Since I started my own small business eight years ago, there have been many obstacles. However, I think one of the hardest and easiest decisions I made was to work from home. I worried about the image of my business in this arrangement. Would people think I was not serious because I didn’t have an actual office they could visit? Would they question my skills because of this? Many thoughts ran through my head, and many doubts followed them. When I got to the core of the choice, the one reason I choose to work at home, that was what put my mind to rest. Why did I make the decision to go out on my own in the first place? Children. I wanted to be able to do all I could for them as they grow, to have that flexibility. I realize this is not for everyone; kids go to daycare every day; mine went to preschool when they were little. For me, I have the privilege to do this thanks to my husband, and I don’t take that lightly. I am grateful every day. I wanted to be the one to drop them off and pick them up from school, those 15 minutes in the car each day are important to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
With this being said, it’s not all sunny days and roses here so please don’t mistake that. There are days when becoming a truck driver sounds like a better idea. Me in a big rig driving alone for hours…alone…did I mention alone? No laundry, no cooking dinner or grabbing someone a snack in the middle of an important deadline. Sounds like a dream! I am kidding, the good does outweigh the bad, but there are always obstacles. For example, when the kids were babies my whole day was spent around their schedule. I molded my day around naptime, food and playtime. I got pretty good at that even though it was monotonous at times. Nap time was meeting time, and it worked, I made it work. The fantastic thing about my clients that I did not expect is that understood. They valued my skills; they respected my time, and they helped me make it work. I truly believe if things are right, they tend to fall into place. I was open and honest about how and where I worked, and although it stressed me to relay this to them in the beginning, they appreciated it and no one had any issues. This does not mean my life was not stressful at times; it just means that it worked itself out.
A few years later the kids were both in school full time and an office space became available for me outside the home. I was so excited! My own work address, my own space, and no one would touch anything! I was eager and ready to take the business to the next level. The next chapter had begun, and I felt accomplished. Clients were able to come to my office, and I had neighbors, people who were small business owners just like me. We chatted and laughed together on a daily basis, and I loved it. That tiny office was a bit of freedom for a mom who just wanted to feel like herself before children. When I sit down and think about it, I realize holding on hard to my profession has been a financial choice of course, but the root of it is me. I wanted to be a mom and a small business owner too. I have had a job since I was 15 years old, I think it is just how I am programmed. I wanted to do both. Being a mother is hard work, it is the hardest job I have ever had along with being the most rewarding. I see myself working and owning a small business as an example for my children. That they too can manage a family and their dreams at the same time if they choose to do so.
I was there for almost two years when we made the decision to move. I cried a lot. I felt like I was giving up a part of myself and that was hard. I packed up, said my goodbyes and we relocated. Now I am back at home. Things tend to work in full circles; life is funny that way. I have to say; I don’t hate it. I was as surprised as anyone. My new office at home has worked itself out, and the light is good. That is important to a designer you know. I have new hurdles of course and instead of working around nap times I use the time they are both in school. When they come home, they have chores and homework, so I get a full 8 hours of work in per day. More time than I have ever had before to work. If you are a parent working from home and struggling here are five tips for you to be more successful. It’s not an easy task and each one of these tips will not work itself out overnight but it’s a start!
#1 Don’t doubt yourself
You can make a business happen anywhere if you want it bad enough. It can be as small as a laptop on a kitchen table, but if you focus on the goal, you will succeed.
Be honest, tell your clients the situation. If you work from home, and the UPS folks show up and your dog goes nuts in the background they may think, where is this person? If they know you work from home, just apologize and move on. They won’t even think twice about it.
#3 Mold yourself
Be willing to be flexible. If you have small children, make a schedule and get them on it. I used to find time to work at night when the days got hectic.
#4 Close the door
Work can consume you and then you never shut it off. Let yourself leave the work in your office. If you find yourself on the couch at night, and you are aching to go back to your desk or you are answering emails on your phone when you are supposed to be spending quality time with your significant other, there is a problem. You MUST shut it off! I think this is the most important point of all. Know your boundaries, keep hold of them. Think about it, you could have missed that pivotal point in Game of Thrones with Jon Snow this season because you were looking at an email, that would have been tragic;)
#5 Appreciate it
Working from home can be stressful. You may even regret it some days. But remind yourself as much as you can about why you are here. I promise this will be the easiest one of them all. Family matters and your presence will be noticed for years to come!
You can read a similar blog to this I wrote last year here. I do it to track my progress each year.