When I interviewed Joy Michelle last August, I knew instantly that this interview would be perfect to kick off the new year with. I was a business owner for over 5 years before I became a mom and let me tell you, it’s been a huge adjustment (especially because we didn’t start doing outside child care until very recently!). Being a mompreneur, or being a mom and business owner, or whatever you want to call it can be really hard at times.
I hope as you read this blog post (or better yet - tune into the podcast!), you find the encouragement you need as we all kick off another year of business, another year of motherhood, and another year of wearing A LOT of hats.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
I personally love learning from Joy and if you are looking for a little advice (whether you are just entering the world of balancing being a mom and a business owner, or you’ve been doing it for a while and are feeling stretched thin), I really believe you are going to love this interview. Motherhood is so fulfilling (I know I can’t imagine my life without Colin now!) but I know my business took a step back as I started to balance both roles. I always want to be super present and wear “all the hats” well, but I can’t always, and although I really try to be gracious with myself in that, it can be tough at times.
In the interview, I had a chance to ask Joy Michelle all of my burning questions from a fellow mompreneur who seems to have it all figured out. She’s a photographer turned YouTuber and business coach with 2 kiddos of her own (Clara and Lewis) and has been married to her high school sweetheart Felipe for over 10 years. We talk about things like what it looks like to be called to both motherhood and business (and how we can navigate balancing both well), what Joy’s work week looks like as a working mom, the struggle of time management as a mompreneur, and she shares a lot of advice for the mom feeling burnt out in her business (or burnt out in motherhood).
Okay, now let’s dive right in!
Why did you transition away from wedding photography after becoming a mom?
First, I had (kind of) unintentionally started another business by starting a YouTube channel. On the Youtube channel, I started educating photographers and that led to Photo Boss, which then blossomed into its own brand and Facebook group. I had just had Clara, and Photo Boss was growing so I just felt this itch of really wanting to see what I could do with my education business. I knew I couldn’t give 100% to both Photo Boss and weddings and at the same time things were shifting in my personal life with a new baby and I knew I wanted to be able to make more money from home.
That freedom piece for me of why I started a business became less of the original reason of “let's not commute every day into work” and became one level deeper to “let's be home more”.
That really was the catalyst behind the pivot, but there really were so many factors. After eight years of weddings, I really felt like I had done it (and loved it). I started to feel like, okay, what’s next?
How did your business change when you had your first child?
I have to be honest with you, I was scared to introduce a baby into the mix. After all, my business was my baby before I had actual babies! I almost feared that maybe I wouldn't want to grow a business anymore and maybe my love for my business would somehow dwindle after I had Clara. Because I just loved business in general. I started my business in 2013 when I was fresh out of college, and I started my YouTube channel in 2017 (what I now consider to be phase two of my business).
I had my first child, Clara, in 2019 and I was still photographing weddings while pregnant and then postpartum. I was pumping in the bathroom, standing in the stall trying to juggle everything during the wedding reception! So while I do think it’s definitely possible to have a wedding photography business and children, the fact that Photo Boss had started growing before I had Clara made me really want to see where I could take it. I also started feeling like I wanted another baby, so it felt like “now is the time” to make the transition. While I did shoot a couple more weddings while I was expecting Lewisouis, I just remember thinking “I’m too old for this, I’m too pregnant for this”.
Were you worried that your business would become less exciting after becoming a mom?
When I was expecting, I was hyper-focused on my business (almost like nesting). I was like: let’s get a course out, let’s do this, let’s do that. It fueled me. I knew once the baby was born I would want to be able to be 100% away and just enjoy time with the newborn for six or so weeks. With a new baby, it really puts it into perspective that it’s just a business. But then after a little time off, I kind of want to get back in there. I have ideas. I get excited again.
After returning to work after my second maternity leave, I had a team to answer to and it was a little overwhelming at first (like drinking from a fire hose!). When I returned to work it was like “okay, one thing at a time”.
Motherhood adds it doesn’t subtract.
The part of me wanting to grow something and create never disappears. If someone does want to close their business after becoming a mom that’s 1000% fine but for me, it gave me a new focus. I think in a lot of ways it made me a better business owner, that’s for sure.
EM: Being a mompreneur trying to balance work and family can be a lot sometimes. I know for me personally, I had thoughts during maternity leave like “am I trying to quit my business?”. But then once I was sleeping more and not breastfeeding a million times a day, I started to have new ideas coming back again too.
