HOW TO ACCOMPLISH ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS A SINGLE PARENT
Welcome to today’s episode, “How I Accomplished Entrepreneurship.” Today’s topic comes from a question I received on Instagram.
It reads, “Hi, I’m a single mom too and hoping to start my own business. I’ve been successful in the corporate world, but it isn’t meaningful to me. As a single mom, how did you accomplish entrepreneurship? Thanks.”
First, I want to say a big kudos and a thank you to all the single parents out there that are making it happen, that are showing up for their kids, that are working their butts off. It’s not an easy ride, and it’s definitely appreciated.
As a single mom, taking the jump to start a business is really, really scary because you have way more responsibility going on, and you’ve got a lot more on your plate.
You’re probably emotionally drained a lot of times because you’ve probably gone through a divorce, or whatever your situation is. You’re probably getting your kids all the time, or some of the time, or not as much as you’d like, and that wears already on your mental health.
The idea of starting a business as a single parent is a lot scarier than for somebody that has a spouse that can help support them, so this decision is a lot bigger.
The simple answer to me starting a business is I started freelancing at night. I had a day corporate job. My kids were very little. My son was still two, three years old.
My daughter was probably six still needing a lot of my time, and I wanted a better life for us. Truthfully, at first, I thought it was all about making all this money, but looking back, it was more about the flexibility and the time. I was picking up my kids at 6:30 at night at daycare. It’s just not what I wanted.
That’s not the life that they deserved, and I wanted the flexibility. I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them and then be able to pick my hours whenever I wanted to work. That being said, please don’t think that having your own business gives you all this extra time.
It gives you flexibility, so I still work probably way harder than I ever did in the corporate world, but I get to choose those hours which makes it a lot better for my family.
So I started to freelance at night. When my kids would go to bed, I would start a second job. I would do 10:00 to 2:00, and it wasn’t easy. There was a lot of coffee involved, and I was really tired a lot of times, but I kept my focus on my kids and on my work.
I also limited any extra time on things that didn’t benefit me, including things like watching TV or dating. I just stayed extremely focused. When my kids were at their dad’s, those were the times that I would make my seconds count.
I’m lucky their dad takes them every other weekend. Those days, including Thursdays, were my 14‑hour days. I continued to just keep focused and keep my eye on the ball and keep thinking, “There’s got to be something better than this,” and there was.
There was a lot of frustration, too. It wasn’t very easy. It took a lot of patience.
I think another part of it is keeping our emotional health good, making sure that the people that we surround ourselves with are not toxic, making sure that we don’t burn ourselves out. At the time, what was fueling me when I started my business was I went through a really tough divorce.
There was aftermath after that where there was still a lot of picking on me and things like that. People were pushing me down, and at some point, I just got tired of it.
I was like, “You know what? This is stupid,” and I got angry which fueled me to just prove, “You know what? I can do this, and I don’t need to be going through this, and there’s something better out there for me,” and there was.
It just took hard work, focus, and patience. That kind of emotional turmoil gave me a lot of adrenaline to just say, “You know what? I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do this for my kids.”
I wasn’t even doing this for myself. It was all about my children and giving them the life that I always imagined.
I came from a different country. I emigrated from Poland, and so in my head there was always this “American dream” and I married the All‑American guy. Then that fell apart, and I was angry. I was like, “I want to provide this amazing life for my kids.”
Not where they have everything they want, and I can go shopping and spend tons of money, but where they have a healthy home where I’m present. As I was starting to freelance at night, I started to build up my portfolio. I started to build up my confidence, and I started to make extra money, which was great.
One of the reasons I think that it really worked for me is because I knew my field. Before you make a jump into something, you have to understand what you’re getting into. I graduated from college in graphic design, and then I’ve always worked in advertising. I knew exactly what my career would entail if I started my own business.
I had tons of experience, and I also had a lot of resources that I could lean on. Whenever jobs were coming in, I didn’t have to stay up and design all night. I could get a designer or a developer to develop a website, and I would work with them together as a team. I was able to create work a lot faster, and get it out the door.
It was really important for me to really understand what I needed to do and what I needed to outsource. I also surrounded myself with positive people. Anybody that would bring me down, they couldn’t be in my life.
There just wasn’t enough room because starting you own business, there’s a lot of ups and downs. It’s very emotional, and it can be taxing.
