I've been working from home as a freelance consultant since my younger daughter turned one, which was over ten years ago. The experience has been exhilarating, frustrating, satisfying, and exhausting—all in equal measures.
While running a business and caring for two small children isn't easy, I wouldn't trade a minute of the freedom, flexibility, and option to always put my kids' needs first.
However, I probably wouldn't have made it through the past ten years (and neither would my business) without some of my favorite tech gadgets, tools, and apps.
1. Ditch the Schedule
Book after book and expert after expert all offer the same advice: schedule your day precisely, booking time for work, playtime, conference calls, naps (the baby, not you), etc.
I'm going to suggest, respectfully, that whoever first authored that advice never had kids or didn't try to run a business in a house with kids. In a perfect world, it's ideal to schedule meetings, conference calls, and major projects around times when the kids are asleep or out of the house or when you have childcare help.
In the real world, children laugh at your schedules. Be flexible and make the most of the time you have. Use tools like Skype
in place of face-to-face meetings as much as possible. These tools will increase your flexibility and reduce travel time away from the home office.
Stay on top of deadlines and get ahead on your to-do list as often as you can. That way, an unexpected fever or the chance to have a picnic lunch at the park on a sunny day won't throw a monkey wrench in your plans.
2. Be a Mobile Mom
Juggling work and kids means being prepared to work anywhere at any time. Make the most of mobile technology by ensuring you can access emails, documents, files, notes, and client contact info on all your devices.
You won't always have the luxury of answering client calls and dealing with emergencies from the peace and quiet of your home office, and you can't be tied to a desk. Some days, your office will be the park, the car, the dance studio, or the doctor's office.
Working with various clients, I have several email addresses from numerous domains. All of them are set up to forward to my Gmail
account automatically, which ensures I never miss a message.
and Google Photos
make file-sharing easy and ensure all my documents and images are accessible no matter where I am. I like Buffer
to manage clients' social media accounts. The apps are easy to use and work just as well from my phone as my laptop.
As I work extensively in Microsoft Office suite, all my Word, Excel, Publisher, and PowerPoint files get saved directly to OneDrive
. This security ensures the files are accessible from my phone, tablet, and the public computers at the library. The practice has also saved my bacon more than once when a laptop met an untimely end thanks to an unfortunate encounter with a juice box.
3. Go Paperless
If you have kids, you have clutter. Do you need mountains of paperwork, too? Do you have space to save seven years' worth of tax information? What are the chances you can put your hands on the one piece of paper you need right now, like the invoice for your son's karate class, your dog's vaccination records, or the receipts you need to file your sales tax?
My advice is to scan and save a copy of everything—both to your computer or network and to the cloud. With a couple of simple tools, you can create a digital archive of all your personal and professional documents—not to mention your kids' report cards, health records, and handmade works of art.
Because I have limited office space at home, my preference is a small, wireless scanner that can fit on my office bookshelf and not take up valuable room on my desk. Ambir's nScan 915i
is a compact, standalone unit that doesn't need any cables or drivers; it doesn't even need to be hooked up to my computer.
With one touch of a button, I can scan any document and send it wirelessly to the cloud, my local network, a client's email address, my phone, or even a USB drive. I tend to use Google Drive and OneDrive the most because my filing systems are already set up there, and I like the feeling of security that saving everything to the cloud offers.
Running a business is hard. Being a work-from-home mom can be harder, but it doesn't have to be. Be flexible, organized, diligent, and thankful for all the many small moments you'll share with your kids.
Alison King is a freelance writer, editor, and social media strategist who has been juggling the demands of family and entrepreneurship for over 10 years.