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!

How to build confidence as a working mom

Last weekend my family went to San Antonio. My husband had to go for work, so we all decided to pile in the car and tag along.

The trip itself could be several blog posts, covering everything from how to survive in a theme park by yourself with 3 kids {what was I thinking?} to what to pack for a road trip.

But one thing that stood out to me during this whirlwind vacation was how much I’ve changed over the last few years.

When I first became a mom, I was terrified to nurse in public. I was one of the lucky ones who never struggled with breastfeeding. Yet, whenever I left the house I would typically excuse myself to go somewhere private to nurse. Because of my insecurity, I fed my baby anywhere from a parked car to a public restroom and many places in between.

By the time number two came along, my confidence improved. While I still preferred privacy, if I absolutely had to I would get out a cover and work through it with a wiggling baby.

Fast forward to baby number three, and I’m nursing on the park bench at Sea World San Antonio without thinking twice.

So what’s changed? Well for one thing, I’ve learned how to build confidence as a working mom.

I have also decided not to let what other people think affect my choices.

We were on the go all weekend, and while I still prefer to be modest, and use a cover {when she’ll let me} I feed her wherever and whenever it’s time. I no longer let the potential discomfort of onlookers get in the way of me feeding my child.

The truth is, most of them could probably care less what I’m doing or how I’m doing it anyway. I have no doubt that much of my insecurity was just that – mine!

Sure, there’s always going to be a critic, but I’ve grown to realize they are the exception and not the rule. And I’m definitely not going to let these guys get in the way of me feeding my baby… or anything else for that matter.

As a blogger, many of the same insecurities pop up. Will anyone care what I have to say? What will people think? Will they disapprove? Or will I be accepted?

These are the mental roadblocks we will all encounter at some point in our lives. It’s up to us to decide if we will drive through them, or turn back.

Would you make the same choices if no one else was around to judge you?

In other words, how much are you allowing what other people think about you impact your life as a working mom?

Now, I’m not saying that our choices don’t affect other people. In fact, I actually think it is important to consider other people in our decision making. But when it comes down to it, no one knows what’s best for you than YOU!

Maybe you’re considering heading back to work after staying home with your kiddos, and you’re worried you’ll get criticized for putting them in childcare.

Perhaps you have a fabulous new job opportunity, but you feel nervous to tell your current boss whom you love.

Whatever the situation, here’s how you to get what you want and build confidence as a working mom.

Stop trying to please others.

You really want to start working from home to ditch the long commute, but you can’t stop thinking about what your co-workers will think about the arrangement. It’s human nature to care what others think about us, but it also holds us back, which isn’t great for our happiness. {Or in my case, the happiness of my hungry baby!} It’s likely that you’re overestimating how much they’ll actually care in the first place. But if they really are upset, you can address their concerns by clarifying the details around your new flex position or encouraging them to request the same. In the end, however, we have to let go of the expectation that we can make everyone happy.

Take control of your life.

It’s time to get into the driver seat, mama. Just as much as you cannot control what other people think, you cannot expect great things to happen in your life if you aren’t willing to go after them. Do you think you deserve a raise, but aren’t sure if your company will go for it? You need to do your research, build your argument and get your tush into your boss’s office ASAP. Start by identifying what it is you want and the first step towards making it a reality. You’ll improve your confidence by being assertive and following through. Plus, that confidence and prepared argument may be just the thing that gets your boss to say yes!

Celebrate your accomplishments with others.

Women in particular tend to have a difficult time celebrating our wins. No one wants to be labeled a bragger… Well, toot toot! While not everyone will be happy for you, you cannot reach big goals without celebrating small wins. By celebrating your accomplishments with a support system that wants you to succeed, you gain momentum and positive energy to tackle whatever’s next for you. Be sure to return the favor to your friends who are killin’ it, and watch your confidence soar!

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!

How working moms find childcare that works for them

This week will be my kids’ last day of preschool.

Of course, Henry will return this fall, probably with his baby sister Audrey in tow. Daphne will head off to Kindergarten.