Yeah, you almost have to take the pressure off yourself at first. You’re trying to stay alive and keep your baby alive. For me, I see women jump right back in and I’m like “you are amazing, I don’t know how you do that”. For me, after having my babies each time I was like “I do not care. I'm not posting, I'm not checking my email.” But then it comes back and I’m like okay, it’s still there. I still got it.
Was mompreneur life different after your second kid?
Yeah, I remember my midwife telling me that with each subsequent child, you almost need to rest more because your body is still working really, really hard to go back every time. And I felt that. I was like, okay, I've got to really not push myself to do all the things or try to prove that I can do everything. I'm gonna embrace this time and just lay here. So I did.
How did your business change going from one baby to two?
It's constantly changing. Even just this week my husband and I were like, I feel like we might need to change the schedule a little bit because the naps are changing and their schedules and activities are changing. The constant changing is such a real thing.
Before having kids, I would just work. I don't even know how much I worked, I just worked. If my husband was working late or he was away, or even if I just had inspiration strike, I would pull out my laptop and dive into doing things right away.
After having kids, I had to think really critically about my time and the time that I was spending in my business. I think for the first time ever. I think I thought I was being strategic, but I had the luxury of time. And I just don't have that anymore. I could no longer work in a distracted way (like for example, editing photos while watching something on Netflix).
Having less time really forced me to do an 80/20 analysis of what was bringing in the money, and what marketing activities were actually leading to leads and conversions, and put on my business cap a lot more often than I put on the artist cap. It also forced me to grow my team more intentionally, instead of hiring for one-off projects or a bit of editing here and there.
Having kids helped me step into the role of CEO and really think about what roles I needed to fill in my business (like in the early days, when Clara was in her DockATot next to me as I’m trying to deliver things to clients and respond to inquiries).
What did balancing childcare look like in the early days of being a mom?
We started with just two different time chunks (two hours at a time or something very small) with my sister watching the baby. I didn't know what it would be like and I was constantly thinking “how was this gonna work?”. So I would work during naps and whenever my sister would come between her high school classes. That was the phase back then!
Eventually, we slowly ramped up more and more childcare. Even now, I only work part-time. When Lewis came along, I knew my business had changed and what we did for Clara wasn’t going to work as well. I really needed some consistent working hours. I had one-on-one coaching clients and I couldn't count on nap time, especially for those booked calls.
How has your time management changed since becoming a mom?
That's probably one of the biggest shifts being a mom and a business owner: instead of just working when I feel inspired or when a deadline approaches (I'm not even really sure how I was approaching my schedule), I have to really look at my schedule and think about all the things that are coming up. It’s made me a much more organized person.
Now, I have to use a project management tool. I have to use a Slack channel with my team. I have to use a CRM like HoneyBook so that everything is just clean.
EM: I can relate to so much of this. It’s so funny, even just one year into motherhood, how easy it is to forget some of those early things. If you are a business owner working from home, I’m sure you’ve done the “watching Friends on your iPad while editing photos or designing a website” thing. If you are listening to this thinking about motherhood (but haven’t experienced it yet), I know you might be thinking that you don’t want to lose that. But my personal thought is this, life is more enjoyable when we just focus on the thing and get it done in less time.
Exactly. Before, work blended into my life. Now, I have a life to get to. I want my business to be its own separate thing. I want to have flexibility but I also love being able to know when I can “clock back in”. I know my business will always be there.
You’ve been a mom for 3 years now, what is your childcare like now?
I work Monday through Thursday from 8 am - 1 pm and I'm with the kids all other times. Fridays are my “mom days” and I love those days. My sister-in-law is actually our nanny now so it’s nice that I’m able to work at home with them there. I just work in the downstairs office now because when I was working upstairs they could see me!
Is it ever confusing having your family provide your childcare? Have you had any weird boundary issues? I’m sure you are not the only one in that situation if you have any tips on hiring family for childcare!
This is such a good question! It has gone really well. It’s always a good idea to clarify “are we asking as family or are you asking as my employer?”. We make sure that we are super clear on the hours and if we ask them to watch the kids on a random Sunday or whatever I will always say “I’m asking as family” or “I’m willing to pay you” just to put it out there. Usually, they will just say “it’s fine, I’ve got them” but I always think it’s better to not assume.
