How Starting To Freelance Is Like Learning To Riding A Bike

The other day I was at the park with my oldest daughter Daphne, who is 5 (and a half…if you were to ask her).

A bunch of kids had brought their bikes, but Daphne doesn’t really ride hers much these days.

She used to love riding her bike and would always do laps around the playground, giggling and super confident.

She still uses training wheels, and a lot of her Kindergarten peers are starting to ride without them.

I can see it’s starting to knock her confidence a bit. And now, she hardly wants to ride at all.

As I was watching her that day at the park, bike-less, I wondered what my husband and I could do to get her to learn to ride the bike without the training wheels?

  • Take her shopping to buy a new big girl bike
  • Read a book all about bicycles and riding trails
  • Watch YouTube videos about the cool things she can do once she ditches the training wheels
  • Expose her to other kids at the park riding bikes without training wheels

We could totally do all of those things, but realistically I know she’s going to have to actually get on the training wheel free bike and practice.

Easier said than done, I know.

We’ve taken her around the cul-de-sac by our house and up and down the driveway to practice before without the training wheels, and it pretty much always goes the same.

“I can’t do it.”

“It’s too hard.”

“I’m never going to be able to figure this out.”

Wow!

That’s when it clicked: this had nothing to do with Daphne’s capability at all.

It had to do with her mindset.

The funny thing is, I see this over and over again with the mamas who are considering a freelancing business.

You see the other mamas doing it, and it looks fun and amazing and like an amazing path towards financial freedom and flexibility (it is).

And yet, you tell yourself that you can’t do it.

You watch videos about freelancing.

You may even invest in a course about freelancing.

But you never actually take what you’ve learned and get on the bike, so to speak.

You cannot learn how to ride a bike without actually riding, and you cannot become a freelancer without actually freelancing.

You’re afraid to start freelancing.

The last time Daphne told me she couldn’t ride her bike, I told her “you’re right. If you keep telling yourself that you can’t ride the bike without training wheels you’re right, you won’t be able to.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Henry Ford. He said, “whether you think you can, or think you cannot, you’re right.”

We’ve been working on Daphne’s mindset about riding a bike. We talk about what the worst thing that could happen is (possibly falling and ending up with a band-aid-worthy scrape).

You have a reason why you are starting to freelance, whether it’s because you want to quit your job or help financially to ease pressure off your spouse or find professional fulfillment.

Let me tell you – nothing is holding you back, but you!

What is the worst thing that could happen if you took the plunge?

You go back to a 9-5? You’re probably already there!

If you tried to get a client?

They say no? That’s not the end of the world.

If you tell a less-than-supportive family member?

Now…if you took your training wheels off and really launched your freelancing business…what’s the best that could happen?

Are you going to continue to tell yourself you can’t do it.

Or are you going to ride the bike?

 

New To Freelancing? Here’s What You Need To Know

A few weeks ago I did something totally wild in The Free Mama community.

(If you’re new to freelancing, you’re going to want to listen up.)

I asked what you mamas wanted to know about freelancing…

What if I don’t know what I’m good at?

How do I find clients?

How much do I charge them when I do get them?!

And then…

I answered your questions live….while holding a baby.

Told you it was wild.

In case you missed all of the excitement and awesomeness, or if you just want to see how I respond under pressure, here’s your link to the replay.

If you’re reading this while nursing or just need to keep the noise down (ya know, so your boss doesn’t know you’re planning your sweet escape into a work from home life you love) than read on, mama.

You asked, I answered.

New to freelancing? Here’s what you need to know.

Should you choose a niche as a freelancer?

YES, you should decide on a niche! It’s just plain smart. Here’s why: many of entrepreneurs and businesses in the same industry will utilize a lot of the same software and speak the same lingo. What does that mean for you? Fewer systems to adopt and a shorter learning curve. (Side note: choosing a niche does not mean you shouldn’t continue to learn new skills!)

How do I decide on my niche if I’m just starting out?

How you decide on a niche is a little trickier. I really didn’t have a niche when I started freelancing, which was a BIG mistake. A great place to start is by looking into what you are passionate about or what you have experience in. This could include things like Health, Nutrition, Education, Real Estate, Accounting…etc. By choosing something that you are passionate about or interested in, you are going to be much more excited about the work that you get to do – promise.

What’s your niche?

Alright, I’m giving it all away. If I had to suggest a niche/industry that NEEDS your help and WANTS to pay you to solve their problems, it’s the world of coaches, course makers and solopreneurs. This industry is growing because anyone that is getting successful by working for themselves is getting too busy and need help because they can’t do everything by themselves.

Where is the best place to find clients and/or opportunities?

Find out where they HANG OUT! This is one of those obvious/not-so-obvious answers. Once you have decided on your niche and industry that you want to pursue, start by doing some market research and then find out where you can find them. This could include everything from local conventions in person to specific Facebook groups (There is a Facebook group for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING). LinkedIn is another great resource that is overlooked so often. The first step in getting clients is to build relationships. LinkedIn is a great platform for creating these relationships.

How do I figure out what skills I have if I have no experience in marketing or business?

