For a mom with small children to be a blogger is a true blessing. I know it firsthand because I am and have been one for 3.5 years now. I left my last full-time employment when my kids were 6 and 2. Honestly, I was miserable – I hated what I was doing, missed my kids like crazy and was constantly tired. How I really started iFOODreal is a story for another time. I really do not have a teary eyed story that I started posting recipes, people followed and magic happened. No. I started iFOODreal with a goal to make it my full-time business. And I did it!
Being a mom for 10 years now (crazy and not without big challenges) and self-employed for a total of 8 years I can share what works for me to maintain a healthy work life balance when I have a house, family and a blog to take care of.
#1. Don’t Compare Yourself to Kid Free Bloggers
Do not! There are many couples-bloggers without children. A ton of them. And usually they have very beautiful and successful blogs. Because they do not have children (one of the reasons). They have all time in a day to do what they do. They can work on a new post idea immediately and jump in a car and go to a brainstorm coffee meeting any time. Their mind is clear and not fogged out with Sam’s hockey practice, Lila’s tea party and Mark’s never ending tantrums. While I’m cooking dinner Adam will hopefully eat, spending 45 minutes feeding it to Adam, cleaning kitchen from quinoa thank goodness Adam ate and screaming “Do not touch the walls”, they are working. While I am shopping for Costco size jars of peanut butter, processing loads of laundry and cheering for hours at the rink they are working. My recent crush is this blog and God I love everything about Rosie. ButI can’t be Rosie for many clear reasons (money, time and stretch marks).
You simply can’t keep up with their pace unless you have a nanny, cleaning lady, driver, personal shopper and a chef. I suspect you don’t because you are a blogger. I personally do not even follow many food blogs because I start comparing myself even though I know I shouldn’t. I got better at that but it is just human nature. Lindsay wrote about online jealousy and I agree. I don’t follow Lindsay because she is awesome! I am awesome too and I would like to keep it that way. I check food blogs once in a while but I do not follow them on social media or Bloglovin. It doesn’t make me a worse person at all. Instead I follow travel, design and lifestyle blogs.
#2. Don’t Neglect the Children
Time really flies and when it comes to kids time is precious. Each day is a history and memories. As a mom you know that. When I was selling real estate, I visited a mortgage broker’s house and was surprised not to find her 4 year old at home in the middl of the weekday. At last, she worked from home, I thought. She said nothing would get done and her daughter would be totally neglected if she worked with her at home. So true. Remembered it forever.
I can’t say I never put my kids on iPads or TV to let me work. I did but for a short period of time. Like an hour or so. Then we would play, eat or go outside. Then I would let them be with electronics for another hour while I was working. I also worked while they were playing outside while supervising them on a porch. Also until my little one was 3 or 4 I worked while he napped. I just knew from iFOODreal’s day one that mommy guilt will eat me alive if I worked a lot with my kids. Not worth it. There will always be business opportunities but my kids will never be little again.
In other words, be present in the moment.
#3. Set a Schedule
When I first started in real estate I remember a seasoned realtor who was mentoring me said to set my days off. I was puzzled how can a realtor have days off if you should be available 24/7. I thought I would just hang out next to my phone and work as my clients need me to. Nope. The point is to let your brain shut off and spend time with your family. I would have one day a week when my calls were forwarded to a partner.
Same in blogging. I am off Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Usually by Thursday night my brain is fried and all I want is a glass of wine. I do not take photos of or post what I cook Fri-Sun. I might test and develop recipes which I often do and then remake and post them on my work days. At last, days off are a great time to test recipes that have to be tested, my friends. Everything that has to be scheduled is scheduled and I only reply to comments with a cup of tea in hand. Especially, if they are recipe questions. Again, no pressure on myself, I love comments so it doesn’t even feel like work.
#4. Have Systems in Place
When I first started blogging, my 6 year old was in school full-time and 2 year old at home with me. I had no money for daycare or babysitters. iFOODreal was just starting out. I quickly assessed my potential and set systems in place according to it. What does that mean? I knew realistically I can produce 2-3 posts per week, recipe and not video posts. Mostly when my little one was napping, when Alex got home after work or during an hour of TV time. So, an hour here and an hour there. I have never been the mom who works after kids are in bed. By then I want my bed too because raising 2 little kids is quite tiring.
