When my dog was diagnosed with cancer, I knew that I had to make some lifestyle changes to care for her. I decided to start a business.
I've always worked in male-dominated industries, so that aspect of becoming an entrepreneur never bothered me at all. The real challenges were juggling family life with work commitments and having the motivation to keep all the plates spinning when the business took off.
Here are a few time-saving tips that helped me keep all those plates in the air when I started my technical writing company. Hopefully they'll give you some ideas, too.
Use the cloud
Cloud services help you to provide a professional service with little more than a laptop, an Internet connection and a kitchen table. The cloud is phenomenally useful, and most of the software and services you need to get started are free.
It's important not to splash out when you're getting started, even if you feel you can afford to. For most Red Robot Media projects, I use Teamwork to collaborate in the cloud. I monitor our website using Olark, and I back up all my writing work to Google Drive. All of these services offer a free plan. Use them!
Don't give our your cell phone number
Giving out your mobile phone number is an invitation for clients to call you at 7:30 a.m., while you're on holiday or relaxing with the family. Don't do it. Get a virtual landline number and take it with you everywhere.
A VOIP number is a virtual number that you can route to your laptop, smartphone or mobile number. Using a VOIP service ensures you never miss a call, and you also don't have to answer work calls when you're not working.
My business phone number is linked to my Skype account, so I can take calls on any device in any location by logging into Skype. When I'm finished for the day, I close Skype, and I know I'm not going to be interrupted with work calls in the evening. There are plenty of other VOIP providers who may be cheaper: we use Skype because family members use it, too.
Make the best use of your free time
Assuming you're working in the cloud, you're going to be connected to the Internet pretty much all the time. If your business is doing well, you'll also probably find that your leisure time gets squeezed as your working hours creep into evenings and weekends.
Fight to retain control of your free time. Don't waste it. We buy absolutely everything we need, from postage stamps to furniture, over the Internet. It takes minutes. Shopping online is a great way to claw back leisure time, and you'll probably find you spend less on impulse purchases too. The time I would spend in the store is spent walking the dog, catching up with family and Geocaching!
Shopping online is also great for productivity. If you need a break from work, fine: browse and shop for something you need -- or want! The important thing is to make the best use of your time, because you will undoubtedly have less of it to go around.
Clients are important, but don't burn yourself out
Starting up a business is challenging -- there's no denying that. Just as you diarise your appointments, diarise your time off. Make it equally important. Put blocks of free time into your Google Calendar and don't delete them at any cost.
Last year, I spent many evenings hunched over my laptop while my friends were enjoying cold beers on those long, warm evenings. Yes, it was painful at the time. But my time off, when it comes, is wonderfully flexible. When my niece was ill, I was able to go over to my sister's house and stay over. If I have friends visiting, I simply write some of my blogs over the weekend to make time in the week.
Just go with it!
Most people start businesses because they're dissatisfied with their jobs. I didn't. I had the best 9-5 job I'd ever had when I started Red Robot Media, and leaving tht job was the hardest decision I ever made.
Like most women (and men), I have a social life, a mortgage and an overdraft. When my fiancé Mathew quit his job six months later to join the company, it represented a huge leap of faith for both of us.
But if you have confidence in yourself, just go for it. Don't wait to be given permission. You are the most important asset to your company: if you really believe that you can make your business work, you'll get there. It may not be easy, but the rewards really do outweigh the pitfalls.
Don't forget: work comes in waves. If things dry up for a week, don't fret. Take a short holiday, go for a walk or catch up with your chores. All of these things will help you keep your life in balance, and a well-rested mind is more focused when the hard times come.
Since becoming a business woman, I have more opportunities to see my family. I spend more time with Mathew, and we've even had time to plan a destination wedding. Our beloved dog has beaten her cancer diagnosis and is still healthy and well almost a year later. Overall, my quality of life has definitely improved.
Starting a business is challenging, but with determination and discipline, I know other women can find their perfect balance. Having taken the plunge myself, I can honestly say the odds are stacked in our favour. By managing your time and using the right technology, starting a company need not be a hindrance to family life. In fact, you may well find that your health, diet and lifestyle all benefit, and you have more free time to do the things you want -- or need -- to do. Hopefully these tips will inspire you to take the first step.
Follow Claire Broadley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/redrobotmedia