How to run a full-time business with part-time childcare

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Mother working on a laptop with child on her knee showing how to run a business with part-time childcare
Image by Charles from Pixabay

By Elena Chow

Running your own business is an all-consuming role. Not only are you task-switching endlessly on the day-to-day stuff that simply has to get done – but it also occupies your brain space 24/7. Much like, say, parenting. So, what happens when the two collide in those early preschool years?

Well, as someone who has spent the last three years as a solo business owner, running a website copywriting studio in only two days of childcare a week, while the rest of the time is spent running after a preschooler with what can only be described as “chaotic energy” – it’s not as effortless as a “juggle”. Or a “balancing act” (seriously, who coined those phrases?).

What I’ve learnt, is that while it’s tough to squeeze in as much as you can into limited working hours each week, it’s not impossible. You can run a profitable business that runs full-time, during very limited working hours. Here’s how…

Make a realistic weekly plan

Aspirational to-do lists are not worth the paper they’re scribbled on. Instead, figure out how many uninterrupted working hours you have in a typical week. Then put a unit of time against tasks you want to achieve in the week ahead. Next – and this part is critical – make sure it adds up.

If you tie yourself unknowingly to an unrealistic to-do list, it will have a negative impact on your productivity. There’s nothing like an unchecked list, igniting the fear of failure.

By making a weekly plan that’s doable, not daunting, you can start chipping away at your tasks bit-by-bit, consistently making small steps towards big-picture goals.

Mine your thoughts, regularly

We often get in our own way. We have too many ideas, too many things pulling us in a million different directions. So, if you’re feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed, get all those cluttered, messy, overlapping thoughts down on paper. It could be a list, a spider diagram, a doodle. Whatever works for you, you just need to be able to look at all of it.

Once you’re faced with your thoughts, start reorganising them. Group bits together. Break them down further into actions. Ask yourself, is this a priority for right now, or somewhere further down the line?

Similar to curating a vision board, this brain dump exercise will help you gain clarity and connect the dots. And also helps you erase any tasks that are not big “needle movers”. Do you really need to show up on stories every, single day, when your biggest revenue-driver is your email list? Without zooming out every now and then, you’ll never be able to spot the big time-sucks that are eating into your precious working hours.

Maintain focus

With less time on your hands, you need concentrated focus in the hours you can work. That means eliminating distractions or opportunities to procrastinate. Whether you put your phone in another room to stop yourself from mindless scrolling or try time-management techniques like ‘Pomodoro’, you’ll be setting yourself up for bursts of focused work.  

But don’t mistake productivity and focus for simply being busy. Allow yourself gaps in your day to observe, to evaluate and to ponder. Because it’s in those bits in-between (like a lunchtime walk or a conversation with a stranger) that inspiration and business clarity can strike!

Streamline your processes

The saying ‘work smart, not hard’ is super cliché but true. If you can get the right systems in place, you can do the same amount of work more efficiently. Whether that’s automating the onboarding/offboarding process for your clients or finding a way to get faster at what you do, there’s a multitude of tricks and tools, waiting to help you tweak and improve.

Not sure where to start? Start time tracking your day-to-day duties and it will be easier to spot what tasks are eating up your hours, before finding a solution to improve your process.

Work to your strengths & outsource your weaknesses

Running your own business means being the intern, the accountant, and the CEO, usually all at once.  You’ll find that some tasks you’re great at and others you suck at. That’s totally OK, you do not need to master every, single skill to be a successful business owner.

Be honest with yourself and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Instead of spending hours upskilling the weak spots trying to do it yourself, you’ll save time and money in the long run by outsourcing (or hiring if you want to expand your team) by offloading tasks you find difficult, tedious or outside your area of expertise.

By remaining focused on the parts of your business that bring you joy (the very reason why you started it in the first place) you can get more out of the pockets of time that you’ve set aside to work, whether it’s 10 hours a week or 30.

Elena Chow carrying her child sharing how to run a business with part-time childcare

Final thoughts

If you’re still with me, whether you’re running a business now in pockets of child-free time, or you’re thinking about launching one, here’s something I wish someone had said to me.

Things will go wrong along the way. Timelines that were once perfectly aligned, will overlap and blur and you’ll think to yourself “how did I get here?”. Your kid/s will pick up every bug, lice, and pox going. Clients and customers will sing your praises and stress you out in the same breath.  

Running your own business is going against the 9-5 grain. It’s tough and it takes resilience. And that’s before you throw in the bonus of unforeseen childcare challenges. So, if you take one thing from this article, let it be this. When business feels like it’s boiling over, and you’re being pulled in too many directions, take a moment for yourself. Go for a walk, write a gratitude list, hug your child – whatever fills your cup. And remember, you’re in control of your business, not the other way around. Make it work for you.

Elena Chow is a website copywriter & story strategist who runs copy studio Words by Elena. She helps ambitious freelancers and founders sell their story, not their soul, by writing and workshopping words that hook the right kinda people.

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Head to the parenting section to read more articles about work-life balance.

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