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Over eight years ago I started my freelance business. It was an extra business that I dabbled in as I ran a couple of other businesses, but in the last few years it has become my sole business. Throughout the years, my business has evolved in so many ways and I’ve adapted to many changes, including running it out of my home office in peace and quiet to being a WAHM which is a whole different experience. When I worked from home before children, I had no one else’s schedule to consider. I went to networking meetings several times a week, I had coffee with other professionals and could put my business workstation anywhere in the house and no one would disturb it.
Running a business while having kids at home, especially young children, was a learning curve and I have learned a lot in the last three years of running my business as a WAHM. As a freelance business owner helping other small business run theirs efficiently behind the scenes, I have to stay on top of things and be organized because it also affects my clients. If you know anything about small business owners you know that their businesses are their baby. It’s how they make their money and the fact that I’m relied on so heavily puts a lot of pressure on my business organization so they can be efficient in theirs.
I get a lot of questions from other work at home moms or moms that want to start their own businesses about how I run my business with two little ones, am less stressed and I hit my deadlines. Today I’m going to share with you how to run a business, from home while having small children without completely losing your mind.
KEY #1. Have Open Communication with Your Clients and Customers.
All of my clients know from the very beginning that I work from home alongside my children. It’s something I get right out in the open from the beginning because it lets them know what to expect. Most of my clients have kids, at varying ages, so they get it. It also opens the door so they know I’m understanding when something comes up on their end as well. If I have something that needs to be completed on a certain day but there happens to be a concern with one of my kids, I call or email my clients to let them know what’s going on and that it’ll be completed that day after my husband gets home or after hours. Open communication builds trust with your clients and customers. All of my clients know that even if life happens, their work will still be in safe hands and they’ll never wonder what is going on.
KEY #2. Be Intentional and Realistic With Your Time
I used to really struggle with saying “yes” to too many projects and clients, even stuff that I didn’t care to do or people I didn’t care to work with. I felt like it was something that I had to do in order to have a good business. Contrary to what I thought it actually made business harder and more stressful for me. When I said “yes” to the wrong things I was finding myself too focused on business, less present in other places (like family) and overall more stressed. I had some tough lessons about not having endless hours in my days, so I had to learn to be more realistic in what I was saying yes to including deadlines. I plan ahead when I can and try to know what is coming into my radar throughout the week. If you run a product based business, this might mean putting a time window on ship dates to give wiggle room for life happening (i.e.- order will ship in 3-5 business days)
- Tips for Being More Intentional & Realistic With Your Time
- Say “yes” to projects and clients that excite you and that you realistically have time for.
- Designate specific work times and points to check in. By doing this you will allow yourself to be more present with your family and your business when it’s most important. Nap times, after bedtimes or before wake up times in the morning and when your spouse is home are great.
- Remember that it’s okay to suggest a different deadline that you can make. Sometimes clients want something done by a certain day because it just seems like a good day not because it’s vital; and they might not know the time the project will actually take. Here’s an example: “I can’t make the deadline of this Wednesday happen, but could certainly have the completed project done by Friday.” Your client may say it doesn’t work or they could be completely fine with the difference.
Key #3. Create a Designated Workstation
I don’t always get to work in one place or my “workstation”. I have two computers – my desktop where I do all of my design work and big stuff and I have my laptop so I can work anywhere needed. Sometimes that means from the kitchen table or counter, or even the floor while the kids are playing. My workstation is more of my designated space where I have all of my binders and business tools in one place, above reach so they don’t end up in the hands of my daughter. This space allows for me to go to one specific place to find what I need.
- Tips for a create a workstation:
- Don’t over think it. Use what you have, it just need to be a safe place for your business tools. It doesn’t have to be a big space, it just has to be enough space for your items. If you have inventory it might be a bit different for space needs but having a large area doesn’t have to be vital. It could even be the top shelf in your closet if you are really tight on space.
- If you have little ones – the higher the better. Little hands love exploring but it’s not always convenient when it comes to business matters.
