On business and babies: how we make it work

 
Hannah, Dan and Evie Belton of Ditto Creative by Catherine Hill Family Photography

It’s been three months since the first day that we tentatively bought Evie into the studio, two weeks after her birth. Of course, to say that I hadn’t been working in those first two weeks would be a complete lie; I’d been checking in on emails on a daily basis and responding to enquiries every day. It helped me to feel more normal, I suppose.

It had always been the plan that I’d return to work very quickly after Evie was born. Aside from the fact that our household is financially dependent upon the business, my work is a big part of my identity and I had no intention of giving it up. While there were a great many who told me I was mad and that it couldn’t be done, I can be pretty determined when I put my mind to it and it was that stubbornness along with a firm belief that nothing would stop me from getting back to normal as soon as possible that spurred me on. Of course, I was fortunate. My birth experience was a relatively easy one; neither Evie nor I suffered any complications and we both recovered very well. Looking back now - and having heard the stories from other mums in my birth class - I realise we were pretty lucky.

But anyway, I digress. Pre-baby, I tied myself up in knots about how on earth we’d manage to continue running a business with a baby on the scene. I sought advice from several of our clients who do a beautiful job of managing their family and business life, and felt a little better about the whole situation knowing that it could be done. And while things are changing on a daily basis (babies develop FAST!), I wanted to share with you what I’ve learnt so far, in the hope that this post might just inspire someone else.

Hannah, Dan and Evie Belton of Ditto Creative by Catherine Hill Family Photography
Hannah, Dan and Evie Belton of Ditto Creative by Catherine Hill Family Photography
Hannah, Dan and Evie Belton of Ditto Creative by Catherine Hill Family Photography

1 / Routine is key

Whilst we’re pretty laid back people, having a routine has helped all of us enormously. In fact, I think the routine of the working day has kept Dan and I sane and given Evie a structure to the day that she finds reassuring. Trying to get a routine in place, for naps especially, has helped me to plan my day - I know when I can be most productive, and when one of us needs to be there for Evie.

2 / Be honest with clients

This is something I wish I’d taken on board a lot sooner. I was absolutely convinced that people would stop booking us if they thought there was a baby on the scene - I couldn’t have been more wrong. I suppose I worried that people would think it was unprofessional of me to say that I couldn’t do something because I was feeding the baby; the reality has been quite the opposite. People respect boundaries and are hugely supportive - after all, most of our clients also have a family, or at least plan to some day, so they totally understand.

3 / Being super efficient and focussed

My lovely friend Jess at Jewellers Academy warned me that once Evie arrived, I’d realise how much my pre-baby self procrastinated. Nonsense, I though. I squeeze every last bit out of every day. Ha! I’m almost ashamed by how long I’d spend on admin tasks before Evie came along. Evie always has a long nap in the morning. I swear I get about 5 hours worth of work squeezed into that nap! And when time is more precious, it does wonders to focus you - I’m no longer willing to spend time on things that aren’t worth my attention, and my decision making has become much more instinctive, which I’ve found has lead to better outcomes on projects. I’ve also streamlined things as much as possible - from the way we handle enquiries to the way we take care of certain admin tasks. Doing this has saved me so much time that it’s making me wonder why we didn’t do it before…

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4/ Focus on productivity, not hours

We work a 9-5 day here at Ditto. I suppose it’s a layover from when we had a high street studio which had to be manned all day long. It’s occurred to me before that there have been times where we’re all at our desks but not actually producing much of anything, because we are tired or lacking inspiration. Right now, I’m not in a position to throw 8 whole hours at my work - but that doesn’t mean I’m not incredibly productive. Each day I set myself a list of things that I need to get done, and as long as I’ve completed them by the end of the day, does it really matter how long I spent doing it? Focusing on productivity rather than being a slave to your desk has meant that I can get done what I need to and spend time with Evie - a much more fulfilling way to spend the day. The thing is, when you run your own business there is always something else that you could do. You could always be spending time researching, planning marketing, writing a blog post… the list goes on. I’ve found that I get a much greater sense of achievement by being clear about my goals for the day.

5 / It takes a village…

Something which has made things inordinately easier for me is that I work with Dan, and with my Dad. I realise that this set up is pretty unique and affords me certain privileges that I wouldn’t have if I worked on my own, or if I worked for someone else. Between us, we take it in turns to spend time with Evie - Dad will often take her for a walk round the farm, Dan gets to spend time reading her books or playing with her on her playmat, I’ll chat to her and dance and do all the random things you do when you have a small person to entertain. It’s a lovely thing for all of us - we get to be with her every day, while still working. And there’s nothing like an Evie cuddle to remind you of what really matters on a stressful day.

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So there you have it. That’s how we’re making it work today. Things will change and shift and we’ll adapt as we go, so I know it won’t always look like this - but having survived the first three months of running a business alongside raising a little one, I feel like we’re doing pretty ok.

The gorgeous photographs in this post are by Catherine Hill Family Photography. Black and white snaps courtesy of yours truly!