Working from home with kids: how to make it work.

Tips & tricks that will help you stay sane ↴

Working from home with kids presents a new set of challenges. Making it work is a struggle and an art. I’ve been self-employed since 2017 and became a mum two years later. So I’ve been juggling WFH and motherhood for four years now. Most of you may have first experienced this during the pandemic. I remember, during the first few months of isolation, people asked me how I manage not to lose my marbles at the end of the day. Honestly, most of the time, I have no idea how I don’t.

Even as I’m trying to write this, I stopped like a million times. My almost-four-year-old is asking me to play with her, nudging me, and doing everything in her power to grab my attention. I feel terribly guilty for having to work when she’s at home. And the only chance I have to create my content, work on my personal projects, and actually do something for myself (sometimes even something as basic as washing my hair) – is in the evening when she’s at home.

This brings us to the million-dollar question I’ve been asked at least a thousand times.

▶ “But how do you manage?”

Mind you, on some days I don’t manage to be productive. At all. But most things I learned through experience and some take a while getting used to but if you put your mind to it, you’ll get there eventually. I’m sharing five (5) tried & tested tips that help me get through my working day at home with my child.

1. Workspace

Having a designated area for work helps set a boundary between home life and work itself. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown office if you don’t have the space for it (like in my case). A desk setup and shelving should be just about enough to get you off working from your couch or dining table.

2. Schedule & prioritize

The demands of both work and family life are trying. Having a routine helps but we all know how that blows to pieces when one of the kids sneezes. Didn’t mean for that to rhyme, but there you have it. You need to be flexible and manage your expectations when you have kids around. Schedule your work when the kids are occupied: at school, during home activities or during nap time.

So I’m the most productive in the mornings when Bethany is at school and then I’ll work around entertaining her when she comes back home in the afternoon. First thing in the morning, I make a list. A simple, pen-to-paper list, starting with top priority, time-bound work including tasks that require 100% focus, meetings, and calls. So that once I have Beth at home, I manage tasks a little down that list.

3. Set achievable goals

This should be highlighted, bold, and underlined. It’s better to keep that list short and have 6 doable tasks than jot down 20 tasks that you cannot, for the life of you, get through. It’s frustrating and overwhelming. I’ve been through that too many times to count before it finally sank in. And NEVER ever multitask. That is just the worst. You’ll feel more stressed, and unable to concentrate and it will set you back tenfold.

4. Learn to say NO.

This is a learning curve. It’s easier said than done and I’ve learned this the hard way. But it’s better to know your limit than be in over your head. Otherwise, you’ll burn out faster than the fireworks on the fourth of July (or if you’re Maltese, on Santa Marija). If a task is not a priority, focus on what is truly important during your allocated work time.

There are times during the early years of self-employment when you cannot afford to say no to some projects. You’re just starting out and need both experience and cash flow. I’ve been there, I get it. Years later though, once you’ve found your niche, your market, do not be scared to decline work when: 1. you have too much on your plate 2. requests do not align with your priorities.

5. Take breaks

If you have a time when you’re without your kids, take a break. Don’t power through the day without stopping to take a breath. You need that time to refocus. When you’re with your kids, plan activities for them. Kids will not sit through one activity for long. I found that preparing activities beforehand helps: with puzzles, drawing, painting, and role-playing. Going to the park/play areas after school is another way to take a mental break and spend some good quality time together (and get them to exercise with the hope of a short nap later).

Listen, when I have a deadline, I’m going to be the first to admit that Disney+ saves me every time. You’re not a bad parent for including a little more screen time when you find yourself backed against a wall. Which brings me to working through distractions – it’s an acquired skill. When you have no option but to work through ‘Let it go’ on a loop, you’ll see what I mean. I usually stay close to Bethany to have eyes on her and put on my headphones. There will be nudges, there will be requests for snacks and whatnot but it’s doable.

✨ Be kind to yourself.

