One of the reasons people become Virtual Assistants is so they can fit work around their family life. Because I don’t have any children I asked my VA Handbookers Facebook group how they handle childcare whilst running their business so you could gain an idea of how they manage their day and see how freelancing would fit your current situation.
The reason I asked the group about childcare was that many VAs get themselves into awkward situations because they think they can easily do client work whilst their children play around them.
Having work that fits around family commitments is a wonderful idea in principle, but because the VAs didn’t sort proper childcare, they were tired, distracted and did a poor job. They wanted to become a freelancer to suit themselves but they completely failed to deliver a professional service to their clients
They focused on what they got instead of what they gave.
Because they failed to anticipate the time, energy and mental focus required to complete client tasks (as well as the multitude of other things you need to do to grow a successful business such as marketing), they ended up doing a poor job and their clients ceased working with them.
Being let go by a client impacted their self-esteem, their confidence and their reputation – which not only affected their own business but their family life as well.
So is it possible to happily balance running your own business with raising a family, or is there a catch?
Let’s find out.
How Virtual Assistants manage childcare
“I’ve been very lucky so far in that my clients have all been happy for me to work evenings and weekends. If ever I’ve had a job that does need doing during the day, again I’m lucky to have my parents and good friends close by who’ve been happy to have my daughter for a couple of hours. She starts nursery in September so things will become a lot easier then.”
“It really depends on the nature of your work. I am doing a lot of training and background research at the moment, which I do in school hours. I have a teenager, so no school runs, which makes things a lot easier. If I’m call handling, I put a note on the inner door for when he gets in from school, and he knows to just grab a snack and make sure I’m not talking before he speaks.
When he was younger, in my paid job, if I was working from home, I would still take him to the nursery or childminder, (we used to have nursery days and Mummy days) unless it was extreme weather. He needed the continuity and stimulation of a different environment with other children, and I was still paying for it.
We used to provide tech support for home workers, and there’s nothing worse or unprofessional than kids and dogs being noisy in the background when on the phones.”
“I home educate my 11-year-old daughter and do most of my daily work early in the morning when she’s still sleeping. Some tasks like creating and scheduling social media posts I do only once a month, so not a problem. I don’t know how I would do it if I took more clients though.”
“I think it’s important before you start as a VA to sit down and write out your child’s routine and commitments such as after-school clubs. I found that helped me worked out how many hours you can realistically pencil in for clients throughout the day.
It’s also super important to be honest with clients about your commitments and to get yourself into a routine.
I’m really lucky that my youngest (who is home with me) is in a really good routine which allows me to work through the day, but I also work in the evenings when the little monsters are in bed.”
“I have my own office and work when kids are at school and nursery. We have relatives who help to mind them around school if needed. I have three children so working with them in the house would be too much of a challenge. I also do a fair bit of work in the evening once they are in bed.”
“My boys are in school and to flex their days I use pre/after school care at times. I work on projects in the evenings or weekends when my husband is around. I have my main working days Wed – Frid when my eldest is at school club and school and my youngest is at nursery all day. Now he has the 30 hours subsidised it’s a lot cheaper for me to send him there.
I do try to do some work for a couple of hours on Mon and Tues afternoons but not usually client work. I’ve put his name down for a couple of afternoons at school nursery so I will have more time when that happens.”
“I have two full days for work each week when my son is at nursery. I also do quite a lot of event management and minute taking, which tends to take place during evenings and weekends when my partner is at home and can look after the baby.
I think the most important thing is that you don’t take on too much work. There’s no point in me booking in 40 hours of client work each week when I only have 20 child-free hours.”
“I have a 10-year-old so he is getting more independent. Being a VA allows me to do the school run and be back at my desk by 9am. I have chosen my working hours and budgeted for downtime during school holidays etc.
The reason why I gave up the day job to launch my own business was to fit around family life.”
“My children are 9 and 12 and I’ve been a VA for around 5 years, so it has evolved considerably for me. Initially, with a 4 and 7-year old (and a P/T fundraising admin job) I would use my evenings to catch up on VA work. This was terrible for me because I am a night owl so I would go to bed at ridiculous times of the early hours and then need to be up ready for school in the morning.
