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January 18, 2016

FILED IN: Business

Mompreneurship Finding the Right Childcare_0153

Previously on mompreneurship:

As far as the mompreneurship series goes, this is the last scheduled post. It’s been so fun thinking through and documenting all that I have done and continue to do to smooth the way for me to be a good business owner and a good mama. I hope this series has been helpful to you if you’re also trying to figure out that balance.

Okay, so last official topic: childcare!

There are several different options (daycare center, in home daycare, nanny, the nap time working mama, etc.) and the cost will vary based on full time or part time need as well as your location. In our area, day care is exponentially more expensive than it is in smaller towns even just 20 minutes away.

I can’t tell you what will work best for you, obviously, so I’ll simply tell you how we approached it and made it work for us.

I should first mention that our son is an excellent napper on a great routine so I can schedule out exactly what my work times will be when I don’t have childcare (currently, 9:30-11:30AM and 2-4PM every day). I don’t say that to sound like I’ve got my act together, but just that I understand not everyone has that kind of structure in place and every child is different when it comes to their love of sleeping.

We decided early on that we would hire an in-house nanny part time. Here is why:

  • We only need someone seasonally. I work from home as a wedding photographer, which has a huge off-season in the Midwest during the winter. Given my son’s napping routine (see above), I knew during the winter I’d be fine watching him during the day and working during his nap times since it’s the slow season.
  • We only need part time help. I put a lot of systems into place prior to having a child and that included outsourcing everything I possibly could (see this post about outsourcing) to ensure that I have time to focus on what I’m good at (photographing & client service). Because of my decision to outsource, I am able to do full time work in half the amount of time. (If you’re not outsourcing your editing yet, talk to me!!!)
  • Part time daycare was not more cost effective than full time daycare. As a result, if we needed 15 hours of daycare per week, we’d be paying 90% of what full time care (40 hours) was. It didn’t make sense financially when we could pay an in-home nanny for the exact amount of time we needed while also being able to fully control our son’s routine.

So after determining that I needed about 15-20 hours a week for focused work, I figured in that Henry’s afternoon naps would equal a total of 10 hours (2 hours per afternoon x5 weekdays) so we only needed a sitter for an extra 10 hours. I work best in the mornings so we ended up hiring someone to come in Mondays & Wednesdays from 8AM to 1PM.

She played with Henry in the main level and I worked in the basement in my office. Some people asked if it was hard for me to hear him upstairs and not go to him and honestly, no, it wasn’t. I knew I was paying per hour for a very capable and qualified person to watch him. This time became incredibly precious to me and I had near tunnel vision with my task list.

What I discovered was that I became hyper productive during those hours. No more lagging around or getting sidetracked on social media. I had things to do and a set amount of time to get them done in, therefore, check, check, check, check. I got more accomplished last wedding season in 15 hours a week than I had before working full time. This is what happens when you outsource and stay focused.

My son is now a year old and I’m getting prepped for my second wedding season as a mama. It’s winter right now so we don’t have a nanny; I’m home with him as a full-time mama/working-during-naps business woman. Once we hit April (when wedding season starts back up around here), we’ll have a nanny again until November. (See now why it doesn’t make sense for us to put him in daycare from April-November?) As he gets older, his napping will decrease (Can all the mamas just be sad about that for a minute? Nap time is so precious!) and we may need to increase our nanny’s house slightly to compensate for that.

As for the actual wedding day (most which fall on the weekend anyway so daycare wouldn’t be option then), both grandmothers take a few days and we hire a sitter (often the weekday nanny) for the rest. By bringing someone in for wedding days, Henry can go to bed per usual at night and we don’t have to wake him to transport him late at night when we’re done.

