There’s a lot of things I love about being a small business owner who works from home. I get to do a lot of the little things such as the meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking for my family. I enjoy being able to have my wife come home to clean clothes that have been folded, clean floors, garbage out, and a hot meal that’s ready and waiting for her.
I get to be the person who puts our child on the school bus in the morning, and to take him off in the afternoon. I enjoy getting to give him his snack, playing outside with him, helping him with his homework, and having special 1-on-1 dad-and-son time, the kind that we’ll both remember fondly for years. That’s all very important to me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
In addition to the above, my job is in the arts, which I love. I’m not an accountant or a dentist with offices in my basement or anything. I get to do many artistic and creative things regularly as part of my work and it’s quite fulfilling.
It’s also quite necessary. My primary job when I am not at the microphone is marketing myself and my studio business. The creativity is heavily relied upon in that facet of my work. Between making and editing image posts, video and audio files, and coming up with more and more unique tools to market myself, creativity has become the life-blood of my business. It goes hand in hand with my marketing campaigns on my various social media platforms (all a requirement these days, as any working professional voice-actor will tell you).
My son is young and very demanding of my time. I don’t ever complain about that because it truly warms my heart that he and I are well-bonded that way, especially since my own relationship with my father was not quite that same way. Therefore I never ever want to say “No” to him when he asks for my time. I’ve been forced to say no from time to time for various reasons, like auditions and bookings, conferences, classes and training, etc, and he’s rolled with it nicely.
For this reason, I make it a point to try to get done as much work as possible in a condensed time frame each day. I allocate myself a heavy workload from the time my son’s bus departs until he returns on it that afternoon. It works out to be a whopping 7 hours, which is not really a lot. It’s not the most ideal scenario but I do what I can to make it work.
I make efforts to get as much offline work done as possible in the evenings and wee hours (planning, prepping, making and editing content, making schedules and writing drafts) so that I can be on the marketing front-line during the business day when potential clients are also working. There’s no one single hard and fast rule about this, but generally speaking, it is much more effective to show up in their Inboxes and make these connections when they are also online and working themselves. The 11pm or 2am connections and messages do not have the same impact or results, by and large. So the daytime availability and contact efforts are big and important. The system I have in place and have been adhering to has been good for a while. Do I wish I had more business hours available? Yes. But I’ve been making it work.
Enter COVID 19.
Things have blown up recently, as we all know, and now many schools are closed for anywhere from a week to over a full month. Parents are being assigned home-schooling duties. Kids will not see their teachers or classmates for an indefinite amount of time. Campuses have sent the student body home to finish their work online through e-learning modules. Some survival jobs have made concessions for their employees to either work from home, work an adjusted schedule, or even take family medical leave for this time. Other businesses are slow to the party with these concessions, but likely coming around with the influence of the national state of emergency.
So, now what? My already-packed daily schedule just got thrown into a wood-chipper as my son will be home for this indefinite extended period. My wife’s job has not (yet) made a decision as to how they will handle this with staffing and remote work. Daddy-duty has just been called into full-time active status.
There will be a daily curriculum which he and I must follow to ensure he continues with progress and retention, which will be largely online as well. We will be able to have outdoor playtime, but with restrictions. No play-dates. No movie theaters or trips to the mall. No playgrounds. No visiting family and friends. It is not going to be easy on parents and young kids during this time.
But we of course step up because that’s our job as parents. They need us, so we’re there. It is what it is, right?
But as a small business owner and professional voice-actor, my schedule just became…hmmm, how shall I put this?- a very interesting challenge. My success depends heavily on my ability to network effectively, build relationships with people in many different jobs and industries, and work towards finding opportunities within those relationships. There is no selling , or asking for the close, or any of the old school sales/boiler-room tactics that apply to what I do. Those tactics barely work at all anymore for most products and/or services.
And I know I’m not alone. In fact, due to the aforementioned shift away from crowded classrooms to online course completion, my cohorts in the Learning & Development and Instructional Design fields just had their work loads increased exponentially and their deadlines bumped up too, perhaps. This is not exclusive to academic purposes either. Think about all the new training and compliance videos being requested now. And the medical explainer videos as well, all being updated to include new guidelines regarding the virus.
Some people just received an unexpected vacation of sorts. Some received the perk of working from home in their pajamas, and all the added benefits that go along. Others received a forced fast. And others, still, received a whole new host of duties and responsibilities and some subsequent limitations along with them.
So how do we begin to solve the problem of doing even more with even less time? I’m not a lover of plopping the kid down in front of the TV or handing him the iPad for a couple hours so that daddy can do some direct marketing, but will there be many other choices? We can’t bring them to a daycare or a sitter. We can’t send them to grandma and grandpa’s for the day. We can’t hand them off to the neighbor or friend’s house for the day, even if we were willing to take turns and cover for each other day after day. None of that is recommended. The lock-down is far too serious and all of those options are against the whole purpose of the social distancing.
Wait, there’s more! As parents, we are also being urged to be as mindful and positive as possible while the young kids are home. We need to lessen the negative impact of the severity, the fear, the stress, and the uncertainty for their sake. Nobody wants their kids traumatized or having childhood anxiety over any of this. Nobody wants to break down in front of them and scare them even worse. No one wants their child to see them buckle. It’s now just about the tallest order I’ve ever been asked to fulfill (so far, …sigh), and I refuse to let people down. Especially my family.
My inner voice, for years and years now, has been telling me to do my best with whatever I have control over and to let go of the rest. Let those chips fall where they may. And now, even the things I did once have control over have changed. My control has been taken somewhat away in certain vital areas. Very vital areas.
My inner voice is struggling to receive that message and process it fully. It understands the logic and rationale, and it does not disagree. But it also knows what’s at stake with my family and my business. It knows the pickle I’m in now regarding the needs of my child, the needs of my business, and the needs of the many. It’s become such a challenging time across the board that even the mental process of sorting it all out has taken extra time. Each day the information we are trying to process and maneuver around becomes a little different, and usually worse than the day before. But eventually the inner voice establishes the cooler head and some progress can begin to get made.
It’s been a difficult end of one week and start of the next for many of us. Small businesses all across the board are going to take a hit, as are the bigger ones too. Restaurants. The service industry. Businesses in and around heavily populated cities. Food trucks and vendors. Event facilities. Even public transportation. The impact will be far-reaching and long-lasting to say the least.
I’m sure companies like my wife’s job will up their game and make some kind of announcement soon which will be considerate and beneficial for their people. Some places are just a bit slower at that type of thing, that’s all. But, oh yeah, it will definitely take the two of us to get this done the way it needs to be done. The needs of our family must come first. Those needs include doing what’s best for our son, but they also include keeping the train moving and the coals burning.
I am hopeful that she will be allowed to work from home, even intermittently. I will be a vigilant, positive, and present father while she is working. And when she is able to relieve me, whenever and for however long, I will be smart and work as much as humanly possible. This new endeavor will take equal parts planning, improvisation, sacrifice, flexibility and dedication.
Realistically, I will not be able to do the volume and hours of marketing needed in the way that I was previously and in the exact way I need to, but it’s going to have to be enough. I am not able to control anything beyond that, and that right there is the trusted collegial inner voice that I know and love. The one telling me to be brave and go forth.
I wish everyone out there reading this all the best, through these times and always. Good health. Good times. Good luck. May you find what you need to get yourself and your loved ones through this. And if you don’t find it, then may it find you.