Articles about running a business, resources, finances, and organization.

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Balancing Business and Baby – My Tips

 

Balancing Business and a Baby | My top tips for working from home with an infant | Jenn Wells Design

My number one, top tip for working from home with a baby is DON’T DO IT!

Seriously.

If you’re like me, you probably won’t listen to this advice, but you can better prepare yourself than I did. So I’ve made a list of things you should know before attempting this and some tips that might, hopefully, be of help.

Plan on a VERY Segmented Work Day

Babies “sleep a lot” but newborns also need to eat every 2 hours or so. It also takes 30 minutes to feed them, if you’re lucky, and upwards of an hour if you struggle with breastfeeding like I did. Plus changing diapers and soothing and so on. Realistically, you can plan for maybe 30 minute chunks to try to get work done.

As your child gets older, you’d expect those time blocks to increase, but the number also decreases. At 6 months my son takes 2 naps – a 30 minute one and a 60-90 minute one. So attempting to work during a nap feels like roulette. Will this be the long nap or the short nap? Can I get this project done in this time or should I just answer some emails?

Babies DO Need a Lot of Attention

I emphasize this because I scoffed at a friend when he said it. Surely he was just spoiling his child? Nope. Our pediatrician emphasized that you’re supposed to talk to your child once every 60 seconds that they’re awake. For the record, I find this quite impossible, but you see my point. Kids do take up much more time than you expect and they don’t “play quietly.”

As a 6-month old, my son has gone from needing constant feeding to just wanting attention all the time. I can’t even tell you how many days I’ve spent bouncing back and forth between my computer and the baby, feeling guilty because I’m not following the stupid 60-second rule. But even if he doesn’t really NEED a constant flow of chatter from me, he does need stimulation and interaction to grow. So even if you’ve got ears of stone and an iron will, you can’t count on leaving your baby to entertain him/herself while you work.

It Changes Constantly

You can’t make just one plan because babies are different month to month and sometimes different week to week. I had a couple good days during the second month where I rotated the baby through the feeding/sleeping schedule every 2 hours like clockwork and got in several 30-minute segments of work and felt on top of the world. Then his nap schedule changed.

Even now that we’re on something of a routine, I can’t with 100% certainty count on any block of time to do work unless someone else is watching the baby. The one night I sit down prepared for an all-nighter to meet my early morning deadline, he decides to wake up every 2 hours. Another day I just need a few minutes to get through my email and let my clients know that, Yes I’m still here and I haven’t forgotten you!, and that’s the day he’s so fussy I wonder if this is what teething is like. You just never know.

Give Yourself MORE Time Than You Think You Need

I tend to plan for the minimum. I budget the minimum I need to live, plan travel based on the fastest I’ve ever arrived somewhere, and price my projects based on a best-case scenario. It’s not good planning and, especially in the case of postpartum recovery, could be setting yourself up for a lot of misery.

I planned to take 6 weeks off from going into any offices, and started picking back up with my clients after 2 weeks. Phasing things back in worked fairly well for me, but I had an easy delivery and my body recovered quickly. If anything has gone wrong – a C-section, additional tearing, or even just a colicky baby – my plan would not have worked. It barely worked as it was and if I have any more children in the future, I absolutely plan on taking a full 3 months.

Your Brain Won’t Function as Efficiently

I’ve always rejected the idea of “pregnancy brain” or “mom brain” but, blame it on hormones or sleep deprivation, my brain is still recovering. The first couple months were absolute chaos. My husband and I noticed that we can count the number of photos we took those months on one hand, versus the mountain we take monthly now. Because we were too busy surviving to worry about whether we were “documenting the moment.”

None of which is to say you can’t keep working, but plan on being less efficient and effective and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t think of the word you want, or you know there’s a better solution to a problem. It happens.

Naps are Good for You Too

Severely sleep deprive anyone for long enough and they’ll go insane. Studies have been done. Having a baby won’t drive you to that point, but it can reach dangerous levels of cognitive dysfunction. I’ve had moments when I thought, “I shouldn’t be driving right now” and I’ve made plenty of stupid mistakes.

If you’re like me, naps make you feel crappy BUT according to a few different studies, a short nap once or twice a day can drastically reduce some of the side effects of sleep deprivation. Don’t force yourself to work every single time the baby is sleeping. Use some of those naps to get some sleep yourself.

Resources

And my last piece of advice is to find other resources! My experience will be different from someone else’s will be different from yours. Don’t expect your baby to fit into a mold any more than you yourself do. I’ve read tons of advice about “wearing” your baby while you worked – my son hated being in the body sling. Loved being held, just not in anything hands free. Go figure. So you can’t expect any one or even 10 people’s advice to work for you. You have to just keep experimenting.

I found these 2 resources particularly useful:

Hopefully some of this is helpful but if it’s not, the real point I want to leave you with is this: working from home with a baby is hard and it’s different for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t feel like you have to go it alone.

Have you tried working at home with kids? Do you have any extra tips from your experience?

The Value of Yes AND No

 

The Value of Yes AND No | Why saying yes and saying no are both equally valuable in your life and business | Jenn Wells Design

Yes is typically seen as a positive and no as a negative. That seems obvious. “Do you want some cookies?” Yes = cookies! No = sadness.

But what if I told you no could be just as much a positive as yes? That both have equal import in your life and business? I’ll start with yes.

