Meet the Folk: Michelle Pratt
In a new series, I'm interviewing members of the Freelance Folk community to find out more about their freelance lives. Next up is Michelle Pratt, an amazing trainer and coach.
What do you do?
I'm a personal development coach and management development trainer. My business is called Dive Deeper Development because I got fed up of seeing personal development that feels great on the day but doesn’t have any long-term impact. I set up Dive Deeper Development to help people focus on the things that actually create a lasting behavioural change and achieve their goals. It's not your usual 'here's a learning theory on Powerpoint', it goes far deeper than that and it's much more effective
How did you get started as a freelancer?
I was offered voluntary redundancy and I grabbed it with both hands. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew I didn't want to be employed anymore. Whenever an external training consultancy came into my old business I always thought I’d like to do what they do. Now I do.
How did you go about finding clients or customers?
I had no idea of how to go about it so I just used my existing network. I knew people who were freelance trainers and coaches so I asked for their advice and they were all really generous with their time and expertise. I spoke to freelancers in other industries too and I learnt lot in a very short space of time. I was grateful for that support. I’m glad I’m good at maintaining relationships, you definitely can’t be someone who burns their bridges.
What do you love about being freelance?
I like being able to choose who I work with and what I work on. I think we are both happier and more productive when we work on things that genuinely inspire us and being freelance you can choose that for the most part. I also like variety and being a freelancer allows me to work on a wide range of interesting things and of course, if there’s something you want to work on but it doesn’t exist you can always create it. Finally I love being able to manage my time. Wellbeing was a reason to become freelance and I love being able to manage work around exercise.
What do you find challenging?
I’m definitely someone who needs to be around other people. I enjoy bouncing ideas off other people and during periods where I work from home a lot on my own I have to be really disciplined about making a point of getting out and meeting up with people. You have to be very self motivated.
Where do you like to work when you're not at Freelance Folk coworking sessions?
I like to mix up the places I work from. Sometimes home is fine, I often go to cafes like Hatters Coffee in Stockport, or sometimes I go to a quiet pub and chat to the locals or occasionally I get in my campervan and use it (literally) as a mobile office.
How do you get into the flow of working?
Sound is very important for getting me going. I use Brain.fm for concentration - it really works. Alternatively I have BBC News on in the background or a Danish Radio Station, P6 Beat which was recommended to me by Katy. That works because I like the music but I can’t speak any Danish so I don’t tune in to the conversation. Slow TV also works. Basically anything that gives a sense of being around others but that you can easily tune out.
How do you keep your work and personal life separate? Or do you not?
I physically ‘go to work’. Even if it’s just down the landing to my office at home I think it’s important to be able to draw the line between ‘now I’m working’ and ‘now I’ve stopped’.
What skills would be on your alternative CV?
Spot the intro. I don't need to hear very much of the song at all to be able to identify it. That must be a marketable skill surely???
Who do you admire?
Honestly, anyone who embraces being self-employed. We are brought up by parents, a school system, a world of work that tells us everything that we do is risky, unwise and a bit foolish. It’a bold step to go against all the values you were brought up with.
If you weren't doing your current freelance job, what would you be doing?
I’d be travelling the world in the campervan or be running a campsite (I already know exactly what it would be like).
What top three tips or recommendations would you give to other freelancers?
1. Surround yourself with good people. It takes time but go to events, talk to people, maintain relationships and keep good people around you.
2. Tell people your problems and what you’re stuck with. It’s the opposite of what I learnt working for a bank where there was an arse covering culture. I’ve learnt that you don’t need all the answers to start talking to people about what you do, tell people your problems and they will help you solve them.
3. Walk. A lot. I’ve found it’s easy to get stuck into your work and not look up but changing your physiology and your environment boosts productivity, creativity and wellbeing generally.