Freelancers, It’s Time to Raise Your Rates!

As a freelancer, raising your rates is an important part of your business strategy. Since you are your own boss, it’s unlikely that a client is going to offer you a raise because you don’t technically work for them. In order to get paid more this year, you will need to inform clients that you are raising your rates. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to send your rate increase emails!

As a freelancer, you should take the following things into consideration when thinking about rates:

  1. You pay your own taxes
  2. You receive no traditional benefits from clients (e.g. 401K contribution, paid time off)
  3. You may be paying your own insurance

Even as a young freelancer, you also need to think about savings and retirement.

Know Your Worth

Sometimes freelancing can become a race to the bottom, but it doesn’t have to be. There will always be someone willing to work for a lower rate. You can’t win the lowball game, you aren’t Walmart. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “fast, cheap or good – pick two”. Cheap and good are the least likely to go together.

If you know that you offer high-quality work then demand high-quality rates. If you undervalue yourself, no one is going to tell you so, they’ll just take advantage of your “good rates.” You need to feel secure in what you’re asking for. You don’t want to work for the client that tries to negotiate a lower rate because they’ve already placed a lesser value on your work then you think it’s worth.

Think about how much you’d like or need your annual salary to be. You can use this infographic to figure out your hourly rate. To find it, you need to divide your adjusted annual salary by billable hours per year.

It’s a good rule of thumb to increase your rates at least 5-10% per year to cover a cost of living increase. This could take a $20 per hour fee to a $24 two years later. It’s a subtle enough increase that your client is unlikely to decline it, but it will add up over time.

Raise Rates for Current Clients

There are a few options for raising rates for your current clients. The first option is to raise the rate at the work anniversary. Once you’ve hit one year together, you can let them know that your rate will increase from $X per hour to $Y per hour in 30 days.

The other option is to do a sweeping rate increase on the first day of each year. This increase does not take into account when you started working with the client. Even if you started working with them in November, they would be subject to your rate increase on January 1. Freelancers that choose this route often send out emails at the beginning of December informing clients of the upcoming change.

Raise Rates for New Clients

I would also suggest raising your rate for each new client you acquire.

When I started gaining clients I was accepting offers around $20. After a year, I wouldn’t accept anything under $25. Now, I’m not accepting anything under $35 and shooting for the $40+ range when pitching new clients.

I do this for two reasons:

  • My skills increase each year
  • My time becomes more valuable each year

My skills increase as I become more of an expert in my services. I pick up new methods and tools that increase my productivity and improve my offerings. I’m not the same quality of VA or social media marketer that I was two years ago. Therefore, I demand more.

My time becomes more valuable each year because of my increased skills and mentality. If I can earn $35 an hour, I’m not going to find it rewarding, exciting or useful to accept $20 per hour on a new project. My mental state will not be grateful and appreciative of my client. Instead, I will feel that I’m missing out on at least $15 for each hour I spend working with said client. I wouldn’t accept a client at that rate because I know that my heart would not be in the work. I would rather pass along the opportunity to someone at an earlier stage in their freelancing career who would appreciate it.

Phase Out Your Lowest Paying Clients

If you’ve already pitched a rate increase and a client can’t meet your new rates, you may want to phase them out.

There may be clients that you are willing to work with at a reduced rate. I work with a few charitable organizations at lower-than-normal rate. I work with them because I feel that I am doing some good in the community. Eventually, it may not make sense for me to do this because I only have so much time in the day, but for now, it works.

Raising your rates can be scary, but it’s an absolute necessity in the freelancer’s world. One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you have more control of your earning potential than in a traditional job. So, feel the fear and raise your rates anyway.

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2017 Goals

Every year, I set professional and personal goals for myself. These goals give me something to strive for throughout the year. I check my progress each month to determine whether I want to revise or remove goals. Setting goals and regularly reviewing them keeps me on track and motivated.

I believe that sharing your goals keeps you accountable. In that vein, here are my goals for 2017.

