Your Name and Age: Meghan Fenn, age 37
Tell us about your family:
I’m an American married to a British husband and we have 3 children: Samuel age 8, Anna Grace age 6 and Jonah age 5months. After University, I left the States in 1994 to live and work in Prague, where I met my husband. We then moved to Tokyo together and lived there for 2 and a half years, then travelled around Thailand, decided to get married so came to England and then got married in America. We now live in Worthing, West Sussex and I have been living in England since 1999. I love it here!
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
When I first moved to England, I completed my Masters in Design Studies and then worked as a senior Internet Designer for a company in Nottinghamshire. I then had my first baby and went back to work full-time. When I was pregnant with my 2nd child, I was made redundant from my job so decided to start my own design business. It was tough entering the ‘unknown’ which also had financial implications so a bit stressful at times. I was also about to have my 2nd child and with my first still under the age of two I had my hands full and had to be very organised and focussed. However, it was like a breath of fresh air being able to stay with my babies full-time and work around them rather than the other way around. I also enjoyed being more creative in my work.
When did you launch?
How did you get started?
I asked the owner of my baby’s nursery if I could create their website in exchange for free childcare. I then designed and launched my own portfolio website and began to get more work through this.
What research did you do before launching?
I looked at other freelance designers and other companies – mainly what services they offered and how much they charged. I didn’t have much time to do a lot of research, I needed to start earning!
How have you funded the business?
I had low start-up costs because I already had a computer and the basic software I needed to get started. I went into modest debt for the first 6 months or so. At first everything I earned went towards marketing myself and purchasing more software.
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
I’ve advertised in the Yellow Pages, on Yell.com, on a few calendars and local magazines. I also promote my business on online forums. I ask my clients to give referrals and to recommend me to others. Word of mouth and client recommendations seem to work best.
What has worked well about your business?
I love the creative side of my business and I also enjoy working with people – with both other creatives/programmers and with clients. I sometimes outsource work to other graphic designers and I work with other hosting companies so I am able to provide complete packages to clients. It’s a joy to be able to provide a service that people are happy with and one which helps their business/company to grow or simply to raise their profile.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
A huge challenge initially was the ‘business’ side of things. Invoices, keeping records, establishing what fees for what services, filing tax returns, getting paid on time etc. I got advice from the business link and asked the advice of others. Another challenge has been developing partnerships with other design companies and working together with other organisations. There is an element of competition in this and it’s hard to strike a balance. Oh there are so many other challenges too! Simple ones like trying to arrange a meeting with a client (without kids/while baby is sleeping/with enough time to make the school run etc) and more complex ones like making sure I don’t run out of work!! And dealing with client issues and timescales. There is also the ongoing challenge of finding the time to get everything done plus keep my Twitter and Facebook and portfolio site current and keep my blog up to date and interesting and browse all the forums and other mumpreneur blogs, design blogs and design forums AND keeping up to date with the latest software and keeping abreast of design/web issues.
How do you fit in work with the family?
I work before the kids wake up – checking emails and getting my To Do list ready for the day. I then do the bulk of the work while the older two are at school. I don’t get much done between 3 and 6:30pm but once the kids are settled I work a few hours in the evening. I try not to work at weekends unless I have a deadline I need to meet. My husband works long hours so can’t be hands on during the week. This is tough so we try and make the most of the weekends.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
Hmmm. I suppose if you are already a designer wanting to go freelance and start your own business, then do as much as you can to build up your own online portfolio – this includes doing work for a small fee or even for free or doing work in exchange for another service. It might seem slow at first and frustrating that you are basically giving away your work, but once you can ‘prove’ you’re established and experienced, you’ll be able to attract more clients and get more work. Then you’ll be in the driving seat and can charge what you like!
Your website link: www.whiteochre.co.uk
Discount for Family Friendly Working readers: I can offer Family Friendly Working readers a 10% discount on any web-related design work. This includes a complete website from concept to launch, web maintenance, template designs, banner ads, flash design for the web, website re-design, and graphics for the web.