Business, Time Management

Working in the Margins

I know that many of you out there are working in the margins.

What exactly does that mean? It means that you have another job (or two) that take up the bulk of your time. Or that you’re a stay at home parent squeezing your business in around the rhythms of your family life.

It means sometimes (if you’re like me) you have a hard time getting to everything. Sometimes the laundry gets left, sometimes the dishes aren’t washed. At my house most of the time the toys have exploded across the living room. Sometimes the work of pushing your business forward has to be set aside for a little while.

Working in the margins can be hard because it means you’re getting up at the crack of ridiculous to get it in (hello 4:30 anyone?) or staying up really late. It can mean that sometimes you’re too tired, or life gets too busy to allow you to do that.

It can also mean that when other work or family gets really busy your business gets left behind for a little while. This is what I find really hard. I get frustrated when I feel like I’m not making forward progress or checking enough things off my list. If I leave it too long it becomes unmotivating for me because it feels like I’m not going to reach my goals.

I am coming out of a season of busyness right now. I also work as a Figure Skating coach and homeschool my oldest daughter. May/June is year end season. Our skating season ends this week, and over the last month the wrap up has brought AGM’s, awards banquets, competitions, community events, and year end parties.

I also tend to wrap up our homeschool year around June 1 (good weather is just WAY more exciting than third grade math). So along comes, sports days, co-op wrap up, year end projects (YAY), and you guessed it – year end parties.

These things mean that I’m running full speed ahead ALL the time trying to be prepared and organized for the things that are happening in font of me. They’ve also meant that in the last month I’ve done very little here. It’s frustrating. But it’s also OK.

When I stop to take a deep breath and look at all the things that fill my life they’re all good things! They’re all things I find fulfilling and am excited about.

This business is also something I REALLY enjoy. As long as I’m not dropping the ball on any clients (I’m not) then it’s OK for me to pull back a little when the other areas of my life are busy. Isn’t that the whole point of pursuing something you enjoy in the margins of your life? I think so. The point is to have it fit you!

I have created this business to allow me to contribute financially to our family’s income. I built this to allow me to work with my family around and without putting my kids in daycare – cause I want to be home for them as much as I can. So, when things get busy here I need to plan for that and relax. Rather than let it frustrate me I need to take a deep breath and let go. If I work one or two mornings a week right now instead of 5 thats ok. Next week skating is over and school is done. All of a sudden I have time where I didn’t before.

What I’ve come to realize is that working in the margins means that when life gets busy, sometimes I have to leave things in my business to rest for a little while. BUT when the rhythms of our family life slow down then I have time where I didn’t before and I can pick up things in my business that I wouldn’t otherwise get to.

So, how about you? How do you handle your business when life gets busy? I would love to hear how you find balance!

Business, Resources

My Site is Complete, Now What?

Ok you have this awesome new site, you’re totally excited and ready for the next step, but now what?

Here are a few things you need to know about keeping your site in tip top form:

Run Updates!

Yup, just like phones, tablets, computers and most other technology that you use in your daily lives your site requires updates. 

WordPress will let you know that your site needs updates on the front page of your Dashboard, and in the menu. You’ll see a little red circle with a number in it indicating how many updates need to be run. Click on the item and RUN THE UPDATES. 

This means you’ll have to log-in regularly and check this out, but seriously it’s a pretty minor task and it goes a long way in protecting your site from security compromises! 

Set it as a weekly reminder in your calendar. If you do nothing else, log in once a week and run the recommended updates.

Use Tutorials

There are many WordPress tutorials available out there that will help you to learn how to use and maintain your new site. Look them up and take sometime to watch and learn so that you can maximize what your site does for you and your business!

I like to use WP101. They are a subscription based service and have a great plugin that can be installed on your site for you. Once you’ve installed it you’ll find it at the bottom of the menu on the left side of your dashboard. WATCH THE VIDEO’S!

If you’re not sure of how to do something or you just want to learn how to use your fancy new site check out those tutorials, there’s loads of information there that should help you to become a whiz at taking care of your site!

