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Today’s blog post is from Laura Dunn, who runs a web design and consultancy business. Here, she tells us about running a business while raising a family – a subject close to JoJo founder Laura Tenison’s heart.
Life has always been a fierce juggling act for me. At 18 I had my daughter, and at 19, I had my son and it wasn’t long before I was a single parent, juggling two young children and a degree. It took me a few years before I realised the importance of creating a life and a career that you love. With that in mind I put myself through university and began building up my portfolio of work, whilst continuing to juggle my family, which was no mean feat. But, through hard work and sheer determination I now run a successful boutique digital agency from home.
Over the years I’ve developed strategies that help me to find balance within my life; I’m not there yet, and it will probably be a life-long battle to find that elusive balance, but there have certainly been several things that have helped me to refine how I run my business and my life.
When you run a business there are endless distractions that can really take you away from the task at hand. Which is why I keep my two worlds separate, well, as separate as I possibly can. Laura the mum is very different from Laura the businesswoman. When I’m working, my family keep distractions to a minimum, but equally when I’m spending quality time with them I don’t use my phone. That’s our number one rule; although it is occasionally broken – no one is perfect.
Time to play
Prior to having the amazing support of my partner, I was a single parent running a business. Being a parent doesn’t stop just because you’re a mum and you have to work. So you have to develop fun and creative ways to keep your children ‘quietly’ entertained whilst you’re working. I created a play desk next to mine where they would sit and do ‘important’ colouring in. They LOVED pretending to be me. At times it might only buy you mere minutes but you grab what you can, and it also taught them work ethics in a fun way from a young age.
I’m incredibly lucky because my children and my partner are really supportive, and when I ramped up my business last year it meant that they had to get on board quick. My children know that if they want to have a great life then I have to work hard to achieve that for them. Equally, my partner and I have had to turn the ‘traditional’ household roles on their heads, but we’re a team and we do what it takes to support our family.
Stop being superwoman
Despite what people say, you can’t do it all – so stop trying. I have learnt to say ‘no’ to things (quite often it’s the fun things I have to turn down) but I have also learnt to ask for help. I’ve never been very good at asking for help, I think being a single parent meant I was used to relying on myself. But I can’t run a successful business, be a great mum, and a wife-to-be without turning to the people around me. The house isn’t always clean, and I often burn the dinner; we laugh about how I can build websites but struggle to cook a pizza these days. Delegation is certainly the key.
Perfection isn’t real
It’s taken me years to acknowledge and tackle this one, but I don’t try and pretend that everything is perfect. Being a young mum meant that I often had to put on a brave face, especially to those who thought I’d thrown my life away. It’s changed the way I speak to my audience, and I don’t shy away from the struggles of being an entrepreneur. I’ve found being honest and open has meant I receive a great deal of moral support from family, friends, and more surprisingly, from my peers; I think it’s made me more approachable.
Overall I’ve learnt to work more efficiently and to reduce the pressure that I put on myself. I am very methodical in my process and have developed a way of working that really ensures my time, my most valuable resource, is not wasted.