You do NOT need to have experience in marketing or business to be successful at freelancing. Skills such as organizing, scheduling, and basic administrative tasks are perfect for clients who are looking for an extra hand in getting everyday tasks done. If you are still struggling to find out what skills you are best at, I urge you to reach out to your network. Turn to your friends, family, co-workers or even past employers and ask them: What skills am I good at? If I could show or teach you something what would it be? What do I do that I am good at? Sometimes it’s hard to see these things in ourselves but is seen easily by the people closest to us.

What pay is realistic for someone just getting into freelancing?

How much you make depends on how much time you are willing to invest. There is a module in my program where I will give you a formula that will help you figure out what your rate should be. I also encourage going with project based pricing vs hourly rate. Your value and the problems that you solve are worth more than what you can accomplish in 60 minutes.

When setting your pay rate there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • What are my financial goals?
  • Do I want to leave a 9-5 job and if so, how much money will I need to be made to compensate that?
  • How much time do I have to work my freelancing business each week?

Do hourly jobs vs. Fixed pay jobs make a difference in your overall long-term success?

In my opinion, trying to find a smaller number of long-term clients is more beneficial. If you are only serving clients once or twice and then moving on, you will have to spend a lot more time marketing yourself and finding more clients. By making yourself part of your client’s team, you create a relationship with them so that they will WANT to continue paying you over and over.

How do you know you are ready to be a VA? I can manage emails and I’m ok with social media, but am I good enough? My biggest fear is rejection and failure.

YES, you are absolutely good enough! You can start honing your skills now. Start by working on things that you ARE naturally good at and work on becoming an expert in them. If emails are your jam, start researching email management systems such as MailChimp or Constant Contact for example. The most important part is get started! To keep building your confidence, continue learning and while finding small successes quickly.

Does your training cover the administrative side of the business?

As overwhelming as it may sound, the program covers EVERYTHING. I literally cover all the software that I currently use for all my clients. While it is comprehensive, there is a balance of hitting the high points to cover everything in the 12 weeks. For example: One module will touch on Social Media, but will not go through full tutorials on how to become a full-time social media manager and strategist. My program does cover all areas for how to set up your freelancing business from a logistical and organizational standpoint. Furthermore, I also teach you how to apply these skills to your client’s businesses as well.

As a freelancer, how do you manage to stay organized and make sure that your taxes each year are done correctly considering overhead costs, taxes, receipts, supplies, travel etc.?

During the program, I will cover a home-based tax tracker that will help you take a percentage of your dedicated work space so that you benefit from that on your taxes. As far as expenses, this is up to you on how much you want to invest in items such as software, hardware, supplies. Computer and Internet are really the ONLY necessities that you need to get started as a freelancer.  Another great tool that I will introduce is Quickbooks Self-Employed. This will assist you with your taxes and help you to do them properly. This software is inexpensive and helps to manage both income and expenses and connects easily with my bank account, credit card and PayPal. When freelancing you have two options, you can become a sole proprietor or an LLC. I chose to create an LLC to help protect myself and my family from being sued. I have never been nor plan on being sued, this is just what I was most comfortable with.

Do you have any other questions about what it takes to start your freelancing career so that you can quit your 9-5 and spend more time doing what you enjoy with clients you choose and your babies? Head over to the FB group and maybe I’ll just pop in to answer it Live!

Joining an MLM isn’t the easiest path to becoming a Work From Home Mom

I know a ton of women who would jump at the chance to be a work from home mom.

In fact, I have someone reaching out to me about once a week to pick my brain about how I’ve been able to do it over the last year and a half.

As someone who made the leap from working full time outside of the home, to part time from home for myself, and was able to supplement my previous income in less than a year, I totally get it!

I was there not long ago. Craving more time with my children during the day. Needing something that was just mine. Having to feed my desire to create and produce.

It doesn’t always feel like there are a ton of options for working moms to have it all.

Luckily, many companies are finally starting to embrace the importance of family benefits, such as flexible schedules and better parental leave policies. The sense of balance it provides to employees, moms in particular, has kept more women in the workplace, which leads to more women in senior roles, which leads to more female decision makers, which leads to better family advocates…you see where I’m going.

Some women become mothers and their sense of fulfillment comes from staying at home. This is wonderful, and a privilege for those who are able to do so!

The truth is, more and more couples are relying on a dual income to support their families. Women often feel torn when they have to choose between staying home with their children and avoiding high childcare costs, or heading back to work and spending less time raising their kiddos.

If they’re at a job they don’t love with zero flexibility, they understandably would be seeking out other options.

Enter a flood of groups invitations and private messages and friend requests on your Facebook page.

Everyone from your best friend in 3rd grade to your husband’s coworker’s sister-in-law is probably trying to get you to buy leggings, jewelry, cookware, or fill-in-the-blank from them.

It’s no surprise that multi-level marketing companies have become incredibly popular.

A lot of the products are terrific! I have supported dozens of women in my community over the years and will continue to do so.

It’s also no wonder that when you’re Facebook “friend”sends you an offer to start your own business, and make money throwing parties with your girlfriends, your interest is peeked.

