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I don’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. At least one of my children is awake by 6 a.m. every single day.
My boys are one and three years old. Once they’re awake, our morning routine flows from coffee (for me) to cars and trucks (with them) to breakfast (for everyone). My husband’s workday starts at 8 a.m., so on the two days per week that my little ones are in preschool, we work together to get them fed, dressed, and out the door.
I drop them off a few minutes before 8:00, and my workday starts about 30 minutes later. For the for you in future five hours, I enjoy more hot, black coffee and the silence of solitude as I do my most creative and thought-intensive work. When the boys come home from school, they play, snack, play, eat dinner, bathe, play, and then go to bed. Once they’re asleep, sometimes I get back to work to finish a project or write an outline for an upcoming blog. Other times, I keep my computer shut and spend the last couple of hours of the day enjoying quality time with my husband.
I launched Spainhour Copywriting in January 2020—I’m a medical copywriter and content marketing specialist. I specialize in long-form blogs, white papers, and other types of copy for practitioners in the rehabilitation world. That means I work with physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, disability advocates, and special education companies. I chose this niche because of my background in special education and pediatric rehabilitation.
You already know this, but let’s say it together: starting and running a business is hard. Raising kids is hard. Doing both at the same time in the middle of a pandemic might seem near impossible. But it isn’t. There are ways to work around Zoom meetings with kids in the background. It is possible to find a rhythm and routine that works for everyone in your family. You can create something you love while caring for the people you love.
Clear goals. Focused work. Boundaries. Self-care.
These are the core tenets that helped me achieve success in 2020, my first full year as a mompreneur, and give me confidence as I move forward in 2021.
If you’re a parent and a business owner, you’re going to need to free up as much time as possible. Here are a few ways parents can remove some repetitive and tedious tasks from their lists using automation. You can also automate other busywork in your personal life.
What are your goals?
The single most important thing you can do as a parentpreneur is to get crystal clear about your goals. You have to know what you’re working toward and why. If there’s no reason behind your hard work, it just won’t work. So before you launch your business, articulate your goals. Write them down and share them with your partner or a friend. It’s ok if they change down the road, but you must have a clear vision to start strong.
As I prepared to launch Spainhour Copywriting, I had three goals:
Supplement my family’s income. My husband is a pastor and works full-time. We’re lucky that I don’t have to work full-time to make ends meet. But our budget is tight, and I started my business in part to give some breathing room to our monthly budget. We wanted to set aside money to purchase a minivan, increase our capacity to be generous within our community, and have the flexibility to order takeout a few times per week after a long, tiring day of parenting toddlers.
Stay home with my young children. I knew I wanted to stay home with my children during their little years. When I first started my business, my youngest wasn’t even one year old. While I have a few hours a week to myself now that they’re in preschool, spending time with them was a priority. And I knew that meant I might have to say no to some projects, but that’s why it was important for me to understand my goals.
Develop an intellectual and creative outlet. When I became a stay-at-home mom when my second child was born, I soon realized I longed for an intellectual and creative outlet. I love my babies, and to be the kind of mom I want to be for them, I need some time to nurture my own passions and goals. I’ve always loved an intellectual challenge and found great satisfaction from my professional work. This part of my identity continued to be important to me.
Knowing my goals also helped me remember what weren’t my goals. For example, my goal was not to make as much money as I possibly could, grow a large social media following, or network with top names in the industry. I did have a few neat networking opportunities that expanded my reach and earned more income than I’d imagined, but these outcomes were tangential benefits.
I recommend revisiting your goals at least monthly to ensure you’re continuing to focus on what’s most important to you. If you’ve reached one of your goals, celebrate! And then get back to work with a renewed vigor for your passions—both business and family.
Multitasking is for the birds
Being a successful parentpreneur is all about managing your time well. For me, this doesn’t mean multitasking. Here’s why.
My boys are little. They require near-constant supervision. This is the stage of life that is physically demanding—potty, snacks, naps, and everything else. When I try to work while they’re home and awake, I’m inefficient, to say the least. I’m prone to errors in my emails. Paragraphs I write require rewrites later that evening. Writing even one sentence takes at least three times as long. Plus, if I’m trying to work, then I’m also not focused on my kids. They’re far more likely to fight with each other, make a huge mess, or even accidentally hurt themselves if I don’t have my eyes completely on them around the clock. Just look to the Sharpie and crayon scribbles on our walls upstairs for proof.
