Running a successful design business around a family

WRITTEN BY: ALISON JOSHI, FOUNDER OF JWJ DESIGN

When I set up my business 11 years ago my main ‘why’ was that I wanted flexibility around my family. It was May 2011 and having got married the previous year I was thinking of having children. Unfortunately there was no such thing as flexible working in the design industry and I realised if I wanted to continue my career in graphic design that I would have to carve my own path.

 

 

Over the past 11 years there have been a few ups and downs and a lot of learnings along the way to try and work out what I want, what is right for the family and what is right for the business. 

I am still learning on this journey and I don’t always make the right decisions but one thing I have been focussed on is achieving balance with the business, my life and the family. 

As it is International Women’s Day I thought I would reflect on my learnings and perhaps provide inspiration to a woman who might be embarking on a similar journey…

 

Surround yourself with the right people

Make sure you have the support you need, whether that is professional support like an accountant or business coach; but also personal support. I found like-minded women at networking groups who would understand if I had a bad night with my baby / toddler, not got much sleep, and just turning up to the meeting was an achievement!

 

Be transparent and honest

When I first started out on my own I would often not mention that I had a small baby or had just come back to work after maternity leave. I felt that people would think I would not be ‘good enough’ or I was not going to be focussed on the job in hand. 

I’d like to think that opinion has changed and that being open and honest about who you are makes people relate to you more. No more pretending and just being honest makes you far more relatable. Also if clients don’t understand or think less of you then they are not the right client! 

Luckily enough for JWJ Design we work with client’s who appreciate the insight of having children as we work with leisure attractions and establishments in the education sector. Perhaps finding your niche market relates to where you are personally as well as professionally.

 

Be clear on your working hours

My working day often finishes at 3pm as I have the school run to do and so am not always able to check emails or answer calls after this time. I am always honest with clients when I am around as they know they can get my full attention in those hours. 

I am often catching up on admin once the kids go to bed, (like writing this blog!), as there is never enough hours in the day to get all the things done. This is not ideal but I don’t engage with clients at this time and they understand I am sometimes having to play catch up, especially if I have a child off sick from school.

The latest pandemic has definitely helped illustrate the juggle of the working parent and opened up the conversation for the better. 

Out of office is also your friend. Letting client’s know you will get back to them in the morning or in a few days time is normally enough to alleviate their anxiety of getting the job done.

 

Childcare support

Running a business would not be possible without some form of childcare support. When my two were babies they went to nursery and I was also lucky to have support from the grandparents. Now we have school holidays to navigate I have to rely on school clubs, my husband taking time off or grandparents once again. It is not always easy and pre-planning is recommended, making sure there is a balance with some time off with the kids and working on client delivery. 

School friend’s parents can be a huge help when there is an emergency or you might need some help on the odd day here and there. We are all often in the same situation so helping each other out works for everyone.

 

Taking time off and going on holiday

One area I am still having to navigate and learn is taking quality time off. I am good at taking time off when it comes to the kids and their school holidays, I’m not so good when it is for myself and self care. 

I have recently started booking my Friday mornings out to go to a street dance class that I really enjoy to create some space for myself. A day off here and there would be great too, perhaps as a reward if I hit certain targets or milestones in my business.

Multi-tasking does not work

As women we are often told that we are great multi-taskers but I actually believe we are just good at managing our time and changing from one task to another quickly. Multi-tasking does not work for me. So often I have tried in the past to finish a few bits whilst the kids do their homework, or answer a few emails whilst they eat their dinner, or take a phone call. 

Every time I end up taking twice as long to complete the task in hand or getting cross with the kids as I can’t concentrate on what I am trying to do. 

I am still guilty of using the half hour of swimming lessons to make a few draft notes on a project or tick something off the to-do list but as busy working mums grabbing the odd 30 minutes here and there is very useful!

Don’t compare yourself to others

The famous saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy” is very apt when running your own business. It is so easy on social media to see all these amazing things everyone else is doing and think “I should be doing better” but believe me it is a waste of energy. 

Only compare yourself to who you were 1 month or 1 year ago. Celebrate your wins and achievements no matter how small and remember what a role model you are creating for your kids. Showing them the idea of entrepreneurship and the benefits of working for yourself. 

 

If you are about to or thinking of embarking on your own entrepreneurial journey then please do get in touch if you want to chat further with anything you might be struggling with.