Eventually, I built up enough clients to be able to leave my part-time job because I just couldn’t manage to fit it all in. My youngest son has an auto-immune condition so I was permanently worrying about him (and I still do!), as well as working out when I could carve a few hours into my day to get client work done. I could feel my mind starting to implode with the weight of it all.
From the moment I left my P/T job, things changed unrecognisably and I am now able to do the majority of my work between the hours of 9.30am and 3pm because my boys are at school. I have a lady that cleans for us for 2 hours per week, so in theory, the time that I spend with my children is quality time where I can focus on them and we can have fun.
It can be tricky during school holidays because although we tell ourselves we can work around our children, Mum guilt sets in and we obviously feel that we ought to be out and about in the fresh air with small people. For me, it has been a huge learning experience and after 5 years, I think I’m just about there in terms of working through the day and not having to do work in the evenings.
Of course, there is always work to be done and I could easily sit with my laptop on until I go to bed at 11 or 12 o’clock, but I know that it’s better all round for all of us if I just use my time effectively during the day.”
“I have two children aged 10 and 11. I work during school hours but try to reduce them during school holidays to keep the balance. It’s not easy and quite a challenge but organisation is key definitely. I thought the older mine got the more I would be able to work, however, I’ve found this is not the case as they need more support with school work and to talk about things that have happened during the day.”
“I have three girls aged 19, 12 and 6. The eldest is at college and helps with the girls on a Tues and Weds if I need it and the other two are at school. The youngest goes to her childminders on a Friday until 4.30pm as it’s half day then. It works well and they are generally quite good if in the house when I’m working. It was harder when they were younger, but between childcare and knowing your routine you somehow get there.”
“During term time I work school hours, I try to squeeze everything in before school holidays, but this is not always suitable for clients. If I gave deadlines in school holidays I work in the evenings when my daughter is in bed. Although as she’s getting older she’s not in bed early!!
I think it’s good for your child to see you have to work as it sets a good example for their future and working life.”
“I do actually work around my toddler but I have been very careful about what and how much I take on. I only work 10-20 hours a week and use his naps to focus on the bigger or more complicated tasks. I can keep on top of emails from my phone when he’s absorbed in other things. I also explain this to clients before we start working together so we’re all on the same page.
I think it helps that I work with other sole traders and small businesses and so they tend to understand about working from the dining table. I’m not really going for bigger or corporate clients but if I was I wouldn’t take any until my son is older and probably in nursery or school. So it can work!”
“I don’t think Mums should be put off regardless of their child ages and whether they are at home or at school. It takes a lot of planning and organisation and I think having a support network around you is massively important. If I have telephone consultations booked in I arrange childcare because no one wants to hear my little one in the background.
My clients so far have been brilliant and it hasn’t bothered them in the slightest that I work around my children because I make damn sure I meet my deadlines and they’ve always been more than happy with the quality of my work.
It really gets to me when people say it can’t work around children, it can!”
“My children are both school age, so this means a chunk of the day is already covered. I generally take them to school and my Mother-in-Law has them one day a week. I have a great childminder who can generally accommodate us and in addition, they go to her three days a month.
For emergencies, I have friends I can call on and I am also lucky in that I can work in the evenings and on a weekend. I generally don’t get much done when the kids are home as they interrupt a lot!”
“I have two children aged 10 and 6 and they are both at school during the day. My Father-in-Law picks them up twice a week so I have two long days and my husband is currently not working so he is around to help. I quite often work on site in London or take minutes in an evening so it’s a bit of a juggle but I like the fact that I can mostly be around for them.
The holidays will be more of a challenge especially when my husband starts working again but I aim to split time at the Grandparents and other days take half a day working and half a day doing something with the kids. I am fortunate that I have Grandparents close by so they can help. I have some ad hoc dictation work that I do in the evenings or use that time to catch up on work and use time over the weekend.
It’s a juggle and I have to plan my time a lot, but it’s so much better than working 9-5.
Oh – another thing. I take minutes for one client and I know all my dates for 2018. I have given my kid’s school a schedule so they know to call the second emergency contact on those days. I have my phone switched off, so they wouldn’t be able to get hold of me anyway, but it gives me the peace of mind that there’d be no delay in an emergency.”
“I’m setting up my business and have an au pair joining me when I launch so that she can mind my baby while I work from my home office. I couldn’t do it with my daughter in the background as I think it would sound unprofessional for client calls and I would also feel terrible ignoring her whilst glued to my laptop. I don’t have any family available to help with childcare so I’m hoping this will be a good solution for me!”
