Quite often with running my own business as a single mum, I get asked the question:
“I don’t know how you get it all done”.
Well, the truth is I do, and I don’t.
***Best you grab a cup of tea or a wine as this accidentally turned into an EPIC blog post.***
Here’s my top strategies to help you grow your business as a single parent
…and keep a handle on the home front when support is in short supply, and demand for your time is high.
First though, let me clear up my statement on I do and I don’t.
I do get it all done, because I now measure it by my priorities and my standards – not by anyone else. So if you are to ask me does my house look like it is Instagram worthy, the answer is maybe once a week if I’m lucky. If you are to ask me is it possible to create a six figure plus business around school hours, then the answer is yes.
I’ll break this out into what I feel are the core elements to keeping your sanity while you build success on your terms.
1: Know what actions contribute to which goals
As I am basically “it” on the home front, and the income front, health and well being becomes priority one.
Sadly, there are no grandparents to call upon. You can’t run a business or a house if the captain of the ship is down. So for me, if I am to map out my actions, looking after me (as selfish as it sounds) is actually the least selfish thing I can do. Therefore, exercise and eating well (most of the time – I am known to eat a bit of cake – especially during winter when I get fluffy) is the action that contribute to EEEVERYTHING else. Take away my health and the wheels start to fall off the bus(iness) and the house front.
2: Own your time
If you are running a business and the house, you really need to be aware of your time. Like OCD aware of your time.
There is this great book I love called The Go Giver, which says no one can take your time – it is completely yours to give, and its the one resource that is dished out equally to everyone on the planet. I think time ownership has more to do with success than anything else.
If you need more specific strategies on owning your time, you might like this post where I have a few productivity hacks
3. Own your value
If you are dead set on growing a business, there will come a time where you need to think about what value you can bring to the customer table, and how you can monetise your knowledge or craft. Look at your branding, your price position, and even your target customer to see if you are really owning your value, or if you are selling yourself short.
4. Treat your business like a paid job
Whilst the beauty of having flexible hours to handle everything with the kids is great, you need to treat your business like a paid job.
Create a job description if you need, and allocate time to each task. Businesses can be broken down into the following high level chunks: Product making or Service Delivery, Marketing, and Finance, all underpinned by operations (including IT).
It is more than likely that you will gravitate to one area more than the others, but if you are in the “I can’t afford to outsource” phase, putting structure in place will serve you well, which brings me to the next area…
5. Outsource like a mother!
Depending on the age of your kids, get them to help with chores and start to teach them the value of family and team work early on. This not only lightens the load, but will help you to create more free time to do fun things.
For example, my son is nearly six and will happily pull weeds out of the garden for 10c each, put away his clothes, feed the dog etc etc. This is a win win as I hate gardening. Plus, in this article by inc.com, researchers have found that aside from love, developing a good work ethic at a young age contribute to success as an adult, so do your kids a favour and get them to clean up!
6. Create structure and routines
If you are co-parenting, (and hopefully, have a good coparent relationship like me), sticking to routines certainly helps in the planning of work and the getting done of all things parental.
Knowing when you need to be in “mother” mode vs. being in business mode certainly helps, as does having a yearly, quarterly, weekly plan and daily plan for your business and life.
You can grab my high level checklist which I have used to organise my business for growth while working school hours right here, or by clicking the image below:
7. Have good motivating financial goals and a reinvestment strategy
If you are making money from your business, it can be tempting to spend all the profits after tax on living, however I’d recommend having a plan on what can help you reach that next level. Try factoring in the following to your financial goals:
- Development of self or your business to grow – either hiring a mentor, doing a course, or buying in expertise
- A meaningful and motivating reward – I like to go for experiences that the kids and I can do, which would not be possible without the business
- Systems for simplification – when time is precious, work toward implementing systems that can help streamline processes for you – at home and at work- Even if this is getting a gardener!
When I started out, my first business (now defunct) was called workingmumcoach (in hindsight, an awesome name) and the website was totally sh*t. So… my first goal was to hire both a graphic designer and web designer to make things look more on brand.
Starting imperfectly is better than never starting at all.