Enter new blog content

You may not feel like this is that important, but entering new blog content regularly establishes your authority on the subject. In simple terms it helps your potential clients to know that you know what you’re talking about. 

This doesn’t have to be anything too laborious, just decide what regular is for you – daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly you get my point – and follow through.  

WordPress has this awesome feature on their posts that allows you to SCHEDULE posts, so this means you can input and format a few posts at a time. Then you can schedule them to come out at your convenience. It really is that simple. 

If your posts are really long (like 1500+words) then it will be much quicker to write and edit them in some kind of word document and then copy and paste them in once done. Add any links necessary links then. The post generator seems to get bogged down and slow once your post exceeds a certain size!

On a side note here,  Yoast SEO is a great plugin to use to help make your posts both more searchable by search engines (easier to find) and more readable for your audience. There’s a window at the bottom of your posts that shows how your SEO is rating. It’s like a stop light, green, amber, red. If you follow their suggestions to the best of your ability and try to get those lights to be green or amber then not only will you be offering great content to your readers BUT you’ll be making it really easy for them to read too. It can’t get much easier than that!

Maintain your Hosting & Domain

When you purchased your hosting and domain you likely set it up for a certain period of time. Mark that timeline in your calendar and remember to renew BEFORE it expires! 

Your host and domain will likely send you a reminder but I recommend setting this up as a calendar reminder just incase you miss the notification. You don’t want to leave this to the eleventh hour and have it expire.

Seriously, just do it.

Keep page content up to date

For the most part you shouldn’t have to change your page content very often, however, if something changes in your business then for the love of Pete please update your page content! 

There’s nothing worse than say visiting a site to check their events and finding the 2014 event schedule. This tells your clients that their business isn’t really that important to you and I don’t think that’s really the message you want to send. 

WordPress makes on the fly updates SO simple. It’s usually a matter of finding the page that you need to update and changing the content in the editor then clicking update. 

Set Secure Passwords

If you’ve used simple passwords (like password123) to make it easy for your developer to access your site/hosting/email/domian etc. then now’s the time to change it. 

Protect your investment from potential security compromises and set secure passwords!  This means they should contain a combination of 8 or more characters, numbers, and symbols and in a variety of caps and lower case letters. 

If you’re worried you won’t be able to remember these secure passwords then find a good password manager to help you. I personally use 1password, I also know that LastPass is a good one. With one master password to access your vault you can then easily keep track of ALL of your password needs (even that crazy banking password that you’ve probably written down somewhere so that you don’t forget). 

Contact Me

If you’re having trouble with any of this contact me! I’m here and happy to help either resolve the problem or point you in the right direction to get it solved.

Time Management

Creative Ways to Prioritize your Time

Time. It’s hard. There never seems to be enough.

Between skating, and dance, gymnastics, soccer, school, leadership, board meetings, etc. Time can be hard. Especially time for yourself to do something that you enjoy.

I’m going to share a few ways that I’ve managed to re-prioritze my time and use it more efficiently so that I can accomplish my goals.

Get up early

Yup.

Not a morning person?

No, me neither.

We joke around here that I can’t make the coffee because I haven’t had the coffee. My biggest kitchen failures have centred around my attempts to make coffee in the morning. BUT getting up early is the best thing I’ve done. I’m not talking 6:00 early – my kids are up by then most days anyway, I’m talking 4:30. Yes you read that right 4:30 am.

By getting up early I get to have my coffee (prepped the night before due to the aforementioned morning coffee foibles) and my breakfast in peace. I get some morning quiet time, and about an hour of productive work time to work on my business. All you Mom’s out there know that our Mom Super Powers come out with alone time and an hour alone can be just as effective as a whole day surrounded by kids.

The added bonus is that I get to shower and by the time my kids are up I’m actually awake and ready to be nice to my three little birdies chirping around the table for their breakfast and morning snuggles. It’s a good thing.

Try it you’ll like it!

Keep a List

I don’t know about you but if I get up aimlessly and have no list or plan then nothing gets done. Plus I find it super motivating to check things off that list so I make a list.