Professional goals

1) Increase my income by $10,000

The extra income would allow us to continue paying down our large student loans and the mortgage on our rental property. It would also allow us to invest more. In order to achieve this goal, I need to find around $835 of additional work each month. Part of that total will come from raising my rates. I have increased rates for new clients, but not bumped up the clients I currently have. I believe this goal is absolutely achievable by the end of the year.

2) Get another local client

Ideally, I’d like to have a few local clients. I currently have one. I’d like to bump it up to 3 or 4 in 2017. I’m interested in working with organizations that are making Rockford a better place. I need to continue reaching out via referrals or cold emails to local organizations. I plan to have at least one new local client by the end of June.

3) Launch The Sturm Agency website

My professional website has been www.erinsturm.com for several years now. However, I registered The Sturm Agency as a corporation in June 2015. I’d like to have The Sturm Agency’s website live by the end of March.

4) Launch my freelancer idea

I came up with a business idea for freelancers earlier this year. I registered the domain, but haven’t gotten a website up or started promoting it. I plan on launching the beta site before the end of June.

4) Sponsor something in the community

I’d love to sponsor something in the community, whether it’s a local baseball team or a donation to our local fair. I will look into my options and plan on making a move by September.

Personal goals

1) Lose 35-40 pounds

I’m still carrying around the 35 pounds I gained when pregnant with Norah. I’d like to get back to my pre-baby weight so I can fit back into 75% of my clothing. I need to clean up my diet. I’m a sugar addict and have way too many treats throughout the week. I need to eat healthier foods and see what effects it has on my body and mind. I hope to reach my goal, or be in a better position that I currently am, by the end of the year.

2) Focus on self-care

I’d like to spend 1-2 hours each week doing something that is just for me. I’m thinking some kind of class, seminar, etc. I want to get out of the house to do it. I tried to do this last year with a knitting class, but my husband’s travel schedule kept falling on the day of the class. I need to find something more flexible or find a regular babysittter. I plan to do this in the second half of the year.

3) Spend more time with friends

I’d like to go out every 2-3 weeks with a friend. I’ve made a few new friends in the past year and I want to make sure that I’m giving those friendships a chance to grow. I’m an introvert so it’s hard for me to convince myself to go do something. I’m good at taking my daughter to kid’s activities a few times per week, but I don’t always talk to other mothers while I’m there. I know it’s good to have a social circle and I could use more friends.

4) Learn hand-lettering

I’m really interested in teaching myself how to hand-letter. Not only does it look relaxing and fun, but it could also be a side business, assuming I’m any good at it. My husband gave me a book, some fancy paper and Tombow pens for Christmas so I just need to get started.

In addition to these goals, my husband and I have some family goals in place. They include things like organizing our kitchen/main floor, creating a chore schedule, getting Norah into preschool and other summer activities, and doing an online money course together.

Goals give me a sense of purpose for my year. I know that when I channel my focus, I achieve amazing things. If you need help setting goals, read my post on SMART goals.
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Defining and Setting SMART Goals

The beginning of the year is a great time to set goals. If you don’t have a concrete set of goals to work towards, you’ll spend all of your time fighting fires instead of making progress on your long-term objectives. To ensure your goals are achievable, you’ll need to make them SMART.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym for the characteristics of an achievable goal.

Specific

By specific, I mean precise! Your goals must be fully realized in your mind. If you aren’t totally clear on what you want your goal to be, brainstorm a list of things you’d like to accomplish in the next year. I recommend using Evernote, but a pen and paper will work too. Once you have a rough hunk of an idea, you’ll need to polish it until it’s a gemstone. Your goal shouldn’t be “grow my business,” because it’s too generic. Instead, it should be something like “grow my business 25% in three months.” We’ll iron out the time-bound and realistic aspects of goal setting later, but first, you’ll need to figure out what you specifically want to do.

Do: Make your intentions clear.

Don’t: Be afraid to make it a stretch goal (or a goal that will take serious effort to accomplish).