You can become your own boss, set your own hours and get away from the job that’s making you miserable.

Score, right?!

I know that’s how I felt when I was struggling to balance my career and my family and was asked to join an MLM. I quickly jumped at the opportunity! If I’m honest, I’m still signed up as a consultant so that I can take advantage of the discount myself. I stopped “working my business” years ago.

If you’re considering becoming a new business owner through an MLM, it’s important that you understand how it will actually work: you will be selling the company’s product on its behalf {they profit} and your recruiter will be earning a commission on your sales {she profits}.

That isn’t to say that you won’t profit.

But in my personal experience, they know they won’t get you to sign up if you understand just how small your margins will be.

They don’t explain that while you will get a great discount on products, you will need to buy a website, purchase supplies to help you sell, and possibly even invest in product up front {all from the same company you now work for}. Not to mention the “starter” fee and taxes.

Instead, they will hook you with every woman’s dream: to create a better life for your family financially, find fulfillment personally, and have a blast while doing it!

Who doesn’t want that?

Then, she reels you in with the success stories of the few and far between.

She isn’t doing it to be misleading. These success stories do exist. And it’s exactly what she wants for herself and her family. Maybe even for you, too! But she also knows she won’t become one of them without you on her team.

Just like other entrepreneurs, MLM business owners work hard for their accomplishments.

This post is in no way to diminish their efforts. However, none of them made a million dollars selling products for a company. They made a million dollars convincing you to sell them.

For you to be successful in a MLM business, you too will only be extremely profitable by pitching the dream to others. That’s literally how these businesses work!

It’s also the reason that 50% of women who join one of these companies leaves within the first year, and 90% have quit by year 5. I fall in the latter, myself.

Now, if you love the product and the idea of growing a team, by all means go for it! Or, if you’re after some extra spending money at the end of each month, you can accomplish that by selling product alone. You will likely have a costumer in me.

However, if you are looking to enrich your life and your bank account, I encourage you to explore other options before buying “a business in a box”.

Create your own work from home mom business!

Chances are you have a unique talent – a product or service – that you can market and sell on your own. There will still be business costs and taxes. There will also be a ton of hard work and some risk.

On the bright side, 80% of new businesses make it past their first year and 50% are still kicking after 5 years. I like my odds.

Have you ever started an MLM business? What was your experience? Tell me in the comments!

Mama, how do you do it?

The other day I was talking with a girl friend from back home. She is a first time mom and an amazing one at that!

After gushing over photos of our newest additions, we started talking about the final days of her maternity leave. I offered my support and unsolicited advice from returning to work after my first. She acted like I was some sort of super hero {the free mama would be a good super hero name…} and then said “You make it look easy. Plus, you didn’t even take a break from work after you had Audrey. How do you do it?”

I was flattered, but also a bit confused by the time we got off the phone.

That same day I got a text from another friend. She’s a mom of three, but has had very difficult pregnancies and some struggles breastfeeding.  I’m always happy to share my experiences, but frequently remind her that I’m hardly an expert and she may want to visit a lactation consultant. Then she texts back, “You’re an expert to me! I don’t know how you nursed each of your kids so long.”

I’ve been getting these types of comments a lot lately from other moms now that I’m toting around 3 kiddos and running a small business.

How do you do it?

I usually laugh it off.

I mean, as moms, we all just somehow – do. Right?

Seriously, think back to life before children for a moment. If you’re like me, it’s almost difficult to do! What did we do with all of our time and money back then?

When we become mothers, suddenly everything changes. We go from carefree to caretaker for a helpless, beautiful little being who depends on us for every teeny tiny thing.  What used to be a quick trip to Target now takes two hours, because heaven forbid you leave the house without every possible item your baby could need while you’re gone.

And yet, we get settle into the craziness of parenting. Some of us do so quicker than others, but in time we all adjust to our new normal by simply doing.

Our lives are forever changed.

We continue to parent – and do – the best way we know how both intuitively, and by learning from others.

So to my friend heading back from maternity leave, I have a question for you…

How do you do it? How do you slow down and cherish the moments with your first child so deeply and lovingly? And how do you shut out the busy world around you, the work that I’m sure is piling up on your desk back in your office, to enjoy these fleeting moments as a new mother without stress or worry inching in?

To my friend who is struggling, how do you do it? How do you stay so committed to something that is so challenging for you? How do you continue to work so hard so selflessly for your children when you yourself are still healing?

And to all of the other moms out there, how do you do it? Because I’d really like to know.

Podcast Prep – Can moms really have it all?

I’m super excited to share with you some exciting – and slightly terrifying – news.

I’ve been invited to speak on not just one, but two podcasts in the next month!

First up, the Extraordinary Moms Podcast.

I was invited to share my pursuit of a work life balance after being introduced to SoCal mom Jessica by a mutual friend. Not unlike my Working Mom Wednesday blog posts, Jessica celebrates motherhood by inviting moms onto her show to tell their stories.

