One Year of Being My Own Boss

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Tomorrow marks one year since I left the corporate world to be my own boss and stay at home with my kids. It has possibly been the longest, most difficult year of my life.

I left my architecture marketing job when Harrison was three months old, he’s just shy of 15 months now and I think we’re both finally figuring out life. For the past year I’ve been living as if I could be sent back to the corporate world at any time, instead of celebrating what I’ve accomplished. I have made it one full year working for myself. My business has existed for just shy of four years. I have made it work and I’m proud of where I’m at now. And I vow to go into this next year celebrating that instead of being scared that it could all end tomorrow.

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This past year has been full of the highest highs and lowest lows I’ve ever had. And it has by far been harder than I ever thought it would be. Leaving my job, I naively thought that it would give me extra time to work on my business, Holl & Lane. In my mind I thought that because I’d be home all day, I’d have so much time. Apparently I never took raising children into the equation of all of this.

I, without a doubt, have less time to work than I used to. A few months into this journey, we had to start sending both boys to daycare because I just couldn’t keep up with all of my responsibilities. And then when I took on a couple extra freelance jobs I hadn’t planned on, we had to send them a few extra hours. They now go 13 hours a week so that I have dedicated time to focus and get all that is expected of me done.

But then there are the other days. The days when it’s randomly 70 degrees on a spring Tuesday and we can spend hours at the park with no responsibilities. Or, we can go to Storytime at the library and hang out for two hours with new friends. Or, when after a miserable month, I decide to book us a room at a water park for a night and we take off on a family vacation without having to worry about two people’s schedules.

It’s those days that I am so, so grateful to be in this position. It is definitely a luxury and one I don’t take for granted. Which is why I work so hard, not only on two businesses of my own, Holl & Lane and Illuminate Writing, but also on the three freelance jobs I’ve been lucky enough to land. It’s a struggle to keep up with it all and most days I feel like I’m failing, but there is still nothing else I’d rather be doing.

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I wanted to share five things that I’ve learned over the past year, ones that have been hard fought and took me awhile, but I think are important:

1 - Throw my plans out the window and go with the flow

This is without a doubt the biggest one I’ve learned. I’m a planner. I like to know what is going to happen each day. But as anyone with kids will tell you, especially when you stay home with them, there is no such thing as planning. Each day I try to set a list of things I’d like to accomplish for my businesses, whether it’s during naptime or just in little pockets of time throughout the day. In general, this just doesn’t happen. I’ve stopped scheduling quite so much for myself on the days the boys are home with me each day, and I’ve learned to not beat myself up if there’s something I really wanted to get done. My kids are what is most important and I try so hard to remember that and just go with the flow of the day.

2 - Give myself some grace

When things don’t go as planned as mentioned above, I have to remember to give myself grace. There are days that Brandon comes home from work and it looks like we’ve been ransacked. There are toys, clothes, blankets, plates all over the house, we’re all still in our pajamas and we look like we’ve been through a tornado. Then there are the other days that we’re all dressed, the house is clean, the dishes are put away, and I’ve even gotten work done. Those are the good days. And to be honest, they’re must more infrequent than the former.

3 - Find places to go and people to see

Being a work at home mom can be very lonely. For the first six months, we mostly stayed at home. Partly because Harrison was such a nightmare, partly because I just didn’t want to make the effort to leave and find places to go. But, when we do, when we have adventures during the day, or play with new friends at the park, we’re all much happier. The kids get to play with other kids, I get to talk to adults, and it wears us all out a bit - in a good way.

4 - Find a way to be on top of your expenses

Running a business and freelance life is HARD. Especially for the types of businesses that I’m in. There is no such thing as a steady income. Some months I make way more than I expected, some months I make way less and there’s almost no way to predict it. It took me nearly the entire year to figure out, but once my friend Jess introduced me to YNAB (You Need a Budget), I finally feel like I’m figuring things out. I can see what money I have, what bills are covered, and what I have left over (if anything). I finally feel like I have a handle on it all and it’s not stressing me out so much.

5 - Accept help

There are times that because I am trying to run so many businesses that I just can’t do it all. I’ve learned to ask for and accept help when I need it. Whether that’s my mother-in-law coming to keep the boys occupied while I sneak off to my computer, or telling my husband that I need to work all night, I’ve learned to be vocal. I spent a long time pretending to be superwoman, and to be honest, it wasn’t worth it. There is only so much I can do in a day so when I ask for help, it just makes me more productive.

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So, here’s to another year of being my own boss. And this year is set to be another huge transition. Henry will be starting kindergarten in the fall and it’ll just be Harrison and I left to bond and figure out life without him. But there is one thing I’m certain of, I’m going to be proud of how hard I’ve worked to get the opportunity to work for myself, set my own hours, and be here for my boys.

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LIFESarah HartleyComment