Measurable

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it?” Although there’s some criticism of this phrase, it works for goal setting. If you don’t know how your goal will be achieved, then it can’t be achieved. You won’t know once you’ve hit the stopping point. Not every goal is able to be measured numerically. For example, if you set a goal to improve your health, you may want to measure how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis after including exercise in your routine or how well you’re sleeping at night. Don’t get too hung up on numbers, but do make sure that you can measure your success in some quantifiable way.

Do: Source your inner accountant and find out how to quantify your goal.

Don’t: Let a dollar amount drive all of your goals.

Actionable

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Successful goals have clear actionable items, or next steps to completion. It’s pointless to set a goal that you’ll never be able to make progress on or one that’s so vague, there aren’t any obvious next steps. For example, a goal like “Feel better” doesn’t have a clear actionable associated with it. This goal could be about physical health or mental health or both. Right now, the goal as it stands is too vague to tell. If this were your goal, you should go back to the workshopping phase and make the goal more specific. However, if you knew the goal was referring to feeling better mentally, you could create some actionable next steps like booking an appointment with a therapist, meditating for five minutes each morning, or writing in a gratitude journal each evening. Once you have action items for your goal you can create To-Do lists. You should break down your action items into daily, weekly, and monthly lists. This gives you a task to do each day that brings you closer to achieving your goal.

Do: Figure out small, next steps you can take to achieve your goals.

Don’t: Attempt to do more than three things per day towards your SMART goal. You’ll burn out.

Realistic

Defining realistic is difficult. You’ll want your goals to be hard to achieve, but not impossible. You don’t want to set goals that require no effort, but you also don’t want to set goals that are so easy they don’t challenge you. Keep in mind, some goals that seemed very unrealistic to one person, like disruptive technologies, were realistic for someone else. Ultimately, only you know what is a challenging, realistic goal for yourself. You should take a personal inventory before deciding on what a realistic goal is. If you have a hard time achieving your goals then start with something a little easier to build confidence and gain forward momentum. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by creating a list of goals that could only happen in perfect circumstances. Figure out what you’ve been able to achieve easily in the past and up that goal by 10-25%. If you can easily go to the gym once a week, strive to go six times per month.

Do: Be honest with yourself and know your weaknesses and strengths.

Don’t: Be too easy or too hard on yourself. You should be proud when you achieve your goal.

Time-Bound

Making a goal time-bound may be the most important part of setting a SMART goal. A goal without a deadline is a dream. It’s not real! It’s very easy to say, “Someday I’d like to do this,” but if you don’t set a deadline then someday will never come. Setting a deadline for your goal will motivate you even if you’re a procrastinator. Be firm with yourself, don’t push the date around or make excuses for why you couldn’t get it done on your self-imposed timeline. Treat your goal’s deadline as you would a client’s project. If you give yourself no wiggle room, you’ll find a way to complete your goal. Depending on the goal, you’ll need to determine an appropriate deadline. You’ll also want to create mini-deadlines for the Actionable items you’ve created. So, your ultimate goal may take a month to complete, but you’ll reach milestones each week.

Do: Time-block your calendar to ensure that you’ll work on your goals throughout the week.

Don’t: Rely on motivation or inspiration. The people who get things done are the ones that show up and do work regardless of how they feel.

Setting SMART goals will give you better focus and allow you to precisely track your progress. If you’ve had trouble with goal setting in the past, try setting SMART goals and see what happens!

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10 Things You Can For Yourself During Naptime

Some days you feel ultra productive. You work on your business during your child’s naptime. But what about those days when you’re drained? Self-care is very important especially as a freelancer. Self-care activities are positive stress relievers that relax you, inspire you, or recharge you.

Here are ten things you can do for yourself during your child’s naptime:

1) Meditate and stretch

My most important tip for naptime is to meditate and stretch. The whole routine can take less than 10 minutes, but it clears your mind and makes your body feel limber. I use the Stop, Breathe, and Think app to meditate. There are many meditations on the app that are five minutes or less. I usually do at least 10 minutes of meditation during naptime.

I do a simple stretching routine to keep my muscles from getting tight.

