Balancing Mom & Entrepreneur Life
Being a mom is hard. Being a business owner is hard. Being a student is hard. Combining any of these is not for the faint of heart.
It’s hard. Seriously hard. I have done hard things and being a mom to little ones while working, schooling, business owning, literally anything, is hard on its own. I can’t even say that it can be completely mastered when you have two little ones under four years old (or any age even?) Every age is just a phase and each stage comes with its easy parts and hard parts. It’s always a work in progress. “Balancing” working from home and parenting at the same time takes the most patience you probably will ever have to have, tons of self love, a lot of persistence, trial and error with what works for you and your family, and it takes asking for help, just to name a few.
Coming from someone who “survived” two pregnancies in full time school while working and/or running my photography business, the birth of my first daughter mid-semester while getting my bachelor’s in Graphic Design (somehow I made it through finals with a full load of classes, a few big photography contracts going at the same time, and a three week old?) I don’t say it to brag or glorify the busy and productiveness. I may have been under that mindset at one point, but the older my babies get, the more I am struck with the fact that we have a short life and each season flies by. So here I am, trying to balance doing what I love, with the not so fun parts that keep a business going, and quality time giving energy to my people and also somehow recharging my own energy.
If anything, I want you to come away with two main points from this- 1. You are capable of more than you know and 2. Remember that life flies by and in the end certain things won’t matter, and certain things you will have clung to. The things you cling to, make more room for that while it is happening. You can only smell the newborn on your babies for so long, moments of cuddle-nursing while they stare into your eyes are fleeting, and sitting on the floor playing with dolls isn’t going to be there forever. Don’t spend all those moments checking your email, “marketing” on social media, and being in your head about work every waking moment. The bigger my kids get (and they’re only one and three), the more I feel the need to say no to things that don’t make a big difference in my business or don’t speak to me and what I believe in.
,So here is what I’ve learned after almost four years now of juggling motherhood in the newborn to toddler stage, growing a successful photography business, and finishing (finallllly) my bachelor’s degree in Design.
Have a Schedule and a Routine!
When you lay out your must-do’s for your business and for your home life, you can create a schedule and routine. Instead of waking up and feeling like you need to do everything there ever needs to be done with your business and feeling out of control, if you can prioritize the things that need to be done the most and break each thing down and give it a set time and day where you give it all your focus. You won’t wake up with a mountain on your shoulders every morning. Example, I know I have to do certain things every week to keep my business going, but if I wake up and think about every one of them at the same time, my work ends up being thrown together and confusing, my social life goes to crap, my kids get a stressed mom, and my husband has to pick up my slack because I just can’t do everything. But, if I can lay out my must dos, and say “Okay Monday is editing day, I am going to edit those two sessions, and Tuesday is where I will focus on marketing so I will batch instagram posts that are auto-scheduled to post on later dates..” etc. then not only can I knock out my list and feel good about crossing things off my list, but I can have a personal daily routine set that for me includes making a healthy and nutritious breakfast, taking the dogs for a morning walk, getting a workout in and even taking the kids to the playground for a little bit most days. Then, I fit my work into my day during naps and when my husband gets home in the evening or after the kids go to bed, and it’s not so incredibly overwhelming!
So, start by writing down your top things you must do for your business and then don’t be so pressed to squeeze all the other things in, especially all in one day!
Break up the Routine Sometimes!
So now that you know the rule of having a routine, you should also know there’s a time and a place to break it. I do like to have one or two days a week where I take the girls on a special outing to either a play date, or the kids museum, or just exploring nature. I feel like as a creative I need the breather and the flexibility to not be so strict everyday, but it also is inspiring to me to get out of the routine and see things with a fresh and rested mind. It’s also so healthy for children to explore, see something different from the everyday routine, meet new kids and socialize, and obviously get outdoors. We do get outdoors every single day, but on these particular “off routine” days we make it a little extra special. It gives us all the stimulation and break we need.
When I first graduated from school I felt the need to do something special and fun every single day, and quickly realized it was honestly better for our family to have both quieter days at home where Lively could play independently, Ellie could stay on a good nap schedule and I could get work done while also giving myself the space and time and environment to get a handle on another new baby and in general having two kids.
After some trial and error, this has been the best way to do things for our mental health and family dynamic, our bank account (the more I am out, the more I am spending $ on coffee, food, or the outing itself- it adds up!), and my business!
