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I knew that having a child would mean life would be a little different, but there were a few things that I really wasn’t prepared for. I guess it’s the sort of stuff you can’t imagine beforehand because you need the lived experience to really understand.

I’ve seen loads of people talking about the run up to having a baby, preparing their business, maternity leave, and even setting up once you already have a child. But I don’t think I’ve seen any one talking about having to change the way they were running their business after having a baby.

I didn’t prepare my business for having a baby. I feel like those people that were able to do that are in another league of being organised. I had some vague plans about setting up a digital product shop before giving birth and that earning a little money, but then the pandemic happened while I was a few months pregnant and it was honestly hard to concentrate on anything else other than getting my client work finished off. There was also a grey area with what I could earn while claiming self-employed maternity allowance from the Government (UK) and it was easier to be not earning so I knew I could claim the allowance.

Although it occurred to me that life would be different, I guess I thought I’d just pick up work again once I was ready. My husband had a really good full time job and I knew we’d be ok for a while without an income on my side.

Then Kieron got made redundant the week that Logan was born and our whole world flipped on its head. He was a Manufacturing Engineer and we’d thought that those sort of jobs were always safe. Of course with manufacturing of everything slowing down to a halt, his company had to make redundancies to keep trading.

We had spoken about how his heart wasn’t in engineering any more though and the redundancy turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We decided Kieron would stay home with us so that I could focus on my business still as I was continuing to get enquiries for work through the pandemic and my short maternity leave.

I thought that with having Kieron home full time with us, it would be really easy to just slip back into work and it be the same as it was before.

My God, that was not true for me!

How I felt as I started back with work

It initially felt great starting back with work. It was something to pull me out of the fog of new Motherhood and it felt grounding to be doing creative work again.

With having an already established business that had been really active on Instagram and especially on Pinterest over the past 5 years or so, I already had built a bit of momentum for people finding my work and website, and enquiries.

With the pandemic, I’d had a spike in enquires through Pinterest because so many people were at home thinking about starting businesses on the side, or finally having time to dedicate to forgotten things like branding and marketing. I had bookings for work straight away and so that part was the easy bit.

It all felt almost too easy…

Where it all started to feel like too much

I soon realised that even with another parent at home, Logan would want me an awful lot, and that would mean I wouldn’t have the longer periods of focus I was used to.

I was surprised at how long it took me to get back my focus each time and would often end up having Logan in a sling sleeping on me while I worked. I have lovely memories of wearing him in the sling when he was small, and at least while I was wearing him, I didn’t have to think about what he was doing or whether he was ok all the time, so that part of my brain could focus too!

There was the added stress of me now being responsible for paying the bills when it had never been a sole responsibility before.

With work enquiries coming in thick and fast I booked people in as I had done before, sort of always on the verge of being overbooked, but thinking it would be ok. The thing is, it had always been ok in the past because I had the time to work longer sometimes if I needed to. I never did too much that I was burnt out, and I guess it was a bad habit that I didn’t realise would need to change.

It didn’t take long before I was feeling perpetually exhausted, was overbooked, stressed and crying in the middle of the night.

I honestly had no idea I wouldn’t be able to keep up the same sort of schedule and work in the same sort of way I’d worked before (overworked masquerading as well-organsied). I had Kieron at home full time, I felt like I was failing and I should be able to do this!

3 changes I made to my business

Needless to say, something had to give. And of course, it was work. Over the course of the next year or so I slowly made some changes to make the business work for me rather than it running me.

1. Moving to asynchronous communication

A big part of my new ethos for my business is making it fit around my life seamlessly, and leaning into what feels good rather than overthinking and doing things the way they’ve always been done because that’s what people expect.

I moved almost exclusively to communicating with my clients via voice notes, texts, and videos that are sent asynchronously. Asynchronous just means ‘not existing or occurring at the same time’. So we send voice notes when we can and we don’t have to be available for a call at the same time.

I’ve felt more anxious since having a child probably due to hormones, plus I’m a relatively shy person anyway, and I just found myself really getting wound up about Zoom calls during the time when everyone was zooming in the pandemic. So I decided to stop.

I still do the odd call when it feels necessary, like I sometimes do training with current and past clients on design software. But as a rule, even discovery calls before a client books can be done by voice note instead. If a person seems to have a problem with it, they probably aren’t going to be a great fit for working together.

I’ve built some structure into this for my different packages and have specific days where we chat and plan and specific days when I’m doing the design work. I’ll go into that more in next point.

The real benefit is that I have ultimate flexibility with communication – Having a baby or toddler means your schedule can change last minute if they didn’t sleep well the night before, or they’re poorly, or they’re just having a day where they want Mum. I wanted to be able to lean into this

An unexpected benefit is that this works so well for clients I have where there is a time difference! I get clients from all over the world thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, and it allows us to communicate in a personable but flexible way.

2. Shorter process with a stricter timeframe, still being mindful of having enough space and flexibility to work on the peoject.

