If you’ve often wondered how other people structure their freelancing lives and what on earth got them into running their own business in the first place, you’re in the right place for a good old snoop around.
This Friday, Heidi White of “The Moving Foodie” and creator of the Cambridge street food collective, better known as “foodPark”, gives us her insight into the balancing act of freelancing and working a day job. Heidi is also one third of the “Eat Cambridge” festival team and is here to share her thoughts on turning her passions into a new venture and how to balance a creative streak alongside working full time!
So, first of all, give us a mini bio and tell us something we won’t know about you!
Better known for my food and restaurant review blog, The Moving Foodie Blog, and freelance writing, I’m also co-organiser of the annual Cambridge food festival Eat Cambridge and have recently established my own venture organising regular street food markets, called foodPark. People often don’t know that I also juggle a day job alongside my other interests, as Marketing and Operations Manager for a Cambridge language school.
How long have you been running your business and what got you started? I’ve been working on the foodPark concept since last year and launched the venture officially in June. I had been interested in organising events and in the street food scene for a while and realised both interests were becoming more than a hobby. After doing a lot of research and pooling ideas with some of the great street food traders already operating locally, I decided that I could help move street food trading forward in Cambridge and set up a supportive and proactive collective of traders in order to establish more regular events and pitches around the city. The interest and support has been overwhelmingly positive and foodPark launched its first regular street food market at Station Road at the beginning of June, which now takes place every Thursday and Friday at the CB1 development and features a delicious line-up of traders which changes every month.
Did you launch straight into your business idea or did you spend time planning, training or even worrying before you got kicking?
I am very much a planner but I do like to take risks, too, and although I spent a good few months doing everything I could to make foodPark a success, I was itching to just get the idea out there and give it a go. There were many variables to consider because I was juggling the launch of the business with my day job and other interests such as Eat Cambridge, so timing was important to me. Fortunately my employer was very supportive and I was able to cut my hours to part-time to coincide with the launch of the first foodPark markets so I could continue to give 100% in all areas!
Tell us about your typical working day – Are you an early bird or do you tend to work throughout the night?
I’ve just about got into a weekly routine now. I work at the day job Monday to Wednesday and dedicate Thursday and Friday to foodPark. However, I’ve always got a to-do list that’s far longer than the available hours in each day, so I tend to check emails and do admin and website updates in the evenings and at weekends too. I usually work until about 8pm, sometimes later if I’ve got any last minute preparation to do the night before foodPark. My foodPark working days start at Station Road at about 6.45am, which I’m gradually getting used to even though I’m definitely not an early bird by nature, and involve being out and about setting up the market, flyering, and taking phone calls and checking social media, etc. There’s no typical working day and it is very tempting to get home at the end of the day and sit down at the computer for another few hours of admin!
What’s your biggest challenge as a freelancer?
Separating work and home life / social life. I’ve got so many things I want to achieve that it is very hard to switch off and do something entirely unrelated to work so I find it hard to take a proper break from checking emails, taking calls, googling food photos, etc!! I’ve been really lucky to make some amazing contacts and friends through my freelance work, but it does mean that the line between socialising and work is sometimes blurred.
And what’s the best element of being your own boss? Having the opportunity to focus on exactly what I want to achieve and to manage my own time in order to make it happen.
How do you manage a good work/life balance (or do you struggle with this at all)?
See above! It’s something I need to work on, especially as I’m learning to switch between my part-time work, my different freelance jobs, and being a business owner.
Where do you work from and do you co-work at all?
Much of my desk-based work is done at home in the evenings. I have co-worked in the past and I like the Cambridge Business Lounge on Burleigh Street.
Do you allow yourself a regular break for coffee, exercise or lunch?
When I’m working in the evenings it is usually a race to finish my work so I can make dinner or spend time with my husband so I don’t often plan for breaks. Because I’ve worked in business environments my whole career I’m quite disciplined and know how to work efficiently and when I need to take a break in order to focus better.
Are there any apps/tools/gadgets/people that you just couldn’t work without?
I guess I’m quite old school and my main method for staying organised is religiously filing documents and images in labelled folders on my laptop and regularly backing it up. I also use Google Drive, Dropbox, and make sure I create use stars/flags in my inbox and files in my email accounts in order to store documents and correspondence. I’m hugely fortunate that organising foodPark’s street food markets means that I’m surrounded by passionate, ambitious and genuinely nice people, who also happen to create amazing food and drink, so I’ve got a ready-made set of colleagues who always brighten up my day.
We would love to hear your thoughts on “networking” – do you go to any regular events or meet ups to meet other freelancers?
I’m not against “networking” but I rarely have time to commit to attend events as my time is so tightly accounted for from Monday to Friday and I probably wouldn’t attend a networking event at the weekend when I could be seeing friends and family. I’ve enjoyed working at Cambridge Business Lounge and attending CBL Live in the past and wish I had more time to join regular groups or meet ups. I’ll have to stick to networking via Twitter and blogging for now I think!
What essential advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer?
It took me roughly 2 years to put everything in place in order to even become a part-time freelancer so the main piece of advice I can give is not to jump into a business idea until you’re 100% ready to become self-employed. Planning, financial projections, and stability are really important, as well as having great ideas and ambition.
Anything else you would like to add or share?
Cambridge has a hugely supportive community of freelancers, bloggers, and small independent businesses so it is a fantastic place to get creative. I’m looking forward to developing the foodPark concept further in the coming months to include a Saturday street food market, another weekday lunch market at other sites throughout the city, and potentially collaborating with other local organisations to provide pop-up foodParks at interesting locations. I underestimated how much food and drink brings people together and I’m really enjoying being part of such a buzzing scene.
How can we find you online and around town?
foodPark Heidi White, Founder
Find foodPark at the CB1 development on Station Road every Thursday and Friday from 7am for breakfast and 12-3pm for lunch.
Thanks so much Heidi for taking part in our Freelancer Friday series, if you would like to put yourself (or somebody else worthy of being featured) forward, let’s talk!