Sure, there are times when I answer a quick email or respond to a LinkedIn post while they’re finishing a snack or watching Daniel Tiger. But as a general rule of thumb, when I’m Mom, I’m Mom. Period. Rather than trying to multitask, I work during these times:
Twice per week when they’re at preschool
Naptime, 2-3 times per week
After bedtime, 2-3 times per week
One morning or one afternoon on a weekend while my husband watches them
I don’t work every single night because I don’t want to sacrifice time with my husband every single night. If my goal was to scale my business, for example, then yes, I would have had to put in many more hours, including nights. But because that wasn’t my goal, I focused on maintaining boundaries.
Stay the course (when to say no)
Not having enough clients is problematic, but so is having too many.
If you can’t manage your workload, something will suffer: your physical health, your mental health, your family, or your work. There was a stretch in the middle of 2020 when I had several leads and more opportunities than I could pursue. It was hard to say no and walk away from these opportunities, but I had to in order to stay the course of my goals. I also didn’t have the bandwidth at the time to hire and train another writer or build out my business, so I simply said no. I don’t regret it.
Use this tech trick to help you say no.
Embrace the late-night work session
I know I just talked about how important it is to know when to say no, but you also need to buckle up for the occasional late-night work session. Building a business from scratch is hard work for anyone. When you’re a parent and a small business owner, there will be times when your scheduled work time gets interrupted (snow day, sick kid, you name it). And on those occasions, you have to lean into the grind, which likely means late nights.
Of course, you can’t work till 2 or 3 a.m. everynight and then hop back up for a day full of wrangling toddlers starting at 6 a.m. You’ll burn out—quickly. But there are times when you might just have to push through and get it done. Here are the two main reasons I find myself working a night session.
To meet a deadline. If you haven’t used your time wisely, you’ve accidentally overbooked yourself, or your kid’s school is closed for a day, you might have to pay the price with a late-night work session. You want to be a trustworthy and dependable business owner. If you can’t meet deadlines, word will spread. Meeting deadlines is a basic hallmark of professionalism.
To nurture a creative idea. As a writer, I won’t pretend I can always do my best work during the neatly packed time slots that I’ve identified in my weekly planner. Sometimes I have a hard time generating deep, creative thoughts when I know I only have 45 minutes before my kids wake up from their naps. When this happens, I use those 45 minutes for less intensive thought work: email responses, invoice organization, brainstorming blog topics, social media engagement, and so on. I save the good and hard work of writing for the solace of midnight oil.
Taking care of your body and mind is the absolute best way you can care for yourself, your family, and your business.
There are endless studies demonstrating the critical importance of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. If you think this can be put on the back burner, remember how it felt the last time you tried to write a research-driven proposal on three hours of sleep. Or how clearly could you think when you ate a donut for breakfast and nothing else until 8 p.m. that night when your kids were finally asleep.
Self-care isn’t just a lofty goal for those with the time for a lengthy, meditative morning routine. (Which would be great, by the way. It’s just not in the cards for me these days.) Self-care will look a little different for everyone. For me, here’s what it means.
Running 2-3 times per week
Getting outside with my boys daily for fresh air and time in nature
Meal planning and ordering groceries on the weekend to prepare for the week ahead
Going to bed by 10 p.m. most nights
Keeping my water bottle with me throughout the day and refilling as necessary
Making time for my friends, usually on a Sunday evening
If you find it hard to practice self-care, automation can give you the nudge you need. Here are 4 self-care workflows to get you started.
What’s for you in future for me? What’s for you in future for you?
Spainhour Copywriting is entering its second full year. My goals for 2021 are mostly more of the same. Because my kids are still toddlers, life is still hectic. I still want to prioritize family. In a few more years, they’ll be in school, and I’ll have more time to scale up and out or pursue something different altogether. For now, having a steady stream of a few clients that help me meet my financial and creative goals works well for our family.
A few smaller goals I have: provide engaging content on LinkedIn to help build my brand and increase my reach, and try out one new type of copy to develop my skillset.
Oh, and buy that minivan.
What’s for you in future for you?
This is a guest post from Kelly Spainhour, the owner of Spainhour Copywriting. Kelley specializes in writing white papers, long-form blogs, and website copy. She loves working with clients in physical rehabilitation, disability advocacy, and pediatrics. Learn more on her website, or connect with her on LinkedIn. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.
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