Lauren Yaxley is the Founder of LY Copywriting, a Norfolk-based business which celebrates 10 years this year. Here, Lauren describes the juggle (and struggle) of building an agency as a mum in marketing
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of my business, LY Copywriting. So, I felt it was a good time to look back and reflect on the last decade. In that time, I’ve gone from freelancer to mum of one, to small business owner and mum of two, and then to agency owner. I hope that by sharing my story, it will resonate with other working mums, and we can all reassure each other that we’re paving the way and being what and who we want our children to see.
Fast-forward through university, a few years living in London and redundancy from a full-service agency in Norwich and I realised freelance life was calling. Redundancy can often be the catalyst for people ‘going it alone’, but I believe that so many people’s careers are also defined by a single sliding doors moment.
For me, it was the death of my grandad. We were close, he was fighting fit until the day he died and the shock and grief, not just at the time but over the coming months, quite frankly, floored me. So, I decided that freelancing felt like a way to work, earn, and take some time to move at my own pace.
I soon caught the bug of being my own boss and couldn’t see myself returning to a full-time office-based role. I’d called it LY Copywriting, but it was barely a business in those first weeks and months. I was doing bits and pieces for more and more clients, then over time started subcontracting to other talented writers, one turned into two, two in three and so on. I’d gone from no business and no plan, and no business plan, to starting to build a small copywriting business – and I was hooked.
I’d always known I wanted children one day, and after getting married in 2015 I soon turned my attention to starting a family. After what felt like a long year of trying, I was lucky enough to fall pregnant and, (morning sickness out of the window of moving cars aside), enjoyed a healthy pregnancy with my son.
I’ll be honest – I thought I’d have a baby and then spend the next few years in a baby bubble of bliss. But I found it hard to completely let one version of myself, the mum-self, take over my work-self and set aside the business I’d slowly but surely started to build and that had also become a big part of who I am. So, after a lot of the never-to-be-underestimated mum guilt, I accepted that wanting to work was just part of who I am and what makes me tick, so working mum it was.
After I welcomed my little girl in the peak pandemic month of May 2020, I was navigating nappies and a level of sleep deprivation that must be a form of torture somewhere in the world. Because of the chaos caused by Covid-19, my business all but fell off the face of a cliff and I was down to about 20% of my previous turnover. However, as this coincided with having another baby, it did mean a forced but welcome form of maternity leave.
Fast-forward through the dark days of Boris’ 5pm announcements, and when the world slowly started to bounce back, my little girl started nursery a few days a week when she was 15 months. This, along with help from family, meant I could get stuck back into my business.
I don’t think any article on being a working mum can skip past the subject of mum guilt. I wholeheartedly believe that women have the right to want to work. However, I’m also aware that this desire to carve out a career comes with different levels of guilt for different people, but even in small amounts – it’s there, lurking in the background blighting every day or week spent working and I know this is something that I share with many working mums.
I’ll admit that not so long ago if a client asked if I was available for a call and I knew I’d be with the kids then I’d say I already had a meeting booked for fear of them thinking that I wouldn’t have the time to service them should I win the business.
Now, my out-of-office will proudly point out that I’ll be playing snakes and ladders over tea and toast during half term. I now realise that if clients don’t want to work with me because I’ve got kids that come first, then then we’re probably not the agency for them.
As a mum and agency owner I always find there are never enough hours in the day or days in the week! Personally, I’ve found one of the most frustrating parts of building an agency is having to miss out on networking opportunities. These are often held in the evenings, clashing with the kids’ swimming lessons, sports activities or just being able to be home to put them to bed and spend that quality book-reading, nonsense-talking time that happens before kids’ bedtimes.
I wanted to offer roles with true flexibility around the demands of being a working parent. From nativity plays to sports days, I’m all about making sure work doesn’t get in the way of the moments that matter for parents. Being the boss means leading by example, so if I’m ducking out early to watch my son be a pterodactyl and flap around his school hall, then the rest of the team should get to work around theirs too.
People talk of climbing metaphorical mountains, but I think my path has been more like a pyramid. It’s taken just weeks to sprightly sprint up some steps and then has taken months, if not years, to crawl up others. I’ve sat on some; I’ve skipped past others and sometimes even taken a step back for a while.
However, slowly but surely, my career has gone from freelancer to small business which then evolved into an ambitious content marketing agency. Today, we’re a hybrid working team of six.
Looking to the future, I often think about the end goal for my agency. Will my tenacious toddler want to take over when she’s older? She certainly seems to have almost impenetrable negotiation skills and a way with words. Or perhaps my empathetic and emotionally intelligent five-year-old son. Perhaps my legacy won’t be the business itself but giving them the belief that they can do anything they set their minds to and that they can not only build something from nothing – but build something special.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, from the very early days to just yesterday. You’re all pieces of the LY Copywriting puzzle and I’ll be forever grateful for your support, advice and – when times have felt particularly tough – encouragement and ego boosts!
So, here’s to another 10 years of building the sort of agency that, when I’m old and grey, I can say that, as well as my two children, I made something that mattered. And here’s hoping that when I’m even older and greyer, I’ll be able to sit back and say, in the slightly paraphrased words of mid-nineties emo-slash-grunge band Green Day…
“For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while.
Was something unpredictable, but in the end, was right.
I had the time of my life.”
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