“I am very lucky to have family help out but becoming a VA was one of my main reasons to change my lifestyle so I can be around for my son and do the school run. It was tough setting up though whilst he was in nursery, we didn’t get fully funded hours so I was only able to work part-time as it was too expensive to pay for full-time nursery.
I’m glad we struggled through as it’s so much easier now he’s in reception and we have a good little routine.”
“My kids are 11, 6, and 3. I have worked from home over five years and I previously owned a home daycare. In this business, it’s more helpful that my children are older and therefore at school the majority of the working day. For the school year, I have planned 20 hrs for client work during the day.
My husband is definitely a partner in taking care of the children, so if I can work evenings or early mornings if needed. For school breaks or busier days, my Mom comes to watch them.”
“I mostly support retainer clients who expect me to be around during their working day. I’ve worked from home since my daughter was nine months old, and I’ve never been able to consider this role as an alternative to childcare. Both parts of my life have felt like full-time jobs and I knew I couldn’t do either well if my focus was split on a daily basis.
Don’t get me wrong, I would have LOVED to not spend a small fortunate on childcare, because there were months when my nursery bill was more than my earnings which was hugely disheartening. Now that my daughter is at school, I’ve reduced my hours to fit around that because it’s really important to me that I walk her to/from school every day as well as having quality time when she gets back. Work phone off. No emails. No distractions.
I no longer have any childcare bills (aside from an ad hoc breakfast club) and I work around my husband’s holidays (he’s a teacher so that makes life easier) when one of us needs to take time off for childcare. What I did learn last year was that doing a half day at work and then a half day as a fun parent during school holidays just did not work. My mind was on my family playing downstairs in the morning when I should have been in work mode, and in the afternoons (when I was officially “off” work) I kept on allowing my mind to pull me back into work stuff. After that, I resolved to avoid half day holidays going forward as it just doesn’t work for me personally.
As a closing note, I think it’s really important to say that what does/doesn’t work for me isn’t necessarily going to be the same as what works for you.
I know of VAs who take full working days off so they can be with their families during school holidays because they are happy to work until 2am to catch-up. So it really is about finding something that works for you and, perhaps like me, this will be through trial and error.”
“I work whilst my daughter is at school, so from 9am to 3pm. It will be trickier over Easter and the summer holidays, as I will need to look for some cover by the grandparents and some holiday clubs, so I am not working every evening and weekend to make up my time.”
“My sons are 2.5 and 14 months. I am lucky enough to have the support of my parents to help with childcare sometimes and also the eldest goes to a little nursery for three hours, four days a week as he has so much energy.
I love being able to be there for them and work around their needs. I am a night owl and I often crack on with work during the evening and late in the night so I don’t miss any deadlines. I think how I work will change as the boys get older and their needs change. For now, I am managing about 25 hours a week billable and then 5 hours on my own business/development.”
“My children are all school age now but when they were small I was really honest with myself about how much I could take on and the hours I could work. When they were home I tended to work on a more project basis so I could manage when I did the work more easily to make sure it was in for the deadline.
I’d usually work early mornings, evenings and weekends, and when I had to go for meetings, my hubby would stay home with my daughter. BUT it has changed since the beginning of the year. As my little one is a bit older, very energetic and needs constant entertainment, I sent her to my neighbour’s a couple of mornings a week and she gets to play with other kids and animals (they have horses and everything) and I get to catch up with work.”
“I tell my clients at the outset that I’m a working Mum and that’s why I work for myself. My core hours are 9-3 and I’m available on email 3-5. I take on enough work to fill the hours I want to work. In school holidays it’s a bit trickier and I tend to pay for my daughter to go to a holiday club for one day and I go to a local play barn for one day and the rest of the week we go and do something fun in the morning and then I work at the dining table the rest of the day whilst she does crafts etc. I’ll then work for a few hours in the evening if necessary.
I think it’s about honesty and balance.”
“I feel for those juggling VA work with younger children. I’m a single parent with very little family support, so it has been very difficult over the years for lots of reasons. I worked part-time when my boy was in a private nursery, then for the last year before school (4-5), I went full time. Once at school, I used childminders but some were more flexible than others!