2) Take a nap

One of the most obvious things you can do is take a nap. A quick 20-30 minute snooze can give your brain a rest and recharge you for the rest of your day.

3) Read a book

Whenever I open a book, I take a tiny vacation. Try spending 20-30 minutes reading a book during your child’s naptime. It doesn’t matter whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, just choose something that interests you. I do almost all of my reading during naps and in the 10 minutes before I go to bed. I usually end up reading around 30 books per year. It’s possible to get a lot of reading done if you spend 20-30 minute each day doing it.

4) Take a bath or shower

As work-at-home or stay-at-home mama, we don’t get a chance to shower during the day without an audience. When your child takes a nap, you could spend some time relaxing in a hot bath or taking a shower. Having a peaceful shower that’s not rushed always makes me feel better.

5) Watch a show

Sometimes I’ll take a Netflix break during my daughter’s nap. I recently got through all seasons of Scandal. I don’t like having the TV on too much during the day and my daughter is not happy when a “Mama show” is on. I do my TV watching in the evenings or on weekends.

6) Get outside

If the weather is nice, I spend 20 minutes outside while Norah naps. I take the baby monitor outside and either read, do work, or just sit and enjoy the sunshine. Sometimes I walk laps in the yard to get a little exercise. If you have front porch or deck, try getting a little sunshine while your child is sleeping.

7) Have a snack

We all have those snacks that we don’t want to share with our kids. Get into your secret stash and have a snack during naptime. Whether your favorite treat is salty or sweet, it will be that much more delicious because you don’t have to share it.

8) Connect with a friend

Text or call someone and see how they’re doing. This is especially nice to do to other stay-at-home or work-at-home moms. The days can often be long and lonely so reaching out to each other is a good way to have a little adult interaction.

9) Work on a hobby or craft

This could be as simple as doing a little coloring in an adult coloring book or it could be as complicated as you are crafty. I enjoy knitting and I’m planning on learning how to hand-letter in the next few months. I like to have one activity I enjoy that doesn’t require screens.

10) Clean something or declutter

If my house is a disaster, I have a hard time focusing. Of course, there are toys strewn all around the living room for most of the day, but I like to take five minutes to tidy up while Norah sleeps. She destroys the living room as soon as she wakes up, but my sweeps help a bit. At the very least, they help me find the half-eaten snacks that she’s hidden in the couch.

When your child takes a nap, ask yourself whether you’d like to spend the time working or practicing self-care. Don’t feel guilty about your choice! Either way you are doing something good for yourself.

 

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Should Freelancers Trade Services?

As a new freelancer, it can be hard to find clients. While you can spend time working on your own brand, you also need to gain experience working with clients. However, I don’t think you should ever work for free. If you can’t get paying work or you have some extra time on your hands, you could consider trading services.

How does trading services work?

Trading services is where two business people exchange beneficial services instead of cash.

First, think about what you value. Even while trading services, you don’t want to work for something that has no value to you. Perhaps you’d like to do social media work for a local gym in exchange for a free membership. Maybe a free membership wouldn’t be worth it to someone else.

Who should you approach to trade services?

Online business owners and solopreneurs

Small businesses owners and solopreneurs are usually handling a lot of the administrative and marketing aspects of their business on their own. Sometimes they try their hand at making a website or just set up a Facebook page and have no web presence. Depending on your skillset, you could offer the following trades:

  • As a website designer, you may want to approach a copywriter to help you with your site. In exchange, you could spruce up their site’s layout
  • As a social media manager, you may want to offer your services to a photographer in exchange for images you can us
  • As a graphic designer, you may want to offer a new logo to a copywriter in exchange for a rewrite of some website pages.
  • As a virtual assistant, you can offer to send invoices for a marketing company in exchange for social media postings about your business a few times per week.

 

Local businesses

Some local businesses could use help, but may not have the means to pay for your services. You could offer your services in exchange for theirs.

  • You could offer your services for a monthly membership fee (like a gym or club).
  • You could offer your services in exchange for goods or food.
  • You could offer your services in exchange for displaying your business cards or an advertisement for your business.

