Welcome to a series exploring how real-life moms work alternative jobs in order to work and mom the way they want or their family needs. For many, this means working at home. For some it means jobs with flexible schedules. For others it means more traditional business hours, but owning their own business. As we examine the different ways moms make it work, you’ll see a lot of creativity and hopefully be inspired to make your job, traditional or not, work best in your life.
Sarah is a single parent of 6, from infancy to teenager, including two special needs children. She and her princesses live in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where they enjoy homeschooling, playing and growing together as a family. She runs XeraSupport.com, a virtual business support agency, from home, and helps other women start businesses.
What jobs have you had in the past?
I became a mom while still in university, so I’ve never had a full-time job! I worked summer jobs as a telemarketer and at local coffee shops.
How did you come to do what you currently do?
In 2014, I finally divorced my abusive husband. But I had 5 children ages 10 and under. I needed to be able to do something to keep us fed and sheltered. I had been working with a network marketing company, and I had a steady, though small, income through that. But I wasn’t satisfied with my support team, and I felt frustrated by the limitations. I had a blog I’d updated somewhat regularly through my marriage/separation/divorce, so I decided to take that public. While I was figuring out my business model, my blog topics, and my goals, another lady in a business group I was in asked for help in setting up an email campaign. I had just taken a course on that, and done it for myself, so I answered her post. I charged her a small fee, and she was so happy with my work, she referred me to others! From there, my services grew. And I loved it! I loved being able to help others set up their websites, email marketing, social media platforms, that I targeted beginner entrepreneurs in my own marketing. I created packages of my most-requested services, to make it easier for my clients to budget. And I found that most of all, they needed a sounding board, a Q&A service, for those FAQ that come up while you’re starting a business. And that’s what I provide – the practical help to get started with your online business.
How long did it take to get to where you are now?
That first client hired me in the fall of 2016. However, shortly after I helped that first client, I discovered I was pregnant again! Thankfully, I’ve been working from home in one form or another for over 10 years, so I put tried-and-true strategies into play. I tried my best to systemize my tasks, to create the routines that would put my daily decisions on autopilot. Things like meal planning, daily housekeeping, the kids’ activities, even the basics like baths, leaving the house or reading stories with my kids all were put on a routine-like schedule.
What are the biggest challenges?
Time. With a busy household, a baby, a business, two blogs (yes I split my original into two!), along with adding graphic design to my skill set, and continuing my own education, it’s hard to keep up with everything.
What are the biggest advantages?
Flexibility. My 2nd daughter was diagnosed with a lifelong disability a couple of years ago, so being able to manage all her doctor’s appointments and therapy appointments, along with my own prenatal appointments has been a life-saver. I’m not sure I could have done all that I’ve done in the last couple of years had I been working full-time at a job.
What are your next goals?
I want to create ecourses, to be able to make my systems and hard-won lessons accessible to as many women as possible. Specifically, I have two planned: one on time management, and one on starting a business.
What advice to you have for moms looking to work at/from home or start their own business?
First, realize that a work-at-home business is very *very* different than a job. Many people get caught in scams because they don’t realize that there is even a difference, let alone what that difference is. Second, realize that balance is an illusion. No mom, working or not, can do it all, all the time. Trying to accomplish that (and failing) is just going to be an exercise in frustration. Instead, work with the imbalance, and treat it more like juggling. You’re going to be handling a couple of balls, while throwing the rest up in the air. You’ll have to let go of what you’re handling now in order to handle the ones coming back. The trick is to catch them without dropping too many balls.
What is your best productivity tip? What makes you a productive mom?
Write. It. Down. Seriously. Whether that’s in a paper planner, a notepad and pencil, a voice message on your phone, a text message to yourself or however you make a note, put it down on (virtual?) paper somewhere! Write it down. When you had a work-at-home career to the mix, you have too much going on in your head to remember it all. So write it down. Write down everything that’s important. And review it regularly.