9 tips to help you juggle freelancing with parenting
I’VE been freelancing for four heady years now and continue to love it, as much as ever.
In fact, if I’ve ever met you, I have no doubt done a great deal of waffling on about how brilliant it is. (Sorry about that, but what can I say, it’s just FANTASTIC!)
Freelancing enables me to work on creative projects that I enjoy, get paid well (and fairly) for my skils and now, I’m a parent, also gives me the best of both worlds. In that I get to work but I also get to enjoy Elsie growing up too. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Well, it is. Just not all the time.
Make no mistake – trying to freelance when you’re a mum to a little one- is hard work. Really it is. Especially if you work from home like me.
Life can get muddled, messy and damn well confusing. Should I reply to emails or stick some washing on? Can I squeeze in a quick blog post before I pick Elsie up from nursery? Will I have time to attend that meeting and get home to make Elsie her tea?
You get the idea.
Would I have it any other way? Hell no, definitely not. But for what it’s worth, here are nine tips that may just help you if you’re struggling to separate being a mum with working for yourself.
1. Be organised.
I’m rubbish at organisation but these days, I am forced to confront my failings and do my best to get organised. Yes it’s boring at times but honestly without it, you will sink into a freelancing pit of messy confusion faster than you can say ‘Mr Tummmbblllle!’.
Keep on top of admin, make sure your diary is up to date and let that weight lift off your shoulders.
2. Get strict…with your time.
When you’re self employed, your time is the most precious commodity you have. Because without it, you cannot achieve anything!
Admittedly, there are never enough hours in the day but when it comes to those hours that you do have (sans child / children) do yourself a favour and use them very wisely.
Turn off the social media, check your emails only once or twice a day, don’t let people pop in to see you for a cuppa (why do people do this?!) and just get on with your job.
3. Have a back up plan.
If you take no notice of anything else I say in this post, please, for the love of your self employed future, take notice of this.
Always make sure you have a plan b, for when everything goes t**s up. Because you just know it will, at some point. If you’re a parent, you should always expect the unexpected and if you work for yourself too, then this doubly applies.
Have other freelancers you can call on if you get stuck in a rut or fall ill. Make sure you have a number of childcare options available to you, if you have no choice but to work. Never just rely on one client to pay your bills and if everything goes wrong, do NOT panic. Just get creative and find a solution.
4. Separate work from home.
Not easy this one. Not easy at all, but wherever possible, you need to try to separate the two. I’m sat here working from my dining room table (oh, the glamour!) but if i could, I’ll be honest, I’d much rather be upstairs working in an office that was just my space. (I’m working on it folks).
Only work – if you can – when your child / children are not around. Turn off your email / social media alerts on your phone and my top tip? Never check your emails after working hours. Seriously, you have no idea, how many times a work email has ruined my bedtime routine with Elsie.
Unless, it’s an emergency (and let’s face it, they are few and far between) hit the breaks on work stuff when you’re with your children and allow yourself to be present with them instead.
5. Explain to your child that you are working.
Obvious one maybe but I found that Elsie didn’t really get what mummy was doing when she was in nursery or with a grandparent, until I started to explain to her, that yes mummy may still be at home, but that mummy is working.
It’s difficult for kids, especially little ones to grasp, that when mum is at home, she’s not always available for cuddles or to play. So tell them that you’re working and explain why. Not only will they understand, it will also help to instil in them a good work ethic which is no bad thing at all.
6. Try not to feel guilty.
I say ‘try’ instead of ‘don’t’ because I know how impossible it is. I regularly feel guilty about working and not being with Elsie or being with Elsie and not working, but there are only so many hours in the day and there is only so much you can spread yourself thin.
As long as you’re doing the best you can, that is enough. Working for yourself whilst juggling being a mum is tough enough without the guilt so where possible, stop with the inner mud slinging and try patting yourself on the back instead.
7. Give yourself some time off.
When is the last time you had a fortnight, week or even a day off? Like some proper time off to yourself to relax a little? Shall I tell you mine?! *wracks brains* I can’t actually remember. How bloody awful is that?
Talking to my husband the other night, I realised that I never really have time off, because every day I’m either freelancing, blogging or being a mum (which as we all know is the toughest job in the world). Crazy ey? And then I wonder why I’m always shattered!
I love my job so doing work never really feels like a hardship however even the most passionate and ambitious workers amongst us need a break from time to time. So learn from me and give yourself one. Book it in your diary – exactly as you would do if you were employed – and take some time out, for YOU.
8. Get choosy with clients.
Time is precious and time is money. And it’s even more so when you’re a freelancing / self employed mum so take my advice and get tough. Whittle out any clients that don’t pay on time, demand more attention than their work / pay deserves, cause you numerous headaches or just aren’t very nice.
Make room for new ones and keep your client standards high. It will pay dividends I promise you.
9. When all else fails, remember why you’re doing it.
There will be times when you are so exhausted, so fed up, so stressed with deadlines and poorly children, that you just want to cry and feel sorry for yourself. And that’s ok. Do. Have a good weep if you need too, but never forget why you are working for yourself in the first place.
Self employment offers freedom and provides you with greater choice. Yes, I’d argue that it’s tougher too, but self employment – although not easy – enables you to be more active in your child’s life and to create a better, happier life for yourself.
And that is the key. It’s your life. Your work. So do what makes you happy!
Yes the bad days will happen when you just feel like jacking it all in, but they are pretty rare or certainly should be. So when things get tricky, pause for a minute or two and think back to all those times you’ve had to pinch yourself at how lucky you are. Because you know what, it may not always feel like it, but you really are.
Or failing that, think of the alternative. I mean, I ask you, what would you rather do? Sit outside in your garden with your laptop and an ice cream working when you chose or sit sweltering in an over cramped office, waiting for the magic 5 o’clock? I know which one I’d opt for, any day of the week.
Do these tips help? Have you got any brilliant pearls of wisdom to share? As always, I’d love to hear your views!
See you tomorrow folks, when I’ll be talking men – and the mistakes they make when it comes to love. Should be interesting ey?! ;-)
With love (and pouts)