For the first time in their lives, they will be home for summer.

find childcare

The funny thing is, neither of them are exactly sure what this means. They don’t understand what taking a break from school is, because they’ve been in childcare for as long as they can remember.

As a working mom, I’ve always had to drop my kids off in someone else’s care so that I could go to work. Even when I made the decision to go out on my own a few years ago, I still relied on part time care in order to build my business with some kid-free time.

Since we’re counting down the months until Daphne starts “real deal” school, I thought it was about time my kids experienced a “real deal” summer. I want their skin to wrinkle from so much pool time. For them to lose track of what day of the week it is. And to {hopefully} sleep in, wear pajamas at lunchtime, and feel what it’s like to be bored from time to time.

That’s not to say that I won’t still need help.

This summer, we’ve hired a nanny who will come over every day so that I can keep consistent office hours. I’m thankful that we found a sweet college girl who can offer my kids a fun summer, while allowing me to get my work done and spend more time with them. After all, that with my motivation for working from home in the first place!

Over the years we’ve used daycare centers, in-home care, traditional preschools, grandparents, and now a nanny. Each of them have had their benefits and challenges, ranging from affordability, stimulation and personal attention. I’ve learned that childcare is hardly one size fits all!

Finding help with my first was one of the most stressful parenting decisions I’ve ever had to make. But over the years, I’ve uncovered several resources and tips that make choosing a childcare solution much simpler.

I’m going to share some of my best ideas on how to find childcare that works for you now.

The hybrid

When you begin your childcare search, you may think that a Monday through Friday option is the only way to go. But when we first had Daphne, we were super fortunate to find some part time care at an in-home facility that we loved.

To fill some of the gaps in our full-time work schedules, we had help from family, which was wonderful. My mom watched both Daphne and Henry at least one day a week for the first several years of their lives. Not only were we able to save a little bit of money by relying on family, but the bonding that my mom was able to do with her grandchildren was invaluable to them all!

This left us with one additional day to find help. I turned to care.com where I was able to research people online, look at their references, and narrow down the search pool. I got several candidates on the phone and luckily we found someone that we felt like would be a wonderful fit for our family.

By using a variety of resources to meet our childcare needs, we could save money, spend additional time with family, and know our children were in trusted hands getting one on one attention. It did take extra attention to detail to remember the different daily routines.

Ask for exactly what you want

We’re living in the age of influence marketing, and what better way to review testimonials than from other moms we know and trust!

I found my kids’ latest preschool from word of mouth. After touring, I felt like it would become a good fit for our children. I told them that full time care Monday through Friday was simply too much for us. By telling them what would work for us, we were able to negotiate a schedule that met our needs.

If you don’t have anyone to ask in person, there’s tremendous support to be found in local Facebook groups. When we moved to Texas, I immediately joined several neighborhood Facebook groups so that I could ask for recommendations on everything from pediatricians to repair man to things to do when it’s raining. If you aren’t already a part of some, try searching for the name of your neighborhood or city in the search bar and set the results to groups only.

When we decided to pull our kids out of preschool for the summer, this was just where I turned to find our summer nanny. In a local Facebook group, I posted an “ad” for exactly what our family was looking for – I listed our pay range, the hours needed, and even described our family and what I’d like the nanny to be doing with my kids this summer. In a matter of hours I had over a dozen people interested. I was able to narrow the inquiries by requesting that they follow up with resumes and referrals to my email. From there I interviewed a handful in person until we found the best fit for our family.

By setting the expectations up front, I only interacted with serious candidates who were willing to go above and beyond our family’s needs for a predetermined pay. While we are shelling out a little more cash per hour, I no longer have to worry about getting my kids ready for school or preparing meals in the morning. Plus, I know they’re having a blast doing fun activities planned just for them!

Think outside the childcare center

One of the things that was frustrating for me when we switched to a more traditional childcare facility was the lack of flexibility. I had to pay for the full day and the full week regardless of my intent to use this full time. And any working mom knows, childcare is expensive!