It’s way easier to get up early and work on a project when your tasks are already laid out for you, so make a list. Keep it wherever you will actually look at it and find it most helpful – for me this is in a planner with a page per day.  I tend to use each page for my daily list as opposed to as a schedule (I have multiple other calendars for the nuts and bolts of our daily schedule).

I make my list for the next day at the end of every day. When I get up in the morning my planner is the first thing I look at and I can then prioritize my tasks based on the energy/time I have at the moment.

Cut back on Social Media

GASP I said it! But seriously we all know that social media can be a huge time suck! It’s easy to sit down to check the kids school pages for updates an find yourself still sitting an hour later not yet having checked for the updates you logged in for. I read a book in two days by simply cutting back my social media time. Like an actual book, no pictures, more than 100 pages and a font size of less than 20.

I still have a nursing toddler, so I was finding that I would sit down to nurse her and log in to Facebook. Nursing her can take up a significant amount of time in my day. That’s a lot of time spent on Facebook when I could be enjoying my little one who will soon not need me in that way, and/or reading something a lot more productive. Even if it is picture books with big font to her! Much better bonding. (Im not perfect I still do the FB thing once a day but I’ve been trying to be mindful of cutting it way back).

Find creative childcare

As I’ve been working more on growing my business I’ve been finding that I need more time to do so, but I’m still not in the position where I could hire someone on a regular basis. That’s also not really my goal, I want to keep my kids out of daycare as much as possible, but realistically sometimes you need a block of time that’s more than an hour long and not just in the margin times of your day, so find creative childcare.

In my case I have a friend who is also a homeschool mom with three kids. She also happens to be working on a masters degree at the moment. So I proposed a “book club” that we alternate hosting every other week so we each get a couple extra hours to get some things done. It’s AWESOME! It’s a win-win all the way around. Our kids LOVE each other and get to see their friends, plus they still get their school work done – and in a different environment than normal. The burden of planning and getting the school work done is removed for a morning, AND Mom gets some productive time alone without getting up super early.  THIS idea was gold. It was suggested in the Business Boutique community forum when I asked how other business moms were making headway. SMART SMART women there!

TURN OFF THE TV

There you go, I said it. Turn. Off. the TV.

It’s SO easy to get sucked into zoning out and watching show after show after show in the evening. I get it, you’re tired, you just want to relax and do something mindless, but do you REALLY feel relaxed and ready for bed after you’ve watched a whole bunch of TV? I know I don’t. AND in this age of Netflix and Prime TV its so easy to binge watch something and look up to realize that it’s super late and you’ve just robbed yourself from a decent sleep and your early morning wake up time.

Years ago we created a no-TV on weeknights rule at our house. We only allowed ourselves to watch movies or shows on the weekend. Everyone in our house follows this rule, adult, kids, pets and dust bunnies.

Instead my hubby and I read, pursue hobbies (I like to sew, he does a lot of drawing right now) and generally spend that time actually connecting with each other and doing things that we really enjoy. When we first implemented this rule many years ago our business almost doubled in size in the first six months. Now we find that we go for weeks at a time without turning the TV on for the adults in the house.

There are just so many other things we’d prefer to do!

Plan Tasks Appropriately

If you’re like me you probably find that you’re pretty much done by the time the kids go to bed, so don’t plan hard tasks for the evening time. I try to make sure that I have things I really enjoy on the list for my evening hours cause then I’m more likely to actually do them and I have the added bonus of feeling like I got some “me” time.

Make sure that you know what your most effective blocks of time are in the day (this may take some learning on your part) and plan your tasks accordingly. Do the high brain power tasks at a time of day that you actually have high brain power. Put your most favourite tasks in parts of the day that you often find unproductive – you’re more likely to be productive if you’re doing something you like! Don’t forget, plan to have some down time! YES you need it!

If you have a time block in your day that is just consistently unproductive because you’re tired, or your kids are tired/cranky, hungry, whatever then embrace it. Give yourself some grace and just accept that time block as an unproductive time of day.

