Finding Time For A Side Hustle As a Working Mum
As a busy working mum, do you struggle to find time to work on your business?
You’re not alone. Juggling a family and a side hustle can be a real challenge for many of us. However, side hustles are increasingly becoming a necessity rather than a hobby in this economy. They can provide a financial safety net, help us learn new skills, and offer a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
But how can we possibly cram it all in with just 24 hours in a day?
We decided to reach out to some mums working and building a side hustle. We spoke to 10 mums, and one thing was clear during our conversations. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so take what you can and run with it. This isn’t a “what you should do”. Or “every tip we should follow”. Here’s what they had to say.
For most mums, this was the number one tip.
Roxanne runs Lovely Occasions, a popular party decor store that also offers balloon installations and styling. She agrees that this was one of her top tactics.
“Set aside time to work on your business. Knowing you have that time will help you focus on what you need to do”.
We all know that it’s too easy to get distracted by temptations when you finally have that time free. Ash, a mum of two who runs social media management agency The Social Serotonin, reiterates this.
‘When you do have time to work on your side hustle, make it worth it! Don’t spend that precious childfree time aimlessly scrolling social media or replying to random emails or mucking about on Canva; spend the first 5 minutes planning your time, and use it wisely. I like to time block – one hour on Task A, one hour on Task B, and so on.”
For Claire B., who runs My Inspired Lifestyle Project, a coaching business, blocking time is a sure-fire winner. “I have recently found that structuring my day and finding my “peak performance hours” have helped me do the work I need to do in the hours where I am most productive”.
She explains what this looks like for her. It includes planning 5 non-negotiable habits to be completed each day (morning intention setting, evening reflection, working out, walking and meditations) and finding and working within her peak performance hours, which is from 10am to 2pm.
Rachel of Baby + Mumma Gift Hampers has successfully grown her side hustle during COVID. Time blocking was just one of the ways she found success.
“Separate mum time and work time – I allocate time each week for my side hustle tasks and separate time for family and mum time. I am careful to keep the two separate as much as possible. This means I can fully be present with my children, and I complete my side hustle tasks at allocated times, such as when they are in bed, while my husband looks after them, or at busy times I have other family mind them. This way, I’m not trying to do side hustle work while also caring for the children”.
Scheduling and Planning Go Hand In Hand
Sarah, is a blogger who works part-time whilst running a successful dessert blog, Keep Calm and Eat Ice Cream.
“I get paid for my website and am juggling my day job with kids and the blogs (Sarah has a new one launching soon).
My top tips are to schedule social media posts to save time and don’t try to do everything at once. Some days the kids get extra screen time while I finish that delicious recipe; other times, I put down work stuff and take the kids to the park”.
Claire C., is a mum of 3 who also runs the monthly Glad Rags Markets – a pre-loved clothing market.
Social media planning is one of the most critical scheduling activities she undertakes. “This is very important as it tends to be where I generate the most business”. She adds.
“I plan my social media posts one month in advance; while there is software available to do this I find drafting the posts in Instagram (which I then share across Facebook) allows me the same functionality to ensure a consistent aesthetic and by having to post the images manually I’m then online to engage and be more responsive with my community rather than set and forget. I also research national days and events which I can hook into if I’m struggling with content ideas.
I also keep a live list of local Facebook groups that allow business posts and set myself reminders to ensure I post on the right days”.
The Mighty List – Write it Down
Let’s be honest. Lists work. Everyone uses them differently; some like writing on paper, others love multi-levelled bullet points, and others prefer the ‘organised mess’ of high-level mega lists. The bottom line is to find your preferred method and go with it.
Roxanne agrees. “Keep a list in the notes on your phone or a paper list and write down all the things you need to do just relating to your business; this will help you be more productive in the time that you have”.
Rachel also cites to-do and goal lists as a contributor to success. “I love being organised and keep everything on a to-do list that needs to be done, and I have a goals list for longer term visions that I work on over a number of months”, she says.
