How We Balance Two Online Businesses, A Full Time Job, Two Kids And A Blog Without Killing Ourselves

Family has always been the single most important aspect of our lives for my wife and I, even before we decided to start a family. And as a result, almost every major decision that we’ve made has revolved around tailoring our lifestyles and our priorities to spend more time with the people that we care about and to pursue the activities we love. In fact, our commitment to family is what led my wife and I into creating 2 online businesses and a blog together.

Now you’re probably thinking what???? How could running 2 online businesses, a blog and working a full time job possibly allow you to spend more time with family? Wouldn’t the online businesses alone take up the majority of your time? My wife and I used to think the same thing until we discovered the power of running our businesses completely online. Here’s our story.

Why We Gave Up $100K

Once upon a time, my wife worked a full time corporate job and she made a pretty reasonable six figure salary as a financial analyst for a Fortune 500 company. Her hours weren’t too bad either. She would work from 9am to about 6pm and we would have dinner together every night. The problem was that she didn’t really like her job. Every morning, she would wake up, drag herself out of bed and listlessly grab a quick breakfast. And as she trudged out the door, she would mutter, “Ok honey, I’m off to the hell hole I call my job”.

Seeing her like this made me very sad and she clearly wasn’t happy with her day to day life. Even though she switched companies several times during her career, she just wasn’t cut out for corporate life. But she stuck with it because she felt trapped. After all, it costs a lot of money to live in the Silicon Valley and we needed her income if we ever hoped to buy a house in a good school district and start a family.

As my wife grew more and more frustrated with her day job, we finally decided to take a stand when she became pregnant with our first child. With a child on the way, my wife desperately wanted to quit her job in order to become a stay at home mom and I desperately wanted her to be happy. So we began to explore other possibilities and ultimately came up with the idea of opening an online store selling wedding linens.

While our online venture started out slowly, we managed to make over 100K in our first year of business. With our online store making us a solid 6 figure income, my wife was able to quit her job with a clear conscience. Today my wife ….

  • Is much happier
  • Makes much more than her day job
  • Works only a few hours each day
  • Gets to spend more time with our two kids

After opening a successful online business and helping several of our friends do so as well, we decided to start a blog to document our experiences. In addition, we also recently launched a online course teaching others how to create a profitable online store as well.

How To Find The Time?

Most people who have a family understand that it takes a ton of time and effort to take care of a young child, let alone a child and a toddler which is what we have. The secret to our productivity has been the ability to break down tasks into much smaller pieces and making more efficient use of our time. While our children are always the first priority, whenever we find ourselves with a quick 20 minutes or so of free time, we take advantage of it by crossing off something on our task list.

By making a list of to-dos and breaking up large tasks into manageable 20-30 minute chunks, we always feel like we are making progress and getting things done. The key to productivity is to avoid waiting until you have a large block of time before tackling a problem because guess what? That large block of time will never happen. Something always comes up and you’ll just end up procrastinating. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a nice solid day to work on anything.

Outsource Everything You Aren’t Efficient At Doing

Whenever children are involved in any equation, you will inevitably become overwhelmed at some point in time. Whereas it isn’t a big deal to wash the dishes or to do the laundry under normal circumstances, when you have kids seemingly small day to day tasks can easily pile up to the point where you feel like you’re living in a tornado. I actually call my daughter the Tasmanian Devil because wherever she goes, she leaves a trail of toys and clutter.

Now in the good ole days, I used to try and do everything myself and was reluctant to hire outside help. For example, one time I decided to save 500 bucks and replace the brake pads on my car myself. While the whole operation should have taken only a few hours, the lack of equipment and expertise made me waste an entire weekend on the project. It just wasn’t worth my time. Today, I freely outsource tasks that I don’t enjoy or am not efficient at doing myself.

For example, we hired a maid service (highly recommended). We hired a gardener. We hired people to perform most of the day to day tasks for our business. We use a mechanic for all car related repairs:). Today, I have no qualms about spending money to free up my time to focus on the things that I care about and it feels great! Not only do I get to spend more time with my kids or my other projects but I’m also 20 times more efficient because I don’t have 20 to-dos lingering in the back of my mind.

Whenever you decide to tackle something yourself, you need to sit down and figure out if it’s a good use of your time. Most people think that they are saving money by doing something themselves when in fact their time could be more efficiently used elsewhere….like growing your business…or spending quality time with the family.

Automate Everything

When we first launched our business, we were in such a hurry to make money that we didn’t bother automating anything. We would manually type in shipping labels. We would manually pack and ship our products. We would manually keep track of the books. While this was all fine and good in the beginning when business was slow, it became overwhelming once things started picking up.