You’re doing the best you can. Sometimes even more so don’t be too hard on yourself if you didn’t manage to go through your work list or had to increase a little screen time to complete a task. I’m also aware that it depends on the type of job that you have, the kind of employer and clients. Little by little, we’re getting to a place where people understand what it means to have work responsibilities and the demands of parenting.

My advice to you? Take care of yourself and don’t ever forget that. During my cabin crew years and every time I get on a plane, there is that one phrase that you may take for granted but I cannot get out of my head: “Put on your mask first before helping others.” I apply it to my everyday life. If I burn out, if I fail to take care of myself, how can I care for others? My family? My clients? And accept help when you need it.

Until next time,

Amanda x

↠ MORE ON THIS! I’m sharing my self-employed journey on Instagram and will be showing what I find most helpful over there. Feel free to follow for tips & updates!

Self-Employed? Get Organised.

I’m writing this five years after landing my first client. If you’re just starting on your own or thinking about it, I know how overwhelming it can get. At this point, being organised is the best gift you can give yourself.

WHAT TO EXPECT | In this post, I will not go into branding and content creation. This is the backend of the backend and these are tools that will help you stay on top of your game.

✨ DESK SPACE

My first ‘office space’ was not an office at all. I have been working from home way before COVID-19 hit us like a storm. I used to work from the couch, at the dining table, from cafés – you name it. One thing I learned along the way is that it’s better to have a space dedicated to your work. Even if it’s just a small desk (I managed to fit one under the stairs) and a shelving system for files, paperwork, and books. I want work-related stuff to be at arm’s length – literally.

Mind you, I still go to cafés to work. It’s usually more to brainstorm on personal content ideas, find inspiration and write – rather than client work. But I find the change in scenery to be refreshing. Sometimes, much needed.

Stationery Essentials:

Planner/Yearly diary – the physical kind to complement your online calendar. It will keep you more accountable and it feels good to tick or cross out tasks.

Highlighting System – colour-coding your work schedule so that you don’t overlook anything.

Sticky Notes (and a memo board) – perfect to pin ideas that pop out of the blues, scribbles, reminders & quick notes.

List Pad – I promise you, you will thank me later.

Filing System – We live in the digital age but you will still have papers to sort out and file. Especially (and I cannot stress this enough) for your VAT, TAX, and Social Security Contribution.

I have separate, transparent folders – labeled by date – for the above-mentioned which I keep in a simple white box I got from IKEA. Why transparent folders? I love knowing what’s in the folder just by looking at it instead of rummaging through it.

Envelopes – Have them at hand. You’ll have VAT receipts and receipts to send eventually.

Stamp/Stickers – with your logo. Having one or the other on your envelope gives off a professional vibe. Tried and tested! You can also have one with your return address.

✨ ONLINE PLANNERS

Now that you have your faithful diary/planner by your side, it’s time to set up an online version. For calls, meetings, and tasks, I use my Outlook calendar. If you want to assign tasks and have ‘stricter’ timelines and deadlines, may I suggest:

  • Outlook Live – Everything in one place: emails, calendar, to do list, tasks & notes
  • Asana – a great way to manage tasks and add projects – especially if you work with a team. Basic package is free of charge.
Source: https://asana.com/product/workflow-builder
  • Trello – Again, basic package is free of charge. The workspace is easy to use and manage + it’s also customisable.
Source: https://trello.com/guide/trello-101

There are loads of other web-based softwares to keep your tasks in check. A quick google search will uncover the long list of options!

✨ ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE

Zipbooks has been my personal online accountant since the beginning. It’s easy to add expenses along the way, create and issue invoices. You will be able to keep records and transactions in one place.

  • It’s free of charge (for the large part – add ons/other options are at a charge)

Ideally, get in touch with a trusted financial advisor to guide you through the hoops and loops. If, like myself, numbers do not course through your veins, seek professional help. Still, accounting software is super for day-to-day operations.

Source: https://zipbooks.com/accounting/

✨ SOCIAL MEDIA PLANNING TOOLS

You’re running a business, staying on top of accounts, coming up with new product or service ideas, making sure your customers are happy, AND planning posts for social media (SM)? Well, yes and no.