In a few weeks I’ll be sharing my spin on the whole “mommy blog” thing on The Blog Chronicles with Matthew Loomis. Fun fact: I set up this blog using Matthew’s easy to follow steps!

moms have it all

Once I got past the initial “what the heck am I going to talk about” nerves, I realized how pumped I was about sharing my mompreneur journey.

After all, I shouldn’t run out of topics about my life, right? We are all experts in our own experiences!

What makes me a tiny bit terrified; however, is finally sharing my beliefs on the controversial “having it all” debate.

Can moms have it all? Or can’t we?

After a year of pursuing it, I’ve come to my own conclusion and I’ll be diving into what I think on these podcasts!

Have you done anything recently that terrifies you? Let me know how it turned out!

P.S. I’ll be sure to share the links on my Facebook page when each interview is published!

The non-maternity leave

It’s been 12 weeks since Audrey was born.

This is the same week five years ago when I kissed my oldest daughter Daphne goodbye before my husband loaded her up in her carseat to take her to daycare for the first time. The days leading up to the end of my maternity leave were flooded with tears.

With Henry I only took 11 weeks.

Neither were paid.

But the last 3 months have been an entirely different experience.

For starters, I have two other kiddos to keep up with. The seemingly long days of watching daytime television while cluster feeding a newborn in my pajamas are behind me.

It’s also because I didn’t take any time off from work. Yup, this solorpreneur was shooting off emails from the recovery room.

And yet, if you’ve asked me how things were going since Audrey was born, I’ve likely told you it’s been the easiest transition of the three.

My neighbor said it best: You’re nervous with your first child, because everything is new and you have no idea what to expect. You’re overwhelmed with your second child, because you do know what to expect. By the time number three comes, there are much fewer surprises and it’s relatively smooth sailing.

I can’t guarantee it will happen this way for everyone, but it’s definitely been the case for our family.

Daphne is a tremendous help with Audrey, and does a great job of playing with Henry – who isn’t taking to sharing his mama with the baby quite as well.

Plus, this last pregnancy was so rough, including 8 weeks on bedrest, that I actually have substantially more energy now than I did before the baby was born. I’m even sleeping better now, too!

But it hasn’t all been easy. There have definitely been days where I yearned for nursing on the couch in my pajamas. And some of the time, that’s just what I did.

Other days I just wasn’t able to because of the client projects I was working on.

I also took my first ever work trip when Audrey was just 7 weeks old. I was a little bit hesitant about whether or not to go, but I learned a lot and it was totally worth it in the long run.

Now, it’s not really my personality to slow down too much for too long, but the truth is that I needed to keep working. I needed the income. I didn’t want to risk losing my clients. And it turns out the bills only get bigger once you have a baby, so that unpaid maternity leave thing just wasn’t going to fly again – and this time I was able to do something about it.

I knew this was going to be my reality before we had the baby, so I was able to prepare myself for what I wanted my non-maternity leave to look like. Fortunately, this time around I feel wiser as a mother, more focused as a business owner, and I’m finally doing something I’m passionate about.

Whether you’re approaching your maternity leave, or find yourself running a small business while growing your family, here’s what you need to know:

Have a plan

This seems obvious enough, but you need to have a plan with your spouse and your work. Be transparent about what help you’ll need from your partner and if you’ll need to increase childcare for other kiddos to allow more time for you and baby. Ask your company about their leave policy in advance and make sure you understand your benefits or lack thereof. If your leave will not be paid, are you prepared for that financially? Will you possibly need to return sooner? Are these policies negotiable?

I was definitely moving a bit slower for the first two weeks after I gave birth, so I was sure to set boundaries with my clients about when I would be working and when it’s family time. Luckily, because of the nature of my work, there were many things that I was able to schedule out before the baby came. The key with any plan is to be flexible, realistic and communicative. Do not over promise if you won’t be able to perform.

Outsource

Don’t try to be a hero – you just birthed a baby! I’m not sure when moms first started feeling the need to do everything all by themselves. I assure you it’s not possible. Maybe you need to hire a cleaning company for a few months. Maybe your spouse can start doing morning carpool. Do not be afraid to ask for help, and perhaps more importantly, when people offer, accept it. If someone offers to bring your family a meal, graciously thank them and check dinner off of your to do list for that night. Voila! You’ll definitely be able to – and should – return the favor someday.

If you’re a business owner, you may even be able to outsource some of your work tasks without losing revenue. Maybe you have an employee who can step in, or maybe you know about freelancer who can trade projects with you. While that didn’t necessarily work for me, I became much more strategic with how my time was being used on things other than work. I realized free shipping services {hello Amazon Prime} and even grocery shopping services with small fees were totally worth the hour I would have spent doing it myself. This gave me some time back to focus on my clients.

Schedule bonding time

Speaking of time, this one is super important for any new mom. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with things like laundry {which has suddenly doubled in volume with the addition of one tiny human} and on-demand feeding and diaper changes. Add in a job? Mind overload. Whatever you’re doing, don’t let the days slip by without scheduling a special time to just stare at your baby. Take a mental picture. Heck, take a real picture. Or a hundred! Audrey reminds me just how much a newborn changes each and everyday. I’m thrilled to continue working with clients I enjoy while profiting. I’m even happier to do it knowing I’m mindful not to sacrifice these precious moments.

