Eleven (+) years ago, what started off as a hobby unexpectedly grew to be a small business. As I had also just become a stay-at-home mom, I quickly learned what it meant to be a mompreneur. I am the first to admit that I am not business-minded, so owning my own business has been a steep learning curve. Learning how to juggle life and motherhood in the midst of owning a small business, well that, too, has had its ups and downs. I have learned to not just be flexible, but fluid when it comes to juggling all the things. For example, I couldn’t keep up with the demand of painting custom art, so now I sell prints of my paintings. Flexible. My kids spilling cheerios all over the floor so I have to stop what I’m working on to clean a mess? Fluid.
MOMPRENEUR: a woman who is balancing the roles of motherhood and entrepreneurship.
In the past 11 years of mompreneurship, I have learned some very valuable lessons that help me succeed in both mom life and work life. I haven’t necessarily mastered all of these, but I’m working on it. When I was a teacher, I once complained to my mentor about a classroom procedure that, to me, was simple, but the kids just were not getting it. She told me three words that changed how I look at my day-to-day operations: “So change it.” If something repeatedly isn’t working, change it. I am constantly reflecting on what is or isn’t working in my work/life balance and making changes here and there to better serve my family, grow my business and stay sane in the process.
Here are some things that have helped me or that I am currently trying to improve. For reference, I am an author and artist, so when I talk about writing or painting, just insert what it is you do to make it applicable to you.
Designate work hours.
When my kids were young, my work hours were only between 1 and 3 (nap time). That’s it. I worked two hours a day because that’s what I could do at the time. I used to work after the kids went to bed as well, but I quickly realized that I needed sleep much as they do. Now that my kids are all in school, my hours are between 9 and 2. That’s the time when I answer e-mails, post on social media, research, write, make phone calls, etc. Here’s where flexibility comes in because if there is a school event or volunteer opportunity during 9-2, it may push work into the evening. I try to let my husband know ahead of time that he may be in charge of dinner and homework on those days.
Map out a schedule.
As a writer, I have a flexible schedule. It’s easy for me to fill all my time with anything but writing. My friend Sara led a Mastermind class and she encouraged me to use a calendar to map out a schedule for writing, social media, e-mails, continuing education, research, paperwork/taxes, etc. This has helped me stay focused on my goals with realistic expectations on how to use my time wisely. I even schedule overflow time in case I don’t finish something during the time allotted which, because I get random calls from school from my kids to bring their forgotten lunch, happens often.
Friendships are worth more than your business. I can’t stress this enough. I’m grateful for my sweet friends who love to plan breakfast dates or dinners because I can easily become so completely immersed in what I’m writing that I forget to take a break to socialize. My friends have been my rock, my sounding board, and sometimes shoulders to cry on. I may not be able to make every playdate, but gosh darned, I will do my best to close my laptop and go have fun.
Get out of the house.
Staying at home all day every day to work can literally drive you bonkers. Not to mention that it’s hard to prioritize work when the dirty dishes are staring at you. Because of the generous businesses who offer free WiFi, I have “offices” all around town. I love hanging out at coffee shops, restaurants, and indoor play areas like Sky Zone (if I have the kids with me). But even if you can only work from home (especially if you have little bitties), get out of the house once a day to take care of a small errand or at minimum every other day. Your brain needs that change of scenery to recharge.
Learn when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
It’s ok to say “no.” Did you hear me? It’s ok. That’s a hard thing to understand. Saying “yes” to something means you have to say “no” to something else. And sometimes, what you are saying “no” to truly needed to take priority. I’m an impulsive “yes” person and a people-pleaser. I’m learning how to first say, “Let me look at my schedule” or “I need some time to think about it first” before answering immediately. This gives me time to decide if adding one more thing will stress me out or inconvenience my family.
Value your time and talents.
If you are an artist, creator, baker or designer – especially if you do custom, on-demand work, please increase that price tag to reflect your valuable time and incredible talent. If you have a hard time deciding what to charge people, there are apps such as Craft Pricing Calculator and Art Price Calculator that help you determine what to charge customers based on cost of materials, time spent, level of expertise, etc. Always remember that whatever time you are using to create something, that’s time away from your family. It’s more valuable than your customer may realize.
Do not expect your friends to be your customers.
When you start a small business, it’s easy to look at those within your reach and say, “Look at all these people that could benefit from my new business!” However, your friends are on a budget or may not need what you offer. Do not expect them to jump on board, especially right away.
Know that your friends and family may not like your product or service, and that’s ok!
Of course you are going to love the product or service you offer to your customers, but that doesn’t always mean that your friends are going to love it as much as you do. If you go into business understanding that, it won’t hurt so much if they don’t like it. Everyone has different tastes, different lifestyles, different bodies, different beliefs – so what you have to offer may not work for them or may not be their top choice or preference. Don’t hold that against them but instead value their friendship without the weird business relationship mixed in.
Your husband and kids come first.
My family is my first job. It’s terrible, but I have to mentally remind myself of that often. That means, if a field trip comes up and my child wants me as a chaperone, I’m there. My writing deadline may get pushed back, yet again, but I’m there. If my kid is sick, a doctor’s appointment and snuggle time is now on the schedule for the day. That’s the perk of having a flexible schedule and working from home. It’s one of the reasons I only write in pencil in my calendar. Sometimes, it’s hard not to be frustrated by these changes in my schedule, but I try to be present and grateful for the break.
Keep your spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health in check.
We all have limits. A full or overbooked schedule is often past my limit. I need downtime in order to keep anxiety and stress at bay. I pencil in time for prayer and to read my Bible at the start of every work day. That’s a non-negotiable time. I am getting better at scheduling time to exercise or run. Many days I end writing time early so that I can rest my brain a bit before picking up the kids. If I am sick, I try to take time to rest so that I can heal faster as opposed to trying to push through. Sure, my business could be more successful if I pushed through it all, but I would not be the best me if I did. If any of my tanks are running low, I’m not at the top of my game in writing, painting or momming. This last step isn’t selfish, it’s healthy.