’s a whole other conversation to be had about why neither of those things are necessarily negative.) Plus, a lot of discussions about it on the internet (or at least the internet spaces I frequent) can sometimes read as over thought and strung out. It’s great hearing about how a Brooklyn based beauty writer or the lead singer in a band practices it, but their life experiences can often feel vastly different from mine and the people I know. ‘Why should I listen to some hipster reminding me to wash my face?’ as I once saw someone comment.

But at the same time, I don’t think that a lot of us are particularly good at practicing self care. It takes time and effort, both things which are in short supply when you’re just trying to get through the day. I try and put aside a little time each day which I can commit to doing things which will make me feel better about myself, and just silence my brain for a bit. Often, this will involve going for a lunch time walk near my office, visiting the library or sitting in a cafe and reading a good book. At other times, it will be something like buying a lipstick, applying a face mask, listening to the football in the bath (one of my favourite weekend activities) or taking some selfies to remind myself that I’m of worth and my eyebags really aren’t as bad as I think they are.

I’m also an advocate for stepping away from the internet for a bit when it all gets too much. I love social media more than words can say, but it can be emotionally exhausting. Switching off the thing I do for fun (but which is also my job) allows me to get some valuable breathing space. After all, sometimes it’s OK not to have an opinion on everything.

It’s vitally important that women have discussions on how to take care of themselves in a world which often feels antagonistic and cruel. But I’d also like to see these discussions taken out of rarefied spaces. I’d be really interested in hearing how you practice self care, and what it means to you.

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