Yes – if you are winding through the roads of self-employment, you will realise (if not already) that you will wear many hats.

No – acknowledge the fact that you do not have to do every single thing yourself and sometimes it helps to have, well, help – from the right people.

If you’re just starting out, outsourcing social media work may seem like a waste of money. I’ll be honest with you – if you know what you’re doing it might as well be. However, when your business picks up (or if it’s not your thing, to begin with), you can then start thinking about having extra hands on board to help with strategy and managing your socials. In the meantime, here are some SM planners that may come in handy:

Buffer – it’s great to start with. The basic package is free of charge and you can add up to 3 social channels (e.g. FB page, IG account & LinkedIn page) including 10 posts per channel.

Source: https://buffer.com/publish

Meta Business Suite – If you want to avoid the hassle of having an external planner like Buffer, this is your go-to planner & scheduler for Facebook & Instagram. It’s easy to use & you can customise your copy easily for one and the other.

Planoly – for Instagram. This is perfect to visually plan out your grid and schedule posts. Again, the basic is free and then you can have upgrades. With the free package, you can add 2 social profiles (e.g. IG & Pinterest) and have 30 uploads per month, per social.

Source: Planoly | https://pages.planoly.com/about

Mind you, our good old friend excel/sheets, works just fine as well. Edit in a calendar in your sheets and you can map out your timeline there. If you’re working with other team members, simply upload it on a shared drive and you’re good to go!

MORE ON THIS! I’m sharing my self-employed journey on Instagram and will be showing what I find most helpful over there. Feel free to follow for tips & updates!

If you’re starting on your self-employed journey or even if you’re already on board that train, hopefully, you found some of this helpful! If you have any questions or would like me to write about a related topic, don’t be shy – get in touch!

Until next time,

Amanda x

Hey! What’s new Limo?

I wanted to have more interviews this year but with running my own business, sprinting after a toddler, and being an active council member of a local NGO, I must admit that my plate has never been more full.

Nevertheless, I managed to meet up with the amazing Elisa to talk about her business. Elisa is the brains behind The Limo Hub 🐕. I am positive that you have seen her cute dachshund on Instagram by now. He is the star of his own ‘show’!

Elisa is such a passionate and creative person. We went off track a couple of times during the interview (it was more like a coffee meet-up), but that happens when the conversation is that good. So, without further ado, this is (partly) what we talked about:

Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where you started.

E: I started studying Art & Design and always wanted to do my own thing. I have been working in Marketing for quite a while now and dipped in the corporate world. I then left my job to pursue a marketing career and decided to go freelance. It’s when I started The Limo Hub, back in October 2017.

How did The Limo Hub come about?

E: I wanted to create something unique, personal to me, and easy on the ears. I wanted something simple and that is how the idea of The Limo Hub was born. And I have my own model, Limo, who got used to seeing me with a camera by now. He enjoys it when he’s in the mood. I usually have lots of treats on the side. Everyone seems to think it’s just that one shot and I nailed it. You should see my camera roll! You’d think my phone is Limo’s 😅

Limo wearing Santa Paws bow tie

To put you in the picture, at The Limo Hub you can shop for custom-made bow ties, Dachshund merch, and other dog accessories like matching harnesses & leashes, collars, and shampoos.

E: It is important for me to have organic or partly organic products. For instance, some people use baby shampoo for their pets which is bad for their dog’s skin. A dog’s skin PH level differs from ours and it could result in irritation. That is why I make sure to bring over reliable, tried, and tested brands only.

What is your advice to someone thinking about starting on their own?

E: Ask yourself: What is your end game? What is it that you want to do and why? Do you want to make money? Do you want to feel good about what you are doing? Because these are different avenues to take.

I wasn’t surrounded by people who owned their business so I didn’t really know where to start. For instance, everyone mentions the business plan – you need to have a business plan – but when you’re just starting, the words are English but you don’t know what to make of them. If you’re starting a business doing something you love (and not just purely for money-making), make it your own. Don’t expect a big return until you get your foot in the door because it takes a while until you build yourself.