The cost has been immense, but it was the only way I could manage.
Fate stepped in, and I was made redundant four years ago. I wish at that point I had stuck with my original plan of website development and venturing into VA work. Childcare-wise it was perfect though. My more recent employer was not as flexible child-friendly as he thinks he is, so I am relieved to be back in control of our time.
My lad is 13 now, so it is a lot easier to juggle my day around his. He has been off sick the last couple of days, but I have still managed to work around him. The next few years are my last chance to be there for him and guide him into adulthood, so when I start getting VA work, I will make sure I don’t over commit, and that clients understand my availability.”
“I always make sure my clients know when half terms/school holidays are coming up and make it clear that although work will be done it may be slower that week. During normal school times, my kids go to after school club twice a week to give me extra time Mon and Thurs to concentrate on what I need to do. The rest of the time I tend to just work mornings and I always have Fridays off.
What’s the point of being your own boss if you can’t have three day weekends?
If you were in full-time paid employment, you’d have at least 4-6 weeks off. Schools have at least 14 weeks off. It is so hard to juggle our time. I used to try and apportion one day per week of school hols plus two solid weeks, then the rest of the days for sick days/appointments.”
“My boys are both in school, thank goodness! However, periodically, I babysit my nephew and that can be a challenge because he’s only two and client calls and work requiring concentration is difficult, if not damn impossible during the time I’m watching him. Being a person who likes to give my full attention to something, I find it a little frustrating but we manage.”
“My boys are 2 1/2 and 11 months – so I do have my hands full. I am lucky to have my Mum living with me to help with babysitting when I am needed at meetings or need to shut myself away to get things done. I think until they go to school my most productive time is and will be in the evenings or before they get up!”
“I don’t have childcare costs anymore as my children are all at school. When I did have to pay for childcare I would put them in for a few days a week and on the other days I would work in the evenings once they were in bed.”
“Great timing. Little one started at nursery this week as hubby was a stay-at-home dad for 8 months and has now gone back to work. Nursery can’t have her on a Weds until February, so today I told my clients I’d be in and out all day but would be checking emails intermittently and if anything was urgent to text me. Not sure I can say the same every Wednesday but don’t want to say it’s because of no childcare.”
“My clients know I’m a working Mum but I say I have an appointment or just that I am not available if I have child-related commitments. I work around my daughter and she’s pretty independent (9 going on 49) so I’m quite lucky.”
“Mine are 13, 6 and 3 and are all at school and nursery. If they’re off school (i.e. teacher training or holidays) I’ll only spend an hour or so in the morning working while I pop the TV on for a bit and then catch up in the evenings. I communicate regularly with my clients to let them know the situation. They know I work from home, and are fairly cool about it.”
“I have two girls aged 6 and 8. I work around school hours mainly so I can spend time with them in the morning and after school. This was the main reason I became a VA. No more working through the night. I do however book them on to holiday clubs for some days during school holidays and schedule in the work I have around these days. Not had any problems so far and I’ve been doing it a year.”
“I have a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old. I am one exhausted mama. I get someone to babysit them during the day, so that I can work plus I try to wake up at 4am to get some work done, especially on those days the nanny isn’t coming. But I usually get a mini heart attack when she calls me in the morning and says she can’t make it that day yet I have a pile of work to do.”
“Structure. When you throw little people into the working from home pot, you have to know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it.
My daughter is three and she goes to pre-school 12.30pm – 3.30pm every day. I know that I have from 6am – 12pm to work and keep her occupied so I wake up early, shower, coffee and work for as long as I can until my partner goes to work. I use the TV a LOT, give her jigsaws, crafts, shove her in the garden.
I know that if I can work for three hours before school plus three hours while she’s at school, I can pretty much get a full day in (my dad comes over every day at 4.30pm and takes her out for 1-2 hours). It’s not easy and I’ll be honest, it’s a struggle some days (cue locking self in bathroom and crying) but it is achievable if you take control.”
“My daughter is 13 and so she doesn’t really affect my work pattern. In the evenings she gets the laptop out for homework and I’ll sit down with her and work too. In the holidays, I imagine that I will be able to work in the mornings as usual, as she doesn’t get up until gone 11am!!!”
