This week for my Parents in Business series I’m excited to be featuring Vanessa Fisher PR. Vanessa created her freelance PR business after working in-house for 14 years. Her drive to create her own PR company was after budget cuts from her old PR role whilst working on her own personal side projects, and since then she has never looked back.
The success of the business is down to hard work, working during naptimes, making use of every child care resource and having that vital family support. The best part of this interview are Vanessa’s top tips especially her motto of “just go for it” which I myself am a firm believer in….what’s the worst that can happen. So have a read of Vanessa’s story and check out her London marathon entry this year, it’s for a great cause supporting her son.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
I’ve been in travel PR since 1999. After training as a dancer in my teens, then working abroad in a small dance company, then gaining an English degree and a PGCE I was toying with teaching, dance, drama and all the different options. I remember scouring the Guardian jobs section every week to see what might interest me. I’d been travelling for almost a year, skiing in Canada and travelling down the West coast of US to Mexico and back and wasn’t sure of which direction to go…ski, teaching, drama or dance….A small ad for a role at the Ski Club of Great Britain led me to a job in skiing and after that setting up an in-house PR role.
After 14 years and with three young children, I was working part time alongside a full time PR [who I had employed] and commuting to London when needed. Now I am 100% freelance with a handful of gorgeous clients in Travel and Property PR.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
I had taken on the odd freelance project alongside my work at the Ski Club. Budget cuts removed my role quite suddenly, and so I just decided to ‘go it alone’ and haven’t looked back. I had just two PR clients then. I wanted to be able to work for myself, to be able to work from home, to be able to decide how I was working and who with. Sometimes I work alongside other PRs or use other freelance PRs, who are in a similar situation to my own, to help me and also to share ideas, which I love.
How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?
I tried all the options when my children were really little, nursery, nannies coming to the house, grandparents coming to the house, husband covering odd days. None of the options were perfect but it got me through the tricky first two years, then, when they were old enough to go to our local nursery, that freed up some more time.
I always worked when the children were having a sleep during the day and usually in the evenings once they were in bed. It was basically down to pure hard work and committing to each project. Many people ask me now how I did it, but if you want to be a working mum and be successful you simply have to work hard! I was lucky to have the support of my parents and my husband. Having that support was invaluable for when I needed to travel abroad and for occasional evening events.
Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?
I am still working with my first PR client as a freelancer, originally launching the new brand Lake Annecy Ski Resorts and now with its re-brand and regional growth under the brand ‘Annecy Mountains’; so that’s more than seven years and they are still happy with my work and the results. That to me speaks volumes as the world of PR has changed a lot so to keep on top of all the trends and still have positive feedback means a lot to me. More recently I have taken on the PR for a beautiful new 5* hotel in the French Alps and they have more developments to come, chalets and another development with a penthouse suite, ski shop and brasserie. This has been a lovely client to work with in terms of something completely new but in an area, mountains, hiking, wintersport, which I love [http://www.armancette.com].
What are your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
Go for it. The freedom it gives you to escape the 9-5 rat-race is amazing. I still work within many of those parameters, but knowing I can go out for a run, or a bootcamp or to see a friend for a quick coffee without answering to anyone else is brilliant. Make sure you understand the business basics, invoicing, contracts, keeping reports up to date has all been a learning curve. I also have a tecchie son and husband, so making the online systems work, emails, laptops, onedrive, easy online filing, website updating etc to make the process effective, especially when travelling and working remotely, has also been important.
Networking and keeping your contacts up to date in whatever industry you work in is also key. This is hard when you have children but social media has been great for that. You can feel like you are in touch, even from your home. But sometimes the face to face meetings still have to happen. Now my children are all at school I try hard to schedule those meetings during the day time so the important time with the children at the end of the school day isn’t too affected, not always possible with evening business events!
Also I have learnt to say ‘thanks but no thanks’, sometimes as a freelance it’s hard to turn down work, but now I only accept a project/client if I am passionate about it. When I started out sometimes I had to take on clients for the money, not for the love of the role/client! Chasing for late payments is one of the downsides of freelance life.
I have just accepted a place in the London Marathon running for St George’s Hospital Charity so the first 4 months of 2020 will be to focus on training for that and fundraising to reach my £2000 target. The hospital treats my son for his ongoing lymphedema so I’m happy to be able to give something back to them.
I’m proud of what I have achieved in my PR business and hope I can continue for as long as I am still enjoying the work, as well as having time for me [to run!] and also for my family.