Self-employed? Work from Home? Family Suffering?
Being self-employed, can lead to your family suffering, especially if you run your business from the comfort of your own home..
Having been part -time self-employed and working from home since 2009. I know the struggle the family may feel. I have been full-time self-employed since 2012… with a few very steep changes to life and health during that time.
It’s a privilege to be able to work from the comfort of your own home. However, it can also be a drawback, either to your business or to your family life.
I know many self-employed people who struggle to strike that healthy balance between business and home life. Some have no boundaries in terms of the number of hours they work. They like it that way and that's particularly true when you love what you do. Others want more time with the family but just can’t seem to manage it.
The other issue when you're self-employed, is the danger of your family suffering the consequences. The imposition of family life with all your ‘businessy’ tools and resources around the house can cause resentment. Not great for your family.
It could be, I'm so much more conscious of this issue as a single parent, who is self-employed, runs a charity and has raised two kids ‘single handedly’. My girls roll their eyes and mime at this line as it is well used, mainly in an aim to get people to see that if I can do it… anyone can, seriously, anyone can.
No Fallback Guy
If like me, you area single parent. The difficulty you may face (as I do) is, you don’t have a supportive ‘other’ parent, you have no fall back guy. You still have to cook, clean, fix, mend and be there to comfort your children through any unpleasant experiences they may have had at school, college, university or possibly work. Trust me on one thing, the responsibility is no lighter as they get older, it’s just different.
Single parents and parents in general, the self-employed sacrifice is real! Make that sacrifice and the rewards are tenfold.
So How Do You Strike The Balance?
Today I will cover the most important aspects to striking a balance so that your family doesn’t feel like their habitat is, in fact, a busy office.
The ideal scenario would be to have a separate room as your office; the reality is that we are all living in smaller properties than our fortunate previous generation… a separate office for some is a distant dream. I’m a Londoner, I empathise completely.
For most of us, the reality is a corner in the lounge, kitchen or landing… hopefully no one works from their bedroom… not good Feng Shui guys!
Your bedroom is where you go to unwind, piles of papers that still need your attention and a laptop that beckons with its tempting wares that lie within. Not the best start to your winding down before bed.
Getting this right took me a while and few scary dagger looks from my girls to get organised.
- Designate a space that will be your work area. If it’s small-ish, get boxes, mini cabinets, magazine holders to keep things in place and in order. Getting organised and starting as you mean to go on is the most important aspect of this way of working.
Start your self-employment journey sloppy and you’ll waste precious profit making time trying to organise a system when you really could have put it in place at the start.
Should this designated place not be the luxury of a separate room, just remember to tidy things away at the end of your day. Also make sure your space does not impinge on home life, don't make your family suffer.
The lucky individuals who do have a separate room can simply close the door behind them at the end of the day.
Don’t get too highly strung about staying in one corner. Doing this can really strangle your creative flow. If the weather is good why not work in the garden, patio, balcony whatever out door space you have? After all isn’t that the beauty of homeworking?
Better still arrange a day or two out of the house completely, lots of cafes now have free Wi-Fi. Why not change things up a bit from time to time? Enjoy this luxury of choice you have, just remember to keep things tidy and organised.
Consider Your Kinspeople Who Share Your Dwelling
I’m sure you have, but here are a few things to consider when you are about to set up your homeworking arrangements.
- Consult your family first! Yes it really shouldn’t be an afterthought. Do that and suffer the consequences as I did on the odd painful occasion, more on that later.
- Ask them if there’s anything in particular you need to consider for this to be a good experience for all inhabitants.
- Keep them informed of appointments, calls you’re expecting, online meetings etc. so family can keep the noise down and keep out of your 'work' space. This will avoid arguments and disagreements.
The above is only an issue for me if the girls are on leave from school and university. Sometimes they can be off at different times… such a bummer!
Keep it Professional and Make it Known
There is also the danger of family taking for granted that you’re in most of the time. My eldest has been locked out of the house several times for this very reason, she didn’t take her keys, thought I’d be in… I wasn’t! hehehe. She was lucky it wasn’t raining, it rains a lot in England.
