The beauty of freelancing is the freedom it affords you to set your own schedule, and for busy moms, that is a necessity. But taking care of kiddos is a full-time job in and of itself, so how do you carve out the time to write your blog, for example? And how do you make decisions about what really has to be done?
Emily McGee is the founder of My Adaptable Career, an online business that advises freelancers and solopreneurs on best business practices and intentional business growth via innovative time management solutions. She works specifically with moms looking to monetize their blogs and avoid returning to a nine-to-five job.
Emily began her career as an English teacher before her husband’s job took them overseas. It was then that she began freelance writing in the education sphere, finally niching down to curriculum development. In January of 2016, she founded My Adaptable Career to offer general advice to other freelancers before finding her expertise in time management. Today, Emily shares her best ideas for juggling business and baby, how she handles ‘mom guilt,’ and why freelancing is a good fit for stay-at-home parents!
The benefits of niching down
- Make more money
- More offers, including repeat clients
Why focusing on a particular industry makes you a better prospect
- Known as go-to writer for specific content (i.e.: standardized test questions for middle/high school language arts)
Why Emily made the shift to blogging
- As freelancer, still answered to ‘boss’
- Having own business affords complete control
How Emily made the transition from freelancing to blogging
- Balanced both for a year (blog not generating income)
- Researched entrepreneurship, chose full-time blogging as calculated risk
- Views freelancing as safety net to return to if necessary
Emily’s target audience
- Moms looking to monetize their blogs
- Parents struggling with time management (running household and blogging)
Emily’s advice for juggling business and baby
- Minimize your expectations
- Limit your ‘stuff’
- Prioritize (What really HAS to be done?)
- Let go of perfection
- Get clear on your goals
- Say ‘no’ to anything that’s not going to get you there
How to handle ‘mom guilt’
- Remember that social media is a cultivated image of other’s lives and avoid making comparisons
- At the end of the day, you only have to answer to yourself and your family
Why freelancing is a good compromise for new moms
- Allows you to maintain identity outside of being a mom
- Doesn’t require being away from children for full-time work
How Emily carves out time to work
- Three-year-old daughter attends preschool, plays by herself
- Four-month-old son naps
- Eliminate other hobbies (e.g.: television)
Emily’s greatest challenge as a business owner
- Mindset – allowing doubt to hold back
Emily’s #1 tip for aspiring business owners
- Take the plunge
- Now is your time!
Connect with Emily McGee
Emily McGee is the founder of My Adaptable Career, where she helps busy bloggers and solopreneurs manage their time better so they can reach their goals faster. If you ever think to yourself “If only I had more time...,” then sign up for Master Time Management, her free 5-day email course for bloggers and solopreneurs.
Laura Pennington (Host): Welcome back everybody to the Better Biz Academy Podcast. I'm excited to be here and talk with another amazing guest who is balancing family and business. My guest today is Emily McGee. She is the founder of My Adaptable Career where she helps busy bloggers and solopreneurs manage their time better so that they can reach their goals faster. If you ever think to yourself, "if I only had more time", then you can sign up for her free five-day email course for bloggers and solopreneurs about mastering time management and I'll include those links in the show notes. Welcome to the show, Emily.
Emily McGee (Guest): Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.
Laura: I have always liked to ask my guests; how did you get started doing something a little bit outside of the box? How did you start the business you have today?
Emily: It was out of necessity, I'd say. My husband took a job in Nairobi, Kenya and like you, I was a public school teacher and it was going to be with me - that job with me to Kenya so I started actually freelance writing and I wrote in my niche of education doing a lot of curriculum development. So, I started with freelancing, I freelanced for good 3-4 years and now I've started my blog.
Laura: Wow, that's exciting. Now a big challenge though when they're starting their first business is getting clients. So, can you tell me a little bit about what were kind of the first clients you had and how did you come across them?
Emily: Yeah so, I think a lot of people have had bad experiences on places like Elance but that is actually where I got started - is it still called Elance?
Laura: It is not. It's called Upwork now but I got my start there too so go ahead and share your best story.
Emily: So, Elance which is now Upwork, that's where I got started and I did take a few jobs at first that I probably made $8 an hour when I worked it out but that helped me get some great reviews from the clients I worked with. And then I was very quickly able to niche and I found that the quicker I niched down into this education writing, the more money I was able to make and more job offers I had. People were seeking me out, sending me emails, I had to turn down work and a lot of the clients I worked with would get in touch with me for repeat projects so some of them I worked with for years.
