One of the things that I love most about the online business community is that there are so many mama online business owners. This isn't much of a surprise to me as the workforce can be amazingly unfavorable to parents: Kids get sick, they have days off of school, and life can feel pretty unpredictable. For me, I often feel guilty when I have to step away from work because of my children.
As a solopreneur, there is no one to pick up the slack for me when “life happens.” I am not going to lie, it can be really hard at times. BUT owning a business is hard. Working is hard. Life is hard.
So how do I do it? Like parenthood, I find a way to make things work. People go on and on about how owning your business is so flexible: I can work on the beach, take my kids out for photo shoots, and have a life of leisure while bringing in the money from my online course. But, this isn’t the case. It’s flexible in the sense that I can do client work at either noon or midnight. Either way, it needs to get done.
As parents in business, it’s important to understand and practice certain things. This is not a post about putting your kids first, sucking it up, or whatever opinionated thing people tell parents. This post is about client management and making your life as a working mother manageable for both you and your family.
Accept that life is going to throw you lots of curve balls
This is particularly hard for me. I am someone who relies on a routine to keep my sanity, and when unexpected things pop up I get really stressed out. During my first year of business, I spent a lot of time reacting. Deadlines were something to worry about when they were near, and my own business stuff was always a reaction to a situation. For example, I needed more money, so therefore I needed another client. I created a course, so I needed to grow my social media following. I hadn’t written a blog post in 3 weeks, so I should probably go do that right now.
I will go ahead and say that this is an issue for small business owners, both with or without children. The key to overcoming this situation is setting your business up for success. When the kids are healthy and life feels a bit easier, do the work. You would be surprised at what a relief it will be when your kids get their third cold and you have already written that blog post, scheduled your social media posts, put that newsletter in the queue, and worked ahead on client work. You will have room to breathe!
Sit down and map out everything that you do for your business. Break those tasks down into three sections:
1. I need a lot of brain space and focus to do this.
2. I can do this with distractions going on around me.
3. I can do this in spurts with only a little bit of attention.
The list in number 1 could be what you work on when your home is either free of kids or your kids’ best time of day. Number 2 could be completed after those tasks in list number 1 are done. And list number 3 you can save for the evening, the morning, or when your kids are home sick and need your attention.
Clients appreciate honesty. Not everyone understands being pulled away from work because of children, but most people do. Unless there is a deadline that effects your client’s life, they can wait. Don’t apologize (why do we do that?) or tell them you will try to get the task done. Tell them that you have to attend to your children, give them a date that you will have their task done , and add an extra day to that deadline. For example, if you think your kids are going to be sick for three days, give them a deadline of five days. If you have some free time that opens up, you can always crank things out and surprise your client by turning something in early. Over promising and not being able to deliver will make your clients more frustrated than being honest and sticking to your new deadline. The world isn’t going to end, I promise.
Have a schedule
The purpose of a schedule is twofold: to have clear working hours and to stick with them. If you choose 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., this doesn’t mean that you can’t sneak in work before or after those times. But it is important to make sure it’s clear to your clients that these are your work hours and there will be no email or service/product delivery outside of these hours. That way if they send you an email at 3 p.m, they know you won’t respond until the following morning. This gives you some breathing room, and keeps you from rushing around at the end of the day.
You must also make it very clear when you onboard clients what days you are going to take off. This means that you need to sit down and decide what those days are going to be for the whole year. So if your kids have school holidays, winter/summer break, or if your kids’ caregiver is going on vacation, you have to have these days blacked out with your clients. If your clients complain about this during the on-boarding process, it’s a red flag and they probably won’t be a good fit for you and your business. It’s best to avoid these types of clients because they’re going to just be an issue down the road.
I am a firm believer that outsourcing is an investment that pays off. If there are tasks that you need/want to get done but they fill up your day, you could easily outsource them. For instance, I have an editor, a bookkeeper, and a graphic designer who does my blog graphics. I turned to outsourcing because I sat down, looked at my business, and realized that there were things in my business that stressed me out. I know outsourcing can feel like a major luxury, but sometimes it’s a necessity to keep the ball rolling.
Say it out loud
Many parents online are going through the same things you are going through. So confide in them, ask them how they do it, and ask them for advice when you are feeling overwhelmed. Being part of a positive community can help keep your stress levels down.
*it's also okay to feel like you suck at everything and have a good cry as needed. Wine and chocolate helps too.
How do you manage parenthood and owning an online business? Share your struggles and tips!