I keep a desk diary as well as my electronic diary so everyone knows where I am at all times. They’re my kids but they worry, sweet and heart-warming to know. Now they know how it feels not to know, when, on the odd occasion I forget to update my desk dairy! Completely unintentional… honest!
Lastly and equally as important as the points made above; make the family feel involved, you are after all doing this for all of you... aren’t you?
I don’t do leaflet drops anymore but when I first started I did and both the girls joined me. We got some great exercise! An additional bonus was that we got family time checking out lots of houses. We are always on the lookout for ideas of our dream home.
When they have a moment or two, my girls will do some of the social media things for me, they will come along and help with events. My little one loves being at the registration desk; she was 14 when she first helped me with that and she’s fantabulous at it!
My photographer and film maker, comes in the form of my eldest child. I'm making good use of the skills she gained at school and university.
The cats make it their responsibility to let me know when to take breaks (they simply get comfy on my laptop). If you follow me on FB or Instagram you will have seen many a moment like the one I’ve just described.
Don’t Get Over Excited!
It can be very tempting to work all the hours the great universe has given us. Granted, when you first start your own business, this is a very necessary evil to get the momentum going BUT you still need to make some time for you, your family, your friends, otherwise you’ll burn out.
- Plan your day a day ahead, I actually plan my days a week ahead, but I revisit each day the day before, to fine tune and ensure that I am being realistic with my task list.
- Have a timed task list, set a timescale to every task and try as best you can to stick to it. I fail abysmally on occasion, I don't beat myself up over it and I'm getting better at it.
- Factor in your breaks, if you don’t have a break how the hell is your overworked brain going to get a chance to refresh and imagine? You need that time to take stock and mull over new ideas.
Make sure you have a ‘proper’ lunch break even if it’s only 20 minutes or half an hour. Focus on your food and don’t eat in front of the laptop multitasking. It’s a break, not a working lunch, which, sometimes are inevitable. A client meeting over lunch is fair enough, other than that… NO EXCUSE! That’s me shouting by the way.
- Factor in some exercise. In this world of technology, most of us spend the best part of our days smooching the laptop screen. Well, maybe not quite smooching, that sounds a bit cuckoo, but you know what I’m getting at.
Go Mingle, Get Air
It's easy to sit in that corner for ages without looking up, but you must take regular breaks. Take a brisk walk, do a quick exercise set, stop and play with the cat, dog, fish. If you have other beings you share your home with in the absence of humans.
I alternate between walks, X-Hit workouts (boy, do those hurt!), yoga, star jumps, bike rides and my favourite… playing with my fur babies, the cats. Whatever you do, keep it interesting, it will keep you refreshed and focused.
Some of these activities could be done during a short break… that’s what I do. I also on many occasion, get up and sing my heart out, that’s one of my soul foods (read the Soul food blog it’s on my website)
- Try not to spend all your time working on devices. Stop and do some reading, writing and listening to a short audio. Make it all work related so you are being productive whilst still getting a break from screen work.
- Most crucially, make time for your family. Quality time with the family should be a big part of this self-employed adventure, bar the start-up period. But even then, make a little time.
I refuse to sacrifice quality time with my girls; time flies by too quickly.
As much as I know I need to earn to keep us all going. I also know that I want them to have memories of us being together doing things we all enjoy.
I want to make sure I add wonderful, wholesome, quality data to their memory banks. This is my main mission before I leave this world, I have been close a good few times. Once I actually did leave this world… thanks to the crash trolley, nurses and doctors I’m here to tell the tale!
Avoid The Hermit Affliction… it Can Happen to Anyone
Here's a confession; I’m a real homebody so being at home most days is a dream come true for me. I love being in my own domain, my sanctuary.
However, if you aren’t careful you are in danger of becoming an antisocial hermit. A condition that is never good for business.
We humans are naturally social beings, isolation is our enemy, maybe more of an enemy to extroverts than introverts, but we all need our social contact (some need more than others). More on that here.
- I have already mentioned changing things up by changing your place of work occasionally; go out to a hub, café or library.
