Her Hustle is creating a community for ambitious women, to gain insight and inspiration, as they navigate and build their careers
When Emma-Louise Boynton and Elspeth Merry set up their career platform Her Hustle last year, it would have been hard to imagine that they would have to go full circle, back to sustaining an online community during the outbreak of COVID-19. Pre-lockdown, Emma-Louise and Elspeth were hustling from inside and outside of their homes, creating a space to support others and demystify the career ladder for women founders and freelancers through their digital platform and IRL events and workshops.
During these uncertain times, Her Hustle has been adapting, and I spoke with Emma-Louise and Elspeth on what they’re doing to support small businesses and freelancers, as well as finding out some of their top tips to stay motivated from home!
It’s a hard time at the moment for many small businesses and freelancers, how is Her Hustle trying to help creatives?
We know that work uncertainty is the reality for so many people at the moment, and we wanted to use our platform to provide support, connection, and visibility to female freelancers and founders, in what is otherwise a really isolating time (both literally and figuratively!).
To this end we set up an online noticeboard where people can post how their work has been affected, what help they need, and what help they can offer others. Few people are hiring at the moment, but we’re working on facilitating a sharing of skills, advice, and resources amongst those affected. It’s no panacea to everyone’s work issues we know, but we really believe that the only way we can all get through this is by helping each other out however we can. Whether that's lending your business expertise to someone thinking about starting their own company, giving some branding advice to someone who now has the time to work on their company brand, or just offering some useful tips on how to work from home.
“We wanted to use our platform to provide support, connection, and visibility to female freelancers and founders, in what is otherwise a really isolating time...” – Her Hustle
Some incredible women have already shown their support, from pop star Sigrid to actress Lucy Boynton, Labour MP Tracy Brabin, stylist Leith Clark, and makeup artist Jo Baker, which is great. The more people who get in touch, the more skills/advice/resources we’ll be able to share around.
We’ve had an overwhelming response, and you can see some of the women involved here. Based on these replies we’re working on building out an active support network for the community through conversations on slack; video check-ins; online workshops; helpful content; and more. It’s a weird time for everyone, but we’re hoping we can make it a little less isolating and a little more productive for anyone who gets in touch!
Why do you think it’s so important to come together in times like this (and always)?
The thing that has stood out for us is the offering of help – women who are currently in need because of a loss of work, and who are therefore really struggling themselves, are nonetheless still keen to help others out however they can. From photographers, writers, editors, life coaches, to event planners, and tour managers, it’s the togetherness and collective thought of how we can help each other that we feel has the power to get us through this uncertain period; financially, economically, but also mentally.
Is there anything or anyone that has been helping to keep you motivated and positive at the moment?
Elspeth: adding structure to your day is simple and obvious, but a routine makes a significant difference. I block out hours in my calendar for emails, deep work, lunch (a proper lunch away from the makeshift desk makes your new normal more bearable), reading, and listening to music – the great communicator and healer! It's easy to spend hours scrolling through the headlines – getting yourself into a hole of anxiety about our fate and the unknown, but Elizabeth Day's recent How To Fail podcast episode with the remarkable Mo Gawdat was a great reliever of my anxiety. Mo made me realise control is an illusion in the first place, and begs the question how to find happiness within; this is an opportunity to be still, and dig deep.
”It’s the togetherness and collective thought of how we can help each other that we feel has the power to get us through this uncertain period...” – Her Hustle
Now is also the time to confront that extracurricular activity that has been carried to every to-do list, from week to year (you know the one). Reading that book, learning that language, guitar, anyone? And if you still, 'don't have time', it is indeed the time – to CROSS that baby off (shoutout to Al Greenwood – great pal and talented drummer in Sports Team, who made me realise this). Don't feel guilty, put it to bed, and move forward.
Lastly, of course my co-founder Emma-Louise constantly keeps me motivated. She is my ultimate soundboard; through existential dread, and never ending to-do lists – she's only a Zoom/phone call away. True friendship is one of our most powerful guides.
Emma-Louise: I have to very cheesily but also very sincerely second Elspeth’s response above. I started working full time on Her Hustle just a few weeks ago, so I’m still trying to work out what my work-life structure looks like, even outside of this lockdown craziness – specifically, what and how to prioritise my time.
I found the first week in isolation way harder than I’d anticipated because it made it really hit home (and fast!) that I haven’t quite got there yet with this structure, and I ended up feeling pretty lost and overwhelmed. Creating regular check-ins with Elspeth was key in getting me out of this and keeping me on track with Her Hustle. Setting goals and having an accountability partner is, I think, the best way for keeping yourself from falling into an existential hole, especially after hours and hours in isolation! And that's what we’re really trying to offer people with Her Hustle at the moment – that consistent support, soundboard or whatever you need, to keep you on track.
”Setting goals and having an accountability partner is, I think, the best way for keeping yourself from falling into an existential hole...” – Emma-Louise
I also just read a really helpful article on the Harvard Biz Review about how to manage your time, which focused on the importance of ritual in ensuring you keep in control of your day, as opposed to letting it run away with you. Exercising at the same time each day, setting aside an hour or two in the evening to do something non-work-related, blocking out time in your calendar for specific tasks – all things that are super simple and which I’m going to try and use to help me manage my days.
Also, let’s be real here. Chocolate. In desperate need of a mood boost? Eat a square of chocolate. It’s a no-brainer.