If you’re struggling to find exactly what you need from a preschool or daycare, consider setting up a co-op with friends, family or neighbors. This sort of arrangement is perfect for moms who work from home or work part-time. It’s a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” agreement in which both moms take turns watching each others’ kids while the other one works.

No matter what route you go with your childcare needs, it’s important to remember two things: trust your gut, and you can always change your situation.

Finally, try to remember that your child will be just fine. This is probably the hardest one to get over as a working mom, but it’s true! You are a fabulous mother and you are doing wonderful things for your family by working.

How did you find childcare that worked for you?

The top 7 apps & websites making a working mom’s life easier

Moms are busy. Really busy.

Add a JOB to the mix and it’s a wonder we get anything accomplished each day. {Ignore that pile of laundry in the corner.}

I’m always looking out for the best resources for working moms that make my life just a little bit easier. That means fewer to-dos, and more time back in my day for the things I really care about.

I’ve rounded up the top seven apps and websites that all working moms need to know about to rock it at work and at home all from your smart phone.

theSkimm

online resources for working moms theskimm

As someone with an interest in current events, but very little time to actually stay current, I rely on theSkimm. Their tagline promises to “make it easier to be smarter” and it does just that. In the time it takes me to nurse Audrey in my bed in the morning, I get briefed – and entertained – on the latest happenings around the globe. If time allows, I can dive in deeper to the news stories via the links theSkimm provides. If I have a hungry toddler begging for breakfast or a pressing work issue, I can come back to it later or wait until the next day.

Target

online resources for working moms target

There’s a reason moms are known for loving Target. Affordable prices, cute items, a Starbucks by the front door? Yes, please. But as much as I love the store, going there with all three kids in tow is pretty stressful. So I’ve turned to the Target & Cartwheel app. After I had Audrey, I was feeling a little down about not fitting in my usual clothes. Using the Target app I was able to skip the store, order a variety of items in a variety of sizes and try them on in my own home. Read: without the unforgiving lighting of a department store dressing room! I scored free shipping, and an easy in-store return that I completed with only one baby and no toddlers {and picked up my latte on the way out}.

Amazon

online resources for working moms amazon

When I went on bedrest with Audrey I knew I was going to need help when it came to errands. It was right before the holidays and I needed to do all of the Christmas shopping for our family. I quickly turned to online shopping and fell in love with the convenience of Amazon Prime. I was officially converted into an online shopper.  The real game changer was when my husband gave me the Amazon Echo Dot a few months later. This product tells me the weather so I don’t have to track down my phone, confirms my calendar appointments, adds things to my shopping and to-do lists, and even orders stuff through my Amazon Prime account all with simple voice commands. Plus, Daphne has learned how to ask for some pretty fun family dance parties. “Alexa, play the Trolls soundtrack…”

InstaCart

online resources for working moms instacart

The other thing I had to figure out while I was on bedrest was the groceries. Luckily, I found the InstaCart app. It’s like the Uber of groceries. Pick your local store, select your food items, and schedule a delivery time that works for you. The app even has great features that allows messaging back and forth, like if you have really picky eaters who only eat a certain ripeness of banana {Henry}, or if the store is out of an item. It’s so simple and convenient, that I was able to order groceries for my family while still in the hospital after giving birth. Someone took care of the shopping, and delivered the groceries my husband at home with our older two.

76th & Newbury

We didn’t find out the gender with our last baby, which made setting up a nursery a bit of a challenge. I knew our new bundle would be in our room for the first few months, so I didn’t worry…until she was born! I realized I was crazy to think I would be able to go out and shop for her room with three kids. And I was already feeling badly that she didn’t have a beautiful room to come home to like the others did. Luckily, 76th & Newbury provides completely custom artwork for the home without leaving the house. I was able to create prints just for Audrey that matched her bedding perfectly. I was super impressed with their customer service. Through my many rounds of edits to make sure it was just right, they always made me feel like the project wasn’t done until I was completely happy.

