Each week A Bit on the Side features an inspirational women, who manages to juggle a ‘day job’ as well as A Bit on the Side. This week we’ve been talking to Fiona from Rayleigh Book Nook:
Tell us about yourself
My name is Fiona Hill, I am a married 35 year old with one son who is 2.5 years old. I am a stay at home mum first and foremost but over the past year I have been involved in launching my own businesses. I am originally from Scotland but Live in Essex with my husband and child (hubby is from here), I relocated here from Scotland in 2008 when my relationship started to get serious. I have a BA in business with marketing and since graduation in 2005 until having Noah in 2015 my career has been in marketing and advertising. I have worked for some amazing and worldwide advertising agencies but I felt that working in that world and trying to raise a family was not for me. My husband and I were both lucky enough to have our mothers at home with us as we grew up and we both wanted the same for our son (or as close to it as possible). Since my pregnancy began through to having Noah I have faced many challenges, with health and emotional wellbeing. But I really am a firm believer that our children teach us alot about ourselves and the world and being a mum has certainly changed me for the better in many ways.
Tell us about your day job and your bit on the side (and do you keep it a secret?!)
My day job is raising my son. I’d say as he was approaching one year old around about that time when alot of mums will begin to go back to work. (I had already resigned from my job by this point, which actually was just as well because the company went into administration anyway). I was starting to worry alot about what I would do next. I am in a very fortunate position that my husband earns enough money to keep us (we won’t be taking any tropical holidays) but it is enough. Any my husband is also super supportive of anything I would to do and put my mind to. So i realised this was it, now was the perfect opportunity to try something new if I wanted to, or retrain, or do whatever I wanted really. But….my confidence was low, and self esteem has always been a challenge for me, so by now with baby brain and having been out of work for over a year it really took alot of courage to do anything really. My little boy and I love books, I have read to him since before he was born and I had seen a few adverts on facebook about Usborne. I wasn’t sure what questions to ask and what to research really to be honest, I mean obviously to look at any local competition etc but aside from that I had never ran my own business….but I guess my thinking was I have to give it a go. We moved house in February of 2017 and I think this change and moving to a new town where there is a different vibe definitely has been the making of me. We now live somewhere where people want to achieve and generally have a more positive outlook. So as another of these adverts popped into my newsfeed, I click it and signed up. This was July 2017. It has been a massive learning curve and emotional journey, but I’d say now I am starting to find my feet with it and get into my flow more. I have branched out to now providing books not only from Usborne but from other publishers too. Basically I am now selling books purely because I love the book and not just because of who the publisher is. This is more time consuming, and often my margins are alot smaller, but I love it. I love that I can suggest a book that will help a childs self esteem, or help them to learn to share for example. I also like to offer parents support in other educational areas especially parents who are super busy and just dont have time to do research themselves but feel strongly about an area of their lives. So for example for customers on my email list they will also receive articles I have written about topics like mindfulness for all ages, what its about, the benefits of it and how to introduce it into your lives. Gratitude activities, again why its important, how to discuss it, fun activities around the practice of gratitude. And also things like ideas for consuming less tech at home. Ideas for travelling with kids and how to entertain them on the journey.
It was whilst growing this business and making friends with other business mums and listening to their pain points and hearing their stories that I realised that I really needed to start a second business to share my knowledge of marketing and branding with these mums. Some days I think I kind of take for granted that I have a really good eye for detail, and a good eye for design and I know what landing pages are and how to use Mailchimp but I needed to share these skills with the women I was meeting. This is when Fiona Hill Digital Saviour was born. It started small as a quality assurance service for busy women who were just starting out and trying to do it all, facebook ads, leadpages, websites, emails, freebie pdfs etc etc who would maybe be spending hours a day working on these comms and would be going snowblind checking it all. Or getting to the end and having spent so much time on it not checking it at all. There is nothing worse than putting comms out with broken links and silly typos etc. Some people were happy to use this service, but I was finding that because I have more value than this to give, it was growing bigger organically. So for instance, someone would send me a leadpage to QA and we’d end up rewriting it and changing the images because maybe it was trying to talk to everybody and actually talking to nobody. So now, I offer still this entry level quality assurance service, but also a much more tailored service for new businesses who just don’t know where to start with their facebook page and getting it all set up, things to consider about their branding, logo advice (and occasionally creation), where to look to start conversations with people, ideas of businesses they could collaborate with to get a wider exposure. And these are offered on a kind of modular basis to keep costs down for the client. I know that when you start a business you just can’t justify large outgoings, but equally you have got to hit the ground running.
How did your bit on the side come about?
I think I have answered within the above, but really I had an opportunity in my life and the timing was right for me to do something completely different, and start something on my own terms. Books for me seemed the logical place to start. As a child I grew up reading, I went to the library with a friend after primary school and read both fiction and non. Books have given me happiness and sadness and hope and all else in between.
What’s the best part of having a bit on the side?
Its feeling the fire in my belly and acting on it. Its doing something that you really love and knowing that someone on the other side is truly benefiting from it. And being able to to it when I want to, and take time off the recharge and get the creative juices flowing again before you dip back into it.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
I think probably trying to keep that balance of friendships and customers. Alot of MLM companies will push you into telling everyone you know about what you do every single day. And don’t get me wrong I do often remind my friends how I can help them, but I still wanted to be able to have fun with my friends without selling to them, I wanted to be able to go to the park and make new mummy friends without seeing the word ‘prospect’ written across their heads. I think this has been the toughest balance.
What’s your advice for others looking for a bit on the side?
Just try something! If it grabs your interest and it seems fairly financially risk free just go for it. Even if you don’t end up doing it forever, it will give you a great platform for other things and other relationships. It will boost your confidence and your creativity, just jump in and see what happens. I would also say keep analysing, keep looking at what’s working and what isn’t, what you are spending and making, try and keep a record of everything. It will help you to decide whether to ditch it or keep going.
What are your hopes for the next 12 months?
I have so many. I have some ideas on paper for my own childrens books. I have ideas for childrens preschool toys. I also would love to take a course in mindfulness and meditation for kids and be able to offer this on a small group basis to my friends and local customers. I hope to inspire parents to inspire their kids to reach for the stars. Don’t stop at doctors or lawyers or these sorts of professions as the top rung or benchmark, why not aim to be the next Stephen Hawking or Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, aim high, only you are stopping you.
You can find the Rayleigh Book Nook on Facebook.