If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, check out or review your company’s maternity leave policy at listyourleave.com. Be sure to read my interview with the founders.

How becoming a mom has made me better at business

As moms, there is no doubt that we wear many hats throughout the day. Mom, wife, employee, boss, chauffeur, maid, chef, referee.

Anyone who has been a working mom for more than a day knows that each of these hats is not mutually exclusive either. I don’t stop being a mom just because I step into my office {hello, work from home because my kiddo is sick days}. Also, I can’t completely turn off work when I’m spending time with my family, even though I do try!

I’ve talked to so many women who decided to continue their careers after becoming a mom, but are worried that somehow they’ll now fail at both. They won’t be able to give their employer their all now that they really have to leave at 5 to get to daycare on time. Or they’re going to miss out on important milestones with their child while they are at work, somehow making them less of a mom.

Sound familiar?

While these feelings are totally normal, I want to let you know that I truly believe they are all in your head.

Are moms better at business?

I’d argue that being a working mom actually makes you better at the office and at home.

Not only are all of our hats not mutually exclusive, I believe they actually strengthen each other.

I was always a strong worker. Reliable. Innovative. Efficient. But one of the unexpected benefits of becoming a mom has been that it’s made me more business savvy. And frankly, working while raising kids has helped me as a parent, as well.

Here are the ways becoming a mom has made me better at business, and vice versa.

Negotiating

Before I had my daughter, I never asked for a raise. Not once. I just accepted whatever was offered at my annual review. I also didn’t negotiate my salary when accepting a new job. After I became a parent, I started valuing my time away from my family in a whole new way. If I was going to give a company my all from 9-5 each day, I was going to be compensated appropriately.

These negotiating skills come in handy with my tiny tots. My husband isn’t a fan of the television, but my kids love it. Negotiating is about coming up with a solution that everyone can be on board with, so we agreed that the kids are allowed 15 minutes in the morning before school. But there’s a catch: get dressed, brush teeth, shoes on. If they aren’t completely ready to leave the house, no show.

Delegating

I used to be the kind of worker who thought it was easier just to do things myself rather than teach someone else to do it. Not anymore! There are no end of the year bonuses for martyrs. Turning over a task to someone else isn’t just an investment in their professional growth, it’s just smart time management on your part.

At home, I delegate simple chores to my 3 and 5 year old. Parents totally underestimate what their children are capable of! My oldest can help sweep the floors and my toddler can wipe down counters {after I spray them} after meals. Is it perfect? No. I could totally do it better and faster. Are they learning to contribute to the household? You bet ya. Plus, it’s one less thing for me to worry about.

Multitasking

As women, most of us naturally have this in the bag compared to our male counterparts. But let me tell you, nobody multitasks like a working mom. I resist multitasking when working on a project {I’m big into time blocking} – I know it will actually slow me down and diminish the quality of my work. However, I listen to podcasts to help my professional development if I’m doing mindless activities or while exercising. I also use commute time to cross things off my mommy list like making doctor appointments.

I make an effort to spend quality time with each of my children every single day, not just be in the same room as them. Story time is one time when multitasking is a big no-no. At the same time, I want to teach my children to be independent and comfortable with entertaining themselves. I set up stations on the counter for them to color while I make dinner and check emails, or they will help me sort the laundry while I fold and catch the news.

Prioritizing

As a working mom, my work day – at least while I’m physically in my office – has to come to an end. This means that in order to get stuff done within a clearly defined time frame, I have to be really good at focusing on what really matters. By prioritizing the most important tasks, I’m also extremely valuable to my clients because I’m not going to procrastinate on projects or waste billable hours.

At home, prioritizing looks a little more like picking your battles. Once my oldest hit toddler years, I learned pretty quickly that I didn’t want to take on every single fight with her. Hitting is a non-negotiable. On the verge of a meltdown at the park over another fruit snack? Not worth the tears.

Committing

Becoming a mom is undoubtedly my single greatest accomplishment. My kiddos gave me my “why” to start my own business in order to spend more time with them while pursuing my career aspirations. When we moved, when I had morning sickness, or just whenever it seems like too much, my family reminds me why I’ve committed to building a business for myself to have the work/life balance that I want. I want my children to see that I never gave up and take that with them when life gets hard – and it will.

Being a working mom has its challenges – no doubt! But I also believe it’s sharpened my skills as a parent and career woman.

Do any of these resonate with you? What do you think – are moms better at business? I’d love to hear in the comments how being a working mom has helped you kick butt at home and in the office!

How to pump when traveling for work

If you read my last post, you know that I just took a work trip to Florida.

It was fabulous!

But having never traveled for work before, this veteran working mom of 3 sure felt like a rookie when it came to pumping on the go.

I remember when I went back to work after my first was born. I was fortunate enough to have little trouble breastfeeding and wanted to keep it up. While it took a few weeks to adjust to a pumping schedule at work, my Medela bag carried everything I needed to get from 9am-5pm each day.

But from Tuesday to Sunday?

