How can you be a successful parent & business owner?
Back in 2009 I wrote a blog post called “Mummy and Wedding Planner, can you do both?” During my 10 years in business I have met some amazing business owners who have a young family, and since that article I have had another child…the picture below was taken when my daughter was a few weeks old, I was attending a UKAWP seminar at the time and Lloyd Dobbie captured this photo when I nipped out to feed her!
When colleagues or students meet me they seem amazed that I have not one but 3 children, all under 11 years. But how can you work they ask.
I’m always a little embarrassed by their shock because to me its just my life, juggling the children is all I have known. I started my planning business when my eldest was 6 months and being pregnant has never stopped me, I even remember posting a proposal to a prospective client whilst in labour, on the way to hospital! And yes, I did get the job….
I guess the most important thing that I have always been insistent on is to me the UKAWP and Dream Occasions are not hobbies, it’s my job, it’s not something to just fill a few hours a day with. So as such I have always compartmentalised work and home. When the door is shut to my office, I’m working, I’m not mummy, I’m a business owner.
I know so many fantastic people out there who manage to combine motherhood with running a business, but I also know many who failed to compartmentalise the two. So how can you make it work? I’ve tried to think of my top tips on succeeding to combine the two.
Create a default diary, work out your week and split into family time & business time – stick to it. Plan meetings in advance and ensure you know key dates in the nursery/school diary. The reason for being self employed is that you can take time off to watch that school play or sports day.
I truly believe that if I didn’t believe in the importance of the UKAWP and if I didn’t love planning social events for clients, I wouldn’t be here today. Many people enter into the wedding industry thinking they’re going to get rich quick. But generally that doesn’t happen. Mostly it’s a slow process and you have to think of the bigger picture, you must want to succeed. If you don’t have the passion for the service or trade you are offering then it shows, clients wont want to hand over their hard earned cash to someone who is less then enthusiastic about what they are doing.
Delegation is Key
If you have very young children think about sending your child to nursery at least once a week or asking a childminder/family to look after them for a day or two This allows you to focus on the work in hand without being distracted by crying, tantrums and feeding time!
During the busy periods hire a Virtual Assistant to help with some of the tedious but time consuming admin that comes with running a business. I’m lucky to have a great V.A + assistant + my husband handles all accountancy for both businesses.
Yep – it’s a myth, I’m not super women, you have to have the support to help you succeed.
Keep work separate
Have a separate phone number for business calls, this ensures you never answer a potential client call with a screaming child in the background. Trust me they sense when you want them to be quiet and as such do the opposite! I think this is essential.
Have an area that is dedicated to work, I took the decision to build an extension when pregnant with my middle child, thus I have a wonderful office where I can work and shut the door to my home life.
The wedding industry isn’t a 9-5pm world, you have to work evenings and weekends at times. In the lead up to an event you will be even busier and late nights are inevitable. But, don’t beat yourself up about it. Promise yourself a reward or ensure you take time off with the children in the near future.
Stop trying to be the perfect Mummy and perfect business owner, just be the “best you can possibly be”. Once you stop comparing yourself to other business owners without children or the earth mother that doesn’t work, the better you’ll feel.
I get invited to so many soirees that I could easily have champagne and nibbles once a week. But I rarely attend, for me I have to prioritise, what will I and my business gain from attending?
Can I justify 6 hours approx. (attendance + travelling time to/from the event) out of the office OR away from my family?
Most events are in London and I don’t work in London (for Dream Occasions) so I have to take the business decision not to accept most of the invitations. I spend a lot of time in London for the UKAWP so for Dream Occasions I tend to stay nearer to home instead!
I chatted to some other business owners to learn about their advice
May from Maisie Fantaisie – “time management is a must and it’s really important to not take on too much. Allocate specific time to work and then specific time to spend with the children. Recognise that your working life will be different once you have children but don’t panic whilst trying to find the balance, the correct balance will reveal itself.”
Andrea one of our Supreme Members who runs A Fabulous Day in Cheshire “Don’t be afraid to tell clients you have children, you can then manage their expectations as to when you are free to see them/talk to them. For example when my children were younger and I needed to speak to a client in the evening, I always scheduled it for after my children had gone to bed, as then I knew I wouldn’t interrupted.
After one very fraught year when I simply took on too many weddings I made the decision that at the start of each year I would arrange our family holidays, always including at least 1 week during the school summer holidays. This has then ensured we have some good quality family time together and I know which weddings I can say yes to.”
Caroline Gould is one of our members in Suffolk who launched in 2009 and has 2 children (Darcey is 5 and Rufus is 2)
Plan time off! I try my best to keep Friday’s free to spend time with the children. I take Rufus to play group with a friend and her little boy. We have a cuppa and a catch up whilst the boys play – it’s great to take just a couple of hours off for me. Then in the afternoon I try to do something fun after school with both children. Even if its putting a DVD on and sitting on the sofa with them both (although I have to try very hard not to look at my blackberry!).
Don’t feel guilty if you can’t work ‘normal’ hours. It’s taken me a while to accept that I’m just not a morning person. I’d love to be able to get up at 7am and be working by 8am but it just doesn’t work for my family at the moment. I’ve found it much easier now I have accepted the fact that my working day starts after the children have been dropped off, at around 9.30am. I often say to clients that they are much more likely to receive an email from me at 7pm rather than 7am...
Here at the UKAWP we love Dominic and Helen from Cutture, having opened 3 businesses together over the last 11 years as a couple, married couple and new parents, they have gained a few tips on managing the mayhem!
1) Look at having your children as a positive drive for you to make a real success of your business, not as a negative factor making your life harder.
2) An obvious point is to separate your work time and ‘home’ time, the easiest way is to separate where you work, if you still work at home create a space that is your own and try not to work with your children in the same room, you will only become irritated and not perform well as a parent or a business owner. If you run your business from a separate premises this makes this so much easier, work is at your office/studio, home is for your family.
3) Separate not only your space but your time. We opted to not work anymore weekends when we had our first child, a big leap having worked 24/7, but actually by setting the boundaries to work within your ‘working hours’, all be it very long hours during the week, your weekends are then for ‘home’, you actually become more productive in those core hours and then create quality time for your children. However, in the wedding industry this is not always possible, so try to take time out on a different day of the week to focus on your children only, or create a similar scenario to suit your own situation but whenever you have that time out, switch off those e mails!
4) Lastly, remember it feels so tough at times, but the benefit you are giving your children is immense, they are seeing hard grafting parents everyday and when they are old enough to realise your achievements this will always be a positive part of their make up, whether they realise it or not! Include them, have fun with them and once they’re old enough think of the bonuses – pocket money chores could be really handy for your business!
Louise Perry is one of our members from Essex
If you have young children and run a business you need a good support network. Most importantly your partner or husband and your immediate family. You also need to have degree in time management so that you can fit as much as possible between school hours. I then go back into the office once the children are in bed. I try to leave the time between 3pm and 7pm free for family, homework, clubs
We hope you have enjoyed all the advice and top tips but we’d love to hear from you, what helps you succeed in business and home life?
Caroline Gould – Ross Dean Photography
Andrea Swift – Caroline White
Bernadette Chapman – Lloyd Dobbie