For Frankie Tortora, her online community Doing It For The Kids (DIFTK) has always been and will always be about helping freelancers with kids feel less alone.

“It’s a killer combo having small children and working for yourself - both are isolating in different ways - and the ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ thing doesn’t really exist so much any more,” says Frankie (pictured above).

DIFTK – a community by and for parents who work freelance – acts as a new kind of village. It’s a place where there are no stupid questions, just a bunch of people eager to support each other as they muddle through the eternal juggle of raising children and being self-employed. Frankie, founder of DIFTK, is a Starling business customer.

Pivoting the business away from Facebook

Frankie, who works as a freelance graphic designer, had the idea for DIFTK while she was pregnant. At the time, she had all sorts of questions she didn't know how to answer: How much time should I take off? What statutory maternity pay am I entitled to? How do I manage ongoing client work?

“There were lots of blogs by people trying to sell you something or training courses for new mums starting businesses. But as a freelancer, I already had a business. I just wanted to speak to people who were also freelancers and parents.”

DIFTK is a community for parents that work freelance, photo credit: Jeremy Freedman

She launched DIFTK as a Facebook group in 2016, a few months after becoming a mother. “I knew I needed somewhere to ask questions and that somebody else would need that too. But I never imagined how many people were craving it.”

By 2022, there were more than 10,000 people in the group. “But when the group got that big, its value became diluted.”

Last summer, Frankie closed down the Facebook group and re-launched the community on Circle, an online platform for communities. “I can see why people might look at me and think I’m nuts but big numbers aren’t always the solution for what your business is doing.”

By moving the group to Circle, Frankie knew that A) she’d have to charge people to be part of the community to cover fees charged by Circle, and B) only the most actively engaged members would join the new platform, something that would decrease the size of the group but hopefully increase the level of support between members.

DIFTK members meet up online and at events, photo credit: Kassia Karr

On day one of the new space, 150 freelance parents signed up. The group now sits at around 500. “The move to Circle has completely invigorated the way I run it. It’s a much smaller space and it’s infinitely better for it - people have conversations in a much more open way.”

Helping freelance parents support one another

As well as asking for and sharing advice, members of DIFTK can access educational articles and attend large-scale, kid-friendly networking events or smaller member-led meetups.

Many people have joined the community after listening to the DIFTK podcast, which Frankie launched in 2019 with friend and fellow freelancer Steve Folland. In 2021, it was named Best Business Podcast at the British Podcast Awards. “It’s the water cooler chat that you might get in an office, but on a podcast. We answer questions from fellow freelance parents, try to give people some advice and have a laugh along the way.”

Steve Folland and Frankie Tortora co-host the DIFTK podcast, photo credit: Sian Parker

Underpinning it all - the community, the events and the podcast - is the aim of connecting freelance parents, not by gathering together as many people as possible but by creating a safe space where they can ask anything and help each other out. “It’s very easy to feel rubbish about juggling everything. But be kind to yourself - you’re not alone.”

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