“I have four children, aged 18, 13, 7 and 5. My children are all at school so that helps a lot but I do have to have quite a rigid structure in place to make sure everyone is where they need to be and gets the time they deserve. My children all do extracurricular activities so I tend to work on my own business whilst they are doing those – I am the only Mum to arrive at ballet or swimming with a laptop or tablet!
Before they started school I used to send them to the local nursery for two days a week which helped massively and I would work when they were in bed. It is really tough sometimes but the benefits of being able to do the school runs, attend performances or assembly when they have them and not having to worry about what to do when they are sick make all the juggling worthwhile
I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Key for me is not taking on too much. I have a 2 and 1-year-old and only have full childcare one day a week. I work in the mornings after breakfast while they are happy to entertain themselves, through naps and then try and have the afternoons free to be with them. I have been known to work when needed but I find it a lot harder in the afternoons because they are more demanding. Any client calls etc are either scheduled for their nap times or on my free day. It’s hard work but it’s keeping me sane.”
“I have a five year old who starts school in Feb and a 17-month-old. I’m not an official VA yet but work from home with my current employer, it is a real juggle but organisation is the key. I try to do all of my house jobs when my daughter is awake so that I can make the most of her nap time working.
I’m hoping to become a VA next year with my current employer as my first client (gotta have that conversation yet!?), and build up as my youngest gets older. My five year old is great, he is at kinder 2.5 days a week and keeps quiet with a movie or Lego when he’s home and my youngest sleeps. Tricky business but they are my motivation to become a VA.”
“My daughter will be 9 in January. I do all the school runs and sick day/holiday care. She will usually get a week away with her Dad in the summer holidays, but I manage to stay operational through the hols. I’m lucky that a) she is old enough to entertain herself and b) she is happy to do so! We negotiate work/play time together and have done for a few years.
I’m not sure how I’d juggle it if she was younger, but all of you lovely parents have found amazing ways to cope! What I don’t achieve during the day I catch up on in the evenings, or the weekends she is at her dad’s. I resent it sometimes, but I’m actually at my most creative when the rest of the world is cosying down for the night, so it works out well.”
“I have a 3-year-old son, I am the Director of 2 businesses and have juggled legal PA temp work around them for 20 years! When my son was 2 we put him in nursery 2 days a week and I got a 2 day a week PA job. I hated it and was basically paying for someone else to look after my son so I decided to work full time to make it financially viable and hubby (who works from home) would have our son the rest of the week.
I got a full-time job that I enjoyed but I was made redundant so I did some more temping and decided to set up as a VA.
Best. Decision. Ever!!!!
I love being a VA. It works around family life, my other businesses and I can pick and choose my clients and have moved away from law/legal and am now working with SME’s and small creative businesses which I really enjoy – am finding myself drawn more to marketing and now thinking of becoming accredited and studying that next year!!
Love the control and freedom I have and my son has really benefited from having me home and a LOT less stressed. I am very happy – just need to boost my income a bit more but I’ve only been up and running for 6 months so hopefully next year I will see an increase!!”
“I have 3 children. 10, 6 and 2. Only the youngest is at home. He’s in nursery when I work from a client’s house on Thursdays but due to increasing client base from Jan, he’ll be at a pre-school Mon and Frid mornings too.
Feel a bit guilty but I do this or go back to traipsing into London for a lower wage and much more hassle!!! Plus this makes me feel so happy and school runs and Xmas plays etc can all be done by me, give or take the odd meeting like yesterday when I had to wake hubby up early as I had a client meeting in London.”
“My girls are 20 and 15, not really a childcare issue anymore. The only thing is when they suddenly fall ill and I’m not home, or if I have to drive them to school when their bicycles have a flat. The latter can wreak havoc with my scheduling, BUT, I try to start my workday at about 10am so that I have my bases covered.”
“I have a son who is nearly two. He is in childcare (nursery and Nan) two days a week so these are my free working days. Other than that, I squeeze work into nap times. Working around him is getting impossible as he’s taken a liking to gadgets and likes to muscle in on what I’m trying to do.
So the key for me is being organised!”
“I have a 5-year-old daughter so I take her to school and am usually in the office by 9.30am. I work until 2.45pm, walk up to pick her up and then spend time with her doing after-school activities. I do answer emails in this time but I don’t work.
If I need to I work for a couple of hours in the evenings, in the holidays I get up an hour earlier and work until 11.30am and then spend the day with her and work in the evenings if I have to.