I quickly learnt how to take pictures and write posts. I knew cooking and pictures have to be done in the AM-early PM because of my kitchen’s light and during nap times and school. Writing can happen whenever later – during TV time or after Alex got home. I am quite organized and efficient. That helped a lot. I didn’t sit researching about food photography, reading other blogs and browsing Pinterest for hours. I did it fast fast. I had a system in place – kid free time means I am working. As soon as I started making a little bit of money, I placed my youngest one in daycare part-time. He had fun and I got my free time. I re-invested money back into iFOODreal. That is when my blog started growing more.
My point is that you have to have dedicated work time and be organized. When I am paying someone to take care of my kids it is my work time. I have to make money. I do not go for walks, gym or hang out with girlfriends. Trust me I got invited many times. But by now girls know I work Monday – Thursday. I used to even work out early at 6AM before kids woke up so I do not use paid time for working out. Now I can afford not to be so hard on myself. As my little one got older I put him into daycare 4 days a week because he wants to be with friends and I could afford it. I can’t wait for September when he starts school full-time to save $7,000 on daycare bills. 10 years of daycare DONE!!!
#5. Blog About Real Stuff
2-3 years later I have an immense joy to read posts about our life. I used to be very shy to disclose personal details and thinking my cooking tips would sound weird or kitchen wouldn’t be picture perfect. I shouldn’t have. I should have been more myself. Blogging about sleepless nights, spit up shirts and farts, believe it or not, is fun for other moms to read. Because they can relate. I really enjoyed re-reading how I went to Mexico by myself and our camping trip and whale watching in Tofino. I wish I had done more of those posts. But moving forward I will.
My point is – be yourself. I know there are certain popular recipes that do well – the fact you can’t neglect if you want to make your blog a business. And don’t. Find a nice middle. But sound like yourself. I recently realized blog is called a blog for a reason. Blog is where you document your journey. For just recipes there are a million of other just recipe websites, magazines and books. People come to read you. I read blogs myself and read only those ones that are authentic. You can totally feel right away when someone is blogging for the sake of just blogging. I think successful people are authentic and real ones.
#6. Set Goals
Know what you want. One of the most valuable traits I acquired with motherhood – I clearly know what I want (besides “time is money” and “no sweating the small stuff”). Set your goals, big or small, and work accordingly. I know blogging is kind of new and unknown industry. Nobody knows how long this profession will be alive. Could be years and years. So, don’t be afraid to set long-term goals. I was recently thinking “Will I be blogging when I am 60?” If I set my goals right, I should be retired by then. Hopefully.
Setting goals will offer you a piece of mind. You might just want to make a few extra $s and spend majority of time raising your children. Or you might need to pay off mortgage, save for kids’ college and remove some financial responsibility off of your husband’s shoulders. Or maybe you want to be able to work remotely and travel the world. You need to know how many hours you need to work for your goals. Because you are self-employed you are responsible for yourself. You decide whether you are happy or not. Which is a beauty of being your own boss. For me, iFOODreal is definitely a full-time career. We have no inheritances coming in and like a quality life.
#7. Don’t Let Social Media Control Your Life
To be honest, I hate social media. It can be the best tool for your blog and your own worst enemy. As bloggers, we are forced to be on social media. Thus, we get sucked into looking at others’ stuff. Problem #1 plus many others arises. What I learnt about social media and blogging by 2016 is that I picked only few important channels and concentrate on those. For me it is Pinterest and Instagram. Facebook too but on a smaller scale. I do not actively participate on Twitter and Snapchat. I can’t be everywhere.
Snapchat…I consciously made a decision to stay off of it. Just like with Periscope. For my kids and family. It is highly engaging platform, on my part. Knowing myself, I knew I would be snapping all the time. I am already struggling to live in the moment and view life not through the lens of my iPhone but with my own eyes. Think, we take thousands of pictures, store them on hard drives and rarely look at them again. What about us?! What pictures are in our memory?!
#8. Delete Facebook
I did. This thought might be terrifying to you right now but hear me out. Facebook is very time consuming, especially if you have an app on your phone. I used to wake up and fall asleep reading the feed. Then a few times I got sucked into totally ridiculous arguments where no matter what I did, replied or ignored, they got worse. Facebook creates rage, period. My mood would go bad for days. Instead of concentrating on positive and doing what I love during those precious work hours I found myself “digesting” the Facebook drama. What a waste of time.