And network. Networking is key. It might be nerve-wracking but it works. Get out there and introduce yourself.

So, tell me. What’s on your bucket list?

E: I want to represent various brands and possibly in the future, I would love to design my own harnesses and pet accessories. I also want my own store, brick & mortar – it’s something that I really dream of having. One step at a time!

You in three words

E: Bubbly, open, plainspoken

Elisa and Gemma from @letspawtymalta have been working on something new and exciting. They have just launched the perfect handmade and homemade Christmas gift for your furry family member. I have already ordered one for Nina (obviously) and will be sharing stories once I have my hands on it.

What’s in the stocking?

🐾 homemade yummy biscuits
🐾 a themed mug for a nice hot cocoa
🐾 dog toy
🐾 an interactive activity for hooman and pup to enjoy together!

Next week, they will also be at the Nice Things Market at is-Suq tal-Belt, Valletta. I’ll be dropping by for some last-minute stocking fillers. Shall I see you there?

Saturday, 11 December + Sunday 12 December

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next, Elisa!

Show your support & go follow 🥰

Amanda x

Here’s to new #beginnings!

The reason behind my online absence? Little Bethany 💙 She became my number one priority way before she came into this world. She is also the reason why I’m not getting any sleep. Not even a wink.

Working on my projects and taking care of Beth is a new challenge I’m diving into, head first. I cut back on some work for the first few weeks but am slowly getting back on track. It’s not like no one ever went through this before but it hits you right in the face when you’re actually experiencing it.

One thing you’re in dire need of if you’re a working mum is flexibility. I must admit that being my own boss does help. I can get work done when she sleeps, be it at four in the morning (I’d be awake anyway) or 11 at night. And perhaps also try to squeeze an hour of sleep in between. 

As an avid planner myself, I am now aware of how naive I was to think I had everything under control. Once a newborn was in my arms, I realised that planning was not going to be on the agenda any time soon. 

My clients were extremely understanding. I couldn’t have asked for a better lot ❤ I made sure to meet up with everyone before I popped. And together, we planned and scheduled most of the work. I wanted to make sure I had everything covered. And, I did. 

When my water broke, the first thing I did (after taking a shower & calling my better half), was to sit back down and tie loose ends. An hour and a half later I was in the labour ward. 

I quite like privacy and am not one to shower my social media with pictures of myself and my family. In fact, most people didn’t even realise I was pregnant. Not until after I posted a picture showing Beth’s tiny feet.

I’m also aware of the irony given my line of work. But being or becoming an ‘influencer’ has never been on my agenda. I have always been a behind-the-scenes kind of person.

Having said that, I will be sharing just a few pictures in the coming days on my IG account 👇

Follow me on Instagram

It took me forever to write this blogpost! The minute she closed her eyes, I sprinted to my laptop. Inspiration hit and I wanted to pour it all down. It feels good to be back 💙 

Amanda x

 

 

#goingfreelance #1yearlater

@byamandalia

It has been a year. The 16th of December marks the day I left my 9 to 5 job (it was more like 10am to 6pm) to start afresh. How time flies! And honestly, looking back, I wonder why I didn’t take the leap before that.

It was a year of firsts. The first time I had my own clients, the first time I gave out training sessions on digital marketing, the first time I truly challenged myself to reach new heights. Forget about the New Year‘s resolution. If you want a change in your life, do it. Don’t wait around for another year to start; that’s a waste of time. And time is something you will not get back because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

So, here’s a little insight. Working as a freelancer is not all glitter and might I add, is not for everyone. It’s not a shortcut like some people seem to think. It’s more of a long and bumpy ride. After all, you’re starting from scratch. And, on your own. The first month being the toughest because your income will suffer. But, and that is a big BUT, I have to say that if you put your mind to it, it will get better.

It’s challenging because every day is just not the same. I see this as a plus. However, some people are scared by this; about not having a Monday to Friday routine. But that’s just it. There is no Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 routine. Because this way, you can meet up for a coffee on a Monday morning after working on a Sunday afternoon.  It’s more about learning to find your pace. And, more importantly, managing your time wisely.

