Top 5 Work From Home Parenting Tips

dr suessWhen I made the choice to work from home I was pregnant with our second child and our first was already 6. She had been an absolute dream so far and I really thought it would be the same having two. Having worked full time after the first, I didn’t want to miss out again and it also didn’t make financial sense to pay someone else to mind them.

Four years in and I am here to tell you…I was wrong, so wrong. Our second is nothing like the first!! Yes shes fantastic and we love her to bits but she is hard work!! Also, having two is three times as hard as one. (Yes, I had to re-read that line a few times too!!) The age gap is awkward as they have different interests and different friends, the personalities are polar opposite which require two completely different parenting methods, and of course the sibling bickering. As an only child I had this notion that sisters would spend their days braiding each others hair and skipping hand in hand around the garden…again, so wrong!!

But I committed to being a work from home mother and that is what I will remain for the foreseeable future. I love watching our kids grow up and I love being at home when they need me, most of the time anyway! These are just a few hints I have picked up along the way which have helped to make it easier for all of us.

     1. Don’t have unrealistic expectations

Actually don’t have any expectations at all!! Before the youngest started pre-school every day would be different. Some days I could work for two hours straight and others I didn’t get more than five minutes all day. Yes, we have orders to complete and deadlines to meet but getting stressed over strict routines will only lead to mistakes, and grey hairs! Aim to get a certain number of hours in a day but accept that they may not be the same hours every day.

     2. Put the children first

When I get up in the morning the first thing I’m thinking about is what work I want to get done today, make new products, take new photos, complete an order. And I can’t wait to get stuck in. But if I go straight to work I’m soon interrupted by ‘Mmoooooomm’! Instead, I find that spending half an hour with the kids first will guarantee me an hour, or sometimes two, of uninterrupted work time. Then I take a break and play for another half an hour, and so on throughout the day, maybe not in exact time increments but you get the general idea!!

     3. Use a kitchen timer

If you really do need to get something done, and you know how long it will take, try using an timer. Young children don’t have a great concept of time so a visual aid helps them to know how much longer they have to wait. Just make sure you really do finish up when the timer goes or they will soon grow tired of the idea.

     4. Set them a challenge

Our youngest loves a good challenge, tell her its too hard for her and of course she will aim to prove you wrong! One of our favourites is hunting down objects around the house. I give her a camera, on the phone or a small handheld camera, and ask her to find all the square objects/green objects/flat objects/things that make noise etc etc. Another is how many insects you can find in the garden. Or draw an entire town on the pavement with chalk.

     5. Keep the baby monitor

If like me, you have a separate workspace, you need to still be able to know what your kids are up to while you’re working. I have a workshop in the back garden so the kids have the run of the house while I’m working. Having the baby monitor set up means I can hear the doorbell, I know if there has been an argument (although I do have selective hearing when it comes to sibling squabbles!) and of course I know if there has been any bumps or scrapes. In my experience so long as there is some sound, be it amicable or otherwise, everything is fine. If it all goes quiet, then its time to call a decorator and pour yourself a large glass of wine!!

I hope this was useful to you and if you have any other tips please do drop them in a comment below!

Thanks for reading x

My Top 10 Craft Fair Prep Hints

When you go to a market, a fair or even into a shop, you are only seeing the end result of days, weeks and months of planning. The stock is carefully laid out and the area is clean and tidy. What you’re not seeing is the extra large takeaway cup of coffee behind the counter or the chaos of overstock under the table!!