Special events, conferences, summits

You could offer to do work in exchange for a seat at the conference, event or summit. There are many great online conferences and summits that you could have access to if you helped out with marketing, design, or administrative tasks.

How to get started

  1. Make a list of the skills you’d be willing to trade
  2. Figure out who or what would be worth your trade
  3. Create an email pitch to send to potential swappers

Sample email:

Hi Person,

I’m a content creator/website designer/virtual assistant. I wanted to see if you’d be interested in trading services? I was thinking something like X for X. Does that sound fair to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,

You’ll never know what business connections you can make through reaching out and offering a trade. Trading services will add to your portfolio of work and could also lead to more paying gigs in the future. If you need more work, trading services is another way to get your name out there.

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Do You Want to be An Employee or an Entrepreneur?

So, you have a great idea, product, or service to offer the world and you want to start your own business? Fabulous! There’s a lot of technical and logistical issues that you will encounter as you begin your new venture, but first things first, are you ready to start your own business?

The first question you need to ask yourself is:

1) Do you want to be an employee or an entrepreneur?

This question seems painfully obvious and most people will answer “entrepreneur!” without hesitation. However, you will need to dig deep to discover whether you really want all of the responsibility and stress that comes with running your own business.

Your Work Ethic

There are many perks to running your own business including setting your own hours and choosing what type and amount of work you do. However, there are many downsides as well. In a survey of 10 entrepreneurs, all worked more than 50 hours per week and many worked up to 70 per week. That’s a lot more than your standard 9-5! If you enjoy hanging up your hat at the end of the day and putting work totally out of your mind, you want to be an employee, not an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs make sacrifices in their personal lives in order to make their businesses succeed. As with most things, it gets easier and less time consuming to run your own business the longer you are doing it, but the first years can be the most difficult. Over 40% of small business fail within two years. Can your personal relationships handle the stress of potential failure? If you don’t think so, you may want to stick with being an employee.

How do you feel about living on less? You might have to get used to it if you become an entrepreneur. It may take up to two years, after starting your business, before you can pay yourself a salary. Can you afford to work that long without pay? Would you even want to? If you’re dedicated to your business, is it possible to start it as a side hustle while working a full-time job? If you don’t have the energy to work on your side project at the end of a long day, you may not care that much about it or you may not have the work ethic that being an entrepreneur requires.

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

When running your own business, you will ultimately be in charge of all day-to-day operations. You can hire someone to handle administrative issues such as bookkeeping and tax preparation, but that may not be feasible until you start getting customers. Any amount of business sense will be a boon to an entrepreneur, but the most important skills in determining whether you are suited to be an employee or an entrepreneur are critical thinking and problem solving.

While working for someone else, is your natural inclination to take problems or solutions to your supervisor? If you take problems to your supervisor and expect him or her to decide how to handle it than you may be better suited to be an employee. With the empowerment that running your own business brings, you may become more comfortable with problem-solving, but it may not come easily. A person who is naturally inclined to brainstorm solutions before asking their boss for help would do better on their own.

Assuming that you don’t have a business partner, you are going to be your own main resource for problem solving and critical thinking. You’ll need to be a fount of knowledge and ideas. Thankfully, there are thousands of resources at your disposal specific to whatever type of business you want to start. You will need the motivation to look for resources that can help you and the critical thinking skills to put what you learn into practice and modify advice to apply to your situation.

Your Personality

While it doesn’t take a particular personality type to be a successful entrepreneur, it does help to be realistic about who you are. A self-motivating personality is a good fit for entrepreneurship. Your success will have a lot to do with how hard you’re willing to work and how much effort you put into your business. Even if you have the support of a team, you’ll need to have the vision to carry your idea out. In the same vein, it’s better to be a leader than a follower when running your own business.

There is no right or wrong response to the question “do you want to be an employee or an entrepreneur?” Your dream job may be working for yourself or it may be working for an established company. Spending time thinking about what option is the better fit for you is crucial before deciding to start your own business. If you have self-awareness and can take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll discover the right choice for you.