This is something I wish I could go back and tell myself to do years ago! Did you know there are people out there that are talented and competent and actually can help you with what you do, for really reasonable and worth-it prices? If you didn’t know that, now you do. Stop holding onto that feeling that only you can do every single thing within your business, because that is going to get you nowhere fast. You can only do so much. You can only do so much. I finally made the jump to outsource editing among some other tasks I don’t love doing, so while I take great pride in my own style and touch with editing, doing it all myself only would get me so far! How it works with say, editing, is I pick my top images from a session and edit them, and then the outsourced editor will edit the rest based off my edits. You work the outsourcing price into your pricing, and you have just handed yourself back 2-15 hours of your time depending on what you’re working on! That is a LOT of time to get back that can be spent either doing things that make a difference in your business or getting back that time for yourself.
I learned this from Jenna Kutcher, and it needs to be spread to every small business owner. It kind of goes hand in hand with having a routine because each day your aren’t giving yourself a list of ten different things that need to be done. You are doing on thing and spending a large chunk of time doing a lot of that one thing. Rather than getting into the workflow of editing, then stopping an hour in and moving onto typing out an instagram post, and then once you’re done with that stopping to email a client back, and being on a hamster wheel all day but never making a big impact on any one area, you are giving ONE area a lot of attention that day. You get so much further! For me, once I get into the zone working on something, if I have to stop and redirect my attention, it takes a time and so much focus to get back into the flow with that new thing, so this has helped me tons! Using Tailwind to schedule social media posts, not to mention being able to type them out on my computer, is way easier than trying to think of something meaningful and valuable on the spot everyday.
Use Helpful Systems
Why did I wait so long to sign up for a client management system? I do not know how or why, but I do know when I did it paid for itself the first DAY. Staying organized with emails, invoices, contracts, guides, project timelines, finances, and everything that comes with running a business is impossible when you start having regular incoming bookings.
Signing up for HoneyBook literally changed my life and my photography business. I went from feeling hectic, drowning in typing out individual emails to every person that dropped into my inbox every single day (there’s a place and time for sending back custom and personalized emails), hoping nothing important slipped through the cracks or went into the spam folder, digging through my computer looking for that specific contract and what to wear guide.
Anyways, there are so many tools to keep you organized within this client management system that I honestly don’t know how I stayed on top of anything before I had it. Well I do know, I barely scraped by and wasted so much time trying to figure out where I was at. Also it is so much more professional looking, you can set it up some everything is aligned with your branding, add your logo and personalized photos, brand colors, and typefaces so when your client gets anything from you they are impressed! Clients who were with me before I made the switch noticed the difference and immediately felt like I had leveled up my business.
I have a 50% off code to share if you want to make the jump, and seriously you will not regret getting this organized for such a small cost. Time is so valuable, and this gave me so much time back that I could put towards making that money right back x50. Use the link http://share.honeybook.com/danika942 to start! Someone else shared their code with me and I was able to get the 50% off my first year. When my first year was up I paid the full price for my second year without blinking an eye. So worth it.
When it’s Time to Work, Stay Focused!
Either turn your phone on silent, upside down, or on airplane mode, close the facebook tab and when it’s time to focus, focus. It’s way too easy to get caught up and distracted when you’re getting a slew of notifications, messages, like, comments coming in, and admit it, humans have a very short attention span these days. I realized I was wasting so much of the time I could be focused and knocking out my list because I was picking up my phone to check messages every time one came in. It threw me off track and wasted quality time I could be checking my tasks off my list so I could get back to family time or making progress in my business. Now my habit is to leave the iPhone on the banister outside my office door so it’s close enough to hear if my husband calls but far enough I don’t reach for it.
Don’t Work When You’re “Off”
This one is important. If you are always “on” to answer every email, DM, putting out fires the second someone is in your inbox, you will never feel like you can recharge your energy. I understand getting back to brand new inquiries as quick as possible because you will potentially lose business to whoever responds fastest, but there’s gotta be a line where you aren’t checking your inbox every 30 minutes, or picking up your phone while you’re laying in bed at 6am and panicking because you got an email the night before.
We have to set boundaries, and what works for my family and my business may not work for yours, but I don’t check my emails or start working until after I have had my cup of coffee, washed my face, made a good breakfast for me and the girls, and most days get my morning workout in. If I do these simple things to start my day without my own inner voices nagging me to get back to that email right away, then I can actually give more and I can give better.
My personal boundaries are not checking my emails in bed, no phones or working at the dinner table- which we have a sit down dinner together every night, and when my husband and I agree that we are spending quality time together, that is what we’re doing, I will not sit there only paying half attention to him. I am either focusing on work, or I am focusing on my family during most of the morning and evening, and the only time I am juggling both at the same time is a few hours in the afternoon where the girls are napping or they can play quietly (jk when are three year olds quiet) and independently next to me which I feel is healthy for them anyways!