  1. Make a list. Have a list of things you need to bring, and bring it to every fair. This can include things like sellotape, cash float, snacks, bags etc. Keep this list handy on the day so you can add things as you think of them.
  2. Get rest. I try to make sure I have everything packed and ready 2 days before the fair so that I can relax and rest the day before. This is especially important if you are doing a long day or even 2 days at a fair.
  3. Plan your outfit. This might not apply to everyone but I find nothing more stressful than waking up early on the day of a fair and not finding anything in my wardrobe that works! Wear layers, some places are freezing and some are roasting but they are very rarely at a comfortable room temperature! And wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable, if you feel good you will convey that in your sales pitch.
  4. Buy a yoga mat!! I have never done yoga in my life but the mats can change your world if you are standing all day! They are light to carry and don’t take up much room in the car, trust me, you should have one!
  5. Bring snacks. I see so many stall holders who spend their earnings on food bought from other vendors at the fair. While I’m all for supporting other crafters, you are there to make money and it can be very discouraging to get home and find you’ve spent a big chunk of it already. Nuts, seeds, crackers are all great as you can just snack throughout the day when there’s a lull in customers. And don’t forget the water!DSC_0506
  6. Get more info. If you haven’t been to the venue before ask the organisers for more information. How big is the table/space? Will you have a wall to hang posters/products? Is a chair provided? How far is it from the car to the table? (pack boxes lighter if its a long way) Answers to these questions will help you decide what you need to bring.
  7. Set up at home. If you don’t have your own table mark out the dimensions on the floor. Set up your table as if you were at the fair and once you’re happy with it take a photo on your phone. This way you aren’t wasting time on the day trying to rearrange and getting stressed when it dosn’t look right. Use your photo as a point of reference on the day.
  8. Signage. When I’m at a fair or even in a shop I don’t like asking questions because I then feel pressured to buy. A lot of people feel the same so make sure you have signage to answer any questions they may have. Pricing is the most obvious one, but depending on your product maybe a small explanation of what it is or how its made. A slideshow presentation on a tablet can also be very effective. This also keeps people at your table for longer, improving the chances of a sale!
  9. Keep a float. I try to keep my prices to .00 or .50 so I don’t need to mess with anything smaller than a 50c coin. Make sure to have plenty notes too, you don’t want to have to refuse a sale because you don’t have the change. If you have a credit card machine keep it with your float, as well as a notebook to keep track of sales.
  10. Bring a friend! I have a friend who could sell ice to the eskimos! She has no problem praising my products and selling their unique features. I’m not as comfortable doing it so while she sells I look after payments, wrapping, restocking etc. Having someone with you also makes it easier for toilet breaks and lunch breaks. Just make sure you’re selling, not chatting!!

I hope some of this helps you. If you have any other tips leave a comment below 🙂

Until next time…

Thanks for reading, Grainne x

From charity shop to garden shed!

17017013_1857937307757115_6449073951365011108_oStarting your own small business has many hurdles as we all know. Finding your niche, funding your materials, not to mention learning all new time management skills.

When I started Smashmallows my plan was to restore and upcycle furniture. I volunteered in a charity shop and was horrified by the amount of items discarded due to being slightly damaged or out of fashion. With a new coat of paint and some slight adjustments these pieces could be given a whole new lease of life.

However, I soon discovered that furniture takes up a lot of space, something that is severely lacking in a semi-detached, 3 bed house!! So, from furniture I moved on to smaller items with could be re-purposed (or upcycled if you prefer the current buzzword!). The problem I found with this was although the items were popular they were very hard to market and had a small circle of potential buyers.

In the process of repurposing discarded items, I discovered the art of Decoupage. I was hooked after my first attempt!! I have always loved paper, probably stemming from growing up with parents who worked from home designing and publishing books.

So I knew then that Decoupage was something I enjoyed and wanted to pursue. Next thing on the list was to figure out what to decoupage. Well at the start I just decoupaged everything!! Again, working in a charity shop helped where I had access to cheap vases, trays, picture frames, and anything else I could find with a flat surface! As my skills improved I started to think about finding a couple of items that I could produce in larger quantities. This meant finding products that would appeal to a larger market as well as finding a reliable source for the materials I needed. This took quite a bit of brain storming with family and researching online but finally I decided on a couple of items I was happy with.

On the 1st of April (what better day?!) last year I officially launched the new lines of Smashmallows & Hopcopters…Flameless Candles, Ceramic Coasters and Terracotta Flowerpots. Nearly one year on and I have since added the Hanging Ceramics. My workspace is in a chalet (posh word for shed!) in our garden, or on the dining room table when its too cold! Space is still an issue but with good organisation and minimal clutter it is still manageable.

Aside from learning what my skills are and what sells I have learned that I have so much more to learn! Making a product is only a very small part of the process, and personally the part I enjoy the most! There is also the sourcing and purchasing of materials, decisions on packaging, networking with other crafters, applying to craft fairs and so much more besides. In short running your own crafting business is far more about business and far less about crafting!

But the benefits for me far outweigh the negatives, I get to be a stay at home Mum, I choose my own working hours and if I ring in sick I know the boss will understand!!

Until the next time…

Thanks for reading x G