Is There a Trick to Balancing Parenting with Freelancing?
Going freelance is a choice many new mums make. There’s a good reason for that. In theory, freelancing allows you to work flexibly, fit your family commitments around work, and create that all-important work/life balance.
It’s the dream solution, right?
The truth is, the whole mother’s guilt scenario certainly doesn’t fall by the wayside when you’re a freelancer. I’ve been a fulltime freelance copywriter for around 4 years now, and I had my first baby almost 18 months ago. So, I had a decent stint of freelancing sans children. That doesn’t make adjusting to a new life as a working mum easy. As with all new parents, the fight to create order and balance is an ongoing one. But in my experience so far, there have been a few tricks that have paid off massively.
Freelancing first, mum second
Or is that the other way around? If you work for yourself before having a baby, you might be faced with the dreaded scenario of when to go back to work. I decided that 8-weeks postpartum would suffice, and I’d fit work into the weekends while I had support at home. That might work for some wonder women out there, but in reality, two months’ maternity leave didn’t give me enough time to settle into my new dual role.
The struggle to decide which came first, work or family was a big thing to sort through at this early stage.
Of course, it all depends on the person, the baby and the unique situation you’re in when it comes to going back to work. The key is allowing yourself enough flexibility to go back to work when it feels right. If you’re a freelancer and a mum and you love your work, you’re both things at any one time. Each is valuable and rewarding in its own way.
The key to making the most of your time in situations like this, is to create a clear focus for your days. Working smart will become an essential. Where I might have previously spent two hours in the morning sorting through emails, ambling through admin and chatting away to clients on the phone, I now slot in the best part of a small project.
I rely on a schedule more than ever. Each hour of the day is accounted for, and when it’s family time, work doesn’t get a look in. Weekends and evenings, emails are off. The days I spend with my child are dedicated to her, first and foremost. On the other hand, when I’m working, I’m doing exactly that, and every project is scheduled in the diary with a start and end time.
That helps me work faster, smarter and more diligently than I ever thought possible. Getting sidetracked or drifting off into a non-work related reverie isn’t an option.
Give yourself some flexibility
When I first came back to work, I booked projects back-to- back. A fear of losing clients after taking time off to have a baby, and new financial responsibilities can lead you to say yes to everything.
Although making money and keeping great clients on board is important, you need to have a bit of flexibility in your schedule to allow for the unexpected.
you need that time to deal with the unexpected,
Having work scheduled into hourly slots works for me, but I don’t give myself a hard time if I run over. Similarly, some days I get ahead of myself before it even gets to lunchtime.
Setting aside an hour of each working day for any unpredictable requests will enable you to relax a little too. As a writer, you need that time to deal with the unexpected requests, amendments to copy, or even admin tasks. Packing your diary with project after project will only make you feel like you’re constantly running to catch up.
Be kind to yourself
I’m certainly not the first mum to admit this, especially as a freelancer, but even taking a day off sick was unheard of in the first few months of returning to work. No matter how exhausted or unwell, I’d be at my desk furiously tapping away. The thought of letting anyone down was just too much. Although the work got done, it wasn’t the healthiest way to go about day-to-day life.
Now, I still clock in if I’m under the weather. Often, that’s just the way of it as a freelancer, baby or not. But I take time out where I can too. If I can clear my diary for a couple of hours on a working day, I will do, and I do something to relax and unwind. Just as the weekends and days with my baby are important beyond measure, those occasional oases of personal leisure time are what
keeps things in balance when the work stacks up.
Be honest about what’s possible
If you’re the type to take it all on without so much of a whimper of distress, you have my sympathies. Most of us find it difficult to ask for help, especially when you’re trying so hard to spin a multitude of plates.
Forcing yourself to be more honest about what’s doable doesn’t mean constantly saying you can’t deliver on deadlines, or that you won’t take work on. But I will advise clients on when I can deliver upfront, rather than promising to “do it right now” each and every time. Likewise, when it comes to admin tasks or financial aspects to freelancing, paying for an assistant or an accountant to help clear the decks can make all the difference.
Whatever you need to do to simplify your life is a bonus when you’re juggling family and work commitments. In my experience, the most important thing to remember is that you’re only human, and everyone has their capacity. All you can do is organise your life as best you can, split your time to dedicate your working hours to your freelancing, and family time to the important people in your life, and everything else should slot right into place. Mostly.
About the author:
Clio – she is a freelance copywriter specialising in writing effective sales, promotions and marketing content for both business to business and business to consumer clients, whether that’s online or on the printed page.