Laura: Now see, I love that too because that's a lot of the advice that I give to freelancers and especially writers. You start off as a generalist, you kind of do a little bit of a few different things or a lot of different things, but part of the reason that I think I was successful too is because I niched down relatively quickly. And I hear so many other people who are saying, "oh well if you do that you'll box yourself in" but I don't feel like that's true. I feel like it makes you a better prospect for the clients because you know their industry really well and it just makes things easier for you because you're keeping your brain focused on just one main type of thing, right. You're not jumping around all the time. Have you found that to be the case?
Emily: Yeah I definitely agree and what I found too is that by niching down I became the expert and people wanted to hire me and then often once they knew the quality of my work and we had a relationship, they would ask me to try some other new things. So, I actually was able to kind of build up new skills and branch out into new niches with recurring clients.
Laura: That's another one of my favorite aspects of freelancing because you get introduced to these things that maybe you never would have considered or thought you'd be good at until you have the opportunity to do it, and worst case scenario you hate it. You say, "alright I'm never doing that again" but you could discover something new that you love. Is there a particular type of content or project that you work on with most of your clients? Have you kind of niched down by project type too or is it just that you do kind of anything and everything inside that educational sphere?
Emily: So, I did start out doing anything and everything and I have niched so tightly - now I'm not freelancing because I'm focusing exclusively on my blog but when I last did 3 or 4 months ago, I was only writing standardized test questions and I only worked with two different big companies that would contract. So, I would work for them and then they'd contract me out for various jobs. I would write even more specific like standardized test questions for middle and high school language arts. And I had enough, like I could work full time with that if it wasn't sort of a little bit soul sucking but I could niche that tightly. There's still need for that.
Laura: Yeah absolutely. And then you begin, especially on a platform like Elance or Upwork, you kind of get known as the go-to person for that specific type of content and it makes it a lot easier to convert clients when you're like the one person for that specific thing. And I think that's such a smart niche you're working in because education is not going anywhere and it's been - I've been a teacher - so it's unlikely standardized testing is going anywhere despite what a lot of how they feel about it. So, way to pick something that is going to be around for a while and really becoming an expert in it. There's a need, there's a consistent market there. So, let's talk about you make the decision to kind of switch from freelancing to doing something different. What prompted that?
Emily: This sounds crazy because freelancing already gives you so much control but I really wanted to be like 100% my own business. So, as a freelancer I still had a lot of power and control over my time and the kind of work I did but I was still getting paid by kind of a boss or like some outside entity and I wanted to have my own business so that I had complete freedom and control. So, that's why I started my blog. I started writing about freelancing and then sort of again niched down over time into the time management because that's something I'm passionate about and that I know is really tough to do when you run your own business as a freelancer or a blogger. You know, when you have to wear all those different hats, it can be hard to know how to prioritize and how to spend your time because you don't have someone telling you to show up at work and what you need to do. And so, that's sort of the process that I used to get into the blog.
Laura: So, was there a time when you were kind of balancing the blog and the freelancing or you kind of had - you quit cold turkey with freelancing and then jumped full force into the blogging?
Emily: No, I was balancing both so I did both part time and I used money from freelancing to pay for all the blogging expenses because I wasn't making any money from my blog in the first year of blogging so there’s a year of overlap and I kind of started ramping down the freelancing, doing less and then using that time to ramp up the blog. And I also had a baby in the middle of all that I had a lot going on I guess.
Laura: Yeah, absolutely. And I've been kind of stuck in that same - you're ahead of me on this because I'm still freelancing - but when I started my blog it was the same thing. Basically, the freelancing was paying for this other business which was not yet profitable and it was kind of a juggling act. So, did you have a number in mind when you went blogging full time and said, "I'm not looking back. This is going to be what I'm doing." How did you kind of bring yourself into that mode of confidence where you felt comfortable with this being your choice as far as working?