8. Choose the stories you tell yourself wisely
There are a few internal stories I have had to let go of. Some are easier to let go of than others. Like ironing to meet some high standard. Or having the housework under control all the time. Ironing is stupid and for special occasions, therefore easy for me to let go of.
Other stories can be more difficult. For example, buying into stories of low worth, or “I can’t achieve X” because of insert person/thing you don’t have here. I would compare myself to Marie Forleo, and Elizabeth Gilbert – at very different stages to me in their entrepreneurial and life journeys, and with very different support structures – on the family and business front.
One captain obvious difference though – they are not mothers.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything from them, I just needed to change my internal story. When I stopped asking “what would Elizabeth Gilbert do” or “what would Marie Forleo” do, and started asking “what am I going to do” things changed. (Yes, I would literally lie awake sobbing in bed when going through separation wondering if Elizabeth Gilbert had the answer to my problem, but it turns out, I had it).
Comparativitis does no one no favours, and last time I checked, it is not an income generating activity, so if you are researching have an intent for it yes, but remember any one you see started with one follower, one customer, one invoice.
Make your thoughts constructive, not destructive.
9. Celebrate your highs… and your lows
You’ve gotta take the wins. And learn from the losses
Self doubt plagues me every winter and/or mercury retrograde (if you are into a bit of universal woo). If you can become more self aware, and understand your triggers, by all means look at getting through the low points as building resilience. Resilience is a good thing. Business will not always be rosy, and sometimes you are going to fail.
Have strategies to manage these. I would honestly be completely lost without my personal trainer, especially in winter (shout out to Jamie)- not because of the physical benefits, but because of the mental benefits.
Keeping that commitment is the absolute best thing I can do mentally for myself, my kids and my business (she was like the first “stretch gaol” in my budget)
The truth is, business as a single mother is not all sunshine and lollipops. There are going to be things that you suck at, things that you totally crush and feel like a QUEEN, Break it down into doable chunks and build those support structures one win at a time.
10. Left overs are your friend
My kids have all but killed my motivation to cook with the constant “eeergh I don’t like it…eeergh I hate broccoli …..eeergh why are you making us eat quinoa…..eeergh what happened to dessert – these brownies taste funny (because they were made with red kidney beans)”.
Yes, these are the moments that I break out the pictures of the world vision kids we sponsor who have NOTHING…… and the leftovers.
Leftovers are my business friend. Especially the days which I know are going to be full on (anyone say after school activities or play dates ????), having a kid favourite on hand that does not illicit the aforementioned “eeergh” will reduce stress and cut down on food waste too.
Just like batching works on the business task front, it also works on the meal prep front. Double down. You probably care more about the variety during the week than the kids do. When they start saying “lasagne again”, its probably time to change it up.
11. Connect with like minded women
Whether this is online or face to face, finding other entrepreneurial mothers who “get it” is important.
You have probably heard of the importance to surround yourself with supportive people in business – that doesn’t mean ignoring constructive business based feedback – but it does mean if you have people who constantly tell you “its not going to work” or “who will ever pay you” or my personal fave – “maybe you should get a real job”, then may considering switching up the circles you network in.
Networking tends to be one of the biggest benefits (so I’m told) of the women who come and participate in the live workshops I run.
I see new friendships form (heck, I’m still friends with some of the first program participants for 5 years ago). I see collaborations and skills exchanges happen, and I see action takers grow their businesses in ways I don’t think they expected and it is truly awesome to witness their growth. #blessed 😉
If you can’t network face to face, online groups can also be amazing. The key is to show up and give where you can.
Make sure you seek out groups that fit with your development goals and support goals.
12. Remember – you are enough
Remember on those days
Where you are feeling the fog like haze
Of washing dishes, writing blogs and finding the customer who pays
Lady, you are made of amazing stuff
Repeat after me
You are enough
OK so I went a little poetic. I can not stress how much it is important to be kind to yourself. Look in the mirror and remember you are enough. Mother hood and business are both incredibly rewarding, and provide loads of flexibility that a 9-5 job just can’t offer.
I’d love to know, if you are a single mother in business, what helps you keep moving forward?