Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Life of an Etsy Mama. {Part 2}

Today is Part 2 of my life as an Etsy Mama.  Part 1 was mainly about the path that got me to where I am today with my Etsy shop.  (You can find Part 1 here.)  Part 2 is about how I am constantly trying to find a balance between work and home life.

I'm so thankful God has created this opportunity for me.  When I go back and look at all the times I prayed for guidance on what direction I should go in when it came to working, I see now all the doors He opened (and closed) for me to get me where I am today.  I really love what I do.  I love being creative, I love creating things and making things pretty.  I love working with my hands and also getting to use what I learned in all those business and marketing classes from college.  It makes me happy.  Even on the days where I want to run and hide and pretend I have no business to take care of.

Finding the balance between my work life and my home life is probably one of the biggest struggles for me as a mom and new business owner.  I feel like I'm constantly in a tug-of-war with my time and I'm not giving enough in one of those areas.  It stresses me out a lot.  I get overwhelmed all the time.  But both parts of my life bring me so much JOY.

At some point, will I take a step back and let myself breathe again?  Absolutely!  But right now it is all about building a new business.  And if you know anything about business, you know that first year or two is crucial.  It's all about establishing your business so that you CAN let up once in awhile after it's stable and thriving without it hurting everything you've worked so hard to build.


Now I know I'm not curing cancer or running a multi-million dollar empire over here, y'all.  My business may keep me super busy but I'm not getting rich doing it.  (Especially after Uncle Sam takes all my money...).  But I'm making a decent income working at home, being my own boss, creating happy things...and doing it all while watching Netflix in my pajamas.  (Not super proud of that but it happens.  It's not like I can glitter and paint in skinny jeans and a J. Crew button down.)

I know I touched on this yesterday but when all of this started, I was working full-time as a PE Aide at the school.  I was working 7:30-3:30 Monday through Friday at the school and then coming straight home to fill orders until 9 or 10 at night.  There was a lot of takeout going on.  Craig was picking up a lot of slack.  I was completely overworked, stressed out and crying into my pillow a lot.  The house was always a disaster. So why did I continue to do that to myself?  Because I knew I couldn't just give up my Etsy shop.  Starting your own business takes time, dedication and a lot of hard work.  And it was paying off!  It was bringing in money, it was growing steadily and I loved what I was doing!  I just needed more balance. Something had to give.

So I did the hardest thing ever and told my principal that I wouldn't be returning the next year so that I could work my Etsy business full-time.  It was such a hard decision to make.  I felt like I was abandoning the kids and letting down my team members.  But I knew that working from home would provide me with the freedom I've always wanted and most importantly, would provide some much-needed balance.



Now days, things are much better.  I still sub up at the school once or twice a month so I can see all my kiddos and I love all the hugs from them when I walk in.  It is all so familiar and comfortable and I am SO thankful I am able to still keep my ties there.  Just walking down the hall and knowing every face I see makes my heart so full.  But my days and my time are handled so much better now and I know I made the right choice.  Subbing at the school was a great compromise.  See?!  Balance.

A Typical Day

So here's a little of what a typical day looks like for me now.  I still don't have this all figured out and sometimes I work WAY past when I know I should have stopped.  So consider me a work-in-progress.

I'm a night owl so I stay up way too late every night. I'm talking midnight/1am.  Which means I sleep til 7 and get up when the boys do. I wake up to several Etsy messages every morning.  Most of them are asking if I could do something specific on a sign or a cup, some are interested in bulk orders which means I need to check inventory, order more supplies, create a custom listing, figure out custom shipping etc.  I need to answer those messages quickly or these customers will go somewhere else.  It's hard to just say "Sorry, I'm not on the clock yet" and ignore until you are.  The people pleaser in me just won't allow it.  It's also just part of the business and good customer service.  I don't have employees who can pick up my slack.  It's all me, all the time.

