When I started my journey of self-employment, it was with my kids. They were newborn and 16 months. It was in the midst of the economic crash of 2009, approximately one year after we purchased our first house, which conveniently was about three months before the bottom fell out.
My husband and I are not wealthy people. We were both raised by hard working, middle class parents and had jobs at the age of 14. Relaxing is not something that comes easy to either of us, and as parents, we just want our children to have comfort, security, and confidence.
So much of what we desire for our kids shows up in the decisions we make in our professional lives. My husband is from Ohio – he honestly is the epitome of Midwestern values. Get up early, work hard, don’t complain, and do your best every day.
I am a word nerd and have always been writing. One Saturday, when I was unknowingly pregnant with my daughter, in a move I still blame on an internal nesting instinct, I created a free Google site, positioning myself as a freelance business copywriter offering services that included resume writing and corporate communications.
Within a week, my first client had found me, hired me for a resume, and my business was born. Fast forward approximately two years and two kids later, and I made the bold decision to leave my full-time job (with just one month of savings and no real plan) to go into business for myself … full-time. I quickly realized I needed help, which started out as traveling to visit grandparents two days a week, then hiring a sitter. This morphed slowly into daycare and a different sitter, all requiring a degree of flexibility and adaptability that I was previously unaware I was capable of.
When I look back, I can’t even believe I had the courage to do it. What gene was I born with that made me think I could build and run a business with two tiny people crawling around?
In retrospect, I don’t recommend this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method to starting a business. I would highly suggest a more thought-out approach; however, I did make it work, and I believe I owe that success in large part to a set of loosely-tied-together principles that have become my non-negotiables.
What’s my secret to working at home with kids?
1. Accept failure.
You will absolutely not get the things done that you planned.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
2. Build an “Oh, Sh*t” block into your schedule.
It’s a great cushion for the things that will fall through the cracks.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
3. Get up and move.
A lot. Like at least once every hour, to ward off the anxiety that creeps in when you’re not getting all the things down.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Daily if possible. This balancing act is hard. You need to combat stress, and exercise is the best thing I’ve found.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
5. Get dressed and put on makeup.
You just feel more effective when you look the part. My other secret? Shoes. I always put on shoes when I’m in my office. It’s a small psychological trick that works really well for me to reinforce work vs home.
6. Find your rhythm.
Learn when you are most productive, and block that time. Using a calendar app like Calendly with rules built in is a great way to manage that.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
7. Train your partner.
They will forget that while you “worked” all day, you were interrupted every 20 minutes. So the reason you work when they get home is because you can actually get stuff done.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
8. Be prepared to sacrifice.
Weekends, vacations, typical time off all goes out the window when you’re self-employed — but you don’t have to miss plays, concerts, school meetings, and all the other things.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
9. Find (and stick to) systems that work.
These are different for everyone. The hardest part is sticking to it, but routines will save you.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
10. Be disciplined.
I can’t tell you how hard it is some mornings to not just binge watch Netflix. But I don’t. Mostly.
Things have changed over the years, not least of all my kids. At this point, they are pretty self-sufficient and have a sitter who keeps them busy while I’m wrapping up my day. There are days when I wonder if I made the right decision. Then 2:52 rolls around. Every day, my son gets off the bus and silently crawls into my arms, tucking his head under my neck (being careful not to make too much noise because he knows Airpods in means I’m talking to a client) to give me a hug, and my “why” comes back into focus.