Exercise

I know, Exercise, funny thing to add into a post about how to prioritize your time, but seriously do it. You will have more energy to accomplish your tasks and follow through with your proposed schedule if you exercise. Your body will thank you for it because you will feel more awake (so don’t so this at 9pm cause you’ll have a hard time sleeping!) and you’ll be healthier and more energized!

Now I’ve shared my time management tips, how about you share yours!  If you found something to be really helpful in your time management and productivity then post in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Time Management

How do I “Make Time”

Ok, so you’re hang’n around and you have this AWESOME business idea and you REALLY want to put it into action, but you don’t know how you’re going to “make” time for it.

Let me tell you I understand!

For years I have wanted to do “something” but I haven’t necessarily been sure of what. I’ve tried numerous things here and there between pregnancies and babies.Ultimately none of them were important enough for me to squeeze them in and eventually they fell to the wayside.

Until Now.

Over the last few months I’ve managed to “make time” for a couple things that are really important to me. Now when I say “make time” I really mean that I have had to re-prioritize my time, cause really when you think about it I can’t wave a magic wand and create more time. If I want to do something and it’s important enough to me then I have to prioritize my time to fit it in.

The crazy thing is that I have, and I’m happier for it, and you can too!

We all lead busy lives these days. Truthfully the expected level of busyness that seems to normal in our culture makes me insane. It’s no wonder people burn out (I’ll save my rant about busyness for another post).

Part of my journey to prioritizing my time better is learning not to give in to the narrative of “I can’t, I’m too busy.” It would be easy to do. I find it way easier to say yes to everyone else and then say no to myself and my own desires. As a Mom that seems to be the expectation. I have had to make a concerted effort not to allow myself to live in the ongoing narrative of “I’m just so busy.” I have had to work hard at accepting that life is busy when you have three little kids (or two, or seven, or one, or none).

When I accept this then I can then focus on keeping myself healthy and engaged. I can prioritize the daily tasks and requirements without feeling overwhelmed and in a much more peaceful and stress free manner.  It also frees up the energy for me to prioritize myself!

Prioritize Myself!

Ok, I  said it. I have to prioritize myself. GASP! I know all you Mom’s out there who are feeling lost in the middle of your crazy family lives just sat down and poured yourselves another cup of coffee so that you could really take that one in.

Running this business, and pursuing coaching figure skating required me prioritizing myself.

I’m a pleaser by nature, and tend to put everyone else first at the expense of my own needs. In someways that’s the normal expectation of Moms in our culture, but it’s not healthy, and it needs to change.

A year ago I found myself with a young infant and two small kids. I was LOST. I had no idea who I was, what I wanted, or how I’d come to this place.

I felt like a drudge.

Every hour of my day and many hours of my nights were spent meeting the needs of these three precious little people. I love them dearly, but I didn’t feel like a person anymore. I woke up every morning not sure of how I was going to make it through the day (prayer and the Grace of God got me through!). I think this is a sad but very true reflection of motherhood in our culture right now, and it’s not right.

Thankfully I have an awesome man, and he saw (and had been seeing) trouble on the horizon. He knows me, and he knew this wasn’t sustainable. He recognized my need to prioritize me and to do some things that I enjoy, that make me feel real. Things that enable me to carry on a conversation about something other than my kids – yes there is MORE to talk about!

So we started this journey of me finding something that makes me tick. The most natural thing was for me to go back to skating. It was the love of my youth, and I have missed skating from the day I stepped off the ice and went to college. That said, he still had to practically PUSH me out the door to go to my first coaching course, but he got me there, and it was gold. I felt real again. I felt fire in my life. I felt that passion reignite in my soul. AND most importantly I felt confident in myself! Like I mattered. Like I have something valuable to offer other than grilled cheese sandwiches and yogurt for lunch!

As I’ve continued to pursue coaching, and now web I’ve had to re-prioritize my time.

This doesn’t mean that I waved a wand and created more hours in my week.