 

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What I Do After I Write a Blog Post

I’ve previously talked about my blog writing process. After I write the post, I do a few other things before publishing it. These steps make the post into shareable content.

Find an image for the post

I got to Librestock to find an image that complements my content. For my posts on freelancing, I like to find images of offices, people working, and computers. I also like photos of nature scenes. Sometimes I include pictures of my family, but only in the parenting posts.

Create a Canva graphic

I edit the image in Canva to create a “Pinnable” image. I do this by taking a template that I made of the blog title and my website address. I change the image, add the new text and insert it into the end of the blog post.

Write social media posts

I post every new blog entry once on the Freelancing Mama Facebook page. Sometimes I share Freelancing Mama’s post on my personal Facebook page. I also tweet each post three times within the week that it was published.

Schedule the blog post

I schedule each blog post at least one day in advance, but sometimes posts are scheduled a few weeks in advance. One of my goals for 2017 is to have content scheduled at least one month in advance.

Post on Facebook group

Once the post goes live, I post my link in a variety of places. There are several freelancing and blogging groups that allow people to share their content once per week on a certain day. I take advantage of this and post my work in the threads. Usually, this results in 2-5 people sharing my content. You can find groups by searching Facebook for your topic of interest and choosing the Group tab to see what exists.

Pin my post

My next step is to pin my post. I do this by using the Pinterest Chrome add-on. I hover over the pinnable image that I include at the end of my posts and then add my blog. I have a Pinterest board for the Freelancing Mama’s posts. I typically add more to the description field before saving the pin.

Repost on Medium*

Medium is another blogging platform. My husband primarily uses it for his writing. I read Medium articles every day, but only post some of my work there. One reason for this is that I don’t want to negatively affect my website’s SEO rankings. Duplicate content can lower your ranking. The second reason is that I want to keep a consistent image on that site as a social media marketer / freelancer. On my own blog, I also write about parenting and being a stay-at-home mother.

I’m a relatively new blogger and don’t do this as a career so this is a basic list of resources. As I learn new things, I’ll continue to add to this procedure.

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How I Write a Blog Post

The hardest part of writing is often just getting started. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is “BICHOK” – butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Often the magic happens when we show up.

My writing process rarely varies.

I always start with a blank Google Document.

I title the document and change the font to Headline 1 size. I may end up tweaking the title after I finish the post, but most of the time I know what I want to write about and my title explains it fairly well on the first try.

Next, I write a bullet point outline about what I’m going to discuss in the blog post.

  • First point
  • Second point
  • Third point
  • 1-2 sentence conclusion

As we all learned in school, essays should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Blog posts are similar, but they are open to your personal style choices. Some people’s posts are a stream of consciousness while others are more like newspaper articles. It’s up to you to choose your style of writing.

After I have the bullet point list, I may skip around in the document and write sections that are coming easily first.

I also like to include 1-2 links to other blog entries and websites. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s my rule of thumb. When I think of something that I want to cite I write (LINK) next to the text to remind myself to go through and find the links during the editing process.

I work on a blog post when during my 30 minutes of concentrated writing time each morning. If I don’t have anything to add in one post, I’ll move on to another. I have between 20-30 drafts going at all times so there’s always something to do.

I complete some posts in 10 minutes and others take hours. It depends on my familiarity with the topic and how easily writing is coming to me that day. Sometimes I’m pulling the words out of myself and other times they are flowing freely.

Concentration

I write with Brain.fm playing in the background. I truly believe that it helps focus my brain. I also use YouTube to find classical music. Here’s a nice 3 hour compilation of classical music.

Proofreading and editing

After the first draft is complete, I read through the post out loud to look for any errors or sentences that should be reworked. Often, reading out loud helps to find awkward phrasing or incorrect grammar. I run a free spelling and grammar checker called Grammarly on my posts to catch anything I’ve missed.

I typically spend another 20-30 minutes proofreading and editing the post to get to draft two. Once the second draft is complete, I leave the document alone for a few days.

