Monday, 9 December 2013

Can Freelance Work & Childcare Mix?

As regular readers will know, in September this year I set up my own freelance business 'Jess McGlynn Writes...' and left my existing job as an Office Manager.  It was a scary time and many people thought I was bonkers when I told them that I had also pulled Eli out of nursery and planned to fit my writing work around looking after him.  Research on the internet also confirmed that people thought the two just couldn't work together.  

However, I would like to be one of the few who raises their hand and says actually, it can.  It certainly isn't easy and it presents its own challenges but I am living testament to the fact that you can run a freelance business and take care of your children.

I don't imagine this works for all businesses.  Depending on the type of work you are carrying out, it might not be safe for you to suddenly have to abandon your post mid-task to rescue Lightning McQueen from the clutches of the dog or race upstairs to catch the errant toddler who has decided that he wants to fill a bucket with water and wash his brown bear.

However, if you are considering starting to take on some freelance work and worrying about having to juggle caring for children as well then here are my top (tried and very much tested!) tips:

1, Have a Schedule
I can't stress this enough.  I tried to work on an adhoc basis to begin with and it was nothing short of a nightmare.  Now I work for an hour in the morning and then a couple of hours in the afternoon.  I don't work on a Thursday as this is my whole day to spend with Eli.  

When I am working, I set something up to occupy Eli such as an invitation to play or lay out his cars.  I suppose I am quite lucky that he is able to occupy himself for a short period of time but I sit close to him so I am on hand if he needs it.

I recently took on a new client who requires work from me every day so I have built time into my Sunday evening to write that week's posts ahead of time.  Small things that have made a huge difference!

You also have to remember that freelance work is about a lot more than just sitting back and waiting for the clients to roll in.  In between writing and looking after Eli I have to browse websites and chase work.  I have to carry out research on whatever topic I'm covering and also raise and chase invoices.  The small stuff takes up a lot more time than you might think so having a schedule really helps with that.

2. Be Realistic
I cut my ties with a client recently as after agreeing a set number of articles per week they were overloading me with more and more and not expecting to pay much for it.  Whilst it was flattering to begin with and I was writing with £ signs in my eyes, I soon felt overwhelmed.  I had to be realistic about how much I could take on without completely abandoning Eli to the TV every day!  

3. Be Honest
One of my regular clients is aware of my situation and quite happy to work with me on it.  I made no secret of the fact that I was predominantly going to be a SAHM who wanted a bit of writing work on the side and she always gives me deadlines with a one or two day cushion so that if something goes wrong (such as your child throwing up all over the laptop!) I don't have to worry about missing a deadline.

I have found that people are very accepting of delays and the like if you clearly explain what has happened and why.  It certainly hasn't lost me any work yet.

4. Create A Space
Initially I was working on my lap in whatever space I could find but it was soon taking all of my allotted time just to set up and get going.  Now I have a dedicated working space where I can leave all my info and papers and return to it when I have chance.  Having a specific place also means you can concentrate.  I tend to use this space in the evening when my Other Half is home; it's amazing how much more I can achieve when I don't have to be listening out for trouble every few minutes!

5. Give It A Go
This is the biggest tip I can offer.  I have wanted to work for myself for years and have just never felt brave enough.  Now, I wonder why I waited so long.  There's no harm in trying something and discovering that maybe it isn't for you.  After all, you might find out that it is perfect for you, which to me is worth the initial risk.

Do you have any tips to offer?

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