Find Creative Solutions

I have had to find creative solutions to using my time more effectively in order to accomplish my goals. It means early mornings (I’ve been sitting at our kitchen table now since 4:30am, and it’s 6am). It means not zoning out on social media and instead reading books that will push my knowledge forward. It means responding to emails while I nurse the baby or sit on the couch under a sleeping child. (But still also taking time to enjoy the snuggles cause they’re only little once!). It means finding creative childcare and homeschool options for my three kids. It means spending my evenings doing something more productive than watching TV.

The thing is, it’s CRAZY how much time you really have if you start to prioritize and use it effectively. I’m amazed at how much I manage to get done when I make a list and follow the schedule that I’ve laid out for myself (to the best of my ability, cause 3 kids).

How about you? Is there an idea that’s been sitting in the back of your mind waiting to be hatched when you “make time.” I challenge you to do it now. Prioritize it. Bring it to the forefront, hatch it. Get it off the ground. You’ll be happier for it!

Business

Every Business Needs a Website

Yup, you read that right EVERY business NEEDS a website.

Why?

What’s the first thing you do when you find a new awesome product that you LOVE? I know what I do, I bring it home and I search it online. Uh huh, it’s true.

I want to know where I can get more of this awesome product and what other great products this business has to offer.

This is ESPECIALLY true when I buy an awesome handmade product from a Boutique style business that I love.

You know who you are. You’re the Mom that’s making soap on the side, or sewing fabulous handmade clothing.

You’re the photographer that’s taking amazing lifestyle shots of families (and weddings and newborns eek!).

You’re the couple that’s refurbishing old furniture and giving it a new and awesome lease on life.

You’re the person that makes great tasting Gluten Free cupcakes that I can order for my kids’ birthday party.

You’re one of the MANY small business owners that’s running a Boutique business on the side, and YOU need a website.

I know I know, Social Media is SO much easier. But, is it really?

When you use Social Media for EVERYTHING you do you’re at the mercy of the platform as to what gets posted in everyone’s feeds, so if they change their algorithms then your posts may not show in your clients feeds.

When you use Social Media platforms for EVERYTHING that awesome post you made detailing all the markets that you’re attending this season gets lost in the feed and your client has to scroll though it all to find it. Or just as bad, even as a sticky post it gets hidden at the top and is only revealed when your client clicks on it (I don’t know about you but I miss those sticky posts ALL the time!)

When you use Social Media platforms for EVERYTHING you run the risk that your page gets shut down if (heaven forbid) someone files a complaint against your business. Then all the content that you’ve spent so much time entering is lost – like gone forever, and they won’t necessarily give you a valid reason as to why. You may never be able to track a real person down to talk to so that you can get back online.

When clients search your business online they don’t want to have to log into a Social Media platform to find you. They want to find a site that tells them who you are, what you’re doing, and where else they can find you and your great products. Whether that’s a brick and mortar store (or garage cause I know that’s how many of you roll in this space), or a list of markets and fairs that you’re attending they want to find that info by simply clicking a page on your site, not by having to scroll through your Social Media feed to see if you’ve posted it anywhere.

Now don’t get me wrong, Social Media has it’s purpose in small businesses. Once people have fallen in love with your product and checked out your site, if you have a link to a Social Media page they’re going to click that link and follow your page to see what’s happening in the day to day runnings of your business but please, do them a favour and  have an easy to find site where your information is at their finger tips! If that’s directing clients back to a Social Media platform for the most up to date information then that’s great, they’ll be happy to check there, but your clients need to be able to find you online too!

If this sounds like you, and you’re ready to set your business up with a legit website then click over to my contact page and give me a shout. I’m one of you, I understand your needs, and I want to help.

Business

Starting a Business is Awkward

Ok, I’m just going to say this outloud. Starting a business is awkward, or it can be.

I would say that I am generally a pretty private person. Not a put yourself out there kinda gal. I like to keep to myself. I like to fully form and successfully launch my idea before I make it known to the world.

When you start a new business to get it up off the ground you can’t do that.

