How This Mom Is Able to Write, Create, and Explore Full Time

Publisher, writer, and mom of two, Elisa Parhad, shares how she built a happy, balanced life as a creative and entrepreneur.

Elisa Parhad, an author and mom of two, remembers her parents being very frugal while she was growing up, which she feels contributed to her developing a DIY mindset. She'd learn how to do something herself instead of paying others to do it.

In 2009, when Parhad was 32 years old, she had her first child, Marsais. Around that time, her husband, who works in the film business, had to be in Hollywood, so the family moved from the Pacific Northwest to Los Angeles.

Parhad got a job there right away, but upon having to deal with a toxic work environment, she left after just a year. She also knew that the first few years of having a baby was going to be all-encompassing, so she realized she needed work that was more flexible.

She freelanced for a bit but also felt drawn to the idea of starting a business she'd be completely in charge of and that would allow her to dive into her work whenever she was ready, as opposed to waiting for an assignment.

"I wanted to make a book," remembers Parhad. "I love books. I can't call myself or I didn't call myself a writer for a long time, because writing was just something that I needed to do to make the book happen. I was a photographer. I was a designer. I was a writer. I was a marketer. I was a publisher. But the writing kind of morphed into something else that I could monetize easily."

She decided to start a publishing company called EyeMuse Books and wrote Southern California: A Guide for the Eyes, a visual guidebook with vivid photography she captured to show the magic of various locations in the region.

Parhad went on to publish and sell more books, and while they don't make up a huge amount of her revenue, they contribute to her retirement savings and pay for expensive things she needs like computer and camera upgrades.

At the same time, those frugal values that Parhad grew up with are a part of her adventure-loving family's life now. The family of four rents out their home as an Airbnb in order to cover travel expenses. She also cuts her kids' hair and she and her husband will sometimes do their own oil changes.

"I really value time for creative projects," says Parhad. "And I have whittled down our life to a point where we really don't spend very much money."

One of the creative outlets that Parhad is finding both fulfilling and lucrative these days is freelance writing, with which she brings in up to $3,000 a month. "Freelance writing is an industry in itself, and learning how to pitch and work with editors and finding publications is sort of its own world," she notes.

And it's a world she's fully embraced. "Sometimes I look mournfully at other friends who have a 9-to-5 job or have a boss that is telling them, 'You have to have this done,'" says Parhad.

But while she loves the flexibility, making money as a creative does come with its challenge. "Creative life is really hard, and it takes persistence and endurance and focus, and you really have to make it happen," says Parhad.

Ultimately, Parhad believes in focusing her energy on writing and the projects that are going to make money. And being so laser-focused on how she spends her time has allowed her to strike a better balance between parenthood and work. "I have always said art before dishes," she says.

Here are Parhad's best tips for parents who aim to find more flexibility and creative fulfillment while bolstering their family's finances.

See Child Care as an Investment

"Think about any child care that you have as an investment in yourself and your career," says Parhad.

Say child care is $15-$17 an hour. While you might not be making up that same exact amount in time, you could be using that time to lay the groundwork for future income, points out Parhad.

Go for an Evergreen Angle

Parhad is drawn to self-publishing "evergreen" books, in which the info doesn't ever go out of date and can be appreciated for years to come. Pouring your energy into creative projects with a similar bent can maximize the return on your time investment.

Know You're Modeling Something Valuable for Your Kids

One thing Parhad hopes is that her sons are inspired by the way she and her husband have lived and made their creative careers work. "I hope that they know that it is possible to follow their dreams," she says. "And it may be really hard at times. It requires a lot of focus and patience and rejiggering."

But in the end, Parhad says it can be so valuable to figure it out, concluding, "It's worth it to focus on yourself and your passions."

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