Most people who know me would describe me as a pretty organised person, but when they heard that I was setting up my own business they still looked at me in confusion and asked where I was finding the time. You see, I have a very busy house, with four young children and a husband whose work takes him out of the country for a large part of the week. My answer to them was quite straightforward though, “I just got seriously organised!”
My children have always been in an excellent routine and I can’t imagine life any other way. I’ll admit that it has been, and continues to be, constant work to achieve this routine but I can’t imagine how hectic life would be without it. It means that I know exactly when the house will be quiet in the evenings and when the noise will start again each morning (6:30 to be precise… my toddler is like clockwork!) This meant that during the time that I was setting up my business I knew that I would have a number of hours every evening to work on my website, complete my online digital marketing course and do some online networking, therefore I had to plan and use those hours wisely.
Now that my Virtual Assistant (VA) business is up and running I still get people asking me, “How do you do it?”, so I thought I’d share my top tips for setting up and running a business as a busy mum.
Set aside time that you will dedicate to work… and stick to it.
I got myself a planner and used the weekly overview to plan what I would do at different times during the week. I would spend an hour on a Sunday evening setting goals for the week ahead so that when I started working on a Monday I would already know what task I was going to complete to get me closer to my overall goal of launching my VA business.
Most of the time that I set aside to work was in the evenings, I worked between 8pm and 11pm each week night. There were some evenings that the house was coming in around me, with toys all over every room in the house, laundry that needed folding and a dishwasher needing emptied but I had to ignore it during those hours. I would then catch up on the housework either before I went to bed or I got up earlier the next morning to tidy up. The bottom line is that I treated that time as my work hours, if I had still been working for an employer outside the house I wouldn’t have been able to do my housework during the working day so why should working from home be any different?
Don’t get me wrong, life happens and there were days when I had planned to work but my children needed me instead. When my oldest two children were at school and my baby took his morning nap I would squeeze in some work while my pre-schooler had an hour of screen time. However, there were days when this didn’t work out because the baby was teething and needed cuddles instead of a nap; or the pre-schooler decided she wanted me to build jigsaw with her instead of watching the TV. On those days I would take extra time in the evening or get up earlier the following day, but I always tried to make up the time so that I could meet the weekly goals that I set myself on the previous Sunday evening.
Get yourself a planner and set yourself some goals for the week – once they are written down you’ll have to see them through.
Accept all offers of help.
I didn’t have any regular childcare in place until my business started to make some money and I could pay for my little ones to go to creche for a few hours a week, but I have always been lucky enough to have fantastic support from my own parents and my parents-in-law. I find it very difficult to ask for help, but I never refuse an offer. The grandparents all love having an excuse to spoil their grandchildren and obviously my children love spending time with their grandparents so it’s a win-win situation!
If you aren’t lucky enough to have family around, you may have a friend who would mind your children for a few hours and you could then reciprocate on a different day.
Never be too proud to accept help when it’s offered, in my experience people don’t offer unless they genuinely want to help you out.
Watch the time thieves!
When I first considered becoming self-employed I took a look at what I was currently doing in the evenings to determine what could give in order for me to invest the time in starting my business. I was horrified at the amount of time that I was wasting on Facebook every evening. I could scroll aimlessly for hours and realised this was adding no value whatsoever to my life and I needed to seriously restrict my time on social media. I still use social media of course, mostly for business, but I do like to catch up and see what friends are doing as well. The difference now is that I have set times during the day when I check social media and I try to stick to that.
Analyse how you spend your day and ask yourself what your main time thief is. Then decide how you can best manage it and use the hours that you save to invest time into your business, it will be so much more rewarding.
If you can outsource, then outsource.
I hire an amazing lady to come in and clean my house once a week. The amount that she fits into three hours would easily take me twice as long to do, so when I considered three hours at her hourly rate versus the six hours of value that I would be adding to my business each week it was a no brainer to hire a cleaner.
Is there something that you could hire someone else to do for you? It might be house-related, for example ironing, gardening, cleaning; or it might be something that is holding you back from starting your business, like website design, creating your social media business page or branding. Whatever it is, you can be sure that there is an expert available that you can hire to do it for you.
Make a list of all the tasks that you do in a week and ask yourself if you are willing to outsource any of them, getting something off your list that is holding you back will give you the head space you need to really push on with your business.
Find your support network
When I started on my self–employed journey I was so surprised at the amount of support that is available both on and offline. I joined two different VA Facebook groups and the support and advice that people share within those groups has helped me immensely. From answering the most basic questions on how to set up as a sole trader to using the Monday Goals post as an accountability tool, joining those groups has honestly been one of the most beneficial things in terms of helping me turn my dream into a reality.
Online networking has totally revolutionised the world of freelancing, especially for a time-pressed mum who can’t get out of the house much without a child or two in tow! However, and call me old school, it’s good to people face to face too. This is the reason that I joined a local networking group. Mums at Work is a group whose mission resonated with me as it is women supporting women in business. I have been to a number of their networking events, made friends and even gained clients through this group.
Find your network and spend time building relationships, it will pay dividends!
Don’t forget to take time for you.
Lastly, but most importantly, remember to schedule some time for yourself during the week. It is too easy to become all consumed with your new business and it can become like another baby in the house that you can’t leave alone.
Whether it is meeting a friend for a coffee, going for a half hour run or spending an evening binge-watching Netflix with a glass of wine, make sure that you do something to switch off from all things business related so that you can come back refreshed and rejuvenated.
If you are interested in learning if you could benefit from outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant, then click here.