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Lifestyle Business – a Different Take on Work/Life Balance

Lifestyle Business: a Different Take on Work/Life Balance | Do you live to work or work to live? | Jenn Wells Design

Work to live or live to work?

How would you answer that question?

Most work to live proponents ignore career pursuits in favor of a fulfilling personal life. They may dislike or even hate their job, but it pays the bills and allows them to pursue their personal goals, so it doesn’t matter.

Those who live to work love their jobs. They may have fallen into their dream job, found their passion, or have a case of workaholism. Whatever the case, works takes total precedent and personal life happens when there’s extra time for it.

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What Does a VA Actually DO? Expert Guest Post

 

What Does a VA Actually Do? | Guest post from Kelli of Even Keel Ops to explain what a virtual assistant is, how they can help you, and how to know when you're ready to hire one | Jenn Wells Design

Virtual assistant is a job title I’ve run into several times on the Internet, but I had no clue what they actually did. Until I became friends with one, that is. Kelli, from Even Keel Ops, runs her operations management and virtual assistant business entirely online and provides helpful tips for business management in her blog. I have learned so much from following along with Kelli’s posts, from using Wave for accounting, to Trello for project organization.

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Setting Your Business Goals for 2017

 

Setting Business Goals 2017 | Do you set goals for your business? Sometimes it's hard to even know what to choose as goals. This post gets back to basics. | Jenn Wells Design

I adore goals, whether it’s personal, fitness, or business. And the new year has always seemed like an optimal time to set them, both because of the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions and because it feels like a fresh start.

You’d think that with a lifetime of goal setting under my belt, I’d be pretty good at it. And I know the basics:

  1. Choose a clear, specific goal (ex. Run a half marathon)
  2. Set a timeline (ex. I will run X half marathon 9 months from now)
  3. Break the goal down into actionable steps (ex. A week-by-week training plan to get from your current level of fitness to where you want to go)

But one thing I never realized was missing was the big picture. Personal goals you don’t have to consider too closely – you do it because you want to or you think it will contribute to your happiness in some way. But business goals? While they might also contribute to your happiness, ideally they’d contribute to your business success in some way.

At some point this year, I found my “business goals” were really just glorified to do lists. Run a Facebook ad, start an email list, got to networking events, etc. But the “why” was never anything more defined than “find clients.”

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Doing Business the UN-Businesslike Way

 

Doing Business the Un-Businesslike Way | A less traditional way of doing business that doesn't involve cold calls or hardballing customers | Jenn Wells Design

We live in a world of cold calls, automatic email subscriptions with every purchase, and formal networking events fraught with the frenzied exchange of business cards. We’re told that the “new, exciting” way to do business is really just the way we’ve always done business, but with higher confidence, savvier tactics, more pizzazz.

Ramit Sethi is a great resource for this type of business success. In his blog, books, or workshops, advice can be found for scripting the perfect responses, handling negotiations, and providing exactly the right amount of information at the right times. His success is proof that this style of business can and does work.

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Turning Down a Client – for Service Based Businesses

 

Turning Down a Client | As a service based business, how do you know when a client is a bad fit? Sometimes turning away clients is not only easier, it's better for your business | Jenn Wells Design

In the world of small business, it can seem almost criminal to send away a potential customer. And it can be all too tempting to accept work, any work, based on your financial needs rather than the project itself. But there are times when it’s better for everyone, including the client, when you don’t.

5 Reasons for Turning Down a Client

1. Different Financial Needs

Setting prices is a daunting task in its own right, but how do you handle customers that complain or haggle? It depends. If your price structure is flexible or you can cut costs in exchange for limiting services, you might be able to make it work. But in my personal experience, attempting to work for an amount that won’t adequately cover your time and expenses will only foster resentment. And that’s not a healthy working environment for you or the client.

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Why You Should(n’t) Sell Your Work on Fiverr or Etsy

Why You Shouldn't Sell Your Work on Fiverr and Etsy | The difference between templated and customized services and why custom design is more expensive | Jenn Wells Design

Today I’m going to talk about something most entrepreneurs can relate to: trying to convince others of the value of your work. And, just as importantly, convincing yourself.

“You should sell your work on Fiverr/Etsy/99Designs/other cheap crowd sourcing sites.”

Lately I’ve had a couple of kind and well-meaning acquaintances suggest I sell my work on Etsy or Fiverr. They’ve had a couple of great purchases there and you can sell a lot of stuff through those sites because they’re popular, which is fantastic! But here’s the problem: similar designs on Etsy are $15 or $10. On Fiverr things are sold for only $5.

The Problem with Fiverr for Designers

In theory this is great for the customer. Why pay more if you don’t have to? But as a designer, how on earth can I justify hours of my time for $5 or even $15? If I want to have enough money to live somewhere and eat food every day, I really can’t.

The Problem with Fiverr for Clients

And my customers can’t afford it either. My clients come to me expecting custom design. Something unique, designed for their specific projects and needs. If I were to charge Etsy or Fiverr prices, I’d be scrambling to get everything done as quickly as possible and the quality of work I’d be churning out would be atrocious. Even with templated designs with minimal alterations per customer, it would be difficult to make ends meet. And that’s without getting into all the accusations of copyright violations by Fiverr designers. Read more