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How to / Build a Network

10 months ago by

Phoebe Lovatt is someone I’ve long admired as both a businesswoman and a person ever since we met at a fashion event a couple years back and bonded over our Britishness. She’s a freelance journalist and moderator who founded her own professional women’s network called, The Working Women’s Club, which has garnered international success with events in Los Angeles, New York and London.

Born and raised in London, she moved to LA before making the coastal switch to NYC a few years later. Consequently, she combines the energy of a New Yorker with the chill of a Cali girl, all topped off with the dry wit and self-deprecation of a true Brit. She is someone who is not only a fearless female entrepreneur, but is committed to her principles and maintains a level of respect for herself and others in all areas. I thought I’d quiz Phoebe on how she managed to achieve freelance success while building a network for working women…

__________________

…on starting out…

I started working in music journalism. I interned from a young age, so by the time I graduated university I’d already managed to find bits and pieces of freelance work so I was able to start freelancing full-time as a journalist. At 22 I learned Soho house was launching their digital portal and looking for an editor, and somehow I got the job! I took the role because I’d always been interested in the hospitality industry – I think Nick Jones is a genius and I really wanted to develop my skills in creating content from a brand perspective. After a year at SoHo House I got my visa and decided to live in LA. I wanted to be self-employed again and go back into journalism.

By the time I moved to LA at 24, I had built up a strong freelance contact base in the UK. Those editors would commission me to interview musicians and actors based in Hollywood, or wherever. That’s actually how I got my first cover story, Chance The Rapper for DAZED – it was his first cover story, too!  

…identifying a need…

Despite thriving in my freelance journalism career, I was feeling quite professionally isolated in LA, working for myself. Even though I was meeting a lot of people, I didn’t feel like part of a community. I grew up in the middle of London with this amazing, creative group of women, and I wanted to have some semblance of that in LA. There was nothing in the space of professional networking opportunities that spoke to young millennial women in a way that was accessible and relatable.

…and catering for it…

I was also getting emails from girls saying: “How do you live in America?”, “How do you pitch? How do you get work?” I was feeling a bit creatively stagnant, so in 2015 I decided to self-publish a book of things I’d learned, and advice from women with interesting careers. I self-published it, got it printed at a little printer in LA, and I called it “The Handbook for Women Who Do Creative Work.”

I wanted to do something interesting to launch the book, so I hatched this plan of opening a space for creative working women in LA to socialize with each other for a week. Honestly when I look back on it now, the whole thing was nuts. I got all these women to come, I did breakfast, I programmed a week of talks, it was amazing.

Exactly one year to the day after I opened the first space, I received a publishing deal from Prestel to develop my small self-published effort into a full, hardcover book. I spent most of 2016 writing all-new content and interviewing women like Elaine Welteroth and The Gentlewoman’s EIC Penny Martin to create The Working Woman’s Handbook: Ideas, Insights and Inspiration for a Successful Creative Career, which was publishing in fall 2017.

… embracing a feminist outlook!

I called the project “The Working Women’s Club”, which is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Working Men’s Clubs, which in Britain are like dingy old pubs where working class men go to have a pint. The ideology was that they would be places where men could come and learn, but also find community. I thought it was quite funny to turn the idea on its head, and make a space for women.

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…rolling with unexpected successes…

The minute I launched the event, not only was the space full, but also the response online was crazy. The last three years I have literally just run with it. I didn’t start The Working Women’s Club as a business, I started it because I was trying to create something that was lacking in my life, and also trying to do something positive. Now the Working Women’s Club can bring me an income and I can supplement that with freelance work, but when I started it, it was the other way round.

…on the hustle…

I create and sell digital career resources (I just launched the Class of 2018, which is a year-long program of content and events, designed to teach you a new way to work); I have a subscription-based membership platform that offers exclusive benefits and discounts; I host ticketed workshops and panel conversations in cities around the world; and I just launched a jobs platform called The Workspace, where you can pay a fee to list a job or internship in my weekly newsletter. Basically, I hustle! It’s hard work, but I feel a lot of responsibility towards the women who value my work with The WW Club, and I want to support them in every way I can.

How to / Build a Network

… on investing in yourself…

A lot of my career has been never wanting to put myself in a place where I couldn’t do what I wanted because someone else didn’t give me permission. When I first came up with the idea for the WWClub I asked some brands to give me a little bit of money to help me do it – and all of them said no! They were like “Who are you? What’s this?” I had a moment where I asked myself: “Am I really going to plough my savings?” and I just thought, “yea, I am.” I saw it as an investment in myself.

…speaking of money matters…

I certainly don’t advocate financial recklessness – no one is going to pay my rent if I don’t pay it. I’ve had a lot of anxiety about money at many points in my life, but last year I made a conscious decision to let go. Not to let go of the ambition of trying to make money, but rather not to allow my relationship with money to be dictated by fear. Without sounding too spiritual self-help book about it, I came to realize that like anything in life, if you’re fearful and try really hard to grip, it makes it all harder.

You need to figure out what your skill is that you can always sell. I used to do a lot of copy writing for example. I think that once you know how you can always make money, it takes some of the financial pressure off.

…being your own measure of success…

I think the only key to success is deciding what success looks like for you, and not getting derailed by someone else’s version of it. To me, it’s asking myself: how often am I waking up and looking forward to my day? That’s success. It’s not about how much money I have, how many followers I have, how much I’m impressing people. If I don’t wake up and feel like my day is a day that I want to have, then what am I doing?

8 comments

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  • Again I start my comment here saying I’m a man. This a wonderful post for both men and women but is the eventual goal to be gender less in these posts . To not feel the necessity to identify as a woman first but as a person !
    “ The Working Persons Handbook “.
    Jandrew
    Dress The Part
    http://jandrewspeaks.com

  • Thank you Jandrew ! I agree with you. The goal is to have a planet of women AND men in balance… that way to emphasize on women just put more inequality in this world… by the way, great post.

  • If your goal is gender equality, then please work with your fellow men to build a world where women’s values, viewpoints, and voices are appreciated *and compensated* the same way that men’s are.

    Asking women to stop talking about issues that directly impact us as women who have been raised in a non-equal world is not at all helpful to this project.

  • Smart woman! Very fresh, practical, simple to follow ideas…
    xo

    -D

  • Annaliese January, 21 2018, 6:57 / Reply

    So many good points, you’ve got me thinking! Thanks?

  • this is an incredibly awesome article, considering i am myself starting my own business. so hard to get your feet off the ground and awesome to hear from someone that has been successful at it!

    x, wordbyjessie.com
    @jjchase

  • Awesome article! will try this. With love

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