You want cheerleaders around. If your family’s not supporting you or anyone else, it doesn’t even matter who they are or how close you’ve been to them. If they’re not supporting you, it’s not their time to be in your life.
The other thing I would say is I gave myself a deadline. In fact, a friend of mine, the only one that believed in this idea of me starting my own business, he said, “OK, look. If you want to do it, great. I’ll support you, but you have this many months. By this time of this year, you have to make enough money to pay the bills. If that doesn’t work, then we need to go to Plan B, which is another job or whatever else.”
Having that deadline and being focused helped me just plunge right into it and start doing what I needed to do. The other thing I did, which I was able to do in my business that really helped, is I put clients on retainer.
As many clients as I could, I would put them on a monthly retainer and say, “Why don’t you just hire me out as your agency of choice every single month?” Now, I had a couple clients that were paying me. I could rely on that check coming in as opposed to me having to constantly going after project after project after project. That took a lot of the pressure off, too.
Let’s talk about why single parents make great entrepreneurs because a lot of times I have people saying, “Well, that must be so hard and da‑da‑da‑da‑da.” I’m like, “Well, actually, it isn’t.” I’ll tell you why because we can multitask, like no one else.
I multitask constantly, all day and night with my kids, so taking care of business and myself and everything else in there. Yes, it gets crazy. Yes, I burn myself out sometimes. Yes, I pick myself back up, and I give myself a good self‑help talk, but multitasking really helps you become a business owner.
The other thing is we work great under pressure. We always have pressure to get way too much done in one day. When things come up in my business where my clients and everything are freaking out, I’m not freaking out because I’m so used to everybody else freaking out ‑‑ my kids about maybe their ice cream dropped on the floor or somebody doesn’t want to go to bed or whatever.
I’m so used to that with my kids that managing my clients and everything else, all the chaos around, I’ve almost become immune to it, which is a good thing. Another thing that makes us great, single parent entrepreneurs, is that we have great negotiation skills.
How often do we negotiate with our children about what time they’re going to go to bed, if they’re going to get dessert after dinner, how long they’re going to be on that iPad? We’re doing that all day, so we’re masters at negotiating.
Finally, I think that single parents are very resourceful, and that’s a skill that not everyone has, but if you want to start a business, you’re going to have to be very resourceful. Starting my business was not easy, but was it worth it looking back? Absolutely. I have the life I want, the flexibility. I’m happy with my career.
All those late nights, the frustrations, and setbacks, and experience made me stronger, made me also be able to stand on my own and not have to rely on anyone. That’s something that I’m really proud of.
If you’re thinking about starting your own business, I say, “Go for it.” I would think about these three forward strategies before you do.
I think, number one, you have to keep your emotions in check. What I’m saying by that is that there’s a lot of negativity and frustrations that come throughout the day, and you’ve got to really think, “What am I going to really focus on? Don’t sweat the small stuff. Is this really worth my time? Is this person really worth my energy?”
You almost have to pull the emotions actually out of it and become a lot more logical and just more forward.
The other thing is I think it’s important to have some savings to fall back on. Starting with nothing in the bank is just too scary for me. I did have a little bit of savings, just in case, to get me through a couple months.
Finally, the third forward strategy that I totally believe in all the time as a single parent, no matter what you’re doing, is build a tribe. I’ve always had a group of single parents and mentors in my field that whenever there’s a frustrating day, I can call for advice, or if I need to go somewhere to a meeting, I can switch with another single parent, and then I’ll babysit for them. It doesn’t even cost me any money.
That’s been the best thing because they’ve been my cheerleaders. They’ve been my support system. Family’s great too if you have them around. Not all of us do, but if you do, that’s also really great if you have a healthy relationship with them.
Having that support and that tribe to give you a break with your kids, to listen to you when you’re going to cry, to just be there for you just as another soul, and just to support.
The takeaway for today is that most of the successful and wealthiest people in life have overcome huge challenges. If you’re thinking that being a single parent is a challenge in starting a business, it is, but that’s OK because you’re going to get through it and you’re going to do awesome.
Keep focused. Keep moving forward, and even if it’s not moving as fast as you want it to, at least you’re going forward. At least, you’re trying to figure out if that’s the avenue you want to go.
The last thing you want to do is regret not trying something and staying in a corporate job that you’re not happy with, and you’re spending a lot of your energy and a lot of time running in the hamster wheel, coming home miserable. The best of luck to you guys!
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