Kate, who runs Calvi.Co, a store that sells sustainable hemp linen products, is also familiar with the power of the list. “I maintain a comprehensive to-do list on my phone. It might sound simple but it’s a saviour when you’re at the supermarket and need to remind yourself whether you’re running low on toothpaste or when you’ve opened a work email while you are feeding a baby in the middle of the night and know that you’ll have forgotten about it by the morning. It only takes a few seconds to jot down anything you might need a reminder about, and it will save you a tonne of time in the long run.”
Gladrags Markets’ Claire C. knows that her checklist is her best tip to help her succeed on busy market days. “A checklist is the most valuable tool I have for market days. It allows me to ensure I don’t forget any essential items and helps keep me on task for everything that needs to be done for the set up and breakdown of the event”.
Daily goal tracking lists are vital for Thia, who works at Wholesale2B and runs a bakery on the side. “With time and making short notes of your goals for the day, it becomes easier to keep everything running smoothly. There may be bumps along the way, but by making a practice of writing notes for the day (not weekly goals, not monthly goals, only daily), I stay clearer with what I want to achieve today and what could be done tomorrow. So that’s my primary tip on how to manage multiple things at once — all important”.
You Don’t Have To Do It All Alone
This is an important message, and it looks different for everyone. Sometimes, it will be the help of family and friends. Other times, outsourcing or even having a circle of friends who you can bounce ideas off.
Jamey, who launched her side hustle Prettyfly Nets in 2019, juggles this along with her day job and being a mum. She tells us, “Outsourcing is the biggest thing for me – this can be for the business (i.e. paying someone else to do your bookkeeping) but don’t forget about domestic things too. I recently started doing meal kit delivery and I can’t stop raving about the time and ‘mental load’ this has freed up for me, no longer having to decide and shop for our family meals.”
For Rachel of Baby + Mumma Gift Hampers, any option to outsource is a big help. “This could mean hiring a virtual assistant to do some tasks, outsourcing some housework so you have time to work on your side hustle or be with your children, or perhaps outsourcing some elements of the business. For example, I have a cleaner and a marketing agency that I outsource jobs to that I can’t find time to do myself”.
Meanwhile, Claire B. of My Inspired Lifestyle Project sees a heap of value in social support, “Making sure I have an inner circle of like-minded women who share my values which motivate and hold me accountable.”
Calvi. Co’s Kate jumped into her side hustle with these plans already in place. “When I started Calvi.Co I was working as a lawyer, caring for my one-year-old and expecting my second child. I knew that it was going to be the ultimate juggling act so I made sure I had appropriate supports in place before I jumped in. I am lucky to have exceptionally supportive family and friends nearby who are always willing to take my kids for a cuddle while I answer emails, take work calls or simply jump in the shower! Never underestimate the power of delegation”.
Of course, don’t underestimate the power of technology to help you outsource. The Social Serotonin’s Ash let us in on a tip. “Invest in a slow cooker – it’ll save you SO much time and money and helps you with the dreaded “what’s for dinner?” panic at 4:45pm each day”. However, she adds, “Be it cooking (hello, meal services), cleaning, childcare, the ironing; outsource what you can and what you can feasibly afford”.
The Golden Rule: Take Care of Yourself
Don’t compare yourself, and don’t be hard on yourself if you perceive failure. Instead, start by giving yourself gentle and attainable goals.
Sarah of Keep Calm and Eat Ice Cream agrees. “You can’t do everything all at once and you will burn out trying”.
For Jane, who runs her own marketing agency, Jane McKay Communications, one of the critical things is managing guilt.
“One of the biggest things for me is letting go of the guilt. Don’t feel guilty about the kids when you’re working and don’t feel guilty about the work you need to do when you’re with the kids or everything will make you feel bad! Easier said than done, I know. Try to be present for the task you are doing in that moment which is definitely easier said than done. Time efficiency has become my best friend and not trying to multitask!
Rachel of Baby + Mumma Gift Hampers has also embraced this kinder way of thinking. “Accept imperfection – Sometimes things aren’t perfect. Sometimes the children get sick and can’t go to daycare, or sometimes my husband works away and can’t look after the kids. Sometimes things go wrong and I need to fix something right away. Sometimes there are days when the kids spend more time watching TV than usual. These things happen, and we need to be kind to ourselves and know that every day isn’t like this”.