We also started with a trial period. With my sister-in-law, it was like, “okay let’s just try this for a month and see if we both like it”. So there was no family pressure to have to continue forever.
Do you have tips for time management for mompreneurs or advice for moms who might be feeling overwhelmed right now?
I'm raising my hand along with everybody else saying “this is overwhelming”. I'll tell you what gets me into trouble and what leads to burnout for me personally and what I see in my students as well. There are three things that I see causing overwhelm and burnout in moms who are business owners.
1. Expecting too much of our brains and ourselves.
Our brains are meant to come up with ideas and process things and have creative solutions, but not to store things. We are less creative and less effective when we try to store things like our entire grocery list in our brains (while also remembering everything that needs to happen in our business).
This is actually from the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. Having a central place to put everything is a game changer (whether it’s a business thing you want to do 6 months from now or a pin from Pinterest to try). I really feel it’s like clearing the hard drive. Your computer works faster when it’s not trying to run everything (AND store everything) at once and your brain does too.
2. Being unrealistic with your schedule and commitments
I feel like most moms can relate to this one. Saying yes too often and not asking for help enough is something I think that we all go through. Even when setting goals - we often skip outlining them and working backwards to accurately guess how much time it will actually take. It’s almost like there is a disconnect between our dreams and our calendar!
Now, I implement time blocking to the point where whenever I want to do something, I look at my calendar and see where it will actually fit. Instead of adding something like a website update to my to do list where it will never get done. If you haven’t tried this before, it can be really eye-opening. Look at the goals and desires you have for your business, and then look at your calendar to see if the two things add up. Often, you’ll find you have to say no more often. And that can be really hard because sometimes I have to say no to really cool stuff! But ultimately I think people respect you more when you say no because you know you can’t give 100% either.
3. We have old ingrained habits working against us.
We all have bad habits that we've had for years that never really got us into trouble because we had more time, we had fewer responsibilities, and we had fewer people to think about. Things like multitasking, skipping meals, and saying yes to everything, all have an effect on your business and your ability to make decisions. We have all had days where we find ourselves in a frenzy of working and task hopping and then at the end of the day you don’t even know what happened. When I have days like that, sometimes I look back and realize that I started with a big cup of coffee and nothing else! So really, sometimes it’s those little things that kind of stack up and work against you. The first step forward is often just identifying which of those might be true for you, and without shaming or guilting yourself, see if you can try and make small changes to do better.
It’s not “I should be doing this and I shouldn’t be doing that” but instead, “I struggle with this but I’m working on it”.
The last thing I want to say about that though is that if being a mom and business owner feels heavy and hard, just know that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong or that you can't do this. I think that it is hard.
EM: You’ve really articulated that so beautifully. It’s hard BUT it’s doable, and it’s so worth it. Oftentimes, you’ll actually be a better business owner as a mom.
How has motherhood helped you as a business owner?
It’s forced me to step into this new role as CEO. I had to get help and to think about my time differently. But it also made me go back to my why and I know that's kind of a cheesy thing and sometimes we don’t want to go back and think “why did I start this business” when we are already overwhelmed. It really is just such a powerful exercise though to make sure that you are not chasing someone else’s finish line.
Sometimes I think when I’m burnt out, it’s because what I’m working toward isn’t even my own goal. It’s not taking me closer to freedom or whatever I’ve identified as my “why” in this season.
Being a mom has made me get so much deeper and feel the heaviness that my decisions are now not just about me. I can’t just piddle around for 8 hours and then by like well, we blogged and we posted to social media. It feels like it carries more weight now, but in a good way, like it’s made me grow up in my business.
EM: I completely agree with that. After Colin, I know I’m always making sure I’m building a business that supports the life I want instead of doing all the things I feel like I should do because it’s the obvious next step in my business. Even things like being on all the marketing platforms, I know I don’t want that because I don’t want to be working all the time (at least in this season). Having Colin makes me more deliberate.
Yeah, that's such a good word. Deliberate. It almost gives you blinders. Like you mentioned with marketing platforms, I always think “okay, right now I just don't have the bandwidth because I'm trying to do this other thing really, really well. I can’t jump over there because I have to be here”. And those decisions feel really weighty and hard, but I really believe the most successful business owners I see have this ability to stay focused, stay in their lane and avoid shiny object syndrome. I’ve definitely gotten more focused and I hope that continues. I don’t jump on every new platform because I don’t have the luxury of time to just play around on a new social media platform. I have to stick with what’s working and be really calculated in those decisions.
