Emma White, Mum of 3 and owner of THE JEWELLERY MAKERS tells it how it is and suggest ways to keep all your plates spinning.
At least 3 times a day someone says to me ‘You’ve got your hands full’ Usually it’s when I’m in a shop trying to watch 3 children whilst actually shopping too, or on the school run. I’m often spotted shouting down the road for the eldest boy child to slow down on his scooter whilst chivvying the younger boy child to keep up and simultaneously pushing small girl child in her push along ‘bike’ whilst trying to convince her to put on her mittens because her fingers are going blue and I’m worried that she is going to lose a digit to frostbite before we get to the school gate. Yup, I’m THAT mum. That harassed looking figure hanging onto the organisation of school life by the tip of her fingers.
The other thing I hear a lot is this: ‘I don’t know how you do it’. I tend to hear that one at work events, networking things, or socially when I talk about THE JEWELLERY MAKERS and my work/life balance. My stock response is ‘Me neither!’
But in truth most of the people I know are pretty busy, and there are hundreds of thousands of mums and Dads, juggling kids and businesses or demanding jobs and I don’t know how they do it either, but somehow it happens. So how do we do it? I can’t talk for anyone else but I can tell you how I manage (or don’t some of the time). But first a little bit of background…
Making handmade jewellery for a living
I have been making jewellery to sell for over 20 years, I also teach small classes and workshops from my studio and then a couple of years ago I launched an jewellery website selling handmade jewellery. We specialise in contemporary jewellery from independent jewellery designers, working from their own tiny workshops all over Britain. I set up to connect those jewellers with customers who love contemporary handmade jewellery, through a package of great photography and online support. So there are 3 strands to my jewellery business, which all require time and energy and thought. This means my work life is as busy as my home life. So how do I do it? Here are my top tips:
1. Routine - get life organised
This I find hard, but to be organised at home is the best way to take control of a life that is mostly bonkers. I make packed lunches in advance and I get the uniforms laid out the night before and pack snacks and whatever is needed for after school clubs the previous day. I trawl through the school notifications and I add everything in my diary as soon as I can with as many reminders as my system allows. It DOES not come naturally to me but I force it and it really helps. If you have a busy life take every opportunity to be prepared for the million and one things that have to be done just to survive the school/life/clubs cycle of life.
2. Get as much help as you can
Some people have family to call on, we don’t. I wish we did but we don’t. Our families are either too far away or not in a position to help and I must admit I am very envious of those who have that sort of support, but it’s just not our situation and wallowing in that envy takes you no where good, so I try NOT to wallow.
Our help at home is paid help, I have a cleaner, she only comes 2 hours a week, it’s not enough to clean our house top to bottom, but it helps and it forces me to tidy before she arrives. It costs less than the price of a takeaway curry for two but it really helps me feel in control and she does way more than I could do in 2 hours.
I also have a gardener, he comes about once a month, my garden could be nice but until he came it was just a great big lump of guilt looking at me through the windows every day, a constant reminder of the jobs I never get to. I decided to forgive myself for not getting to it and found someone to pull up the weeds, cut things back and make it look presentable. It costs me £45 a month. Money well spent to get shot of the guilt and take a job off my list. I’d love a beautiful garden, but maybe later in life, for now presentable is good enough. It’s not a priority.
Please realise that you cannot do everything and if you try you will break yourself. Find ways to make your home life easier at every opportunity.
3. Find reliable childcare
GAME CHANGER. I have an amazing childminder. She has my youngest child 4 days a week, during the school day. The arrangement works well for both of us, Having my child only for the school day frees her up to have older children before and after school, but when I am particularly busy with jewellery making I can ask her for extra time and if she has it to give me, she does. Not all childcare providers will be flexible like this but they are out there, even some of our local nurseries are offering it as an option now to self employed business owners, please ask the questions about how you need it to be, you never know what might be possible and childcare is a MUST in my book.
Thinking you can run a business with a baby or a toddler around your ankles is optimistic to say the least. For me anyway, that situation feels at best, frustrating and at worst, impossible. I tried this for a short time and I was left feeling like I was being a bad mother and was terrible at running my jewellery business.
Accepting that I needed more childcare and that it was a better solution for everyone, was the best move I ever made for my business, for my brain and for my children. Now when I am with my children I can focus on them and when I’m not I can focus on work.
4. Find your perfect people
As soon as I could afford it, upon returning to work after having Mabel, I found myself a workshop helper, she’s not a jewellery maker but she is a grafter with a good eye for detail and a great sense of humour, I knew I could teach her the jewellery bit. Now she does most of the sanding and polishing in the workshop and this allows me to step off the ‘making jewellery’ treadmill and spend time on other tasks that no one but me can do in the business, to work on increasing sales and developing the online jewellery business. She also makes me laugh and calms my busy brain when I rock up thinking about 25 different things at once. She’s an asset.
I am now looking to employ a digital manager, to grow my business further. These choices are an investment, but one I recommend you consider and plan for as much as you are able, for me all of my arrangements are flexible and part time, so the commitment can flex with the demand. Flexible working doesn’t suit everyone but for my workshop helper it fits perfectly around her family because I work during the school day, so we finish at 3pm and head to school to collect our children! It works for us all.
5. Work efficiently - don’t be a busy fool
Be really honest with yourself. Where do you waste time? Social media? Running systems that are inefficient and time consuming? Look at EVERYTHING. Look at your products. If you make something, could you make it faster? Could you change the design to simplify the process? Could you streamline your packing process? Look at how you run your financial systems, do you lose receipts and waste time looking for them? Do you plan your social media posts or do you randomly post then spend time browsing? Even the basics can make a difference, is your workspace tidy? Can you find what you need every time you need it? Streamline across the board and be strict with yourself. Get off the hamster wheel and look at the bigger picture. It will save you time almost immediately.
And finally, my bonus top tip - Be kind to yourself
I am particularly prone to being hard on myself. To setting goals that are not really achievable and then beating myself up when they do not come to fruition. That is the price of my ambitious nature and it is both my strength and my weakness.
It is great as an entrepreneur to dream big and set great goals, however sometimes they don’t happen and then that is hard. But the question I ask myself is: ‘Have they really not happened or have they just not happened YET?’ Is the dream still realistic but the timescale needs adjusting? Then that’s ok. Are you on the right path?
If you are not moving at all towards your dream then yes, reassess, but if you are getting there but slower than you hoped then, that’s ok, that’s workable with. Get on and check you are working efficiently and crack on my friend. Keep the faith. You’ve got this…