How to Freelance Around Your Young Family
Balancing parenthood with a freelance business is always a challenge, but worth the struggle
Tealfeed Guest Blog
The freelance dream of working flexibly around your young family is often shown as a simple route to happiness and financial freedom. If only it was that easy. Freelance work that gives you more time at home can require far more hours than a typical desk job. Add personal responsibility and financial pressures, and you might feel like jumping back into the security of a 9–5.
Have you seen the freelancers who seem to have it all? A daily yoga routine, before a few hours work, then back to pick up the kids from school by 3pm. These unreal views of freelancing can make you feel like a failure, unhappy with your inability to make it all work.
But you can make it work. Despite the pressures of your family, you can juggle everything to build a successful business with young children. It just takes planning, flexibility, and honest communication with those around you.
Communicate with other members of your family
Many friends and family don’t understand that being at home all day doesn’t mean you’re sitting around doing nothing. Before you know it, you’re asked to collect parcels, do small errands, and enjoy surprise visits.
Working out a plan with your significant others will ensure that everyone knows what you will and won’t be doing. Explain that having the freedom to do the school run or stay at home means that working hours are even more precious. Be proactive and make plans to see friends in time slots that suit you.
If you have a partner at home, talk honestly about the pressures on you, and decide who will do what around the house. Your freelancing business won’t succeed if you’re still trying to manage everything for your family. If you’re returning to work after a break to have children, it's difficult to transition from stay-at-home to working-parent. Having agreed roles will help make it smoother.
Often there’s so much to do with your freelance business, it’s hard to know where to begin. And being a freelancing parent means fitting everything around your family commitments.
Prioritise your workload to maximise the limited time you have. Instead of a huge to-do list to wade through, decide two or three essential tasks that you must get done today. Once they’re finished, you can do other jobs, but they count as a bonus.
Explore different ways to keep track of your tasks. Simple is always best. Some freelancers enjoy the flexibility of online task managers, such as Trello, to re-prioritize and organize their workload easily. Others use a simple notebook or bullet journal to plan their workload. There’s no perfect solution, just look for a method that takes as little time as possible to use.
Set a timer for small tasks
It’s easy to be sucked into little tasks whilst you're trying to look after your children. Quickly popping onto social media, replying to an email, or sending out an invoice can easily lead on to other jobs, leaving you ignoring your kids for longer than you’d planned.
Set a timer for a small essential task that you have to get done and plan what your children will do during this time. Get snacks and drinks ready for them and take them to the toilet before starting to avoid inevitable interruptions. Having everything ready before you start means you stand a bigger chance of a chunk of undistracted time to finish a task quickly and successfully.
When the timer goes, finish and focus on the kids straight away. It’s hard to stop, so log out of your emails and social media accounts to remove the distractions. Trying to work and parent at the same time inevitably leads to mistakes and a feeling that your business is dominating every minute of your day. Planning small, measured chunks of time for working helps to keep them separate.
Plan blocks of time for the kids
If you’re a freelancer with a young family, it’s likely you chose this career to increase the quality time you could spend with your children. But your business feels like a newborn baby, demanding all your time and attention. It’s never easy to find half an hour to play that board game, watch the family movie, or bake together.
The only way to get the balance right is to plan dedicated time for your family that isn’t interrupted by work. Schedule time exclusively for your children. Turn your phone on to Wi-Fi mode, shut the laptop and fully concentrate on the kids. 30 minutes focused just on them is better than hours of your partial attention.
Part of what makes freelancing wonderful is its flexibility. You have the freedom to decide which hours you do and don’t work. Schedule in days off to spend quality time together. There is always more work you could be doing. It’s up to you to decide when you stop.
Take charge of your social media
The easiest way to waste an hour is to pop on to social media to post something. Before you know it, an hour’s gone by and you’ve done nothing except mindlessly scroll through your news feed.
Having social media feeds on your phones means you are always tempted to check. It stops us fully engaging with our children and means we’re constantly distracted from the precious time we have with them. Block time for checking social media feeds and make it time-limited to avoid wasting hours.
To avoid the temptation of checking, try:
- Turning off your notifications
- Removing the apps from your phone and logging in on a laptop instead
- Checking one social media feed at a time rather than flicking between them
- Setting a timer for social media
- Planning time in the evening for checking news feeds and replying to comments
Reduce the time spent on social media by using a scheduler such as Buffer or CoSchedule to automate your posts. Writing and scheduling a week’s worth of content in one go means you don’t have to check your social media accounts throughout the day.
Look for time opportunities
Freelancing is the chance to escape the 9–5 grind, so embrace it and find unusual times to work to give you more hours with your family. Try getting up an hour before the children wake, or work after they go to bed. If your children are school aged, take advantage of after-school clubs that let you pick them up later. Use limited amounts of screen time or naps to give you a small block of time to power through an item on your to-do list.
To create longer periods of working time without neglecting your children, arrange regular playdates with friends where you can leave your kids for a few hours. Do the same in return to allow your friend the joy of a few hours' peace. Rope in family members to babysit for a whole day at a time.
You can’t do everything
For most freelancers, time will always be a challenge. For those with small children, it can feel even more pressured. There will inevitably be times when you feel guilty for not giving enough to your business or to your family. Be realistic about what you can manage.
Think about what you have to do to minimize these pressures. That might mean turning down work and accepting that for now you can’t take on certain jobs. Children grow quickly, and your business can expand when they are older. It's hard to say no to opportunities, but you risk wearing yourself out if you take on too much.
Take the pressure off yourself by working smarter, not harder. Outsource where possible, such as hiring a cleaner, gardener, or accountant and get your food shopping delivered. Consider using a babysitter ad hoc to give you more time when you need it. This is especially useful during school holidays or when a family event will prevent you working for longer than usual.
Look for the positives
Do you feel guilty about your business dominating family life? Think of the working role-model you are providing for your children and be kind to yourself. They are seeing your work ethic first hand. Freelance gives you the flexibility to do so much. Many parents working 9–5 jobs will be jealous of your ability to choose hours to suit your family.
- Attending special events at your children’s school
- Taking your baby or toddler to playgroups
- Booking dentist and doctor appointments to suit you
- Going shopping when the stores are quieter
- Taking a day off when you need it
- Dropping everything for a family emergency without losing pay
Whilst it can be busy and stressful, freelancing gives you the chance to be your own manager. No need to ask permission to leave work. The freedom to decide what works best for you and your family. And that’s priceless.
Freelancing with a young family
We’re all human. You don’t need to hide having children from your clients. Most of them will be parents themselves. Be honest when your family will affect your work, such as explaining that it’s a school holiday or that you need to take a call after you’ve dropped the kids at school. Normalize having children in your workspace and embrace the blurring of work and home life.
Most clients couldn’t care less about your family life, they just want the work done on time and to the highest quality possible. You have the freedom to choose the hours that suit you rather than them to get the job done.
Article was originally published by Helly Douglas on Medium.
Tealfeed Guest Blog