When my daughter was born two and a half years ago, I knew my life would change.
What I didn’t anticipate is how my kid would change the way I run my online personal training business.
One day she’d be quiet and happy watching Sesame Street while I created content for social media. The next she’d be crawling all over me the second I turned on my laptop.
So of course I’d stop what I was doing and turn my full attention to her.
I want to be a good mom. And it hurts every time I say, “Not now, honey, Mommy’s trying to work.”
Working from home with a kid can feel impossible.
I would struggle to get into “work mode,” always waiting for the next disruption.
It felt like doing a fartlek drill or opening a cinnamon roll tube: You know what’s coming, but you don’t have any idea when.
As my patience wore thin and my work suffered, I found myself as exhausted as the clients who came to me to help them not be exhausted.
I got frustrated at the smallest things—my husband picking up the wrong ingredients from the store, my daughter spilling something, my dogs barking. Things you’d expect an experienced yoga teacher to know how to manage.
And the big red flag for me? I had no energy or desire to exercise.
When I enrolled in the Online Trainer Academy Level 2 and started opening up to the other online coaches, I soon learned I wasn’t alone. I was hearing stories a lot like mine.
I’m not saying I have all the answers. But I have learned a few key lessons—from my own experience as well as talking with other coaches who work from home with young children.
1. Start each day with the shortest possible to-do list
Jon Vlahogiannakos, an online coach in Toronto with two preschool-age kids, says he begins each day with three priorities. If he accomplishes anything else that day, he considers it a bonus.
I can relate, even though I go about it differently.
Each day, I …
- start with a list of everything I can think of that needs to be done.
- sort by priority.
- start chipping away.
I live and die by the list. Being a parent sometimes makes me feel like I have the memory of a goldfish, and the list gives me a way to get back on track after each disruption.
Not only that, I have notepads in every room of the house. If I don’t write down a new idea when I think of it, it’s gone.
2. Set apart tasks that require focus
I live in New York City, where the cost of putting my daughter in day care is astronomical. I make sure I get my money’s worth by doing my most important and valuable work when I know I won’t be interrupted.
That’s when I do anything that requires getting into a flow state: enrollment calls with new clients, programs for current clients, new content …
As every parent knows, there is no flow state when the kid is in earshot.
The other things I do in a typical day—sending DMs, updating Instagram—I can do while my little one and I are sharing the same space.
I won’t be stressed out if I get interrupted three times during a single text or have to stop halfway through an email.
3. Pay for problems to go away
Jonathan Goodman divides the work of running a business into three categories:
- Important stuff you feel you’re really good at. It’s your secret sauce.
- Important stuff you don’t feel you’re especially good at, or that you aren’t qualified to do (like tax prep and legal matters). These are the things that really drain you.
- Stuff that doesn’t really matter that much. You can easily outsource these tasks.
For me, category #1 is my coaching, interacting in my free and private Facebook groups, and doing my Coffee Talk LIVE show every Monday morning, which I’d keep doing even if no one was watching.
The more energy I can direct toward training my clients, the better their results will be. That’s my secret sauce.
Nutrition is in category #2. It’s an important part of my program, but it’s also the part that frustrated me the most, and where I felt least effective.
So I added a nutritionist to help my clients with that side of things and to buy back time for coaching and training.
I also hired a marketing team to manage my email list. It’s one of the most valuable assets any coach can have, since it includes people who’re paying attention to me but aren’t currently my clients.
The team built autoresponse sequences for eight different situations—to get a prospect on the phone for a sales call, to re-engage former clients, to get people to join my Facebook group, and so on.
I put photography in category #3. Most online coaches use their phone for photos and videos. But because I charge a premium price for my Strong as a Mother program, and because I am my brand, I hired a professional photographer as soon as I could afford one.
Now my audience can see me doing all the things I recommend—working out, preparing meals, spending time with my family.
The photographer makes sure I look good doing it.
4. Don’t feel your business has to be growing
A lot of people get into an “always building” mentality. They’re constantly working to get new clients, create new content, and expand their reach on new platforms.
They don’t know what it’s like to simply maintain, to accept that there’s a version of the business that’s good enough.
But when you’re a parent with young children, there are times when you’re just trying to keep the business from moving backward. You can’t even think of moving the business forward.
Sometimes the best you can do is make sure your clients are doing a good job and feel supported, and that you’re continuing to be as authentic as possible when you’re talking to them.
That brings me to my final tip.
5. Practice what you preach
Something we hear all the time from our clients: “I know what needs to be done, but I don’t know where to start.”
When you have an infant or toddler at home, there will be days when you know exactly how they feel.
No matter how many times you tell your clients that exercise gives you energy, or that meditation clears your mind, there’s a point when you’re so physically and mentally exhausted that you’re mainlining coffee just to get to the next part of your day.
If you tell your clients to put their phones down and spend time with their families, you should follow your own advice.
You shouldn’t be losing sleep so you can update your Facebook page at 6 a.m. or reply to DMs at midnight.
Yes, running your business is important. But if you’re so tied to it that you have nothing left for your family or yourself, what’s the point?
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