Thankfully, my kids are pretty independent and always have been.  They have alarm clocks that go off at 7.  They dress themselves and come downstairs for breakfast.  They aren't big breakfast eaters so they prefer cereal usually which is fine with me.  Sometimes Matthew will make his own lunch or if he hasn't done it yet then I will.  Mason always eats in the cafeteria.  (I love that he does this...).

Right before they leave for school, the boys brush their teeth.  We have a set of toothbrushes and toothpaste for the boys in our half bath downstairs so that they don't have to go all the way back upstairs after breakfast to brush their teeth.  This is definitely a tip I recommend if you have trouble in this area.  They used to go back upstairs to brush right before we left for school and it would take a lot of yelling before they decided to quit goofing off and come back downstairs.  (Teeth still unbrushed, usually)

Around 7:45, Craig takes them to school which is less than a mile from our house and comes back home.  I go back to the bedroom for my quiet time and any computer work.  (Blogging, answering emails, designing things that need to be cut that day, ordering any supplies I may be running low on, etc.).  Which leads me to tip #1.

TIP #1:  NEVER get back in bed.  (duh)

I make this mistake from time to time.  Usually when it's cold and I just want to curl up and get cozy while I have my quiet time and work on the computer.  But this is never a good idea.  It's so hard to get back out once you are finished with everything and have no good reason to stay in bed.  Which brings me to Tip #2.

TIP #2:  Make your bed as soon as you get up.

I hate making the bed.  I always feel like there are other things I should be doing and going from one side of the bed to the other to pull up the bedding and throw all those darn pillows back on the bed seems like a waste of time.  But it keeps me from getting way too comfy when I come back to the room for my morning routine.  I keep a throw blanket at the end of the bed if I'm cold or just throw on my super ugly but deliciously cozy bathrobe.


Once that's done I head to the kitchen for my morning smoothie.  (Check out my new smoothie recipe HERE).  If I put this in one of my stainless steel cups, I can sip on it all morning.  (You can find my FAVORITE stainless steel skinny tumblers here.)


Then I go up to my craft room for the day.  I print out all of the orders that came in the day before and overnight and put them in a 3 ring binder, organized by the day they need to ship by.

I hate that when I print the orders, it cuts off the top of my head from my banner!  :(

I work on orders all day while binge watching something on my laptop, listening to an audiobook or watching HGTV.  Working on orders consists of designing things on the computer, getting them cut with my machine, weeding each design (which means pulling up the negative space around and in between the design with what looks like a pick the dentist uses), painting signs, applying decals, glittering drinkware, taping boxes, printing labels, packaging items, ordering supplies and inventory and answering messages that come in steadily throughout the day.  There is A LOT that goes into running your own Etsy business. I usually stop for lunch around noon but take my lunch back up to my craft room so I can eat and work at the same time. My days go by so quickly.  

Stamping the backs of my signs, adding hardware and ribbon.

Time to pack them up!


 
Working on a bulk order of tumblers.

 Decals that have been designed, cut, weeded and are ready to be applied.

Vinyl decal application

After School

Craig picks up the boys from school at 3 so I don't have to stop working.  He is a private QB coach and since his clients are all in school during the day, his work day doesn't start until after 3pm.  I pick the boys up on Fridays when Craig has his weekly golf game.  I LOVE those days.  I get a peek into what my life would be like without the daily grind.

I do have certain tips and tricks I use that keep me working efficiently but if you aren't familiar with vinyl, cutting machines or creating wood signs, it will most likely be super boring to you. I'm planning on doing an entire post dedicated to you vinyl girls and sign makers soon.  :)  

TIP #3.  Make your Postman your BFF.

I try to schedule a package pickup online every night  at usps.com so my mailman can grab some of the next days' packages for me when he comes. The only problem with this is that he comes so stinkin' early!!  He is usually at our house before noon and I don't have all of that day's packages ready by then.  But it's nice to at least set out what I do have ready to go.  If I forget to schedule a pick up the night before, I just leave a sticky note in the mailbox with a "packages on porch" scrawled on it.  He has told me that will work just fine if I forget to schedule a pickup.  I also tip him well at Christmas.  ;)

The post office closes at 5 so that is pretty much my daily deadline.  I make a post office run around 4:45 to drop off all of the rest of the packages from that day that need to go out.  Since they already have labels, I don't even have to stand in line. I just walk in, drop them in the bin and walk out.  It's only a 7 minute round trip.Which leads me to my next tip.

