As a digital lifestyle content creator, working from home was already a part of Dayna Bolden’s daily routine. But like other working moms, when the coronavirus crisis hit she was blindsided by suddenly having to home-school her 6-year-old daughter, Aria, while caring for 10-month-old son, Bryce — all while figuring out how to pivot her business.
Although it’s required figuring things out on the fly — “My patience has definitely been tested during this time,” Bolden says — ultimately, she discovered some silver linings that will stick with her even after things start returning to normal. Here, she shares what she’s learned during the pandemic, and her advice for what small business owners need to focus on right now.
What has it been like for you juggling your work and home life since the coronavirus crisis began?
It definitely has been harder than I thought it would be. I remember thinking, “I didn’t sign up to be a teacher — that’s what I send my daughter to school for!” But it’s also really strengthened my prioritization skills because I’ve had to navigate setting her up for school, her daily web classes and the things I have to do for my business.
On top of that, I have my 10-month old and my husband is an essential worker, he works in distribution management, so he's still had to leave every day to go to work. Needless to say this has been a crazy time for me! But overall, I’m proud that I've been able to get a hold of everything.
Ultimately, I’m just thankful that we're all healthy and safe at home, and that I have the ability to work from home on my schedule, which I’ve been doing for years, just now with some extra layers of responsibility.
This is the time to be innovative and experiment, and to think about the things you can do that would normally be outside of your comfort zone.
What adjustments have you had to make to your daily routine?
I wake up a little earlier and go to bed a little later because during the day, my time is mostly spent on the kids. I’ll weave in calls between my daughter’s lessons, and it helps that I've mastered my schedule with my 10-month-old son, who is a good sleeper, so I’m able to work while he’s napping. But waking up a little earlier to knock things out that I can’t do during the day has helped me a lot, because I’m on my own from 8 am until my husband gets home around 8 pm — then it’s his shift to help out with the kids.
A lot of small business owners are worried about the future and how they’re going to stay afloat. How have you dealt with this yourself, and what advice can you offer them?
Honestly, I do look at my numbers, and often. What helps put me at ease is knowing where I am in terms of my savings and how long that can last me, as well as looking at the projects that I have coming in. Ultimately, we can’t control the future, so I can’t stress today wondering what’s going to happen. Even if the economy was normal, I still wouldn’t know where I was going to be in six months.
I think we have to focus on what we can control. As a content creator, right now the only thing I can control is the kind of content I’m putting out into the world. I’ve had to pivot my messaging to make sure it’s relevant to what my audience is going through. I’m very sensitive to what value I’m bringing to them right now and try to be relatable, because we’re all going through the same things.
So I think that’s my biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs: Think about ways to pivot. It’s OK to pivot — pivoting isn’t failing. Is there a different product or service you can incorporate into your business? How can you provide services online or deliver your products in a different way? This is the time to be innovative and experiment, and to think about the things you can do that would normally be outside of your comfort zone.
You mentioned looking at your numbers. Financial anxiety is very real right now for everyone, but especially small business owners.
It is. We hear it all the time: You have to save for these types of emergencies, not just in your business, but in your personal finances, too. I'm grateful that I was in a financial position where I could save before all this happened — because if I hadn’t, I would be more stressed. But I know that’s hard advice to hear when you haven’t saved and you’re like, now what?
Entrepreneurs tend to think we can do everything and wear a lot of hats, but then you realize, maybe I need to get someone to help me who really knows what they’re doing. I think that goes for money, too. You need to work with a professional because we don’t know what we don’t know. A lot of times, the reason why we don’t want to speak to a financial advisor is because we’re scared of what they’re going to say, that they’re going to tell us we haven’t saved enough or tell us the hard things we don’t want to hear. But I think once people get past that feeling, you can get better, and get to a place where your business and your personal finances are secure.
Personally, I’ve just started those financial conversations with a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor, and my biggest takeaway was understanding that I needed to start setting myself up for the future so that my family is taken care of, whether that’s through insurance or investments or setting up a will. Because I’ve learned through this whole COVID-19 situation that you just never know what’s going to happen or what could affect your family and your business.
What advice would you give to people who were thinking of taking the entrepreneurial plunge before the coronavirus hit?
If you feel it’s the right move for you, I say go ahead and try it, because now’s the time. You’re at home more now and you can start to dabble in the entrepreneurial world and see if that’s something you want. One week into the pandemic, people were being let go from their jobs — which goes to show that no matter what profession you choose or whether you decide to be an entrepreneur, nothing is totally secure.
That’s not to say you should jump with no plan. I did my 9-to-5 job and worked on my lifestyle and beauty blog on the side for about two years before I saw that I could do it full time. Only once I got to a point where my side job started to replace what I was making at my full-time job — and I had saved up enough to cover a few months of expenses — did I feel comfortable making the leap. I had a family, a house, bills to cover, so I wasn’t trying to jump without knowing I could replace my income. That was just my personal preference.
I do think, in general, that it’s always a good idea to have another stream of income, even if you want to work a 9-to-5, because what if you lose your job and it takes a while for you to get hired? I think it’s always smart to have multiple revenue streams, no matter what — and if you find a new passion, that’s even better.
Dayna Bolden was paid to appear in this article as part of a social media campaign for Northwestern Mutual.