Then people would get offended by deleting or friending them. And then finally many people treat Facebook as a real way of communicating. What?! Whoever needs to find me will ring my door bell, text, call or email me. One day I thought “Seriously is it worth it?!”. Going back to “no sweating the small stuff”. So, I deleted myself which wasn’t that simple at all. Apparently it is not an instant action on my part. First my account was just deactivated. Then I re-activated it when I logged in into Expedia with it. Damn it. Then I finally requested to be deleted and still I was given 14 days to change my mind. Facebook is a beast!
I now am way more calm, have no idea whose husband did what and spend way less time on my phone. Great success!
#9. Go for Walks
Like walks in your neighbourhood, by yourself or not, morning or night. Just go! Working from home as a blogger is a no joke in terms of social life, dressing up and makeup deprivation. Alex used to always tell me “Go shopping”. I know, I have an amazing husband. But you can spend money and accumulate stuff only so much. So, last year I started going for walks by myself. I am not sure why I have never done it before. I used to think I need a friend, a special place or an occasion. No, you do not!
Alex gets home, dinner served, kitchen cleaned up – Olena is out. I walk in my neighbourhood and love it. I see so much just right outside my door. I live in a beautiful area though. But all of our world is beautiful. You can find beauty anywhere and in anything. In the last year I have seen so much – bald eagles, blue jays, snakes, sunsets, clouds. I even found a $20 bill and saw a lantern flying in the sky once. Have you ever looked at the sky? How beautiful it is!
And fresh air…it does miracles to your mood and mind. Somehow, I get amazing recipe and blog post ideas on my walks. I come back home in a great mood, take a shower, sip on tea, read a book or watch TV in my bed. What a great night which could be spent sitting on a couch. Not to mention the exercise!
#10. Decide How Much You Want to Network
Living in the suburbs of Vancouver and being a mom there aren’t many opportunities for me to network with other bloggers. Unless I travel far which gets expensive. I know there are quite a few bloggers in Vancouver itself but that is a different world an hour away. Anyways, blogging with kids is different.
I have been on a fence about networking or not for years now. I know it is great but realistically not that easy due to money and time (kids). I also want you to know that you do not have to network in order to have a successful blog. You decide. But if you do there are so many great blogging conferences right now. iBlog magazine usually publishes a list. I have been to 2 conferences in my lifetime – Food Bloggers of Canada and ShiftCon. I would probably attend more if I had friends bloggers to go to them together. Clearly I don’t so maybe I missed out on that friends-bloggers wagon or not yet…
Networking is great in terms of meeting like minded bloggers, naturally spreading a word about each other and improving SEO. You know word of mouth works the best. Just like to get to know brands and get invited to other exclusive blogging events. What I would really have a hard time saying “no” if I was invited to a blogger retreat. I would definitely go because they are usually held in intimate settings.
But what I want to say is that you decide how much you want to network so jealousy doesn’t take over you. If you want, I recommend starting to go to conferences and meeting people ASAP.
#11. Set Money Aside for Taxes
In spring, the tax man will knock on your door. And you better be prepared. Each month put 20-30% of your income aside for taxes. It is better to have a nice surprise in terms of savings than a debt. With kids it is easy to spend and spend money. Without kids too. I am frugal. I could be better though as Whitney has reminded me, which I am trying to do right now as I re-evaluated my goals. But I feel way more comfortable working with the account of my own and not the tax man’s.
#12. Get Help
As soon as your finances allow you, I would recommend to get help. Doesn’t matter whether it is an assistant, a cleaning lady or a landscaper. The way I look at it is that there is only one me which is a mom, wife and a business owner. Priorities take place and cleaning toilets or scrubbing gutters is definitely not one of them. Calculate how much you make an hour and compare to how much it would cost to get help. As soon as you make more per hour than your help – get help. You will have more time to do what you love and make even more money. Simple math.
If you are still on a fence about blogging and don’t know where to start, check out how to start a food blog and more blogging tips here. I will be updating and sharing more as that is what I feel like doing now.:)
Do you have any advice for moms entrepreneurs? What do you do to make life easier as a mom blogger?