TIP #4.  Get a DYMO Label Printer.

If you ship a lot of packages (Hello, Etsy girls!!), you MUST MUST MUST MUST get a DYMO!!  (Check them out HERE).  I kept hearing about this and how life-changing it was before I got one.  At the time, I was printing two labels per sheet of computer paper and then cutting each label out and taping over the whole thing in order to make sure it stays put on the package and also stays waterproof.  

And then the DYMO went on sale LIKE IT IS NOW and it really did change my life. For one, it looks more professional.  But it's also much faster and I'm not constantly buying ink! Game changer, yall. Etsy peeps...get one!  

After school, the boys come home, tell me about their day and then immediately run out the door to their friends' houses or to play outside.  They are boys.  They want to go play. They have friends all over the neighborhood.  And it's exactly what I used to do after school as a kid.  Since my craft room is a the top of the stairs which is also at the front of the house, I can hear them coming in and out, can yell down to them if they are in the living room, kitchen or office and still feel like I'm around.  

I will also add that since Craig and I both work from home we see each other a lot.  We interact all day whether it is him helping me by cutting and sanding boards for me, talking to one another about issues with our businesses or just hanging out while the other one is working when one of us needs a little break.

TIP #5. Set a "closing time".

Once I'm home from the post office a little before 5, I go back upstairs and wrap things up for the day.  I check my list to see what is on the docket for the next day and if there is anything I need to do to prepare for that.  Then, I head to the playroom for a 30 minute workout.  I've recently started doing some Beachbody workouts and so far so good!

The wood looking paper on the table, the purple flowers and fuzzy white thing are pieces of my backdrop for all of my pictures of my products.  

Once I finish up and go downstairs, I try do some housework.  I pick up the discarded clothing items scattered all over the place, put toys away, gather any dishes that didn't make it back to the sink, etc. I start dinner and we try to eat by 6 unless there is some practice or game that night that throws our schedule off.  Now that it's staying light out longer, the boys want to play outside longer, so our dinner time is getting pushed back a bit.  We call the boys in and then eat, they shower and we all watch TV for a little bit before it's lights out for them by 8 or 8:15.

Folding laundry while watching RHONYC.

TIP #6.  Grocery Pickup-JUST DO IT.

We live about a minute and a half from Walmart.  And it's a nice Walmart.  Not a scary one.  So we've never had a problem doing our grocery shopping there.  But once they came out with their online ordering and grocery pickup, I thought my dreams had just come true!  Once or twice a week, I go online and order groceries.  Every time you order something, it is automatically added to your "favorites".  So if you order the same things each week, all you have to do is click on Favorites and then add everything quickly to your cart.  You choose a time frame that works for you for the next day and then checkout online.  Pull up to the reserved spots the next day and get your groceries packed into your car quickly!  It is the best and I am a HUGE FAN.  Click here for $10 off your first online pickup order!

After the boys are in bed, it's time to do the dishes, shower, do some laundry, etc until I decide it's time to crawl into bed and check out what the DVR has for me.  :)  Craig watches TV in the living room if he's not a fan of the shows I'm watching and we don't stress out about not spending all of our time together at night.  We see each all day every day so it's not that big of a deal if we want to split up and watch different shows in different rooms for awhile.  You just can't pay me enough to spend my free time watching Moonshiners or some show about fixing up cars or wandering around the wilderness naked.  haha.  I'm pretty sure he feels the same way about Vanderpump Rules and the Real Housewives of Whoever.  ;)

While I'm watching my shows, I usually have my laptop up and running in bed at night.  I'm either designing and organizing things in my software program that need to be cut the next day, answering Etsy messages, checking on inventory or typing up a blog post.  I have a very hard time shutting things off and just relaxing.  There is always something that needs to be done.  There is always someone who needs something from me.  There is always one more thing I could do now to get one step ahead tomorrow.



