When my business partner and I founded Ink & Well, our number one goal was creating something that allowed life and family to come first while work came in second. As new moms, it was important for us to find ways to produce stellar results for our clients while still maintaining a daily, predictable presence in our children’s lives. Babies crying in the background of conference calls and Cheerios in purses seemed inevitable, but we knew balance had to be attainable. It would just take a little finagling.
Knowing how to use your life as a framework to build a business around is tough, especially because there’s really no right answer.
Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll wonder what exactly to prioritize and whether you’re devoting the right amount of attention to the most important things. What’s vital to this process is taking a hard look at your life and isolating your personal priorities as you start to lay the foundation of your business.
- Figure out how much money you need to be making at minimum. Take a close look at your finances and decide what amount you need to make to survive. Then, decide if there is an ideal amount you’d like to make. Maybe you want to add a little padding so you can afford to shop for clothes or maybe you want to add a lot of padding so you can travel. Crunch the numbers and be honest with yourself. This number will help you figure out what your time needs to be worth to make the puzzle pieces fit.
- Make a list of your priorities and look at them critically. Building your business around your child’s activities or reaching your own personal goals is great, but you have to be realistic about the time it’ll take to launch and run your business. Is it as important to you that you squeeze in time for a manicure every week or can you save that for the weekend and take an extra client meeting or project? Decide which priorities need to be considered when you shape your day-to-day and cross anything off the list that isn’t a major priority. Remember, life will be fluid, so there will still be time for those little luxuries here and there during the workweek even if you don’t plan your business around them.
- As you start to plan what your workdays and workweeks will look like, shape things around the major priorities you’ve identified. The first thing I did when I started dreaming about owning a business was to envision my perfect day. I pictured myself waking up without an alarm clock, stretching, going for a run then settling down in front of my computer. I pictured playing with my daughter and taking breaks for walks in the park. Because I had this vision in mind, planning my day-to-day became simple. I don’t take calls or meetings before 10AM unless I absolutely have to. I typically leave my phone and computer behind to fully engage with my daughter when it’s playtime, and I stop working when I’m finished. What does your perfect day look like and how do your priorities factor in? Do you bike in the morning, run, or read a book? Do you break for some yoga or for lunch with friends? These are all things to consider when you start to roll out your plans.
- Know when to say “no.” That tiny little word is so hard to say when every dollar counts, but some opportunities will not allow you to continue living the life you want to live while running your business. If a potential client seems hard, unbending, and like he or she doesn’t understand your unique schedule, the partnership may be one you need to consider turning down.
- Draw a line between your personal life and your business, but know that line will be blurry. When your home is your office and your office is your home, how can you not feel like you live in a gray area? It takes a lot of effort to make sure you’re not working all the time. I’ve been known to respond to emails while cooking, running, or “taking time for myself.” It’s okay to let your business and your life become one, but know when it’s time to draw the line and be present.
Regardless of the challenges inherent in starting and running a business that is shaped around your ideal life, I’d recommend it to anyone. The freedom to live in the moment and nurture myself personally and professionally has undeniably changed who I am. I’m a better wife, a better mom, a better friend, and a better person. I’d say that’s worth all the finagling in the world.
Photos by Kimberly Jurgens