If I waited until I had fully launched and formed my idea to make it known to the world it would go nowhere. I have to let people know what I’m doing to get any kind of momentum. Sometimes I find that uncomfortable.

In the last week I’ve reached out to a few select family and friends that I think would be interested in either having a site built by me, or that I feel are well connected in the market that I’m trying to enter and would be willing to share my name to help me gain some business. I HATE doing stuff like that. To me it feels awkward.

But here’s the thing. If any of my friends or acquaintances started new businesses (or are currently running a business and are trying to do some ground level marketing) and reached out to me in that way I would be on board and trying to help them grow their business. I’d be all over it because I want to support my friends in doing what they love and help them to follow their dreams and passions to the extent that I’m able.

We have close friends who are Physiotherapists. Anytime someone we know mentions that they are looking for physio we ALWAYS recommend our friends. I’ve gone so far as looking up their office number and sending the link, or even connecting the two people (when appropriate obviously) so that the person seeking the physio is more likely to hire my friend. Why? Because I think they’re awesome and want them to be successful.

So if this is my natural and immediate reaction to supporting my friends businesses why would I think that their reaction to supporting mine would be any different? Truth. It wouldn’t. They’ll be ecstatic to pass my name along or happy to hire me and have me build their sites where appropriate, because they like me, and they want to see me thrive.

Now, I’m not saying go forth and harass all your friends into advertising your business, but I am saying that sometimes we need to suck up our pride and make a tactful ask. Put yourself out there. Those people like you for a reason and what you’re asking is nothing more than you would happily do for them.

Resources

Awesome Podcasts

I’ve been a LOOOOOOONG time listener to podcasts of all types. I think like most people if you look at my downloads list you’ll get a pretty good idea of where my interests lie.

The thing I LOVE about podcasts is that they’re easy to consume – meaning when I’m washing dishes, or driving, folding laundry, walking the dog, or out for a run, I can listen away. Sometimes I listen to two or three in a session. They pack a great punch and make some otherwise mundane chores a lot more enjoyable. (Plus I find that I can run FOREVER if my mind is engaged.)

In the last year or so I’ve come across a few business podcasts hosted by women who have really hit it out of the park.  I find their podcasts SO interesting, and inspiring. I’m not sure I’d be here doing what I’m doing, both online and at in the ice rink if it weren’t for these podcasts that have continued to inspire me to look beyond whats right in front of me. SO without much further ado here are the podcasts that I’ve been finding most inspiring lately:

Christy Wright’s Business Boutique podcast – I’ve listened to a lot of Ramsey Solutions podcasts over the years, but this one is just SO inspiring. Christy interviews so many interesting business people and speaks directly to the Work At Home Mom that’s mixing business and family

Ali Brown Glambition Radio – it was in fact one of these podcasts that inspired me to learn to code (episode 130 with Adda Birnir from Skillcrush). Ali interviews amazing female entrepreneurs who’ve totally crushed it. She’s completely down to earth and gets right into the nuts and bolts of running a successful business.

Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne – Beth Anne is a fun bubbly podcast host who interviews women that are running Boutique style businesses. These are people that are there, in the trenches, balancing business and family, for the most part the women she interviews are running their businesses on the side while staying home as a full time parent.

There are SO many more great podcasts out there – I have about 10 more business and leadership related podcasts in my feed as I type this out, but these three are the three that have had the most direct influence on me having the boldness to pursue my dreams.

Business

New Beginnings

Welcome here, I’m so glad you’ve stopped by. Let me tell you a little bit more about myself.

I’ve been a stay at home Mom for about 5 years now. Over that time I’ve dabbled in a few different things but not found a great solution that I loved for creating income.

I’ve finally stepped out of my fear (thanks to the encouragement of my amazing husband) and found a couple things that I really LOVE and I am SO glad that he pushed me to pursue my interests. (Both literally and figuratively!)

I like many of you want to be able to contribute to our family’s income without sacrificing the time I get to spend with my little ones – because really they’re only little once and this time is precious.

So here I am, developing sites for other likeminded individuals who are also running small businesses between family activities and in the mess of family life – cause it can be messy!