This article originally appeared on our Forbes blog
Running a business and having kids are both full-time jobs. This pairing can certainly strain one’s sanity and schedule; however, many entrepreneurs feel that the choice to be their own boss gives them more time with their family, not less . Further, it’s an especially attractive option for women who feel blocked by the “maternal wall” they encounter in corporate America–which can mean inflexibility in many traditional career paths.
Among my client — “makers” of whom about 80% are women — a common goal and central piece of their business plan is to gain more control over their time. Since many of the tasks associated with selling a physical product can be outsourced (ex: contract manufacturing, third party fulfillment, and even customer service, marketing, and design), product-entrepreneurs have an opportunity to set up their businesses in a way that allows them to focus on parenting and other personal demands.
To find out what strategies work best, I asked four successful “maker moms” to share their tips for carving out extra family time.
Use Time Blocking
Stephanie Maslow, owner of the NYC-based brand Metalicious, uses a daily time-blocking practice to make space for the ever-changing needs of her family. Each night before bed she takes 10 minutes to brain dump everything on her agenda for the following day. She then writes out a mini-schedule to follow, blocking out hours for personal and professional tasks so that there is a set window for each item on her list. Here is a sample day:
6:45-8:45 AM – Wake up, make breakfast & lunches, check emails, shower
8:45-9:20 AM – Drop kids off at school, walk to studio
9:20-11AM – Make to-do list for the day with priorities at the top, answer customer emails
11-12PM – Work on orders, create new pieces, price new styles
12-2:30PM – Photograph, edit photos and list new items on website. Write newsletters & blog.
2:30-6PM – School pick-up, ice hockey practice, call pediatrician & orthodontist, answer any new emails that have come in
6-9PM – Homework and dinner, laundry
9-10:30PM – Hang out with husband, check for any last customer emails, get ready for bed
10:30 PM – Sleep
“You can crush your goals when they’re planned and written out in front of you,” says Maslow, whose designs are now shipped globally. “The key is to be disciplined and create structure even when your routine is non-traditional.”
Make It A Family Affair
Doaa Elkady, cofounder of Spice Tree Organics, has set up her business to be a “big family project.” She schedules tasks that require a singular focus while the kids are away at school, leaving other items and responsibilities involving them for when they come home. Fortunately, her children are great assistants. They regularly taste-test their new spice blends, help adjust recipes, and even participate in design work. “The older ones have as much of an intimate knowledge of our products and their uses as we do,” says Elkady, who also makes an effort to attend family-friendly trade shows and markets, giving her kids an opportunity to interact with customers and see the fruits of their labor. In addition to helping her balance work and family, this approach instills in her children the value of hard work, going after what you love, and being entrepreneurial. A definite win-win!
Social media is key for engaging potential buyers, and most businesses find that a steady stream of content and advertising is what most drives their e-commerce sales. However, it takes a lot of time and energy to execute this well! Melanie Marie, a lifestyle blogger and apparel and accessories designer, relies on several tools to outsource and streamline the company’s digital marketing, including Fiverr for branding, graphic design and ad creation, and Tailwind to automate posts and campaigns, monitor stats, and grow her followings.
Because these tools are available as apps that can be accessed from her mobile phone, Marie can quickly check-in in between personal activities such as playing with her daughter or running errands. Further, her promotions are set-up to run regardless of if she is working or not, so time off due to illness or a family vacation doesn’t necessarily translate to lost income, as it may if she were reporting to an employer.
Right-Size Your Mindset
Veronica Horner is the cofounder and CEO of Maia Moda, a line of stylish breastfeeding and maternity clothing. Her approach to fitting in more family time is to cultivate a patient attitude towards her business’s growth and resist the urge to overschedule during this leg of her career. Each week, she sets up limited working hours without being bound to accomplishing every single item on her list. “I have to remind myself that I’ve set different priorities for my current stage of my life. The business may grow slower as a result, but I’m okay with that,” says Horner.
Throughout the course of a typical career, it’s normal that one’s professional capacity will ebb and flow. It’s crucial to remember that each phase is just that: a phase. One of the unique benefits of being an entrepreneur is that you set your own performance metrics , and it’s perfectly okay for your goals and output to change with the seasons.