Final read through

I do a final read through a few days after editing draft 2. After I read through, I go through my after blog writing process.

Celebration

After I finish a blog post and after all of my 30 minute writing sessions, I have a small celebration.

As an adult, even while working in an office, you don’t get praise very often. My husband is very supportive and always tells me he’s proud of me. When I’m alone in my kitchen and just finished some writing, it helps to get up and say “Go Erin!” or some other exclamation out loud. Having a toddler is a benefit because she’s always ready for an impromptu dance party. If I’ve had a particularly difficult writing session, I turn on one of my favorite songs and rock out for a few minutes.

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What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed by Motherhood

Being a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but it can also be one of the most exhausting, overwhelming and tedious ones too. At one point or another, all mothers have felt like they weren’t able to keep up with the onslaught of housework, caregiving, and maintaining their sanity.

Here are some ways to cope when you feel overwhelmed by motherhood:

  • Find a support group

In-person would be best, but if all you can find or have time for is an online group, that can work too. Support groups consist of other mothers, some in the same position as you, others who are newer to the job, and some seasoned pros. They can offer support and help. A weekly or monthly meeting can be a great place to recharge, relax, laugh and commiserate. Check Meetup groups in your area or Momsclub.

  • Ask for help

If you have a relative or a friend that you can ask for help, reach out and do so. Sometimes we don’t reach out for help because we’re embarrassed and assume that everyone else has it together. Everyone could use some extra help every now and then. Ask if someone can watch your child for a while so you can run an errand solo. Ask if someone could entertain your child while you get some things done around the house. Ask if someone could help you clean while your child sleeps. Whatever you need help with, put aside your temporary embarrassment and ask for help.

  • Take a break

When your child is napping or otherwise safely contained somewhere, take a break. Take a few deep breaths, do some stretching, read a book for a few minutes, or just leave the room. Sometimes separating yourself from the situation for a bit can help especially during toddler tantrums or newborn crying jags. When you calm down, go back and comfort and redirect.

  • Hire someone

If you don’t have regular help, you may want to hire someone to give you some time out each day. Babysitters, nannies, or ‘mother’s helpers’ can be as reasonable as $7-15 per hour depending on where you live. If you are able to pay someone to come a few days a week, it may be best for your mental health. You can find local caregivers on Care.com.

  • Find daycare

If you don’t want a babysitter coming to your house or can’t find one, you could use a drop-in home daycare service. This would allow you to bring your child for around $25-45 per day. Most commercial daycares will not allow drop-ins, but do have part-time schedules that can be as flexible as two days per week or a few hours each day.

  • Go outside

If you’re stuck in the house all day, you’re bound to get aggravated. Both you and your child need a change of scenery. Go outside! Go to the playground, the library, or take a walk around the block. Even running a few errands can break up the monotony.

  • Find free activities in your town

In most cities, there’s something free happening almost every day. Most museums and zoos have donation days where you pay whatever you can. Look up activities in your city and get out of the house. It can seem overwhelming to leave the house at first, but once you get to your destination, you’ll be glad you did. Search “free activities [your city]” or “donation day [your city]” to find lists of resources.

  • Join a gym

There are many gyms with childcare included in the membership price. The YMCA is a great example. For around $40/person per month or $70/family per month you can go to the YMCA every day and use the childcare for two hours per day. This situation is a win-win. Not only will you get some exercise, but you will also get a much-needed break.

  • Get more sleep

When you’re sleep deprived, everything is harder. Try to get to bed earlier. If your child is still waking through the night, consider sleep training. I used the SleepEasy Method to sleep train my daughter. If your child naps during the day, try to take a 20-30 minute nap with them. It’s tempting to power through your day on caffeine and sugar (I know I have!), but try not to consume them after 2 pm so you can fall asleep faster.

  • Speak to a therapist

If you’re feeling overwhelmed frequently, you may want to speak with a therapist. You could be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety. Even if you’re not, the therapist will give you tools to help you cope with your day-to-day struggles. It’s often hard to find time to go to a therapist when you have children, but this is where babysitters, family, or friends can come in handy. You must prioritize your own health because no one else can do that for you.