As I mentioned I was accidentally overbooking myself and you might wonder why I would do this.

A few things were at play. Firstly, I’ve always had a very flexible process where there is a loose structure, but I don’t set dates because I found it hindered the creative process. Instead I’d keep the client in the loop along the way, giving an idea once I was into the design work when the draft would be ready to review etc but still keeping to any deadlines they had in place.

This is the hard way of doing things, and it was always a bit of a juggle to work different projects round each, but it felt right at the time. I had the extra head space to be agile with what I was working on day to day and switch between tasks.

Now I most certainly do not have that extra head space. That space is filled with toddler stuff! I can’t quickly switch between tasks and I have to give myself realistically just the one thing to work on each day, my attention span is much shorter. Just a quick note that this will probably change in the future too, but when talking about running a business during the baby and toddler years, this is definitely the case for me.

I am a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, and so at first, even though I knew I was finding it harder to focus on multiple projects, I didn’t want to let people down. I thought that if I told people when they were booking in the process would be a bit slower, it would all be ok. It wasn’t and the work built up and it just added to the stress.

I found I didn’t want lots of projects going on all at once any more, I wanted to be able to finish a project in a smaller timeframe, with the process more clearly defined. But I did need to keep a lot of that flexibility.

I’d heard about Day Intensives, where you plan beforehand, and then get all the specified work done in one day. I liked the quick sound of this, but I wanted to have the balance of it being quick…without the stress of only having one day.

And so I came up with a 2 week Design Intensive package. Usually with a day intensive the research and exploration will be done during the days before the intensive, and you’ll kick off with a call. I didn’t want to do calls and I wanted everything to be contained and explained inside the process.

I developed a process where during week one we chat via the voice messaging app Voxer to plan what I’ll be designing during week two. The pacing is the key for this package. There is enough space during the two weeks to check in with the client each day and work through thoughts and ideas, but as long as I haven’t got a load of other things booked in at the same time, it leaves room for life to happen.

I priced it relatively low at the beginning and each one went so well and had great feedback. I’ve increased the pricing now so that I can almost block off the last 2 weeks of each month specifically for one of these projects. There is a really well defined timeframe, so it’s great for cashflow – I’ll often be booked a few months in advance for these, and I know that what I’m charging for that is enough to pay our bills.

Then I fit a larger branding package in, one starting every other month, and work it around the design intensive. I try to plan it so the two weeks of the design intensive are less intensive weeks of the full branding package, so the part when I’ll be doing refinements rather than the full on design work.

I’ll be creating a training all about my Design Intensive package soon!

3. Going ‘all in’ on my project management software, streamlining, and getting help.

I know it’s really important to be super organised with everything now. I use Notion as my project management software – it’s not the same as other project management tools because you can set it up however you want to. It has the balance between flexibility and rules that I seem to be craving ?

Here’s a mini course I made about how I use it that you can access for free right now before I make some updates and turn it into a paid course.

Access the mini course >>

Access the mini course >>

As well as getting really organised with Notion, I have hired out for help on things like brand strategy for my own business and my end of year accounting!

All of this just means there’s less in my already full head and I can concentrate on what I do best. Previously I really hesitated spending money on things but I’ve now seen how much time and headspace it’s given me!

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I can’t believe how much has happened in the past month. When I wrote my last ‘life update’ it was early February. We’d just put the house on the market and had sort of settled on our plan.

The house was on the market for about 17 days. We had SO MANY viewings in that time, 3 offers, and we accepted an offer that was over our asking price.

It’s now Fri 18th March and we moved into our temporary home last weekend – a static caravan owned by family members on a lovely nearby holiday park.

Kieron wasn’t quite ready to move as he wanted to have everything sorted out at the house, plus we haven’t actually finalised the sale yet (it’s close and is running smoothly as there’s no chain either end).

For me though, it got to the point where the house was feeling less and less like home, we’d sold or put a lot of the furniture into storage, and I was already letting go in my mind. We have some final things to sort out over the next couple of weekends at the house before we say goodbye for good.

I had some questions over on Instagram so I thought I’d answer those to help me structure this post.

How do you feel about leaving the home you worked so hard on?

I’m not sure I really know how to articulate it well, but I almost feel guilty for not finding this harder. I’ll never forget that home, because it was wonderful in so many ways.

I built my business there, we put so much thought and work into the garden and the renovations. We went through IVF together whilst living there, we brought our gorgeous baby boy back from the hospital to a perfectly renovated, beautiful, cosy home. And we loved living there. Until we didn’t. It was perfect, until it wasn’t.

The last couple of years have made me mature a lot and it’s not like how things look are no longer important to me, they are. I’m a designer, an artist, I like things to be beautiful. But I feel like we bought and renovated that home when we were different people. Or maybe, different iterations of the same people.

We are different, we’re a family unit now and we want more from life than that home could give us. Kieron’s job loss and pandemic isolation allowed us to reflect on what we want and get creative about how we could get there whilst keeping our newfound freedom. Less outgoings (no mortgage) is a huge driver for all of this.

