How to Run a Business when your Hands are Full

Mar 27, 2015

I started my photography business in 2009, just a year after getting married to the hubs. I was running on newlywed bliss and big dreams (aka unstoppable fuel)! I poured every minute into my business. If I wasn’t shooting, meeting with clients or collaborating with other creatives, I was dreaming, learning and thinking about photography. I was in the zone and my business was flourishing. Could anything compare to this?! I sure didn’t think so.

Then in 2013, I looked into the eyes of my daughter and everything changed. My mindset shifted drastically. Business? What business? I mean, have you seen this little girl?! I can’t take my eyes off of her! Those of you who have been following me know that we had quite the looonngg journey to parenthood. I had fought so long and hard to be a mom that when it happened I put everything I had into it, leaving my business to fend for itself. I had gone from one extreme to another. I didn’t know how to be a business owner and a mom.

Once I got into the routine of being a new mom and was ready to give my business the attention it deserved again, I quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. I couldn’t get through writing one email without being interrupted with requests for “More juice! More snack! Mommy, can you play with me? Look what I drew, Mommy!” In fact, as I type this very post, Bella is at the foot of my desk talking my ear off about her adventures with My Little Pony! My days of uninterrupted workflow, 2 hour coffee dates in the middle of the day, and giving my business my everything are over. Yet, I know that it is not time to be done with my business. Instead, I have had to learn how to run this business of mine in a new way in light of my new normal. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be. So for all you mamas or soon-to-be mamas out there wondering how the heck you’re going to make your business thrive while rocking a spit-up stained shirt, here are 9 tips I’d like to share to help your business flourish.

1. Give yourself grace

Friend, can we chat for a bit about how awesome you are? You are taking care of a life (or lives)! Do you realize how big of a deal that is? It’s a really big deal and it’s awesome sauce. But it’s also really hard work. Between diaper changes, breastfeeding (or bottle, no judgement here!), filling sippy cups for the 10th time and doing another load of laundry, you often reach the end of the day and haven’t done any of the things on your business to-do list. Again. Or maybe you plopped your kiddo in front of the TV for what you would consider way too-long so you could edit those images that have been sitting untouched for a couple weeks and now you feel like a terrible mom. Please hear me, if this is going to work, you need to give yourself grace. The task you have set out to do is not for the faint of heart. It will be messy and sticky and difficult and most days you will fall short of the expectations we place on ourselves. I used to get so down on myself when I wasn’t living up to what I thought I should be and it felt awful. This feeling of falling short drove me to strive for more which only left me feeling more exhausted and unfulfilled. I didn’t need more tasks checked off my to-do list, I needed more grace. Grace for my parenting. Grace for my failures. Grace for my short-comings. Grace for my life. This is what saved me and freed me from a life of constantly striving and feeling less than. So, friend, do the same for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

2. Accepting your new normal

I had the hardest time coming to terms with this one. I tried to keep up at the same pace I was going when I was kid-free and, well, it just wasn’t happening! I remember feeling so embarrassed when I realized that I wasn’t bringing in the income I used to. I would dread when people would ask me “How’s business going?”, afraid that they would judge me because I didn’t have it all together. I realized during that time just how much of my identity I had placed in my business. It wasn’t that I was worried about my business being a failure, was afraid of being a failure. Then one day it clicked: My life is not the same anymore, so why on earth should I expect my business to be the same as before? I had to reexamine my heart and set renewed goals and expectations based on my new normal. There was nothing to be gained from staring back at what life and business used to be like. In order to move forward, I needed to accept my new normal and see it as beautiful. That’s when growth can begin.

3. Extremes are not your friend

I am an all or nothing kinda gal which doesn’t exactly bode super well for someone who is trying to balance being a mom and business woman. My first year of motherhood/business owner combo did not look pretty. I would constantly flip flop between being an “all-in mom” and an “all-business woman”. Some days I would neglect my business so that I could give Bella all of my attention and focus. Other days, I would tell Bella to play on her own all day because “my business needed me.” But I soon realized that that was not a way for either of them to flourish. They both needed frequent, genuine attention, not just all of me for a day. Learning this and changing this pattern took time.