Until next year!

Amanda x

 

 

#amsterdam #overtheedge

It was love at first sight. I got lost in the beauty of the place. And there were a couple of times I  got lost – literally (I have no sense of direction whatsoever, a couple of people can vouch for that).

During our stay, it was mostly cloudy and raining. Some might have even grimaced and frowned at the less-than-ideal-holiday weather. But honestly, it was a breath of fresh air. A break from the hot and humid weather August was kind enough to bestow on us back home.

What can I say about Amsterdam? The locals are nice and helpful, the food is good (albeit a bit expensive), transport is super efficient and I felt relatively safe roaming around the streets, even after dark. I’m a bit paranoid, so that’s saying something. Obviously, this heavily depends on the area. But, I give the overall Amsterdam experience two thumbs up. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Definitely.

This blog post will be in pictures <scroll below>. I think they will sum it up quite nicely!

Amanda x

On our way! byamandalia

On our way! Essentials at hand.

Finding our way around Amsterdam. byamandalia

Finding our way around Amsterdam #firstday

When the sun comes out at Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

When the sun comes out at Zaanse Schans.

First, lunch! byamandalia

First, lunch! @ Goos

Flowermarket visit. byamandalia

Flowermarket visit.

Random tile at Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

Random tile at Zaanse Schans.

Cheese from Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

Cheese from Zaanse Schans

Lunch break at Vondelpark. byamandalia

Lunch break at Vondelpark.

Over the edge. byamandalia

Over the edge.

A waffle with stroop. byamandalia

A waffle with stroop.

You cannot not drink beer! byamandalia

You cannot not drink beer!

Rainy day in Amsterdam. byamandalia

Rainy day in Amsterdam.

New best friend at Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

New best friend at Zaanse Schans.

Beautiful Vondelapark. byamandalia

Beautiful Vondelapark.

Mouthwatering almond cake. byamandalia

Mouthwatering almond cake.

Coffee at Anne Frank's House. byamandalia

Coffee at Anne Frank’s House.

Breakfast at Greenwoods Keizersgracht. byamandalia

Breakfast at Greenwoods Keizersgracht.

A must have Starbucks picture. byamandalia

A must have Starbucks picture.

#freelancebenefits

#6

I was meant to post this a couple of days ago BUT I needed to rearrange my schedule to accommodate my new clients *happy dance*. And yesterday was such a beautiful day, I simply couldn’t help myself. I decided to spend the afternoon sipping an ice cold spritz in the sun. Bliss!

Last week, I briefly skimmed through some of the pros and cons of working freelance vis-a-vis having a full time salary job. After giving it some thought, I decided to follow up  on my previous post, and this time, I will go into the possible benefits of hiring a freelancer.

Perhaps the notion of freelance in Malta is still relatively ‘new’.  At least from my experience, it seems that not everyone has fully grasped the concept yet. And to be fair, not every job can be outsourced so I get why the majority of vacancies I came across last week were mostly for full timers only. And, I also understand that businesses might prefer building their own team rather than working with ‘outsiders’. I get that. But, I am biased in this regard and happen to think that an ‘outsider’ can in fact turn out to be someone trustworthy with whom you can partner up eventually. So without further ado, here are some of the benefits that come to mind:

www.amandalia.com (1)

For starters, by affordability, I do not mean that freelancers are cheap. By all means, they should always know their worth. But given that a freelancer is her/his own boss, there are things like, for example, equipment, work space, social security, leave, sick days etc. that an employer need not worry about. As long as both parties agree on the service, budget and time frame, they’re both set!

It may also come in handy having someone to outsource your work to on a need-basis. The flow of work is not always the same; you can have a quiet summer and a super busy winter. So, I think that having someone to turn to in times of need is always a plus! And when having worked with multiple businesses over the years, freelancers are exposed to a diversity of ideas and learn work on their own initiative.  So given the fact that they are used to working solo, there is no need for constant monitoring,  training or anything of the sort.