Emily: You know, I'm still - I'd say I'm still not 100% confident - like I'm viewing it as a risk. I've done a lot of research on starting a business and how long it can take so I'm viewing it as a calculated risk. But also, knowing that freelancing is a great safety net like if I want to go back and pick back up with that, I've got great relationships with clients, I know I could email and start working again on that tomorrow. And I'm also probably in a different position than you, where I am pretty much a stay-at-home mom. I've got two kids so our family isn't dependent on my income in a way that many other people are. So, it can be good and bad, right? Like I have more flexibility with my time and with the amount of money I can bring in but I also have a lot less time and less money to invest in my side hustle blog.
Laura: And I think that having an additional support system or some flexibility as far as like the income that's coming in helps people a lot - I had been talking to one of my colleagues earlier this week and he had done the same thing, he had totally jumped ship from freelancing and talking about freelancing and now he is doing a fiction publishing just for himself. And I kind of said do you mind telling me why because this is such a change. Like he'd really become known in the industry for helping people learn about freelancing and he said, "I just felt like it was time for something different" and he actually passed off his clients to his wife so she could manage all of the business. So, he said, we're not really losing income in terms of the household but now I have much less pressure on me to produce at that level. And that's one of the things that I think is cool about freelancing. Even if you decide, "hey I don't want to do this fulltime anymore, I want to do something different", you know that you have the skills to jump back into it and ramp up relatively quickly. So, tell me more about who the type of person is it that you're helping today with your blog and what kind of clients you work with?
Emily: My main clients are moms who are also blogging and who are helping to make money from their blog so that they don't have to go back to a regular 9 to 5 job whenever that might be, when their kids are in school or when they and their spouse decide. And it's a great group to be working with because they're people who are just so motivated. Like they really want this and they're doing it for their family and for themselves and so I love doing that. And then a big need is the time management and I think before someone has kids, it's hard to fathom how much of your time gets devoted to just keeping your household running and your children alive and well. So, with blogging, a lot of the women that I work with are just struggling to fit in all the things that they're told they need to do with their blog; the marketing, the posting blog posts, the building their traffic, how do they make money? And trying to squeeze that into the margins of their life when their primary role is taking care of the house and taking care of their family. So, I also like it too because I think for a lot of us, myself included, like a blog is an outlet for us and it's part of our identity outside of our kids and so it's nice to be able to help women find the time to have that little piece of themselves.
Laura: Well given that, I'd love to know what some of your top tips are for people who are juggling business and baby at the same time because I don't have kids but I am in awe of these moms who are being the mom of the family, helping a husband who may work in or outside of the house, they're also running one business potentially more. How on earth do you keep track of all of that?
Emily: Well, I don't know how well I could keep track of everything. I'd say, minimizing is really important, like you need to minimize everything. Minimize your expectations. I know that I only have 10 or 15 hours on a good week to work on my blog and so my expectations are aligned with that. Like I'm not going to make six figures this year. That's okay. You can't do that when you're only working 10 hours a week. And minimizing stuff like it's so much easier for me to clean our house because we don't have a lot of stuff. And also, sometimes being able to identify like what actually needs to be done. So, I joked with some of my Instagram followers. We don't have bath time at our house, we have bath day. Like I don't give my 3-year-old a bath every day. It's more like once or twice a week because at the end of the day, trying to get it all in, I'm just too tired to fight with her about taking a bath. And so, you kind of have to let go of the perfection both for your blog and in your home life if you want to be able to make time for everything. And a great way to do that is just to get really clear on your goals. So, you just have to know exactly what you want in your life and exactly what you want from your blog and say no to anything that's not going to help you get there.
Laura: Then that's probably particularly relevant because so many of us, for good intentions, are distracted by shiny objects but there's a part of you that has to be laser focused on the things you do want to achieve because you have limited time. I'm curious, do you think that, there's been a lot that I've been reading lately about mom guilt, and I'm curious about whether you think that that's something that's more impacted by external factors like other people or whether that's an internal thing where you're letting go of this perfectionism a little bit and saying, you know, this might not be perfect or this might not be what the parenting magazine recommends or is telling you to do. But this is what's right for our family because it's what works and actually gets done and it keeps me sane.
