This week on my Mums in Business series I’m excited to be featuring Tanya who created Engineered Copy after leaving her well established career in construction as a Project Manager and Engineer when her son unfortunately had to leave his nursery. This meant that Tanya reduced her hours down to part-time, and eventually began her freelance career writing and setting up Engineered Copy.
I’m sure that Tanya’s story is very similar to that of many mums, and her top tips are to keep learning. No matter what industry you’re in, learning about new technologies and trends are so important for you to stay up to date, and ultimately for you to invest in yourself.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and Engineered Copy?
I started working in civil engineering for a road construction company and chose them over Barclays as I would go to college a day a week on day release. I moved from road construction to road design but carried on with day release right through to a Masters degree in civil engineering. I was lucky that all my education was sponsored. I became a Chartered Civil Engineer and had been on the senior management team for a year when I ended up leaving my job. At this point, I’d been working in highway engineering for 16 years. During my career, I’d always been the one in the office proofreading reports, re-writing company processes, etc. This led to writing industry award entries for my company (which quite a few won), and then I did some bid writing work as well. During some mentoring I’d had with a senior manager, I’d said I wanted to carry on writing for the company but couldn’t see how to make that work without being on the bid team full-time, but with my little one I didn’t want the stress, long hours, and travel.
What were your drivers and motivations for setting up Engineered Copy?
I’d seen a facebook ad about freedom lifestyle businesses, and the idea seemed great (minus the travel – as my son was 3 at this point) but I had no idea how to implement it. The idea of trying to replace my full-time salary was overwhelming. When my son started to have trouble settling at pre-school, he was acting up and we were having to pick him up 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes only an hour after we had dropped him off. Juggling everything was getting incredibly stressful. Eventually our contract with the preschool was terminated, and that was the catalyst I needed for finding a way to set up my own flexible business so I could be there for my son but also still work – unfortunately, giving up work wasn’t an option. I decided that technical copywriting and content writing was my strength and where I had specialist knowledge, so started there.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
First, I went part-time in my job and part-time doing my technical writing in the evenings and weekends using a job board to find work (Upwork). It was hard working evenings and weekends; sometimes I even worked on family holidays. But eventually I got to the point where I could leave my job in August 2017 and focus solely on freelancing. I still work evenings usually, but I have the days with my son and rarely have to work on a weekend day. It’s still not easy for my husband, but we arrange nights out just for a meal or time together to make sure we still get some time for us. My business is just over a year old now and I’m working less hours than I used to. Part of this is that I’m starting to build up repeat clients so I spent less time looking for work, and part of it is learning my value and charging more.
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
This is probably landing my dream client early this year. They were the exact type of people I wanted to work with, and in my area of expertise, whereas previously I’d get a range of requests to write for mechanical engineering firms, IT companies, or even a truck door manufacturer. And I’ve been investing in learning how to market myself through a marketing group (happy to mention the name or not mention as you prefer). Since starting to implement what I’ve learned, more offers have started to come my way, including a chat this week about getting involved with a construction safety initiative by helping them prepare their written works. Coming from a regular 9-5 job in engineering, I really had no idea about digital marketing and social media, so I’m really pleased with my progress.
What’s your top tip for Mums who are thinking about setting up their own business?
There are so many, but probably the best is to start learning the skills you’ll need before you start looking for work and then have to learn alongside delivering projects. Invest time in the early days to learn how to set up a website, what SEO is, how to use social media to market yourself, how to create blogs/videos/podcasts etc, how to use Canva, how to get publicity, setting up an e-commerce store if applicable – all those things that you’ll learn by diving in the deep end, but take twice as long until you know what you’re doing. That’s extra pressure you don’t need when you’re also trying to get your projects finished and develop your client base.
Thank you so much Tanya for taking part in my series, it was lovely to interview you, and I wish you the best of luck in the future.
If you would like to be part of my Mums in Business then just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in my series: The Classroom Partnership, Mums Bake Cakes, and We Mean Business