Libraries are quite funky places these days… did I just expose the inner geek? Whoops!
- Make sure you keep up to date with local and national networking events for your line of work. Networking is essential when you are self-employed. No networking means no expansion, no new ideas, no continuous development for you, seriously start networking. Networking is essential to making new connections, learning new ways of doing things, sharing ideas and creating partnership ventures. Get booking!
I have a minimum target of two networking events per month, small and large, it doesn’t really matter. As part of my CPD and registration, I have to attend particular events anyway, add to that one or two business networks and you’re done!
If you are thinking that these events are time you could be spending doing something ‘more’ productive… trust me there is nothing more productive than networking. You will come away raring to go in your own business.
You Are Not a Cow
When working from home, there is that added bonus of food on tap, hence, 'grazing' ensues. This temptation is as bad as Adam’s experience in Eden and if you aren’t careful the evidence will land directly onto your waistline!
Keep strictly to meal times and, if you do feel peckish start by making yourself a drink. Usually what you interpret as hunger is dehydration. Re-hydrate and wait for 10 minutes, if you still feel peckish, reach for the fruit or a carrot stick.
Granted, this is rather an uphill struggle when PMS is at its bloody height… fight it girls, fight it!
Men, if you get similar non- PMS related peckish episodes… be the warrior I know you are… avoid it at all costs!
If you can’t fight the urge, I strongly recommend that you wait ten minutes post urge and see if you still feel like it. If you still have the urge, reduce the quantity, small portions eaten slowly, mindfully i.e. pay attention to the sensations, flavour and process of eating.
How to Avoid the Binge!
- Plan your lunch ahead of time so you don’t end up eating a load of easily accessible rubbish.
- If at all possible and I understand it isn’t always possible, try to reduce the amount of junk food you keep in the house.
- Always keep fruit to hand.
- If you are saintly on the odd occasion, as I am, prepare carrot, celery, cucumber sticks, a dip, hummus. Have them at the ready, in the fridge, for you to reach out for on your weaker moments.
- Note this is the other reason exercise is essential, it makes you eat less… do a few star jumps every time you feel like reaching out for the chocolate and you'll get super fit in no time.
- Most importantly, re-hydrate then wait ten minutes, I can't stress that one enough. Dehydration can make you sluggish and unproductive. If you still feel peckish go for the healthy options mentioned earlier.
Is it Bedtime Already?
One of the biggest hurdles and temptations when you are self-employed, is one every entrepreneur is guilty of at some point. I have to admit, I indulge from time to time. Lounging around in your ‘Jim Jams’, pyjamas for those of you who didn’t get my baby talk lingo.
Don’t do it too often because your mind has a way of identifying time zones, if you don’t follow a set routine, i.e. the routine of getting up early, getting dressed. Your mind-set won’t be well positioned for work… neurology my dear Watson, neurology.
- Get up at the same time every 'workday'
- Look professional. You are a self-employed business, you are your own walking, talking advert. Get dressed, that’s the most important bit
- Have a good breakfast, this will stop you from becoming a grazing cow later in the day
- Go through the same routine as you would if you had been going to a place of work. This is your place of work; it is where you do what it takes to earn a living.
Being self-employed can be a hard graft. It’s easy to lose sight of why you did it in the first place. It is so much easier going to work and letting somebody else worry about the finer detail.
NO!! Not entirely true, you became self-employed for a reason. You had a vision, a goal, an aspiration of how life should be, look and feel. Hold onto that thought, remind yourself of your reason, often, daily, every morning in front of the mirror. Do this and see the difference it makes.
The Struggle is Real, The Hustle is worth it.
The hardest part is working your arse off and not seeing any financial gain for it… gosh it’s tough and it will happen, perhaps several times. Keep at it, and don’t throw the towel in at the first hurdle.
You only fail if you give up trying, I love that line, Yogi Bear’s accomplice Boo Boo said that. I love my cartoons and animations big kid that I am; if you listen carefully you can pick up some great motivational gems.
Need more help to strike that balance? Book your free consultation here.