WMW #27: Samantha Holmgren, multi-passionate entrepreneur and mum of toddler
"Perhaps knowing yourself and working with who you are is the biggest hack of all."
Today’s interview is pretty special to me as it’s an example of how being part of a community can lead to genuine connections. These are usually built over time, based on like-mindedness and trust.
If you are a working parent, looking to be part of an amazing community of working parents, hit subscribe!
Samatha has been a reader of this newsletter for just over a year now. We connected more recently 1-1 via a survey I did asking for feedback on this newsletter, and we had our first call earlier this year.
Since then, we have been more in touch via email; Samantha was amongst the first participants of my Children’s AI Book Creation course (she also already made her book!); and here I am now, featuring her in my favourite section of this newsletter!
Never underestimate the power of a like-minded community and what it can bring to you.
Surrounding yourself with people in similar situations with similar values and aspirations is invaluable for your personal support and growth.
Find your tribe!
If you are a working parent, looking to build a better career whilst being a better parent, your tribe is here :)
Meet Samantha Holmgren, multi-passionate entrepreneur and mum of toddler
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself (work, family and personal interests/hobbies)
My introduction changes depending on the context because I have a fairly large portfolio of work, between my own business projects and contractor roles.
For my business projects, I have a private practice for people with chronic pain and fatigue to help them uncover the lifestyle that works best for them, starting with the Bare Minimum Health Plan.
I also write a Substack newsletter to reflect and share my journey as a multi-passionate soloprenuer (Biz&Life).
Then there are the variety of contractor roles. I provide my services as a dietitian through a couple of organisations, do mental health talks in schools with the Stigma Free Society, volunteer as the current President of the Arthritis Health Professions Association, to name a few.
I live with my husband, toddler, and dog in a small town of less than 3000 in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.
I love being surrounded by nature, although it would be even better without the insects. I love writing, reading (especially fantasy), drinking tea, and knitting (though it has been hard to continue knitting with a toddler running around!).
I also love trying different things, like this year I made a bunch of apple jelly from the apple tree in my back yard!
Q. How did you end up going freelance and setting up your work online?
I had been dreaming and experimenting for a while before I pulled the trigger, so to speak.
I set up my first blog in 2018 called Foundations for the Good Life. It’s still up and I still reference it at times, but haven’t done anything with it since early 2020. It was a great way to learn some technical skills and I learned that I really enjoy writing and hitting publish. During this time, I took small courses and tried out some different ways to freelance.
At the beginning of 2020, I was working to set up my private practice, but with world events, family stress, and then becoming pregnant, I simply did not have energy to spare.
Here in Canada, we have up to 18 months of maternity leave so I made sure to take the full time. But after 6 weeks or so, I started to get the itch to work on something.
So I spent nap times working on setting up a Notion system, making sure the pieces were in place for my private practice, and looking for contract work. Shortly before my daughter’s first birthday, I submitte my resignation.
I wanted more flexibility than I could get at a full time job. The thought of stressful mornings trying to get my daughter to daycare and myself to work by 8am every morning filled me with dread (neither of us are morning people).
Then I would pick her up and my evenings would just be taking care of her until I went to bed myself. I would have very little time to do anything just for me. I would have no time to be by myself.
I resigned before making my first dollar from a contract or client.
The safe thing to do would have been to wait a few months and keep the back up, but I cannot forget the relief I felt and the freedom I still feel.
Q. What is your business goal and how does that work with your life at the moment as a mum of a toddler?
My goal in business is to be able to do interesting and fun things, while paying the bills.
I want the freedom to be able to work around my daughter’s school schedule, to stay home with her when she is sick, and not have to justify a lower productivity day after a night of terrible sleep.
The biggest thing that I am grateful for every day is that I can work with my energy. On days when my energy is low, I can work on tasks that suit that energy. When I feel like writing, I can do that.
I’ve never been that person who can go to work and just turn it off when I get home. That may have to do with the nature of the job. The full-time job I had was very self-directed. I was a one- person department and worked in many different areas of practice. Or perhaps it was just part of how my brain works.
My goal is to integrate my work and life in a way that is more balanced and allows me the flexibility to work in the ways that work for me.
Q. What are the challenges you face?
The biggest challenge has been a common one for new business owners — trying to get consistent income!
I have a few different contracts, in addition to my private practice, and that generally helps. Most of the time, when one contract has a lower volume of work, something else makes up the difference. I generally make my minimum number (so the bills are paid) but am still striving to reach my enough number (where I have enough to have a cushion, build savings and take trips).
When I talk with people, including my husband, about my work, the thing they assume will be the challenge is balancing all the projects, gigs, and priorities. And yes, when busy seasons collide it can become busy and stressful. However, doing just one thing would drive me bonkers.
Despite all the variety in my previous job, I was starting to get almost bored after seven years. I need the energy from starting new things to help drive me forward. Switching between projects helps me keep the spark.
Q. As a mum to a toddler, dietitian with a private practice, freelancer and creator, how do you manage your time?
I do a lot of things, and that’s the way I like it. There are different ways to be multi-passionate, and I am an “everything all at once” kind of person.
Mostly, it allows me to ‘productively procrastinate’ by shifting my focus between different projects to capture my brain’s interest.
