Between meetings, emails, and all of the parts of a job, working parents also have to care for, raise, and be there for their kids. They’re basically working two jobs. And each is rewarding in its own way, but finding a way to balance it all is difficult. So, this month, we asked our members how they do it.
First, we asked how parents care for themselves when they spend most of their time caring for their kids.
Next, we asked how they set expectations with colleagues, clients, and bosses about their schedule and availability due to kids.
We wanted to know about the hardest part of being a working parent.
Then, we asked about the best part of being a working parent.
We asked about the things SOCO parents wished others understood about being a working parent.
We asked SOCO parents to give advice to folks who are about to become working parents.
And finally, we asked what their takeaway was from the conversation.
Does this conversation resonate with you? You can join in every month and hang out with these awesome SOCO parents when you become a SOCO member.
We all have so much going on. Work to do, kids to take care of, bills to pay. And it can all be too much sometimes. Things get out of whack. Life feels out of balance. So, for our latest Slack Session, we talked with our members about finding balance and how they handle all the things life throws their way.
After getting some amazing GIF responses to how they viewed balance in their life, our community described times when they achieved a healthy work/life balance.
Next, we wanted to know how our members know when things are out of balance in their life.
So, when priorities are out of order, we asked how the community gets realigned.
Then, we asked what work/life balance looks like in an ideal world.
We have conversations like this one every single month. If you’re a SOCO member, you can add your take in the #slack_sessions channel. And if you’re not, all you have to do is take a tour, sign up, and you’ll receive all the benefits of being part of the community.
Following the April 18th tax filing deadline, we figured it was an ideal time to talk money. We wanted to get our members’ input on how they run their business finances and the challenges they face. And at the end, we all walked away with practical lessons we can apply to our own work.
First, we asked folks to reply with a GIF with the first thing that comes to mind when they think of their business finances.
Seeing that money causes a little angst, we asked about the source of stress for business money management. We also wanted to know the things our folks felt good about.
Next, we asked what our members struggle with the most.
Goals are an important part of financial management. We asked our members about theirs.
There was a lot of talk about getting paid. So what happens when a client doesn’t pay?
As our conversation came to a close, we wanted to know the tools and resources that help our members manage their money.
Want to be surrounded by a bunch of people going through the same stuff as you? Join SOCO. It’s that easy. You’ll find support, community, and good folks waiting for you.
SOCO member Brett Edwards is a freelance photographer and videographer based in Columbia, SC
Brett Edwards noticed something about his roommate.
“It seemed like he did nothing. And he was making more money than I was,” Edwards said with a laugh.
At that time, Brett worked for a dot com company in Chico, California. He’d graduated with a degree in marketing and mass communication. So when he landed on the marketing team at this company, he thought it was “the job.”
“I hated it,” Edwards said. “I was the visual designer, but that meant I basically filled out templates, the Google Ads, the print ads, and all the things that are basically ‘insert picture, insert percentage off.’”
It wasn’t the type of creative work Brett envisioned for his career.
So, Brett talked to his roommate and found out he did tech support for a pellet grill company. It was a small family operation, and when Brett looked them up, he could tell their media and imagery needed some work.
He told his roommate to give him his boss’ number. Brett had an idea.
“I’m gonna cold pitch him on me doing their media.”
And he did it. The company responded and said they wanted to think about it, but asked if he could also do tech support. Brett was game.
He remembered thinking, “that sounds better than continuing in this other job.”
“So then I went on this journey of doing fully remote pellet grill tech support while trying to get them interested in my photos. And they had no interest initially,” Edwards explained.
Brett continually tried to convince his bosses to let him do some photo shoots to improve their website imagery.
His effort paid off because around $2,000 worth of grilling equipment showed up at his house so he could start going to work on capturing great images.
Brett began taking photos, and even after a move to Oregon, he stayed on with the company working in a “hybrid” position. He started social media acounts, fixed things on the website, and did anything else they threw his way.
He didn’t know many people in Oregon, so Brett had more free time on his hands. He asked his roommate if he wanted to make recipe videos. But Brett wasn’t very experienced with video.
So, he watched tutorials on YouTube about creating videos and gave it a go. Once he’d put something together, he sent it to his company.