How do you mentally transition between working and being with your baby? Especially when you are working during nap time and popping in and out between working and family time.
If you have a set time (like you know you have a babysitter for two hours), I would block off the last 15 minutes of time and make that like a mental commute. So for me, I have a pop-up in my calendar that says “we have 15 minutes left in this workday, you need to wrap up your activities”.
Another tip I got from the book “Getting Things Done” which I mentioned earlier, was that “having to-do’s is not always as helpful unless it has your next action”. When I leave myself notes for the next work day, I always leave myself a "next action”.
If it’s something like a nap, if I find myself struggling, I will throw the kids in the car or in the stroller to give myself a ten-minute transition to finish my final thought and put a close on that “work” loop. I think carving out those transitional times has been really helpful. Otherwise, that mental loop stays open and it can be unsettling.
Another thing that’s really helped me is starting or ending my work day with a walk. When my childcare is still here, I will put on my headphones and just walk for 15 minutes. This is especially helpful when I want to take a walk but one or both of my kids are asleep.
Ultimately, it’s a process to figure out what works for you, what works for your brain, and what works for your child’s schedule. And then it changes. It’s a lifelong process.
EM: That transition time really is so important! One thing that’s helping me lately is literally closing my laptop and saying “done” out loud! It feels like I’m literally shutting down for the day.
I love your podcast name “Called to Both” for women who feel called to both motherhood and running their own business. How did you come up with it?
The name “Called to Both” just kept coming up for me. After having Clara, I felt almost at war with myself for wanting both. I bought the domain name not really knowing what it would be like. The fact that the name was available felt like it was meant to be, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it yet. It was a couple of years until I realized it could be a podcast!
To me, Called to Both means that we're allowed to do more than one thing and that we can be more than one thing. We can do both with intention. I just believe that God created us to be multifaceted humans. Called to Both means you don't have to choose between business and motherhood. It’s not an either/or. It can be both.
What are your thoughts on the term “balance” in general as a mompreneur? Do you have some encouragement if sometimes work feels too heavy or motherhood feels heavy?
I don’t even love the word balance, but sometimes I feel like there's no other word that encompasses what I'm trying to get across. I think that we have to remember that sometimes when we say balance, we're picturing this old antiquated scale that has even weight on both sides. But I prefer to think of balance like a plate. Your plate can be full of as many things as you like. Maybe you have a little sliver of something on the corner, and that sliver doesn’t need to be as big as the rest of the pie. You can have different sizes at different times - it can be changing all the time.
A good example of this is when you are newly postpartum. It's not “unbalanced” for you to be all about that baby and breastfeeding a million times a day. That is just what that season calls for. My sister-in-law said that in one talk she listened to they talked about balance “like being on a bicycle and you're never 100% straight”. You’re always leaning one way or the other. It’s okay to be like “we are going to work a little more now” or “now, I’m going to be a little bit more mom”. Balance doesn’t mean everything needs to be equal.
I know there are moms reading this thinking that “being a mom and a business owner is not working right now”. I know I’ve felt that already even in this first year. Any last words of encouragement for a mom reading this trying to do it all?
You are not in a race. I don't know if there are any enneagram 3’s listening, but even just ambitious women, in general, can put so much self-imposed pressure to achieve and achieve quickly just to have these big outcomes and big numbers attached to their work. I know I’ve felt like that before. I’ve felt like I’m in a race and I don’t even remember who said “go”. I’m just running around. And then I remind myself, I get to set the pace. I choose what success looks like for my business. That's been something that's really been on my heart. I literally had it written down.
Another bit of encouragement comes from a friend of mine. Just the other day she said, “You have to give yourself grace because your children are growing up and so are you”. I think too often we think of growing up ending when you turn eighteen. But it’s a lifelong process.
EM: I absolutely love these reminders. I also love the rhyme “it’s not a race, you set the pace” - even though that’s not exactly what you said I think it’s a good way to remember it. I know when I was breastfeeding a million times a day, I was on my phone so often too. If I could add something to what you said, it would be to get off your phone. It’s easy to just consume, consume, consume, and that can be so detrimental to our minds without realizing it. I’ve made the conscious decision to stop scrolling Instagram so often and instead I will try reading on my Kindle app during that “down time” instead.
