How to Effectively Balance Job, Family and an Online Business
It sounds attractive, doesn’t it?
Be a solopreneur.
Get out of the rat race. Take control of your life. Work wherever and whenever you please. Spend more time with the kids – or grandkids. Relish the opportunity to take your own ideas and run with them. Nothing to hold you back. No-one to tell you what to do.
You’re on the edge of living the dream.
And then – reality hits.
You need that full-time job to pay the bills. Your family still need feeding, and the dog needs walking. Your kids complain that you’re never around; your mother thinks you’re wasting your time. Your online business is taking up more hours than there are hours in the day.
You find yourself getting short-tempered and irritable. Your head’s spinning from the demands made on your time. You lie awake at night, worrying about how you can manage it all.
Suddenly, it feels like you’re in even more of a rat race than you were before. Starting your online business doesn’t seem like such a good idea any more.
Or is it?
Are there ways to deal with the challenges being a solopreneur can bring? Can you manage to keep everyone happy and the world at bay? Could an online business succeed, even if you can’t give it quite as much time as you thought you could?
YES, you can!
No-one says it’s going to be easy. (Well, only those people who would promise you the world, take your money and leave you high and dry. And that’s not how SBI! works!) Sometimes, it can feel like you’re walking a very scary tightrope.
But if you have the BAM – Brains (that is, the passion for and knowledge about your niche), Attitude (perseverance, sometimes in the face of adversity) and Motivation (the determination to keep your dream alive) – and you’re prepared to put in thought and planning – you’re onto a winner.
To help you begin that process of thoughtful planning, here are a few suggestions. Some will resonate with you straight away, others won’t. That’s fine. Take the ideas that work for you and leave the rest. Or refine them, until they do work for you.
You owe it to yourself.
Firstly: Don’t Give Up the Day Job!
It’s a dream many people have: give up the traditional 9-to-5 job and become a solopreneur. It may be one of the factors that’s driving you, too.
Many people don’t love their “day job”(1). They tolerate it – they might even like it. But they don’t have a passion for it. They don’t wake up each morning and think: “Oh bliss – another day at the office.”
But they stay with it, even so.
Any number of reasons. Fear: of change, of the unfamiliar, of failure. Lack of confidence that they’d have the skills and knowledge to do anything different. Overwhelm: how to plan for anything different with so many other things going on? Vulnerability: what happens if it all goes belly-up?
And most often, financial concerns: the need to pay bills, to put food on the table – to make sure the kids have a good Christmas. The doubt that any other job could pay that much.
Did you just read those reasons and mentally check them off? “Yep, I recognize that one all right!”
Did anything strike you about them? For example, the fact that they’re everything to do with your feelings? Not so much the practicalities, but fear, doubt, lack of confidence, vulnerability…
That’s not to say that money’s not important. Of course, it is. We all need to pay the bills and put food on the table. You certainly shouldn’t give up the day job until your business is covering those things.
But don’t let fear hold you back. Examine all the reasons you’re not ready to give up that office job. Are they practical, or emotionally-driven?
Many SBIers have been in your position and are now earning more than they were in their “day job”.
Let’s go back to that all-important BAM. If you have that, if you’re prepared to put in the work, then one day – who knows – your business could be paying more than you ever dreamt possible.
So – don’t give up the day job just yet. But perhaps plan to, at some stage in the future that works for you.
Secondly: Think About Family and Friends
Let’s see if this rings some more bells for you.
You’re congratulating yourself on having a couple of hours to spend on your business. It’s the weekend, so there’s no day job to go to. The kids are with friends, the dog’s walked, the phone’s off the hook – finally, you can settle down to work.
You turn on the computer – and the doorbell rings. It’s your best friend. She’s delighted to see that you’ve got “nothing to do”, because she’s at a loose end herself …
Sometimes, our family and friends just don’t “get it.” They “get” your day job – you go out to an office, you stay there until the day’s work is done, then you come home.
But working at home? On a computer? Doing what?
Now, it may be that you have a family who understand. Great! They’re a family in a million!
What happens if you don’t?
You have to find ways of dealing with this problem, because it’s a common one. And the best time to deal with it is right now – before you even begin life as a solopreneur.
You may be buzzing with excitement. But do you have any idea what your family think?