Poshmark

online resources for working moms poshmark

My husband discovered this app after cleaning out his closet and uncovering a bunch of hardly worn clothes and accessories. Poshmark keeps the clutter at bay while earning a few bucks! Since becoming a mom, I’ve always been into shopping at Consignment events like Just Between Friends. But now that I’m on the other side with some of our items, the cleaning, sorting, tagging, dropping off, etc. overwhelms me. In the Poshmark app, you snap a pic from your phone, add a description and price. Once the items sells, you simply print the shipping label and drop it off at a nearby UPS and wait to collect your cash. My husband has sold random things from jerseys to watches, and I’ve already had great luck in the maternity and children’s sections!

Greetabl

Greetabl calls itself “the total gifting experience made easy.” And I’m totally obsessed. I’ve sent it for every reason you can imagine – babies, birthdays, losses, and just because. I love it for those times when a full blown gift may be a little much, but a card doesn’t seem to say quite enough. With each box I’ve sent, I was able to customize with photos and patterns, and add a small gift -such as chocolate or handmade soap – with just a few clicks from my phone. It’s the perfect gesture for letting friends and family know I’m thinking about them even when life gets in the way.

Best Resources for Working Moms

What are your favorite online resources? How do they help you keep your life organized and simplified as a working mom? Tell me in the comments!


The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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?

Get the pedicure

Last weekend was nuts.

I was pumping multiple times a day, working ahead on some projects for the following week, and trying to find clothes that fit my postpartum body to pack for an out of town event.

This work event just happened to be in Destin, Florida, and I desperately needed to get a pedicure for my soon to be exposed toes.

But I had a million other things to do and the thought of leaving my kids alone with my husband for even one extra hour before heading to the beach days later seemed so unreasonable.

This is a situation I’ve found myself in many times before.

I need to do the laundry, take the kids to get a haircut, go to the grocery store, finish client projects, sweep the floors, strategize some upcoming business initiatives, and clean the toilets…

Seriously, who has time to get a pedicure?

That really got me thinking.

I need to do so many things. {At least I think I do.}

But what about what I need?

In this case, a pedicure to bring my feet out of hibernation. But sometimes it’s lunch with a friend, time to exercise or just a quiet moment alone.

Why do we, as mothers, hesitate to do things for ourselves?

Mom guilt.

Surely it would look bad if I went a did something for myself before every tiny thing at home is wrapped up, right? I mean, I’m leaving town for crying out loud.

Except here’s the thing – the long list of to-dos is never really done. And by not taking care of numero uno, we just ware ourselves down with all of the other stuff. Even the flight attendants remind us before take off that we need to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this post from a 3 bedroom penthouse suite at a resort in Destin, Florida.

And I absolutely refuse to feel guilty about it.

Why?

Because it’s great for my personal and professional development.

I have a husband whom I trust completely with our three children.

Everyone will be alive and well when I return home. After a week, they won’t even remember I left in the first place.

And I would have a lot more regrets if I’d chosen not to attend.

So while I acknowledge that mom guilt is definitely a real thing, I’m also declaring it only as powerful as we allow it to be.

So before my trip, I decided to kick mom guilt to the curb in four easy steps.

  1. It’s easier said than done, but stating that you refuse to let guilt take over is the first step. Like most things in life, it’s a choice.
  2. Address why you felt it in the first place. For me, it was the idea of asking my husband to step up one more time right before leaving town.
  3. Find a way around it and make your own reality. I could have filled my day with housework and packing, and then been upset about my ugly feet later. I could have resented my husband for “not letting me go” even though I’d never asked. Instead, I ditched the housework, waited until the older kiddos were napping {aka pretending to sleep while quietly destroying their bedrooms} and took the baby with me to the nail salon.
  4. Give yourself grace. Did I get to every single thing on my list before heading out of town? No. But it’s been a week and I still haven’t. But I did give myself a pat on the back for doing something I normally wouldn’t have done for myself and for feeling really good about it. For the record, my toes look fabulous, the baby slept the entire time we were at the salon, and my husband barely noticed I’d left the house, let alone the remaining chores.

Mom guilt, be gone!

Who’s with me?

Go out and be an awesome mother, wife, colleague and friend. Just please remember to fasten your own oxygen mask first.