Rapid Fire Questions with Joy Michelle
I know your podcast is newer, but you’ve been on Youtube forever. Which platform is your favorite?
This is like asking me to pick a favorite child - I love them for different reasons. YouTube is my firstborn. I owe so much of my business to that platform and it's incredible. Podcasting is like my new baby. If I had to choose, I guess I would say podcasting right now because it's fresh and it's fun and it's easier. Because it’s just audio, there is less getting ready and less post-production as well. I can just sit down - hair wet out of the shower - and hit record.
Have you thought about putting your podcast episodes on YouTube?
I have, but I'll be honest, I don't know how to be on camera and be looking at the camera while also speaking. It's still so new, we only have 20-something episodes up. So I think I'm hoping that I'll get to the point where it's seamless but we aren’t there yet. They're also different audiences. So there might be some topics where I will just double up and then there are some that I won't, but I'm still trying to figure that all out.
What’s an unpopular opinion you have about business?
This is a good question. I think, and this especially shows up in photography but it's probably pretty universal, I do not think that it's the most talented or creative business owners that win. I know so, so many talented photographers, but I think the business owners that are the most consistent and that lean hard into content marketing are the ones that ultimately win.
EM: I agree with that so much. I actually say that in my course Booked Out Designer that it’s not about being the best designer. It’s more about being able to sell and market yourself.
What’s a book or resource on motherhood that’s impacted your business or life?
I love podcasts and there are a couple of podcasts that have really spoken to me in my motherhood journey. One of them is the Risen Motherhood podcast. Then, on the business side, I love the Boss Mom podcast.
A book I love, not necessarily about motherhood, is called The Artist’s Way. I’m a huge, huge fan of that book. The book itself is like a 12-week course, and it's all about cultivating your own creativity, which I think when you become a mom, it can be easy to lose a sense of self a little bit. This book just really helped me dive back into “what do I love, what do I want, and what makes me happy?”. There are so many journal prompts inside. I had never really made time for journalling before and now I swear by it. To start the workday, I have to journal to clear my head. I never look back at my journals - it’s a hot mess - but it’s helpful for my brain.
What do you journal when you start your workday?
It's kind of a mix. For the first couple of pages, I do “morning pages” where it's just a stream of consciousness. It's really just clearing out every thought or cobweb in your brain. I also notice in my pages that I often end up moving to business. I’ve been thinking through a lot of mindset blocks - like not having enough time or even mindset blocks on money. Sometimes, I have mindset blocks about what I can and can’t do in my business. Then it shows up in your journal and you’re like, what is that? That’s not real. If a student told me that, I’d tell them it’s not real.
How much time do you spend journaling when you start your workday?
Maybe 10 or 15 minutes. It's just a quick “I'm just going to fill a couple of pages”. It's so sloppy, but it just feels clearing. Then, I'll take a couple of minutes right after to think, “what do I need this day?”. What do I need to complete in order to feel like I did something more than responding to a million notifications?
A Final Note from Elizabeth on Being a Mom and a Business Owner
I absolutely loved this interview and if you are struggling being a mom and a business owner, I hope you did too. As I mentioned at the beginning, this podcast episode was originally recorded in August and I’ll be re-listening to this alongside you when it airs in 2023. I hope this interview blesses you and that you can step into your calling gracefully as a mama who feels called to both in 2023.
Want more from Joy Michelle? Here’s where you can find her.
I am @joyymichelle on Instagram or my website is joymichelle.co. I also share lots of motherhood and business content over on my podcast, Called to Both. If you're a photographer listening, I'd love to have you join me in the Photo Boss Facebook group as well. I share a ton of freebies and guides and videos about success as a photographer.
Looking for stock photo or stock video for your business? I recommend Haute Stock!
Thanks to our podcast sponsor, Haute Stock! Haute Stock is my favorite stock photo company, and I use their images ALL over my business. You can get 15% off your subscription with the referral code: ELIZABETH at checkout or by visiting this link: https://elizabethmccravy.com/hautestock
Book Recommendation: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Book Recommendation: The Artist's Way
January 3, 2023