Here are some possibilities – you may be able to think of others.
- They have no clue what “being a solopreneur” is.
- They think you’re crazy – after all, how can you build a website when you have no experience?
- They’re worried about what it will mean for them. Will you still go to school sports days? Will you have time to take an interest in their work? Will you still visit your parents?
- What will it mean for the family finances? Will you pour the family savings into this craziness you call your online business?
- Will those “friends’ nights out” finish now you’re a high-powered business owner?
How to deal with it? Sit down and TALK!
Look at it this way. If another baby was expected in your family, you’d talk about it. In many ways, starting an online business is just like having a baby – for you, as well as for your family.
So, get all the concerns, all the worries, on the table. And before you do, think about what the issues might be, and have some answers ready.
- Don’t practice what to say word for word, but consider what may be worrying them. You know your own family best, after all. And think honestly about how you can allay those fears.
- Don’t try to brush things under the carpet, or leave questions unanswered. Ignoring concerns will lead to future resentments. Discussing them will make your family and friends your allies.
- Do be fair to your family. Their concerns are as legitimate as your excitement.
- Do build your business around your family. Diary in family events first. Your business will still be there when they’re done.
- Do make time for family and friends once you start your business. It’s tempting to stay on the computer for hours, at the expense of relationships. That’s not good for them – and it’s certainly not good for you.
Speaking of Which – Let’s Talk About You!
So you’re a Solopreneur in the making.
That’s exciting and scary at the same time. Exciting, because of the possibilities it will open up in front of you.
Scary, because of the responsibilities. Not just to your day job, your family, friends, and your online business.
But to yourself.
Research(1) shows that many online business owners work long hours. This is not the easy option many “gurus” wanting your money will tell you it is.
As a solopreneur, you’re both Chief Executive and factory floor worker. Juggling those demands with the external influences we’ve already talked about isn’t easy.
It’s hard work. It takes… yes, you’ve got it.
Brains. Attitude. Motivation.
Not to mention hard work. Sacrifices. It can feel like you’re juggling too many demands at the same time. Suddenly, you’re back in the rat race.
So, before you commit to your business, think through these things:
- Realistically, how much time can you devote to it? If it’s just a few hours each week, don’t despair. It can be done – it will just take longer.
- How could you make more time?
- Being solely responsible for your business means it can be hard to “switch off.” What will you do to stop yourself getting burnt out?
- How will you motivate yourself when you’re tired, and the last thing you want to do is open up your computer?
- Colleagues are one of the top “happiness at work” factors(2). You’ll no longer have colleagues in the same physical place as you: how will you manage that?
- What do you love to do that’s not connected to your business life? Can you schedule in time for that, too?
Is this all sounding a little overwhelming? No need to worry – there are ways of dealing with it.
So let’s move you a few steps forwards, and make sure you become the solopreneur you’ve always wanted to be.
Your Online Business and You
We’ve already begun to consider the difficulties of balancing an online business with a day job, a family, and your own well-being. You’ve understood that you’ll have to do things differently – otherwise, everything will suffer. Your business, your job, your family, and your health all need to be managed.
So let’s start to consider ways of managing them. Here are some options which may help.
Manage Your Niche
We’ve already seen(1) that many people just don’t love their job. If your online business is to succeed, you need to love it. The more you love it, the more you’ll want to put effort into it, and the less it will feel like “work”.
- Choose your niche wisely. Make sure your passion, as well as your knowledge, is strong. Choosing the right niche is a key feature of SBI!’s “Action Guide”. It leads you through the process, step by step.
- Don’t rush. Building your business won’t happen overnight, no matter what some “gurus” would have you believe. There’s a reason the SBI! mascot is a tortoise!
- Take pride in what you do. It will make you feel much more positive about yourself and your life, no matter how busy it is.
- Stay in love with your work. If you find you’re becoming stale, take a break. Come back to it refreshed.
Manage Your Work
Once you start your solo-business, make sure you manage it. When it’s up and running, you won’t have to be around it every minute of every day. It will make money even when you’re not there. But initially, it’s easy to become caught up in the excitement and try to work every hour under the sun. You may not even have any particular plan in mind. Which eventually will mean your business managing you!