Computers were created for a reason. If you put your mind to it, you can probably think of several ways to automate your business using a small program or script. You don’t have to be an expert programmer or a developer either. You simply have to be able to spot repetitive tasks and hire someone to automate that task for you. For example, for quite a while after we launched our store, we were manually cutting and pasting addresses from our shopping cart software to our shipping software in order to print labels for our packages.

While this wasn’t a big deal (doing a few cut and pastes only takes a few seconds), it became cumbersome and repetitive over time. With just 20 lines of code, we made the two pieces of software talk to each other and today, our entire shipping process is fully streamlined and automated.

Are their aspects of your business that are repetitive and menial? If these tasks are electronic, chances are that there’s a way to let your computer do the heavy lifting for you. You just need to suck it up and ask someone to help you write that piece of code.

Every Second Counts

When it comes to juggling 2 online businesses, a full time job and a blog, you need every second that you can get. By making efficient use of your time, you can accomplish a lot more than you think.

 

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Steve Chou is an ecommerce expert who teaches would be entrepreneurs how to create a successful online store. He is the creator of the Create A Profitable Online Store program, and runs MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, a popular small business blog.

Comments

  1. Hi Steve:

    I, too, live in Silicon Valley, have two kids, and *no* desire to do the corporate thing. It is inspirational to read what you have done and how you have done it. Thank you!

  2. Steve,

    It is great to read a perspective of a parent and business owner. It can seem so daunting to raise a family while trying to grow a business; your tips are a great reminder that it is possible.

  3. Hi Alison,

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m actually in the process of trying to emulate the “Laura Roeder” model of online education. I really admire what she has done with her blog and courses. So do you stay at home with your kids as well?

    • Hi Steve:

      Yes I do and happily so. Mine are older (11) and are at school all day. I am using that time to quietly build a business that works for me.

  4. Hi Erika,
    It’s funny what becoming a parent does to you. My kids are so cute and they say such funny things now that I really prefer spending time with them over other activities I used to enjoy in the past. I love how the internet allows you to time shift your work and other activities so you can set your own schedule.

  5. I enjoyed reading your story about how you balance everything in your life. I was wondering how to do it myself and was excited to see your post. I love the part about hiring a maid, gardener and mechanic. Too funny. I wonder if the maid does laundry… :)

  6. Hi Steve –

    Everything you say about maximizing efficiency really resonates with me. As a small business owner the to-do list is never done, and you can lose focus on your business by taking care of other ancillary tasks. Add family elements into the mix and it is easy for people to become overwhelmed and stressed. Great points about auto-mating and out-sourcing.

    Now if one could make the process of automating the Tasmanian Devil to pick up after itself easier, just imagine how productivity would soar! :)

    • Hehe. The gardener especially was a godsend. I grew up in a house on the east coast with a fairly large yard which was very hilly. Every weekend, my dad made me mow the lawn and it often took 2 hours. Then I had to pick up every single piece of rotting fruit that fell off our fruit trees where the squirrels decided to just take one bite. Sigh…So when my wife told me she wanted a house with a good sized yard, I nearly fainted. Anyways, gardener…must have…period. Nope, the maid doesn’t do laundry, I wish:)

  7. Hey Steve – great post. I too stay with my job because of the income, high cost of living, insurance, and my kids. But, at times, do feel trapped. So this was a nice inspirational post.

    Funny – but a lot of successful people talk the same thread – outsource and automate. I’m going to need to definitely pick up my weakness (outsourcing) and make it a strength (would love to hire a housekeeper!).

    • Christine, I used to be completely against hiring anyone to do mundane tasks that I could do myself. It was only later when I realized how much my time was worth did I finally turn the corner. I distinctly remember my wife saying to me one time after I worked on our car…”Yeah…you saved us a few hundred bucks…but now our whole afternoon is shot” Once you start outsourcing, you can’t stop.

  8. Thanks Laura for having Steve guest post here. And thanks Steve for the wise words on outsourcing things that can free up our valuable time. My wife and I also have a couple online businesses, as well as three young kids and its all hands on deck most days. And although I don’t have help with the yard yet I can relate to your story. Growing up I had a two hour mow on Saturdays and pinecones instead of rotting fruit!

  9. Thx for sharing! Trying to start a company and having kids at home IS tough! I can’t wait until Sprogs makes enough for a cleaner! Oh what I wouldn’t give ;)

  10. And Steve – Do the 10 minute-tidy with Tasmanian Devil ;-) But the trick is the entire family has to do it at the same time. Each person has to pick up their own things. Parents give direction to child & serve as role models. Of course, the younger they are the more patient and help you give them. Minimum of once per day on bad days! Okay?

    • @Melody
      We actually just started doing this! We have a clean up song that we all sing together as we pick up the toys. Unfortunately, once everything is tidy, the one year old comes around and knocks everything over again…Sigh…

  11. Steve – Great post. It’s very inspiring to me on this painstaking Monday. Looking forward to reading more on your site! You’re living the dream.