Feeling overwhelmed is a normal occurrence in motherhood. Children can be demanding and exhausting and it’s stressful to have the responsibility of raising them on your shoulders. Make sure to take time for self-care. You are important.

If you feel hopeless or overwhelmed the majority of the time, please contact someone about postpartum depression/anxiety. It is very real and very serious.

motherhood

Creating a Productive Morning Routine

A productive morning routine can be the difference between a great day or a terrible one. The elements of a productive morning routine differ for each person, but there’s some overlap for everyone. Here are some simple activities you can consider adding to your morning routine:

1) Stretching

Stretching has many benefits for our bodies. It helps blood flow and keeps us limber. After sleeping for 7-9 hours (the importance of enough sleep cannot be overstated), our bodies are stiff and need to ease into the day. Start off with a simple 2-3 minute stretching routine as soon as you get out of bed. Here’s a good tutorial for morning stretches.

2) Drink a large glass of water

Not only is your body stiff after sleep, but it’s also parched. Although it’s tempting to do so, don’t immediately grab coffee when you wake up. Pour a 8-10 oz. glass of water and drink it first. If you don’t like drinking plain water, add lemon or cucumber slices. I have a bottle of lemon juice to add when I don’t have fresh lemons (which is often).

3) Do something meaningful to you

Before you get caught up in the rush of the day, try to do something meaningful to you. This could be reading, writing, working on a craft or project, cleaning something, or whatever makes you happy. I spend 30 minutes each morning writing. It doesn’t really matter what writing I choose to work on, it’s the routine of doing 30 minutes of writing before starting my client work. If you can take 30 minutes for yourself at the beginning of the day, your activity is much more likely to happen. If you wait until later in the day, you probably won’t end up having time.

4) Meditate

Meditation is simple, but it is not easy. You can do it without any props. You simply sit down, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. When thoughts enter your mind, you acknowledge them and let them go. You can picture your thoughts as clouds in the sky, blowing by.

If you want a little more out of your meditation, you can download one of the many meditation apps or programs and do guided meditation. This is where someone walks you through the meditation. I love the Stop, Breathe and Think app. Headspace is also good.

5) Pray

If you pray, morning is a great time to get your prayers in. Say a quick prayer of thanks, ask for what you need for the day, or send some prayers to someone in need.

6) Journal

Write down your thoughts for a few minutes each morning. I write down the events that happened the day before. It helps me remember what I did and focuses my attention on the day at hand.

7) Gratitude list

Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for each morning. Expressing gratitude has huge benefits for your mental health. Every day my list has the same things in the #1 and #2 spots – my husband and my daughter. After that, I try to think of specific things I’m grateful for. Sometimes they are things like the ability to see and other times they are things like flavored coffee. The items don’t have to be meaningful or deep, they just need to be something you feel truly grateful for. Reflect on each item for a moment and you’ll have a better outlook on your day.

8) Write a to-do list

Think about what you want to accomplish today. These items could be a mix of personal and business. No matter who you are, you have a list of things you’d like to get done each day. Keep your list in a place where it’s accessible all day. Make a point to check in with your list around 12 pm and 5 pm to see what you’ve accomplished and what you have left to do.

9) Exercise

Some people like to exercise in the morning while others do not. It’s important for freelancers to get some sort of exercise since the job can be very sedentary. If nothing else, try to do the 7-minute workout each day.

A productive morning routine can give your day structure which is important for remote workers, freelancers, stay at home moms, and anyone else who is home the majority of the day. You’ll end up feeling less stressed and frazzled when you’re following a simple routine each morning.

Special note for mamas: You may not think you have time to create a morning routine. In order to do so, you’ll have to find ways to work it into your schedule. Perhaps you can wake up 30 minutes earlier than your children. If that won’t work because you’re getting your children ready and off to school, then as soon as you come home you could take 30 minutes for a mid-morning or early afternoon routine. The benefits will be the same and it’s important to take time for you each day.

 

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