4. Create office hours

Whenever I tell people I work from home, it’s usually followed by “Oh, that must be so nice! I wish I could do that.” Let me be the one to break the news, working from home is not all gumdrops and lollipops. Although for me, candy is usually involved. Dark chocolate mostly. But I digress! Yes, you are home so that must mean that you can “set your own schedule” without a boss telling you what to do. Dang it, sometimes I wish I had a boss that would give me permission to work for a set amount of time. But, since I don’t, I have to be my own boss. One of the best decisions I made for my business (and my sanity) was create office hours for myself. Three days a week for a few hours at a time, a sitter comes to the house to hang with Bella and those are my work hours. Instead of scrambling around getting 10 minutes in here and there like I used to, I now have dedicated, uninterrupted time to focus on my business. Shout out to my hubby who lovingly suggested this idea and kept at it despite my prideful resistance at first. I’m so glad you know me better than I know myself! Do yourself a favor, and listen to the wise advice of my dear hubby!

5. Give yourself permission to succeed

This may seem out of place. I mean, of course you want to succeed, right? But it took me awhile to really allow myself to go there. For one, giving myself permission to succeed meant that I was going to have to aim for that which also means I could fail. And I really didn’t want to fail. Also, I struggled with the idea of how being a successful mom and a successful business woman could co-exist. Would a successful business be to the detriment of my role as mom? I really had to wrestle through these things with the Lord until I finally let out a sigh of relief and gave myself permission to aim high. If I fail, I still have Him. If I succeed I still have Him. Win/win. Give yourself permission, friend!

6. Stop comparing!

I scrolled through Instagram with envy looking at all the photographers living it up at WPPI while I stayed at home being “just a mom”. I remember when that was Joe and I. No wonder my business isn’t thriving anymore. I’ll never be relevant anymore. Yes, it was quite the pity party going on in my head. Apologies that you had to hear that! Comparison is the theif of joy, right? It’s so true though. Comparing ourselves to others in the industry or even to our pre-kiddo selves does nothing to help you or your business. So, stop, right now! You are awesome the way you are. The end.

7. Create clear, simple goals each day/week

I’m all for lofty, big dreams. If you have them, go for them! But on a day-to-day, week-to-week, just keep it simple. Write down some simple things you can accomplish and give them a hearty check off when you do them. Productivity doesn’t have to grow with leaps and bounds right away, sometimes those simple things can give us the snowball effect we need to keep trucking along. You got this!

8. Intentionality is your jam

Intentional is my word of the year, folks! Now that I don’t have all day to work, dream and plan, I need to be intentional with how I spend my time. Come to your work with purpose, intention and conviction and get er done! Ask yourself, what are my intentions for my business? For my parenting? How can I be more intentional? What does that look like practically? Etc. Basically, if you throw the word intentional into a question, you’re on the right track!

9. Tell yourself daily: My worth is not defined by my success or my failures

What we do does not define our worth. Not what we do as a parent, not what we do as a business owner, or anything else for that matter. They are an extension of who we are, but they do not represent our worth. When I placed my identity in my success and failures, I felt like I was at Six Flags. When I did something well, I felt great about myself. When I didn’t get the response I wanted out of a bride, I felt down and less than. I had to put my worth in something else, something outside of myself. For me that is my faith in Christ. He is the one who defines who I am. And you want to know the best part? It has nothing to do with me! He calls me holy because He is holy. He calls me loved because He is loved. He tells me I’m worthy because He is worthy. That is what defines me, and frees me up to pursue big dreams without feeling the burden of fear holding me back. So, precious friend, remind yourself that your worth is not in how well you parent or how well your business is doing, rather you are made in the image of God and THAT is something that can never be taken away from you!

Now go rock those businesses and parenting, friends! You got this!

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