My name is Esther Harris, I am 39 and I am a writer of short stories and writing my first novel. My ‘day job’ is a book publicist for Booked PR. However, I have been freelance for nine years. I have two children Zoe aged 6 and Lucy aged 3.
I worked in-house for an award winning management consultancy doing Marketing and PR for 8 years. I freelanced at The Mirror whilst doing this job and also gained a Masters degree in Creative Writing at the same time. I then worked at a media agency and then went freelance in 2008.
You have quite a busy career being a writer, a freelancer and working for BookedPR, how do you manage to find time for work and family life?
I think I probably have more time withwork and family as a freelancer. One of the great advantages of my job is that I can do the work around the family. So I can work on articles and PR and writing in the evenings/at night and first thing in the morning. That affords me the luxury of being able to do the school run every day and I can pick the kids up at 3pm every day too, go to the park afterwards, relax, have fun. I have Fridays off too. It’s a great joy and the flexibility is a massive bonus. However, I probably take less actual holiday and days off. When you are freelance and a writer you never ‘switch off’. But that’s the only down side.
What inspires you to write? What are your top tips for mums who want to get their writing
Writing inspiration comes from anything and everything that comes up in life. Often, Ill just hear one phrase, one line, one image, one joke, one memory… and that will linger, grow into something else and be part of a story. As for advice for other writers, don’t be shy! Follow other writers and journalists in your field, make friends with them. Make nice comments, retweet their work, and you’ll soon become part of the network. And offer your writing out there to them. Opportunities come up in conversation online all the time. I offered my writing for free to an online magazine, Standard Issue. They didn’t pay me but I loved the editing team and the ethos of the mag and could tell my work was appreciated and well read. And I’ve found an audience through them, feedback beyond my wildest dreams… and who knows? It may even help me get a book deal! In fact, Im sure it will be a massive contributing factor.
How important is it that mums build up other areas in their lives other than just being a parent?
For me it was a big relief when I realised (early on) that it was normal and fine to enjoy being “just you” i.e. away from the children, doing your own thing. I think its vital. I have two girls and whenever I work and write and feel great joy in what Im doing I think what a great example Im setting them. Why wouldn’t you want your children to learn of the joy of work, earning and doing something you love?! Do I want them to do a job that matters, that they love? Hell yeah! I think its important for them to know mummy really enjoys other things away from them too. Im a rounded person. Im not just a cook/shop/cleaner/mum so I think it’s good for them to learn early. Otherwise it might come as a nasty surprise when they reach a certain age and mum suddenly wants to do something else!
What do you think are the benefits of freelancing to new and existing mums?
I think it’s a fantastic way of combining work, earning and family in a flexible way. It has its downsides – you never switch off, it can be pressurised, you have to win your own work, pitch hard, fight hard – but the downsides – flexibility, control, potential etc are massive. If you’re in a market where people need flexible resource – consider it! However, Im very lucky that my husband has always had a good, solid job that has carried me through any down turns in the market.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I love what I do and I hope it continues to energise not just me but my husband and children too.