One of the most important parts is doing my reviews: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. The key one is actually the weekly review. Here is where I schedule my tasks around any meetings I have using time-blocking.
For the most part, I reference the schedule and just do the work. But things come up and sometimes tasks take longer than I planned, so I just update the schedule as I go. My current system is what I have come to after a decade of deliberate experimentation and practice with improving my productivity (in a balanced way — no hustle here!) so I feel confident in my ability to plan and adjust.
Q. How has having your own set-up changed your life, both as a professional and a mum?
One thing that I am grateful for every work day is that I don’t have to get to the office by 8 am. I am lucky enough not to have an early bird child, so no 5 am wake ups here (or if she does wake up that early, we just cuddle and go back to sleep for a bit).
However, she also does not wake up easily and if I have to wake her up before 7:30, I have to account for extra tantrum time. She is her mother’s daughter that way! It is one of the ways that working on my own is a big improvement to working a full-time job, for me.
I also realised, shortly after my child started daycare, that I was chronically overstimulated when I worked in the office. Simply being surrounded by people all day, even on days when I was primarily working on my own in my solo office, completely drained my batteries.
Having my own home office has given me back social energy so I can have more patience with my child (and even then it runs thin occasionally, as parents you know what I mean) and also maintain more of the friendships I want in my life.
Q. What is your advice to mums looking to design their work around their own lives?
I’ve learned several things that work for me, based on experimentation. I am not naturally super organised, despite numerous compliments from people who believe that to be true. It’s only been through trying out numerous different productivity styles and cobbling together a system that works for me.
When I’m trying to get stuff done, journaling, switching location, or ‘productive procrastination’ are all strategies that work for me. If you are looking to build your own thing, you need to know how to motivate yourself. You need to know your productivity style.
Do you need co-working and someone who can hold you accountable? Or does the idea of being accountable to someone else make your skin crawl? Do you get overwhelmed when you have too much on your plate? Or does having a lot to do make you rise up to the challenge?
Once you are able to set goals and motivate yourself to keep working on them, you can experiment with different ways to be successful (in whatever way you define success).
I would probably recommend other people be a bit more conservative than I was and wait until you see results before quitting your full-time job. Yet, I also don’t regret the path I took, so do as you will!
Q. What is your ultimate goal as a working mum?
I want to give my daughter an example of entrepreneurship that I didn’t have so she can choose a path that works for her. I want to have freedom to work in the way that works best for me and to actually enjoy my work.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration can randomly strike at times: I have had many instances of waking up at 3am with a thought that won’t leave me alone. Most of the time, it comes out while I am writing, usually in my journal. But in order for ideas to collide and create something exciting (i.e. inspiration), you need something to start with.
For me, inspiration is more likely when I am regularly reading books, articles, and quality newsletters, and, most importantly, having conversations with other people.
Q. What is your best productivity hack?
Timeblocking, planning, and journaling are all essential strategies, but not exactly a hack.
The productivity hack that has been working for me lately is to work away from my desk. There are many things that require me to work from my desk or my desktop computer. But I have enough of a rebel personality that as soon as I start feeling like I must work from my computer, my brain does not want to focus. Giving myself permission to work how, where, and when I want to has been a big boost lately.
I chose this path because I wanted the freedom to work on projects. Forcing myself to work 9-5pm from an office (even if that office is in my house) is not my idea of freedom or flexibility. Perhaps knowing yourself and working with who you are is the biggest hack of all.
Q. What is your best parenting hack?
The first thing that comes to mind is that counting to 5 shouldn’t work as well as it does. But the more unique hack that I use is that we don’t have “pajamas” for my daughter. She doesn’t like changing her shirts, unless they are ‘icky.’ So whatever she wears to bed is just what she will be wearing the next day (since she is unlikely to make a mess between going to bed and waking up in the morning). You know what they say about picking your battles!
Q. What do you do in your 'me-time' and how does it help you?
My me-time is generally reading books. Journaling or watching movies are also great. In the winter, I also enjoy watching basketball.
To me, me-time is all about resting. Rest is an essential human need, to recover mentally and avoid burnout.
Q. Favourite tool that makes your life / business easier?
I’ve already mentioned Notion and I can’t think of a better answer. I plan my week, reflect, write content, organise projects, track courses and articles, take notes, and more. If Notion were to suddenly disappear, I would be in a world of trouble! One of my side projects is to consolidate my process into a Notion template to share it with other people.
Q. Favourite quote
We quote a lot of movies in my house and most of those quotes lately are from more child-friendly shows (”That is a nice boulder”). But two quotes that are relevant to business and work are:
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” - Shooter [movie] In other words, if you rush, you’ll make mistakes and end up taking more time.
“A good business, like a good marriage, is outwardly boring.” - Bones [TV show, season 4, episode 26] In other words, you don’t need to be flashy. You just need to do a good job. And drama is never a good sign!
Q. Best thing you have read or watched lately
I recently finished Brandon Sanderson’s latest instalment in the Stormlight Archives, Rhythm of War.
Samantha’s newsletter on her business and life can be found here. She shares candidly her journey as a solopreneur.
If you want to connect with Samantha, leave a comment below and I will make sure she gets it. Or, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thats all for this week! x