Setting up early in time for the daily 9am conference call, meetings with clients to discuss potential new projects, the agonising ordeal working out the monthly expenditure and – most importantly – the 6pm curfew to have dinner with the family or make a friend’s birthday party can certainly take its toll and prove challenging.
Managing a business and doing everything in your power to be involved in all aspects of your family’s and friends’ lives is overwhelming for anyone. Here, Penarth View speaks with Steve Morgan, a Caerphilly-based father-of-two and owner of Morgan Online Marketing to find out first-hand how he juggles the problematic task of separating his business and family lives.
1. What does a typical day look like for you?
I know it sounds cliché, but there’s no typical working day. I’m a freelance digital marketing consultant with a focus on search engine optimisation (SEO) so my usual day-to-day work mostly involves tasks and activities for clients based around that. I also juggle running the Cardiff SEO Meet via Meetup and promoting a book that I recently self-published called Anti-Sell (although I try to do those activities during evenings and weekends) to do billable client work during office hours, corresponding with my clients’ working patterns – mostly because I do my best work during mornings and afternoons.
Where and how I work varies, though. I have a home office but also work out of a co-working space (Welsh ICE in Caerphilly). This depends on whether I’m doing the school run that day, or whether my wife is going to her office or working away. I also try to work four days per week instead of five, so that I can spend more time with my two-year-old son.
2. What would you say is the hardest part of maintaining work-life balance?
Getting the balance right in terms of how many clients you work with at one time. I try and aim for four to six billable hours in an eight-hour day, but that doesn’t account for holidays, or sick days, or if I under-quote a project (and therefore it’s bigger/longer than I expected). Despite having been a freelancer for over six years now, I still under-quote projects: the last two took longer than expected. This meant I had to work more during the evenings and weekends to make it up, placing some strain on social and family commitments.
3. What challenges did you face with maintaining a social and family life at the start of your freelance career?
I’m very lucky in that I did a lot of my networking pre-freelance and I didn’t start a family until one or two years into freelancing. It’s a lot more of a challenge now that I have two children ages five and two. That said, I thankfully can still network with people via social media and also at my co-working space, so there’s still some social aspects even if I have less availability to attend networking events.
4. Now that you have children, are there any added pressures to maintaining work-life balance?
Absolutely! Things like the school run and doctors appointments can eat into my work day. There’s also the guilt that comes with thinking, “should I be taking more time off to spend with them?” despite mostly work four-day weeks. I’m already spending extra time with them than I might not have done otherwise. And if I take any time to myself (which is important to do) I feel guilty that I could be working or spending time with the family.
5. What advice would you give to other business owners that struggle with separating their personal and work lives?
Separate your home life and your work life as much as possible. Try and get yourself into an office or co-working space that’s separate to your home; that way, when you get home in the evening, you can try to ‘switch off’ from work. If having an office/co-working space is not possible, at the very least make sure you have a separate room in your home as a dedicated office. I made the mistake years ago of working a full-time job from my living room coffee table and I felt like I was there 24/7!
South Wales is full of entrepreneurs! What advice do others have to maintain a good work-life balance?
“As a mum of five (and a self-confessed workaholic) I often find it hard to switch off from work, particularly as I work from home. I now have a schedule that I stick to religiously, to ensure I have the perfect work/life balance. Housework, children, work and ‘me time’ is all divided up into equal measures and it works wonderfully. My advice to anyone running their own business is to make sure you take time out for yourself and your family – children aren’t young forever, and it goes by in a flash!”
“You work to live, not live to work. So the work has to be enjoyable, but if it’s your own business it easily becomes your life, and all consuming. It’s important to set defined time for life outside of work. Technology means that you can work around the clock, but the same technology lets us leave a voice message saying, “I’m not available, but will get back to when I can”. The rule to balancing work and life is the use of technology and learning when to be, and not to be, available. Honestly, people will not mind!”
Peter Ibbetson, Co-Founder/ Director of JournoLink
As the owner of an HR consultancy, I advocate flexible working and work-life balance to our clients. I set up the business four years ago and I truly believe I have achieved what I set out to do. With the help of my team (who also work flexibly) I am now able to balance both worlds effectively. Sometimes I find the work has to take a priority, and other times childcare and home matters take over, but it is important to recognise that both exist and need to work in harmony. Over the past two summers, I was able to take off a large chunk of the school holidays and will be doing the same indefinitely during term time to make sure that I enjoy the best of both worlds.
Caryl Thomas, Director of HR Dept Cardiff
Article originally published here