There are more than 9 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. alone, and mom entrepreneurs are rapidly growing in numbers. Why not? Self-employment can offer great solutions and opportunities for these families. Still, don't be fooled by the seeming flexibility of the job description; many of my clients are mom entrepreneurs and they come to the table with a unique set of challenges.
Moms don't have eight or more consecutive hours a day to devote to a business. Instead they're filtering through conflicting priorities, enduring constant interruptions, and working to maintain a professional front--all while trying their darnedest to be great moms.
Erin Baebler and Lara Galloway, coaches for women in business and transition, are on a mission to teach moms how to build a thriving business and enjoy motherhood. Here are some takeaways from their new book, Moms Mean Business: A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur.
1. Figure out who you are
Let the business planning come later. We are bombarded with overwhelming messages from the world dictating how things "are supposed" to be. But when you take the time to get really clear on what works best for you and do things in your own unique style, chances are you will feel successful and happy.
Figure out your priorities, your passions, your values, and your motivations. Take some time to understand both your possibilities and your limitations based on your current life circumstances.
2. Envision your success
What's your definition of success? Is it too broad? Too narrow? Is it yours or have you let someone else or society define it for you? Be intentional about understanding your idea of success--imagine, write about, and talk about your vision. After all, how can you get there if you don't know where "there" is?
Explore what success means to you. Is it being in the best shape of your life? Is it making enough money for your husband to retire? Is it the opportunity to work while also volunteering at your kids' school? Getting clear on your vision of success, and making sure it's yours alone, will increase the odds that you'll actually achieve it.
3. Track your time
If you find yourself repeating old refrains like, "I don't have enough time," or "It's impossible to do it all," you are probably not using the time you do have effectively.
You actually do have enough time to accomplish what's most important to you. What time-wasting habits can you let go of to find more time for what matters? Schedule your priorities on your calendar so they get done. Saying "I don't have enough time" is another way of saying "I'm not spending my time on what matters the most."
4. Take good care of yourself
You have two full-time jobs: running your business and your family. This makes you a good candidate for burnout and the best preventative measure is self-care. Women often tend to believe that they have to earn the time to take care of themselves by completing their to-do list first, which we know will never happen.
Since you can't afford to burn out, you have to decide what will keep you from that. It's different for everyone, so figure out what you need in place to feel well taken care of. Put self-care on your calendar too. Keep this important appointment for yourself just as you would for a hot prospect.
5. Build your toolkit
As a mom you have tremendous internal and external resources. To make certain that you leave no stone unturned when you need them, you must gather your wealth of resources and detailed keep a list handy.
Whether they are work skills or innate talents, consider how you can leverage the strengths you bring to the table. Also, use your human resources. These can be neighbors who will watch your kids in a pinch, friends who promote your business, or past colleagues who are willing to introduce you to valuable contacts. Break out that toolkit to help you get a leg up.
6. Manage boundaries, distractions, and change
In order to be most productive and effective, you have to be excellent at managing your time. Walk away from the expectation that complex tasks will take only 30 minutes; you tell yourself that just to feel better. Get real about how long things will take and create boundaries around interruptions like incoming phone calls and other things that take you away from your work.
Let's face it. If you aren't careful, the entire workday can pass without much to show for it. Turn off your phone, check email at designated times each day, and when you get those requests from people who don't seem to get that you're really working (especially relevant if you work from home), let them know that your boss is benevolent but not a pushover.
7. Stay on track
We are all vulnerable to things in life that keep us from staying on track with our goals. If you understand why it happens and what to do next, you'll get yourself back on track.
Create a plan with simple milestones that allow you to measure your progress. Have a Plan B for those days--even months--when things just don't go as planned. Find an accountability buddy so you have someone else cheering on your progress. And don't forget to explore the psychological reasons that you may be self-sabotaging. Oftentimes being overwhelmed is more about what's in our heads than the circumstances that surround us.