“And they were like, ‘wow, this is way better than the other videos we’ve tried,’” Edwards said.
Suddenly, Brett got a budget to create more content, buy more equipment, and travel around the country to create recipe videos with sponsored pitmasters and grilling professionals.
Freelancing is the Perfect Fit
Even though Brett was doing more content creation, he was still wearing many hats. He wanted to focus more on photos and videos. An opportunity came knocking when he met folks from a cider company while working on a promo video for a giveaway. He began freelancing with them, and eventually, they asked him to come on full-time.
Brett named his number for what it would take to make a move.
The company said they couldn’t meet the salary requirement but asked if there was anything else they could do to get him on board.
“I was like, you give me total freedom with my scheduling, my timing, and the ability to freelance whenever I want and just laid out all the other stuff I want,” Edwards said.
Overnight, Brett made the transition into the content job he wanted. He worked with an entire marketing team taking photos for billboards, semi-trucks, creating videos, and even working on some ad spaces for Portland Timbers games. His work was reaching thousands of people.
The arrangement worked well because it put Brett in a position to do additional freelance work.
“Since I essentially had this deal with them where I get to keep my schedule free, and I didn’t have to commit to nine-to-five hours, I freelanced all the time. So I way made up for any amount of money they didn’t give me on just my own free time,” Edwards explained.
It was eye-opening.
“That’s when I realized how important it is to keep your schedule built for freelancing. Prior to that, it was trying to find time for projects outside of business hours.”
Pursuing Work that He Loves
Brett’s favorite thing to do is explore. He and his fiancé spent many weekends hiking, camping, and being outdoors in Oregon. Then, he began thinking about how to merge his business with his passion for being outside. He knew some photographers have a niche in the outdoor lifestyle industry.
Brett used a tried and true strategy to begin working with outdoor brands. He started reaching out and pitching his services.
Brett’s first move was to contact companies he saw on Instagram, the ones that targeted him with ads for outdoor equipment. He asked them to send him products, and he’d get shots while on his weekend trips.
And they did.
“So at that point, I was taking pictures of tents, sunglasses, sleeping bags, whatever. But it was in line with what I did in my own time,” Edwards said. “And so then, everything kind of started to merge together.”
It’s been a solo journey for Brett, but he’s hoping to build a small team.
“My ultimate vision was getting a small production house or small creative team together in a physical space and getting my own studio at some point.”
Brett’s move to Columbia was a transition. He’s still getting used to the climate (he moved here in September 2021) and finding new places to explore. But, he’s found community and an opportunity to pursue the work he loves.
You look at the calendar, packed full of meetings, and wonder how in the world you’re going to get everything done today. And tomorrow looks just as busy.
Or maybe you glance at your phone to see it’s 4:30, and you feel a sense of dread knowing you have deadlines to hit and not enough time. So, you’re looking at another night of work when you’d rather be doing anything else.
If these scenarios sound familiar, get in line. All of us struggle with protecting our time. It’s easy to get caught up in meetings, emails, and the million other things that pull at our time and attention every day. Things that ultimately rob us of the opportunity to do focused work.
And while we all want to do better work, at the end of the day, most of us desire to work less.
We want to spend less time in meetings and more time with our families, or doing things we enjoy.
And for those who are self-employed, commanding your time means earning more income.
If you’re saying to yourself, “there’s gotta be another way,” you’re right. It takes a lot of practice and even more discipline, but here are a few ways (and there are many more) to protect your time and calendar.
Don’t Go to Meetings Without an Agenda
If you think about unstructured meetings you’ve attended, you can picture the 10-15 minutes of idle conversation, the flurry of late arrivers, and technology issues that can derail things before the meeting even starts.
If that happens three to four times per day, you’ve now lost 300 minutes per week. Throw in unnecessary discussion points that cause a meeting to run long, or worse, create another meeting, and you’re losing hours each week.
When organizing a meeting, always bring an agenda with discussion points to facilitate the conversation. And if you’re attending a meeting where no agenda has been created, reach out to the organizer and ask for one. By following a structure, meetings will be more productive, and you’ll walk away feeling like it was time well spent instead of looking for something to clear your headache.
