As a mum looking to continue your career, freelancing from home seems like the ideal option, allowing you to work on your terms around the needs of your family.
But while setting up a freelance business in your home can work brilliantly, there are a few simple preparations that will make your life and work much easier and more enjoyable.
Create a workspace
As a freelancer working from home, you’ll find it much easier to switch off from work if you have a space you can close off out of ‘office’ hours. If you can claim a room or even the corner of your spare room for an office – perfect! Or even an insulated shed, converted garage or retro caravan parked in your garden.
But not every family home has the space for your own office. Some mums set up a small desk or table in the corner of their living or dining spaces to work from. But wherever you make your work-at-home base, make sure you can close it off when you’re not working. One idea is to buy or make a screen to pull across. Or it may be enough to make sure you tidy everything away so the desk looks clear.
Another suggestion may be to keep an attractive storage box close by to keep your work and equipment out of sight (and little hands) when you’re not working. Then you can redecorate your desk with a vase of flowers or pictures when you’re not working, to clearly define work/family time.
With your workplace out of mind’s eye, not only will you feel less stressed and enjoy your family time without being constantly reminded about tomorrow’s nagging deadline, or today’s difficult client, but you’ll be refreshed and eager to work when it’s time to clock on again.
Define your hours
As a freelance mum, you need to be disciplined about your time. If your children are school age or at nursery, you’ll have a few hours in the day to organise your paperwork, complete projects and communicate with clients. But you’ll probably also have housework, shopping and friends to fit into your day too. So segment off clear, realistic hours a day for work, and be strict about keeping to them – be prepared to say no to sudden, tempting offers of coffee with friends, and don’t get lured into the daytime TV trap!
By structuring your working day, you’ll have a good idea of what you can complete, and can set yourself a motivating goal to achieve. You can also schedule in coffees and gym workouts without guilt if you wish, knowing that you’ve got plenty of time to complete your tasks by the end of the day.
When you freelance from home, it’s tempting to let other responsibilities eat into your work time. It can be hard to concentrate on a work project when a mounting pile of laundry is taunting you, or you’ve got a nagging feeling you’ve forgotten a parents evening.
With so much to juggle – work, home, kids and your relationship – it’s easy to let things slip. So being organised is really important. One simple way to stay on top of everything is buy yourself a week to view diary and write everything you need to remember or do each day in it. If it helps, use different coloured pens for work and family/home. Then, as you complete each task, tick it off (it’s a really satisfying feeling seeing the list get shorter!).
These days most of us rely on our phones for appointments and reminders, but keeping an old-school manual diary too helps give you a visual reminder of how your week is shaping up, and how much free time you have every day (it also never runs out of battery!).
While you can easily take the odd client call or send an email while the children are around, you can’t give your work the concentration it needs when Peppa Pig is blaring from the TV or you’re constantly being asked for help with homework. So make sure that you arrange adequate childcare to work on your freelance projects – and book your work around it.
If your child goes to nursery two days a week, you can easily manage your clients’ expectations of when you can deliver their work around that. If your children are at school, you may want to block off half terms to devote to them, and investigate summer clubs in the school holidays. Having the knowledge that you’ve got a couple of days a week to work can make long school breaks seem more manageable – and keep regular clients happy (and loyal). It’s also good for your children – they get the chance to have some fun and make new friends, and have a much less stressed parent the rest of the week!
Assign ‘me’ time
As a freelancer balancing your paid work with being a mum, it’s easy to try and squeeze work into every available free bit of time – leaving little left for you. In the short term you may achieve more, but in the long run this is a tried and tested recipe for disaster! When every waking hour is spent meeting the demands of clients, children, housework, shopping, cooking, family and your relationship, stress and resentment can start to build up, and you’ll soon feel run down and unenthusiastic.
In order to stay mentally healthy and happy (and give your clients your best), you need to section off clear times in your day that are just for you, and do something you enjoy. It may be going to the gym, coffee with friends, watching your favourite TV show, reading or even just doing nothing at all! It’s just important that for a few precious minutes a day you are being utterly selfish and not obeying the whims and demands of someone else.
In an already-packed schedule this may seem like a luxury you can’t afford, but it’s a worthwhile investment in your time. You’ll be surprised at how energised, motivated and inspired you can be after just a short period of switching your brain off and enjoying yourself.
Photo by Ed Yourdon