So all that is to say that I don’t really feel sad. As an eternal optimist I’m much more interested in looking forward and know that there’s so much we’ve already tackled together and so much potential for what we could do.

And you know what? I’ve been getting more sleep. Which means I’m even more like my old sunny self.

Logan now has a double bed in the static caravan rather than a cot. Yes the double bed takes up the entire width of the room, but it means there’s no need for a bed guard and no way he’s going to fall out.

I/we can now lie next to him while he falls asleep rather than me having to hold him for him to fall asleep. He WOULD NOT be put down awake in a cot and was waking up 3-4 times at night…needing to be held to sleep each time (what felt like a regression after him being more easy-going with sleep for most of his first year of life). It wasn’t so much the amount of wake ups, I’m happy to get up for a toddler cuddle, it was the amount of time it was taking to get him back into his cot, which meant I was super wide awake and finding it harder to get back to sleep myself.

He now wakes up once and I lie next to him until he’s asleep and then sneak back to my own (our) bed. Sometimes I fall asleep next to him and that’s fine too. It works. An unexpected up-side of static caravan life that may or may not have been one of the reasons I wanted to move before we’d properly finalised the sale.

I’d already intuited that either a double bed or floor bed scenario might be an answer to our sleep woes and by this time there was no point making the change in the house. We’ve bed shared a little through sheer desperation, with Logan in the middle of the two of us (because of no bed guards) but none of us seemed to sleep as well.

Maybe it’s just because we’re temporarily living on a holiday park, maybe it’s the novelty aspect, but I actually have that holiday feeling.

I’m still being a Mum, being a wife, cleaning and tidying (not cooking, Kieron does the cooking ?) running my business and doing my client work, all the things I usually do, but I feel different. The internet is a bit sh*t and the Labrador is still malting her winter coat (if you know you know ?) but there are no real negatives so far.

In fact, with the living space being smaller we can be doing various different things, but still have an eye on Logan as he potters about and plays. Even the outdoor space works really well – there is a small deck that runs round the front and side of the caravan, it’s fenced and gated so is safe for Logan to wander around. At this point in time, with the size of our family and and how old Logan is, it feels pretty perfect.

I’ll let you know how it feels when it’s all less new.

Was it hard to downsize your belongings and have you had to put loads in storage?

We’re still in the process of doing it and it certainly hasn’t been easy but that’s because of the volume of stuff that you accumulate over the years!

It’s been a lot easier with knowing the space we’re moving into and the amount of storage we have. So we’ve not been downsizing everything by an unknown amount – we visited the caravan a few times to get a feel for the amount of storage and that really helped.

We do have a local storage locker that we’re paying for monthly to keep a few bits of furniture I couldn’t part with, the lawn mower, power tools, and some of the stuff from my studio office.

Most of Logan’s baby things we sold or sent to charity shops except for his cot and pram because they’re great quality and we’ll store them, even if it’s just for a while.

I love that we now know exactly what we’ve got because we’ve sorted through absolutely everything, and have let go of everything we don’t need. My head feels a little clearer because of it.

What’s the next step and where are you moving to?

The next step isn’t solidified, and that’s what partly makes this feel fun for me!

We would like to earn an income through buying and renovating a property within the next couple of years.

The property to renovate could be here in North Wales, or in West Wales. We may do more renovation projects if the first goes well.

We would also like to have some land that we can make a living from. Initially as a camp site, and eventually with small holidays cabins amongst other things. Ideally the land will be in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, by the coast, where we have family ties.

We may buy the land and live on it in a static caravan, or live in a towable caravan at the sites of the renovation projects. The renovation project is likely to happen before we do any work with land we buy so that once that house is sold we have some capital.

Land/house projects all depend on what’s available once we have the money in the bank.

As a long term goal as mentioned in the previous blog post, we would like to self-build (with help ?) our dream house. And THAT all depends on how these other things go over the next few years.

Have I lost you yet? It all makes sense in our heads…

We saw a patch of land this week actually that we are going to have a look at. It’s in Pembrokeshire, and it’s called Rainbow’s End – what a perfect name! It has woodlands, meadows, a stream, and a variety of buildings already on it (making planning permission for caravans and other structures more likely). I’ll update you on that next time as it’s bidding via an online auction – we may miss out as our sale won’t have gone through yet.

What’s the most exciting bit about the whole process?

Just knowing that we are working towards a bigger future whilst still staying flexible with neither of us having to work a 9to5 or other set shift pattern.

Not saying it isn’t going to be hard work, but it’s a different hard. Hard work at our own pace. Feeling frazzled? Let’s take a holiday.

Having all the power in our own hands about how we make our money and dare I say it…build wealth.

Knowing that we have an awesome set of skills between us and the same dream in our heads.

Having the possible chance to build, run, brand, and market our own family business THING and leave a legacy for Logan is bonkers exciting for me!

Looking forward to updating you again in a month’s time.

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