This one is big. And it’s not about getting a pedicure or taking a bath and eating chocolate (those are just bonuses if you can squeeze them in.) Self care to me is understanding your own needs, and making sure to fit in what you need regularly. We are all individual and deal with life, emotions, relationships, etc. in our own way, and that needs to be seen and honored when it comes to caring for ourselves. Although people may think I am extroverted at times because I can make friends easily, I’m not really shy unless in an uncomfortable or intimidating environment, and I have moved so many times in life it’s pushed me to act more extroverted when starting over so many times, I actually am an introvert. I need time to go inward, be quiet and alone, think and reflect, and recharge my batteries. I do so much better when I give myself that time every once in a while where my husband takes the kids and I can be alone. While it’s definitely not everyday that I can get this time to myself, just making sure I get a little bit of it each week helps a ton.
You may have a different form of true self care, like my husband needs to workout and get his gym time in or he can never relieve stress and it piles up. Think about what it is you need and see if there’s a time each day or each week that you can do something that gives you energy back.
Set Boundaries, say No
When you say yes to everything, you are saying no to having the life and the business that you really want. When you say yes to showing up with your camera (or whatever your business/skill is!) for free all the time when that family friend asks you, or giving someone that deal just because they asked, or a client that really doesn’t align with the direction you are going, that time is spent in areas that are not going to launch you in the right direction.
There will be a time in the beginning or owning your business where you will probably have to say yes more often to all types of paid work to get experience and obviously make enough money to pay your bills and business expenses, BUT you do not need to say yes to every friend and family member who asks you to bring your camera to their events. When you say yes to those things (unless that fills your cup rather than depletes it!) you could be saying no to other opportunities that come along, you’re putting that ahead of using your energy to grow your business, and it might be taking you away from your family time if you’re adding that on top of your workload. I used to hate the word no, this year it has been a favorite. You know that sinking feeling in your gut when you say yes to something and you wish you hadn’t? Try to get rid of having that feeling in your life, as soon as your business is to a point you can.
I say no to free work (unless it’s a cause I believe in supporting and I choose to use my energy towards it. I believe in giving without getting in return but you cannot give, give, give and never get anything back. That’s why your yes’ should be thoughtful and sparing) I say no to work that is outside of the realm I want to do (like events, sports photography, you know, just things that are not aligned with my brand.) and I even say no to “fun” social stuff, when we say yes to every social event, when our weekends our filled to the brim with events and socializing, we get overwhelmed.
It’s important to say no to things so when you say yes it can be for something really, really great, and you can give that really great yes your best self.
Invest back in your business
When I finally started investing in my business, I always made that money back quickly and doubled, tripled, quadrupled it. Do your research before you drop big $ on anything, but when you make smart investments in yourself and your business, you will see how much faster you can grow! This year I spent more on my business that any year before combined and I have seen more growth than all the years combined as well. Attending workshops, purchasing online courses, hiring out big things like my website (brand new one coming this fall by Alisabeth Designs!!) have already helped me launch my business more than I would have thought possible a few years ago! Even investing in having someone come over and watch your kids a few hours a week would be helpful!
Stop fiddling around in every area of your business trying to do every single thing from scratch, and invest in either hiring a professional to do an amazing job for you or invest in learning how to do it! Having an amazing web designer doing an amazing job on my website- while it was a big investment- it’s giving me hundreds of hours back that I would have (and have) spent just tweaking and messing with my old website, never fully feeling like it’s completed.
Ask for Help
Don’t wait as long as I did to take this advice. It took me a whole three years to ask anyone for help besides my husband and sister, and even them I didn’t ask for as much as I should have. It’s not anyone else, just the way I am to not ask for help. I always felt like it would burden my family/in-laws if I asked, and I was trudging through trying to get focused work done on basically no sleep and a baby and toddler always attached to me. I was running on fumes. I had nothing left in me, especially the earlier months after my second was born, I was dealing with post-partum depression and anxiety and really could have used time to figure all of that out and get better. I was so burnt out on what I was working on, and felt a mountain of mom-guilt trying to get anything done, plus feeling a lot of stress about not being able to put in solid time and energy into my business. All it took was asking for help from my in-laws one time and being able to get an entire afternoon to focus on my business to feel like it was going to be possible to succeed. I did more in that five hours in a coffee shop by myself with my laptop than I could usually get done in a whole week, and the girls got some really special one on one time with their grandparents, and my in-laws loved it too! It was a win-win-win.
Okay, sorry!! I know that was so much. I will break this down into sub-posts in the future because there’s so much more to each topic, but for now, this is a big summarization of things that have helped me juggle this mom+entrepreneur life I live. I really hope this helps you in the season of life you are in. It’s busy, it’s a lot of work, but we get one life. Remember to breathe and take in the beauty of it, give yourself love and rest, and show up with your cup full of good energy and love to give back.