Key # 4. Have a Back-Up Binder
While I regularly rely on technology a lot for password saving, and documents I also know that technology sometimes goes down. My back-up binders are filled with all of the important things. It has my hard copies of contracts, hard copies of client passwords and my own business tools and documents. This allows me to have something non-technology based to quickly reference whether it’s because I’m on the phone with a client or need to take a quick glance at something. It’s always a total bummer when you have to wait for your computer to load because it rebooted at the same time your client called and needed something. Having important details on hand to quickly reference is really great. I have a place to take client call notes as well so I can keep everything together. For my branding clients, it allows me to have a hard copy of their branding materials and the aspects of their design elements (fonts, hex codes, etc.) for quick reference. This binder would also serve as an awesome tool if someone, like my husband, needed to reference something for me, like contacting a client or shutting down my site for an amount of time due to an emergency.
Want to Create Your Own Back-Up Binder? It’s easy!
All you need is: a 3 ring binder, Protective 3-Ring Page Sleeves (or a three ring hole punch if you don’t mind the pages being unprotected), 3 Ring Filing Dividers a printer and labels. (Note: I use my DYMO LabelWriter® 450 and their File Labels. If you have a lot of binders and would to make the project even more efficient, the DYMO LabelWriter® 450 TURBO will help make quick work of labeling your binder segments with its impressive speed and high quality precision printing).
- How to Assemble it:
- Put all of the most immediate business information in the front, specifically your business information. In the case of an emergency and someone needing to take over your business, they’ll be able to access the information with ease. Put all business contact information (Business files, W-9 forms) in the very front, then create your client list and important information behind it (free printables: – client contact list, important contact list),
- Create a Tab for each client (or if you run a product based business do something like: wholesalers, retailers, etc. do what make sense for your business). Behind each client tab put their passwords (here’s a free printable for you!), important information (design profiles, contracts, project based notes, etc.)
- Label Each Tab so they can quickly be referenced.
- Put it in a safe place! I put mine in our home office that can be locked, but if we have someone staying with us it’s moved to another safe place.
Key #5. Find (and use) Tools that Help You Be Efficient In Your Own Business
I use the basic tools like planners, notebooks, google drive, dropbox and a calendar app but sometimes those don’t quite cut it and you need more for the big tasks. A fast favorite of mine recently has been my DYMO LabelWriter® 450 Bundle Pack. This machine helps me keep things efficient with every aspect, as well as, works via thermal printing which means I never have to purchase ink! Yay for decreasing cost of business! As much as I love handwritten things, printed labels for organization are so much more clean and easier on the eyes. I use this DYMO LabelWriter® 450 for everything – labeling files, addressing envelopes and packages to my clients and more. Working with clients of varying sizes – everything from large corporations to small handmade shops – everyone has different requests and demands. Some clients are extremely digital while others still thrive off of hard copies. I love that I can print as many labels as I need, I don’t have to worry about printing a sheet, I can print one and if I needed a lot of labels at once for a project I can do that with ease. I love that this machine knows no limits either – it can do barcodes, postage stamps and more. One other feature that I really enjoy is that it has a wonderful sleep mode feature so if I’m pulled away from using it for a project, it goes to sleep! If you do a lot of printing all the time the DYMO LabelWriter® 450 TURBO prints even faster at 71 labels per minute with crisp quality every time!
(BONUS TIP) A busy bin can be a total lifesaver with little ones for those last minute client calls or quick turnaround times. As much as I try to only work during naps or after bedtime, things don’t always happen that way. Sites go down, sometimes immediate issues need to be accommodated or a client calls at the last minute needing your time for a few moments. So, when these things happen I have a bin that I take down when I need A to take some extra quiet time. It’s filled with activities that she can do and gets excited about because she doesn’t get to do them often.
Order your DYMO LabelWriter® 450 (or for the LabelWriter® 450 Turbo for those of you with the needs of an even more efficient that is great for it’s high speed and clear, quality bar codes and stamps) at Staples.com or click to see if it is at a store near you. Be sure to go check back every week for Staples Daily Deals for special deals on your favorite DYMO LabelWriter® products including DYMO LabelWriter® 450 Bundle, LabelWriter® 450 Turbo, and LabelWriter® 4XL Turbo!
How do you stay organized and efficient as a work at home mom? How would the DYMO LabelWriter® 450 Bundle Pack help you run your business with less stress and more efficiency?