This is my first artist interview and I am so thrilled to share it with all of you. Thank you dear Sarah for this opportunity to find out more about you as a mother and an artist….
Hello! I am so excited to posting here! I think the blogging world is the best place for women with small businesses or interested in making a bit of extra money with their hobbies to connect and share ideas, and I am so glad to have the chance to be here! Thanks Vana!
Let me introduce myself a bit first. My name is Sarah Jane and I started an ESTY shop called Sarah Jane Studios just last year selling my original art work and stationery. My style? Vintage charm for the modern nursery. I have loved having the experience I have had on ETSY and have met some wonderful people in the process (like Vana!) who are so talented and have such amazing products and ideas. I also have two children (ages 3 and 2) who I adore entirely and keep me very busy. I keep a blog too, outlining the world where motherhood, illustration and business meet. Life is full!
Having a business and being an artist with small children at home isn’t easy. It keeps me on my toes for sure, and I have had a lot of bruises a long the way. But I have also had an incredible amount of fulfillment as I have learned to actively put my interests to action. I.LOVE.MOTHERHOOD. But I also love sharing my artwork with people all over the world? Is it possible to do both? Yes.
How do you run a business while being a young mother or mother of small children?
I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but this is what I have learned along the way:
1. Have a Family schedule: Children need routine, and though they are the best ones at breaking routines, actually crave structure. My kids are up by 6:30am and in bed by 7pm. Do they stay up sometimes? yes. Have I had to put them back in their beds 4 times as I write this? yes! Do they wake up earlier sometimes? yes. But, this routine is the expectation, and and that allows me to make time to get things done. Right now, both my kids are taking naps, but they are also at the age of NOT wanting to take naps. Their naps however, are also part of a daily routine, so when they won’t sleep, they watch a quiet movie, or read stories. All of this allows me to make better decisions about when I get things done. This allows me to get my work done before they wake up in the morning, after they go to bed, or during nap time.
2. Have a Studio Schedule.
In the beginning I responded to things as they came. I packaged orders everyday, I emailed all day everyday…I was a slave to deadlines and duties. I quickly learned my time would be better spent by setting a schedule for when I got things done. It works great.
This is mine:
Monday: Print off invoices, package orders
Tuesday: Print shipping labels, ship orders
Wednesday: Catchup, order supplies
Thursday: Print of orders, package orders
Friday: Print off labels, ship orders
There is the every day stuff: Make contacts, email, blogging, clean office, misc. stuff…etc. But that is my schedule, and I stick to it.
2. Be flexible. I used to get frustrated that I couldn’t get things done all the time when I needed/wanted to. Kids wouldn’t nap, or my kids would be sick, or I had more work to do than my normal routine allowed. But I soon realized: I am not in a 9-5 job where I get to go to work and come home. I have kids, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So deal with it! Who says you can’t be successful because you don’t have oodles of free minutes and hours to yourself everyday? Being a mother and working from home requires creativity and flexibility. If you can’t except that…think twice before starting a business at home! There will be hiccups! And there are a few ways I have dealt with them.
3) Get help when you need it. Have a neighbor or babysitter you trust to play with your kids every once in a while. I have had MANY nights where I planned on getting work done, but my kids were up in the night, or sick, or whatever. There are millions of things that can get in the way of scheduled work time. And when I need extra time, I know I can call a neighbor who has children at home too and ask to swap kids. She will watch my kids for two hours that morning and I can take hers for the next day. It works out great. I also have a great 13 year old girl (who my kids LOVE) who can come over and play with my kids while I do what ever I need catch up on. I personally don’t have a scheduled nanny or babysitter because I feel like my FIRST responsibility is with my kids. I hold up to that really firmly. And sometimes that is a hard decision to make since I often have more work than I have time for. But by being home with them always, I have found blessings that compensate for getting more work done that particular day. Part of being flexible means that you have to know what your priorities are. Mine are being with my kids. And that means I have to be flexible to make that happen.