So yeah, maybe I don't have it ALL balanced out quite yet.  But it's better than it was.  And I think when you run your own business all by yourself, especially if it never closes like an online shop, it's just part of what you have to do.  If I just stopped answering all Etsy messages after 5pm everyday or on weekends I would lose customers.  Or have angry customers who could leave bad reviews and hurt my business. I can't just NOT answer them.  And if I have orders that HAVE to go out the next day and that means working through dinner one night and feeding my kids Sonic or Whataburger....then it is what it is.  It's not going to scar anyone for life.  ;)  So yeah, I answer most messages past 5pm.  I post on Instagram when I get a free 3 minutes.  I still work when I should be asleep.  (Working on that.)

The bottom line is that right now I am there for my kids whenever they need me.  They have been so much happier since I quit my school job.  And Craig and I are both home all day so we see each other a lot more than some couples do. And my husband is awesome.  He does laundry almost every day.  He helps pickup around the house and handles all the outdoor stuff with the yard.  (I do not have a green thumb.)  I make dinner a lot more now even though I still HATE to cook and he will even make dinner for us some nights when he can see I'm looking a little frazzled.

Our house is no longer ALWAYS a disaster.  Just sometimes.  (Yes, those are two random water bottles that have been THROWN up above there when Mason was practicing his bottle flipping.  That kid is talented!  Now we have to get a ladder out to get them down.  And for what it's worth, they were both done on 2 different days.  Because one just wasn't enough, I guess.)


I'm also no longer crying into my pillow every night because I've worked myself into a nervous breakdown.  I do sleep like a rock every night though.

So that's how I'm balancing this crazy mess right now.  I'm working on incorporating new ideas into my life to make it even more efficient. But that's a whole other novel post.  ;)  My life is anything but perfect.  But I'm proud of what I've accomplished and for what is yet to come.  And if you are another work-at-home mom, I know you get me!  Especially you Etsy mamas!

Thanks for taking the time to read about my story!  I'd love to read about you!  Feel free to leave your story, tips or blog in the comments!

Hang in there, Mamas!  I've heard it gets better!  ;)





7 comments:

  1. My goal is to get my Etsy shop where I work full time! It's just not there yet! You have done amazing!
    I love your tips! I also do Beachbody works outs and LOVE them! And YES to making the mailman your BFF and oh my gosh I was so mad that I waited SO long to get a DYMO printer! So easy!
    And I have random water bottles in my gutters that were "flipped" up there!!
    HA
    Have a great day!

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    1. Haha! Those water bottles are driving me crazy!!

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  2. Dang girl, you have a system! I opened my Etsy shop almost 4 years ago (in June) and my son was 1.5yrs. I've kept all my products digital printables because I just can't handle the physical aspect of the business yet with 2 little ones at home right now. I can't wait to venture into actual prints and physical items like mugs and such, but this season of life I have to give up that stuff :( This was a random opportunity that God presented so I know He will provide in the future the type of work I need to do to help my family. I love all your tips and I think you've definitely got a rhythm going. Online grocery pick up is a gift from the mom gods...lol!
    Also, if I order a tumbler from you (love the glitter ones), can local people pick up to avoid shipping?

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    1. Thank you, Olivia!! Enjoy those babies while you can! I would give anything to go back to when they were little. :(

      And yes, use the code MCKFS16 for local pickup at checkout and then just leave in the Notes that you are picking up. :)

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    2. Yes, love these moments with them so little. My oldest goes to Kinder and it's sad that he's already that big! :(

      Okay, I'll use that code..thanks so much!

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  3. I read this yesterday and didn't have time to comment. We're all a work in progress. Some slack in the laundry department (not anymore) while others do in something else but we're all just doing our best. That's important to remember. :)

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    1. Thank you for saying that! It is important to remember. And I can't wait to hear about how the laundry situation is going! ;) See you Sunday!

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