Side note on those catchup conversations that often happen in the first 10-15 minutes. They’re not a bad thing unless they disrupt the reason you’re meeting in the first place. It’s a good idea to build in time for those conversations on your agenda. You’ll connect with colleagues and clients and still have time for an effective meeting.
Protect Your Productive Hours
Disruptions are a leading cause of feeling like you’re not getting enough done.
It’s also just how life is sometimes. Errands need to be taken care of, kids dropped off (you get the idea).
So with all of these things in mind, it’s essential to protect your most productive hours; whatever time of day that may be, put it on your calendar. Block it off. And when someone asks you to meet during that time frame, suggest meeting later in the day, or catching up via email. It’s okay to set boundaries and say “no.” In fact, if you’re going to protect your time, it’s a must-do.
Use Technology as a Force for Good
We’re not going to talk about your phones being a distraction. Instead, we’ll make the argument that between your phone, and a few other resources, technology can be a powerful tool in the fight to protect your time.
Most smartphones have a downtime or focus mode. Think of it as a gatekeeper of your time. Set up a focus period to dive deep and avoid emails or notifications.
It’s almost too easy to send a video meeting link and have a conversation.
Instead of having a check-in to ask a question that could spiral into a longer meeting, consider using recording apps like Loom or BombBomb.
You can share your screen, ask questions, and offer your thoughts without the need to schedule a meeting on already busy calendars.
Another benefit to these recording tools: they give you and the person you’re speaking to time to think.
They can also rewatch the video, providing everyone with more time to solve a problem or think through options without giving immediate feedback.
The Community Has Good Advice
Protecting your time is an ongoing practice. Sometimes you’ll crush it, and other days, time may crush you. The most important thing is to evaluate if how you’re spending your days is keeping you on a path to achieving your goals.
These few tips only scratch the surface of how to protect your time. And we’re not the experts in the room. Our members have some good ideas too, which you can read right here.
Ley’s an awesome human. You’ll see him at both 80808 and Bull Street. Ley does good work: he helps people facing mental illness and challenges. In many ways, his work pays homage to the legacy of Bull Street and the patients who received care in the South Carolina State Mental Hospital. We could go on about Ley, but we’ll let him do the talking.
Tell Us About What You Do. Brag a Little (50 words or less)
I am a behavior analyst, a gerontologist, and a small business owner. My specialties include behavioral gerontology and the behavioral presentations of neurological disorders, in addition to working with criminal offenders with intellectual disabilities. Primarily, I work with adults with a dual diagnosis of intellectual disability and mental illness living in community residential homes, providing behavior analytic services.
What Are Your Passions? What Do You Love Doing? Business or Personal.
Simply put, my passion professionally is helping people with unique challenges live higher-quality lives, whether they are 1 day old or 100+ years old.
Personally, my passion lies in becoming a global citizen through participating in my local community, advocacy for the silent, life-long learning, and trying novel experiences.
What is one wealth building, debt elimination, or personal finance tip that you would share with the community?
Treat your personal finances like a business. If your personal finances were a business, would you be open or closed?
What’s Been The Hardest Part of Your Journey?
I am a behavior analyst and a gerontologist – nothing less and certainly nothing more. I never set out to be a business owner. The ongoing challenges related to business strategy and business management, in addition to the continuing education related to navigating business ownership, are constant companions.
What’s Been The Most Rewarding Part of Your Journey?
The most rewarding part is knowing our team makes a positive difference when we work – every day. We are catalysts for happiness, promoters of success, and advocates for those who have no voice. Intrinsic value is difficult to quantify but to qualify personally, I would describe myself as an incredibly wealthy man.
How Has SOCO Supported You On This Journey?
Confidence. Support. Trust. Friendship. Guidance. Who has a thesaurus? SOCO has taken professional networking, dumped it in the trash, set it ablaze, and pushed it out to sea. SOCO is based on naturally occurring conversations, happening repeatedly over time, which form into friendships and true connectedness, as opposed to professional speed dating at networking events. From a small business perspective, SOCO will be an imperative component for the next levels of success I achieve, no matter what that may look like. It is impossible to overstate the benefits of being surrounded by other business owners who encompass the entire continuum of business, from conception to success (as identified by the person!).