After training and working as a journalist and editor for nine years, Carolyn Hughes launched her own business as a freelance PR and communications consultant in 2009. She re-branded as Breathe PR almost two years ago, and talks about how important it is to ‘just breathe’ and not get too caught up in work stress.
What inspired you to set up your business?
I knew that I wanted to work for myself when I was still working as a journalist. I was the editor of a magazine and I could see that I was likely to be made redundant when the magazine closed, so I had already started investigating how I could set up as a freelance communications and PR consultant.
What makes your you/your product special and where are you based?
I like to work with a client’s whole business, stepping in to help where they need it most – whether that’s social media, media relations, website development or online marketing and SEO. I work with small to medium businesses that like to work flexibly, are open to creative ideas and can make very fast decisions. Last year, I decided to focus my business specialism so now I work with horticulture and environmental businesses, as well as arts and charities. I’m based in Stockport, and just two train stops to Manchester city centre. I can hop in and out of the city centre easily and work with clients all over the UK, so am often hurtling up and down the country on the train.
How do you use social media to help promote your business?
I was a fairly early user of Twitter, so a lot of my first business contracts did come from people I’d met on Twitter (@manchesterisace). However, it’s a very different place now so I tend to use it more for sharing business news and events, rather than chatting and meeting new people.Interestingly, I use Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/breathepr/) more for business now and very rarely use it for personal use, which is an enormous difference to 10 years ago. Facebook is now essential for me because there are so many support groups for PR, marketing and journalism – I couldn’t do without it.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
Some of the best advice I’ve been given includes don’t sweat the small stuff, and my personal motto that I named my business (http://www.breathepr.co.uk) after is just breathe. Don’t get too stressed about work, just relax and just breathe.
What has been your greatest challenge?
One of my biggest challenges has been switching off and stopping, which is very hard when you work at your dining room table. It’s easier now that I have children because they need to be fed at some point, so I do close the laptop completely for a couple of hours.The other great challenge for any solo consultant is balancing work and clients. The constant challenge is making sure you have enough work and enough money coming in but not too much that it takes over your life.
How do you switch off?
Unless there is something that urgently needs to be done, I don’t check my emails or social media after 9pm or at all over the weekends. It’s easy to feel guilty or that you should be ‘on duty’, but now I realise that it’s just as important to switch off completely and empty your brain of work thoughts and just enjoy life. I fill my weekends with cooking, walking, day trips, meeting with friends – the usual stuff.
Where do you go on holiday?
We love exploring new places so the answer really is absolutely anywhere. We love the North East coastline so we’ve been exploring lots of places around there over the past two years. We’ve just started to explore Somerset this year and are going back there soon. We also love the sunshine so we’ve taken the kids to Menorca and Mallorca when they were little and they can remember what it’s like to swim in a warm sea so they’re desperate to get back to Spain soon. We managed to fit in loads of sunny holidays before they started school but now we have to face the battle with inflated school holiday prices – not fun!
What lesson do you wish you had learnt at school?
So much more! I went to an uptight girls grammar school, with a strong focus on academia and rules. I wish that there had been much more of a focus on how to live as an adult – how to budget, how to cook healthy food, how to manage money, loans and mortgages. They could have taught us how to change a plug or put up a shelf. All of this would have been really useful! I also wish there had been more of an emphasis on making learning fun – I only learned to enjoy history and geography after I left school and realised how interesting they could be when you’re not copying down facts from a blackboard.
What app/website/twitter account (other than your own!) would you recommend?
Trello is essential for my work with clients as it enables us to keep our to-do lists up to date, communicate without email and reduces the need for monthly reporting because everything is already there at-a-glance.
Where do you see yourself/your company in five years’ time?
In five year’s time I expect to be doing exactly what I set out to do at the end of last year, which was to specialise in working in communications and marketing for horticulture and environmental businesses, as well as developing my existing work with arts and charities. The beauty of my work is that I’ll never know who I’ll be working with and what exciting opportunities will come my way from month to month – just the way I like it.
Find Carolyn http://www.breathepr.co.uk, https://www.facebook.com/breathepr, https://www.pinterest.co.uk/manchesterisace, https://www.instagram.com/manchesterisace Twitter: @manchesterisace