My Work Happy – Ceriann Smith, Winging It Club

Aren’t we all, to some extent, winging it? So thrilled to welcome Winging It Club founder, my PR accountability buddy and dear friend, Ceriann Smith to My Work Happy.  We met as perky, bright-eyed, slightly ambitious PR 20-somethings with heads full of dreams, and ran, if I do say so myself, a rather fabulous campaign with Coffee Republic founder Sahar Hashemi. A shared love of small business comms has outlasted agency life and seen us into our running our own businesses.

Despite staying in touch over the years, it was Instagram that truly ignited our friendship again as our career paths pulled us back down the same path.  In this week’s post, Ceriann talks taking the leap into freelance life, the magid of passion projects, being a list lover and the power of telling your story. I could go on forever…it’s Ceriann’s show!

Tell us about yourself and your business
I’ve been in the business of communications for the past 16 years. Much of that time was spent working in broadcast comms – helping clients and organisations get their brands and stories across on radio and TV as well as developing content for the web and social media. I worked in London for eight of these years and six years ago made the move to head up the Manchester office of my then agency to coincide with the BBC’s shift in some of its operations to MediaCityUK.

Having run the office for five years, I made the decision to take the leap into the heady world of ‘independence’ at the end of last year and set up on my own in March 2017. I now work with clients across the comms spectrum which can involve anything from developing a strategy and plan for their year in comms, events, writing copy for client websites, securing a collaboration deal with a pop band to coming up with interesting stories for brands to tell and help them to achieve coverage across the media.

I also launched Winging It Club in 2016 as a passion project and since going it alone have had more time and headspace to ‘allow’ myself to be involved with it a bit more. 2017 has been an amazing year for the Club and I honestly believe that’s because I stepped away from the 9-6 and opened myself up to further opportunity and possibility.

What’s the big plan right now?
The million dollar question… Am I allowed to say there isn’t one?! The plan is to keep growing and developing and crucially to keep things interesting by working with people and brands that I love and that I know I can bring value to using my experience of comms from the past 16 years. That’s across comms consultancy and the Club.

How are you setting goals for your business?
My goal setting tends to revolve around what interests me the most. To work with brands, organisations and people that inspire me and ignite a passion within me so that, in turn, I can fuel some of that passion back into their business by using the skills and techniques I’ve picked up in my career to date.

Interestingly, my goals don’t tend to be financially orientated. Coming from a background of highly targeted agency life where my monthly turnover needed to be at a certain level to keep things on the straight and narrow, my objectives now are based more on the type of work I want to do and with whom. And thankfully, so far, it pays the bills.

I guess that’s the beauty of working for yourself. I have two wonderful daughters and in as much as I was afforded flexibility when I was agency side, I don’t have the guilt factor when I want to pick them up earlier or accompany them on a trip etc that I used to have before.

And what keeps you on track?
I am a big fan of lists. And I’m learning, steadily, to put more than just work on them. So that I can balance my days and weeks a bit better. Sometimes it doesn’t always happen –sometimes it can’t always happen – but the intention is there and that’s a huge leap for me.

I think meetings, coffees and catch ups with friends, colleagues and journalists always helps too – this can be via tel (or whatsapp video Antonia!) but there is nothing like a physical meeting to properly catch up and to check progress and to drive you forward and inspire you to perhaps think of tackling a challenge in a different way to keep you on track with your vision of how you want the business and working life to be.

How do you celebrate your success?
I’d perhaps choose the word ‘acknowledge’ over celebrate but it’s something I think (hope) I’ve become better at in the past year specifically. It can be as little as allowing self-time off, guilt free for a job well done for me.

How do you invest in yourself and your business?
I’d say investment in myself ebbs and flows depending on how busy things are with work – my biggest investment is time really. Time to acknowledge how I’m feeling and when to slow things down, and allow myself to do that knowing it will pay me back fully on a personal and business level. I still don’t think I invest enough time in sleep – I have the annoying habit of being a night thinker and as much as I love an early start, sometimes my creative mind picks up speed at 10pm so out comes the notepad to jot things down before I burn the midnight oil again.

I spend a lot of time during the week reading and attempting to keep on track with an incredibly fast- paced sector which is constantly evolving… much of that is done from home for now and one of my aims for 2018 is to get out more and spend even more time with industry colleagues in a physical as well as remote sense.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Cliché alert… Instagram. Having worked with big business for the past 16 years, there’s a process and formula to things which can, sometimes, stifle creativity. Social media is much more instant, authentic and from the gut. It’s an exciting time to be in comms and small business…

What’s the one success habit that’s changed your business?
Belief in myself. It didn’t come easy. But I know my work ethic and I know my approach so I try and relax into that knowledge and I know I’ll find a way. If I don’t, it wasn’t meant to be. That’s incredibly freeing.

Work-life balance – what’s the secret?
I’d say this is a work in progress. My work life balance this year is practically unrecognisable from where it was in previous years. However, I think we can be our own worst enemies sometimes in not allowing ourselves to switch off. I’m so much better at it than I was. And I’ve actually reached out to people for advice in this area this year to see what tips they had – which has been invaluable to me.

One of which came from you, Antonia. When it comes to taking time for you in the day – whether it’s going for a run, gym, yoga – build that into your to do list. And work everything else around that.

I sometimes struggle with creative blocks and can be guilty of sitting there and mentally beating myself up when things just won’t flow and can spend forever doing work that, if I left it, took a break and came back to it later (the 10pm spot!) I’d get it done in much less time.

Tribe – who’s yours and how did you build it?
It’s still growing… I founded Winging It Club last year to reach out to brilliant women to tell their tales of work and play and giving themselves the permission to go for it in business and life whether they felt fully equipped at the time or not.

I’m a huge believer in this and the power of telling stories to reassert a confidence in yourself but crucially, to help other people build their own confidence – in pushing themselves forward to pursue passions, go for a job, aim for a promotion, to set up their own business even if they don’t have the experience – yet.

There’s a ripple effect to it. Positive stories of courage and determination inspire people to be courageous and determined themselves so I’m really looking forward to growing the tribe further next year.