Today we're tackling the always-challenging topic: work life balance. Ugh. Yeah, we know it's a buzzy term these days. Still, its current buzzword status doesn't change the reality of the struggle for self-employed people to find a sustainable, enriching balance between
work enterprises and life priorities.
For makers, balancing work and life seems particularly fluid, thanks to the creative, personalized nature of our products and production techniques. So, we enlisted two makers (and by enlisted, we mean they very graciously volunteered) to talk to us about their work-life balance journeys. Thanks so much to these ladies-- Laura Bray of Laura Bray Designs and Rachel Allene of Rachel Allene Photography + Lettering!
Q: Tell us about what yourself and what you make!
A: Laura: I work as a professional craft designer, focusing on general crafting. Unlike most makers, I make ONE thing, write the tutorial, and then sell it to craft supply companies to use on their websites etc. I also write ebooks and am working on a stamp line and fabric lines (debuting very soon!).
Rachel: I am a calligrapher and styling photographer who specializes in handmade prints, mugs, notecards, and styled photography sessions. Shortly after I graduated college I decided to take an online calligraphy course. After that, I was incredibly inspired and fell in love with the art form. In addition, I began to fall in love with photography during high school, but never set time aside to pursue that passion. After college, I got the opportunity to help photograph weddings with my friends. The time I spent doing this increased my skills with photography, but also helped me realize what type of photography I loved. I loved shooting the details at the weddings and I realized that I prefer product or commercial photography instead! My start to my business was anything but glamorous. I just did it! And ever since then, I have been figuring it out one step at a time. I took a big leap of faith to start my business and I have been incredibly blessed with the growth I have seen so far.
Q: Can you talk about how your professional background informs your work as a maker?
A: Laura: My professional background enables me to look at crafting as a business, not a hobby. It also gives me an edge when I work with my clients as I understand that they are looking for craft projects that will sell their product.
Rachel: I started my business when I was 23, so I had little to no professional background before I started my business. However, I was a Health Education major in college and one skill I learned from my major was how to set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. This type of goal setting has been very helpful in my business and has helped me set goals that I can actually reach! And we all know that goal setting is incredibly important for finding success in business.
Q: When did it make sense for your creative endeavors to be a "real" business for you?
A: Laura: As a former business consultant and MBA, my creative endeavors were always a “real” business. I was looking for a way to get out of the corporate rat race and be able to stay home with my daughter, but still contribute financially and, most importantly feel fulfilled.
Rachel: Honestly, it never really made sense. I didn’t have a completely formed business plan or a huge savings account to fund my dreams. I didn’t have all the supplies I needed or a fully developed shop. My social media presence was nonexistent when I started. I just knew it was a dream that I was supposed to chase. And I decided that I didn’t want fear to determine how I would live my life! So I went for it. And I haven’t looked back!
Q: You've been at your business a while. Where do you look for ongoing creative inspiration?
A: Laura: I try to stay away from social media!. I’m a big reader and love watching movies and PBS shows. I also like to be in nature. But my biggest inspiration is my daughter, family, and friends. I’m always trying to bring beauty and creativity into their lives whether it’s stitching up felt animals for my daughter, decorating our home, or throwing a dinner party.
Rachel: I love Instagram and I find a lot of inspiration from following other creatives. In addition, getting outdoors every day helps my mind reset and get motivated to keep working and creating. I go for walks every afternoon and some of my best ideas have come from those walks. It clears my mind and helps me think strategically.
Q. How have you come to define work-life balance as a maker?
A: Laura: I’ve learned to be flexible. I used to be really adamant about protecting my evenings and weekends, but I finally let go of that. I realized that working for myself meant throwing those defined times out the window. That doesn’t mean I work all the time though. Some afternoons, my daughter, husband and I might head off for a hike when my daughter gets out of school. Then, on a Saturday, I might try to squeeze in a bit of work in the morning. As long as I feel like I get downtime, family time, and work time, I’m happy and feel “balanced”. It doesn’t have to happen on a typical weekly schedule, but I try to get enough of each every seven days. You can read more about my time philosophy here: http://laurabraydesigns.com/creative-business-balance-myth
Rachel: Work-life balance is something I am always working on. Currently, this balance means stopping work at dinner time (most nights). My husband gets home from work around dinner time, so once he gets home I try to be done working. It doesn’t always work that way, but I fight hard for our time together. I don’t want my business to run my life. I run the business! Seeking this balance also means that I take the weekends off (with some exceptions) and focus my time on my husband, family, and friends. I want to focus on what really matters, and for me that means my relationships. Don’t get me wrong, my business is extremely important to me and I wouldn’t be chasing this dream if it wasn’t, but it isn’t the reason I live my life. It is a way for me to use my passions, skills, and gifts to make the world a better place.
Q. What helps you sustain work-life balance throughout the year?
A: Laura: I am really careful about watching my time. I take time at the beginning of every month to look at everything going on in my life and then I schedule accordingly. For example, I know that in the summer months, I’m simply not going to have as much time to work because my daughter is off school and we go on vacation for a couple of weeks. That means I take on fewer projects during June-August. But I hustle the other months!
Rachel: My husband and I recently implemented intentional time on the weekend for rest. We don’t check our phones, we don’t have any commitments, and we just do whatever we feel like. We take naps, read for leisure, go on hikes, watch a movie, etc. It has been such a restful and helpful addition to our lives! We also attend a small group every week. This is a way for us to be in community and share our life with our close friends. We want our life to be more than work, and spending time with friends and family helps us stay focused on what matters. Family is something that is very important to us and we make sure we show up for family dinners or make trips to see our family that don’t live close to us. It can be hard to balance it all, but this is what helps us keep work and life in balance!
Q. What do you do to maintain some semblance of work-life balance when you're in middle of a hectic, busy season?
A: Laura: Again, it’s all in the planning. It’s really important to take some time at the beginning of each month and see what’s coming up. You have to be honest with yourself. You might have to drop something in order to stay sane. I try not schedule unnecessary appointments during busy times and I say “no” a lot. When things slow down, I say “yes” to more invites, volunteering, etc. and try to get appointments and errands scheduled and completed when I know things are going to slower.
Rachel: My faith is central to my life and business, so prayer is what keeps me going. I pray continually during seasons when work feels like it is swallowing my whole. I also make sure I take time to connect and be with my husband on a regular basis. He helps me stay balanced and keep work/life in perspective.
Q. Coming out of a busy season, what helps you re-establish work life balance?
A: Laura: I always schedule a few days off after a busy time. I reconnect with my family, realign my health (eat healthy, sleep more) and just generally rest. You can see how I recover from my BIG annual tradeshow here: http://laurabraydesigns.com/recover-trade-show
Rachel: Taking a day off with absolutely no work! This helps my mind reset and see that there is real life outside of work!
Q: Thanks for helping us get to know you! Where can people find you and your stuff?
A: Laura: My project tutorials can be found on my blog at www.laurabraydesigns.com . I also sell Business Ebooks for artists in my Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LauraBrayDesigns
Rachel: You can find my work in my shop here! In addition, you can connect with me on Instagram and see the type of custom work I am doing. My shop is not exhaustive to what I create, so if you don’t see what you’re looking for, feel free to message me! I have been experiencing trouble with my website getting hacked numerous times, so it is currently getting fixed, but once it is all back and healthy (should be very soon!), you can check it out here.
Q: Anything else?
A: Rachel: Words I live by: less hustle, more grace.
We'd love to know-- how do you handle "work-life balance"? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you liked this post, we also talked with #ahasmember Lisa of Zelma rose about how she handles doing business with a baby.