To summarize:

  • If you haven’t already, determine what you can outsource. This will free up your time. Your time is super valuable (even if you’re not a parent yet!) so treat is as such. This post will help you determine what can or should be outsourced.
  • Once you’ve outsourced everything that you can, determine how many hours a week you need to complete the tasks on your list. (Don’t have a task list? Here’s my monthly task list and my office management system.)
  • Once you’ve determined your weekly hours, you’ll know whether you need full or part time child care.
  • Based on that, you can get quotes in your area for daycare vs. nanny. (For a nanny: if you live in a university town like we do, there are lots of students looking for part time work. Try calling sorority houses, post your need on FB (everyone knows someone!), or use an online site like care.com.)
  • After getting quotes, you’ll be able to pretty easily see what the most affordable option will be. That being said, keep in mind it’s not always the most affordable that wins. For example, with a nanny, I don’t have to pack anything, drive anywhere, or do any extra work. I get Henry up in the morning, get him started on breakfast, then the nanny arrives and she takes over from there while I go to my office. From a time and ease standpoint, it couldn’t be more ideal. We live near a park and lots of walking paths. It’s easy for our nanny to get out without needing to drive anywhere. But alternately, one of the benefits to daycare would be that your child would get to play with other children his/her age and learn to be in a new environment. Social skills, right?
  • Either way, you’ll need time to focus on your job so childcare is necessary. You have to weigh what will be the most beneficial for your situation and for your child.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions about any of the posts in this series!

Power on, mamas! Power on.

January 11, 2016

FILED IN: Business

Mompreneurship Maternity Leave as a Small Business Owner_0152

Previously on mompreneurship:

Maternity leave is a tricky topic to a female small business owner because on the one hand, you just birthed a child and your body needs the recovery time and you also need to (and want to) spend time with your new baby, but on the other hand, you need to work in order to make money. In a normal career job, you’d get somewhere between 6-12 weeks of maternity leave. When you own your own small business, you realize that those weeks off are potential money lost. You have to weigh what works for your business and your financial situation.

After having my first child, I realized that I was in neither the physical or mental state to photograph a wedding within 6 weeks after having a child. Everyone is going to be a little different with this time frame. That was certainly my case though.

I had my son in November. I shot my last wedding at 36 weeks (the end of October), and used those last weeks to finalize all of my blogging, edits, album designs, and communication with all of my brides so they’d know my maternity leave plan and how to contact me if something urgent came up. I also prepped all of my year-end tax information so I wouldn’t be sorting through that as a sleep-deprived, foggy-headed new parent. Basically, I buckled down and got my stuff in order. I even pre-designed our Christmas cards and printed out the labels so that I’d only have to insert a photo and have them printed after Henry was born.

For my email, I put an auto-reply/vacation response on for 6 weeks. (Again, I told my existing brides how to contact me if needed during this time.) For all new inquiries, they were told I was on maternity leave until ___ date, but that my 2016 calendar would open for booking in January 2015 (Henry was born November 2014) and I would respond as soon as I was back in the office.

Since I get email on my phone, but can’t stand having an unorganized inbox (see my email folder organization), I created several temporary folders specifically for my maternity leave. One was “To reply: new inquiries”, another was “To reply: existing brides”, and yet another was simply a miscellaneous “To reply” folder. That meant when I got back to my desktop in my office, I had a clear path of how to tackle my emails. Because of this system, I was able to respond to all of my waiting correspondence within the first day I was back.

Since I have the luxury of working from home, even after I was officially back in the office, I could still ease in as slowly as I wanted, especially given that winter is the slowest time of year in the Midwest for wedding photographers. Having a winter baby was perfect for wedding season as I didn’t shoot my first wedding post-baby until Henry was 5 months old. It was pretty ideal. I know that peak wedding seasons vary across the States due to various climates and, more importantly, that you can’t necessarily schedule when your child will be born. My entire maternity leave would’ve looked much different had he been born in August.

So here’s the short tips:

  1. When is your due date? Block off a few weeks before (for non-rescheduleable shoots like weddings) and at least 4 weeks after, 6 if you can (especially for your first child).
  2. Set up an auto-reply in your email and be specific to clients, both existing and potential, about when you will be replying. Inquiring couples are more likely to wait for a response if they know when they can expect it.
  3. Touch base with existing couples to let me know your maternity leave plan and also to assure them you are available to them if an emergency arises. (My brides were so understanding and would always preface their emails with, “This is not urgent! Don’t reply until you’re back from maternity leave–snuggle that baby!”)
  4. Organize you email inbox with some new, temporary folders so you know specifically which emails need to be responded to when you get back. You can code them by type or by urgency. When they pop up on your phone, simply move them to one of those folders and forget about them until you’re officially back in the office.
  5. Rest. Having a baby is a big deal. Forget about work for a while and soak up this little gift. You’ll find you won’t have much time emotionally, mentally, or physically to do anything besides sleep, feed, eat, shower, and repeat anyway. So rest knowing you put in the prep-work and everything will be there for you when you get back. Until then, it can wait.