Without nursing in the mornings and evenings?

That was something entirely different.

I learned a thing or two about the best ways to pump when traveling. Hopefully they help you out in the event you find yourself living the jet setting life soon after baby arrives.

Do your research

I’m a planner, so this was a no brainer for me. Find out where you’re staying and what amenities will be available to you. I knew I’d have access to a full kitchen, which meant I would have a freezer to keep my ice packs and breast milk frozen. Also, understanding your rights traveling with breastmilk will give you confidence when you travel. You can brush up on those here.

Pro mom tip #1: if you haven’t started pumping yet, you’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time to store up breast milk bags prior to your trip. Don’t have a breast pump yet? No worries. This site helps match your insurance with a manufacturer that will get you one for free!

Practice makes perfect

Getting myself prepared was one thing {think a lot of extra pumping to store up for my time away}. Preparing your little one is quite another. And if you’re a nursing mom, especially one who works from home like I do, your baby is going to be less than thrilled when your breast is replaced with a bottle. Make the transition on her easier by letting her practice with dad, a responsible sibling {Daphne loves to feed Audrey!} or another care taker.

Pro mom tip #2: leave the room! That baby can hear and smell you and thinks it’s pretty unfair that she has to have a fountain drink when the tap is parading around the place.

Pro mom tip #3: stay calm. If at first you don’t succeed, try another bottle/nipple. The truth is, when she’s hungry enough, she will eat. Change is hard for us adults, too.

Pack early and accordingly

The week before I left, one of our cats CHEW THROUGH THE CORD TO MY PUMP. Yup. I totally panicked. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime’s two day shipping and replacement parts. The moral of the story, make sure you have everything you need and tuck it away safely days before you leave. Triple check you have everything you need to make your breast pump function properly. And, depending on how long you’ll be away, you may need to invest in some additional storage supplies. I was fortunate to have a mom friend who let me borrow her ice packs and cooler.

While you’re packing, consider throwing in tops that are easy to nurse/pump in.I didn’t pack to pump, and since I wore a lot of dresses and ended up having to strip down completely. Luckily, my event was held close to where we were staying, so I could return to my room to pump.  If you’re going to be on the go, definitely put some thought into what you’ll wear.

Pro mom tip #4: invest in a car charger converter. There are products that turn the cigarette lighters into outlets or converters for the breast pump to plug in itself. I own the former and it’s been a lifesaver on several occasions, including the two times I had to pump in a car this trip.

Relieve yourself

Literally. When you’re on the go and childless, it’s super tempting to run around like a normal person. I would frequently wait until I was fully engorged to go pump, because I didn’t want to miss a thing!

The bad news? I ended up getting Mastitis the last night we were there. If you’ve never had it before, consider yourself lucky! I never got so much as a clogged milk duct with my first two children, and have had two since my third was born. You’re more likely to get this infection while pumping, especially if you do not fully drain the breast. So go on ladies, relieve yourself.

Pro mom tip #5: don’t stop pumping or nursing when you have a clogged duct. It’s painful, but it’s also the best way to get rid of it. Hot showers, heating pads and ibuprofen don’t hurt either.

Be upfront

As soon as I got to the airport security line, I let them know I was traveling with breastmilk. They were very helpful in walking me through the process:

  1. Run the cooler through the X-Ray conveyer belt with my other carryon items.
  2. Escort me to the back to inspect cooler further.
  3. Only the liquid bags greater than 3.4 ozs had to be examined. Luckily, all of my bags were frozen solid except the two I had made that morning. These liquid bags were run those through a special screening machine {no bags were opened}. Had all of the bags been frozen or under the ounce requirement, I would’t have been inspected at all!
  4. I got bonus points for having everything in clear bags. There was no award for this, but it’s highly recommended.

I’ve heard horror stories from other mothers who had less than positive experiences, but this was mine. Again, be prepared and know your rights as a nursing mom. Knowledge is power!

I hope this helps you the next time you’re leaving your baby, whether for work or for pleasure. Being a working mom is hard enough, but committing to nursing and pumping is no easy fete!

Tell me, have you ever traveled while pumping? How did it go?

2016: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Have you ever started doing something – you thought about it a ton….you planned and planned – only to find yourself somewhere very different than where you thought you were headed?

That’s exactly what happened to me in 2016.

In December 2015 I quit my 9-5 a little terrified and a lot optimistic and set out to build that thing that would give me the flexibility to work when and where I wanted.

My motivation? More family time. My ultimate goal? Find a way to help other mamas do the same thing.

The Free Mama was born!

I rang in the New Year with a lofty task at hand, and I felt capable and confident that blogger status was where I was headed.

Within 6 months I realized that this profitable blog thing might take longer than I had anticipated. Naturally, my attention turned towards my digital marketing freelancing jobs, something that was making money.

I didn’t abandon my vision for the blog, but my time invested definitely fluctuated as I shifted my focus to ensure I was producing an income for my family.

As each day’s work morphed into something quite different than what I had originally set out to do, my family quite literally landed somewhere different when we unexpectedly moved to Texas over the summer.