- Prioritize. You’ll have heard this endlessly: it’s a must-do. If you treat everything as a priority, you’ll burn yourself out trying to get it all done.
- Make a plan. Set realistic goals for yourself. If you have a full-time job and a family, don’t plan to work all weekend. You’ll never keep it up, and that will make you feel bad. Much better to have smaller goals which you can see are moving you forward.
- If there are tasks which aren’t moving your business forward, let them go. Consider the reason behind everything you do. Is it really necessary? Or is it necessary to do it right this minute?
- When you get tired – and you will – or when there’s a family crisis taking a lot of your attention, use it to do things that don’t take a lot of brainpower. Create images for social media, schedule posts, answer emails.
- Accept that mistakes happen. They happen to everyone. No-one can be perfect all the time.
- Further down the line think about how you run your business. Delegate. Make good use of time-saving devices.
Speaking of which …
As a solopreneur, time is your most precious commodity. It’s your time, as well as your expertise, that you’re selling to your customers.
- Don’t try to multi-task. Allocate slots of time when you can devote yourself 100% to your business. Work out what will work best for you and your family. Be specific: will you get up an hour earlier? Go to bed an hour later? Turn off the T.V.?
- Guard that time with your life. Organise your work and family around it. People will try to erode it – don’t let them.
- Be flexible. Adjust your time goals as life changes. For example, when your kids start school, or leave home, ramp up your plans.
- Keep track of the time you’re spending at work, as you would in any business. Once your allocated working time is up – stop.
Did you know that 26% of small business owners check their email – wait for it – 36 times every hour?(3)
Technology can be the solopreneur’s best friend – or worst enemy.
Responding to messages, or checking social media posts in the evenings and at weekends can seem like great customer service – but it makes it hard for you to switch off. And that can lead to lack of sleep, and poor health.
- Watch for signs that you’re spending too long on the computer: tired eyes, difficulty in getting to sleep, irritability when disturbed, for example. Technology can be addictive.
- Switch off all devices at least an hour before going to bed – earlier is better.
- Have effective systems from the start. For example, don’t leave filing your images until you have two thousand of them but can’t find the perfect one, although you know it’s around somewhere… (ask me how I know!)
- Look for apps which save time, particularly those which allow you access “on the move.” Evernote, for example, can manage your to-do lists and keep notes. Pocket allows you to save potential content for later. Dropbox keeps all your files in one place. Social media apps such as Buffer and Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts to multi-platforms – a great time-saver.
And finally: as a solopreneur, your online business is all about you. Your knowledge. Your passion. How you respond to your customers’ needs and wants. How you manage your family, your time, your work. To achieve everything you want to achieve, you need to be kind to yourself.
- Delegate household tasks. Can household chores be done by someone else? As your business grows, you may be able to pay for help, but what about before that? Can your children or your partner help around the house? Can your mother occupy herself by walking the dog?
- Consider outsourcing work as your business grows. You may like to think no-one can do as good a job as you can – and in some tasks, that may be true. But others can be redistributed, and may benefit from a fresh pair of eyes.
- Take time out. You need to refresh your batteries. Do something you like to do. Spend time with the family. Take a bath. Go for a coffee. Take a bike ride. Whatever helps.
- Find like minded people. Earlier in this article we saw that colleagues are one of the most critical “happiness at work” factors. It’s as important a factor for the solopreneur as it is for the office worker. So, find a community of like-minded people, and use it regularly.
- The SBI! Forums are a great example: dozens of solopreneurs who began in the same place you’re at now, who come together to help and be helped. It’s one of the fundamental principles of “being an SBI!er”.
So – That’s It!
You’ve decided to start an online business. You’re happy with both the challenges and the rewards being a solopreneur can bring. You have a final goal in mind, and you’re realistic about how long it will take to get there. You’re confident you can keep the boundaries between work, family and play.
No-one said it’s going to be easy. But with determination, organisation, patience – and a fair sprinkling of humor – you can get there.
Recognize your limits – but don’t limit yourself.
Your dreams deserve to fly.
Resources and Further Reading.(1) Forbes: “Most Americans Are Unhappy At Work”.
(2) Happiness Research Institute: Job Satisfaction Index, 2015.
(3) Regus: ‘5 Ways Your Business is Wasting Time’.