When I took my clients on I told them I only work school hours and am limited in the holidays. They are all ok with it otherwise I couldn’t have taken them on as I have no family to help out and my husband doesn’t get home until her bedtime every night.”
“My girls are nearly 6 and nearly 3. Not so much a problem with older as she’s at school all day but am currently only able to offer hours that younger one is in preschool. We need the income which is why I started being a VA but it’s tough to juggle with other demands.
My younger daughter gets her government-funded hours at Easter which will allow me to increase my offer of hours but it’s bit by bit really. And the irony is, I chose this to maintain a good work/life balance and then find myself thinking/doing/obsessing about VA stuff when I should be looking after my daughter! Oh dear – bad Mummy.”
“My daughter is nearly four and we are reducing her childcare hours slightly to 9am to 4pm as of January as my childcare outgoings cost more than my income in these early days of being self-employed. I’m lucky because my husband is a teacher so we don’t have to pay for childcare during the school holidays.
Oh, and I strongly advise any parents out there to NOT tot up how much they’ve spent on childcare over the years. Barf.”
“My kids are a bit older (16 and 10), but I watch my nephew for a few days a week ($20 a day regardless of the length of time). I potter around while he plays or watches his favourite shows, but when he falls asleep, that’s when I hunker down and focus on my work. I usually do a bit more work after I pick up our youngest from school. So far it’s been working!”
“My son is 5. I used to work in an employed role from home when he was younger and work was done during nap times, in the evenings, and whilst at nursery (paid-for hours until he got his free hours aged 3). It was always so hard when he was younger, especially as our family were a good hour away so we didn’t have back-up childcare support.
Now my son is at school full time I work during school hours and try to never schedule more than 75% of those hours so that if he gets sick I have a bit of leeway. In the school holidays, I get help with childcare from my parents, as we moved closer to them, and try to schedule work of an afternoon when he will be more tired and therefore more likely to sit and watch TV for a bit!
doesn’t always work and I do still have to work some evenings, but I try really hard not to do that too often as it then feels like I never stop!”
“My daughter is 18 months old. I do most of my work between 6-9am while she’s asleep, after hours when my partner is back from work, and at the weekends. Most of my work are tasks that I can do when it suits me, so I just work around deadlines. My clients know and are happy with it.
It works for us all as I love being Mummy but also love working.”
“My son is 6 months old and my daughter is almost 4 years old. Childcare here is so expensive (my son’s age is $185 per day!!) so I have them both with me. I spend the beginning of the week getting the house cleaned and sorted and spend quality time with kids (and fit in work around naps, quiet times or when they sleep at night) and commit to full work Wed, Thurs, Frid.
During that time I step away if the kids need me or to get them food, next lot of toys to play with etc and log off early to play with them or take them to the park. It works well because my hours are flexible so I can flex up / down as I need to but also be there for my kids without having to fork out huge amounts of money in childcare. I have turned part of my bedroom into a home office, installed a TV so the kids stay with me at all times happily playing and I can get my work done. My husband finishes work at 3pm so that also helps.
It works for now!”
“First of all, may I say that childcare costs in this country are ridiculous and that’s why I always worked part-time when becoming a Mum. I often just broke even with travel costs, even working for 3 days a week, which is very frustrating for any working Mum. My son is now 9 years old so I don’t need to worry about this anymore and can work school hours.
I’ll need to book him into holiday courses if my VA business starts getting busy but as I’m not even there yet I’ll think about this when the time comes. I really admire all of you VAs with very small children and how to work around these!”
Although the answers were from working mums from different countries and with children of varying numbers and ages, there are definitely recurring themes in their responses:
- They work out their child’s routine and commitments to ascertain how many hours they can realistically spend on client work.
- They are honest with their clients about their commitments and availability.
- They don’t over commit.
- They establish a routine and structure.
- They set distinct and separate work and family times.
- They enlist the services of friends and family.
- They use childminders and enrol their children into after-school and holiday clubs.
- They complete client work early in the mornings after their children have gone to bed and at weekends.
- They are realistic and careful about how much work they take on.
- They make sure they meet client deadlines and deliver a high standard of work.
The good news is that whatever your current situation, you can run your own business and meet your family commitments, but you need to be realistic, disciplined and establish a routine that works for you, your family and your clients.