And who can forget the added news of a baby on the way?

With so much changing in my personal life, this blog that I started because I wanted to support working moms while supporting my family quickly turned into cathartic diary entries.

And as it turns out, you like that!

People connect with people, and lucky for me they also connect with imperfect people living an imperfect life.

The feedback I’ve gotten through comments, emails, texts, and visitor stats are telling me loud and clear that I didn’t need to “advise” in the first place. I just needed to share my own journey.

That I can do!

As for the freelancing, something that started with a few small clients, has grown into a workload that is all I can handle without bringing on additional help.

I’m incredibly proud to have more than supplemented my previous full-time income in less than a year, all on my own. When I left my job, my goal was to spend more time with family, and working from home has definitely allowed me to prioritize each day exactly as I see fit.

I no longer feel like I’m compromising my kids for a career or vice versa.

And THAT is exactly why I started The Free Mama in the first place.

Maybe I didn’t land so far away from what I’d set out to do in 2016 after all.

The Good

2016 seemed to throw our family quite a few curveballs. But I’ve learned that with change, comes growth. And our family has definitely grown closer.

Change isn’t always easy, and we don’t always like it, but at the end of the day it’s like I tell my kids, “you have to wake up and choose to be happy. No one is going to do it for you.”

With that being said, there were a lot of pregnancy-hormone-filled days where I cried after our move. But as soon as I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I was able to focus on what was best for my family.

And what was best for the family was a sane mother.

First, I prioritized finding a support system and joined a mom’s group. Typically that wouldn’t be “my thing,” but friends weren’t just going to show up at my door step. I put myself out there and have formed friendships with women I already cannot imagine not having in my life.

It was also important for me to put some renewed energy into my business. Again, I had to put myself out there. I participated in networking events to meet some amazing professionals in the area, and found new partners and clients.

Trust me when I say it would have been much easier to stay home and keep crying, but it also would have been pretty miserable for everyone.

Not unlike their mom, our kids had to transition to a new place last year, too. But unlike their mom, they did so gracefully. Both are well adjusted, thriving in school and extracurriculars, and loving the warmer climate filled with park playdates with friends.

Justin is loving the flexibility and variety of his job. Although he travels occasionally, our family has spent more time together than we ever did back in Kansas City and I don’t take it for granted for a second.

We spent half of 2016 in Houston and now I can say it’d be hard to imagine our family anywhere else.

The Bad

Getting to Houston, on the other hand, nearly killed me. Buying and selling a home, packing and moving cross country to the hottest place on the planet in the middle of summer is stressful enough, but doing it while throwing up several times a day is downright awful.

But, if I had to sum up 2016 in one word, it would be “bills.”

Not only is moving pretty pricey, but the adjustment to being self-employed brought about health insurance premiums neither my husband nor I quite expected.

I love our sweet new baby to pieces, but she turned out to be a costly little thing. Emergency room visits. Anti-nausea medicine. Pre-term labor followed by two months of bedrest. Between the new state and the new year, we met multiple deductibles just to get her here!

That many bills aren’t just costly, they’re incredibly stressful.

While it may around the same time we pay off the hospital, I’m sure I’ll forgive her.

Eventually.

The Beautiful

There was plenty of ugly in 2016 that I could have written about, but I’d rather share with you something beautiful that I saw throughout the entire year, over and over again.

Motherhood.

Starting with this blog last January, I asked working moms to share their stories with me, to share with all of you.

Friends, acquaintances and even strangers generously donating their time to compose honest and meaningful contributions to my #workingmomwednesday features.

The peak of my morning sickness coincided with my husband’s move to Houston about a month before the rest of us. I was left to finalize things in Kansas City while caring for two busy toddlers.

I relied heavily on the generosity of the moms in our neighborhood to help me get through it. From watching kids so that I could pack, to picking me up orange juice, no favor was too big or too small for these thoughtful women.

When we finally reunited in Houston, I was exhausted and lonely. I joined a moms’ group to meet new people. These mothers have brought me treats when I was feeling down, visited me while I was on bedrest, and continue to deliver meals now that Audrey is here. I feel incredibly blessed for each of these friendships.

Without a doubt, however, the most maternal gesture of 2016 came from my own mother. When I was placed on bedrest at 32 weeks pregnant, she hopped on a plane to help my husband with the big kids. She put her life on hold for nearly two months to cater to our family’s needs without hesitation or complaint. I am forever in debt, and yet, as a mom myself I know I’d do the exact same thing.

It’s what moms do.

Motherhood is such a special thing, and it truly got me through the year in more ways than one. Not only do mothers take care of our own families, but we look out for one another with the same selfless spirit, as well.

So long, 2016

I may be a month behind on bidding the year adieu, but 2016 truly was one for the books. I launched a business, I turned 30, I moved cross country, and our family grew {well, my belly grew. Audrey missed 2016 by 7 days.}

And for the record, if 2017 could be a little less eventful, that would be okay by me.

12 mompreneur tips for thriving {not just surviving} during the holidays

Holidays are such a special time to spend with family and friends. I love the lights, the traditions, the food, and the extra time at home with my loved ones. Yet, just because my kids get off from school, doesn’t mean my business stops – or even slows down.