October 1, 2015

FILED IN: Business

Wedding Day Timeline Management

Previously on mompreneurship:

For every wedding I photograph, there’s a detailed wedding day timeline that goes along with it. This includes everything from my start time to the addresses for the various locations (getting ready, ceremony, reception) to which family photos the couple has requested to how many are in their bridal party.

This wedding timeline is something the couple and I have agreed upon beforehand and we both have access to it. On the wedding day, I obviously encourage the couple to enjoy and let me handle the timeline and the clock. I keep two physical copies of the timeline with me as well as an online copy in case I need to pull it up on my phone. (Though I prefer not to because seeing a vendor on their phone–whether or not it’s work related (because how would you know?)–is always a bit off-putting.)

You can probably guess why a timeline is so important. Here are just a few reasons:

  1. All family formals/groupings are requested ahead of time and time is allotted based on how many there are. This is really, really important because on the wedding day, it would be nearly impossible for the bride, groom, or parents to have the head space to know which groupings they want. They’d miss some, they’d spend precious time on duplicates, and they’d be stressed. I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened where I’ll photograph the bride & her father, for example, and then 3 minutes later have her ask if I can get a photo of her and her dad together. She has been smiling and wrapping her arms around so many people that she doesn’t even remember what photos have been taken. This is okay. This is why I’m here and why I’m using the timeline to manage the craziness that is portrait time.
  2. Everyone knows ahead of time when they need to be ready and where they need to be. This is especially important for bridal party and family. Since most of my couples have a first look, they are the first to have their photos taken. Then we add the bridal party, then we finish with the family. There’s no need for sweet grandma to be ready for her photo 3 hours before the ceremony when we only need her about 45 minutes before.
  3. It clears up any confusion beforehand and ensures everyone is on the same page. This goes both ways. The couple knows where I’ll be at any given time and I’ll know where they will be. This happens a lot when a bride is getting her makeup done elsewhere, but is meeting me at the church to get into her gown.
  4. It relieves the couple because they are given permission to not be in charge. By me providing them with a detailed timeline, they can say, “Emily’s got this.” If their bridal party has questions, they can show them the timeline (before the wedding day) or send them over to me (on the wedding day).

A timeline is important. Now, how do I manage all the timelines?

(more…)

September 2, 2015

FILED IN: Business

Pixifi for Office Management Software

Previously on mompreneurship:

This post has been lingering for a long time. It’s so hard to break it down to figure out where to start. I’m gonna try my best and hope this is inspires you to get your office in order. Because it’s so worth it. So worth it and so necessary.

Office Management. You’ve got a few choices. You can hire an office manager. You can ignore your office duties and pretend they don’t exist (and watch as your business most likely crumbles). You can do all your own office management on top of your 50 thousand other things you’ve got on your plate when running a business.

Or.

You can enlist the services of an online management software system to streamline your business into a well-oiled machine.

(more…)

August 26, 2015

FILED IN: Business

BridalGifts_EmilyCrall_0183

Previously on mompreneurship:

I love to give gifts to my clients. I love to surprise them with gifts. (So if you’re a bride of mine, stop reading this right now.) 🙂

I’ll go through when I gift and what I gift below, but let me preface it all by saying, you do not have to give gifts to your clients. You don’t. I do because I love to and I want my brides to feel extra special when they get something fun in the mail that is unexpected (and not a bill or junk mail).

If you choose to gift your clients, remember, you can spend any amount of money on gifts that you want. I heard once that if you want to give your clients, a good percentage to figure is 3-5% of their cost. So if a client pays $4,000 for their photos, that would mean $120-$200 in total gifts. You are running a business so you must be smart about your profit/loss and expenses. I wouldn’t advise that you go out willy-nilly and buy a bunch of gifts without first figuring out how much you can afford to spend based on your net sales.

(more…)

August 5, 2015

FILED IN: Business

Previously on mompreneurship:

As a business owner and mom, time is my most valuable asset. Since it never seems like I have too much, I like to categorize my to-do list into the most time-saving methods possible to help wisely utilize the time I have. To help do this, I’ve created a monthly task list. These are tasks that need to be done every month, but not on a daily, or even weekly, basis.

(more…)

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