I also think that one of the main advantages is flexibility. Freelancers do not (normally) have any set working/office hours. For instance, I do not stop working simply because it’s Sunday, a public holiday or after hours. There are no after hours! I usually go about working during the weekend like any other day. A time schedule (and actually sticking to it) is all there is to it! With the exception of yesterday, that is! But as long as the job gets done, there’s no harm in having a couple of hours to yourself and regroup, no?

Amanda x

amandalia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#freelancevssalaryjob

#5.png

A year ago I would have probably laughed at the idea of working freelance. I was a workaholic, loved my job, loved the team and the clients. I had started off as a part time video editor during my University years and 6 years later, I was managing office operations and marketing. But change has a way of catching you off guard and due to company changes I decided to part ways. So there you have it, change. Which is something not necessarily scary. You have to look at it from a different perspective and take it as an opportunity; which I did with arms wide open.

I figured that I am resourceful. It’s not going to be easy, I thought to myself. It was much easier for me to get a full time job. In fact, I already had a couple of job offers until the end of my notice. And another 2 job offers just last month. Crazy for not accepting, you say? Maybe.

But I have this tendency to walk past the shortcut and up the hill. After 7 years working for the same company (something I wouldn’t change because I learned a lot from that experience), this was my break. A chance to fulfil my true potential because I always knew I was worth more, that I can do more.

There’s always that one nagging thought though, evilly conjuring images of failure. But honestly, isn’t that one of the definitions of life? Failure, after all, is “the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Or so Henry Ford said. But I think he was right.

So, to get to the point. Freelance Work vs. a Salary Job. What are the pros and cons? For each person, it’s a different story and this is not about what is wrong or right because what might work for you might not be the best way forward for me. But, based on my experience so far, there are 3 main areas which I thought worth covering in this post:

  • Financial Security & Stability

Although you cannot really foresee the future; one minute you have a full time job and the next you don’t, it is safe to say that a salary job is more stable and financially secure than freelancing.

In general, full time salaried employees get a monthly paycheck as long as they get the job done. They (should) get paid for their off days, are allowed sick days and some even enjoy health benefits.

Freelancing on the other hand is quite unstable. One month you are overflowing with work and the next, you can kiss your wage goodbye. But, on the bright side, if you eventually have multiple clients, if you lose one, you can gain another.

  • Motivation & Job Satisfaction

One of the hardest things is to stay motivated (and focused). In reality, you simply need to have your goals clearly stated and an action plan to achieve them. If you love what you do, then there you have it! If you put your heart and soul into what you’re doing, there is a high chance that others will see it too. And if that doesn’t work, an empty pocket will probably be motivation enough!

As for salaried employees, I think that motivation is linked to job satisfaction which in turn goes hand in hand with appreciation. Regardless of how much you love your job, if you feel unappreciated, job satisfaction and motivation go out the window.

So if you’re doing a good job and your employer acknowledges that with a promotion, a bonus or sometimes even just a “thanks-for-all-the-effort-and-dedication-you-put-into-your-work”, your motivation level shoots up. If not, there is probably something not quite right. Either you’re doing something wrong or else, you’re doing everything right and more, and they just don’t give a flying hoot about it!

  • Flexibility & Control

Although you can achieve a work-life balance when working full time, freelancers have even more flexibility because they are in control of the projects they undertake. Although I’m just starting out as a freelancer, I enjoy the fact that I am able to attend conferences, set up meetings, go to seminars and lectures without having to ask for a day off because I can schedule around an agenda that I created for myself.

And this, not taking into consideration that my work space is different every week! So far: the desk, the couch, on the floor (!), in a garden , in a café (correction – several cafés), at a client’s, at the beach. Endless. The options are endless!

There is so much more to say  and I can go on forever! But I will leave you with my favourite places I go to for inspiration and sometimes to simply clear my mind from the everyday clatter. It doesn’t matter if you’re working freelance or full time; you still need to unwind 🙂

Amanda x