So I took to the experts…fellow business owners and mamas who juggle their careers and their kiddos….to ask what tips they suggest for not just surviving, but thriving while working from home during the holidays. Keep reading to find out what I learned!
mompreneur tips

Plan ahead & stay organized.

 

Schedule out your days! While the holidays can often throw routine into chaos, take the time NOW to actually schedule out what needs to be done and by when; don’t just make a “to do” list and expect it’ll get done. Just because there’s only a few days left in the year doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off; get ready to rock 2017!

-Amber,  Thrifty Guardian and Embracing Temerity

 

 

Plan ahead! Make a schedule of play and working blocks, and have a few activities in your back pocket to keep the kids busy while you stay on your grind. Don’t forget to give your clients the heads up, too – send out an email outlining your holiday availability, noting any alterations to your office hours and reminding them of your preferred contact method.

-Resa, Eye Heart Creative

 

I use Trello during the holidays (especially my holiday gift and card planning board which helps me to brainstorm gifts and makes sure I’m mailing presents out on time.) I also use Trello to keep track of what is happening with my business and household, including recipes and meal plans, which takes a lot of stress off of me. Trello gives me confidence and allows the holidays to be more fun this year, since I’m in it all the time for my business anyway. It’s easy and fun.

-Dana Malstaff, Boss Mom

 

Find the time{r} to work with your kids.

 

Working with kids in the home is challenging. The one tip that keeps me focused and productive – and this has worked from 3 years old to the teen years – has been a timer and working in time blocks. My young children were able to watch a timer and keep themselves busy for 20 minutes in the other room while I did a deep focus block. I worked the way up to 45 minute blocks as they got older. I have found that with 2-4 focus blocks a day, I can conquer most of the heavy lifting.

– Cecily, Cecily: Nutrition, Love and Transformation

 

I use a pomodoro timer. I set it for 20 minute increments and I can only work during that time. No checking email, no social media, no attending to house work. You would be amazed how much you get done when the time is ticking…literally!

-Kristin, Pond Photography

 

 

During school vacations, I move my work from the home office to the kitchen. This way, I am literally running a command center within reach of everyone and everything we need. If there is a stretch of time coming up when I know that I need to be engaged with work, I try to have a ‘favorite’ on hand for the girls. Homemade play-doh is a double whammy, because we make it together which takes about 10 minutes, but then they have an open ended activity that – after a good raid of the junk drawer – can literally last hours!

-Jenna, Rodan + Fields Independent Consultant

Set boundaries for yourself

The holidays are my busiest season and I have to be very intentional about setting boundaries. When it’s Family Cookie-Baking Night, I don’t worry about Christmas shopping or work. When I’m working, I’m don’t feel guilt over the millions of Pinterest holiday crafts I could be doing with my kids. Peace is attainable if we fully engage in the task at hand and look for joy in the process.

– Jillian, Jillian Jones Music

 

Without a clearly defined schedule, it’s easy to lose yourself in work and totally miss out on family time. After all, isn’t the ability to be more present with our loved ones a big reason many of us work from home? Mark your off times in a calendaring system (I use Acuity Scheduling’s free plan) for your clients, put your hours on your website and in your email signature, and send your clients a note letting them know your hours. Block off personal time and guard it with your life. I promise, this Spring you won’t look back and regret having spent a little less time on your business and a little more with your kids during the holiday season

-Becky, Becky Mollenkamp, LLC

 

Take some time out for you. It sounds like a near impossible task with everything going on during the holidays, with work, the kids, and holiday commitments. Find some time to allow yourself to check out from your business, even if for a night after the kiddos are in bed, to Netflix binge, take a relaxing bubble bath, or enjoy a glass of wine to let your mind take a holiday, too!

-Britt, Home Sweet Hyatt

 

And finally, don’t forget what the season is really about….

 

The key to thriving in the holiday season is maintaining a place of rest and refreshment in your home for you and your family. Simply put, it’s about less stuff. In our culture we live and breathe a constant flash of discounts, sales, and good deals. And because of that, our homes can easily be filled with all of those things. Keep the season focused on enjoying your loved ones and experiencing life with them, let the new year ring in with memories, not overload of things that were accumulated through the month of December.

-Amy, Simplified Home

 

I think the holiday season is all about giving grace and savoring the moments.  As working moms we need to really allow ourselves the opportunity to fully enjoy those memories we’re creating with loved ones, but it’s also a lucrative time for many of us professionally.  Doing our best with what is truly important and forgetting the rest {for me it’s Christmas cards this year} is what makes thriving this season possible.

-Gwen, The Makerista

 

The holidays are all about spending time with loved ones and making good memories. My tip for working mamas is to plan what you can & let go of the rest. Plan/schedule out your work times and your fun times – be realistic knowing that you will want to let your hair down a bit in this season. Also, know that not everything will go according to plan, and that’s okay too.

-Veronica, Radiant Life Consulting

 

 


What tips would you add to the list to up your efficiency while working from home during the holidays? Share them in the comments!