4) Be creative with how you use your time. I often get my kids to help me clean the house, or do other chores that require just as much attention as my work. With my artwork and Studio, I need to have complete focus. But with the other demands of my day, I involve my children as much as possible so that they feel that they are with me, and playing at the same time. I have a blog post about this here. But by letting them clean with me and tidy up with me, they are getting my attention and on the flip side, I am allowed to focus primarily on my Studio work when the house is quiet and they are asleep. It works out great.
5) Be realistic. This is probably the hardest for me, and yet the most rewarding. I am better at saying NO now than I was a year ago. I do not believe that to be successful you have to put lots of eggs in every basket possible. I firmly disagree. To be successful, you have to learn how to make really good choices. Step back and think: will taking on this project REALLY be steering me in the direction I want to go, or is the amount of work involved more than the expected outcome? These kinds of questions do take experience. And I have had my fair share of chewing more than I could swallow. But I am learning where to best place my precious time. I am constantly resetting my priorities and making choices about what I can and can’t do DAILY. And that leads me to my next point:
6) TIME IS MONEY: SPEND IT WISELY. You can’t buy whatever you want when you don’t have the cash. So don’t over-commit yourself when you don’t have the time. The best advice ever given to me in this regards was from my Bishop. He said: Wealth isn’t how much money you have, it is how you use it. This applies to your time. It isn’t about how much time you have, it is about how you use it! Once you can convince yourself that success doesn’t take time, it take efficient use of time, you will be soaring. I am still on the road to discovery on this, but so far the concepts I am applying are working. Learn how to say no. Believe that opportunities you would say YES to will come…and work towards those. Don’t waste time dilly-dallying in projects or work that will take you away from your ultimate goals as an artist or business owner.
But how do you get lots of work done in short spurts? I don’t have 5 hours at a time!
7) Set a timer: When you DO have free time, don’t doddle. Get to work. Setting a kitchen timer or a computer timer will keep you from getting distracted with the normal every day things (phone, email, do I really have to mention these? We all know those HOME distractions) Setting a timer will do two things: give you a sense of how long certain projects take so you can plan better for them in the future (How long do I really spend replying to email??) and it will also motivate you to work faster and more efficiently (no…you can’t go stop by that blog for 2 seconds really quick!). Paying attention to how you use your time will free up SO much space for you. Just pay attention.
8) Have a clear and defined workspace. I started my business in a corner of our bedroom. It was all we had, and we made the most of it. I packaged up orders on my bed and on the floor. It was a mess. But I made sure that my corner was MY corner. Nothing else. Define your space. We have slowly given my studio more workspace as I have grown and needed more. But the biggest advice….is have a CLEAN CLEAR workspace. I am not the best example for this, but when my space is clear of distractions, so is my mind.
Ok. So, I realize that organization is huge when having a business at home. But sometimes you just need to CREATE! You can’t set a timer for that!
9) Take everything I just said and throw it out the window: OK. So, if you read GTD or some other Mother’s Guidebook to running a business, you may not see this last point. But I am going to say it. You need to chuck your plans every so often (for me, it is AT LEAST once a week) and just create. For me, I need to draw with no obligation to sell my illustrations. I need to freely create. That can’t be set with a timer, or planned or structured. Sometimes the impulse to create something amazing comes, and I have to suppress it because my life is chaos and I have to attend to deadlines and duties. But when things are generally under control, I let it all go for night or so, and just create. I usually have to work harder then next day or so picking up the pieces. But if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have any artwork to show for it, AND I wouldn’t be a very happy soul. I personally don’t like the business side of things very much. But…I need to earn money, so I do it. But illustrating? I have to or my soul dies. And we all know that creativity lives off flexibility….so I let myself go every so often. I actually draw a lot more than that..I doodle every day. And I often create under very timed circumstances (Like my husband taking the kids to the grocery store for an hour) But we all need to allow ourselves time away from the routine of it all to just CREATE. It will enliven you and remind you why you have your business in the first place. And that takes TIME. So take it.
I hope some of these things have helped! These may seem pretty basic, but they work. And I have to remind myself of these things DAILY or I get lost in the crazy life of motherhood, and nothing really ever gets done. These principles take daily commitment and I am still waiting to make habits out of all of these. But they work. And when they work, Mama is Happy! And, we all know, when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
All the best to you, and happy creating!