Sometimes We Need To Improvise
Maika’s side hustle, Mumma’s Beans Coffee, offers lower caffeine or decaf organic coffee for pregnant and breastfeeding mums. She has acquired the art of resourcefulness to help her cope with all that needs to be done. “To manage my side hustle while looking after kids, I try to align screen time with important business calls or a slot of uninterrupted focus time.
When I pack orders, I try to involve my 3 year old by setting up a little workstation for him. He ‘helps’ me sticker bags, weigh the bags, put coffee into satchels, sticker the label and logo on the packaging, etc. For loyal customers, I also let him draw on the thank you cards or packaging. I might put a note saying: ‘Stickered by Max’, or ‘Original artwork by Max’ and my customers love it. It might take a little longer, but I love watching how much he enjoys being involved and contributing.
For photos and videos, I involve my older daughter. She loves playing with the camera and trying different angles, taking photos and videos and editing them. Again, it’s not so much about how much beautiful content she can create, but her joy of contributing to something that’s important to mum, and that feels really special. And I found my audience prefers ‘imperfect’ content more than the perfect shots anyway”.
Software Is Your Friend
There is a vast wealth of software and tools you can sign up for, which will help you with planning and processes to simplify your day to day tasks.
Ash is a huge fan of systems. “Create systems – ones that work for you! Maybe you use project planning software? Or a scheduling tool? Or automations in Xero? Find what works for you”.
Many like to use project planning software, but for Rachel, it’s all about the power of the calendar. “I use a calendar and map out all the tasks I need to do each week and month and ensure I stick to them. Every time a new task comes up, I put it on the calendar and allocate a specific time to do it. This way I know every task that needs to be done and when I will do it”.
Automation is another thing you can use to your advantage. Jamey is a big fan of this tip. “There are so many apps for everything these days – use them! The one that saves me the most time reconciles my Shopify sales with my accounting software. I also have an app that tracks my mileage and one that extracts the data from my business receipts.
Generally, I try to keep the saying ‘work smarter, not harder’ in my mind and am always on the look out for new ways to make do this.”
There Will Be Compromises on Time
As a full time working mum of two young kids who also runs Parenthood Podcast, Leonie makes a daily conscious effort to create some of that extra time. “I wake up super early; 5.15am. On weekends when my kids nap, I will allocate the time then to work on my side hustle”. I am super organised (I think you have to be).
Maika of Mumma’s Beans Coffee also likes to take advantage of quiet (sometimes) early mornings. “I sometimes respond to emails, etcetera, once the kids are in bed, but if I have bigger chunks of work to do I prefer getting up early and smashing it out in the morning while the house is still quiet.
Ash agrees. “Some days, we just have to burn the candle at both ends – working early and late – just don’t make this a regular thing that’s a sure fire route to burn out!”
Thia sums it up well, adding that sometimes, “You need to accept the fact that your day is going to be busy as ever while maintaining a job, side hustle, and taking care of the family”.
For Parenthood Podcast’s Leonie, this is an important one. “(I’m) super passionate about the podcast; which is imperative otherwise it would just not feel worth it. At times I think about giving it all up, but then I couldn’t imagine life without it. The podcast and inspiring other parents feeds my soul.”
It’s the enjoyment of the work that helps push Claire C. forward. “I mainly run my business in the evenings once all the kids are in bed, checking emails, drafting newsletters, etc. I really enjoy it so it doesn’t feel too much like work and it also stops me from spending too much time scrolling through social media”.
My Inspired Lifestyle Project’s Claire B. echoes the sentiment. “I also find that I need to be excited by the side hustle (whether I was growing my coaching business or MLM). If it didn’t excite me – the work I was producing was reflective of the attitude I had.
I have recently launched a new product in my coaching business where I share tips on what has worked for me so that other women feel confident to take ownership of the CEO role they already do!”