Emily: Yeah I think it's really hard because we live in - because our lives are so visible with social media we share so much so you can see kind of a cultivated image of other people’s family and what other people are doing and it's hard not to compare yourself. And people also have really strong feelings especially about children which makes sense. Like everyone wants the best thing for their child and people aren't afraid, I think, to share their opinions. So, you do get on with the goals. Like I think it's important to think about what you want so that you know that at the end of the day you just have to answer to yourself and your family and that for me, at least helps me let go of some of the guilt. And I think for a lot of women, blogging and freelancing is a good compromise because you can still have a job or a career and outside identity beyond being a mom but you can also really be able to take care of your kids and your family in a way that you can't or I couldn't when I had to work a teaching job and be at school from 7 in the morning until 4.30 or 5 at night. So yeah, I do think it's hard. I think there’s a lot of guilt but you can ease that guilt if you just know that you'll need to answer to yourself.
Laura: Awesome. So, do you balance that by having other people help you with the child care or I'm curious to know about the actual strategies you use to make sure that you make the most of those 10 to 15 hours a week that you have to work.
Emily: Yup. So, I absolutely do, but we actually live oversees. We live in Mozambique which is a country in Africa so we have no family around. I know for some people that can be a really huge help having grandparents who can watch the kids and so, one way that I make up for it is sending my daughter to preschool - my 3-year-old. And boy! I adore preschool. We live next door to her preschool so I walk her there every day, get my exercise in, take a little walk and then I have like the morning much more quiet. And then my son is only 4 months old so he just sleeps a lot so that frees me up with some time. And then there are a lot of little things that I do. I've really kind of raised my daughter to play by herself. The option would be you can play by yourself or you can go to bed. And so, overtime she's learned how to play pretend, play with her toys for an hour straight and I can squeeze in work that way. With the baby, he loves being in the baby carrier so I'll just strap him in his carrier and sit at my computer and type in and get work done then. And then I also have cut out a lot of other hobbies that I had before I had kids like I - we don't own a TV; I don't watch TV - I'll put shows on my computer for my daughter if I want something done but I just don't watch TV anymore because I don't have that extra time. So yeah, I think it's just about again, knowing your priorities and then making sure that you're living your life in a way that's going to help you get there.
Laura: Yeah that makes a lot of sense especially because there's so many things that we're spending our time on that we don't even realize how much time is going to go in down the drain with that and TV seems to be a big one. A lot of people are like, "oh I don't have any time, I don't have any time" and then it's like well we actually sat down and calculated you're watching 5 to - I think the average is like 18 hours a week for millennials or something like that. That's a lot of time, that's a part time job right there. So, it's easy to consider what's more important to you. Yes, you'd love to watch TV but right now if you don't really have the ability to do that and your time is better spent being with your family or working on your business, it's something that may have to be cut. I'd love to know what's kind of been the biggest challenge that you faced in being a business owner?
Emily: I think mindset, it's really hard - I don't mind working by myself, I'm very introverted so I don't mind that, I don't feel lonely but I don't - because it's just me, I don't have someone kind of mentoring me or boosting my confidence. I don't have someone to kind of bounce ideas off of. So, anytime I'm just realizing now a year in that anytime something isn't going well it's usually coming back to my mindset like I wasn't maybe confident enough about something or just little ways that doubt kind of creep in and holds you back and that's I'd say the hardest part for me about being a solo business owner.
Laura: And it's also something that's really easy to overlook. I remember when I got started with business, I joined this mastermind and a lot of the people in mastermind were talking about mindset and how important it was to wake up and have the right mindset and I'm like, "no I want like practical business advice, I want strategies, tell me about Facebook ads". I totally blew off this whole idea of mindset and then I realized the same as you that a lot of times when you hit a challenge or a problem in your business, you go, "oh it was kind of my self-limiting beliefs or my mindset issues that caused that to not be successful." And then that leads you to hopefully, a breakthrough form there. So, that's awesome to hear that you've recognized that and see the power of working on that in your business. Well, it's been so inspiring to talk to you. Like I said, I'm always in awe of people who are managing being a parent and then having a business and whatever other responsibilities are in their life. I'm so impressed by that and always love to kind of hear your tips and tricks for getting things done so I know it will inspire a lot of people in my audience as well. If you would like to share may be one final tip that you'd have for someone who's thinking about starting a business or starting that side hustle, I'd love to know what that would be.
Emily: Yeah, my big tip is to take the plunge. Like you can really procrastinate by waiting for the perfect time or making sure you have enough knowledge and to stop. You need to just do it. Now is your time.
Laura: I love that advice. Thank you so much, Emily for being on the show.
Emily: Thanks so much for having me.
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